Umpiring Outstanding – Well Done

A loose ground ball lays on the MCG. Easton Wood on one side and Dan Hannebery on the other. In a desperate attempt to win possession in the manner we have been raised for decades Wood launches himself headlong at the inevitably disputed ball. Hannebery is a split second later – perhaps wondering “do I dive in for it or do I keep my feet and follow the recent rule change?” In the end Wood wins the ball conclusively and Hannebery is taken from the ground with a potential ACL injury.

Why is this single contest so significant?

Firstly it shows the desperation and commitment from Wood irrespective of rules and regulations – THAT BALL IS MINE!

Secondly it shows the confusing implications of AFL interference under the banner of “brand”. Coaches knew, fans knew, players knew and thankfully the umpires also knew that you couldn’t penalise a player for trying to win a loose ball in a manic contest on the most important day of the year. This should vindicate the umpires to have the rule changed back to how it has been for 100 years.

The only more significant incident than the one highlighted would have been if the scores were level and the contest was in the goal square and Wood wins it to break the deadlock as the siren sounds. This scenario has been talked about ad-nauseum since the imbeciles in the looney house decided to change the interpretation post Adam Goodes diving in to contests and Gary Rohan severely injuring his left knee.

Owner or two isolated incidents do not warrant rule changes. Players adapt. Coaches drill. 

We all knew the AFL would not pay those types of free kicks on Grand Final day – or a cut-throat final for that matter. The decision was made simply to appease the general public and impress the passing parade of “doomsdayers” looking for a perfect outcome to a brutal contest.

We probably counted 10 similar incidents during the game and none of them were paid. Were the umpires intimidated? Did they truly believe in the rule?

The facts are umpires let most insignificant, borderline incidents go during the finals series. Speak to any person at the AFL Umpire division and they’ll say that’s because the best umpires are officiating. Absolute Rubbish. 

It’s all about attitude not ability. The attitude of umpires in big games is totally different. They do not want to influence or impact a game whereas during the season they can strut, impose, be technical, over officiate and think the games about them.

The umpires were brilliant on the weekend and for most of the finals series it might be said. Let’s hope they can continue on in the same vein from Round 1 next year.

Manic Defence Focus Flawed in GF’s

Grand Finals throw up all sorts of questions. Like the correlation between risk and safety, daring and security, scoring and minimising, attack and defence.

Look at the famous Sydney Swans model, which from a culture and leadership perspective is unmistakably elite.

However I’m not certain they have chosen the correct strategy or tactical method.

Let’s look at the facts.

Paul Roos, Ross Lyon and John Longmire have all come from the same system. They have all coached together in their formative years at the Sydney Swans.

Since 2005, Paul Roos, John Longmire and Ross Lyon have coached their respective teams into 8 of the last 12 Grand Finals. That’s a mighty impressive statistic.

They have competed in 9 Grand Finals including the drawn GF in 2010 with the Ross Lyon Saints and Pies.

Collectively the three have won 2 premierships over those 9 Grand Finals. Not a great return by any standards.

One can’t help but focus on the fundamental game plan adopted by the three very closely connected coaches. Perhaps if Paul Roos didn’t win in 2005, the magnetic influence over Longmire and Lyon would not have been so dominant or overpowering. This was at a time that Roos adopted the ‘lock down” on attack and drained the instinct and initiative out of players into a dogged team defence, systemised with strategic and tactical warfare. It was very successful at ensuring the team was competitive however somewhat unsustainable from a premiership perspective as the results show. 

History will also determine that Ross Lyon took the manic defence to a whole new level during his reign at the Saints which when considered against the significant talent pool was somewhat of an anchor in their quest for a premiership.

Let’s look at the goals scored in those 9 Grand Finals:

Paul Roos

2005: 8 Goals & Premiership

2006: 12 Goals

Ross Lyon

2009: 9 Goals

2010: 10 Goals

2010: 7 Goals (Replay)

2013: 8 Goals

John Longmire

2012: 14 Goals & Premiership

2014: 11 Goals

2016: 10 Goals

Those 9 Grand Finals amount to a total of 2 Premierships (2005 & 2012) and 89 goals for an average of 9.9 goals per Grand Final whilst their opponents have scored 112 goals or 12.5 goals per GF.

The facts are that EVERY team has 5 minutes of glory Grand Final day and in that time 3 or 4 goals is usually enough to hit the lead and demoralise the defensive mindset of the opponent.

The Eagles did in ’06, those blasted Cats did in ’09 as did the Pies in ’10 along with the Hawks and Western Bulldogs in more recent years.

Those precious few minutes of goal-scoring glory breaks the back of the team focussing too much on defence.

Luke Beveridge instilled a dare to be different approach into his team. He asked them to look defeat in the eye. You have to be prepared to lose to win. You must pull the trigger. Risks need to be taken. Daring is a by product of competition. It is a totally different mindset but one that will prevail over the manic defence based strategy – thank heavens for Bevo!

Don’t Blink or Look Away – Doggies 

Grand Final first quarters – and more specifically first 15 minutes – are captivating and enthralling. Don’t look away today. Get your drinks, food, finalise toilet stops because the entire match is going to be out of control amazing. 

Now and then we witness a mismatch, a bullying, a massacre, however even in these cases the opening is electrictrifying. Today’s grand final will be entrancing from start to finish. 

The Western Bulldogs led by the best coach in the competition, Luke Beveridge, will win in the end. The margin will be 7 points. 

I am expecting a cliffhanger, a game where at some stage both sides will be able to lay claim to victory. John Longmire is an experienced finals and premiership coach, working in the most highly regarded system in the AFL – the famous Bloods culture. They have the flattest leadership model in the competition and it will serve them well today – but not well enough. 

General consensus is the Swans win and win somewhat comfortably. I beg to differ. 

I actually think at a point in time after 1/2 time they’ll freeze up a tad, tighten, choose the safety option and try to secure a win without cost. 

The Doggies have one secret up their sleeve. 

They are prepared to lose to win. They look defeat in the eye and make a decision. They are not intimidated by losing. They are driven by deeds not outcomes. Actions not thoughts. Causes not effects. 

Their model is simple. Don’t die wondering. Leave everything out there. Losing is ok if you exhaust all options. They subscribe to the driving force of; you have to be prepared to lose to win. 

They have speed, unconditional support and options around contest and are incredibly well drilled. 

They rely on no individual. Their star player is the team. Every star stud is exactly the same. No exaggerated light, no bigger points, no extra glitz or glamour for a few. Just the same boring 22 star studs – no differentiation. No individuals to focus on especially or tag – do that at your peril. 

Sure Bontempelli has extraordinary skills but he is up against Parker, Hannebery, Kennedy, Jack & co so why would you bother. You can run Mitchell on him but he’ll just take him to the forward line & out mark  him. 

Johannisen is a launching pad out of D50 & you could look to align him with a McGlynn to keep him accountable but happy days as Swans require McGlynn to be a goal kicking factor & it’s difficult doing both. 

The Swans have the “best” players but they also have the “worst” players in my opinion and Grand Finals are won by your “worst” 6 players not your best 6!

The Doggies are all grouped together. After all they personify what a team is. Reliable, dependable, unconditional, selfless and consistent. 

This is no discredit to the Swans who are a mighty unit. 

At a particular point in the game the Swans will tighten, go for safety first, whilst the Doggies will take even more risks, gutrun more, pull the trigger and defy all odds to deliver their 2nd premiership and first for 62 years.