After a strong week at training and some honest conversations between the playing group, we approached Friday night’s match with renewed vigor. Opportunities were presented to Will Mead and Hamish Ellem, whilst Reed Stevens became our 11th debutant for the year. Reed has been our most consistent performer in the Development team and it was pleasing to see him get reward for this. I thought Sturt started a little better than us as it took us a little while to get our team defensive structures in place. Consequently, Sturt were able to gain some big yardage when switching the ball in their backline. However our contested ball was very good and I felt as the quarter progressed that we started to even the momentum. Our second goal came on the back of a ruthless attack on the ball from Will Mead (in just his third game) and a great finish by Lyndon Hupfeld. Whilst Will’s attack and one take of the ball may not make the ‘highlights reel’ it did not go unnoticed by the coaches and players. We trailed by 5 points at quarter time and we discussed our team defence structures and the need to move the ball a little quicker through the middle part of the ground. We had a fantastic 2nd term. Some key indicators (in addition to the three goals to zero) were stoppage wins (13 to 6) and 1%ers (38 for the quarter). 1%ers include all our pressure acts such as tackling and hard chases and we aim for 25 per quarter. I don’t believe I have ever seen a total as high as 38. The final piece of the puzzle was outstanding defensive checking and 1v1’s by our defenders. I felt as a collective that they had their best term for the year culminating with the opposition having no scores from six I50 entries.
We jumped out of the gates again in the 3rd term. A great snap by Hamish Ellem (4th game) and then a good intercept mark and goal from Tom Morrish (3rd game) saw us lead by 27 points at the 4min mark of the quarter. Unfortunately Sturt kick the next 4 goals of the quarter and I am sure all supporters are left wondering why such a momentum change can occur. My answer to you is as follows. None of our 2nd term and early 3rd term football could be seen as ‘extraordinary’ football, rather it was built on hard work, playing structure and being composed. Unfortunately, we were unable to maintain these three areas to the same standard for the remainder of the game. Whilst none of the areas dropped away instantly or perhaps even dramatically, they still dropped enough to let the opposition back into the game. Examples include, not staying with your man at a crumbing contest in B50, not starting in the right position at the stoppage, not pushing as hard to the next contest to cause an outnumber or to win a long the contest crumb, not emptying out quite as quick from our F50 to ensure density (weight of numbers) behind the ball. Each little slip has a flow on effect which ultimately ends in scores for the opposition. So whilst they might seem minor or subtle in isolation, they compound to have a larger influence. In short, we have to do all the basics of the game for longer.
Leading by 4 points coming into the final term, Sturt scored the first goal of the term in the opening minutes. This was a disappointing goal because it highlighted all the areas where we had dropped. There were errors in positioning at the B50 restart, we missed opportunities to lay a tackle and we didn’t stay close to our opponent. No excuses here, we were poor. We did rally however and the quarter became much more even from here. Some good offensive movement was let down with some ordinary skills, meaning we didn’t quite take our opportunities- still we persisted. Finally we hit the scoreboard through Murray Waite and the gap was back to 2 points part way through the term. We followed this with a couple of costly tackling free-kicks. Whilst our endeavor on both occasions couldn’t be questioned, composure remains a key part of tackling. Again we persisted and a near miss from Hamish Ellem late in the quarter was our final shot at the win.
This week I have asked the players to watch the 2nd and 3rd quarters and report back on what they see as the difference between our game in each (rather than me telling them what I see). I want them to know what their best football looks like and what ‘subtleties’ are missing when we are not at our best. From there, we need to become more aware of these during the game and ideally maintain them for longer or at least be able to resurrect them when they go missing. If we can do this, you will see longer periods of good, hard-edged football, and ultimately improved results on the scoreboard.
Our best performers on the night included Kaine Stevens and Jordan Boyle through the midfield. Kaine’s tackling and defensive work at stoppages was particularly pleasing. I thought Josh Ryan was fantastic at full back and Pat Levicki was also very good in his 1v1 aerial contests. I was also very pleased with Will Mead and Sam May as small defenders. Both displayed a ruthless intent to defend and beat their opponent.