EACH club in the National Football League in America uses what is called a depth chart.
Put simply, it lists the team’s players in their starting positions and then lists their back-ups (and the back-ups’ back-ups) for each role on the field.
Some of those back-ups will have other jobs on the field that have less responsibility. The back-up corner back-up may be a punt returner, for example.
As a full contact sport, injuries happen in American football. Strong teams have strong back-ups across the board.
I don’t know if clubs in the Red Onion Ballarat Football League actually map out a formal depth chart at the start of each season. Given there are fewer opportunities during the season to contract new players, they probably wouldn’t.
But the need to create depth across a variety of roles is just as important. If the best 22 of one side is clearly better than the other, it may not be an issue, but if the two starting sides have similar ability, then depth can become the decisive factor.
Ballarat and East Point both had their on-field depth tested by injury on Saturday. The Swans lost key forward Chris Prockter early. The Kangaroos had two players injured: Matt Ringin and Devon Lock.
Ballarat’s depth allowed it to switch players around to suit new challenges. Garrett Liston went to centre-half forward, the backline then shuffled a couple of roles. There was no great drop off overall.
While Prockter is out for up to a month, Mark Nunn is ready to slot back in.
In the midfield, the Swans’ starting midfielders were up against it in the first quarter against their East Point counterparts, including first-raters Matthew Bilton and Jason Delaney.
But Ballarat’s depth in the middle runs beyond Ash Baker, Shane Hutchinson and Nick Garner. It includes other experienced players such as Braeden Deary and Damian Larkin, and starting defenders who can slot straight in.
East Point, meanwhile, was forced to run less experienced players through the midfield. Their skill is not at issue, but the consistency is not there yet.
Redan’s depth chart would read as deep as any. Two wins, without Ryan Waight, Luke Nunn, Patrick Britt and others is testament to that.
Sunbury and North Ballarat City are also having their depth tested. Bacchus Marsh and Melton have started impressively but will they have the depth when the inevitable injuries happen?
It’s not just about the best 22.