By Paul Roos
SWANS VS HAWKS
A coach’s mind is always racing the morning of a game but this morning as John Longmire and Alastair Clarkson wake up I doubt they slept much.
Both coaches would be reviewing absolutely every part of the game in their mind. The biggest question that they will continually ask themselves is have they covered off everything that they wanted to get across to the players?
Have we spent enough time on stoppages? Have I spoken enough about the opposition, have I spoken enough about ourselves? This is the constant balancing act of the coach; have I overloaded players with the information or have I not given them enough?
Clearly, the Swans as the travelling team are all together this morning and any minor problems, discussion with coaches, and extra direction to players can be handled quickly and efficiently.
On the morning of the game you’re reluctant to call an unscheduled team meeting. Much of the information now must be done individually or at your regular meeting prior to the game.
The next step is to wonder down to breakfast and hope you don’t run into any bad news from your medical team. They are perhaps the first people you seek out the morning of the game.
As we saw with Luke Hodge last week, anything can happen. Even Nate Fyfe tripping over a suitcase the day of a game. This is why coaches are constantly concerned right up to the first bounce.
Whilst you try and relax over breakfast and even as a coach get into your regular routine, you can’t help but continue to wrestle with the questions going through your head.
You also don’t want to disturb the players as all players have a separate routine and this is an important time to relax before the game. Any final instructions around the breakfast buffet are very subtle and are given in a reasonably relaxed manner.
I would imagine that Alastair would be hoping that his phone does not ring. And would try to stay in a reasonably relaxed state without any distractions from players or staff. Clarko would have the chance to quietly make some last minute notes and the questions racing in his head would be dealt with methodically.
There is a significant difference on the morning of the game between the two coaches. As one is engulfed in his player group and the other is isolated.
In 05′ and 06’ there was a clear point for the players when it was all business. The moment they got on the bus it was effectively game time. All mobile phones were off and the clear focus now was on the Eagles.
I suspect this is the same now for the Swans and their preparation starts the moment they sit in their designated seats on the ride to the MCG.
One thing you quickly realize as an interstate coach is that every player has their favourite seat and no one can go near it.
Without being inside each room it is impossible to know exactly what will transpire. But I suspect that both coaches and assistant coaches will focus largely on individual players and forwards, backs and mid’s.
This is clearly now the time to get across last minute discussions and address any final questions the players may have.
Once again, coaches must be mindful of players superstitions but by the end of the year the routine is pretty much set.
Clarko and Horse will have one final team meeting and rather than overload the players with reams of information now, will focus on four or five keys points and matchups.
At 2:30 when the ball is bounced, 90% of your job is done and you hope the players are prepared and ready to carry out instructions.
The role now becomes reading the game, making slight adjustments to the game plan, and changing matchups if and when you see fit.
I honestly believe that the Grand Final will be won on the field and not in the coaches box.
Much talk this week is centered around Hawks attack versus Swans defence. However, that is underestimating Hawthorn’s defensive ability. The Hawks conceded just 40 inside 50’s per game, the fewest of any side and averaged 14 tackles per game inside 50, ranked number one of all teams.
When playing their best the Hawks are a very good defensive team. There is no question the strength of the Swans is in their commitment to getting the ball back when the opposition team wins the ball. They are the best tackling side in the competition and have allowed the opposition to score a goal from just 21% of inside 50’s this season.
Both teams have a good array of hard, inside midfielders that are complemented by some outside speed. The Swans as they have done all season will look to push their forwards up and give space in behind of the likes of Jetta and Goodes to run into the forward 50 unattended.
It is hard to see the Hawks allowing this to happen, as the Pies did last week when we saw Lewis Jetta run 150 metres to score arguably the goal of the year.
I suspect the Hawks will always have a defender patrolling the Swans forward 50 area and never allowing that sort of space for the Swans mids to run into.
The Hawks beat the Swans at the SCG on the back of a number of centre clearances late in the game, something that they are extremely good at. I would imagine that the Swans coaching staff have looked at it over and over again and will do their best not to allow Mitchell and Co to dominate the centre of the ground.
FRANKLIN V RICHARDS:
We saw Rutten last week do a great job on Buddy Franklin and Franklin still have 8 scoring shots. Richards is the form defender of the competition but even he will know that he will need help to control the bid Hawthorn forward. Marty Mattner and Heath Grundy provide the keys to helping Richards and controlling Franklin. We may see Grundy play on him at times and you will see Mattner drop in front for the majority of the game and provide support for his key defenders.
STOP SAM MITCHELL:
I’m continually amazed at teams allowing the freedom to Mitchell that they do. He must be shadowed everywhere and anytime he gets the ball, tackled quickly or at least pressured with his possessions. Mitchell always seems to be the one that gets the key clearance and turns the game back in the Hawks favour. Will Craig Bird get the job on Mitchell?
Goodsey now creates much more of a headache for the opposition as he is now being released more through the midfield. Both Collingwood and the Crows struggled to find a match-up and Goodsey was lost in the handover between midfield and forward.
The Hawks must put a lot of time and effort into making sure Adam has a man at every moment of the game.