Rooks On The Radar – Backs
Once again, selecting rookie defenders looks as fraught with danger as letting Brendan Fevola near other humans. Chook has a look at who’s on the radar so far this pre-season.
The Gold Coast will once again provide options in this part of the ground, although probably not as many as the forwards, mids and rucks after the Suns picked up established defenders Harbrow, Bock, Brown and Krakouer. In any case, the challenge that rookie defenders have in breaking into the Gold Coast backline is evidenced by Michael Coad, one of their best prospects down back, failing to make it into Champion Data’s projected best 22 in the recently released Prospectus. Coad, a mature age recruit who averaged the most marks for the Suns last year, had a DT average less than the likes of Harris and Swallow in 2010, but showed his ceiling’s pretty high with a club-high DT score of 159 in round 3. The other Gold Coast defender on the radar currently is Josh Toy, an 18-year-old who played just the four games of VFL footy last year as he finished off his schooling. He averaged 19 disposals in those four games, proving he’s got the potential to be a solid scorer, although even more appetising is the fact he’s been nicknamed “Little Chaddy” by Champion Data, who predict Cornes-like numbers in the future. That’s Rad Chad of ’05 numbers, by the way, not Sad Chad of 2010.
Elsewhere, Hawthorn’s Paul Puopolo is attracting interest after averaging 21 disposals over the past two years for SANFL club Norwood. A little worrying is his kick-to-handball ratio, which is weighted towards the handball even more so than new teammate Sam Mitchell, and the fact that he was often used as a run-with player with success at SANFL level. Still, if the bloke plays, which he’s a chance to do at this reshuffled Hawks team, then we won’t be complaining too much as long as he kicks it occasionally.
One of Puopolo’s teammates at Norwood last year, Nick Duigan, is hoping to crack Carlton’s back six this season. He’s a mature-age player as well, entering the AFL at 26 years of age, but may face more competition for a starting role at Carlton than Puopolo at Hawthorn. Having said that, before the Blues posters over at BigFooty started their annual scrap with Tigers fans, they were raving about Duigan and his chance of getting early games, saying he’s “trained the house down”.
Yet another rookie with senior experience, Jacob Brennan played for East Fremantle in the WAFL last season before being picked up by West Coast. He doesn’t look too assured of early starts or loom as a heavy scorer if he does – in fact, he’s only mentioned here as he’s popped up in more than the odd plan team so far.
In a similar position is Jamie Cripps, who, like Brennan at West Coast, is a father-son selection at St Kilda. He also lined up for East Freo last season, but, still a teenager, appeared in just one senior game last season, racking up 24 disposals. Brennan and Cripps have more than their WAFL club in common, however, with the latter also unlikely to feature in an AFL game too soon.
Let us know which other rookie defenders you’re looking at in the comments. Forwards and rucks are up tomorrow, with the midfielders to follow on Friday.