Back to the home away from home, and a chance for North to continue its imposing record at Blundstone Arena.
A win today will make it 12 from the last 14 in Hobart, and really set the team up well for a period where the draw begins to open up tantalisingly.
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Is this game season defining?
Not to get all cheap headline in here, but today will be the perfect measure of where North stands this season.
When you consider the form of both sides, the lengthy injury list of the Giants, and the home ground advantage, there really are very few excuses for North losing today – if its previous month of football is a legitimate showcase of where it’s at.
The absence of Phil Davis, Josh Kelly, Brett Deledio, Toby Greene, Tom Scully, Adam Kennedy, Zac Williams and Matt de Boer – eight best 22 players, with the majority inside the top 10 to 12 – has the Giants’ list stretched to breaking point.
Now is the absolute best time to play them.
Can North’s small forwards prosper?
The Giants’ back six is … giant, pardon the pun. Tim Mohr (196cm), Jeremy Finlayson (196cm), Aidan Corr (195cm), Adam Tomlinson (194cm) and Nick Haynes (193cm) will all spend time down there.
Some of it is by circumstance due to injury, while some is by design as they rely on those taller defenders to stretch themselves with more creative and rebounding roles. HPN Footy has a very good breakdown on what the Giants attempt to do with ball movement out of the back half.
However, for all the creativity in GWS’s setup, it leaves a glaring opportunity for the likes of Kayne Turner and Shaun Atley to create havoc, along with Jy Simpkin, Jed Anderson and Billy Hartung when they float through the forward 50 for brief periods.
As we’ve seen at Blundstone Arena, the ball spends plenty of time at ground level, which is where North should take advantage close to goal.
(Also, side note: I believe it’s written into AFL laws that North must be the taller side each week, so I’m not sure what the deal is with GWS playing more key position players today.)
Will GWS come prepared for the conditions?
As we discussed on The Shinboner in the lead-up and fallout from Round 4, North has a significant advantage at Blundstone Arena simply from knowing exactly how to play the ground.
The one time it didn’t was, coincidentally, against the Giants last season. They came prepared and turned in the most polished performance by any opposition side in Hobart since the stadium redevelopment.
However, of those 22 players who won the four points in Round 3, 2017, ten are missing today. Is it possible for the GWS coaching staff to prepare the replacements to the same level, or is the talent and footy IQ drain simply too much to overcome?
(For the record, the 10 players missing are Davis, Greene, Kelly, Kennedy, Scully, Williams, Steve Johnson, Shane Mumford, Devon Smith and Nathan Wilson.)
Which officiating adjustment will we see?
Whenever a topic makes news, the umpires are going to pay closer attention to it the next time they’re on the field. In what should make for plenty of fun, there have been two topics this week involving North players.
1: Damien Hardwick mentions Dustin Martin’s treatment by taggers, so the natural response is to examine Ben Jacobs’ methods.
2: Alastair Clarkson mentions defenders bodying Ben Brown illegally, so the natural response is to focus on those contests.
Normally there’s only one focus per week, so now we wait.
Will there be a late change?
It’s very rare for North to confirm the travelling game day emergency 36 hours out from the game, which is what happened when Cam Zurhaar was excluded from the VFL team.
I’m not saying it means Zurhaar is a lock to replace Waite (or someone else) 90 minutes before the bounce, just that it is unusual based on prior history.