Think Tank At Work

Extract from secret tapes inside an AFL team’s coaches’ meeting:

Forward Coach: We’ve got to do something about the inside 50s differential.

Midfield Coach: Yep. We’ve run that through our processes. We’re going to increase the rotations of mids and smalls through the front half.

Forward Coach: That’s fine but will the smalls know how to structure up at the set stoppages?

Defense Coach: Shouldn’t be a problem. The backs will zone off, keep possession and get the inside 50 efficiencies up so the smalls can find free space. We’ll leave the structuring at the stoppages to the mids. When the backs zone off they’ll either leave defensive 50 on the diagonal or go to the fat side. If they leave on the diagonal the forwards will present. If they switch we’ll need the smalls in the front half to be at the feet of the talls as the ball comes in.

Head Coach: What?

Forward Coach: I say again, how will this help the inside 50s differential?

Midfield Coach: If we structure up right and get free ball outside, then the inside 50s will take care of themselves.  Last year the forward 50 differential wasn’t the problem, it was the defensive zoning differential that ruined our process.

Forward Coach: We need inside fifty efficiency, not just inside fifty numbers.  We’ll only get efficiency if the boys in the back half deliver by foot above 75%. They can zone off and the mids can structure up at the stoppages but if the delivery by foot falls below our benchmark the differential blows out. That’s a huge KPI. When this happens the scoreboard pressure builds and the boys in the front half drop off their ratios.

Head Coach: Can someone pass the jelly lollies up this end.

Midfield Coach:  If the stoppages drop off we might need to restructure the centre square. The keys will be maintaining our benchmark hard ball gets and getting our possession time percentage right. You might recall what our review process identified? If we get these two within bench marks then we tend to get the inside 50s needed to win on the score board.

Forward Coach: Our average score is only 74.85 points. It needs to be closer to 83.47 to beat the quality teams. If we’re getting 30 inside 50s at 50, then we’ll hit 90.

Defensive Coach: We’ll get the delivery outside to the mids. From there it’s largely up to them.

Head Coach: Why don’t the mids just kick it long into the forward 50 to a contest… the old days?

(Long silence. A chair squeaks. Someone sighs)

Head Coach: Have you blokes seen my photo in the membership brochure? Page 3!

Midfield Coach: We’ll change up the rotations through on game day. We need to be careful we don’t load them up.

Conditioning Coach: We need a big recovery week. I wouldn’t recommend any skills work. A lot of them have hit their loading capacity.

Defensive Coach: Have we got anyone who can play the quarter back role?

Midfield Coach: That depends on who we use in the run-with role.

Forward Coach: I suppose if the scoreboard warrants we could always pinch hit with a tall.

Conditioning Coach: Yeah but we need to be wary of their on-field time. Our systems indicate that we should be aiming for 7 minute splits for the talls.

Midfield Coach: So if the normal rotation is at 5 minutes it only leaves us with two minutes to put a tall up forward to impact the contest?

Conditioning Coach: Correct. Even then I’d prefer to see a 90 second impact period rather than 120. If we leave it at 120 that’s 30 additional seconds per quarter and therefore two additional minutes per game. That could blow out to an extra 48 minutes across the season. It’s too much load.

Forward Coach: I’ve always been concerned we get too top heavy up front. The backs just zone and run. The talls need to hit the scoreboard a lot more. We need them to be catching more in the dangerous areas. If they do they’ll stretch the opposition backs who’ll then be reluctant to zone off. Then we can press them and close off the corridor.

Defensive Coach: If the forward half presses up the ground a bit more and puts the pressure on the ball carrier we can get the turnover, the mids can get usage, and deliver to either the pinch hitters who should be in space, the presenting forward, or they can go over the defense so a small can run on.

Midfield Coach: Leaves us exposed on the counter.

Defensive Coach: Not if the mids are accountable and not if the smalls in the front half are hitting their tackle counts. The backs can reverse the zoning if they have to. They’ve been talking about this all pre-season in the DSMs.

Forward Coach: What’s the leadership group saying? Have we got buy-in?

Football Manager: Don’t upset the leadership group.

Midfield Coach: They’re on board.

Forward Coach: What about going forward?

Midfield Coach: Inside 50?

Forward Coach: No, going forward. The future…………you know.

Midfield Coach: We’re OK. At least until the bye, then we’ll review.

Head Coach (with mouth full of jelly babies): OK so what are we doing?

Midfield Coach, Forward Coach, Defensive Coach (in chorus): What Collingwood does.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Peter Flynn says

    Good transitioning Dips.

  2. John Butler says

    Dips, did you have any particular Head Coach in mind?

    One north of the border perhaps?

  3. Going onto the wall in the coaches room at Wynyard Football Club tonight Dips.

  4. lol nice job Dips, first thing i read this morning and i had to have a giggle.

  5. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Brilliant work Dips,

    your satire of all these meaningless weasel words rings so true. In the end they do just follow what the reigning premiers are doing. I don’t know why they bother expending so much energy. The realism of the head coach is spot on. He’s heard it all before, will hear it all again and still revert to the basics. Funny stuff :)

  6. I overlooked a few words and phrases I should have included. Flynny mentioned “transitioning” and the other is “ticking boxes”. Everyone is ticking boxes these days.

  7. Peter Flynn says


    You did a great job.

    It’s impossible to include all these infuriating ‘buzzwords’. In a way, your piece may have been nauseating to write.

    Barry Humphries (?) once said that the buzzword of the ’80’s was buzzword.

  8. Strangulating was used on the telly tonight.

    That was enough for me. I hit the button and switched over to Jack The Ripper on Auntie.

    No strangulating there, just good old opening up down the guts.

  9. Phil Dimitriadis says

    You’re a sick man Phantom.

  10. Dips

    This must be sent to Don Watson – who once kicked 17 goals for loch.

  11. A phrase already reported this year; “Our KPIs were trending upwards”.

    Could be another 4 versions of this story before the seasons is out. All different, yet the same…

  12. Stephen Cooke says

    That reminds me Dips, must set as my homepage so I don’t stray onto The Age and Herald Sun websites and read some very earnest articles containing all of the above. Why wouldn’t you want to remove the joy from footy?

    Clarkson can have all the processes and systems he wants but when it comes down to it, the 3/4 address to 21 players will be, Get it to Buddy on the wing, before turning to Buddy and pleading, Get us home Big Fella!

  13. Steve Santa says


    You must have been laughing all the way penning this article, I certainly was while redaing it.

    Stats, Stats and terminology to match the Stats – Kick the bloody thing to a teammate and he should mark and kick, isn’t that what footy is about!

    I still love the Game, but I Hate the commentary and anlysis, I have no idea what they are talking about these days.

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