My 2017 players to watch in review: Geelong Cats to GWS Giants

Anna Pavlou Roar Rookie

By Anna Pavlou, Anna Pavlou is a Roar Rookie

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    In the 2017 pre-season I picked three players per club to preview for the upcoming season – now I’m looking back at how they did, and grading their performance. Today I’m looking at the Geelong Cats, Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants.

    Geelong Cats

    What I said: In 2016, Sam Menegola had to wait until Round 18 to make his debut, but did not disappoint. He averaged 24 disposals over his six-game breakout. A mature aged 2016 recruit, Menegola was used as an inside midfielder.

    His ability to read the play and burst out of packs is handy as he will be playing a main role in Geelong’s midfield. It’s time for Menegola to take the next step in his career and lead the new midfielders in the right direction.

    How he really performed: Menegola averaged 24 disposals, keeping up his consistency overall. He averaged 5.9 tackles, an improvement from the 3.8 average in 2016.

    Worked hard behind the scenes as he wasn’t consistently noted for his heroics on the field. Put his body on the line and used his defensive pressure to his advantage, however did not stand out as he was expected to. Must keep pushing to find his place in a packed midfield in 2018.

    Rating: B+

    What I said: Zach Tuohy. Recruited from the Blues, Tuohy is the running half back the Cats have been looking for.

    After the loss of Jimmy Bartel and Corey Enright, the Cats made the right choice picking up a mature half back to fill the gap between their elite defenders and rookies.

    An aggressive runner off half back and a pounding kick, Tuohy will be able to take the game on whenever he wants. A fresh start at Geelong will help him to rekindle his love for footy.

    Tuohy will become a backline asset, now all he has to do is follow through.

    How he really performed: Zach Tuohy had a fantastic season, coming third in Geelong’s best and fairest, fitting in well with his new-found team.

    He averaged 24.6 disposals off the half back line and showed why he is vital in Geelong’s 22. He brought the versatility and speed the Cats were desperate for and also eased the pressure off other defenders.

    Used hit grit and skill to continually shut down small forwards and relieve scoring pressure. Overall, a stellar season for Tuohy, who deserved all the credit he received.

    Rating: A+

    Zach Tuohy Geelong Cats AFL 2017

    (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    What I said: Jackson Thurlow, who is making a return after a knee reconstruction in 2016, showed promising signs in 2015 and prior.

    He has used his rehabilitation to come back as a bigger and stronger backline asset. Will be able to play on a wide range of forwards.

    Thurlow has a lot to prove this season, as he needs to show why he deserves his spot in the Geelong backline.

    How he really performed: Sill yet to find his feet, Thurlow played 11 games in the backline. He unfortunately did not become a vital presence that could take on big-bodied forwards.

    Thurlow constantly struggled to keep up with the play, as it was obvious his knee was restricting his movement and groundwork.

    He will play in 2018 but must step up to fill the void left by retiring stars Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie.

    Rating: C

    Gold Coast Suns

    What I said: Kade Kolodjashnij is a smooth mover who can use his pace to his advantage. The Suns will look to cement Kolodjashnij in a half back spot for years to come.

    He is an excellent left foot kick and is a continually improving the defensive side of his game. Can be used on third tall forwards and possibly as a tagger. Kolodjashnij should be expected to step up as a young leader.

    How he really performed: Kolodjashnij played only 11 matches in 2017, being ruled our mid-season with ongoing concussion complications. However, the young gun averaged 21.1 disposals, 4 more than 2016.

    Rating: C

    What I said: 2016 saw a mixed bag for Alex Sexton, who proved he could play deep in the midfield as well as wider on a wing.

    After a few injuries early, Sexton returned and spent some time in the middle of the ground. A hard runner with clean cut skills, Sexton can also win the contested ball. Can also hit the scoreboard.

    Looking forward to watching this versatile talent come back to his best in 2017.

    How he really performed: Sexton finally played a full season and carried himself fairly well. His highlight game was 26 disposals in round 6 against the Kangaroos.

    Coaches moved him between the wing and forward line, proving the right choice as he kicked 12 goals in 2017. His versatility allowed him to be flexible wherever he was placed.

    2018 is the time to further his ability and bring his team up.

    Rating: C+

    What I said: Adam Saad has stamped himself as one of the Suns’ most important. After an injury ridden 2016, Saad is expected to make a flying start to 2017 across the defence.

    His fast-paced run and carry off the back half will help the Suns who are in need of some confidence and composure.

    How he really performed: Saad’s season was an improvement from 2016, with the half-back flanker laying 50 tackles, which is 25 more than last season.

    Now a Bomber after trading back to his home town, Saad will be a value with his great run and carry as well as his defensive mindset.

    Rating: B

    Adam Saad Gold Coast Suns AFL tall

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    GWS Giants

    What I said: Steven Coniglio had the most disposals for GWS in 2016 in a breakout year. With leadership skills like his, it would be fair to predict a future captaincy for Coniglio. The development of Coniglio’s skills sees his midfield spot cemented for 2017 and beyond.

    Noted as ruthless when it comes to contests, his clean-cut skills mixed with fearless attitude will definitely help him take another step forward this season.

    How he really performed: Lead from the front in his first season in the leadership group. He averaged 25.7 disposals and was fearless in the middle.

    He lived up to his ruthless name by laying an average of 6.4 tackles a game. A decent season but one that saw his team falter when it counted.

    Rating: B+

    What I said: Dylan Shiel had an outstanding 2016 season and will look to follow up his fantastic form in 2017. His ability to carry the ball at a fast pace proved a real winner.

    He averaged over 27 disposals a game which proved his importance to his team. He is versatile and able to break out of packs and win contested ball.

    A natural born leader, Shiel should be expected to step up yet again to guide this young team to something special.

    How he really performed: Averaging 26.6 disposals, Shiel yet again went above and beyond in 2017. Picked as an All-Australian, Shiel dominated in the middle and lead his team at the same time.

    He is to be commended for his high intensity all over the ground and his ability to burst through the middle consistently. Couldn’t be beaten and stepped up when the Giants required him most.

    Rating: A+

    What I said: Devon Smith. The skilful forward can be damaging inside 50. A very flashy and explosive player, yet he can apply extra pressure which often goes unnoticed.

    Smith is versatile enough to switch between the midfield and forward line, setting himself up to be a 35+ goal player in 2017.

    How he really performed: Playing 16 games in 2017, Smith averaged 18.5 disposals and kicked 15 goals.

    His inside 50 and tackle pressure was the highlight of the forward’s year, as he took his team to another preliminary final.

    Now on his way to Essendon, it is likely that Smith will become the high intensity forward the Bombers need.

    Rating: B

    Devon Smith GWS Giants AFL 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • December 14th 2017 @ 9:43am
      Birdman said | December 14th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      not much of a stretch in the 3 Giants you picked but the ratings look fine.

      Decent predictions on the Cats but Thurlow IMO is never going to be anything but second rate.

      as the the Suns, well……..

    • December 14th 2017 @ 11:59am
      Don Freo said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

      Interesting, Anna, comparing your ratings of Thurlow and Kolodjashnij as defenders and comparing them with your E rating of Joel Hamling.

      Hamling was so much better.

      • December 18th 2017 @ 2:25pm
        Shane said | December 18th 2017 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

        In what universe was Hamling in the same ball park as Kolo? Not even close statistically. Maybe he is on par with Thurlow, who came off a full knee reco this year – but Hamling still only achieved about 3/5 of the metres gained by Thurlow.

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