FTP #13

Welcome to the 13th edition of Footy Talking Points, featuring Wil Powell, Paul Seedsman, Geelong's Forward line and more!

Lachie Neale, Jake Bowey

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1. Geelong's Forward Line

In 2021, the Geelong Football Club have almost lingered in the background of any premiership discussion. The media have become enamoured by our brand new contenders in the Demons and the Bulldogs. You can’t blame them for being bored when discussing the same Geelong outfit that make finals practically every year. Yet, this Geelong team is building nicely and there’s something different here compared to years prior.

Like all teams fighting for a premiership, Geelong have great players on every line. Yet, it’s difficult to argue against Geelong’s forward line boasting the most top end talent in the league. It’s scary for opposition teams to sufficiently match up on. This is because it’s a rare forward line in terms of their capabilities – they have four genuine one on one threats that can be dangerous deep forward.

The versatility of Hawkins, Cameron, Rohan and Dangerfield to all play that same role interchangeably stretches defences. Realistically, how many defenders do opposition teams have that can effectively defend all four of those players? (Most of the time Dangerfield plays Rohan’s role when he is off but you get the point).

Lets use the example of Port Adelaide. McKenzie struggled mightily (for the 2nd year in a row) on Hawkins both defending on his back shoulder and playing in front. Aliir contained Cameron for portions of the game yet he still kicked five including three in the last. Rohan caused issues for Houston and Jonas and Dangerfield when forward caused Burton into panic free kicks and looked dangerous in the air.

It creates nightmares when these match up’s are isolated yet they are just as good in congested scenarios. On the weekend, Geelong scored 52% of the time on their inside 50's (Just about their average for the year) but had 21 contested marks to Port's 10 with their three permanent forwards combining for 12 goals! Marks Inside 50 is a great barometer of teams getting quality shots on goal. Geelong had 18 for the game (well above their average of 12) whilst Port only had half of that.

The head of the snake is undoubtedly Hawkins. Hawkins monsters key defenders because of his strength and smarts. He kills you if you play him in front of him because of his bodywork and strength to push you under the ball. Yet, he is also great at timing his leads and with players like Duncan kicking to him - is really difficult to defend playing back shoulder as well.

What about Rohan? The funny thing with Rohan is if you never watched AFL but tuned in on one of those nights where Rohan has it going (Rhyme unintended), you'd think he's a top 10 player in the AFL. He has all the attributes - Quick, strong hands and great at finishing at ground level. He and Hawkins can mix and match on who plays higher up and who takes deeper position. Here, Hawkins pushes up the ground  and Rohan replaces him as the deep forward – allowing him an isolated one on one opportunity.

He is great overhead and has great body control in the air with his patented two-legged basketball jump. The benefit of playing a mid sized forward like Rohan who is so good overhead is that he is both a marking threat in the air yet able to balance out Hawkins and Cameron nicely because he provides forward pressure with his pace.

Port matched up Jonas on Rohan with the hope that Jonas could peel off and assist McKenzie with Hawkins. This didn’t really work for two reasons:

1. Rohan pushed up the ground for significant portions of the game and got used on hit up leads which drew Jonas out of D50;

2. Rohan himself is a marking threat which caused issues for Jonas one on one

Case in point -

The addition of Cameron to this mix can't be understated. Firstly, Cameron's ability around goals in different formats of the game (set shots, general play and outside of 50) along with his tremendous field kicking makes him a scary addition to what was an already efficient Geelong forward line. He rose to the occasion on the weekend, kicking three goals in the last quarter. I don’t think we’ve seen a player at his height be able to kick goals so accurately at ground level since Buddy - every time he wheels onto his left to snap it feels like he doesn’t miss.

He is starting to build great cohesion with Hawkins as well. Both can interchange playing the high / deep role in the forward line (Hawkins usually remains deep) but are now combining two of their best traits – Cameron’s rangy left foot kick and Hawkins’ ability to get first use in the ruck.

The addition of Cameron has two other benefits.

Firstly, it allows Geelong to be flexible playing Dangerfield more as a midfielder – something that they were unable to do and hurt them incredibly in the grand final last year.

Secondly, it provides less value for teams to double Hawkins come finals time. We saw how Richmond (and to an extent Brisbane) doubled Hawkins last year. It took him out of the game and forced Geelong to improvise in finding different avenues to goal. Cameron adds an extra presence to this forward line now. Teams are now unable to double Hawkins and use their 3rd defender as an intercepter when they have to worry about Jeremy Cameron who provides his own leading patterns or can rove a Hawkins contest at ground level.

This newly constructed forward line is going to cause significant headaches come finals time for even the best defences like Melbourne and Richmond. We saw the potential of what they are capable of against a defence that whilst may be undersized is still in my opinion one of the best in the league. 

2. Paul Seedsman

Paul Seedsman (#11) is making a genuine case for an All-Australian wing spot. Before we get into why, let’s be honest... will he get it? Probably not. And it isn’t due to his form either. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Macrae or a Parish are placed in that wing spot even though neither have played a single minute on the wing this year. That’s just how the All-Australian team and their selectors operate.

Nonetheless, Seedsman is having a terrific year. He has career highs in disposals, inside 50’s, rebound 50’s, goal assists, score involvements and metres gained. Seedsman has all the attributes you want in a wingman. He has a long leg that makes him a goal kicking threat from outside 50. He has a good tank that allows him to push hard into defence and help out or push hard forward to provide an avenue to goal (as we’ll evidence later). He has great pace which allows him to break the lines.

It’s easy to see how Seedsman is ranked 2nd in the AFL for metres gained per game – he constantly links up with his teammates to provide offensive drive. Moments later he links up again.

Seedsman averages 5.5 marks a game (an above average rating in the AFL). He provides a bail out kick for Adelaide in that wing role and can actually be somewhat of a mismatch for smaller wingers. You want your wingmen to be the intermediary between your defence and attack. Seedsman is a great link up player from the D50 to F50. He averages the 4th most inside 50’s in the competition whilst still averaging 3.1 R50’s a game.

On the weekend he had a well balanced game, amassing 31 disposals, 4 marks and 6 tackles. The thing most impressive about Seedsman is that he keeps his width. What we mean by that is he holds his position on the offside of the ground. He never gets sucked into the contest or gravitates closer to the ball.  This allows him to be dangerous with his off ball running patterns. It sounds simple but many wingers lack the discipline to hold that space and leave the corridor open for midfielders to use. Look at how he tracks this ball on the offside wing. He eventually pushes forward to be an outlet which helps create an important goal for Adelaide.

Seedsman’s year deserves more attention.

3. Fremantle beating Gold Coast at their own game

The classic Saturday afternoon game in the bye rounds usually goes one of two ways. Either you are enthralled in the contest as you’ve lamented having to wait all day for the game to start or it’s a mediocre game with two teams that make you think ‘Ah yes it’s the bye rounds, we were due for a game like this.’ The Fremantle Gold Coast game was certainly the latter – it was a poor game of footy to watch where both teams brought the effort but the skill execution was quite deplorable.

Yet, you can still find interesting things out of these games. What we noticed was that Fremantle beat Gold Coast by practically replicating how Gold Coast want to play. It seemed like from the start the Sun’s were unable to control the tempo - something they love to do this year. Yet, Fremantle did not allow them to possess the ball - winning the disposal count by 74 but more importantly, dictating the pace of the game with their marks. Fremantle won the mark count 134-89. To put into context the flip in game styles - Gold Coast are the 2nd best team in the league for marks per game at 112 a game.

Conversely, Fremantle are 11th in the AFL at 94 a game. Fremantle are actually the 4th worst team in the league for giving up opponent marks per game at 104. But interestingly enough, Gold Coast are the 2nd worst team for giving up opponent marks. Fremantle identified an opportunity to both control the tempo of the game and take Gold Coast away from how they want to play.

Why is it beneficial to play a kick mark retention game? Firstly, as stated, you control the pace. If you possess the ball, the opposing team is defending for longer periods of the game which stifles their offensive drives. Fremantle were able to control when to go fast and attack or when to slow the game down whilst still maintaining possession.

Secondly, it ensures that any midfield/forward half turnovers don't hurt Freo as much on counter attack. The kick mark play style allows your defenders to remain deep and set up for a potential turnover whilst also providing an outlet for attack.

It helps to play this style at home on the wider Optus Stadium. It's worth noting that Fremantle are 5-2 at home (1-5 away) and average 10 more marks at home than away. The maturation of this team will be playing a similar style on the road or adapting to different ways to win games. If Fremantle hope to be a finalist team this year or the next - their consistency and ability to win games away must improve.

4. Wil Powell

I really like Wil Powell’s (#27) game. As a mid-sized defender, Powell is a strong intercept player in the air. For the year, Powell is averaging 6.7 intercepts a game and is 6th amongst defenders not key position sized. On the weekend, Powell had arguably his best game of the year with 26 disposals and 7 marks (including 10 intercepts), 8 rebound 50’s and 3 Inside 50’s.  

He is a player that has shown moments or quarters in game throughout the years but is playing with a high level of consistency this year. His confidence to fly horizontally and back into contests is quite rare especially for a player of Powell's size. It takes quite a bit of courage to jump back into this and mark the ball.

Mid-sized defenders who can play an intercepting role are super important. Players who can chop out a teammate with a spoil or mark the ball and begin offensive rebound through their ball use are worth their weight in gold in the modern AFL. The Suns have two defenders with such capabilities in Ballard and Powell along with the ultra competitive and strong one on one defender in Collins.

One thing that Powell has to be cautious of is that there is greater risk in a small flying for intercept marks. This is because they are usually matched up on a small forward that will never fly with them. This means that Powell has to be certain that he can impact the contest otherwise his match up becomes more dangerous unmarked at ground level.

This is an example on the weekend where Powell decides to fly and spoil to help a teammate. It’s excellent that he provides such support but Powell has to kill this ball out of bounds. He’s lucky that his opponent is a first gamer who doesn’t punish him for the decision.

Powell’s ball use can also be suspect at times.

This along with another first quarter turnover resulted in shots on goal for Fremantle. In order to fully maximise his offensive potential with his marking, he needs to tidy up this part of the game.

Powell’s a member of an important young nucleus at the Gold Coast Sun’s that have a big couple of months ahead of them. We’ve highlighted a number of times this year how Gold Coast have struggled to win any games in the second half of their seasons. They need to take a stand and win multiple games in the next 10 rounds, especially given that their first half of the year has not been as successful as many anticipated coming into the season.

5. Joel Amartey

Sydney certainly knows how to develop their younger players. Joel Amartey's (#36) last two weeks at the level have been incredibly impressive. Amartey is a tall mobile ruckman at 197cm. He has a great contested mark but it's his speed for a player of his size that is incredibly rare. Per Sydney FC, he is the fastest player at the club over 20 metres and you can see it on the tape.

We’ve seen a TON of intriguing snippets already of Amartey. He’s kicked goals from outside 50, taken strong contested marks and has even shown glimpse of a nice step out of traffic to clear himself from congestion.

This is a great contested mark – Impey is not a small player by any stretch but Amartey marks and controls the ball as if no one is there.

(Also, is it A-mart-ee or Amat-ee? I’ve heard both pronunciations and can only assume BT is getting his name wrong but you’d think he’d be notified prior to the game on the right pronunciation? Who knows...)

This is a wild sequence of events. Amartey marks a contested high ball with great bodywork on Scrimshaw to protect the space in front of him. He is then undecided on what he wants to do with ball before deciding to almost lazily kick a goal from 55 metres and clear the line with ease. This is pretty scary from a 3rd game tall.

As we noted on our AFL ladder point last week – Sydney are still a chance to fall out of the 8 albeit a slim one. The poor loss to Hawthorn hurts considering their fixture for the remainder of the year. One important point to make is that if Amartey can keep his spot it provides a positive benefit to Tom Hickey. Hickey has been arguably Sydney’s most important player this year yet is wearing down due to his sole ruck responsibilities and that knee injury he has miraculously recovered from. With Naismith sadly injuring his knee again, Amartey provides depth, ruck relief and rest for Hickey whilst providing a bit of X-factor as a ruckman. Amartey is still incredibly raw but most ruckman are at 21. The difference is very few have had the impact on games like Amartey has this year. 

It’ll be interesting to see how Sydney handle this situation now. Sinclair is still available and has the experience but Sydney have been unwilling to play the two ruck set up with Hickey and Sinclair. If Amartey has a few quiet games, it’ll be intriguing to see whether Sydney opt for the sole ruck option with the risk that Hickey breaks down or stick with Amartey for the rest of the year given his flexibility. Sydney cannot afford to lose Hickey if they want to play finals so it’s going to be an interesting decision to track post bye.

That's it for this week - if you enjoyed the article please subscribe and share this with your fellow AFL mates to give it a read !

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