Kicking is key for clipped Seagulls

The Williamstown Seagulls sit third on the VFL ladder after ten weeks, with six wins, three losses and a bye. The side is set up well for a sixth straight preliminary finals appearance and a first flag since 2003. Despite this their work in front of goal could be of concern at the business end of the season.

The Seagulls were thoroughly outplayed by the Box Hill Hawks on Sunday afternoon and will be looking to bounce back when they travel to Punt Road at lunchtime on Saturday.IMG_1591

When examining the statistics from the 62-point loss on Sunday afternoon there are three things that stand out.

  • Box Hill had 79 more marks than Williamstown.
  • Williamstown had six more inside 50’s than Box Hill [57-51] however 49 of the 51 entries for Box Hill came on the rebound.
  • Despite only having seven more scoring shots Box Hill kicked 19.8 to their opponents 8.12.

It is the accuracy in front of goals which could cost the Seagulls as the season goes on. Sunday afternoon was the sixth time in their nine games this season when they Seagulls have kicked more behinds than goals. Through their first nine games of the season the Seagulls have a cumulative score of 120.139 (859). That’s the fourth highest scoring total in the VFL this year behind Box Hill, Port Melbourne and Essendon. So how can the Seagulls improve their accuracy to kick a competitive score every week?

It comes down to confidence. The volume of behinds scored it clearly more than Andy Collins would want, and as with the twelve behinds on Sunday, a lot of them have been rushed.

Through the first six weeks of the season the biggest joy in watching the Seagulls was the fluidity they showed when using the corridor and moving the ball into their forward 50. In the last month it appears the level of confidence has dropped, with entries into the forward 50 often resulting in trying to find an easier target rather than having a shot for goal.

Is shooting for goal on every forward entry the answer? No, it isn’t. For me it is about weighing up the options. While the shot from closer to goal likely to be a higher percentage shot than a shot from distance, the chances of a mark may not be as high, which can lead to turnovers.

The Seagulls have scored 14 or more goals on five occasions this season, with the last occasion being the home clash against Coburg in late May. Since then the Seagulls have scored 11 (against Geelong), 9 (against Footscray) and 8 (against Box Hill). In a further show of their dominance, the Seagulls had 7 more scoring shots against Geelong and 19 more in their game against Footscray.

What does this tell us? Williamstown are one of the most potent attacking teams in the VFL and they have generated more scoring opportunities than their opponent every week this year with the exception of last Sunday, the opening round against the Northern Blues (a one point victory) and their local derby against Werribee (a two point loss).

The Seagulls have the results on the board. Those results show that they are statistically and performance wise one of the best teams in the league across the last few years. Facing the struggling Richmond Tigers on Saturday could be perfect timing for a group who are looking to get their confidence back, with the Tigers reeling after their last quarter collapse against Footscray last weekend.

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Four Points – Footscray Bulldogs

A frequently windy and for a brief moment wet Sunday afternoon spent at Whitten Oval saw Williamstown Seagulls fans rewarded as their team ran out 39 point winners over the reigning premiers, the Footscray Bulldogs.

1. Cam Lockwood – For the second time in three games a Seagull has used their milestone to help their side to a crucial victory. Vice-Captain Cam Lockwood was appearing in his 100th VFL game and did not disappoint. Two goals, sixteen disposals and two tackles saw him among the best on ground. His run from the backline was key as the Seagulls negated Footscray’s opportunity to kick a strong score with the wind.IMG_1500

2. Lock it in, Eddie – The game was won and lost in the forward 50 at the Geelong Road end. With winds reaching 40km/ph at points, the team who made use of it was always going to come out on top. Williamstown locked the ball in the forward 50 when they had the wind, while Footscray allowed the Seagulls to break into the midfield, depleting the Bulldogs scoring options in the process. The Seagulls kicked 8.19 (67) to the Bulldogs 2.7 (19) at the Geelong Road end, a statistic which defined the most anticipated game of the round.

3. Opportunities are what you make them – 9.22 doesn’t look great, but any time you have 31 scoring shots you’re going to be tough to beat. More than that the Seagulls were beaten in all of the main stat categories besides Inside 50’s and scoring shots. So how did they more than double the score of their opponents? Effective possessions. The amount of junk kicks or handballs on Sunday were so small I could count them on both hands. When the Seagulls had the ball they knew where they needed to put it, put it in position and the results spoke for themselves.

4. Rest up – The Seagulls have the bye next weekend and head in at the top of the ladder, a position which they will hold if Collingwood can beat Werribee at Victoria Park. Coming out of the bye the Seagulls face Box Hill at home, Richmond away, Essendon at home and Frankston at home. While it may not be the toughest draw the Seagulls could have, they will face challenges in each of the games and will need to win at least three of the four fixtures to keep their top two hopes alive.

Failure at Fenway?

The Red Sox can win the World Series in 2015. Even though they are less than half a dozen games out of place with over one hundred games remaining the fact of the matter is that probably isn’t going to happen.

But it’s not going to happen for 28 other franchises either. What makes Red Sox fans so special they think the whole team should be blown up and everything is worse than it has ever been? Nothing. It’s all about perspective.

If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. My favourite saying and something that should be being blasted through the Red Sox clubhouse.

Five years away from Fenway is too long

Five years away from Fenway is too long

Obviously 24-31 isn’t where you want to be after 55 games but that’s not the end of the world. Baseball is a sport which is built around streaks. The bats will be hot, the arms will be hot and if we’re lucky we’ll see them both at the same time.

Fans refusing to spend money on the team or watch until they get better doesn’t solve anything. In fact all it does is create an image for the fan base (newsflash: we’re already unpopular). Do people think the players enjoy losing, or that they aren’t trying on purpose? No. That’s sport, there’s always going to be a loser. If fans don’t like that then there are plenty of other hobbies to take up.

Sure, I’m frustrated. I’m not frustrated because we’re 24-31 though. I’m frustrated because the expectation is there that we are going to go 162-0, everything is perfect and Ortiz will be the next President of the United States. In what universe is that possible? (Ortiz for President shouldn’t be ruled out at this point).

Do we need to pull out the failure stamp for 2015, fire Farrell and release Sandoval because he’s defensively weak (something our owners knew when they signed him)? No, we don’t. If you want Farrell fired feel free to tell me who he should be replaced with, because there aren’t many people better than Farrell who currently don’t have a job .

My perspective is warped. It’s five years next Friday since I’ve been to a game at Fenway. That’s frustrating too. Fans who all of a sudden don’t want to go and take living near the Sox for granted? They frustrate me. Embrace what you have, there are thousands of international fans who would take your place in a heartbeat.

I love it when my teams are good. Part of the reason I love it is because it doesn’t happen very often, and if it wasn’t for the Sox then my success rate would be worse than it already is. Even when the Red Sox are bad I love them.  There’s something magical about watching them whether they win or lose. Eight championships in 114 years (all of which have come in bunches) suggest that we’re a run of the mill franchise. When you’re hit or miss over 100+ years, you’ll have hit or miss seasons. 2015 at this point will probably turn into a miss, but don’t ink it in yet. Keep the faith.

Why? Because the rest of the A.L East are average too. If this roster can perform to their capabilities for the second half of the season we are going to be in the mix when it matters, and as the Kansas City Royals showed us last year, anything is possible.

Four Points – Geelong Cats

The Williamstown Seagulls won their second straight game on Saturday, deafeating the Geelong Cats. The win sees the Towners return to the top of the VFL standings in the process.

1. Momentum – It’s not long ago that the Seagulls couldn’t find themselves on the right end of a two-point game to save themselves. After getting back on the winners list against Coburg, the momentum from that victory played a large part of the success on Saturday afternoon. The Seagulls were in front at every change after the first quarter, and the lessons learned in the close losses against Port Melbourne and Werribee shone through as the side hung on for their most memorable win of the season to date.IMG_1430

2. Tackling pressure – The Seagulls won the tackle count 82-78 but made their biggest contribution in the third quarter where they laid 15 more tackles than the Cats (24-9). This pressure resulted in eight scoring opportunities for the Seagulls, opposed to the five scoring shots had by the Cats. If it wasn’t for the impact of a swirling breeze the visitors would have made greater use of their dominance than the 4.4.(28) they kicked.

3. Loose ball gets – Geelong outmarked Williamstown 76-53 on the day, a stat which in a lot of games would be enough to swing the result. The Seagulls dominated when it came to putting their head over the loose ball and their toughness was rewarded. Jolley, Gallucci, Meese and first gamer Ash Di Ciero all demonstrated a nose for the loose ball, a certain key to victory.

4. Calm in the clutch – After the loss to Port Melbourne I was sitting on the train home, sharing my frustration with a Port Melbourne supporter. Our moods were obviously polar opposites, but in the process of both presenting our cases he said something which will forever stick with me about the loss. At the final change the message from Gary Ayres was to keep the ball as close to the boundary line as they could. On Saturday afternoon what I witnessed in the last quarter from the Seagulls was the same as what I saw from Port Melbourne three weeks prior. With the margin under a goal with minutes remaining (as it had been for the majority of the day) the Seagulls made sure they kept numbers behind the ball and kept the ball near the boundary line. By no means was it the first option, but it was an option if the side thought they were in danger. On reflection, Geelong weren’t given a chance to win it in the last five minutes despite the ball being in their attacking half. Calmness persevered, with four points the ultimate reward.