AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has attempted to pour cold water on fresh speculation linking North Melbourne with a full relocation to Tasmania.
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: Brad Sheppard
It’s about time people started recognising Brad Sheppard’s consistently elite performances for the reigning premiers. Having long been a fantastic defender who flies under the radar, Sheppard taking the spotlight and winning the Glendenning-Allan medal was a justified reward after another stellar performance.
The 28-year-old is posting career-high numbers everywhere, averaging 20 disposals at a disposal efficiency of 82 per cent, eight marks, five rebounds and four spoils per game, while rating well above average for his defensive efforts.
Sheppard is an All Australian lock if selectors are truly watching every game closely. His ability to perform his role for the team while adding the rebounding aspect to his game has given the Eagles another dimension to an already strong defence.
At 186cm and being a good overhead mark, Sheppard has often been a great defensive aid with Tom Barrass out of the team, while his reading of the play has continued to improve in 2019.
Allowing Hurn and McGovern to perform their usual intercepting roles, it’s been Sheppard who has been the constant and indeed consistent role player for the team.
People forget the Eagle was a former top-10 draft pick and having had a good, injury-free run for the last five seasons, Sheppard’s name is finally getting some of the respect it has always deserved. With West Coast in the box seat to go back-to-back, Sheppard is one key part of the team that is well worth following.
Sell: Mitch McGovern in the forward line
Carlton fans have come out swinging on McGovern after a disappointing first season at the club. 17 goals in 13 games isn’t a great return, however given Carlton’s woes for most of the season, he was hardly going to average two goals a game. The 24-year-old’s work rate, however, has been the most concerning sign, failing to work hard up the ground and offer lead-up options.
McGovern has averaged just eight disposals and three marks per game, down from 13 disposals and six marks in his final season at Adelaide. Part of the allure with McGovern was his desire to attack the contest, jumping into packs and willing to put his body on the line to offer an option for his team.
Late last season, it was certainly evident that McGovern had some intercepting talent and a change of clubs seemed to be a good opportunity to maximise that.
Moving to Carlton, who clearly had good, young defensive talent, immediately ruled that out as a permanent proposition. Right now, the easy thing to do for Carlton will be to drop him, and it’s the move the Blues will likely make.
With Jacob Weitering and Caleb Marchbank due to miss though, now is the best time to give McGovern an opportunity as an interceptor. Carlton needs to pick Hugh Goddard on the back of impressive VFL performances, and they need to unleash McGovern as a free-roaming interceptor.
There’s nothing to lose in this scenario, and if McGovern is able to find form in a new role over the next couple of weeks, it simply adds further flexibility to a developing, strong young core.
Hold: Clayton Oliver
Imagine a situation where a 21-year-old is averaging 31 disposals, seven clearances, six tackles and five inside 50s, and people are underwhelmed by his season.
Clayton Oliver showed against Carlton that he can be one of the most damaging midfielders in the competition when it counts with a huge performance, including a clutch intercept mark and calm kick inside 50 which helped win the game for the Demons.
Such expectation being placed on a player in his fourth season doesn’t necessarily surprise, given we’re talking about a young midfielder who has amassed 25 Brownlow votes over the past two seasons.
Melbourne’s drop-off this season has placed its stars under the microscope and while Oliver’s ability to stay on the right side of the rules has waned a little this season, he has generally produced pretty consistent performances.
I’m not expecting Melbourne to finish in the bottom four, and for that to happen, we’ll be seeing more big performances from Oliver in the final stretch of the season.
Buy: Darcy Byrne-Jones’ All Australian chances
Another underrated defensive half player who looks to have one eye on the All Australian team, Darcy Byrne-Jones has enjoyed an excellent breakout season and received absolutely no recognition for it.
Byrne-Jones has graduated from a back-pocket player to a key part of Port Adelaide’s transition play out of defence. The 23-year-old is averaging 22 disposals and five marks per game, and is ranked elite in contested possessions, intercept possessions, ground ball gets and pressure acts, while posting above average numbers in score involvements and score launches.
Byrne-Jones is often found applying extreme pressure in the defensive 50, yet is almost always involved in the defensive half of the centre square, intercepting the “kick and a half from goal” ball teams love to have control of.
It appears evident that as time goes on, Byrne-Jones will spend a little more time in the midfield and perhaps graduate out of defence, however it is rare to have a player equally as adept in reading the play well in the defensive 50 and cutting off attacking forays, as they are in using the “45” kick to spread Port Adelaide’s ball movement, and also run through the middle.
Byrne-Jones is posting career-best numbers and his well-rounded game deserves to get him in the squad of 40 for the All Australian.
Hold: Tom Hawkins
Hawkins has kicked just four goals in the past three weeks after entering the bye period with 20 goals in five games, and the Cats have struggled without their talisman delivering strong performances.
The 30-year-old’s numbers are down on last season, yet the impact and importance of his performances are just as imperative to Geelong’s success as they have ever been.
Often a player that divides opinion, Hawkins’ last three games have added fuel to the haters’ fire, but they’re not going to like the backend of his season.
Tom Hawkins is winning the Coleman Medal this season, and he’ll do it pretty easily when all is said and done. The next three weeks will give Hawkins ample opportunity to show his post-bye lull is nothing more than an aberration in the grand scheme of things.
With games against St Kilda, Hawthorn and Sydney, expect to see the big forward to kick at least 12 goals in the next three and likely jump ahead of Jeremy Cameron in the race for the medal.
Definitely hold your horses with Hawkins, he’s about to capitalise on some great smash spots for a key forward.