A new era has begun at Fremantle, and veteran duo Michael Walters and Stephen Hill have already earned some brownie points with incoming coach Justin Longmuir.
In a new weekly piece I’ll be looking at which players, clubs and opinions are worth keeping an eye on and which should be swept to the side.
In the AFL stock market there are three categories: buy, hold and sell. If you’re a keen follower of the game and are looking to invest your time wisely, look no further than the below and keep notes on what happens on a weekly basis.
Buy: Harry Perryman (Greater Western Sydney)
The Giants have plenty of young talent coming through the ranks and clearly these players have been identified as ready to go. Perryman is one of the young Giants who has been highly rated internally, having produced big numbers in the NEAFL sufficient to graduate to the AFL team’s best 22.
Since returning from his nasty injury in Round 1 Perryman has played some really solid footy over the last month, averaging 20 disposals at 77 per cent efficiency and 7.5 marks while also kicking two goals. Playing across the defensive side of centre and on the halfback flank, Perryman is more of the run-and-spread type rather than an intercepting rebounder.
The importance of hardworking players has only increased in 2019, when the best teams have been able to control the ball thanks to work rate. Perryman is four full games into his season now and, particularly with Lachie Whitfield out, will be the player GWS wants to look for when under pressure. Keep a close eye on the 20-year-old.
Sell: North Melbourne
North Melbourne’s stock is quite high at the moment, with a new coach and three wins in a row. The team is sitting pretty in our collective recent memory; however, realists will understand that it won’t get any better than this for the Kangaroos. Shaun Higgins is out for the next six weeks and the fixture is taking a turn for the worse, which is a recipe for waking up to reality.
Credit needs to be given to a number of key parts to the recent success for North Melbourne. Ben Cunnington is playing elite-level footy, Jack Ziebell’s finally playing in the midfield and it’s a huge success, Robbie Tarrant is continuously doing his job well, while Jared Polec has been brilliant. Add in the lesser known likes of Jed Anderson, Jy Simpkin, Mason Wood and Cam Zurhaar playing well and it shows the club has been a well-rounded threat.
History suggests North Melbourne tends to catch lightning in a bottle, which allows for the club’s previous form and record to slip through minds. Expect two wins at most for the rest of the season from here, starting with a heavy loss in Tasmania to GWS. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance, but normality will be restored soon. Time to sell.
Alex Pearce is done, most likely for the entire season. Matt Taberner is gone. Rory Lobb’s season is now in doubt. Despite the incredible victory over Collingwood at the MCG before the bye, negativity has entered the Fremantle narrative and many are predicting a severe drop-off.
We’ll learn plenty about the team in this week’s match against Port Adelaide, and I’m fully expecting it to be a positive response. Griffin Logue is ready to enter the senior frame again and step up, while Sean Darcy has had to wait a long time and is a more than capable replacement for Lobb.
Brennan Cox is becoming a more important part of the team, and the young tall could prove to be a key barometer. Despite being disappointing this season, the Dockers need to back him in and throw him in the ruck more often. Darcy is a good pure ruckman, but Cox needs to do a lot of the work around the ground, offering escape routes for the defence and asserting his physical presence on the opposition, which is what Lobb was best at.
The Dockers still have a great defensive set-up and the midfield is as it was pre-bye. Creating a little more chaos in attack is sure to keep the smalls busy. Don’t jump off Fremantle yet, despite what the masses might tell you.
Sell: Shane Mumford (Greater Western Sydney)
GWS won’t win the premiership this season with Shane Mumford in the team. There were two schools of thought upon his redrafting, and given the importance of a well-rounded set of skills for ruckmen, Mumford’s old-school approach hardly assists the Giants. Note how he was completely outworked by Reilly O’Brien in Round 12, particularly in the last eight minutes, when the young Crow was arguably the key reason for Adelaide’s dominance and eventual victory.
Mumford averages two kicks a game and gives away four free kicks. For the solid work he does in the ruck, averaging 38 hit-outs with a hit-out-to-advantage rate of 31.3 per cent, Mumford’s work around the ground is simply a liability for GWS – his tackling is great as long as the opposition run at him. The veteran was a damaging force in his prime with a stronger work rate and more decisive efforts in ruck contests. At the moment he’s relying on playing against undersized ruckmen to post huge numbers, and his influence on games is slowly decreasing as the season goes on.
The bye will come at the right time, and if the Giants are serious about the season – and they’re seemingly committed to Mumford – he should take a few weeks off before the finals to reload and refresh. It’d be worth giving Matthew Flynn an opportunity given he has, despite being a similarly physical of ruckman, younger and fresher legs and has developed an ability to play forward in the NEAFL while figuring out how to find space and move around better between the arcs.
Buy: Will Brodie
It’s interesting to note that Brodie is only 20 years of age and in just his third season of AFL given how often he seems to be overlooked or omitted from the senior side. For such a young player his name has generally been thrown around as a trade target over the last two seasons given his inability to break into a relatively mediocre Gold Coast team. His performance against North Melbourne was excellent statistically, but more encouraging was his overall work rate and the well-rounded nature of his performance.
In Rounds 18 to 20 of 2018 Brodie produced strong footy as an inside midfielder and the natural comparison to Josh Kennedy rang true. The fact he has played only three games this season suggests the Suns were looking for more from Brodie, and against the Kangaroos he certainly produced. Finishing with 29 disposals, nine tackles, nine marks, six clearances, four rebound 50s and four inside 50s, Brodie was Gold Coast’s strongest player all over the ground. It was his highest time-on-ground percentage for his career and it has caught the eye of many people.
Brodie’s performances at NEAFL level have been similarly well-rounded, and with a better tank than in his first couple of seasons, now is finally the time we will see the 20-year-old playing regular senior footy. Join in on claiming him as one of your favourite players, because by season’s end it’ll be seen as the bandwagon move.
The Tigers played atrociously on Friday night against Geelong and, unsurprisingly, the media has decided to announce Richmond is a shell of its former self and cannot win the premiership. Typically the universal opinion has come at the lowest point of Richmond’s season, which tends to be the case in this reactionary landscape. Watching Richmond over the past few weeks and understanding just how undermanned the team was, the only aspect of the 67-point loss to Geelong that was unexpected was the lack of overall pressure when the Cats got momentum.
It’s easy to kick a team while they’re down – just read 95 per cent of AFL-related articles. The Tigers have used this period of being severely underequipped more intelligently than any other team that has struggled this season. Young players have been given opportunities, VFL form has been rewarded and certain players have been given the chance to get senior exposure in different positions. In Hawthorn’s prime Alastair Clarkson taught his players how to play in multiple areas of the ground with different mindsets so that they could confidently change tactics mid-game in the big moments.
Noah Balta has played in every position on the ground, Nick Vlastuin has been equally as good as an inside midfielder as has been the ‘quarterback’ of the team, while the small forwards and midfielders have undergone some serious rotational work throughout games.
Some star players will be returning after the club’s bye and Richmond will have two months with a strong 22 that is flexible and adaptable. The 2019 season will be one during which the Tigers are fighting for fifth to eighth spot, but ruling them out completely is an easy thing to do. Hold your stocks, because Richmond isn’t out of the flag hunt just yet.