Welcome to the inaugural edition of Fortnightly Focus, a post dedicated to highlighting individual players.
As promised in the pre-season, this will come every fortnight from now on – just in case the title didn’t make that clear – on a Wednesday morning.
Patrons on the $10 Tier will have exclusive access for 24 hours until it becomes free for all from Thursday morning.
And with the housekeeping out of the way, on to today’s players.
This post is just one of the features available early to Patreon subscribers. If you’ve missed the entire list, 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.
Note: This section was written and published before confirmation Jack Ginnivan would return via the VFL
Hill has essentially taken Jack Ginnivan’s role in Collingwood’s forward* line, which makes for the standard chatter on whose spot Ginnivan takes now that his suspension has been served.
(*Beau McCreery plays a different role as one of their best pressure players; one which neither Hill or Ginnivan can execute. Their role(s) are tilted towards more of an offensive presence instead)
I’d be surprised if Ginnivan comes straight back in for Hill. The more likely option – in the short term at least – seems to be a reshuffle elsewhere to fit Ginnivan in, or a VFL stint to get some minutes into the legs and present an irresistible case for selection.
That’s because Hill has made a case of his own to stay in the AFL side with his fortnight in Collingwood colours.
The part to interest me the most was Hill’s use against Geelong compared to Port Adelaide.
In Round 1, Hill tended to stay fairly central, with teammates not hesitating to use him. The result was a career-high seven marks; only once in his first 41 games had he managed more than four.
Whereas in Round 2, Hill was distinctly, noticeably staying as wide as possible and playing in the open, going from seven marks in the season opener to zero the next. Heat maps (thankfully) back up the eye test:
Hill influenced both games – three goals + one goal assist against the Cats, one goal + two goal assists against the Power – playing in a different fashion, if not a different position. It’s a promising sign for his standing so early into his Pies career.
Ginnivan won’t be able to walk straight back into the same role as 2022, which says a lot for Collingwood’s growth.
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.
Even allowing for the small sample size, here are two notable stats so far this season:
1. No side turns the ball over less from their rebound 50s than Collingwood
2. No side is better at retaining possession from their inside 50s than Collingwood
Which makes Noah Balta – coming off nine intercept marks against Adelaide – arguably the most important Tiger on Friday night.
To interrupt Collingwood’s breathtaking ball movement, there needs to be someone behind the ball making the Pies second guess themselves.
That’s exactly what Balta did time and time again against the Crows. Part of the intricacies in intercepting is positioning – covering multiple options while not locking into any one opponent.
Here he expertly splits the difference between two Crows options to intercept (let’s ignore the fact it shouldn’t have been paid a mark).
Pace helps too: in the third quarter it felt like the only two things keeping Richmond in front (after a 45-point half time lead) were Balta and Adelaide’s inability to kick straight.
And don’t forget about strength: In the last quarter, as Adelaide made their final push, Balta out-marked Taylor Walker not once, but twice in the space of 90 seconds.
Positioning, pace, and strength. Balta had all the tools on display against Adelaide – and he’ll need all of them against Collingwood, particularly with how short handed it appears the Tigers will be personnel wise.
Thankfully the experiment of playing forward seems to have been left in 2022, never to be spoken about again, and Balta can get on with being the backline fulcrum for the next decade.
It’s a shame Josh Gibcus is still out for another month or so. The quicker Richmond can get games into him and Balta as a pairing, the more formidable they become long term.
If you’ve missed any recent posts on The Shinboner, you can catch up on the last five here:
From The Notebook, Round 2: Geelong, Gawn, and what’s next
Round 2: North Melbourne’s match analysis v Fremantle
Round 1: North Melbourne Player Focus v West Coast
From The Notebook, Round 1: From The Notebook, Round 1: Power movement, Bulldogs’ Groundhog Day, and Rossball in effect”>Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, and Rossball
Round 1: North Melbourne’s match analysis v West Coast
I must admit, I expected Brad Scott to experiment a touch more with Essendon’s midfield in the early stages of 2023.
Instead he’s come in with a fully formed idea of who to prioritise*, with Round 1 and 2 basically being a four-man on-ball rotation.
(*that could change once the likes of Jake Stringer and Ben Hobbs come into the side, and whether Jye Caldwell and/or Archie Perkins’ role changes a little)
Of those four, three are expected; Zach Merrett, Dylan Shiel, and Darcy Parish the staples. But the man who has spent more on-ball time than that trio is new recruit Will Setterfield, attending 82 percent of centre bounces over the opening fortnight.
Only Matt Rowell (90 percent), Touk Miller (88), Lachie Neale (87), Jack Steele (86), Clayton Oliver (85), Tom Green (83) and Luke Davies-Uniacke (83) have attended a higher percentage of their team’s centre bounces, per dfsaustralia.com.
When Setterfield’s move to Essendon was announced, in 2022 Trade Period Analysis: Will Setterfield, Essendon”>my analysis post I said the following (extra emphasis added in bold today):
“If it pays off and Setterfield makes the midfield better, it’s been done basically for free, allows the remaining midfielders to work to their strengths more often, and provides more balance to an Essendon outfit which desperately needs it.”
Watching Setterfield through the first fortnight has revealed a role simple in its instruction, but crucial for team synergy.
Setterfield’s starting point at stoppage is almost exclusively defensive, tasked with neutralising an opponent. It’s not a ‘tag’ as such though, because after the initial phase of play he clearly has freedom to read play and judge how to impact.
Here are a series of clips from his game against Gold Coast last Sunday to illustrate:
There’s still a heap of work left to do in the Essendon midfield. For all the improvements Setterfield has brought, he can only do so much to cover the defensive load of his midfield teammates. He’s not Superman … or in more realistic terms, he’s not Ben Jacobs.
Although with that being said, who better to learn from than the man himself as Essendon grow?
One last note to finish on, in my never-ending quest to compare Brad Scott’s North Melbourne tenure to Essendon so far: having a small on-ball rotation wasn’t a feature of his time at Arden Street. It tended to be a six-to-seven-man group.