Tue, Mar 8, 4:08pm by Kevin Pitstock
The AFL full forward used to dominate the goal kicking tables. If your team didn’t include a dominant big man inside the goal square, your team lost more often than not.
From 1983 to 1998, at least one player kicked 100 goals or more for the season. The culprits – players like Quinlan, Lockett, Dunstall and Ablett. They were considered untouchable, unplayable in fact, and accumulated double-figure bags of goals on a weekly basis.
However the role of an AFL forward has changed dramatically over the past decade. No longer are full-forwards allowed to play one-on-one with their opponents in the goal square and use their strength to take big marks near goal. Rolling defensive zones, double-teaming and a greater emphasis on spreading the goal kickers has meant a significant reduction in big individual bags of goals.
For example, let’s look at the Coleman Medal winners from the past five years.
2010 – Jack Riewoldt (Richmond) 78 goals.
2009 – Brendan Fevola (Carlton) 86 goals.
2008 – Lance Franklin (Hawthorn) 102 goals.
2007 – Jonathon Brown (Brisbane Lions) 77 goals.
2006 – Brendan Fevola (Carlton) 84 goals.
But while those numbers don’t compare to ‘the good old days’ of the VFL, the forwards of today are just as talented and just as athletic. Here are some of this year’s contenders for the Coleman Medal:
Lance Franklin (Hawthorn) – From all reports, ‘Buddy’ has been tearing up the training track this preseason and is as fit as ever. But hold off putting money on him for now because the word is he may play a role predominantly further up the ground, thus less time near the goal square.
Barry Hall (Western Bulldogs) – Big Bad Bazza turned 34 a month ago, but still looks just as good a player when he debuted back in 1996. Besides Jarrad Grant, Hall is the Bulldogs’ only forward option. The Dogs’ midfielders will feed him beautifully and if he stays fit, he should kick plenty of goals this season.
Jack Riewoldt (Richmond) – ‘Jumping Jack’ arrived as an AFL player last year, booting 78 goals to win his first Coleman Medal. He might receive some extra attention this year though, which does hinder his chances. But he is physically strong and kicks accurately, so don’t hesitate if you think he’ll go back-to-back.
Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda) – This guy is a star, but a star centre-half-forward. Riewoldt is at his best when he is running opponents off their feet around the half-forward flanks and wings, not using his strength to take contested marks in the goal square. His new kicking style will help his well publicised inaccuracy in front of goal, but the opportunities simply won’t be there.
Mark LeCras (West Coast Eagles) – The entire AFL world really started to take notice of LeCras after a phenomenal 12-goal haul against Essendon last year. He is West Coast’s major avenue to goal, but has made it clear he wants to spend a little more time in the midfield.
Jarryd Roughead (Hawthorn) – The Hawks are already blessed to have Franklin standing at centre-half-forward, but they are even luckier to have a man of Roughead’s calibre in the goal square. When Franklin won the Coleman back in 2008 with 102 goals, Roughead flew under the radar and kicked 66 goals. If Buddy plays further up the ground this year, expect the big redhead to feature regularly on the scoreboard.
Liam Jurrah (Melbourne) – Few players captured the imagination of the AFL public than Jurrah in 2010. The incredibly talented Indigenous forward booted 21 goals from eight matches in his debut season, but it was how he kicked those majors that excited Dees fans the most. With his team expected to climb up the ladder this year, Jurrah has endless potential to kick plenty of goals.
Barry Hall ($7.00 – Centrebet)
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