Goodness gracious me, there’s no way to sugar coat it, is there? This year, the forward line is a burning dumpster. Only 11 players who are forward eligible in 2018 averaged more than 90 in 2017.
And only five of those that averaved more than 90 managed the feat over 20 or more games.
The forward line has been a major trouble for me in the past few years. For the last two years I’ve somehow convinced myself to start with two premiums and four on-field rookies. Unsurprisingly, that – to put it mildly – hasn’t gone well.
Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me. If the forward line burns me a third time then… I… I’ll be extremely upset and owchied and burnied and… not happy at all.
So I’m exploring my options. Few of the top 10 forwards entice me – Isaac Heeney is an obvious choice, but beyond that I’m not sold. So I’ve jumped into the burning dumpster that is the forward to find some gems, because gems are forged in the fire? Something like that.
GUNSTON: THE FACTS
|2018 facts||$474,800 FWD|
|2017 100+ scores||5|
|2017 sub-80 scores||8|
|2017 highs and lows||High of 146, low of 27|
Jack Gunston burned a lot of people in 2017, including community stalwart Dex. He cracked the ton just once in the first 11 rounds of the season, and threw up scores of 43 and 27 during the same period.
The second half of the season was far prettier, averaging 96 from rounds 12 to 23 and then 102 in the final seven rounds of the season.
So what changed? In round 17, after struggling for months to find form in the forward line, Alistair Clarkson threw Gunston into the backline, running him off a flank and using his brilliant kicking – which for so long had been a textbook example of splitting the middle of the sticks – to split opposition zones.
And he flourished.
He picked up 23 or more touches in all but one game, including a massive 35 touches against the Dockers in round 18.
Three of his five tons and more importantly just one of his sub-80 scores came during this seven-week period, and the obvious drop in goals was matched by an increase in possessions.
As mentioned, Gunston’s kicking became a weapon and kicks made up over 70 per cent of his touches, and the bulk of his points.
Gunston is one of the most durable players in the competition. He hasn’t missed a game in three years, and has missed only four in five years. That’s impressive, and in a year where we’re looking at the likes of Robbie Gray, Josh J. Kennedy, The Chad Wingard and Toby ‘The Butcher of Blacktown’ Greene in the top group of players, consistency is going to be extremely important.
He is coming into his prime as a 26-year-old, and is due to play his 150th game in round one. He’s got a strong pair of hands, a good sense of the game and – I keep saying it but cannot stress this enough – can kick a football like Jock Himself in His prime.
With Hodge gone, they’ll need with a cool head on their shoulders, and Gunston is cooler than the refrigerator, chiller than an esky and as Not Hot as the Bee Sharps after they won that Grammy.
In the immortal words of Crouching Tiger, “he burn man”. There’s every likelihood Gunston returns to the forward line this year, or – worse – flits between attack and defence and messing with his scores.
Here’s Hawthorn assistant Adam Yze talking on the club website:
“It was probably a win-win for everyone, that he could try something different by going down back but then, in the end, I think we stumbled across a really good option for us to go down back with the ball use, run and marking ability that he provides off half-back.
“So, moving forward, it’ll just be a question of which end we need him most but it’s certainly a massive positive that he can do both.”
We don’t want both, Adam. We want him running off the half-back line scoring points.
It depends on where he plays. For his price of sub-500k, a consistent, accurate half-back flanker could average between 90 and 100, which would put him firmly in the top eight forwards for the season.
However, at 474k he isn’t classified as cheap in the same way Michael Barlow and Devon Smith are.
However, if he plays forward, he becomes less valuable. Obviously if Hawthorn have a fantastic year and their midfield pumps the ball in to him directly, he may score well as a forward.
However, on the back of last year, and on the back of a number of unknowns in the Hawk’s midfield, I won’t take that chance if he doesn’t look to be locked into defence.
With the return of Jonathon Ceglar in 2018, we may see Roughead, Shoenmakers and McEvoy/Ceglar taking the three pillars up forward, leaving Gunston to prance his way through the back line with his stablemate James Sicily.
But considering Shoenmakers is no Matthew Lloyd, and Ceglar may start in the reserves after Big Boy’s excellent year in the ruck, he might start forward. I really don’t know at this stage.
Jack Gunston is not currently in my side, but he is in very serious contention for a F2 or F3 slot.
What do you think, community? Is Gunston a yea or a nay?