From The Notebook: Round 7

Another fun, almost-complete round in the books and not only because yours truly is sitting on 8/8 tips and a handy Supercoach score.

In today’s Notebook there’s a look at how the Bulldogs beat Essendon’s pressure, Brisbane’s movement around stoppages and all the what ifs in the final stages of Carlton v Port Adelaide.

A housekeeping note before we get into things. With Monday night footy on the cards for the foreseeable future and each round stretched out over five days, it makes timing each Notebook piece tricky. Until further notice – i.e. until I think of a better plan – it’ll be posted as so to keep it as timely as possible:

– If it contains something from the Thursday or Friday night games: Posted on Monday evening
– If it doesn’t contain something from either Thursday or Friday night: Posted on Tuesday morning

Copy of AFL 3


Previously on the Notebook: Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 | Round 6

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The Bulldogs, spreading a defence

In recent weeks we’ve covered how Essendon’s defensive efforts have been both excellent and what its entire game has relied on as it works into improving the offensive side.

On Friday night, and in particular the third quarter, we saw what happens against a side which can work around that pressure and leave Essendon with few answers. The Bulldogs ran riot in the term, a +36 disposal advantage along with kicking 5.3 from 13 inside 50s, compared to Essendon’s 0.3 from eight entries.

Those extra Bulldogs disposals were key as they simultaneously picked holes in the defence while stretching the ground as wide as possible, a tough line to straddle. It never gave the Bombers much of a chance to pressure like they have so well over the last month or so.

This passage of play sums it up best. From a kick out, the Bulldogs maintain possession for 40 seconds with six kicks, six handballs and six marks, eventually finding Jason Johannisen with an uncontested mark inside 50.

First the Bulldogs go wide from the kick out, but instead of being pinned close to the boundary Lachie Hunter moves inboard. It’s the type of aggressive kick Essendon normally thrive on, but the angle was changed just enough to avoid what had been set up down the line, finding a leading Cody Weightman.

Then even as the ball goes through the centre circle and Essendon numbers try to swarm on Hunter, notice how the Bulldogs have deliberately kept options open in every direction.

It allows Hunter to almost blindly fling a handball backwards, knowing he has cover and realising the disposal defuses that Essendon layer of defence around the ball.

The zig-zag movement following the handball allows Bailey Smith to easily find Johannisen for a shot he converts. Just excellent work all round from the Bulldogs.

Brisbane’s movement at stoppages

This could quite easily be viewed as either a positive or a negative (GWS’ defending), but because this is a positive space we’ll go with the former.

Brisbane’s movement around stoppages has been a feature of its game over the last 12 months; one which opponents frequently struggle to defend against. We saw a glimpse of it last week with Lachie Neale’s goal from a forward 50 throw in against Geelong, and there was more evidence against the Giants.

The brilliance is in its simplicity. It’s not as if all six or seven Lions are frantically moving sideways looking at room for themselves: it’s all about making it as easy as possible for one or two of their teammates.

Coincidentally the two easiest examples to illustrate from Saturday feature Dayne Zorko as the beneficiary. In this one it’s as simple as a channel being created for Zorko to run through:

Bris 1

In the second example, it’s a series of blocks and screens laid to spring Zorko free. There’s a clear sense of purpose in Brisbane’s group where it knows exactly what it wants to achieve and there’s zero confusion.

An added benefit of it is that as the blocks force Giants to scramble and switch, it leaves extra players free. It was only a win from Shane Mumford which prevented a clean shot on goal directly from the ruck.

Bris 2

The longer the game goes, the more this type of movement prompts sides into mental errors – a big part in why Brisbane was such a good second half side during its lengthy winning streak last year.

The fine lines in the final stages

Regular readers will be aware of the emphasis placed on how the smallest thing can create an enormous flow on effect.

The final stages of Carlton v Port Adelaide – a new leader for game of the season, edging out Fremantle v St Kilda – was full of those moments:

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