From The Notebook: Round 3

The three games this weekend where neither side got to 100 points – close, fun.

The six games this weekend where one side got to 100 points – blowout, not fun.

Clearly the rule changes are ruining the game!

(Is this the correct way to lay out a hot take?)

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How Daniel Rich found so much space

It may be four days after the match, but it’s taken about that long to figure out how Rich had enough space to build property in the middle of Marvel Stadium before finding Bailey for the game winning goal. Come with me on this journey:

Our first clue is at a stoppage with 1.57 remaining. Note how Collingwood have held five forwards ahead of the ball, which theoretically leaves an extra Brisbane defender. Rich is either that person, or playing as the defensive side winger while Mayne patrols the corridor (also note Daicos’ positioning, because that’ll be important in a moment):

As we roll forward, we see Crisp sitting behind the ball as an extra, which confirms Rich is not the winger but rather the extra for Brisbane behind the ball.

It’s a brave move from Brisbane to not match Crisp up; on another day he intercepts the last couple of entries and the Pies escape with a win:

After Collingwood gain possession, it reverts to man-on-man for a while. Daicos takes the Rich responsibility temporarily:

However, the settings revert at the boundary throw in with 49 seconds remaining. Daicos goes back to Birchall, which leaves us back at what we’ve figured out a minute or so ago.

Where you sit on this strategy is probably a matter of choice. Some will want numbers behind the ball as Collingwood opted to, others will want man-on-man around the ground.

The beauty of it is there’s really no right or wrong answer, which leaves it up for debate as well as perhaps being a bit too result-influenced. Hundreds of times in a game a team can set up correctly but things just bounce the wrong way.

Back to the game though, and after Brisbane win possession from the throw in with 40 seconds remaining, it’s starting to take shape. Rich has space, Pendlebury realises he has to move over to Lyons, while Sidebottom moves out of frame towards the top right of screen to take McCluggage.

While the focus has been on Collingwood’s late game execution, here is where Brisbane should get credit. Close games tend to be a lottery over the long run, but time after time the Lions put themselves in the best position to win these by holding their heads and using their options.

By stretching the ground they forced the Pies to defend it all, as we can see here. By the time the ball gets into the middle, Crisp has been pulled over to the far flank, while Neale’s presence on the near side also means Collingwood’s defence isn’t as locked in as they would like:

Most teams in that situation just take the territory and whatever happens next, but this time there’s the composure by Starcevich to lower the eyes. With the game in front of him he would have assessed Collingwood’s extra numbers well before this play, then realising looking inboard was the right thing to do.

Robinson to Rich, one clever lead by Zac Bailey, and the rest is history:

What Sydney’s win over Richmond means

If you’ve read Richmond’s 2019 or 2020 finals dossiers, or any of the regular Tigers posts over the last couple of years on here, you’ll know there’s a clear road map on how to beat them.

There’s kick-mark to neutralise pressure, holding forwards ahead of the ball to prevent the game being played in a straight line, plenty of heat around the ball to stop Richmond swarming forward, and the intangible of doing everything decisively given hesitation is death against the Tigers.

All easier said than done of course, and usually only the domain of the top teams. Really, it’s only been Port Adelaide last year who have troubled Richmond with a strategy different to the one mentioned here.

Sydney combined everything to roll over the Tigers. There’s the kick-mark:

Sydney in 2021KicksMarks
Round 1 v Brisbane22989
Round 2 v Adelaide239104
Round 3 v Richmond253124

Holding forwards ahead of the play to spread defenders out and allow multiple options when going forward:

And the heat around the ball to prevent Richmond from getting their hands on it and moving as they’d like; the Tigers’ 340 disposals significantly lower than their Round 1 (376) and Round 2 (365) totals.

So what does it mean for Richmond? Not a lot. This isn’t anything new, it’s not anything they haven’t dealt with before.

Sydney on the other hand. For as long as their young brigade can maintain this sort of all-round style – assuming they’ll be more susceptible to the fatigue of a season than most – they’ll be tough to beat.

Three Quick Hits

  • If it’s possible to whisper a long, typed, run-on paragraph, let’s do it here: Could Melbourne … be top-six good? Their defensive structure looks sound behind the ball – fewest scores conceded per inside 50 at this early stage – with May and Lever in good form, we know they’re set up well to win the ball more often than not – third in contested possession differential – and if Weideman and Brown return with no lingering issues, there’s the potential for a forward line which really suits the way the game is trending.
  • Melbourne’s Round 4 opponents are Geelong, who have been uninspiring all year. What was touched on in Round 1 barely improved in Round 2 and 3, limping over the line against Brisbane and Hawthorn. What they’re doing without the ball is the area to watch, and in theory it’s the type of flaw Melbourne are set up well to exploit…
  • If West Coast can unlock the secret to their contested dominance against Port Adelaide more often, look out. The Eagles were +22 in the contested count to half time, which led to their best all around half of football for quite a while some time. Saturday afternoon against St Kilda at Marvel Stadium is going to be fascinating.

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