FTP # 3

 

Back for another edition of Footy Talking Points, this week including Jack Bowes, Changkouth Jiath, Michael Frederick and more!

1. Jack Bowes’ Emergence

Jack Bowes (#3) is an unheralded name out of the Gold Coast compared to the up and coming stars of Rowell, Rankine, King, Anderson and Lukosius but Bowes is quietly having an amazing year. He is averaging career highs in disposals (11th in the competition), rebound 50s (13th in the league), scoring chains from defensive 50 and metres gained (13th in the league). Bowes never seems phased with the ball in his hand, making the correct decision time and time again. He’s a well-rounded player with great composure, serviceable defensively and a good mark over his head. He has a unique kicking ability – he often is able to hit teammates on the outside of his boot in odd positions of the ground, almost 30 degree angles from where he is kicking which opens up the game for Gold Coast.

You wouldn’t call him a sexy footballer but he does have a few tricks. He has a nice spin out of traffic (he took on Naitanui a couple of weeks ago with it and pulled it off) and has a nice ball fake/step that he uses to create space out of congestion.

Sometimes he does this to his own detriment. He can try to do too much – dummying opponents deep in defense when he should take the easy option or trying to pull off a risky kick that probably isn’t there. He made the mistake of doing this in a crucial moment last week that gave Adelaide the momentum back in a tight game.

Mistakes like that are going to happen with young players. Yet, you don’t mind it from someone who he is 2nd in the league for effective kicks. He averages 19 effective kicks a game! Some of that is inflated given that he takes Gold Coast’s kick outs and uses the easy kick to the pocket but the numbers speak to his tidy disposal use and his ability to make good decisions.

The thing about Bowes as a defender that makes his quite unique is that he is an accumulator. He is ranked 11th in the competition for average disposals as a defender. Some of that is a result of Gold Coast’s new kick mark retention game (Gold Coast have 3 players in the top 10 for total marks with Bowes ranked 11th). Gold Coast want the ball in Bowes’ hands because the more times he touches it, the more impactful he can be on games and the more offensive drive he can bring to the Sun’s. Look for Bowes to eventually make a move to the midfield – Gold Coast need his ball use inside 50 generating scoring opportunities as opposed to generating attacking chains from the back half.

2. Key Forwards are back!

Before the 2021 AFL season, many in the media posed the question as to whether key position forwards were relevant in today’s game. Nick Riewoldt made comments before the season stating that big-bodied midfielders who could push forward would overtake the importance of a key forward, such as Dusty, Dangerfield or Fyfe as examples. It wasn’t the most ridiculous statement ever given the output of key forwards had noticeably been on the decline, due to increased stoppage congestion and defensive zoning. How much things have changed in 2021… Key forwards are back.

We saw some enormous goal kicking tallies for key forwards on the weekend – Bruce kicking 10 goals, McKay 7 and Walker 6.  Though it would be incredibly unlikely – Tex Walker is on track to kick 100 goals! It’s something we thought would be impossible in the modern era due to the use of defensive zones and high presses. From 1983 to 1998, only 3 Coleman medalists failed to kick at least 100 goals (per The Guardian). Since 1998, only one player (Buddy) has kicked 100 goals.

So how is this occurring? As a start, the man on the mark rule change is having a positive flow on affect for key forwards. The game is moving faster because teams are able to use the inside corridor more rather than kick long down the line. (If you are unsure what we mean by this – have a look at our Week 1 Column where we discuss it). Teams are able to navigate their way through an opposition’s defensive press and find key forwards with more space and more importantly, in one on one match ups Quicker ball movement results in more inside 50’s which creates more marks inside 50 as a result – something key forwards benefit significantly from given that many are not goal kicking threats once the ball hits the ground.

To put it into perspective, the Bulldogs were the best team in the competition for marks inside 50 in 2019 at 12.7 per game. In 2021, they would be the 9th best-ranked team – the Bulldog’s are averaging almost 5 more marks inside 50 per game than in 2019.

Key forwards are also having easier shots for goal. Look at Harry McKay’s set shot chart from 2019 to now (per Stats Insider).

Although 2021 is obviously a small sample size, McKay has a far greater distribution of his set shots central to the goals as opposed to previous years. The key forward has been revitalised in the AFL under the new rule changes.

3. Michael Frederick’s work rate

Michael Frederick’s (#43) work rate combined with his speed is scintillating to watch. Look at how Frederick outworks GWS players from the stoppage. He makes them look like they are running in slow motion.

His work rate alone provides a secondary option for Mundy to use, which forces the GWS player to come off Fyfe to defend Frederick. Frederick’s work rate leads to an easy Freo goal.

Frederick plays at a pace that makes defenses panic. He covers so much ground over the course of a game. He gets up the ground and provides a leading option for his Fremantle team mates and is able to get separation with his pace – he’s 6th in the competition for marks on the lead. He has great habits for a young player. Look at his work rate without the ball in the bottom left of the screen.

It was messy but he kept at it with second and third efforts. Frederick needs to improve in front of goal – he kicked 1.4 on the weekend and has kicked 1.6 for the year. Yet, you can view that statistic in a positive light. He had 5 shots on goal in a game where his team lost badly. The promising signs are there as he is putting himself in positions to score. It looked like Frederick was going to play on a wing this year for Fremantle but you can see why Longmire has kept him forward. He provides incredible defensive pressure and is a threat on the counter attack given his ability to cover the ground. He is a player to watch for the rest of the season.

4. Changkuoth Jiath, Dual Threat Defender

The Hawk’s have found an absolute gem in Changkuoth Jiath (#29) or ‘CJ’.

Jiath has been a revelation this year for Hawthorn in the backline. His athleticism combined with his bravery and confidence to take the game on makes you gasp when you watch him. It’s hard not to support him. After playing 5 games last year and showing flashes of intercept marking prowess, he is having a breakout year.

He is averaging 23 disposals a game, 7 marks including 3.3 intercept marks a game (8th best in the league), 3 inside 50’s and 3 rebound 50’s a game going at 80% disposal efficiency. He is also currently in the Top 20 in the league for uncontested disposals – showing his ability to put himself in good positions and be dangerous in space.

I view Jiath as a dual threat offensive player. I know that sounds odd given he’s a backmen but let me explain what I mean by that. The use of the term ‘Dual Threat’ is used in NFL to define a quarterback who is dangerous both throwing the ball and running with the ball – hence a threat in more ways than one (which can be considered quite rare). That’s how I view Jiath as a defender – he can attack both in the air through his intercepting capabilities and on the ground through his breakaway speed. He is also versatile as a defender. At 188cm, he can defend against both talls and medium sized forwards – which creates opportunities for Jiath to expose his opponents as a runner when Hawthorn have the ball. He is also an athletic freak.

He has great timing and already reads the play one step ahead to cut off passes.

He also has the ability to use his pace and break a line.

And here’s a combination of both….

There are still holes in his game as to be expected. His composure is lacking at times. He can rush his kicks simply because of the pace he is running at. This results in wayward kicks that either result in turnovers or put teammates under pressure. This hurts Hawthorn quite significantly because Jiath is then out of position. He can then be unprotected on the counter attack as teams go through his man.

Regardless, Jiath is an excitement machine and his popularity is growing by the week. There are very few players (Moore is one as discussed in our first column) that have his offensive capabilities and we can only imagine he is going to get better and better. Exciting times for Hawk’s fans.

5. Eddie Betts’ Team Acts

We love the team plays at FTP – especially the unselfish ones. Teammates that sacrifice what they are doing for the betterment of the team is awesome to see. Eddie (#19) had a couple of these on the weekend in his return to AFL.

Look at Eddie block for McKay at the top of the screen below.

Those are two perfectly executed blocks that gives McKay an uncontested mark and a free kick as Conca panicks on a bigger player. Both resulted in goals. It’s great to see from Eddie. He isn’t the same as he once was but is still finding ways to impact games above and beyond the statistics of goals and tackles.

Eddie will retire at the end of the year but there’s still a place for him in this team this year. He brings an element of cohesion to the Blue’s forward line that is at times one-dimensional.

He can still be dangerous at ground level and can create scoring opportunities out of nothing. Not many players could make this split second decision to kick for goal (on their opposite foot) and hit it flush.

Eddie can go quiet in games when he isn’t hitting the scoreboard and his forward pressure is dwindling as he gets older. But nothing beats having a teammate who is willing to do the unselfish things to put others in a better position to succeed. Just ask Harry McKay – he can thank Eddie for 2 of his 7 goals on the weekend.

That’s it for this week – if you enjoyed the article make sure to subscribe !

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Check out last week’s column!

The author acknowledges that the footage is the courtesy of Foxtel and property of the AFL.

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