The HPN Preliminary Final Preview

Greater Western Sydney v Western Bulldogs

Whilst the overwhelming narrative in the last week was that the Bulldogs felled the reigning premiers, most in the footy analyst community saw the exit of the premiers coming. We hedged a bit and suggested last week that the battle might be won in the midfield between the two sides, given their relatively equal strengths at both ends of the ground. By our most basic measure (inside 50 differential), the Dogs won that battle comprehensively, and were able to turn that into victory.

The Bulldogs may have passed their first two tests so far, but Giants present by far their sternest challenge. We suggested before the finals that four teams stood above the rest in the finals, with only one of those eliminated so far (Adelaide). The Dogs have beaten teams we considered to be the 5th and 6th strongest sides coming into the finals, and now face the third best side across the season. For those who have forgotten, here’s the chart:


As you can see from above, the Giants have a clearly stronger attack and defence, according to the HPN ratings. Among the finalists, GWS sit second in defence, third in attack and sixth in the midfield (albeit a very close sixth). The Dogs sit last in attack, fifth in defence and second in the midfield.

The Bulldogs have the edge in just one category, but it’s perhaps the most important one (midfield rating). If the Dogs are to win, they have to maximise the opportunities that they have up forward, and minimise the deadly GWS counter-attacks from failed entries. GWS have a defence calibrated to beat a smaller backline, with only one large KPD in their 22 (Phil Davis). All of their back 6/7 (if you want to include Nathan Wilson) are quite mobile, and able to initiate attack from turnovers. With Jake Stringer running hot and cold in the past few weeks, it’s hard to point to a focal point of the Dogs attack. They tend to use Picken and Boyd leading forward to snare marks to open up play, but the second level targets closer to goal is harder to ascertain.

Up forward, it’s hard to see how the Dogs cover the three big threats of the Giants (Cameron, Patton and Lobb). The Dogs will likely try to crowd the space that they can lead into, however this may open opportunities for the latter (Lobb) to snare pack marks. The best way for the Bulldogs to stop this will be to stop the ball from going forward at all, a difficult but possible challenge.

The Giants should be good enough to win this one, but the Dogs have overcome the odds twice in this finals so far.

Geelong v Sydney

We wrote about this one earlier this week for Figuring Footy, and you should read that piece because it has better charts and graphs. Seriously. Read that now. Go do that. OK, here’s one chart Figuring Footy made for us to write around:


And in a nutshell, this chart might be the one that decides the victor of the game – the Swans defence. The Swans defence (and defensive midfield) strangled the Crows potent attack last week, rendering unable to even contemplate scoring.

We’re not going to go into this one in a whole lot more depth, but for now here are the component ratings and how the two teams stand.

Sydney sat 7th at the end of the regular season in attack (behind the anemic Dogs attack), 5th in the midfield and first (by a very, very, very long way) in defence. Geelong set the pace in the midfield, 4th in attack and 3rd in defence. After we posted our article, we thought we accidentally surmised it well on Twitter:

We suggest that this match should be pretty close, with the real battle being about which side can get the most out of their weaknesses, and to limit their opponent’s strengths.

Finally, some housekeeping

You might notice that our webpage and twitter account looks a little bit different now. Actually, it’s been so slight that you might not have noticed. Yep, that’s a new logo at top, after years of inaction about HPN’s identity. We’re sad to see the end of the slightly blurry Adam Goodes photo that we took at a NEAFL game, but it’s for the best. Let’s drag him out one last time, for old times sake:


We’re currently updating what our thoughts around what HPN is, and making the operation slightly more legitimate. After years of shunning any form of effort other than content, we’re looking at an overhaul of the site and basic things like a Facebook page and an active Twitter account.

You will have seen above that we collaborated with Figuring Footy on a piece this week, and we hope to collaborate with more writers in the fanalyst community going forward. There are a lot of great writers out there who opine about footy on a regular basis that operate outside the realms of the major media outlets, and they are more than worth your time checking out.

If you have any thoughts about the direction you’d like to see us move in the future, drop us a line, either over email (hurlingpeoplenow [at] gmail [dot] com) or on twitter (@hurlingpeople, @arwon, @capitalcitycody). Even if the direction that you want to see us go is the bin (or the sea).

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