The combination of Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett hasn’t jelled yet. Pic: Michael Klein
The combination of Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett hasn’t jelled yet. Pic: Michael Klein

Stunning numbers behind Cats’ clearance woes

GEELONG has the worst centre-square midfield combination in the AFL.

A regular season reality check has followed the summer of hype at the Cattery, with Geelong's celebrated engine room spluttering at centre bounces.

Despite possessing three of the modern era's most dominant midfielders - Gary Ablett, Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood - and an excellent support cast of Mitch Duncan, Tim Kelly and Sam Menegola, Geelong are struggling to win a centre bounce clearance.

A combination of Ablett, Selwood and Kelly has won only two of 14 centre bounce clearances.

The Cats also have the second-worst starting trio in the competition, with the "Holy Trinity" of Ablett, Dangerfield and Selwood incredibly winning only three of 14 clearances.

While the microscope turns to Gary Ablett after a poor showing against Essendon at the weekend, the Brownlow veteran isn't on his own when it comes to a Geelong midfield that is unfathomably failing to fire.

Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett haven’t clicked inside the centre square. Pic: Getty Images
Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett haven’t clicked inside the centre square. Pic: Getty Images

Carlton's Patrick Cripps, Ed Curnow and Paddy Dow are considered the most successful centre bounce clearance threesome, winning 13 of their 18 together.

Sydney's Kieran Jack, Josh Kennedy and Luke parker, and Adelaide's Bryce Gibbs, Rory Sloane and Matt Crouch also send the ball their way first more often than not.

Geelong coach Chris Scott earlier this season called on fans to witness the "historic moments" Ablett, Dangerfield and Selwood play together, but he's also warned finding the right combinations and systems will take time.

The stats behind the Cats' onball woes.
The stats behind the Cats' onball woes.

Scott also said there's more to clearance information than just raw clearances, and rightfully so. But when we include points-differential from centre bounces the reading isn't exactly rose for Scott's team.

The Cats rank 11th in this area (-5 points) despite sitting 18th for centre clearance differential (-3.4 per week). It makes you wonder what they could do if they fixed their issues at the coalface.

Geelong hasn't scored once when Ablett, Dangerfield and Selwood have attended a centre bounce, yet it has been scored against twice.

The Blues may have the best centre bounce clearance line-up, but the work Brendon Bolton has ahead of him is summed up by the fact they can't turn it into scores. In fact, they are opened up, with the Blues outscored by 57 points - ranked 18th.

This week Geelong faces the best centre-square combination in the game, headed by young gun Patrick Cripps. Pic: Michael Klein
This week Geelong faces the best centre-square combination in the game, headed by young gun Patrick Cripps. Pic: Michael Klein

The lack of a dominant ruckman has been a glaring issue at Geelong, but Zac Smith and Rhys Stanley's failure to stamp themselves on games is only a partial alibi for the Cats' centre bounce crimes.

Admittedly, the Cats rank 17th for centre bounce hit-outs to advantage, but other teams have shown you can get away with it without a dominant ruckman.

The Western Bulldogs, St Kilda and Richmond are the most vulnerable sides when it comes to rival ruckmen winning hit-outs to advantage against them.

Yet the Tigers average 1.6 more clearances than their opposition each week, the Dogs break even (-0.1) and the Saints (0.4) virtually do the same.



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