Image Credit: Valeriu Campan/News Corp
POSITION: Medium Forward
DRAFT ANALYSIS: “Stone is an athletic medium forward with high-level smarts inside 50 and the scope to develop further afield.” – Michael Alvaro
Five goals on NAB League debut is a hell of a way to introduce yourself to the elite pathways, and that is exactly what Conor Stone did in 2019 as a bottom-ager. Playing mainly out of the goalsquare in that game, Stone showcased his smarts and finishing ability inside 50, traits which would see him remain part of Oakleigh’s premiership winning side. The athletic medium forward also boasts a terrific endurance base, something which has seen him play up on a wing for St Kevin’s in the APS Football competition. His development further afield and perhaps even in the midfield would have made for an exciting transition, though much like his fellow Victorian prospects, he has been robbed of showcasing any improvement on-field this year.
- Goal sense
- Vertical leap
- Untapped versatility
- Explosive speed
- Consistent impact/output
At his best, Stone is as efficient and effective a medium forward as anyone in the draft pool. The Chargers obviously rated him highly to give him a shot towards the middle and back-end of last season, and he managed to make an impact in a team brimming with high-end talent.
In his aforementioned debut game, Stone showed terrific forward craft with his smarts in one-on-one situations and sharp finishing ability. He often favours the back position when anticipating long balls into his area, but also follows the unfolding play so well to gain separation from his direct opponent on the lead, and essentially take uncontested marks within scoring range. In both situations, Stone’s timing and strong vertical leap come to the fore, with his clean hands doing the rest.
That high footy IQ is something which helps Stone get into dangerous positions, as he is hardly the most explosively quick player off the mark. Another factor in his innate ability to find space is an elite running capacity, backed by his score of 21.5 in the preseason yo-yo test. While it seems as if he lumbers at times when circling ground-level contests, Stone’s leading patterns and ability to work up the ground see him easily burn off his opponents. That same running capacity is something which held him in good stead to move into the midfield, or onto the wing at the least. He is often employed further afield during school football duties, and has the potential to make versatility another great weapon.
But through no real fault of his own, that versatility is something which remains relatively untapped. The stacked Oakleigh squad of 2019 saw a bunch of talented bottom-agers squeezed out of their usual positions for roles up either end of the field, and Stone played out his with aplomb. He showed glimpses and has all the right traits to be moulded into a midfielder/forward type, or high half-forward, but just hasn’t quite been able to resoundingly prove it as of yet. A relatively low output of just under 10 disposals per his eight NAB League games ties into that factor.
A lack of real bursting speed may impact his transition on the inside, though his strength on the ball and endurance somewhat make up for it. In open play as a forward, Stone is able to get from contest to contest and can impact with tackling pressure, but can look somewhat reserved at times. He delivers once his number is called, but is not as all-action or frenetic as other athletic forwards. It hardly takes away from his overall impact, but is more something for the optics.
As an overall package, Stone is one of the more promising medium types in this year’s cohort. His form as a forward should bode well for a starting position there at the next level, before utilising his athletic base to prosper outside the attacking 50. His smarts and craft would make him more of an impact player early on, with his output needing to lift before a role shift.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 35-50
We have seen the likes of South Australian Brayden Cook, a player of similar build and style to Stone, rise steeply in 2020 to come within top 25 calculations. Stone may well have been another in that mould given the promise he showed as a bottom-ager, but his true scope remains somewhat of an unknown given a lack of on-field exposure this year. Still, his upside should place him within that even group at around the 35-mark, with medium forwards often difficult to place. He could be one to really burst onto the scene as an impact forward and provide good value in said range, perhaps enticing a keen club to snap him up even earlier.
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