What? He’s kicking less than two goals a game. A key forward who draws the second best defender and is rumoured to be on $800,000 a season?

That’s the line many in the media have been spouting. Rarely has there been such derision aimed at a player who’s still playing reasonable football. It’s all about his pay packet. There’s a perception that he’s not earning close to his wage.

What seems to have been ignored is the market value for these forwards. The market value of Charlie Dixon seems to be only a little less than what Kurt Tippett is currently on. What’s clear is that clubs identify big key forward as crucial towards building a rounded side and are happy to pay an elite wage to a non elite key forward.

Sure, Charlie Dixon averages 2.7 goals a game to Tippett’s 1.9. But what’s been ignored is the role Tippett has been playing this season. As opposed to being a forward who chops out for a few minutes in the ruck, he’s been a genuine ruckman in some games.

There are several players in the competition playing the role Tippett usually plays, and the role many seem to perceive him still to be playing – the chop out ruck who spends a few minutes each quarter there. Players like Jesse White (1.4 goals and 4.4 hitouts per game), Tyrone Vickery (1.4 goals and 5.4 hitouts per game), Levi Casboult (1.5 goals and 5.5 hitouts per game) and Josh Walker (1.4 goals and 5.6 hitouts per game). Tippett not only kicks more goals (1.9) than these players, but has ten more hitouts a game too, averaging 16.3 hitouts per game.

To average 16.3 hitouts a game, Tippett would need to be spending a considerable amount of time in the ruck. Other players who average a similar amount of hitouts include Matthew Leuenberger, Zac Clarke, Paddy Ryder, Ben McEvoy, Rhys Stanley, Matthew Kreuzer and David Hale.

Like those players, Tippett is playing a genuinely 50/50 ruck/forward role. And he’s doing it well. With the decline of Mike Pyke and lack of a genuine replacement, Tippett has been called upon to fill that void.

Between resting on the bench, playing half his time in the ruck and then interchanging between the two each quarter, he has very little time to settle into playing forward. It’s widely acknowledged that shifting players around can result in performance suffering, and Tippett is having to adjust and settle into a different role numerous times per game. Even then, he’s still averaging nearly two goals a game.

Not only is Tippett kicking the amount of goals clubs would love from a second key forward, but he’s also playing a genuine ruck role in the absence of a player capable of leading Sydney’s ruck division. He’s essentially two players in one.

When assessing Tippett’s performances, he should be compared to those playing in the same role. Kreuzer, Hale, Clarke, Stanley, Ryder and Sinclair – all players splitting their time close to evenly between the ruck and the forward line. Among those seven, Tippett ranks similarly for marks, possessions, hitouts and tackles. On face value, it’s understandable how he’s been perceived as average.

However, a deeper look reveals the extent to which Tippett has excelled in this new role. He ranks first among them for contested possessions – winning Sydney more ball than any other player in a similar role. He ranks a clear first for marks inside 50, indicating just how effective he’s been forward. In addition to this, he also ranks a clear first for goals, averaging a goal more per game than each of the others bar Ryder. Over the course of a season, he’s offering Sydney 20 goals more than the best players of his current role would.

The other standout in this role is Paddy Ryder. Someone who was valued very highly in the trade window last year and paid accordingly. Ryder and Tippett statistically are very similar in all bar two key stats – goals and time on ground. Tippett averaged 1.9 goals a game to Ryder’s 1.2 – that’s 15 extra goals over a full season, while Ryder plays 94 percent of game time against Tippett’s 83 percent. Tippett is doing everything the more appreciated Paddy Ryder is doing, while kicking more goals in 10% less game time.

Kurt Tippett is the best ruck/forward in the competition. He equals the performances of others in the ruck but offers far more forward. If he was playing his role from seasons past and spending an extra 40 percent of the game forward, he quite possibly could be averaging three goals a game or more – elite numbers for a forward.

His lower than usual goalscoring is not through poor form or regression but a changed role. He’s actually an elite player for his niche role. The criticism and derision aimed at him is due to a lack of understanding, not a lack of ability. Instead of being a liability, he’s giving the Swans an advantage over every club in the competition.


  1. Excellent. An article about one my of favorites, a much maligned player who in my opinion is underrated and used as an excuse for Sydney’s poor form at times. There is nothing wrong with Tiprat. Everyone is expecting to have 2 Franklins on the field which cannot or ever be possible

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