From The Notebook: Round 7, 2022

Apparently there’s a ‘Round 7 Rule’ which says the top eight only changes by a maximum of two teams between now and the end of the season.

If that’s the case, most would probably pick Bulldogs for Collingwood as the safe pick and it’d probably be mine too. Would there be any others?

Maybe that’s a discussion for another time. Let’s get into this week’s three-topic Notebook…

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The Shinboner Patreon is up and running this year from March 1 to October 31. Now things are back to a regular Friday-Sunday round schedule, the $5+ tiers get you early access to the weekly Notebook pieces on Monday morning before they’re free to all from Monday night.

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’s allowing me to do much more this season.

Here are all the details and how to sign up.

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Jayden Short, the midfielder

Let’s start by getting the obvious sentence out of the way:

There are sterner tests to come for Short if his on-ball role continues, given it was placed under no stress by West Coast.

OK. Moving on.

Before Friday night, Short had attended just four centre bounces in 120 games, per Fantasy Freako on Twitter. From four in 120 games to 23 in one is a slight shift, and the intriguing part was how Richmond have basically set Short up to play his half back role around the ball. Think of it like a super high sweeper.

It makes sense too, because if a Short midfield move is paired with asking him to play like a ‘traditional’ ball winner, it’s neutralising all his strengths and amplifying his weaknesses.

Short consistently stayed on the defensive side of centre bounces and stoppages…

…being used as a release point when Richmond won first possession…

And taking a general half back mentality further up the field, looking for handball receives, finishing with a game high nine inside 50s:

It’s a great example of a team using a player’s strengths to their advantage. Short’s never going to be a 15 contested possession, seven tackle a game kind of midfielder and if he continues on-ball week to week there will be times where opponents exploit that.

But while Short’s playing this role as essentially a super high half back, it adds another dimension to Richmond’s midfield, sharpening up their ball use and getting more value when they have advantages around contests and stoppages.

Short’s not a ‘defensive’ midfielder, per se, but he starts from defensive positions before being used offensively. It’s a fun wrinkle to change things up.

Assuming Trent Cotchin’s return next week is replacing Dion Prestia after Achilles soreness forced the latter to be substituted at three quarter time, it seems like another week for Short in the same role.

Now the secret is out, it’ll be intriguing to see how Collingwood plan for the threat Short provides.

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For those who have missed any posts over the last few days, here are links to catch up with – and share around.

Sunday 1st: North’s Round 7 Review
Friday 29th: What To Watch For: Round 7
Tuesday 26th: From The Notebook: Round 6
Monday 25th: North’s Round 6 Review
Friday 22nd: What To Watch For: Round 6

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The passage to illustrate Fremantle’s improvement

Delving perilously close to clickbait headlines with that one, but stick with me for a moment.

Last time Fremantle played Geelong, the Cats had their way from start to finish. 14 goals to three, they never trailed, a nice 69-point win.

The standout was this passage of play where Geelong methodically went chip, chip, chip from end to end:

Flash forward to Saturday at GMHBA Stadium. A Dockers outfit missing several key pieces, but still a legitimate side – there is no smoke and mirrors in their defensive setup.

For nearly all of the middle two quarters, Fremantle’s defence was flawless. The word spectacular is usually reserved for offensive moments, but it deserves to be used for how Fremantle defended at basically a foreign ground to them.

While players in Saturday’s 23 had been at the ground before with different sides, in terms of team continuity there were only five survivors from Fremantle’s last game at the venue in 2018 – Walters, Mundy, Cox, Banfield and Pearce.

It was all capped off by the following passage of play. Once again it’s Isaac Smith with the kick in, and once again he goes short and left.

That’s where last year’s similarities end. With approximately 40 seconds of possession, Geelong have nine kicks, one handball, and three attempted switches. The furthest they get is the back end of the centre square – and they don’t actually do much wrong with their ball movement.

There are options working hard to present, players are taking the first option, even trying to create some overlap run with handball receives.

Fremantle’s team defence just instantly closes everything up. Then, for a fleeting second it looks as if the third switch has opened the door to at least get past the defensive edge of the centre square…

Which is where the trap pays off. Blake Acres, already playing in front of his opponent at the moment, sees the opportunity to press up and intercept (note that if it wasn’t him, Switkowski would have spoiled, probably over the line for a reset).

Mark, play on, goal, and a passage of play which will probably be on repeat in everyone’s review on Monday.

If the video doesn’t work for you, click here to view

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If you’ve missed it, we’re at the part of 2022 where Patron-exclusive pages will start to have extra features added. A reminder:

  • For those on the $7.50 Patreon tier (or above), there’s exclusive access to the Stat Suite page, now with rolling monthly stat rankings
  • For those on the $10 Patreon tier, they have exclusive access to everything on the website, including the List Management suite now with 2021 v 2022 minutes played by age comparisons

Here are all the details and how to sign up.

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Shot quantity v shot quality

The following, slightly rambling thought bubble of a section prompted by Collingwood v Gold Coast at the MCG…

In the first quarter, Gold Coast were constantly looking to generate the highest of high quality shots at goal.

On a handful of occasions there’d be Suns either on 50 or just inside, and they’d opt to look for the perfect pass instead of taking a chance themselves. More often than not, it was cut off and a seemingly promising foray ended in nothing.

The inside 50s at quarter time were dead even – 14 apiece. Yet the scoreboard read Collingwood by 26 points, and it was barely a single figure game again.

A few hours later, it’s Sydney v Brisbane at the SCG. Early in the second quarter, Dayne Zorko takes two flying shots at goal from just outside 50. Both go through and they’re the springboard for a six-goal-to-one quarter which earns the Lions a 33-point lead.

In an ideal world, Zorko hits up a forward who takes a higher percentage shot, but he took the first option.

This is all a long winded way of getting to my point of wondering whether it’s occasionally better for bottom half teams to sacrifice a bit of shot quality for shot quantity, especially for teams like Gold Coast who struggle to consistently create scoreboard pressure.

A bit of an extra willingness to fly at goal from distance – from the right personnel and not recklessly, of course – may not pay off in that immediate moment.

But if a team shows their hand early to set a tone, could it cause a reaction from their opponents? Does it push a defensive block higher up the field, in turn leaving pockets of space elsewhere which might not usually be in play?

If a good defence is all about forcing the ball into predictable areas, can an offence willing to take shots from unpredictable locations (to be clear it’s mainly distance I’m focusing on here, rather than angle) force an adjustment in defensive approach?

Obviously the aim should be to create high quality shots as often as possible. Whether tweaks in approach can make it easier to do so is an area intriguing to me.

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