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McGovern adapting to new tactics

Travis King, AFL.com.au  April 20, 2018 1:30 PM

Jeremy McGovern is adapting to new opposition tactics

Jeremy McGovern is adapting to new opposition tactics

Intercept star Jeremy McGovern concedes he was caught "trying to force things" in the opening three rounds after West Coast's opponents employed different tactics to negate the Eagles backline's aerial prowess.

But the dual All Australian is confident he has put his finger on how rival clubs are trying to find ways around bombing the ball into his, and his teammates', waiting arms.

McGovern had a quiet start to 2018 by his lofty standards but responded with a season-high eight intercept marks and 14 intercept possessions against Gold Coast.

"It's probably taken us a couple of weeks to adjust to the speed of the game now and the way teams are moving the ball," McGovern told AFL.com.au.

"They're not kicking it as long, or to contests, as much against us.

"It's taken a couple of weeks to get my head around it, and for us as a backline, but I feel I'm getting better most weeks with it all."

McGovern, who led the AFL for intercept marks over the past two seasons, hasn't been the only turnover specialist finding his feet in the opening month.

Melbourne recruit Jake Lever has so far failed to justify his hefty price tag – reported at $800,000 over four seasons – since leaving Adelaide in exchange for two first-round picks.

McGovern feels there's a developing trend for teams avoiding intercept-marking defenders, partly by keeping forwards one-out deep inside 50 and opening space.

"There's a lot of length in the game at the moment, you've got the deep forward one-on-one inside 50, which we saw late last year a little bit," he said.

"But this year there's a massive emphasis from most teams on trying to do it and keep the ground as big as possible – which we trained a bit – but they're doing it more than we thought so it's a little bit of adjusting here and there.

"We're very lucky we've got three or four boys who can do it (intercept mark). So it's not one bloke every week.

"It probably was a little bit earlier, which I copped most of the raps for even though the boys do most of the work themselves, (teams were) trying to take myself away from that area of the game.

"Then I was trying to probably force things and we were all trying to force things and not letting it play out.

"Every week we took a bit from it and hopefully we can take it on for the rest of the year and keep improving."

West Coast's backline was stretched in round one against Sydney and paid a heavy price, with superstar Lance Franklin bagging eight goals in a match-winning performance.

McGovern admitted the Eagles' defenders hadn't been helping out emerging full-back Tom Barrass, who has conceded 12 direct goals to his opponent this year, as much as they normally would.

But the Eagles have tightened up since Buddy put on a show, coughing up the fourth-fewest points so far this season.

While McGovern is focused on ways to make the backline even stingier, his contract situation is lingering in the background.

It is only April, but there has been almost daily speculation about the 26-year-old's future as a prospective free agent.

McGovern said negotiations are progressing with West Coast and he is in constant dialogue with manager Colin Young, but there is no timeline to strike a deal. 

The Albany product is looking for a long-term extension - potentially for five or six more seasons - and, with his first son due in the next six weeks, lifestyle will play a major part in his decision. 

"That's one of the biggest factors. You want to be comfy," McGovern said.

"I'm a WA boy at heart. I've got my family here, my friends here, I've grown up here my whole life. I don't really know much different.

"Lifestyle is a massive factor, because you're at the footy club and when you're not you want to be switching off and enjoying yourself as much as you can outside of footy, which I feel like I've got a good balance over here, but you never know.

"It could be my last (contract), which is something we've thought about and focused on."

JEREMY McGOVERN INTERCEPT STATS

 Intercept Marks   Intercept Possessions 
 Rnd 1  3 9
 Rnd 2 4 8
 Rnd 3  2 7
 Rnd 4 8 14