Considering the final margin was 49 points, it feels strange to start by commending North Melbourne’s effort.
But it’s genuinely what I believe. Sunday’s issue – in my opinion – centred around the effort being misplaced, due to the work still needed in systems, roles, and processes.
So, while these posts are usually structured chronologically, today’s going to be a little different.
What I’d like to do is show five clips illustrating effort, followed by an explanation of why the system and roles were out of balance.
Then we’ll finish with a little bit on Jason Horne-Francis.
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Situation: The effort is fine from Jy Simpkin and Jason Horne-Francis. They’re trying to win the ball, and they’re putting in.
Issue: A lack of clarity in roles. With a two-on-one situation, it should be crystal clear who’s ball hunting, and who’s on Stephen Coniglio.
To steal a comment from my Twitter mentions (apologies to whoever it was), it’s Stoppages 101.
Situation: GWS have just won clean possession from a stoppage. Not ideal for North, but players are still chasing and working.
Issue: GWS – one of the best transition teams in the league since Mark McVeigh took the reins – have been allowed to set up with an extra behind the ball.
That extra instantly turns into an attacking weapon as soon as the Giants gain possession. All the effort in the world can’t stop weight of numbers moving at speed.
Situation: Flynn Perez rotates across and signals towards Lachie Whitfield as another potential danger. Perez is doing the right thing, closing up an immediate issue he sees and communicating the situation elsewhere.
Issue: While it’s partially obscured due to the broadcast angle, what’s clear is how there’s little understanding of who’s required to go towards Whitfield as the next role in the defensive chain.
Once the realisation sets in that Whitfield is the next link in the chain, it’s a half-second too late to cover. From there North battle to try and close it up, but the genie is out of the bottle.
It’s a bread and butter rotation for the better teams.
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Situation: North are trying to keep the ball locked inside their forward 50 at a stoppage, although GWS have just won possession.
Issue: Harking back to the issue of a fortnight ago against St Kilda, the behind-the-ball setup is too deep.
It’s allowed Cal Ward to park in an aggressive place – and be an easy outlet via hands. The Giants exit and any chance for sustained pressure is lost.
Again, it’s easy to see the individual effort there. But it’s misplaced.
Situation: Tristan Xerri is caught out defending against Matt de Boer inside 50.
Issue: Tristan Xerri is forced to defend against Matt de Boer in GWS’ forward 50 (seems pretty simple).
Xerri is trying his best in a foreign role, but if there was – to repeat a phrase – clarity in roles, de Boer would have been manned by a suitable matchup at the point this clip starts.
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Let’s finish on a topic which has owned most of the post-match headlines: Jason Horne-Francis.
Not the high contact with Josh Kelly; that will earn him an extended bye. Instead, all the chatter about ‘frustration’ and ‘body language’ stemming from a completely normal chat with Todd Goldstein at half time.
(It was likely based around some misunderstanding at stoppages in the two minutes preceding the siren, but hard to be 100 percent certain)
There have been some comments about how it means Horne-Francis ‘isn’t invested’, ‘isn’t trying’, and all those cliches.
For me, it’s the complete opposite. Frustration means you care. This body language means you care.
In your own life, when was the last time you were angry, annoyed or despondent at something you didn’t care about?
I’d much rather this frustration rather than apathy and ‘yes sir’, ‘no sir’ type business. It’s easy to forget this is the first time Horne-Francis has experienced anything like this level of losing.
As he learns the extra level required to go from number one draft pick to star player, and when the frustration and fire is harnessed into something productive with guidance from North’s senior players, that’s when he’ll take a big step forward.
Is the current situation ideal? Of course not. Is it anything to worry about? Not at the moment, in my opinion.
Also, Horne-Francis is 18. Some responsibility when covering a teenager seems like the wise way to approach things.