Break-out candidate or Premium midfielder in disguise?
Mr. Mitchell of the Tom variety has been nothing but an exceptional Supercoach player from the moment he set foot in an AFL stadium in 2013 round 10.
Personally, I don’t rate him as someone who will ever become an A+ midfielder, but that doesn’t stop him from joining the elite category in Supercoach. In 2015, Mitchell had already averaged 112 (taking out his sub games) in his 3rd season, and I’d consider it a miracle for those who haven’t considered Mitchell that he didn’t break out this season for various reasons.
Now as we approach his 5th season, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to picture a scenario that doesn’t feature Mitchell amongst the top midfielders by the end of next season. So, is this our last chance to jump on the Mitchell hype train? Or can we afford to wait another season in fear of him tearing the Supercoach competition apart.
|2017 Supercoach Price:||$565,600|
|Games last season:||22|
|Average in 2016:||104|
|100+ games last season:||9 (40.9% of his games)|
|Sub 80 games last season:||4|
|Price range in 2016:||$476K (rd9) – $580K (rd3)|
|Missed games last season:||Played every game|
Tom’s 2 greatest games in 2016 were his performances in round 10 and round 11.
In round 10, Mitchell amassed 41 possessions 10 tackles and 1 goals against North Melbourne which looked like one of the prime premiership contenders early on in the year, resulting in a HUGE score of 178 points.
In round 11, Mitchell was given the responsibility to subdue the great Gary Ablett. So how did Mitchell handle his relatively new role in the Sydney outfit? Well, in this case, the stats really do tell the true story with him dominating Ablett in total possession (33 to 26), contested possession (20 to 14), tackles (14 to 13) and goals (1 to 0), resulting in a Supercoach score of 133. Unfortunately, this fantastic performance also led to a somewhat disappointing season with John Longwire discovering Mitchell’s versatile, yet supercoach unfriendly attribute. However, this performance was nevertheless significant with Mitchell demonstrating his scoring potential even with a negating role on match day.
Mitchell has little durability issue, having stayed relative injury free over the years. His low game count in his first 3 seasons are more because of the fierce internal competition of the Sydney midfield.
Other forms of risk include the uncertainty of his role, the potential of tags, and the likelihood of Hawthorn’s decline.
Table showing first 35 home and away games-Credit to Rowsus.
Tom Mitchell has had an incredible start to his Supercoach career, only rivalled by Michael Barlow (who was a mature-age recruit), Ollie Wines and O’Meara. After his first 35 games, he achieved an average of 94.7 points per game WITH ONLY 76.2% TOG. At this stage of the season, he was far ahead of his Sydney counterparts in Parker, JPK, Hannebury and Jack.
Outside of Sydney, he also has stars like Dangerfield, Pendlebury and Ablett beaten at this point of his career. Keep in mind that a large chunk of his 76.2% TOG was spent at half-forward, a relatively unknown territory for someone whose primary role is obviously inside midfield.
He was able to transition a proportion of his scoring potential into a very good 2015 season with a bit more midfield time (112 average taking out sub affected games), however this transition seemed to have stalled as Longmire preferred others for the prolific full-time midfield position. It took Hannebury 7 seasons, Parker 6 seasons, JPK 5 seasons and Kieran Jack 6 seasons to become premium midfielders.
Mitchell is heading into his 5th season, and promising signs are everywhere.
Really like the addition of Tom Mitchell to the Hawthorn midfield. Deadset gun #AFLTrades
— Jeremy Hill (@jezza_hill) October 12, 2016
THE PENDLEBURY / SAM MITCHELL VIP TREATMENT
It is the situation where if you can touch, see or smell the presence of either player, you will do everything you can to pass them the ball. “Pass Pendles the ball” has been 99% of the identifiable Collingwood’s Buckley game-plan of the last 3-5 years. On one hand it has given Pendles a Supercoach boost, giving him respectable scores when he didn’t deserve it, on the other hand it has hindered his growth as a complete inside midfielder from 2011 onwards in my opinion. Sam Mitchell similarly has collected a large amount of free points off half-back and through the midfield this year.
The outside/uncontested aspect of football can often rival the importance of clearances/contested possessions in the game of Supercoach. It is what separated Supercoach king Dane Swan from someone who is just a step below like JPK, or being the difference between the 2016 Dangerfield from the 2015 version.
Outside possessions are either earnt by gut-running and being a great accumulator (Swan, Gaff), or it is given to classy players such as Pendlebury or Mitchell. Tom Mitchell clearly doesn’t fall under the second category, but he has certainly shown some great signs in this regard, with his 37 possessions (5 contested) game in round 7 for example. Just take a look at Tom Rockliff’s 2014 or Lachie Neale this year, having a weak midfield with one of two standards will result in these few players getting huge outputs for their ability.
It is highly unlikely that T. Mitchell would get 15-20 free touches a game like Sam. However, with him being a fantastic accumulator and the departure of Sam Mitchell, it is likely that Tom will benefit in this area to some extent.
Even an increase of 2-3 uncontested possessions from his 2015 year would result in him pushing Supercoach 2017 keeper status.
AN INCREASE IN GAME TIME
It is common knowledge that Tom Mitchell had been frequently rotated through the Sydney midfield and half-forward.
In 2016, Mitchell had an average TOG of 80.8%, much less than others such as JPK, Parker, Hannebury who all had high 80s to low 90s TOG. Mitchell’s a midfielder with above average stamina/endurance at the very least. 80.8% TOG (8-11% lower than others despite having less interchanges) can only be explained by the overloaded Sydney midfield.
Logic suggests that at Hawthorn, Mitchell will receive more midfield time, allowing his TOG to rise to 85% or above. Remember, all we need from Mitchell is an increase of around 5 points per game (explained later). A 4.2% increase in game time could be enough to make it happen by itself.
THE NATURE OF THE HAWTHORN GAME PLAN / MIDFIELD
With a likely starting price of around $561K Supercoach, you’re comfortably in the price range that absolutely requires the player selected to be a keeper.
The definition of a ‘keeper’ might be somewhat ambiguous. In my opinion, with Mitchell’s starting price considered, he really needs to at least be in the top 10 midfielders if not top 8 in terms of aggregate points scored. Let’s assume that we have a 75-point rookie to replace the midfield premium for every game the player misses, and this is factored into the calculation of the seasonal averages. Based on last year’s outcome, in terms of total points scored, the 8th best pure midfielder (Adam Treloar) had an average of 111.3, and the 10th best pure midfielder (Marcus Bontempelli) had an average of 107.7.
Keeping these stats in mind, if we were to pay over $560K for a midfielder like Mitchell, our player really needs to a weighted average of 108 or above to be a pass, and anything above 111 qualifies the selection to be a success. Unfortunately, both these yardsticks have been difficult to achieve for Hawthorn midfielders over the years.
In the last 7 years, for Hawthorn midfielders, we have only seen 4 “pass” seasons (Sam Mitchell 2011, 2012, 2015, Jordan Lewis 2014) and ONLY 1 “success” season (Sam Mitchell 2011). This statistic is extremely low for any midfield to have, let alone a multi-premiership winning Hawthorn lineup.
Thus, it is obvious that this incredibly low number of Supercoach midfield successes from Hawthorn speaks more about their midfield structure and gameplay than the quality of the players. Keep in mind this stat looks even worse when you consider how frequently Mitchell gets handball receives whenever he’s in the vicinity of the ball, which highly inflates his scores.
Is it the lack of a dominant tap-ruckman? Does Hawthorn’s game-plan revolve more around their defense and forward? Do they merely focus on recovering the ball from opposition clearances rather than attempting to win it by themselves?
Most likely these questions can only be answered by Mr Clarkson, but from our point of view, this is undoubtedly a factor that needs to be considered.
THE VOLATILITY OF MITCHELL’S ROLE
Shifting from one of the most talented and successful midfields to a midfield that most likely will be exposed in 2017, we can assume that Mitchell will be relieved from playing at half/forward or on the wing, however, it is still uncertain that Mitchell will play a full-time offensive inside midfield role. Liam Shiels can play that tagging/run-with if necessary, but I can’t help but wonder with Mitchell’s outstanding performances against the greats (Sam Mitchell& Gary Ablett), how frequently Clarkson will experiment Mitchell tagging or in another role if he does temporarily under perform.
After all, Clarkson seems to really rate the idea of every one of his players being able to play multiple positions to allow more players to run through the midfield. Frequent adjustments in his position will not only negatively affect his game-day Supercoach score, but also jeopardize the chances of Mitchell performing consistently as he constantly has to adapt to different environments.
HOW DOES MITCHELL HANDLE OPPOSITION PRESSURE?
Mitchell has always been the 3rd or 4th best midfielder in the Sydney outfit and has never really had the need to embrace a player keeping a close check on him. With the departure of Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis, it is fairly safe to assume that Mitchell will be the number 1 midfielder at Hawthorn, and he will inevitably be relied upon to win clearances, collect hardball gets and genuinely be that attacking weapon at stoppages.
However, with how lackluster the Hawthorn midfield is, who can step up and be the secondary midfielder if Mitchell gets shutdown? Jaeger O’Meara? Burgoyne? Hodge maybe? The options are scarce and it is obvious that Hawthorn’s midfield is extremely vulnerable even with Mitchell, let alone without him.
Maybe being the contested beast he is, he won’t be affected as much. Or perhaps opposition team doesn’t see the necessity in shutting down anyone from the Hawthorn midfield. However, there’s always a chance that Mitchell’s season will be affected drastically if he is incapable of dealing with this opposition pressure that is newly introduced to him.
At around $561,000, you will undoubtedly be selecting Tom Mitchell as a keeper, hoping that he would at least be in the top 10 for pure MIDs if not top 8. As mentioned above, 108 average at 21 games is the bench mark for a successful selection.
In my opinion there are 3 premium midfielders that are auto-selections. Assuming most will run a 5-O’Meara-5 structure, there is room for 2 more players. There’re many players considered for the 2 remaining spots, but Tom Mitchell is definitely one of the better choices.
Tom Mitchell is a likely selection, but it’s subject to many factors that are currently unknown. Tommy boy appears to be a low risk, decent risk prospect, with his upside easily being to justify his price tag.
What a blinder by Richard! Join us to discuss Tom Mitchell in the comments below.
|This article has been penned as part of the Jock Reynolds Community Series, where anyone from within our proud community can have their say in front of their peers. These men and women have displayed the spirit of togetherness, positivity and community that we value significantly.|
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