PAUL ROOS – HERALD SUN COLUMN

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Paul Roos jumps into the Essendon coaches box to find a way to beat the rampant Hawks

HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson and his staff had a clear win over Nathan Buckley and the Collingwood team last week.

They took away the Magpies’ main strengths without any disruption to their own.
This week it is James Hird’s challenge to manufacture a win against the odds. These can be a coach’s greatest triumphs.

Hird takes his undermanned Bombers into a game against the more talented Hawks and the planning would have started early in the week.

The Bombers can’t simply expect to go head-to-head and win. They must understand every aspect of their opposition tonight and sell a strategy to the players.

If the Bombers carry out the strategy, this could be Essendon’s best win for the season.

MATCH-UPS

SAM Mitchell has to be the No.1 target. He is not only the Hawks’ best inside player, but arguably the best distributor and heartbeat.

The role assigned by James to his most-disciplined player should be simple: stop Mitchell from touching the ball, don’t run off him, don’t leave his side and don’t gamble at any stage of the game.

Clearly, with all the Hawks’ talent, you can’t run with them all. I would then look to take out two of their young players who wouldn’t be used to being tagged. Put the acid test on Matthew Suckling and Luke Breust.

Suckling has averaged 22 disposals this season and is ranked fifth at the club. He has won only 24 per cent of possessions from a contest this year, the second lowest percentage of the top 100 ball winners. He is probably their best distributor and needs to be shut down.

Breust kicked five goals last week and has a habit of turning games. To take away his critical possessions and uncanny goal sense would be wise.

If the Bombers control these three players, it is a good starting point for victory.

DEFENSIVELY

THE Bombers’ defensive strategy must be simple. They cannot allow any free Hawks at any stage. They must abandon all thoughts of a zone or a press and never allow extra Hawks at a stoppage. The Hawks are the best team in the competition when they have time and space.

They hit their targets with 78 per cent of disposals against the Magpies last week, the highest disposal efficiency recorded against Collingwood this season.
Their disposal by hand and foot is pinpoint and they can slice you up and find targets at will.

Every time a Hawk gets the ball, there must be a Bomber close by ready to apply pressure.

OFFENSIVELY

THE Bombers’ natural offensive game should trouble the Hawks if they are on song, as you must make them defend. The Bombers, being a high kick-to-handball team, should continue this theme.

In essence, Hird’s team will try to do exactly what the Hawks do to their opponents.

The Bombers must be patient at times when they have the ball, pinpointing short passes and working the ball slowly up the field.

The Bombers have played on immediately after 42 per cent of marks this season, the second-highest percentage of any side.

Tonight they must not get reckless in playing on at all costs as this will play into the opposition’s hands.

The risk of playing on either under pressure or not knowing what is up ahead is too great against the Hawks. The Hawks have punished 29 per cent of opposition turnovers this season, the highest percentage of any club.

TACTICS

THE Bombers’ coaches will need specific tactics for each of their designated areas. Their forward line must not run to dumb positions as the Hawks defence is arguably the best organised in the competition.

As soon as a Bomber forward leads wide and can’t be used, his opponent will fold back and help his key defenders.

There may be times tonight when the Bombers play five forwards out of the goalsquare. The sixth Bomber forward then plays centre half-forward with plenty of space to expose his defender one on one.

The Bombers midfield must try to take advantage of its ruck dominance, as Essendon wins a hitout at 49 per cent of stoppages, ranked second in the competition.

They must try and hit it wide and away from the hard, tough bodies of the Hawks. If they can get it out to space from the clearances, it will give them the best chance to score.

Essendon defenders must be prepared to win one-on-one contests tonight. I would use Dustin Fletcher on Jarryd Roughhead. If the Bombers do go one on one, there is no role for a floating defender. I believe Fletcher is Essendon’s best one-on-one key.

Midfielders must push back quickly to support, but only when their opponents can’t be used as offensive weapons.

THE INDIVIDUALS

THE Bombers’ coaches will have passed on information on every Hawk, but here are a few tips.

JOSH GIBSON
KEEP him busy at all costs, make him defend one on one and don’t let him support his teammates as third man up.

CYRIL RIOLI
KEEP him up the ground and don’t let him get goal-side. Don’t rush at him as he will step you. Corral him and force him to kick over your head.

CLINTON YOUNG
DON’T allow him time and space to run and carry the ball. Force him to handball and put him under immediate pressure when he wins the ball.

DAVID HALE and JARRYD ROUGHEAD
TAKE them forward and make them defend when they are in the ruck. Use their opponents at every opportunity — must make them defend all over the ground.

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