DRAFT ANALYSIS: "Matt Ling is a rebounding half-back with an deadly left boot and some break-line acceleration. At times he can be inconsistent, but he has all the traits likely to excite plenty of club recruiters."
Matthew Ling is the type of player clubs want running off half-back. He has blistering speed, clean with ball in hand, a great mover in traffic and has a deadly left boot which can pierce through opposition zones and hit up targets not many others could. He has burst onto the scene as a possible first rounder this year after impressing early on with his dash and skills. He can fade in and out of games, with some clubs wary of what he was capable of so ensuring his influence was restricted. Another tactic opposition players learned about Ling was to corral him onto his opposite foot as it often means a very short kick, or more likely a handball, rather than his preferred left dart.
- Deadly left boot
- Movement through traffic
Ling is certainly an exciting prospect with the way he can pick up the ball cleanly, burst off half-back and then piece a kick inside 50 to hit up a leading forward. There was a passage of play in the TAC Cup Grand Final where he did exactly that, and while he does not accumulate possessions as much as others, he is the type of player that 15 touches will be like 25-30 of your average player. Ling rarely wastes a disposal and is clean by both hand and foot. His preferred left is capable of hitting targets over any distance, and he has that touch of class when moving with the ball. When playing at the elite level, he is likely to be that player that teammates look to in order to produce a perfect pass and step up and be the difference in crunch games.
While his 20m sprint at the National Combine was 3.03 seconds – still very fast – many onlookers would have expected even better such is his acceleration. It was a perfect example of why test results are not everything because Ling certainly is among the fastest players in the draft crop. When running with the ball, he backs himself with confidence, arches his back and can still hit targets at full speed which is very difficult to do for most players. Overall, Ling has enough weapons to suggest a club will use a top 25, if not top 20 pick on the exciting half-back/midfielder.
- Opposite foot
Ling has two areas in which he could improve and these are his consistency within games, and his building up his ability on his weaker right foot. His highlights reel would be about as good as anyone in the draft crop, but there are times where he can go missing and not find the pill for a quarter or two within games. The fact the Falcons were so dominant in some matches meant he often would not have a lot to do in the backline, but there were times where he was restricted from having an influence. At his best he is dominant and eye-catching, but it is just continuing to build those highlights and moments into even greater substance going forward.
Secondly, like most left footers, Ling needs to work on his opposite foot. There were a few times this season, particularly in the finals series when the clubs are more aware of opposition players’ capabilities, where Ling was forced onto his right and it was immediately apparent he was not nearly as confident, instead dishing off the handball or producing a short ‘lob’ kick when corralled onto that side. The key for Ling going forward, as is the case with most elite left-dominant players is working on his opposite foot to the point where it just becomes average and not so much a concern if forced onto it. A minor improvement I would add is his scoreboard impact, having kicked six behinds for the season, he could make more of his opportunities, but playing off half-back, they are often fleeting. His one score assist a game shows he is creating opportunities for others.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 12-25
Matthew Ling is a player who will quickly catch the attention of supporters with his dash, skills and composure when playing at AFL level. He has all the tools to become a very exciting player and once he can build his consistency and work on his opposite foot, Ling could become a more complete player. As a whole, expect him to be the first Geelong Falcon taken in the 2017 National AFL Draft, somewhere in the last first round or early second round for a club looking for speed and skill off half-back.
Under 18s Championships