Michael Gibbons (Murray Bushrangers)
Height: 175 cm
Weight: 69 kg
Player comparison: Ben McGlynn/Matthew Boyd
Strengths: Tackling pressure, ball winning ability, influence
You have to be a very good footballer to get drafted if you are less than 180 cm tall. Even more so if you stand at just 175 cm. Michael Gibbons is just that, a very good footballer. He is a ball magnet who loves to get his hands dirty and get this own ball and is also quite a capable small forward. He has been a standout for the Murray Bushrangers this year, averaging 26.4 disposals this year and being the main ball winner for his side.
Gibbons is small but it doesn’t stop him from racking up possessions. He leads his team for disposals and also lead his state for possessions in the Champs with 130 which ranked him second overall. Despite getting a lot of the ball Gibbons doesn’t always use it effectively, with a very poor kicking efficiency of 50 per cent. This is mainly due to poor decision making and a tendency to float the kicks up to his targets off a couple of steps rather than punching them lower with more purpose. Those higher kicks may come off this year when he has big Max King to kick to in his forward half but they won’t cut the mustard at AFL level.
Gibbons is very slippery and difficult to tackle. He has a strong core and strong legs which help him to hold his ground in tackles. He doesn’t panic when being tackled and usually frees his arms and fires out a handpass. His low centre of gravity certainly helps him when the ball is in dispute, often winning ground balls against taller opponents and rarely going to ground.
At 175 cm Gibbons needs to have more strings to his bow than just being able to get a lot of the ball so he has worked hard on his ability to go forward and its starting to bring results. Gibbons kicked just three goals in the first five TAC Cup games of the year but has kicked seven in his last four games including two games where he kicked multiple goals. His tackling pressure is fantastic and he has shown a lot of potential as a defensive forward which is where I see him starting off at AFL level. He averages almost five tackles per game and never gives his opponent any space, harassing them and chasing them so that defenders can’t waltz out of the backline uncontested. Gibbons is never out of the game and even when he is manning the mark he tries to put pressure on by dancing around and putting his opponent off. Its these little things that catch your eye and impress you because many players are unwilling to do them.
During the championships Gibbons was a star for NSW/ACT and he can count himself extremely unlucky to have missed out on All Australian selection. Gibbons ranked second overall for disposals (130), fifth for contested possessions (47), second for uncontested possessions (83), sixth for clearances (23), eighth for inside 50s (17) and first for tackles (36). His performances in the Champs were superb and he made it difficult for recruiters to ignore him, particularly GWS who have first crack at him as a zone selection similar to how they recruited Zac Williams last year.
As well as he has performed this year, Gibbons is still not looked at as a certainty to be selected. Most of this comes back to his height and in a draft littered with small talents like Lewis Taylor and Mitch Honeychurch, it may be the difference between Gibbons going in the main draft and being rookied. He certainly has the talent to make it but needs to have a strong finish to the season, particularly if the Bushrangers make the finals, to stamp himself as a sure thing come draft day.
Gibbons was selected at Pick 71 in the Bound For Glory News Phantom Draft by Geelong. This was to build on their midfield depth as their midfield stars are close to retirement and go into the midfield and forward rotations with the likes of Allen Christensen, Mitch Duncan and Matthew Stokes. While his limitations are well noted, Gibbons has plenty of potential and is one to watch later in the draft.