By Connor Schmidtke
The coming weekend of EFNL football sees another Saturday of blockbuster clashes, particularly in the Premier Division.
Eastern suburbs fans will be treated to a clash between the second and third placed teams on the ladder, with Noble Park hosting Doncaster East.
The two contenders have both claimed three wins from their opening four matches this season, with the winner of this match cementing their position at the top of the table.
For Noble Park, they come off a 43-point win over Norwood last Saturday. The Bulls went goalless in the opening term and lead by just nine-points at the main break, before piling on nine goals to four in the second half.
Doncaster East were also made to work hard in the opening two quarters, with the scores all tied up with South Croydon at half-time. But the Lions showed their superiority in the second half, slamming through 12-goals to just 3 to record a thumping 55-point victory.
Look for the first half to be extremely competitive this weekend, as each team attempts to gain the upper-hand early.
Noble Park Analysis
To understand Noble Park’s strengths and weaknesses, you simply need to look at the difference between the first and third quarters from their most recent clash with Norwood.
In the third quarter, Noble Park managed to boot six-goals to just two, playing the brand of footy they like to play, en route to opening up a six-goal lead heading into the last quarter.
For starters, the Bulls are a sound side that do the basics well.
In this third quarter, they managed to raise their disposal efficiency and hit far more targets.
What this inspired was better fluency with ball movement. Noble Park like to switch the ball whenever they have the ball near their defensive 50, which shifts the angle of attack and forced Norwood to continually shift their defensive structure.
The Bulls continued to hit targets across the ground before they would eventually turn back inside and find a target through the corridor. This promoted better movement inside attacking 50, leading to them taking six marks inside-50 in the third quarter alone.
Other basics they do well include intercepting across half back, where they took five intercept marks in the third quarter. They also drew level in the clearances, an area where Norwood had dominated in the first half.
From a technical aspect, one thing that Noble Park do well is holding their midfield structure at stoppages.
Something that has been brought up in analysis of teams from lower divisions in the EFNL, is that midfielders can often be drawn to the ballcarrier to try and apply added pressure in clearance situations.
What this then means is often midfields will end up with three players chasing the ball, leaving the rest of the opposition’s midfield free out the front of stoppages. This then leads to handball chains and free flowing movement inside 50, which is often a major source of scoring for teams.
As can be seen in the image above however, Noble Park are often very good at holding their structure around clearances. Two Bulls players hold at the back of the stoppage and wait for the ball in dispute to be won by one side of the other.
What this means is firstly that Norwood were unable to exit the front of stoppages cleanly. It restricted their ball movement and meant that Noble Park were able to intercept easier across half-back, with the majority of Norwood’s entries being shallow.
It also meant that when Noble Park won the ball around stoppages, they were able to flick a quick handball to the man holding his position at the back of their structure. This lead to a clean clearance and often a quality entry inside their own attacking 50.
Doncaster East Analysis
The biggest weakness for Doncaster East is the amount of space they leave through the middle of the ground, especially for wingers to work into.
What can be noticed in this image is the amount of space and free ground the winger on the left, and half-back on the right are given around this contest.
In this example, South Croydon win the football in the contested situation and then feed a handball out to the space. The Lions were then exposed on the fastbreak, as South Croydon counter-attacked forward and gave themselves a good look at goal.
Doncaster East’s backline didn’t fare very well against quick movement either, with several contested marks being taken against them and they also committed several turnovers close to goal.
Here we see another example of the space afforded to South Croydon in the second quarter.
Notice the cluster of players lining up, unmanned along the wing. This gave the South Croydon the ability to link up by hand and move the ball in waves forward, putting the Lions defence under pressure.
This was not a common theme after half-time, with Doncaster East dominating the contested footy and clearances to make sure South Croydon didn’t get their hands on the footy first.
But the Lions still showed that they can be susceptible to this, and this is how Noble Park can contest them on the weekend.
Where the game will be won
Noble Park can win the game by stretching Doncaster East across the ground.
They showed a real tendency and desire to switch the ball across their halfback line, choosing to use the wings against Norwood to move the ball forward.
This factor, combined with Doncaster East’s lack of coverage on the wings, could play right into Noble Park’s hands this weekend.
Winning the clearance battle will be crucial too and if Noble Park can win the key contested statistics, they’ll be able to put the Lions backline under pressure and force them into mistakes.
For Doncaster East, they will need to find a way to move the ball fluently against the Bulls.
Noble Park showed a real strength in forcing Norwood to hurry kicks heading inside 50, leading to shallow entries and allowed the Bulls to intercept across the half-back region.
If Doncaster East can find a way to pick apart the Bull’s structure, the Lions will be able to find deeper entries into their forward line. This can put Noble Park under pressure and restrict their ability to move the footy coming the other way.
Prediction: Noble Park by 12