We need to settle side, says Thompson - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

We need to settle side, says Thompson

By Roger Vaughan 22/07/2009 06:58:54 AM Comments (0)

With the AFL finals less than two months away, the time for experiments at Geelong is fast closing.

One of the most noticeable tinkerings of the Cats' game plan came last weekend, when they dropped out-of-sorts ruckman Mark Blake for the easy win over Melbourne.

Instead, second-year player Shane Mumford took over the ruck work with help from key forward Tom Hawkins and key defender Harry Taylor.

Hawkins' ruckwork was particularly impressive.

Coach Mark Thompson said it was time to settle the side and put more responsibility on the players to cope with tactical challenges as they emerged during games.

"From this point on, we're going to try to settle it down and leave it up to the players on the ground to decide how they sense the game is going as to what they do," he said.

"But we've given them a trial in a lot of things this year, that have been quite different to the previous two years.

"Right now, we'd like to see some real solid decision making and some solid structure from this point forward."

Thompson added Blake will stay in the VFL for at least another week, but clearly wants him back in the senior side soon.

"Blakey played well in the reserves, he's just got to go back and find his form and do the things his team-mates want him to do, he's capable of doing and the team wants him to do," he said.

"Until he does that, he'll be in the VFL - which we hope is not going to be too long.

"It will be definitely this week, but it's just as long as it takes."

It has been a big year for tactical innovation as clubs first tried to counter Hawthorn's zone defence, then St Kilda's outstanding use of total defensive pressure.

"You try and predict at the start of the year what's going to happen in footy," Thompson said.

"We thought the zoning would be more predominant - it was early ... but teams are really getting through it.

"Now it's more man-on-man, but the thing that has changed is teams are moving the ball much, much quicker.

"Teams are doing much, much more at stoppages and kickouts and zones, that sort of stuff."

One big query that remains for Geelong is if ruck-forward Brad Ottens will return from his knee injury in time for the finals.

The ongoing uncertainty about Ottens is one reason why Hawkins was trialled in the ruck.

"We don't know - he'll play, but whether he can play reasonable footy is a concern," Thompson said.

"I won't be taking him into a game, or any player into a final, if we don't think they can play well in a final."

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