Mission 2015: how to beat Dial-a-Houdini netball?

Bloody Hawthorn.

So now we all have a new benchmark.

And via Port, have a glimpse of what a future benchmark may be.


It’s the sleight of hand of a card-shuffling magician operating under immense physical and mental pressure like Harry Houdini. It’s the gut-busting running power that allows sprint after sprint after sprint like a commuter swapping lines at Flinders Street. It’s the anticipation to be ready to give/ receive/ assist-a-mate and be exactly where you need to be like a pizza delivery supremo. It’s the ball-handling nouse to reliably and consistently kick/ handball/ deftly tap the ball to a teammate in a better position that yourself, maintaining possession like a netballer. It all leads to scoring goals.

It’s 18 Houdinis dashing via the Degraves Lane underpass, shuffling cards, handballing small capricciosas to the Goal Shooter. And buttering up for the next play. And the one after that. While accepting and dishing out physical pain.


Hawthorn 21.11.137 to Sydney 11.8.74

On ABC Radio as the victory lap played out…

G Whateley: The players can enjoy this moment. Before the next season quickly comes around.

N Buckley: The 2015 season starts now. It’s already started.



How to beat that?

Collingwood has had a pretty solid few years. But even over the past three completed seasons, the Hawks have won by an average of 42 points, with scores very similar to that of the GF. Collingwood supporters had seen that GF many times before. (Prior to that, Collingwood kept them to 9.11 in a Prelim, when footy was played as an in-close slog).

So what’s happened? How do they do it?


Hawthorn Collingwood
2014 R23 18 13 121 8 8 56
2014 R14 17 13 115 13 8 86
2013 R21 18 11 119 12 12 84
2013 R3 22 13 145 13 12 90
2012 QF 20 15 135 15 7 97
2012 R17 21 21 138 13 13 91
2012 R1 20 17 137 16 19 115
AVERAGE 19 14 130 13 10 88
2011 PF 9 11 65 10 8 68


I reckon it’s pieces in a puzzle.

Reminded me of Commonwealth Games netball.

We’ve had Roman legion analogies, basketball analogies, soccer analogies before. This is much the same.

As PeterB (via Colin Hayes) says, it’s roles defined and individuals filling roles.

It’s netball.

It’s four hard inside players (C) + one full back (GK) + one full forward (GS) + two ruckmen (GA/GD) + eleven six foot marking/ leading/running/ tackling/ ball-skilled/ honest others (WA/WD). Setting screens, creating the overlap, filling holes, using a voice. And running “like the wind, Bullseye”. When injury strikes, fill the role with an understudy.

GA, GS, WA, C, WD, GD, GK. Roles. Tasks. Run and spread.

We used to have names for role players in Australian Rules footy, too.

But Forward pocket, Half-back flank and the like don’t really cut it anymore.

I wonder what those ‘inside the system’ call today’s roles?

So Hawthorn (and Port) have brought netball to the big league. Quick netball hands beat the slog of the physical-pressure-rugby-based Swans. I thought the Swans would win. “A champion team of champions” was my call. Based on their pressure footy. And there’s still a place for pressure, lock-down footy. Yet Collingwood beat the Swans fairly often. Collingwood can play that style. A team playing pressure footy can be beaten by a slightly stronger opposing pressure force.

It will be interesting to see two ‘run, Forest, run’ sides take each other on. I missed the Hawthorn v Port Prelim, but it read well.

Pass-pass-keep possession pass-pass-shot.

How to prepare? How to beat it?

In netball, it requires all the skill of the opponent, but more. All the daring of the opponent, but more. All the fitness of the opponent, but more. Hmmm.

When Australia plays New Zealand, it requires hassling for turns-over and making the most of your chances. My workmate here (from Sydney via Newcastle and Brisbane) is an Aussie Rules newbie. On Saturday he was surprised and annoyed by how frequently the whistle is blown in our game. Again, netball.

“Contact Goal Defence. Pass or shot.”

Clubs should have that in mind drafting for 2015 and beyond. Runners who can keep possession.

Should all clubs shoot for this highwire full contact netball philosophy?

No way.

A better idea has probably already been hatched.


Roll on 2015. It’s already started.


About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Very descriptive and thoughtful piece David. I was wondering what Ross Lyon was thinking watching Port and the Hawks in the last couple of weeks. Is Rossball dead; or just playing for 4th if his ageing list holds up?
    He is a very smart man, so is he updating his gameplan and surveying the lists at other clubs to plan his next career move.
    Made me think of footy as rock, paper, scissors. Freo paper might smother rocks, but Hawks/Port scissors slice through it.
    Is there a rock game plan capable of smashing the scissor strategy on a dry day in September?
    I’m sure Ross will be working on it. Gold Coast?

  2. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Interesting ant thought provoking article OBP . Hawthorns recruiting of so many left footers and switch the play and then run on the outside consistently catches sides out . How the hawks are the best kicking side by a distance is a huge part of there success .
    I like your netball analogy a lot of truth in that OBP

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Enjoyed the netball analogies too E.r,, especially the fast hands.

    But player movement is of course governed by the goal rings and transverse lines painted on the court., 4 on 4 in the end thirds, 5 on 5 in the middle third and 2 on 2 in the circles. And no boundary umps, last to touch concedes possession from the sidelines, ball is alive off the post.

    Come to think of it, didn’t all of the above get trialled in recent pre-seasons?

  4. Great read Mr Wilson. It starts with, “Bloody Hawthorn” and just gets better. Kinda like the game under discussion! One netball characteristic the Hawks definitely displayed at the big dance was quick and decisive thinking. It is something I marvel at watching our 14 year old playing netball. Even when shooting for goal you only have 3 seconds.


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