The NAB Cup causes much excitement amongst the legions of fans with their future talent on show. Whether it is a dashing midfielder, high flying forward or dour defender, every club can have a reason to smile in the pre-season.
However, a copious amount of research has already revealed that pre-season form doesn’t necessarily dictate results in the home and away season. This can also be attributed to the players themselves.
Collingwood fans will remember the 2011 NAB Cup for the rise of a young rookie named Jye Bolton. Bolton played in the forward line and starred, having several shots on goal whilst finding the footy with ease. His performances led to plenty of fans and plaudits expecting an elevation for the boy from Leopold.
12 months later, without an AFL game to his name, Jye Bolton signed with Werribee Tigers in the VFL. For a kid rated as the next big thing at Victoria Park, he faded into obscurity without a whimper.
A similar situation occurred with West Coast’s Gerrick Weedon in 2012. After being selected with pick 22 in the 2009 National Draft, Weedon was a highly-rated West Australian goal sneak. West Coast coach John Worsfold was so impressed with him after he booted three goals in his first two NAB Cup matches, he touted Weedon as a possible replacement for injured small forward Mark LeCras.
Weedon went on to play in the losing NAB Cup Grand Final side, kicking a goal and shaping up as a likely Round 1 debutant. Unfortunately for him, that spot went to former Bulldog Josh Hill who made the forward pocket his own, forcing Weedon to bide his time in the WAFL. That time never came and just six months after his stellar NAB Cup campaign, Weedon was delisted.
Jye Bolton and Gerrick Weedon are just a couple of examples of players who have set the world on fire in the pre-season but disappeared when the season rolled around. Whether through team depth, loss of form, injury or suspension, not every pre-season performer is going to slot straight into a team’s best 22.
Some players, in particular mature-aged players such as Fremantle’s Michael Barlow, use the pre-season tournament to cement a spot in their team. Had a cruel ACL not finished Barlow’s 2010 season, he could have been pushing for Brownlow honours. This is not the case for so many promising young players.
Over the past two weekends we have seen many recruits stand up to make the fans and media take notice. No-one has had more hype surrounding them than North Melbourne’s Majak Daw.
Elevated to the senior list at the end of last season after a promising year at Werribee, the first Sudanese-born AFL player has hit the ground running this pre-season. Daw impressed in North Melbourne’s wins over Melbourne and Richmond, making him the latest YouTube sensation with an impressive goal against the Tigers. Receiving the ball in the middle, Daw shrugged off a Brandon Ellis tackle just outside 50 to run in and kick a much publicised goal.
Daw’s highlight reel, which already featured a towering pack mark against the Demons, raised his profile in the AFL world. While Daw says he’s not getting sucked in by the hype, it’s hard for North fans not to get excited about the man with the huge leap and the athleticism of a midfielder.
Daw could very well become a regular in the North Melbourne side, but for every Michael Barlow, there is a Jye Bolton and Gerrick Weedon.
For many young players, the NAB Cup is a great chance for coaches to see what they have to offer. Whilst some will shine, others will become a distant memory of the past. It’s easy to get caught up in an impressive highlight reel.
But one thing fans must realise is that when four points are at stake, it’s a whole different ball game.