Analysis Winning the Premiership from 5th - How it can be done

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Avalor

Norm Smith Medallist
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If we get to the preliminary final and win it, I would like to see us stay in the east and have a GF camp there (for bonding + planning). We would eliminate that extra long flight from our itinerary and give us the best show at winning from 5th. The wives could join the players a couple of days before the GF.
I fear that extra flight after missing out on a home preliminary final might be a bridge too far.
 

Eagleboy68

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If we get to the preliminary final and win it, I would like to see us stay in the east and have a GF camp there (for bonding + planning). We would eliminate that extra long flight from our itinerary and give us the best show at winning from 5th. The wives could join the players a couple of days before the GF.
I fear that extra flight after missing out on a home preliminary final might be a bridge too far.
Doesn't work. Players get in holiday mode
 

Dazzler10

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If we get to the preliminary final and win it, I would like to see us stay in the east and have a GF camp there (for bonding + planning). We would eliminate that extra long flight from our itinerary and give us the best show at winning from 5th. The wives could join the players a couple of days before the GF.
I fear that extra flight after missing out on a home preliminary final might be a bridge too far.
Didn't Geelong do a similar thing this year, and get flogged by Freo?
 

Capriati

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I think what you've written indicates why we can't win from 5th. Simmo is a good coach but goes with what works and backs it no matter the scenario. I'm not sure he has the savvy in him to take a risk and do a horses for courses type gameplan.

If he can pull off the next 4 weeks with wins, he'd be an all-time great. I'd love to see, that goes without question. I just feel he's a good, solid coach, so I don't think he'll deviate and that means we'll slip up/run out of legs at some point.

Good solid coach? Fifth finals series in a row, most finals played and won during his time, premiership+GF. Calling him solid is underselling him. Simmo is a very, very good coach. I am sure he will take us to another premiership within the next two years. Will it be this year? Possibly not, but he will go down as most successful coach in club history by time all is said and done I reckon.
 

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Cold Sober

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Seven quarters.

That is how 1st becomes 5th. From being inside touching distance of repeat premierships to now facing a challenge that surpasses all others.

In order to retain the premiership, the team must now win three away matches in three weeks, a feat no team has managed in more than two decades.

Eleven goals in arrears over those seven quarters have all but eliminated any hope for this year – the rot however started far earlier.


When Triumph Clouds Judgment

A century ago, the colonial period was brought to a shattering end as the horror of industrialised conflict ravaged the Eurasian landmass. Faced with an invading force from the east, the French dug trenches, held their ground and prevented further occupation of their lands. It took four years until they could finally declare victory.

However, the lessons they took from the conflict were misguided. They became preoccupied with anchoring upon fixed locations and building massive fortifications as a means to prevent future invasion, forgetting that it was the mobility of their supply lines that enabled them to hold ground and exhaust the foreign advancement.

A generation later and the fortifications of the Maginot Line turned out to be one of the greatest follies of the 20th century as France fell in six weeks to a German force that was built around mobility.


Triumph has a habit of making one blind to reality. Overconfidence and confirmation bias over time lead to strengths being overestimated whilst weaknesses are no longer addressed. An unshaking belief in what previously has been successful inevitably leads to damaging exposure in other areas.

The 2018 Grand Final saw the West Coast Eagles take 104 marks, 23 of those contested, soaring to victory by controlling the ball through dominance of the air.

But there was another factor – the team became the best contested side in the competition:

View attachment 739080
Contested possessions are what delivered the 2018 Premiership.

As the following season has progressed however, it is abundantly clear that the increase in contested ball during the 2018 finals series was by good fortune rather than design:

View attachment 739081
This is a fall of 26 contested possessions per game compared to the 2018 Finals Series.

This year there has been an unhealthy obsession with trying to win games through dominating contested marks, at the expense of contested ball winning ability, which has been detrimental to the performance of the team.

This is the cause for the season being derailed.


Errors in Structure

The backline may have received criticism over the role it played during recent losses, yet its efficiency over the 2019 season is actually better than in 2018. Likewise, the same can be also said of the forward line:

View attachment 739082
Both defence and attack are more efficient this year compared to 2018 when inside 50s per goal are considered. [Lower figures equate to greater goal efficiency].

So, with that in mind, the reason for the drop in performance of the team if both the defence and attack are operating more efficiently, must be due to a deficiency in the midfield.


As shown above, West Coast are ranked dead last in the entire league for contested possessions per game this season.

It is clearly apparent in the losses this season that the lack of contested ability is a significant and contributing factor:

View attachment 739083
Low contested possession totals have been a feature in losses this season.

So how does the best contested team from last year’s finals series become the worst in the competition this year? The answer is structure. In all but a handful of matches this year the structure of the team has been overly top-heavy, with an excess of tall players utilised at the cost of midfield rotations.

Look at the difference in results this season when an extra midfield ball winner is added to the squad:

View attachment 739084
Definition of ball-winning midfielder has been generous - included are: Yeo, Shuey, Redden, Sheed, Hutchings, Gaff, Ah Chee.
In Round 22, Hutchings left the field playing only 22% time on ground.
5** equals totals with Round 22 added.

6** equals totals with Round 22 excluded.

That is having the best record in the league versus failing to qualify for finals.

Clearly, match squad selection should always have a minimum of six ball-winning midfielders – doing otherwise is reckless and harmful to the team’s chances of success.

It is also in my opinion a complete act of negligence that the team is now going into finals with four potential ball-winning options in Ah Chee, Brayshaw, Ainsworth and M.Allen only playing a single game in total between all of them this season. There have been several opportunities during the year when each of them could have been added to the senior team and show their capabilities.

I keep hearing comment about the lack of youth development in the midfield, but none of them have been given as much as a chance. If the club had drafted Worpel it is quite likely that he would have been playing in the reserves just the same.

With Hutchings missing through injury, at least one of the aforementioned four needs to be selected in order to fulfill the previously identified requirement for six ball-winning midfielders. That the team finds itself in a situation where it is only an injury away from being forced to add a debutant to the engine room in an elimination contest speaks volumes of how the list has been managed this year.


There is another piece to this structural puzzle however – the Maginot Line itself: key players up forward.

Starting with four tall forwards and two rucks in Round 1 against Brisbane, throughout the season the obsession with marking advantage in attack has driven the selection of the team for a negative return:

View attachment 739085
Average score differential across quarters for numbers of KPP used up forward.
Fewer numbers correlate with both greater scoring overall and in the later periods of matches.


2018 demonstrated without question that two specialist key forwards in addition to a resting ruck/forward was a platform for success – namely premiership success. It has also had the most success this season out of varying forward arrangements.

My question is why on earth would anybody deviate from it, when it is by far the best option available?


The Selection

So we have developed some simple guidelines to for the selection of the team:
  • Minimum of 6 ball-winning midfielders.
  • The number of key forwards plus resting ruckmen cannot be greater than 3.

Let’s now consider the impact of individuals:

View attachment 739086
Left: Lower figures represent greater offensive impact.
Right: Larger figures represent greater defensive impact.



Two things are immediately apparent from looking at the above:
  • Naitanui is without question the most important player in the team.
  • Petruccelle’s ongoing selection ahead of Cameron makes no sense at all.

I could continue to go on reporting insights from this data (for example a forward line containing each of Kennedy, Waterman and Petruccelle has resulted in the opposition scoring with far greater efficiency), but shall now move on to its use in determining selection.

Ruck: If Naitanui is deemed fit to play, he is in without question. However, with him probably only spending 50-55% time on ground there will be a requirement for another genuine ruckman to back him up – therefore Hickey gets a nod also.​

Forwards: Hickey as the resting ruck plus Darling and Kennedy equals identified maximum of three key players up forward. As a consequence, that rules out O.Allen and Waterman (a case could be made for retaining O.Allen instead of Kennedy here, however Kennedy’s proven record from last year should see him retain his place). That leaves four small forward positions available to be filled by Rioli, Ryan, Cameron and Cripps.​

Defence: Statistically, changes in defence this season have had little impact overall in comparison to other areas of the team. There is however an advantage for fielding two key defenders over three when it comes to the percentage of opposition inside forward 50s that are rebounded (76% - 72%) and last quarter scoring (+3 to -7). Referring again to the above, Barrass and McGovern are well ahead of Schofield and gain selection for the two key defensive positions. The remaining five defensive positions in the squad then go to Hurn, Sheppard, Duggan, Jetta and Nelson.​

Midfield: Six ball-winning midfielders. Yeo, Shuey, Redden, Sheed and Gaff equals five with Ah Chee the next best available to make it six. That leaves one position left to provide an additional rotation option for the midfield group, with the obvious best available option being Masten.​


Deployment

With this selection in mind, I would then advocate for the tactical deployment to feature as the following:

View attachment 739087


There is a bit of Back to the Future about this; 2015 reimagined with a 2018 flavour.

What appears to be a back 7 with a sweeper is actually a back 5 in transition, with spares running through the centre corridor. This is an aggressive tactic that is setup to maximise scoring off opposition turnovers through rapid movement of the ball through the corridor on the counter.
  • With Barrass at home defensively goalside of any opponents in a sweeping role, the issue of opposition teams using dump kicks to get behind the defence is nullified.
  • Additional numbers in the corridor reduce the likelihood of turnovers ending up as opposition goals.
  • Anchoring the full forward close to goal stretches the opposition and forces any defensive sweepers to become accountable.
  • Positioning small forwards around the CHF target allows them to interplay and rotate with the midfield more efficiently and drags opponents away from the deep full forward, creating one-on-one opportunities.
  • As a tactic with relatively few moving parts, this should be one that conserves energy, particularly for the key-sized players.

And better yet, by simply moving one of the corridor runners off half back to half forward and pushing the sweeper into the hole in the defensive line, you end up with a gameplan that can spread the ground and control play like in 2018.

The gears can easily be switched; aggressively counterattack or sit back and control depending on what is necessary.


Fatigue

This is of course the 900lb gorilla the club will now need to deal with in order to retain the premiership. Defeat Essendon and there remains a requirement to win on the road three times in as many weeks against opposition who will be better rested and unaffected by travel fatigue.

Finding a means to address this will no doubt be a key determinant to the final outcome of the team at the end of the season.

So what is the enormity of the task at hand?


Since 1987 there have been 26 instances of teams travelling more than 500km (one-way) three times in succession over three consecutive weeks. In just four of those instances has the travelling club won each of the matches – most recently 21 years ago in 1998.

The last time the Eagles endured such a scenario was way back in 1992, before the club had won its first premiership.

What is being asked is completely unheard of in modern football and will require something truly remarkable and historic in order to achieve it.


The last time the club played two successive away matches in successive weeks ended with an 11 goal embarrassment at the hands of GWS in the 2017 Semi Final.

Prior to that you have to go back to the 2006 Grand Final, where the running power and endurance of one of the greatest midfields in the history of the sport were able to prevail by a singular point.


If history is anything to go by then the team may need to radically alter its current composition to accommodate more players with greater running capacity, particularly should it reach the Preliminary Final and beyond.

The obvious example would be to remove a key forward or ruck for an additional midfield ball-winner. If Naitanui is able to stay injury-free and increase his time on ground to the 70-75% mark by the Preliminary Final, then there may well be a case for O.Allen to come in for Hickey, as the backup ruck requirement will be significantly less. If that were to occur, the presence of O.Allen could well make Kennedy redundant, creating an opening for another midfield rotation to be added to the squad.

View attachment 739089

At the very least, executing a gameplan such as described above that conserves player energy could be vitally important in being able to finish matches without being overrun.

Only once has there been an Elimination Final scheduled on a Thursday – in 2016 when the club lost at home to the Bulldogs and played them into premiership-winning form.

The upside is should the team perform as expected and defeat Essendon on Thursday, it is likely there will be an 8 day break before it plays a Friday night Semi Final at the MCG against the loser of Geelong and Collingwood.

Win that and the likely scheduling of the Preliminary Final will create a 7 or 8 day break. Friday night at the MCG if against Richmond (7 days), or Saturday afternoon at the Gabba if against Brisbane (8 days).

The Grand Final as we know is always on the Saturday at the MCG and provides both teams with at least a 7 day break (2000 being the only exception).


A pair of 8 day breaks is not too bad considering the circumstances – especially so when the weather conditions for a day time final in Brisbane are very conducive to the strengths of the team.

If the team can get into the Grand Final they will be more than a chance of going back-to-back.


I still strongly believe that this team has the strongest list in the competition and what has been demonstrated this season to now has been a massive underachievement.

Now it is time to do things the hard way, but success will only come if changes are made first.
Does your Boss know how you've spent your last few weeks.
 

eagles rule

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To win the flag from 5 th I’m thinking we need to rotate players in and out of the team not Willie nilli but guys from a best 24-26 ..
Just to keep the team fresh and I don’t mean the main players but the fringes type of players ..
Basically don’t just play the same 22 ..


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Capriati

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To win the flag from 5 th I’m thinking we need to rotate players in and out of the team not Willie nilli but guys from a best 24-26 ..
Just to keep the team fresh and I don’t mean the main players but the fringes type of players ..
Basically don’t just play the same 22 ..


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I do think your point of view has merit to it, but I am not sure I agree.
The only point of disagreement I have is the longer breaks. We have 8 day break between EF & SF, likely 8 day break between SF & PF and then 7 between PF and GF. I think we need our best 22 on at all times. Not only because we face an uphill battle playing top teams on their home decks, but also to allow them time on the field together and have a settled team. Continuity breeds confidence in your role and your team mates.
 

eagles rule

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I do think your point of view has merit to it, but I am not sure I agree.
The only point of disagreement I have is the longer breaks. We have 8 day break between EF & SF, likely 8 day break between SF & PF and then 7 between PF and GF. I think we need our best 22 on at all times. Not only because we face an uphill battle playing top teams on their home decks, but also to allow them time on the field together and have a settled team. Continuity breeds confidence in your role and your team mates.
Oh ok , 8 day breaks should make the recovery times a little easier to stay fresh..


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Dylan82

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Well Essendon were accounted for without too much trouble as expected.

Now the real stuff begins.

Geelong made it 1-11 post-2011 for the week following a bye in their loss to Collingwood last week.

They are 9-1 over the same period for the subsequent week after however.


Impact of the Rioli suspension aside, this will be a difficult match.


Geelong lost the Qualifying Final as much as Collingwood won it.

They won contested possessions (+21), clearances (+1), centre clearances (+7), inside 50s (+7) and had the same number of scoring shots.

However, in part due to the pressure created by Collingwood, the Cats only disposed at 65% effectiveness, turning the ball over throughout the match in addition to paying little attention to Magpie runners on the outside that were exposing them on the counter.


This week shall be a different game. I cannot see Geelong doing a repeat performance trying to rush play and kicking long to intercept defenders.
If they do, they are fools and deserve to lose badly, which is great for us - but unfortunately I feel they are smarter than that.

I'm expecting that Scott and co may try their own version of a Richmond-style handball game through the corridor. They will try to get extras up the ground to improve their outside ball movement and create isolated one-on-ones up forward.

Doing that will create space that can be exploited by the Eagles should a turnover occur. This will be a match where mistakes from either team will be punished to the fullest.

If Geelong are allowed to dictate the stoppages, this game will become very ugly for us very quickly. Thankfully in Naitanui we have the most impactful stoppage player in the competition. Indeed, if the team are going to win this match a lot of it will come from here. Against Essendon the team kicked 7 goals directly from centre clearances. Should Naitanui get on top over a Stanley struggling for confidence and provide first-possession dominance to his team-mates then much of the stoppage threat posed by Geelong is defused.


As for matchups, the first priority is to shut down Ablett.

Hutchings needs to go to Ablett :padlock:

It's not even up for debate, here's why:

Ranked #2 for goals 🚨
Ranked #2 for goal assists 🚨
Ranked #2 for inside 50's 🚨
Ranked #3 for score involvements 🚨
Ranked #4 for metres gained 🚨

Cut off Garry and they lose a MASSIVE avenue towards goal. We saw it last week, when he has an off day the and his opponent puts physical pressure on him, he wilts and they can't score. In tough, physical games he starts showing his age and looks vulnerable. He is very taggable at his age.

He's kicked 33 goals, arguably the best HFF in the AFL this year along with Walters and very well could have been AA again. He is most certainly still dangerous. Let him roam free at your peril Simpson.

Also add in that he has a better disposal efficiency than any of Selwood, Kelly or Dangerfield.

Honestly if Hutchings goes to stand next to anyone other than Ablett on friday night i'll be concerned right from the get go 🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞
That sums it up nicely. Going further, when he has been prevented space to get outside, the overall performance of Geelong has suffered:

R32-fig01-GAJ.jpg


Hutchings must go to Ablett without any question.


The other Geelong player that needs extra attention is Stewart.

Could also play a forward tag on Tom Stewart. He's +100 kicks ahead of the next best teammate (#2 in AFL) and 3:1 to the next best for rebound 50s (#1 in AFL). He is the focal point of getting the ball of defensive 50. Shut him down and you only really need to worry about Tuohy who isn't generally a high possession winner.
Completely agree with this - when Stewart is able to quarterback their counterattacking chains of possession, Geelong are a far more potent team:

R32-fig02-TS.jpg


I'd be instructing Waterman to stay with him at all times wherever he goes to prevent that accumulation of uncontested possession that sets up so much of his team's play.


Yeo obviously goes head-to-head with Dangerfield, Redden to Kelly. Shuey, Sheed, Gaff etc to attack as much as possible off Naitanui and Hickey's ascendancy of the ruck.


The final piece to beating Geelong is what Collingwood brought last week: pressure.

Geelong has a strong defensive system that backs in the one-on-one ability of its defenders to win the ball and control it. This system however has proven to be suspect against high-pressure opposition, causing turnovers that have led to goals:

R32-fig03-R50.jpg


If the opposition is able to retain the ball inside attacking 50 greater than once in every five occasions, Geelong become a team that struggles to win more than it loses.

The pressure needs to be manic, particularly up forward.

Four tackles inside forward 50 each quarter should be the target. If the team get less than 10 in total for the game they will lose.


Bring out angry Nic and angry Yeo; lock away Ablett; make Stewart accountable and ramp up the pressure on the defence - that is how this team can progress to the Preliminary Final against Richmond.

Do it for Willie.
 

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