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Knights commits to Neagle and Gumbleton

Knights on Neagle, Gumbleton

Essendon coach Matthew Knights has told the Sunday Age that he is going to play youngsters Jay Neagle and Scott Gumbleton alongside old stagers Matthew Lloyd and Scott Lucas in the Bombers forward line this season. Fantasy coaches who are already looking at an embarrassment of riches in the forward rookie choices are going to want to know what this means for their statistics.

The Sunday Age story includes this key passage, which was supported by a story on the AFL site.

In 2009, Knights will raise eyebrows with a tall forward structure including Matthew Lloyd, Scott Lucas, Jay Neagle and Scott Gumbleton, whose anticipated return after spending his first two seasons on the sidelines was underlined at the start of spring-summer training with a 15.4 beep test.

“Throw in Adam McPhee and David Hille, who goes forward a bit, and I guess we’ll resemble a tall timber forest, but I’ll stick to it because we’ve just got to get games into Neagle and Gumbleton,” said Knights. “I know it’s left of centre and it will be 10 or 15 games before you might see some progress, but in the short term I’m not interested in their form because in the long term I know it’s the right thing to do.”

Knights may not be interested in their form (come on mate, gimme a break!), but fantasy coaches are. Traditionally, AFL teams are selected with three tall forwards, so four talls is a big departure. A lot of coaches are going to be copying what Hawthorn did this year, which was to go with a four-forward structure that left one of Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughead or Mark Williams one out in the square, depending on the matchup, and the other three including Michael Osborne as a forward tagger standing on the 50 metre arc. Other teams use variations of this strategy, with the half-forward flankers running into the centre to join the midfield.

With four talls plus Leroy Jetta as the crumber and maybe a forward tagger who can hurt on the scoreboard like Angus Monfries, this probably means that one or two of the four talls will have to spend a lot of time up the ground… unless the Bombers take a leaf from previous Alastair Clarkson tactics and go with a new version of Buddy’s Box, the four-cornered system pioneered by the Hawks in 2007 which isolated four key forwards one on one by spacing them evenly around the 50. Gumby’s Bin, perhaps?

I think the snippet above about Gumbleton’s beep test is key here. Lloyd will continue to run up the ground as he did for much of 2008, so his production won’t falter, but if Gumby can go with him, he may also get rotations through the midfield and, like Lloyd, turn into a decent fantasy player. On the other hand, this probably spells bad news for Lucas, who will be fighting for inside 50 targets with three other talls. I could very well foresee this four-prong structure turning into a three-tined trident on the field, with Lucas and Neagle swapping for each other as third tall inside 50. Of course, the default position is that Gumbleton and Neagle would be the ones spending most time on the pine, but I still don’t trust Lucas’ fitness after his poor second half of 2008.

This is obviously a work in progress, and we probably won’t get to see the full version of this new forward structure in the NAB games to gauge what each tall’s role will become before the real stuff kicks off. What’s your opinion, who is going to win and who will lose? And don’t say everyone’s a winner, that’s patently not going to be true. All four of these players are fantasy relevant in 2009 so this is a big issue. Tell me how you think this will play out in the comments.



  1. Hello?

    January 4, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I blieve in martians

  2. Scuzzlebut

    January 4, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    I had Lucas and Gumby in my team until I red that article. I cant see the 4 of them playing together. 2 can barely string 2 games together and the other 2 are probably in their final year. I think I’ll keep Gumby and lose Lucas. At 31, he was always going to be a risk anyway.

  3. Simon

    January 4, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    As a huge bombers fan, I feel I can give an educated view here.

    1. If Knights said this is what he is going to do, 99.9% of a chance of happening. He’s taking a long term view with our list which is making many fans happy. Of course, it could change with injury and if we happen to lose 8 straight like we did last year.

    2. Neagle is tallish, but if he loses weight, he could be much more of a mobile forward than he has shown to date. Injuries keep keeping his pre-seasons to a minimum, which is absolutely crucial to such a young player. My understanding is that he again is having an interrupted pre-season.

    3. Lucas had his best year at full forward when Lloyd was injured in 2006…

    4. Just a thought, but there could be a fair few rotations between Neagle, Laycock, Gumbleton and co. I would expect Neagle to have low TOG because of his fitness query. If Gumby has a big tank, he may be given time to “work over” his opponent.

    So, I would have thought that it would be good news for Lucas, Lloyd and Gumby, but I stay away from Neagle.

  4. ryz

    January 4, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    at the moment i have gumby and lucas too, think im going to keep both, lucas only needs 1 massive game where he kicks 8 in the first 5-6 rounds with a couple of avg. ones and then ride it out till i can get one of the big forwards who will hopefully be dudding it bigtime

    i liked that knights said add mcphee and hille to that, as if mcphee wont be playing forward to start off with, i got him penciled in at the moment, surely hes still hbf rebound game will return…? love it

  5. Brendan

    January 4, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Lucas is too cheap to pass up at the start of the year.

  6. ryz

    January 4, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    also, went to quite a few essendon games last year, as im a member (for no idea why), and for me, with a very biased dt eye, was always watching mcphee (promise im not in love) and he was quite clearly the number one target on the half forward line, especially pushing towards the flanks in a one on one.

    with lloyd pushing up the ground, lucas (if he was in) was the only decent target inside 50.

    perhaps as i interpreted it, with mcphee not playing forward, that is gumby’s role now, lloyd still pushing up, with neagle and lucas working off each other with guys like gus and davey jetta etc. crumbing

    just my opinion but essendon got alot of one out options that you would back in a contested situation, especially if given room to work in? loved going to essendon games both teams would always look dangerous and there was alot of attacking football

  7. Chad

    January 4, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    I think being priced at 236k Lucas is a little too cheap to pass up. Essendon seem to get a lot of injuries and round 1 is still a long time away.

    How would this effect their DT scores? i dont know, it is great to be re-assured that Lucas is getting games though.

  8. Lakey91

    January 4, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    scuzzlebut, why drop the proven, previously durabile lucas instead of the drop the injury prone rookie (gumby)?

    Im still gonna have lucas barring a preseason mishap, though gumbleton im not too sure about still.

  9. dylan

    January 5, 2009 at 2:38 am

    is there a big chance gumbleton will get injured again? i cant remember what his injury was and if there is a chance it will happen again?

  10. Dan

    January 5, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Where does Alwyn Davey fit into this ?

  11. ryz

    January 5, 2009 at 10:43 am

    prob pushing more up to the wing as he was doing earlier before he broke his arm, him and jetta iirc were starting on the bench too i think coming on about 5-10 mins in to create some mismatches

  12. Dan

    January 5, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    thanks ryz

  13. Scuzzlebut

    January 5, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Lakey91, reason for keeping Gumby is that if fit, he WILL play (regardless of form, apparently). Can’t say that about too many rookies. Plus he was picked at number 2, so he must be ok. Reason for dropping Lucas is that he is 31 and returning from injury. I may miss a golden opportunity to get a reliable forward, but I have just been burnt too many times by 1) older players, 2) players returning from injury, and 3) players getting dropped because of a youth policy. Add to that the amount of forward options Essendon have, including small forwards like Davey, Monfries, Jetta, and McPhee and Hill pushing forward, and I can’t see ML, SL, SG and JN all playing together. Just my humble opinion.
    It’s only January though – I’m sure Lucas will be in and out of my fanplanner more times than Lloyd has taken a dive.

  14. Simon

    January 5, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    If you look at Lucas’s history, he would be one of the most durable players going around.

  15. ryz

    January 5, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    apparently gumby has a massive leap, quick and agile and hes a monster. just not very bulky at the mo.

    lucas will play and wont be dropped unless hes injured, hes one of theyre best, essendon were competitive last year and were rooted by injuries, i dont rate them that highly but everyone recons they are turd yet thinks teams like carlton are all jets. not saying essendon are good but they not as bad as everyone says and theyre gonna be out there playing to win from round one…

    dont just wheel out the ‘youth policy’ thing before the years even started, use it as an excuse when your clearly not up to it any more…

    scotty will play

  16. NuB

    January 5, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    If Knights is looking long term then why didn’t he delist Lucas.

  17. Scuzzlebut

    January 5, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Be nice, ryz – it’s just my opinion. And at this time of year, it’s all just hearsay and speculation anyway.

    Ps what do those 3 dots at the end of a sentence mean? I’ve seen it a few times on this site.

  18. ryz

    January 5, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    nah, not having a go at ya bud, not at all, i worded it poorly. what i meant is that surely the bombers will be going into round one thinking they want theyre best side on the park, not thinking, we needa get as many kids in as possible

    when they start losing or falling behind and theyre best side isnt cutting it, blood some kids

    therefore surely lucas will be in the squad, barring injury for as long as he is providing something. i still recon hes worth the punt personally

    and as for the … no idea, i just do it out of habit

  19. Scuzzlebut

    January 6, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Oh, my bad. I’ve a been a little paranoid lately because of the evil monkey that loves in my closet…

  20. Simon

    January 6, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    If fit and firing, Gumbleton and Neagle would be in our best 22. Lucas does know how to play CHB…:)

  21. ryz

    January 6, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    that loves in your closet….intresting

  22. Scuzzlebut

    January 6, 2009 at 1:31 pm


  23. Scuzzlebut

    January 6, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Freudian slip

  24. FITZY

    January 8, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Gumby will play,as for lucas 2 years ago he was almost all Australian he is only 230k will go up massivly in price,not convinced about neagle a beautiful kick for goal but very slow

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