Why our game plan wins – A thesis

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Dr Tigris

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Aug 19, 2009
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TLDR – We pressure the opposition so that they rush their possessions and we intercept, our attacking style controls the ball enough and this leads to massive numbers of repeat efforts, so we wear teams out.



I’ve been thinking of this for ages and decided to write about why our game plan under Dimma is different, and how it keeps winning.

Why? Firstly I’m that kinda guy. Secondly many posters have, I reckon, the wrong way of thinking about how we do what we do.

The key thing is that I believe we have a different worldview on how to play the game. In other words, Richmond thinks about how the game actually works differently. That means we do things differently. We recruit, develop, train and play to our way of thinking, not the typical way used by other clubs, the media, commentators and most AFL fans.

I’m not putting in actual stats, because they’re hard to find and it’d make this post way too long when it’s already too long.

Three things that underpin everything else in this post

  • There an old bit of wisdom that there are 3 phases in footy. 1) You have the ball, 2) they have the ball, and 3) the ball is in contest. I propose that we play with 2 ‘shadow’ phases in between. When we or they have the ball, but the ball carrier is under pressure, so they can’t do a clean disposal. That is, we don’t use the normal 3 phases thinking and it advantages us.
  • We are the best repeat effort team in the AFL. This is because we went out and recruited the best repeat sprinters we could find. And we’ve trained for repeat sprints/efforts in a way other teams don’t. This means that our squad has the best innate ability to do repeat sprints/efforts in the AFL. This is really important. The stats I have seen we are 10% ahead of the next best AFL team. After that the gap just increases. I equate repeat sprints to repeat efforts (not just a sprint, but getting involved in play) more broadly. When playing well we are a better repeat effort team than any other in the comp.
  • Winning contested ball doesn’t matter much. When Dimma came in he was aware that the Hawks stats guy/s had shown that simply winning the ball had no correlation with goals. What is important was the first clean possession 2-3 meters from the contest. This is the heart of our game plan. Go back to my point 1. This means that phase 3, the ball is in contest isn’t related to winning the game directly. What is important is having the ability to truly control what you do with the ball when you have it, and to take away the ability of the opposition to control what they do after they win a contest.
What we do is try to is increase the duration of the shadow phase I mentioned before. This is because 1) we create turnovers from their pressured possessions, and 2) we have a unique style that assist us in breaking from contest and getting it forward.

To explain, starting from a contested situation. What we do is play one or two guys in the contest. Their goal isn’t mainly to win the ball, it’s to stop clean ball from the contest for other teams and to allow us to have an outnumber around the contest. Therefore, our inside mids are usually outnumbered (watch to see this in games). So Cotch went from Brownlow to good possessions but not elite. The club says that he sacrificed his game and that in the stats we cared about he was amazing. I reckon these stats are about setting the stage where we get that shadow phase ball. Cotch, Graham etc are playing to make sure the contest doesn’t allow easy ball out for the opposition. When the ball comes out we have an outnumber. We tackle them if they get it and force a turnover, if we get it the release is super-fast and often unclean. So don’t look for Tiger contested possessions, look for scores from contests.

Next comes the repeat effort side of how we play. We cause contest after contest and knock the ball on. Because we are the best repeat effort team in the AFL we continue to get outnumbers and shut down the oppo when they get the ball. Over time we slowly grind them down and the initial advantage in outnumbers slowly increases. By trying to force the shadow phases we make the whole game about repeat efforts. And we know that we will win that contest.

So what we do is ‘simply’ apply a heap of pressure in a certain way that forces the game into a place where clean possession is really hard for the opposition. So we create “chaos’ to most observers. But because we are set up for that it’s controlled chaos – our control, their chaos. The longer we can keep that game style going the greater our in-built advantage.

This is why we defend how we do and why when we get the ball we break fast through forward handball and ground kicks forward. We use that repeat effort advantage to create space for us and to grind the opposition down.

Our defence works off this style as well. Because it’s so hard to get out clean ball teams will dump kick it forward. So we set up 30-50 meters of the contest and intercept and then rebound. We’re not shutting it down like the Saints did in their prime years ago. We’re creating a free form game where you simply have to go again and again and again chasing dirty ball.

Our forward set up is also keyed off this. Because of our style we often move it forward under pressure. So we use forward handball from the contest. This does 4 things; 1) it forces the oppo to run and so wears them down, 2) it allows us an controllable way of moving the ball when we’re under pressure, 3) it makes the players face our goal (discussed later) and 4) opens up our forward line (defences have to play higher because we run it in so much – leaving JR/Tom/Dusty one out). When we get space we tend to kick the ball long to the top of the square for Tom/Jack/Dusty, go for a free player further out, or just to put dirty ball in and use our strong forwards and swarming pressure to get crumbed goals.

Our style of forward handballs and extending the contest turns the game to face our goals. This means that in almost all circumstances the ball is likely to go our way, and if the oppo gets the ball they have to turn around or move the ball backwards. By making the play go our direction we can make 50:50 contests almost always move the ball towards our goal. Look at the 2020 GF (2nd half) and watch how from the contest we knock on or kick the ball about 5-10 meters. This means that we move the contest for the ball towards our goals in a way where we are always coming along heading toward goal. As we do this it causes the oppo to do repeat efforts, and turns their set up into what we want. Someone gets a break and we can move the ball fast by foot or hand without pressure. But otherwise we just keep on doing something simple and easy – move the ball 5 to 10 meters on and try to create that break. Always increasing pressure as we get closer to our goal. Very simple, not easy, and relentless.

OK so we have this strange game style probably never played in the AFL before – cause we deliberately built a squad to do it. Around 2014/15 we started to recruit massive repeat effort players, and focused our training on repeat efforts – bore fruit in 2017. We have deliberately looked for the best repeat effort (usually running) player when everything else is even. The draft guys way back when realised that this attribute was undervalued in drafting, so we just kept recruiting these players. This means 1) our squad has more innate repeat effort ability, and 2) our development/training increases this advantage. Then we built a game style around this ability as I’ve described.

How do we get beaten nowadays? Good question BF.

We get beaten when we allow clean possession from contests and/or ball movement that goes around our structures. Sometimes teams get hold of our inside mids and we get ripped apart. Because if they can get that clean ball from the contest we are set up with way too much space. The clean ball goes outside of our set up and then because our defence is so deep for the intercept they have acres of space. Goodbye Irene! The other way is when teams get the ball, say in defence, and then move it around using safe kicks until we are out of position and they can run/kick through our set up and the same defensive problems come up. In both cases teams take that shadow phase away from us.

So what are we doing? We’ve realised that sometimes we just don’t have the inside mids to go with elite teams. So we’re fixing that – Prestia and game plan. We got Tom Lynch because we needed that tall marking outlet target. We have also adjusted to the kick the ball around style by adjusting our teasing distance. In 2020 we adjusted our centre contests as well.

When you watch our games see what happens if the contests are static, that is they occur in one spot. We tend to either lose them or cause a ball up. What we try and do is get the ball moving around. This means that instead of a few specialist inside mids getting hands on the ball, most players have to go inside and also play outside. It means that many players are doing many efforts. Because we train for this style of contest we usually win them. Teams then have to chase and we’ll simply grind them into the ground.

Summary, our main point of difference is that we try to make the game a game of multiple efforts, continually moving. This wears teams out. It also causes implied pressure – you know pressure is coming so you rush what you do. This can end up crushing teams as they tire and then start to do stupid things.

Recruitment and development of players: IMHO many people think that players that tick the typical metrics are better than those that are worse at those metrics but awesome in the shadow phases. Case in point, Jack Graham – he causes the game to be played our way through pressure and continuous efforts. Cotch has changed his game to impact how the game is played more than racking up stats. George and Dan R play to lock the ball in and move it forward (often messily) more than kick goals. We look to players who can do repeat efforts. Obviously, we look for pure talent even if they don’t have that repeat effort ability yet (RCD when drafted). But by consistently picking players that have the ability go more often than others we stay ahead of the rest in how we win games. The other thing I think we look for is ability to simply do things in contests and under pressure. Maybe not genius, but creativity and positive play. This is different to pure traditional footy skills, perhaps more about attitude.

This style is very taxing, which is partly why we try to ramp things up coming into September. We’re learning to do that better.

And IMHO we can win premierships without Dusty – it’s just harder. As in, Dusty makes about 3 or 4 goals difference. So we’d win 17, 19 and 20. But much tougher in 17 and 20.



Long post, but I tried to get my thoughts down. People think we’re playing some sort of ‘normal’ game style. We’re not. A lot of the key things we do aren’t in any published stats. Right now we are the only team built to do what we do. Hopefully we’ll stay ahead of the pack and our style, which is built for finals, will endure.
 

rfctigerarmy

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Not a thesis, but IMO we've just got a different, genuine mentality when it comes to work (AFL). It can't be forced, and if other clubs try to emulate it, it seems that way.

I also don't think you can say "take 3-4 goals off each GF and we still win the flag". Dusty provides more than just goals, and provides a lot during the season too. He's changed finals. Changed individual games. It's not a simple maths figure.
 

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Dr Tigris

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oh dear, can this be best summed up we have players that apply pressure when needed and who react quicker than others to force and repeat entry?
Not really. We play a style that keeps the ball in the l on the edge of the contest phase for as long as possible, until we get our break. We select and develop players to suit our style. But the key is what we do is qualitatively different to other teams. How we set up, how we react to the game flow is different.

We force the game to be played in a style to suits us. And because we have players suited to that relentless style, and train for it we grind teams down.

I put the style ahead of the players in how we win. But without the right players we wouldn't be able to play our style well.

And, as I said, we started recruiting players with amazing repeat ability well before we started playing this style.
 

Dr Tigris

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The quality of player is important. Lambert. Bolton. Edwards. Etc suit the style
Yep, smart instinctive players suit what we do. Interesting that Dimma was blowing Naish's horn this week. But said that he didn't suit our style - accumulator who likes to run and kick. We want it tight and under pressure, so a very good player like Paddy Naish sort of fits, but not quite.
 

Dr Tigris

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Aug 19, 2009
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Not a thesis, but IMO we've just got a different, genuine mentality when it comes to work (AFL). It can't be forced, and if other clubs try to emulate it, it seems that way.

I also don't think you can say "take 3-4 goals off each GF and we still win the flag". Dusty provides more than just goals, and provides a lot during the season too. He's changed finals. Changed individual games. It's not a simple maths figure.
I think it's more than mentality, it's an evolved whole of game plan and approach that is different.

I probably phrased my Dusty statement poorly. What I meant is that people reckon Dusty is why we win. If we replaced Dusty with, say Caddy, we'd lose a few goals overall, but still play our style and still win lots of games - especially finals. I reckon we'd win all 3 premierships without Dusty, but it would be closer.
 

Tiger_Of_Old

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TLDR – We pressure the opposition so that they rush their possessions and we intercept, our attacking style controls the ball enough and this leads to massive numbers of repeat efforts, so we wear teams out.



I’ve been thinking of this for ages and decided to write about why our game plan under Dimma is different, and how it keeps winning.

Why? Firstly I’m that kinda guy. Secondly many posters have, I reckon, the wrong way of thinking about how we do what we do.

The key thing is that I believe we have a different worldview on how to play the game. In other words, Richmond thinks about how the game actually works differently. That means we do things differently. We recruit, develop, train and play to our way of thinking, not the typical way used by other clubs, the media, commentators and most AFL fans.

I’m not putting in actual stats, because they’re hard to find and it’d make this post way too long when it’s already too long.

Three things that underpin everything else in this post

  • There an old bit of wisdom that there are 3 phases in footy. 1) You have the ball, 2) they have the ball, and 3) the ball is in contest. I propose that we play with 2 ‘shadow’ phases in between. When we or they have the ball, but the ball carrier is under pressure, so they can’t do a clean disposal. That is, we don’t use the normal 3 phases thinking and it advantages us.
  • We are the best repeat effort team in the AFL. This is because we went out and recruited the best repeat sprinters we could find. And we’ve trained for repeat sprints/efforts in a way other teams don’t. This means that our squad has the best innate ability to do repeat sprints/efforts in the AFL. This is really important. The stats I have seen we are 10% ahead of the next best AFL team. After that the gap just increases. I equate repeat sprints to repeat efforts (not just a sprint, but getting involved in play) more broadly. When playing well we are a better repeat effort team than any other in the comp.
  • Winning contested ball doesn’t matter much. When Dimma came in he was aware that the Hawks stats guy/s had shown that simply winning the ball had no correlation with goals. What is important was the first clean possession 2-3 meters from the contest. This is the heart of our game plan. Go back to my point 1. This means that phase 3, the ball is in contest isn’t related to winning the game directly. What is important is having the ability to truly control what you do with the ball when you have it, and to take away the ability of the opposition to control what they do after they win a contest.
What we do is try to is increase the duration of the shadow phase I mentioned before. This is because 1) we create turnovers from their pressured possessions, and 2) we have a unique style that assist us in breaking from contest and getting it forward.

To explain, starting from a contested situation. What we do is play one or two guys in the contest. Their goal isn’t mainly to win the ball, it’s to stop clean ball from the contest for other teams and to allow us to have an outnumber around the contest. Therefore, our inside mids are usually outnumbered (watch to see this in games). So Cotch went from Brownlow to good possessions but not elite. The club says that he sacrificed his game and that in the stats we cared about he was amazing. I reckon these stats are about setting the stage where we get that shadow phase ball. Cotch, Graham etc are playing to make sure the contest doesn’t allow easy ball out for the opposition. When the ball comes out we have an outnumber. We tackle them if they get it and force a turnover, if we get it the release is super-fast and often unclean. So don’t look for Tiger contested possessions, look for scores from contests.

Next comes the repeat effort side of how we play. We cause contest after contest and knock the ball on. Because we are the best repeat effort team in the AFL we continue to get outnumbers and shut down the oppo when they get the ball. Over time we slowly grind them down and the initial advantage in outnumbers slowly increases. By trying to force the shadow phases we make the whole game about repeat efforts. And we know that we will win that contest.

So what we do is ‘simply’ apply a heap of pressure in a certain way that forces the game into a place where clean possession is really hard for the opposition. So we create “chaos’ to most observers. But because we are set up for that it’s controlled chaos – our control, their chaos. The longer we can keep that game style going the greater our in-built advantage.

This is why we defend how we do and why when we get the ball we break fast through forward handball and ground kicks forward. We use that repeat effort advantage to create space for us and to grind the opposition down.

Our defence works off this style as well. Because it’s so hard to get out clean ball teams will dump kick it forward. So we set up 30-50 meters of the contest and intercept and then rebound. We’re not shutting it down like the Saints did in their prime years ago. We’re creating a free form game where you simply have to go again and again and again chasing dirty ball.

Our forward set up is also keyed off this. Because of our style we often move it forward under pressure. So we use forward handball from the contest. This does 4 things; 1) it forces the oppo to run and so wears them down, 2) it allows us an controllable way of moving the ball when we’re under pressure, 3) it makes the players face our goal (discussed later) and 4) opens up our forward line (defences have to play higher because we run it in so much – leaving JR/Tom/Dusty one out). When we get space we tend to kick the ball long to the top of the square for Tom/Jack/Dusty, go for a free player further out, or just to put dirty ball in and use our strong forwards and swarming pressure to get crumbed goals.

Our style of forward handballs and extending the contest turns the game to face our goals. This means that in almost all circumstances the ball is likely to go our way, and if the oppo gets the ball they have to turn around or move the ball backwards. By making the play go our direction we can make 50:50 contests almost always move the ball towards our goal. Look at the 2020 GF (2nd half) and watch how from the contest we knock on or kick the ball about 5-10 meters. This means that we move the contest for the ball towards our goals in a way where we are always coming along heading toward goal. As we do this it causes the oppo to do repeat efforts, and turns their set up into what we want. Someone gets a break and we can move the ball fast by foot or hand without pressure. But otherwise we just keep on doing something simple and easy – move the ball 5 to 10 meters on and try to create that break. Always increasing pressure as we get closer to our goal. Very simple, not easy, and relentless.

OK so we have this strange game style probably never played in the AFL before – cause we deliberately built a squad to do it. Around 2014/15 we started to recruit massive repeat effort players, and focused our training on repeat efforts – bore fruit in 2017. We have deliberately looked for the best repeat effort (usually running) player when everything else is even. The draft guys way back when realised that this attribute was undervalued in drafting, so we just kept recruiting these players. This means 1) our squad has more innate repeat effort ability, and 2) our development/training increases this advantage. Then we built a game style around this ability as I’ve described.

How do we get beaten nowadays? Good question BF.

We get beaten when we allow clean possession from contests and/or ball movement that goes around our structures. Sometimes teams get hold of our inside mids and we get ripped apart. Because if they can get that clean ball from the contest we are set up with way too much space. The clean ball goes outside of our set up and then because our defence is so deep for the intercept they have acres of space. Goodbye Irene! The other way is when teams get the ball, say in defence, and then move it around using safe kicks until we are out of position and they can run/kick through our set up and the same defensive problems come up. In both cases teams take that shadow phase away from us.

So what are we doing? We’ve realised that sometimes we just don’t have the inside mids to go with elite teams. So we’re fixing that – Prestia and game plan. We got Tom Lynch because we needed that tall marking outlet target. We have also adjusted to the kick the ball around style by adjusting our teasing distance. In 2020 we adjusted our centre contests as well.

When you watch our games see what happens if the contests are static, that is they occur in one spot. We tend to either lose them or cause a ball up. What we try and do is get the ball moving around. This means that instead of a few specialist inside mids getting hands on the ball, most players have to go inside and also play outside. It means that many players are doing many efforts. Because we train for this style of contest we usually win them. Teams then have to chase and we’ll simply grind them into the ground.

Summary, our main point of difference is that we try to make the game a game of multiple efforts, continually moving. This wears teams out. It also causes implied pressure – you know pressure is coming so you rush what you do. This can end up crushing teams as they tire and then start to do stupid things.

Recruitment and development of players: IMHO many people think that players that tick the typical metrics are better than those that are worse at those metrics but awesome in the shadow phases. Case in point, Jack Graham – he causes the game to be played our way through pressure and continuous efforts. Cotch has changed his game to impact how the game is played more than racking up stats. George and Dan R play to lock the ball in and move it forward (often messily) more than kick goals. We look to players who can do repeat efforts. Obviously, we look for pure talent even if they don’t have that repeat effort ability yet (RCD when drafted). But by consistently picking players that have the ability go more often than others we stay ahead of the rest in how we win games. The other thing I think we look for is ability to simply do things in contests and under pressure. Maybe not genius, but creativity and positive play. This is different to pure traditional footy skills, perhaps more about attitude.

This style is very taxing, which is partly why we try to ramp things up coming into September. We’re learning to do that better.

And IMHO we can win premierships without Dusty – it’s just harder. As in, Dusty makes about 3 or 4 goals difference. So we’d win 17, 19 and 20. But much tougher in 17 and 20.



Long post, but I tried to get my thoughts down. People think we’re playing some sort of ‘normal’ game style. We’re not. A lot of the key things we do aren’t in any published stats. Right now we are the only team built to do what we do. Hopefully we’ll stay ahead of the pack and our style, which is built for finals, will endure.
Plz Delete before Bucks reads it.:cool:
 

Tiger_Of_Old

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Damn! Good point. But he'd have to rebuild the Pies using new players and a new attitude - which may include indigenous players.
Well with Eddie gone it may happen.
Great post by the way although i think seeing that you have mentioned indigenous.Our indigenous boys in our side shouldn't be ignored either with their flair and game winning ability.
 

Masotiger

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This style is very taxing, which is partly why we try to ramp things up coming into September. We’re learning to do that better.
All your points are very well made and valid, yet this is the one that's most important for success in 2021. If we can hit the finals as we have in the last 2 seasons I can't see any other team matching us.
 

Dr Tigris

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All your points are very well made and valid, yet this is the one that's most important for success in 2021. If we can hit the finals as we have in the last 2 seasons I can't see any other team matching us.
Dimma learnt how to win finals. And somehow created a new take on how to play footy. A minor tweak, but one that works very well. And I see no reason why it can't keep winning finals, as planned.
 

Dr Tigris

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Well with Eddie gone it may happen.
Great post by the way although i think seeing that you have mentioned indigenous.Our indigenous boys in our side shouldn't be ignored either with their flair and game winning ability.
having indigenous players isn't neccessary. But the sort of guys we want are often indigenous. So win win.
 

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Vassp

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TLDR – We pressure the opposition so that they rush their possessions and we intercept, our attacking style controls the ball enough and this leads to massive numbers of repeat efforts, so we wear teams out.



I’ve been thinking of this for ages and decided to write about why our game plan under Dimma is different, and how it keeps winning.

Why? Firstly I’m that kinda guy. Secondly many posters have, I reckon, the wrong way of thinking about how we do what we do.

The key thing is that I believe we have a different worldview on how to play the game. In other words, Richmond thinks about how the game actually works differently. That means we do things differently. We recruit, develop, train and play to our way of thinking, not the typical way used by other clubs, the media, commentators and most AFL fans.

I’m not putting in actual stats, because they’re hard to find and it’d make this post way too long when it’s already too long.

Three things that underpin everything else in this post

  • There an old bit of wisdom that there are 3 phases in footy. 1) You have the ball, 2) they have the ball, and 3) the ball is in contest. I propose that we play with 2 ‘shadow’ phases in between. When we or they have the ball, but the ball carrier is under pressure, so they can’t do a clean disposal. That is, we don’t use the normal 3 phases thinking and it advantages us.
  • We are the best repeat effort team in the AFL. This is because we went out and recruited the best repeat sprinters we could find. And we’ve trained for repeat sprints/efforts in a way other teams don’t. This means that our squad has the best innate ability to do repeat sprints/efforts in the AFL. This is really important. The stats I have seen we are 10% ahead of the next best AFL team. After that the gap just increases. I equate repeat sprints to repeat efforts (not just a sprint, but getting involved in play) more broadly. When playing well we are a better repeat effort team than any other in the comp.
  • Winning contested ball doesn’t matter much. When Dimma came in he was aware that the Hawks stats guy/s had shown that simply winning the ball had no correlation with goals. What is important was the first clean possession 2-3 meters from the contest. This is the heart of our game plan. Go back to my point 1. This means that phase 3, the ball is in contest isn’t related to winning the game directly. What is important is having the ability to truly control what you do with the ball when you have it, and to take away the ability of the opposition to control what they do after they win a contest.
What we do is try to is increase the duration of the shadow phase I mentioned before. This is because 1) we create turnovers from their pressured possessions, and 2) we have a unique style that assist us in breaking from contest and getting it forward.

To explain, starting from a contested situation. What we do is play one or two guys in the contest. Their goal isn’t mainly to win the ball, it’s to stop clean ball from the contest for other teams and to allow us to have an outnumber around the contest. Therefore, our inside mids are usually outnumbered (watch to see this in games). So Cotch went from Brownlow to good possessions but not elite. The club says that he sacrificed his game and that in the stats we cared about he was amazing. I reckon these stats are about setting the stage where we get that shadow phase ball. Cotch, Graham etc are playing to make sure the contest doesn’t allow easy ball out for the opposition. When the ball comes out we have an outnumber. We tackle them if they get it and force a turnover, if we get it the release is super-fast and often unclean. So don’t look for Tiger contested possessions, look for scores from contests.

Next comes the repeat effort side of how we play. We cause contest after contest and knock the ball on. Because we are the best repeat effort team in the AFL we continue to get outnumbers and shut down the oppo when they get the ball. Over time we slowly grind them down and the initial advantage in outnumbers slowly increases. By trying to force the shadow phases we make the whole game about repeat efforts. And we know that we will win that contest.

So what we do is ‘simply’ apply a heap of pressure in a certain way that forces the game into a place where clean possession is really hard for the opposition. So we create “chaos’ to most observers. But because we are set up for that it’s controlled chaos – our control, their chaos. The longer we can keep that game style going the greater our in-built advantage.

This is why we defend how we do and why when we get the ball we break fast through forward handball and ground kicks forward. We use that repeat effort advantage to create space for us and to grind the opposition down.

Our defence works off this style as well. Because it’s so hard to get out clean ball teams will dump kick it forward. So we set up 30-50 meters of the contest and intercept and then rebound. We’re not shutting it down like the Saints did in their prime years ago. We’re creating a free form game where you simply have to go again and again and again chasing dirty ball.

Our forward set up is also keyed off this. Because of our style we often move it forward under pressure. So we use forward handball from the contest. This does 4 things; 1) it forces the oppo to run and so wears them down, 2) it allows us an controllable way of moving the ball when we’re under pressure, 3) it makes the players face our goal (discussed later) and 4) opens up our forward line (defences have to play higher because we run it in so much – leaving JR/Tom/Dusty one out). When we get space we tend to kick the ball long to the top of the square for Tom/Jack/Dusty, go for a free player further out, or just to put dirty ball in and use our strong forwards and swarming pressure to get crumbed goals.

Our style of forward handballs and extending the contest turns the game to face our goals. This means that in almost all circumstances the ball is likely to go our way, and if the oppo gets the ball they have to turn around or move the ball backwards. By making the play go our direction we can make 50:50 contests almost always move the ball towards our goal. Look at the 2020 GF (2nd half) and watch how from the contest we knock on or kick the ball about 5-10 meters. This means that we move the contest for the ball towards our goals in a way where we are always coming along heading toward goal. As we do this it causes the oppo to do repeat efforts, and turns their set up into what we want. Someone gets a break and we can move the ball fast by foot or hand without pressure. But otherwise we just keep on doing something simple and easy – move the ball 5 to 10 meters on and try to create that break. Always increasing pressure as we get closer to our goal. Very simple, not easy, and relentless.

OK so we have this strange game style probably never played in the AFL before – cause we deliberately built a squad to do it. Around 2014/15 we started to recruit massive repeat effort players, and focused our training on repeat efforts – bore fruit in 2017. We have deliberately looked for the best repeat effort (usually running) player when everything else is even. The draft guys way back when realised that this attribute was undervalued in drafting, so we just kept recruiting these players. This means 1) our squad has more innate repeat effort ability, and 2) our development/training increases this advantage. Then we built a game style around this ability as I’ve described.

How do we get beaten nowadays? Good question BF.

We get beaten when we allow clean possession from contests and/or ball movement that goes around our structures. Sometimes teams get hold of our inside mids and we get ripped apart. Because if they can get that clean ball from the contest we are set up with way too much space. The clean ball goes outside of our set up and then because our defence is so deep for the intercept they have acres of space. Goodbye Irene! The other way is when teams get the ball, say in defence, and then move it around using safe kicks until we are out of position and they can run/kick through our set up and the same defensive problems come up. In both cases teams take that shadow phase away from us.

So what are we doing? We’ve realised that sometimes we just don’t have the inside mids to go with elite teams. So we’re fixing that – Prestia and game plan. We got Tom Lynch because we needed that tall marking outlet target. We have also adjusted to the kick the ball around style by adjusting our teasing distance. In 2020 we adjusted our centre contests as well.

When you watch our games see what happens if the contests are static, that is they occur in one spot. We tend to either lose them or cause a ball up. What we try and do is get the ball moving around. This means that instead of a few specialist inside mids getting hands on the ball, most players have to go inside and also play outside. It means that many players are doing many efforts. Because we train for this style of contest we usually win them. Teams then have to chase and we’ll simply grind them into the ground.

Summary, our main point of difference is that we try to make the game a game of multiple efforts, continually moving. This wears teams out. It also causes implied pressure – you know pressure is coming so you rush what you do. This can end up crushing teams as they tire and then start to do stupid things.

Recruitment and development of players: IMHO many people think that players that tick the typical metrics are better than those that are worse at those metrics but awesome in the shadow phases. Case in point, Jack Graham – he causes the game to be played our way through pressure and continuous efforts. Cotch has changed his game to impact how the game is played more than racking up stats. George and Dan R play to lock the ball in and move it forward (often messily) more than kick goals. We look to players who can do repeat efforts. Obviously, we look for pure talent even if they don’t have that repeat effort ability yet (RCD when drafted). But by consistently picking players that have the ability go more often than others we stay ahead of the rest in how we win games. The other thing I think we look for is ability to simply do things in contests and under pressure. Maybe not genius, but creativity and positive play. This is different to pure traditional footy skills, perhaps more about attitude.

This style is very taxing, which is partly why we try to ramp things up coming into September. We’re learning to do that better.

And IMHO we can win premierships without Dusty – it’s just harder. As in, Dusty makes about 3 or 4 goals difference. So we’d win 17, 19 and 20. But much tougher in 17 and 20.



Long post, but I tried to get my thoughts down. People think we’re playing some sort of ‘normal’ game style. We’re not. A lot of the key things we do aren’t in any published stats. Right now we are the only team built to do what we do. Hopefully we’ll stay ahead of the pack and our style, which is built for finals, will endure.
it takes many parts to make an engine. some of the smallest parts are just as important as the larger ones.

To summarise it all up, we have an abundance of speed and stamina, you want to beat us then you have to beat us or match us in those two key areas, AND play decent footy, AND have a good team spirit, AND have the right role players. Oh and a Dusty or similar would help.
 

Masotiger

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Dimma learnt how to win finals. And somehow created a new take on how to play footy. A minor tweak, but one that works very well. And I see no reason why it can't keep winning finals, as planned.
Paradoxically, our lead into the finals in 2019 and 2020 was assisted by injuries and unavailability (2020). Injured players coming back in time to gather that head of steam for the finals. Don't want to see long term injuries in 2021. Maybe it could be some sought of rotation policy to keep players fresh and hungry.
 

Dr Tigris

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Paradoxically, our lead into the finals in 2019 and 2020 was assisted by injuries and unavailability (2020). Injured players coming back in time to gather that head of steam for the finals. Don't want to see long term injuries in 2021. Maybe it could be some sought of rotation policy to keep players fresh and hungry.
Actually I reckon we've learnt that playing more players, especially the kids, helps keep us fresh and builds both team spirit and depth. The way Dimma is currently talking of our younger guys, he wants them to play. He wants to play them to try out new things and to allow some of the older players to be fresh and firing come finals.

I really want to see how RCD adapts to AFL. Our style could help him really make a difference. He likes the crash and bash, and bursts form contests. Our keep it in the contest style should be just right for him - if he can keep the intensity up.

And of course Ross etc can slot right in. Could be a good season this one I'm hoping.
 

Bojangles17

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There’s several moving parts to our game style , I reckon the essence is getting the right players in to perform their roles with discipline . The likes of George, Macca Pickett jack g Rioli are great examples of team first football. Belief is a massive factor too, the players trust our system, anywhere any place any time
 

Soberian Tiger

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I've likened it to a broom sweeping a mess forward. If the mess breaks through the broom it has clear space to go to town in. But it has to get through the forward-pushing broom first.

And before it knows it, it's in the dustpan, that is, Dusty's at half-forward panning inside fifty to see who to give it to or deep inside fifty one-out.

It sounds simple, but it takes a heck of a concerted effort from the entire 22 to pull it off and it sure helps to have a Dustin Martin to cap it off, which is why no other club has managed it nor is likely to.

Until other clubs get better at breaking through to clear space, Hardwick's game plan should hold up.
 

northeasttiger

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If we were to equate our game style to military tactics I would suggest that the nearest would be "Blitzkrieg"

https://www.britannica.com/quiz/capital-cities-of-the-world-quiz

Blitzkrieg, (German: “lightning war”) military tactic calculated to create psychological shock and resultant disorganization in enemy forces through the employment of surprise, speed, and superiority in materiel or firepower.

Smash through and keep moving, destroy their structures undermine their confidence and push them physically till the dam bursts.
 

Dr Tigris

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Curious what exactly are the stats you’ve seen where we are 10% ahead of the second best team?
Can't remember where but last year (and previous years) it was reported on the repeat sprint stats that we were 10% ahead, and others lagged behind that. I'd have to dig around to find that stat. I don't think it is one of the public ones. So I've just noticed it being reported regularly by various media.
 

Dr Tigris

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If we were to equate our game style to military tactics I would suggest that the nearest would be "Blitzkrieg"

https://www.britannica.com/quiz/capital-cities-of-the-world-quiz

Blitzkrieg, (German: “lightning war”) military tactic calculated to create psychological shock and resultant disorganization in enemy forces through the employment of surprise, speed, and superiority in materiel or firepower.

Smash through and keep moving, destroy their structures undermine their confidence and push them physically till the dam bursts.
Sort of. Except we are usually not trying to break through, as much as just break. Blitzkrieg is a strategy of breaking through the defensive lines and then moving very fast using a mobile war strategy to destroy your enemy's ability to function by being behind their lines and devastating their lines of supply and communication. We do that a bit, but we also use constant pressure to crumble away at the opposition, like Montgomery at El Alamein. Break down their ability to resist then move fast and directly to score.
 

Bojangles17

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If we were to equate our game style to military tactics I would suggest that the nearest would be "Blitzkrieg"

https://www.britannica.com/quiz/capital-cities-of-the-world-quiz

Blitzkrieg, (German: “lightning war”) military tactic calculated to create psychological shock and resultant disorganization in enemy forces through the employment of surprise, speed, and superiority in materiel or firepower.

Smash through and keep moving, destroy their structures undermine their confidence and push them physically till the dam bursts.
Excellent analogy
 

Bojangles17

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Can't remember where but last year (and previous years) it was reported on the repeat sprint stats that we were 10% ahead, and others lagged behind that. I'd have to dig around to find that stat. I don't think it is one of the public ones. So I've just noticed it being reported regularly by various media.
Yea and that kinda underlines my point with the players selected to perform best to achieve that kpi ,, george Rioli macca etc
 

RunningBounce

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There an old bit of wisdom that there are 3 phases in footy. 1) You have the ball, 2) they have the ball, and 3) the ball is in contest. I propose that we play with 2 ‘shadow’ phases in between. When we or they have the ball, but the ball carrier is under pressure, so they can’t do a clean disposal. That is, we don’t use the normal 3 phases thinking and it advantages us.
Good post, Doc. I generally agree, and you've put it well.

I'd probably express the "shadow" phase differently.

I'd say that no matter who has the ball, there's an amount of pressure, and a risk of a poor disposal. At AFL level, the players are good enough to hit the target with a tackler up their clacker, but they still feel the pressure, and they still shank the occasional one. For me, it's not a shadow phase - just a question of the odds of messing up the disposal.

I'd extend that to say that when we have possession, we bring a lot more pressure onto ourselves (depending on field position). We dump kick, a lot. We give the oppo a "shadow" phase almost every time we get the ball. That means our players ALL have to be good at winning their own footy, because they aren't getting silver service.

I'd also argue that "our" style can, has and will be copied. Nothing new under the sun, brother. Probably just a question of the extent that it's copied, and how unique the individuals are who make it hum for us. Noone like Sheds and Dusty.
 

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