Round 15 v Adelaide: Theory v Process

A theory can – and often does – sound great on paper.

For the theory to work and be executed successfully, it needs to be underpinned by a solid process.

That’s where we’re at for today’s post.


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If there’s an extra key position target, logic dictates that ball use changes to suit.

Instead, with the exception of a handful of passages, it was more or less the same as we’ve seen all year.

Heading into the game, North unsurprisingly was the worst team in the league at scoring after they gained possession in their back half.

McKay provided an extra target to help ‘draw the ball in longer’, David Noble said in his press conference, and ideally make it easier for North to take territory and transition easier you’d imagine. And that makes perfect sense too, it’s a logical theory.

But for that to happen, the players need to set up in a way to demand the ball movement. Somewhere, whether it was the players or coaches, the message was lost in translation.

Too often there were situations like this:

Where the closest tall was a solid 65 metres away, with a lack of movement towards the ball carrier. It’s the common refrain of 2022; a lack of connection between the forwards and midfielders/defenders.

The end result of that play was an attempted switch and turnover just before the wing.

There’s a fine line between ‘deep’ positioning, and ‘too deep’ positioning.

Because of North constantly playing out of their defensive half, McKay often trended towards the latter. From the outside it’s impossible to know how much of that was instruction compared to a player getting used to a new position, but a key forward in 2022 can’t have this heat map in a side with 16 fewer inside 50s than their opposition. It’s not the modern game:

When a forward is so deep while the ball lives at the other end, you’re effectively playing with 17 on the field. And with Tristan Xerri only on the field for 57 percent game time, for long chunks of the game it looked like same old, same old – because it was.

Also to touch on the other talking point from McKay’s move: while there has been plenty of chatter he should have been shifted back at some point as Taylor Walker and Darcy Fogarty ran amok, I’m not as fussed as others on that.

Might as well give McKay a whole game forward to see how it played out and helped the team structure, considering there wasn’t a whole lot to lose in the bigger picture. The issue was the big man not being put in a position to consistently make an impact.

On to the scattered thoughts to round this off for another week.


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Scattered Thoughts

– Although I was confused by him forced to present as the leading target inside 50 on multiple occasions (which isn’t a reflection on him in any way, shape or form), Paul Curtis continues to improve week on week.

It feels like the third or fourth time I’ve reiterated this in Curtis’ nine games, but he knows where to be, where to go and how to hold shape in a forward setup without the ball. They’re all valuable qualities but hindered by a lack of support at the moment – at least while I continue to be tiresome and bang my ‘Jed Anderson should spend more time forward’ drum.

The poor guy is probably wondering whether he’ll ever play in a win. It’s important to keep his spirits high.

Jackson Archer looked surprisingly comfortable in his debut. Although his defensive abilities were obvious at VFL level, I was a touch worried he’d struggle to cope with the usual heavy load of inside 50s and not be much of an offensive factor. In his 10 VFL games, he’d only reached a double-figure disposal count on one occasion.

Although there were a couple of simple errors with ball in hand, he collected 15 disposals and didn’t look overawed at any time. Most importantly, he did his job defensively. It was an impressive start.

– To the eye test, Luke Davies-Uniacke is the only midfielder consistently capable of driving out of stoppages, giving North value from their clearances. North don’t have any problem winning clearances – scoring from them is a different story.

Much like North try to get the ball to Aaron Hall in the back half, it should be the same with Davies-Uniacke around contests, prioritising him wherever possible. Establishing this as a pecking order allows for a more effective setup and clarity of roles, he says, as he uses that phrase for the 1000th time this year.

– I think the addition of Geoff Walsh for the short-term should greatly help straighten up football operations. Speaking from experience, he’ll let you know exactly where things are at if it’s poor, he’ll hit you straight between the eyes with it, but in a productive way where you leave knowing exactly what has to be done. It’s not a spray for the sake of a spray (or at least it never was for me).

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