When last year’s team focussed on applying greater pressure around the contest, I think we hit upon something we can get even better at this year. To explain what I mean, let’s divide a game of footy into two fundamental states: order and chaos. Highly skilled teams such as GWS and Adelaide base their game style on moving the ball great distances in an ordered and often uncontested fashion. To counter this, we had to get really good at two things: turning that order into chaos, then taking the chaos and convering it back into order … in other words, turning their order into our order via a period of chaos. Our much hyped ‘pressure’ is what disrupted the order of the other teams, placing the ball into dispute. However, the second part of the equation – turning that chaos into our order – has been spoken about less, but is equally important.
During the periods of chaos we caused, other teams didn’t have a way of dealing with it, therefore ended up panicking, almost randomly disposing of the ball if they got a hand or foot near it. That is, they met chaos with chaos. They wanted to avoid chaos, but we welcomed it. While chaos was outside their comfort zone, it was inside ours. We had developed a process for dealing with the chaos, and that process itself was, from a psychological perspective, orderly and disciplined. This meant that, when the ball was in dispute, our players’ minds, compared to those of their opponents, were calmer and less anxious, simply because they had been drilled to embrace chaos and behave in certain ways when it arose, such as:
- getting extra numbers at the contest
- keep tackling, harrassing and smothering
- knocking, kicking or handballing the ball forward while another player ran forward to receive it
- having players positioned to receive the hasty opposition kick out of a pack
Actions like these increased our chances of winning possession and turning chaos back into order.
If the chaotic periods just kept coming, one after the other, the opposition got more and more stressed, but we just lapped it up, because it was all part of the plan. For us, chaos was fun.
In 2018, watch for other teams to get better at the ‘pressure’ bit, turning order into chaos, but also watch for us to get better at the second part of the equation, turning chaos back into order. I believe it’s in this latter area where other teams will lag behind.