Ling: Centre bounce change throws up options for coaches
EXPECT coaches to get creative when it comes to centre bounce set-ups following the introduction of the new 6-6-6 rule, says Geelong great Cameron Ling.
The system locks six forwards against six defenders inside the respective forward-50 arcs at centre bounces, providing more time and space for the on-ballers in the middle.
It may only be seconds, but it could be critical.
"Clubs might use specialist centre-bounce players," says Ling, the Cats' 2011 premiership skipper and now Channel 7 analyst.
"Players who don't have the engine necessarily to run around as a permanent midfielder, but they are just so effective at centre bounces because they've got that extra 15-20 seconds before numbers come in.
"Essendon might use Jake Stringer in centre bounces then play him as a forward ... a player who is almost their best clearance player and most explosive will play at centre bounces, burst out and get a good deep entry."
Innovative Hawk coach Alistair Clarkson has previously used power forward Jarryd Roughead at the stoppages.
"I remember even going back to Leigh Matthews (when coach at Brisbane), he did it a couple of times with Jonathan Brown," Ling said.
"Send him in for a couple of centre bounces, be that big body in the middle and then go and play as a forward."
Ling expects established stars will come into play even more.
"Nathan Fyfe, Patrick Dangerfield, Dusty Martin, they are the most obvious," Ling said.
All four of last season's four preliminary final combatants have talented midfields and Ling said they are poised to push for premiership glory.
Premiers West Coast, runners-up Collingwood, minor premiers Richmond and surging Melbourne have added to their stocks.
Ling has tipped the Tigers to beat out that quartet with former Gold Coast spearhead Tom Lynch to join Jack Riewoldt in an imposing attack.
"Lynch is a star. Hopefully his body is okay," Ling said.
"They were the best team by far last year. Except for one night when Collingwood played near perfect football (in the preliminary final). That should be driving them.
"If the hunger is still there - and for me it should be, and even greater after a wasted opportunity last year - it's gotta be Richmond."
The Demons, meanwhile have added the other Suns wantaway Steven May to shore up the defence alongside the returning Jake Lever, the star recruit from 12 months earlier but who suffered a season-ending knee injury in round 11.
"I think Melbourne will be right there," Ling said. "And then the two grand finalists.
"Collingwood have added (Dayne) Beams and Darcy Moore will play a lot more of an important role down back. (Jordan) Roughead will be a really good pick up.
"Then you throw in (a fit) Nic Naitanui) and Andrew Gaff into a premiership team at West Coast, I can't seem them dropping off."