Liam Jones is the best story of the 2017 AFL season

Andrew Macdougall Roar Pro

By Andrew Macdougall, Andrew Macdougall is a Roar Pro

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    It started with Jon Patton, then Tom Lynch and Taylor Walker, as forward-turned-defender Liam Jones continued to take scalps in an impressive return to the AFL.

    Since being recalled to the AFL, Jones has been in scintillating form, which has the 26-year-old set to sign a new two-year contract to stay at Princes Park.

    Is there a bigger individual story of the 2017 season? A player on the brink, career almost lost, then a move from Josh Fraser in the VFL to take Jones and turn him into a dominant defender.

    An underdog revival, battle against the odds – whatever you call it, it’s why we love sport.

    Jones’ VFL performances prompted other clubs to sound out the Tasmanian. A knee injury to Sam Rowe forced the hand of Carlton coach Brendon Bolton, honouring Jones’ form and hard work with a Round 12 selection against the Giants.

    Heavily scrutinised for a perceived lack of work ethic across his career, Jones is averaging 11.5 one per cent plays in five weeks of football this season, highlighting the resurgence of a once lackadaisical player.

    Jones’ lock down defending is not only impressive, his ability to read the play, peel off his direct opponent and give the Blues stability in the defensive half has become vital. This has seen Jones rank number one for spoils, second in intercept marks and averaging 3.6 rebound inside 50s, giving the Blues offensive bite from the back half.

    This weekend he takes on the team that selected him with pick 32 at the 2010 draft. As the Western Bulldogs look to hang onto a finals berth, it could be an old Dog which puts the final nail in their coffin.

    A five-week block of football doesn’t make a season, let alone a career, but if the form line remains, Jones could become one of the premier defenders in the competition.

    Likened to Dustin Fletcher, Matthew Scarlett and even Carlton’s own Stephen Silvagni as players who started their careers forward only to go back and make a defensive post their own, Jones is in high company.

    Talk of All Australian selection might be premature, although not out of the realms of possibility with seven games remaining in 2017. If Jones can shut down Tom Hawkins or Joe Daniher in the next two months of footy, would All Australian honours be that much of a stretch?

    Former Sydney defender Ted Richards was done and dusted at Essendon before a move to the Swans reaped rewards with over 200 games, an All Australian selection and a premiership.

    Maybe the Blues have found their own version? And who knows, perhaps a cup to go with it.

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • July 12th 2017 @ 9:38am
      Winston said | July 12th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      He is just another who proves the theory that if you can’t mark and can’t kick, go into defence.

      • July 12th 2017 @ 10:59am
        Darren said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        Not true. Jones is a fantastic mark and kick. It’s more that defence seems to help some players stay focussed as it simplifies things – beat your opponent and back yourself if you are in the best position.
        Forward play requires you to be more `self-motivated’ to keep presenting and find other ways to impact the game when it is not going your way. I also think that Jones has fantastic speed off the mark but not the endurance for a modern day forward. Forwards need to roam, with zoning defence you’ll notice how full backs only follow the forwards up to a point and then let others take them up the ground. Same happens to Rance.
        He definitely has the making of a gun key backman. I didn’t think last week was his best game as he got caught out of position a couple of times and went for chest marks when he should have had his hands out in front. But he has shown an ability to learn so I’m sure he’ll keep improving now he has a role.

        • Roar Pro

          July 12th 2017 @ 11:04am
          Andrew Macdougall said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          Good comment, Darren.

          The endurance aspect is something Mick Malthouse raised this season, Jones always had the burst of speed, just struggled for long periods.

          Jones has always been a chest mark first type player, often it gets him into trouble where a use of outstretched arms would be the better option.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 3:15pm
          Winston said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

          But the number of failing forwards turned defenders is too much to ignore. And you very rarely see it the other way around. Adam Hunter, Cale Hooker and Dustin Fletcher types don’t count because they moved forward out of their team’s necessity.

          Examples include Trent Croad, Jade Rawlings, Ted Richards, even Lance Whitnall. Way too many struggle as a forward and then play well in defence. Clearly it’s because it’s easier to just disrupt someone catching the ball than for you to catch it yourself. You’re also more often in a situation where you outnumber the opponent than be outnumbered. Sure, good backmen have to read the play, but good forwards have to read the play too. Then there’s the kicking, if you’re a defender, if in doubt just torp it as far as you can. Can’t do that as a forward.

          • July 12th 2017 @ 5:16pm
            Darren said | July 12th 2017 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

            I agree playing consistently well as a fwd is harder than as a defender.
            I’m just disagreeing that kicking and marking skills are the reason Liam failed fwd but is making a good fist of it in defence.
            On a separate but related point I think the days of bombing torps from defence are long gone and defenders foot skills are just as, possibly more critical, than fwds.

            • July 12th 2017 @ 5:32pm
              Winston said | July 12th 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

              Not every defender though. Rance is a great player, I accept that. But for most tall defenders having a great kick is not the key attribute. That’s what Jake Lever, Wilson, Shaw etc are for.

          • July 13th 2017 @ 1:11pm
            JD said | July 13th 2017 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

            Daniel Bradshaw played some good games in defence too.

    • July 12th 2017 @ 9:49am
      I ate pies said | July 12th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      Oh the irony; the dogs would love a key defender about now

      • Roar Guru

        July 12th 2017 @ 10:05am
        Col from Brissie said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        Hey IAP they might make him an offer. Now wouldn’t that be funny, but please note we would not be interested in Cloke as a swap.

        • Roar Pro

          July 12th 2017 @ 11:01am
          Andrew Macdougall said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          Although they wanted Jones to stay, I’d say the Bulldogs would be happy with a cup in the cabinet while still working out key position posts.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 11:40am
          I ate pies said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:40am | ! Report

          Haha, that’d be sweet to see Cloke at Carlton. He could be a bust, just like his brother.

    • Roar Guru

      July 12th 2017 @ 10:49am
      Dalgety Carrington said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      What? A recruited forward actually does something to pull his weight for a few games as a defender in a lowly ranked scrappy defence oriented team, better than Roughead’s or Hogan’s return from cancer? This is just a wee bit over the top.

      • Roar Pro

        July 12th 2017 @ 10:59am
        Andrew Macdougall said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        While Jones’ story pales in comparison with Hogan and Roughead, which can never be matched.

        I was purely looking at it from an on field football career sense, where both Hogan and Roughead have already established themselves. Jones hasn’t, maybe that was lost in the piece.

    • Roar Guru

      July 12th 2017 @ 12:22pm
      Cat said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

      The new Tom Lonergan – except with two kidney’s.

    • July 12th 2017 @ 12:53pm
      ken oath said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

      Good piece Andrew, he deserves some form of recognition.

      Lot’s of supporters are happily eating humble pie.

      Well done Liam on the turnaround.

      Looking forward to the negative comments that are sure to follow….

      • July 12th 2017 @ 1:23pm
        Another Paul said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

        Haha Ken, I don’t see why anyone would be negative about him playing personal best footy. As a doggies supporter I have to say I hated watching him play as he truly was a spud in the forward line and I definitely can’t understand why Carlton traded for him on what he showed at the Dogs but I’ve only got praise and admiration for how he has stuck it out and turned it around to be an important player for Carlton now. I would say that yes I am happily eating humble pie.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 2:30pm
          ken oath said | July 12th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

          Another Paul, I reference Carlton supporters eating humble pie, me being one of them.

      • Roar Pro

        July 12th 2017 @ 1:36pm
        Andrew Macdougall said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the comment, Ken.

        I was a supporter of Jones at the Dogs, under the guidance of Barry Hall early he showed really good signs up forward. Once Hall left and we were looking for a new key forward, I think Jones struggled with the #1 tag.

        With his ability to read the play going down back has been the terrific move.

    • July 12th 2017 @ 1:15pm
      Leighton said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

      Been a good story, although he struggled a little against McDonald on the weekend.

      Carlton have played a well organised backline all season with clear roles. A full back stopper type has been Rowe, then Silvagni, and now Jones as the first two were injured. There is however only room for one such player in a league footy side. Jones will have to continue to improve his ability to play off his man and provide an option. His endurance will have to continue to improve.

      Nevertheless, good on him for working hard and improving and playing some fine games of footy. It is an important lesson often lost on us footy watchers. We so often want old players delisted, new players recruited, a new coach and new draftees etc. But finding ways to improve the current players through hard work and good coaching is often forgotten. Yet it is the best way to go.

      Looking forward to the weekend game. Go Blues.

      • Roar Pro

        July 12th 2017 @ 1:41pm
        Andrew Macdougall said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

        Good point about the amount of stoppers. He does still have age on his side, with both Rowe and Silvangi (who was an elevated rookie) will both be turning 31 next year.

        If Jones can continue to intercept mark, and rebound from defensive 50 it would be hard to see him move out of the team.

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