The Weekend Preview is a blog that aims to provide a different angle on the narrative of an upcoming sporting event.

AFL Round 19: Collingwood vs. Adelaide

AFL Round 19: Collingwood vs. Adelaide

Sunday Afternoon, 30th July 2017 at the MCG

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Collingwood does cool in a crisis better than any side in football. Adelaide can sniff panic from nowhere, especially under the bright lights of September.

Herald Sun Match Report, 2009 Semi-Final Collingwood vs. Adelaide [1]

Perceptions can change quickly in the AFL. The 2017 version of the Magpies can hardly be considered a team that handles pressure better than any side in the AFL and the Crows no longer have a finals choker flag hanging over their head. But 8 years ago these were the overriding sentiments bestowed upon the Magpies and Crows as they played out a classic 2009 knock-out semi-final, or as the match report at the time referred to it – as a contest, it was simply extraordinary [1].

The hero of the night was John “Jack” Anthony. His goal with just 20 seconds left stole the game from Adelaide, who at one stage led by 32 points. But just as Jack Anthony has drifted from our memory (he was let go by Collingwood at the end of the 2010 season after 43 games, and a further 2 years at Fremantle amounted to little) so has the personas of the Collingwood and Adelaide teams.

Collingwood under Nathan Buckley have drifted backwards year on year under his stewardship. The public perception of the Magpies in 2017 is a team that is competitive in most games without getting the job done and are too reliant on their star midfielders. In addition, they are constantly let down by their disposal efficiency, particularly entering their forward 50 and shooting at goal. In contrast, Adelaide under Don Pyke have an identity of a ruthless attacking team that score goals for fun, with their one possible weakness being the depth of their midfield, particularly once Rory Sloane is tagged. Are the Crows still chokers? Difficult to say as they rarely find themselves in tight games. The only game they have played in 2017 that has been decided by less than 2 goals was their Round 15 12-point win over Carlton, which in truth they were probably never going to lose. Prior to that, their last tight game was the Round 5 2016 loss to Hawthorn by 3 points (when Hawthorn kicked 3 late goals to steal the win). We may need to wait until September this year to find out how the Crows handle pressure when a game gets tight.

But just as that late goal by John Anthony in the 2009 semi-final demonstrated, the fine line of winning a football match can rely on that one kick at goal. But stretched over the length of a match, inaccurate goal kicking can severely impact a team’s chances well before a game reaches its concluding final minutes. But how much has Collingwood’s kicking woes cost them in 2017? And how reliant have the Crows been on accurate goal kicking? Table-1 and Figure-1 present the goal kicking accuracy of all teams in 2017. (Note: The behinds total does not include rushed behinds).

The top ranking team is Melbourne, who actually have a track record of strong goal scoring accuracy after also finishing the 2016 season with the second highest accuracy in the AFL behind West Coast. In second place is Adelaide, who are not only creating more goal scoring opportunities than anyone else in the league but are also backing it up with accurate goal kicking.

Collingwood have been pilloried at times for their inaccurate goal kicking in 2017, but they actually have had a better accuracy than Port Adelaide and Richmond – two teams that are entrenched in the Top 8. However, it is the two teams at the bottom of the rankings, the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda who are currently sitting just outside the Top 8 after Round 18 for whom inaccurate goal kicking has potentially been the most costly.

 Table-1: 2017 AFL Goal Kicking Accuracy Rankings

Table-1: 2017 AFL Goal Kicking Accuracy Rankings

 Figure-1: 2017 AFL Goal Kicking Accuracy Rankings

Figure-1: 2017 AFL Goal Kicking Accuracy Rankings

The overall goal scoring accuracy in the AFL is 1.34 goals to every behind scored. Goal scoring accuracy is more than just how accurate a team can shoot at goal. It is also about where teams are creating the goal scoring opportunities from, e.g. shots on goal from 30m directly in front are far easier than from 50m out on the boundary. This could be partly due to a team’s forward structure and partly due to the opposition’s defensive structure, so goal-shooting practice alone may not be the answer. However, it is instructive that in 2016 only 2 teams had a goal kicking accuracy of less than 1.33 (Essendon and Carlton), whilst to this point in 2017 there are 8 teams with a goal scoring accuracy of less than 1.33. So something is certainly going wrong. To indicate the impact of accurate/inaccurate goal kicking is having on each team, what would happen if each team in the AFL was scoring at a ratio of 1.34 goals for every behind?

Table-2 presents the AFL Ladder after Round 18. Table-3 presents the AFL Ladder if all teams in the AFL scored at a ratio of 1.34 goals for every behind, based on the total scoring opportunities (total goals + total behinds – rushed behinds) achieved by each team in each game, with rushed behinds added to the total. This exercise produces some interesting results. Adelaide would maintain their position at the top of the table, with Port Adelaide, Sydney and Richmond joining them in the Top 4. The Bulldogs and the Saints would move into the 8, at the expense of Essendon and most interestingly the GWS Giants. Collingwood would move from 13th to 10th. Although still out of the Top 8, they would be only won win away and with a far better percentage than what they currently have. At the very least they would be a realistic chance with 5 games to go of fighting their way into finals and potentially saving Buckley’s coaching career.

 Table-2: AFL Ladder after Round 18

Table-2: AFL Ladder after Round 18

 Table-3: AFL Ladder after Round 18 – all teams with average conversion

Table-3: AFL Ladder after Round 18 – all teams with average conversion

Collingwood’s come from behind win last week against the Eagles was more in keeping with the fighting performances they achieved at the height of the Mick Malthouse era. But the Crows are likely to be a harder proposition than the Eagles. Even if they manage to tag Sloane out of the game, without Pendlebury the Magpies probably lack the quality ball user coming out of midfield to make the difference.

Adelaide to win by 30 points

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Post Match Comments:

Final Score: Collingwood 15.13.103, Adealaide 16.7.103

Not many people foresaw the game this turned out to be. The Magpies held a 50-point lead early in the third quarter only for the Crows to mount an incredible second half fight back. The game ended in a draw after a late Mitch McGovern pack mark and goal tied the scores with seconds remaining. Once again the Magpies will regret their inaccurate goal kicking, the scoreline 15 goals 13 behinds to 16 goals 7 behinds tells that story.

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[1] “John Anthony steals win for Collingwood at death”, The Herald Sun, 12th September 2009.
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/afl/pies-v-crows/news-story/7934579799c6b40e4c6f3e5fdd244206?sv=b91d43bfe3a9167428843ee53554b7a3

AFL Round 20: Richmond vs. Hawthorn

AFL Round 20: Richmond vs. Hawthorn

AFL Round 18: Brisbane vs. Carlton

AFL Round 18: Brisbane vs. Carlton