Stoppages

Thursday, August 21, 2014

By Jamie Maddocks
State Academy - Vic Metro

Stoppages have become a huge focus for coaches in the modern era. They have evolved from having four players on each team in the vicinity with open space to transition the football to now having up to 20 players in the area with the rest of the players on the ground set in structured positions making sure the opposition does not get out of the squeeze the way they desire.

In 2014, AFL teams are currently averaging 34 points scored a game from stoppages. When you look at the average score for the season so far (86) you see that the scores from stoppages make up 39.5% of a teams. So nearly a half of all scores in a game come directly from these set plays which shows it is a massive part of todayís game and an area which time must be invested.

If we drill down further into the different type of stoppages and the impact they have on the scoreboard this is what it looks like:

Type:

Average Score:

% of clearances = score

Centre Bounce

10 points

23%

Ball Up

9 points

26%

Boundary Throw In

15 points

24%

(via champion data)

From these numbers we can start to look at why these numbers occur and what considerations we need to think of when addressing our stoppages.

Centre Bounces

Historically centre bounces have been a real ďus versus themĒ mentality. In the past few years though the centre bounce structures have become more about 1v1ís around the circle giving each team the opportunity to win a contested ball from either ruckman. A skill that elite players have gained from these 1v1ís is the ability to engage their opponent for both defensive and offensive purposes. They then push off to get separation from their opponent to gain possession under the least physical pressure possible in traffic, from here decision making and skill execution should be of higher quality the more time and space you get when taking possession.

Something that has been a vital point of centre bounce stoppages is the position of the sweeper. Itís important the sweeper does not get sucked into the play and in doing so leave the front of the stoppage open for the opposition to get the best possible clearance exit. The player needs to be able to read the play and either be used as a release by hand for their team mates or be able to defend and impact upon the oppositionís clearance. Often in centre bounces the ball will move towards either teamís sweeper if the ball is being contested on the ground.

A high percentage of clearances from centre bounces are going out on the 45degree angle, this is typically by design. If the opposition intercepts the ball on the half back flank between the boundary line and centre square it is easier to defend against than a team that has the whole ground open to them to transition the ball.

Considerations for Centre Bounce Stoppages:
What structure and hitzone/s are we going to adopt?

  • Attacking?
  • Defensive?

Do we know the oppositionís hitzone/s?
Are we dominant or exposed in the ruck?
What is our mix of skill-sets in the stoppage?
Are we sending a half forward in to get onto the back of opposition sweeper?
Are the wings coming in to apply extra number, side cover or holding out?
Where/how are we trying to clear the ball? 

Ball Ups

Ball ups are fast becoming the hardest stoppage to score from. This is because the increased number of players around the ball. Coaches are focussing more on the outer ring of players (half-forwards, half-backs, wings) to stop opposition teams from chaining the ball out of this stoppage with handballs, really trying to turn the ball over at the source.

Considerations for Ball Up Stoppages:
What structure and hitzone/s are we going to adopt?

  • Attacking?
  • Defensive?

Do we know the oppositionís hitzone/s?
Do we want a secondary stoppage?
Is the stoppage too stretched or too congested for our needs?
How are we using our outer ring players (defensive cover or attacking release)?
Where/how are we trying to clear the ball?
Can we defend the area where we are trying to clear the ball?
Can we defend the area where the opposition are trying to clear the ball?

Boundary Throw Ins

BTIís are very similar to ball ups but with one big difference. The origin of the ball coming in. No longer is the ball going straight up from the umpire directly in front of the ruckman as it does in a ball up. It is now coming in from 25-30metres away. This leaves a lot of space between the origin of the ball (boundary umpire) and the destination of the throw (ruckman). What this means is the stoppage is generally a little more stretched therefore giving more space and less congestion to run and exit from the stoppage which is indicated by the higher scoring from the BTIís compared to the other 2 stoppage types.

Considerations for Boundary Throw In Stoppages:
What structure and hitzone/s are we going to adopt?

  • Attacking?
  • Defensive?

Do we know the oppositionís hitzone/s?
Do we want a secondary stoppage?
Is the stoppage too stretched or too congested for our needs?
How are we using our outer ring players (defensive cover or attacking release)?
Where/how are we trying to clear the ball?
Can we defend the area where we are trying to clear the ball?
Can we defend the area where the opposition are trying to clear the ball?

This article was written in 2014 as part of the requirements for the AFL (Level 3) High Performance coaching course.

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