It happens every season.
Who are the Bombers players that should play to their optimum level in season 2021?
To be eligible for selection a player must have played at least five games in season 2020, so there can be a reference point as far as those players who apply their talent best at the AFL level.
There were some tough decisions that were made, leaving out the likes of Jake Stringer and Michael Hurley was difficult, but they appear to have suffered some injuries that have impacted their preseason.
Here are the ten players (plus an honourable mention) who will stand out from the pack in terms of performing at the highest level.
Mason Redman goes under the radar. He should be a regular in the best 22 in 2021, as he played 13 of 17 games in season 2020. He used the ball reasonably with a disposal efficiency of 77.35 per cent. He should get the most out of himself in terms of output playing in a back pocket.
10. Sam Draper
Draper should relish being the Bombers’ number one ruckman. The loss of Tom Bellchambers along with Shaun McKernan should mean that Draper has more game time. He averaged 18.50 hitouts per game in season 2020. Expect that to improve and perhaps become a cult hero if he plays to the level he is capable of, however, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti probably has that mantle.
9. James Stewart
Stewart averaged the third-most goals of any Bombers player with 1.10 goals per game in the ten matches that he featured in. He has so much potential and should relish playing at full-forward. He may also be the second ruckman due to the Bombers’ stocks being depleted in that area. That’s a good thing for him as he should play more instinctively.
8. Dylan Shiel
Shiel finished in the top ten of the Bombers’ best and fairest despite missing two games. On the other side of the coin, he averaged 23.13 disposals per game, second of any Bombers player in season 2020. Stats can be deceiving though. He didn’t impact games enough as he had disposal efficiency of 67.14 per cent. He will need to improve on that in season 2021.
7. Devon Smith
Smith finished eighth in the Bombers’ best and fairest. He is a reasonable player, but he should be playing at a higher level. Even though he missed one game, to be blunt he needs to finish higher than eighth best and fairest. The former Giant has to take giant steps forward to substantiate the Bombers’ decision to recruit him. It’s a make-or-break season for him in 2021.
6. Darcy Parish
Parish had a solid season in 2020. He’s got the talent to help the Bombers play finals and featured in every match that the Bombers played in season 2020. He was 25th on the list of disposal efficiency with 65.64 per cent, but he needs to be better than that. Despite that, he managed to finish sixth in the Bombers’ best and fairest. If he can improve his ball use then he will be a force to be reckoned with.
5. Kyle Langford
Langford finished fourth in the Bombers’ best and fairest despite the fact that he missed one game. He needs to work on the defensive side of his game as he only averaged 1.88 tackles per game. His ball use can also tend to let him down as he was 23rd on the list of disposal efficiency of any Bombers player in season 2020 with 66.33 per cent.
Regardless, he has plenty of potential and if he can improve the areas of his game that he needs to he will be renowned as a quality player.
4. Andrew McGrath
McGrath has improved, which was on display in season 2020 where he missed three games but still finished fifth on the Bombers’ best and fairest. He averaged the third-most disposals of all Bombers players with 22.14 per game. He averaged the most tackles with 4.79 per game, which clearly indicates that he works hard defensively. He will be a pivotal part of the Bombers.
3. Jordan Ridley
Ridley was the only player on the Bombers that was named in the All-Australian squad of 40 in season 2020. Inevitably, he won the Bombers’ best and fairest. He featured in every game that the Bombers played and averaged an impressive 17.88 disposals per game due to the fact that he is a defender. He also averaged the most marks per game for the Bombers with 6.47 per game.
Expect him to prove that the consistency he displayed in season 2020 wasn’t an aberration as he should be in the mix for All-Australian selection in season 2021.
2. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti
McDonald-Tipungwuti was an automatic selection in the top echelon of players in the Bombers’ order of merit for season 2021. He works hard and appreciates his spot in the team. He may have only finished seventh in the Bombers’ best and fairest, but he maximises his ability. He kicked the most goals of any Bombers player in season 2020 with 19 goals in 17 games.
It’s a make-or-break season for him and the Bombers as they should be aiming to sneak into the finals and McDonald-Tipungwuti will be looking to kick more goals and profit more.
1. Zach Merrett
Merrett leads by example and is probably the Bombers’ best player. He finished second in the best and fairest in season 2020 despite averaging the fourth-most disposals in the competition with an average of 26.25 per game. He only missed one game and managed to have a respectable disposal efficiency of 74.06 per cent.
He should relish being reinstated into the leadership group in season 2021 and perform at an optimum level on a consistent basis after being left out of it for no justifiable reason in 2020.