After Geelong delisted Daniel Menzel, a number of clubs are thought to be considering picking up the 73-game free agent.
These are the conenders who are best place to take a punt on the former Cat.
West Coast Eagles
The Eagles are probably a long shot to draft a 27-year-old with four knee reconstructions – who wouldn’t be? – but nonetheless with Mark LeCras retiring and being smack bang in the elusive premiership window, could they be tempted to take the chance?
Scoring hasn’t been the problem for Eagles in past seasons and the forward 50 looks well stocked. Josh Kennedy will still be the focal point for at least another year depending on how his body holds up, with Jack Darling playing as a very, very good second fiddle.
It’s easy to forget that 12 months ago Willie Rioli and flyin’ Liam Ryan weren’t even in the West Coast team and are now premiership small forwards with enough tricks to keep Houdini on his toes.
The often underrated Jamie Cripps adds dash and transition from the midfield that, when coupled with the resting ruckman, forms a formidable forward mix.
Does Menzel fit into that formula? He’s been criticised regularly for his defensive pressure after averaging just over a tackle per game in 2018, but as his manager, Adam Ramanauskas, said, Chris Scott’s game plan and man management of Menzel compromised his ability to influence games defensively.
Although work rate is still the cornerstone of all defensive plays, positioning and tactics play a major part in how certain players provide pressure. Geelong struggled with forward-half pressure all season, and in a modern game in which pressure is still king – think the superb preliminary final between Richmond and Collingwood – they couldn’t match it with the upper echelon of elite pressure teams.
Pressure requires a total team approach. Geelong was ranked last for the least opponent tackles inside 50 per game and Stephen Wells has already articulated his readiness to draft and trade for pressure forwards with Luke Dahlhaus’s signing. However, to place Geelong’s forward pressure woes at the feet of Menzel fails to recognise the collective struggles of the Cats to regularly create forward-half turnovers.
Where Menzel fits with West Coast is their contrasting style played under Adam Simpson. Precision kicking, intercept marking and a considered use of tall-forward targets means that Menzel could be a potentially brilliant addition to the West Coast attacking 50.
If West Coast were to take the punt on an undoubtedly talented but maligned footballer, the improbable task of defending the 2018 premiership could become just a smidge easier.
This is a simple equation. Fremantle can’t kick goals; Daniel Menzel can. Ranked 16th in total points scored – above only the dismal Gold Coast and Carlton – Fremantle have a scoring problem. Michael Walters was their top goal kicker for the season with 22, but with Lachie Neale being traded to Brisbane, the temptation to give their chief goal sneak more midfield time could prove too great.
Jesse Hogan is a proven forward target who can kick big bags and Rory Lobb’s ambition to play primarily as a forward will give Fremantle more options inside 50.
Where doubts exits are in the game plan that Ross Lyon wants to play with his new recruits and how they complement the existing talls of Aaron Sandilands, the emerging Sean Darcy, Matt Taberner, Brennan Cox and the increasingly peripheral pair of Shane Kersten and Cam McCarthy.
Menzel ranks elite in the competition for season average goals per game (2.1), marks inside 50 per game (1.5), marks on the lead per game (1.5) and contested marks per game (1.1). Add in the fact that he generates 3.5 shots at goal per game and his attacking contribution cannot be underestimated, especially in a team that averaged only ten goals a game. Oh, and don’t forget this is a man who played only 13 games in 2018 but still kicked 27 goals.
Drafting Menzel to solve Fremantle’s scoring woes is therefore a balancing act of retaining forward pressure but increasing attacking potency. Too tall a forward line and any forward pressure will evaporate, putting pressure on an undermanned midfield to protect a youthful defensive back half.
Likewise, the addition of Menzel to the Swans is to fix an obvious front-half flaw – in Sydney’s instance, the imposing figure of Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin. He’s still the best player in the game and can tear a team apart with one quarter of dominant football. It’s the best problem, but a problem nonetheless.
With Buddy playing in the forward 50, it’s hard to imagine a team that wouldn’t want the ball in his hands, but the Swans are much maligned for their one-dimensional focus going inside 50.
As seen when Franklin is shutdown – generous applause to Phillip Davis in recent battle of the bridges and the improving Darcy Gardiner in Round 10 – or, shock horror, injured, the Swans’ attacking options are limited by the youthful make-up of their forward 50 and lack of tall marking options.
Tom McCartin, Will Hayward, Tom Papley and Ben Ronke all have the talent to become impressive footballers but cannot be expected to carry the load at such a young age. Moreover, Sam Reid’s recurring injury problems mean including another dangerous forward into their attacking mix is a priority.
Enter Dan Menzel. A proven goal scorer and hit-up forward target who would relish the opportunity of Buddy attracting much of the opposition defensive attention. The Swans struggled to hit the scoreboard in 2018, ranking a dismal 13th overall in points per game, and are crying out for another forward 50 option.
Franklin loves to roam further up the field looking to become involved around the high half-forward line, which perfectly complements Menzel’s preference to play as the deepest forward out in the goal square or forward 50. Buddy has never been an elite contested mark, and Menzel’s surprising aerial ability adds another dimension to the marking already provided by Callum Sinclair, Sam Naismith (dependent on John Longmire’s selections), Tom McCartin and the returning Sam Reid.
At 190 centimetres tall and 90 kilograms, Menzel is a tricky defensive match-up when considering his goal nous and lead-up work. Whether John Longmire believes that he can reshape Menzel’s poor attitude, as claimed by Chris Scott, in the ‘legendary’ Blood culture remains to be seen.
However, on pure footballing terms, a fit and firing Menzel has a huge upside, especially considering the meagre price of signing him as a delisted free agent. Ramanauskas has previously said that Menzel was chasing a two-year deal, but with his surprise delisting, the appeal of a one-year contract with an option for a second – throw in a games played or goals trigger clause – could be all it takes. Remember that this is a bloke who has come back from four knee reconstructions.
With Jarrad Waite retiring and North’s recruiting placing them in top-eight contention, Menzel could be a low-risk recruit as Taylor Garner, Mason Wood et al mature. The bonus irony of Brad taking on brother Chris’s perennial scapegoat is the cherry on top.
The departure of Jesse Hogan places a question mark over where his 47.23 will come from. Sam Weideman is promising but still very raw and Tom MacDonald will have to cope with renewed attention as the Demons’s spearhead. Would Menzel go some way to being a stop-gap solution if Melbourne’s forward stocks are depleted? The carrot of a premiership could also tempt Menzel to sign on reduced financial terms.