Players such as (from left) Adelaide’s Ben Rutten, North Melbourne’s Brady Rawlings and the Western Bulldogs’ Brian Lake are defensive leaders for their respective clubs.

The Defenders - the Case for Defence

By Peter Ryan (AFL Record)

Defence doesn’t attract attention. A player is rarely applauded for sticking tight to his opponent or moving to fill dangerous space while the ball remains 50m away. Often, such movement is unseen, the average spectator’s eyes tracking the ball. The only roar that a wrong defensive decision causes when the ball is far away is likely to come from the coach’s box.

But inside clubs, defence has become the hottest topic. If you can’t get a pass mark for defensive actions, your career won’t last long, as the way the game is played has shifted to one based on a total team system, rather than one that is reliant on individual performance.

Demarcation lines are gone: everyone is responsible for defence. Richmond coach Damien Hardwick even said last week he doesn’t like goalkicking awards.

To defend well, players – all over the ground – need to make the right decisions more often than not, and need to be certain their teammates are on song too.

Those good at defending read the play well, moving into a space that disrupts the opposition’s forward movement. The best teams work in a synchronised fashion, clicking all the parts into place without so much as a second’s hesitation.

As Essendon’s former All-Australian defender and Melbourne defensive coach Sean Wellman says: “You certainly don’t measure your defence just on what your back six are doing.”

This is only a small excerpt of an article published by the AFL Record in Round 19 of the 2010 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.   

Download the full version (PDF) of the article 

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