Our first chance to look at an opposition team this season, it felt like the day would never come.
The plan for this in 2018 is to have it online the morning before every match, with several bite-sized pieces of information on the upcoming opponent. If you like the structure, let me know … if you don’t like the structure, let me know.
I’m a bit of a broken record at this point, but thanks to all who have clicked, shared, retweeted and liked the posts on The Shinboner so far.
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Forwards: Two talls + increased pressure
The biggest difference to Gold Coast this year is their game plan, and the overdue introduction of pressure. It’s almost a cliché using the word pressure at this point, but you can instantly see the difference it’s made to the way they play, and they looked well organised in the JLT Series.
The forward line will eventually work around Tom Lynch and Peter Wright in the air, but on Saturday it will be Lynch and Sam Day, due to Wright’s unavailability through injury. When the ball comes to ground there are an army of smalls and midfielders rotating through.
I like going in with the two genuine tall defenders in Robbie Tarrant and Scott Thompson instead of three, and having Ed Vickers-Willis as someone who can contribute in the air and ground gives the backline some nice flexibility.
The disposal coming out of the back 50 is going to be the most important part of North’s game. If you nail that, you’re a long way towards coming home with four points.
Backs: Rory Thompson and Steven May v Jarrad Waite and Ben Brown
Gold Coast’s backline is set up in a similar way to North’s, with two genuine key position talls.
In the most recent meeting it was Thompson who started on Brown, albeit with Waite spending more time on the wing that afternoon.
You would imagine Waite will spend more time closer to home in Cairns, given the extra runners selected in the 22 travelling up there.
If the conditions turn out as advertised, the ball will likely spend a lot of time on the deck. That means fewer opportunities for Brown and Waite in the air, and less margin for error with the midfielders coming forward.
Jarrod Witts is underrated
Maybe it’s because he’s off Broadway, so to speak, but the job Witts has done for the Suns has been quality, and he’ll be a formidable challenge for Todd Goldstein.
Witts troubled Goldstein last year and comparing the 2017 output to 2018 looms as a harbinger of Goldstein’s season. Remember with the conditions set to be warm and humid, the longer the Roo can ruck has benefits all over the field.
Who the Suns are missing
North has caught a break in recent weeks. At the start of the JLT Series, the Suns were almost completely healthy.
Now they’ll go into Saturday night missing Aaron Hall (midfield), Pearce Hanley (half back/midfield), Peter Wright (tall forward/second ruck) and also Sean Lemmens (small forward), a quartet which all would have been in the 22 for Round 1 had they been fit.
Just one more sleep to go. We’ll be back on Saturday morning with a game day preview/key questions that need to be answered at Cazalys Stadium.