From The Notebook: Round 2, 2022

Sometimes things just fall into place, and on a platter you’re handed the common thread for a piece. Today’s Notebook is one of those glorious days.

In (trying to) analyse games, a part I always enjoy is watching key passages of play twice – once for each team, figuring out what their conclusions may be.

Sometimes if you’re only watching it from one point of view (e.g. nearly every time I’m watching a North game for the first time), it’s hard to balance which side should take the lion’s share of credit – or blame – for how things unfold.

To simplify it as much as possible, it’s ‘did we play well or were they just bad?’

There were so many examples of it in two games this weekend, it’d be foolish not to make the most of it.

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The Shinboner Patreon is up and running this year from March 1 to October 31. The $5 tier (and above) gets you early access to the weekly Notebook pieces on Monday morning, before they’re free to all from Monday night.

Overall there are four different tiers. It starts at $2.50 per month and goes up to $10 per month for all the benefits. A huge thank you to everyone who’s signed up so far, it’ll allow me to do much more this season.

Here are all the details and how to sign up.

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Western Bulldogs v Carlton

We’re going to focus on Thursday night’s first half, when Carlton kicked 12 goals to skip away to a 31-point lead.

It all started around the ball, Carlton a whopping +22 in contested possessions to half time, getting clean exits at will and using it to bombard the Bulldogs’ defence before proceeding to slot goals from all angles.

Here are four first half clips to analyse:

One: Some people – to be honest, me – marked this down as a Bulldogs failure on first viewing. From the centre bounce Carlton take it straight out and goal within 17 seconds.

On second viewing though, it’s clear both sides rolled the dice. When Sam Walsh engages Marcus Bontempelli, it leaves both Patrick Cripps and Jack Macrae wide open. Neither has any interest in squaring things up, so it’s a genuine 50-50 which comes down to the ruck contest.

Two: Back to the centre bounce for the next clip. This is a breakdown from the Bulldogs. Carlton don’t run anything overly special but too many numbers come at Cripps, leaving Walsh wide open for the easy give.

Three: Cripps and Josh Dunkley are the focus here. While the Bulldogs’ review will undoubtedly focus on Dunkley needing to be better in this passage, personally I’m leaning towards this being more of a Cripps positive.

Note how they’re both running to be front and centre, roughly side by side, but there’s a split second where Cripps reads the play slightly quicker than Dunkley.

That’s all Cripps needs, and he’s got the space needed to receive and snap truly.

Four: Our fourth and final clip features Walsh and Adam Treloar. There’s an equal amount of praise and blame to go around in this one (in my opinion).

Walsh does fantastically well putting the work in both defensively and offensively, something not many players are capable of doing.

Treloar needs to be quicker reacting after he’s dispossessed, but the Bulldogs’ team system needs to be better in recognising when play is changing from offence to defence. If Carlton can bring up players to the ball after the centre bounce, then the Dogs have time to get into better defensive positions.

It’s still not panic stations for the Bulldogs, but Thursday night against the Swans looms as a classic.

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For those who have missed any posts over the last few days, here’s where to catch up:

Monday 28th: North’s Round 2 Review
Friday 25th: What To Watch For: Round 2
Tuesday 22nd: Real Or Not? Round 1 Trends
Monday 21st: From The Notebook: Round 1

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Port Adelaide v Hawthorn

Of Hawthorn’s 18 goals, nine started from possession in their defensive half, an astronomical number.

It essentially means half their goals were approaching coast-to-coast territory. It also means with such large ground covered in these scoring chains, there are plenty of opportunities to dissect exactly what happened.

Here are the clearest four examples of defensive half goals from the night:

One: Connor MacDonald and Riley Bonner are the two players to watch here. My opinion: leaning more towards ‘Power bad’ (great sentence structure). MacDonald does well running hard, but he’s essentially gone in a straight line while Bonner wanders off, doing … not a lot.

Two: Jaeger O’Meara is the focus. My opinion: ‘Hawthorn good’. Why? Players are conditioned to run to packs, run the same patterns every time. Instead here, O’Meara keeps himself in a lane between Port’s two vertical lines, trusting Ben McEvoy in the contest. After the mark, O’Meara is now an excellent option to receive and do damage.

Three: Luke Breust and Tom Jonas are the key players of the chain. This is an obvious ‘Power bad’. Breust has a simple front and centre which Jonas just doesn’t follow. Then enjoy Jack Gunston kicking a ripper to finish it off.

Four: This one is slightly different as the focus is ball use, rather than an individual player (even if it is Bonner with the turnover).

Ever wonder why teams so rarely kick it centrally between about 35-50 metres out from goal? It’s because this is what happens when you turn it over badly in that space. Bread and butter for Hawthorn to gather and hurt on the rebound.

To state the obvious, it’s completely unsustainable to kick nine goals from the defensive half every week. Some weeks you won’t even have nine half-chances to score.

It makes it a failure in defending from the Power – but also a step forward for the Hawks. Just because there are opportunities on offer doesn’t make it a guarantee they’ll be scored from.

(Note: Hawthorn’s first goal of the last quarter would probably have been better than all these clips to demonstrate, but Breust was inches out of frame when he did whatever he did to get so much space)

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  • For those on the $7.50 Patreon tier (or above), there’s exclusive access to the Stat Suite page
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(There have been some caching issues with the website. Until I figure out what causes that, it may take a couple of refreshes if you’re on the exclusive pages and seeing out of date information)

Here are all the details and how to sign up.

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An explanation on Expected Score

My plan was to save this until later in the season. Then I tweeted this and it had more than 70,000 impressions:

There were two main questions to come out of the tweet:

1. Where do I find this?

– It’s in the Herald Sun the day after each game, at the bottom of their box score. If you’re a subscriber (like me), you can read the paper online and find the expected score there as well.

2. How does it work?

– It’s not a pre-game prediction but rather it’s all based on the shots a team has during a game. When there’s a shot at goal, Champion Data notes the location of it, and the pressure it’s under.

Then they crunch the numbers to figure out the likelihood of that shot being a goal. Add all the shots up in a game and you have a team’s ‘expected score’.

It throws up some interesting single game talking points – like Carlton turning an expected 16-point loss into a 12-point win against the Bulldogs – but where it really shines is deeper into the season.

When there’s a couple of months data to play with, you can spot trends. Is a team outperforming the average to such an extent you’d expect it to come back to earth soon? Maybe there’s a surprising struggler but they’re consistently on the wrong end of teams having a day out in front of goal?

It all comes into play the longer we go in 2022.

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