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Opinion

A back line Taylored around one man

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Roar Rookie
24th May, 2022
2

It’s no secret that the Giants have shown their fair share of uninspiring performances in 2022, with a 52-point victory on the weekend hopefully the turning a corner.

There were many notable performances against the Eagles – Stephen Coniglio back in the midfield, Harry Himmelberg at the back – but it was another strong performance for arguably their most consistent performer all year, Sam Taylor.

He burst onto the scene in Round 21, 2021, by keeping Tom Hawkins to one goal in a Giants win that led them to the finals. It may surprise some that Taylor played his 50th game the very next week.

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The now 63-game fullback has starred during a disappointing GWS campaign so far, already having played on the current top five of the Coleman Medal – Tom J. Lynch, Charlie Curnow, Max King, Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron – and conceding only eight goals from all match-ups. He has been reliably one of the best key defenders in the league.

Lynch was the only one in the group to manage three goals on Taylor – Cameron only kicked two of his five on Taylor after a quarter-time switch from Nick Haynes – with Levi Casboult the only other forward to kick three goals on him. Since Round 4, Taylor has conceded only nine goals in six games. That’s 1.5 goals a game in a team that allowed 12.8 goals a game through that period.

The metric in which Taylor has been a true standout, however, is his contested one-on-one defence. Of the players with the top 10 per cent of defensive contests in 2022, Taylor ranks second in loss percentage, with 9.1 per cent. This is second to Steven May’s 5.3 per cent, who has lost only two contests through the first ten rounds. The third is Darcy Moore with 17.9 per cent, which just shows how good both May and Taylor have been.

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To qualify these numbers, in the last ten years for the top ten per cent of defensive contest players, 11 have finished with loss percentages below 20 per cent. But only two have finished below 15 per cent (Liam Jones in 2020 and 2021 playing as the second defender to Jacob Weitering, and Alex Rance in 2017 with 14.9 per cent).

Of the 11 players below 20 per cent, four of those were under the age of 25: Jacob Weitering, 2021, 16.8 per cent; Harris Andrews, 2020, 17.5 per cent; Tom McDonald, 2016, 16.9 per cent; and Eric Mackenzie, 2014, 16.5 per cent. This puts Taylor in company with some of the great key defenders, and at only 23 he has the capacity to cause problems for forwards for the next decade.

If the 23-year-old can continue this form through the back half of 2022 while GWS are conceding the sixth most points, it would be one of the true great defensive seasons.

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