After a 115-point defeat, the players had to say to themselves: Did they believe in their game plan? Did they trust their coaches? Did they want to play together as a team? Or did they want to continue as a mediocre football side?
Thankfully, for Brad Scott and the Kangaroos fans, the answers have been obvious since that ugly clash.
I admit to being a fan of Scott and the Kangaroos, as they appeared to have a plan and have stuck to it.
Get games into young players quickly, give them experience and once they have had two or three pre-seasons under their belt, we think we will be a very good team. With a sprinkling of very good senior players, they have become a very good team.
The biggest factor I see in the Kangaroos is their fitness level. There is no way they would have won Sunday’s game — two players down — in the previous two seasons. They simply would have run out of gas. With this new confidence in their running ability, they can sustain effort for 120 minutes.
Their game plan is demanding, but successful game plans always are. To further illustrate their running capacity, they lead the league in uncontested possession differential in the past five weeks.
At +32, they are out-working their opposition. Last week, even with two injured players, they were a staggering +91 for uncontested possessions against the Bombers.
Like all good teams they look well balanced all over the field. Last week Andrew Swallow, Ben Cunnington, Liam Anthony and Cruize Garlett had 47 contested possessions between them.
Swallow is a star, ranked equal second in the completion for centre clearances and his centre clearances have generated 92 points, which is No.1 in the AFL.
Outside, they have some good speed. Brent Harvey doesn’t look like he has lost pace and he now has support with Daniel Wells, Kieren Harper, Shaun Atley and Matt Campbell. Their backs appear very well organised and although perhaps a little undersized, they play as a group rather than allowing isolated one-on-one contests.
Their mids are fitter, seem to push back hard — and more often — to support their defence. I like the tall forward set-up with Drew Petrie, Lachlan Hanson and Robbie Tarrant.
While Petrie is the star, Hanson and Tarrant provide headaches and can kick multiple goals. With good small quick forwards at their feet, at this stage they haven’t been exposed on the rebound.
The talls, while clearly marking targets, do seem to be competent when the ball hits the ground and will work hard both ways.
Their ball use has been very good, hitting the target with 74.4 per cent of disposals (third behind Hawthorn and West Coast).
Once they get their hands on the ball it is very hard to get it back. They’re fit, they’re quick and they use the ball well. But any team that jumps up like the Kangaroos must have some unsung heroes that have stepped up.
I expect the Pies to get over the line tonight, purely based on the level of talent that Bucks has at his disposal.
But there is no doubt that the Kangaroos have bridged the gap and should provide a tough, hard, physical contest.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
A very clean ball handler, whose fitness has clearly improved.
You would love the ball in his hands, as he is a great decision maker and generally has very good skills. A real bonus in their midfield.
Ranks second at the club for clearances per game (6.0) and third for contested possessions (9.8)
Can provide some real outside run off half-back. Good speed and uses the ball well. Could be a very important player in the run home. Ranks fourth at North Melbourne for metres gained (358m) and has averaged the fourth most handballs of any defender in the AFL (10.2).
Looks a bit like their Mr Fit-It.
Extremely versatile – can play back, forward or mid. Not only can he be a prolific ball winner and goalkicker, he can shut down an opposition gun player.
Great pick-up as a mature-age player.
Knows the game extremely well, runs to spots, finds it inside and outside and is a very good endurance midfielder. Averages the ninth most uncontested possessions of any player in the AFL (18.0) and the most of any Kangaroos player.
An extremely dangerous high halfforward.
Has a great capacity to get up the ground, turn his opponent around and burns you off with his pace to kick crucial goals. Provides a real spark and X-factor to the team. Sits equal fourth on the club’s goalkicking (20) despite being a sub in seven of his 16 matches.
Simply a very good footballer. Smart, good inside player, but also can get a lot of the ball. Certainly can get under the guard of the opposition and will hurt you if you don’t respect him. Ranks first at the club and 20th in the AFL for average disposals per game (25.9). Also ranks eighth in the AFL for disposals per 100 minutes of game time (28.4)
I believe he’s maybe the most underrated player.
The organiser down back, reads the ball extremely well and is often the player that fills the dangerous space, helps key defenders and can also rebound efficiently from defence.