Well … where do we begin?
Heading into the match, I made a conscious effort to focus on more of the positive. And yes, I can hear people scoffing now as they read this, muttering ‘what is there to be positive about?’
I figure there’s enough doom and gloom elsewhere and if you solely focus on that, week after week, it becomes a never ending circle of misery. What’s the point of watching football just to partake in that?
That being said, it’s impossible to be 100 percent positive when a team loses by 112 points with only 13 inside 50s after quarter time.
What we’ll do is have two positives and also a section about ball use, spinning the latter into a bigger picture discussion about contentious topics.
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One day there’ll be a bunch of positives to write about, I swear. (I’m keeping this line here until it happens)
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The stat line for Davies-Uniacke:
– 35 disposals (17 contested)
– 7 clearances
– 7 marks
– 6 tackles
– 5 inside 50s
– 426 metres gained
It was a proper 35 disposal effort too, valuable ones. The comparison between his 35 and most of the defenders’ disposals are night and day.
Although positives have been few and far between this year, Davies-Uniacke is now undisputedly North’s best midfielder.
I may be misreading the situation, but in my eyes his extra confidence in his skill set has almost come because of North’s struggles. There have been a handful of passages this year where you’ve seen him realise in real time, ‘I have to do this myself, because no-one else can.’
In the short term, North’s midfield has to be built around Davies-Uniacke. Everything revolves around him as the number one man, which allows Jy Simpkin to slot into more of a complimentary role.
The third and fourth onballers during LDU’s stints – Tarryn Thomas, Jason Horne-Francis, Jed Anderson, etc – rotate depending on opponents, game state, whether more offence or defence is needed, and so on.
It’s all glaringly obvious.
For those who have missed any posts or updates over the last week, here are a handful of links to catch up:
It was only a brief glimpse – two-thirds of the second quarter, if that – but Lazzaro’s stint at half back was intriguing.
Seemingly thrust into the role as a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ due to Aaron Hall’s quad injury, Lazzaro had 11 disposals for the term and 177 metres gained – in a team which barely got the ball out of the back half all quarter.
Lazzaro, barring a drastic change in skill set, is never going to be a line breaker via kicking. It lacks a touch of depth. What he does possess is an ability to cover the ground, and speed.
He kept getting into aggressive positions when North did have possession, and started what would have been promising chains if the team had instructions to run in waves; second nature for most clubs.
It was far from perfect – Lazzaro did get lost defensively a couple of times, and his instincts (i.e. attacking) didn’t quite mesh with the team setup all the time. But considering it was a move on short notice, it was promising.
I still think his best angle at regularly contributing at AFL level is via the wing, but what he showed on Saturday night – in a glimpse – was intriguing.
It was strange not to see him prioritised in a similar role after half time as North’s ball use lost any semblance of usefulness. Which – segue alert – leads us nicely into the third and final topic for the day.
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The bigger picture about ball use
Saturday night felt like a culmination of the offensive issues which have plagued North all year.
It’s been a regular feature of these week to week pieces, and it was on display again in Geelong.
– Stilted, sideways movement: Tick
– An inability to create any run: Tick
– Next to no targets ahead of the ball in usable areas: Tick
– A whopping inside 50 disparity because of it: Tick
– Players looking lost while trying to carry out instructions: Tick
To be clear, these instructions and offensive setups aren’t the sole cause of North’s malaise. It’s not like a change here suddenly makes North a top eight side.
But the inescapable reality is players aren’t placed in the best possible position to succeed. They’re not asked to play a modern style, and it’s barely troubled an AFL defence in 2022. 54.2 points per game this year is all the evidence needed.
Add it to the defensive instructions being along much the same lines – out-of-date and non-threatening – and it’s no wonder games play out as they do. Opponents surely have a light week preparing for North, simply because it’s so basic to counter what they bring.
Those moments in late 2021, where it appeared a semblance of a style was emerging, vanished over the summer somewhere, assumingly lost on the training track.
Purely from a game style point of view, I don’t know the solution to the problem other than generic offerings: ‘Move the ball quicker’, ‘Play a forward half game’, ‘Make sure your best players are in their best positions.’
I’d like to think I can identify what’s happening on a field relatively well, but figuring out and implementing change is a whole different skill set altogether. It’s why coaches are so important.
What I do know is this: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
North have been going into games all year doing the same thing and it’s not working. Who are the right people to change it?