Tom Cole (Bendigo Pioneers)
Height: 186 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Player comparison: Matthew Boyd
Strengths: Versatility, inside work, leadership
Weaknesses: Speed, outside game
First year impact: Low to medium
Bendigo’s Tom Cole is your footballer’s footballer.
There is nothing too flashy about the inside midfielder, but there is nothing wrong with him either.
Some players are described as “bangers and mash”, or simple and effective. This is Cole to a tee.
If you are looking for a player that can hit a target lace-out 50 metres on the run, or take a huge specky, then do not consider Cole. If you are looking for a player that is ultra-consistent and can plug holes just about anywhere, then Cole is your man.
Cole is very similar to Matthew Boyd in the way he goes about it – a strong leader, uncompromising footballer and is not afraid to do the team things ahead of personal gain.
He can play in the midfield, up forward or down back and just has that dogged determination to win the football. When he does have the football, he has the aura that dares an opposition player to take it off him.
His greatest asset is by far his flexibility and ability to win a contest.
Not particularly athletically gifted or a skillful player, Cole is a reliable kick, with solid endurance, who can drift forward, kick a few goals, drift back and settle the defence, or be thrown into the middle to win important clearances.
In short, if you need the ultimate role player, Cole is that player.
That is not to say Cole does not have a future at AFL level, but unlike your Darcy Parish’s and Jacob Weitering’s, he’s unlikely to become that A-grade star that club’s can build lists around. But as fans know, you cannot have 44 stars on your list; you need honest toilers who can be relied upon to just get the job done week-in, week-out.
In terms of areas for improvement, the biggest area Cole could develop is his outside game. Particularly up forward, Cole could become more offensive and kick those two-to-three goals a game as a high half forward.
Right now, he would be a very reliable defensive forward, possibly even develop into a tagger down the track if they will exist in the future. Unlike a lot of young players trying to impress recruiters, Cole does not wow scouts with his offensive attributes, but his defensive attributes instead.
As many know, it is easier for clubs to teach players to back themselves offensively than to work harder defensively, because to slip back into past routines, means tackling and defensive pressure could go out the window, something unlikely to occur with Cole.
Much like Boyd, Cole could become a future captain and while he might not win a game off his own boot, he is likely to be that leader who his supporter base recognises, but opposition fans question why he is out there.
If Cole does develop a strong offensive game, then he could certainly become a very valuable asset to any football club.
In this year’s draft, Cole is likely to be drafted somewhere in that mid-second to third round draft range because he does not offer anything spectacular, but he is remarkably consistent. In an era when the pressure on young players is at a premium, it is unlikely to faze a player like Tom Cole, who will take it all in his stride.
A strong leader and defensive-minded general would come in handy for any club needing a big-bodied utility who can support any position on the field.
There are question marks over whether Cole’s lack of any particular offensive attribute will hinder his career, but he is the type of player who would be willing to work hard on that side of his game and would benefit from an AFL environment.
For some clubs who cannot afford a Lamborghini, sometimes going back to basics and settling for a mid-90s Holden or Ford still has value and just gets the job done.
If a club backs Cole in, they should not have to worry about what they will receive in return.