The David Warner conundrum

The upcoming third Ashes test will be dominated by the ‘will he or wont he’ over Steven Smith being able to play. Justifiably so, the decision will arguably decide the result and indelibly shift the destiny of the series. With Smith’s Bradman exploits with the willow the Aussie batting has approached adequate as opposed to being there for the taking if he misses the match. If he did it would be most likely that England on the back of improving their bowling would exploit the flimsy batting in kind to win the Headingly test to level the series.

This focus makes other decisions the Aussie selectors are contemplating tougher. The main one is the likely changes to the spluttering top three as touted by captain Tim Paine who expressed there might be changes.

David Warner’s name looms large

The cavalier opener for most of his test career has been the fulcrum of the Aussie batting. Similar to the meaning Virender Sehwag had to the strong Indian teams of the past the cavalier Aussie sets the table for the rest of the batting with the blitzkrieg starts he gives the team. With Warner ablaze the sole focus comes on him allowing pressure off others which facilitates their success.

The axterix near Warner’s career is the home/away splits in his performances at test level;

15 of his 21 centuries come at home where he averages 59.64

Only 6 centuries away where his average drops to 36.25

In England, his average drops to 30.25 with no centuries.

After scores of 3.5, 2 and 8 in the first two tests in this Ashes series it raises the question of whether he should be dropped?

Not helping his cause have been dropped catches in the field by him at key moments. Most recently the 2 dropped catches in the previous test off Ben Stokes which gave rise to the English all rounder nearly commanding a series leveling win for the English.

In my mind, there are three options;

1, Drop Warner

This is justified, but the selectors would be loath to do so. Particularly if Smith is out of the third test it would deprive the team of it most experienced batsman.

2, Back him in

There are two levels to this with the first adhering to the old adage of ‘form is temporary but class is permanent.’

By doing this, they would be ignoring his career struggles in England and instead embracing hope.

The second layer is they need to back him due to his experience and his maybe along with its meaning to the team. Part of this is whether his replacement would be a better bet than banking on the maybe of Warner

3, Move him down the order to 5/6

Warner has struggled against the movement of the new ball. He seems betwixt and between in the line to play which always sets him up for lbw or being nicked off. This is in stark contrast to conditions in Australia where he has dominated due to the ball coming onto the bat in a true fashion with swing seldom a factor.

If he was moved down the order this threat would be lessened which could reignite him.

My choice would be to drop Cam Bancroft who has looked hopelessly out of his depth with his technique badly exposed. After dropping Bancroft, I would open with Usman Khawaja and Marcus Harris and move Warner to number 5.

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Could Ben McEvoy land a big ‘Fish’?

If any one current player could define the almost mythical ‘Hawthorn-Way’ it would be Ben McEvoy. Strong and self-effacing, he seems content to continue to fly under the radar despite never playing a bad game. Even with several career defining games under his belt he has seemed to go relatively unnoticed. He is a player who has welcomed challenges with a self-assured pragmatism which has enabled him to consistently evolve and improve.

McEvoy recently played his 100th game for Hawthorn after being traded from St. Kilda at the end of 2013. With this milestone has come some belated positive attention from the so called ‘experts’, compelled to retrospectively dissect his playing career and as a result, be awoken to just how good the big ruckman has been. He has had a stellar start to the season and some are even touting him as the likely All Australian ruckman if his form holds and the injury gods are kind. It is no surprise that the club has granted him a one year extension. The extension will bring McEvoy closer to 150 games and life membership for the club. At 29 years young, and displaying the best form of his career, comparisons to the ageless Shaun Burgoyne are very apt. Like the old adage of a fine wine improving with age, both players have improved since being traded to the Hawks.

McEvoy’s quiet and modest demeanour belies how talented he is. 12 years into his career and he’s playing some of his best footy. It compels one to turn an eye to the club’s 100th year anniversary in the VFL/AFL in 2025 when the club’s greatest ever team will be revisited.

In the early 00’s the club announced its Team of the Century and a key stand out of that team was the selection of Paul Salmon as the second ruck. Salmon’s selection was justified on the back of his performances, during a period of immense struggle for the club, which culminated in back to back Peter Crimmins medals in 96/7 along with All Australian selection in 1997. It also raised a few eye brows due to Salmon playing most of his career at hated rivals Essendon, including finishing his career with them.

Most thought the position should have gone to John Kennedy Snr. The big hearted man who passionately delivered his iconic “do something” speech as coach during the 1975 grand final won four best and fairest awards during his time as a ruckman and captain of the club in the 1950’s. His being overlooked in the Team of the 20th Century was most likely a case of his iconic humbleness coming to the fore. Kennedy’s always been a bastion of prioritising the club’s needs ahead of his own accolades. He probably was put forward for inclusion but likely opted for others to be named instead, in lieu of him being chosen as the team’s coach.

When the team is revisited in 2025, it poses the question, can Ben McEvoy challenge and usurp Paul Salmon as the second ruck in the team?

As things stand right now, I believe the answer to this is no, he can’t. Salmon is far superior to McEvoy. As one of the most feared full forwards the game has seen and a duly lauded ruckman, he is the recipient of a host of individual awards, including a place in the AFL Hall of Fame. When choosing between the two, personalities become irrelevant with the deciding factor being their performances for the club. Salmon has it over McEvoy in terms of the awards he won during his time at Hawthorn, these earned during a period of struggle for the club where he was a standout player with few players vying for the club’s key award. Only Shane Crawford was a genuine star during Salmon’s time at the club. It has been somewhat harder for McEvoy with him coming to the club during a period of greater success and playing alongside various club icons including Tom Mitchell, Luke Hodge, Cyril Rioli, Josh Gibson, Sam Mitchell and others of that ilk. One could point to McEvoy’s contribution to  two premierships for the club in 2014/15 but this would not be fair to Salmon as winning flags is dependent on the entirety of the team, largely attributed to an individual being in the right place at the right time.

A look at statistics shows how close the two players are:

Disposals per game (average):
Salmon: 15.13
McEvoy: 11.86

Hit Outs per game (average):

McEvoy: 25.23
Salmon: 19.76.

Marks per game (average):
Salmon: 5.66
McEvoy: 3.99

Goals per game (average):
McEvoy:  0.53
Salmon: 0.41  which is a surprise considering his past accolades in this area

Tackles per game (average):
McEvoy: 3.09
Salmon: 1.01

1%’s per game (average);

McEvoy: 4.15
Salmon: .43

The stats show a clear pattern in the strengths of each player, but also how the ruck role has evolved over time. Salmon played a traditional role, contesting the taps and then sitting behind the ball at centre half back, whereas McEvoy is expected to be a more decisive factor at the bounces and throw ins by doing more to facilitate clearances. He also is expected to have a level of fitness and stamina necessary for running to position and presenting an option in the crucial transition from defence to attack

Lastly, he is expected to be a viable option in attack, both as a resting forward and by drifting into the forward 50 when on the ball in order to anchor the forward press. This is a huge factor in second chance goals with McEvoy sitting behind the press and not allowing easy escape or decisive rebound.

McEvoy’s flexibility in an era of reinvention for rucks can’t be underplayed when comparing the two. The other factor is how many games are still left in his tank. If the footy gods are kind, McEvoy could end his career with well over 200 games for the Hawks, which could result in a similar number of individual accolades as Salmon. If this happened, it would give rise to calls for him being included in Hawthorn’s greatest team of all time when the club’s 100th anniversary is celebrated in 2025.

Either way, we are spoiled for choice in our happy team at Hawthorn.

Hawthorn player and coach ratings, round 2, Hawthorn versus Western Bulldogs

The round two loss by Hawthorn at the hands of the Western Bulldogs was highlighted by the Hawks being up by 30 points early in the last only to lose by 19 points. In the wake of the remarkable turnaround forums lit up with fans raging about the deplorable standard of the umpiring being the key factor in the result.  Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson was having none of this by calling a spade a fucking shovel in his presser by commending the Dogs as the better team on the day whilst bemoaning the performance of the Hawks.

To be so far up in the last and lose was unacceptable. There were reasons for the fade out with the Hawks being two men down for the last quarter with both Shaun Burgoyne and Liam Shiels sitting out the game due to injuries. The team being limited in their rotations against a young and fast Dogs team was pivotal with the last quarter avalanche having the stand out of the opposition midfielders kicking key goals when unchecked running into the forward 50. Despite this, both Jaeger O’Meara and Isaac Smith had chances in the last to kick pivotal goals only to miss. If they went through it would have likely quelled the uprising but when they missed the Dogs still had hope and they grabbed it with both hands to seal a disappointing result for the Hawks.

Player Ratings;

Blake Hardwick- 5

Solid without ever being spectacular.

James Frawley- 6

The key back man did his role in limiting the effect of the Dogs young star, Aaron Naughton

Jack Scrimshaw
– 6

A better game from the young rebounding defending. He is still getting used to new team mates and systems but is shaping up nicely.

Shaun Burgoyne- 6

The Legend missing the last was a huge key in the loss. In the wake of the Dogs surge his cleverness, versatility and execution in the key moments was sorely missed.

James Sicily- 5

Sicily is arguably the most lethal attacking defender in the game. He is brilliant as an intercept marker and lethal in commanding the rebound with his daring and high grade foot skills. The other aspect is he is still exploitable as a defender when forced to man up and operate as a traditional defender rather than zoning off free. Along with being too easy to bait. These aspects were keys in the last quarter avalanche from the Dogs.

Ben Stratton
– 6

Very like the game of Hardwick. The new skipper was solid without ever influencing the result.

Harry Morrison- 3

I thought the youngster struggled for the most and might benefit with a few games back at Box Hill

Liam Shiels- 5

Whilst not dominating before being injured, Shiels sitting out the last was a huge key in the loss. It deprived the team of a key runner along with a defensive key in their midfield.

Jarman Impey- 4

After being dominant against the Crows, the small defender was not given the same license by the Dogs.

Jarryd Roughead- 6

The veteran key forward did his role.

Conor Nash- 2

Nash offers so much with his pressuring skills in the forward half. The downside is he offers little from an attacking sense. His position in the side might be under threat after this non-descript display.

Isaac Smith- 6

The line breaking wing man is such a key for the team. As such, he was only ok in this game without ever being defining.

Luke Breust- 6

Breust is always dangerous with how clever he is as a forward. He kicked a goal and would have been rated higher if he didn’t miss a soda.

Jack Gunston- 9

I thought Gunston was brilliant in kicking 4 goals as well as being key in setting up others.

Paul Puopolo
– 6

A better game by the veteran small defensive forward. He was clever in getting out the back with his reading of the play and running to position.

Ben McEvoy-, 6

The ruck man was very good with his taps and work around the ground but lost Josh Schache in transition on a number of occasions. It was pivotal with Schache kissing four goals.

James Worpel- 7

The young midfielder was impressive with his attack on the footy and contested ball winning ability.

Jaeger O’Meara- 8

Another A-grade performance from the silken midfielder. The only lapse was the missed goal on the run in the last quarter which was a soda for one as skilled as JOM.

Ricky Henderson- 9

Henderson rarely gets the dues he deserves. I thought he was best on ground for the Hawks on the day. He was very good in both setting up play off the wing as well as dropping back into defence.

Jonathon Ceglar- 5

The second ruck did his role without ever having much of a say during the game.

James Cousins- 6

Another solid game from the young midfielder. My only criticism was him deferring a shot on goal to Isaac Smith in the last when he was well within range with his kicking skills. As well as sealing a goal from similar distance earlier in the game

Tom Scully
– 4

It stood out that Scully was lacking a run and struggling with the pace.

Alastair Clarkson- 7

The master coach was cruelled by the injuries to both Shaun Burgoyne and Liam Shiels which were key in the eventual result. His tactics were typically astute. The only down side was the intimate knowledge Luke Beveridge has as a previous disciple of Clarko. The Dogs coach was able to limit Clarkson’s effect on the result which was such a stand out of the round one tactical dissection of the Crows. The defence commanded that result but this was countered by Beveridge with him never allowing the many damaging rebounders to be a factor due to limiting their ability to zone off.

Hawthorn player and coach ratings, round 1, Adelaide versus Hawthorn

Blake Hardwick- 8

Hardwick is a defensive rock and such an on field general. He gives real homage to the number 15 jumper,

James Frawley- 7

The veteran key back man destroyed Jenkins

Jarman Impey– 8.5

I thought Impey was exceptional and probably did not receive the plaudits deserving for his game. His defensive work in the backline was first rate. As well as his reading of the play which saw him take many intercept marks whilst zoning off in defence

Shaun Burgoyne- 4

A quiet game for the legend

David Mirra- 7

Did his role in a very assured manner in defence

Ben Stratton- 9

Death….

Taxes……

Ben Stratton owning Eddie Betts ….

Harry Morrison- 5

Just ok

Liam Shiels- 6

Shiels was typically workmanlike

Isaac Smith- 6

Smith was ok without ever leaving a real mark on the game

Jarryd Roughead- 5

The veteran played his role forward without ever really leaving a mark on the game

Conor Nash- 4

Nash played his role and did enough to remain in the 22.

James Sicily- 9

Brilliant, and then some

Luke Breust- 4

Breust kicked a nice snap goal but did little else

Jack Gunston- 7

After missing the whole preseason, I thought Gunston was very good.

Paul Puopolo- 3

A fairly average display and would want to improve to stay in the best 22 with the amount of promising small forwards waiting in the wings.

Ben McEvoy- 9

It was interesting hearing the commentators mention how great of a recruit McEvoy has been for the club after being traded from StKilda. He is not only arguably the most underrated ruck man in the league but also such an on field general

James Worpel- 9.5

His best game for the club

Jaeger O’Meara- 8.5

O’Meara left such a mark on the game.

Jack Scrimshaw- 5

He was ok in his debut

Ricky Henderson- 7

Henderson is always a contributor

Jonathon Ceglar- 6

I really liked Ceglar’s game. He offered great support as the second ruck which kept the acid on the Adelaide followers

James Cousins- 7

If not for a few skill errors with his kicking, I would have rated Cousins alongside Worpel. He was very good. A game highlighted by his smother in the third quarter and follow up to kick a defining goal

Alastair Clarkson – 9.5

Clarkson is a vindicated coaching genius. This game showcased this with his tactics. There was a distinct change in game plan from the lauded uncontested style which saw the club dominate to a uglier and marauding style. It was so pressure based where the space was suffocated for the Crows which never allowed them to breath. It seemed obvious that he deems Adelaide as a soft touch who like things on their terms. If you hit them and pressure them they are exposed as hype jobs with few in their line up possessing the plums to stand up and try to make a difference.

The rotating zone off man in defence which completely skewed Adelaide’s forward 50 entries was pivotal. At the end of last year teams sent a man to mark James Sicily who had been so prominent in the role. This wasn’t made possible with many rolling through defence as the spare man.  Jarman Impey stood out as part of this with his intercept marking.

AFL 2019:Hawthorn Season Preview

As the 2019 season draws closer, it is difficult to get a full grasp on Hawthorn. Whilst the team finishing in the top four to conclude the home and away in 2018 gave promise of a return to prominence, a straight sets exit from the finals portrayed this as a false dawn.

As we take a look at Hawthorn’s prospects in 2019, it is hard not to focus on the season ending broken leg suffered by Tom Mitchell in the preseason which deprives the team of arguably its best and most pivotal player. The failure in the finals was largely due to the absence of genuine A-grade talent outside of Mitchell in the midfield along with the lack of depth and quality of rotations in support. The team being without the reigning Brownlow medalist begs the question of who of the incumbents can step up to pick up his slack. As well as bringing a focus onto the young and inexperienced midfielders to play more prominent roles.

This challenge for the club could not come at a worse time. The new rule changes highlighted by a focus on the new 6/6/6 zones at centre bounces will favour teams with strong midfields. As well as clearance work in the midfield which the club has long been suspect in. The winning of first ball will allow quick and precise delivery into forward lines with one on one duels rather than the modern trend of teams dropping spares behind the ball in support of their defence.

The strategy of a 7, or even 8 man defence has been the basis of the Clarkson success with the club. One highlighted by Josh Gibson and his legendary ‘golden fist’ during the three peat winning teams and recently the daring James Sicily or Ben Stratton in the role. Occasionally with Jack Gunston running shot gun as the second spare man behind the ball. It represented a key to the uncontested game style where they would gladly give oppositions an extra man or men in other areas of the ground and back their skill to prevail in the numbers battle. At their peak, once the Hawks had the pill, it was almost impossible to get it back off them.

The new zones will put the pressure on the defence to adapt to the inevitable one on one contests. Particularly in the key position posts which raises a real worry of the teams depth and quality. James Frawley is still one of the best one on one man markers in the game but his body is fragile. As well as being targeted by oppositions when he has the ball in hand due to his frequent skill errors by foot. After him, Kaiden Brand, David Mirra and Tim O’Brien have been tried as key defenders but have yet to show any real dexterity to inspire faith. It makes one bemoan the trading of Ryan Burton to Port Adelaide as part of the Chad Wingard deal. Burton was seen as mostly a flanker but on the evidence of the impressive victory in Adelaide against the Crows in 2017 where he toweled up Taylor Walker as a key defender. He had the potential to be a very good centre half back.

Whilst the sacrificing (yes, he was pushed out) of Burton wasn’t ideal, it was necessary to ratify a trade with Port Adelaide to bring Chad Wingard to the club. The recruitment of Wingard gives the club a dual All Australian player in his prime who still has upside. He also has a point to prove after a down few years at Port where he has been labeled as ‘lazy’ which makes this member of the peanut gallery think he will light it up as a goal kicking midfielder.

The other two prime recruits in Tom Scully and Jack Scrimshaw are speculative entities who cost little in trade but could reap huge rewards. In particular, Tom Scully from the Giants could be defining. He is recovering from a career threatening injury but if he can get back to full fitness and anywhere near his best he will change the team profoundly. Scully is arguably the best outside force in the game as a ceaseless two way runner who is a prolific goal kicker along with being a very adept defensive midfielder. If he is linked with Isaac Smith on the outside it will represent arguably the most devastating outside tandem in the AFL. The acquirement of Scrimshaw could also be telling. He is like for like as a rebounding defender to Grant Birchall with an equally lethal left foot. If he can live up to his billing as a high draft choice and the aforementioned Birchall returns to fitness and previous glories it gives the club a duo of lethal rebounding flankers.  This could also free James Sicily to play forward where he could kick 40+ goals as an old style leading full forward supported by the new zones.

Leadership

The reign of Luke Hodge as one of the greatest leaders the game was duly lauded during his tenure but has been most felt since he abdicated the role. It came at a time when the club lost prominent on field leaders in Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis. The latter would have arguably been the best replacement for Hodge as captain. Instead Jarryd Roughead was inserted with Isaac Smith and Liam Shiels as his deputies. Whilst the trio needs to be commended for their efforts in the roles, this era at the club will be looked back as a time where the absence of leadership was a key factor.

The new leadership duo of Ben Stratton as captain and Jack Gunston as his vice are inspired choices which will reinforce the clubs long time reputation for great leaders.

Player on the rise- Jarman Impey
See the source image
The obvious choice here would be to pick Jaeger O’Meara who looks primed to finally live out his billing as a game changing midfielder.

I have gone for Impey who has looked very good as a rebounding small defender. He offers real pace to run through the lines as well as showing great poise in the defensive aspects of the role.

The move is very reminiscent of Collingwood moving Leon Davis into this role which saw him selected to the All Australian team in 2011. Impey is a very similar player to Davis. One hopes he resembles Davis’s success in the role

Pssst Clarko!- TRY CONOR NASH AS A KEY DEFENDER!!!!

See the source image
The club desperately needs to find a reliable key defender. Nash has size and pace making him an obvious choice. He played the role in his infancy at Box Hill and I would LOVE this to be revisited.

Prediction- 8th

Most pundits have written Hawthorn off on the back of the injury to Tom Mitchell. Whilst I concede Mitchell’s absence will see Hawthorn fall from the heights of last year, I do not think the team will fall out of the 8

The genius of Clarkson in the coaching box always represents the club starting with 3 wins in the bank before a ball has been bounced. Also, the leadership change will have a profound effect as well.

Hawthorn player ratings- JLT 2, Hawthorn versus Richmond

Kaiden Brand- 1/10

Injured himself early when dropping an easy chest mark. He came back onto the ground but gave little to enthuse about

James Frawley- 9/10

Frawley was exceptional in completely blanketing Jack Riewoldt in the first half. The game flipped after half time when he was shifted off the Tigers forward lynchpin by Alastair Clarkson. Obviously to run the rule over other options in the key defensive posts

Ben Stratton- 7/10

Solid as always

James Sicily- 7/10

Sicily was effective with his intercept marking and rebounding.

Blake Hardwick- 7/10

Similar to the game of Stratton

Jarman Impey- 7/10

I liked the game of Impey off half back. He was effective in his defensive duties and offered some crucial run from defence with his line breaking ability

Ricky Henderson- 7/10

Henderson never steals headlines but rarely lets the team down. This was a typical performance

James Cousins- 6/10

The youngster was very good in the first half in the midfield but struggled after when the intensity went up.

In the last quarter, he had a killer lapse when failing to kill the contest by getting the ball over the boundary line when outnumbered by 2 opponents. It led to a key goal for Richmond

Isaac Smith- 6/10

Smith was ok, but, his characteristic dash and line breaking ability was rarely seen. He missed a soda from 10 out from goal from a set shot late in the game

Dylan Moore- 2/10

Did not do much

Mitch Lewis- 6/10

The young key forward was very good in the first half with his one grab contested marking. His footy smarts also stood out. He struggled a tad after the initial burst when the Tigers locked down on him

Paul Puopolo- 5/10

Poppy was ok without doing anything to write home about

Luke Breust- 7/10

Always a dangerous forward. This game was no different for the small forward

BOG- Jarryd Roughead- 9.5/10

Arguably, Roughead’s best game for the club since returning from illness. He seemed freed by no longer being captain and looked so good. He kicked 5 goals and his positioning to win the pill and sharpshooting for goal was first rate

Shaun Burgoyne-9/10

The masterful veteran was brilliant in the first half as a floating forward. He assumed a quarterback role in setting up so much with his skill and footy smarts

Ben McEvoy- 6/10

Honest as he always

Jaeger O’Meara- 8/10

The midfielder looked so good early. His ability to win the pill and use it expertly was so impressive. The other stand out was his running to position off the ball and burst speed away from the clinches

Liam Shiels– 6/10

Shiels is always effective without ever being definitive

Tim O’Brien- 0/10

O’Brien sat out the first half. In the second he was thrown the challenge of playing as the number one key backman on Jack Riewoldt. It led to a fight back for the Tigers with O’Brien hopelessly out of his depth

David Mirra- 1/10
Similar to O’Brien. Sat out the first half and then looked mostly inadequate in defence

Jonathon Ceglar- 2/10

A largely anonymous display

Harry Morrison- 6/10

The youngster stood out for some brilliant tackles

James Worpel- 6/10

The young midfielder won the footy but was let down at times by his decision making and skill execution. He took a good contested mark deep forward. A glimpse to his ability as a small forward where he would arguably benefit the team more with his desperation, pressure acts and ability in similar contests

Every time I watch Worpel, he reminds me so much of Will Langford as a midfielder

Conor Nash- 2/10

Played the second half and didn’t do much

Oliver Hanrahan- 6/10

Played the second half as a small forward and showed some very good signs

Jack Scrimshaw-8/10

The ‘lovechild’ of Grant Birchall with his skill by foot rebounding out of defence and ability to be a factor with his size

Only early, but, Scrimshaw could be an absolute steal.

Hawthorn leadership change- ‘aces in their places’

Luke Hodge was regarded as one of the best and most influential leaders in the history of Australian rules football.  His booming voice rang in the ears of all which compelled them to do anything and everything for the jumper. Equally as pertinent, maybe more so were the silent acts by him which epitomized a willing sacrifice for the cause which gave all chicken skin inspiring rapidness for the cause as all grew taller in his presence.

A leadership succession plan for him was never going to be easy after he abdicated the captaincy. The difficulty in this has been seen in a lauded part of a successful era for the Hawthorn football club being lost in the diminished nature of the leadership which followed. As well as at times the distinct lack of it. The leadership group of Jarryd Roughead as captain with Isaac Smith and Liam Shiels as his deputies need to be thanked and lauded for the determination and whole hearted approach to their respective tasks but their tenures will be adjudged as largely underwhelming.

The new leadership team of Ben Stratton as captain and Jack Gunston as his deputy reeks of promise.

Stratton, while in many quarters seen as an unexpected choice is an inspired appointment. More than anything, Stratton epitomizes the true essence of the club. Rarely does his name occupy many write ups let alone headlines, nor does he ever seek such acclaim but he has been a true pillar of an era of great success at the club. In many respects he reminds of the aptly nicknamed ‘BP- the quiet achiever’ Chris Mew from the dynastic teams of the 1980’s. Like Mew, Stratton never plays a bad game and more often than not is pivotal in results. Particularly in the crunch time of the biggest matches. One only has to dust of replays of preliminary final epics for evidence of this.

The only time Stratton has come into focus during his glittering  career for the club from the footballing fraternity was on donning a retro mullet to commence the 2018 season. This had an irony in the second half of the season. James Sicily seemed destined for an All Australian jumper by excelling as the 7th defender zoning off free in defence until injury saw him miss the second half of last season. Stratton assumed the role while adding completeness to it.  He was as astute in the attacking aspect of the dual role while representing a more trusted and resolute figure in the defensive responsibilities than Sicily.

An exclamation mark came in the finals for his performance as a player and meaning to the team as a leader. The team was over matched against both Richmond and Melbourne but Stratton was a stand out. He resembled one with not enough fingers to block all the holes in the dyke in the first final. Yet he still remained a road block from the onslaught. Once he went out to injury missing the final against the Demons the rest of the team was swept away.

Stratton will be an outstanding success in the role. In ensuring this, Jack Gunston as his vice captain will represent the perfect lieutenant. Gunston in recent times has represented the teams’ Swiss army knife being so adept in multiple roles. While also resembling Stratton with his dexterity in the key moments of the biggest matches.

In looking at the present and future of the club it is to be commended how in a short period the seeming leadership gulf has been filled. To the point of now being a strength of the club. The likes of Smith, Shiels and McEvoy will play key roles as part of the leadership group. Then Jaeger O’Meara is seen as the pre-elect as the captain in the future with the likes of youngsters in Blake Hardwick and James Worpel also exuding leadership qualities