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.

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.

Four points – Sandringham Zebras

A convincing 58-point victory at Burbank Oval on Sunday afternoon provided the perfect 2015 homecoming for the Williamstown Football Club.

1. Anthony Anastasio – A dominating performance from Anastasio showed how vital he is to the side. Four goals and solid pressure placed on the Sandringham defence had him among the best for the Seagulls.  The emergence of the 21 year-old as a key figure in the Seagulls attacking game is a bright note for the future, with Anastasio having only just ticked over the 50 game mark in his very young career. IMG_1199

2. Physicality rules the day – At times in the second quarter it looked like the clash was going to turn into a battle of fists rather than footballing wits. Spot fights erupted from both sides and Williamstown were able to make the most of the Zebras mental unrest to kick a pair of crucial goals to extend their lead back out to 17 points at the long break.

3. Clear messages – Andy Collins sent a clear message at the final change “Go out there is if the scoreboard is reading 0-0”. With a 57 point lead and the points in the back, it would have been easy for the Seagulls to hit cruise control in the final term. The Zebras registered 7 scoring shots to 3 in the final term, but were outscored 3.0.18 to 2.5.17, with the Seagulls making the most of their opportunities, at one point extending their lead to 66 points.

4. Touches in bunches – Ed Carr had 30 touches, Ben Jolley had 30 touches and Nick Sing had 20. When three players can combine to get the ball 80 times, you know they are going to be tough to stop. More impressive for Jolley was the fact he lined up against 149 game St. Kilda Veteran Clint Jones.

Williamstown set to end 12-year drought

The Williamstown Seagulls enter the 2015 Victorian Football League season looking to snap a 12-year premiership drought and lift a cup for the tenth straight decade.

The Seagulls fell agonisingly short in 2014, dropping their Preliminary Final clash against the Box Hill Hawks by seven points. Here are five reasons the Seagulls can go all the way in 2015 (in no particular order).Seagulls logo

 

Big game experience – A Preliminary Final in 2014 may not scream big game experience but winning the Foxtel Cup in 2011 and 2014 does. In their two Foxtel Cup campaigns the smallest margin of victory for the Seagulls was 19 points, with three of their six victories coming by over five goals (Swan Districts [2011] 37 Points, Aspley [2014] 45 points and West Perth [2014 Grand Final] 63 points).

You also need to go back to 2009 for the last time Williamstown failed to make a Preliminary Final. On that occasion they were knocked out in straight sets, falling to the Northern Bullants and Collingwood. No other team in the competition has appeared in every Preliminary Final in the same stretch.

Key recruits – One of the luxuries of being a stand-alone club in the VFL is the ability to recruit top class players. While Kane Lambert was lost to Richmond (Where he has subsequently picked up a shoulder injury), Seagulls fans should be excited by the addition of Taylor Hine and Sam Dunell, who have both spent time on AFL lists.

Dunell played twelve games in three seasons with St Kilda scoring one goal. Since his VFL debut with the Bendigo Bombers in 2011 he has played 49 games, scoring 50 goals. He appeared in 15 games for Sandringham last season with a strong return of 23 goals. It appears like Dunell will develop into a key forward role with the Seagulls, where he will be fully capable of a 30-40 goal season should he stay fit.

After 23 games split between the Gold Coast Suns and North Melbourne Kangaroos, Hine will play a key role for the Seagulls in 2015, varying between midfield and defensive duties. During his time with the Roos he was frequently used in a tagging role, a role which he will be sure to embrace should he be given it by Andy Collins. His 18 games for the Werribee Tigers in 2014 demonstrate his ability to play consistent football and back up his performances, something the side will be hoping to see repeated as they look to take the next step.

Andy Collins – The chips were stacked heavily against Collins in 2014 and he still managed to come out on top. In the Seagulls first year as a stand-alone outfit, and his first year as coach, he took the side to within a game of the Grand Final and eased the club to their second ever Foxtel Cup triumph. The impact he has had on the side is similar to that of Paul Roos at Melbourne, in that he has a structure in place which he will continue to develop as he enters his second year at the helm.

Home ground advantage – There’s something special about Burbank Oval. Whether it’s the location, the passion from the home fans or the wind belting off the water, it’s not a happy hunting ground for opposition clubs.

Since 2012 the Seagulls have a formidable 20-6 record at Burbank Oval. That’s a winning percentage of .769. The key to success at Burbank is knowing that the scoring end is the scoreboard end and that you need to keep possession rotating while you are kicking towards the Floyd Pavilion. All too often visiting sides are undone by pushing too far forward at the Floyd end, leaving the Seagulls with easy opportunities on the counter.

This was best highlighted in 2014 during the Seagulls clash against Collingwood where a combined 3.0 (18) was kicked to the Floyd end, with 21.23 (149) was kicked towards the scoreboard end on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon. If the Seagulls can continue to use their local knowledge to exploit the opposition then their winning form is certain to continue.

Defensive pressure – In a loop back to the impact of Andy Collins the Seagulls have shown themselves to be one of the best defensive sides in the competition.

The Collins mantra places great focus on pressuring the player with the ball and dominating the clearances, something which the Seagulls were able to do throughout the preseason. The home clash against Box Hill on Saturday was the toughest test of the preseason, and while the result wasn’t as desired there were positive signs. The tackling pressure was relentless and it was clear that Box Hill were rattled whenever they were required to clear the ball from inside the Williamstown forward 50.

The more time Collins has to work his philosophy into the game the tougher the Seagulls are going to be to score against. For a team who only conceded over 100 points twice in 2014 (101 against the Northern Blues in round one, 100 against Box Hill in the Preliminary Final) and averaged 99.09 points per game, that defensive pressure is a scary prospect for the rest of the competition.