A fun round produced a big upset, a high stakes match and several trends continuing.
This week’s Notebook is a two-topic affair, covering Hawthorn’s shift and the contrasts which make Collingwood v Melbourne such an entertaining affair.
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Hawthorn changing on the fly
It seems like every time I mention Hawthorn it’s specifically to highlight a coaching style shift, which is:
a) Slightly disrespectful to the actual players
b) And means a) will be rectified at some point between now and the end of the season
But in the meantime, it’s been fascinating to watch the Hawks flip their ball movement style around over the last six weeks.
Across their first season and a bit under Mitchell, they were roughly middle of the pack when it came to kick-handball ratio. In 2022, they sat ninth, and in the first seven rounds this year they were 11th.
There’s been a sudden shift since Round 8 – ranking 18th in the same stat by a mile – and going at near exactly one kick to one handball (1034 kicks, 1033 handballs).
Normally when a team plays in this way, it means a strong focus on run and carry, with little control by design. But over the same period, Hawthorn ranks fifth in marks per game. It’s a unique contrast to other sides who mark the ball often:
|Last Six Weeks||Marks (AFL rank/average)||Kick-handball ratio (AFL rank)|
|St Kilda||4th (96.6)||9th|
It’s almost developing as a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario for Hawthorn in their best moments, able to control play…
…while also using handball to draw in defences before using extra space to run and carry.
Obviously Hawthorn are still far from the finished article, but this latest shift presents a range of possibilities for their next step forward.
Now the mid-season draft is in the books, all the relevant list demographics, contracts, and depth chart pages have been updated to play around with.
The depth chart pages are available for those on the $5 and $10 tiers. Hopefully everyone finds the tool as useful as I do.
The contrasts between Collingwood and Melbourne
If there’s one matchup I’m most keen to see again in September, it’s this one.
Whether it’s just a happy coincidence or a set plan, Collingwood’s standard ball movement patterns are almost perfectly designed to neutralise Melbourne’s defensive strengths.
It was on show early as Collingwood dominated the first 15 minutes, pulling Melbourne’s defence around and leaving them all at sea:
And then from late in the first quarter until the end, with only a few exceptions, Melbourne put the clamps on at the source and stopped it all.
They were a touch quicker into their defensive positions…
…and as a result, Collingwood couldn’t take the instant first option they’ve become accustomed to.
Without that luxury, it allowed Melbourne to completely control the game. From the point of Collingwood’s third goal to their late comeback, it was a defensive masterclass from the Demons:
|Game Time||Collingwood inside 50s*||Score|
|First 10 minutes||10||3.1|
|Middle 65 minutes||33||4.4|
|Last five minutes||6||2.3|
Such was Melbourne’s dominance that Collingwood, a team who had won 23 of their last 25 home and away games heading in, were actually spooked.
“I thought we weren’t brave enough early in the last quarter,” said Craig McRae post-match.
“I’d rather lose by ten goals than die wondering. That’s always been our mantra, ‘let’s not sit and wait’, I just thought we were a bit too safe at times.”
It’s a measure of how good Melbourne were at shutting down Collingwood’s strong areas, clearly the dominant side in general play for three quarters, that McRae felt the need to say that.
Of course, because it’s Collingwood, and because it’s Melbourne’s forward line, it was still a close game at the end somehow.
But another one of these in September with both teams closer to full strength has match of the season potential.
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