JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Garry Lyon looks at the X-factor in team performance

Any fan would be glad to have players with the intensity of Brad Sewell or Scott Pendlebury  on their team.

Any fan would be glad to have players with the intensity of Brad Sewell or Scott Pendlebury on their team. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

In a modern football world, where statistical measurement of team performance is just the touch of a computer button away, there is one critical aspect that remains frustratingly impossible to measure or predict. That is a team’s, or individual’s, level of intensity. 

And the more football I watch, the more convinced I am that the ability to bring it to each game is what separates the contenders from the pretenders.

While analysts will use key indicators such as contested football, tackles and pressure acts in an attempt to come up with a formula to measure intensity levels, the reality is the reasons for the wild fluctuations in a team’s intensity are far more complicated and harder to identify than a number on a page.

As I watched one of the most riveting contests of the year unfold last Sunday, the Showdown between Adelaide and Port, it was patently obvious that if coach Brenton Sanderson could rely on the Crows to play the passionate, high-energy, high-pressure football they produced in their upset victory, week in, week out, then they would not only contend in September but provide enormous headaches for most opponents.

But then I was reminded of their performance against Melbourne, on the same ground, a couple of months earlier. They were jumped that day and played with an air of indifference that suggested they thought they were capable of closing the gap at the push of the button. The contrast between the two performances was stark, and I would suggest it had little to do with a variance in skill.

The Adelaide victory came a day after North Melbourne gave up a 22-point lead in the first quarter to the struggling Brisbane Lions, who had managed a solitary point in a half of footy the previous week against Fremantle, only to concede 10 of the next 11 goals of the game. The Lions went on to win by four points, and the Kangaroo supporters were left to wonder whether their team was a fraud or a finals contender.

How could a team capitulate in such a dramatic fashion, in the space of 10 minutes, even allowing for the improved output of the opposition? A look at the Roos’ 2014 season suggests they are incapable of producing the required intensity, on a weekly basis, to warrant being discussed as a genuine contender this year.

How else do you explain the fact that they can produce the most inspiring, team-oriented, four-quarter, intense football and dispense of Port Adelaide, Sydney and Fremantle, yet completely fail to mirror that sort of effort and go down meekly to the Gold Coast, Adelaide and the Bombers.

Let’s not forget the Roos belted the Lions by 87 points, just six weeks ago, with 16 of Saturday’s team playing in that game.

If you were to watch a tape of the game against the Swans, and follow it with the performance against Brisbane on Saturday night, you would swear you were watching two different teams. 

Coaches are constantly asked if they are able to predict, based on the pre-game preparation, whether their team will play with the fierce intensity and desire that they demand. They invariably answer no, and therein lies the problem.

And while coaches will manfully accept responsibility for a team’s fortunes, ultimately it is up to the individual to determine whether they are capable of playing with a "life or death" attitude every time they take the field.

All sorts of external motivations can be used, but the responsibility must lie with the athlete. And tapping into whatever it is that gets them to that required arousal level is an ongoing challenge that only the elite performers seem capable of acquiring.

Getting "up" for a blockbuster game in front of big crowds and large television audiences is not a great challenge. The circumstances surrounding such events sharpen the focus of even the most distracted footballer. Of course, in no way does it guarantee success, for the reality is, if both teams play with the required intensity, one may prevail simply due to better skill execution or greater talent. But most supporters can live with that and walk away, regardless of the result, content in the knowledge their team "had a go". But far too often they are left to scratch their heads at the end of a game and wonder why their side is capable of playing tough, committed football one week, only to turn up seven days later and witness a meek and mild outfit that has no appetite for the types of acts that they so admired previously.

The very best footballers in the game are able to motivate themselves to compete with that warrior mentality every time they take the field. Even when the planets are not perfectly aligned, they still will themselves to produce an intensity that defines them and guarantees their standing in the game.

They are the sorts of players I admire the most, and would select every single time, ahead of the more comprehensively skilled footballer who chooses to be more selective with his intent.

Joel Selwood is the epitome of intensity. His appetite for the contest is as close to unconditional as you could hope to see. It is well known in football circles that he is playing sore at the moment, yet his approach to each game is largely uncompromised.

He has spent more time in recent weeks away from the middle of the ground, a concession to the wear and tear on his body, yet his mind refuses to concede any ground. Rarely can I remember a time when he has been less than manic in his attack on the ball or the opposition.

It is an unbelievable mental strength, shared by his elite contemporaries. Class and skill are the words that spring to mind when we think about Scott Pendlebury, but when you have the privilege of watching him play live, he is as competitive as any player in the game. Regardless of the state of play, whether the Pies are up or down by five goals, Pendlebury’s intensity in the way he plays rarely wavers.

Rory Sloane, Nathan Fyfe, Jobe Watson, Brad Sewell, Kane Cornes, Matt Priddis, Kieran Jack, Callan Ward and Liam Picken. Yes, superstars, ageing veterans and honest battlers, but you know what you are going to get from each and every one of these players in terms of their intensity levels each time they take the field.

Which is why you would happily go to war with port’s Ollie Wines every single day of the year. No matter the weather conditions, the opponent, the score in the match, his physical well-being, whether he’s had a fight with his girlfriend or was stuck in traffic for too long on the way to the ground. (And trust me, any one of these things can claim the minds of footballers and result in them barely showing up to play.) You can be guaranteed of the intensity levels of this young man every week, and what a great endorsement that is for a young man in just his second year.

As you read this and prepare to watch your team perform this weekend, ask yourself if you can be certain that your team, regardless of the result, will be the intense, competitive animal that it needs to be in this ruthless competition.

I can’t with my team, Melbourne. It’s getting better, but the first 40 minutes of the game against the Bulldogs last week were as far removed from the inspiring intensity they showed against Essendon, when they chased them down a couple of weeks ago, as you could possibly imagine.

Why? Well, that’s another challenge for Paul Roos to work through. He and most other coaches, at some stage this year. John Longmire would still, in a quiet moment, wonder where his player’s minds were at in the round-one loss to the Giants.

To witness guaranteed intensity is a rare luxury afforded to the fortunate supporters of the very best sides in the competition. If that is you, you are blessed. For the rest of us, we will watch this weekend with our hearts in our mouths, and merely hope for it. 

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE vs ADE 13:05SS
BRI ($4.30)vs WBU ($1.20) 13:45G
PTA vs FRE 15:50Adelaide Oval
HAW ($1.01)vs CAR ($17.00) 16:40MCG
SYD ($1.04)vs GCF ($9.50) 19:20SCG
WCE ($1.04)vs STK ($9.50) 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GWS 13:10ES
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 21 17 4 0 125.10 68
West Coast Eagles 21 15 5 1 143.00 62
Hawthorn 21 15 6 0 156.77 60
Sydney Swans 21 15 6 0 124.11 60
Richmond 21 14 7 0 121.39 56
Western Bulldogs 21 14 7 0 116.76 56
Adelaide Crows 20 13 7 0 119.10 54
North Melbourne 21 13 8 0 109.08 52
View all
 

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers