In each defending situation each player has a general role, depending on the coach or the team, they might have a specific role for a specific game. Defensive systems are set up as a guide only.
Following is my interpretation of the Australian system that has been in place for over 20 years. This does differ from what teams are using presently however the basic principles of all defence is the same. I will highlight what I believe the role for each of the main defending players includes:
GK Goal Keeper:
Keep the ball out of the net
RB Right Fullback:
Last line of defence, tackling and communication, marks the CF and anyone else that is left floating around
LB Left Fullback:
Last line of defence, tackling and communication, same marking situation as RB
RH Right Halfback:
Attacking half, generally marks the LW and Left Inside
LH Left Halfback:
Defensive half, marks RW and Right Inside
CH Centre Half:
Marks opposite CH and sometimes CF or who ever is there, generally a playmaker and good distributor of the ball
RI Right Inside:
Marks the LI and is there as a player to pass too when the play is on the right side
LI Left Inside:
Marks the RI and is there as a player to pass too when the play is on the left side
Diagram 1A&B refer to the general movement of the defence when the ball is over to one side. A shuffle effect occurs with players on the opposite side shuffling across to be inline with the play. You will notice that on both diagrams that the RW or LW comes back when the ball is on the opposite side to create a let out pass.
Diagram 2 highlights positions that should be taken if the ball is on the right hand side of the field for the attacking team. You will notice that most of the players are marked and are marking. The LI is marking the space to enable her/him to move freely to any player that becomes free. The LI is also there to receive the let out pass when the defenders regain possession. You will notice that the LB is not marking anyone, this is deliberate so that they can be a back up for the LH if the ball gets through. The LB should only be free is everyone else is marked!
Diagram 3 is again another example of a defensive set up. You will note that a slight change in the positioning of the players occurs. The RH is not man to man marking, they are giving the attacker some breathing space. Where the attacker is in relation to the ball they are not in any danger if they cover the line to the ball and are not too far away.
All players are generally in-between the player and the goal. If you look closely you will notice that the RB is actually level with the player. This allows he/she to beat the player to the ball, they must stand close to the player to tackle if necessary, this is different form the days when people were instructed to stand behind the player. The LI is again marking space, they do not necessarily have to come back this far but being a goalkeeper I prefer this so that you have an extra person in defence.
Diagram 4 highlights the set up of the defence when taking a 16yrd free hit. The LH is out wide for the quick transfer of play. The positioning of the other players allows them to have their own space to receive the ball in and move with it or pass it off.
With the ball on the right side you will notice that the RW has dropped back a little. This is due to the RH taking a deep wide position and the need for a player to come back and help. It is important that players do not crowd each other and the spaces as this usually results in a turn over of possession.
Please note that this is only a basic guideline of one defensive pattern. Something that I have found important is that each situation is different and it is important to trust your goalkeeper to make the right decisions with calling their defenders.
They should have control of the whole situation from the 50 yard line onwards, as they have the best view of the whole field. It is also important to remember that goal keepers need to concentrate on making saves so the other defenders need to take responsibility for communication also
Good luck with the keeping!
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