Before we get into today’s topic, I’ve had some feedback on last week’s post asking how I managed to stay balanced and optimistic when assessing the game. It’s because of two things:
1. I’m not expecting any miracles in terms where North finishes on the ladder this season, so by and large I’m able to watch play without getting worked up. Especially when it’s JLT 2 against the reigning premiers.
2. Spending six years in a press box where your number one goal is to be respectful to those covering the game conditions you to not have outbursts. Although it wasn’t that way when I started. The end of my first game was spent peeking over a chair watching Hamish McIntosh kick after the siren to potentially win it. But we’ll save that story for another time.
On the surface, the centre bounce is simple enough. Ball gets bounced, called back to be thrown up, the ruckmen battle to tap it to their teammates and away we go.
But while the ball is in the air there is so much happening at ground level with set plays and plans being carried out. It’s easy to miss live because it happens so quickly, but it tells you a lot about a team’s midfield setup and each player’s role in the unit.
If you’re ever at a training session – and this applies for any club, not just North Melbourne – watch the drill closely when the midfielders break away to go to the centre square.
(Here is where I would have recommended watching the stoppage work if you were at a game early enough for the on-field warm-up, but recent pre-match changes rule this option out.)
Of the three midfielders at ground level, in most bounces there’ll be one singled out as the target for the ruckman.
There can also be one midfielder whose sole focus is defensive, although this is far from written in stone. Meanwhile the remaining player’s role tends to fluctuate depending on what his matchup is.
Let’s go through the different stages of one in-game centre bounce to explain the moving parts.
Here is the first bounce of the second half from last week at Ikon Park, when North faced Richmond. Braydon Preuss is the ruckman, with Ben Cunnington, Ben Jacobs and Jy Simpkin rounding out the quartet.
Watch it back a couple of times and focus on something different on each occasion. If you take note of each player’s positioning when the bounce is at the top of its arc, you can determine their roles.
- Jacobs is solely focused on stopping Trent Cotchin
- Simpkin is neutral and reading the play
- Cunnington is the planned target for Preuss
It’s clear to see Cunnington holding off Dustin Martin – what would happen if those two went to fend each other off at the same time? – creating the drop zone for Preuss to direct the tap.
Of course it’s not always executed as smoothly as this. The bounce can favour one ruckman over the other, the intended midfield target may be on the opposite side to the bounce and it all breaks down to who can read the play better.
The next time you’re watching a game and a side is getting on top from the centre, keep the general structure of attacking player-defensive player-neutral player in mind. It gives you a different look at what you’re seeing.
The volume of posts here on The Shinboner will start to ramp up now as we draw closer to the season opener against Gold Coast. Before then, please help the blog out by spreading the word about it, subscribing via email on your right (on desktop) or below this post (on mobile), and if you’re on Twitter you can follow me @rickm18.
Until next time.