One of my favourite parts of the season; attempting to nail predictions based on one weekend of action, then coming back later on to see the results.
For the record, these were last year’s attempts:
- Sam Walsh making a leap: ‘Real’ (got that one right)
- Geelong’s loose defending: ‘Weird, but nothing to worry about long-term’ (partial credit given the finals were most definitely ‘weird’?)
- Gold Coast’s uncontested marking: ‘Real, but situational’ (it was real all the time, to the Suns’ detriment eventually)
And now on to 2022.
The Shinboner Patreon is up and running this year from March 1 to October 31. The first 24 hours of this post are exclusively for $10 Patrons, before it becomes free to all from Wednesday morning.
Overall there are four different tiers. It starts at $2.50 per month and goes up to $10 per month for all the benefits. A huge thank you to everyone who’s signed up so far, it’ll allow me to do much more this season.
The Bulldogs’ forward struggles
This section will probably come across as overly negative, so I feel the need for a disclaimer to start:
Everything written about the Bulldogs on here – to start the season at least – is with a lens of, “are they ‘just’ a very good side, or can they be a premiership contender?”
There was no better place to start than the reigning premiers at the MCG, and no better match flow to illustrate my point.
In less than eight minutes of play either side of quarter time – 7:50 to be exact – the Bulldogs piled on 8.1 to no score, turning a 27-point deficit into a 22-point lead. Against at least two thirds of the competition, that’s a foundation for a comfortable win.
Then Melbourne made a conscious effort to take speed out of the game. Around the ground there were Demons motioning to each other to slow down – particularly from the mid-point of the third quarter – and when there’s a lack of speed and spread, it becomes tough for the Bulldogs to move forward effectively.
It’s essentially Aaron Naughton or nothing in the sky while Tim English is playing as the number one ruck. Josh Schache had some impressive moments on the wing, but when he pushed forward from there, finding himself in the square one-out, he proceeded to lose the aerial contest to Ed Langdon.
The flow-on effect from being so limited with non-Naughton aerial threats comes when top-tier teams pile their resources into preventing the Bulldogs’ forward half scoring opportunities, either from turnovers or general pressure and repeat entries.
Again, this isn’t going to be an issue against most of the competition. But in the second half on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs had five scoring shots from 25 inside 50s.
The game slowed down, Melbourne’s defensive system was able to neutralise Naughton’s influence, and as a result scoring opportunities dried up.
Verdict: Real, against the elite teams.
If you’ve missed any posts over the last week, here are links to catch up:
Can Gold Coast’s first choice on-ballers cause problems?
There were 31 centre bounces on Sunday night in Perth.
Touk Miller was at 29 of them, Matt Rowell 27 and Noah Anderson 24. All with a fit-again Jarrod Witts (28) conducting traffic.
It’s a heavy load for the three midfielders. Anderson’s 91 percent game time was the highest of his career, as was Rowell’s 88 percent. Miller’s 85 was in line with his workload last year.
Those splits paid off though. Behind the Witts-Miller-Rowell-Anderson quartet, Gold Coast were able to monster West Coast to the tune of +34 contested possessions.
Admittedly it wasn’t the strongest side the Eagles have ever put out on the park, but purely from a Suns perspective the synergy behind the on-ball setups were promising given the limited time they’ve spent together.
*If* my counting is correct, Sunday was the first full game with Witts, Miller, Rowell and Anderson all playing on-ball. They’ve obviously been in the same 22 before, but at least one of them were in different roles at all times.
That’s the big takeaway. As long as no-one walks under a ladder any time soon, continuity means their understanding will progress and improve.
It’d be remarkable if Anderson and Rowell can maintain such a high game time over the course of a year while taking so much responsibility, but even most of this output – and hopefully 22 games played in 2022 – allows the Suns to improve.
Verdict: Unsustainable to this extent given the heavy game time, but even a level below this still makes for a step forward.