From The Notebook: Round 11

Six games to go and everything takes on increased importance now.

Another two excellent matches in Round 11, even with the compressed schedule, leads us into a handful of vital clashes in Round 12.

But before then, what caught the eye over the last few days.

Copy of AFL 7

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The last month on the Notebook: Round 7 | Round 8 | Round 9 | Round 10

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Bulldogs without the ball

  • 7:30 remaining, Q2: Bulldogs 5.2.32 lead Brisbane 4.6.30
  • 0:26 remaining, Q2: Bulldogs 5.2.32 trail Brisbane 9.8.62

A game gone in half a quarter because the Bulldogs struggled when not in possession.

Shortly after the restart it appeared the Bulldogs had figured a system out – three consecutive wins from Rounds 3-5 came by holding each of GWS, Sydney and North Melbourne under 40 points.

Ever since then, they’ve struggled to consistently contain sides. This isn’t the first time it’s been brought up in the Notebook, having a look at it from the opposition perspective in Round 9.

It was ever more glaring against the Lions, inexplicable breakdowns throwing away any chance of victory. For example, Dayne Zorko was allowed to run straight through this situation for a clean handball to the right of screen:

2

Eric Hipwood can jump without an opponent for this mark, but then still is able to find Charlie Cameron in plenty of space:

3

Here Brisbane have an extra around the ball in its forward 50:

4

And just when you’re wondering where the extra Bulldogs players are, Jarryd Lyons picks the ball up and pops it over their heads to a wide open Zac Bailey:

5

There’s no question what the Bulldogs can do with ball in hand. But that’s only half the game.

Geelong’s defence at it again

Monday night at the Gabba boiled down to a simple equation: Could the Saints get scoring shots from their preferred area – the very area the Cats pride themselves on not conceding from?

The answer was a resounding no. Although St Kilda was missing a couple of key players, the ones still out there never looked likely to threaten the scoreboard enough to trouble Geelong. It was the Saints’ lowest score this season and when adjusted for quarter length, their lowest since Brett Ratten took over as coach.

Don’t look now but Geelong’s underlying numbers are all positive. Using the method we’ve touched on in previous weeks, everything looks quite promising:

Geelong 2020 AFL rank
Contested possession differential 4th
Uncontested possession differential 1st
Inside 50 differential 6th
Scoring shots per inside 50 % 3rd
Scoring shots conceded per inside 50 % 1st

The Cats are third with six games to play. They’ll start hot favourites against Adelaide, Essendon and Sydney and warm favourites against the Bulldogs. Four wins will likely be enough to get them a double chance given their percentage is currently only behind Port Adelaide’s.

From there, anything can happen. This year doesn’t carry the normal caveat of how Geelong’s game can transfer from home comforts, which, dare I say … may be a blessing in disguise when we get to finals.

Fun at Suns stoppages

In the Round 5 Notebook, we had a look at Gold Coast surprisingly scoring at will from the centre against Geelong in Geelong.

As the team continues to evolve, it looks clear that the movement and set plays from stoppages will be a clear strength for the Suns.

Since Izak Rankine’s debut, his mere presence sends shivers through opposition defenders and the Suns are learning how to leverage that into clearance wins.

Take this example from the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s draw as exhibit A.

Rankine had spent the first half roaming around as if he free rein to do whatever he pleased. So when Essendon clamped down on him after the break, the Suns turned it into their advantage.

At this forward 50 stoppage, all eyes are on Rankine. The Bombers know he’s the target for Jarrod Witts.

They plan for it, they execute a switch well and then … Rankine isn’t the target.

This will only get better for Gold Coast as the group gets more continuity and experience with each other.

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