Game Plan 2022

After the years debating “Do we even have a Game Plan?”, much less “What is our Game Plan?”, there were clear signs last year that we did have a preferred system & style of play.
So the question is, what will be different, improved, or tweaked, for 2022?

Some training watchers have already mentioned a tightening of our defensive screens, and the insistence of players to take the first option & move the ball quickly.
There were also the mysterious squares painted near the goals at one stage.

Ahead of the intra club, and preseason matches it seems an appropriate time to discuss & elaborate.
So thoughts?

PS - anyone who’s thoughts consist merely of “The Richmond Game Plan” can Fark off to the Kindergarten/Media Threads.


I think we will have more definite forward targets this season, and better methods of delivering the ball to them. The defence will be stronger, given they as a unit have had a season getting to know how those moving parts work, and where each of them fit into the scheme of things.

Much will depend on the depth of the midfield and our ability to outrun opposition. Draper’s natural improvement and desire to compete will give Parish more first use of the ball and he will knock up feeding it out.


Might get more traffic with a thread title something like ’ 2022 Best 23 rolling & updated each training session’

If all I wanted was more traffic to this Thread I would have called it Game Plan = Hobbs, and let Bidzy do the rest.


Bored in Phnom Penh airport so I’ll add to this Thread
Tomorrow, as an intraclub, might not show it, but I’m interested to see our game plan from defence
Last year it was dash from Hind & Redman with Ridley taking a lot of kicks but conservatively Late I the season Cutlers kicking became a weapon
Will this continue?
Or will the addition of Kelly mean Ridley is more attacking?
Can Cutler & Ridley play together as dual kicking threats?
Or will we continue to rely on Hind & Redman breaking lines?

Notwithstanding the odd monster forward, I see our backline in an unusually good albeit undersized position. You can’t help but think that with Kelly, Rids will get off the chain a little (I hope he’s more attacking) and combined with Redman’s kicking, Cutler’s length and precision and Hind’s run, that we’re in a reasonable place.

If our mids can get it together defensively, and I’m loving the reports on defensive positioning, then I think we’re in a great place.

Clearly we’re a bit underdone up forward, however if the mids can pick up a bit of slack that I think we mostly believe they can, we still have a dangerous and somewhat hard to peg forward line. Of course, I think this means we might blow a few games apart, but we may also stink up a few up forward as well.

It’s going to be a cracking season to ride emotionally.

Hurley kickout.jpg


We’ve certainly become more creative with how we move the ball, especially out of defence, which is encouraging.

IMO, the big test with the game plan this year will be around how much we improve our delivery inside 50 though. Mostly in terms of kick execution, but also having the right forward mix with more coordinated leading patterns.

Basically, I want to see steady improvement re the connection between our mids and our forwards this year. We too often waste great attacking opportunities, which then also hurts us defensively on the turnover.


Team defence. The best team defence and zones win the flag, it’s what truck was brought in to improve back in 18 or 19? Surprising it hasn’t improved much over that time.


Team defence off the ball needs most work

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IMO once we get more attune to that forward handballing game plan, the opposition zones are gonna be like witches hats.

When we’ve got that forward handballing game going, we look seriously unstoppable.

The main areas we need to improve is contested football (including not throwing the ball on the boot under pressure) and building that wall across half forward so the opposition can’t get it out of their backline.

  1. obtain
  2. shoe
  3. repeat until goal

We need to concede a single point, to force the AFL’s brainiacs to put us on top of the ladder.


Anyone remember about 10 years ago(ish) when both Collingwood & Essendon had large victories in round 1.

All the Pies nuffies were jumping up & down, and yelling AFL conspiracy…. When they won by more, and we were 1st on the ladder!


Try and explain mathematics to a Collingwood supporters!


Bring back an odd number of teams and match ratio ranking!

Full field defence and the ability to reduce the amount of times the opposition transitions from their defensive fifty to score - This is the one feature of our game that was below par.


I am hoping this is the right thread to post this.

AFL Coach’s Clipboard: Essendon coach Ben Rutten reveals how he plans secure another finals berth

The Bombers made the finals in Ben Rutten’s first year but failed to pass week one. He reveals the key areas of improvements and players impressing as he looks to go deeper in September.

Essendon surprised the footy world by playing finals in Ben Rutten’s first year in charge, but the AFL’s most infamous September curse remains intact.

He reveals how the Bombers will improve again in 2022, who’s impressing on the training track, the latest on Jake Stringer’s fitness, who replaces Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, the draftee pushing his case for Round 1, and the challenges of life on the farm.

Jay Clark: Congrats on everything last season. I hear you have spent some time on the farm on your summer break. How’s your tractor skills, ‘Truck’?

Ben Rutten: I’m a first-time farmer, so I’ve got all the gear and no idea. It’s a nice place to unwind and switch off. There are a lot of things that I’m learning as I go, so there’s a lot of trial and error, and a lot of help from people who have been there and done it before. So I’m enjoying it at the moment. My biggest problem is I’ve been trying to get a couple of cows pregnant, that’s my first little dabble at trying to breed some livestock, so hopefully they can come through.

JC: Did you host all the players there as part of a pre-season camp?

BR: We finished up a training camp and then had a bit of a get-together at my place with all the footy department, the families and partners and kids of all the players, and staff as well. It was just a good opportunity considering everything that has happened the past couple of years. Those little connection points. It was nice timing. We had a camp for a couple of days which was physically demanding on everybody, and to finish that with a five-day break, it was really good.

JC: What was the theme of the camp?

BR: We had a solid training session, and a school camp type of setup. So we had some canoeing and raft-building, and rock climbing and laser tag. We had some team events going on and it was an opportunity to work on our group dynamics, and cohesion and connection throughout those couple of days. I think we were able to do that pretty well.

JC: How do you get better? Essendon was fourth for offence, ninth for defence in 2021. What’s top of the whiteboard for 2022?

BR: There’s always a long list of things you want to do better, as a coach you are always striving for excellence or perfection with things, which can be unrealistic. But we are always looking to grow and improve, I think the final we ended up paying in the end of last year ended up being a fantastic experience for our guys, and I think that in itself gave us a bit of confidence in what we have been doing, but it also it showed up the gap and the difference in where we want to get to.

It was just one of those experiences and opportunities that we ended up playing a grand final team and a team that was in the top-two for the whole season, and to be able to play some pretty good footy and show some of the stuff we have been working on is getting towards the level we need it to be. It also showed our ability to stick at it.

The resilience in our game, and to be able to do it for longer and do it in all conditions – that is the gap we are looking to bridge, and the Bulldogs are a pretty hardened and seasoned unit which had spent the vast majority of the season at the top. That sort of stuff is invaluable for our guys. We took a lot of momentum out of that game even though it was a really disappointing loss and the guys were shattered. It gave us a little kick-start around pre-season and that is our theme. We want to build our cohesion and chemistry and spend more time training together. Understand how each other play and how each other think and another year of consistency and stability is going to be.

JC: Ruckman Sam Draper has become one of footy’s most exciting players. Raw, aggressive. St Kilda tried hard to get him. What can we expect this year?

BR: The thing to remember is he has only played 21 games or something like that. He is athletic, he is dynamic, he is kind of a spiritual warrior for us out on the ground and we love that about him. But he has still got a lot of room to improve and learn about himself and also the game.

He hasn’t grown up playing the game, so to be able to keep building his understanding of the game and what is required. Every now and then he gets his capability and his ambition a little bit mixed up, but it is also what we love about him. He does try things and he is not afraid to think he is a six-foot midfielder every now and then.

The boys love him, and we have a really strong ruck group. Andrew Phillips, who played a fair bit of footy for us last year, is working really well (with Draper), and Nick Bryan is a guy who won our VFL best-and-fairest last year. He is really athletic and is getting his ruck craft building, so we have a really nice combination there, and all of them are going to play an important part in this season.

JC: How will the forward line look? No Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti early. Cale Hooker retired. Harry Jones coming back from injury. Where do the goals come from again?

BR: It is probably a similar proposition to what we were talking about last year. We brought Peter Wright into the team and we spent periods of the summer training with different guys in the midfield training up there and Cale Hooker spent the majority of the year up there and Harry Jones hadn’t even played a game at that point, so last year we were in a similar position.

I feel some of that cohesion will take some time to build, we might be similar again this year. But we are also really excited about it. Aaron Francis has been training up there really strongly, Peter Wright is 12 months in, Kaine Baldwin is showing some fantastic signs up there. We love what Harry Jones gives us up there and we think he is really going to progress.

So heaps of excitement, and optimism and enthusiasm, but also we need to understand we are not the finished product and we will continue to evolve. Last year we demonstrated we were a reasonably high-scoring team, we don’t want to be too predictable in the way that we score. We want contribution across the board. We know there are guys playing ahead of the ball, but they are not always the ones who are finishing the goals off, so we need to be pretty well-balanced.

JC: Who replaces McDonald-Tipungwuti? Irving Mosquito is no longer the club. Is Archie Perkins your man?

BR: Guys like Mozzie (Irving Mosquito) and ‘Walla’, they are guys who are difficult to replace. We think we have got some guys like Devon Smith, Archie Perkins has played a bit up forward for us and hopefully we can get some goals out of our midfielders at times, so we are looking to evolve and guys are able to step up in those positions. Last year through opportunity and needs we found guys were able to do that and none of those guys let us down last year, so that is all part of footy and the disappointment and challenge for one player is an opportunity for another. I feel like our guys are pretty fit and hungry and want to take their opportunities when they get them.

JC: Ben Hobbs looks like a great pick. Hard nut. Is he in the mix for early games this year?

BR: He has been fantastic. Along with Patrick Voss, Alastair Lord, Garrett McDonagh, they have all done a heap of training and really immersed themselves into the program. Initially, that’s all you can ask, can they build some strong relationships and feel comfortable and start contributing? All of them have been able to.

It shows where they are in terms of their attitude, it’s been fantastic, and just like any young or less-experienced players, it is important to just be able to come into the environment and understand the way we play and start to get a feel for the guys around them.

Hobbsy is pretty ambitious and has got a good head on his shoulders. He hasn’t knocked back any challenges and he has been able to compete really well against some of our more experienced guys. He is one of those guys once you give him half a sniff, he will be keen to take that opportunity.

JC: It’s an excellent midfield group. How are you going to give everyone in there a lick of the ice cream? Dylan Shiel, Darcy Parish, Zach Merrett, Jye Caldwell, Andrew McGrath. How do they all fit?

BR: It’s a nice thing to have at our disposal, it’s something as a club we have been working towards for a few years. Whether it is Melbourne or the Bulldogs or Richmond, they all have strong midfields. The last few years it is more about those guys having a really clear picture of what their best footy looks like, and what their strengths are and what the team needs, regardless of what position they are on the field. I think we have some strong flexibility in our game, which I think is a great thing.

JC: Not many tipped you to play finals last year, but you made it. On the back of losing three senior players, it was a great effort. What’s the pass mark in 2022?

BR: The biggest expectation we are putting on ourselves is to create a program and an environment where we just continue to build and push and get better and grow. Absolutely, we got a bit of a taste of what the finals were about last year, which highlighted some areas of our game which we need to get better at. But you’ve got 18 teams wanting to crack in and make the finals.

We want to create a program that puts us in the best position to win a premiership. That is the thing we have been pretty clear on over the past few months is that decisions have been made to get us closer to win a premiership and some sustained success, so we are no different in that respect this year and we will continue to make those decisions based on what is going to best position us for that.

Create a program where we are stretching ourselves no matter whether you are a staff member, a coach or a player, I want that to be the hallmark of this footy club. That up until the last day you are at the club you are feeling like you are getting better, it’s what we are trying to build.

JC: Jake Kelly flew under the radar in the trade period. Sounds like he has fit in well. What impact will he have down back?

BR: He has done some fantastic jobs on us at times on talls or smalls, which is a real strength of Jake’s. So he gives us another option to play on some of those dangerous smalls in particular. But he has a unique strength to be able to defend and intercept the ball, but he is great with ball in hand as well. So he gives us more options and less predictability in our game. He is a good hard worker and has a great attitude and is a pretty experienced player.

JC: There’s been a lot of talk about coaching styles and how tight you can or should be with players. Justin Langer and Simon Goodwin have been under the microscope. What’s your coaching style? How close should you be?

B R: I’m more of a relationship-based coach and I think for the players it is important to build those strong relationships, and part of that is not having the same relationship with every player. It is about meeting their needs and understanding their needs, and some guys need more attention or some guys may need a little less. It is critical.

They are my No.1 responsibility, the players, and you’ve got to have a good relationship to pick up behavioural changes, and I need them understanding the way I think and I think that is just critical. It does make things difficult at times when you have to have some more difficult conversations, or tell them things they may not want to hear. But that is the price you have to pay as a coach, and I would rather that and have strong relationships than the opposite. It’s just the way I do things, and it is not necessarily right or wrong. I think it is paramount in building trust.

JC: We saw Nik Cox and Perkins really shine last year. What about Zach Reid, your other top pick?

BR: Unfortunately, he hasn’t done a heap out on the track with the guys, he has had a really difficult run. Glandular fever, stress fracture in his back, and little bit of foot problems, plus he has had Covid, so he has struggled to get some continuity. He was building up his loads from his foot and they had a little setback with Covid, which put him back a week or two in building up.

So it’s been disappointing, and he’s been flat and frustrated at times, but it is also giving him, as a young tall player, time to build his body and put a lot of work into that and hopefully give himself a great opportunity to have a long and uninterrupted career. Because there is no doubt he is 203cm or 205cm, he looks like he is growing every day and with a lean body, he’s a bit of a recipe for some problems. So in some respects we have this time to invest in his body and get some really good mechanics going that will put him in a really good stead.

JC: Where will he play?

BR: Forward and back, it will probably start to settle him down back to begin with, but we saw this time last year he played a little bit in our forward line, and he has played a bit of both, but he is one of those guys who will be able to adapt to whatever role he needs to.

JC: Jake Stringer update? Did he hurt his groin?

BR: Very minor, this time of year, and Kyle Langford (shoulder) is the same, they didn’t quite get up to the full session but both of those guys have done a power of work in pre-season. If there is an opportunity to be a fraction more conservative, this time of year that is kind of the decision we have made on both those guys, nothing to be too concerned about.

JC: Good luck, Ben.

BR: Thank you.


The odd thing is we did - drastically - change the gameplan from ‘18 into ‘19. Which I think we all assumed was Rutten’s input.

Then it took weeks to work out, then started working, and as soon as it started bearing some fruit at the back end of ‘19 (despite a horrid injury run) we went & made drastic changes again.

EFC is a very, very confused football club.

Some thoughts on the forward line & structure after the Dogs practice match.

Thinking about how we managed to kick a winning score against Footscray despite our forward line looking dysfunctional at times. And also reading what I thought were some ill informed comments in the Francis Thread.
Now all good coaches will adapt their strategies to suit the players available, and the opponent.
Equally, good coaching teams aren’t as fixated on the past as the football commentariat & many fans seem to be. EG; adopting a “Richmond style” is a cliche here, that’s well past it’s use by date.
They’ll look at what’s currently successful, and, if appropriate, look to steal aspects of that.

At least for this game our forward structure & instructions reminded me very highly of Melbourne.
And this seems to explain the roles different players were asked to do, and how Footscray were picked apart.
Francis played the McDonald role. Asked to provide a marking outlet all the way to defensive wing. But just as importantly prevent the opposition from marking high balls, be a big body in packs, and block or tap on the ball to give at least a stoppage, if not a scoring opportunity for others.

Jones & later Baldwin, played the Sideshow Bob role. Play closer to goal, and look to mark. Yeah, they don’t lead like Sideshow, being better aerially, but either are very mobile threats, and keep moving into space. Dragging opponents out of position.

2MP took the Jackson/Gawn role. Again, closer to goal, but there for the pack mark contest. Which has a low percentage of actual marks, but invariably takes 2 opponents to compete, leaving hopefully an outnumber at the spillage.

Perkins, and when he returns, presumably Stringer, play the Fritsch role. The mobile mid sized dangerous forward.

That leaves the Picket role. Which is where we miss Walla. And was really lacking until Tex came on, and suddenly things clicked.

And finally, Melbourne’s anonymous but important 6 & 7th small defensive forwards. This seems designed for any of Snelling, Smith, or yesterday Guelfi. Snelling fits this to a tee. Unless Guelfi was tagging Daniels he seemed a bit lost. And Smith is fine going forward but seems out of position defensively in terms of stopping opposition counter attacks from defence.

Anyway, apologies for the lengthy post.
I’ll be interested to see if this continues, or if it was Footscray specific.


It was noticeable we’ll avoid going wide through the middle and back our speed and numbers to get it inside 50 as direct as possible.
Not sure if we’re intentionally not leading in the fwd line but there was disconnect that forwards wanted to wait and move into the space as soon as it’s kicked but 90% of kicks were heavy and kicking straight to where the fwds were already standing and fwds continued to run under it.
We didn’t show too much strategy in the middle compared to bulldogs but I think Drapers right shoulder should be the Hail Mary tap for our mids which bulldogs did when they cleared with ease.
Overall we seemed to just have a hit out and purely focus on defensive structure.
I wouldn’t mind having a bit of a plan when all you can do is slow kick it down the line and more emphasis on freeing up a tall to take the contested mark. Same probably goes for the slow inside 50, utilise the boundary and let our strengths in smalls and mids clean up the boundary throw in instead of wasting an inside 50.