The Names of the Game

It’s the night before the trade period starts, and AFL fans are having withdrawals. The hysteria around the Tigers’ first premiership in 37 years has not quite subsided, and realistically, may not for quite a while, but the fans of 17 other teams are all looking for… something.

Well, you’ve found something. Hopefully it’s not so terrible that you throw your phone/tablet/computer against the wall in anger, particularly if your name is Tom.

In the AFL in 2017, there was only one Bachar, one Jaeger, and surprisingly, only one Joe, albeit a very good one.  There was one Cyril, one Seb, and one Majak. And just in case you missed it, there was also one Dusty. Those players can be identified simply by their first names. Commentators do it, and we immediately know who they’re talking about, but what about the other guys? The commoners, if you will.

In stark contrast to the Madonnas of the football world, on AFL lists in 2017, there were 31 Toms/Tomas/Tommys. There were 33 Jack/Jacksons, 30 Sams, 27 Matt/Matthews, and 25 named Josh/Joshua. 

Including rookie-listed players, the average number on an AFL list is 44. That makes around 792 players in the league this season. Those five names, with their variants, make up 18% of the total AFL players.

So much for diversity. AFL parents seem to think quite alike.

In looking at the names themselves, only two have enough regular senior players to compile a decent side. Whilst the Josh contingent does have Kelly, Gibson and the Kennedys , and the Matts boast names such as Kruezer, Crouch and Priddis there are just too many with too little experience to compile a complete team. The same goes for the Sams; too many playing too few games in 2017 to piece together a competitive side.

This leaves us with a clash between the Jacks and the Toms; two heavyweight names in the annals of AFL history. Think about it. Dyer… Titus…  Hafey… names synonymous with great footballing deeds.

And now, in one place, at one time, we can now analyse the clash we’ve all been waiting for. THE ALL-JACKS versus THE TOM-INATORS in a battle for AFL name supremacy. You’ve never seen anything like it before and, if you’re lucky, you never will again.

 Let’s check out how they stack up.

THE ‘ALL-JACKS’

Backs –               Leslie (GCS)           Hombsch (PA)      Redden (WCE)

Half Backs –       Steele (ST K)          Trengove (PA)      Watts (MELB)

Centres –            Steven (ST K)         Viney (MELB)        Crisp (COLL)

Half Forwards – Martin (GCS)          Darling (WCE)       Gunston (HAW)

Forwards –         Graham (RICH)       Riewoldt (RICH)    Billings (ST K)

Rucks –               Fitzpatrick (HAW)   McRae (WB)         Ziebell (NM)

Inte–                   Sinclair (ST K)          Newnes (ST K)      Redpath (WB)   Silvagni (CARL)

What is in the water down at St Kilda? The Saints have six players named Jack on their list at the conclusion of the season, with two being of very high quality (Steven and Billings). The only one to miss out on this side is Lonie, who was squeezed out by the addition of Jackson Trengove. Controversial, I know, as he isn’t even really a Jack at all, but he is a solid defender.

The Jacks look weak in the ruck, as having recently-retired Fitzpatrick starting demonstrates, but Redpath could be a decent replacement off the bench. With on-ballers the likes of McCrae, Steven, Viney, Crisp and Ziebell at the feet of the ruckmen, they should be able to get their talls inside fifty a lot of the ball.

Speaking of forwards, live singing sensation, Riewoldt starts at full forward and combines with Darling to provide a strong 1-2 marking punch. When you throw in Gunston, Billings, and the surprise packet of this year’s grand final, Graham, you’ve got a genuinely formidable forward structure. The Toms defence would have to be on their game to beat a team with this kind of firepower.

Defensively, the All-Jacks may be susceptible. Redden, though much better- suited elsewhere, adds some leg-speed to a defence desperately requiring it, and Watts’ skill off half back would be a luxury. I was almost tempted to throw Silvagni into the defensive mix, as seeing that name in the backline on a team sheet used to mean a couple of goals less for the opposition on name alone. Maybe some of the old man’s aura rubbed off on the youngster.

Overall, despite their ruck and defensive issues, the Jacks are a well balanced team that could do some damage.

THE TOM-INATORS

Backs –                  Langdon (COLL)          Lonergan (GEEL)       Clurey (PA)

Half Backs –          Barrass (WCE)            McDonald (MELB)     Jonas (PA)

Centres –               Liberatore (WB)        Mitchell (HAW)          Phillips (COLL)

Half Forwards –    Lynch (ADEL)              Lynch (GCS)                Papley (SYD)

Forwards –           Boyd (WB)                   Hawkins (GEEL)         Bell (BRIS)

Rucks –                 Bellchambers (ESS)    Rockliff (BRIS)           Scully (GWS)

Inter –                   Williamson (Carl)        Cutler (Bris)     Campbell (WB)       Stewart (Geel)

The spine of the Tom-inators is strong. Though recently retired, Lonergan has been doing big jobs for years, and would be up for one more. Mitchell in the middle is the most recent Hawks B&F winner, averaging north of 35 touches per game. The Lynch (GCS) and Hawkins combination could provide some real headaches.

The forward line might be a little too top-heavy, with three talls all plodding around, and the lack of a good small forward hurting them once the ball hits the ground. If they one-grabbed a few marks, however, things may get interesting very quickly.

In comparison to their opposition, the Toms are blessed in the ruck. Bellchambers would have ample assistance from both Boyd and Campbell if required. You could see Rockliff, Libba and Mitchell snatching first touch at stoppages, and with Scully doing the hard running, they could break the game open if they got first use.

Defensively, the Toms are under the pump. Despite the youth in Barrass, Jonas, Langdon and Clurey, they do not possess players who you can trust game in and game out to rebound effectively, although I have seen some great stuff from Jonas at times. They’re a bunch of good, honest backmen, with a clear leader in Lonergan, but they’d have to be at the top of their game to curtail their opposition.

Overall, they have a good spine, the benefit of a genuine ruckman, but lack experience down back.

THE VERDICT

As much as I’d like it to be close, I can’t see the Jacks losing this one. In the AFL name game, the Jacks reign supreme.

Their forward set up and strong midfield would be very difficult to stop. Players like Gunston, Crisp and Steven have hardly rated a mention, but are classy players, capable of turning a game on its head. In contrast, I think the Toms have too many passengers. Langdon, Phillips, Cutler and Bell are not doing the name ‘Tom’ justice currently, and would weigh down the efforts of Mitchell, Rockliff, and Lynch x 2.

The All-Jacks win by 35 points, and Captain Blood smiles down on them all… even the non-Tigers amongst them.