HPN’s AFL Semi Final Previews – Can the Cats or Eagles spring an upset?

Geelong v Sydney

Although they are the away side, and finished the Home and Away season a few rungs lower on the ladder, practically everyone outside of the 3220 postcode has the Swans as raging favourites this week. The HPN Team Ratings agrees that the Swans should be favourites, but to a lesser degree than some.

GeevSyd

Geelong actually finished the year ahead in two of the three HPN Team Ratings component areas, barely nudging the Swans with respect to offensive efficiency and the field territory battle. However, the Swans’ dominant defence seems to be the difference between the two sides. This is perhaps intensified further by Geelong’s inability to score against a slightly lesser Richmond defence this week.

The HPN prediction model has the Swans likely to win by about seven points, which is a lot tighter than the betting agencies, but right in line with The Arc’s prediction for the week.

Whilst the model doesn’t account for individual players just yet, the inclusion of Daniel Menzel this week should be able to provide another much needed avenue to goal this week, or at least as a decoy to stretch the Sydney defence. Also included was Darcy Lang, just a day before being allegedly told that he was not required for next season at the Cattery. Whether this serves as motivation or demotivation is anyone’s guess.

Gee v Syd PAVPG

One player towers over the rest there, and it is hard to see a Geelong victory without a significant contribution both in the middle and up forward by Patrick Dangerfield. The bottom of Geelong’s 22 is as poor as any other side still playing, so the top end of the list will have to pick up a lot of slack.

Syd v Gee PAVPG.JPG

Sydney go in unchanged from last week, with the late change of Cunningham for Melican being kept for this week. Melican is a little unlucky, as he has performed excellently for a first year KPD – however with Sydney changing their structure a little he is the odd man out.

If selections are anything to go by, it appears (at least on paper) that the Swans have selected a stronger side, and a side that has more significant contributors at the back of the 22. On paper, the Swans should have a marginally better chance of winning that the formula predicts as a result.

GWS v West Coast

While the HPN model predicted a Port Adelaide win last week, we wrote in depth about how the absence of several key defensive contributors for Port may open the door for a West Coast upset. After 10 minutes of glorious bonus football, that came to pass, and West Coast barely edged out the Power in the sole shock (and close game) of the round.

GWSvWC.JPGLike the Swans-Cats game above, the underdog here (in this case the Eagles) has minor edges in two statistical categories (offensive and defensive efficiency), whilst significantly trailing in the battle in the middle. For the Eagles, the equation is similar to last week – they have to minimise the damage in the middle, or exploit missing opposition players, to have a real shot.

Luckily for the Eagles, the Giants are going in somewhat undermanned after a couple of untimely injuries last week.

GWS v wc PAVPG.JPG

The Giants are missing Jeremy Cameron (their second most effective forward according to OffPAV per game) and Shane Mumford, whose ruck spot will largely be covered by “ruck of the future” Rory Lobb. Structurally, this means that the Giants will go in with at least one – if not two – less true KPFs, depending on how you view Harry Himmelberg. Tomlinson and Patton should be tapped to spell Lobb at times, however the West Coast dual rucks might tire Lobb out more than a traditional solo ruck. Dawson Simpson has also had a very solid year in the NEAFL, and was more than serviceable in his two games at AFL level this year.

Lobb’s use in the ruck also deprives the Giants of their fifth most effective forward, with the seventh (Devon Smith) also missing due to injury. How the Giants will juggle this is anyone’s guess – perhaps similarly to the Essendon game earlier this year which saw significant contributions by Greene and Kelly. What is likely, however, is that their attack will be somewhat muted compared to what we have seen in recent years.

It opens the door, at least a crack, for the Eagles to capitalise on a slightly weaker opponent again.

WC v GWS PAVPG.JPG

On paper the Eagles have a slightly more even side with respect to Total PAVs per game for the bottom end of their list. Like last week, they are more or less selecting their strongest side (position adjusted), and one with strong contributors across all parts of the ground.

Like last week, they will have to establish alternative paths to goal to avoid the Giants double and triple teaming Kennedy early. The Eagles will have to be able to attack off the half back line, where they should be able to pick up some loose ball due to the Giants relative lack of tall targets.

The HPN model sees the Giants sneaking through by six points, but this doesn’t take into account the long-ish Giants injury list. If we had to tip a potential upset this week, it would be this game.

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