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Stats Files: The tweaks that could lead the Pies to flag redemption

Highlights: Geelong v Collingwood The Cats and Magpies clash in the first qualifying final

COLLINGWOOD is starving its opposition on the road to potential premiership redemption.

Nathan Buckley's game of keepings off went into over-drive in the final month of the season against struggling Gold Coast, Melbourne, Adelaide and Essendon, then stood up in the finals cauldron.

The highest score against the Magpies in that period was the 65 points the Bombers posted in round 23, with Geelong managing only 51 in Friday night's qualifying final. 

No team is conceding fewer than Collingwood's 53.6 points per game against in that time, and Buckley's men also have the AFL's highest disposal differential of plus-62.6.

That latter statistic comes despite the Pies winning only slightly more of the Sherrin, but within that there's been a significant spike in short kicks, marks and (naturally) uncontested possession.

COLLINGWOOD: THE MASTERS OF KEEPINGS OFF

STATISTIC

R1-19

RANK

R20-QF

RANK

QF v CATS

RANK

Points for

83.6

6th

88.2

6th

61

6th

Points against

76.9

7th

53.6

1st

51

1st

Disposals differential

+27.2

4th

+62.6

1st

+54

2nd

Uncontested possession differential

+18.4

5th

+59.8

1st

+76

1st

Disposals

402.4

1st

410.8

1st

382

3rd

Marks

100.3

2nd

124.8

1st

123

2nd

Kick long %

37.5%

14th

31.5%

18th

33.8%

8th

The Magpies' willingness to embrace this style was evident in their high-profile round two showdown with Richmond, when they had 174 marks – the fifth-most ever – including a record 99 in the first half.

It's a dramatic shift from the end of last year, when Collingwood's form surge from round 21 to the Grand Final saw it average only 83.9 marks. 

One aspect that has carried over from that period is slower ball movement.

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Judging Collingwood during its month-long stretch against mostly cellar-dwellers to end the home and away season was difficult. 

However, minor premier Geelong rebounded back into form in the same period, so the black and white army's approach also working on the Cats is reason for September optimism.

BARRETT Tigers, Pies can cover big stars as dream Grand Final looms

There is more of an asterisk on the other development in this time.

The Magpies thrived in scoring from intercepts in the final four rounds of the season and their time in forward half numbers also increased significantly. 

Geelong beat them in both categories on Friday night.

Jack Crisp, Levi Greenwood and Jeremy Howe all rank in the top 45 in the competition for average scores that resulted from their intercepts in the past five games.

They're No.1 for scores from clearance in the same five-match period, including scoring 17 more points from this source than the Cats.

Buckley will be acutely aware that teams, on average, score 58 per cent of their tally from intercepts this year, compared to 38 per cent from clearances and four per cent from kick-ins. 

So figuring out that turnover game might be the final piece of Collingwood's puzzle, but it is trending in the right direction.

% of Pies' scores

R1-20, 2018

R21-27, 2018

R1-19, 2019

R20-QF 2019

From intercepts

58.9% (12th)

58.8% (ninth)

55.5% (16th)

61.7% (sixth)

From clearances

35.2% (ninth)

36.0% (ninth)

40.1% (sixth)

36.5% (12th)

The Gabba thriller that wasn't

Look away now, Lions fans.

Brisbane would already be ruing what might have been had it kicked straighter in the first half of Saturday night's 47-point qualifying final defeat to Richmond.

FINALS PREDICTOR Who will win the 2019 premiership?

The Lions' 8.17 (65) total is the fifth-most inaccurate finals scoreline since Champion Data began including complete misses in 2002.

The Tigers' 18.4 (112), on the other hand, was the fifth-most accurate by the same measure. 

Champion Data's 'expected score' metric, which takes into account the difficulty of each shot and predicts the outcome, has put that hollow feeling into even sharper focus. 

Brisbane should have boasted a two-goal half-time lead (instead of being down by about that margin), been within eight points at the last break (38) and lost by only three points (47).

EXPECTED SCORES BY QUARTER

TIME

BRISBANE

RICHMOND

QT

31 (30)*

15 (18)*

HT

53 (34)

41 (45)

3QT

69 (50)

77 (88)

FT

94 (65)

97 (112)

* Actual score in brackets

Giant gap in opportunity

Greater Western Sydney didn't muck around in exacting revenge against the Western Bulldogs in their elimination final on Saturday.

The Giants' 58-point demolition of the Dogs came courtesy of the sixth-biggest contested possession differential (167-125) recorded in a final, which goes back to 1999. 

They also set a record for inside 50 differential in the process.

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Eagles love to kick

West Coast racked up 257 kicks among its 382 disposals against Essendon last Thursday night, good for a 2.05 kick-to-handball ratio. 

It was the sixth time this season the Eagles have had double as many kicks as handballs, just one short of Brisbane's competition-high. 

Together they've accounted for the majority of the 19 times all sides recorded a kick-to-handball ratio above two in 2019.

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