Four points – Coburg Lions

The Seagulls are back in the winners circle after a 78-point victory over the Coburg Lions on Sunday afternoon.

1. #Jolley200 – Oh Captain, My Captain. Thirty touches, two goals, seven tackles four marks and a hit out. Between those stats, the guard of honour at the start of the game and being chaired off after full time it’s safe to say that nobody associated with the club is going to forget this game.IMG_1396

2. Batten down the hatches – The Lions jumped to the lead early, but from there it was all Seagulls. Williamstown restricted the visitors to five behinds in the second and third quarters, a period where they scored 8.13(61). A four goal quarter from the visitors in the last wasn’t enough to make a dent, with the home side responding with six of their own.

3. Possession – It’s hard to score without the ball, and there isn’t a soul at Coburg that didn’t experience that on the weekend. The Seagulls had 95 more possessions, ten more marks,21 more inside 50s and 23 more scoring shots. Any side who can produce that is going to come away with the win.

4. Seagulls expose Ex-AFL player – Cale Morton had an awful day on Sunday. He may have touched the ball 15 times, but he looked disinterested at best. He didn’t follow his man all afternoon (Sam Dunell, who kicked 4.1), never made space when Lions were trying to clear the ball, and worst of all had times where he wasn’t even paying attention to the play. Sadly for the Ex-Demon and Eagle it is a sad reflection of a career that never got started.

An open letter to Sam Allardyce

Dear Sam,

I make no apologies for the blunt tones in this letter. After all you are familiar with beating people over the head with information, aren’t you? I say this because that’s what you’ve spent the last four years doing at West Ham. All you ever did was tell us how you were too good for us, but what did you do to show us how good you were? Yes, we were promoted at the first time of asking in the Playoff Final in 2012, but I don’t for a second think that was because of you.West_Ham_United_FC.svg

We had one of, if not the best squad in the Championship, and the fact we were not promoted automatically is slightly embarrassing. We’re secure in the Premier League for the third straight season, but for the third straight season your lack of interest nearly brought my club to it’s knees.

I will make one thing clear – From the day you were hired I wanted you sacked. Today is a very happy day for me as a result. I see fans on Social Media and message boards saying we should remember the good times and the joy you gave us – beating Spurs three times in a season and knocking off Liverpool and Man City at Upton Park this season. I will always take pride in those results but they weren’t because of you either. They were because of the heart on the pitch. What we got because of you was you going into your shell on Boxing Day (when we were in the Top 4) and never coming out. If it wasn’t for Teddy Sheringham’s coaching role I have no doubt we’d be visiting Preston next season. But that wasn’t new for you was it? If it wasn’t for a string February in 2014 we wouldn’t have faced Liverpool or Man City this season.

That’s where your problem is Sam. You want us to love you when you were interested in doing your job for about ten percent of the season. Well I’m not buying it. Your football is boring, your team selection is awful, you are tactically inept and any time we tried to tell you, you put your head in the sand. As for your managerial ambitions you are surely having a laugh?

You say you have more ambition than West Ham, you say you want to manage Manchester United or England. Please. I wouldn’t trust you to have a conversation with my six-year-old nephew about the game , much less coach him.

We were, are and always will be The Academy of Football. We’re fluent, we’re fun and while we may not always get the results the supports can’t wait for matchday.

You nearly killed that this season. From March I couldn’t wait for the season to end, and I know I wasn’t alone. We weren’t going to win because you didn’t want to pick a team that was going to get results, you wanted to hoof and hope.

We’ve signed some great players in the last few years but when I look back on your time with us I wonder why anybody in their right mind would want to work with you.

In the past few months you’ve been linked with Fulham and Nigeria. Please don’t do it Sam. Not only because you don’t deserve a chance to redeem yourself from your “efforts” of the past four years, but because fans of the Nigerian national team and Fulham Football Club deserve a glimmer of hope. If you’re the answer then I’ll start looking for the world’s stupidest question.

Fortune’s always hiding , I’ve looked everywhere.

I got my fortune today. You lost something you never deserved to have in the first place.

Good riddance and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Regards,

Xavier.

 

 

 

Two games, Two rivals, Two points

The last two weeks have been dominated by the number two for the Williamstown Football Club.

Sport is a game of inches. It always has been and it always will be. To think that the Seagulls are one straight kick from being undefeated and two games clear on the ladder must be much more frustrating for the players than it is the fans.

The stats don’t do the last two weeks justice, if they did the Seagulls would have beaten Port by 3-4 goals and lost to Werribee by roughly the same amount.IMG_1349

What the last fortnight has done is prove two big points that will shape the 2015 VFL season:

The Seagulls are going to be a chance to win until the siren sounds – Williamstown had multiple chances to win games in the closing stages of the last two weeks. Even when the side were three goals down against the Tigers with ten minutes to go they fought back. If it wasn’t for the home side returning fire, it’s probable the Seagulls would have come over the top for their 14th straight victory against their neighbours. Even when Werribee tacked on a behind to lead by two in the 34th minute the Seagulls tried to push forward. While time expired before they could land a killer blow, the Seagulls showed a tenacity which will make them a huge threat at the business end of the season.

Percentage will be vital – Call me prone to hyperbole, but if you don’t have a good percentage in the Victorian Football League in 2015, you are in for a bumpy ride. As it stands the Seagulls have the best percentage in the league. Also as it stands there is only a game between second and second last. “But Xavier, the season is only a month old”. You’re right, the season is young, but teams are beating each other, so how do you get ahead? When you win, you win big. The biggest positive to come from the two losses for the Seagulls is that they have been by a combined four points, which doesn’t do much damage to the percentage column. Five teams have three wins (with Box Hill and Port Melbourne having a game in hand), while eight teams have two (Coburg, Geelong and Footscray having a game in hand). If the trend of everyone beating everyone continues it wouldn’t surprise me to see a ladder where first and ninth are separated by no more than three games and percentage. If this were the case it would be the closest season since 2000, the same year the league expanded to an eight-team finals system, where first and ninth were separated by just fourteen points.

The Seagulls return home on Sunday to face the Coburg Lions. The Lions are coming off a five goal loss to Essendon and will be keen to re-enter the winners circle. With the Seagulls having lost just seven games at home since the start of 2012 it is shaping to be a thrilling clash.

Plenty of positives despite Seagulls first loss

The Williamstown Seagulls fell to Port Melbourne on Sunday by two points. Despite the loss to their biggest rival, all is not lost.

After the first month of VFL action the Seagulls top the ladder on percentage and will go a game clear with a victory over local rivals Werribee on Sunday afternoon.

Sam Critchley had two crucial goals on Sunday

Sam Critchley had two crucial goals on Sunday

Let’s not mistake Port Melbourne for something they aren’t. They are one of the best sides in the competition and they showed that when it counted on Sunday afternoon.

The home side were unable to capitalise on the howling breeze in the 4th quarter, kicking just 2.5, while Port kicked three straight goals to hang on for the victory, but for the Borough it was more than kicking that got them across the line.

Gary Ayers, coaching in his 150th game pulled no punches at the final change telling his side that to secure victory they needed to find the boundary frequently in the final quarter. They did, coming away with four points as a result.

Outside of sitting atop the standings how can this loss be spun as a positive for the Seagulls?

  • Sam Dunell finding his feet – A four goal afternoon with three coming in the second quarter is further evidence that Dunell is fitting in nicely with his new side. He’s also been vocal in the quarter time and three quarter time huddles, showing his leadership capabilities.
  • Clearance struggles – Sixteen behinds doesn’t make for great reading. Port Melbourne struggling to get the ball out of their defensive 50 from the majority of kick-ins does. The technique employed by Andy Collins is simple, spoil and spoil often. This leads to repeated score opportunities which will inevitably win games.
  • Possession – Eight players with more than 15 touches – Ben Jolley with his fourth 20+ possession game of the season.
  • Effective entries – 46 inside 50s (30 for scoring shots) compared to 55 inside 50s for Port (22 for scoring shots).
  • Fueling the fire – There is nothing worse than taking on a team who are coming off an agonising loss (See Melbourne and Sydney from last Saturday night). Seagulls fans get a trip to Werribee this weekend, a club with whom there is a spiteful history, with a merger threat in the mid 1990’s bringing the rivalry to boiling point. The Tigers should be wary of what they are going to face this week.

Four Points – North Ballarat Roosters

Williamstown held on to their spot at the top of the VFL standings with a convincing 81-point victory over the North Ballarat Roosters on Saturday.

1. Defensive pressure – The Roosters had 14 scoring shots for the day and would have fallen 23 points short of the Seagulls should the visitors have remained scoreless in the second half. The pressure from the Seagulls was highlighted by their willingness to lay tackles when the Roosters had the ball in their attacking 50. This lead to numerous turnovers, which lead to scoring opportunities at the other end.

North Ballarat is a beautiful setting for footy

North Ballarat is a beautiful setting for footy

2. Collins’ sixth sense – The 1/4 time and 3/4 time huddles offer great insight into what you can expect to see when the sides take the field again. I was at the North Ballarat huddle at the first change and the message was clear from Roosters coach Gerard Fitzgerald – “Don’t use the far side of the ground because it is wasting space. If they use it in the second quarter hang back 15-20 metres”. The message from Collins must have stated the direct opposite as the second quarter saw the visitors utilise the space they were given on the far side of the field. This helped the Seagulls set up a commanding lead in the process as they kicked 7.6 (48) to 0.1 (1) in the second quarter.

3. Going up the guts – Success at home comes from using the wings, but success came in Ballarat through going through the corridor.  The speed of Anastasio, Jolley, Clouston and Dunell was on show all day as they transitioned through the centre of the midfield, making their respective opponents look two steps slower in the process. This speed helped open a flood of options in the forward 50, which inevitably lead to 36 scoring shots throughout the afternoon.

4. The best away day in the league – This isn’t a point that helped in the victory, but certainly something that should be talked about. With Bendigo out of the league, the trip to Ballarat is the most authentic road trip of the season for visiting fans. For the second straight season I jumped on the bus, and for the second straight year was treated to a great day out. Bistro food and high-class football from the Seagulls at a stadium which offers great vantage points for fans is a great showing for why every VFL fan should experience a game in Ballarat. I know when the 2016 fixture comes out this will be the first away game in my calendar.

Don’t blame the starters

This might not be the greatest Red Sox pitching staff of this century but it isn’t the worst either.

This isn’t stats driven, rather a belief that comes from the emotional roller coaster of watching this team play every day.

Rarely has there been an outing this season where the starter hasn’t given up a crooked number. On the nights where there are several crooked numbers the bullpen are out of the loop, when the damage is limited, the bullpen show their potential.CB

Buchholz, Miley, Kelly, Porcello and Masterson. Each have their strengths and weaknesses but they all have one thing in common. They’re constantly being told how bad they are as a rotation and guess what? It shows in how they perform.

Broadcasters, Print journalists and some fans can’t attack them quickly enough. A staff without a genuine ace, a staff who aren’t good enough to win the World Series.

What if we re-signed Lester? What if we signed Johnny Cueto? What if, what if, WHAT IF?

What if we all got behind the team and accepted them for what they are? 2015 is going to be a year of ups and downs, the sooner everybody accepts that the easier it will be on all of us!

When the problem lies within the psyche of the pitchers it is much tougher to work around. This is where I believe that Juan Nieves has some work to do. As the pitching coach it’s on him to get the confidence back to where it needs to be.

The solution? Nieves needs to sit down with John Farrell and seek his guidance on the issue. Farrell has a lot on his plate but I don’t believe he uses his history with the club enough in his current managerial role. Farrell knows how to get a Red Sox staff up and about and a little more input from him could make all the difference.

When you look at what the five starters are capable of at their best the Red Sox have a roster that should compete to win the A.L East. A lot of whether that happens in 2015 is going to come down to how they deal with the beating they are getting on and off the field.

Today is game 26. My maths tells me we have 136 games left in the season. If you’re ready to blow the season up and start again then you need to take a few deep breaths and remember that it’s a very long season and anything is possible.