2016 Williamstown Seagulls fixture analysis

The VFL draw has been released and the Williamstown Seagulls are looking for back-to-back premierships for the first time since 1958-59. What does the draw hold?

Round 1: RICHMOND (HOME) – The Seagulls have a relatively kind draw for the season opener, hosting the Tigers, a side they easily accounted for in 2015. A comfortable win should follow.index

Round 2: BOX HILL (HOME) – The premiership flag will unfurled against the side the Seagulls dominated to win their first flag in twelve years. Box Hill have the credentials of a top four side and this game will have some niggle.

Round 3: CASEY (AWAY) – A night game awaits the Seagulls on their first 2016 away trip. Casey will fancy themselves as a chance if they can regain the form that saw them sneak into the finals last season.

Round 4: PORT MELBOURNE (HOME) – The Mothers Day clash at Burbank will, as always, be a clash for the ages. Last Mothers Day the Seagulls fell a kick short and will be looking to turn the tables on their oldest rival.

Round 5: WERRIBEE (AWAY) – There’s a certain symmetry to the Seagulls traveling to Werribee the week after playing Port at home. The week after their stinging loss to Port, the Towners suffered the same result by the same margin against the Tigers. This result will be lingering in the memories of the visitors.

Round 6: NORTHERN BLUES (HOME) – The Blues gave the Seagulls a scare in the first week of 2015 but don’t expect to see that result repeated. The Seagulls will be far too strong for an undermanned Blues outfit.

Round 7: COLLINGWOOD (AWAY) – The most frustrating away fixture simply because it is being played at the Holden Centre rather than Victoria Park. The Pies will be as strong as ever in what could be a great contest.

Round 8:  STATE GAME – SANFL VS VFL – This would be a great afternoon at the Adelaide Oval. One thing is for sure, there will be Seagulls players pulling on the Big V.

Round 9: FOOTSCRAY (AWAY) – The Queen’s Birthday Eve clash will hopefully have better weather than the 2015 game. This game is also likely to be the only game featuring the Seagulls stunning yellow kit they wore as they won their second Foxtel Cup in 2014.

Round 10: FRANKSTON (HOME) – The Dolphins are going to be a better team in 2015. Are they going to be good enough to get a result against the Seagulls on the road? Probably not. A good percentage boosting opportunity heading into the bye.

Round 11: BYE

Round 12: GEELONG (HOME) – The Cats are the perfect opponent for the Seagulls to face coming out of the bye. A refreshed outfit should be too much for the Cats.

Round 13: NORTH BALLARAT (HOME) –This will be the first time North Ballarat have played at Burbank Oval since Round 14 2012. Burbank Oval is a difficult place to play at the best of times and the Roosters face a tough task to get the points.

Round 14: BOX HILL (AWAY) – This could be the toughest game of the season for the Seagulls. Box Hill are going to be a top four team and this game will go a long way to deciding the look of the ladder come finals.

Round 15: COBURG (HOME) – Coburg will be much improved from a 2015 campaign that saw them in the winners column on just seven occasion. A potential bogey game if approached with the wrong mindset.

Round 16: PORT MELBOURNE (AWAY) – The trip across the bridge generates a tense atmosphere at North Port Oval. The Borough will be in the mix for a finals place so this one could go either way.

Round 17: SANDRINGHAM (AWAY) – Seagulls fans and players alike will be hoping for less heart complications than were delivered in the 2015 Qualifying Final. It’s tough to see how the Zebras won’t be aiming for some payback from the above result.

Round 18: FOOTSCRAY (HOME) – In what shapes as their toughest month of the season the Seagulls are going to need to find a way past a very strong Footscray side. The Dogs got across the line last time these sides met at Burbank, with poor kicking plaguing the home side, who managed a limp 1.7 in the final term of that clash.

Round 19: ESSENDON (AWAY) – A trip to Windy Hill could be a threat. It’s likely that Essendon will be depleted all season, but much like the clash against Coburg, it’s all about mindset.

Round 20: NORTHERN BLUES (AWAY) – If everything goes to plan a top two spot will be wrapped up by the final game of the season for Williamstown, an honour that has eluded the side since the 2011 season. This is a must win game with their second bye of the season in round 21.

Round 21: BYE

 

Season prediction – There are no games for the Seagulls that are worse than 50-50 in 2015. Worst case scenario the Seagulls go 12-6, best case scenario 17-1. I think they’ll end up somewhere in the middle going 15-3 and securing the Minor Premiership.

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Seagulls survive charging Zebras

The Williamstown Seagulls are through to their sixth straight preliminary final, a tally unmatched across the Victorian Football League. Their seven point victory against the Sandringham Zebras was enough to send the blood pressure of Seagulls fans through the roof. How did the emotions play out?

 

First quarter:

  • Okay, we’re kicking with the wind, we need at least five goals.IMG_2093
  • Great, they won the first clearance, just get rid of the ball…. We can’t afford to fall behind. Phew.
  • A few quick goals. Very nice.
  • We’re kicking straight. That was a big concern especially with this cyclonic wind.
  • Why didn’t anyone tell me that this place was colder than Burbank Oval?
  • We’re three goals up but they’re attacking, just concede a behind, reset and attack.
  • We’ve held them out and added a few late goals. I’m happy.
  • 5.4.34 – 0.0.0. Can’t complain about that.

Second Quarter:

  • One goal would be nice here.
  • Sandy aren’t taking advantage of this wind.
  • Can we just clear the ball to the centre for a breather?
  • This is the best resistance I’ve seen since the Chinese put up the great wall to keep the rabbits out.
  • I knew I shouldn’t have said that, two quick goals.
  • We’ve scored into the wind. That’s crucial.
  • A few late goals – not ideal but a good lead to have with the wind.
  • 7.4.46 – 4.5.29. A huge third quarter will seal it.

Third Quarter:

  • A slow start isn’t ideal.
  • There’s the goal that’s broken the seal.
  • This is going exactly like I hoped it would.
  • How about our accuracy?
  • Sandy fans seem a bit frustrated that they lost Sam Dunell last year – some colourful words being thrown at him.
  • It would have been nice to keep them without a goal but we’ll get it back.
  • A late flood on the scoreboard. Very nice, surely we can’t lose from here.
  • My post-game beer at Mrs. Parma’s is going to be nice as I contemplate a week off.
  • 13.6.84 – 5.6.36. Done. Even if Sandy have a great last quarter they’re not getting within three goals.

Fourth Quarter:

  • One goal will seal it.
  • We need to use the flanks better – so much space, so little opportunity.
  • Clear the ball.
  • 2 goals isn’t that bad, they can’t get seven more.
  • The Zebras are doing a fantastic job at keeping the ball out of our hands.
  • More goals. Let’s just block it up.
  • Thank god they’re not kicking well.
  • They’re getting too close for my liking.
  • Wait. How is this happening?
  • I really am going to need this beer.
  • Eight points up?
  • Check twitter for time elapsed.
  • Seven points
  • Check twitter for time elapsed.
  • Clearance to the centre where there’s not a man for miles.
  • Check twitter. 32 minutes gone.
  • They’re loading up again, WHERE IS THE SIREN?
  • There it is.
  • YES.
  • What a display. Week off. Reload. Get it done.
  • Now, how long until that beer?

Nothing beats sport.

Soaring Seagulls – Comparing 2014 and 2015 chances

There are just two games left in the Victorian Football League home and away season. Those two games could see Williamstown finish anywhere between 1st and 7th. After five straight preliminary finals appearances are the Seagulls ready to win their first premiership in twelve years? The numbers from this time last year and the current group add insight into the debate.

2014 (after 18 rounds) – Record: 12-4 / Percentage: 138.46% / Scoring: 234 goals 216 behinds / Longest streak: 5 game win streak / Longest streak: 4 X 1 game losing streaks / Average score for: 101.25 / Average score against: 73.12.

Many VFL experts tipped a tough year for the Seagulls. Their first year after the split from the Western Bulldogs, a relatively small forward line and a lack of depth were highlighted as the key issues. Through 18 rounds and heading into the finals the Seagulls had shown that they were genuine contenders who could match it with anyone if they were given the chance.

Big wins over Footscray, Collingwood and Richmond in the first month of the season set the Seagulls up for a season where they wouldn’t lose two games in a row.

Their four losses were spread over the first two-thirds of the season, enabling the Seagulls to enter the finals on a five Seagulls logogame tear, where they would ultimately lose two of three games, bowing out with a devastating seven point loss to the Box Hill Hawks.

Ben Jolley, Adam Marcon and Kane Lambert were the lynchpins for Williamstown as they pushed towards a top four berth, eventually finishing third on percentage after Footscray beat Richmond after the siren at Punt Road in their final home and away clash.

2015 (after 18 rounds) – Record: 12-4 / Percentage: 142.77% / Scoring: 228 goals 241 behinds /  Longest streak: 5 game win streak / Longest streak: 2 game losing streak / Average score for: 100.56 / Average score against 70.43.

Kane Lambert was off to Richmond and mixed feelings were prominent by the bay. On one hand Lambert had reached his dream of being drafted by an AFL outfit, on the other – who could possibly replace the speedy goal-sneak? Since I’m asking the question the answer is Anthony Anastasio (and also really obvious).

Three straight wins before a pair of two point losses to Port Melbourne and Werribee showed yet again that the Seagulls were going to be a force to be reckoned with. Since then the Seagulls are undefeated on the road, with a narrow loss to Footscray and a hammering against  Hawthorn, sorry, Box Hill, the only other blemishes on an otherwise commanding season.

The 2015 Seagulls have offered a great variety. While Jolley and Marcon have been important the likes of Dunell, Bese, Carr, Carr, Lockwood and Banner and Critchley are making up the bulk of the BOG every week. That’s why opponents need to be scared, you can shut down one guy but someone else will pop up and do their job (see Anastasio against Collingwood or Dunell against Casey).

The Seagulls have won six of their last seven and nine of their last eleven. With a very winnable fixture against Werribee on Saturday and a potential Minor Premiership deciding clash against Box Hill remaining, it is feasible that the Seagulls enter the finals winning eleven from thirteen.

The Verdict – The numbers and the stories of the respective seasons are near identical. So which year has more potential? You don’t need to mention any more than the words “Box Hill” to get most Williamstown fans fired up, so it’s fitting that a trip to the City Oval is where the Seagulls end one phase of their 2015 journey.

If you ask Andy Collins I don’t think he’d give too much away, it’s not who he is. Rather than who he is, it is valuable to think about what Collins is – a year more experienced. He’s had the chance to find and craft players into the system and the record speaks for itself.

The numbers say that the two years are the same as I write, but numbers can lie. Four losses this year? Three of those have been by a combined total of fifteen points. That’s a number that is impossible to ignore. The Seagulls don’t lose heavily (even in 2014 the biggest loss was 27 points), so if you aren’t switched on for the entire four quarters you’re going to pay the price.

The 2014 side were good enough to win the flag.

The 2015 side are good enough to win the flag.

The current crop have the extra touch of calmness under pressure that was missing in 2014 which leads me to the following conclusion (after a great deal of research).

The 2015 side are going to go at least one step further than the 2014 team.

Four points – Collingwood Magpies

The Seagulls and Magpies were caught in trench warfare for the first three quarters at Burbank Oval on Sunday afternoon. A seven goal final term turned a four point three quarter time lead into a 32 point victory, ensuring they remain top of the Victorian Football League ladder for another week.

1. I see Red, I see Red, I see Red – Sunday was in no uncertain terms the Anthony Anastasio show and what a pleasure it was to watch. The pocket rocket was instrumental in the victory, with five goals, 22 disposals, a tackle, a few assists (including giving away an opportunity to kick what would have been his sixth goal) and the ability to get under the skin of his opponent. The stats are what they are – phenomenal.  The niggle is what impressed me the IMG_1859most. He was able to niggle without doing anything which is going to see him which would put him in danger of missing a game and like most little blokes, his pest status resonated with multiple Magpie players. At one stage in the third quarter he was jammed between two Collingwood players (after kicking a goal), both of whom were trying to gain a reaction, but in typical Red fashion he darted away leaving the Magpies more frustrated.  Having a player like Anastasio who can throw the opponents off task is going to be vital in the lead in to the finals and what looks like it could be a minor premiership deciding clash against Box Hill in the last round of the home and away season.

2. Countering the Magpie strength – Within the first five minutes of the game the Magpies had asserted their dominance in the defensive 50. (At least) Six uncontested marks for the Magpies in first quarter was vital in restricting the Seagulls to a pair of behinds in the first time. This caused the Seagulls to change from the more direct route they had taken to shorter passes and a greater weight of handballs. As they scoreboard showed, the move paid off, with the Seagulls clawing to within two points at the main change.

3. Two hands on the ball – Ball security is always important. In the conditions that were offered on Sunday (sun, overcast, a light breeze, blowing a gale and a touch of rain in the final term) it was a factor that changed the momentum on several occasions. Where the home side, with their knowledge of the conditions focused on locking the ball in and going to the men in space, the visitors played fast and loose, at their peril., most notably the turnover goal from their half forward line in the third quarter.

4. Keeping calm under pressure – Throughout the first three quarters the Magpies held a two goal or more lead on two occasions. In a game where the two teams combined for 14 goals across the first three quarters, it was a lead that could have set the Magpies up for a much needed victory. The ability of the home side to stay cool in the face of game changing pressure was vital, as was their ability to release the pressure valve in the final term.

Four Points – Port Melbourne

The Williamstown Seagulls exacted a small piece of revenge on Port Melbourne after Port scraped past the Seagulls by two points earlier in the season.

1. Beating the old enemy – There’s nothing better than beating your biggest rival. The ten goal margin puts the icing on the cake. The fact that the win (in conjunction with a Box Hill loss, cheers Werribee) puts the Seagulls back on the top of the ladder could be a huge turning point for the season.index

2. Timing is everything – With a ten goal margin of victory Seagulls fans could be forgiven for thinking it was an easy day at the office. Goals in response to Port Melbourne goals, as well as goals either side of the siren were vital in establishing the comfortable scoreline.

3. Winning at North Port – North Port is to the VFL what the MCG is to the AFL. If you can’t when there you aren’t going to win premierships. Walking back into the ground on Saturday I got a chill from the memory of last September. In saying that I think that’s a game confined to the memory banks of the players involved. The comfort shown on Saturday can only mean positive steps come September.

4. Stand and Deliver – If there’s one thing I’d like to see at Burbank Oval it’s having the song played after a win. In saying that the PA system isn’t the greatest, so I can understand the logistics behind it. It was great to hear the song played at North Port (albeit quietly) after the huge win.

Four points – Essendon Bombers

The Williamstown Seagulls got their first television appearance of the season on Saturday afternoon and didn’t disappoint with a 44-point statement victory over the Essendon Bombers at Burbank Oval.

1. Collins half-time spray – I’d love to know what Andy said to the side at half time. There appeared no way back at half time with the side lacking confidence going forward, confidence that had been a trademark of their IMG_1688performances all year. The third quarter was a quarter for the ages. It not only showed why every other team in the league should be scared of what the Seagulls can do, but it demonstrated the philosophy that Collins is working towards.

2. Wet weather footy – With Burbank heavy underfoot, possessions were more vital than ever on Saturday. For Andy Collins the message at the first break was to handball rather than use the short kick. The Seagulls had 85 more disposals on Saturday, out-handballing the Bombers 149-78.  Moving the ball by hand caught the Bombers off guard and allowed the home side to stretch their dominance.

3. Accuracy in front of goal – 28 scoring shots for the Seagulls has been fairly standard this year (The only times they’ve had less were the Northern Blues in round one (25) Werribee in round five (24) and Box Hill in round ten (20)), but what they did with the scoring shots was vital. 20 goals and eight behinds is enough to ensure you’re going to pick up the points every week. With a potential percentage booster looming against the winless Frankston this Saturday, the Seagulls will be hoping for a repeat performance to climb back to the top of the ladder.

4. Family fun – I’m not talking the family fun activities that are on for the kids every week. With school holidays being on my parents were down for a visit and it was great to take my dad to his first Williamstown game after sharing many a spirited discussion about the club on the phone since I started attending games. The result helped but he came away from the day impressed with how everything unfolded. I’d say that’s a big win.

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.