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The Transition


rpfc

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We are seeing the confluence of events that is demanding a change in how we play that I hope lasts for the rest of the decade; a change that leads to attractive football as well as winning football. 

Transition x2

With McQualter coming in there seems to be a real emphasis on something that we have never had a real emphasis on; transitioning the ball from the backline with speed and purpose.
(I wrote about this mid last season - that you can read about below - bumped post)

Where the ‘confluence’ comes in is the emergence of McVee, Howes, Bowey, and Rivers as the engine of the team.

This is where we need to ‘transition’ to this engine, which I will dub - The Transition, and away from the May and Lever driven Defence Only mindset.

Now this is already happening and that is great, but it doesn’t mean we are not a contest driven or Defence First team - we will be until further notice, but with this strong in the bow we can now win games in more ways, and avoid being out of games. 

For the neophytes - last two seasons we have been ‘forward half’ or ‘contest/stoppage driven’ to avoid as much exposure to our backline as possible. This means we kicked long to the boundary (May’s infamous kick out from FB) and progressive movement down the field through stoppage and rushed kick. This means that our forward pressure could kick in and we ‘won territory’ and we ‘won the I50 count’ and we ‘won the expected score’ but we didn’t win the games that matter…

Having a transition game and a comfortability with our defence getting footy kicked their way has opened up the ground and has allowed McVee and Rivers in particular to show their value and for our forwards to have space to exploit. Suddenly Fritsch has 1-1s and Brown is leading at the footy in dangerous spots. As an aside, this will aide in JVRs development…

So I for one thank Goodwin for his ability to adapt and I welcome… 

… The Transition.

(Demon emoji)

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It’s a really well written and considered piece, and explains what we see is evolving before our eyes🙌🏼. *I’ll add some further thoughts later 

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I have similar thoughts but probably for slightly different reasons.

Since the evolution of tactics in AFL, from an '18 one on ones' style before the mid-2000s, we now have an ability to refine the gameplan far more to suit the philosophies of the coach and the personnel they have available to them. In that time (last 20 years) pretty much every good team has set that balance of attack and defence in a similar way ... except for us. 

2005 Sydney - defensive gameplan with great forwards (Hall, O'Loughlin, Goodes etc) and undersized defenders (Barry and Bolton)

2006 West Coast - attacking gameplan with great defenders (built around Glass and Wirrpanda) with ordinary forwards (Hansen and Lynch)

2000s Geelong - attacking gameplan with great defenders (Scarlett, Enright, Mackie, Milburn, Harley, Taylor/Egan etc) with comparatively ordinary forwards (Mooney, N Ablett, then smalls like Johnson etc)

2000s Hawthorn - defensive gameplan with great forwards (Buddy and Roughy) and undersized/ordinary defenders (Gibson, Gilham, Lake, Spangher etc).

2010s Richmond - defensive gameplan with great forwards (Riewoldt, Dusty, Lynch) and comparitively ordinary defenders (Rance for 2017, but just Astbury, Broad, Grimes, Vlastuin thereafter).

2023 Collingwood - attacking gameplan with great defenders (Moore, Quaynor, Howe, Maynard etc) and a bad forward line (Mihocek, Elliott, McStay).

 

We have been different, with our strength being our amazing defence (May, Lever), ordinary forward line but still going for a defensive gameplan. The reason why this is mismatched is because the marginal gain of May and Lever is small when you set up your team to protect them whilst, at the other end, you're asking JVR and Ben Brown to compete against the odds all game (which they aren't really good enough to do). 

As an example, Richmond beat Geelong in the 2020 GF because the game was tight and congested, with scoring difficult. At 3/4 time they led 46-44 (7 goals to 6), so it was hard to score. In the last quarter they kicked 5 goals to win it (Prestia, Lynch, Dusty, Riewoldt, Dusty). Between Dusty, Riewoldt and Lynch, they kicked as many goals as Geelong did. Defending was easy with the extra numbers - kicking goals against those extra numbers was hard and that's why Richmond's best players were the ones to do it. Conversely, Collingwood could get relatively easy goals in 2023 (Hill, Elliott, Michocek, Ginnivan, McCreery and Frampton had 19 contested possessions between them - about 3 each on average) because they kept numbers forward and relied on their more talented defenders to win the difficult contests. 

You don't need to make the job easier for your good players because they're going to win you more of those really important contests (like Dusty against 2 opponents, or May one on one against Curnow), so they don't need as much support. But if you can then use those extra numbers somewhere else to make it easier (like supporting Astbury in defence, or playing an extra forward to allow Ben Brown a 1-on-1 and space to lead) then you're helping them enormously. 

May and Lever may help a defensive plan reduce the opposition's score by 20 points, but an attacking plan could help our forwards kick 30 extra points because they need that extra help a lot more than May and Lever do.

 

tldr; Teams usually create game plans to add support where they need it most, trusting their best players to play well without support. We've given May and Lever too much support when they don't need it, and I am happy that we're now giving that support to our forwards (who do need it). Also sorry it was so rambling! 

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Good post mate, it's what I and others have been writing about with the sagging defensive set up that enables us to slingshot in behind.

But I'm not convinced McQualter's arrival is forcing us to play in a different way, because that makes it sound like we didn't identify him, as well as areas of our game that we understood we needed to improve.

As well as centre clearance, we are now comfortable losing ground ball too. In some ways it's been a significant shift and in another way, it's merely tweaks. 

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It is just another way to win a game of footy.

We have already mastered the contested forward half game and can use this when required. 
 

A team that has many ways to win a game is a team that will be hard to beat. 
 

Fox have talked about our ability to punish teams. Whether by turnover or stoppage, we are incredibly efficient here as well.

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3 minutes ago, Axis of Bob said:

I have similar thoughts but probably for slightly different reasons.

Since the evolution of tactics in AFL, from an '18 one on ones' style before the mid-2000s, we now have an ability to refine the gameplan far more to suit the philosophies of the coach and the personnel they have available to them. In that time (last 20 years) pretty much every good team has set that balance of attack and defence in a similar way ... except for us. 

2005 Sydney - defensive gameplan with great forwards (Hall, O'Loughlin, Goodes etc) and undersized defenders (Barry and Bolton)

2006 West Coast - attacking gameplan with great defenders (built around Glass and Wirrpanda) with ordinary forwards (Hansen and Lynch)

2000s Geelong - attacking gameplan with great defenders (Scarlett, Enright, Mackie, Milburn, Harley, Taylor/Egan etc) with comparatively ordinary forwards (Mooney, N Ablett, then smalls like Johnson etc)

2000s Hawthorn - defensive gameplan with great forwards (Buddy and Roughy) and undersized/ordinary defenders (Gibson, Gilham, Lake, Spangher etc).

2010s Richmond - defensive gameplan with great forwards (Riewoldt, Dusty, Lynch) and comparitively ordinary defenders (Rance for 2017, but just Astbury, Broad, Grimes, Vlastuin thereafter).

2023 Collingwood - attacking gameplan with great defenders (Moore, Quaynor, Howe, Maynard etc) and a bad forward line (Mihocek, Elliott, McStay).

 

We have been different, with our strength being our amazing defence (May, Lever), ordinary forward line but still going for a defensive gameplan. The reason why this is mismatched is because the marginal gain of May and Lever is small when you set up your team to protect them whilst, at the other end, you're asking JVR and Ben Brown to compete against the odds all game (which they aren't really good enough to do). 

As an example, Richmond beat Geelong in the 2020 GF because the game was tight and congested, with scoring difficult. At 3/4 time they led 46-44 (7 goals to 6), so it was hard to score. In the last quarter they kicked 5 goals to win it (Prestia, Lynch, Dusty, Riewoldt, Dusty). Between Dusty, Riewoldt and Lynch, they kicked as many goals as Geelong did. Defending was easy with the extra numbers - kicking goals against those extra numbers was hard and that's why Richmond's best players were the ones to do it. Conversely, Collingwood could get relatively easy goals in 2023 (Hill, Elliott, Michocek, Ginnivan, McCreery and Frampton had 19 contested possessions between them - about 3 each on average) because they kept numbers forward and relied on their more talented defenders to win the difficult contests. 

You don't need to make the job easier for your good players because they're going to win you more of those really important contests (like Dusty against 2 opponents, or May one on one against Curnow), so they don't need as much support. But if you can then use those extra numbers somewhere else to make it easier (like supporting Astbury in defence, or playing an extra forward to allow Ben Brown a 1-on-1 and space to lead) then you're helping them enormously. 

May and Lever may help a defensive plan reduce the opposition's score by 20 points, but an attacking plan could help our forwards kick 30 extra points because they need that extra help a lot more than May and Lever do.

 

tldr; Teams usually create game plans to add support where they need it most, trusting their best players to play well without support. We've given May and Lever too much support when they don't need it, and I am happy that we're now giving that support to our forwards (who do need it). Also sorry it was so rambling! 

Go to the naughty corner  you said Maynard was a " great" defender not a serial offender,a thug who should be charged and banned forever .

Everything else was interesting though.

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9 minutes ago, Axis of Bob said:

2000s Hawthorn - defensive gameplan with great forwards (Buddy and Roughy) and undersized/ordinary defenders (Gibson, Gilham, Lake, Spangher etc).

2010s Richmond - defensive gameplan with great forwards (Riewoldt, Dusty, Lynch) and comparitively ordinary defenders (Rance for 2017, but just Astbury, Broad, Grimes, Vlastuin thereafter).

I know it’s just a summary but I think you’re underselling the Hawks defenders, Gibson was a superstar. Lake a gun. And Frawley came in when Buddy went out. They got a bit lucky to win a flag in 2008 and couldn’t hold up the next few years until they got Lake and then Frawley.

Similarly Astbury, Broad, Grimes and Vlastuin were all excellent. Even without Rance.

Richmond gave up first possession for pressure but they were also attacking with the ball. Constant pace on the ball and run.

Our best footy has always involved pace on the ball. In fact we’ve rushed too much at times. But we got too boundary conscious and gun shy to bounce the ball to the fat side out of the backline.

Totally agree that with our key backs and Gawn we should trust our ability to defend. And we have the half backs to run and kick through the corridor and to space.

We haven’t seen a full game of the guy who I thought would flourish the most with this style in Bowey. We’ve only seen a couple of games of Salem on ball. And no one has mentioned the kid whose run encourages the backs and mids to put the ball in space in Windsor! 

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4 minutes ago, rpfc said:

@Axis of Bob Yes! We have a Rolls Royce of a backline we have spent the last 3 years protecting… doesn’t make sense to me. 

Let’s take it for a test drive…

It is a Rolls Royce, but with a flat tyre - that was our defensive ground ball capability.
 

Lets face it, the last two years we sucked when the ball hit the floor in our D50. I haven’t seen enough to determine whether that has gone, but with McVee, Howes and Bowey in there it’s less of a problem. Even TMac is cleaner below his knees. May and Lever who were the serial offenders have actually been relatively cleaner this year.

 

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30 minutes ago, Gawndy the Great said:

It is a Rolls Royce, but with a flat tyre - that was our defensive ground ball capability.
 

Lets face it, the last two years we sucked when the ball hit the floor in our D50. I haven’t seen enough to determine whether that has gone, but with McVee, Howes and Bowey in there it’s less of a problem. Even TMac is cleaner below his knees. May and Lever who were the serial offenders have actually been relatively cleaner this year.

 

But we've also had the support of our mids and high half forwards to clog up the defensive 50, and since we're happy playing in our defensive half, those ground balls are less dangerous to May and Lever as they have higher protection. 

There is now a trend of losing ground ball and winning on the scoreboard.

In fact, the only time we've won ground ball (+11) was against Sydney. Now the conditions may have made that a greater necessity, but it also meant the game wasn't being played on our own terms.

Conversely, we lost ground ball in all our wins. -13 against the Bulldogs (R1), -1 against Hawthorn, -22 against Port and -3 against Adelaide.

I'd still like a greater sample size, but IMO it appears to be down to the way we are setting up.

So whilst @Axis of Bob points out we've been protecting our A grade defence instead of providing our forwards with more assistance, I'd argue we're now providing both ends of the ground more assistance. The defenders have most of the team back defending plays and stoppages now, which eases ball movement as it's easier to hit targets in space, and provides more space in our own forward line.

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4 hours ago, Binmans PA said:

But we've also had the support of our mids and high half forwards to clog up the defensive 50, and since we're happy playing in our defensive half, those ground balls are less dangerous to May and Lever as they have higher protection. 

There is now a trend of losing ground ball and winning on the scoreboard.

In fact, the only time we've won ground ball (+11) was against Sydney. Now the conditions may have made that a greater necessity, but it also meant the game wasn't being played on our own terms.

Conversely, we lost ground ball in all our wins. -13 against the Bulldogs (R1), -1 against Hawthorn, -22 against Port and -3 against Adelaide.

I'd still like a greater sample size, but IMO it appears to be down to the way we are setting up.

So whilst @Axis of Bob points out we've been protecting our A grade defence instead of providing our forwards with more assistance, I'd argue we're now providing both ends of the ground more assistance. The defenders have most of the team back defending plays and stoppages now, which eases ball movement as it's easier to hit targets in space, and provides more space in our own forward line.

But we have always had an extra behind the ball and allow teams to have an extra at the stoppage. To me, that always amazed me that we didn’t lean into the slingshot even more with that extra player with our Rolls Royce defence.

We still invariably have our extra behind the ball to release Lever by now we are unlocking what that means offensively.

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14 hours ago, rpfc said:

But we have always had an extra behind the ball and allow teams to have an extra at the stoppage. To me, that always amazed me that we didn’t lean into the slingshot even more with that extra player with our Rolls Royce defence.

We still invariably have our extra behind the ball to release Lever by now we are unlocking what that means offensively.

Very true.

Perhaps it was more of a personnel limitation in the past? 

It may also have been Collingwood winning that sped up our shift to playing the deeper style.

I remember in that QF last year when we were dominating territory and there was 100m open for Collingwood to work back into. Even though we were dominating territory, it felt like they were super dangerous defending from their own defensive half.

We may have taken heavily from them or it may be a natural evolution to maximise our defensive system and lower the likelihood of teams slingshotting against us (ie combating the game style that was, as @binman says, developed to beat our 2021 defensive set up).

I'm looking forward to watching closely how our mids set up on Thursday night. It's not even so much the set up, but how we attack the ball.

In the two games I've seen live this year, it's been relatively obvious that we only send one mid to win possession, the others spread or take up defensive positions. This probably speaks to why we're losing clearance on net.

Be fascinating to see how we approach this as the season progresses.

Edited by Binmans PA
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Great analysis and conversation! 

No question we are setting up deeper defensively and moving the ball from the back half more agressively both 'on foot' and 'by foot/hand'. We are better utlising our speed behind the ball (McVee, Rivers, Langdon, Windsor) and ahead of the ball (Kozzie, ANB, Chandler & at times Langdon & Windsor). 

 

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Insightful analysis, thanks.

Simon says we need to improve our game and win stoppage and i50 because while it's great that we have found other ways to win, it's not sustainable in the long run.  It will be interesting to see where we go from here.

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If we are legitimately banking 'different ways to win' and can call on various strategies throughout the year based on opponent, conditions, personnel, etc. it would be amazing. 

Perhaps a bar set a little too high though! 

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I'm happy with us losing clearance/stoppage, ground ball, inside 50 differential, but winning on the scoreboard.

Maybe I've rose-coloured glasses on or I'm being conspiratorial, but I reckon Goody would be perfectly happy keeping things as they are and he's playing a few games in his presser today. (ie he doesn't want to completely let on to opposition analysts how we're looking to win this year)

If we win too much clearance and have the ball locked in our front half too often, it means we've got to be perfect to find space or a target inside 50. To me, that's unsustainable as a strategy nowadays. Teams are highly inefficient, us especially, when we play forward half.

Perhaps we'd prefer to be defending most plays through the centre corridor and the wings, and turning the ball over earlier (higher up the ground/closer to our own goal) rather than playing from our D50, but ultimately most top 8 teams won't give up too many points from their own defensive half consistently. 

I do concur with Goody though that we'd probably want a greater inside 50 differential than against say Port (-21). You're asking way too much of your defensive system and defenders to defend that sort of differential.

Edited by Binmans PA
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Collingwood's slingshot style also meant a defence has less time to set up. They threw numbers at the contest and used handball plus short sharp kicks to disrupt defences. They're not being allowed to do that so much this year. 

 

 

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I still think Goodwin wants to play a forward half game and that the game plan is very similar to 2023.

We have just been beaten in the midfield more often this year and we have kicked very accurately. This means that instead of getting repeat entries, which are usually inferior entries into a more crowded forward line, so the ball has been going back to the centre more often. Plus our forward pressure has also been average due to Brown and Petty both being in the forward line (and Kossie missing against Sydney).

The Swans midfield beat us in the contest in greasy conditions which did not suit Gawn (and favoured Grundy) and also worked against our unskilled bulls.

Against the Dogs, the midfield was even and the Dogs transitioned the ball better than we would have liked from the back half but were poor going inside 50.

We killed Hawthorn in the centre and the game was effectively over by quarter time.

Port's midfield beat us but our defence held strong.

The Crows midfield beat us and our defence held strong/they fluffed their chances.

A lot of losing in the midfield battles comes down to being fixtured against three elite midfields (Sydney, Dogs and Port) but it also is due to Oliver being injured in the last two weeks. I think we will see a reversion to the 2023 model as the sample size increases, especially if Oliver recovers and we can get on top of some of the poorer/more average midfields.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Binmans PA said:

I'm happy with us losing clearance/stoppage, ground ball, inside 50 differential, but winning on the scoreboard.

Centre clearance after a goal is another matter. It offers a very high chance of scoring if it's a clean win

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2 hours ago, jnrmac said:

Collingwood's slingshot style also meant a defence has less time to set up. They threw numbers at the contest and used handball plus short sharp kicks to disrupt defences. They're not being allowed to do that so much this year. 

Our system wouldn't allow that now anyway. As long as we cut off the first handball, we set our defence so deep now, there's far less space in behind.

Edited by Binmans PA
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52 minutes ago, Fat Tony said:

I still think Goodwin wants to play a forward half game and that the game plan is very similar to 2023.

We have just been beaten in the midfield more often this year and we have kicked very accurately. This means that instead of getting repeat entries, which are usually inferior entries into a more crowded forward line, so the ball has been going back to the centre more often. Plus our forward pressure has also been average due to Brown and Petty both being in the forward line (and Kossie missing against Sydney).

The Swans midfield beat us in the contest in greasy conditions which did not suit Gawn (and favoured Grundy) and also worked against our unskilled bulls.

Against the Dogs, the midfield was even and the Dogs transitioned the ball better than we would have liked from the back half but were poor going inside 50.

We killed Hawthorn in the centre and the game was effectively over by quarter time.

Port's midfield beat us but our defence held strong.

The Crows midfield beat us and our defence held strong/they fluffed their chances.

A lot of losing in the midfield battles comes down to being fixtured against three elite midfields (Sydney, Dogs and Port) but it also is due to Oliver being injured in the last two weeks. I think we will see a reversion to the 2023 model as the sample size increases, especially if Oliver recovers and we can get on top of some of the poorer/more average midfields.

 

 

Disagree.

Let's see who's right as the season goes on mate.

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46 minutes ago, Diamond_Jim said:

Centre clearance after a goal is another matter. It offers a very high chance of scoring if it's a clean win

Have you seen stats around this or is it the eye test thing?

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Good chat, not the technical guru like you guys, just a stat I saw.

We’ve conceded 100+ points (I guess that’s a metric the statisticians use) 3 times from 2020-2024. Next best is Saints with 9. Regardless, that’s impressive.

 

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36 minutes ago, Binmans PA said:

Disagree.

Let's see who's right as the season goes on mate.

Goodwin has been saying that he is not happy with the amount of territory we have been conceding.

We had very good efficient wins against the Dogs, Swans and Eagles last year, which looked similar to 2024.

The big change in style we made was the start of last year when we started using both sides of the ground when attacking from the backline.

 

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