5 October 2008

2008 Uni Games Part 2 - the stars and the final

I only got to see some of the players in action at AUG, but I was impressed with BJ and Karen on Adelaide. Chris Lavis, Ellie Sparke and Tegan were guns for Newcastle - a team I thought would do strongly in the semis, but never made it. Twiggy was a standout for UWA. And Gamble was potentially the best player at the tournament.

I was really looking forward to watching Sydney Uni in the final. I hadn't got to play or watch them all week during their undefeated run. Plus I coached them for over four years, so I have lots of connections to the club. The game itself was a surprise, or it least it seemed to be.

The Sydney Uni team that had walked over every other team at the tournament wasn't to be seen. Flinders got on top and never let up. Sydney Uni couldn't stop the Joel to Alec connection, either by 1) stopping Joel catching the disc, 2) hassling Joel's throws with the mark or 3) guarding Alec up field.

They clearly didn't have anyone who could do 3), and the zone they used wasn't as useful as, say, a straight up force for acheiving 2). But failing to do 1) was a mystery. Joel doesn't have a single healthy leg joint, and barely made a strong cut to get the disc. Sending one or maybe even two strong defenders after Joel would have at least pushed Flinders to change their offence a little.

The way Joel threw over the zone to a running Alec irrespective of the defenders made me analyse how I have played against zones. Perhaps this is a new tactic I will try: float looping throws to an elite receiver who is running straight line cuts upfield, and bank on the receiver skying the static zone defenders. I can add it to the list.

An elite male thrower with some targets will trump a deep team in the mixed competition of AUGs. Check out the history: Joel Pillar, Johnny Mac, Matt Dowle, Pete Gardner, and Jonno Holmes have lead their teams to almost all of the last 10 titles, irrespective of who had the deeper team or better women.

Perhaps the surprise wasn't Joel's team triumphing, but why they lost to Sydney in the pool rounds.

Now on to some team stats.

You can compare teams by looking at the points scored for and against them.

The AFL shows this as a percentage (%), ie points for divided by points against, multiplied by 100%.

The NRL shows this as points differential (PD), ie points for minus points against.

The NBA shows this as a differential (diff), ie points for minus points against, divided by games played.

Since teams at AUG 2008 played different numbers of games, I'm going with the NBA format.

The best five teams' differentials at AUG 2008 were:
Team A: +7.9
Team B: +5.4
Team C: +4.6
Team D: +3.5
Team E: +3.5

Your challenge: guess who teams A, B, C, D and E are.

Post your guesses in the comments.

In my next post, I'll reveal the team's identities, and explain more about the strengths and weaknesses of this stat.


  1. I am pretty sure that A was us(yd). Before the final noone got closer than 3 points. I would then hazard from my memories that the rest went flinders, adeliade, then i am gonna go out to monash at 7th because they never lost by much and pumped a few chump teams along the way i am sure. Or maybe latrobe for a dark horse.

    The final...USYD perspective...it just seemed to happen so fast. About 75% of the team had never played in a big final before (if NSL div 2 doesnt make the cut) and i think it showed.

    We were pretty shellshocked...all the noise and enthusiasm which had charaterised our game over the week simply dissapated under the pressure of being (really) down for the first time all tounrament

    We didnt really try and rethink our defence on Joel or Alec.....we put our US import D team college nationals player (Arizona) aerial defender on Alec, and he just beat him...Pete was also beaten regualry by Alec, who i think caught mor than half their goals in the final. Its interesting to here you suggest possibly even double teaming joel..it never even occured to us, perhaps because we hadnt been forced to adapt all tournament.

    We didnt just beat flinders in pool play...we hammered them...we took half 8-0. Maybe we were expecting a repeat....i dunno.

    Key players were off, the offence wasnt working, more uncharateristic errors than any other game, and Flinders playing a great game combined for a thumping. Dissapointing to not even be competitive after such a good tournament....but something to learn from, and a great week and campaign to be proud of anyway.

    Thanks for your comments Owen, always interesting to hear external perspectives.

  2. Yeah, I'd say Team A is Sydney - they just went out to destroy all comers. I'd guess Flinders being Team D or E - they never seemed to demolish teams in pool play, rather get up by a few then cruise home. They rested their better players against weaker teams (Joel only played 3 or 4 against us, Alec and Erin spent the last 6 or 7 on the bench) so they could fire for the big games.

    Monash can't be in that list...didn't you have 5 or 6 universe point games? I might even put it out there and say ANU or UTS are D or E since they virtually dominated Pool G.

  3. USyd
    La Trobe

    These are my picks in that order.

    Even with a straight up force, I just don't think anyone on USyd had the wingspan to hassle Joel. Joel would have probably happily hucked it to either side on a straight up.

    Option One has to be the best choice. Assassinating Joel would have also been an option, since it might have convince him to get out of a handler role and move down field.

    I would also argue that Newwie in 2004 and UQ in 2007 had extremely deep teams. Newwie had chumps such as tim lavis, tats, leanne and Pennoes. I don't think anyone seriously expected to match them. UQ had a great spread of players and it was more the Jmac-Matsuka pair that was at the core of their offence. If one was misfiring the other would take up the slack.

    This year USyd also had trouble stopping Erin and Alison in the final as well. I don't think much of the assists and goals went outside of Alec, Joel, erin and Alison.

  4. USyd
    La Trobe
    Flinders (if at all)

    I'll back up Maple's comments by saying:

    1) Players on the Flinders team had played in (and won) pretty much all the SAFDA league finals since 2004, so we've had plenty of experience in pressure games and I used this as my main source confidence going into the final (cos the earlier game against Sydney didn't give our team much...)

    2) about the pool play game:
    i) USyd played awesome (I was thinking 'how could we ever stop or contain this complete team'?)
    ii) we found we couldn't match USyd in a possession-type tussle (hence didn't even attempt it in the final)
    iii) wind was 12-20 knots and gusty, so Joel couldn't quite make the same throws as he used in the final
    iv) it was our 3rd game of the day, we had a small squad and had come off a typically brutal game against Adelaide earlier in the day so all were fairly stuffed, whereas the final was the 1st game of the day and we were fresh

    We had also tinkered our zone-D come the final, strengthening the middle with Joel as the umbilical and experience/speed on the wings, as Sydney had previously been dump-swinging and then carving us quickly back through the middle (I think we did hold them a little better in the final).

    Owen: our offense tactic was a response to our earlier USyd game (and your comments on their LTU game), where we identified a possible advantage and tried to exploit it, and luckily the conditions were favourable. I don't know if it would work at a higher level, particularly against a strong open team, and it's definitely not a team-participation oriented tactic (does it have a place at unigames?). I also found it a little scary on a couple of occasions once the disc was up, going back with the flight of the disc knowing there was a defender somewhere back there... it's not particularly safe ultimate in that respect (lucky I somewhat trust Joel).
    I'd be interested to see it applied in a game with elite players though.

  5. Hey Owen, good post.

    Our main strategy going into the final was to huck it wherever possible, especially into the wind. When we played USyd in pool play we had attempted to pass the disc with short passes upfield but Sydney were way better than us at this because of their deep team (throwers throughout) and so they smashed us.

    We believed our advantage over Sydney lay in our height so we tried to run a tactic that maximised that as much as possible.

    Also, Flinders has traditionally used a lot of hucking and we are comfortable playing this way.

    In addition, Alec, Erin, Alison and I have played a number of 'big game' league finals at home and are very comfortable under this pressure. Alec and I knew we were going to have big games before we stepped onto the field.

    Anyway, a point I wanted to make was that this strategy worked in that game against that team in those conditions. If Sydney were better able to punish us for our turnovers (of which we had quite a few considering the riskiness of our strategy) the game would have gone much differently. If they had put more pressure on the three main points you identified it would have increased our turnover rate. And I also think (in a purely analytical way, no offense intended) that if USyd continued to fight as hard as they could in the 2nd half they could have dramatically decreased the point spread, leaving room for a late comeback. It seemed like they had already given up by that point because playing offense became very easy for us. First half was 8-4, second half was 7-2.

    I don't think we invented anything new in how we played, but we did try to work everything to our advantage as much as possible and after that just bust our guts trying to make it work.

  6. I tried keeping the disc from Joel whilst on the mark in the zone, but his throws to Alec were deadly - our girls in the wall were the key to so many wins, but Joel had the height and was hucking straight over their heads!

    Flinders did get a bit of luck - they took advantage of a few lulls in the wind to use some epic hammers between elite players, or hucking what was a moment ago upwind.

    Erin played extremely well too.

  7. Anonymous1:26 pm

    I think the real difference in the teams lay in how they approached the game. It’s clear from Alec and Joel's posts that they really analysed our first game, saw what worked and what didn't. As such they avoided our team's depth (which it seems was our strength) and played a really dynamic game based around their top players, which proved a super successful strategy.

    Joel, I don’t think the issue was that we weren't fighting hard in the second half. It’s simply that we didn't modify our game plan in any way. We didn't learn enough from the first game and we didn't learn enough from the second half. Although I'm sure senior players were thinking about it, there was very little feedback to players (or at least to me) as to what we should do to turn it around. It sounds arrogant but we were just used to winning.

    It's all good to say “we’ve just to play our game". But it has to be modified to your opponent, which Flinders did and we didn’t. All Flinders players really showed their talent (I'm a little biased but Sean Lace played awesome) and most Sydney players did not (I’m just glad they picked Green and Gold before the final!)

    Thanks Owen…I think most of your analysis is spot on.

  8. Just a quick correction.... Jonno Holmes never won an AUG title, let alone lead a team to victory with 'elite male throwing'.

  9. I thought Jonno was at 2004 AUGs - my bad. I'd put money on him bringing home a gold before too long, in a major tournament.

    Although if he gets an international gold and never wins a Nats, Mixed Nats or AUGs, that will be quirky.

  10. yeah, for defo he needs to come back to newcastle to avoid becoming a trivial pursuit question.

  11. Update: Seb Barr and his Monash team defeat Sydney Uni in the 2010 AUGs final to extend the trend of male gun thrower winning AUGs. So many silver medal winning teams have not had that really elite thrower...