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Cluster lustre: 2009 NAB round 2 review

NAB round 2 review

The cluster shows no signs of fading away, which means big fantasy numbers for half back flankers.

It may be ugly, it may lead to boring football with reduced scoring, but there’s no denying that the rolling zone is going to be used a lot in 2009. Quite apart from the success Hawthorn had last season, I suspect the Pies v Eagles game in week 1 of the NAB had a bit to do with it. The Magpies set up through the middle and the Eagles set up round the wings. Collingwood did what they liked all night as a result. Since then, every team has tried to own the corridor, like the Hawks did in their first two finals last year.

One major difference, though, is that a lot of the zone players in the NAB this year have tended to drift too far back, leading to old-fashioned flooding. I don’t think the Hawks had as many five-on-one contests in the backline last year as I’ve seen in the NAB. Hawthorn tended to keep their back structures in place and let Luke Hodge or whoever zone off their man to be third up in a contest – mainly because the extra men in the midfield meant that they could run forward after a turnover and hurt on the rebound. I wonder if coaches new to the rolling zone are eventually going to figure that out and drill their players into not devolving the gameplan into the backline flood.

I’m going to break the round review posts up into days from now on, posting them just after matches, and in some cases may do a day and a night one separately. It requires too much brainpower to do it all at the end of the weekend when I’ve forgotten half of what went on!

NAB round 2 review: Thursday
NAB round 2 review: Friday
NAB round 2 review: Saturday
NAB round 2 review: Sunday



  1. Chad

    March 4, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    GReat stuff monty. Maybe a future article, the players you think the rolling zones could help? who will get the cheapes (sorted by team). Will this be good for Raines?

  2. wardy

    March 4, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Great article monty, you may end up with an assitant coach’s position if you keep that up..

  3. the dud

    March 4, 2009 at 9:59 pm


  4. Dan

    March 5, 2009 at 1:58 am


    One thing I noticed the commentators said is that they were only tagging 1 person (Judd) in that game – do you see much of a reduction in tagging now that everyone is adopting zones?

  5. Scumbag

    March 5, 2009 at 7:38 am

    I think the use of the cluster or zone is only helped by the rules in place for the NAB cup. No marks for kicking backwards means players are under pressure no matter which way they kick either backwards to someone who can’t stop the game or to a two on one contest. Added to that is they need to kick it 20 metres for a mark.

    If anyone saw Richmond’s win over the Hawks last year moving the ball from half back flank to half back flank and attacking the weak part of the zone saw a recipe to follow. This is very difficult to do when you don’t have the safety valve of taking a mark.

    That being said I can’t see zones or clusters being used to the same extent or being as effective come round 1. Some of the NAB numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt.

  6. Reecey

    March 5, 2009 at 12:53 pm


    I’m an expat living in the US and I don’t understand what all of this “zoning” actually is – could you please explain it. Is it a new rule? tactic? I’m a bit lost and everyone’s talking about it – not here of course but on the net :S


  7. Dan

    March 5, 2009 at 2:51 pm


    Definitely not a new tactic – only new to AFL to an extent (flooding is a sort of zone defence).

    It is where you guard real estate rather than go man-on-man defence.

    So you see players equally spaced across the ground they are defending.

  8. mitch

    March 5, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    The zones are being implemented by the clubs to slow down their opponents speed of attack.
    Hawthorn used it very effectively last season and a lot of other clubs have cottoned on and seen that it works.

    In the first 2 weeks of the NAB Cup these tactics have been used to force clubs to rush there kicks, force them wide and effectively create a turnover.

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