Lewis Fitzgerald (Oakleigh Chargers)
Height: 190 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Position: Outside Midfielder/ Half Forward
Player Comparison: Jackson Macrae
Strengths: Long silky kick, solid marking target, classy
Weaknesses: doesn’t get enough of the ball, inconsistent, doesn’t work hard defensively
There’s a big difference between Lewis Fitzgerald’s best and his worst. The only thing stopping him being a really high quality player is his lack of consistency. At his best, he is a classy match winner who delivers the ball into the forward 50 like no other. At his worst, which is unfortunately more common, he is the kind of guy who just isn’t sighted and he lets his opponent off the hook.
Against the Western Jets at the start of the year, Fitzgerald was best on ground in a tough draw. He had ten marks, nine of which were uncontested. When the ball came outside the 50, he seemed to get to the right spots to be free in dangerous space. He repeatedly delivered the ball inside the 50 with such class and the Oakleigh forwards received it right where they wanted it. He isn’t fussed with what foot he kicks it on, but his left boot is silky whether it be over 50 metres or 20 metres.
With his height, athletic ability and footskills, he’s exactly the kind of Andrew Gaff or Jackson Macrae type that you want to just give the ball forward of the centre square. He can turn the game with just 15 touches. For a developing team wanting to build a dangerous midfield, Fitzgerald could end up being the centre piece. However it’s going to take some time for that to happen.
Firstly, he needs to develop the defensive side of his game. He simply doesn’t tackle enough or at least apply pressure. He’s a bit of a downhill skier in that he’ll bust a gut to run forward, but when the balls going the other way, he’ll only work at 60-70%. Whilst he can break the game open with 15 touches, that won’t cut it at AFL level.
There’s two ways that Fitzgerald could become a better player. Firstly, he could be trialled as a tagger. Not only would that help his defensive game out, but he’d be able to work on his inside game and he could ensure his opponent has to be accountable because Fitzgerald could hurt them going the other way. He could also get more of the ball playing in the centre rather than on the wing.
Alternatively and perhaps more logically, Fitzgerald could play off a half back flank. His size would be great when manning up defensively and he could alternate between smalls and talls. He could also work on his accountability down back, whilst providing run and creative kicking when running forward. Cheap touches in the back line may increase his confidence and make him a better player.
In the Bound For Glory News Rising Stars Phantom Draft, Fitzgerald was taken with pick 64 by Carlton because of his ability to be that dangerous runner and impact games with limited disposals. Fitzgerald is a talented player, but he is flawed. If he works on his deficiencies, he could become a high level AFL player. As an offensive weapon, Fitzgerald has it all. He may be a diamond in the rough late in the draft.