The practice matches are done and the countdown to Round 1 begins – but before a look ahead, there are plenty of takeaways from the pre-season.
Sometimes it’s a fine line between finding the right amount to take out of these games compared to trends which won’t carry over.
The interest (for me, at least) is zeroing in on teams attempting to make changes, either with style or individual roles, and analysing early results.
Also, a programming note before we begin: there’ll be another two (non-North) posts between now and the season opener. By the time they’re both published, every team will have been touched on.
For those who haven’t seen the news, there’s a Shinboner Patreon for the 2022 season, running from March 1 to October 31.
There are four different tiers. It starts at $2.50 per month and goes up to $10 per month for all the benefits. People have actually signed up to it already, which is humbling and will allow me to do much more this season.
Carlton’s competent defence
Regular readers will remember last year’s self-imposed ban on talking about Carlton in the Notebook. Pointing out the same mistakes every week with no sign of improvement became incredibly tiring and it’s not an exaggeration to say they frustrated me more than North Melbourne.
However! A new coaching setup has already led to noticeable improvements with the Blues’ team defence, and they were on display against St Kilda and Melbourne.
To be clear, it’s far from the finished product at this point. There were still breakdowns and soft points. But at this stage of the year all you want to see is parts of the process coming into play and some sort of progress, which is what Carlton have achieved.
Here’s one clip from each of the last two weeks to demonstrate the improvement.
Note how there are still minor errors even in those examples. But overall, it’s like night and day compared to 2021.
Richmond’s changing style
This passage of play hit me right between the eyes on Saturday. How many times in the last few years would Richmond have gone backwards from this position, finding a mark and slowing the game down?
It’s part of a slight shift in the Tigers’ style, designed to accommodate a third tall forward in their next stage of evolution.
There was a glimpse at this potential in the back half of last season, covered in Round 15, 2021’s Notebook.
Going ahead and committing to this, and with a full summer to work on it, means some of the kinks have already been ironed out.
In theory three talls leaves a more crowded forward line than normal, but it looked nice and smooth here with movement from a stoppage:
The key to making this change a success is retaining just enough of their 2017-2020 DNA to thread the needle and keep their offence as a well-rounded threat.
Teams can set up to curtail talls, or they can set up to lessen the threat of run and carry.
Only the very best can stop both. Passages like this free up the talls because opposition defensive systems won’t know what’s coming at them:
There will be tougher tasks than Hawthorn ahead for Richmond, but their adjustments to a style which brought them so much success is going to be one of the key storylines of 2022.
Two Quick Hits
Brisbane: Assuming a relatively normal injury run compared to last year, I’m taking residence on Brisbane Island to start 2022. Everything looks smooth, there’s an increased midfield rotation to throw different looks at opponents, and what appears to be a high level of confidence in the way they want to play. Sign me up.
The Middle Tier: How many teams could you put in the category one step below the top, but one or two steps above the bottom? Eight? Nine?
A couple of teams pencilled in here will make a jump and I’m fascinated to see who it is. You could make a case for almost any of them.