Monday, May 28, 2012

What Has Happened To West Coast?

As noted in this week’s AFL Power Rankings, at the start of 2011 West Coast were considered the worst team in the competition. But in a bit over a year the very same rankings show them to the best team in the competition, and they sit on top of the AFL ladder.

How have the Eagles become so good so quickly? A few weeks back I looked at the reasons for Collingwood’s drop off in form, using average Champion Data (SuperCoach) player ratings for their main 22 players in 2011 and 2012. I found then that the reason for the Pies’ relatively cold streak appeared to be mainly due to injuries, and conjectured that they would get better as players returned.

For the Eagles though the reasons for their improvement are more multi-faceted than this. In 2010, when they finished last, a lot of things went wrong for them. Since then a lot of things have gone right. Let’s start by looking at the average player ratings for their main 22 players in each of 2010 and 2011.  

Supercoach Average
20102011        Diff.
Dean Cox 88.00 116.68 28.68
Nic Naitanui 71.18 94.61 23.43
Josh Kennedy 67.14 84.96 17.82
Scott Selwood 64.90 82.64 17.74
Quinten Lynch 64.57 80.50 15.93
Matt Rosa 79.40 86.89 7.49
Will Schofield 53.05 58.74 5.69
Matt Priddis 108.79 113.16 4.37
Andrew Embley 86.70 90.46 3.76
Mark Lecras 82.19 83.50 1.31
Patrick McGinnity 58.06 57.26 -0.80
Shannon Hurn 84.60 82.48 -2.12
Brad Ebert 70.55 62.95 -7.60
Adam Selwood 91.62 63.16 -28.46
Beau Waters 82.14
Ashton Hams 72.45
Andrew Strijk 65.20
Eric MacKenzie 64.22
Brad Sheppard 59.93
Mitch Brown 57.54
Tom Swift 56.23
Chris Masten 50.23
Luke Shuey 93.92
Daniel Kerr 92.56
Sam Butler 81.92
Mark Nicoski 71.60
Jack Darling 70.91
Andrew Gaff 63.65
Ashley Smith 62.56
Darren Glass 54.46
Changed players507.94591.5883.64

A couple of points to note: first, the Eagles had a lot of injuries in 2010. Picking their main 22 was a tough task, but in both 2010 and 2011 I’ve picked the 22 players who played the most games, even though Andrew Strijk gets into the Eagles’ main 22 in 2010 with just 10 games. Second, I think that Champion Data adjusted their formulas between 2010 and 2011 so that ruckmen were rated more highly, so keep this mind when looking at the scores of Dean Cox and Nic Naitinui.

That said, these seem to be the main reasons why the Eagles improved so much from 2010 to 2011:

·        Of the players who were 'core' in both 2010 and 2011, there was a significant improvement in production in 2011 by Cox, Scott Selwood, Josh Kennedy, Naitanui, and Quinten Lynch. Lynch was hampered by injury in 2010, and even though Cox played every game in 2010 it was clear at the time he was hampered too. The other three players are all very young, so it is not too big a surprise to see that they improved.

·        Apart from Cox and Lynch, Daniel Kerr, Sam Butler, Mark Nicoski and Darren Glass also suffered from injuries in 2010, and their return in 2011 seemed to help the side. By ‘help the side’ I mean one could say that they were better than the players they replaced (although in the case of a key defender like Glass it’s hard to tell this from the ratings).

·        The new players in West Coast’s main 22 were all useful additions: namely Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff and Jack Darling (particularly Shuey).
The Eagles have maintained their form, and possibly improved, in 2012. Let’s see how the 2012 team compares with that 2010 campaign:

Supercoach Average
20102012        Diff.
Scott Selwood 64.90 110.89 45.99
Chris Masten 50.23 91.44 41.21
Nic Naitanui 71.18 105.43 34.25
Beau Waters 82.14 102.22 20.08
Dean Cox 88.00 107.44 19.44
Will Schofield 53.05 69.14 16.09
Matt Rosa 79.40 94.12 14.72
Eric MacKenzie 64.22 76.38 12.16
Shannon Hurn 84.60 95.78 11.18
Quinten Lynch 64.57 66.44 1.87
Ashton Hams 72.45 69.33 -3.12
Josh Kennedy 67.14 61.20 -5.94
Matt Priddis 108.79 94.71 -14.08
Patrick McGinnity 58.06 43.33 -14.73
Adam Selwood 91.62 53.38 -38.24
Andrew Embley 86.70
Mark Lecras 82.19
Brad Ebert 70.55
Andrew Strijk 65.20
Brad Sheppard 59.93
Mitch Brown 57.54
Tom Swift 56.23
Luke Shuey 110.67
Andrew Gaff 93.89
Josh Hill 79.11
Daniel Kerr 77.33
Jack Darling 76.78
Darren Glass 68.12
Sam Butler 67.20
Changed players478.34573.1094.76

Again, the return of some senior players (Cox, Kerr, Glass) to full health has helped, and the new additions (Shuey, Gaff, Darling) have been even better in 2012. Part of the story though may be a natural maturation of players: some players that are now reaching their mid-20s (Beau Waters, Will Schofield, Matt Rosa, Eric MacKenzie, Shannon Hurn) all seem to have improved somewhat, and some players that are now in their early-20s — Selwood, Naitanui, and Chris Masten — appear to have improved dramatically. Or maybe coach John Worsfold has just picked up his game in getting this team to perform! Either way, given that most of this team is still quite young, we could see some more improvement yet.


TKYC said...

For mine, West Coast were the best team of the last 30 years (?) to have won a spoon... Some quality players on that list.

Might look at them myself!

Troy Wheatley said...

Not sure you could make a case for them being the best team in decades to win a spoon, but it seems you could make a case that they had a pretty good list for a team that finished last.