It was largely blowout city or thrilling finish in Round 7, with three topics picked out for this week’s Notebook:
– Port Adelaide’s ball movement against the stifling St Kilda defence
– Fremantle’s shift in style at the Gabba
– Highlighting a Giant comeback from both teams’ perspective
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Port Adelaide’s movement v the Saints
The fun part about writing full-length articles on teams is you’re hyper-attuned to their movement patterns.
So when Port Adelaide arrived at Marvel Stadium on Friday night to play the Saints, what I focused on was how the visitors moved the ball; whether it’d be around a set defence or quickly enough to get past that defence before it set up.
Port did a mixture of both en route to victory, and it was impressive how well drilled they were. The tone was set from their first kick-in of the night where there was zero hesitation in their movement patterns. Quick, players to fall of the ball, pressure to force turnovers, hold an extra forward deep for the second phase:
That mix between holding options deep and still having lead-up players stretched the Saints, allowing for more room between the lines of defence:
Then there was a willingness to take a tough kick where necessary, moving through the middle to open up the ground. Because of that they were able to get deep forward entries…
…and because of those deep forward entries, Port turned a strength of St Kilda – moving the ball from defensive 50 to forward 50 – into a weakness.
As Ross Lyon lamented post-match, Port kicked four goals from St Kilda turnovers in defensive 50. In addition to those turnovers the Saints were barely able to get from back 50 to forward 50 at all, an unnatural success rate in scoring at the end of six total chains for the game (4.1) obscuring how well Port defended in general.
A surprisingly loose St Kilda midfield unit also allowed Port – largely Jason Horne-Francis – the luxury to burst away from stoppages, gaining territory and scoring regularly from their clearance wins as well. It had been an area the Saints effectively neutralised over the first six weeks, but not so against the Power.
All in all it was an impressively disciplined performance both with and without the ball resulting in a well-earned win.
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Fremantle’s shift in style
Speaking of full-length articles on teams, next on the list was supposed to be Fremantle’s ball movement through the first third of 2023 and why it was so far off the mark.
Then the Dockers came out on Saturday and suddenly decided to overload on handball:
|Fremantle in 2023||Kicks||Handballs||Kick to handball ratio|
Even allowing for this stat being a little bit of an arbitrary dividing line, it’s the first time Fremantle have had more handballs than kicks in a match under Justin Longmuir.
When talking about an immediate impact against Brisbane, the shift didn’t suddenly translate to Fremantle applying dramatically more scoreboard pressure, or even moving from one end of the ground to the other – both numbers roughly in line with season to date.
However Fremantle’s rebound 50s were turned over and scored on slightly less, allowing them to move further up the field while not getting pinned into their defensive half as much. It was clearly the goal of this move, as Longmuir explained post-match:
“Our issues with our ball movement is when we get deep entries against and we are getting locked in our back half. So we will keep going to work on that. Sometimes it’s using our numbers, sometimes it’s kick/mark and sometimes we just need to trust the contest ahead and set up well for that contest. We can’t keep getting stuck in the back half like we have the last couple of weeks.”
It’s a watch this space over the next few weeks to see how it evolves. Next up for the Dockers, figuring out their midfield issues.
If you’ve missed any recent posts on The Shinboner, you can catch up on the last five here:
Round 7: North Melbourne’s match analysis v Melbourne
St Kilda, an AFL team’s litmus test
Fortnightly Focus: Sam Taylor, Esava Ratugolea, Noah Cumberland
From The Notebook, Round 6: Status updates (Gold Coast, GWS, Sydney)
Round 6: North Melbourne’s match analysis v Gold Coast
Highlighting a Giant comeback
In the last fortnight I’ve gone from barely posting about GWS to featuring something about them in every piece. To cap it off, let’s take a look at what fuelled their stirring comeback against Sydney.
Four goals down with 13 minutes remaining – as the Swans dominated general play – the game was all but over.
But as I touched on, the Giants’ ball movement has improved in recent weeks. A key part of that has been recognising the right moments to be aggressive, trying to catch out defensive setups.
Turns out when you’re four goals down that’s the cue to turn aggressiveness up to 11. Strangely though, they were assisted by a lethargic Sydney defence. Here’s the goal by goal…
12:55 remaining, Toby Greene goals: Sydney 105-87 GWS
Hopefully this takes nothing away from the quality of Greene’s finish, which is unreal, but watch how he’s able to accelerate out of stoppage largely untouched before unleashing the left foot soccer.
12:11 remaining, Harry Perryman goals: Sydney 105-93 GWS
This time it’s Harry Perryman who’s able to get goal side way too easily from a stoppage with minimal Sydney protection on the defensive side.
5:43 remaining, Harry Perryman goals: Sydney 105-101 GWS
Again, not to take away from the quality of the finish (common theme) because after this clip Perryman drills it from outside 50, but watch him able to peel off the pack as Sydney’s numbers are too tight in at the contest, not recognising the state of game and Giants mindset.
Of course the Giants are going to roll the dice in a situation like this. They play the situation to perfection, where Sydney don’t.
0:42 remaining, Toby Greene goals: Sydney 106-107 GWS
If you’re game planning a forward 50 stoppage as the Giants, the first aim would be to get Greene space.
If you’re game planning a defensive 50 stoppage as the Swans, the first aim would be to make sure Greene has no space.
In a situation like that as the Swans, one person’s responsibility must solely be a hard tag on Greene, but he’s allowed too much space. Even a whisker of space is enough for Greene, so he must have thought he entered fantasy land as he was all but forgotten about.
But of course, that shouldn’t completely take away from the quality of the finish.
From a GWS perspective, it was as simple as recognising the game state, adjusting, and making the most of opportunities to get a big win and underline their improvement in recent weeks. For Sydney, it was a tale of uncharacteristic mistakes to lose their second coin flip of the year and sink to 3-4. In the big picture there still shouldn’t be many (non-injury) reasons to be alarmed, but the margin for error is lessening.