The Race for the Eight is tightening up, and the Dogs are on a surge

Over the last 7 weeks HPN has been tracking the fortunes of teams using our Team Ratings, and some early trends appear to be emerging. But before we get to them, lets look at how the ratings sit after 9 weeks of footy:

Round 9 ratings

For the second week in a row, Port Adelaide hold the top spot on the HPN Ratings, just a sliver ahead of cross-town rivals Adelaide. GWS sit on their own between the surging top two, and the cluster of 11 teams below. After their bad loss to Essendon, West Coast have lost a lot of ground, with their midfield rating a particular concern at this point of the season. While their much vaunted attack has largely lived up to expectations from the opportunities obtained, and their defence is performing above league average against the amount of ball they’ve had to defend, their midfield threatens to sink their hopes of playing in late September.

(Bear in mind of course that these are average measures, meaning both home and away games, and therefore can’t account for the weird space-time inversion that apparently befalls West Coast when they play in Melbourne.)

The Eagles currently sit in the bottom third of the league in their ratio of clearances to opponent clearances, and inside-50s to opponent inside-50s. Most of their companions in the lower range for these measures don’t look like finalists at this stage:

WCClearrd9

The addition of Sam Mitchell doesn’t seem to have helped in at least these measures of midfield ability. The West Coast will be hoping that the easy answer for their issues is that they are an away thing, but their average midfield output over the year (regardless of venue) hasn’t looked that good. There’s still plenty of time to go in the season, but the signs aren’t so good at this stage.

St Kilda also took a big step back last week after threatening to cement a spot in the top 8 of the HPN Ratings. Without Josh Bruce (who kicked 6 goals in the last 3 weeks prior to being dropped), St Kilda’s forward line seemed to lack in targets inside-50, and the Swans were able to reel in 18 marks inside 50 to the Saints’ 6 in perfect conditions.

Much has been made of Paddy McCartin’s development, or lack thereof, but McCartin is only barely 21 years old and is an undersized key forward. He was always unlikely to dominate in a game where Riewoldt and Membrey also had limited influence. Most KPFs take a little bit of time to get up to speed, and his form in the VFL has been very encouraging. Bruce is perhaps still the Saints’  better third option up forward right now, but McCartin’s time will very likely come.

On the flip side of the coin, Fremantle were the biggest movers up last week, beating a weakish Carlton after a slow start this week. The HPN Ratings are much more pessimistic on Fremantle than the AFL ladder, and intuitively we probably all understand that three wins by less than a goal leaves a club’s win-loss record flattering them a little. However, it is clear that they are on the way back up after a very poor 2016.

Form Guide rd9

Over the last seven weeks the Dockers are the biggest movers up our ratings, a touch ahead of the Bulldogs. It’s taken some time for the Fremantle’s new additions to fit into Ross Lyon’s system, but it appears they are loosely in the mix for the bottom end of the eight.

The other team mentioned above, the Bulldogs, are seemingly starting to hit some form. Last year the Bulldogs turned an okay season into a surprising premiership, and there was then much conjecture around which Bulldogs side would show up in 2017. For the first month the answer was neither, as the Dogs side out on the park looked like it would struggle to make the finals. However, over the last month or so the Dogs have settled as players have re-integrated into their best 22, and finals footy seems to be their destiny if the progress continues. And if the Bulldogs make the finals anything can happen, as last year shows.

Movement Graph.JPG

The two sides that have dropped the most are the Tigers and the Lions – and both are somewhat expected.

Richmond got off to the hottest of starts, with their defence a force of nature early on. Since then the Tigers have been merely good around the ground – still firmly in the mix for finals, but probably not the top two or perhaps even four. As per our earlier table, the Tigers struggle to win clearances – not a debilitating issue, but potentially a problem. The Richmond forward line has also shown that it hasn’t quite learned how to get their large amount of inside fifty entries to count on the scoreboard, with the forward line perhaps looking the most deadly when Martin (13 goals, 12 behinds, 10 assists, 53 inside-50s) floats up.

The Lions, by contrast, are pretty good with respect to winning clearances and pretty terrible at turning them into inside 50 entries. When they do get the ball up forward, Brisbane are less efficient that the average team in converting into points. The Lions are also terrible at stopping opponents from scoring from inside-50 opportunities, conceding at the highest rate per inside-50 entry of any team in the league. The Lions are young, and it might get better for them as the season progresses, but it doesn’t look good right now. It looks bad. Real bad.

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