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Opinion

Your AFL club's ideal recruit

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Roar Guru
6th May, 2020
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9433 Reads

Every supporter fantasises about an opposition player they’d love to have at their club.

With a competition full of stars across all 18 clubs, it’s hard to not picture certain players in the colours of your side’s beloved guernsey.

But just because they’re stars, doesn’t mean they’d be perfect fits.

Of course every club would be delighted to have Brodie Grundy, Nat Fyfe or Patrick Dangerfield, but they would likely create more headaches and changes of game plans, rather than be a complementary addition to the team.

Therefore, I have looked at each club, put the bias of stardom to the side, and come up with a single player that would be the ideal fit for your club.

Here is your club’s ideal recruit.

Adelaide: Jack Riewoldt
The Crows are going through a strange transition where the club is trying to stay competitive internally despite all external expectations being far from kind.

Perhaps it’s more off the field than on it that Adelaide are struggling, but the list has decreased in quality over the past few seasons and has required Matthew Nicks to get a little creative.

With a suggestion that Taylor Walker may play higher up the field, seemingly handing over the keys of the attacking 50 to Darcy Fogarty, the Crows might be planning to try and push through their attacking forays by running in waves and trapping the ball inside 50.

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The 2017 grand final was a turning point in the club’s history. And it’s a version of the type of game plan Richmond used to break the Crows that is being adopted in 2020.

And who better to fit like a glove than Jack Riewoldt, who was the king of playing as a quasi-key forward slash professional bring-the-ball-to-ground player, dragging out the best key defenders to open up space for his teammates.

The Crows have a defence that can hold up, and the ability to move the ball through the centre is reasonable with Brodie Smith and Paul Seedsman being such damaging kicks.

Riewoldt would be an ideal recruit to release some pressure off the strong stay-at-home forward Fogarty, while adding a selfless, half-decoy that will do some damage as well.

Richmond Tigers' Jack Riewoldt celebrates a goal Reiq

(Dylan Burns/AFL Photos)

Brisbane: Tom T. Lynch
It took Brisbane one season to emerge as a genuine finals contender, with the next step being the graduation to victories and premiership contention. This was built on strong leadership by Chris Fagan and Luke Hodge, building a strong and well rounded 22.

The recruitment of Callum Ah Chee and Cameron Ellis-Yolmen was shrewd and intelligent, as they filled gaps in classy ball use out of defence, and an extra big body to protect Lachie Neale and the talented young brigade.

A forward line that was heavily reliant on Charlie Cameron worked in 2019, and Cameron will be the focal point and deliver again going forward, but the Lions need an asset that can extract more out of the locked-in trio of Eric Hipwood, Oscar McInerney and Daniel McStay.

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With Hugh McCluggage and Mitch Robinson playing on the respective wings and both pushing forward onto the half-forward flanks, adding Adelaide’s Tom Lynch to the equation would provide a huge shift in the way Brisbane’s forward line can operate.

For as good as Robinson has been, he tends to launch the ball inside 50, while McCluggage is the star-power type who can hit the scoreboard himself while working hard from the midfield.

Lynch has had five consecutive years of at least 12 goal assists and is one of the classiest and calmest players when finding teammates inside 50.

The Lions only need players that can complement what they currently have, and Lynch may be the perfect fit to squeeze an extra ten or 15 goals out of Eric Hipwood.

Carlton: Elliot Yeo
A squad that’s improving constantly and entering a period of genuine optimism, the Blues still have a couple of holes to fill.

For Carlton fans, there is an understanding that patience is required to fill these holes, as parts that appear to be lacking will be improved by improvement by an impressive young core, who should develop consistency and reliability.

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Another team that has its defence pretty solidly in tact, thanks largely to the enormously underrated Jacob Weitering, the one place that Carlton can look to boost immediately would be the inside midfield area, giving assistance to Patrick Cripps.

Elliot Yeo is one of the most well rounded players in the competition, which many won’t appreciate given he’s hidden away at one of the best teams in the AFL in Western Australia.

There isn’t a single player that would fit in more perfectly into a midfield that wants protection than Yeo, given his ability to play any sort of role that is required of him.

Ranked 14th for contested possessions in 2019, the Blues struggled outside of their superstar to win the ball in tight, and Yeo’s ability to extract and launch the ball adds a different dimension to the team.

Adding a player that can tackle, attack the opposition, take contested marks and work hard defensively only serves to improve the impact Cripps can have, and Sam Walsh can go about his business without any hassles.

While a consistent forward may be desired, Yeo stands out as an excellent choice for Carlton.

Collingwood: Harry McKay
As is the case with a few of the best teams in the competition, it was hard to identify an area where Collingwood was lacking.

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The Magpies are such a damaging and well oiled machine that has developed the ability to cover injuries and absences by having clearly defined roles for each player who isn’t a star.

Perhaps a spot that the Magpies could improve is the presence of a tall, contested marking forward in attack. Brody Mihocek is an excellent, hard-working forward while Jordan de Goey is damaging in his role as a forward slash midfielder.

There is plenty of small depth in attack with Jamie Elliott leading the charge, but a replacement for Mason Cox would be ideal, and Harry McKay is the best pick to do so.

Harry McKay

(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The beauty of this selection is that as he is still developing, if McKay can simply provide the output he has for Carlton in his first few seasons (averaging 1.4 goals and two contested marks a game), it’s a huge win for the Magpies.

A selection like this means Collingwood aren’t changing their game plan as they would if their hypothetical selection was Richmond’s Tom Lynch.

McKay can be identified as the ideal pick to improve the Collingwood team by just levelling up what they already have.

Essendon: Mitchell Lewis
In selecting Jacob Townsend, the Bombers have made it abundantly clear that the 2017 Richmond style of play would suit their current list and he is someone who can help them achieve their goals.

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While the cattle might not be there from a key defensive point of view, the belief is justified that this is the best way to maximise Essendon’s current list.

It also makes Dylan Shiel a far more damaging player who should be recognised as such, with his breakaway speed and ability to get the ball inside 50 now outweighing ball use, given the Bombers want the dirty style of play.

There just appears to be a lack of a strong target in attack that can act as Jack Riewoldt did for Richmond in 2017, who is going to crash every single pack when the ball is up for a contest, either bringing it to ground or taking the mark.

Shaun McKernan may be too inconsistent to do it, while James Stewart isn’t that type of player despite his size and Joe Daniher’s availability and future at the club are up in the air.

Essendon were ranked 16th for marks inside 50, 11th for inside 50s, 12th for goal assists and in the bottom half of the competition for shots on goal.

The one player that springs to mind as a good fit is Hawthorn’s young forward Mitch Lewis, who played 12 games in 2019 and really stood out.

At 198 centimetres, Lewis is tall and athletically gifted, kicking 20.15 in his 12 matches, averaging 2.3 contested marks per game and finishing with seven goal assists thanks to his hard work inside 50.

The 21-year-old is brilliantly suited to the style of play that Richmond made successful and the Bombers are trying to emulate in 2020, making him the ideal recruit, albeit one that many wouldn’t expect.

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While many may identify the ruck position as one for immediate improvement, Sam Draper looks a really nice talent and the hypothetical inclusion of Mitch Lewis right now would be a lot more effective than bringing in a ruckman.

Fremantle: Shane Edwards
I am bullish about Freo’s future, but the Dockers haven’t quite got a squad that meshes at the moment.

New coach Justin Longmuir will implement his new game plan of playing out from the back. But an underrated asset in AFL, as shown from Brisbane’s rise last season, is on-field leadership and successful experience.

Fremantle have talented youngsters in every position of the ground. But outside of their dual Brownlow Medalist and captain Nat Fyfe, the Dockers lack leadership and success at the club.

With this in mind, the ideal recruit for Fremantle would be Richmond’s Shane Edwards, a two-time premiership player and one-time All Australian with 256 games next to his name.

Edwards has been the definition of a player getting better with age, and has proven to be extremely damaging in recent seasons as an inside midfielder and off halfback with his incredible ball use.

The 31-year-old is a respected leader at Richmond and known within AFL circles for his leadership, and can be likened to Shaun Burgoyne in the way he approaches the game.

For Fremantle to improve quickly on the right path, they need more help for Fyfe and someone who can give real-world examples of successful strategy and on-field mindset.

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Out of all the hypothetical recruits on this list, Edwards to Fremantle makes a lot of sense to actually happen in the next year or two.

Geelong: Charlie Cameron
The recruitment of Josh Jenkins was a definite step in the right direction for the Cats, provided they play him, but it’s difficult to imagine how sustainable being a top-scoring side with only three consistent goal-kickers can be.

Tom Hawkins, Gary Ablett and Patrick Dangerfield kicked 119 goals between them, while Gary Rohan, Gryan Miers and Mitch Duncan combined for 71 goals themselves.

With only Dangerfield having the ability to improve on that, and the likelihood of a number of these players going backwards in front of goal, all is not as it seems at Geelong.

Jenkins is someone that hits the scoreboard regularly, for all of his perceived weaknesses, and it allows the Cats to develop Esava Ratugolea while playing senior footy.

It’s easy to say Charlie Cameron would be the perfect recruit, but for the Cats, there isn’t another player from an opposition list who stands out more.

Charlie Cameron

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Cameron is the quintessential forward, with his one-on-one work nearly on par with his work on the ground.

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For the last few years, outside of Dangerfield and Hawkins, the Cats have relied upon a variety of different players playing out of their skin to post decent goal tallies.

From Round 9 last season, Cameron kicked at least one goal every game as Brisbane’s main forward, and would clearly enjoy the luxury of having Hawkins or Dangerfield next to him.

While it’s an easy suggestion, Charlie Cameron at Geelong would be perfect for Cats fans.

Gold Coast: Shannon Hurn
Another example of a club that has some good young talent on paper but lacks leadership overall, the Suns have a number of areas to address.

There are times when the Suns look decent in games and fall apart completely, lacking direction and confidence in the way they play.

With the same logic as Luke Hodge’s move to Brisbane and the mooted Shane Edwards move to Fremantle, former Eagles captain Shannon Hurn would be the perfect player to assist the on-field transition of the Gold Coast Suns from very poor to consistently competitive.

Hurn was voted the competition’s best captain by the AFLPA in 2019, receiving the recognition for his outstanding leadership that often goes unheralded by the media and opposition fans.

The 32-year-old’s understanding of positioning and defensive structure, the Eagles’ strength through many years, would be an incredible addition to a Gold Coast team begging to be given a chance.

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GWS: Lewis Jetta
The Giants are the best team in the AFL and there aren’t really any holes to be filled. With elite talent in every position and the hunger to win the premiership after the embarrassing 2019 grand final, the Giants are well set and well rounded.

There is great versatility in the team, with players able to move between defence, midfield and attack at the drop of a hat, particularly with the offensive threat the midfielders and halfbacks can provide.

The only thing the Giants have had their struggles with are injuries, rarely putting out their best 22 due to unpredictable unavailabilities that may have created a different result last season.

In terms of an ideal recruit, a player with great speed and elite kicking would fit off halfback or the wing, particularly with Zac Williams and Lachie Whitfield having graduated to more ball-heavy roles.

Lewis Jetta has proven to be one of West Coast’s most damaging players with just 16 or 17 disposals every game, such is the power of his kicking.

Lewis Jetta

(Photo by Will Russell/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Opening up the opposition with a single disposal and breaching the defensive traps set in place, Jetta can be the offensive weapon that links defence and attack, allowing other players to focus on their roles.

Jetta would certainly be a luxury rather than a necessity, but he’d provide the Giants with a weapon that allows for the talented young players to approach the game how they’d like.

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Hawthorn: Nick Haynes
The Hawks have been relegated to the fringe of the eight for the last couple of seasons, but 2020 looms as a potential flag year upon signing Jonathon Patton.

While the recruitment of a big, powerful forward was necessary, the defence has always seemed a bit shaky, particularly when James Sicily is required to play a lock-down role.

With Sam Frost in the team, the Hawks have better defensive stability in having two big-bodied key defenders with Ben Stratton able to lock down smaller forwards.

Perhaps a more effective way of defending for the Hawks would be to play two interceptors, with Sicily playing across the back of the square or on the defensive 50 and someone like Nick Haynes playing deeper, where bigger packs are likely to form.

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Hawthorn would then have a lock on all sorts of aerial threats, making up for key defenders that are a little below the competition’s best.

Haynes is one of the league’s best defenders and adding him to Hawthorn would allow all the focus to be placed on putting a big score on the board.

Melbourne: Jeremy Cameron
This might be the most obvious and biggest star on the list, but Melbourne desperately need a key forward while Tom McDonald has his struggles and Sam Weideman develops.

They signed two wingmen at the end of 2019 and didn’t boost their forward stocks other than the travelling Mitch Brown, which makes it difficult to predict sharp improvement for the Demons.

Keen on unleashing Christian Petracca in the midfield, Melbourne simply need a key forward that can do it all.

Cameron is the most obvious choice, in that he plays much like Lance Franklin with a far greater overhead marking ability, which the Demons require far more than just a big forward who thrives on the contest.

There isn’t a sense of reliability when Melbourne send the ball inside 50, so it’s important that whoever plays as a key forward is able to be agile enough to get the ball for himself and throw his teammates on his back.

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Jeremy Cameron is the clear best fit for Melbourne, and they’d definitely be a team keeping tracks on his free-agency status.

North Melbourne: Tom Papley
Having quietly built some decent midfield and defensive depth, North Melbourne is a team that is going to be consistently competitive and a danger team for many opposition clubs.

The team’s best players are all veterans, with Shaun Higgins leading the charge from Todd Goldstein, Robbie Tarrant, Ben Cunnington and Jack Ziebell. But the younger, more aggressive players are what excites North Melbourne fans.

A clear necessity for the Kangaroos is more help for Ben Brown. Nick Larkey and Cameron Zurhaar came on well in 2019, kicking 26 goals each, however Larkey needs more time before being relied upon, and Zurhaar may have reached his peak from a goal-kicking point of view.

Without much pace in attack, North Melbourne can become predictable if the aggression drops off, which is why Tom Papley would be an excellent addition to the team.

Tom Papley

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Papley is arguably the best small forward in the competition and uses his skills and pace wisely to make the biggest impact when the ball is in his area.

After kicking 37 goals in 2019 with 20 goal assists to boot, Papley is a versatile small forward who would complement both the attack and the midfield of North Melbourne.

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Port Adelaide: Ben Brown
The Power has been one of the league’s most inaccurate teams over the past few seasons, and in 2019, ranked 18th for contested marks.

The continued absence of Charlie Dixon has hurt the team, which lacks a strong presence in attack and relies upon the smaller players to hit the scoreboard.

Given the ages of Robbie Gray and Brad Ebert, and the fact Connor Rozee simply must play in the midfield, it’s clear that the position Port Adelaide need to fill the most is that of the accurate, big key forward.

Immediately including Ben Brown in this Power team would make them more than just a finals contender.

His goal-kicking accuracy helps straighten the team up, but more importantly, it gives the Power a player to rely upon when going inside 50.

Not many can match the reach of Brown, and with the quality ball-users in this Power team, it would be a mutually beneficial partnership.

This area is far more important than adding speed to the midfield at the moment.

Richmond: Mark Blicavs
Mark Blicavs and his utility value is what Richmond could use in a recruitment scenario.

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Mark Blicavs

(AAP Image/Julian Smith)

The loss of Alex Rance isn’t huge given the fact Richmond just won a premiership without him, but adding one of the league’s best key defenders certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Also, the fact Blicavs can play on the wing, tag in the midfield, or provide a chop-out in the ruck makes him the perfect Richmond type of player in the current set-up.

While many may point towards the ruck position for Richmond, given Ivan Soldo is a pure tap ruckman and Toby Nankervis’ injuries have hurt his progression, these two are perfectly fine for what Richmond need at the moment.

At least with Blicavs, Richmond could choose how they want to use him and with the coaching staff’s recent track record, they’d probably nail it.

St Kilda: Zac Williams
After the incredible recruiting spree at the end of 2019, accompanied by just one match played in 2020, it’s difficult to assess how St Kilda have gone and what they need.

Having added to every position on the ground, the club addressed its limitations and will wait for the players to gel to see the full effect of the recruiting.

Perhaps the signing of Zak Jones addresses the midfield speed that the Saints lacked, but one player who’d fit right into this midfield would be Zac Williams.

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Williams was required to play in the midfield for the Giants in the second half of 2019 due to injuries and performed incredibly, suggesting he’d make an excellent full-time midfielder.

In the preliminary final against Collingwood, Williams finished with 25 disposals, 16 contested possessions, ten clearances, six tackles, six marks and a goal.

Williams is known for his pace and ball use off halfback, and while his kicking efficiency suffered, his breakaway speed from contests proved to be a deadly weapon for GWS.

This is one area that St Kilda have lacked since Jack Steven was at his peak, and while recruiting Jones was good for the team on the outside, Williams is the ideal recruit for the inside.

Sydney: Rory Lobb
It’s becoming increasingly likely that we won’t see Lance Franklin playing a full season of AFL again, and even if we do, the champion is past his best.

The Swans have always prided themselves on their defence, and this still rings true despite a reshuffle and new personnel.

And while the midfield group is young and the ruck stocks are a raffle, it’s the forward line that really needs some adjustment.

Ultimately, it’s a lack of personnel that doesn’t allow Isaac Heeney to play predominately as a midfielder.

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Despite the fact he is an excellent forward, the Swans would be far better off recruiting a tall forward that can accompany whatever time we have with Lance Franklin, and someone who is more consistent than Sam Reid, who went goalless nine times in 2019.

Rory Lobb is an excellent player and is exactly what Sydney needs.

The 27-year-old is extremely fit, one of the biggest forward targets in the league, an excellent mark and begging for positional consistency.

Lobb is prolific when playing as a ruckman but sees himself as a key forward who can provide relief as a second ruckman.

It’s exactly what Sydney need in both areas, providing them with the big target in attack and ensuring they aren’t giving away the ball when throwing in a midfielder in the ruck for part of a game.

Given time at Fremantle, Lobb can kick 40-plus goals in a season, and the Swans are desperate for output remotely close to that.

West Coast: Shai Bolton
The Eagles’ perfect recruit isn’t a big name, but rather a wise, role-filling player.

Shai Bolton

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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When Willie Rioli was suspended, it left a little bit of a gap in West Coast’s forward line that had been filled with pace and footy smarts.

While Liam Ryan and Jamie Cripps are prolific, they don’t quite fit the bill when it comes to smooth-moving, ball-on-a-string type of play.

Rioli’s ability to work hard up the ground and use his pace running back towards goal is often overlooked and a key reason as to why West Coast had a number of over-the-top goals in each game.

Filling such a position with Shai Bolton, as had been previously speculated, makes a lot of sense in an otherwise strong and settled team.

Bolton was perhaps most impressive for Richmond when he played in the midfield from Round 16 to Round 18, when he averaged 26 disposals, six marks, five inside 50s, four tackles, four clearances and a goal a game, but he proved to be dangerous as a small forward setting goals up during the finals series.

Out of the all the small forwards in the league, Bolton would be best suited to West Coast’s style and what they are lacking.

Western Bulldogs: Michael Walters
The Bulldogs are back into contention thanks to the recruitment of a tall defender and a key forward, and they’d be pushing for flag favouritism if they could add Walters to the mix.

With such prolific ball-winners and a tendency to move the ball quickly, the Bulldogs are unstoppable when they’re on a roll as they have a host of players that can carve up the opposition by foot or by using their hands to perfection.

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Now that they have a couple of targets in attack, it’ll be interesting to see how everything gels together after the Round 1 demolition at the hands of Collingwood.

Yet while the ball movement can be lightning at times, the only genuine, line-breaking pace comes from Jason Johannisen, who has played better each season and received no fanfare for it.

For this reason, whether it’s up forward or in the midfield, Walters would be a good addition to this Bulldogs team.

The Bulldogs haven’t had a player kick over 40 goals since 2016, and that included Tory Dickson and Jake Stringer barely scraping over the line and playing an entire finals series.

Walters himself has done it three times throughout his career, and in 2019, he averaged 22 disposals and four clearances a game while kicking 40 goals.

While many clubs would love to have Walters on their list, there is no better fit other than his current club for Walters than the Bulldogs, who could use the skill in the midfield slash forward area to allow Jason Johannisen to light it up out of defence and on the wing.

Another incredible and consistent goal threat would let the Bulldogs outscore anyone.