Coming from a non-traditional football playing state has its drawbacks. Very few players are drafted from division two teams like NSW or Queensland, but Murray Bushrangers captain and NSW/ACT Rams vice captain Michael Gibbons is aiming to defy the odds. The prolific midfielder has had a stellar start to the 2013 season, racking up possessions with ease in the first half of the season for the Bushrangers. To add to this, Gibbons had a fantastic game on the weekend for his state, compiling a game high 29 disposals, including nine clearances and laid a monstrous 12 tackles against a highly touted South Australian midfield containing top draft prospects James Aish and Luke Dunstan.
The Rams gained plenty of confidence from the weekend’s game and Gibbons believes the team is a good chance to win their first division two title since 2009. “We have a really good group of players this year. We took it up to SA most of the day just had a 15 lapse in the second where they kicked six goals.”
On a personal level, Gibbons is very modest about his own game, preferring to talk up his teammates. “I was happy with my game but means nothing if I don’t take it into the rest of the carnival. Yeah it’s a great opportunity for division two teams to play against division one teams.” Gibbons feels the team will rely on an even contribution from all players to win on the weekend against Vic Country, but singled out draft hopefuls Jedd Clothier and Lloyd Perris as two players who are likely to impress recruiters this Sunday.
When asked about his own draft chances, Gibbons was quite bullish, “You never know what clubs are looking for. Obviously it’s what I’ve been working towards for a very long time and if I’m good enough I’ll make it I guess.” Despite his reluctance to sing his own praises, Gibbons has a number of draftable qualities like his clearance winning ability, competitiveness and his ability to go forward and be a menace to opposition defences. His knack for winning clearances is particularly notable given he is only 175cm and 70kg, making his nine clearances against the bigger bodied South Australian midfield all the more impressive.
Despite having his strengths, Gibbons does lack the speed and kicking efficiency that the top picks possess. He doesn’t have any alarming weaknesses to his game but he admits that “I’m not super quick and my field kicking needs to be better.” Recruiters will be nervous with Gibbons’ small stature, especially with the abundance of top players measured at under 180cm in this years draft, however Gibbons doesn’t see size as a problem.
“Size has never worried me, I thought it might have coming into the TAC Cup last year but I still don’t think it has hindered me. Of course in the eyes of the recruiters size is not in my favour, but there is nothing I can do about it.” Instead, Gibbons has been working on polishing other areas of his game to make up for his lack of height. “I’ve been working with Amon Buchanan, our midfield coach at the Rams and he has just given me some advice on how to make it as a small in the AFL. He has just said I need to keep getting a lot of the ball and make every disposal count. I also need to kick goals consistently and add that to my game.”
After the championships finish, Gibbons will go back to the Murray Bushrangers and hope to lead them to the finals on the back of some strong performances to keep him in the mind of recruiters. “We’ve been pretty inconsistent but when we play the kind of footy that we want then we can match it with anyone.” Inconsistency has plagued the Bushrangers this season, as their best footy, including a narrow 18 point loss to the undefeated Geelong Falcons, has been overshadowed by their poor footy too often, with last weekend’s mauling at the hands of Western Jets being a prime example of this.
Gibbons, a keen Hawthorn supporter, models his game on Trent Cotchin and Sam Mitchell. “I try and play as much as possible like Cotchin in regards to his work rate and intensity around the ball. Of course I’m nowhere near his level at the moment but that’s how I would like to be seen. Also someone like Sam Mitchell proving you don’t need to be super athletic to play footy.”
Next year if he is not drafted Gibbons plans to play football at the highest standard he can, whether it be in the VFL, WAFL or SANFL. However Gibbons should be confident of getting his name called out in November, especially with GWS’s ability to pre-select players from their zone of rural NSW and NT. His fate his in his own hands, as a strong finish to the year for the Rams and Bushrangers will ensure he finds his way onto an AFL list.
Michael Gibbons (Murray Bushrangers) averages 27.8 disposals, 10.33 handball receives, 4.2 marks, 3.5 tackles and 97.7 DT points