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The Tracker: A scrum in Round 5

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Roar Rookie
19th June, 2020

Don’t meddle in the melee if you don’t need to.

Barrie Truman was the coach of the All Whites for 49 matches from 1970. New Zealand won the Oceania Nations’ Cup in 1973 when he was at the helm. Truman helped Wellington Diamond United to win two National League titles and Miramar Rangers to win the Chatham Cup in 1992.

Many years ago, Truman graciously shared his thoughts about ball-watching with me. According to Truman, one possible explanation for ball-watching is that “movement triggers movement”.

This is evident very clearly when a melee occurs in front of goal. In the match between the Newcastle Jets and the Perth Glory, a melee developed inside the penalty box that eventually led to Perth’s only goal. There were two defenders and three attackers scrapping for the ball when it first started. Then it flared up very quickly. Other players became involved either physically or mentally.

It was a similar scene to what sometimes occurs outside the bars downtown at closing time. People converge to the scene of the action in a rush of adrenaline, like moths to the flame.

Defenders are especially triggered by movement in the scrimmage in front of goal – and rightly so for those most closely involved. But players on the periphery of that scrum who can remain calm will realise that they can’t do anything to help at that moment. They will resist the almost uncontrollable urge to dive in. Instead they will mark the attackers who are circling just outside the scene of the action waiting for easy pickings.


During this goalmouth free-for-all, Newcastle Jets defender Lachlan Jackson was not the only defender to fail to mark attackers. Eventually the ball ricocheted to Diego Castro, who had been calmly lurking with intent. He scored unchallenged.

Diego Castro

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Stay with your man. Stay with your man the whole time.

The danger posed by corners was on show again when Andrew Durante scored at the far post for Western United against the Western Sydney Wanderers. As Durante commenced his run towards the goal, he was being tracked very well by Daniel Georgievski. But there was a momentary lapse in concentration by Georgievski that allowed Durante to slip behind the defender and score from close range.

The world’s top defenders can also make this mistake. It’s a ‘now you see him, now you don’t’ sequence. Usually it happens very quickly, and maybe some defenders erring like this do not realise it until the goal has been scored. Also, they may never be aware of it. They may not recognise that they were at fault.

In a similar way, there are instances when defenders collide with their man, or deliberately physically impede him, and then still give up on the tracking task without even realising it.

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In this round there were also instances of excellent defending. The Central Coast Mariners’ Dylan Fox was most positive in his tracking of Melbourne City’s Curtis Good, who scored despite Fox’s best efforts.

Similarly, Kye Rowles of the Mariners almost completed an excellent job of closing down Adrian Luna for City.

James Meredith of Perth Glory also stuck to his tracking task tenaciously in trying to prevent Jason Hoffman from scoring for the Newcastle Jets.

While these are examples of great defending. It’s clear that the ‘stay with your man – stay with your man the whole time’ approach needs constant vigilance.

Goals conceded Defending team Goal scorer
Ball-watching (5)
Jack Clisby Central Coast Mariners Rostyn Griffiths
Lachlan Jackson Newcastle Jets Diego Castro
Josh Risdon Western United Mitchell Duke
Daniel Georgievski Western Sydney Wanderers Andrew Durante
Aiden O’Neill Brisbane Roar Riley McGree
Focused defence (6)
Melbourne City
Western Sydney Wanderers
Wellington Phoenix
Perth Glory
Central Coast Mariners (2)
Penalty (1)
Melbourne City
Total (12)