Changing Game Plans

The first week of the byes has come and gone. In a largely high scoring week, it was difficult to separate the masses as most of the highly owned stars produced quality performances. Thankfully for those looking to make ground on the pack, we have another two weeks to eat into these margins. With several high profile names in doubt or already confirmed outs, this may be a week were we see a large swing in fortunes for many. The game that stood out to me on the weekend was the Lions-Eagles affair. Not for the quality of the match, as it had none, but for the sweeping change the Lions have made to their game plan since the beginning of the season. Perhaps we can take advantage of this…

During the early part of the 2016 campaign, immense discussion surrounded the dropping output of a number of the Lions superstars we had spent a fair chunk of our salary on. Stefan Martin was down roughly 20 points per game (DT) prior to his injury ailments. Robinson was well down on his latter half of the season output. In fact, the only premium to have gone to the next level was Dayne Zorko, and that was largely due to extended minutes in the midfield. After 11 rounds, the Lions average DT score was a paltry 1402 per game, 103 points per game less than the 17th ranked Gold Coast Suns. Brisbane could not get their hands on the ball! 

Whilst the Lions have never been huge DT scorers (ranked 15th in points per game in the 2015 season), it is worth noting that they were averaging 93 more points per game last season than the first half of this campaign. Or in individual terms, a little over 4 points per game additionally per player. Whilst many point toward the inclusion of Tom Rockliff and the continued absence of Dayne Beams, the changes over the last fortnight can simply not be put down to the inclusion of just one player (Rockliff). Lets look at what they’ve produced over the past couple of weeks.

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These are huge numbers but we need to preface this by pointing out that the Dockers are gifting opponents points by the truckload. The Eagles however are a middle wrung side in terms of points against. Regardless, when we see spikes this huge (353 and 407 point increases on the first half of the season average), we must seek answers. The answer comes in the form of uncontested possession. 281 and then 316 uncontested possessions in the last two weeks. All these numbers read to me in glaring capital letters, GAME PLAN CHANGE! Prior to these two weeks Brisbane’s average sat around the 192 mark. That average was 20 behind the 17th ranked team (West Coast). In the last two weeks, they’re 20 points ahead of the second placed Dogs. Very simple to see, Leppa wants them to have ball in hand!

Lets stare into the skyline and ponder for a minute. What does this all mean? Statistical anomaly surely? They won’t maintain this for sure! Well it’s clearly an over compensation. No team in AFL history has averaged nearly 300 uncontested possessions for a sustained period of time. Thus this has never happened before and is unlikely to occur for sometime. All of which is true, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we’ve seen something reminiscent of this happen before within the Leppa-coached Lions camp. During the 2014 season, the Lions had similar struggles. Brisbane could not get their hands on the ball. In fact, after 14 Rounds of football (and 13 matches), Brisbane averaged just 203 uncontested possessions per match. This average was the 17th ranked in the competition, just ahead of the then incompetent Suns. Over those last 9 rounds of fixtures, the Lions then proceeded to average 244 uncontested disposals. Again this saw them go from being a bottom wrung side within this stat, to being third behind just the Bombers and Hawks.

This had huge implications on their fantasy numbers. Pearce Hanley went from delivering 90 to 108.8 points per game over the final 9 rounds. This had nothing to do with an easy draw, as they ran into several difficult opponents including the Tigers, Cats and Dockers in the latter rounds. The numbers are eerily similar as Pearce currently averages 91 points per game. Pearce Hanley was just one of many names. Dayne Zorko went from a 13-game average of 80, to 100 over the final 8 (missing Round 23 through injury). Stefan Martin broke out onto the scene during this period. Even the almighty fantasy overlord Tom Rockliff took his output from 124 over his first 11 games (no in-game injuries) to 151 over the final 7. What is the take out? Pretty simple, if this is going to be another long term game plan change by Leppa (noting that it lasted 9 weeks, till the end of the season when he last introduced it), we have a number of new fantasy stars to seriously consider.

Final Thoughts

I strongly recall feeling helpless towards the end of the 2014 season as I lacked any form of Lions unique, which was pretty well a necessity to make up ground in the back half of that campaign. The scoring level was previously unseen and had been due to the desire to chip, moving backward and forward to find an uncontested way to goal. This was exactly what we saw on countless occasions on the weekend. In fact the commentary even picked out the way the Lions were attempting to attack was very consistent from play to play. Clearly a strategy dependent on factors not within your control (the Lions game plan), means that this is a risk. Whilst it may not prove to be the best way forward in retrospect, at this present moment you can’t help but see the similarities between these past two weeks and the last 9 games of 2014. Good luck deciding how best to handle the Lions style change.

As always I’m happy to chat about all things fantasy over on my twitter page HERE or on the Coaches Panel Facebook page. Good luck heading into Round 14 CP fan!

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