Despite all the hype over the arrival of high profile recruits, Dayne Beams, Allen Christensen and Mitch Robinson at the ‘Gabba over the off-season, one unsung hero is set to make a return to the game, after injury brought about a premature end to his 2014 season.
You’ll see him plying his trade in the number 30 guernsey for the Lions, but rest assured Jack Redden is no ordinary footballer.
Originally hailing from Keith, South Australia, before moving to Adelaide as a teenager, Redden was selected via Glenelg with the Lions’ second selection (pick 25 overall) in the 2008 national draft.
It didn’t take long for Redden to have an impact at AFL level, collecting 22 disposals in just his third game and playing in ten games, including two finals in his debut season.
Redden went on to gain a NAB Rising Star nomination the next year, and was rewarded with a fifth-place finish in the Lions’ best and fairest award, the Merrett-Murray Medal for 2010.
Consistency has been a forte of Redden’s game and this is exemplified by him placing no lower than fourth in the three Merrett-Murray Medal counts from 2011-2013, while not missing a game during this timeframe.
In fact, from his debut with the Lions in round 15 2009 against Geelong, Redden played 112 successive senior games until early July last year, when a stress fracture caused by bone spurs in his left ankle required surgery, bringing an end to Redden’s streak and with it his 2014 season.
Redden is well known as a prolific tackler, ranking inside the top five for tackles per game, every season since 2011, and in his second last appearance of 2014, laid an astounding 15 tackles in the Lions’ 83-point loss to Fremantle in Perth.
He is a consistent ball winner, averaging a tick under 24 disposals per game in 2014, and nine times out of 14 games last year, collected 25 or more disposals.
Redden averaged 27.75 disposals and 6.75 tackles per game in the four victories he played in last year, as opposed to 22.3 disposals and 7.1 tackles in the Lions losses.
Perhaps caused by the pressure of his opponents while playing in a losing side, Redden’s disposal efficiency dropped to 69.2% last season, after hovering in the low to mid 70’s through 2012 and 2013.
However, one of Redden’s great strengths is his ability to win the hard ball, and his contested possession rate has hovered between 44% and 46% for each of the last three years. In addition, Redden ranked second at the Lions with 10.7 contested possessions per game last year, behind only Tom Rockliff. Furthermore, he also averaged an impressive 5.4 clearances per game in 2014, placing Redden in the top 25 in the league in this category.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect to Jack Redden’s game is that he will enter 2015 fresh and fit after his long lay-off at the end of the 2014 season, and at the age of 24, is seemingly ready to take his game to another level in 2015.
The advantage Redden will have this season is the plethora of midfielders including Beams, Rockliff, Robinson and the returning Daniel Rich alongside him, which is likely to present him with the opportunity to win more outside ball, giving Redden the ability to add an extra 4-5 possessions per game.
Acquiring more outside football with less pressure should see Redden’s disposal efficiency improve and he can potentially be an even more damaging player than what he already is to the Lions.
Redden already has proved himself to be a tough, in-and-under player, but with the added flexibility of an outside role this season, he could breakout to be one of the most improved players in the competition.
If the Lions are to end their five-year finals drought in 2015, it’s players like Jack Redden that will be playing their guts out to see the mighty Lions plying their wares in September once again.