The third part of the six-part series comprises the five players that the Geelong Cats, Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney Giants could least afford to lose in season 2021 plus an honourable mention.
Israel Folau’s first year in the AFL hasn’t gone exactly as planned. Folau was a solid contributor in the lower leagues last year, when he would, on occasion, kick four or five goals a game.
However, things have changed this year, since coming up against players with a greater skill level, and he has gone from being a key forward to looking like some rugby league player trying to play Australian Rules.
As a result, it seems Folau has become disinterested in the game and remorseful of his change. And the Giants look the exact same way, after splashing a whole bunch of cash at their highest-profile recruit. However, the remorse of the two parties can very easily be prevented.
All of Folau’s problems stem from one major issue; he’s on the wrong part of the field. Folau has constantly been played as a forward, mainly after his success in the minors as one.
He was even thrown in defence on the weekend as a desperate attempt by Sheedy to get some confidence and time into the kid. This shows that Sheedy is obviously sick of having to find a place on the field for Folau; sick of sticking up for him at press conferences.
However, this can all be avoided with a few positional changes.
Folau has all the body and athleticism needed to make a top-shelf ruckman. He is big, bulky and strong, with a good hit that has developed from his days in the NRL, and while he is not as tall as most convention ruckman, he could out-leap many who contest the centre bounce every weekend, and definitely has the size and strength to compete at the restart of play.
Who knows, Folau could experience the same sucess as Adam Goodes when he stepped in as a smaller ruckman. It would also increase Folau’s knowledge of the game, especially around stoppages, which could later see him move into more of a swingman role that most ruckman these days do, such as Matthew Kruezer and Darren Jolly just to name a few.
Hell, in a few years, we may see Folau loping out of the centre square, ball in hand, as we so often see done by Nic Naitanui. He certinaly has the athleticism to do so.
But what about his teammates? The Giants already have an abundance of ruckman. Well, I can tell you for free the Giants will be cutting their list down like the Gold Coast did last year.
But Folau’s move into the ruck can do nothing but wonders for his teammates. We have already seen how good Jonathan Giles is in front of goals.
This will lift the workload off Giles’ back so he can go forward and kick some more for the Giants, something they have struggled with this year. Sounds pretty good to me.
Sure, this might require the Giants playing a bit of 17 on 18, but if Folau’s short time in the ruck to date is any indicator, it shouldn’t be for too long.
Once Folau’s general knowledge of the game increases, which it will with time, and his overall skills increase, he could turn into a deadly, Nic Nat type player who can give his side a boost in more ways than one.
But what this will require is a mutual commitment from both the club and from Folau, but he can definitely get there. Switching codes was half the battle.