As we hit rotation season, with games being played nine times a week and broadcast for 37 hours a day, individual performances become tough to judge.
Game time is reduced, positions are altered. It’s in these situations where teams with continuity in their structure and system will progress well, while style sinks down the list of priorities.
This was the case at the Gabba on Wednesday night, where Geelong’s work around stoppages and contests proved decisive against a North Melbourne side which is still a fair way off consistently defending them well.
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.
First, some background on how the Cats like to play around contests.
So far this season they’ve taken a more aggressive option, looking for more movement either from the layer closest to the ball or coming from the outside.
If that attacking mindset comes off, it allows the ball to get in their front half easier, potentially kicking more goals, but most importantly it means the setup behind the ball can lock in. A Geelong side comfortable behind the ball is a Geelong side nearly impossible to score against for all but the best sides.
It meant for North to be a chance it had to stop Geelong from creating a territory advantage, but unfortunately it was the same old story for most of the evening, incredibly reactive rather than proactive.
To start us off, here’s Cam Guthrie at a centre bounce floating to dangerous space with minimal attention paid to him:
In the forward 50, here’s Gryan Miers at a stoppage allowed too much space with no-one goal side of him as he works into an easy gather and snap:
On the wing, Jack Steven goes from left to right of your screen in what’s clearly a set play without a care in the world:
In North’s front half, some strange confusion in setups leaves Sam Menegola almost literally at the ruckmen’s feet where he can gather and clear:
For anyone interested in reading about St Kilda, over on Stats Insider I’ve written a piece detailing how the team has gone from the fourth worst accuracy ever recorded in 2019 to the most accurate team in history through nine rounds of a season.
Not exaggerating either. Here’s where you can read it.
This sort of thing happened on and off all night, but the coup de grace came with a touch under six minutes remaining.
A couple of North goals had the margin back to 15 points and you thought … well, maybe? You never know.
So Patrick Dangerfield comes into the centre.
Patrick Dangerfield doesn’t attend a centre bounce to defend.
But Patrick Dangerfield is allowed to do this:
No touch, no bump, not even a finger as Dangerfield coasts around to win the game sealing centre clearance.
All the above isn’t new; North’s ability to defend from stoppages has been a major question mark for a while now.
It comes into sharper focus now with a piecemeal midfield and heavier than normal player rotation. While the easy reaction is to say man up, it’s never quite that simple over the course of an entire match – the Dangerfield example here a notable exception.
To find a balance between appropriate defence and adequate attacking possibilities requires clearly defined roles and setups in situations where the bounce of a ball can flip everything on its head.
And yes, while this can be dated back for the last few years at least, all that is essentially irrelevant when it comes to this point in time.
In a year where training and preparation is all over the place, to put it mildly, getting that repetition into a rapidly changing on-ball group under a first-year coach is near impossible.
It’s likely a piece of the puzzle which won’t consistently improve until there is the chance to work on it constantly, and given the current situation we’re set to see it play out in front of our eyes during the last few matches of 2020.
Another thing to add to the watch list heading into the Draft Pick Cup on Sunday against Melbourne.
A reminder 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.