From The Notebook: Round 5

Another round down means another edition of From The Notebook.

Today it’s all about St Kilda’s use of Jarryn Geary, Essendon laying a foundation and Gold Coast’s scoring from the centre.

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Previously on the Notebook: Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4

As usual, 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.

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How to use a defensive forward

Often when teams decide to use a defensive forward, they tilt too far towards the defence part and forget that a forward can also be put in position to kick goals.

St Kilda found the perfect balance with Jarryn Geary on Thursday night against Carlton, the skipper kicking two first-quarter goals as part of an early Saints burst which all but ended the game before half time.

Right from the very start St Kilda established Geary as a forward to be respected. The very first entry into the forward half had Geary as the target.

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Regardless of result, instantly Sam Docherty knows he can’t peel off and look to either intercept or set up rebounding chains. He must respect Geary’s positioning*.

*To take a slight detour it probably helps St Kilda that Geary is the captain in this respect. Would you want to be the person ignoring the captain when he’s leading and demanding it be honoured? I wouldn’t.

Just a couple of minutes later, another chance to use Geary. Seb Ross could have gone central to the two-on-two, but he sees the captain in space and goes to him.

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Now not only has St Kilda established Geary up the ground, it’s also showed he’ll be used closer to goal. It’s giving the appearance of an equal opportunity offense in the minds of Carlton defenders. It doesn’t literally have to be by the numbers, but the perception is all that matters here.

If Carlton believe anyone is a chance to receive when St Kilda goes forward, the defence doesn’t know who to focus on, naturally creating plenty of pockets to use inside 50.

In this case as St Kilda transition forward, Lachie Plowman is stuck in an unenviable situation as the extra defender. He doesn’t know whether to drop deeper and defend space, or look for individual leads to cover because of what the Saints had established leading up to that point.

As Plowman seemingly decides to stay central, Geary uses his own space to make a lead at the ball carrier, is rewarded and goes back to kick his first.

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Emboldened by their plan working, St Kilda keep using Geary as a vital cog in the forward chain instead of ignoring him.

Here he is being used in a genuine one-on-one and winning it…

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Before winning another one with a forward 50 mark and kicking his second goal. Note how even though the kick towards his area is a rushed high ball, there’s still plenty of space between the St Kilda forwards. It makes it exceedingly tough for Carlton defenders to peel off their opponent and intercept.

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Clever use and execution of a tactic which often devolves into nothing more than an outright tag.

Essendon laying a foundation

This isn’t a results-based point, given Essendon could quite realistically be either 0-4 or 4-0 based on a few bounces of the ball.

But in the Bombers’ quest to either become Richmond or implement a modern game style depending on how you look at it, it’s promising how quickly the defensive aspects have bedded in.

To go from a game predicated on rapid, free-flowing movement from the back half to one centred around contest pressure is a significant mindset change, usually something which takes a while to execute.

Yet another demonstration of how things are clicking came on Friday night, forcing Collingwood into nearly more handballs (155) than kicks (163) – in the wet no less.

Without a defensive foundation in today’s AFL, teams will get nowhere. So to change things this significantly in a short time frame deserves attention, even if there is still plenty more work to be done.

The forward personnel and ‘connection’, to use what appears to be every coach’s new favourite word, needs improvement. At the moment it’s rusty at best and poor at worst, but that should come with time, continuity and upgraded personnel – especially if Joe Daniher returns to provide a fulcrum.

Sharp shooting – exceeding their expected score in every game this season, per Stats Insider – has allowed the scoreboard to keep ticking along while pressure and defence does the heavy lifting.

Gold Coast out of the centre

I have a theory that a sign of an up and coming, well-drilled side is how they acquit themselves from set plays.

Coaching can often mitigate much of a talent gap and combined with players who have high IQ – i.e. not getting sucked into contests, following instructions – it can prove a handy tool in a team’s arsenal.

A centre bounce is the ultimate test of a set play, especially in Geelong given the conditions and how tricky it normally is for opponents to score there.

For Gold Coast to kick 5.1 (according to the live, in-game Fox Footy stats) directly from the centre is super impressive.

There was nothing complicated about it either, just an understanding that possession = green light to go, combined with clear targets and of course a slice of luck.

Perhaps the best example was the first centre bounce of the third quarter.

Hugh Greenwood and David Swallow hold their position, keeping shape and defending while Touk Miller goes towards the ball/follows Dangerfield.

After Jarrod Witts wins the ground ball and flicks Miller the handball, he’s off with a clear indicator that Sam Day is the target.

Day marks it, but even if he didn’t the Suns still had plenty of numbers at the fall ready and in a dangerous position. It’s being predictable in the best type of way.

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The latest team stats update

Another week puts further stability into these numbers. If you missed last week’s explanation, I use the following as an oversimplified insight into key areas of the field. This week the green and red colours indicate if a team has increased or decreased their numbers.

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