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The stats files: The blueprint to beating Richmond

The Tigers trudge off after GWS loss – an unfamiliar sight in recent times - AFL,Stats Files,Richmond Tigers,column
The Tigers trudge off after GWS loss – an unfamiliar sight in recent times

AT THE risk of inciting the Tiger Army, we give you the blueprint on how to beat Richmond.   

Disclaimer: it's easier written than done – and it involves much more than herding the Tigers onto a plane to travel interstate.   

There are trends emerging in Richmond's four losses this year, beyond the fact all of them came outside of Victoria.   

(On that note, no club since Carlton in 1987 has won the flag without winning at least one game interstate. Gold Coast hosts the Tigers in round 21.)   

Adelaide (round two), West Coast (round nine), Port Adelaide (round 12) and Greater Western Sydney (round 17) are the clubs that toppled Richmond in 2018.   

They all kicked the ball at least 228 times and up to 261 (the AFL average is 213) and only the Crows had a lower kick-to-handball ratio against the Tigers than their season standard.   

It's no accident, as Giants coach Leon Cameron explained on radio station 3AW on Sunday.   

His team's kick-to-handball ratio dramatically spiked from 1.28 to 1.58 – 19.9 more kicks and 19.6 fewer handballs than normal – in its two-point victory over Richmond on Saturday night.   

"The No.1 thing is we probably over-handballed a fair bit in the past, especially against Richmond," Cameron said.   

"We know Richmond's pressure is No.1 by a mile, and we thought we got that kick-to-handball ratio … a bit better than what we have in the past when we've played sides that (place) high pressure.   

"When you come up against those sides, if you overuse or go backwards, you just invite their pressure even more.   

"(The Tigers) have this uncanny knack as soon as they sense a kill by an overuse; they just come forward from whatever position they are at."   

There are many different ways to illustrate a team's pressure prowess, but what sets Richmond apart is its ability to punish turnovers.   

The Tigers have outscored their opposition by 338 points from turnovers this season, an astronomical 96 more than any other club.   

Every premier bar one – the Western Bulldogs in 2016 – has finished in the top two in this category since 2007.   

But Richmond's four defeats coincided with its worst season outings in that department.   

The Eagles scored 42 extra points from turnovers in round nine; Port was plus-14; Adelaide plus-10; and GWS plus-eight.   

The only other time the Tigers were on the wrong side of this ledger was by a solitary point against Geelong in round 13, when they enjoyed an 18-point triumph.   

There is also a stark contrast in Richmond's defensive-half turnovers and points conceded in wins (20 turnovers for 15 points, the second-fewest of any side) to losses (27.5 for 42.5, the most).

Richmond's turnover culprits 
PLAYER WINS LOSSES
Nick Vlastuin 2.6 3.3
Brandon Ellis 1.9 3
Jack Higgins 0.4 3
Jayden Short 1.9 2.8
Alex Rance 1.1 2.5
David Astbury 1.3 2
Reece Conca 1.2 2
Kane Lambert 0.9 2


Is that all there is, you ask? Well, there's more.

The Tigers typically prefer to move the ball along the boundary out of their defensive 50, but their conquerors forced them to rebound more often through the corridor and on the wing.

They were also remarkably less prolific and efficient in defeat, so that is likely a combination of their opposition's tactics and a down day, of which are rare.

Richmond remains on top of the ladder by percentage over West Coast and boasts a record-equalling 17-game winning streak at the MCG, where it could spend the entire finals series.

But the reigning premiers aren't invincible. Their best and worst can be poles apart, and sides may be starting to develop a formula to at least give themselves a chance against this mighty outfit.

How the Tigers lose their stripes
STATISTIC WINS LOSSES
Points for 103.2 (ranked 2nd) 75 (ranked 12th)
Points against 61.7 (1st) 99.8 (15th)
Clearances score differential +7.3 (3rd) -7.3 (16th)
Points from forward-half possession gains 39 (1st) 22 (equal 15th)
% score once inside 50 47.2 (2nd) 40.9 (13th)
% goal once inside 50 24.6 (4th) 19.1 (13th)
% corridor from D50 16.6 (13th) 19 (11th)
% wing from D50 34 (8th) 37.6 (1st)

Those Lions are roaring

Chris Fagan's Brisbane is celebrating three wins on the trot for the first time since exactly five years ago, also in rounds 15 to 17.   

The Lions lost the previous week by 27 points to Greater Western Sydney in a clash better known for Jeremy Cameron's high hit on Harris Andrews.   

But Brisbane's 11 quarters won in the past month, including that Giants defeat, are the most of any team and the club also ranks No.1 for points for and scores from turnover differential in that time.   

Fear the beard

All Australian ruck hopeful Max Gawn's 14 centre-bounce hit-outs to advantage at the Western Bulldogs' expense on Saturday were the equal second-most ever recorded in a game.   

It was no fluke either, with the red-hot 208cm beanpole managing the same number in round 10 against Adelaide – no mean feat, given he went head-to-head with Sam Jacobs.

What's wrong with goalkicking?

Theories on why goalkicking is trending down are plentiful, but there's no argument with the numbers.

Players' shot-at-goal accuracy a decade ago was 51.3 per cent, but has this season plunged to its lowest ebb at 47.1 per cent.

Is it because more athletes are being drafted over 'natural' footballers or is it that different types of players are taking shots compared to the days of specialist full-forwards hogging them? Or is it something else?

The below tables deepen the mystery, given more shots are being taken between 15 and 40 metres and fewer from beyond.

The number of shots deemed 'acute' has doubled in the past five years, but still makes up only 6.3 per cent of total attempts.

How far players are kicking from
DISTANCE 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
0-15m 10.30% 10.20% 11.50% 10.80% 10.30% 10.40%
15-30m 22.40% 21.60% 22% 23.10% 22.70% 24.70%
30-40m 22.40% 23.50% 24.40% 24.60% 24.40% 24.90%
40-50m 30.20% 29.80% 29.60% 28.50% 28.10% 26.60%
50+m 14.70% 15% 12.50% 12.90% 14.40% 13.40%

Where players are kicking from
DIRECTION 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Corridor 67.90% 66.80% 66% 68.80% 67.30% 67.20%
Angle 29% 29.90% 30.60% 26.40% 26.80% 26.40%
Acute 3.10% 3.30% 3.50% 4.80% 5.90% 6.30%

The struggle is real

It's never been harder for teams to score, according to several of Champion Data's advanced metrics.     

The AFL's official number-cruncher has widened its analysis in the past decade and this year's competition has delivered lows in three key categories.     

Score per inside 50 percentage is down to 43.6 – a drop of almost 10 from 2008 – and offensive efficiency (points per 50 minutes in forward half) has plummeted from 103.1 to 82.6 in the same period.     

And how about this?  

• Statistics provided by Champion Data

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs