So much incredible stuff happens across an AFL weekend. It’s impossible to keep up with it all. The Onballers crew – and some of our friends – are here to bring you a view on the stuff you saw and other gear you might have missed. This is the Onballers Quick Hands, our round in review.
Adelaide is not awful, so it leads the flag race by a nose
Ryan Buckland: Friday night’s top of the table clash deteriorated into a one sided pantsing faster than the first match up between these two sides earlier in the season. The Crows were sharp, polished, decisive, intelligent and above all, efficient. The Cats and their trademark effortball couldn’t keep up; their midfielders running from one Adelaide Oval wing to the other, all in vain in the end despite the 21 point final margin.
Through the weekend, Adelaide’s dismantling of Geelong hung over the competition like a brooding Melbourne storm cloud. For 18 weeks we’ve known every team has its flaws and warts – what if Adelaide has the fewest and least physically scarring? As the season draws closer to its climax, performances like Friday night begin to mean more in the scheme of sorting the best from the rest.
How good were the Crows? Their system meant Richard Douglas kicked four goals. Could any other team in the competition turn Richard Douglas into the leading goalscorer on the ground? I think not. Adelaide’s scheme makes it so. Rory Sloane was at his kamikaze best once more, lending a hand down back and bravely/stupidly burrowing deep into stoppages to extract to his running wave of teammates. Without Jake Lever, Adelaide turned to cricket convert Alex Keath down back, and when the game was live he was central to a group which almost bankrupted Geelong’s well-credentialed forward line.
Theirs was the performance of a team destined to make noise come September time. They have been few and far between of late.
Port Adelaide had a chance and couldn’t do it – although that meant Melbourne kind of did. Neither could the Giants, who have worked themselves into a mighty powerful funk. Does that mean the Tigers didn’t really do it either? It took Essendon three and a half quarters to get over the top of North Melbourne’s tankapalooza.
You could argue the two form teams of the competition meet on Friday night. Isn’t that something.
How’s that icing?
The football field is a family friendly bistro
Sometimes it seems that Toby Greene treats every AFL ground like a Zagame’s, and every AFL player like a bouncer at Zagame’s. Maybe he shouldn’t.
Opposition players exist only for Toby to be Toby to them; to serve Toby and observe Toby. Occasionally he fails to even acknowledge certain parts of their anatomy, like Alex Rance’s jaw or Caleb Daniel’s entire head.
Toby has currently been before the Match Review Panel seven times in his 110 games – that’s once every 15 games. According to the records that I could find, the current clubhouse leader for tribunal citations is Dustin Fletcher, with 16 suspensions in 400 games, or once every 25 games. Greene, undoubtedly one of if not the best young small forward in the competition, looks set to break Fletcher’s record after just 240 games – and this excludes the Zagame’s incident. At this point Toby looks like a lock to get to 250 games, and to north of 20 guilty verdicts.
Greene also looks on pace for multiple All Australian teams and potentially a premiership or two – if he can stay on the field.
If he can remember that a footy field isn’t a Zagame’s.
Automatic. It’s automatic. Automatic. It’s automatic
— AFL on 7 (@7AFL) July 22, 2017
How Do You Say Ducked Free in Japanese
Ken Sakata: I am in a Tokyo Starbucks with a Japanese friend. I was supposed to just check the score. Instead, I’ve streamed almost the entire game. My team has lost again.
I feel bad for my friend. He has no concept of Australian football, or why he’s spent two hours watching my one-man show, ‘I Thought The Blues Would Win’. I freeze the webcast to a still of Lions midfielder Rhys Mathieson. “It’s because of this guy,” I say.
“He keeps ducking his head to get free kicks,” I try to mime the action. “It’s unfair. It really makes me angry.” I get a blank look. Fair enough. I still haven’t explained why the ball isn’t round or any of that shit.
I think of the best way to explain this. How do I convey the cunning to entrap both your opponent and the umpire? The deception to victimise someone playing the sport the right way?
”It’s like,” I already know I’ve fucked this analogy up.
“It’s like an online predator making a fake Facebook account to trick children.” My friend recoils.
“Well, it’s not like that.” I reset. “It’s like someone faking something for their own advantage. But also to take advantage of someone else.” Better.
My friend pulls out his mobile phone. He shows me a video of a stray dog faking an injury, dragging his hind legs to get food from a nearby human. It’s the saddest video on YouTube. ”No, it’s not like that either.” Japanese Dog YouTube is a real bummer.
We go through a few more clips. We settle on dash-cam videos of scam-artists flopping onto cars in traffic. “That’s it. Exactly.”
I lean back. “Football is fucked up, man.”
Congratulations Luke Parker, retrospective 2016 Brownlow medallist
Jay Croucher: Collingwood’s victory yesterday at Etihad Stadium will not have many meaningful consequences, beyond sentencing a seriously uninspiring team to a seriously uninspiring season. It was, for the most part, a mediocre game between two mediocre sides. With each team absent its classiest player, a game mostly devoid of class ensued. For three quarters, the only thing that happened was ‘Josh Kennedy’.
But then everything happened. Collingwood went from winning most of the clearances to all of the clearances. They went from controlling contested possession, to eating contested possession.
The Eagles play with so little force. They set up well, they’re professional, they’re diligent, but they’re impotent. At stoppages they are painfully ineffectual. In the midfield they lack leg speed, but they also lack agility and power.
The Magpies have never been short of power. At times, they are too powerful and brazen, like Cyclops from X-Men taking his protective mask off and blazing laser beams everywhere uncontrollably. The Magpies often attack the contest too hard, leaving them too exposed if they don’t get the ball. When they do get it, they act like teenagers, overexcited, too eager to fire. You know the culprits – Adams, Crisp, Greenwood, Blair.
In the third quarter, Taylor Adams had the worst centring pass inside 50 in the history of the world. It was less a pass to a teammate, and more a cry for help. It was emblematic of Collingwood’s season. But then what followed was emblematic of what the season could have been.
The Pies channelled their power, dominated the stoppages, and then the hopeless bombs forward found waiting targets. A perennially drunk team in front of goal suddenly found sobriety, and slotted all their chances. Down four goals in the final quarter, with two fewer players, and nothing to play for against a team with everything play for … somehow this turned out to be the context Collingwood needed for true inspiration. The win, for this season at least, likely means nothing for them, but not all nothings are created equal, and this one – a game that Levi Greenwood turned on its head – feels especially strange and sweet.
Eddie McGuire’s Reverse succession plan
We’ve got the transcript
Buckland: This is Brad Scott, flambéing his ruckman for Saturday afternoon’s game Majak Daw using a hand held telephone. Someone in Fox Footy’s production room decided – gloriously – that it was scorching enough to justify a little split screen action. I hope that producer gets a promotion.
We watched this video 19 times, enough times to be able to read Scott’s emotive lips. We’ve filled in Daw’s side of the conversation using a chat bot. We bring it to you below
Brad Scott: NOW
Majak Daw: Yeah coach
Scott: FUCKING HARDEN UP MAJAK
Daw: Yeah coach
Scott: You’re going to have to be stronger, you’re the strongest man on the ground Maj
Daw: Yeah coach
Scott: If you get pushed out of the way in a contest on the ground one more time, I’m coming down there
Daw: Yeah coach
Scott: C’mon mate, show me some fucking aggression
Daw: Yeah coach
To all the sad sacks on Twitter chiding Scott for giving his player a bake, re-watch the video above except pretend you are Majak Daw and I am Brad Scott. For the record, Daw had 33 hit outs (smashing his previous career high of 25), four marks and five tackles. Not a bad game for two time rookie lister with 30 games under his belt if you ask me.
Luck runs out
Rob Younger (Figuring Footy): Luck plays a bunch of different roles in footy. You might be fortuitous and get a lucky bounce of the oval ball, you could get a couple of lucky calls from an umpire which influence the game, you might even be so lucky to be up against a hothead like Toby Greene who will come in, elbows swinging and reverse a freekick that you just gave away right in front of goal. But perhaps the most influential (and uncontrollable) form of luck from the perspective of a footy team is how well your opponent takes their chances.
When you give up a mark 30m out from goal, all you can really do is cross your fingers and pray to whichever deity will listen (the “footy gods”?) that whoever is taking the shot shanks the kick and doesn’t punish you fully. When they do get lucky, the better teams usually learn from their mistakes and prevent the easy shots rather than ride their wave of luck again.
Over the last couple of seasons, I’ve developed a statistical algorithm which I use to rate the quality of every shot based on what type of shot it was (set shot, on the run, snap, etc) and where it was taken from. Based on this I can calculate the average “expected” score (I call it “xScore” ‘cos I’m hip like that) that each team will kick if they convert their chances at the AFL average given the quality of shots they create in each match.
For example, Adelaide were expected to kick 91 points from their chances on Friday night against the Cats. They did just that. For a clearer idea, here were there chances:
Every team tends to hover around this average regardless of opposition. Some weeks kicking above their xScore, others below, but it tends to average out to just about on xScore over many games. So if one week your opposition kicks below their xScore, you may need to consider yourself lucky they didn’t take the chances you allowed them to have. You can consider yourself even luckier if you win (or draw) the game thanks to your opponent’s poor conversion. Only one team has had that sort of luck more than once this year, in fact they’ve had it three times. That team? GWS.
In their games against the Bulldogs and Richmond earlier in the season, the Giants nabbed the 4 points thanks to their opponent’s below average performance in front of the sticks. Hawthorn also created the far better chances in their draw a fortnight ago.
In fact, six times this year the Giants have managed either a win or draw in a match in which they created the lesser quality chances. There are three teams (Essendon, Geelong, and West Coast) who have benefited from this twice this season, and eight teams who have won games they perhaps shouldn’t have once. The other six haven’t won any games from this “luck”.
The Giants wake this morning only two games (and percentage) clear of 11th place, and in a genuine battle for the finals. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that new boys’ beginner’s luck is starting to wear out.