Zac Jones (Dandenong Stingrays)
Height: 181 cm
Weight: 74 kg
Position: Small Defender
Player comparison: Alan Toovey (Better foot skills), Michael Hibberd (quicker)
Strengths: Hardness, Speed, Overhead strength
Weaknesses: Endurance (should he eventually move to midfield)
Zac Jones is a neat little package who really stood up during the Under 18s Championships winning the Most Valuable Player award for Vic Country. He hails from the Dandenong Stingrays and plays that half back role in a number of ways. He has shown across the course of the season he is able to play both offensively by running off half back, as well as defensively, by locking down an opponent and niggling him into frustration.
Jones is the brother of Melbourne’s Nathan and has an appetite for the contest that is almost identical. He revels in the hard stuff, loves a contest and isn’t afraid to let his opponent know how to improve his performance. Against Tasmania at Visy Park, Jones was enjoying his footy niggling into a few forwards after they made mistakes, getting into their heads. He lets his performance speak for itself however, impressing across the carnival as that half back.
Like at the Stingrays, Jones played a multitude of half back roles from being an offensive running half back to a defensive lock-down defender. He has the pace to play that offensive running game and the mental toughness and love for the contest and hard ball to also excel at the lock-down game. For sides looking for a lock-down defender, Jones is clearly the stand out in this area. In many ways he is similar to Alan Toovey in the way he uses his speed to burn off opponents but remain accountable at shutting him out of the game. Offensively, he is not to dissimilar to Michael Hibberd because of his ability to run both ways and use the ball well.
In the final game of the Under 18s Championships against Vic Metro, Jones was able to use his offensive running game and weave around a couple of defenders and pin point a pass to a leading forward from the half back line. His kicking has reasonable penetration and with his pinpoint accuracy, he is able to be relied upon as someone to use regularly. He may not be the tallest of players, but he makes up for it in willingness and not holding back in a contest.
For a small defender, Jones has a pretty good all-round game which will see him make AFL and become a really good player. The only main improvement that he could make is to build his tank a bit further to potentially play a similar role in the midfield to his brother. In saying that, he’s got a solid tank to work with but no doubt with the bollocking work required in the middle, he’ll aim to improve that further. If Jones could move up and play as that inside extractor, he could well become one of the competition’s better midfielders. Especially given his toughness and burst speed away from the contest. This could lead him to playing both inside and out as a valuable contributor.
In the Bound For Glory News Rising Stars Phantom Draft, Jones was taken with Pick 46 by Carlton who have been cycling through their small defenders with many not keeping a regular spot in the team. With coach Mick Malthouse saying that a clean out at year’s end is inevitable, it means there will be room for plenty of fresh talent to come in. Zac Jones could fill the void and seems like the type Malthouse would really like given his flexibility and hardness at the contest.
Zac Jones is one of the few all-round players for his position and believe he’s very underrated in this draft. Whichever club selects him will be very excited about the prospect of having this tough, uncompromising defender in the team.