Finding Will Brodie – Who Is The Next Diamond In The Rough?

When the Fremantle Dockers acquired former Gold Coast player, Will Brodie in the 2021 off-season, nobody could have predicted the outcome.

Lost in a sea of inside midfielders at the embattled Queensland club, Brodie’s time was up and his move to Freo came with plenty of incentives to take him. The Suns traded Brodie, picks 19, 61, and 69 in exchange for a fourth round pick and a future second-rounder.

Pick 19 turned into Matthew Johnson, who is yet to play a game for the Dockers, but even without the acquisition of what was Gold Coast’s priority pick at the time, Freo are the significant winners in the deal.

After returning to the Suns in career-best shape to start the 2021 season, Brodie was limited to just five games for the season, averaging a career-low 12.8 disposals. Not due to injury, mind you – he just was not considered part of the Suns’ best 22. His move to Fremantle was viewed by many as a last-ditch attempt to make good on the promise that saw him selected at number nine in the 2016 AFL Draft.

It was a chance he was not going to waste.

The form of Will Brodie at Fremantle has been remarkable. As it stands, he is ranked in the top 15 in the competition in contested possessions, clearances, handballs, and total disposals. With Nat Fyfe starting the season on the sidelines, an opportunity to make an instant impact was afforded Brodie, and he latched onto it with both hands.

In his 18 games for the season to date (he played 25 for the Suns over five seasons), he has dipped below 20 disposals just once and has developed his game to the point where his output is crucial to the way the Dockers set up in the middle. Once looked at as a fill-in until Fyfe returned, Brodie has become an integral part of their structure.

Fremantle made the call to put their faith in the Gold Coast discard, and he has repaid it several times over, already.

With the results of Brodie at Fremantle, the wise old heads at footy clubs around the AFL would be looking to replicate the success he has seen. On every list, there seems to be a player or two that are underutilised to the point it becomes head-scratchingly confusing for supporters. Why are these blokes not getting a run? Is there something internal at the club we’re not aware of? And the big question – would they excel elsewhere?

Look, picking up a recycled player is not always going to be a hit. This season has seen Luke Dunstan, often overlooked at St Kilda (and famously “not rated” by Brett Ratten), move to Melbourne with the hopes of mixing it in the middle with the premiers. His results have not yielded as impressive a return as Brodie. Dunstan has managed just five games this season, used as the medi-sub at times, which has led to him averaging a career-low 12.6 touches after sitting at 25.25 possessions per game in his 12 St Kilda games in 2021.

He’s basically the anti-Brodie in 2022.

However, whilst Dunstan has obviously not checked in to AFL stardom this season with the Dees, astute recruiters will be on the lookout for whoever could be next to break out in a different environment. Who is the next Will Brodie?

Let’s take a look at some possibilities.

 

BRAYDEN FIORINI – GOLD COAST

24 years old. 64 games.

Another Sun who has been relegated to the seconds this season, Fiorini has the ability to become a midfield staple, but he is now battling Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson, Touk Miller, and emerging players like Elijah Hollands for midfield minutes.

Unless there is a rash of injuries or departures, the writing is on the wall for Fiorini, just the way it was for Brodie last year.

Unlike others on this list, getting a game has not been the issue for Fiorini – he has fronted up 14 times in 2022 thus far. The problem has come with locking down a position, and as a proven ball-winner, he has topped 20 touches just once in his last 11 games.

Greener pastures await.

 

PADDY DOW – CARLTON

22 years old. 59 games.

The Blues have recruited well, and in doing so, the future for Paddy Dow was sealed. He is now behind Patrick Cripps, Adam Cerra, George Hewett, Matt Kennedy, and the great Sam Walsh.

He has a year to run following 2022, but if the Blues are looking to get any value at all for the 22-year-old, they’ll be looking at moving him this season.

With the influx of midfield talent at Carlton, he has managed just two games at 10.5 touches per contest, as opposed to 17 games at 14.24 disposals in 2021. Sorry Paddy… your time at Ikon Park is done-ski.

However, that doesn’t mean his career is over, and he will draw a fair bit of inspiration after seeing what Will Brodie has pulled off at Freo.

 

XAVIER DUURSMA – PORT ADELAIDE

22 years old. 46 games

He is out of favour, out of form, and if Port are looking at acquiring anyone else this off-season, I would not be at all surprised to see Xavier Duursma’s name floated as possible trade bait.

Although his leadership qualities are spoken of by all associated with Port, they are not translating to meaningful time on the park, and a young man that was thought as a pillar of the club would be feeling the pressure acutely. In seven games this season, he is at career-low numbers of 11.29 touches per game and has lacked that powerful run and carry that made him such a weapon back in his rookie season.

Rozee has come on this season. Butters established himself last year. Duursma is the one unable to cement a place in the side, and many would be looking on, wondering whether they could get him out of Port Adelaide with a couple of years to run on his contract.

If Jason Horne-Francis wants out of North, I’d expect Duursma to be given the opportunity to return to Victoria, in return.

 

WILL GOULD – SYDNEY

21 years old. 0 games.

I remember watching Gould in a pre-season game back in 2020. In that game, an unsuspecting Matt de Boer wandered into the path of Gould, who flattened him with a massive bump. I thought at the time “this kid is going to be great”, but over two years later and Gould is yet to make his senior debut.

Sydney are a patient mob. They held Callum Mills back on a flank for years before unleashing him into the middle. They’re going to do the same with Braeden Campbell, but after two years and no games at all, it would not be the worst thing for Gould to explore options in an environment he will be used.

And just for fun, here’s that hit on de Boer.

 

LACHIE SHOLL – ADELAIDE

22 years old. 27 games.

What the hell has happened here?

Looking at the wing position at Adelaide over the last couple of seasons, it appeared as though the combination of Paul Seedsman and Lachie Sholl would provide the Crows plenty of drive. But Seedsman has succumbed to the lingering effects of concussion, and Sholl… well, he has not been sighted in the second half of the season at all. Even in the first half of the year, his run and carry fell away dramatically following the first five or so weeks, and it appears to have affected his confidence.

Sholl is contracted until the end of 2024, so his only way is a trade, but if he is unhappy and unable to produce at Adelaide, a move elsewhere could be just the tonic to reinvigorate his love of the game.

 

TOM PHILLIPS – HAWTHORN

26 years old. 115 games.

Unable to crack the best-22 for the majority of the season, Phillips is almost the forgotten man at Hawthorn. No longer deployed in his favoured wing position, Phillips has slotted in as a half-back when he has made his way onto the park… and really, he hasn’t looked great.

We must remember that this is a bloke who had three seasons at Collingwood averaging between 21 and 25 touches per game. He can play – he is just unable to do so in the role where he made his name at the Hawks. Contracted only for this season, a team requiring a hard outside runner could do a lot worse than invest in him.

 

AARON FRANCIS – ESSENDON

24 years old. 35 games.

It’s not like Aaron Francis hasn’t had his chances to date, but it seems as though he is either always injured, homesick, or taking a leave of absence due to mental health issues.

After 15 games in 2021, he has managed just four this season and has registered career-low numbers in the process. At 25, he has a heap of good footy ahead of him if things go well, but after seven seasons at Windy Hill Tullamarine, you’d think that if it was going to go right, it would have by now.

He is out of contract following this season – maybe it is time the Bombers started looking elsewhere to a problem Francis has been unable to help with?

 

LACHIE ASH – GWS

21 years old. 25 games.

He seems to be the victim of the never-ending supply of high-quality midfielders the Giants continue to produce via the draft.

Taken at pick four in 2019, Ash has played on the wing, on the flanks, and even adopted the role of tagger for a brief period. It smacks of a player with enormous talent being shoehorned into a team despite the fact his preferred positions are all taken.

Whilst he is playing sixth fiddle to players like Kelly, Coniglio, Green, Hopper, Taranto, and Whitfield, Ash could walk into a starting midfield job at several teams. It’s fine sitting down in the rotation as part of a team that is winning, but GWS are bottoming out for some reason, and whilst the future of Taranto may be in question – perhaps Hopper as well – the Giants will have another high draft pick incoming this year. Perhaps a chance elsewhere is the spark that ignites Ash?

 

CHARLIE CONSTABLE – GOLD COAST

23 years old. 12 games.

So, Constable spent four years at Geelong, dominating VFL games but was unable to reproduce those results at senior level. He totalled just 12 outings over that time and despite a very strong second season in the ones, his stocks fell dramatically in 2020/21.

His move to the Gold Coast, out of necessity, saw him plonked in exactly the same role Will Brodie vacated to head to Freo. Constable was up against it immediately and has been unable to crack a senior spot all year except for one game where he was medi-sub…

… and dropped the next week without getting on the park.

Constable probably hung out at Geelong a year too long before pulling the pin and moving. A proven inside ball-winner, he is probably the most closely related to Brodie in terms of skill set and the position he finds himself in. Teams should look very closely at him this off-season – he is 23 and ready to deliver.

 

JAMES WORPEL – HAWTHORN

23 years old. 79 games.

A Peter Crimmins Medallist in his second season at the Hawks, Worpel has fallen off a cliff in terms of his production. Seemingly unable to gel with Brownlow Medallist, Tom Mitchell, as soon as the dynamic changed with Mitchell’s return from a broken leg, Worpel’s game fell away.

And it has not stopped since.

This is more a “watch this space” at the moment, with rumours circulating that Sam Mitchell’s cleanout at Hawthorn will resume this off-season. If that includes Tom Mitchell – and it will – perhaps Hawthorn is the best spot for Worpel, after all?

 

RILEY COLLIER-DAWKINS – RICHMOND

22 years old. 11 games.

Tiger fans have a habit of talking up their young blokes. They did it with Callum Coleman-Jones and he has not come on quickly, even after moving to North for more opportunity. And they’ve done it with this kid, as well.

RCD managed nine games in 2021 and looked to be one of the future parts of the Richmond midfield, but his 2022 has been a disappointing second act, with just two games to his name thus far.

Collier-Dawkins has a nice mix of inside/outside skills and whilst I think he’ll be around at Punt Road a while (he is only contracted until this season) as players like Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin, and Shane Edwards move on, there’d be a few clubs looking at his potential and wondering how they could slot him in for meaningful game time immediately.

 

SYDNEY STACK – RICHMOND

22 years old. 34 games.

It has not been a great year for Sydney Stack.

He burst onto the scene in 2019, with many inserting his name into the mix alongside Connor Rozee, Sam Walsh, and Bailey Smith as one of the best first-year players. However, with just two games to his name, barely touching the footy in either, Stack has become an afterthought at Richmond and a continuance of his AFL career seems as though it will take place elsewhere.

A WA product, Stack could be a bargain pick-up for either of the Dockers or Eagles, assuming they can support him to do what is required to perform at the highest level. So much talent, but the Tigers have been unable to harness it over the last couple of years. Perhaps another team could do it?

Hey, it worked for Gary Ablett, right?

 

And there we go – I had a few more on the list, but I get a bit tired and grumpy writing 25K words per week as a base, and sometimes I like you people to throw a few names at me I may/may not have forgotten. Let’s see who you’re looking at, with your beady little recruiting eyes.

 

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