THERE are plenty of valuable players at TAC Cup level to their teams, but on the inside, few would be more sorely missed than Western Jets stars Cam Rayner and Lachlan Fogarty.
They are creating talk around draft circles as likely first round picks – if not in the top 10 potentially, but while they were strutting their stuff on the MCG a fortnight ago in the AIS Academy match, the Jets were coming off a big loss to the Sandringham Dragons the day before.
On that day, the Dragons had 81 more effective kicks (66 above their average), 147 more disposals (117 above their average), 71 more marks (80 marks above their average) and 134 more uncontested possessions (94 above their average).
For the Western Jets, they only had one more uncontested possession than contested possession – the lowest of any game this season, and took just 31 marks for the match, with 230 disposals. They still managed 12 scoring shots for 5.7 despite their inside 50s dipping to 40 (after 49 and 54 in the first two rounds). But why the sudden drop off?
With Fogarty and Rayner out, the Jets had to make do and the rest of their midfield had to play more inside, losing their outside ball winners. Rayner had 29 contested possessions in the opening two rounds, while Fogarty had 24. That’s a combined 53 contested possessions of the Jets’ 293 in the first two rounds, or 18 per cent. Fogarty also had 23 inside 50s in the first two rounds – the most of any TAC Cup player.
So when the coaching staff were forced to cross their names off the whiteboard, who had to step up? Nicholas Stuhldreier. But did that change his role? You bet it did. IN the opening two rounds he had 10 contested disposals and 26 uncontested disposals, just 27.78 per cent contested. But with Rayner and Fogarty gone, Stuhldreier – who ended up being the Jets’ best in the loss – stepped up and went at 50 per cent contested. But in doing so, the Jets lost more outside ball winning capability. The other two to step up were Connor Thar – who missed the round two win over Calder – and in for his first game of 2017, Jack Noonan, who both registered double figure contested possessions.
So in looking at this analysis, the Jets have had to proverbially rob Peter to pay Paul and while they were able to match it with the Dragons on contested ball comparatively (down 18), they were blown away on the outside. This is certainly not aimed to expose the Jets, but more a look at what TAC Cup coaches have to deal with given the changes that occur on a regular basis. I have no doubt it is something that Torin Baker and his staff will be looking at ahead of their round four clash with Gippsland Power this weekend and for the rest of the season.