With the exception of one game, which we’ll get to, there weren’t really any big picture conclusions to grasp from Round 9.
However, that doesn’t mean the round was ho-hum. There were a couple of instances which definitely merited ‘watch this space’ treatment, and likely topics to consistently return to throughout the second half of the year.
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When a side all but gives up
I thought this might have been too harsh an assessment of Gold Coast’s third quarter, but thankfully Stuart Dew basically admitted as much post-match:
“We let ourselves down. Definitely would have lost some trust within the competition. We have to take it personal, we failed to compete.”
The numbers in the third quarter were horrific from a Suns point of view:
And the vision was no better. There was Hugh McCluggage meandering around inside 50 until he was found:
Shortly after, what was essentially a man-on-man situation somehow turned into two Lions free on the attacking side of the pack:
Before four (4) Suns combine to make no impact on a contest inside 50, gifting Dan McStay an uncontested mark and goal:
Not to imagine all which would have been picked up by behind the goals vision to be highlighted in excruciating detail during the week.
This all takes away from Brisbane’s form, who have won five in a row without being troubled and deserve to go into Friday night against Richmond as heavy favourites.
But when Gold Coast are making these types of errors it’s hard not to focus in on them and wonder what’s behind a second capitulation in a month, following their first half against the Bulldogs in Round 5. Their injury list doesn’t excuse these types of mistakes which an AFL side shouldn’t be making.
If you’ve missed any of the previous editions of Monday’s Notebook, you can catch up by clicking here and scrolling through the season so far:
The Western Bulldogs’ maturity
When Charlie Dixon goaled with 10:25 remaining to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to eight points, it looked like the Power would be the side finishing the stronger at home.
From that point until Aaron Naughton’s sealing goal with 2:42 remaining, the Bulldogs controlled the game, gave the Power no sniff and walked away with their best win of the season so far.
The most impressive part about that last quarter period was how the Bulldogs were able to flick a switch and get the best of both worlds between game management while not going too far into their shell.
If the ball was in the corridor, the Dogs worked their way out of it as soon as possible while minimising the risk. By my (very manual) stat keeping, exactly one non centre clearance possession in that eight-minute span could be classified as anything close to an aggressive use of the middle.
Then the Bulldogs’ inside 50 entries were calculated in a way to prevent any quick counter from the Power. If the entries had to be shallow, they were always wide. Even if they were deeper, it was still to a pocket. The first focus was to protect, and then back in their built in territory advantage to do the rest:
Note how there’s nothing up the middle, so if the entries didn’t work Port instantly started with one side of the ground closed off. The Bulldogs took away nearly all chance of conceding from turnovers, put faith in their setups and structures to close the game out, and it paid off in hostile territory. It’s an enormous tick for their September hopes.
For those who have missed any North Melbourne recaps and ruminations from the last month, you can catch up here:
A starting point for Melbourne’s forwards
To start, let’s acknowledge the absurdity of calling anything ‘a starting point’ for a team already 9-0, but hear me out.
For those who read my Melbourne piece a few weeks ago, all the focus was on the defensive improvements while highlighting the forward makeup as not yet the finished product.
Luke Jackson’s injury meant Sunday was the first game for the trio of Sam Weideman, Ben Brown and Tom McDonald. You’d expect the quartet can’t fit in the same forward line in matches that matter, and McDonald’s skill set compared to the other three makes him a lock.
Unfortunately we only had a half to look at things before rain changed things up a little bit, because apparently Melbourne are contracted to deal with rain and/or slippery conditions nearly every week.
But before that point, early signs seemed promising – particularly in how the trio were able to space the ground out without stepping on each other’s toes too much.
Obviously it was far, far from the finished product, but these couple of plays late in the first quarter showed the potential of how they can work together, preventing defenders from peeling off to intercept:
Simon Goodwin’s post-match press conference highlighting the ‘competing’ without delving into too many other areas is usually coach speak for wanting to see more, which then raises the question of whether they’ll err on the side of caution in bringing Jackson straight back in the side. Only time will tell what combination they finish with, but my early hunch is that it’ll come down to one of Brown or Weideman in the long run.