HPN Finals Preview – Can The Tigers Again Be A Force In September?


Richmond and Geelong have both been perceived by the wider footballing public as being teams with fatal flaws or issues throughout this season. Both are considered heavily dependent on the top end of their lists, led by players with fair claims to being the best in the game.

However, both find themselves with a shot at a home Preliminary Final – potentially against a suddenly vulnerable GWS. The loser will be tasked with beating (likely) Sydney and Adelaide just to make the last Saturday in September.

In short; the stakes are very high tonight.

This match looks like it should be close in terms of overall team strength, but the very contrasting line strengths of each team suggest it probably won’t play out like that as the coaches seek to amplify their strengths and cover their weaknesses.


Richmond have had the better midfield – averaging 9% more inside-50s than their opposition this year versus Geelong’s 5% extra inside-50s. The Tigers also have the second best defence in the league. By contrast the Geelong attack has been significantly stronger (4th in the league) and their defence is good, but not great. Geelong’s offence right now comes with a personnel and selection asterisk, however, and we’ll get to that a bit later.

Extrapolating these strengths into a projection suggests Richmond would win by a goal. The midfield balance suggests Richmond might expect to get a couple of extra inside-50s across the game, with their stingier defence suggesting that they would restrict Geelong to a slightly lower score. This is somewhat counteracted by the Tigers relatively impotent attack – which sat at just the 14th best in the league this year. The match may indeed end up decided by which side’s “weakness” (Geelong’s defence or Richmond’s attack) is a tiny bit stronger.

The HPN system suggests that this game will be the closest of the four finals, with the Tigers 84 to the Cats 77 being the score the system threw out. It almost certainly won’t turn out that way – but if it does, we brought it to you first.

One big reason to expect Richmond to win, unquantified by the HPN strength rating system, is that they’re fielding a full-strength team and Geelong don’t seem to be.

Richmond team selection

Richmond Player Approximate Value (PAV) per game, selected and not selected players


Richmond is perfectly primed for this match, missing just one player who played ten games this year in Jayden Short. Injury wise, the Tigers have been lucky this year and able to select from their entire list except five-gamer Nathan Drummond. HPN therefore assumes that the team selected is their preferred line-up, for at least this finals series. The Player Approximate Value scores we’ve derived seem to mostly agree with their selection calls (for example, the omission of Miles and Morris).

A look at PAV per game suggests that the most valuable players outside their selected 22 might be defenders Jake Batchelor and Reece Conca, but their per-game ratings are off tiny samples of games this year, and both were dropped after bad losses. Sam Lloyd would be a candidate up forward, but it’s a close run thing for offensive value with the selected Butler, Rioli and Castagna.

Speaking of small sample sizes, on a per-game basis Townsend is the most valuable offensive player in the league right now because of course he is. That means in his two games he’s contributed the second-most value per game to the Tigers this year. Richmond has struggled to find a reliable, permanent, secondary avenue to goal for a long time now and over the course of the year as a whole, their 14th ranked offence attests to their struggles. However, Townsend has very recently provided new hope as the Tigers caught fire late against two sides with nothing to play for. Make of that what you will.

On a per-game basis, the two most valuable players in the competition in Martin and Dangerfield are both playing tonight. PAV thinks Dangerfield has been the more valuable of the two, but they’re both ahead of anyone else:


Dangerfield and Martin (and Zorko) are all prototypical attacking midfielders, providing significant attacking power with goals, assists, inside-50s and the like, in addition to their midfield work. Martin has been effectively Dangerfield’s equal in the midfield, but the star Cat has been better at helping his team hit the scoreboard overall – as demonstrated by his five goal game as a hobbled effective full-forward against the Hawks.

Geelong team selection

geelong PAVPG2
Geelong Player Approximate Value (PAV) per game, selected and not selected players

The Cats are not quite as well primed for this final. When we compare the PAV per game of the named sides, in comparison with Richmond, the last three or four spots on the Geelong team look to be filled by very fringe talents.

They’ve probably named close to their strongest midfield (Joel Selwood’s fitness pending) except for George Horlin-Smith, and their defence likewise looks close to full power. However, oddly given their decent forward strength compared to Richmond this year, their named attack looks strangely underpowered and may have holes, especially in the wet.

Menzel’s omission comes as a surprise as he’s been their third most valuable forward this year both overall and per game. Their most valuable named offensive contributors look top-heavy as a result – with McCarthy out for the season, Cockatoo’s pace also unavailable, and Motlop struggling for form, Menzel was their most valuable available small/mid forward this year. Along with Menzel, the cult tall Wylie Buzza is also out without Rhys Stanley returning from injury, which is probably a concession to the conditions. Ahead of Menzel, the more marginal Parsons and Parfitt remain in the side. Both of them look promising, and have contributed in bursts, but not consistently.

Menzel’s ostensive direct replacement, Zach Guthrie, has not yielded much value according to PAV. We’d assume he’s in to play a backline role on a small Richmond forward or as a defensive forward, but we aren’t really sure what he’s for. He doesn’t even have a bio on the Geelong website.


Off a modest sample size of seven games, Horlin-Smith (whose fitness is questionable) might also have been a worthwhile inclusion in a mid-forward role, if available.

Most of Geelong’s major offensive contributors have been talls or Dangerwood. Hawkins and Dangerfield are the only named players averaging over a goal a game. Other talls such as Zac Smith, Harry Taylor, Rhys Stanley, Wylie Buzza and briefly Aaron Black have contributed at various levels at different stages of the season. The table below shows the top ten players for per-game offensive value for Geelong. The preponderance of talls and of players with a handful of games such as Horlin-Smith and McCarthy helps to illustrate Geelong’s odd forward line dilemma.

Top ten players for per-game Offensive PAV value, Geelong, 2017


As a side note, PAV per game suggests we all may be sleeping on Sam Menegola as a jack of all trades contributor; he’s sixth in the squad and fifth in the selected side for PAV on a per-game basis, due to sitting eighth in midfield and offense PAV per game, as well as 14th for defence.

Last year in the preliminary final, Geelong’s good season came to a halt in the face of an inability to find scoring opportunities against a stifling Sydney defence, in spite of a preponderance of bombarding inside-50 entries. In spite of Richmond’s season-long offensive struggles and the similar apparent team strengths overall, if Geelong’s scratched together small and mid-sized forward options and their midfielders can’t contribute on the scoreboard, they could well be in for a repeat dose against Richmond.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *