IN a return to our Player Focus piece, we take a look at a South Australian National Football League (SANFL) talent who has really stood out on the League stage. In Round 3 of the competition, our eyes were on Woodville-West Torrens (WWT) defender Lachlan Jones, who took part in the Eagles’ big win over Norwood.
SANFL LEAGUE ROUND 3 STATISTICS:
2 inside 50s
2 rebound 50s
It has been no surprise to see Jones fit in so seamlessly at SANFL League level, and he enjoyed arguably his best outing to date this past weekend against Norwood. While you wouldn’t blame the defender for not getting too much involved as the Eagles kept their opponents to just four goals in the 65-point thumping, Jones still managed to stamp his mark on the contest with some strong passages of play.
The Port Adelaide Next Generation Academy prospect initially lined up down back directly opposed to fellow State Under 18 squad member, Henry Nelligan, who was making his League debut. It took a couple of goes at the ball for Jones to find his feet, fumbling at ground level early, but finding his touch with a couple of contributions forward of centre.
Shortly after booting a long ball into the forward pocket, Jones would be seen aggressively hitting up at a ground ball just inside the arc, picking it up cleanly on the half-volley at pace and bustling his way through traffic. His disposal by hand lacked on two attempts, but the intent was there. Jones’ remaining touches for the opening term came in more conventional defensive positions; punting a long rebound 50 to find a teammate, and later showing that trademark power through the contest in covering his lines across defensive 50.
Jones’ ability to attack from defensive positions began to form an asset for the Eagles as they went on to dominate proceedings, with the youngster positioning well at half-back to intercept – almost presenting like a Norwood forward should have been to cut off attacking forays with confidence. He also doubled as a defensive outlet as the play slowed, finding space to possess the ball uncontested in a chip-around game across the back 50. His short kicks across goal may have been either a touch short or overcooked at times, but it didn’t cost his side.
It was a case of more of the same for Jones after the main break, as he continued to fight fire with fire from his usual half-back post. His speed off the mark to incite a fast break was pleasing on the eye, getting the Eagles moving forward with positive running from a throw-in on defensive wing. Jones was not afraid to throw his 89kg frame around either, but it almost cost his side a goal as he remonstrated with a Redlegs opponent who had put Rhyan Mansell down after his kick, seeing the downfield penalty overturned.
That would not deter Jones by any stretch, as he continued to hit up at the ball hard. He did overrun one ground ball, but managed to lock the ball up to prevent a turnover in the back half. Another well read intercept mark on forward wing, followed by a deep inside 50 entry would be two of Jones’ final highlights on the ball, with his lone tackle for the day a crunching one inside defensive 50 to cap off his impressive performance.
Jones’ versatility in defence and ability to stand up against mature bodies at senior level have both been outstanding to this point, placing him firmly in first round contention at this early stage. He is an impressive athlete, and utilises his vertical leap, speed, and strength on-field to make for an impressive, readymade package. Having become a staple of the WWT League side, Jones will undoubtedly be a star for SA come national carnival time.