Why don't clubs tag first-gamers? Stunt their growth....

Tag Youngsters/First gamers?

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Premiership Player
Jun 9, 2014
AFL Club
I mean you see someone like Rankine having his first game, kicking 3 and getting confidence. Why do clubs allow this? I know it may seem like a dick move and may go against AFL values. But If I was a coach I would put a hard tag on a first gamer/promising first gamer. Rough them up, crush their spirits, stunt their growth and let them wither in the 2nds.

As-they-say kill it before it grows.

Take Matt Rowell for example. I would have followed these steps to stunt his potential growth and confidence. Turn him into Jack watts
1) First game: chuck a Ryan Crowley tag on him for his first game. Let him collect 8 possessions
2) Second game: chuck another hard tag on him for his second game. Let him collect <10 possessions. Build some self doubt in his mind
3) Third game: chuck another hard tag on him. Put a real dent in his confidence.
4) Fourth game: coach drops him out of B22. This should put a real cut in his confidence. He will go to the seconds. If he fails to come back to the B22 he will be effectively killed
5) Fifth game: returns to the B22. Another hard tag. Once he gets dropped again we can almost put a line through him.

So every single coach needs to pledge that they will target rookies/first gamers. The only coaches that will not agree are bottom 4 teams for obvious reason. But I see no reason why the top 8 teams can't all agree to do this. Will help maintain their standings. I know there are some young players that will always rise to the top regardless of this tactic but a good % of them will not.
Not everyone is as mentally weak as watts and I'm sure clubs have more pressing concerns in the oppo team than the 1st gamer. That's why


Fish, chips, cup 'o tea, Mary @#? Poppins. London!
Oct 9, 2009
AFL Club
Other Teams
Fun fact - everybody's favourite Mr Nice Guy, Eddie Betts, got arrested that night.

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Linda Lovelace

Club Legend
Apr 24, 2013
AFL Club
The best part about the Jack Watts game was bumping into a neutral supporter before it started who had rocked up to the 'G specifically just to 'see the gun recruit'.

He didn't realise he was coming to watch the gun recruit star in his very own snuff film.

Herne Hill Hammer

Premium Platinum
Jun 22, 2008
AFL Club
Most of the time the talent (top drafts) are playing for sh*t clubs so shouldn't be hard to spot them. As for the WCE example well tough. Separates boys from men. Up to the club to protect their players and the player himself. In 2007 not all the listed were debuts. Gary Ablett had his breakout already. You specifically target first year players in a bid to stunt or slow their growth long term.

No different tactic then clarko costing fev his 100. I feel like clarko would be up for it.
2007 was Selwood's debut season.


Premiership Player
Nov 13, 2006
AFL Club
Other Teams
Boston Celtics
Are you sure first gamers have less or no impact? I'd love to see the statistics of how well first round draft picks perform in their first game.

Do coaches care about developing their young players? But shouldn't that be a legitimate strategy?
I think for every Rowell/Rankine type performance there would be, 8-10 - at least - where the first gamer wouldn't be in the top 15 players on the ground. Think about how many players debut every season. I get the point you're making, and with top 10/first round draft picks you can probably assume, given their high draft position, that the players are reasonably talented, however I believe the instances like Rankine and Rowell, which no doubt prompted this thread, are the absolute exceptions and not the rule.

Think about the best young talent in the league (off the top of my head):
- Sam Walsh: Are you tagging him, or Cripps?
- Bailey Smith: Are you tagging him, or Bont/McCrae/Dunkley?
- Connor Rozee: Are you tagging him, or Gray/Boak?
- Tom Green: Are you tagging him, or Coniglio/Kelly/Taranto?

Just seems like an exercise that it likely to let better, more experienced players off the hook in the hope you'll nail the 1 in 10-15-20 rookie Rowell/Rankine type. Doesn't add up.


Club Legend
May 1, 2007
AFL Club
West Coast
There’s no expectation on a first years performance, so even if they have 5-10 touches and get tagged, they are still doing their bit for the team. You’d be really encouraging mid week and I doubt they get discouraged.

A champion player would rise above that anyway. You’d probably even aid the development as they would get better at dealing with it earlier.


Norm Smith Medallist
Sep 20, 2009
Pascoe Vale
AFL Club
Assuming this is a serious thread....probably there's a strong element of M.A.D. in there.

If your team develops a reputation for intentionally smashing up a young kid in his first game(s), what's going to start happenning to your promising kids when they run out on the field?

Abba Lonie

Brownlow Medallist
Oct 7, 2002
AFL Club
Other Teams
Better off going out of your way to be super nice to them and make their first game a really pleasant experience - especially if they play for an interstate team and are from the same state as where your team is based.

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Norm Smith Medallist
Aug 19, 2015
Gold Coast
AFL Club
Other Teams
Arsenal, Denver Broncos
Because you don't realistically expect a first year, or first game player, to have the impact we've seen lately.

The likes of Walsh, Rowell and Rankine having huge impacts early on in there career is an aberration, not the norm. 95% of first gamers and rookies have good moments now and then, maybe the odd good overall game, but rarely a team altering impact over the course of a season. If you tag a first gamer as a coach you're making a poor decision.

If you were playing against Carlton in rd 1 2019, do you tag Walsh or Cripps? Well, obviously it's Cripps. If you tag Walsh you're a moron.


Brownlow Medallist
Sep 26, 2012
AFL Club
Most of the players in that Melbourne team could barely walk on flat surfaces without tripping over, Jack Watts was an easy target. Most first gamers are no names compared to their teammates


Norm Smith Medallist
Nov 8, 2007
AFL Club
We all know Matt Rowell for example is going to be a star. Are we just going to allow him be a star and grow....

But long term the strategy might be effective and reap rewards
If it was a 2-team comp then sure.

Then your short term sacrifice (not tagging the star) is worth the long term gain (the kid being stunted) because you play them every week and no other clubs benefit.

As you add more teams your sacrifice benefits the other teams. Plus if they dont tag him eventually that kid could break out amyway and its all for nothing.

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