The zone problem

I think there is a real problem with our zone set up. It isn’t compact enough and can’t/doesn’t move laterally. We seem to just be in constant retreat rather than retreating to a defendable position on a slow play.

Our defenders constantly look like they are guarding grass because they aren’t close enough together which leaves too much room for opponents to lead into. Compared to Melbourne Our defenders seem to have no cohesion or coordinated structure at all

We also just don’t seem prepared to work hard enough to close down options and are content to follow in by 5 Meters to stop the play on. We also then man the mark when a lot of other sides are giving it up by 5 Meters now so that can stay mobile and protect dangerous channels.

Consequently It’s entirely too easy for opponents to spread us apart and we suck at pulling our opponents apart because we don’t take the lateral passes quickly enough when they’re on (Hodge was banging on about this all night).

Instead we wait for a more direct option, hesitate and then try to force it and fark it up or eventually go sideways by which time it is too late and the other side has set up defensively and can force us to go slow.

A decent CHF would help our ball movement but we need to be able to identify open switching opportunities quicker.

The defence issue is harder to solve. Our zone seems to have gone back to being the complete mess it was a couple of years ago. I don’t understand why or how that’s happened.


Watching Melbourne’s zone in contrast…… it is increasingly well organised.

In another thread I talked about footballers who are unable to understand soccer structures. A defensive soccer shape is lines of players (think of a foosball table). Everyone stays on their line (if it’s a 4-4-2, it’s made up of 3 lines; defenders, midfielders, strikers)

Melbourne have this exact defensive zone. They are exactly in line with each other. It makes it almost impossible to deliver a forward handball or short kick forward, without it being intercepted.

As to my first point, footballers just don’t seem to get the concept of keeping the defensive shape. The best sides have finally got it into the brains of their players.


Kind of contradicting yourself there.

Well drilled teams appear to be able to do it.


I think you do…


Clearly this is an uninteresting topic for people.
Talking structures is a lot less sexy than slagging off players.

Here is 2 examples of Melbourne’s zone, and our attempt at a zone.

As I said previously Melbourne’s zone is very well drilled, and just like Soccer ‘defensive shape’…… Melbourne snap straight into a zone when they’ve lost possession. When we find a target inside the zone, they continue to run back in their lines, and don’t break out of shape.

Compared to us. We are clumped together scrambling to get back, Players are in no man’s land. They’re completely out of position when they get through our first line (if we have a line). Where as Melbourne will shuffle back or across, depending on where we hit a target…. And don’t lose their shape at all.


I was going to post this exact same thing today. It’s staggering how good Richmond’s zone was and we brought over their defensive coach and ours is still the worst in the comp 3 years later.

I posted last night it’s token zone defence from the players with no true intent to disrupt ball movement. You can tell because the players jog to their patch of grass and don’t pivot from it, turn the head to check if any leads are coming etc. You have to be willing to move 5m each way off your spot, even that slight movement stops the kicker from taking the risk, but our players can’t even be bothered doing that, it’s pathetic.

I have got the feeling hearing Mark Williams in a podcast the other day saying that he has always been a big advocate of the ‘grid’ and may have been too demanding on it at times, that he was likely the one behind the greatest zone i have seen being Richmond’s in their successful period. He has moved to Melbourne now and guess what, there’s is superb too. I think we try get him over as to me the zone defence and it’s efficiency is arguably the most important thing in the game these days.


As I showed in the above pictures.

If 1 or 2 players either aren’t buying in, or don’t understand the zone…… then the whole thing falls apart.

It has to be a 100% commitment. You can’t have lazy players, and you can’t have players who running around aimlessly.


Hundred percent. It’s interesting a few years back i predicted both Collingwood in 2018 and Brisbane i think 19, would shoot up the ladder after seeing them both live early in their ascent, for this exact reason. Their zones were in perfect uniform lines and moved into position quickly (the same as Richmond and the hawks before them). I still have no idea how ours is so bad, it can only be our players that have been at the club for 5 years or more refuse to do it properly and it therefore rubs off on the young players.

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Great posts jono, really highlights our lack of structure. My feeling is that it’s mostly coz we don’t have smart footballers who know how to be disciplined enough.

We have to just hope that they’ll eventually get it.

It’s also a leadership thing. Having people on field who organise stuff. Hurley used to do it for us. Don’t know who is responsible for it ATM.


Watching the Dees twice live now you see how much work May does behind the scenes yelling at everyone to get into place.

I have not seen anyone do it for us so far. I think Ridley gets there, but he’s not really in form atm and is probably more worried about his own game

As I said, think of a Foosball table.

Look at how they have straight lines. Horizontally & Vertically.


Lazy players?

Lazy coaches?

100%… watch the great Hwthorn teams and you had Burgoyne, Breust and Roughead organising the forwards, Mitchell and Lewis organising the mids, and Hodge, Birchall and Stratton organising the backs

One of our big problems over the last 20 or so years is that many of most vocal on field leaders (Andy Welsh, David Myers, Jake Melksham, Mark McVeigh, Heath Hocking, maybe Hank Slattery at a pinch) have all been pretty average


As I said, if 1-2 players don’t understand it….Then the zone is a liability. Which it is.

There is zero instructions from anyone as to where they set up.

You also need to have players who aren’t chasing a ball around like a dog. It’s like watching kids play football or soccer…… where they just chase the ball all over the park. You need players who are thinking, & positioning themselves to best serve the team.

I mean small forwards seem to be able to position themselves perfectly to get the over the top hand ball (and cheap goal), but when it comes to the ball being in dispute, they’re unable to put themselves in a position to close off the exits.


IMO, the zone is setup exactly the way the coaches designed it because we are consistently inviting the opposition to transition the ball to our half-back line without any pressure.

Are we back to trying to force the majority of turnovers in our defensive half then counter attack.

I thought be left that behind when worsfold left the building.


Great post and good analysis. Nice to read something that is not the sky is falling, we’re the softest team, the player’s are crap and don’t care if they win or lose, sack everyone garbage that has become all too common here lately.
I imagine there is more than one type of zone but the problem is we’ll never get the type of insight from the club to see if the players are doing as instructed or it is getting broken down and how.


This guy posts some good content. Where can you find the podcast he refers to

I don’t think this is organised as a good zone at all. The first line is too close and towards the bottom of the screen you can see viney could be hit up with an easy 20m pass which they did all night with ease from defence to half forward. I do agree we tended to defend further back than normal the other night in your traditional ‘flooding’ style however it was more stand near a player or guard some grass as opposed to an actual organised zone set up.