Tag: Mason Redman

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

Who will the Eagles draft?

The Eagles are in an awkward spot draft wise. They’re a tad too low on the draft board to snare Callum Ah Chee or Ryan Burton, but there’s a chance they may find that a gem does slip through.

Pick 27 (originally 24)

The big fish: Ryan Clarke

Clarke is an exceptional runner, who finds the ball up to 40 times a game purely due to his extreme work rate. He is an excellent clearance player, and he breaks lines with his pace. He can hit the scoreboard, but he is usually unselfish and looking to set up team mates.

Plan B: Luke Partington

Partington is a similar player to former Eagle Matt Rosa, in that he can do most things on the inside or outside to a high standard, but he’s not overly dominant in any one area. Partington is a neat kick, with a bit of speed and he can find the footy.

Pick 36 (originally 31)

The big fish: Mason Redman

Redman is a taller half forward who can do a little bit of everything. He’s a very good mark overhead or on the lead and he adds a bit of class with his kicking. Redman has the versatility to play all over the ground, but he looks most comfortable as a lead up forward.

Plan B: Alex Morgan

While most see Morgan as a defender, he showed some signs that he could potentially be a very damaging small forward. He’s got elite speed, he takes the game on and he can take a strong mark overhead. Morgan has serious upside, and he could replace Josh Hill in the long run.

Pick 55 (originally 61)

The big fish: Gach Nyuon

The Eagles could do with an extra developing ruckman, and Nyuon is the best of the lot at this stage. He’s got an unbelievable vertical leap, and his rate of development has been very encouraging. Nyuon is a reliable user of the football and his athleticism could work very well in tandem with Nic Naitanui.

Plan B: Tom Phillips

Phillips is a 19-year old who can impact a game in just about any position. He wins enough of the football as a midfielder, can plug the hole in defence and he’s a spark when he heads up forward. The issue with Phillips is his ball use, but at this stage of the draft, he offers real value.

Who will the Roos draft?

Ben Crocker kicks the ball around the body. Photo: Supplied
Ben Crocker kicks the ball around the body. Photo: Supplied

The Kangaroos took a punt on Jed Anderson, but through some shrewd deals, they’ve ended up with three picks in the late first-early second round range. Last year, they took three players who all look comfortable as defenders, but whether they plan to use Ed Vickers-Willis and Sam Durdin in other roles is yet to be determined.

Pick 21 (originally 17)

The big fish: Jade Gresham

North Melbourne don’t have too many list deficiencies, so they should be looking at best available at most of their selections. Gresham can find plenty of the football as a midfielder, but he can also be used as a smart small forward or an accountable defender.

Plan B: Mitch Hibberd

The Roos could do with a versatile defender who can provide some rebound and play some time in the middle too. Hibberd is great overhead and he’s got a strong endurance base. He could make an impact right away, which is important for an aging side.

Pick 31 (originally 26)

The big fish: David Cuningham

Cuningham is a quick midfielder who has shown glimpses of brilliance for Oakleigh. He’s got explosive acceleration around stoppages, and he’s elusive in traffic. Cuningham can also head forward and hit the scoreboard.

Plan B: Aidyn Johnson

Johnson is a very quick and agile small forward who can hit the scoreboard in bunches. He applies defensive pressure and he can play in a variety of roles. Due to his injury struggles, we haven’t seen a lot of what he can do, but his speed could bridge the gap for when Brent Harvey eventually retires.

Pick 33 (originally 28)

The big fish: Ben Crocker

Crocker is a medium forward who marks really well over his head. He can finish nicely around the body at ground level, and he continually presents as a lead up forward. At his best, Crocker can use the ball with class and even provide some midfield relief.

Plan B: Mason Redman

Redman is a lead up medium forward who takes the ball at full stretch. He’s a nice user of the football and he’s got great size for a half forward. Redman is very quick off the mark, which makes him a very difficult player to match up against.

Pick 43 (originally 47)

The big fish: Mitch Brown

The Roos are looking at Nielson as the eventual key defender replacement for the likes of Michael Firrito and Scott Thompson, but he’s got a way to go before he develops. North Melbourne could look towards Brown as a stop-gap who can come in, take overhead marks and be used as a swingman option alongside Jarryd Waite to give them some versatility.

Plan B: Michael Hartley

Hartley could also be used to bridge that age gap in defence. As a pure key defender, Hartley reads the play well and he’s physical enough to play on the gorilla forwards, which would be crucial if they played Sydney or Geelong in the finals.