Craig Jennings, taking the lead over head coach Simon Goodwin for the launch of the new, short format AFLX competition, may have been auditioning for a spot as a head coach for one of the AFL sides at some point, but he showed some keen insight by coaching his seven-man squad to an impressive showing in Friday night’s Group 2 tournament.
Melbourne may have had a clearer vision than some of the other clubs, relying on a solid defensive plan, unlike other clubs that viewed the new format as an opportunity to deploy an attacking game.
The Dees also named an experienced, if not exactly stellar squad, to do the footy playing, whereas most of the other clubs sent inexperienced lists into the tournament.
The payoff was three straight victories, something the regular side was able to do only once, in Rounds 12 – 14, of the 2017 AFL Premiership competition.
The Demons were careful, however, to do nothing to put them at risk for the real home-and-away season.
“Regardless of the different rules and the different sized grounds, we wanted to have a game style and a strategy that allowed us to play the Melbourne way,” Jennings said. “I know a lot of the media were talking about it being an offensive game, but strategy-wise we focused totally on defence. In each game we scored pretty big off the back of that.”
The initial impression from around the footy world was that scoring in the new format is too easy and would like to see the sides increased by a player or two, in order to supply some congestion and more contests.
Jennings focused more on strategies that the Demons will use for regular play. “We got to try a few little things tonight that we might be able to put into Round 1,” he said. “The process of coming up with tactics and strategies — North Melbourne’s was really clear tonight, then Hawthorn had a different one against us. Teams have put some time into it.”
Many deep thinkers regarding Australian Rules football think that the AFLX format is the future of the game with regard to expanding to the overseas audiences.