WITH the hybrid rules game’s most fundamental element — the round ball — such a significant asset for the Irish, the Australians know they need to work harder to exploit their remaining strengths.
As a result the Australians will try to run faster and harder, handball the ball more than kick it and take the safe option of kicking "overs" rather than trying for the lower percentage shot into the back of the net.
Having lost the first Test last week — but only by a point, leaving themselves a chance to win on Friday night and claim the series on scoring aggregate should they win by two points or more — the Australians will seek to just do what they do best at the MCG on Friday night.
"We need to run more and try to make it a quicker tempo sort of game," said midfielder Leigh Montagna. "I think in the first half we were a little bit slow with the ball and didn’t move it as quickly as we should have and hence we didn’t score as much, but once we started running the ball and taking them on and moving it quickly and using our pace and fitness, we figure we have probably got a little bit more of an edge there."
The Irish clearly showed with their superior foot skills last week that a couple of weeks of training with a round ball was no substitute to a lifetime of play and training. Even when it is a professional pitted against amateur.
"We know we are probably better by hand than we are by foot and we have got to find that balance, I think the four handballs (before having to kick the ball) probably got a few of us off guard that we wanted to run and handball a lot more, but, being conscious of the four handball rule (we didn’t), hopefully we can use that more on Friday night," Montagna said.
Mindful of that gulf between the sides in foot skills the Australians intend to play safe in front of goal and try to kick the easier three-point score over the net rather than hunting for the six-point shot in the back of the net. "We have just got to take the overs — they are the safer option," Montagna said. "Obviously if you have the opportunity to score a six pointer — if it is a clear-cut chance — take it, but we feel we have just got to take the safer approach and if there is an easy over to take, then take that."
Penalties — which players can choose to kick from the ground or drop from their hand football style — will be taken by most players in the usual AFL style, not as soccer players from the ground. It is not only about familiarity but pressure and force.
"We practised penalties yesterday and the guys were trying to work out whether it is easier to put it on the ground or hold it," Montagna said.
"There were a few little things like that we probably didn’t work on as much last week which we have found might be the difference between winning and losing the series, so we will work on them this week. About 90% of the guys are going to drop it by hand I think and kick it quite hard to put pressure on the goalkeeper."
The Australians came back from 16 points down in the last quarter last week, suggesting fitness, not finesse, was to their advantage.
"We are professional compared to the Irish, so that is something we really should be taking advantage of," Montagna said.
Geelong defender Josh Hunt was added to the squad yesterday to replace injured teammate Max Rooke.