Is this the best kick in the AFL? (2021)

Sydney's improvement has come from the growth of players like Jordan Dawson. Settling at half back, is Jordan Dawson the best kick in the AFL?

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Jordan Dawson

When you think of the best kicks in the AFL, your mind wanders to a Caleb Daniel, Daniel Rich or Jack Lukosius. Yet, there's a guy in Sydney who may well just be better than all three. Jordan Dawson's (#34) kicking is elite. He is both precise and has every kind of kick in his repertoire. The most eye catching is his low penetrating kick off a few steps. Most people would just bomb this ball out of defence. Dawson sees a leading target and hits him in a small window of space.

He has the guided kick to advantage. Here, he kicks to Kennedy’s advantage out of the reach of Smith.

Torpedo's, snaps around his body, finishing in front of goals – Dawson can do it all. The best kinds of ball users in the AFL recognise the dangerous space and guide their leading teammate to that space. Dawson does this on a frequent basis. It also helps that he has a compact kicking action that creates little margin for error. He can break games open with his foot skills by creating scoring launches for Sydney as a defender. He also has a knack for pushing forward in general play and is great at finishing in front of goal.

Of course, the point is easier to make when he has arguably the best game of his career in Sydney’s biggest win of the year. Against the Bulldogs, Dawson had 26 disposals going at 72% kicking efficiency and kicked 3 goals. He started in the backline but pushed higher up the ground onto a wing as the game went on. He did a lot of his damage not only by foot but in the air. He’s a great size at 191cm and provides a kicking outlet for Sydney’s defenders.

His kicking talents are best utilised out of defence but it hasn't always been the case. At the start of his career, Dawson was a rangy forward. Over time, he was a utility playing a number of roles before now settling into the backline similar to Bailey Dale’s career trajectory. As an attacking defender, he is incredibly dangerous because he creates scoring drives for Sydney (3.8 score involvements a game). Sydney are one of the top teams transitioning the ball from D50 to F50 and Dawson is the key reason why. He ranks 10th in the AFL for rebound 50's and 15th for metres gained. He's far more damaging player than his attacking running mate Lloyd without being the same accumulator. Lloyd’s forward drive comes from his ability to get himself to multiple contests for his disposals. Dawson only needs the ball once to have the exact same impact. He also has a higher appetite for risk. He’s much more willing to hit the corridor kick (which he seems to do with ease at times) to set up an attacking launch rather than Lloyd who defers to the safer option. Regardless, the growth of Dawson to complement Lloyd alongside Campbell creates a healthy balance of defence and attack for Sydney's backline.

A side note...something I’ve been thinking about in recent weeks:

Either way you lean in this argument (I’d take Lukosius by a whisker), I've been thinking about whether the kicking skills of today's players are the best we've ever seen. To me it's not a controversial take - they definitely are. Just this weekend, we saw Rich's absurd 50m kick out directing McCarthy into the corridor with his ball placement and Lukosius placing the ball with perfection to a teammate deep in the backline against a heavy wind.

Given the complications around the kicking efficiency statistic, it would be difficult to highlight an improvement similar to the 3-point revolution and shot making ability in the NBA. But given how much team defence has improved with the use of the modern day press closing up short 45 kicking lanes – the degree of difficulty to hit those kicks has increased dramatically. I would love to hear other people’s opinions on this point.

Regardless, Dawson is going to be a joy to watch for years to come. Sydney should be moving heaven and earth to get him signed immediately. He's the kind of player that could change the outlook of a finals game with one or two risk taking kicks.

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