From The Notebook: Round 3

The Notebook has survived through to the end of Round 3, although the same can’t be said of Essendon (too soon?).

Today’s topics feature Hawthorn, Carlton and Adelaide, all alongside the usual video clips for explanations.


If you missed last week’s Notebook, you can catch up here.

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Three teams which were close to making it, but won’t appear until there’s a little more data to flesh out #takes: Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast


Hawthorn holding its shape

As promised in Friday’s piece about Richmond, here comes Hawthorn praise.

What to focus on here is how the Hawks made sure to keep their shape as much as possible all over the field, while also keeping the type of pressure required around the ball, no mean feat.

Sometimes when teams focus on a renewed pressure around the ball, it’s done with bulk numbers at the detriment of their forward structure.

By Hawthorn maintaining shape around the ground, it naturally meant spreading the Richmond setup while also entrusting a smaller group to maintain the rage around the ball. It made for a lot of moving parts and yet the Hawks threaded the needle between them all unbelievably well.

Here’s a perfect example of the process and how the entire team plays their role.

It’s a taxing way to play which partially explains the drop off after three quarter time, although that can also be chalked up to the scoreboard and state of the game by that stage as well.

But the Hawks don’t necessarily have to play at this high a level to beat most teams – it’s just a question of what they’re capable of maintaining from week to week.

Carlton cutting Geelong apart

To set the scene for why this result and the first three quarters were so surprising, when the Cats play at home they typically strangle opposition attacks, sitting deep and using the narrow confines to force sides into slow, long, straight-line play before picking it off at will.

Since the start of 2016 – 34 matches – only once had Geelong conceded more than Carlton’s 12.6 to three-quarter time. And remember that’s with normal quarter length.

Before the Blues stopped to take a breath and realised they had none left, they were at a level they’d rarely produced in recent memory, cutting the Cats up with a combination of kick-mark and pressure football.

A kick-to-handball ratio of 2.41 was off the charts. To put it into perspective, thanks to HPN Footy’s historical data we can see only five clubs have achieved a ratio of more than two across a season since 1999.

Yet Carlton was able to move the ball into areas Geelong typically don’t defend heavily, rendering the Cats’ defensive tactics effectively helpless. Then when moving inside 50 the Blues picked the right targets, resulting in 15 marks from 37 entries. That’s a high number at any time, let alone against the Cats at that venue.

It’s a tricky one to illustrate with video given the full ground movement required to successfully execute the game plan, but here’s a glimpse from a second quarter passage which ended with a Harry McKay goal.

Much like Hawthorn on Thursday night, it’s understandable to see Carlton run out of legs given the intensity of playing in this manner against a team rarely faced with competition at home, let alone falling behind by as many as seven goals. What the Round 4 clash against Essendon will look like – if it even goes ahead – is anyone’s guess, but until then the synergy and understanding shown here is an excellent starting point.

Adelaide’s painful reality

Last week’s discussion was about contests and how disorganised the Crows looked around them.

It went to a whole new level against Gold Coast, particularly in the first quarter as the Suns romped to a 13-2 clearance advantage.

Rather than going into depth and explaining what happened in each breakdown – because it’d take until the weekend – here’s a supercut of Gold Coast clearances from the first quarter. Look how easy it is. The Suns have time, they have space and they’re the only team even considering being proactive.

To dip a toe slightly into hot-take territory, it’s barely AFL standard right now from the Crows. However! Because the last thing I want is for the weekly piece to descend too far into negativity, there’ll be no more analysis specifically on the Crows for either another few weeks, or until they turn it around. There are plenty of positives around the league which are better suited to focus on from here.

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