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Efficiency vs team defence

Simon Conway  May 18, 2017 12:59 PM

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James Stewart kicked three goals for the Bombers last week as the Dons made the most of limited inside 50s.

Essendon’s clash with West Coast on Sunday shapes as a battle between one of the competition’s most efficient forward lines and one of the game's best defences.

The Bombers are ranked 16th for inside 50s but have still found a way to average more than 13 goals per game and kick more than 100 points on four occasions. 

“At the moment we’re only generating low 40s for inside 50s each week, we need to get that number up into the mid 50s or higher,” Game Intelligence and Opposition Strategy Coach Rob Harding told Bomber Radio.

“The by-product of being able to do that is that you’re spending less time defending in your back half.”

Essendon has three players (Joe Daniher, Orazio Fantasia and Cale Hooker) placed inside the AFL’s top 21 goal scorers this season. 

“Our ball movement has been really good at times,” Harding said. 

“We’ve shown a really good ability to score from limited inside 50 opportunities.

“The way our forward line has been functioning as a collective has been outstanding – all credit to the young leaders in that group and also Hayden Skipworth who has coached them really well and developed a continuity among that group already.

“There are times where we bite off a little more than we can chew … but I think our ball movement has been a real weapon so far.”

The efficient Dons forward line will have to find a way through a resolute Eagles defence.

Only two teams have conceded fewer points than West Coast this season.

“Their team defence is outstanding, they’ve got two of the top three intercept marks in the AFL in Jeremy McGovern and Elliot Yeo,” Harding said.

“Teams that have played well against West Coast have found a way to keep their 'backs' engaged a little bit more.

“When they’re able to set-up the ground the way they want they’re very hard to get through.

“They’re a top four defence and as they move the ball forward they’ve got some real weapons with their ‘talls’.

“Jack Darling has run into some form in the last couple of weeks and Jack Darling has been outstanding for the last couple of years now.”

The Bombers will be hoping to replicate some of the defensive pressure that was a highlight of the win against Geelong.

“Our pressure around the ball was outstanding, we had 40 more tackles than Geelong on the night,” Harding said.

“That’s something we’ve been working on in recent weeks and something we need to (continue to) improve.

“The first line of your team defence is your pressure around the ball.

“The flow on effect of good pressure around the ball is that it creates good scoring opportunities so we got a lot of that through the first three quarters.

“In the last quarter we were camped in our back half a bit and we managed to score a few times on counter attacks, but we’d certainly like to lock the ball in our forward half for longer periods.

“It was a really good result for our footy club and for our fans it was a great window into how we want to play going forward.”