Thanks for the great report ASB18, here’s my 2 cents worth from today
I missed about the first half hour, when I arrived players were in groups at either end of the oval with a high ball being delivered to the hotspot, there seems to be a real emphasis on contested marking this year.
The next drill involved creating a loose man out the back in the forward 50. Along with drills in other sessions kicking to players streaming towards goal I think this will also be a strong part of the game plan, and why not now we have speedstars in the likes of Fanta, Colyer and Tippa.
All the players then went to the Etihad oval where they were split into 4 groups, 1 group against another in 2 very confined areas where the goal was to reach the far end of the rectangular area simply through handball. There was also full tackling in this drill.
One of these games was particularly vocal with load roars whenever either team ‘scored’. It was indicative of the overall mood today which was very competitive but also very upbeat.
After that all players moved back to the main oval for the first long match practice session I’ve seen this pre season, which went for about an hour.
Here are some of my observations:
Ambrose played almost solely on Hooker and did a very good job. Although Hooker got his fair share of the ball, Ambrose wore him like a glove. At the end of period where the players had breaks, Ambrose was constantly discussing positioning and body work with Hooker, Hurley, and Kelly. He looks to have stepped up another notch and I would be surprised if he’s not in the team for round 1. His kicking also seems much improved, more on that later.
I was particularly interested to watch McGrath, who predominately lined up on Tippa. He shadowed Tippa very well and is in constant motion, particularly when the defending team has the ball. He will help create enormous run from the backline and is always looking for the 1 – 2. Tippa also showed flashes of his customary brilliance. On one occasion he brought down Gleeson in a great tackle coming out of the backline when it appeared Gleeson was already past him. On another occasion he managed to get out of a full body tackle from Baguley, both of which to me displayed improved core strength.
Conor McKenna was very prominent off the backline, and seemed to be used as the main distributor, which may well be an indication of things to come.
Colyer didn’t miss a target by foot including 3 perfect 30 – 40 metre passes off his left foot, it may have something to do with his work with Greg Williams who was a similar build and equally adept off both feet.
Stewart competed in the ruck against Leuy without too much success. He is a very good size though so is worth persevering with here, it’s probably his best chance of a spot as a relief ruck.
Heppell is a star, I think we may have forgotten how good he is.
Begley is a great size and did some good things, but may take a while to pick up the tempo of the game.
If no one else has claimed him I’m happy to take the front row seat on the Ridley bandwagon. He played as a leading forward today, from memory up against Brown and Hartley mostly and I thought did very well. He actually reminded me a bit of Hird on a few occasions. He was always moving, always in front, took a couple of nice marks but what was particularly impressive was 3 half volleys he pick up on the lead perfectly, a couple of which were very difficult but made to look easy, a la Hird.
After the match practice there was a series of running drills. Colyer was the standout for me, steaking away from his group in every sprint.
The opposite was Tippa, who looked thoroughly exhausted as the drills went on, and was no doubt happy when they were over.
Hooker and Stewart were at the other end of the ground doing a drill that involved sprinting in a series of curves around cones from the goals square to the 50, replicating a long lead, then turning and receiving a handball, evading a coach and having a shot for goal in an obviously fatigued state. Stewart was sensational and barely missed, Hooker may need a bit more practice.
A few of the players then went off for goal kicking practice. Tippa then showed off by nailing a series of set shots from various distances and angles off his left foot, I can’t recall him missing.
Heppell and Langford were doing a drill where they took a tap out bounced off a trainer with a collision bag and then snapped for goal, mostly successfully.
Stewart and Hooker were having set shots into the wind at the other end and kicking most despite the difficult wind.
Ambrose and Baguley were doing a drill in the middle of the ground where the kicker would start with his back turned, receive the ball from a trainer and race back from a trainer on the mark before executing a sharp kick to the player leading. This was no doubt aimed at improving what was a weakness in Ambrose’s kicking which too often have been high floaters, and to me there appears to be incredible improvement already compared to the last few years.
This was also an indication of what I see as very specific individual couching coaching, not only of the amount of work each player does but also a strong intent to improve any weaknesses in individual players.
I’m happy to also answer questions about any other players people may have.