HPN Geelong v Collingwood Qualifying Final preview

HPN Team Ratings

Geelong and Collingwood topped the HPN Team Ratings at the end of the Home and Away season, with both well balanced across the ground. Both finished inside the top six in two different components – Geelong’s attack and defence rated second and first respectively, while Collingwood finished fourth up forward and sixth in the middle.

Collingwood’s midfield was even better against top 8 sides, finishing fourth when excluding non-finalists. However, their attack struggled to score against the top sides, dropping from 1.64 points per inside 50 against all sides to 1.56 against fellow finalists.

Geelong’s attack was actually a tiny bit better against fellow finalists, which was compensated by the fact that their inside 50 ratio dropped against the top sides. Their defence also struggled a bit more against the elite of the competition, but still ranked first in the competition.

Keys to the game


  1. Keeping Dangerfield on the outside

When you look at a highlight reel for Patrick Dangerfield, it’ll go a bit like this:

A lot of speed bursting through packs, and a fair bit of hard ball winning. But that’s maybe not where Dangerfield has been used best for Geelong this year, considering the weapons at their disposal. Dangerfield has averaged 16.3 contested possessions and 5 clearances in losses against top 8 sides this year, and 10 contested possessions and 3.6 clearances in wins against top 8 sides. In losses, his marks drop by about two a game, and he gets the ball inside 50 about one time less per game.

Dangerfield is probably still the best player in football in 2019. The temptation to use him as the primary battering ram to open up packs is tempting, but the Cats should be looking at other options, so they can maximise Dangerfield’s ability to create scoring opportunities. If Scott throws Dangerfield into the fire more than normal, it’s likely that he is trying to stem some bleeding, and maybe has already started to lose control on the game.

2. Blicavs down back again

The return of Rhys Stanley two weeks ago answered a question hovering over the finals – would the Cats risk not having Mark Blicavs in defence? The Cats defence is an imposing unit, with excellent smaller (Tuohy, Stewart) and taller (Taylor, Henry) types. Blicavs is the glue that ties it all together. With enough speed to intercept most loose balls and enough height to disrupt almost anything coming into the hotspot, Blicavs finished in the top 10 for spoils, contested one on one wins/draws and in the top 30 for intercept marks and was first at Geelong for all three categories. When he is able to feed Tuohy and Stewart, the Cats are able to quickly defuse most attacking forays and turn the tables on their opponents.

3. Difficult, dirty ball

Collingwood and Geelong games against other finalists have featured a convergence of styles, with Geelong games seeing a lot more turnovers relatively speaking (131 game total TOs, 79 game total clearances) and Collingwood games with more forward and back (141 TOs, 71 clearances). Part of the low turnover rate in Cats games is a fear of attacking the strong Geelong tall defence directly, and a fear of conceding quick goals on the counter attack. Geelong won’t be upset if Collingwood fall into this trap; despite having to alter their own normal style a little.

Likewise, Collingwood have been a little stronger in stoppage clearances across this season than Geelong, with the Geelong ruck and clearance setup also being in flux. Although Geelong won the inside battle in their previous match in round 1 (which feels like an eon ago), the turnover battle saw the Pies with a five intercept advantage and seven point loss.


1. Will the forward line hit the ground running?

The return of Jaidyn Stephenson has seen many virtual column inches spilt, but the merits of his return matter less now than his potential impact. This week sees the top three Pies players for average score involvements per game (Adams, Stephenson and De Goey) play together for just the sixth time this year. The Magpies won four of the five matches with those three on the park so far this year, including winning three of four against fellow finalists.

Stephenson and De Goey open the whole Pies forward line up, being able to beat most defenders on the lead, battle hard in one on one tussles and able to crumb contests. Natural matchups, even for a side as talented as Geelong defensively, are hard to come by. The one question mark is whether the chemistry between the forwards will be there immediately, but given that Stephenson was able to train at the club during his suspension, this fear is mitigated somewhat.

2. Getting outside

Collingwood’s ability to win inside ball is a bit like Dangerfield’s as stated above; good, but maybe not makes them great. In wins against top 8 sides, it’s Collingwood’s preponderance of uncontested possessions (+40) that shines through, while their clearance and contested numbers are relatively stable compared with their long term averages.

Part of this is the decision-making of Pendlebury and co. The more time that they are afforded on the outside, the more that they can hurt you. As Collingwood approach full strength in the midfield, look for the release to outside runners as critical in this matchup.

3. Rebounding off the intercept

For most sides, their best rebounding defenders nearly play that role as a speciality – with some ability to intercept and spoil, but always looking to move the ball forward off their man.

The Pies are blessed with two taller yet still creative defenders, Darcy Moore and Jeremy Howe. Both are able to initiate attacks off intercept, and sit in the top 3 at the club in both rebound 50s and intercepts per game (selected side). When either gets the ball in their hands, Geelong will have to be aware that both will try to get the ball moving quickly.

Jack Crisp, who is often used as the spare by Collingwood, also gets a lot of intercept ball and is able to drive the ball forward. By removing the middle man, the Pies become a lot more dangerous from defensive situations.

Player Breakdowns

Below, HPN has arranged its marginal Player Approximate Value (mPAV) based player valuations for the two selected teams. For Geelong, Hawkins still looms as the main man up forward even with the wide spread of smaller and mid-sized weapons around him. Collingwood’s forward threat is more even, without the same kind of focal point. Collingwood also has a more defined core midfield quartet, vs a wider spread of often part time contributors at Geelong.


Note: the HPN tipping model this year was bad. Don’t gamble, especially not with this information. Look at the work of Squiggle for a variety of better performing models.

Collingwood by 2.

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