Not growing up with Aussie Rules as a kid, this was an awesome read for me. I've been posting here for more than ten years and I'm still learning about the game, so I really appreciate posts like this. I want more education!Hey Dons fans!
We wrote about draper this week in our newsletter. Let us know what you think!
What a win for the Essendon Football Club. For a team that some people had finishing in the bottom four, this year has been an absolute success, regardless of a finals appearance or not. Whilst we were incredibly tempted to write a piece on Peter Wright after his 7 goal dismantling of the Bulldogs, the progression of Essendon’s top ruckman since returning from injury is arguably a bigger story.
Sam Draper (#2) continues to develop both as a tap ruckman and a dangerous marking option around the ground. His duel with up and coming star and recent FTP addition Tim English was enthralling to watch. One of the things that we flagged with English was that for all of his strengths at ground level and in the air, he struggles in the ruck. Draper took full advantage of this, amassing 4 clearances and 39 hit outs including 14 hit outs to advantage (career high). What I loved most was that Draper and Essendon were adventurous with their taps and leveraged his dominance to their advantage. This was especially the case against backup ruck men Naughton and Bruce. Here are two instances of ruck dominance and smart midfield set ups:
- The ideal midfield set up works as a defensive triangle. The go-to midfielder in a normal scenario here is either Stringer or Parish. They set up either side of the ruckman working into either a 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock hit depending on Draper’s favoured side (Most of the time a 9 o’clock hit given Draper’s right handed). Parish sharks the oppositions hit to spot. Usually in this setup, Shiel assumes the sweeper role and protects the front of the stoppage – the most important area to protect given it’s direct access to goal. Draper knows he has the advantage in the ruck to generate a long hit out of the bubble (and over the Bulldog’s sweeper) and Shiel is Essendon’s quickest midfielder. Shiel and Stringer swap positions. Stringer now assumes the sweeper role. Dunkley follows Stringer given in most scenario’s he would be the go to. Shiel rolls around past Dunkley and times his run perfectly.
- Same thing again instead Parish assumes the role of Stringer. Liberatore actually goes to Shiel initially before deciding to hunt the ball. Parish goes into the sweeper role to protect against a Bulldog’s win whilst Shiel is given free reign to get on the move again.
Does it remind you of anyone? It’s almost Nic-Nat like. For Draper to possess a soft touch like that and hit it perfectly is a big tick even if against back up ruckmen. It’s worth noting that Draper beat English in ruck contests around the ground.
The Draper soccer connection is an interesting one. Draper played predominantly soccer throughout his teenage years. It’s not uncommon for big athletes that play soccer to translate to another ball sport possessing great touch and finesse. The immediate examples that come to mind are Hakeem Olajuwon and Joel Embiid – who are all time NBA bigs that notoriously took up to basketball late. Once again, the quirky NBA-AFL comparisons continue at FTP…
But the point stands true – Draper is becoming a more sophisticated tap ruckman. This kind of tap work is one of the best things about the AFL as it’s two players who are in complete cohesion. The names in Essendon’s midfield (Merrett, Parish, McGrath, Perkins, Cox, Shiel) to pair with Draper is an incredible core to build a team around. Whether it’s this year or the next, Essendon are building a list that will do damage in the finals and could challenge as a premiership contender sooner rather than later. But make no mistake about it, Sam Draper is the head of the snake for this exciting, new built Essendon midfield.
Love to hear this mate! We do analysis like this every week over at footytalkingpoints.com.au!Not growing up with Aussie Rules as a kid, this was an awesome read for me. I've been posting here for more than ten years and I'm still learning about the game, so I really appreciate posts like this. I want more education!