“Everyone talks defence now and team defence and that sort of stuff but it is quite boring, really,” he said.
“I go back to the start of the game and the premise of the game … it’s 50-50 to start with. Any time there is a major scored, it’s a 50-50 result from there. So, are you going to let the other team lead you to the ball because we are going to defend better? Or are we going to try and get the ball and make the other mob defend, that is, we attack?
“I think it is as simple a mindset as that. I would spend 60-40, 75-25 per cent of time at training on what we do when we get the ball. If we do it better, they don’t get it.
“I can sit there all day and talk about filling a hole in team defence … but that doesn’t get the job done, either. Because what they are going to do now, with that man on the mark, you can slice and dice ’em.”
The upgraded man-on-the-mark ruling has opened up the attacking 45-degree kick, meaning life has become harder for defenders used to having a teammate drift over and help.
Teague’s suggestion that Sunday’s clash could be a “shootout” may buoy supporters, desperate for a recipe for the side to return for the finals for the first time since 2013. But, if it goes horribly wrong, the backlash will be stinging.
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What it has done is remind us of the days of Blight’s Cats of 1989-94, who were a brilliant offensive juggernaut but lost three grand finals, two to Mick Malthouse’s defensive-minded West Coast Eagles. Blues’ supporters also won’t forget Malthouse, for his defensive, boundary-laden style worked a treat with the Eagles but failed to lift the Blues when he replaced the attacking Brett Ratten, whose teams were powered by the “mosquito squad” of Eddie Betts, Chris Yarran and Jeff Garlett but never reached a preliminary final.
Terry Wallace’s high-scoring Western Bulldogs of the late 1990s couldn’t get the job done either, while Matthew Knights’ Essendon of 2008-10, in which the coach insisted would play with “flair and creativity”, had little success because they conceded more than 100 points a whopping 42 times, including 166 to Adelaide in the 2009 elimination final.
Teague was seen as the offensive mastermind behind the Crows’ surge into the 2017 grand final and was employed in that same role when he joined the Blues under Brendon Bolton, who was determined to build from defence to the point the Blues almost forgot how to score, failing to reach three figures from round 11, 2016 until round 5, 2019. This contributed to his demise later that year.
This year, the Blues are averaging 88.6 points – the sixth-best return. In emerging star Harry McKay, off contract this year, they have an athletic power forward whom Teague can increasingly rely on to score. But the fact McKay has 26 goals, and the next highest goal-kicker is Michael Gibbons (six) reinforces that recruiting and/or drafting remains paramount. The injured Charlie Curnow and Jack Martin are missed but they also need to find a class replacement for small forward Betts, almost certainly in his final year.
Teague does admit the 91.4 points his side has conceded on average is too high when compared to the stingy defences of Melbourne (62) and the Bulldogs (62.4) but, for the time being at least, it appears that scoring is of greater importance.
Blight says rather than focus on Teague’s philosophy, it’s more about personnel for the Blues, for he believes they are four high-class players away from being a true contender regardless of what “brand” of play they adopt.
“If David Teague and Carlton go that [attacking] way, I reckon they will enjoy their footy. And you know what, when they get an extra one or two in their midfield and when they get one key defender and one forward, when they get Curnow back, they just might start winning more games and having some fun and kicking some goals,” he said.
Seeking the right balance in 2021
Average points for, average points against
Western Bulldogs 98.0, 62.4
Sydney Swans 95.0, 84.7
Melbourne 92.4, 62.0
Essendon 91.4, 96.0
West Coast 91.4, 88.0
Carlton 88.6, 91.4
Port Adelaide 88.4, 73.6
Adelaide 86.4, 93.9
Geelong 86.0, 72.6
Brisbane Lions 85.6, 75.0
Richmond 84.4, 72.9
Fremantle 80.1, 82.6
St Kilda 77.7, 97.1
Gold Coast 76.4, 74.3
GWS 76.3, 78.1
Collingwood 72.4, 86.9
Hawthorn 71.6, 95.0
North Melbourne 54.1, 110.0
Source: Champion Data. Rounds 1-7