2015 Draft Profile: Ben Crocker
Ben Crocker (Oakleigh Chargers)
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Position: Medium forward
Player comparison: Tom Bell
Strengths: Contested marking, goal kicking, leadership
Weaknesses: Endurance, questions over midfield development
First year impact: Low
Contested marking is a trait admired in players and put at a premium for anyone below 190 centimetres.
Oakleigh’s Ben Crocker is one of the best contested marks for his height and his vertical leap is also impressive.
While Crocker was unable to impact the TAC Cup grand final as he would have hoped, he showed throughout the finals series and indeed the home and away season, that he can stand up in big moments when required.
Crocker’s greatest asset of contested marking is also assisted by his reliability when kicking for goal.
The question surrounding his goal kicking is nothing to do with him personally, but whether or not he can be too unselfish at times.
Crocker can occasionally have a ‘team-first’ mentality and when within goal scoring range, can pass off to teammates he believes are in better positions.
While this can pay off, sometimes the opposition are wary of it and the ball is spoiled and cleared out of defence, or the player misses the set shot, something Crocker would have likely have nailed even from a tighter angle or longer distance.
Another trait that will hold Crocker in good stead is his leadership. He captained Oakleigh this season and led the team well on-field and off and most importantly, continued to work hard even when the chips were down.
In terms of areas for improvement, Crocker needs to improve his endurance and develop a game that allows him to play up the ground. As it stands, he is not a midfielder, but has the body that could impact in the middle among contests.
He has shown he is not afraid to go in or shy away from a contest, but does not have the tank to run through the middle on a consistent basis.
While Crocker is not quick, he is not overly slow either, and he has a good turning circle when chasing a ground ball. His bigger body allows him to break tackles from smaller players and he can often outsmart taller ones, which is what makes him a player that is so hard to match.
It is his endurance and questions over whether he could develop into a pinch-hitting midfielder that holds him back from being a top-line player.
No one would question his intensity, work ethic, leadership or forward pressure, which is paramount in the modern era as a medium forward.
In terms of draft range, Crocker is a second to third round selection, depending on where clubs rate him. He has a point of difference with his contested marking and reliable goal kicking, but whether clubs feel he can develop further into the midfield will be a sticking point.
Crocker lacks the class that former Oakleigh small forward and top five pick Jack Billings had, but he makes up for it with grunt and determination.
He could definitely fit in to a club like Carlton or Brisbane who need that medium tall forward who can take a grab and be relied upon to nail the important goals.
In many ways, Ben Crocker could be similar to a number of players, with the body similar to Tom Bell – a big frame for a medium player.
On draft night, it is likely Ben Crocker will find a club because he does offer something different to clubs who are looking for a forward, but he is more likely to spend some time in the reserves, particularly in his first season, for the club to assess how he develops.
He might even take a similar path to Brent Macaffer at Collingwood who was a small forward with a strong overhead grab, who then worked hard on his endurance to become a tagger who could hurt opposition midfielders when he ran offensively.
Overall, Crocker could become an important, dangerous and reliable forward, but if he could improve his midfield game, then his ceiling would increase astronomically.