It's the midfield.

Crust

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“It’s the midfield, stupid.”
Robbieando, 2019*

Never was a truer word spoken.

Thought I’d start a midfield thread, as this doesn’t really go in the Longmire thread.
I’d like to discuss midfield structures and strategies.

Our defence has been magnificent. The inside 50 count is so lopsided the defence has been remarkable the keep opposition scores so low.

We have good forwards but our delivery has been woeful: again the mids.
And anyone who says “chaosball” is really saying “hack it into the forward 50, somewhere, anywhere and hope for the best”.

So what are the problems with the mids?
1. We don’t have a ruckman. Sinkers is wholehearted, 100% for effort, but he is just not good enough;
2. Coaching. I’m NOT referring to Horse here, although the buck stops with him. Our mids have deteriorated since 2017, when we had Josh Francou as midfield coach. We now have Kirk and Cox as midfield coaches.

We tend to say on this board that we need another inside beast etc., but IMO we need to use what we have better.

The glaring problem is that we don’t have the inside/outside balance right. A good midfielder knows when to go in and when to stay out. We get sucked into the contest too easily, getting caught in a no man’s land, neither in nor out. We’ve done this a lot in the last two years. A good example is the first quarter against Brisbane. We were all in, so that our handballs were about 0.5 to 1m in length. That means that the pressuring player can easily switch to the handball receiver, so that the result is that one opposition player is pressuring two of ours. If you are going to do a 1m handball you MUST put a shepherd on, but we don’t do that. (BTW the best shepherder we have is K. Jack, which is saying something). That’s why Brisbane creamed us on the outside in the first quarter.
With 1m handballs there is no time and space to deliver the ball with composure and precision into the forward line.
In the second quarter we pushed it forward and we had players running wider.

So when Jones had his break out games earlier this year he was running wide. Against Brisbane on Saturday he ran closer in.

Second, we seem to do the same things. Hewitt tags, Kennedy is inside etc.
Let’s mix it up.
The best way to teach someone how to play mids is to put them in a tagging role on the opposition’s best mid. That way the opposition drags him to the ball, and he sees first hand how to play mids from one of the best.
So I propose putting Mills into the tagging role, Hewitt into the inside, and Kennedy (as suggested by RUNVS) to the backline.

This leads me to leadership. I admire Josh Kennedy greatly, but he seems to me from very far away to be a “follow me” type leader, rather than someone who will strategize and organize on the run – compare Luke Hodge. Further, he is putting his head over the pill, so he can’t see everything. Someone on field needs to direct the junior mids (eg Florent), where to go. Who that is I don’t know. Who has the best footy brain amongst the regular mids?

Modern midfield strategies are far more sophisticated so I’m displaying my lack of knowledge. Surely Cox and Kirk know this but I’d appreciate it if those with greater knowledge could chip in.

*(I can’t find the post, but I think it was robbieando. Apologies if not)
 

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Tesla Tenet

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#3
Thoughtful post. I have talked about spacing, spread, but generally ignored by most posters. 1m handpasses just doesn't cut it any more.

In open play I have seen 4 players running to the same ball/player and then easily bypassed by a quick hand pass or knock on to space.

If we told our players to pickup your man or your 'space' and then close him down or beat your man we would be going OK.

We don't tackle much or end up with broken tackles and we don't shepherd much either.
 

Bloodied52

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#4
“It’s the midfield, stupid.”
Robbieando, 2019*

Never was a truer word spoken.

Thought I’d start a midfield thread, as this doesn’t really go in the Longmire thread.
I’d like to discuss midfield structures and strategies.

Our defence has been magnificent. The inside 50 count is so lopsided the defence has been remarkable the keep opposition scores so low.

We have good forwards but our delivery has been woeful: again the mids.
And anyone who says “chaosball” is really saying “hack it into the forward 50, somewhere, anywhere and hope for the best”.

So what are the problems with the mids?
1. We don’t have a ruckman. Sinkers is wholehearted, 100% for effort, but he is just not good enough;
2. Coaching. I’m NOT referring to Horse here, although the buck stops with him. Our mids have deteriorated since 2017, when we had Josh Francou as midfield coach. We now have Kirk and Cox as midfield coaches.

We tend to say on this board that we need another inside beast etc., but IMO we need to use what we have better.

The glaring problem is that we don’t have the inside/outside balance right. A good midfielder knows when to go in and when to stay out. We get sucked into the contest too easily, getting caught in a no man’s land, neither in nor out. We’ve done this a lot in the last two years. A good example is the first quarter against Brisbane. We were all in, so that our handballs were about 0.5 to 1m in length. That means that the pressuring player can easily switch to the handball receiver, so that the result is that one opposition player is pressuring two of ours. If you are going to do a 1m handball you MUST put a shepherd on, but we don’t do that. (BTW the best shepherder we have is K. Jack, which is saying something). That’s why Brisbane creamed us on the outside in the first quarter.
With 1m handballs there is no time and space to deliver the ball with composure and precision into the forward line.
In the second quarter we pushed it forward and we had players running wider.

So when Jones had his break out games earlier this year he was running wide. Against Brisbane on Saturday he ran closer in.

Second, we seem to do the same things. Hewitt tags, Kennedy is inside etc.
Let’s mix it up.
The best way to teach someone how to play mids is to put them in a tagging role on the opposition’s best mid. That way the opposition drags him to the ball, and he sees first hand how to play mids from one of the best.
So I propose putting Mills into the tagging role, Hewitt into the inside, and Kennedy (as suggested by RUNVS) to the backline.

This leads me to leadership. I admire Josh Kennedy greatly, but he seems to me from very far away to be a “follow me” type leader, rather than someone who will strategize and organize on the run – compare Luke Hodge. Further, he is putting his head over the pill, so he can’t see everything. Someone on field needs to direct the junior mids (eg Florent), where to go. Who that is I don’t know. Who has the best footy brain amongst the regular mids?

Modern midfield strategies are far more sophisticated so I’m displaying my lack of knowledge. Surely Cox and Kirk know this but I’d appreciate it if those with greater knowledge could chip in.

*(I can’t find the post, but I think it was robbieando. Apologies if not)
Great post. Think our problems begin with Sinkers. On top of that we have B grade mids.
 
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Great OP Crust!

I think you have highlighted the disorganised nature of our midfield really well.

I guess there is the added layer of changeover. We have kids like Jones, Dawson, Paps & Hewy being asked to play a few different styles & often as part of what was a fairly stable midfield for a lot of years previously.

We had Hanners/JPK/Kizza/Parker (& Jude, Titch etc too) & built around them. Like our defence, we were stable. We knew what we were getting most of the time... but then Hanners & Kizza started breaking down, JPK has slowed up & Parker hasn't lifted to elote elite status as we'd hoped (still bloody good mind you!).

Stability has gone now & we need to re-establish that stability as fast as we can with the right structure & people in the spots we see them holding down for the next 5 odd years.

IMO I want the midfield to look like:

JPK + Heeney/Parker + Hewy + Jones + Mills + Paps/Dawson/Rowbottom.

Rotate Parker more forward with Heens.

Allow Jones to run & carry.

Unleash Hewy from tagging where possible.

I think Mills will prove to people why he was so highly rated if he's given liberty & time in the midfield.

We have a surprising amount of talent & depth. We need to focus on structuring it for the next 5 years. I'm really excited to see our kids step up now & take over. And the midfield is the core of that transition. It is vital & impacts all the structures & personel choices everywhere else on the ground... so we need to get it right.
 

BloodySwan

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#6
Second, we seem to do the same things. Hewitt tags, Kennedy is inside etc.
Let’s mix it up.
The best way to teach someone how to play mids is to put them in a tagging role on the opposition’s best mid. That way the opposition drags him to the ball, and he sees first hand how to play mids from one of the best.
So I propose putting Mills into the tagging role, Hewitt into the inside, and Kennedy (as suggested by RUNVS) to the backline.
I was thinking this about our team. In 2012 we had a dynamic midfield which meant we were constantly changing matchups and each time improving matchups. Now our midfield is extremely static throughout the game. Having a dynamic midfield will hurt us in the short term but will help us in the long run
 

Mick Oxlong

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Great OP Crust!

I think you have highlighted the disorganised nature of our midfield really well.

I guess there is the added layer of changeover. We have kids like Jones, Dawson, Paps & Hewy being asked to play a few different styles & often as part of what was a fairly stable midfield for a lot of years previously.

We had Hanners/JPK/Kizza/Parker (& Jude, Titch etc too) & built around them. Like our defence, we were stable. We knew what we were getting most of the time... but then Hanners & Kizza started breaking down, JPK has slowed up & Parker hasn't lifted to elote elite status as we'd hoped (still bloody good mind you!).

Stability has gone now & we need to re-establish that stability as fast as we can with the right structure & people in the spots we see them holding down for the next 5 odd years.

IMO I want the midfield to look like:

JPK + Heeney/Parker + Hewy + Jones + Mills + Paps/Dawson/Rowbottom.

Rotate Parker more forward with Heens.

Allow Jones to run & carry.

Unleash Hewy from tagging where possible.

I think Mills will prove to people why he was so highly rated if he's given liberty & time in the midfield.

We have a surprising amount of talent & depth. We need to focus on structuring it for the next 5 years. I'm really excited to see our kids step up now & take over. And the midfield is the core of that transition. It is vital & impacts all the structures & personel choices everywhere else on the ground... so we need to get it right.
No offence to Crust, I think it’s important to talk about and will become fantastic reading but in my opinion, this is a far better post.
 

BruceFromBalnarring

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#8
Great OP.

Marks this season (after 6 games):

Sydney
Reid 29
McCartin 15
Sinclair 21 (158 ho)
Aliir 38.

GWS
Cameron 43
Haynes 34
Mumford 11 (161 ho) (4 games)
Tomlinson 40.

And I agree our midfield is transitioning in personnel.

But is it any wonder our mids look slow? They're buggered! There's no respite. No easy ball.

I've been a supporter of Reid for a very long time and remain so. I think he will find his mojo. There are a number saying drop Reid in favour and keep McCartin. Well his numbers are worse.

Sinkers is neither getting hitouts nor is he taking marks.

It's a shocking year for our main tap ruckman to be injured. He won't be the messiah, but it will lead to improvement in our midfield. But we're going to need to find another, because with the rule change, we're screwed. Even if we did have more midfield depth.

But we also need to get more contested marks out of Reid and McCartin because those numbers are killing us.

For the past 12 odd months we've had this perfect storm of rule changes and the wrong blokes getting injured. This year it's worse.
 

caesar88

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#9
Said it before and I’ll say it again. Less playing for contact and more playing for the ball. Logic says otherwise, but I’m yet to see any evidence that JPK and Parker don’t like being tackled when they get the footy.
 

legend166

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I just want there to be some significant changes made one way or another. This isn't new information - it was clear last year that our midfield had fallen off a cliff compared to our peak in 2016. Kennedy's drop has been significant and Parker has struggled big time now he doesn't have cover from other mids.

That's why I don't understand what Longmire is doing when he takes players out of the midfield to plug holes in other areas. It's not even hard to see statistically. In terms of differential per game:

- 18th in contested possessions
- 15th in overall clearances
- 15th in centre clearances
- 18th in inside 50s

To me that's the absolute number one thing we need to fix because you're never going to win anything with those numbers.

Just to compare to our 2016 team:

- 3rd in contested possessions
- 5th in overall clearances
- 5th in centre clearances
- 7th in inside 50s

Two other things popped out when looking at the stats:

- We're the worst turnover team in the competition, lead by Lloyd and Thurlow, who are meant to be our distributors off half back.
- We're the worst inside 50 tackle team in the competition

So really we suck everywhere but I'd focus on the midfield because if you get that right the others become less important.
 

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J_Moore

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#12
I feel like the turnovers in our back half are possibly exacerbated by our midfield not presenting.

Part of this is how they’re structured forward of the ball, but I also just think the effort isn’t there. They’re no proactive enough, either around the contest or in space.
 
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#13
There is a lot more to this than just the midfield.

Let me put an alternative hypothesis to the midfield. Its not really alternative but it shows why there is more to fix than the midfield. But the midfield has been troubling for a few years against the really good midfields.

So lets acknowledge that we have been beaten in the midfield since 2012 in lots of key matches. Geelong had more inside fifties in the 2016 prelim final. Hawthorn in 2012 gf. Bulldogs in 2016 gf. But these games were close and we were playing against the best teams. So that begs the question - is it really the midfield ?

Many have consistently said that the swans don't like losing the midfield but are better able to adjust to this than anyone else. And that has been the case since 2016.

Let me put the why to this.

Structures and personnel. Personnel - Grundy, Laidler, Richards, Rampe, Mills, Smith. Structures Rohan, Reid, Laidler

Consistently in the past the back line has marked opposition kicks. Consistently intercept marks has been one of our absolute strengths. So we might lose around the middle but we have been able to rebound from there. There were three reasons for this - one other teams rarely exited perfectly. Our midfield were pretty good at making the ball contested so it tended to have a hack kick forwards which meant the ball movement of our opponents was rarely that good.

Secondly we had players who weren't quick but read the ball in the air really bloody well. The personnel noted above with the exception of rohan and rampe are slllloooowwww. But they are all really good at reading the ball. So contested hack kicks we tended to swallow and rebound.

Three, we played a spare man back. So even when we didnt mark it we were rarely outmarked and we outnumbered when the ball hit the ground. And we could get away with this because with buddy and tippett forward teams usually wanted to have a spare defender as well. So we exited with good kicks - mills, jetta, mcveigh, lloyd. And when we didnt have a good kick with the ball they were usually able to hit centre wing and we forced a contest.

Many on here hate the spare man back thing and see this as horse's weakness. I want to put it that it has been the only thing that has been keeping us in games for the past 3 seasons.

There are lots of those who have seen the midfield failing and wanted it addressed - me amongst them. But I think a lot also want to see open attacking footy - whereas I remain of the view that our side is simply not good enough to play that way. And its only now that people seem to be coming to a realisation about the list.
 

Number37

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#14
A large part of our midfield woes is the way our mids get umpired.
Our mids used to be masters at locking the ball in & only letting it out if it was to our advantage.
Now they get pinged for holding the ball with or without prior opportunity.
At the same time the opposition can throw or drop the ball with immunity.

We also don't have enough clean handballs, like the good ole days.
It's always rush, rush, rush. Hope.

Our midfield structure is also crap.
At the time the ball is contested at a stoppage, more often than not, you can draw a straight line to line up our mids.
IMO, they should line up more like a U than in a straight line.
 
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Crust

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Melbournehammer:

Interesting take and I totally get it. As Clarko whinged we had the block of the opposition forward while Reg took an uncontested down to a fine art.
However we cannot do that any more.
I haven't looked at the stats but my impression is that we are conceding even more inside fifties this season than before. So the defence has done really well, as it always has.
I think it is more than a question of personnel but the way we use them. There is of course a lot of inexperience, so, like GotTheGoodes said, I'm excited to see our talent developing.
But there is a defensive mindset that I think is unnecessary.

Number 37:
I agree.
The traditional set up has the goto, stopper and sweeper. Over the last few years the wingers are brought in, the logic being that the more players around the ball the more chences of securing it.
For example, take a boundary throw in on left centre wing. The goto and sweeper will be at around 5 - 7 pm, the goals being at 12 on a clock face. The wingers will start at around 4 - 5 pm and will run across on the open side to receive the ball from the goto. When the first winger receives it, he draws the closest opposition player and handballs to the next winger, who is in open space.
When this happens, it looks like the ball being passed out the backline in rugby. Geelong, Collingwood and GWS are particularly good at this.
We don't do this. We will have one winger at 4, with the other at 7 or 8, to stop the opposition attacking from between the boundary and the ruck contest. This is our defensive mindset.
Compare GWS, who leave the space between the boundary and the ruck open. The reasoning is that if you get the ball between the boundary and the ruck your delivery options are very narrow - between down the boundary line and towards CHF. This is easy to protect with a zone defence. So GWS says " if you want it on the boundary go for it and we will zone you out. But if we get it on the open side we will crack you open with the extra winger".
Then if we get it to the openside winger, he is on his own and has no one outside, while GWS has two to pressure him.

The thing is that I reckon that if I can see this, Kirk and Cox can, and a great deal more. So what are they doing?
 

Number37

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#16
The thing is that I reckon that if I can see this, Kirk and Cox can, and a great deal more. So what are they doing?
IMO: 2 reasons;

1_When you're under the pump the inclination is to go to the contest to try to win the ball. The more the team is under the pump the more players start trying to win contests on their own.
2_In the hey day of our mdifield we had Macca directing traffic and our structure was 100 times better. He copped lots of flak for not 'winning his own ball', but most of the time staying out of a contest was better than 'winning his own ball'.

On a side note, our tackling does not have the sting it used to.
 

Crust

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IMO: 2 reasons;

1_When you're under the pump the inclination is to go to the contest to try to win the ball. The more the team is under the pump the more players start trying to win contests on their own.
2_In the hey day of our mdifield we had Macca directing traffic and our structure was 100 times better. He copped lots of flak for not 'winning his own ball', but most of the time staying out of a contest was better than 'winning his own ball'.

On a side note, our tackling does not have the sting it used to.

Totally agree. It takes discipline and a little courage to stay out of the contest. A player is 5m away, and the natural inclination is to do something. When they could stay out they go in.
Or they unconsciously take a step, then another towards the contest and before they realise it they are in no man's land.
When I say courage, I mean that the player may be afraid to NOT do something.
Back in the day there were ball getters and ball receivers. The latter appellation was usually accompanied with a slight sneer, as if the receiver was too soft to get his own pill. But they are vital.
 

Tedeski

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#19
Many on here hate the spare man back thing and see this as horse's weakness. I want to put it that it has been the only thing that has been keeping us in games for the past 3 seasons.
Very well put forward MH. This is close to how I see it too. Spare man back has affected a few teams more than others. Melbourne as well have struggled without the intercept marking of the spare man back. They also liked to have two men running off the square at CHB into the centre at centre bounces with a swarm forward whicxh worked beautifully for them. How else can they have fallen so badly?

We are not alone but have been a victim of the 666 twice as hard because our midfield is severely down on form as a group. That adds even more pressure on the back line that not only had the benefit of the extra man back but also a hard defending midfield that was able to help our team absorb the opposition's entries & then swarm forward as a group with hard two way runners. Hanners was the epitome of such a midfielder that could run hard both ways but fell away badly in this area due to injury, form etc. Rohan too when on, used to cover for the slower types like JPK, Parker & Tom Mitchell back in 2016. The early signs were there in early 2017 when 0 & 6 & we had lost Mitchell, Hanners & Jack weren't fit & Macca was out. It's no coincidence.

Our back line have trained with the extra man back for years & also with a high demand on our midfield to run hard two ways. Now we just don't have the key components to be able to do that, let alone without the ability to have an extra man back & then attack from there.

Are we trying to address this? I believe so but it is why we look to be having putrid quarters where the opposition have 20 indise 50's to our 6 & have had 10 to 12 scoring shots in the meantime to our 2......................game over right there.
If we weren't addressing it we wouldn't have the competitive tyupe of fightback that we had the other day to only be 3 points down with 2 minutes to play in the 3rd. The coaches are addressing it but now it's just got to gel but with the further loss of one of our in form players in Cunningham, it may set us back a little these next few weeks.

Enjoyable reading on this thread without the sole blame being put on Longmire & coaches. That's just uninteresting stuff just blaming the coach only. You need to go deeper into that than just coaches & game plan. It certainly is a combination of things but personnel is often the core issue of our problems.
Unfortunately this week, even if Buddy & a fit Menzel come into the line up, it won't change the main issue. Contest at the ball in the midfield, starting with consistently losing the ruck battle, followed by the midfield's ability to have a flurry of handballs to get out of the congestion & be able to have a controlled kick forward to those guys. It's far deeper than just sticking Mills in the middle. It's not a quick fix & I saw this coming when they announced the 6 6 6 & we were not able to win the signatures of either Moore or Langdon & even McGovern, three brilliant intercept marks that may have helped somewhat with our predicament.

Just my thoughts on the back of what you guys have put forward.
Cheers
 

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#20
IMO: 2 reasons;

1_When you're under the pump the inclination is to go to the contest to try to win the ball. The more the team is under the pump the more players start trying to win contests on their own.
2_In the hey day of our mdifield we had Macca directing traffic and our structure was 100 times better. He copped lots of flak for not 'winning his own ball', but most of the time staying out of a contest was better than 'winning his own ball'.

On a side note, our tackling does not have the sting it used to.
On the money there 37.
Our tackling is poor but that comes with fatigue.
 

The King!

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#21
if only the club identified all of this in 2016 and didnt trade one of the best mids in the game away for a packet of chips


footys evolved and our midfield set up is essentially the same as 2012, theres not the cattle and skillset to do it


we seem to have also lost any two way running, skills fine they can fall, but workrate is rarely there, tackling is poor also
 

Number37

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#22
Back in the day there were ball getters and ball receivers. The latter appellation was usually accompanied with a slight sneer, as if the receiver was too soft to get his own pill. But they are vital.
Can't please all the people all the time, unfortunately.

Totally agree. It takes discipline and a little courage to stay out of the contest. A player is 5m away, and the natural inclination is to do something. When they could stay out they go in.
Or they unconsciously take a step, then another towards the contest and before they realise it they are in no man's land.
When I say courage, I mean that the player may be afraid to NOT do something.
When the playing group starts getting more confidence and trust in each other it will get better. Richmond 2017 is the best example.
 

Kapanis

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#23
There is a lot more to this than just the midfield.

Let me put an alternative hypothesis to the midfield. Its not really alternative but it shows why there is more to fix than the midfield. But the midfield has been troubling for a few years against the really good midfields.

So lets acknowledge that we have been beaten in the midfield since 2012 in lots of key matches. Geelong had more inside fifties in the 2016 prelim final. Hawthorn in 2012 gf. Bulldogs in 2016 gf. But these games were close and we were playing against the best teams. So that begs the question - is it really the midfield ?

Many have consistently said that the swans don't like losing the midfield but are better able to adjust to this than anyone else. And that has been the case since 2016.

Let me put the why to this.

Structures and personnel. Personnel - Grundy, Laidler, Richards, Rampe, Mills, Smith. Structures Rohan, Reid, Laidler

Consistently in the past the back line has marked opposition kicks. Consistently intercept marks has been one of our absolute strengths. So we might lose around the middle but we have been able to rebound from there. There were three reasons for this - one other teams rarely exited perfectly. Our midfield were pretty good at making the ball contested so it tended to have a hack kick forwards which meant the ball movement of our opponents was rarely that good.

Secondly we had players who weren't quick but read the ball in the air really bloody well. The personnel noted above with the exception of rohan and rampe are slllloooowwww. But they are all really good at reading the ball. So contested hack kicks we tended to swallow and rebound.

Three, we played a spare man back. So even when we didnt mark it we were rarely outmarked and we outnumbered when the ball hit the ground. And we could get away with this because with buddy and tippett forward teams usually wanted to have a spare defender as well. So we exited with good kicks - mills, jetta, mcveigh, lloyd. And when we didnt have a good kick with the ball they were usually able to hit centre wing and we forced a contest.

Many on here hate the spare man back thing and see this as horse's weakness. I want to put it that it has been the only thing that has been keeping us in games for the past 3 seasons.

There are lots of those who have seen the midfield failing and wanted it addressed - me amongst them. But I think a lot also want to see open attacking footy - whereas I remain of the view that our side is simply not good enough to play that way. And its only now that people seem to be coming to a realisation about the list.
Lots to like about this post hammer.
 
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#24
So many good points made here.

One id like to add (more of a gripe though) Cameron has been literally given no game time - still?

Do they just ignore the potential nightmare of Sinclair being injured?

Who cares if Darcy is not up to it yet? Its not like Sinclair is dominating in the ruck dept...

Who knows, he might rise to occasion. Who knows, Sinclair could give our mids better use instead of being fatigued af EVERY week playing solo ruck.

If its so crucial to our structure to have a ruckman who can rest up forward, then why have we persisted for nearly 2 seasons with just 1?
 

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#25
I thought that Dew was our midfield coach pre 2017, not Francou?
 
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