Wow. That was something else.
Some background to explain why the process and ball movement against the Power was so surprising.
Since Rhyce Shaw took over, the base game plan has been centred around pressure at the contest, relatively conservative ball movement and using the boundary.
To implement that and have the players well drilled in a such a short space of time is a tick for the coaching staff.
My thought process was seeing that alone was a bonus, and to expect anything else on top of that was unrealistic, considering the strides which have been made in this half-season under Shaw.
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Much of Port’s dominance in this matchup during recent years has stemmed from reducing North’s ball movement to being predictable, one-dimensional and focused almost entirely on Ben Brown.
It looked like their plans had been around that and they were shocked to find something which had little to no resemblance to previous matches. And fair enough too, because there was no inkling North would try this, or they had it in them to pull it off to this degree.
Without context, this inside 50 looks routine. Short pass, changing the angle, another short pass to the leading forward in Larkey:
What makes it different is that since Shaw took over, North haven’t gone inside 50 in that manner. In previous weeks Polec would have gone long to the pocket, Brown and Larkey would have flown for the ball before either relying on ground pressure or locking it up for a stoppage.
That’s clearly what Port had set up for too, because look in the background as Larkey is leading and you see the Power defensive group moving away from the pocket.
In addition to going inside 50 with a different method, the forward line was also in constant movement.
Here are four leads, all into different spaces. There’s no way to defend this.
Combine the movement with the method, and Port’s setup progressively got worse and worse because they had no answers.
By halfway through the second quarter, even routine leads turned into the simplest of marks. In previous matches, this would have been cut off by a Power defender almost 10 times out of 10.
Of course, a large reason why North were delivering inside 50 with such freedom was because of the complete and utter midfield dominance.
A quirk of the numbers under Shaw mean that every time North has won the contested count it’s been a victory, and each loss has been a defeat.
Have a look at some of these numbers from Saturday night:
- +207 disposals
- +165 uncontested possessions
- +51 contested possessions
- +21 clearances
And so much of those numbers are owed to Todd Goldstein and one of the best games of his career.
These numbers are outlandish. From a ruckman!
- 34 disposals
- 19 contested possessions
- 28 hit-outs
- 9 clearances
- 6 inside 50s
- 3 score assists
- 1 goal
Much like the forward line was moving around, the midfielders were doing similar.
After you watch this 10 times to marvel at Goldstein’s tap, note how all the Roos are moving and leading their opponents to the ball – or away from it.
This happened from siren to siren, on repeat. In the interest of keeping this to a manageable length, highlighting one play tells you all you need to know.
To finish on one thing, Port Adelaide were terrible. The words haven’t been invented to accurately describe how far they were off the pace of things. Watch Tarryn Thomas glide around forward 50 completely unattended.