NORTH Adelaide midfielder Hugh Jackson is one garnering attention with his eye-catching stat lines and prolific ball winning ability. He has enjoyed a sensational start to the SANFL Under 18s season, averaging 35 disposals and six clearances per his nine games with great consistency in his output. The Rostrevor College graduate is fully focussed on his football in 2021, working hard on his contested game and becoming a more complete midfield package.
His Roosters came up against Sturt for a second week running in the junior grade, trumping the Double Blues to the tune of 38 points at Unley Oval. Jackson was again instrumental in the victory, gathering 41 disposals and 12 clearances to become the prospect placed under our SANFL Under 18s Player Focus microscope this week. We run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 9 showing.
North Adelaide/South Australia
Under 18s: 9 games | 34.7 disposals | 19.1 kicks | 15.6 handballs | 7.4 marks | 3.6 tackles | 5.6 clearances | 6.0 inside 50s | 3.3 rebound 50s | 0.2 goals (2 total)
2021 SANFL Under 18s, Round 9 | North Adelaide 14.12 (96) def. Sturt 8.10 (58)
#12 Hugh Jackson (North Adelaide)
Stats: 41 disposals (30 kicks, 11 handballs), 5 marks, 3 tackles, 12 clearances, 11 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s
Jackson made a red-hot start for the Roosters, taking up his usual spot at the centre bounces and proving the go-to rover. He won the first centre clearance of the game and was able to win a couple more in the opening minutes by staying on the move and pushing off his opponent smartly.
He tended to wheel quickly onto his left side once in possession, pumping his legs to get into space before delivering a long kick forward. Once a couple of his initial inside 50 forays failed to hit targets, Jackson fed a lateral handball out of the next centre bounce in a handy adjustment.
The prolific ball winner was rotated off at around the nine-minute mark, earning a short rest before again being sighted about three minutes later. He showed clean hands to pick up off the deck at speed and flick out handballs, but his repeated attempts to burst through tackles saw some of his disposals scuppered under pressure.
Overall, it was a productive period in terms of ball winning, where Jackson was able to break into double digits for disposals and drive North forward with ball in hand.
The second term was a touch quieter by Jackson’s standards, despite again winning a good amount of ball. He saw repeat possessions in a few early passages but did much of his work under pressure, sending kicks straight up in the air, along the ground or with an awkward spin around the body.
Jackson still managed to latch onto the ball at stoppages and work into space on occasion, but even then his decision making and execution by foot let him down. His go-to was often a long kick down the line, but they would often be thrust to contests or outnumbers on the wing with no direct target in mind.
He found himself being tackled a lot more and attracted a couple of free kicks, using one to deliver inside 50 but seeing the pass dropped by his leading teammate. While able to register eight kicks for the quarter, Jackson’s impact came mostly at the contest with little damage coming away from it.
Jackson lifted once again in the third term, working his way around the outside of stoppages and finding a touch more room to operate. Instead of being caught as he did in the previous period, the North midfielder looked to dispose of the ball quickly and that led to some rushed execution under pressure.
He had a nice moment where he prized the ball out of a pack on the wing, got moving quickly into space and delivered a neat ball inside 50, only for it to again be fumbled by a teammate. That lowering of the eyes is something Jackson can do to further hurt the opposition, with his contested game another clear area for improvement.
Having again cracked into double digits for disposals throughout the term, Jackson was in the thick of things but continued to turn the ball over under Sturt’s pressure around the ball. His output was there, but the end product was not.
Jackson looked to finish strong with some added defensive acts, though his light frame made for tough work when looking to stick tackles. He also continued to accumulate a touch more away from the stoppages, dropping back to help transition out of defence and trying to drive forward on the outer.
His disposal by foot remained a touch off from those positions, but Jackson proved much neater when going inside forward 50 and provided some handy score assists. He hit Isaac Keeler and Adam Heath with short passes going inside 50, just putting enough on them for the key forwards to mark low before hitting the scoreboard.
It was a solid finish to the game for Jackson, as he again racked up possessions and did so with different methods. He was eventually able to sure up his disposal and ensure his work going forward resulted in North boosting their score.
There is no doubting Jackson’s ability to find the ball. He is prolific in that area and it isn’t a bad key strength to have, especially when the numbers look so good after nine rounds of Under 18 football. As a small midfielder, Jackson does not quite have the agility or strength to consistently burst through traffic, though it seems he is actively trying to boost his contested game. He works well on the outside of stoppages and gets his legs pumping to find space before sending long kicks forward. His neat-looking disposal could do with some sharpening, and being able to inflict more damage with his wealth of possessions will prove a big step in his development.
Image Credit: Naomi Jellicoe/The Advertiser