I have been thinking about our injury list and also about the importance of continuity - playing games together. One of the things that makes successful teams successful is playing together, knowing what your teammates are going to do, knowing their running patterns etc. So I wanted to look at what our "playing 22" was since Goodwin took over.
This is the team which have played the most games 2017-19 for the Dees. For reference the starting 18 have played more than 42 games (Fritch 42), the bench more than 36 and the emergencies more than 24. The total number of games they could have played is 66 - well done Clarry for playing all and Trac for only missing 1.
Of note here is that this year, 13 of these 'best' 18 players have played more than 15 games. While Jetta and Melksham have missed due to injury, O Mac and Lewis have missed due to form. Of the 26, Vince, Tyson and Hogan have left, Hannan, Garlett, Spargo, Weideman have all missed through a mixture of injury and form and J Wagner has played 12 games.
I was surprised at through the years that J Wagner seemed to be the 23-26 player called on to play. We talk about the lack of depth the Dees have, and it is interesting because we don't really have a reliable 23-26 players. Really the 2 names that came up on the interchange / emergency list year by year without a valid reason (e.g. Hogan due to leaving/injury) was Josh Wagner and Billy Stretch. If you isolate this year alone, it is Corey Wagner and Oskar Baker who are the 23-26 players (Garlett and Jetta were the other 2).
It was interesting looking back year on year 2014-2019 that the 'core' didn't really change. This is the team that has played the most games from 2014-19.
B Jetta O McDonald Watts
HB Salem Frost Vince
C Tyson Viney Brayshaw
R Gawn Oliver Jones
HF Petracca Hogan Harmes
F Garlett McDonald Neal-Bullen
Int Hunt Hibberd Pedersen Lewis
Em. Melksham Kent Stretch Howe
You see similar names across the lines with only 4 names changing. When you just isolate Goodwin coaching, you have Hannan (19th most games), Weideman (26), J Wagner (27) and Spargo (28) who have now become 'regulars' with Watts, Pedersen, Kent, and Howe playing more games for the Dees than this quartet if you go back to 2014.
What does this all tell me? It tells me that another 12 months down the track we have a core of about 16 players that will have played more than 80 games together and that is nothing to sneer at. Week in week out we have been one of the competitions least experienced sides. As we grow over the next 12 months, these games together should help with some of the connection issues.
Names not in that group include May and Lever who we know are already having a great influence on the team, as well as guys like Weideman, Hore, Petty, KK, Spargo who have all shown signs.
The other thing that we need though is a reduction in injuries to our players. Isolating 'most played' 18 over the past 3 years and games missed, there are too many in the double digits which has hurt us (Viney, Brayshaw, Melksham, Jetta, Hibberd, Gawn) both on the field, and also with the game plan. Everytime that someone goes down, a member of this team is often played out of position to try and cover them.
So, is this year down to not getting the cattle on the park or the cattle not being fit? This is the most played 26 this year as well as games played.
This then made me think, while we have lost a lot of games to injury, how many have we lost to the main players playing? Is it more than last year? Well we had 83 games of injuries lost to our 'most playing 22' last year and 84 to our 'most playing 22' this year.
What I did notice, was that the experience of the 22 running out on the park each week was below that of 2018. Last year the players in our most often played 22 included:
2018: Vince, Spargo, Tyson, Garlett, Hogan, Hannan, Jetta compared to our most often this year 2019: Petty, Viney, Lockhart, Hunt, Wagner, Hore, Weideman.
Commentators talk about the importance of the bottom 6 of your side, and this year, our bottom 6 has been very young, very inexperienced, and often not very good.
What I am hoping for in 2020 is that players like May, Lever, Jetta are among the most games played in our side (who knows, maybe even KK and Weid), and guys like Melksham and McDonald are playing more games. I actually think our best 22 is very good. We saw it in 2018 and we've seen glimpses of it in 2019. Now is the time to make sure everyone is right for 2020, bring in 1-2 players who can be automatic best 22 (Anderson, Langdon), get our backline out on the park (May, Lever, Jetta), get our guns firing again (looking at you Brayshaw) and hopefully Weid takes another step forward.
Because if you are replacing our 'most played 22' with May, Lever, Jetta, Anderson, Langdon for guys like (no offence intended) Lockhart, J Wagner, Petty, O Mac, Lewis - things start to look a little more rosie.
If you want the excel - PM me.