Like many of you, I tuned in to watch this match on Sunday. My expectations were not necessarily to see another Tiger victory (although that’s always nice), but to see some of the new and some of the fringe players perform. I thought that established players such as Dusty, Cotch, Rance, Jack, and few others would run around and blow out some of the cobwebs. What I got was so much more!
We did win well enough although bad kicking on our behalf kept it close and apart from a knee injury scare from Dusty, we managed to finish the game without any major injuries. A glance of the stats show that there wasn’t much tackling from either team going on – a typical preseason game where no team wants too many contact injuries.
Of the established players, I thought that Rioli, Houli, and Nankervis were the standouts. Rioli’s touch and footy nous was a delight to watch. His return of 15 disposals (10 contested) was enjoyable to watch. Nank looked good up forward, but make no mistake – he will be our first ruckman come Round 1. Houli looks primed to have a very good year. The search is on for our relief ruckman given that our “Premiership Ruckman” Shaun Grigg will be out for a few more weeks through injury. Even when he returns, I believe that the rule change where a ruckman doesn’t risk giving away a holding the ball free if they grab the ball from the ruck contest, will make life difficult for Grigg. The opposition taller ruckman could play “keepings off” with Grigg until they can release the ball to their team’s advantage or force a ball up.
Jack Ross, Maverick Weller, Liam Baker, and of course, Noah Balta all put their hand up for a spot in the Round 1 team. Weller for me, gets a start if Caddy is injured. Weller 182cm/85kg and Caddy slightly taller and heavier at 186cm/88kg compare nicely for a forward/mid slot. Dan Butler wasn’t very effective (4 clangers from his 9 disposals), but does tend to have a bad game when his “bestie” Castagna isn’t playing. To me, it’s Butler v Baker for a small forward spot with Baker ahead after JLT 1. Jack Ross will have to rely on a midfield slot becoming available so may miss out in Round 1 however, a good JLT 2 may see him gain a spot in the 22 to help with rotations.
Everyone it seems has got Balta as a certain starter for a Round 1 against Carlton. I have pencilled him in, not necessarily as a replacement for Grigg who if available, would be underdone but as a floater between the arcs and as a relief ruck when Nank needs a rest. It’s obvious to me that Lynch won’t be doing any ruckwork – his knees certainly don’t need the kind of contact that this would invite! Playing Balta in a 3-man forward line with Lynch and Jack has the tendancy to make us a little too top-heavy.
With the new 6-6-6 formation at centre bounces now forces a change of tactics. Having someone like Balta able to help out down back or to run forward and become dangerous gives some flexibility in our setup. Balta is quick, so should be able to make position either way to be the extra man in defence or attack. He would also provide another target when we bring the ball out of defence. Imagine Shorty running the ball out of defence looking up and seeing 3 options now: Lynch, Jack, and Balta presenting upfield for him!
You can read the AFL review of the match, stats, and the match video here.