Welcome to the 2022 Free Agency & Trade Period analysis series. Over the next fortnight, the plan is to look at every player heading to a new club. It’s not going to be a ‘who won the trade’ series, but rather a look at how players fit into existing setups, or what changes they may force.
For most of trade period, this post sat partially finished, looking like a choose your own adventure book. There were two options:
a) Luke Jackson at Fremantle with Rory Lobb
– With Lobb, Taberner and Darcy, is it a simple third-tall/second-ruck role
– There’s the chance to play as a funky, hybrid mid-forward, the offensive equivalent of Mark Blicavs
b) Luke Jackson at Fremantle without Rory Lobb
– Without Lobb, Jackson is more likely to settle into a traditional role
– Unless any of Jye Amiss, Josh Treacy or Josh Corbett exceed expectations
– Then the midfield role comes into calculations again
Ultimately it settled on b), and it’s time to discuss how Jackson makes Fremantle a better side.
When announcing the trade, Fremantle’s Head of Player Personnel David Walls was bullish on Jackson’s versatility, stating that he can play anywhere.
Then in Jackson’s introductory press conference, the newest (at the time) Docker believed he’d be playing a relatively traditional ruck/forward role, which makes sense as a soft launch, easing into proceedings.
That part of the equation is straight forward – as a ruck and around the ball, Jackson will have more influence than Lobb, and vice versa as a forward. Nothing overly exciting to discuss or analyse there.
The fun part is how long Jackson stays in this role. It probably depends on the rate of development for Jye Amiss and Josh Treacy, how Josh Corbett settles into life as a Docker, whether Matt Taberner can remain healthy, and the team’s offensive style for 2023.
Five separate ‘if’s’ make for a lot of moving pieces, but Jackson’s versatility makes for a ‘sky’s the limit’ scenario when discussing where he could play.
Can he spend time as a centre bounce midfielder? Seems plausible.
What about as the offensive version of Mark Blicavs’ role at Geelong? That can work too.
Maybe he rucks, then pushes forward to create a supersized forward line? Would take some tweaks, but has potential.
The more I look at it, the more I lean towards the middle option of those three as an offensive version of Blicavs.
In this year’s Grand Final analysis, I explained how Blicavs’ extra midfield time was used mainly as a defensive measure for Geelong – but with a glimpse of offensive potential.
Now imagine the offensive potential as a main focus, with a player who has all the tools to carry it out.
Fremantle’s midfield is well stocked with two-way runners, so they can afford to roll with one player who’s heavily offensive-focused.
Imagine heading to a centre bounce and the opposing trio see Andrew Brayshaw, Caleb Serong … and Luke Jackson.
Brayshaw and Serong can do their bit with or without the ball. Then the remaining matchup is the third choice midfielder against Jackson; a 198-centimetre midfielder who can move just as well as most ground level players.
Or if Jackson is a priority matchup, it means Brayshaw or Serong are against secondary options – players they’d have a clear advantage over.
This is the fascinating part of Jackson at Fremantle. The sandbox is full of creative choices for Justin Longmuir to play with – and this is without even mentioning Jaeger O’Meara’s addition. It may take a while to find optimal tools, but getting there will be all sorts of fun to watch.
If you’ve missed any of the Free Agency & Trade Analysis posts, here’s where to catch up:
Karl Amon, Hawthorn
Josh Corbett, Fremantle
Tanner Bruhn, Geelong
Aaron Francis, Sydney | Sam Weideman, Essendon | Lachie Hunter & Josh Schache, Melbourne | Tom Mitchell, Collingwood | Ollie Henry, Geelong | Cooper Stephens and Lloyd Meek, Hawthorn | Josh Dunkley, Brisbane | Rory Lobb, Western Bulldogs | Jaeger O’Meara, Fremantle
From a team building perspective, replacing Lobb with Jackson is a major success for the timeframe it presents.
Jackson – 21 years old – fits far better in Fremantle’s age demographic than Lobb at 29. If it was a list pushing for a final year or two with an experienced group, this part of the analysis wouldn’t matter as much.
But in this case, with one of the younger groups in the league, it does make a difference for long-term plans. With Jackson, Amiss and Treacy, the Dockers have three key position/forward players all 21 or younger, locked and loaded.
That surety allows Fremantle to set and forget that part of their list to a certain extent. In shifting to a development focus with those resources, they can look to needs in other positions and round out their list.
There’ll likely be an adjustment period as the Dockers figure out the best way to use Jackson and add more offensive power without sacrificing their defensive point of difference. (as covered in the post-season style analysis)
It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a slight ladder dip in 2023 for those reasons. But with the talent and youth available on Fremantle’s list, I have little doubt they’ll come out the other side a much stronger team.
In case you missed it, the Look Back/Look Ahead series recently wrapped.
Every team’s list was analysed in depth, with a key question picked out for 2023. In some ways the posts work hand-in-hand with these individual analyses, understanding needs and priorities.
Here are all the links to catch up on:
|North Melbourne||Read||West Coast||Read|
|Gold Coast||Read||Port Adelaide||Read|