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AFL team shuffle: Round 8

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Roar Guru
10th May, 2021

In the AFL team shuffle I analyse which players would benefit from playing out of their current position.

There are many factors taken into account, from injuries to being out of form or the player simply being given a role that they are more suited to.

The change of positions of players is based on the first eight rounds of season 2021.

For this exercise there are three captains: Rory Laird of the Adelaide Crows, Hugh Greenwood from the Gold Coast Suns and Tim Membrey of the St Kilda Saints.

AFL trial and error starting 18 (by team)

Adelaide Crows: Rory Laird (co-captain)
Brisbane Lions: Hugh McCluggage
Carlton Blues: Patrick Cripps
Collingwood Magpies: Josh Daicos
Essendon Bombers: Kyle Langford
Fremantle Dockers: Sean Darcy
Geelong Cats: Mitch Duncan
Gold Coast Suns: Hugh Greenwood (co-captain)
Greater Western Sydney Giants: Harrison Himmelberg
Hawthorn Hawks: Changkuoth Jiath
Melbourne Demons: Ed Langdon
North Melbourne Kangaroos: Nick Larkey
Port Adelaide Power: Charlie Dixon
Richmond Tigers: Jayden Short
St Kilda Saints: Tim Membrey (co-captain)
Sydney Swans: Jordan Dawson
West Coast Eagles: Tim Kelly
Western Bulldogs: Aaron Naughton


AFL trial and error starting 18 (by position)

B: Aaron Naughton (Western Bulldogs), Tim Membrey (St Kilda, co-captain), Josh Daicos (Collingwood Magpies)
HB: Patrick Cripps (Carlton Blues), Harrison Himmelberg (Greater Western Sydney), Rory Laird (Adelaide Crows, co-captain)
C: Changkuoth Jiath, (Hawthorn Hawks), Ed Langdon (Melbourne Demons), Tim Kelly (West Coast Eagles)
HF: Kyle Langford (Essendon Bombers), Nick Larkey (North Melbourne), Mitch Duncan (Geelong Cats)
FF: Hugh Greenwood (Gold Coast Suns, co-captain), Sean Darcy (Fremantle Dockers), Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane Lions)
Foll: Charlie Dixon (Port Adelaide), Jordan Dawson (Sydney Swans), Jayden Short (Richmond Tigers)

Aaron Naughton would provide much-needed support for Alex Keath in defence for the Western Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have a deficiency in the role of key defender. Playing in a back pocket would come naturally to Naughton, as he started his career as a defender and has the most contested marks of any Bulldogs player in 2021, with 20.

Tim Membrey is a great leader; he leads from the front. He has taken the most contested marks of any St Kilda player in 2021, with a total of 16. Having struggled to kick goals, with just ten in eight games, it’s clear that a move to defence could be a good move for him.

Josh Daicos has the capability to play a similar role to that of Caleb Daniel at the Bulldogs in 2020. A change is as good as a holiday, and with Collingwood highly unlikely to play finals, why not experiment with Daicos as a running defender? It may add another string to his bow and give the likes of John Noble and Isaac Quaynor to possibly play on the wing.

Josh Daicos of the Magpies gathers the ball

Josh Daicos (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Patrick Cripps needs a change of role. He is widely renowned as a highly talented player, but his output hasn’t been quite up to his usual standards in the opening eight rounds of 2021. It’s worth a try to play him on a halfback flank as he reads the game well.

Harrison Himmelberg is a good option to play at centre halfback, as the Giants have been hurt by injuries in defence, with Phil Davis, Nick Haynes and Lachlan Keeffe all injured.


Rory Laird is a key player for the Adelaide Crows. The Crows could gain a lot from Laird making good decisions in their back six.

Rory Laird

Rory Laird (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Changkuoth Jiath likes to take the game on and take risks, which means that he would be suited to playing on the wing for the Hawks. Hawthorn need to change, and Jiath to the wing appears a good move.

Ed Langdon of the Melbourne Demons playing as an inside midfielder would allow either James Harmes or Michael Hibberd to play on the wing.

Tim Kelly playing on the wing for the West Coast Eagles could be a good move. The fact that Kelly averages the third most metres gained of any Eagles player shows that he could be a revelation on the wing.

Tim Kelly of the Eagles celebrates a goal

Tim Kelly (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Kyle Langford of the Essendon Bombers may benefit from a change of role. He managed to kick three goals in Round 8 against the Giants.

Nick Larkey has averaged just 8.5 disposals per game for the North Melbourne Kangaroos. His ability warrants him getting a lot more of the footy. He may be the leading goal kicker for the Kangaroos along with Jaidyn Stephenson, with ten goals in eight games, but it could be a good move to put Larkey at centre half-forward so he can have more impact on the game.


Mitch Duncan of the Geelong Cats moving to the half-forward flank would be a good move. If Duncan’s Round 6 display, in which he kicked four goals and was instrumental in the Cats demolishing the Eagles, is any indication, then he should play forward.

Mitch Duncan Geelong Cats AFL 2017

Mitch Duncan (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Hugh Greenwood is a tackling machine for the Suns, with 69 tackles in the opening eight rounds of 2021, the most of any player in the AFL. Having him in the forward pocket permanently would help keep the ball in the forward 50. He has spent time in different roles but should be suited to playing as a permanent forward pocket.

Sean Darcy of the Fremantle Dockers should play more as a forward given he’s kicked seven goals in the seven games he’s featured in. Playing as a full-forward could benefit him immensely by taking the pressure of being a No. 1 ruckman off him.

Hugh McCluggage has kicked seven goals in eight games for the Brisbane Lions in 2021. Imagine how many goals he could kick if he played as a permanent part of the forward line.

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Charlie Dixon would be a revelation in the ruck. It would allow Todd Marshall to play a more prominent role as a key forward and allow Port Adelaide to get more out of the likes of Steven Motlop and Orazio Fantasia and allow them to kick more goals as they would be probably be matched up against slower, taller defenders.

Jordan Dawson is such a good player for the Sydney Swans. He should be thrown in the middle – he deserves the chance to have a go in a position he could flourish in.

Jayden Short should be given a chance to prove he has the ability to play midfield for the Richmond Tigers with their injury list now including Shane Edwards, Dion Prestia and Kane Lambert. It’s worth a try, because when Short has the footy he is always looking to create an attacking foray.