There’s never any shortage of hype surrounding the Bombers. As one of the biggest and most powerful clubs in Melbourne, they always receive plenty of attention.
It’s time to look at five more stocks that have stood out ahead of the final bye round of the season.
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: Stuart Dew
Saying a team is well and truly on the right path when they’ve only won three out of their 13 games and sit 17th on the ladder with the worst percentage in the league may seem strange, but the Suns are finally playing with a purpose.
Stuart Dew is developing a team that is willing to back themselves far more than we’ve ever seen from the Gold Coast, and there’s improvement in every game.
Jack Hombsch is doing his job as the main shutdown defender, while Charlie Ballard has put on some size to perform a key defensive role. Jesse Joyce has been consistent and Jack Lukosius adds some more height in the back line while he learns the game.
While the Suns focus on getting the defence right, the transition play is high-risk, high-reward and when the skill level improves, this will be a dangerous team.
Dew has told Lachie Weller and Jarrod Harbrow to take the game on, while he backed Callum Ah Chee and Corey Ellis to do the same in their first games in 2019.
A strong, young midfield group working to win clearances and get the ball forward is joined by Darcy MacPherson, Wil Powell and Jack Martin looking to apply the pressure around the ball and in attack, which makes this a growing, evenly-spread team.
Dew has learned from years of assistant coaching and is producing a team that is as attacking as it is defensively sound. With plenty of strong clearance players and smaller guys with goal sense to surround the likes of Ben King, Peter Wright and Sam Day, the Suns mightn’t win a lot of games this year, but Dew is doing good things.
Gold Coast will be playing finals in the next three seasons.
Hold: Aaron Naughton in attack
Naughton will be one of the league’s top key defenders in a few years, and we will look back fondly on his time and incredible performances as a forward early in his career.
It’s easy to look at Charlie Curnow kicking seven goals and immediately question the validity of playing such a high-potential defender in attack. Naughton is the Bulldogs’ best option in attack and without him there, they’re exposed.
Josh Schache has kicked eight goals in seven VFL games and hasn’t found his form yet, which is why the Bulldogs had to try and get creative in the mid-season draft with Ryan Gardner. There’s a bigger need for Naughton to play as a forward in 2019 and it’s well worth persisting with, trying to maximise the return.
The 19-year-old’s numbers for a second-year key forward are comparable with some of the best forwards in league history, having kicked 18.16 in 12 games and averaging an elite 2.25 contested marks per game.
Key defenders who have spent serious time in attack have benefitted from understanding leading patterns and body positioning, which has immediately increased their value. See Liam Jones and Levi Casboult, two of the most maligned players in the modern football era.
While we can question the coach and the game plans, the Bulldogs are facing reality. Naughton being a star player for the team in just his second season should be celebrated, as we’ll look fondly upon this time in retrospect.
Buy: Jarman Impey
Jarman Impey is a breath of fresh air in a relatively predictable Hawthorn team and there’s absolutely no fanfare about his performances.
In his best showing of the season, Impey had 24 disposals at 83 per cent efficiency, eight marks, three rebound 50s, five inside 50s and two goals.
The 23-year-old did exactly as he wished, taking the game on in a team performance that was safe and uninspiring. Impey’s ability to pull off the corridor kick and willingness to run at the opposition stands out considerably, and his strength in contests is better than anyone gives him credit for.
Once a whipping boy at Port Adelaide, Impey is clearly in the category of player that is known for quality of quantity.
As the Hawks look to rebuild slowly from within, Impey can be the face of a mini-revolution. While he is a smaller player in stature, Impey is a commanding presence when in form and there are certainly shades of his veteran team-mate Shaun Burgoyne in his game.
With 110 games next to his name and just now entering his mid-20s, it’s time to start showing Impey some respect.
Sell: Jacobs vs O’Brien debate
For weeks, there was a distinct lack of support for Reilly O’Brien upon his entry into the Crows team. Many headlines relating to Adelaide were shaped around a countdown for the return of Sam Jacobs, or how disadvantaged the team would be by the veteran’s injury.
The debate is now settled and it has become clear that O’Brien is simply the better player. His last quarter against GWS and full game against Richmond were genuinely match-winning, and the 23-year-old has secured his spot in a potential top-four team for the rest of the season.
Jacobs has returned in the SANFL and been typically impressive, but the 30-year-old has lost the aura that made him one of the game’s best ruckmen between 2014 and 2017.
Last season represented a drop-off, with Jacobs not able to get around the ground as well as he used to. One of Adelaide’s best recruits over the last decade, it won’t be the last we see of Jacobs at senior level, but a lot more emphasis should be put on Reilly O’Brien.
At 23 years of age and one of the fittest players at the club, O’Brien is the man of the future for the Crows.
Buy: Melbourne’s next fortnight
If you’re going to watch only two games over the next fortnight, I highly recommend Melbourne’s contests against Fremantle and Brisbane.
The Demons have been a basket case in 2019, sitting 3-9 after 12 games and looking completely lost. Against Collingwood on the Queen’s Birthday, there were flashes of encouragement mixed in with poor football and it left another sour taste in the mouths of supporters and AFL fans alike heading into their bye.
A lot of work will have been done over the bye to try and fast-track cohesion and camaraderie heading into the second half of the season.
The duo of Steven May and Jake Lever entering the defensive 50 is so crucial to Melbourne salvaging something from the season, and there’s every chance it could click after the bye.
Angus Brayshaw’s form has finally turned, while Max Gawn’s incredible season simply must be capitalised upon by the midfielders. Melbourne’s forward line is the single biggest issue Simon Goodwin has, but if the defence can be switched on, maybe it boosts the spirits of the entire team.
While many will deem it unlikely, Melbourne will win their next two games, and the confidence the club takes from this fortnight could result in the Demons winning their following four games.
Knocking off the in-form Dockers and Lions in the next fortnight would set Melbourne on a path that could lead to the most unlikely of endings. Picture Melbourne finding their form and being 9-9 with a month left in the season.
If it’s any chance of happening, you best follow Rounds 14 and 15 closely.