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Who will step forward?

Date

How hard is it to find forwards of the highest quality? According to the AFL's chief statisticians, only seven clubs have them.

If, as Alastair Clarkson has suggested, teams have a more attacking bent this season, having focused more on their defensive mantra in recent years, supporters will undoubtedly hope that means forwards will be encouraged to do what they do best.

Extrapolated to where this has the greatest impact, on the scoreboard, that should mean there will be more goals kicked, with elite forwards prospering from a more attacking style up the field.

It wouldn't surprise me if big Jakey Carlisle plays forward and kicks a few snags.  

But this raises the question of whether there are enough elite forwards to capitalise, as classified by the AFL's statisticians, Champion Data.

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According to last year's figures, 11 teams did not boast a player who met elite classification as a forward. An elite player falls in the top 10 per cent for his position.

This annual classification is always debatable. For instance, Collingwood's Travis Cloke was not considered elite, being deemed only an above-average player last season. But as one club football department figure said, the All-Australian would “walk into any team, as simple as that”.

Cloke was the leading target inside 50 throughout the 2013 season, taking 25 more marks than any other player. He finished with 68 goals, and was runner-up in the Coleman Medal behind Jarryd Roughead. But as Fairfax Media pointed out last month, his inability to consistently convert in front of goal has dented his value.

Swingman Jake Carlisle: more time forward in 2014.

Swingman Jake Carlisle: more time forward in 2014. Photo: Getty Images

In terms of goalkicking accuracy, Cloke finished with 68.51, at 57.1 per cent accuracy. This compares with Hawthorn's Roughead, who finished the year with 72.34 (67.9 per cent). Greater Western Sydney's Jeremy Cameron, with 62.27, was even better at 69.7 per cent.

Cameron, the emerging young superstar, was also a shock omission from the elite bracket, deemed only an average performer despite his All-Australian selection. Champion Data pointed out that his body “is still developing and he will become an even more dominant forward when he gets better at one-on-one contests”, having won only 19 per cent – the fourth-lowest percentage of the top 50 forwards.

With this year's No. 1 pick Tom Boyd and a fit Jonathon Patton working alongside him, Cameron has every chance of becoming elite this season.

Not elite... yet? GWS rising star Jeremy Cameron.

Not elite... yet? GWS rising star Jeremy Cameron. Photo: Getty Images

If Essendon is to emerge as a premiership threat under Mark Thompson and end its recent history of struggling late in the season, the Bombers will probably need at least a couple of above average forwards. They did not have an elite forward last season, with only medium-tall Jason Winderlich considered above average. Former Cat Paul Chapman, considered above average, will also help should he remain fit.

Michael Hurley was deemed average, and will switch to defence this season, having admitted he was uncomfortable leading for the ball as a forward. Swingman Jake Carlisle, impressive in his stints forward last season, is tipped to spend considerable time inside attacking 50. Then, there is the lanky Joe Daniher, an emerging superstar.

Hurley likes what the Bombers will offer up forward. “Hopefully big Joe can snag a few. Jason Winderlich has been flying on the [training] track along with 'Chappy',” he said. “Those two will be a good avenue towards goal. And it wouldn't surprise me if big Jakey Carlisle plays forward and kicks a few snags as well. It's a different sort of set-up, but pretty exciting.”

Collingwood's Travis Cloke only considered above average.

Collingwood's Travis Cloke only considered above average. Photo: Anthony Johnson

By comparison, premier Hawthorn and grand finalist Fremantle had three elite forwards apiece. But having an elite forward doesn't necessarily guarantee success, depending on a club's interpretation of what success is.

Preliminary finalist Sydney has two elite forwards – superstar recruit Lance Franklin and veteran Adam Goodes – but the latter was not seen after round 13 last year because of injury.

Geelong, also a preliminary finalist, did not have an elite forward last year, with the zippy Steven Motlop the highest ranked, as above average. Tom Hawkins and Nathan Vardy were average but, as is the case with Cloke, each would find a spot in just about every rival side.

At Carlton, hopes of kicking a big score would again appear to lay with veteran forward Jarrad Waite. He was considered above average last season, despite managing only 14 games, but has been tipped by Champion Data to slip this season. So important was Waite that he contributed to 23 per cent of scores – ranked second at the club behind Chris Judd – despite being moved into defence against Richmond and Essendon late in the campaign. Waite returned to the forward line for the finals.

Lachie Henderson endured a strong year at either end of the ground and was the only player in the league to defend 50 one-on-one contests and be an attacking target on 50 occasions.

Carlton director of coaching Robert Wiley said coach Mick Malthouse would adopt a “horses for courses” approach with the pair.

“He [Henderson] proved last year that he is the modern-day swingman and he can play at both ends, and very successfully,” Wiley said. “I think it's horses for courses. Mick really coaches that way. He likes to see the opposition and where they are vulnerable.

“Jarrad Waite kicked seven goals in the one game [against Essendon], a couple of weeks later he was playing down back. The most important thing is they know their roles, they can play at both ends.”

On paper at least, the Demons have a forward line that could torment many a rival. Only Jeremy Howe was considered above average last season but a fit Mitch Clark has the ability to leap into that category. With Chris Dawes and rookie Jesse Hogan also roaming inside 50, the Demons will hope at least one marking tall emerges as a consistent threat.

Clark hopes the Demons forwards can trouble rivals with their flexibility. “I have got no doubt that we can all work together and hopefully cause some headaches,” he said.

“I am sure I will play different roles at different times and so will the other guys. I think that's a good thing about the forward line – we are all pretty flexible and can play different roles.”

According to Champion Data, Gold Coast did not have one elite forward – but that can be misleading. Gary Ablett, naturally, was considered elite but he was classified as a midfielder. But he is also an elite forward, and said over summer he would spend more time inside the attacking 50 this season, adding greater polish to an emerging set-up.

Richmond had four above-average forwards but, really, that could be considered five when skipper Trent Cotchin is shifted out of the middle.

The Western Bulldogs, surprisingly, had four above-average forwards and would appear to be even more potent this year with the inclusion of Stewart Crameri. But they will need Shaun Higgins and Jarrad Grant, recovering from injury, to regain their fitness early in the new campaign.

North Melbourne had key tall Drew Petrie as an elite target, with coach Brad Scott this week adding some weight to Clarkson's prediction, declaring the Kangaroos would maintain their attacking backbone after a season in which defensive lapses cost the team a series of victories.

 

Forward stocks: Club by club (Based on 2013 season rankings)

Adelaide

Elite: Patrick Dangerfield (mid/forward)
Above average:
Taylor Walker, Tom Lynch, Eddie Betts
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
T Lynch 33, P Dangerfield 31, J Jenkins 24, R Douglas 20, A Otten 15

Brisbane Lions

Elite: none
Above average:
Brent Staker
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
J Brown 28, D Zorko 26, J Green 24, B Staker 21, A McGrath 19

Carlton

Elite: none
Above average:
Lachie Henderson, Jarrad Waite, Jeff Garlett
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
J Garlett 43, E Betts 27, J Waite 27, L Henderson 26, C Yarran 26

Collingwood

Elite: none
Above average:
Travis Cloke
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
T Cloke 68, J Elliott 30, B Reid 25, D Swan 21, S Sidebottom 19

Essendon

Elite: none
Above average:
Paul Chapman, Jason Winderlich
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
S Crameri 30, T Bellchambers 28, M Hurley 24, A Davey 19, J Winderlich 17

Fremantle

Elite: Matthew Pavlich, Chris Mayne, Michael Walters
Above average:
Hayden Ballantyne
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
M Walters 46, C Mayne 37, H Ballantyne 34, M Pavlich 25, N Fyfe 18

Geelong

Elite: none
Above average:
Steven Motlop
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
T Hawkins 49, S Motlop 44, J Podsiadly 33, J Selwood 30, S Johnson 23, A Christensen 23

Gold Coast

Elite: none
Above average:
none
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
G Ablett 28, A Hall 24, C Brown 23, H Bennell 19, C Dixon 19

Greater Western Sydney

Elite: none
Above average:
none
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
J Cameron 62, D Smith 16, J Giles 14, S O'hAilpin 13, C Ward 11, D Shiel 11, T Scully 11

Hawthorn

Elite: Jarryd Roughead, Cyril Rioli, Jack Gunston
Above average:
Luke Breust, Paul Puopolo
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
J Roughead 72, L Franklin 60, J Gunston 46, L Breust 40, D Hale 20

Melbourne

Elite: none
Above average:
Jeremy Howe
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
J Howe 28, J Watts 22, A Davey 15, J Fitzpatrick 15, S Byrnes 12, C Dawes 12

North Melbourne

Elite: Drew Petrie
Above average:
Brent Harvey (mid-forward), Lindsay Thomas
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
L Thomas 53, D Petrie 48, A Black 33, D Wells 25, J Ziebell 20, R Bastinac 20

Port Adelaide

Elite: Angus Monfries
Above average:
Justin Westhoff, Chad Wingard, Jay Schulz
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
J Schulz 49, C Wingard 43, A Monfries 39, J Westhoff 31, T Boak 20

Richmond

Elite: none
Above average:
Dustin Martin (mid-forward), Jack Riewoldt, Aaron Edwards, Ty Vickery
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
J Riewoldt 58, T Vickery 27, D Martin 23, J King 21, L McGuane 20

St Kilda

Elite: Nick Riewoldt
Above average:
none
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
N Riewoldt 50, S Milne 28, A Saad 17, T Lee 17, L Montagna 16, J Steven 16

Sydney

Elite: Lance Franklin, Adam Goodes
Above average:
Kurt Tippett
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
K Tippett 35, B McGlynn 30, J Bolton 29, M Pyke 28, K Jack 24

West Coast

Elite: none
Above average:
Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras, Jack Darling
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
J Kennedy 60, J Darling 42, M LeCras 30, J Hill 28, B Dalziell 15

Western Bulldogs

Elite: none
Above average:
Luke Dahlhaus, Stewart Crameri, Shaun Higgins, Daniel Giansiracusa, Jarrad Grant
Top 5 goalkickers in 2013:
D Giansiracusa 36, L Dahlhaus 28, T Dickson 22, L Jones 22, A Cooney 19

Source: Champion Data 2014 AFL prospectus

3 comments so far

  • This article highlights the problem of trusting statistics in place of judgement. Angus Monfries and Chris Mayne being classed as 'elite' while Travis Cloke is only 'above average' and Jeremy Cameron 'average' is ridiculous renders such classifications useless.

    The current obsession with data seems to overlook the fact that the AFL is a small competition which evolves at an extremely fast pace and the potential for errors in any data set is extremely high.

    Commenter
    Sam
    Location
    Carlton
    Date and time
    February 01, 2014, 12:31PM
    • Michael Walters is certainly an elite forward - good on him, the kid is in a class of his own.

      Commenter
      Bernt Porridge
      Location
      Toodyay
      Date and time
      February 01, 2014, 4:31PM
      • Angus Monfies elite....Aaaron Edwards and Shaun Higgins above average...and Jeremy Cameron neither! Please...I know who 99.99% of football people would have in their team any day of the week. Meaningless piffle.

        Commenter
        Shane
        Location
        Geraldton
        Date and time
        February 02, 2014, 12:04AM

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        2014 Home and Away

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        GEE 106 vs HAW 87 Report Stats
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        FRE 61 vs NTH 74 Report Stats
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        WBU 51 vs FRE 89 Report Stats
        HAW 94 vs GWS 87 Report Stats
        WCE 44 vs NTH 82 Report Stats
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        STK 70 vs WCE 103 Report Stats
        MEL 66 vs NTH 107 Report Stats
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        Round 15
        Fri, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
        GEE 89 vs ESS 80 Report Stats
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        HAW 116 vs GCF 63 Report Stats
        STK 73 vs RIC 117 Report Stats
        FRE 88 vs WCE 81 Report Stats
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        ADE 99 vs PTA 76 Report Stats
        COL 91 vs CAR 76 Report Stats
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        Round 16
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        NTH 108 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
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        GWS 72 vs ADE 140 Report Stats
        GCF 80 vs COL 75 Report Stats
        MEL 34 vs FRE 97 Report Stats
        PTA 60 vs ESS 62 Report Stats
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        CAR 151 vs STK 66 Report Stats
        WCE 51 vs SYD 79 Report Stats
        GEE 69 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
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        Round 17
        Fri, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
        ADE 92 vs HAW 104 Report Stats
        Sat, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
        MEL 36 vs GEE 102 Report Stats
        NTH 92 vs STK 33 Report Stats
        WBU 94 vs GCF 66 Report Stats
        BRI 64 vs WCE 76 Report Stats
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        Sun, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
        RIC 126 vs PTA 106 Report Stats
        ESS 103 vs COL 39 Report Stats
        FRE 136 vs GWS 60 Report Stats
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        Round 18
        Fri, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
        CAR 109 vs NTH 86 Report Stats
        Sat, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
        STK 118 vs FRE 60 Report Stats
        GWS 87 vs GEE 94 Report Stats
        Sun, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
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        WBU 94 vs ESS 101 Report Stats
        Fri, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
        WCE 42 vs RIC 59 Report Stats
        Sat, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
        BRI 110 vs GCF 56 Report Stats
        HAW 104 vs SYD 94 Report Stats
        Sun, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
        COL 82 vs ADE 98 Report Stats
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        Round 19
        Thu, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
        FRE 83 vs CAR 78 Report Stats
        Fri, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
        SYD 79 vs ESS 57 Report Stats
        Sat, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
        ADE 105 vs WCE 136 Report Stats
        RIC 89 vs GWS 62 Report Stats
        GCF 117 vs STK 64 Report Stats
        NTH 79 vs GEE 111 Report Stats
        Sun, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
        MEL 51 vs BRI 74 Stats
        HAW 107 vs WBU 45 Report Stats
        COL 76 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
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        Round 20
        Fri, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
        RIC 95 vs ESS 77 Report Stats
        Sat, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
        GWS 51 vs NTH 126 Report Stats
        CAR 97 vs GCF 58 Report Stats
        HAW 115 vs MEL 65 Report Stats
        PTA 58 vs SYD 84 Report Stats
        GEE 81 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
        Sun, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI 63 vs ADE 168 Report Stats
        STK 99 vs WBU 122 Report Stats
        WCE 126 vs COL 66 Report Stats
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        Round 21
        Fri, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
        CAR 76 vs GEE 82 Report Stats
        Sat, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
        SYD 127 vs STK 56 Stats
        GCF 47 vs PTA 56 Report Stats
        ESS 77 vs WCE 74 Report Stats
        COL 56 vs BRI 123 Report Stats
        ADE 69 vs RIC 79 Report Stats
        Sun, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
        NTH 111 vs WBU 61 Report Stats
        MEL 34 vs GWS 98 Report Stats
        FRE 110 vs HAW 91 Report Stats
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        Round 22
        Fri, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
        PTA 140 vs CAR 37 Report Stats
        Sat, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
        NTH 101 vs ADE 94 Report Stats
        ESS 108 vs GCF 89 Report Stats
        GWS 67 vs COL 75 Report Stats
        WCE 119 vs MEL 53 Report Stats
        HAW 94 vs GEE 71 Report Stats
        Sun, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI 48 vs FRE 106 Report Stats
        WBU 67 vs SYD 130 Report Stats
        RIC 98 vs STK 72 Report Stats
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        Round 23
        Fri, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
        COL 56 vs HAW 121 Stats
        Sat, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
        CAR 90 vs ESS 90 Stats
        FRE 105 vs PTA 97 Stats
        SYD 65 vs RIC 68 Stats
        NTH 123 vs MEL 93 Stats
        GEE 143 vs BRI 81 Stats
        Sun, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
        GCF 99 vs WCE 151 Stats
        ADE 141 vs STK 62 Stats
        WBU 109 vs GWS 115 Stats
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        AFL Finals Round 1
        Fri, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
        HAW 104 vs GEE 68 Report Stats
        Sat, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
        SYD 93 vs FRE 69 Stats
        NTH 93 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
        Sun, 07 SepTimes shown AEST
        PTA 132 vs RIC 75 Report Stats
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        AFL Finals Round 2
        Fri, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
        GEE 92 vs NTH 98 Stats
        Sat, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
        FRE 83 vs PTA 105 Stats
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        AFL Finals Round 3
        Fri, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
        SYD 136 vs NTH 65 Report Stats
        Sat, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
        HAW 97 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
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        AFL Finals Round 4
        Sat, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
        SYD 74 vs HAW 137 Report Stats
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        AFL Home and Away
        Overall standings
        Team P W L D % Pts
        Sydney Swans 22 17 5 0 142.88 68
        Hawthorn 22 17 5 0 140.78 68
        Geelong Cats 22 17 5 0 113.77 68
        Fremantle 22 16 6 0 130.40 64
        Port Adelaide 22 14 8 0 129.92 56
        North Melbourne 22 14 8 0 117.04 56
        Essendon 22 12 9 1 106.34 50
        Richmond 22 12 10 0 105.77 48
        View all
         
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