WITH the Tasmania Devils players quickly having to change their weekend plans due to the Victorian lockdown, the top teenagers in the state headed back to the Tasmanian State League (TSL) competition. There, Draft Central took a focus on one particular player who set the game alight on the weekend in Launceston’s Zach Morris who stunned the TSL with a whopping nine goals in his first game up forward.
28/01/2003 | Medium Defender
188cm | 88kg
The Tasmania Devils medium defender has been a consistent player over the past four rounds played, lifting his game to record five or more rebound 50s in three of those games, while amassing 16 or more touches in each. What stands out in his game is his strong hands, good read of the ball in flight, and great body positioning and preparation for the mark which helps him win one-on-one contests with ease. Having not played forward all season – including for Launceston – Morris was thrown up the opposite end by coach Mitch Thorp to trial how he would go.
Launceston is the premier team of the Tasmanian State League (TSL) and the Blues flexed their muscles with a mind-boggling 28.13 (181) 5.5 (35) victory over Glenorchy. Whilst the Magpies are by no means a premiership contender, they had picked up the four wins coming into the match, whilst the Blues were a dominant 14-1 on top of the table. After a relatively even start in the first 18 minutes with only a few points separating the sides, the Blues piled on 26 of the next 29 goals in a complete shellacking – including leading the Magpies by 116 points at the final break.
Morris played forward the entire match, predominantly deep forward, though he did rotate up to half-forward in order to give teammates a rest closer to goal. Along with his own individual stat line, Morris set up a couple of goals with cleverly weighted passes inside 50.
Stats: 3 kicks, 1 handball, 3 disposals, 2 marks, 1 goal
The first quarter started off perfectly for Morris in his new role, by nudging his opponent under the ball in a terrific one-on-one just 52 seconds into the match. He took the contested grab and nailed the set shot from 15m out, an omen for the rest of the contest. Surprisingly, Morris did not kick another goal for the first quarter, but still remained involved. He was caught behind a pack of pack of players when trying to lead out a few minutes later, and then did well to get front position on the lead, but the ball went over his head. His lead did drag his opponent out of the goalsquare which enabled a one-on-one for his teammate to go.
After Glenorchy predominantly had the ball in its forward half for the next 10 minutes, Morris pushed up the ground to mark at half-back with a good vertical leap and cut the kick inboard to try and move it through the corridor. In the 18th minute, Morris did well running back towards goal in space, keeping it in play close to the line and having the composure and vision to put it to a teammate’s advantage. Whilst his teammate did not pull down the mark, the execution was spot on. In his only real one-on-one loss in a marking contest, he was beaten by VFL-experienced utility Harrison Gunther who grabbed front position and could not be moved, rushing the ball through for a behind in the goalsquare.
Stats: 4 kicks, 4 disposals, 4 marks, 3 goals, 1 inside 50
Once again Morris had an outstanding start to the quarter, just one minute and 27 seconds in taking a terrific mark on the lead with strong hands. He converted the set shot from about 50m into the breeze in what was a powerful kick to sail home for his second goal. Just three minutes later, Morris was at it again with his one-on-one ability, outsmarting the experienced Josh Arnold in the goalsquare to mark and then convert the set shot easily. His third goal – at the 11-minute mark – was his first gift, marking about 60m out and then when Gunther ran over the mark, was handed a 50m penalty, which Morris easily converted.
After a relatively quiet next 10 minutes, Morris got involved late in the term, but this time he was pinged for throwing the ball after trying to win the handball at the top of the goalsquare, but could not dispose of it correctly. He took a great mark 55m out late in the term, playing on immediately and swinging onto the right to weight it well to Jay Blackberry for a goal assist, closing out the half with eight disposals, six marks and four goals in an already eye-catching effort.
Stats: 3 kicks, 3 disposals, 1 mark, 2 goals, 1 behind
Morris’ third quarter was definitely more of a deep forward’s stat line with the three kicks for three scores, though one was off the ground and not often counted in official statistics. He worked hard early positioning himself closest to goal and almost got one over the back with a bouncing shot on goal hitting the skiddy ground and bouncing through for a behind. He kicked his second gift of the day 30 seconds later, when an opponent kicked into the man on the mark and Morris pounced on the handball receive to run into a vacant goalsquare and kick his fifth.
He did not have to wait long for his sixth, with just two more minutes amassing on the clock, and this time it came from a nice lead out from goal, beating his opponent on reading the play and moving to clunk the grab and convert the set shot from a 45-degree angle. He almost looked like he had clunked another mark on the boundary 60m out sliding in, but it was not paid, and then in the dying moments, had a chance on the goalline against multiple opponents but the kick inside 50 did not favour him and he was rushed in getting boot to ball to soccer it into the behind post as he was dragged down.
Stats: 6 kicks, 1 handball, 7 disposals, 4 marks, 1 inside 50, 3 goals
Morris saved his best until last and came with a flurry in the second half of the quarter. He found the going tough inside 50 in the first 13 minutes, leading out but not able to half volley it off the slippery deck, and then having a loose defender chop off a kick inside 50 towards him. He marked at half-forward and kicked deep inside 50 at one stage, but then turned it on for the last 15 minutes. Morris soccered the ball off the ground in the mud in the 14th minute, finding the opportunity amongst a pack of players, then just two minutes later, used early body work to push his opponent off the ball, read the flight and mark at the top of the goalsquare which he slotted easily again for number eight.
In the 19th minute, Morris snapped off the deck quickly under pressure to try and go for number nine but it held up in the breeze and was cleared by the defence back in numbers. His strong hands were on show not long after though, clunking a grab in the 22nd minute, reading the flight and pulling it down to again give himself an easy set shot from 15m out which he slotted. In an attempt to try and get Morris his tenth goal, the Launceston players were looking for him forward in the last five minutes, as Morris marked outside 50, but handballed it off, received it back then kicked cleverly under pressure to Casey Brown who slotted the goal instead on the run.
TOTAL STATS: 16 kicks, 2 handballs, 18 disposals, 11 marks, 2 inside 50s, 9 goals, 1 behind
“I think there were a few outs so I think Thorpey (Launceston coach Mitch Thorpe) thought ‘why not?’ and put me forward. Credit to the boys with the delivery as well, I don’t think I would have kicked as many as I did without their delivery,” Morris told City Park Radio’s Rob Saward post-match.
When asked about learning his craft, Morris had this to say:
“Yeah I did a bit of craft stuff the last three weeks just working on it and I haven’t really played with Launnie in a while, and Thorpey sent me a message a couple of weeks ago saying he’d like to see me play forward so it was definitely swing forward and kick a couple of snags and help the team win.”
Overall Morris had an outstanding game as a forward. There are plenty of angles to take from this, with many no doubt arguing that in this large of a win it certainly favoured any forward inside 50 for the Blues. Without a doubt the delivery inside 50 was frequent and helpful for Morris, but he still had to put in the work to convert the goals. Only a couple were from long-range, but his set shot routine was consistent, and the reason he was able to take shots from so close to goal is due to his bodywork, reading of the play and preparation for the mark. It will be interesting to see if this game potentially sees him forward for the Devils in future NAB League contests, or indeed if he stays inside 50 for the Blues against a higher touted TSL outfit.
Picture credit: The Examiner