Cameron Conlon (Northern Knights)
Height: 198 cm
Weight: 87 kg
Position: Key Forward/Ruck
Player Comparison: Kurt Tippett
Strengths: Athleticism, marking, set shots
Weaknesses: Light frame, kicking
After missing most of the 2013 season with a horrendous knee injury, Conlon is on the comeback trail and may be able to play the last few games of the year. Prior to sustaining the injury, Conlon was poised as a first round draft pick – some in the know even rated him as being good enough to go at pick six early in the year.
Yet without being able to see his form this year, he might not go as highly as was once thought. Although in recent years, recruiters have looked to take talent, despite freakish injuries – you don’t have to look past Lachlan Plowman and Jake Stringer to find evidence supporting that case. A dislocated kneecap with all the cartilage needing to be cleaned out was what kept Conlon out for so long, but his rehab has gone better than expected.
Consider Conlon to be like an unproven Kurt Tippett or Joe Daniher, who is also unproven. They aren’t likely to kick the massive bags, but they’ll continually haul bags of four or five goals whilst really providing the team with structure and flexibility. In his first two TAC Cup games in 2012, Conlon had averaged 4.5 goals, 13 touches, 5 marks (2.5 of those contested), 2 tackles, 10.5 hitouts and was best on ground both times.
Conlon provides a contested marking option, with his height often being too much for smaller defenders. But when he’s playing against the bigger bodies, he can out run them and will beat them on the lead most of the time.
Conlon is a smart forward first and foremost and his adaptability isn’t just suited to the forward line. At AFL level, he’s likely to pinch hit in the ruck. He has a decent leap so he can win hitouts, but he’s more of a relief ruckman. At times, he can also play as a key defender if need be.
Conlon’s athleticism for a big man is excellent. He’s quick on the lead and works hard all over the field. Conlon is fairly good below the knees; although that’s still something he could work on. He’s also an excellent set shot, something that separates him from Tippett. His field kicking is something he admits he needs to work on, but for a big man it’s passable.
Obviously Conlon is a lanky key tall, so he will need a few years to put on weight. The issue will be whether he’ll be able to find his niche at AFL level because the hit and miss ratio for forwards cum ruckmen doesn’t weigh in Conlon’s favour.
If he is available as a second round pick, he’d be a fantastic choice as he has the skill set that could transfer well to AFL level. In the Bound For Glory News Rising Stars Phantom Draft, Conlon was snapped up by the Gold Coast in what might seem like a surprise pick given needs but going by the theory you can never have too many quality talls, Conlon could be a perfect combination to play forward and pinch hit in the ruck while Zac Smith and Tom Nicholls develop. All three can really develop at the same time which would allow the Suns to have a bevy of riches.
Cameron Conlon really is the unknown quantity as to where he’ll go, but someone of his quality and CV will surely find a home in the first two rounds. He might not be as highly rated as Tom Boyd, but Conlon could well be the unknown factor which could see a side pounce earlier than expected given his form last year.