Lions tagger reveals secrets to her success

TAGGING.

It's a mysterious art, which sees a player perform a tight defensive role on the opposition's most destructive midfielder, while trying to win their own footy to boot.

And in Cathy Svarc, Brisbane has one of the premier defensive midfielders in the competition.

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Still relatively new to the game – she was a netballer who first picked up a footy in earnest in 2018 – Svarc is building a reputation as a powerful tagger who has found that balance of stopping her player while finding the ball herself.

Last week against Collingwood, she held the previously unstoppable Brianna Davey to just 14 touches, and earlier this year held Richmond ball-magnet Mon Conti disposal-less in the first quarter.

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So, what goes into tagging a player?

"The role is an interesting one. Essentially, you're given a role to try and take out one of the main ball-getters on the other team, looking at breaking their game down a bit and stop them getting involved," Svarc told womens.afl.

"I've got to know the game better and learned our structures more, especially this year being my second in the AFLW.

"It's easier having more experience. I had a role once or twice last year in that tagging position, and I was able to balance that offence and defence, and I think that's why they thought it was something we could continue to use more consistently this year.

"We always look at key players or how the different teams work together, but we'll have a closer look if we think there's a player we want to put a bit more pressure on. I'll watch their clips, see how they like to play and if there are any areas I can expose a little bit more."

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Svarc – a physio away from footy – is in the top runners at the Lions, and her physical strengths come to the fore in a role that demands four-quarter focus.

"Generally, I'm quite strong, and that plays really well into the role. You have to have a lot of that constant pressure and accountability to the player," she said.

"It's definitely tiring, but I keep myself really fit and I use that strength and speed in that offensive nature as well, which is really helpful in balancing that out.

"It's a challenge, definitely, but I've got my head around it pretty well at the moment. It can be quite mentally taxing if you over-think it, you can get caught up in it too much.

"I don't know if we're going to do something specific like that until the end of the week, or whether it's going to be a match-up rather than a hard tag. I enjoy the challenge and [the satisfaction of] taking one of those players and making them less effective."

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It's not a one-player job though, with tagging requiring the buy-in of the entire team: there's no point shutting down Davey if Jaimee Lambert is going to run riot as a consequence. 

"We're trying to make sure everyone has that accountability to their players," Svarc said.

"Our pressure game is one of the strengths we like to bring each week, and we're always working on improving that. Having that little bit of extra pressure on a player – who's usually a dominant player out there – can work, but it also needs that extra support as well."

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