We ventured to Noarlunga on Saturday to play South Adelaide in a must win game for us. We were strong in the first quarter, in particular around stoppages. Andre Parrella led the way with his tap work and mids were effective with their hands. We also applied great pressure which nullified any run by the opposition. Our forward line pressure was also very good and we were able to get multiple repeat entries by forcing the opposition into quick kicks. A couple of skill errors and fumbles across half back were costly however and allowed the opposition easy scores. To state the obvious, we need to eliminate these unforced errors or errors in judgement from our game. The match tightened in the second quarter however I felt we continued to control stoppages and pressure the opposition in tight. We were able to push the lead to a three goal margin but couldn’t find repeat scores from this point. I felt we dropped out intensity in the closing stages of the quarter and South dominated the aerial contests in this period. This was disappointing as it had been a pre-game focus and again shows our ability to play our game for longer periods is required. We remained in the lead however by 11 points at half-time. South jumped us early in the third and it was evident that they were aiming to switch the ball quickly from the backline. Unfortunately we did not adjust our positioning to counter this and this is something I take responsibility for. After two early goals however, the quarter was again very even. We did lose a little ascendancy at stoppages but were still able to produce some good offensive plays. The scores were even at three quarter time and so we found ourselves facing a familiar challenge. We again started the quarter poorly and it was evident that our defensive pressure at stoppages had decreased. This allowed the opposition to enter I50 very quickly which is always difficult to stop. We did however continue to produce our own I50 entries (we only had one less than the opposition for the quarter) however four poor kicks saw the ball turnover too frequently. These turnovers not only cost us a chance to score, they enable the opposition to transition the ball very quickly the other way. Consequently we find ourselves chasing for much of the quarter. Whilst these turnovers are costly, it does not excuse being outworked and upon watching replay, there were again frequent examples of the opposition spreading harder than us. Our body language in the last quarter was also disappointing. Our heads clearly dropped after the opposition scored two early goals and I could see no overt signs that players were willing to fight the game out. We were clearly outplayed in the final term and the stats don’t lie- 94 to 67 disposals, 31 to 12 marks, and our kicking efficiency dropped to 33% (we expect a min of 70%). Will Snelling continued his terrific form, amassing plenty of possessions and tackles. Importantly he continued to influence the game in the final term as did Kaine Stevens who had a strong influence through the midfield. I thought Jono Beech was fantastic and took some strong contested marks. Elliot Duncan was also very consistent across the four quarters and importantly, was diligent in his checking of his man.
So let me address the white elephant in the room- our inability to win or at least be competitive in the last quarter. It would be easy to label this a fitness issue and our GPS tracking data (used to track running patterns of players during the game) does indicate a larger than expected drop in work-rate in the final term. The fact is however, our fitness testing leading into the season was equal if not better than the previous year. None the less, we will do all we can in the coming weeks with our training to increase player fitness in order to alleviate this as a potential cause. We will continue to analyse our game plan and assess whether we need to make slight modifications to this for the latter stages of the game or whether we need to adjust player positioning. From the weekend’s game we have already identified some running patterns and general field positioning changes which we believe will assist. However it is also imperative that the players are not removed from responsibility here. Fitness level or game plans do not ultimately dictate your willingness to run out a game of football. This is very much a mindset of which each individual is accountable for. Currently, I have questions regarding some individual’s ability to push themselves to the limit of their physical capabilities. I will continue to work with the players with regards to this. I know they can and will improve.