Who is your club’s kick-in weapon?
TIGERS superboot Jayden Short has emerged as the most dangerous kick-in exponent in the league, as clubs experiment with how to maximise new kick-in rules.
The Richmond rebounder earned a significant pay rise last year with his superb defensive play, and now the Tigers will hope to cash in with his booming right foot and attack from the defensive goal square.
New rules allow players to play on from that square without touching the ball on their boot, potentially stealing an extra 10m or even taking on the man on the mark.
While Robbie Tarrant has the best kick rating from 2018 of plus 14.1 per cent (ranking how often a player hits an expected target), it is Short who gets the score on the board.
Of all players to take kick-ins last year, he generated 14 shots at goal from his 105 kick-ins.
Critically, Richmond's opponent only scored five times going back the other way from his kick-ins.
North Melbourne's Scott Thompson generated 11 scores from his kick-ins, with Hawthorn's Ryan Burton generating 10 before he moved to Port Adelaide.
Sydney's Jake Lloyd took the most kick-ins of any player last year (157) but while he generated nine scoring shots, the Swans' opponents scored 27 times from his kick-ins.
Short's numbers might not seem astronomical, with Richmond scoring from about 10 per cent of his kick-ins.
But the reason why the AFL has changed kick-in rules is because there were only 350 shots at goal generated from kick-ins that went end-to-end last year.
Worryingly, there were over 700 shots at goal from teams defending a kick-in.
The league is hopeful the new rule, combined with the 6-6-6 centre bounce set-up, will allow teams more room to set up attacking thrusts.
In the first two weeks of the new AFLW season about 70 per cent of players have played on from the kick-in.
West Coast's Shannon Hurn has always been a superb kick-in technician with his searing 60m drop punts to advantage.
But the West Coast veteran is unlikely to be trying too many tricks as he plays on, more likely to steal an extra 5m before the man on the mark runs him down.
The AFL is hopeful players like Lloyd, Short and GWS defender Lachie Whitfield will show tactical innovation with their kick-in strategies.
If clubs are forced to defend kick-ins deeper up the ground, there will be space to find a teammate 35m out from goal who then has a pocket of space to boot the ball into the attacking half of the ground.
They could also run straight at the man on the mark, handball over his head to a teammate, get the ball back and launch it into the centre square.
Some clubs might even decide to put two men on the mark, or in that area, to keep rivals from stealing too much room from a kick-in.
Short's kick-in rating is not as high as Richmond teammate Nick Vlastuin, who mostly hits conservative targets in the pocket.
But in the new world of attacking kick-ins, his long raking kicks down the middle might provide even more bang for buck.
* stats from 2018 season. Kick-in rating based on how often a kick hits the intended target.
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