Gazza benched in Dermie’s All-Australian forward line
THERE is a big difference between being a good forward with a good forward craft and being a good player who is effective in the forward half of the ground.
With the way the game is currently played, there are fast players who can outsprint their opponent back into an open forward line on a fast break and kick goals.
They are not necessarily good forwards, but players who have adapted to a role.
Natural forwards are players who start ahead of the football, with their back to their own goals, and with at least one close-checking defender glued to their side.
These players have often honed their craft over considerable time.
So as you would suspect, when tasked with picking my All-Australian forward line I have settled on those forwards who have instinct and wonderful forward craft.
I have picked six starting players and one interchange - two of them are key forwards, two hybrid forwards, two small forwards and a dangerous midfielder/forward.
TOM LYNCH (Rich)
Unlike many others, Lynch has played well at almost all times this season.
Even when his numbers looked low, he was performing a selfless role for his new club.
His heat map showed he was required constantly to stand under the long incoming ball so that the Tigers' game style remained similar while they had many soldiers down.
With Jack Riewoldt back as a similar key target, Lynch has been afforded more freedom to move into dangerous areas.
His hard, straight-line running, his contested-marking prowess (second in the competition) and his aggression have been everything that Richmond wanted when it recruited him.
JEREMY CAMERON (GWS)
The league's highest goalscorer so far this year is having another good season.
Cameron has added another layer to his bag of tricks - he has taken some big pack marks and he is the best in the competition at marking on the lead. Cameron once used guile and mobility to lose an opponent, but he has developed into a good, hard lead-up key forward who will jump into packs.
JACK DARLING (WC)
Darling has been a key in every facet of the game for the Eagles this season.
His contested-possession count is through the roof, almost doubling his uncontested-possession count. His contested-marking tally is in the league's top 10.
It is also difficult to envisage any other mobile key forward who tackles as hard as Darling. To top it all off, he'll probably reach 50 goals this round.
JORDAN DE GOEY (Coll)
Jordy is a star with X-factor. He possesses grace, tricks and power. His ability on the ground is amazing because of his core strength. While marking overhead, he can body out an opponent or sit on their back.
As with Richmond star Dusty Martin, De Goey is capable of being an A-grade midfielder. He is a goal-scorer and a crowd puller.
MICHAEL WALTERS (Fre)
When describing what style of player Walters is, I cannot help but label him a pure footballer. His movement as a footballer is what Dennis Lillee was to cricket with his bowling action purity.
''Sonny'' moves sideways to evade tacklers faster than most can run in a straight line. He has pace, a vertical leap, wonderful balance, great hands, a delightful kicking action and has had one of the best seasons - even better than the Dockers could have hoped for.
CHARLIE CAMERON (Bris)
Cameron wins plenty of the ball with his electric ability to accelerate from zero to 100. He has kicked 41 goals as a small forward, and is the only small forward in the top 10 goal-kickers.
He is not a noted tackler, but will use his pace to pressure the opposition into error.
Opponents cannot afford to blink when they play on him.
GARY ABLETT (Geel)
Another great year from the little master. He has, like his team, been a tad quieter of late, but the body of his work this season should not be underestimated.
He has kicked goals, he has set them up and he has reminded us just how capable he is with the ball in his hands.
On top of him helping the Cats rank No.1 for goals scored this season, he has also clocked up more than 350 possessions.
His body seems more capable this year than in recent times. And he has claims to be the best exponent in the competition at playing the high half-forward role.
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