From The Notebook: Round 11

Halfway through the season! For that milestone, it’s a large edition of the Notebook featuring some serious topics, and some not so serious – like my slow descent into madness trying to glean anything out of Collingwood v Geelong.

Before we get into things, in the coming weeks there’ll likely be a bit more on parts of West Coast, the Bulldogs, Adelaide, and the young-but-not Baby Bombers once I’m convinced on a few more minor aspects. Until then though, away we go with Round 11.

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For those reading via email who see a blank space where there are supposed to be clips, there’ll be a link to click so you can watch and not miss out on anything.

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Melbourne ‘holding the corridor’

The bolded emphasis is mine here, but this is a quote from Christian Petracca post-game on Friday night answering a question from Daisy Pearce on Melbourne’s defensive focus:

“The biggest thing was the two to ones, we wanted to trust the tackler and around that we want to stop the outlets. For us we just want to hold corridor and if we force them skinny, but they still got the ball, that’s ok we’ve got (May) and (Lever) down the line. For us it was all about putting pressure on from the corridor and not letting them turn around, roll in.”

Naturally after hearing that, it was straight to the tape to try and find examples of what Petracca was referring to.

It’s tricky to find one catch-all passage to encapsulate everything, so we’ll do it in pieces – first with holding corridor. After the Bulldogs win possession and Tom Liberatore looks inboard, it’s Angus Brayshaw holding his position as the fat side winger, not getting sucked in towards the ball and able to spoil. Coupled with Tom McDonald pushing up high to help, he picks up the crumbs and delivers to Bayley Fritsch who goals.

For those who can’t see the video, click here to watch

The second area is holding one on ones around the ball and not being sucked in to the ball carrier. Throw the stoppages out if they’re within 50-60 metres of each side’s goal – they’re naturally played under slightly different setups given the goal threat.

So we look at passages around the middle of the ground in a true neutral position, and this from the third quarter shows it nicely. At the start of the play it actually looks like the Dees are outnumbered, but it might actually be the best indication of how their defence is on a string. Watch teammates cover for each other instantly as they eventually force it out for a throw in. It’s incredible work:

For those who can’t see the video, click here to watch

Melbourne deserve to be premiership favourites by a distance through the first half of the season.

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If you’ve missed any of the previous editions of Monday’s Notebook, you can catch up by clicking here and scrolling through the season so far:

From The Notebook, 2021 (and 2020)

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Collingwood, Geelong and a whole lot of nothing

Preparing for a locked down Saturday afternoon on the couch, I was hoping for a relatively exciting game between Collingwood and Geelong.

Given the Cats’ late outs, maybe there’d be the potential for a close game and some interesting subplots; either way there’ll surely be something to take out of the match.

Instead there was a clinic on how not to move the ball from Collingwood and Geelong didn’t need to get out of neutral to bank the four points.

About all I was able to take out of the match was this passage of play; 65 seconds worth where the ball doesn’t move outside a 60 metre range. Sound up for the full experience (it’s in double speed so it’s not too long to sit through):

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For those who have missed any North Melbourne recaps and ruminations from the last month, you can catch up here:

Round 8 v Collingwood
Round 9 v Hawthorn
Round 10 v Essendon
Round 11 v St Kilda

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The 13 minutes which saved Sydney

At the 11-minute mark of the second quarter, Carlton went 12 points up on Sydney and had a clear edge all over the field.

That continued for the next 13 minutes, Carlton having eight of the following 10 inside 50s and generally dominating both possession and territory.

All it counted for were two rushed behinds as a string of desperate Sydney efforts allowed the danger to pass without scoreboard damage.

First there was Harry Cunningham getting back on the goal line to mark a Lachie Fogarty shot, before Cunningham doubled up with a goal saving tackle on Harry McKay.

Then it was Callum Mills’ turn to save things with another desperate tackle on McKay (the poor guy could quite easily have kicked seven or eight goals on another day). Jake Lloyd joined in on the act with a smother, before Kaiden Brand finished things off by making sure a scrambled Sam Walsh checkside was rushed through.

For those who can’t see the video, click here to watch

It’s always dangerous to say, ‘if they converted all these opportunities it’d be game over’, given the game would look different if any of those chances actually were goaled. Ball goes back to the centre, play resets, and so on.

Nevertheless, dealing with the sheer number and quality of Carlton entries in that period without conceding a single goal played an enormous part in Sydney’s win. Holding on for long enough to stem the tide in general play meant instead of having to recover from a four or five goal deficit at half time, the margin was only one point after late goals to Isaac Heeney and Lance Franklin.

The contested ball flipped on its head after the break – Carlton’s +21 advantage in the first half turned into Sydney +17 afterwards – and the Swans were able to move two games clear inside the eight.

A useful stat snapshot

Given the relative scarcity of publicly available stats compared to the treasure trove locked away, I’m always looking for a way to compare sides with useful tools that are available to everyone.

Nothing is perfect – that should go without saying – but I think I’ve stumbled across a useful formula for myself at least. It roughly breaks down like so:

Contested Differential: Inside work
Uncontested Differential: Outside work
Inside 50 Differential: The poor man’s version of time in forward half
Scoring Shot % Per Inside 50: Offensive efficiency
Scoring Shot % Conceded Per Inside 50: Defensive efficiency

That’s most elements of a game captured with stats we can all access, and through half of 2021 it gives us the following:

The great part is the longer the season goes, the more it can be divided up into specific time periods. For example, if you narrowed the scores per inside 50 to the last four weeks, Brisbane are first. Or if you went the other way and looked at scores conceded per inside 50 over the same time period, Port Adelaide are actually a shade better than Melbourne at the top, with Richmond right down the other end in 17th.

Using these stats as a top line snapshot helps me; hopefully others can find it useful as well.

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