Strategy Aaron Naughton - Key Defender or Key Forward?

dogwatch

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Seems to me that this is worth a thread of its own as there appear to be strong feelings on either side of the argument and it's one that is central to both our game strategy in 2020 (and beyond) and to our recruiting strategy in 2019 (and probably beyond).

Should we play Aaron Naughton as a key defender or key forward?

I've been arguing we'll get more out of him long term as a key defender but I acknowledge there are good arguments to be made for either side. Judging by responses so far I'm probably in the minority. Here's how I view the arguments as of today, but I welcome constructive comment and further arguments.

I acknowledge that the way the rest of the season plays out could alter the debate. I'd love him to kick 10 against the Cats. That'd shut me up.

WHY HE SHOULD BE PLAYED AS A FORWARD
  • Quality KPFs are rare and hard to come by and he's shown he can play the role.
  • It's easier to recruit quality KPDs.
  • Quality KPFs can influence a result to a greater extent than a quality KPD (OK, I'll admit I haven't heard that said yet but it seems like a good argument)
  • Even if he's not kicking a bag himself he draws the #1 defender (and maybe even multiple defenders) which creates opportunities for other players, especially Josh Schache.
  • His numbers as a KPF may not be great so far but ... Dog help him ... he's only 19. He'll improve massively in the next 1-2 years.
  • Naughton isn't strong enough to match it with the gorilla KPFs like Hawkins so he doesn't provide anything we haven't already got in defence.
  • Who are we going to replace Naughton with up forward if we move him to defence?
WHY HE SHOULD BE PLAYED AS A DEFENDER
  • It's his natural position, the one he has always played.
  • Many defenders occasionally pinch-hit quite well as a forward but very few become elite KPFs over the long term. (Gehrig is one that comes to mind)
  • He has already shown himself to be elite (or close to it) as a defender in his first year of AFL (18yo). Despite 2-3 good games out of 14 this year he hasn't yet shown himself to be elite as a forward (19yo).
  • We run the risk of ruining his career development if we play him forward (not really an argument of mine but I think David King argued this pre-season).
  • He has kicked more than one goal on only 3 occasions this year. Rd 1 vs Sydney (caught them unawares?), Rd 7 vs Richmond (yes, a superb game but was given a lot of latitude) and Rd 8 vs Brisbane. Since then clubs have identified him as a threat and put tactics in place to limit his opportunities. This has NOT translated into more wins or heaps more goals elsewhere, except possibly for Schache in Rds 14-15 (however it's too early to say Schache's revival is due to Naughton's presence as a forward).
  • If we need to play Naughton forward for Schache to be productive we have got a problem. Naughton+Schache in Rds 14-15 have produced a total of 6 goals (avge 3/game). That's what we should be expecting from Naughton or Schache on their own.
  • Schache could be getting the same structural benefits by playing someone else as a KPF alongside him (eg Lewis Young, English or Trengove)
  • It's actually NOT that easy to recruit genuinely elite tall defenders. Happy to discuss examples if you want. Our last one was Lake who was drafted 16 years before we drafted Naughton.
  • We have NOBODY on our list who can match it with the gorilla KPFs. The nearest we've got is Trengove. We have to compete by using a sound defensive structure. Having a quality intercept mark / CM who is mobile like Naughton is fundamental to that.
  • Either way we are at least one KPP short. We do have Schache and some options (like Lew Young) to go with him. Not ideal but nor is our defence. Either way we need to look to the draft or trade.
  • In summary Naughton gives us more as a defender than as a forward.
I realise that MC is on the KPF side of the debate right now. I'd be interested to know whether they have put any time limits to the experiment.
Anyway this is just my opinion. Some stats to follow.
If I'm wrong and he turns into a champion FF with 50-60+ goals every year I'll be just as happy as the rest of you.

Go for it.
 
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dogwatch

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And here are some stats that show a slightly disturbing drop-off in his figures since the Round 8 game against Brisbane. There may well be good reasons for that, but it might just be that opposition sides have figured out how to deal with him and he/we haven't yet worked out a counter-strategy.

If his numbers were consistent all year along the lines of the first 8 rounds I might be less inclined to argue for him to be played in defence, at least for the rest of this year.

Anyway, in summary it shows that Naughton's Rds 1-8 outperformed his Rds 9-15 by the following:

Kicks 143%
HB 118%
Disposals 134%
CPs 147%
UPs 125%
Marks 159%
M50 263%
CMs 313%
Goals 263%
Behinds 107%
GAs 300%

They are pretty much all the key stats for a KPF that I have access to.

Here are the raw numbers:
702273
 

mackem

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I say leave him forward. Since the Richmond game clubs are putting more effort in stopping him. While they are doing that it frees up JS
 

Golden_6

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NOT IN THE RUCK.

We finally have a quality KPF/D and Bevo risks him in the centre square.

Madness.
I thought he was quite pivotal in there on the weekend. He’s a big 195cm body. There’s nothing wrong with giving him him spot minutes every now and then to get him into the game as long as it isn’t a regular thing. Hawks used to play Roughy in the ruck regularly and it was lauded.
 

Wocka

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I thought he was quite pivotal in there on the weekend. He’s a big 195cm body. There’s nothing wrong with giving him him spot minutes every now and then to get him into the game as long as it isn’t a regular thing. Hawks used to play Roughy in the ruck regularly and it was lauded.
He was quite good on the weekend but how will you feel if he does a knee?

Sacrifice Trengove or even Sweet - that's what they're for.
 

Golden_6

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He was quite good on the weekend but how will you feel if he does a knee?

Sacrifice Trengove or even Sweet - that's what they're for.
What about English? Or Grundy? Or Gawn?

They play football, he can do a knee in any marking contest jumping at the ball.
 

Mattdougie

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When Aaron says he is a defender and that’s where he wants to play that’s what we should do

We played Tom Boyd where he didn’t want to play and how did that work out long term?
 

Dogsman16

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Everyone knows my strong thoughts on Naughton. But putting him into the ruck for a bit was a masterstroke. Im not calling for him to play forward/ruck but it didn't do him any harm.

I'll say no more (try to) on the subject except this. McGovern, Sicily, Keath, Howe, Harris Andrews, are some of the best intercept defenders in the game. All 5 would easily be inside the top 10 in this role. None of these were high picks and can be found later in the draft. If we want someone to replace the Naughton intercept role (whilst he plays forward), they aren't all that difficult to find. Haynes and Moore probably the only top 10 interceptors that spring to mind that were top 10 picks.

Marcus Adams was a revelation in the first 12 games of his career in this role. Hamling also very competent and now has the plaudits at Fremantle. Meanwhilst we have been crying out for a long term Key forward for well over a decade.

Post 2011 (Post Barry Hall) the best output from a key forward for the dogs has been 22 goals. Naughton should have surpassed this already if he kicked straighter. If he remains forward he will go past this as a 19 year old who has never played forward before. Give him a decent mentor and some help from addition forward support and the answer to me is obvious.

Not to mention we burn him more than any player I have seen in the AFL. So many times we have missed him with an acre of space.
 

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Dogsman16

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When Aaron says he is a defender and that’s where he wants to play that’s what we should do

We played Tom Boyd where he didn’t want to play and how did that work out long term?
IMO where a player wants to play really should be irrelevant. Im sure M,Boyd wasn't to keen on a move to defence, Dale Morris played on much larger opponents and Liam Picken played where the team needed him to. Midfield tagger, Small shutdown defender and then small forward. He did it all.

Also Boyds physical attributes were as much to blame as anything. He wasn't quick enough to get separation on the lead and provide defensive pressure, nor was he strong enough to be in the Tom Hawkins mould. Cant have 2 ruck sized players in the forward line at the same time so he was forced to play a duel role.
In any case I don't believe him having to play "out of position" had anything to do with how his career ended up.
 

Samael

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I say leave him forward. Since the Richmond game clubs are putting more effort in stopping him.
Which in turn, has seen him become less effective.
While they are doing that it frees up JS
This guy only just came back into the team after several weeks in the VFL. Let's see if he can keep it up before concluding Naughton is the key to him not being rubbish.
 

Yojimbo

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I think the fact Naughton has proved adept at both ends at such a young age is awesome and I think
where he ends up can purely come down to who we get in. I would have got Hammelmann from the
NEAFL and played Naughton back this year, but I am used to being disappointed even though the
guy could be a total tool for all I know. Like Sydney Stack some times you have to take a leap of
faith, Richmond did and there are a lot of pretty embarrassed so called experts who must be kicking
themselves.

Back to the topic, I guess my biggest frustration is that we have a great age demographic in our
midfield at the moment, but our big guys are so raw it should be the other way around in a perfect
world, but the world is not perfect. We keep signing up the same type of player and I for one would
gladly sacrifice one to land a Harry McKay or someone of a similar ilk. McKay and Schache and I
don't think we are having this argument as Naughton goes back along with Michael Hartley oops.
Anyway at the moment I don't think it matters because at his age he should NOT be the main man
that sadly is a reflection of where we are at, AT EITHER END BY THE WAY.

Great white hoping should be an Olympic Sport out west, because our trophy cabinet would be
overflowing.
 

Mattdougie

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IMO where a player wants to play really should be irrelevant. Im sure M,Boyd wasn't to keen on a move to defence, Dale Morris played on much larger opponents and Liam Picken played where the team needed him to. Midfield tagger, Small shutdown defender and then small forward. He did it all.

Also Boyds physical attributes were as much to blame as anything. He wasn't quick enough to get separation on the lead and provide defensive pressure, nor was he strong enough to be in the Tom Hawkins mould. Cant have 2 ruck sized players in the forward line at the same time so he was forced to play a duel role.
In any case I don't believe him having to play "out of position" had anything to do with how his career ended up.
So playing a player somewhere he wants to play and by extension keeping him happier is unimportant? Ummmm ok

And comparing a 19 year old who has the world at his feet to a 30 year old trying to save his career and had no choice is just plain irrelevant sorry mate.
 

Dogsman16

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A question id ask for the Naughton to go to defence advocates is this. Hypothetically this weekend Naughton plays a full game in defence. Is he lining up against Hawkins direct? Playing on the resting ruck and trying to peel off an intercept? Just curious on your preferred defensive role?

FWIW I think I wouldn't be so opposed to Naughton in defence had this been a question in 2016. Not that he was on the list but Naughton in defence in 2016 would have been a stronger argument. A team with a dominant midfield and pressure across the ground suits intercepting defenders to a tee. Slower ball movement, very little clean ball into forward 50 makes intercepting defenders worth there weight in gold.

But in a team such as ours at the moment with a very strong (but not dominant midfield) and not great defensive pressure up forward I think interceptors can become a liability.
Interceptors are often slave to the movement up field. Your greatest asset when everything goes to plan but your greatest liability when the pressure isn't there.

Cordy is an example of this. He is very aggressive in his positioning (often 5 metres in front of his opponent). He looks to peel off at every opportunity. As a result he's become our biggest liability.
 
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Dogsman16

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So playing a player somewhere he wants to play and by extension keeping him happier is unimportant? Ummmm ok

And comparing a 19 year old who has the world at his feet to a 30 year old trying to save his career and had no choice is just plain irrelevant sorry mate.
Playing a player in the position that gives the team the best chance to win the game is the only important factor. Bev at the moment believes Naughton is best suited to playing forward.
 

dogwatch

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I think when he was asked earlier in the year Naughton said he saw himself mainly as a defender but was prepared to give it a go as a forward, would do what was best for the team, yadda yadda. (You figure out the subtext, if any.)

Is it significant? I don't know, but if other clubs ever got the whiff of him being unsettled* they'd be in his ear in no time flat with an offer of playing as a defender.

Fortunately he has just signed a lengthy contract extension so let's hope it never comes to that.


* For the inevitable one or two with limited reading comprehension here I'm NOT saying he is unsettled right now. Thought I'd better make that clear.
 

stefoid

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His stats as a 19yo key forward are almost irrelevant. If clubs gave up on potential key forwards who average less than a goal a game in their 2nd year, there would hardly be any key forwards at all.

He has all the attributes to play the position in an elite manner - attributes that cant be taught - insane athleticsm, great mark and super competitive. All he lacks is experience in the position and Ive got no doubt he will be elite in it in a few years if left to learn it.

The only reason this is even a question is because he is also very good in defence as well, and will be elite in that position sooner.

Failed forwards get turned into defenders because its an easier gig. We can find a quality key defender in the draft/trade period easier than we can find a quality forward.
 

TMoney22

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Forward but not primarily in the goal square. I want to see him up the ground more providing an option where he doesn't have to wrestle the FB. But need a quality 2nd ruck/KPF for that.

if he really is disgruntled about playing forward then we probably need to consider that
 

ossie_21

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Prefer him back, just isn’t a natural goalkicker. Missed some very gettable goals as they’ve been “defender kicks”. It’s a skill that can be worked on & improved though.

I feel it depends on what we end up with in trade time. If we can get a quality KPF, send him back. If we can get a quality KPD, leave him forward. Getting both is my preference though
 

stefoid

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Everyone saw what happens if defenders let him get a free jump at the ball. So they stopped doing that. His whole career he has been playing as a defender where you generally get a free jump at the ball. Bit of a shock to have one or two opponents whose sole mission is to shove and block you any time the ball gets near.

It would be nice to have Gowers back in form and charging around running into opposition defenders to help out the big blokes.
 
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