How do we take the next step to a premiership?

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Grasshopper17

Way too much to say
Mar 12, 2003
677
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Brisbane Lions
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Sorry everyone, long post warning, but I've been stewing on this for a while, and quite frankly it could have been longer.

TL;DR:

  1. Hold a tall as the deepest forward at all times
  2. Find how/if our midfield strategy differed when Neale was/wasn’t in the team
  3. Defenders need to be able to beat their men one on one regardless of midfield pressure
  4. We should be the fittest team in the comp

It’s been 10 years since I posted on BigFooty, and about 17 years since I frequented the site in any meaningful capacity… Fair to say the quality of discussion looks to have improved considerably in that time, so the pressure is on to maintain that high standard!

I’m back because I hold similar fears as in early 2001 - that the current group has the talent to achieve considerable success, but that this talent is at risk of being wasted if several changes are not made.

  1. ATTACK

    To me this is the biggest thing. We get this one thing right and it could almost be enough to go all the way.

    Love the 3 key forward setup. But one of them simply has to hold their position and be the deepest forward. Playing Charlie Cameron one out inside 50 may look sensational and see plenty of scores kicked in the regular season, but it relies on quick ball movement and accurate delivery inside 50. Thus, it is not sustainable in finals. Here is a list of all the times that sort of strategy has worked in big games, for any team, ever:



    So we start 2022 with the Daniher/McStay/Fullarton triad, in addition to McInerney and Fort changing in the ruck. McStay holds as the deepest forward, given he’s the best contested mark of the 3, while the other 2 play as twin centre half forwards, taking one side of the ground each. When one leads beyond centre, the other falls in behind as a mobile target across half forward. Hipwood slots right into that role once fully fit. Cameron/Cockatoo get to McStay’s feet and fight like crazy to lock the ball in. Opportunities will present, and with the forward line less open, opposition defences will find it harder to exit.

  2. MIDFIELD

    To @briztoon’s point(s) about Neale, the stats when he played and didn’t play are staggering. 7 wins, 0 losses, % of 185 (average score 110 to 60) in the games he missed. 8 wins, 9 losses, % of 110 (average score 88 to 80) in the games he played. The sample sizes are both large enough for this to not be an anomaly, and they are almost completely reversed in the matches where Mathieson was in the starting 22 vs when he wasn’t. Not only that, we even LOOKED better defensively.

    It’s as though we play Russian roulette when Neale is in the team. He’s never going to line up on the defensive side of stoppages, whereas Mathieson is more likely to be given that role. So when Neale plays and things are going our way we look sensational, but when the opposition gets on top we look slow, lethargic, and disinterested in engaging in the grind necessary to wrench the contest back our way. I get that we don’t want to be dictated to, but the game against Fremantle in Perth was when we looked our best, and in hindsight it was little surprise to learn that blokes were given specific jobs to play on, and beat, a direct opponent. Simplicity is not always interesting or exciting, but it sure is successful.

  3. DEFENCE

    Fages talks about playing a “team defence”, relying on midfield pressure, which I get. But there still comes a time when we need to be able to simply put up our hand, play on an opponent, and beat them or break even, regardless of the delivery. We now know at least Andrews was playing injured, and this needs to stop. Let’s find out about our depth. Maybe an injured Harris Andrews is a better player than a fully fit Jack Payne now, but is he better than a fully fit Jack Payne with 20 or 30 games under his belt and feeling more sure of his place in the team? Let’s not guess, let’s know. Making these tough decisions now can only help Harris, Jack and the club as a whole, as we move forward.

  4. FITNESS

    We have the natural advantage of training all through preseason in 30 degree heat and higher humidity than in the southern states. We should be, by quite some distance, the fittest team in the comp. Yet our quarter-by-quarter performances in 2021 put us middle of the road, at best. In tight games, or even games in which we are well behind, this can be a massive factor. The Grand Final showed as much, where even in the second quarter ABC Radio’s boundary commentator mentioned that the Bulldogs players were coming off the field in a more “fatigued” and “distressed” state than the Melbourne players.
 

jackess

Cancelled
Aug 10, 2005
46,546
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What was our win loss ratio in the three seasons before Neale joined the club like compared to the last 3 seasons?
 

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Grasshopper17

Way too much to say
Mar 12, 2003
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What was our win loss ratio in the three seasons before Neale joined the club like compared to the last 3 seasons?
I don't think our list in 2016-2018 is similar enough to what it is now to render that comparison a worthwhile exercise.
 

jackess

Cancelled
Aug 10, 2005
46,546
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AFL Club
Brisbane Lions
I don't think our list in 2016-2018 is similar enough to what it is now to render that comparison a worthwhile exercise.
Adding a brownlow medallist would do that.

If we're looking at the side best suited to finals let's look at the team that beat Richmond last year and what went right
 

Grasshopper17

Way too much to say
Mar 12, 2003
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Adding a brownlow medallist would do that.

If we're looking at the side best suited to finals let's look at the team that beat Richmond last year and what went right
Good call. The big thing for me that night was that not once was Charlie isolated against Grimes, or anyone for that matter, inside 50. McStay and McInerney took big pack marks inside 50, we had targets all night, and we defended rebound 50's better. The game was won, not in the 5 minutes before half time, but in the 15 minutes of the second quarter where the ball barely left Richmond's 50. To not concede a goal in that time was a phenomenal effort, with emphasis on the EFFORT.

I feel like most of the success achieved in 2019 and 2020 came about due to plain and simple hard work. That 2019 game in Round 22 vs Geelong, we played so badly, but we hung in, never gave up and in the hot Gabba sun we reeled them in late. 2021 was the first time I really thought "wow this group is actually bloody talented", but at the same time, I thought that willingness to work our butts off wasn't quite there at times. Those efforts became more selective than being there all the time, and sometimes we wanted to just coast along instead. I don't have any stats to back any of this up, it's just how it felt to me watching us play this year.
 

Dalions

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Good call. The big thing for me that night was that not once was Charlie isolated against Grimes, or anyone for that matter, inside 50. McStay and McInerney took big pack marks inside 50, we had targets all night, and we defended rebound 50's better. The game was won, not in the 5 minutes before half time, but in the 15 minutes of the second quarter where the ball barely left Richmond's 50. To not concede a goal in that time was a phenomenal effort, with emphasis on the EFFORT.

I feel like most of the success achieved in 2019 and 2020 came about due to plain and simple hard work. That 2019 game in Round 22 vs Geelong, we played so badly, but we hung in, never gave up and in the hot Gabba sun we reeled them in late. 2021 was the first time I really thought "wow this group is actually bloody talented", but at the same time, I thought that willingness to work our butts off wasn't quite there at times. Those efforts became more selective than being there all the time, and sometimes we wanted to just coast along instead. I don't have any stats to back any of this up, it's just how it felt to me watching us play this year.
We were missing 2 key forwards for the game against the doggies this year so the team had to try and adapt the game plan within the game. Which almost worked but not quite.
So it wasn’t necessarily the middle of the ground that was the problem or Lachie Neale for that matter.
The Lions also had a massive 68 inside 50’s in that game. Just couldn’t take advantage without the big men to do what they do.
Hippy was a pretty huge loss for the team in the end. And with Dan also out? And losing Payne in the first quarter.
 

Grasshopper17

Way too much to say
Mar 12, 2003
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63
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We were missing 2 key forwards for the game against the doggies this year so the team had to try and adapt the game plan within the game. Which almost worked but not quite.
So it wasn’t necessarily the middle of the ground that was the problem or Lachie Neale for that matter.
The Lions also had a massive 68 inside 50’s in that game. Just couldn’t take advantage without the big men to do what they do.
Hippy was a pretty huge loss for the team in the end. And with Dan also out? And losing Payne in the first quarter.
Yep, agreed. The timing of McStay and Payne's injuries was horrible. Having said that, in those circumstances, I would have played Daniher closer to goal than Cameron, that's all. All you want up there is a contest - they even tried Lester as the medical sub up in the forward line and I thought he was serviceable. Kicked a cracking goal in the 3rd quarter.

When all is said and done, I think if you look at where Cameron and Daniher were on the field when McCarthy punched that ball forward in the final minute, and you swap them both over, we're more likely to get a goal, or at least a score, from that passage of play. There's no race back towards the pocket because Daniher and his opponent aren't that quick. So the ball stays in the field of play. But I'm still backing Joe to be more agile on the ground than Cordy or whoever he's playing on in that situation, and at worst, body him out of the way. Then you have Charlie and the mosquito fleet bolting inside 50, and, over that longer distance, without the ball in the immediate vicinity, Cameron leaves Duryea for dead.
 

briztoon

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Nov 28, 2015
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Sorry everyone, long post warning, but I've been stewing on this for a while, and quite frankly it could have been longer.

TL;DR:

  1. Hold a tall as the deepest forward at all times
  2. Find how/if our midfield strategy differed when Neale was/wasn’t in the team
  3. Defenders need to be able to beat their men one on one regardless of midfield pressure
  4. We should be the fittest team in the comp

It’s been 10 years since I posted on BigFooty, and about 17 years since I frequented the site in any meaningful capacity… Fair to say the quality of discussion looks to have improved considerably in that time, so the pressure is on to maintain that high standard!

I’m back because I hold similar fears as in early 2001 - that the current group has the talent to achieve considerable success, but that this talent is at risk of being wasted if several changes are not made.

  1. ATTACK

    To me this is the biggest thing. We get this one thing right and it could almost be enough to go all the way.

    Love the 3 key forward setup. But one of them simply has to hold their position and be the deepest forward. Playing Charlie Cameron one out inside 50 may look sensational and see plenty of scores kicked in the regular season, but it relies on quick ball movement and accurate delivery inside 50. Thus, it is not sustainable in finals. Here is a list of all the times that sort of strategy has worked in big games, for any team, ever:



    So we start 2022 with the Daniher/McStay/Fullarton triad, in addition to McInerney and Fort changing in the ruck. McStay holds as the deepest forward, given he’s the best contested mark of the 3, while the other 2 play as twin centre half forwards, taking one side of the ground each. When one leads beyond centre, the other falls in behind as a mobile target across half forward. Hipwood slots right into that role once fully fit. Cameron/Cockatoo get to McStay’s feet and fight like crazy to lock the ball in. Opportunities will present, and with the forward line less open, opposition defences will find it harder to exit.

  2. MIDFIELD

    To @briztoon’s point(s) about Neale, the stats when he played and didn’t play are staggering. 7 wins, 0 losses, % of 185 (average score 110 to 60) in the games he missed. 8 wins, 9 losses, % of 110 (average score 88 to 80) in the games he played. The sample sizes are both large enough for this to not be an anomaly, and they are almost completely reversed in the matches where Mathieson was in the starting 22 vs when he wasn’t. Not only that, we even LOOKED better defensively.

    It’s as though we play Russian roulette when Neale is in the team. He’s never going to line up on the defensive side of stoppages, whereas Mathieson is more likely to be given that role. So when Neale plays and things are going our way we look sensational, but when the opposition gets on top we look slow, lethargic, and disinterested in engaging in the grind necessary to wrench the contest back our way. I get that we don’t want to be dictated to, but the game against Fremantle in Perth was when we looked our best, and in hindsight it was little surprise to learn that blokes were given specific jobs to play on, and beat, a direct opponent. Simplicity is not always interesting or exciting, but it sure is successful.

  3. DEFENCE

    Fages talks about playing a “team defence”, relying on midfield pressure, which I get. But there still comes a time when we need to be able to simply put up our hand, play on an opponent, and beat them or break even, regardless of the delivery. We now know at least Andrews was playing injured, and this needs to stop. Let’s find out about our depth. Maybe an injured Harris Andrews is a better player than a fully fit Jack Payne now, but is he better than a fully fit Jack Payne with 20 or 30 games under his belt and feeling more sure of his place in the team? Let’s not guess, let’s know. Making these tough decisions now can only help Harris, Jack and the club as a whole, as we move forward.

  4. FITNESS

    We have the natural advantage of training all through preseason in 30 degree heat and higher humidity than in the southern states. We should be, by quite some distance, the fittest team in the comp. Yet our quarter-by-quarter performances in 2021 put us middle of the road, at best. In tight games, or even games in which we are well behind, this can be a massive factor. The Grand Final showed as much, where even in the second quarter ABC Radio’s boundary commentator mentioned that the Bulldogs players were coming off the field in a more “fatigued” and “distressed” state than the Melbourne players.
I was expecting a longer post. 😄
 

Section 5

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Nov 26, 2018
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Zorko happy with players offseason commitment

“What I’m seeing at the club at the moment is a team that is desperate to do better than what they have done in previous years,” Zorko told SEN’s Pat and Heals.
“The amount of players that I saw in the gym yesterday and I’ve seen right throughout the whole off-season, I don’t think a club can match it.

“I don’t think Oscar McInerny has missed a day since he’s finished, it’s phenomenal.

“He’s in there every single day, our general manager of football is like, ‘Go home mate’.

“He’s desperate to prove a point.

“He wants to be the number one ruckman in the competition I’d imagine.

Link to full article

 

M Malice

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Aug 31, 2015
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Zorko happy with players offseason commitment

“What I’m seeing at the club at the moment is a team that is desperate to do better than what they have done in previous years,” Zorko told SEN’s Pat and Heals.
“The amount of players that I saw in the gym yesterday and I’ve seen right throughout the whole off-season, I don’t think a club can match it.

“I don’t think Oscar McInerny has missed a day since he’s finished, it’s phenomenal.

“He’s in there every single day, our general manager of football is like, ‘Go home mate’.

“He’s desperate to prove a point.

“He wants to be the number one ruckman in the competition I’d imagine.

Link to full article

I drive or cycle past the Gabba twice a day to and from Yoga and just about every one of those days I see a player or players coming and going, Tom Berry today.
 

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Nunez

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The group see how close they are to going all the way....If that doesn't excite them and motivate them to do extra and be ready for Round 1, nothing will. 2022 will be an exciting year providing our list stays relatively injury free.
Feels it. Hell, if we had a good injury run in finals we'd have played the grand final. If injuries don't ruin our season, I can genuinely see us going all the way - especially with a fit Hipwood returning in the later stages.
 

M Malice

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Feels it. Hell, if we had a good injury run in finals we'd have played the grand final. If injuries don't ruin our season, I can genuinely see us going all the way - especially with a fit Hipwood returning in the later stages.
Yep we are right in the thick of the flag race, 1 point and some horrendous umpiring off being in a Prelim this season.... also I don't see us as far behind the Demons as some do, as you say a reasonable injury run and we can win it.
 

Section 5

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Each year teams change their game plan even if it is only slightly
The major change for the Lions in 2021 was 1 ruck with Joe as relief then it become Fullarton when Hippy went down
I was a big fan of 1 ruck preseason 2021 as it gives you another midfield/utility on the bench for rotations. Also keeps more mobility with the on field 22
This also helped our youngish mids McCluggage, Berry, Mathieson, Bailey, Prior get another year developing. Also good for Fullarton's development.
It worked well enough to get us to a SF but unfortunately resulted in a 1 point loss to the Dogs

However i think we got a bit lucky with the draw after Hippy went down in round 17 to sneak into 4th spot
We won 4 of 6 excluding the finals from round 18-23. With our losses being to Tigers (12th), Hawks (14th)
Our wins came against teams that were cooked for the season. Being Suns, Pies & Eagles who were just terrible towards the end & Dockers not much better

I will be very interested to see if we we revert back to 2 rucks and a 3rd forward tall possibly Payne
Our youngish mids are a year older and their TOG should increase to mostly make up for the extra bench mobility with a 2nd ruck
Then when Hippy comes back that would not change our forward structure. A ruck playing the 3rd tall is very different
So round 1 forwards could look something like

McCarthy - McStay - Zorko
Cameron - Daniher - 3rd tall (Payne ? then Hippy)

Bench: Fort/Fullarton as Ruck/Fwd relief of: Oscar 15%, McStay 20%, Daniher 12%, Payne 20% + maybe 5% elsewhere = total TOG of around 72%
Maybe closer to 70 % but that's okay

Fwd bench: Many to choose from Rayner, Berry x 2, Cockatoo, Ah Chee + bolters
 

mattsmob

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Each year teams change their game plan even if it is only slightly
The major change for the Lions in 2021 was 1 ruck with Joe as relief then it become Fullarton when Hippy went down
I was a big fan of 1 ruck preseason 2021 as it gives you another midfield/utility on the bench for rotations. Also keeps more mobility with the on field 22
This also helped our youngish mids McCluggage, Berry, Mathieson, Bailey, Prior get another year developing. Also good for Fullarton's development.
It worked well enough to get us to a SF but unfortunately resulted in a 1 point loss to the Dogs

However i think we got a bit lucky with the draw after Hippy went down in round 17 to sneak into 4th spot
We won 4 of 6 excluding the finals from round 18-23. With our losses being to Tigers (12th), Hawks (14th)
Our wins came against teams that were cooked for the season. Being Suns, Pies & Eagles who were just terrible towards the end & Dockers not much better

I will be very interested to see if we we revert back to 2 rucks and a 3rd forward tall possibly Payne
Our youngish mids are a year older and their TOG should increase to mostly make up for the extra bench mobility with a 2nd ruck
Then when Hippy comes back that would not change our forward structure. A ruck playing the 3rd tall is very different
So round 1 forwards could look something like

McCarthy - McStay - Zorko
Cameron - Daniher - 3rd tall (Payne ? then Hippy)

Bench: Fort/Fullarton as Ruck/Fwd relief of: Oscar 15%, McStay 20%, Daniher 12%, Payne 20% + maybe 5% elsewhere = total TOG of around 72%
Maybe closer to 70 % but that's okay

Fwd bench: Many to choose from Rayner, Berry x 2, Cockatoo, Ah Chee + bolters
Honestly I'd be very surprised if we play 3 tall forwards as well as 2 rucks, just feels way too tall for the pressure and territory game we like to play.
 

briztoon

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Each year teams change their game plan even if it is only slightly
The major change for the Lions in 2021 was 1 ruck with Joe as relief then it become Fullarton when Hippy went down
I was a big fan of 1 ruck preseason 2021 as it gives you another midfield/utility on the bench for rotations. Also keeps more mobility with the on field 22
This also helped our youngish mids McCluggage, Berry, Mathieson, Bailey, Prior get another year developing. Also good for Fullarton's development.
It worked well enough to get us to a SF but unfortunately resulted in a 1 point loss to the Dogs

However i think we got a bit lucky with the draw after Hippy went down in round 17 to sneak into 4th spot
We won 4 of 6 excluding the finals from round 18-23. With our losses being to Tigers (12th), Hawks (14th)
Our wins came against teams that were cooked for the season. Being Suns, Pies & Eagles who were just terrible towards the end & Dockers not much better

I will be very interested to see if we we revert back to 2 rucks and a 3rd forward tall possibly Payne
Our youngish mids are a year older and their TOG should increase to mostly make up for the extra bench mobility with a 2nd ruck
Then when Hippy comes back that would not change our forward structure. A ruck playing the 3rd tall is very different
So round 1 forwards could look something like

McCarthy - McStay - Zorko
Cameron - Daniher - 3rd tall (Payne ? then Hippy)

Bench: Fort/Fullarton as Ruck/Fwd relief of: Oscar 15%, McStay 20%, Daniher 12%, Payne 20% + maybe 5% elsewhere = total TOG of around 72%
Maybe closer to 70 % but that's okay

Fwd bench: Many to choose from Rayner, Berry x 2, Cockatoo, Ah Chee + bolters
I believe we'll play two rucks and two tall forwards until Hipwood is back from injury. I don't see us playing 2 rucks and 3 tall forwards. If Hipwood returns to full fitness and mobility, then we'll probably revert back to 1 ruck and 3 tall forwards.
 

Section 5

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Honestly I'd be very surprised if we play 3 tall forwards as well as 2 rucks, just feels way too tall for the pressure and territory game we like to play.
I believe we'll play two rucks and two tall forwards until Hipwood is back from injury. I don't see us playing 2 rucks and 3 tall forwards. If Hipwood returns to full fitness and mobility, then we'll probably revert back to 1 ruck and 3 tall forwards.
Both of you may very well turn out to be correct

Before the preseason games started in 2021 i was all for a 1 ruck structure in my posts. So a change from the Martin/McInerney combo in previous years.
Now with our younger mids a year older and knowing we are down Hippy from round one i have had a change of opinion

So, as i mentioned in my recent post i don't think we were that great for the 6 rounds we played a ruck up forward from round 18 onwards
We just got lucky on who we played after that happened

Lions were much better with 3 KPF and we played better teams in that period
McStay returned to the team in round 5. Before that game we were 1 win over Pies (finished 17th) by a point after the siren & 3 losses
We then went on to win every game except Melbourne from round 5 to round 16 with a 3 tall forward line. And of course only 1 ruck
We beat some good teams along the way in Bombers, Power, GWS, & Cats in that period
I have not included the round 17 loss to Saints as Hippy went down early (19% TOG) & J Berry went forward
Jo and Dan play much better with a 3rd tall.
Obviously if Lions go with someone else as a 3rd tall they won't have the impact of Hippy.
That player still picks up 12 + possessions and gets the 3rd tall defender. That stops a double team defense on Joe

Regarding the pressure forward game we play
I don't see a Fullarton or Fort applying any more pressure than say Payne or someone else when forward
In the scenario i mentioned previously we won't be any less mobile with the on-field 22 if our 2nd ruck only relieves Oscar + the 3 KPF
Our young mids will improve and can take up more TOG to cover rotations

Bench: 2nd Ruck, Defender, + 2 mid/fwd players
 

Sanchez365

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It would be a risky move for a team who's greatest weakness seemed to be getting opened up on the counter attack, to further reduce their spread with an additional taller player.

Personally I think we will go back to Danniher playing the backup ruck role when all himself, Hipwood and McStay are available.
 

Grasshopper17

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Tend to agree with Section 5. 3 key forwards and 2 rucks, changing off the bench, with the 3 tall forwards roaming up field but changing at full forward for a rest. I'll confess to not be an authority on what that does to the overall k's-per-game etc, so if one of them has to rest on the bench then so be it. Long story short, 4 big men forward of half back on the field at all times. That's only 4 out of 12 - I don't think that is unreasonable, especially given the unusually good mobility of Daniher/McStay/Fullarton/Hipwood.

I guess if I were to challenge those who think that makes us "too tall", I get it, but my question would be "does a team look too tall simply because they're not working hard enough at ground level?" I thought Daniher's ground level pressure game improved somewhat over the course of the season (it needed to), whereas Hipwood was already passable in that regard and McStay pretty good. Fullarton doesn't really have the body for it yet but hopefully that comes in the next season or 2. Oscar is excellent in this regard also (when he's "on"). Don't know about Fort - highlight videos for ruckmen don't exactly include tackles, chase downs and smothers do they!

I think at the very least the above setup is worth trying in preseason, and then for at least a month during the season. Whether this is the first month I'm not sure - a good start to the season is crucial, and something we didn't get this year.
 

Grasshopper17

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It would be a risky move for a team who's greatest weakness seemed to be getting opened up on the counter attack, to further reduce their spread with an additional taller player.
To me that is more about team discipline than leg speed. We hardly got opened up at all in the games Lachie Neale didn't play. Again, as I mentioned above, I don't know exactly why, but the correlation is too strong for it to be a coincidence. My question is whether that was how they were coached/drilled to play in those particular games, or decisions made by individuals out on the ground.
 

Mighty Lions

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It would be a risky move for a team who's greatest weakness seemed to be getting opened up on the counter attack, to further reduce their spread with an additional taller player.

Personally I think we will go back to Danniher playing the backup ruck role when all himself, Hipwood and McStay are available.
You are 100% right in the fact we got opened up too many times but that is not because we had too many talls. It was all because we had lazy forwards not working hard enough when we needed to switch from attack to defence. Although Hipwood's stats show he isnt a big tackler, he runs 12 kilometres a game and applies pressure all the time when the ball is with the opposition. Our small forwards (1 in particular) need to step up and increase their work rate to do more defensive work. Some just dont do enough.
 

briztoon

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You are 100% right in the fact we got opened up too many times but that is not because we had too many talls. It was all because we had lazy forwards not working hard enough when we needed to switch from attack to defence. Although Hipwood's stats show he isnt a big tackler, he runs 12 kilometres a game and applies pressure all the time when the ball is with the opposition. Our small forwards (1 in particular) need to step up and increase their work rate to do more defensive work. Some just dont do enough.
 

Dalions

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You are 100% right in the fact we got opened up too many times but that is not because we had too many talls. It was all because we had lazy forwards not working hard enough when we needed to switch from attack to defence. Although Hipwood's stats show he isnt a big tackler, he runs 12 kilometres a game and applies pressure all the time when the ball is with the opposition. Our small forwards (1 in particular) need to step up and increase their work rate to do more defensive work. Some just dont do enough.
Can’t put it all on the forwards though, the defensive running by the midfield at times was no better.
 

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