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From The Notebook: Round 2

Welcome to what will ideally become a Monday night routine for the remainder of the season.

During the weekend I’m taking notes on everything I watch, but for one reason or another, most thoughts don’t see the light of day.

Now with nearly every time slot having its own clear air, there’s a chance to really dive into the league without missing much at all.

So what follows is a series of rapid-fire, around-the-league musings from the resumption of play. As we go from week to week, some thoughts will be big-picture, others more of a ‘watch this space’, and all alongside the usual gifs and clips from passages of play which stand out.

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Collingwood’s scoring droughts

File this one in a ‘probably too early to mean anything’ basket, but it’s intriguing to see Collingwood unable to hit the scoreboard for long periods in its last three games against top-level teams.

Each of these three games can be explained with its own reasoning – a lead had been established against Geelong, GWS was simply much better when it mattered, and the combination of conditions and Richmond ramping up pressure.

However, these are huge periods of game time we’re talking about, spanning multiple quarters at a time. Droughts are being saved by an elite defensive unit.

Carlton’s slow starts and strong finishes

While it’s a wait and see approach on any Collingwood struggles, Carlton’s games under David Teague are following a clear and consistent pattern.

The Blues have only won three and drawn one of 13 first quarters since the coaching change. Of those nine lost terms, seven have been by three goals or more.

Here’s the tricky part to evaluate though: is it a good sign how Carlton often work back into games after further instructions, or is it a bad sign that they’re seemingly not ready to play from the outset?

It’s not a dilemma likely be solved this weekend given the murderous task of Geelong in Geelong, but something which must be resolved soon to make 2020 a useful campaign.

Adelaide’s contest worries

With the caveat this is a side at the beginning of what looms as a long rebuild, Adelaide is a disorganised side right now as Matthew Nicks’ message takes time to sink in.

The Crows have been comprehensively beaten around contests in each of their four pre-season and home and away clashes; Melbourne, Gold Coast, Sydney and Port Adelaide each taking a turn in giving them a touch up.

If there’s system and structure, the losses are easier to stomach as players grow into what’s expected. The key here is Adelaide not giving itself any chance to win these contests.

The following is one clip out of what could quite easily have been 20 or 30. In the space of 10 seconds there are a handful of fundamental errors which simply shouldn’t be made at AFL level. Until these are fixed it’ll be a long, painful road for Adelaide.

West Coast in Queensland

Aside from a monsoon, if you were to concoct the worst possible conditions for West Coast’s game style it’d look something like a winter night in Queensland.

Games under these conditions are akin to what we normally see in the rain, teams knowing the dew makes it tough to maintain clean possession and marking – two things the Eagles rely on for scoring more than most teams.

Two of West Coast’s next three games are in those conditions; first a Brisbane side which kicked 14 of the last 16 goals in the corresponding match last year, and the other against Richmond, which needs no further explanation.

Splitting those two opponents is a Power outfit who showed last year they know exactly how to play against the Eagles.

Lose all three and West Coast will need to finish something along the lines of 11-2 to guarantee top four and 8-4 to make finals. The latter will be comfortable enough once back home but still undoubtedly falling well below internal expectations.

The key, as simple as it sounds, is finding a way to at least neutralise contests. West Coast can get away with losing them – to an extent – in the dry because the ball spends more time aerially and in hands, an area where intercept defenders can dominate before transitioning towards marking forwards.

But in the wet it’s a ground game; one which doesn’t suit the Eagles.

Finals requirements

Given the shortened season, the standard 12 wins required to make finals is now irrelevant. By going through the ladder at the end of Round 17 since the introduction of Gold Coast and GWS, those expectations can be recalibrated for top eight and top four alike.

Eighth position at the end of Round 17 since 2012

Fourth position at the end of Round 17 since 2012

It means the teams staring at a donut through two rounds will likely have to go 9-6 and substantially improve percentage the rest of the way to make finals. On a related note, the Bulldogs come up against GWS on Friday night.

Fox Air

More, please. Dedicated standalone option on Kayo if possible. It was evident during Sunday night’s match at Marvel Stadium how much the commentary team – particularly Nick Riewoldt – enjoyed using those pictures to explain how St Kilda were en route to a crushing victory.

Compare and contrast: which angle gives a better understanding of where players are and how things are unfolding?

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