Deespicable’s 2019 Mid-Year Player Rankings
Before getting into my annual mid-year rankings, it is necessary, this year especially, to pass judgment on Simon Goodwin as well.
This was supposed to be the year that we ended our drought, instead it’s turned into the year from hell.
With every loss the pressure mounts and the number of fans bemoaning Goody grows. Depending on which source for info you use, you will now hear an opinion on Goody's ability and even the odd "he's lost the players" line which smacks in the face of last September.
As with Hardwick in 2017 and Simpson and Bucks in 2018, Goody faces a summer of introspection trying to reconfigure a side and squad that Champion Data proclaimed back in March as the best list in the league.
Already the changes have started with Brendan McCartney being sacked from his role as defensive coach. It's a fair bet he won't be around at all next year. Jade Rawlings has come back as forwards coach instead of Max Rooke and while Troy Chaplin remains as defensive coach, Jordan Lewis is the obvious choice to fill that role in 2020, if we can convince him not to sell out to media opportunities.
Our ageing fitness guru David Misson is also moving on but the one that should be under the most pressure is Jason 'Tubby' Taylor, after what may go down as our worst draft performance ever.
What amazes me with Taylor is that he was so keen on tall midfielders when he opted for Olly, which followed Gus, Trac, Harmesy and Vanders, that we all thought he was a miracle man.
This year, aside from our three trades, we have brought in six players under six feet (183cm). And not one of them is electric quick like Jayden Hunt. All up we now have 15 vertically challenged players on our list in a squad of 44. Could someone explain how that is good list management? Sure every side needs small players, but 15?
The impact such an imbalance can cause became obvious early when Joel Smith and VDB joined Mitch Hannan on the injury list. Suddenly we were devoid of mid-sized forward options and once Melky went down, it's been game over.
We all have our personal view on who should be omitted and included, but the one continual shock non-inclusion has been our 205cm recruit Brayden Preuss. I’m not about to say he’s a star in waiting or anything silly like that, but those of us who watched him kick three goals as a forward and back up tapman in our pre-season match against the Pies thought he may well be an inspired choice. With Gawny rested the following week, he rucked almost the whole of the next game against Richmond and with that, the experiment of playing him forward was ditched. At least until the Swans game (a good selection on such a short ground) where he snagged a couple and looked a really good enforcer until hurting his shoulder. The next week he played a bit hurt but still kicked two more including one gem from 60m out. That’s seven goals in three games as a forward (albeit an injured one). On this year’s basis, that from one of our talls should have been a ticket to play for the rest of the season. Not to mention the fact that he gives Gawny a decent cut out. Sure he’s slow, but Tom Mac isn’t?
As stated Goody has big decisions to make in the off-season, but most revolve around what to do with his underachieving side.
What does he do with our revered loyal skipper Nathan Jones?
Are the Mac brothers, once lauded as supreme athletes for their size, washed up already or can a summer of sprint training re-invent them?
And can we keep going with Clayton Oliver in the middle when he keeps playing safe and looking after his SuperCoach score? As strange as it may seem, I'd send him forward for the rest of the season in the hope of accelerating his rise to superstar status and overcoming his current case of the yips.
But by far Goody’s biggest job is figuring out his game style for 2020.
Can he continue to play our 'attack at all costs' style of game which renders us so prone to the counter. Does he look at what the Cats are doing with Stewart and Blicavs and play a sweeper to cover the 'over the back' play? He's tried that a bit with Frosty, but he needs someone a little more assured. Steven May with the help of the pacey Joel Smith could be our best bet to stop that play which has seen us leak goals like we are the Suns.
The only positive I can impart is that under Neale Daniher we were really good at bouncing back. Between 98 and 2000 we finished 4th, 14th (3rd bottom) and back to 2nd. Let's hope that's a good omen for next year.
2019: One to 44 – Rating our list (last year’s rank in brackets).
1 Max Gawn (1) He’s our only winner each week and in recent weeks he’s even taken on more of a role at ground level with a career high 30 disposals against Grundy and the Pies. He’s the player the media seek out first after each game and as we saw against the Pies, even little girls with spectacles want to do their warm up with him. But there’s two questions remaining for him this season, now that he’s shored up the AA ruck spot – Grundy will be interchange again.
The first is whether he will be sole captain next year – my bet is that he will share it with Jack Viney. The second is where he now stands in the pantheon of ruckman. He’s gone way past Jeff White and whilst he doesn’t have a Brownlow, he’s better than old Jimmy, who was more ruck-rover than ruck anyway. That makes him our best ever and with three superb seasons behind him now, he’s about to go past Eagles great Dean Cox for the best this century. As for best of all-time, only the Herald Sun's Robbo and Bomber fans would be willing to rate Simon Madden ahead of him now, although Gawny may need another 100 good games to beat that comparison too.
2 James Harmes (13) He stepped up late last year and became one of our elite mids and most of us will never forget his clash with Joel Selwood in the finals. This year his game’s grown further. He now gets all the major assigments (Danger, Treloar etc) and he’s encouraged to hurt the other way, which he would if we had any forwards of note. But he needs a breakout elite game. One where he kicks three or four and racks up 40 touches. Fanciful you say. Sorry, but I reckon it will happen. If Olly and Angus stay focused with him, we are a couple of quality forwards away from major success.
3 Christian Salem (12) Every side needs a bit of silk out of defence and he’s clearly our most precise kick – Adem Yze of 2000 if you like. But unlike Yze that year, he’s really developed his one on one skills, which means he now is our most trustworthy defender. I’d like to see him drift forward and bang home a few goals from 50m, but with our luck this year he’d hit the post, as he did in the Pies game.
4 Clayton Oliver (2) When you are coming off a year as an All-Australian, the expectation mounts and his pre-season shoulder surgery made it hard for him to hit the season running. But I suspect this has been the year he’s had to have, before becoming a great. Apart from Jayden, he’s almost the quickest bloke out there and if you compare him with the greats of the game – Dusty, Danger, Fyfe and Cripps – what does he lack? The confidence to take the game on and kick goals is the only thing stopping him from joining that group. I mean he’s kicked one goal this season. Against the Pies his exceptional workrate was there for all to see, yet he recorded a career low 54 metres gained. Compare that to Angus (713m) and Harmesy (709m) and you can tell there’s something wrong with his game. He’s playing safe, maybe to protect his Supercoach score, maybe to protect himself from critics. His handball backwards to May to take a shot from 60m was classic Olly. I reckon he needs a few games this season being left at full-forward for an entire game, so that he develops a bit of selfishness and at the same time realises the frustration that comes from leading and seeing players give it off sideways. You can tell he’s struggled mentally a bit with the higher aspirations and his game against De Boer in Rd 10 was so bad, it was comical.
5 Angus Brayshaw (10) As with Olly, he’s had to endure a year where an average game in a losing side brings a chorus of what’s wrong with Angus. Ultimately both have to wear some of the criticism for the “disconnect” between mids and forwards, although I’m sure not having a forward target who can lead quickly makes it hard to spot the best option. That disconnect got to the stage where even Goody decided he wasn’t travelling that well and took him out of our middle set up for a few weeks. But his return to the guts coincided with him showing his game awareness skills against Adelaide and Collingwood. He’s still classy, but he may need to be given some leadership this off-season to get him back to the Pendlebury/Mundy level.
6 Jake Melksham (9) Having established himself as our best forward last year, his pre-season was ruined when he suffered a hamstring strain after X-mas. He managed to get back just in time for Round 1 and posted one of our few memorable highlights from that game, swinging around on to his right foot with a long bullet pass which was marked near the goalsquare by Tom Mc for our first goal of the year. That was arguably the last time our forward line looked like it had in 2018. In desperation he was tried as a midfielder against Richmond and looked far more likely to hit targets than most of our players, but even he looked forlorn by the lack of swift movement. An unlucky kick saw him break his toe and it now looks like his season may be done – as it is for our team. But with 10 goals in eight games, he did lead our goalkickers until recently.
7 Jayden Hunt (18) Written off by some as a one-trick pony after last season, you could tell pre-season he wanted his spot back and he worked his butt off lowering his eyes and improving his short kicks. Then two weeks and two bad losses into the season, Goody realised that Mr Nippy was our best chance of being free on a lead and sent him forward where his ability to kick goals from 50m makes him irreplaceable – especially this year. He currently leads our goalkicking with 14, but it’s his assists that have impressed me, not to mention his forward pressure. Given he wears the No.29 and is still a bit prone to a wobbly drop punt, it’s hard not to think it’s Kevin Bartlett reincarnated. Happy if he scores half as many career goals as ‘hungry’.
8 Christian Petracca (14) I know I’ve been critical of him in the past and just as critical of our coaching staff for not correcting his high ball drop, but for the past six weeks or so I’ve been mega impressed with his game – his workrate now is exceptional and his use of his body is De Goey-esque. He still makes the odd disposal choice error – not even god knows why he short-passed the ball 10m backwards against the Pies, and the yips (high ball drop again) have been costly for him with set shots, but there’s signs now that he’s a becoming a genuine player.
9 Jack Viney (6) He got back in time for finals last year and what a series he played and what a leader we all said. But this year he again spent pre-season in the rehab group and as a result was rushed in for Rd 1 and has struggled to impact games. He’s still our hardworking leader, but what surprised me most was that he came off second best in his clash with Richmond’s Sydney Stack. I mean we are talking about our strongest man here against a first-year Tiger. People are now also suggesting he lacks pace, but I just hope that he gets a chance to do a full pre-season for once and shows everyone what an amazing, tough talent he is.
10 Michael Hibberd (5) As with Viney, his reputations has fallen a notch this year, but he still does all the percentage plays with courage and application. His game on Dusty Martin was a ripper and I’m a little disappointed he hasn’t been tried in the middle of the park again. Now with Lever and May back, hopefully Goody can be a little more adventurous and have him tag and pester a few stars – Nat Fyfe this week and Patrick Cripps come to mind.
11 Marty Hore (New) One of our few revelations this season with his impressive aerial intercept work and sound left-foot making him an automatic choice for our coach and all SuperCoaches. He’s not mega quick though, so he needs quick players around him so that he doesn’t have to line up on a Charlie Cameron or Tom Papley – hence why Joel Smith’s return to defence next year is so important. But he’s been well worth the No.56 pick and at 23 should be around for five or six more years. The Pies must be kicking themselves for letting him get away.
12 Sam Frost (23) Finally Goody has realised that he does bring something different to the table and that a little left of centre is not necessarily a bad thing. I can’t forget his long bomb against the Hawks in the finals last year which set us on our way, nor the fact that he ran off TomaHawk in the elimination final. We all know that he’s risky, but if our style is to play on at all costs (which it is this season), then he’s ideal. This year he’s had to take all the key forwards from Tex through to the Hawk and Cameron, but now with May available, we will find out whether he can turn laterally quick enough to mark smaller forwards and whether he can play up the field or not. His effort in disrobing the Eagle’s Jack Petrucelle was a gem.
13 Bayley Fritsch (22) One of the few on our list who had a sensational pre-season which led to a spot on the X-files – and he was a member of the winning Rampage team that included such megastars as Cripps and Riewoldt. The hype about him hit new levels, and maybe he started to believe it a little too much, because his first nine weeks were hardly earth-shattering and his ability to break through lines almost non-existent. He showed a bit against Adelaide though and was clearly one of our best handful against the Pies. The question for many is where he should play and, given his lack of body strength at the moment, it has to be as a running half-back or wingman. Maybe if he bulks up pre-season, he can be sent forward, but not now.
14 Nathan Jones (4) Like it or not, his name and future is going to be a hot topic for the next two months as the debate over whether he should, or should not play on goes up a notch. At 31 and with 276 games already behind him, our skipper is certainly not too old to keep going compared to other guns such as Burgoyne (36), Ablett (35), Mundy (33) or Higgins (31). The difference though is that he has not found a niche or been tried either in a less physically demanding position – ie: defence or attack. Personally I had hopes that he could play a Jarrad McVeigh-type disciplined link role down back for us and with Jetta out, this seemed even more likely. But instead Goody has played him primarily on the wing, which has been a graveyard offering for previous leaders in Grimes and Trengove and even Tyson last year. He’s kicked a few nice long bombs and had a night out against Sydney, but in general he hasn’t looked comfortable playing on younger, quicker opponents and trying to find our forwards. With Viney, playing, there just isn’t scope for another 5ft 10in (178cm) mid in the middle trying to crumb Gawny, however courageous he may be. So with our coach unwilling to send him back or forward, he is now likely to be faced with a tough choice of inciting a potential James McDonald situation. That choice may be made harder if the pressure goes on to us to take quite a few draft picks.
15 Alex Neal-Bullen (21) Another of Goody’s project players who has failed to cope with higher expectations this season. He still runs his butt off but he’s struggled to break clear of packs and when he does, the game of finding a tall forward has gone up a level this year. He’s too good for VFL, but are his kicking skills good enough at AFL level – perhaps that question could be leveled at most of our players? I just wonder what would happen if he played a tagging role in the middle – we know he’s disciplined enough to make it work.
16 Jay Lockhart (New) This Tassie boy looked very efficient with his kicking skills at Casey last season and got a big break when the club added him to the list as a March rookie. Within a few days he was making his debut down at Geelong and how good was it when he took on Joel Selwood, not once, but twice. He’s kicked a few classy goals already and while he stands just 177cm, he’s got a good leap and barring an unlucky injury or two, this guy will make it, even though he’s already 23. If you want to see one of the best VFL games ever played by a Casey player, watch a replay of his game against the Pies.
17 Oskar Baker (37) In a year when almost nothing has gone right, he’s the story we needed to keep us coming back and if you haven’t seen his first game youtube by now, then you aren’t a supporter anyway. What a dad! And it’s nice that he’s come in and shown a bit – with two goals he’s even outscored our No.1 midfielder (sorry Olly, gratuitous sledge). He’s also got a bit of height (184cm), unlike most of our recent draft picks, and has good pace (endurance type, not explosive as has been reported). I said last year he’s an everyready battery who just needs to work on his disposal and that’s pretty much still the case. He’s 21, so he’s not young, but he certainly is making progress and there’s still plenty of upside given he was playing QAFL with Aspley two years ago.
18 Tom McDonald (8) Let’s flash back to Rd 1 for a second. T.Mac, coming off an injury interrupted pre-season, sees Melky free on the outer wing and heads back towards goalsquare. The 60m bullet flies slightly over Robbie Gray and T-Mac judges it perfectly and marks and converts our first goal of the season. Who needs Jesse! Well sadly the story doesn’t have a happy ending. Since that moment we have seen arguably the worst 11 games played by a key forward, broken up for a week by a very solid game in defence on Tom Lynch (also mobile-impaired at the moment) against Richmond. Almost every week I have called for T-Mac to have a week or two off to try and get back some of his speed as I know he missed most of the 200m reps this pre-season and quite a bit of agility work because of a mix of turf-toe and knee soreness. But Goody has decided to keep persevering with Tom and we have had to keep watching the trainwreck as one of our best players is continually beaten for pace on the lead – and that’s a lead he starts. Together with O.Mac’s plight, it’s made me wonder if he is washed up as well. But I suspect in Tom’s case, it’s injury driven. He still has incredible aerial judgment and he works hard at ground level, it’s just that his bread and butter cut back play towards the goalsquare has been rendered obsolete.
19 Brayden Preuss (New) It is hard to figure this one out. Many of us felt he’d done a deal with Goody to play a handful of games when we recruited him because quite obviously with Gawny in the line up, he was a back-up tapman. It was so calming pre-season knowing he was around contesting with Gawny at training rather than a couple of developing kids and we all thought back then we could rest up Gawny on finals eve. Then when he had a cracker as a forward pre-season against the Pies he seemed a certainty for Rd 1. But a poor game (first rucking mind you) against Richmond saw Goody ditch his plans, at least until Rd 4 when the SCG dimensions and our growing injury list lended itself for another big. He looked fearsome, snagging a couple more until he copped a shoulder knock. He managed to play the following week and his thumping goal from 60m out against the Saints remains a season highlight. His shoulder injury forced his omission for the Tigers game and from then it’s been a complete mystery why he’s been overlooked for T.Mac and Weid or Keilty, who have all struggled in the ruck when Gawny rests.
20 Tim Smith (31) Once again the Bull made his way into the seniors for the Richmond Anzac game and he quickly showed T.Mac and Weid how to lead and mark. He was done over by the umps big time in Perth and missed the Pies game with flu, but he’s shown enough playing the corridor lead-up role to warrant another year.
21 Billy Stretch (24) As a Billy fan, I was rapt when he finally got a chance to show his wares against Richmond and he was really good in a losing side that night. Injuries meant he got to play the next five weeks on the wing and he never really quite nailed it, which is not a good thing when you are losing. With Salem out, he was sent down back against Adelaide and I thought he did a pretty good job until Wags bowled him over which allowed his man Eddie to break free and fire up the locals. He’s out of contract and many have already hit the delist button and given he’s just 180cm, you’d think I’d want him gone too. But I don’t. I want him to have a run as a small defender because I know he’s disciplined and, unlike almost our entire squad, he’s a right footer, which means we can switch left and still head back right if we don’t like that option.
22 Jeff Garlett (26) It’s been an interesting year for Jeffy. Having lost out to Goody’s lovechild Spargo last season and missed our historic finals, he was brought back in for the Richmond game and like so many that night, struggled. Jeffy is still our best chance of converting an over the back from Angus, but most sides are awake to that nowadays. Hence he’s done well on occasions – the Darwin and West Coast games were vintage Jeffy, but unfortunately the others have been more about what vintage is Jeffy – he turns 30 in August and that looks to me the end date on his AFL career.
23 Sam Weideman (33) What a morale-sapping year for the Weid. As we all know he showed a few glimpses late last year and was clearly in Goody’s planning in the post-Hogan era. What we didn’t know was that his manager had jumped ahead even further putting a price tag on him in the vicinity of $650,000 a year – not bad for a bloke averaging a goal a game as full-forward. A stint in the reserves and that horror miss in Darwin seem to have made him mega-keen to get the paperwork done, maybe so that his price didn’t fall even further. A new two-year is best for both parties. If he comes on he can quickly get his $400K contract redone and if he treads water, Melbourne can jettison him. The signs were good against the Pies though with more marks than he’s had all season.
24 Oscar McDonald (16) There’s been enough vitriol about poor Oscar this year and from what I’m told he’s a super nice guy off the field. He’s contracted for another year and if doesn’t spend most of it playing as a forward (albeit in the VFL), then I’ll be very surprised. Enough said.
25 Jordan Lewis (17) Jordy lost out on all fronts this year. Firstly he twinged a hammy just before Round 1. Secondly, when he did return, almost every supporter had cottoned on to his lack of pace and started potting him, especially with our opponents beating us out the back with monotonus regularity. Secondly with May and Jetta out, Frosty had to play and any semblance of a controlled, slow, switching build up from down back that Jordy likes (and Hawthorn and Geelong and other sides employ) went out the door. The result was that even the selectors lost faith and sent him back to play against old mate Roughy. What’s worse is that our injury run has meant Casey is unlikely to play finals, although Jordy may be able to help correct that with a bit of luck. He’s like a playing coach down there and he’d be a smart choice as our backline coach for next season, although he will get quite a few job offers I reckon.
26 Charlie Spargo (27) Firstly let’s state now that if Charlie was 185cm tall, he’d be an absolute superstar. He does everything you want – spots up players, makes position and tackles with intent. His old man Paul has trained him well and he should be mighty proud. But as I said last year, when you are just 173cm tall (5ft 8in), it’s bloody hard making it in this industry. You have to be explosively quick (like Boomer Harvey was) or an incredibly good kick with amazing stamina (like Caleb Daniel is). Sadly Charlie is not mega quick and he’s not a thumping kick for his size, which limits his upside, because he can be brushed off by defenders – Matt de Boer would be too if he was 173cm. Goody still loves him, but I reckon it’s a big call.
27 Josh Wagner (28) Wags has been almost a regular this season playing nine games after spending most of last year in the twos. He’s certainly been one to benefit from injuries and to be honest, he hasn’t really made half-back his own. As I said last year, he’s not a thumping kick, and he’s not mega-quick so he struggles to break lines and invariably is forced short. In a squad of left foot defenders with impressive foot skills led by Salem, May, Fritta and Hibberd and potentially KK, it’s hard to see how he can fit in. He’s 25 this week and been in the system long enough to know where things are headed.
28 Harrison Petty (39) Before you go and send him on his way as being another tall that hasn’t quite got what we need, I’ll just remind you he is still only 19 and there are signs that he’s improving – have a look back at how he read the play against West Coast. The problem now is that we have our first choice defensive talls, so he may need to be tried as a forward at VFL level. I’m not sure he’s quite quick enough to make it, but let’s wait and see one more year – he’s a big after all!
29 Declan Keilty (38) I was really rapt that Dec got a chance at AFL level after a four-year odyssey at Casey. And he will go down in history as one of the few players to boast an unbeaten win/loss record with his two games being wins against Hawthorn and Gold Coast. He’s now got the body to make it, but he’s not quite quick enough and his kicking isn’t quite reliable enough. But he was certainly worth the rookie risk.
30 Corey Wagner (New) Having won our best and fairest at Casey last year, it was great to see him rewarded with a rookie spot and Goody even found room for him in Round 1. As with his brother, he works his butt off and is a good tackler, but he lacks the class and kicking ability to really impact at this level. Whether we keep him on for another year may depend on if we keep Jonesy.
31 Tom Sparrow (New) I am not sure who was busy watching Prince Alfred games, but we ended up with two small forwards from the school and both were regarded as surprise selections by the local AFL clubs (Crows & Power), who not surprisingly should know more than us. Sparrow does have a bit of upside being built strongly and he’s blessed with a fair degree of pace, but you’d want him to look the part for pick 27. He’s listed at 183cm, but he’s another Collingwood 6 footer. He came in late for Round 1 and did well to convert his first goalsquare play into a six-pointer, but he is very much a speculative pick.
32 Kade Chandler (New) Another SA youngster from the tiny country town of Penong, he fits Tubby Taylor’s recent penchant for small players, standing just 173cm. He’s a lively left-footer who provides good forward pressure at VFL level, but gees, it will be a huge step if he can make it.
33 Toby Bedford (New) Came to us via our indigenous project and yes he’s another one for our small brigade. But that didn’t stop him nailing Gawny in a big tackle pre-season which won his the coaches award for the day. He looks classy and has skill but at 172cm and weighing less than a pencil, he’s struggled to win the ball at Casey level.
34 James Jordon (New) Well at least JJ has height (187cm) in his favour, but to be honest, he will need to really work on his weights next season to make it at this level. He just looks like a nice guy to me, which is a worry, and I’ve struggled to see the traits that made him a must have by Taylor. He’s still only 18, so he’s one of the young ones, but pick 33.
This year’s injury list quickly went through the roof and it’s only been in the last few weeks that a few have been let back into the main training group.
Jake Lever (7) How good did our aerial work down back look against the Pies. It’s only one game but his partnership with May got a solid tick of approval. It may take him a few weeks to really pick up the pace, but he’s a smart player and with Jordy finishing, that’s what we need down back.
Steven May (New) What a disaster – initially at least. Our new man on a salary that puts him in our top three wage earners and he comes in to pre-season unfit and depending on your contacts, absolutely shitfaced on occasions. An early striking ban (unlucky?) and a hamstring-related shocker against Geelong (he wasn’t Robinson Crusoe that night mind you) added to supporter angst. But he’s knuckled down and got himself fit, and the result was an ultra-impressive performance down back against the Pies. By god he can kick it, maybe further than Lynden Dunn. And he’s very much a Darwin man, which means we have finally got the right link for ‘dialing a crowd’ up there. He may yet be Todd Viney and Jason Taylor’s smartest choice of November 2018.
Neville Jetta (11) Many Demonlanders rate Lord Nev an All-Australian and his teammates hold him in such high regard that he was named in our four-man leadership group. But that honour backfired a bit as injuries immediately restricted him and he lasted just four games before heading off for knee surgery (lateral meniscus). His one-on-one work has been missed and it is now doubtful whether he will resume this season.
Joel Smith (30) His dad Shaun wasn’t the only one wondering why the club put him back on the field against Brisbane in a pre-season practice match. Whether the decision exacerbated his OP, we may never know, but it wasn’t a good look, especially given Joel had been one of our few March highlights. How good was it watching him smash ANB and others at 200m reps throughout February and then see him turn on the afterburners against the Pies and Tigers. But here’s two key points for 2020. Firstly the club has to sign him (dad may not be keen now) and secondly once he gets over OP, he does not have to play forward as Jayden has taken that role a bit anyway. To me, it is a hell of a lot safer to play a guy with an OP history down back, where he doesn’t have to turn sharply to evade a tackle … just saying!
Mitch Hannan (19) As one of our mid-size leading, tackling forwards, he’s been sorely missed, especially with Kent off to St Kilda. He looks so good at training and hopefully his knee issues permit him a good run next pre-season and we can finally see him fit and capable of dominating games.
Aaron vandenBurg This time last year I said his career was at the crossroads because of his ankle-related stress injury and he charged back and became a dominant force in our run to the finals. Few if any will forget his brutal tackle on Jordan Murdoch in the finals and he looked a million dollars playing through the middle against the Pies pre-season and against the Tigers. But then his stress fracture came back and our hard man was sent back indoors running on alter Gs, rather than the real ’G. He’ll be 28 next February, so as with Maynard, you wonder if he’s missed the karma boat, which is a massive shame because this guy could have be a star if his body held up.
Jay Kennedy-Harris (35) Sorry fellow Demonlanders, but if you expect me to join you bagging him then it won’t happen. Like many of you, I had him down to be shown the door last season, but he really developed as a player in the final few weeks of 2018 and looked likely to be first 22 pre-season this year before he became another of our rehab group specials. He played one VFL game to get his fitness going after his knee surgery and lack of fit players necessitated him being rushed in for the Darwin game. Sure he butchered the ball that night but TIO Stadium is more slimey than Mitchell St after dark, so I’m not sure why he wasn’t cut a bit of slack. To me, right now, he is our best chance of making it as a wingman because of his tank and evasiveness. If the list-culling question is who will be a better wingman for us in 2020, Nathan Jones or JKH, then I know my answer?
Kade Kolodjashnij (New) Came to us as part of the Hogan/May deal and looked good with his Lleyton Hewitt style cap on backwards pre-season until a slight hamstring/adductor tweak sent him to the rehab group for a few weeks. He played about three quarters of a VFL practice match and for reasons best known only to the coach, was rushed in like he was Brian Peake or Phil Carman to the side that was belted down at Geelong. Goody had also decided he could play half forward/wing and he looked majorly lost, although the following week against Essendon we did get to see that he has a lovely left-foot kick. A head knock sent him back to concussion school and it seems our medical staff has managed to get on top of it this time, which they did with Angus mind you. I don’t quite get why he hasn’t been played off half-back to get his confidence going and defence is where his brother has made it. He hasn’t got electric speed but he certainly isn’t slow, so defence would seem the right fit – that is where Gold Coast had success with him after all.
Corey Maynard (34) This guy just can’t get a break. He’s had chronic hip soreness and just as he started to find form in the VFL, he copped a nasty headknock against Port and he’s been back in the rehab group. There’s no doubt he can find the pill and has game awareness, but he just can’t get on the park. He’ll be 28 in October, so he may have run out of time to make it.
Kyle Dunkley (New) Thank Christ Carlton overlooked him for the mid-season draft and thank Christ, Coburg’s Sam Lowson got injured the weekend before the draft, otherwise Jason Taylor would have drafted another sub six-footer. The Blues loss has been our gain with Dunkley, who is just a pup. He turns 19 this week. He already has impressed in his two VFL games for us and at 185cm looks far more formidable than our mosquito fleet. He’ll get a chance this year, barring injury, but I doubt he’ll have much impact until he gets stronger like his brother. But you can tell he has great stamina, good aerial skills and a penchant for the hard ball.
Aaron Nietschke (New)
Another of our surprise selections from country South Australia on draft night and at least he is the full 6ft, probably with an inch to spare. Sadly he didn’t get a chance to show his talent, doing an ACL in early February. At least he’ll get a chance to bulk up now and we should find out about this time next year if he’s a value spec pick or not.