Port GF loss + 2012 GF Preview


Port Melbourne’s Fade-out + Hawks vs Swans Preview

By Penny Dredfell

25 Sep 2012

I am not a big follower of the VFL, but noted that reigning premiers Port were in the grand final against the Geelong VFL team the other day.  Port was the reigning premiers.

As soon as I saw the scoring pattern of the VFL grand final, I instantly deduced that Port must have won the 2011 flag by over 6 goals.  And, sure enough, a quick check of history shows that they beat Williamstown by 56 points in the big one last year.

You will find the reasoning behind my deductions in “Grand final big win a sin” under the “Analysis Hints” section of the website.

In summary, when a team wins big (defined as > 6 goals) in a grand final (in the AFL), they often don’t make the grand final the following year.  When they do make it, they get overrun in the second half of the game.

The two most recent examples are Geelong 2007/08 and Collingwood 2010/11.  The scoring patterns in these two game plus the Port Melbourne game last Sunday are eerily similar.

The Cats won the 2007 grand final by a record 119 points.  They made the 2008 grand final as firm favourites.  They were 3 points down at half time and lost by 26.

Collingwood won the 2010 grand final (replay) by 55 points.  In the 2011 grand final, they held a 3 point lead at half time, but eventually lost by 38 points.

And now we look at Port Melbourne, winners by 56 points in the 2011 VFL grand final.  They were warm favourites to go back to back under the “hard to quote” Gary Ayres.

They held a slender 2 point lead at half time and went down in the final analysis by 33 points.

Isn’t it amazing how hysteria repeats itself?  A word of warning, however!  This theory has not been tested well in lower grades of football.  I suspect that it may be gradually less likely to show up in lower grades of footy; and even more so in junior grades where the team make-up can change dramatically from year to year.

Now on to this year’s AFL grand final

The Hawks are following a trend similar to Geelong in 2007.  The Cats had made finals in 2004 + 2005 and bombed out in weeks 3 and 2 respectively.  A horror 2006 ensued for them and they finished 10th.  Then they began 2007 with 2-3 record.  A huge win over Richmond was followed by a big win over the reigning premiers the following week.  The Cats never looked back – losing only one more game for the year.

They won their first final by heaps and progressed to the prelim against Collingwood as hot favourites.  But they had trouble shaking off the Pies, despite appearing to be getting on top at various stages.  The team looked a bit deflated after the win.  Then all Port Adelaide fans clearly remember how dominant the Cats were the following week.

Similarly, the Hawks have a patchy recent record: 6th in 2007, a flag (before time, perhaps) in 2008, 9th in 2009, out in week 1 of the finals in 2010 and then losing the prelim narrowly last year.  Like Geelong in 2007, they began this year slowly (3 and 3 after 6 rounds), but gradually made their way to the top spot.

Again, like Geelong, they were very convincing in the first week of finals.  The pattern continues with a struggling win over Adelaide when they looked to be dominating and about to draw away at any stage.  But the Hawks wasted chances and the Crows kept coming.

But here is one interesting difference:  the Hawks looked more happy with their win that did the Cats in the 2007 prelim.  This may be a sign that the technical link to Geelong 2007 is weak.  Or it is possible that the Hawks had bitter memories of their narrow 2011 prelim loss.  Two in a row would have been too much to take!

The opposition in 2012 (Sydney) are also much better placed than Port Adelaide were in 2007.  Back then, Port was 3 wins and 39 percent behind Geelong at the start of the finals.  And they were lucky to beat an injury riddled Eagles in week 1 of the finals.

The Swans finished 1 win and 14 percent behind the Hawks this year.

If the technical lead is correct, it could equate to a big win for Hawthorn – but not in the vicinity of 119 points (the AFL forbid!).

Another similar prelim final win to compare was Essendon in 2001.  They fell over the line against Hawthorn.  Hawks fans still blame number 32 for this loss (ask a Hawthorn fan who saw the game if you don’t know what this means).  The Dons were far from impressive as the hot favourites.

Then they went into the 2001 grand final as favourites but were overrun by the Lions.  But note that the Dons were BIG winners in the 200 grand final.  This may be a better explanation for their grand final fade-out.  But it does cast some doubt, technically speaking, on Hawthorn.  It may indicate a growing injury list.

Geelong had the rest in week 2 of the finals series in 2007.  This was the first time they had won this right since the final 8 came into being.  The Hawks, however, have earned the week off in 2008.  So they should have been more “prepared” for the match versus Adelaide that the Cats were in the 2007 prelim against the Pies.

While the Hawks’ drop off is a concern, there are a number of issues the Swans have to deal with.  They also tended to get scored against late in quarters when playing Collingwood last weekend.  It is not a good sign.  Many teams that “ease off” late in a finals game which is in the bag can do poorly the following week.  And, of course, the Swans blew a big lead when they lost to the Hawks at the SCG in round 22.

Then there is the MCG issue.  To be fair to Sydney, they have only played there once in 2012 for a loss to Richmond when Mumford was out injured and Pyke had not been unleashed.  Seaby and White played that day.  The Swans last win was back in 2009 when they thumped the Tigers by 55 points.

In 2010, they lost 4 from 4 (3 by under a kick).

2011 saw them draw 1 and lose 2 (the latter loss in week 2 of the finals to Hawthorn).  So it is a concern, but not a show-stopper.

In summary, the sad news is that the technical charts do not give a clear direction for this year’s grand final (unlike in 2011 where the Cats had everything aligned for them!).  I will sit back and watch it without any expectations, except that anything could happen.