From The Notebook, Round 2: Uncharacteristic Cats, replacing Gawn, and what’s up next

Two rounds in, and my tips are officially a complete nightmare. This week I got, ‘I don’t talk about it anymore’ tips correct.

With teams still figuring each other out, the league feels in a state of flux. While that’ll lead to plenty of interesting posts and topics down the line, for now let’s get into the Round 2 Notebook.


Monday’s Notebook will always be available in the morning for those on the $5 and $10 Patreon tiers; those people having early access before it’s public for all on Monday night.

If you’ve missed the Patreon features for subscribers, you can find them all here.

There are a handful of new features to enjoy, plus a refresh of some favourites, and simplified tiers. Here’s the link to the Patreon page.


An uncharacteristic Geelong performance

On the surface, Geelong’s third quarter against Carlton didn’t look too calamitous. The Cats only lost it by 15 points – 6.3 to 4.0 – and the stats didn’t leap off the page:

Disposals: +9 Carlton
Contested Possessions: +5 Carlton
Tackles: +1 Carlton
Inside 50s: +7 Carlton

It’d be quite easy to look at those and make a case for Geelong making the most of limited opportunities to stay in the game.

But what struck me was the type of error made by the Cats, repeated mistakes which have barely been in their game for years.

Skill errors and being beaten are part of the game, but what caught my eye was the decision making errors. A feature of Geelong has always been refusing to beat themselves, but in the third quarter they gave Carlton every chance.

Players were ignored further up the field in favour of low percentage options, which then backfired…

…there was a needless 50 metre penalty…

…along with blasting away for glory when there’s an easier, simple option coming at you from the top of the goal square…

…and the clincher, completely switching off before the whistle had blown, leaving Carlton players in all sorts of space forward of the ball.

There’s a correct argument to be made that ‘Carlton left players forward like Geelong did, so why is this a Geelong focus?’

It’s because as a combination, all these clips are not the Geelong side of previous years. They’re not the side which leaves opposing numbers free forward of the ball, the side which ignores high percentage attacking options to take low percentage choices instead, or one which gives away silly 50 metre penalties.

The draw does open up for Geelong, and even in an absolute worst case, everything going wrong scenario they shouldn’t be any less than 4-4 after eight rounds.

But this is what happens when a side introduces a stack of new players into new roles after coming off a premiership. The adjustment period is going to be longer than many (including me) thought.


One of the new features on here in 2023 is the ability to create your own positional depth chart for every club.

It’s available for those on the $5 and $10 tiers, and hopefully everyone finds the tool as useful as I do.

Here is where to find the page.


How do Melbourne adjust in Gawn’s absence?

Max Gawn only missing four to six weeks feels like a bullet dodged given his demeanour in the moments after his knee injury on Friday night.

Nevertheless, it’s still set to be Gawn’s longest absence since 2017, only missing six games since the start of 2018 (1 in 2019, 3 in 2020, 2 in 2022).

Melbourne will have to change segments of their game. The first part seems simple enough: Brodie Grundy slides into the first ruck role, while Jacob van Rooyen will surely come in and fill a conventional third tall/second ruck spot. That’ll require subtle adjustments given Grundy’s ruck skill set is different to Gawn’s, but it should work smoothly enough.

What I’m most intrigued for is how the Demons look to replace Gawn’s aerial presence, particularly behind the ball. That’s – in my opinion anyway – the biggest difference between he and Grundy.

Gawn’s averaged approximately two intercept marks per game over the last five years while Grundy has been roughly half an intercept mark per game.

Part of Melbourne’s foundation has been based on Gawn supporting the likes of May, Lever, Petty and co, allowing them greater freedom in their own defensive roles.

Given that has never been part of Grundy’s game – for good reason too, given he excels in a different facet of play – expecting him to be an exact like for like is unrealistic.

Where will Melbourne take the longest time to adjust? Will it be the back six? Maybe it’s the midfield learning how to read Grundy’s work? Don’t forget Grundy himself is still probably not at full match fitness after an interrupted 2022.

It’s a watch this space for now – and given Gawn was supposed to miss more than a fortnight last year, maybe he returns quicker than anticipated and this all doesn’t mean very much in the end.


If you missed any recent posts on The Shinboner, you can catch up here:

North Melbourne’s match analysis v Fremantle
North Melbourne’s match analysis v West Coast
From The Notebook, Round 1: Power movement, Bulldogs’ Groundhog Day, and Rossball in effect“>From The Notebook: Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs and Rossball
North Melbourne Player Focus v West Coast


Upcoming posts on The Shinboner

I find this a tricky time of year to assess. As clubs work each other out and a pecking order is sorted, it’s easy – and I’m guilty frequently – of reading too much into isolated events. How much did the Giants and Crows’ game in 9,000 degree heat affect their performance in Round 2? Was the Power’s Round 1 effort more about them or the Lions? Did we learn anything from Brisbane’s win against Melbourne?

All that is to say the standalone posts about teams are at least another week or so away. I need more vision to comb through and assess. Before that though, there’ll be the first (non-North) player focus post and that will arrive on Wednesday – as it will every fortnight during the home and away season. The inaugural one will touch on Bobby Hill, Noah Balta and either Mason Redman or Will Setterfield; I’m still undecided on which Bomber to talk about.

As far as team posts in the works, I have:

– Everything Collingwood: This’ll be at least another week away, and probably two given the Pies’ next fortnight consists of Richmond and Brisbane.
– Fremantle’s ball movement: This could be a little dependent on team selection and where the Dockers eventually settle on their forward seven, because that’ll influence things further up the field.
– Carlton’s wingers: I’ve already touched on this briefly, but as long as Ollie Hollands doesn’t hit a first-year wall too early, it’s notable how he and Acres are a significant upgrade on 2022.

And of course, this is the perfect opportunity to mention Patreon subscribers will enjoy early access to all these posts when they eventually arrive.

For those who haven’t subscribed yet, here’s where to do it.

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