HPN’s Week Two AFL Finals Preview

Sydney vs Adelaide

This is perhaps the match that we’ve been looking forward to all finals, a battle between the best (relative) attack of the last 18 years and the best (relative) defence of the last 18 years.

sydadeatt

When they can get the ball forward, the Crows are an absolute machine at converting on the scoreboard, with four options that no other club can match for quality. Betts, Jenkins, Walker and Lynch kicked a combined 219 goals this season, with fifth option Mitch McGovern adding another lazy 30. Those four players kicked more goals than Essendon did as a team this year. Accuracy has also been a strong point for the four, with only 114 behinds being kicked between them, a conversion rate of 65.7%. Last week those four kicked 14 goals 5 behinds, outscoring the entire North Melbourne team.

sydadedef

Sydney on the other hand have been absolutely miserly down back, with a seemingly cobbled-together defence holding up against nearly every challenge not clad in orange. Sydney, as we’ve previously stated, have risen to new heights as a defensive outfit in terms of nullifying opposition inside-50s. If you want to make the argument that structure cab be more important than talent, then note that that the best defense of the modern era is headed by a guy (Dane Rampe) who was picked up from the second tier of football in NSW (AFL Sydney). Last week Sydney’s defence did relatively well in the first half, allowing only 39 points to a potent GWS attack, but couldn’t score themselves in the second half. The injury to Tippett, to put it bluntly, does not help their forward structure.

At the respective other ends of the ground, both teams struggle, with significant deficiencies that are ripe to be exposed. The Crows backline has been more porous than most expected, ranking 6th out of the finalists on HPN’s rankings. Sydney’s attack has been anaemic at times (including last week), and also ranks 6th among finalists. Both sides have extremely similar midfield strengths and should generate a similar number of inside-50 opportunities. Sydney’s on-paper advantage in the ruck is hobbled by the absence of Tippett.

sydademid

HPN suggests that this game will likely be decided by who gets on top in territory gain through the midfield, considering the matching strengths and weaknesses of both teams.

Hawthorn v Bulldogs

A lot of people have written very good, considered pieces about this game, like Figuring Footy’s piece, or Rohan Connelly’s one, and Ryan Buckland’s preview for The Roar. The narrative about age and style is better covered by these better writers, so we won’t muddy the water.

After looking at our own data a little too long (always a dangerous thing), we actually think it looks a little like the match described above, just with less talented sides.

wbhawdef

Hawthorn is alright in attack, pretty bad down back and relatively strong at getting the ball up forward and stopping other teams from doing so. The Bulldogs are pretty bad up forward, alright down back and very strong at getting the ball up forward and stopping other teams from doing so.

wbhawatt

In having two matches in an otherwise unoccupied week where each teams strengths are seemingly matched across the ground, it provides an opportunity to find out which areas are more important to win. We’ve got our own thoughts (midfield strength is key), but it will be interesting to put them to the test.

wbhawmid

Silicy’s inclusion for the Hawks strengthens them up forward. Hartung’s absence last week was surprising, so his call-up this week is considerably less surprising.

Both of the earlier Swans-Crows and Hawks-Dogs games this season were decided by less than two goals, which as we’ve always maintained, is basically a coin-toss of a result. Our advice is to not be too far away from a TV around either fourth quarter this week.

On Sledging

HPN has a soft spot for unconventional and personable ruckmen, and Shane Mumford certainly fits that bill. As a result, we were disappointed to read about Mumford’s “sledge” of Lance Franklin last weekend. We’re not going to put it on this site, but you can read it here.

To us, this is the double of being unfunny and needlessly cruel. Plenty of talking heads have popped into the debate, claiming that this in an encroachment of the “nanny state” and freedom of speech is being silenced.

We call bullshit. We have had a look at the workplace discrimination and bullying guidance, and they state is unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees for the following characteristics:

  • race
  • colour
  • sex
  • sexual preference
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital status
  • family or carer’s responsibilities
  • pregnancy
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • national extraction or social origin

We’ve struck through the ones we don’t think apply on the football field, and we don’t believe age would apply unless Kevin Sheedy tries to come out of retirement. Many of these things would cover areas most commonly grouped together as “racism”.

Bullying is a slightly different issue, and requires the:

  • a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers
  • the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

While bullying and discrimination aren’t inexorably linked, it can be considered that bullying about one of the above areas in the aforementioned manner would be dicey areas only touched on by shit bloke.

We think a common sense line to banter is the one drawn above. Some may disagree.

The job of footballers is playing football, and they don’t deserve to be unfairly discriminated against on the field. If you can’t make a joke on the field without resorting to one of those eight areas, then you should take a comedy class or creative writing course or do like Dan Hannebery does and recognise that you’re best using your limited IQ to focus on doing football instead.

In the past Justin Langer has said that the line in cricket is drawn at personal and family. Why should cricket, notorious for its sledging, have a drastically different code of ethics to football? Why should life in general be drastically different to football?

Mental ill-health is no different to physical ill-health. We’re not even going to argue this.

What Mumford did was shit, but by apologising he went some of the way to fixing the issue. Mumford also only made one comment about the issue to our knowledge, which means this isn’t a pattern of misbehaviour. Banter on the footy field has its place, but don’t be a shit bloke about it.

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