Gold Coast chief executive Mark Evans expects the club to contend for a first ever AFL finals appearance next season as he weighs up the future of coach Stuart Dew.
I was at a mate’s house for a snag, game of footy and a few cordials on Saturday, and amongst the usual debates, an interesting question popped up while observing Fremantle’s Ryan ‘Creepy’ Crowley.
Should we acknowledge the best taggers in the land with a position in the All-Australian team?
The first reaction from almost everyone is a no, based on a morale position that we shouldn’t reward someone for doing nothing but stopping someone else playing.
It is a fair enough point, however there are two problems I have with it.
The first point I would say is that we do reward positions where your main role is to stop your opponent – fullback for instance.
The second point I would make is that the word tagger still has some negative connotations from the 90s and 00s, when a tagger would literally do nothing but stop their opponent getting their hands on the pill.
Names like Sean Denham and Jose Romero still make me shudder. These players were not known for their brilliant ball skills, just high amounts of participants.
In the modern game, however, taggers have become so much more. They need to be effective in attack as well.
More modern day players like Brett Kirk, Cameron Ling and Shaun Hart changed the dimension of the role by not only stopping an opponent, but getting the ball and using it effectively themselves.
Every team has at least one designated tagger, all of whom can have at least some influence in attack as well.
Players like Brad Sewell, Stephen Baker, Crowley, and the recently delisted Aaron Joseph all have at least some ability to use the Sherrin as well.
Perhaps the term ‘defensive midfielder’ was adopted to help make the distinction between out and out taggers and taggers that could play as well.
The modern-day tagger has many attributes that their more illustrious opponents often lack.
Good tackling and tracking abilities are obvious. However, a tagger needs to also be at least equally as fit as his opponent.
They also need to be doggedly persistent, and be prepared to sacrifice their own game. No longer is the tagger chosen because he is the worst of the on-ballers.
There was no real agreement by the end of the half time break on Saturday. Some accepted that maybe there should be a spot, as long as the tagger still got the ball and did some damage themselves.
I would argue this is what differentiates a good tagger from an All Australian one. Others where just flat out no.
Statistically, a good on baller is judged on possession. Perhaps a tagger should be judged on the difference between their opponent’s possessions and their own.
Could you really put someone like Crowley in the team in place of Dane Swan, or Gary Ablett? I doubt it.
However, as the tagging role evolves, perhaps we will need to consider the question more deeply.