The mood in the outer seems restless after Wednesday night’s performance. It’s perfectly understandable too; losing by 70 points a week after a 53-point loss isn’t going to bring any positive feelings.
But this isn’t going to be a doom and gloom post. Putting aside my belief we’ve played two top-four sides in the pre-season, what I want to do here is explain some of what we saw against Richmond.
Or to be more accurate, explain one thing in particular. The turnovers, and why there were so many of them in the back half of the ground.
No side has ever pressed and swarmed as well as Richmond. It means you’re left with a dilemma when your defenders gain possession in a position where there aren’t overlap runners. By and large, there are two main options:
- Be careful with your ball use, and back yourself to chip through the zone one by one.
- Back yourself to get over the first line of the zone as quickly as possible. If that happens, you’ll have acres of space and you’re likely to get a quality inside 50 at the very least.
Both methods have their positives and both methods have their negatives. A lot of North’s better passages of ball movement against the Tigers came from when the second option was chosen, and the Richmond zone was breached. It was also what brought many of the turnovers that are no doubt stuck in fans’ minds right now.
What we’re going to do here is focus on two times where North chose to back themselves with the second option; an example of how it goes right and how it goes wrong.
We’ll start with the positive, because friends, life is no fun when you’re constantly drawn to the negative.
Here Tarrant takes an intercept mark and immediately looks in the corridor, where he finds Higgins.
Watch it back a few times and notice how when Higgins marks, the line of four Richmond players have been taken completely out of play with no-one between Higgins and the other end of the centre square.
You can also see the risk and small margin for error in the kick too – if Tarrant leaves it short and any of those Tigers break it up, the ball is slammed back over his head immediately. But the positive mindset is there when in possession and this is how North want to play. I can’t emphasise that enough.
Now for when it didn’t work.
Scott Thompson receives a handball from Luke Davies-Uniacke and sees Jamie Macmillan ahead. Thompson misses the target and the turnover goes directly inside Richmond’s forward 50 for a goal.
This has a tighter margin than the Tarrant kick, so we’ll look at two screenshots to explain further.
Thompson has a safe option, with two teammates retreating backwards to his left. But that’s exactly what the Tigers want him to do, so they can force North back and sideways until they run out of real estate.
So, he sees an option with Macmillan over the first line of the zone.
If the handball hit the target, look what Macmillan had available to him in the middle. Atley receives the first handball, draws Graham, releases a handball over the top to Cunnington and there’s time available to pick your forward inside 50.
It’s such a small margin between success and failure, and it’s what makes the Tigers such a good side. They narrow the margin for error and place constant pressure on you to instantly make the right decision time and time again. You know if you make a mistake you’re every chance of being scored on.
On the other side of the equation though, it’s also a small margin between North hitting a few more of those targets and essentially causing a two-goal swing. A few of them and there’s your difference between wins and losses.
Stay optimistic, and stay patient.
- The defensive setup looked like a tune up for Round 1. At this stage it appears Gold Coast will play two talls and surround them with ground level players. Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise to see North have no more than two tall defenders on the ground at a time, with the remainder of the group a versatile mix.
- On another night, against another opponent who isn’t Alex Rance, Ben Brown would have had two marks within five minutes and be set for a big evening. Going back to the theme of tuning up for Round 1, what better way to prepare than by playing against the best?
- Todd Goldstein locked in his Round 1 ruck position. It was essentially a ruck-off with a half for him and a half for Braydon Preuss. Goldstein covered the ground very well and you can’t play two ruckmen with the weather conditions in Cairns, assuming Brown and Waite will be available.
- Wednesday night was a show in how an intangible such as confidence can make your team several goals better. All the Tigers knew exactly where to run, exactly how that would benefit their teammates and it meant there was no wasted motion. Surprisingly it’s what tends to happen when you win a flag.
- It looks like LDU will continue to show little glimpses of what he’s capable of each week. My worry is that it won’t immediately transfer to Supercoach points, which in turn means you’ll have a narrative created that he’s performing under expectations. Patience people, please.
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Until next time.