Tag: kyle langford

Analysis | The importance of fitness testing in modern football recruiting

THERE has been plenty of debate when talking about potential AFL prospects pertaining to the differences between judging ‘athletes’ against ‘pure footballers’. There is an argument that fitness testing should be taken with a grain of salt and that the eye test is most important, but when it comes to players being drafted – especially in the first round – prospects are often at the pointy end in at least one fitness test.

For anyone still unfamiliar with the main fitness tests conducted during preseason and at the AFL Draft Combine, they are as follows:

  • Agility Test
  • 20m Sprint
  • Standing and Running Vertical Leap
  • Yo-Yo Test
  • 2km Time Trial

Last year’s number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan excelled in the 20m sprint and vertical leap tests, with his on-field speed off the mark and jump at the ball highlighting just why he excelled at those tests. The combine, if anything, gives reassurance that those traits are indeed elite and will help try and separate talents like Ugle-Hagan from any other key forwards in that year’s crop. Athleticism is very important in modern football, with players quicker and bigger than what most talented youngsters are used to at the development levels. One club which has seemingly identified this in modern times is the fast-rising Essendon Football Club.

Since 2014, Essendon seems to have had a clear strategy with the types of players they have looked at with their high picks. Below is a list of the Bombers’ top 40 selections since 2014 and which tests those players excelled at. In a lot of cases, they were top 10 in those tests at the end-of-year combine.

2014:

Pick 17 – Jayden Laverde
(Didn’t test but athleticism was a highlight of his game)

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford
Agility

2015:

Pick 5 – Darcy Parish
Average in most tests

Pick 6 – Aaron Francis
(Didn’t test but like Laverde, athleticism was a highlight in games)

Pick 29 – Alex Morgan (Since delisted)
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 30 – Mason Redman
3km time trial

2016:

Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint

2017:

Nil

2018:

Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap

2019:

Pick 30 – Harrison Jones
Vertical Leap, Yo-Yo, 20m Sprint

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint

2020:

Pick 8 – Nik Cox
20m Sprint, 2km TT

Pick 9 – Archie Perkins
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

Pick 10 – Zach Reid
Vertical Leap

Pick 39 – Josh Eyre
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

There is one big outlier here and that’s one of this year’s Brownlow contenders in Darcy Parish, who was only average in test results during his draft year. This could be seen as the biggest clue as to why athletic testing shouldn’t be so important, but it can also be argued that one of the main reasons for Parish’s form is due to improving his running capacity to an elite level.

Even their most recent mid-season selection, Sam Durham tested well for vertical leap and endurance, so its no surprise at least in Essendon’s case that athletic traits are a huge influence in whether the player gets taken. The current favourite for the Rising Star, Nik Cox has taken the competition by storm with his mix of athleticism and height, with that height another factor in the early Essendon selections. It was a matter of time before Cox got his nomination for the Rising Star award and in retrospect, we should have all seen his selection by Essendon coming considering all the traits he possesses are key indicators in the Bombers’ recent draft strategy.

Using this history, we can even try to narrow down the possible field of players that Essendon will look at with its first round pick in 2021. A trio of Sandringham Dragons instantly come to mind with Campbell Chesser, Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan. All three players tested well for the 20m sprint and vertical leap during preseason, highlighting their power and athleticism. With all measuring at over 185cm, they even fill a midfield need for the Bombers. They have another prospect right under their noses in Josh Goater who made his Essendon VFL debut not long ago and is an athletic beast. His speed and leap tests were all elite and at 190cm, he would be another Essendon style selection.

The modern footballer is taller, faster and can run all day, and it is getting harder and harder for pure footballers to make it at the top level. If young, pure footballers can start to develop athleticism in their game, even if it’s an elite endurance base, that’s at least a start in the right direction.

Height used to be a detractor for clubs but now with the likes of Caleb Daniel, Kysaiah Pickett, Brent Daniels and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, that is no longer the same obstacle for potential draftees as it used to be – though you also need to have that speed and class. If you are small and have the athletic traits and determination to make it as an AFL player, then you will be on the right track. If you are tall and have those traits, your chances of making an AFL list are even higher.

Fitness testing is an important tool, not just for clubs and recruiters, but also for up and coming players – especially those at the very early level. I’m hopeful coaches of junior football are able to set up some of these tests to help young players find their best traits, enhance them and embrace them. Understandably, it takes time, money and effort on their part and not every junior club or parent has that available. Programs such as Rookie Me, the official fitness testing partner of the AFL, allow junior athletes to experience professional environments at an early age, proving another handy head-start for budding footballers.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Classic Contests: Short stands tall as Northern takes out Tasmania

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in our series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 18 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Northern Knights and Tasmania Devils. In this edition we wind back the clock to 2014, before Tasmania returned as a full-time team, and relive when the two sides clashed at Preston City Oval.

2014 TAC Cup, Round 10
Saturday June 14, 11:00am
Preston City Oval

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 4.1 | 8.7 | 10.11 | 13.14 (92)
TASMANIA 2.4 | 4.7 | 7.9 | 7.12 (54)

GOALS:

Northern: B. Jordan 3, W. Murphy 2, L. Hunt 2, J. Gresham, J. El Moussalli, K. Malone, K. Declase, B. Fiorini, S. Switkowski.
Tasmania:
K. Pitchford 2, B. Sharman, P. Bellchambers, M. Rainbird, A. Dickenson, J. Watts.

BEST:

Northern: J. Short, W. Murphy, J. Gresham, S. Switkowski, B. Jordan, A. Di Paolo
Tasmania:
A. Dickenson, C. Hislop, L. Reynolds, T. Jones, P. Bellchambers, J. Johnson

Draftees in action:

Northern: Jayden Short, Brayden Fiorini, Jade Gresham, Sam Switkowski, Tyrone Leonardis
Tasmania: Josh McGuinness, Josh Watts, Ryan Gardner, Jay Lockhart

Tasmania’s part-time TAC Cup duties in 2014 pitted them against the Northern Knights for a clash at Preston City Oval in mid-June. Formerly the Mariners and not yet the Devils, the Tasmanians donned the Map for their four-game stint in the Victorian competition. A loss to Dandenong in Round 8 had them sitting 0-1, while Northern were out to snap a four-game losing run and improve on its 2-7 record.

Timing would see the Knights go in without some key personnel, with the likes of Jason Castagna and Kyle Langford absent along with key talls Reece McKenzie and Ivan Soldo. It meant Jayden Short was left to lead a solid core of top-agers and promising bottom-age fleet for the Knights on home turf. Tasmania was able to field some promising talent of its own, most notably in the form of 2014 draftees Josh McGuinness and Josh Watts, as well as future AFL products Ryan Gardner and Jay Lockhart.

Despite managing one less scoring shot in the opening term, Northern showed its knowledge of the home conditions to make the most of its chances. 4.1 to Tasmania’s 2.4 gave the Knights a handy buffer, which was only extended to an even four-goal margin at half-time as they piled on a further four majors in term two.

While the visitors got the better of the third term with three goals to Northern’s two, it seemed they had little left in the tank. The Knights would take advantage of the scoring end to kick away to victory, keeping Tasmania goalless in the final period while prettying up the final margin to come out 38-point winners at 13.14 (92) to 7.12 (54).

In what was the four-quarter effort the Knights were after all season, Short was named best afield for his 28 disposals, five marks, and six tackles. Jade Gresham (21 disposals, seven tackles, one goal) and Sam Switkowski (17 disposals, five tackles, one goal) were also named among Northern’s best, and Bailey Jordan booted three goals. Ashton Dickenson was adjudged Tasmania’s most valuable player for his 14 disposals and four marks, follwed by Caleb Hislop (31 disposals).

The Knights would go on to add just three more wins to their tally in the back-end of the season, landing in 10th spot with six wins and 11 losses. Tasmania’s four-game cameo ended with a 1-3 record, but it was capped off in style with a win over North Ballarat in Round 16.

Classic Contests: Stacked Knights pip Falcons at home

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 9 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Geelong Falcons and Northern Knights. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2013 to relive the closest match between the sides in a decade.

2013 TAC Cup, Round 14
Saturday July 27, 2:00pm
Preston City Oval

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 4.3 | 5.4 | 12.7 | 13.10 (88)
GEELONG FALCONS 1.4 | 4.10 | 8.12 | 11.15 (81)

Goals:

Northern: J. Castagna 2, J. Short 2, M. Bontempelli 2, B. Lennon, K. Malone, S. Switkowski, K. Langford, L. Hunt, J. Turner, G. McDonagh
Geelong: B. Beardsell 2, J. Tsitas 2, K. Spokes, M. Buchanan, M. Boag, N. Bourke, M. Thompson, A. Moloney, A. Hickey

Best:

Northern: J. Turner, B. Lennon, J. Kalanj, M. Bontempelli, G. McDonagh, J. Iacobaccio
Geelong: J. Tsitas, B. Beardsell, J. Maishman, F. Fort, J. Nelson, J. Sharp

Draftees in action:

Northern: Ben Lennon, Marcus Bontempelli, Jayden Short*, Jason Castagna*, Sam Switkowski*, Kyle Langford*
Geelong: Lewis Taylor, Nick Bourke, Darcy Gardiner, Sam Russell, Jackson Nelson*, Zaine Cordy*, Teia Miles*

* – denotes bottom-aged

Back in 2013, TAC Cup outings became somewhat of a foregone conclusion for the Geelong Falcons. They sat atop the ladder at 12-1 after 13 rounds, six games clear of the eighth-place Northern Knights who they would meet next. The previous clash between the two sides that year was a one-sided one which saw Geelong salute to the tune of 96 points at Kardinia Park, only consolidating its status as the team to beat at that point.

But things would turn out a little differently in the pair’s next outing, with Northern able to match the Falcons for draftable talent on the day and sneak home by seven points. The Knights boasted their two top-aged draftees for the year in Marcus Bontempelli, while also fielding a bottom-aged group which included premiership Tigers Jayden Short and Jason Castagna. Lewis Taylor was Geelong’s leading top-age prospect as one of seven eventual draftees over the next two years to grace the Falcons’ lineup.

After a first term assault which saw the home side boot four goals to one, the Falcons stormed back hard to level the ledger at the main break. They could have fared much better though, with an effort of 4.10 in front of goal laying bare Northern’s superior handling of the conditions. It was game on and effectively a clean slate heading into the second half with the result hanging in the balance.

While the Falcons would sure up in their forward half with 4.2, Northern showed off some attacking flair with 7.3 as the game began to open up. Taking full advantage of the scoring end, the Knights set up what turned out to be an unassailable three-goal cushion at the final break. It was just enough to hold off the Falcons’ fourth quarter charge, shutting up shop quickly and strongly enough to ensure the four points remained in Preston.

Joshua Turner was named best afield for the winners with 29 disposals, 10 marks and a goal, with Lennon (24, 11, one) and Bontempelli (21, seven, two) not far behind. Bottom-aged Parade College pair Garrett McDonagh and Josh Iacobaccio were also named among the best half-dozen. Richmond duo Short and Castagna each booted two goals, while Fremantle mature-ager Sam Switkowski and Essendon draftee Kyle Langford managed hit the scoreboard, too.

For Geelong, NTFL premiership player James Tsitas was recognised as best for his mammoth 42-disposal and two-goal effort, while Billy Beardsell booted 2.5 and West Coast’s Jackson Nelson (18 disposals, five marks, five tackles) was the sole draftee among the best six. Taylor somehow missed out despite having 38 disposals and eight marks, while the remainder of the Falcons’ draftees were kept relatively quiet.

After claiming the minor premiership with a 14-3 record, the Falcons would only make it as far as the preliminary finals. They were eliminated by eventual premier, Eastern, a fate which Northern suffered at the semi-final stage after accumulating a 9-7-1 record good enough for sixth spot.