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Bargain or Bust - Josh Schache at the Kennel

One of the legitimate shocks of the 2017 AFL Trade Period saw former number 2 overall pick, Josh Schache move back to Melbourne and into the kennel of the Western Bulldogs. The price for a young man who was so highly touted just a couple of short years ago? Picks 25 and 40.

In reality, it means that Schache has fallen so far in the esteem of the Brisbane Lions that they are willing to accept the 25th best unproven talent, along with the 40th best. They’ve seen what Schache can do, and more importantly, what he can’t or won’t do. They cut their losses and refused to be constrained by what they'd already invested.

Josh Schache is a 20 year old who has now been in the system for two years. Big things were expected of him when the Lions drafted him second overall in 2015, and early on, Schache looked like he may deliver. He kicked 16 goals and 18 behinds in 2016. His much-lauded accuracy from his Under 18 days had deserted him, but at least he was getting his hands on it. On 8 occasions in his 27 games with the Lions, he tallied double figures in disposals but has never kicked more than 2 goals in a game.

We are not privy to the attitude of Schache, or whether his drive and will to win are sufficient to succeed in the cut-throat world of professional football. Only those in his inner circle and the man himself know whether the reports of him not being motivated are true. Perhaps these were the reasons that drove his trade value down so markedly. But the situation he found himself in was not a great motivator at all for the big man.

In his 2 seasons at the Brisbane Lions, Josh Schache played in only 3 wins. That is a win percentage of 11% of the games he played. Hardly the sort of record that would make him leap out of bed in the morning, eager to head into work. The go-home factor reportedly played heavily on Schache’s mind, as well. There is no doubt that the urge to be close to family and friends is an influential aspect of any young footballer’s mindset, as evidenced by the amount of players wanting to leave interstate clubs. The Lions looked like they were ready to deal, and the Bulldogs pounced, albeit slowly, as you’d kind of expect from a bulldog.

What will the Dogs get in Schache? And for that matter, what were the Lions hoping for? There is an unrealistic expectation on young forwards in the AFL. While many midfielders are capable of coming in and establishing themselves as stars in a matter of a couple of seasons, the big men need time to improve their strength to battle against veteran backmen and well-structured defences. To do him justice, it is prudent that we compare Schache to others playing as a key forward at the same age.

After two seasons, Schache is averaging 8.8 disposals, 4.0 marks and 0.93 goals per game. They are not great returns and the impatient amongst us could understand why the Brisbane Lions would feel as though he was not producing enough to fight to keep him. But how far behind is he?

After his first two years in the league, Wayne Carey averaged 12.9 disposals, 4.48 marks, and 1.52 goals per game. It’s a stretch to put Schache up against the King, but Carey was but a prince at that stage of his career.

Jonathon Brown developed his game much faster in a dominant Brisbane team. He averaged 12.36 touches, 5.36 marks, and 1.13 goals per game over the first two years of his career but already had the physical stature of an older player as he entered the competition.

Nick Riewoldt averaged 13.42 possessions, 7.28 marks and 0.82 goals per game. His marking on the lead was always his strong suit, and his endurance made him almost impossible to stop as he ranged up to the wings to take marks.

Travis Cloke’s numbers were 10.3 disposals, 4.4 marks and 0.53 goals. Not too far removed from Schache’s stats.

Lance Franklin averaged 10.2 disposals, 3.7 marks and 1.5 goals per game. He hardly set the world on fire, but quickly moved onto big things in his third season.

Jack Riewoldt had 9.5 disposals, 4.3 marks and 0.96 goals per game. These numbers are very similar to those of Schache. Imagine if Richmond had pulled the pin on Jack because he was not producing enough?

He's no Wayne Carey, or Jonathon Brown, and he's certainly no Nick Riewoldt, but it’s fair to say that if the Western Bulldogs have their hands on a young Jack Riewoldt-type, they’d be pretty pleased with themselves. They’ve given up very little to get him. Interestingly, in his third season, Jack made significant progress, upping his averages across the board. That is now the challenge for Schache.

A new environment, a team that will be looking to bounce back and contend for a premiership again, and a departing power forward reeks of opportunity for the young big man to make his mark. Many have said that 2017 was a wasted year for Schache. 2018 cannot be the same.  He will be looked at as either one of the biggest bargains in recent trade history, or a player who never fulfilled his potential. It will be interesting to compare him to the five listed players above again in twelve months.

The Brisbane Lions threw their cards on the table and walked away from Josh Schache. The Western Bulldogs gambled on him. With Travis Cloke recently retiring and Tom Boyd perhaps being used in the ruck a little more, the Bulldogs will soon find out whether their gamble has been a bust, or if the kennel will be turned into the Love Schache.



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