Two AFL full-forwards this season have made a huge impact for their respective teams, and as at the end of Round 18, are locked together on 65 goals each (3.6 per game) in their race for the Coleman Medal. One is 33 years of age, and enjoying a new lease of life at his new team; the other is just 21, and against all expectations, has had a breakout year as a forward.
Barry Hall’s move to the Western Bulldogs has been the perfect tonic for both parties. The ‘Dogs have been a fast running team seemingly on the track for finals success, but have lacked a marking target up forward. Hall has delivered them exactly this, and in the process has rejuvenated a career that could easily have ended after regular tribunal trouble. The Bulldogs are now capable of kicking large totals, and are well placed for a top-four spot and a serious crack in September.
At the other end of the ladder, age bracket, and cycle of success is Jack Riewoldt. For several years he was viewed by his own team as undersized and incapable of filling the role of primary goalkicker. But something magical has happened this year, and he has emerged as a genuine full-forward with all the necessary skills: a great contested mark, superb use of the body and eye for the ball in flight, excellent accuracy, and a strong tackler within the forward 50.
He has been the catalyst for Richmond’s transformation this year. His high leaps for the ball are an inspiration to his team-mates, and give them the confidence to deliver the ball into the forward line knowing the chance of scoring is far greater. Even now that he is often double-teamed, this means there is often an additional loose goal-sneak in the vicinity to convert the crumbs. He, together with several other younger players, has given the fans something to watch, and something to hope for. For the first time in a long time, the future is looking bright at Richmond, almost as bright as the screen on my new mobile plan.
The fast-running game that footy has become, with less kicking to a contest, may have diminished the need for “traditional” marking and leading full-forwards like Hall and Riewoldt. However, these two players have shown that the art is not completely dead, nor its ability to be one of the great spectacles of AFL footy.