Firstly, an apology. At the end of 2018 I promised proper AFLW content and that hasn’t happened in the first five rounds.
Over the summer I’ve been working on Channel 7’s cricket social media. Before you yell at me, I’m not responsible for no ODI’s. And as it turns out, covering 20 WBBL games, 25-30 BBL games, 27 days of Test cricket and 3 women’s ODIs in the space of 90 days removes all ability to do anything else.
It wasn’t ideal from a watching football perspective, but to rationalise it, having a job is better than not having one. That’s the kind of top-notch insight you’ll read on theshinboner.com in 2019.
I have watched all North’s AFLW games, but it’s often been multiple days afterwards; not conducive to timely blog posts. The knowledge base is there just in case anyone thinks I’m parachuting in for the next two to four weeks. Nevertheless, from now on it’ll be all systems go across all bases.
And now on to Werribee for JLT 1 v St Kilda.
In the absence of any standout talking points, let’s jump around a little bit from topic to topic.
The uniqueness of JLT 1
It’s the only game of the season where North – or any team really – can get punched in the mouth by an opposition; simply because it’s the first chance to unveil new and tweaked game styles, and there’s little data to prepare for it.
Combine it with North and St Kilda approaching the afternoon sporting drastically different mindsets, and that’s when you see things like the second and fourth quarters. The Saints sung their song after the game, just for the record.
The Saints pressed and squeezed much higher – and faster – up the ground than 2018, and it appeared to catch North off guard ever so slightly at times. For St Kilda, that advantage will disappear as soon as JLT 2 against the Bulldogs, and then it becomes about how well you can execute your process rather than the element of surprise.
If we’re to file anything away, it’s how North’s half-backs struggled at times to rebound the ball coming out of the defensive 50. It’s nothing to spend too long thinking about given the lack of preparation time and a 124-degree day, but perhaps just something to keep in the back of your mind for down the track.
Jared Polec’s running patterns
Werribee’s ‘prime viewing area’ they advertised for $15* allowed a … prime view of the way Polec is going to help this team enormously, and immediately.
The wingers in North’s setup are incredibly important both with and without the ball, and have a lot of responsibility.
If you’re at a game this year you’ll see Polec standing in what appears to be no man’s land frequently. Don’t be fooled. What looks like no man’s land is space both crucial to defend, and then use in attack once North has possession.
Here’s 40 seconds of Polec during the second quarter. Note how often his role changes from attack, to defence, even getting involved with contested ball and then ultimately helping to transition.
It appears that Polec and Dumont will be the first-choice wing combination, a duo that I’m very comfortable with.
(*They could have charged much more than that and I would have paid it, purely to stay out of the sun. Have I mentioned how hot it was on Saturday?)
Bailey Scott’s flashes of promise
Scott’s listed as 74 kilograms on the club website. He looks about half that standing next to players who have had a pre-season or two.
And yet North already has enough faith in him to roll him out on the wing at times against experienced opponents. As we touched on last year in a list management profile, it’s often a slow burn for rookies at the club. But most rookies can’t do this.
Whether it means Scott plays 2, 12 or 20 games this year, who knows. But it’s promising that he looked like he belonged on an AFL field against an opposition going hammer and tong.
Either end of the ground
It was clear experiment mode at both ends of the ground. Nick Larkey was back at times, and probably for the last time. Mason Wood even found himself in the defensive 50 for a few passages of play for … reasons, I assume.
At one stage the forward line was super small with only Ben Brown as any semblance of a target, Shaun Atley the closest Roo to home and all sorts of different looks rolled out.
That played a large part in the overuse of handball through the middle of the ground at times. Without that aerial presence the natural response is to try and maintain possession. I’d be surprised if we saw much more of it once the home and away season begins.
Nevertheless, in much the same vein as the first point, if we’re to file away anything it’s how North uses Brown. Teams will have spent a whole summer planning to neutralise him as the clear focal point of the forward line. In response both North and Brown have to improve again to stay ahead of the pack.
Process v results
We’re all guilty of focusing too much on the end result at times, rather than how it was achieved.
When you’re watching JLT 2 against Port Adelaide, or any other pre-season game, keep an eye on how a team is either scoring or defending. Ask yourself whether what you’re seeing can be sustained over a full game or season.
It’s a different way to approach watching a game, but it opens up a new perspective which can be very refreshing.
Todd Goldstein and 6-6-6
I’ll be expanding on 6-6-6 at some stage before Round 1 and what I believe it’ll mean for centre bounces, forwards and backs. But for now, I’ll leave it at predicting Goldstein is in for a monster season.
Until next time, you can subscribe to The Shinboner via email on your right (on desktop) or below this post (on mobile). If you’re on Twitter you can follow me @rickm18 and to share this post on social media, you can use any of the buttons at the bottom of this post.
And I’m always open to suggestions for posts and topics you’d like to see covered. Feel free to hit me up any time.