Well, well, well. How good was that?
Wins at the SCG are always rare, which means they carry extra significance for the confidence and belief it gives the playing group.
Belief is a funny thing. It’s one of those ‘intangibles’ which is impossible to measure so what you’re about to read can’t be proved either way.
But put a few of the previous years’ teams on the field and I think Sydney win the game going away after it hit the front halfway through the final term.
It must have been so deflating after those missed opportunities in the third quarter; Sydney hits the front once, Ed Vickers-Willis goes down, Mason Wood goals to tie it back up but then Jake Lloyd goals from outside 50.
Dean Towers missed a snap which put Sydney seven points in front with 10:15 to go. The rest of the way Sydney scored a grand total of one behind. One behind.
Yes, there have been a couple of games with the conditions affecting scores. But still, that’s now five rounds out of seven when North has held its opponent to 70 points or less. It only happened once all of 2017.
Sydney could have an above average defence with two brooms, a washing machine and three kitchen sinks as its back six.
Their structure and understanding of the play – I’m talking about the actual players now and not the brooms – is so good, you can’t hand over opportunities by turning it over easily when you’re in possession.
Your chances are going to be few – the Swans haven’t conceded 100 points in a game for 26 consecutive matches – so you have to make them count to win, especially at the SCG.
Of course the ball use wasn’t perfect, but there was plenty of times when everything was measured, and the results came. Exhibit A:
To repeat myself from previous weeks; when you play to instructions and see results early in the process, it gives you the confidence to bounce back after you get knocked down. If there weren’t the wins against St Kilda, Carlton and particularly Hawthorn to use as reference points, it would have been much harder for the playing group to get up and rebound from the Port Adelaide loss.
When the decision was made to rest Jarrad Waite and not risk Majak Daw, the temptation would have been high to keep the same structure and replace them with two genuine talls.
Instead by bringing in Sam Wright and Mason Wood for those two, it gave North the best possible side for both the opponent and the conditions. There were actually fewer genuine talls at the SCG (four) than at the one-night-only swimming pool in Cairns (five).
Considering Sydney only had Grundy and Sinclair it set up North to be able to stay with the remainder of the Swans while also keeping an aerial advantage.
Adaptability, Part 2
North’s first four inside 50’s were all directed at Ben Brown, who had what was a favourable matchup on paper against Dane Rampe.
However, two of those entries resulted in Sydney marks, one went out of bounds for a throw-in and the other was spoiled and rushed through for a behind. It meant North maintained possession from zero of the four inside 50’s, and it was clear the Swans had essentially laid a trap, daring North to use Brown as often as possible so their defenders – and in particular Grundy – could peel off and intercept.
Because Grundy had no interest in playing on Wood, and Rampe was set on Brown, it meant there was no other Swan who could go with Wood, and he took advantage gloriously.
Using Wood as the lead-up forward gave North a bail out option coming out of defensive 50, and then using Brown as a semi-decoy inside forward 50 gave just enough unpredictability to make North look dangerous close to home.
Watch this clip where Robbie Tarrant finds Wood 20 metres out from goal. Brown is at the top of the goal square – normally the ideal spot to put the ball on his head. But the plan in this situation is never to go to the big man, and always to go to Wood.
Tarrant just kicks it to space, Wood knows exactly where the ball will be – to the extent of having his back turned when Tarrant kicks it – and uses the space to mark comfortably. It was a key plot of the second half.
One final word
Or that should probably be ‘one final gif’, to be more accurate. Here is Marley Williams’ majestic blind turn.
We’ll be back during the week in the lead up to what is suddenly a very interesting game on Mother’s Day against Richmond at Etihad Stadium.
There’ll be a deep dive into what makes Richmond so good, how it’s possible to attack the premiers, and how North will be able to see just where it is at.