Whats Wrong With West Coast?

Pridd_pose246x316dThe West Coast Eagles  have lost  4 games in a row and fans and critics alike are questioning if this may be another AFL season lost at the club. Everyone is blaming lack of player effort, hardness, desire, goal scoring inefficiency and even the new coach. In more focused attacks on individuals in the team, it’s been Luke Shuey, (he’s a downhill skier), Masten (useless) Andrew Gaff (trade bait), Josh Hill (too soft and doesn’t care) or Nic Naitanui (overpaid & over-rated) who have been under the gun to name a few. I say all this talk about these players being no good is rubbish and I’m sick of it.

The biggest weakness the Eagles have is their midfield. If you wish to focus on individuals, instead it is Matt Priddis who should be the number one target. For a number 1 or 2 ruck rover Matt Priddis is just not good enough.

Shuey  (12), Selwood (14)  each have had more centre clearances than Priddis (10) as at round 6. Yet they don’t play right at the ruckman’s feet as much as Priddis does. While Priddis may get a billion disposals he fails too often to use them to advantage for his team. He’s the one that is mostly making Coxy and Nic Nat’s ruck work look bad.

It is only Scotty Selwood, Masten and Shuey who actually clear the ball effectively and or to advantage especially from the centre. Ironically and moronically, it’s been these same mids that only ever cop shit for their performances. Priddis magically always escapes criticism. And he is supposedly the specialist clearance player in the team, you know the “in and under guy” (whatever that means?).

These clearance numbers are all still relatively crap because the best clearance midfielders in the AFL already have total clearances in the 20s each so far this year. Why are the WCE clearance numbers so low you say? It’s because Priddis is in there BUTCHERING possession and letting the opposition mids clear the ball too easily instead.

However, just reading just the numbers is also misleading because it is the actual quality of those clearances which really matter. Numbers and stats worship over recent years has allowed very average football players to maintain their positions in the midfield.  You teams most elite players need to be playing midfield. Those who can give others a better advantage over their opponents further up the field. Not pure accumulation. Getting a kick and bombing it in hope is stupid football.

It hasn’t helped that the WCE centre bounce mids are also smaller than their opponents in height and bulk. This was also a major problem in the centre for the Coast last year. It is why they have given Jack Darling a run in there in the middle. At Freo Barlow, Mundy, Nat Fyfe are all over 6ft. They’re ugly and unco at times (cept for Fyfe) but they strongly break (and make) tackles, they badger and bust the ball forward. Yet they still even have better disposal effic% than Priddis too. WCE need to play a larger or strong bodied tap receiving rover.

In today’s football you can’t afford to play a slow smaller player like Priddis in this position. You need a powerful player who has more than one specialist football attribute. Eg. speed, strength, kicking (both sides) overhead mark, handball-disposal, footy smarts. They must have at least two of these traits. Name Priddis’ player attributes for me right now………………. ? ..
“Oh he goes in there and gets it” … ummm …………….
That’s all you can say, right?!

And he’s no good at that either! He is not a one touch player. He misses too many ruck taps. Regardless, you need to play a player in this position who can do more than just pick up a footy off the ground. In today’s football a slow supposed ‘in and under’ only rover gets too exposed when ruck taps don’t go perfectly to him.

Rarely do tap clearances go perfectly straight to your “inside only” bloke. What if Mr “in and under rover” has to play outside? Priddis offers nothing – other than lame backward hospital handball or a kick in hope rubbish turnover option. Let alone within fast breaking zone offense and rebound defence situations.  Have you ever seen Priddis at full pace leading to space demanding a lead on the wing from a field kick? Or taking a contested leaping mark? Never.  All our other mids do it and are required to run spread for outlet passes particularly out of defense.

Priddis’ kicking has no penetration and he misses targets. He most always bombs it without looking. Perhaps his hair-do gets in the way and also retards his peripheral vision. No penetration-loopy-lame-bomb-in-hope kicks just get eaten up so easily by defenders. Then when he is open and in the clear, he still misses targets and puts too much height into his kicks. And who cops the criticism for ‘going missing’? It’s the players ahead of him who cop that and get mangled by defenders.

In the video above he can’t even put it even towards the direction to where Kennedy is leading. Instead the ball floats and flops around to the defender. A costly turnover when the game was on the line too. His handball is even more frustrating as he misses players and rarely puts it to advantage. When he does have time he holds up play and or hospital-hand passes it to other players and they get smashed.

For a senior player and leader he also takes stupid and confusing disposal options. In this video above, there’s 1:10 till the end of the half and Priddis has the ball on the wing. He’s telling everyone to settle the play down to safely go into the half time break. But, what does he do – instead he goes for a risky cross field pass which he can’t even execute to his team mate’s advantage. Instead its a poorly directly loopy kick that is easily picked off by defenders.

Better Option

Why not go backwards to a safer option (green arrow) which is where his team-mate first lead to. Especially after indicating to your team mates to play it safe?  If you’re even going attempt this kick it has to be low and out in front of your team mate.

He does this AGAIN only WORSE here: (wastes time, doesn’t honour safe boundary side lead, weak loopy poor kick straight up in the air to no one)

Rovers are your team’s MVPs. Priddis is playing in the number one and/or number two midfielder positions. Your very best player/s should go in those positions and he is long way away from being WCE’s best player.

He is  as  s l o w   a  s    a    s n a i l   and so easily is burnt on the rebound by his opponent. He never commands a tag from the opposition and I’m sure most teams are glad for him to take possession. I’ve never seen a more unaccountable player on the fast break defensive rebound.

So get him the out of the centre and out of the team back to the WAFL. Back to playing JAR JAR Binks in the next Star Wars for all I care!!  The longer he is in there the longer he is keeping out someone who could actually develop (Yeo, Colledge, Sheed) into the next WCE’s Benny Cousins or Daniel Kerr. Particularly if all we are requiring of him (or someone in his role) is to pick up a football off the ground. We might as well try a rookie if it doesn’t matter if you can’t kick or run.

More Video:


Okay, why has this become my one man personal crusade against Priddis you say? Well it is because I’m sick and tired of both experts and ranting talk back callers hacking into WCE players with no real basis, evidence or actual consideration for their criticisms. They’ll rant on about the players being “overpaid” prima donnas, lacking heart or effort. My personal favourite is “they’re not hard enough”.

I tire of this bonehead football watcher analysis of the game.  Along with “stat” counter mentality in judging player merit.  Pro journos being the most guilty of this because I’m sure they don’t really watch closely every game (let alone WCE games). They just check the stat sheets at the end of of the round when they do their write ups.

Recently Priddis is being hailed as the only WCE midfielder that does anything.  Who tries hard and makes an effort. In the round 10 game vs Collingwood it was even claimed he was best on ground. I’m sure these claims are based solely on just stat counts. Wow you can read a stats sheet! Nice work. Then, they’ll point at his tackle stats or hard ball gets… or the best one they boast about his “PRESSURE SKILLS”. HAH! Collecting the most possessions a game and wasting half of them does not make you best on ground. Getting a billion disposals has nothing to do with having great pressure skills either.

Of course you are gonna get more possessions, disposal opportunities and particularly cheap tackles if you are always at the feet of ruckmen in stoppages, ball ups and centre clearances.  A fixed position where you start SIDE BY SIDE to your opponent. If you are 2nd to the ball, screw up “one touch” clearances or miss taps you’ll still get 30 junk possessions or involvements in a game. Especially when you are fed by premium ruckmen like Cox and Nic Nat.

What a Darling or the Badger (Mcginnity) do in chasing down defenders and tackling them bashing them into poor disposal –  IS WHAT PRESSURE SKILLS ARE!!!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Priddis run down an opponent. Ever.  So often when the Eagles don’t have the footy he is floating around aimlessly through the centre of the ground. Just waiting to go to the next stoppage ball up. And then boneheads will claim he’s a smart endurance runner and a super hard worker, with massive work rate!?

Watch this video and tell me if you think this was a “best on ground” performance. Half the game the Pies didn’t even bother defending Priddis, like most teams do because they know he does no damage.

In this video I counted 44 total involvements in the game for Priddis. 24 of these were effective and 20 not effective – and I was generous too! Many of these were him screwing up in his supposed (only) strength too – getting the footy.

The real problem at WCE is skill and execution errors across the board but those made particularly by an undersized midfield.  More particularly they do not even attempt to put a big bodied player in Priddis’ role (followers) LET ALONE someone selected from your team’s BEST one to three players. Which has been my main argument throughout all of this ranting.

In today’s football, I believe you need to have (outside your key forwards) at least 1-2 of your very best players at your club in the rover or “follower” positions. You must have a player with at least two or three advanced football strengths/attributes.  I also believe the supposed exclusivity of  players with “in and under” and “get the ball” skills for these positions is absolute rubbish.

In today’s game ruck rovers must also be strong enough to run through and break out of packs, particularly from the centre. If you are able to do that you automatically put pressure on another defender or two and he/they are draw to you. Then Bam! you have more open team mates. You don’t necessarily have to be a super gun like Chris Judd. The Docker’s current midfield is testament to this. What they might lack in skill they make up for in size, power and strength. It is not good enough to say “oh he gets in there and gets the ball” as the sole reason to why you select a player as a follower. What even does that mean?

Lets have a look at the team line ups for round 10 this year. These are the “followers”:

Sydney Swans Geelong Cats St Kilda Collingwood Melbourne Port Adelaide
Tom Derickx Dawson Simpson Billy Longer Brodie Grundy Mark Jamar Matthew Lobbe
Craig Bird James Kelly Luke Dunstan Dayne Beams Nathan Jones Ollie Wines
Luke Parker Mathew Stokes Sebastian Ross Scott Pendlebury Jack Viney Brad Ebert
Brisbane Lions Carlton Essendon Richmond Adelaide Crows Gold Coast Suns
Trent West Robert Warnock Patrick Ryder Shaun Hampson Sam Jacobs Zac Smith
Tom Rockliff Sam Docherty David Myers Brandon Ellis Patrick Dangerfield Jaeger O’Meara
Jack Redden Marc Murphy Dyson Heppell Trent Cotchin Richard Douglas Dion Prestia
Western Bulldogs Fremantle Hawthorn GWS Giants West Coast Eagles North Melbourne
Will Minson Aaron Sandilands Jonathon Ceglar Shane Mumford Dean Cox Todd Goldstein
Matthew Boyd David Mundy Liam Shiels Callan Ward Matt Priddis Jack Ziebell
Tom Liberatore Stephen Hill Paul Puopolo Dylan Shiel Sharrod Wellingham Ben Cunnington

The guys in red are arguably within the top 1-3 players at each club. You’ll notice, (ignoring the ruckman) most teams are selecting their best players into these roles. If they are not already arguably a overall a top 3 best player (particularly skill level) at their club; they are a player with size and power.

For example, at Collingwood it’s Beams and Pendlebury – easily top 1 or 2 at the Pies and power players. Dangerfield at the Crows.  Nathan Jones at Melbourne. Jaeger O’Meara at Gold Coast. These all are both gun super skilled ” midfielders” ( A grade AFL players) and they’ve got size and power. If not, at the very least they are players with more than one advanced football player attribute.

So, we don’t have a “gun” or A grade midfielder at West Coast you say? That’s not fair. So what! Lets look at Sam Docherty at Carlton. He’s played 14 AFL games, he is 184 cm and 85 kg.  Could he be a gun in the making? At the very least he is a powerful player. Same goes for Tom Liberatore at the Bulldogs, Jack Redden at Brisbane. Mathew Boyd at the Bulldogs ; powerful. Ollie Wines at Port – he’s 187cm and 94kg and 34 games.

So why not play Yeo, Wilson,  Hutchy or Colledge in Priddis’ position if all you expect from them is to just pick up the football off the ground?! Who cares whatever else one of those youngsters does on the field? Because that’s what everyone currently accepts from Priddis. I’ve never seen a player given so much leeway and unaccountably. Nor so many people disclaim out all his weaknesses while still proclaiming him as elite or a gun? They are totally blinded by stupid statistics.

So I ask you:

  • Is Priddis a “gun midfielder” / AFL “A” grader? No.
  • Does Priddis have more than one advanced footballing attribute? No.
  • Is Priddis within the top 3 players at West Coast for footy skills – got both sides of his body? No.
  • Is Priddis strong big bodied and powerful, can bust packs? No.
  • Does Priddis run and harass all over the ground, particularly on defensive rebound? No.
  • Does he block and protect his team mates? No.
  • Does he compete and play above his size and weight?  No.
  • Does he bust his gut running providing leading options. No.
  • Does Matt Priddis look like Jar Jar Binks. Yes

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