Cam Conlon: The unknown entity

At the beginning of the year, the Northern Knights looked as though they had the answer to Tom Boyd in Cam Conlon. The Herald Sun published an article about him only a few weeks into season 2012, where he had taken the TAC Cup by storm as a 17-year-old. Conlon’s first two weeks his 2012 season wielded statistics of nine goals straight, 26 touches, 10 marks (half of those being contested), four tackles and 21 hitouts across the two games. Being named as best on ground in both those games, Conlon looked destined to be a star.

Well-informed recruiters believed he was certain to be a top 10 draft pick. At 198 cm and 87 kg, Conlon is one of the most versatile forward/ruck players that has come through the ranks in the past five years. He has now become an unknown quantity due to the fact he hasn’t been able to get on the park this year. Conlon could be the best value player or potentially a guy who will never be able to string together games.

Conlon calmly gave an in-depth insight into a seemingly gruesome injury. “I dislocated my knee cap and screwed up the cartilage in my knee,” he said. “I had to get the knee cleaned out and the bone taken out. It was a bit worse than what they thought so it’s taken me longer to get back.”

The one thing that’s spurred Conlon on is finals football. “They (the doctors) told me I wouldn’t play football again this year, but at the moment it looks as though I’m a chance to play the last couple of games.”

It’s been tough for Conlon emotionally. Whilst his team mates in Marcus Bontempelli and Ben Lennon have soared up the rankings, he’s been unable to prove his own worth. He said: “It’s been good to see them doing so well coming from the same team, but it’s been pretty hard sitting on the sidelines the whole year seeing everyone playing while I’m in rehab so it’s tough.”

A spot in the line up won’t be gifted. Liam Bowkett has excelled in Conlon’s absence and may even come into consideration as a late draft selection. Conlon knows he has something to prove when he returns: “I have to prove myself in training before I even get a game. If I do get a game I have to show what I can do.”

The question on recruiters’ minds has been whether he is a better ruckman or forward. Personally, Conlon believes he is better suited up forward, but does enjoy spells in the ruck and in the back line.

For those who are yet to see Conlon, he says his strengths are “athleticism for my height and marking the ball on the lead”. He admitted he needed to work on his “strength, putting on a bit of weight and just my kicking too”.

The depth at Northern extends past the big three in Conlon, Bontempelli and Lennon. Jake Kalanj and Hugh Curnow have had wonderful years. “I was shattered to see Jake go down with an injury, ” Conlon said, “but he came back a few weeks ago and been great. Hugh Curnow provides heaps of run and his skills have been improving. He’s worked hard to get them up and it’s paid off this year as he got to play with Vic Metro.”

One thing that may swing in Conlon’s favour come draft day is the recent recruiting history. Lachlan Plowman and Jake Stringer were both top five draft picks last year, despite missing considerable amounts of football through injuries. “I guess seeing where they were picked gives me hope but I haven’t thought about it too much,” he said. “I never thought I’d be a top draft pick, let alone really being in contention for the draft at all – but it does give me hope.”

Conlon’s game strongly resembles Kurt Tippett’s. With that in mind, clubs will be chasing him and hoping he can drop to the midpoint of the second round on draft day. Conlon’s x-factor may see him taken by Fremantle, the Bulldogs or Carlton, but don’t be surprised if he gets taken before any of their second-round picks.

For more information on Cameron Conlon, check out his profile here.

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