It turns out when your opposition is extremely poor, there’s plenty of insight for what the optimum version of your own side looks like.
That was the case for North Melbourne on Saturday, playing a Crows outfit so desperately off the pace it felt like they would have been beaten by Gold Coast’s and GWS’ inaugural sides.
Nevertheless, it made for a much-needed confidence boost and return for effort.
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Before we go any further forward, keep it in the back of your mind how this won’t happen as easily – some would say at all – against a team playing at AFL standard.
Nevertheless, two key points to explore are firstly the ball movement, and then the forward setup without the ball.
When we sifted through the ball use a couple of weeks ago, it was noted how North looked when it made a conscious effort to move the ball at different angles and instinctively.
Naturally it had fallen away recently. But focus on the process here from Luke McDonald’s kickout. There are:
- Options on both sides of the field, leaving the middle free for Aaron Hall’s lead
- Hall changing direction to a favourable matchup; Cam Zurhaar in space
- Zurhaar having multiple options if he decided to pass instead of goal
It’s an overly simplistic example to use because of how easy it all was, but the process is what North wants to achieve regularly. Multiple options, hard running, and a high quality inside 50 entry.
Secondly, it’s the forward pressure. If working well, it leaves a side with no way to escape. Pinned deep in defence, the opposition either turn the ball over or a stoppage is forced.
In this short clip after Adelaide wins possession, we see North covering all the exits well, forcing Tom Lynch with no option but a rushed kick out wide. There is:
- Jamie Macmillan – in his wing role, with more to come on that – pressing up to stop a switch
- Nick Larkey and Todd Goldstein chasing their respective opponents out wide
- Zurhaar gleefully applying the pressure on Lynch and hitting the Crow as he kicked
- Shaun Atley working to stay with Ben Keays before mopping up the ground ball
It all happens in the blink of an eye, but it’s effective and gives North possession.
If a team has ball movement and forward pressure, they’ll win more often than not. And it’s what North had at Metricon Stadium on Saturday.
If Davies-Uniacke’s season debut was all about getting through unscathed, then game two was all about showing a couple further glimpses.
That’s what he did, hitting a handful of contests with speed and a handful of ‘nearly’ plays. A full pre-season plus continued health turns those moments into line breaks and influential passages.
Whether he’s quite ready to play another game off such a short break remains to be seen, but there’s no need to rush things.
The wing position
The role of a winger is one of the hardest to judge from broadcast footage, which makes it tricky to properly figure out each reason Jared Polec was dropped.
However, this action from Macmillan – who replaced Polec on the wing against Adelaide – gives us a hint.
That press up hadn’t been a constant feature of Polec’s recent play, which suggests two things:
a) Rhyce Shaw played Macmillan in the role knowing he’d get what he wanted from a team structure point of view
b) It also gave Shaw a body of work to present back to Polec, providing further clarity on how Polec has to play when he gets back in the side
Which leads us into…
The natural reaction after winning is to claim the dropping of Brown and Polec was justified. Completely understandable.
But the decision wasn’t made purely for Saturday. It was made to set a standard for the medium to long term.
A common complaint when Brad Scott was coach – and remember as the one who had to read the social media comments, I saw them all – centered around how he has ‘favourites’ and ‘won’t drop anybody.’
This is what it would have looked like if those people got their wish for team changes.
The key from here is now there’s a baseline, it has to be enforced with clarity. It’s something much of us on the outside won’t understand at times, but as long as everything is clear internally it’s all that matters in the long run.
In a miserable sludge of a year with seemingly nothing positive happening worldwide, we got to see a heart-warming moment for a pure human being:
Who would have thought we’d see that again? Hopefully Maj is an inspiration to those out there going through their own battles.