Round 1: Swimming with the Suns

The best laid plans, they can all be thrown out the window pretty quickly. Or to be more accurate when talking about Saturday night, they can be drowned in the downpour.

What can you even look for when you’re watching a game like that? In essence, the game devolves into its simplest form. The fancy combinations of handballs through the centre and overlap run is non-existent, the most pressing need is to be switched on mentally, and it’s a grind from siren to siren.

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It’s hard to look at individuals, because the conditions brought everyone down to the same level, and we won’t see this weather again in 2018. Well, hopefully.

The first quarter gets thrown in the bin. All you learn from those 30 minutes? A football won’t roll well through a puddle.

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But in the second we have our first talking point. It involves the stoppages and how Gold Coast used them to get on top; five unanswered goals in the term.

Those who aren’t a fan of Brad Scott will roll their eyes right now as I quote his post-match media conference, but it’s important to listen closely to what he’s saying. Here’s the quote, with my added emphasis:

“It (the conditions) certainly didn’t make for the greatest spectacle, I wouldn’t have thought. It gets back to the bare bones of footy. Can you win it in a contest? Can you will yourself to the contest? Can you transition and get numbers across to the ball? I thought Gold Coast did that better than us.”

Nowadays sides tend to use their extra players around the ball at stoppages, and not always behind the ball. Note the difference here in two stoppages; one in the first quarter, one in the second quarter. Mind you, the second quarter screenshot isn’t an isolated example – I’ve kept it to one picture for the sake of keeping this thing under 2,000 words.

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“Can you transition and get numbers across to the ball?”

Look at the second quarter stoppage; Matt Rosa is in so much space you’d almost think he wasn’t supposed to be there at all. It’s a team work rate issue which will undoubtedly be the focus area during the week, and it’s why the margin was 24 points at the half.

Then came the change at half time of Jack Ziebell as an old school, stay-at-home full forward, and it crystallised a main aim of 2018 for the club. I’m kicking myself for not seeing it earlier.

My opinion is by the end of the year North wants to have developed a deep enough midfield rotation so it can play Ziebell as a forward, with occasional stints on the ball. And again, this is something which Scott explained in his media conference.

“We’d like to do it (play Ziebell forward), but we’ve got to really work hard on developing some of our other young mids. At the moment there’s a mix of guys who go through there, but we need to develop a couple who can stand up in there on a regular basis so that allows us to use Jack in other roles.”

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The conundrum surrounds the best way to develop those midfielders. Do you play the likes of LDU, Jy Simpkin, Taylor Garner and Ryan Clarke on the ball while Ziebell, Shaun Higgins and Ben Cunnington are in there? That way the youngsters receive less attention while playing in the same rotation as the experienced players, which allows them to learn the art of playing on-ball.

Or do you go with the full-on, throw the kids into the fire, play them all at once, the experienced guys spend less time in there, and deal with the lumps they’ll receive on the way? It could lead to a quicker education period and still emerging as a quality player, or it could leave scarring after being on the receiving end of a thumping.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, no definitive right or wrong way to approach things.

But back onto last night, and the fourth quarter. It was evident the team ran out of legs. The advantage of Gold Coast’s familiarity with muggy conditions and their JLT game a fortnight ago in the downpour came through late.

It hasn’t rained in Melbourne for about two months (before Saturday, funnily enough); going from those conditions to whatever you call last night is going to be a shock to the system, even if you go up 24 hours earlier than normal.

From here the hope is everyone pulls up well and recovery takes a key focus heading into Good Friday. I’d consider it a lock for another marking forward to come into the side to face the Saints. Whether it’s Mason Wood or Nick Larkey after the latter’s seven-goal VFL haul remains to be seen.

Five Questions, answered

Remember when I said in the preview that we’d answer those five key questions here today?

 

Take two next week.

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Before the Thursday/Friday/Saturday stretch for Round 2, we’ll be back earlier in the week with one or two more pieces. Stay tuned.

3 thoughts on “Round 1: Swimming with the Suns

  1. Pack the snorkel and flippers next time. It was like suburban footy in the 70s, except for the humidity. The other thing for North is that when it does rain, they have the luxury of the roof at etihad to protect them, so playing in rain is so rare. On the players, I thought the experienced players did well. Scotty Thompson was fabulous, rolling back the clock. Pleased to see Goldy play well against a good opponent. I thought he was the better of the ruckman. EVW showed a lot of poise in the conditions, I liked what I saw there. Jed! I thought that was Jed’s best game for us, he was busy, got hs hands on it a little bit, and made sure every contest was a hard one. I was so hoping the ball would sit for him when it went over the back, and it did. He seems to have bulked up a lot.

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