Approaching the halfway point of 2023, it feels like the right time to revisit some pre-season predictions and see what’s changed.
Instead of a simple ‘right/wrong’ counter, the plan is to figure out why certain calls were wrong and determine whether I should have seen it coming.
Normally I carry these checks out privately but given the Rolling Notes“>Rolling Notes section has already shown part of my working process, this can be the next step along the way.
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Not having Collingwood in the top tier of teams
Before the season: “Here’s my theory, and no it doesn’t have anything to do with close games: In 2022, the Pies were a year ahead of everyone with the way they played. That early adopter advantage is now gone because it’s a copycat league. Because of that, they come back to the pack.”
The best place to start is with the error you’re most annoyed about.
I think the theory mentioned above was sound, but what I didn’t see coming – or consider much at all – was the overall system improvement around contests.
Through nine rounds, Collingwood are second for contested possession differential, second for points scored from clearances and first for points conceded from clearances. For comparison, last year in the home and away season they were 17th, 14th, and 5th respectively in those three stats.
For all the talk about Tom Mitchell’s arrival – guilty – instead of changing the system he’s simply* slotted into the existing one which has had plenty of work put into it over summer, as covered earlier in the season.
(*Which isn’t meant to downplay his season but instead highlight the overall team improvement)
Lesson learned: Instead of only looking at individual players, place it into the bigger picture and see whether it signifies the plan for a whole team change.
Predicting another smooth Sydney season
Predicting over/unders for every AFL team’s 2023 win total“>Over/Unders piece: There’s only two reasons Sydney go under this total (13.5 wins): 1) Injuries, 2) Mental scars from the Grand Final loss. I’d be surprised if they go under for any other reason.
There’s a more detailed explanation in the link to that piece, and although injuries are undoubtedly the main reason for Sydney’s 3-6 start – along with losing two coin-flip games – the part I discounted was their work around contests.
In three of Sydney’s losses – Melbourne, Geelong, and Fremantle – they have been bullied around the ball.
While in the Round 6 Notebook, I explained how Sydney’s rise in the back half of 2022 was underpinned by a surge around the contest, where I slipped up was assuming it’d become a permanent strength, instead of potentially still a work in progress.
The Swans rank equal 15th in contested possession differential, capped off by a belting at the hands of the Dockers on Saturday. With their margin for error this year now gone, and injuries still piling up, this week against North Melbourne presents a chance to get well before a trio of intriguing matches against Carlton, St Kilda, and Brisbane.
Lesson learned: Assuming a team has solved an issue when they’ve taken a step forward, instead of keeping that issue in your thoughts going forward.
One of the new features on The Shinboner in 2023 is the ability to create your own positional depth chart for every club.
It’s available for those on the $5 and $10 tiers, and hopefully everyone finds the tool as useful as I do.
Predicting a slow St Kilda start
Over/Unders piece: “If it wasn’t for pre-season injuries, this line (10.5 wins) would have sounded about right. But instead the Saints’ forward line has been ravaged and it’s hard to see where goals will come from. Ross Lyon teams also typically take a while to get going. St Kilda were 4-7 at one point in 2007, and Fremantle 6-7 in 2012 – both with comfortably better lists than the 2023 Saints. Combine the two and it’s tough to see how St Kilda get enough out of their first 12 games to be in sight of this over.”
This one is simple enough: I didn’t think Lyon and his coaching staff could implement a rock-solid defence – Sunday’s loss to Adelaide notwithstanding – in such quick time.
Even after the way Adelaide cut through St Kilda, statistically the Saints are still the best team in the league at defending turnovers and in scores conceded per inside 50, by a distance in both too.
Given their pre-season and Lyon’s prior coaching history, I simply couldn’t see this coming right off the bat.
Lesson learned? If faced with the same situation in future I think I’d make the same call. A stack of injuries to key players, a new system to learn, and a middling-at-best pre-season doesn’t normally combine to create a fast start.
If I’d predicted a fast start it would have been vibes-based only, and the vibes – externally only, it must be said – didn’t look great leading into Round 1. One of those situations where you just wear it and move on.
If you’ve missed any recent posts on The Shinboner, you can catch up on the last five here:
Round 9: North Melbourne’s match analysis v Port Adelaide
How sluggish ball movement is holding Carlton back
From The Notebook, Round 8: Josh Dunkley with ‘one of the great games’
Round 8: North Melbourne’s match analysis v St Kilda
From The Notebook, Round 7: Power movement, Fremantle shift, Giant comeback
Everything GWS related
Instead of boring with a handful of copy and paste quotes with all the evidence of how high I was on GWS pre-season, I’ll sum it up in a sentence: I was convinced they’d be the annual bolter.
Although they’ve been in all but one game, the underlying numbers haven’t been overly impressive – 14th in inside 50 differential, 10th in scoring shots per inside 50, 16th in scoring shots conceded per inside 50 – as they work to establish Adam Kingsley’s new style.
It’s not doom and gloom by any means but barring a shock turnaround – made more difficult by Sam Taylor’s long-term absence – the Giants won’t be this year’s bolter.
Lesson learned: Although this is closer to being correct than a 3-6 start indicates, it’s a simple case of jumping the gun without enough evidence to prove it.
In a way it’s almost the opposite of the St Kilda prediction: in that case it was a logical assumption to predict a slow start.
Here for GWS there was an outsized hope placed on a smaller number of reasons for a rise. Next time I’ll likely be a little more cautious.