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How a new Don became the league's pressure king

Diesel's view, Bombers drama, Crows woes Footy Feed with Matt Thompson and Nick Bowen

WHILE Essendon's game plan and recent recruiting is under fire, the recruitment of Devon Smith has hit the target, the former Giant smashing the competition in pressure points.

Smith is top of the pressure tree this season from Brisbane Lion Dayne Zorko, and has recorded two of the top 10 performances this season – in round eight (97.3 points) and round one (92).

Essendon coach John Worsfold said on Saturday after the Bombers' disappointing loss to Carlton that Smith had been "wonderful" in setting the standard of desire to get inside and lay big tackles.

Smith racked up 15 on Saturday, which Worsfold commended despite dismissing raw tackling numbers as less relevant than players putting in "effort around the ball and how we attack it".

So, if tackling isn't everything in the eyes of coaches, just what is a "pressure point", and how is it calculated?

It's much more complex than you think.

Champion Data measure four levels of pressure players can apply; corralling, chasing, closing and physical.

Each level is worth a certain amount of points, which is worked out by how much harder it is for the opposition to record an effective disposal from that pressure, compared to when they are under no pressure.

Corralling, when the player guards a space so an opponent is limited with his run and where he can go, is worth 1.2 points.

Chasing a player from behind and gaining ground is worth 1.5 points.

Closing a player down from in front or to the side of his disposal is worth 2.25 points.

And, physical pressure – when a player gets a hand to a player while he is disposing of the ball – is worth 3.75 points.

Therefore, it's possible for a player to record a high number of pressure acts but accumulate a low number of points, if the acts aren't specifically closing or physical.

Interestingly, Zorko is ranked second overall this season in this area despite only recently emerging from a form slump and an inability to cope with taggers.

His possession numbers might have been down earlier this season, but the Lion has been making up for it in other areas given his impressive pressure points average.

Richmond's Jack Graham is ranked fourth overall by average, but tops the ladder for an individual performance; in the Tigers' opening-round win over Carlton, the 20-year-old racked up 105.6 points.

He's the only player to have cleared 100 points this season.

Adelaide's Hugh Greenwood, fifth overall, is the only other player outside of Smith to have recorded two single-game totals in the top 10 this year; in round eight against Port Adelaide and in round six versus Gold Coast.

Top 10 pressure players of 2018

Player Average per game
Devon Smith
Dayne Zorko
3. Clayton Oliver 63.0
4. Tim Taranto 63.0
5. Jack Graham 62.4
6. Hugh Greenwood 61.2
7. Liam Shiels 60.8
8. Brad Ebert 60.4
9. Corey Maynard 60.0
10. Brad Scheer 59.6

Top 10 pressure points scores in 2018

Rank Player Score
1. Jack Graham 105.6 (R1)
2. Hugh Greenwood
99.2 (R8)
3. Devon Smith 97.3 (R8)
4. Dayne Zorko
96.9 (R7)
5. Taylor Adams
96.9 (R8)
6. Trent Cotchin
96 (R5)
7. Jarryd Lyons
94.8 (R6)
8. Hugh Greenwood
93.5 (R6)
9. Devon Smith
92 (R1)
10.  Richard Douglas
91.8 (R4)

Who is your club's best pressure player?

Club Player Acts Points
Adelaide Hugh Greenwood 25.0 61.2
Brisbane Dayne Zorko 29.5 65.9
Carlton Ed Curnow 21.0 56.5
Collingwood Scott Pendlebury 22.4 56.7
Essendon Devon Smith 30.5 72.2
Fremantle Mitch Crowden 21.7 50.7
Geelong Brandan Parfitt 24.2 56.4
Gold Coast Jarryd Lyons 24.5 55.6
Greater Western Sydney Tim Taranto 25.9 63.0
Hawthorn Liam Shiels 25.0 60.8
Melbourne Clayton Oliver 25.1 63.0
North Melbourne Ben Jacobs 20.9 55.5
Port Adelaide Brad Ebert 23.6 60.4
Richmond Jack Graham 25.1 62.4
St Kilda Luke Dunstan 23.3 57.6
Sydney Ben Ronke 22.0 52.8
West Coast Jack Redden 22.4 51.5
Western Bulldogs Jack Macrae 19.9 49.7

(average per game, minimum three games played)

Top 10 pressure games of all-time (2010-18)

Rank Player When Points
1. Kieren Jack R19, 2013 122
2. Matt Priddis R8, 2010 120
3. Dom Cassisi R20, 2010 120
4. Matt Priddis R6, 2010 116
5. Dom Cassisi R7, 2010 115
6. Tom Liberatore R2, 2017 114
7. Liam Shiels R8, 2016 112
8. Clint Jones R9, 2010 111
9. Matt Priddis R16, 2012 110
10. Andrew McQualter R4, 2010 109

All statistics provided by Champion Data.