A noteworthy weekend of football as the mid-table logjam showed few signs of abating.
Every Round 19 match is going to be crucial for at least one side participating, but before then to the main takeaways from Round 18…
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If you’ve missed the Patreon features for subscribers, you can find them all here.
There are a handful of features to enjoy, plus a refresh of some favourites, and simplified tiers. Here’s the link to the Patreon page.
Defence fuelling the GWS surge
Earlier in the season, I wrote about the Giants and how they were close but not quite there yet.
It was through the lens of figuring out why I was slightly off in my pre-season prediction of a finals side. Yet now it looks like I may have stepped back too early.
In their five-game winning streak, they’ve been the stingiest defence (on scores conceded per inside 50) by a large distance. Even allowing for the game in the wet against Melbourne, the difference is considerable:
|Round 13-18||Scoring shots conceded per inside 50 %||AFL rank|
While conceding from only 33 percent of inside 50s is obviously unsustainable long-term, it’s such a big contrast to the Giants’ first 12 games where they ranked 17th – conceding from nearly 50 percent of entries – that it’s a clear sign of improvement.
Sam Taylor’s return for the last four games has undoubtedly helped. Now playing alongside Harry Himmelberg, Jack Buckley, and Connor Idun, it makes for a flexible defensive quartet.
Between the four they can take nearly any mid-sized or key forward with minimal fuss, allowing the coaches to mix and match as they please.
The Giants have a string of intriguing matches to close the season, playing Gold Coast (Manuka), Bulldogs (Ballarat), Sydney (home), Port Adelaide (Adelaide), Essendon (home), and Carlton (Marvel).
Given their current percentage (99.4), they’ll most likely need to win four of those last six to play in September. In the form they’re in few should bet against them though.
All the list demographics, contracts, and depth chart pages are freshly updated and ready to play around with.
The depth chart pages are available for those on the $5 and $10 tiers. Hopefully everyone finds the tool as useful as I do.
The uniqueness of Gryan Miers
First off, an apology because this section won’t be littered with Messi mentions.
Because for all the (hilarious) memes about Gryan Miers this week, perhaps lost in the shuffle a little is how good his season has been and the uniqueness of it all.
Most forwards who have kicked 4.10 in 17 games would normally be battling for their spot in the team.
But Miers is number one in the league for goal assists – by a mile. His 30 is ten ahead of the next best.
He’s also number one in the league for score assists by even more miles – 15 ahead of the next best – so it’s not as if his teammates have been on a hot streak converting his passes.
Not only that, but he’s equal seventh in the league for score involvements, behind only Petracca, Curnow, Hawkins, Greene, Bontempelli, and Coniglio. He gets involved through the middle of scoring chains as well.
To continue the effusive praise, he’s playing the half forward role almost to perfection. This was his heat map against Essendon…
…when he collected 26 disposals, a further sign he’s improving each week. Miers’ last three games have brought the three highest disposal tallies of his career:
Round 16 v Sydney: 27 disposals
Round 17 v North Melbourne: 32 disposals
Round 18 v Essendon: 26 disposals
To the eye, it appears the Cats are trying to get Miers involved in play more and more with each passing week, knowing he tends to provide the killer ball (if anyone has handball receive stats handy, that could confirm or deny my suspicion).
The next part of the evolution is how opponents scout Miers. Here comes another sentence from the eye test without publicly available stats to back it up, but I’d be staggered if anyone with his quantity of possessions kicks it short more often.
In theory that should make it a touch easier to cut off leading lanes when Miers has the ball a kick and a half from goal, knowing he looks to pass first, and it won’t be a long one. Forcing him to be a bit more selfish may throw the balance out just a touch.
But for the moment, Miers should at the very least be in All-Australian contention – if not in the team were the season to end today.
If you’ve missed any of the individual team deep dive posts this season, here are the five to catch up on:
How Port Adelaide’s midfield works in tandem (after Round 14)
The tweaks to Fremantle’s ball movement (after Round 12)
How sluggish ball movement is holding Carlton back (after Round 8)
St Kilda, an AFL team’s litmus test (after Round 6)
How a contested ball dominance is fuelling Collingwood’s leap forward (after Round 3)
Expected Scores *against* your team
Two weeks ago, the Notebook showed how each team was kicking compared to their Expected Score so far this year.
As promised, this is Part 2 showing how each team’s opponent has been faring in 2023.
This takes a little bit more explaining, but at its core it illustrates whether a team is getting lucky – if their opposition is missing more than normal – or unlucky – if their opposition is slotting shots from all angles.
Calling it ‘defence’ as shown in this graphic isn’t really the right word, but I’m all out of ideas on what to label it at the moment. I’m open to suggestions:
GWS at -95 means they’ve been the luckiest team with opposition kicking so far this year. They’ve had some large swings this year, including:
-32: Melbourne’s kicking in Round 16
-29: Essendon’s kicking in Round 4
-23: Fremantle’s kicking in Round 14
(Note: This doesn’t minimise their defensive improvements as illustrated earlier, because in these examples Melbourne and Fremantle are still registering scoring shots most of the time, they just haven’t kicked straight)
Whereas at the other end of the scale, Port Adelaide at +74 stands out most* to me. In theory it makes a case they’ve been unlucky even throughout their recently ended 13-game win streak.
However, when you dig into the numbers a little more you see most of that disparity came in the first three rounds. Brisbane, Collingwood, and Adelaide combined for 66 of that 74. It means since then, opponents have almost been directly kicking to expectations.
*This is because Brisbane just endured a lights out performance from Melbourne on Friday night at the MCG, the Demons outperforming their Expected Score by 29 points.
In theory, the closer the overall number is to zero, the more sustainable your defence is. If there’s a large negative number, it could mean a lucky streak with opponent’s kicking. For example, teams were -106 points v St Kilda through the first eight rounds, when the Saints went 6-2.
Since then, teams have swung the other way for +65 against St Kilda in their next eight matches, where the Saints have had a 3-5 record. Swings and roundabouts until the weekend where things were close enough to even.