Never has a six-minute clip of two men quietly chatting in front of a laptop been so compelling.
As light Saturday morning footy Twitter content goes, Hawthorn’s video of assistant coach Sam Mitchell going over game footage with young midfielder James Worpel was about as good as it gets. If you haven’t watched it yet, do so now or none of this will make sense.
It was the perfect mix of illuminating and completely unspectacular, the carefully selected nuggets of info amounting to little more than “don’t use your spin move too early” and “if you’re going to have a breather, do it at half-forward where you might get a kick”.
But the star of the show was Mitchell and his intoxicating management speak. At all times he was teetering on the edge of David Brent, but was saved by the fact that he is Sam Mitchell, and if he had told Worpel that shaving his initials into the back of his head would help him win the footy, he’d probably have done it.
“What did I like about that?” Mitchell asked rhetorically. He followed up with a, “What were you thinking at this point?”, and a perfectly timed, “What happened there?”. Just like when he was playing, he knew the answer to every question before it was asked.
Now, there’s no doubt these sessions are held inside every club. There is probably nothing even remotely unique about the Mitchell-Worpel meeting, other than the fact we got to see it.
But because it’s our only reference point, we’re going to channel the Mitchell Method in breaking down the teams currently occupying the top six positions on the AFL ladder.
So for the sake of the exercise, imagine Mitchell is Mitchell, Worpel is the entire club we are talking about, and the game film is the entire season so far. Make sense? Of course it does, it’s a flawless premise. No more questions, let’s start.
So, Port Adelaide, what do I like about this?
We’re a game and percentage clear on top of the ladder, just steamrolled Richmond in the last quarter to knock them off.
Yep. And how did you get there?
We’re statistically the best contested ball team in the league. We’re top three for both marks inside 50 and tackles inside 50, so we can hurt teams both in the air and on the ground when attacking.
Tom Jonas is marshalling the defence brilliantly and we’re getting plenty of games in front of a cracking home crowd. We’re feeling good.
Geelong is up next. This is one of those where, like, you can make a big play here. But then look here at the Brisbane and St Kilda games … What happened there?
Missed some chances and had a bad second quarter against Brisbane, and we ran out of gas against the Saints — that was the first time this year we were, like, really spent.
We’re coming off a decent break for the Cats game though, so we’re ready to attack.
Brisbane — where’s your next involvement likely to be?
Queensland, the home of footy. No need for us to look much further, and if we play our cards right we might get some finals and a grand final at the Gabba too.
Right, but that Richmond game. What are you doing there?
Well, we played alright, except for some bizarre reason we were completely incapable of kicking the football between the two large posts.
So, during the game, is that the type of thing I should remind you when you come off? About kicking straight in front of goal? Or do you just need to remember yourself?
We just need to remember ourselves. We don’t do it that often, do we?
Geelong, what are you doing? Why are you lurking around here?
Just trying to win a premiership. We’ve been working on it for years and with the age profile of our team, we kinda need to get cracking pretty quickly.
What about that West Coast game? Tell me what I liked about that and then what happened?
Well, we completely neutralised the Eagles for the first half, dominated the ball the way we like and built up a good lead. But then when the Eagles went more man-on-man around the ground we couldn’t move the ball as effectively, and their midfield got a hold of the game.
Yep. Sometimes, you’ve just got to grab it and run really fast.
So, West Coast, why is your GPS so good?
Well we’ve been to Queensland and back once already, and it looks like we’re going to be doing the same thing again pretty soon.
Speaking of that Queensland hub, that didn’t go too well last time. What were you thinking at this point?
That we were in trouble, but that if we could tweak a few things with our defensive mechanisms and get the midfielders to switch on a bit, we could bank a few wins in the hub then get home and push on.
So what do they want you to do? What does the rest of the league want you to do?
Get back in a hub and fall to pieces again.
Yep. Don’t let it happen again.
St Kilda. What do I like about this?
Not only are we pushing for finals for the first time in years, we’re a realistic threat to the top four and despite what happened against Geelong, are still in with a chance of a flag this year.
Did you know that was going to happen?
No! I didn’t even realise until after the win over Gold Coast. I noticed at the end of that game that “St Kilda could actually be a premiership contender here, I can’t remember the last time that happened”.
OK, Richmond. Do you like being here? Outside the top four? Or would you rather be in?
We’d rather be in.
But you know as well as anyone, get into the top four when you need to be in the top four. Do you need to be in the top four now?
Nope. It’s probably about six rounds too early.
Yep, but when you’re tired and have some injury worries, it’s a good spot to be because you can get a little rest. But when you’re fresh and feeling good, go for it.