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Why 6-6-6 rule could force Tigers into a radical shake-up

Could new rules force a radical shift in the centre bounces for Richmond? - AFL,Richmond Tigers,Tom J Lynch
Could new rules force a radical shift in the centre bounces for Richmond?

IS THIS the set of numbers that might convince Richmond to risk sending prized recruit Tom Lynch into the ruck?

Statistics from the 2019 AFL Prospectus reveal no team will need to adapt more to the compulsory 6-6-6 centre-bounce set-up than the Tigers, who used that formation just 3.4 per cent of the time last year.

Richmond's 2017 Grand Final opponent, Adelaide (4.4 per cent), was the only other club below 10 per cent.

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Brisbane (67.9 per cent), Collingwood (64.9), Gold Coast (64.9), Western Bulldogs (64.8) and Essendon (60.5) led the way in using 6-6-6, with the Pies the sole finalist among them.

Lynch serving as a centre-bounce back-up would be the Tigers waving the white flag on the Shaun Grigg experiment, accepting the undersized route won't work under the new conditions.

Another Richmond option, according to a rival AFL club's opposition scout, would be for the 2017 premier to hand Toby Nankervis a monopoly on the centre bounce.

"If the knee Lynch's got the (injury) issue with is his jumping knee, you'd have to be wary of that," the opposition analyst told AFL.com.au.

"But you'd have to consider it, because Grigg in there with no protection off the back of the square is a recipe for disaster.

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"Can you imagine Max Gawn against Shaun Grigg? That's going in Melbourne's forward 50 straight away. They were worried enough to put two off the back of the square last year.

"They could keep Nankervis out there for as long as possible.

"So Nankervis rucks, then goes forward, and Grigg replaces him as their around-the-ground ruckman – you'd do that – but that's still a big workload for Grigg and Nankervis."

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'The Nank' already contested the fourth-most centre bounces last year (557), behind only Brodie Grundy (625), Gawn (612) and Todd Goldstein (563).

 

However, Nankervis ranked only 14th in the competition for average hitouts among players with double-digit appearances – and his value takes a slight hit with the rule changes, too.

There are even repercussions for Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin, whose tendency to 'cheat' forward, knowing he had protection the other way, may not be a worthwhile risk now.

Champion Data analysed 2800 centre bounces from last season and found that four formations accounted for 88 per cent of set-ups from that sample, with 6-6-6 the most common (42 per cent).

The other three popular formations, in order of defenders-midfielders-forwards, were 7-6-5 (39 per cent), 6-7-5 (4 per cent) and 8-6-4 (3 per cent).

How did your club set up at centre bounces in 2018?

CLUB

8-6-4

7-6-5

6-7-5

6-6-6

OTHER

Adelaide

29.2%

48.7%

0.7%

4.4%

17.0%

Brisbane

0.3%

7.6%

3.3%

67.9%

20.9%

Carlton

2.4%

30.7%

5.1%

43.9%

17.8%

Collingwood

0.6%

27.6%

2.1%

64.9%

4.9%

Essendon

0.3%

27.0%

3.6%

60.5%

8.7%

Fremantle

1.1%

48.4%

9.0%

25.8%

15.8%

Geelong

0.7%

33.1%

1.8%

53.7%

10.7%

Gold Coast

0.0%

20.1%

2.8%

64.9%

12.2%

GWS Giants

6.3%

51.1%

2.8%

36.4%

3.4%

Hawthorn

1.4%

38.3%

5.9%

43.9%

10.5%

Melbourne

1.3%

62.5%

1.6%

24.3%

10.2%

North Melbourne

1.6%

60.6%

1.6%

10.6%

25.7%

Port Adelaide

3.4%

48.5%

5.1%

30.8%

12.2%

Richmond

11.5%

71.1%

1.3%

3.4%

12.8%

St Kilda

1.9%

35.6%

7.7%

48.7%

6.1%

Sydney

1.1%

49.3%

4.3%

35.5%

9.8%

West Coast

0.8%

30.8%

10.5%

53.2%

4.6%

Western Bulldogs

0.9%

20.5%

0.9%

64.8%

12.8%

Competition ave.

3.1%

38.5%

4.1%

42.1%

12.2%

  • Statistics courtesy 2019 AFL Prospectus

The Tigers, on the other hand, preferred the 7-6-5 approach at a whopping 71 per cent of centre bounces – the highest percentage in any formation – while devoting 11.5 per cent to 8-6-4.

They weren't an offensive juggernaut in the latter set-up from pure clearances (scoring just 13 per cent of the time), but that doesn't tell the full story.

Richmond won more than half those centre clearances, which typically involved two players stampeding off the back of the square, and did not concede a single point in Champion Data's sample.

Kane Lambert was the Tigers' go-to man for that role, along with Shane Edwards, Daniel Rioli and Jason Castagna.

The Tigers also become a turnover-forcing menace in this mode, punishing opposition giveaways with a score 18 per cent of the time – triple the competition average.

This tactic won't be available for coach Damien Hardwick this year.

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"It will have an impact on them and they will have to adjust some of their game strategies, but they still have (Trent) Cotchin, Martin, Edwards and those guys at the centre bounce," the scout said.

"It's probably not quite as big a change as putting Tom Lynch in, but that's still two big changes – two things that impact the way they play.

"They can't roll out what they did in 2017 and expect to win a flag in 2019, because their list is a little different and their depth is completely gone, to get Tom Lynch in."

Anyone interested in buying a copy of this year's AFL Prospectus can go to shop.championdata.com.au or find it at selected newsagents