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Opinion

The AFL’s best position changes: Part 2

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Roar Rookie
21st May, 2020
2

While some changes are minor or for the needs of the team, a position change in the AFL has the potential to revitalise a fledging career.

Here is part two of looking at some of the best AFL position changes.

Mark Blicavs: Midfielder/ruckman to key defender
Blicavs had a breakout year in 2015. In just his third season, he won Geelong’s best and fairest by playing in the midfield and utilising the third-man-up rule.

But the AFL abolished third-man-up prior to the 2017 season and Blicavs experienced a down year as a result. He was moved to fullback out of necessity in 2018 and he’s since made the position his own by repeatedly beating the game’s best forwards.

Blicavs went on to win his second best and fairest that season in a completely different position from where he first won the award and made the All Australian squad in 2019 and 2019.

Matt de Boer: Midfielder/forward to tagger
It was already a credit to de Boer that he found a spot in such a star-studded GWS line-up after being delisted by a bottom-four Fremantle side in 2016. He played a handy role up forward and was even inducted into the Giants’ leadership group in 2018.

But he was always a bottom-six player and there was no guarantee that he would keep his spot if the Giants could get their best team on the park. De Boer trained as a tagger over the 2019 pre-eason, looking to solidify his spot in the team and provide a new role for GWS.

Throughout the 2019 season he shut down Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield, Patrick Cripps and Marcus Bontempelli, among others, and his form reignited the debate about whether tagger could be an All Australian.

After already reviving his career once before, de Boer turned himself into one of the Giants’ most important players and helped them reach the grand final.

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Matt de Boer Dustin Martin

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Neville Jetta: Small forward to small defender
In his first five seasons at the Demons, Jetta only played 41 games as a small forward and failed to cement a place in Melbourne’s side. He was delisted at the end of the 2013 season, but incoming coach Paul Roos saw something in him and he decided to re-draft Jetta as a rookie.

Jetta’s second chance at the Dees also presented a change of scenery as he was moved down back to see if that would jump-start his career.

Jetta has since become one the game’s most underrated small defenders; he was in the All Australian Squad in 2017 and has routinely taken down some of the game’s best small forwards.

When his career looked like it was over before it even began, Jetta seised his second opportunity and translated it into an accomplished career.

Majak Daw: Key forward to key defender
Daw has been one of the AFL’s most talked-about players ever since he was drafted because of his raw potential and athleticism.

While he was always going to need time to develop, he never fully blossomed into the ruck forward that the Kangaroos wanted him to be and it looked like his career would never fully materialise. He was moved down back in the 2018 preseason, which Daw saw as his last chance to make it in the AFL.

Once he got his opportunity in Round 3 that season, Daw looked like a new player. He was able to display his natural athleticism and strong contested and intercept marking.

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Daw was probably the game’s most-improved player that season and saved his struggling career.

Majak Daw Aliir Aliir

(AAP Image/Hamish Blair)

Lewis Jetta: Half-forward to halfback
At one point Jetta was one of the most electrifying forwards in the game – he had speed to burn and was Sydney’s leading goalkicker in their 2012 premiership season.

But Jetta’s form started to dip in his final years at the Swans, and a change in scenery back to his home state of Western Australia failed to provide the spark that he and the Eagles were looking for.

He moved to halfback for the 2018 season and in hindsight, it can be questioned why the move wasn’t done sooner. The switch took advantage of his blistering speed and natural booming kick, which are both perfectly suited to the position.

Jetta played a crucial role in the Eagles’ 2018 premiership and has provided some of the best kick-in highlights since his move down back.