Jayden Short the midfielder
Hardwick'’s decision to move Short from his half back flank post to an inside midfield role was an interesting decision, yet one that ultimately proved fruitful against a struggling West Coast Eagles.
Richmond are one of the few teams in the AFL who are actually in need of more midfield depth and talent across the board. With Martin missing, father time catching up to Cotchin and Edwards, and none of their young midfielders making meaningful strides (Ross, Dow, RCD), Richmond decided to move one of their most dynamic players into an area of need.
It was a little surprising how quickly he acclimatised to the role- it only took two quarters before West Coast sat someone on him. He was that good.
31 disposals, 7 marks, 9 inside 50’s and 5 clearances
Short’s one of the best players in the AFL with ball in hand because he can hurt you in multiple ways. He has that rare blend of being an accurate kick with the ability to break the lines, both with his leg speed and through the penetration of his kicks. This is the perfect example of Short's penetration in his kicks:
Short gets a handball receive and immediately looks up to see Riewoldt free. However, he knows there's little margin for error to get the ball to Riewoldt given he’s stationary and Edwards is closing the space. He stabs at the ball to keep it low but has the leg strength for it carry the necessary distance. Look at where Short actually kicks the ball. It travels 40 metres but practically gets there in an instant. A handful of players in the AFL could make this kick.
These kicks change games because they generate a high expected value shot on goal (15m set shot) from a low probability source (outside 60 kick)
Short ranks #1 in the AFL for kicks and metres gained, a damaging combination of statistics to be ranked #1. What’s great about Short as a defender (great reader of the ball and is always the first to the drop of the ball the the next possession chain) has transferred seamlessly into the midfield. His spread from the contest was notable early. In this instance, he holds his shape until the ball spills to the outside and is the first handball option before lowering his eyes to find a teammate just outside 50.
Short did a lot of this throughout the night. He roamed the defensive side of contests or set up as the sweeper role off the back of stoppages. Instead of generating counter attacks out of Richmond’s back half, his midfield role meant he was doing his damage higher up the ground and setting up scoring opportunities for Richmond in their I50. It culminated in a spike of inside 50’s (+5 from the week before) and score involvements (+3).
Short’s such a great decision maker and you want those kinds of players in your forward half of the ground. It’s inexcusable from West Coast to give Short this much space, but he just sums up the situation perfectly going inside 50.
I love this decision from Hardwick and I implore him to keep Short in this role. He adds a different dimension to a midfield that is slow paced when Bolton plays forward. Short changes the angles and is a metres gained threat, which is a big plus for a Richmond side who desperately need to play more front half territory football to win games, compared to previous years. However, it is worth reiterating that the Eagles look more like a WAFL side than an AFL team at the moment. Expect Short to receive more pressure around the ball if this midfield role persists.
Dylan Moore’s come from nowhere, hasn’t he? I kind of forgot that back in 2020 Moore had to actually play for the opposition side in a reserves game because they didn’t have enough players! Pretty wild story. Delisted and re-rookied, it's been an interesting journey for Moore. Now, in 2022, he is legitimately one of the best high half forwards in the AFL. The improvement he has shown in the last two years has been rapid and he continues to impress for Hawthorn in a variety of roles. Moore has progressed from a small forward to a high half forward role to a player that Mitchell dabbled with as a midfielder on the weekend.
What jumps out immediately when you watch Moore is his work rate to get to the drop of the ball or be the first to the next contest. He must be one of Hawthorn's fittest players because his gut running is impressive to watch. This sequence encapsulates everything that’s great about Moore’s development.
He roves the initial marketing contest with perfect timing and distributes to a team mate, a skill he refined in his first role. He then spreads hard forward from that contest to be the next option in the chain, a skill that's valued as a high half forward. He then continues to track the ball before following up with a quick handball receive and lacing out a kick to Wingard inside 50, a skill that all the best damaging midfielders possess.
Moore ranks elite for disposals (20), goals (2 per game), score involvements (7) and finishes well around goals (68%). On the weekend, he pushed higher up the ground in the second half and was spectacular:
33 disposals, 11 marks and a goal
Defensively, he is a high effort high pressure player. He has a bit of Lachlan Schultz about him, where they both close down space in an instant and are effective tacklers. Moore is great at pinning an oppositions arm and forcing an ineffective disposal for a free kick. It’s a legit skill. He had a number of these tackles against St Kilda.
Hawthorn are in rebuild mode but I have really liked their method of attack in 2022. They play fast paced, risk taking football through the corridor but have the perfect mix strong 1v1 backs with elite interceptors (Sicily, Scrimshaw) to allow them to do so.
Mitchell’s shown a desire to rotate his midfielders and play them in different roles. It’s apparent he values versatility - O’Meara and Mitchell are attending far less centre bounces than previous years. After the weekends display, Moore has to play more minutes on the wing. He had 8 disposals at half time before moving to the wing and was Hawthorn's best player, amassing 25 2nd half disposals. Moore will start to receive more mainstream attention now, but I’ve enjoyed watching him quietly go about his business each week. Plenty to like.
Robbie Gray is a marvel
Robbie Gray is great for football and is one of my favourite players to watch. I felt I had to discuss how he continues to win games for Port Adelaide at the end of tight games.
It seems like in every late game situation, Port Adelaide look for him to solve the problem, one way or another. His resume of late game heroics is insane. Gray has kicked game winning goals against Carlton, St Kilda, Richmond and has kicked the sealer in a showdown.
Saturday night was another perfect example of Gray’s elite in game awareness and football IQ . He mad a quick decision that ultimately won the game for Port Adelaide. Port were up by 2 points with less than 2 minutes remaining but had allowed Richmond to kick two close points. When a game is this close, sometimes players lose track of the score - whether they are up or if the score is even. Many also won't keep track of how long is actually left. The difference between a minute left or 30 seconds left is seismic in the AFL. In the case of Gray, the ball finds it's way to him through a Houston hack kick forward. Gray gathers the ball along the boundary line in a tie game with 40 seconds remaining. For a second there, I questioned whether Gray was going to make the right decision, if he understood how little time was left and how important it was to simply get a shot on goal, rather than try to centre it. How silly I was.
It sounds obvious watching it now but in a high pressurised moment with a player chasing you down, Gray has a split second here to make a decision and once again, Gray made the right one. He went for the win and took the improbable shot on goal, making sure he scored in the process. The final point that won Port the game.
Gray’s not the same player he was. His best moments have now reverted to bursts rather than full game performances. But he still has his tricks and he will go down as one of the best small mid forwards the game has ever seen. It helps when a player is this clutch.