Western Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade told radio Sport 927 this morning that, among other things, he wants to give 2007 first-round draft pick Jarrad Grant 10 or more games in 2009, playing as a forward pocket or flanker as the third tall in the Dogs’ heretofore dwarfish forward line. Another forward rookie for fantasy coaches to salivate over!
Dogs fan Desipura started a couple of threads discussing Rocket’s appearance, both on WOOF and BigFooty. Other players touched on were Shaun Higgins, who is firming up as a Jason Porplyzia-type mid-range bolter (albeit possibly less popular if not classified as a fantasy forward), and Jarrod Harbrow of whom Eade had only good things to say, including the bold statement that Harbrow is in the Bulldogs’ best 22.
Of course, the Bulldogs have been crying out for height in their forward line for years, so it should come as no surprise that they want to inject Grant in there are soon as possible. Robert Murphy (186cm), Mitch Hahn (188) and Scott Welsh (188) currently occupy the first three spots in the Western Bulldogs depth chart in the key forward position, none of whom are tall enough to reach the 190cm cutoff for Champion Data to classify them as “Tall”. Grant was measured at 192cm at last count, and at the age of 19 may have added a few since last he was fitted up. I will be interested to see what his official 2009 weight will be when it gets updated, since he was listed in 2008 as 80kg, a far cry from Hahn at 99 and Welsh at 89, with the slighter Murphy at 82.
Forget the numbers though, what will the structure of the Dogs forward line be in 2009? For years it has been built around Brad Johnson, for better or worse, but the Smiling Assassin struggled for much of 2008 with multiple injuries and ailments, and the old stager’s body isn’t getting any younger. Nevertheless, he’s still their best forward and won’t be budged this year. Murphy’s role wouldn’t change, you’d think. Harbrow is apparently locked in as a defensive forward in the mould of Michael Osborne and Angus Monfries who can occasionally hurt the other way, while I suspect the experiment with using Jason Akermanis as a defender will be left on the scrapheap of the failed 2008 finals campaign, and he’ll be another small forward. Higgins and Daniel Giansiracusa may drift in and out of a forward flank while rotating on the ball.
That leaves Hahn, Welsh and Grant fighting for the second and third tall forward spots. Even the Dogs fans seem not to know how this is going to play out. Who is Grant going to pinch half a season off? Welsh and Hahn missed one game between the two of them all last year, including finals. Could we see Johnson moved out of the square to a flank, Grant into the square and Akermanis shifted up the ground permanently? Do Higgins and Gia get no resting space on that flank, instead having spells on the bench like the other full-time midfielders? How does Josh Hill fit in? Something’s got to give.
The easiest solution is to predict that Welsh will be the odd man out… or, as some Dog fans are saying pessimistically, wait for injuries to make the decision for Eade. My opinion is that if the choice is left to Rocket, he’ll marginalise Welsh at a pinch, but his preference may be to keep all three and luxuriate in loading up on talls for certain opponents, something he hasn’t been able to do for years with the Dogs list. With the Bulldogs playing so often in the Dome, Eade won’t have to worry as much about going in too tall-heavy with the dry surface and lack of wind making for good marking conditions week after week.
What’s your take? Do you believe in the Great Tricolour Hope? As a tall forward with a body type that traditionally does poorly in Dream Team as a rookie but okay in Super Coach, is he anything more than an SC bench player, or can he find a way into your side between all the other tall and small forward rookies who are bobbing up this year? Tell me in the comments.