In years gone by, the mark of a champion team was to possess a full-forward capable of booting more than 100 goals in a season. Iconic AFL players such as Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall and Gary Ablett Snr, seemingly booted tons year after year during the 1980’s and 90’s as their teams were highly competitive in the finals race.
Seeing forwards kick in excess of 100 goals in a season was a regular occurrence in the first half of the 1990’s, with the magical number being passed 13 times from 1990-1996. However, the trend has reversed as we have seen only five occasions in the last 16 years where forwards been able to top the ton.
More to the point, in the last decade only Fraser Gehrig (103 goals) in 2004 and Lance Franklin (113 goals) in 2008 have managed to kick more than 100 goals in a season, with only Franklin’s haul coming in the regular home and away rounds. Although it must be noted that Carlton spearhead Brendan Fevola did come extremely close with 99 goals in the home and away rounds in 2008.
In recent years, it appears that just kicking 80 goals is enough to win a Coleman Medal, with Lance Franklin’s haul of 82 goals in 2011, 71 coming in the home and away rounds, the most goals kicked by any individual player in the last five seasons.
The question is this, have we seen the last of the 100 goal full-forwards? Is there anyone able to reverse this trend and inspire a new generation of full-forwards the way Lockett and Dunstall were able to a generation ago?
It seems the only likely current day contender is the Giants’ Jeremy Cameron.
Cameron made his league début with the Giants in 2012 and in 16 matches won the clubs goal kicking award with 29 goals, not a bad effort for the then teenager.
However, it was his efforts in 2013 that saw Cameron reach another level. Cameron booted 62 goals in 21 matches last season in a side that finished dead last on the AFL ladder and in the process earned himself a much deserved All-Australian berth.
After his first two seasons at league level, Cameron had produced 91 goals in 37 games at a healthy average of 2.4 goals per game. The exciting part for Cameron is how he compares to the two legendary forwards in Lockett and Dunstall at the equivalent stage of their careers.
In Lockett’s first two seasons with the Saints he kicked 96 goals in 32 games, at three goals per game, on his way to a league record 1360 goals in 282 games with St. Kilda and Sydney, while Dunstall played in a premiership side in just his 38th game, as he kicked 113 goals in his first two seasons, on his way to 1254 in 269 games, the third highest tally of all time.
Admittedly, Cameron’s figures are a little way behind both Lockett and Dunstall, but it must be remembered that the Giants have won consecutive wooden spoons and in fact have only won four games in their entire AFL existence.
As the Giants inevitably improve, it seems likely that Cameron will be presented with greater opportunities from a stronger midfield and more efficient delivery, and therefore could possibly be the one player to break the 100 goal a season drought in AFL football.
Of course, there is no guarantee, but with other established forwards in Jack Riewoldt, Travis Cloke and Jarryd Roughead seemingly incapable of getting close to the 100 goal mark, perhaps 20-year-old Cameron is the only realistic hope for a century of goals in a season to be reached by any current AFL player.
It is doubtful though that Cameron will near the century mark this year, as the Giants are still a fair way from finals contention, and he has only kicked five goals in his two matches. The fact is that within the next three years we should know if Jeremy Cameron will be the next player to kick more than 100 goals in a season and thus etch his name into the annals of AFL history.
One thing seems certain at this point, if Cameron isn’t able to reach the ton in coming years, it is doubtful if anyone else will.