Player Watch #34: Jack Graham - Part 2

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Aug 24, 2017
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"IF YOU can't run, you can't play."

In his glowing praise of Jack Graham's career-best performance in last Thursday night's season-opening victory over Carlton, that line from Richmond coach Damien Hardwick might have stuck with a few AFL recruiters.

It certainly stuck with Graham.

The game is evolving to suit players like the tireless 23-year-old. The running machines that can go all day, from contest to contest, and impact through their aerobic capacity and their ability to constantly compete.

Hardwick's praise of Graham's endless endurance might have been one of the first times the youngster's work ethic has been highlighted publicly. But, internally, his running patterns are frequently used by the Tigers in team meetings as a means of setting the benchmark for the entire squad.

But yet, the dual premiership star – who was cruelly denied the opportunity to become a triple premiership player by a shoulder injury sustained in the 2019 preliminary final – hasn't always been known for his running.

Now seemingly one of the steals of the 2016 NAB AFL Draft, Graham slipped all the way to Richmond at pick No.53, having been told by several clubs that his endurance base wasn't up to scratch for an AFL footballer.

It stung Graham, who knew his aerobic capacity was his biggest strength. It was even more difficult to take given it had come after a junior season in which he had captained South Australia during the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, where he won the Larke Medal as the carnival's best player.

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But it was also feedback that has since fuelled his rapid rise at Punt Road. Graham became a premiership player after just five AFL games, won a second flag after 55, and has played in 11 finals in 56 career matches.

And last Thursday night, he showed he had more gears to fly through in the years ahead. He won a career-high 33 disposals against Carlton, racked up a career-high 836m gained, produced a career-high 11 inside-50s, and had a career-high 19 handball receives.

All with that criticism still ringing in his ears.

"I think I've always had it," Graham told AFL.com.au.

"The recruiters grabbed me at the wrong time. I was coming off a torn quad and I couldn't really do anything at the Combine, with the testings there.

"I think they judged me too early, whereas I always thought I could run. Being able to show that to everyone now, it's pleasing."


Graham concedes that despite feeling as fit as ever he may have suffered from a touch of cramp at three-quarter time on Thursday night, as the effects of a return to 20-minute quarters began to catch up with him.

But, remarkably, he still had 13 disposals in the final term alone to muster his most productive quarter when it mattered most. It was yet more evidence of his outstanding endurance base.

"At half-time and especially at three-quarter time, I just couldn't believe that I had another quarter to go. But everyone was feeling it," Graham said.

"To be honest I was just thinking, 'gee, my legs are sore and I'm starting to cramp and I've still got another quarter to go'. As much as I knew I'd had a bit of the ball, I just had to refocus and try to get through that last quarter."

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Graham's ability to finish the match so strongly wasn't just validation of his own belief in his fitness base, it was also further evidence of Richmond's willingness to see qualities within draft prospects that other clubs might miss.

Now, Graham is flourishing on the back of the trust placed in him by the Tigers. He has been allowed to play to his strengths, with the club hopeful it will subsequently see him improve even further this season to become one of its most important players in the quest for a fourth flag in five years.

"He's a transition mid, the game comes to him now," Hardwick said of Graham.

"It's a transition game … that's as simple as it is. You look at the way he runs and if you watch the tape, he's an incredible athlete that goes from contest to contest.

"The way the game is structured now because it's longer, he gets better as the game goes on. He's an incredible aerobic beast and he can just run. He gut-runs as hard as I've ever seen."

Hardwick's next line might have pricked the ears among rival recruiters just as much.

"You would've noticed that the opposition mob tonight were heavily into him, as were a number of other sides," the Richmond coach smiled.

Indeed, Carlton had made a significant push to sway the out-of-contract Graham to swap Punt Road with Ikon Park during last year's Trade Period. Essendon and Adelaide had also unsuccessfully attempted to prise the youngster away from the Tigers.

The Crows were perhaps the most inviting destination, had Graham chosen to leave, given they had the lure of tempting the young midfielder with a return to his home state of South Australia.

But Graham instead opted to pledge his future to Richmond, signing a three-year deal on the eve of the club's finals campaign to ensure he would remain with the Tigers for his best years.

"I was never really too close to leaving," Graham said.

"It's your manager's job to put your name out there and to see what interest there is. There was obviously talk about other clubs, but I always wanted to stay at Richmond and I kind of always knew that I was going to end up staying at Richmond.

"It was more just about having a listen to see what other clubs have to say about me and how they valued me.

"But I was rapt that there was a deal done, especially leading into finals. Being able to put that aside and just play footy, I was rapt. I'm super excited to be here for the next three years."

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The talk of Graham potentially heading elsewhere had reached a crescendo when he was dropped from Richmond's best team ahead of a round nine clash with the Western Bulldogs last year.

Having been shifted to a wing, Graham hadn't won more than 16 disposals in a game for the entire season and was told he needed to see more of the ball to reclaim his place in the side.

He would ultimately miss three matches, before going back to basics. Unsurprisingly, it was his work ethic that saw him recalled and what helped him string together 10 consecutive games on his way to a second flag in the back-half of the season.

"I knew I was out of form," Graham said.

"The midfield that we've got with Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Dion Prestia, Kane Lambert, Shane Edwards and those guys … it's a solid midfield.

"I knew that I had to work hard and the one thing that I've probably got over those blokes is my fitness. I knew if I could bring that, as well as playing my role, there might be a position there for me."

The result was premiership success, something that had cruelly eluded Graham in 2019.

Having been a mainstay in Richmond's team for much of that year, Graham dislocated his shoulder in the first quarter of the side's preliminary final victory over Geelong. He played through the pain barrier, finishing the match valiantly, but wasn't able to recover for the Grand Final the following week.


After tasting the ultimate glory in 2017, Graham's preliminary final efforts in finishing the contest with a severely damaged shoulder were credited by Hardwick as "a massive, positive … chapter in our history" and as an achievement that was "simply incredible".

But not playing still left its scars, fuelling the gutsy North Adelaide product with added motivation to return to the game's biggest stage last season.

"As much as I felt involved in 2019, I still wasn't in the 22," Graham said.

"That did hurt. At the same time, with 2020 going on, it was just such a weird year. Being out of the side was obviously disappointing, so I wanted to work hard to get back in. It's crazy how it all unfolded, with the year we had.

"It was so much better to be a part of that premiership, having missed out the previous year. Especially to play with two of my best mates, Liam Baker and Jayden Short. As rapt as I was for them in 2019, I wasn't a part of it.

"Last year, getting to celebrate that with those two blokes, it was pretty special."
How well does he talk
Even when mentioning when he was dropped he’s very matter of fact about it all and all about what he could do to fix it
Pretty easy to see why he’s rated so highly
 

Tomnat Tigers

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I've lost track of how many times he has been burned by a team mate who instead of continue running with the ball wants to bomb it into our 50. ******* rubbish football by some of his team mates.
 

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Sol23

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Leg speed is the least of his issues. He had 15 disposals, barely spent anytime in the midfield and was continually burned by his team mates on the spread.
Leg speed is his main problem...... seriously open your eyes. He’s just an average footballer but people like you love him for some unknown reason.
 

Grrr

Norm Smith Medallist
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Leg speed is the least of his issues. He had 15 disposals, barely spent anytime in the midfield and was continually burned by his team mates on the spread.
I think you are getting leg speed and working on the spread mixed up. He doesn't play midfield because he isn't quick enough over short distance, short of acceleration, but his work up an down the ground is first class. But the past 3 weeks of 15 possessions is back to the footy he has played for a while. When we have the ball he is really good, but he struggles to get it when we don't.
 

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Tomnat Tigers

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He better start winning some clearances
Becouse at the moment the speed of the game is exposing him .
He attended three centre bounces for the game. I don't know how many he attended last week but it wasn't many. No a coincidence that in round 1 he attended 16 and had a career best game.

Leg speed is his main problem...... seriously open your eyes. He’s just an average footballer but people like you love him for some unknown reason.
He is literally the fastest moving player on the ground every game he plays. He is not lighting quick off the mark but he isn't slow. He lacks agility and is very much a run in straight line type of player which is why he often gets his kicks smothered inside 50. He had 15 playing off the half forward line and should have of had another 5 if he wasn't burned by his team mates who instead of giving it to him when he our second best kick on the run behind Dusty elected to go long and sit it on Jack and Lynchs head.

Last night he was second for pressure acts (24) behind Cotch (25), equal second for tackles (4), run the most km's on the field at 15.1, 2.9 of those at high speed (third best on ground), highest average moving speed on the ground at 10.3, most repeat sprints on the ground at 5, fifth for total sprints at 20.

Against Sydney he led the game in pressure acts (28), led the team for tackles with 5, second most km's at high speed at 2.2, second highest maximun speed at 31.5, highest average moving speed at 9.7km, second most sprints at 14 and second most repeat sprints at 3.

For the season he leads the team in tackles, third for metres gained, fifth for disposals and second for inside 50's. His work rate is in the top 5-10% of AFL players and features high in some key statistical areas for the team.

I think you are getting leg speed and working on the spread mixed up. He doesn't play midfield because he isn't quick enough over short distance, short of acceleration, but his work up an down the ground is first class. But the past 3 weeks of 15 possessions is back to the footy he has played for a while. When we have the ball he is really good, but he struggles to get it when we don't.
They're not mutually exclusive. If you're spreading quickly it is because you have leg speed. He chased down Warner with ease last week who is quick (albeit missed the tackle). He spends less time attending centre bounces because Cotch is ahead of him in that role and the other players who attend centre bounces are far more creative and zig zag out of traffic like Edwards and Bolton. It has less to do with speed and more to do with power in changing direction, but mostly because their are others ahead of him.
 

YeOldTiger

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He attended three centre bounces for the game. I don't know how many he attended last week but it wasn't many. No a coincidence that in round 1 he attended 16 and had a career best game.



He is literally the fastest moving player on the ground every game he plays. He is not lighting quick off the mark but he isn't slow. He lacks agility and is very much a run in straight line type of player which is why he often gets his kicks smothered inside 50. He had 15 playing off the half forward line and should have of had another 5 if he wasn't burned by his team mates who instead of giving it to him when he our second best kick on the run behind Dusty elected to go long and sit it on Jack and Lynchs head.

Last night he was second for pressure acts (24) behind Cotch (25), equal second for tackles (4), run the most km's on the field at 15.1, 2.9 of those at high speed (third best on ground), highest average moving speed on the ground at 10.3, most repeat sprints on the ground at 5, fifth for total sprints at 20.

Against Sydney he led the game in pressure acts (28), led the team for tackles with 5, second most km's at high speed at 2.2, second highest maximun speed at 31.5, highest average moving speed at 9.7km, second most sprints at 14 and second most repeat sprints at 3.

For the season he leads the team in tackles, third for metres gained, fifth for disposals and second for inside 50's. His work rate is in the top 5-10% of AFL players and features high in some key statistical areas for the team.



They're not mutually exclusive. If you're spreading quickly it is because you have leg speed. He chased down Warner with ease last week who is quick (albeit missed the tackle). He spends less time attending centre bounces because Cotch is ahead of him in that role and the other players who attend centre bounces are far more creative and zig zag out of traffic like Edwards and Bolton. It has less to do with speed and more to do with power in changing direction, but mostly because their are others ahead of him.
Well said. Was also recorded as our fastest player last year. Hopefully these actual facts shut the pieholes of some of his critics. Still nuffies thinking he's slow. A little one dimensional perhaps, but he ain't slow.

Wait now for nuffies to ignore facts Trump style because it doesn't suit their narrative "but, but, but he looks slow". This has only been thrashed out here for about fifty pages. Lol
 

Sol23

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He attended three centre bounces for the game. I don't know how many he attended last week but it wasn't many. No a coincidence that in round 1 he attended 16 and had a career best game.



He is literally the fastest moving player on the ground every game he plays. He is not lighting quick off the mark but he isn't slow. He lacks agility and is very much a run in straight line type of player which is why he often gets his kicks smothered inside 50. He had 15 playing off the half forward line and should have of had another 5 if he wasn't burned by his team mates who instead of giving it to him when he our second best kick on the run behind Dusty elected to go long and sit it on Jack and Lynchs head.

Last night he was second for pressure acts (24) behind Cotch (25), equal second for tackles (4), run the most km's on the field at 15.1, 2.9 of those at high speed (third best on ground), highest average moving speed on the ground at 10.3, most repeat sprints on the ground at 5, fifth for total sprints at 20.

Against Sydney he led the game in pressure acts (28), led the team for tackles with 5, second most km's at high speed at 2.2, second highest maximun speed at 31.5, highest average moving speed at 9.7km, second most sprints at 14 and second most repeat sprints at 3.

For the season he leads the team in tackles, third for metres gained, fifth for disposals and second for inside 50's. His work rate is in the top 5-10% of AFL players and features high in some key statistical areas for the team.



They're not mutually exclusive. If you're spreading quickly it is because you have leg speed. He chased down Warner with ease last week who is quick (albeit missed the tackle). He spends less time attending centre bounces because Cotch is ahead of him in that role and the other players who attend centre bounces are far more creative and zig zag out of traffic like Edwards and Bolton. It has less to do with speed and more to do with power in changing direction, but mostly because their are others ahead of him.
Still slow!
 

tony__montana

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He attended three centre bounces for the game. I don't know how many he attended last week but it wasn't many. No a coincidence that in round 1 he attended 16 and had a career best game.



He is literally the fastest moving player on the ground every game he plays. He is not lighting quick off the mark but he isn't slow. He lacks agility and is very much a run in straight line type of player which is why he often gets his kicks smothered inside 50. He had 15 playing off the half forward line and should have of had another 5 if he wasn't burned by his team mates who instead of giving it to him when he our second best kick on the run behind Dusty elected to go long and sit it on Jack and Lynchs head.

Last night he was second for pressure acts (24) behind Cotch (25), equal second for tackles (4), run the most km's on the field at 15.1, 2.9 of those at high speed (third best on ground), highest average moving speed on the ground at 10.3, most repeat sprints on the ground at 5, fifth for total sprints at 20.

Against Sydney he led the game in pressure acts (28), led the team for tackles with 5, second most km's at high speed at 2.2, second highest maximun speed at 31.5, highest average moving speed at 9.7km, second most sprints at 14 and second most repeat sprints at 3.

For the season he leads the team in tackles, third for metres gained, fifth for disposals and second for inside 50's. His work rate is in the top 5-10% of AFL players and features high in some key statistical areas for the team.



They're not mutually exclusive. If you're spreading quickly it is because you have leg speed. He chased down Warner with ease last week who is quick (albeit missed the tackle). He spends less time attending centre bounces because Cotch is ahead of him in that role and the other players who attend centre bounces are far more creative and zig zag out of traffic like Edwards and Bolton. It has less to do with speed and more to do with power in changing direction, but mostly because their are others ahead of him.
Great post, well said
 

Masotiger

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If anyone was disappointed in Graham's game, then start your criticism after you've dealt with Ross, Edwards, Lynch, the debutants, and Balta - he had a shocker!!

I see no reason to be critical of any. Undermanned, hometown umpiring, and we only lost by 2 points. Port have just set themselves up for an execution if we meet them again in September (especially at the 'G).
 

tropicaltiger

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If anyone was disappointed in Graham's game, then start your criticism after you've dealt with Ross, Edwards, Lynch, the debutants, and Balta - he had a shocker!!

I see no reason to be critical of any. Undermanned, hometown umpiring, and we only lost by 2 points. Port have just set themselves up for an execution if we meet them again in September (especially at the 'G).
jack graham has had 1 good game and 3 poor game, i am a little bewildered that his pressure acts are held in such high regard, i get it hes a good harasser and tackler but a lot of times hes just chasing guys who still manage to get a good kick or effective handball away. needs to lift and do it in a hurry. the guy is as brave, tough and determined as they come but his shoulder niggles still are a massive concern.
 

Grrr

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Well said. Was also recorded as our fastest player last year. Hopefully these actual facts shut the pieholes of some of his critics. Still nuffies thinking he's slow. A little one dimensional perhaps, but he ain't slow.

Wait now for nuffies to ignore facts Trump style because it doesn't suit their narrative "but, but, but he looks slow". This has only been thrashed out here for about fifty pages. Lol
He is not and never will be anywhere near the fastest at Richmond. Maybe the timer or the person reading it made a mistake, but there would be 10 players quicker over a short distance than Graham. But he is our best gut runner who can run at good speed all game. Yes he played well against Carlton, most of his possessions were running those lines between half back and half forward, and because we played well as a team that day he was involved in a lot of forward moves, and he's good at that. Struggles to get his hands on the ball when we are not playing so well as has been evident the last 3 games. Not playing bad, just not that good.
 

Tomnat Tigers

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He plays his best footy with more responsibility, I reckon we need to get him into more stoppages and centre bounces.
Fridays game would have been the perfect time to play him midfield. I know I counted Edwards letting Boak run free and winning the resulting clearance 4 times Friday night, at some point we needed to be more accountable and stop them rather than trying to win it ourselves. In those situations I would make the argument that Graham is our best option behind Cotch as he has showed in past games when he has tagged Crisp and in the 2017 granny.
 

cairo tiger

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I think you are getting leg speed and working on the spread mixed up. He doesn't play midfield because he isn't quick enough over short distance, short of acceleration, but his work up an down the ground is first class. But the past 3 weeks of 15 possessions is back to the footy he has played for a while. When we have the ball he is really good, but he struggles to get it when we don't.
spot on actually. you can be an aerobic beast and run all day, but we need him to win contests, surge and hurt teams.
 

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