For all the publicity surrounding Sydney’s Coleman medalist Lance Franklin and his battle against the team he played in two premierships for in Hawthorn, one Swans player has quietly gone about becoming one of the most influential in the competition.
Despite his failure – through no fault of his own – to be selected in the 2014 All-Australian team, for 21-year-old Luke Parker, this season has indeed proven to be a breakout year.
After being named as the starting sub in the Swans’ 2012 premiership triumph over Hawthorn, Parker forced his way into a more prominent role in the Swans’ line-up in 2013.
As a result, his numbers last season proved to be most promising, averaging 21 disposals per game at a handy 67.1% efficiency. He demonstrated his willingness to win the hard ball, with 9.6 contested possessions, while also laying five tackles per game. Up forward, Parker also made an impact on the scoreboard with 22 goals, confirming his status as one of the most promising mid/forwards in the game.
While it was expected that Parker would again show further improvement this season, the rate of his development has been stunning.
Parker has averaged 26.2 disposals per game at an improved efficiency of 68.7% in 2014, and has accumulated the third most disposals of any player this season. Further highlighting his breakout impact, he has offloaded the fifth most handballs, and laid the sixth most tackles in the league as well.
Parker’s statistical output has also improved in other categories like; contested possession per game (12.7 from 9.6), effective disposals per game (18.0 from 14.1) and clearances (5.0 from 3.2).
On seven occasions in 2014, Parker has racked up at least 30 disposals per game, all of these coming after the Swans’ round 10 bye. In addition, he has accumulated at least 20 effective disposals on 11 occasions, including in six of the last seven games.
Of Parker’s 25 goals this year, he has produced multiple tallies on eight occasions, with a best of four coming against Adelaide in round three, to go with the three majors he bagged in last week’s preliminary final win over the Kangaroos.
Furthermore, three times this season Parker laid an astounding 10 or more tackles and in the round 22 win over the Western Bulldogs, Parker also had ten clearances to go with his 11 tackles and 32 disposals.
While the improvement of Parker’s game is impressive, there are however, some drawbacks to his game.
After conceding 25 frees against in 2013, Parker slipped in this area, infringing 39 times in 2014. In fact, on six occasions he conceded three frees in a game.
Secondly, Parker ranks as one of the worst clanger kings in the league, with the second highest tally of any player and is ranked as ninth in clangers per game with 3.5. However, in relation to his disposal numbers, Parker’s clangers have remained at a similar rate to 2013.
In this year’s finals series, Parker’s 29-disposal, seven-tackle and two-goal per game average definitely makes him a vital cog in the Swans’ bid for a second flag in three years.
However, it is important to note that the last time Parker went up against the Hawks in round 18, he achieved his lowest disposal count of the season with just 15, and his three lowest disposal tallies of 2014 all came against top six sides in Fremantle, Port Adelaide and Hawthorn.
For a lad picked up at number 40 in the 2010 national draft, Luke Parker has certainly come a long way in just 81 AFL games, and is quite rightly now seen as one the most improved players in the competition.
Parker is more than capable on his current form of a vast contribution on Saturday, and in fact it would not surprise if he should be standing on the dais after the game with the Norm Smith Medal draped around his neck.
It would certainly be a step up for the player who experienced just a taste of premiership football in the 2012 decider. Parker has shown with his output this season that he is set to be one of the players to watch for the next decade.