Carlton are wasting Bryce Gibbs’ talents
Bryce Gibbs and Carlton's struggles this season has had Blues fans gasping (Slattery media)
Things between Carlton’s management and the coaching of Bryce Gibbs are simply not working.
I love Bryce Gibbs and rate him very highly as a footballer. He is one of those players who has ability to make the right decisions and use the ball so well. I would arguably say he is one of the best users of the football in the AFL at the moment.
So the question then is wouldn’t you want a player who uses the ball effectively playing down back? Ultimately any coach would say yes. However the way Carlton are using Gibbs is a waste.
Carlton can continue to use Bryce Gibbs off half back and take those potentially damaging forwards. However, Carlton and their game plan wastes any effectiveness Gibbs has with the ball other than nullifying a good forward.
This argument on how Carlton use Gibbs has been around now for some time. I have had many a conversation with AFL enthusiasts as far back as three years ago about Gibbs.
Back in 2010 it was well documented that Gibbs needed a ‘hard hat’ and to pick up more contested possessions. Get in, get the ball and use it as effectively as he does to make Carlton that elite set up its supporters so desperately crave and dare I say deserve.
Over previous years successful teams have had three or more outstanding midfielders. Collingwood with Swan, Pendlebury and Ball. Geelong with well a whole lot of them and even the Doggies from a few years back pushing for premiership glory with Cooney, Boyd and Cross. Gibbs playing down back is a waste and not helping Carlton at all.
I am going to support my argument by comparing what I think are two outstanding players who I have tracked very closely in their careers so far. That being Gibbs and Brett Deledio. Two players who have been through similar situations at their respective clubs, but coached and managed very differently for what I think are contrasting results.
Both players are huge talents and were obvious high draft choices. Both showed exceptional talent with their ball use and their ability to be an attacking midfielder and hold up in defence.
At some point in both their careers, decisions on their role in the team were made to play predominately in defence. In 2010 both Gibbs and Deledio played a good portion of their games in defence. Deledio in particular found himself deep in defence and playing a real sweeping role.
This change in role dramatically changed their authority to affect on the scoreboard. Deledio went from averaging over 20 goals a season in his first 5 seasons to scoring just two goals for the year in 2010. Gibbs was averaging around 15 goals for the season and scored just the 6 in 2010.
Terrific ball users who can kick goals, all of a sudden not creating that scoreboard pressure. That’s a lot of goals to lose and to try and find somewhere else on the ground in a season. This does not even take into to account their high percentage effectiveness with the ball and the countless goals they would set up as well.
Clearly this is a problem. You want your best players getting and winning the ball and then using it effectively as they can to win you the game. AFL games are won on the scoreboard not by possessions. People like Jobe Watson have not been rated as one of the best midfielders this year because he is getting more possessions, it is because his ball use effectiveness is up and is putting scores on the board and setting up teammates.
Here is where it all changes. Richmond made a decision to take Deledio and his terrific ability and mould him into a supreme midfielder.
I don’t even need to say anymore about where Deledio has gone with his career since 2010. Posessions are on the increase and scoring more goals each season since coming out of defence. He is currently on 14 goals for the season with a handful of games to go.
My hat goes off to Hardwick for making a decision like this and putting in place players to step up and fill the Tigers defence. I think we can all agree we thought the tigers back 6 looked very shaky at the start of the year but have turned into a reasonable defence.
As for Bryce Gibbs he has declined from averaging over 26 possessions a game playing predominately in the midfield in 2008-2009 to now where he’s lucky to break the teens in disposals.
Other than Carlton’s exceptional 2011 season where Gibbs scored 20 goals, Gibbs has scored just 13 goals in his seasons playing defence over the last 3 years. Here you have Carlton’s most effective disposal of the football collecting cheap possessions down back and it being wasted with a poorly put together game plan by Brett Ratten.
Carlton need to take the hard line like Richmond did. You want your best and most effective ball users with the ball to set up your forwards and score goals themselves.
You can make defenders in the AFL, but it is much harder to find the raw ability to use the ball well and set up teammates. Carlton need to get Gibbs on the ball and use his effectiveness to their advantage.
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