As regular readers of this column would be aware – and thanks to both of you btw – the Scribe rarely gets too involved in the actual strategies and tactics of any particular game of footy, and likes to concentrate, like, on the vibe. This is largely due to a total ignorance of the game of Aussie rules and a desire not to be “critical Dad” in the match report, which we can, more properly, leave for the drive home. However, having borne witness to over 50 games of junior AFL now and with a natural affinity for upsetting the apple cart, it seems an opportune time to actually address the footy.
This week’s game is against the Pittwater Tigers, victors in the epic grand final of 2020. But times change, clubs recruit or don’t as the case may be, and two years later we find the Cats roaring in second place and the Tigers at the bottom of the table. Add to that the vast number of fortunate grandmothers getting carrot cake hand delivered and the fact that the game is being played at the time that some of us are usually having our Sunday nap in preparation for the Hungarian grand prix, then it is not unforeseeable to think that the Cats might bring a little complacency to the party.
The Coach is, of course, attuned to this likelihood and has the words “Switch on” underlined twice on the white board, but the fact that the various dogs are in more danger of catching a ball than the players during the warm up indicates that the Switch might be back between the shoulder blades in that spot that is really hard to reach.
The players amble out on the field five minutes after the appointed start time. One of the umps is walking back from the loos, while the other does the studs check, eventually everyone takes their position, the ball is held aloft and the game starts. It’s messy. Imagine there is a rule that the ball isn’t allowed to go higher than 1m off the ground and you get the idea. In keeping with the new rule, Emma’s first goal for the day is a grubber kick along the ground.
At first it appears as though this is just a malaise of Sunday afternoon football, but it slowly becomes apparent that the Tigers have come with a strategy to contain the high scoring Cats. The plan is to play hard in defence and swamp the ball to stop the Cats getting in to the swing of things. A good plan, but a relatively simple one for a skilful, structured team to overcome. A great example is soon provided. Laces, positioned at full back today, takes the ball on the fly and kicks to Aoife in the back pocket, Aoife marks, plays on and finds H on the far wing, who marks, handballs to Scarlett running past. Scarlett outrunning her tag, sees LilyS forward of the wing and puts it in her path. LilyS takes the mark and kicks to the pack where Molly brings it to ground and LexieP gives her opponent a bit of hip, collects the ball and handballs it to Molly, who rides the tackle and kicks …. a behind. Never mind, Nikki contests the kick out and brings the ball to ground, Molly gathers, re-aligns her radar 12.8 degrees to port and kicks the goal. Q1 LCC 2.2.14 PWT 0.0.0
At the break, The Coach implores the team to pick up their effort, but it is in fact the Tigers that come out full of running. They are at least two and sometimes three Tigers in every tackle and at every ball. We can always rely on the Cats for effort, but the Tiger’s pressure is significant. There are plenty of free players, as Newton’s speculations on the Conservation of Mass, insist there must be, but with all the pressure, the Cats are having trouble finding them. When the ball does find itself in the Tigers forward line, with the Cats backs sucked in to the pack, the Tigers take a goal. The individual efforts are still there: Chops brings back memories finding herself alone at the back with three Tigers, simply gathers the ball on the run and kicks it clear; LilyS ducks and weaves and finds a goal; H decides she can play both ruck and rover and would have the highest possession count; Scarlett has a storming game in the middle and runs and runs, with repeated second efforts in both attack and defence; Graiceeee is taking overhead marks in the pack; Tipsy is in her happy place in the middle of the pack; India is finding a roaming role to her liking; and Krysta takes a nice mark, followed by an even nicer tackle as the ball comes back the other way. Q2 LCC 3.5.23 PWT 1.0.6
The third quarter holds much the same pattern. The Tigers lift each time the Cats threaten to break free. Ash and Armo put on a nice one-two for Laces to get clear, but the Tigers pull the ball back in once more. Ash is continuing her rich vein of form over the last few weeks and heavily involved in the middle of a few of the packs. Aoife’s skills are improving with each week and she has become a favoured and safe target in the pocket. LexieW takes on three attacking Tigers, keeps her head until the opportunity presents and then smothers the ball, before returning it in attack. The score keeper is startled awake by the siren. Q3 LCC 3.7.25 PWT 1.0.6
The final quarter is a bit of a slog and the Rugby Dad’s are identifying the girls who are good in a rolling maul. With Nikki and LilyS in the physio’s tent, the Cats bench is getting pretty skinny and the teams are practicing good land conservation values by only occupying one quarter of the available acreage at any one time. Just as the scribe notes that “there is absolutely no chance of anyone scoring”, Scarlett puts the sealer on wearing the shark hat by running the ball down the wing and putting it on Emma’s chest. Em seals the game with an elegant kick between the sticks.
As they say in the classics, a win is a win is a win, and this win guarantees a position in the top 4 and a semi-final spot. With only two weeks of the regular season to go, it’s not a bad time to be tested by a team that has pressured the Cats at the ball. Come semi-final time, there will be pressure on holding the structure and executing skills under more pressure than a regular season game. The Cats need to use the next couple of weeks to prepare themselves to playing good possession footy under the intense defensive pressure that will almost certainly come.
Final Score: Lane Cove Cats 4.8.32 d Pittwater Tigers 1.0.6
Goals: E. Byrne (2), M. Gibbs-Rose, L. Sullivan
Players’ Player: S. Moliterno
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