I attended Geelong vs Hawthorn yesterday courtesy of the corporate box. Though I drank a fair bit, here's my observations and thoughts:
- We beat both these teams in finals only 7-8 games ago. Both these teams are a mile ahead of us now. There were rule changes over summer that we have not adapted to, where as these clubs have. We beat Geelong by 5 goals, and 4 games later they belted us by 80 points. WTF was the club doing over summer to allow a 100+ point turn around happen?!
- Both usually setup to play one on one, no more zone [censored]. They also keep at least one player back in their defensive 50, or at least closest to goals by a fair way. They will not let their deepest player get sucked up the ground to the contest. We do not do this, and still play a zone defence. Our zone defence plays far too high, getting sucked up the ground and means when the opposition in the ball and move forward they have a paddock of space to utilise and our defenders are placed under enormous pressure.
- With the one on ones, that means there's less big pack situations. When there is a pack though, both teams will always have a player stay down for the crumb, as the likelihood of a big pack mark is low. For whatever reason, our players defy logic and all fly for the same ball with no-one waiting down. You'd think it's common sense not to do this, but apparently not!
- When a team loses possession and the oppositions free player gets the ball out on the wing, both teams were happy to concede this and instead their midfielders in the corridor push back harder to flood the backline with an extra one or two players. While the ball carrier is then under little pressure, their kick inside 50 rarely hits a target as they are outnumbered. Our mids have been abysmal in pushing back to provide defensive support. This is purely down to lack of effort and foot speed.
- Both teams utilise the new kick in rules after a behind. They are happy to run the extra distance they are now given and move the ball quickly all the way to the middle of the ground/wing in one kick. If these positions are too crowded, they will run the ball out with less pressure as the man on the mark is pushed further away from the kicker under the new rules, and a teammate will block them anyway to allow the kicker to sometimes run nearly all the way to the 50 metre arc unopposed. Sicily did this multiple times and was super effective yesterday.
- Our team has not adapted to the new kick in rules. We rarely run the extra distance and utilise the additional space. We kick it the same flank over and over hoping Max will mark it (which he rarely has this year). Teams know we do this and now crowd that flank. When this happens, we chip to the point and then stop waiting for options. We never run the ball out, and we never try kicking long to a different spot. What we are doing with kick ins is not working, and we have not adapted.
- 6-6-6 means that forward lines are crowded. All this rule has done is shift the congestion from the middle of the ground to the forward lines, essentially creating an artificial flood of sorts. When a team wins a centre clearance and streams forward, they either have a shot from outside 50 or kick it to a pack of 6-12 players. It's the reason that scoring is the lowest it's been in over a decade. Due to the amount of players crowding forward lines, big forward aren't able to marks the ball this year and small forwards are excelling as they're having more opportunity to crumb artificially created packs.
- With that in mind, both teams have several smaller forwards with pace and use these players as their main scoring avenues.
Geelong had Ablett, Rohan, Miers, Dalhaus etc. all doing damage. All of them kicked goals, with Ablett and Rohan kicking 3-4 goals each. They also all rotated up the ground and found ball. Miers and Dalhaus in particular played great linking roles, utilising their pace to break lines across the wing and through the corridor.
It didn't work for the Hawks yesterday due to Geelongs brilliant defending, but they had Puopolo, Wingard, Bruest and others down there. Those three players can all kick bags, and could have if the delivery was a tad better and they'd kicked straighter (Bruest and Wingard both missed multiple shots and only registered behinds).
- Our small forwards are slow, do not hit the scoreboard and rarely help to link up play e.g. Spargo has not scored AT ALL from 4 games now, and is averaging 9 disposals and less than 1 tackle a game. He must be the least effective player in the AFL at present. We have bugger all options, and it's why most of us are now screaming out for Garlett to return, as he'll likely thrive in the current AFL gamestyle. It frustrates the hell out of me seeing us pass on guys like Petrucelle at the draft, then watching them use their speed and have an impact at other clubs.
- Both teams have big blokes who can take a contested mark. Roughead, Hawkins, Rat, Gunston, Lewis, Blicavs etc. all took strong marks yesterday. Our big blokes, though receiving poor delivery, are not marking the ball at all. Last year we were one of the best contested marking teams with TMac and Gawn marking anything that came their way. This year we are ranked second last in the league for contested marks. When our gamestyle is the bomb the ball into 50, not marking it and then having no speedy crumber around is a recipe for disaster. This alone is the reason why we will finish bottom four this year. It's a fatally flawed plan, and blame rests with the coaches for not addressing it and coming up with alternatives.
- It's obvious, but our foot speed is currently amongst the worst in the league. It's pure ratshit. Geelong is full of old blokes on the cusp of retirement, yet they currently run rings around us. Hawthorn are the same, with Smith, Poppy, Bruest, Impey, Scully, Worpel, Wingard etc providing good run and speed. Our team is lacking speed all across the park, but particular through the midfield and up forward. We should seriously consider trading one of our big bodied midfield types (Petracca?) to secure a good running outside-leaning midfielder in the Ed Langdon mould. It frustrates me seeing other clubs land players like Treloar and Shiel while we twiddle our thumbs. We need to offer up big and land Coniglio as a free agent. Until we fix our speed issue, we will continue to get burnt on the outside by most teams and continue on a road to nowhere.
EXCUSE THE LONG POST. NEEDED TO VENT!