The forward target the Bulldogs have been craving has come from inside its own ranks, in Jarrad Grant. The progression of the 24-year-old is a key reason behind the Western Bulldogs’ resurgence of late. The enigmatic forward has kicked 12 goals in his past five games, underlining the feeling that there was a lot more to give, and a lot more to come out of the much-maligned forward, who is finally starting to deliver.
It’s been highly publicised that former Western Bulldogs recruiter, now Gold Coast recruiter Scott Clayton spoke famously of Grant after the 2007 draft, saying: “If Jarrad Grant’s not the best player after them (top two picks Matthew Kreuzer and Trent Cotchin), then I’ll swim to Williamstown from here.”
For the better part of five years, Bulldogs fans have been awaiting the memo for that swim, so that they could line the shores of Port Phillip to see him swallow his words. The fact Clayton has stuck fat for five years seems destined now to pay dividends, for it looks as though Grant is starting to reach his potential.
Reports that Grant had a poor attitude and work ethic, was hard to coach, a little bit egotistic and didn’t take criticism too well were all ticked off by an employee at the Western Bulldogs.
“He has come a very long way. There were times that he was considered tradeable because it just wasn’t working out,” he said. “There has been no doubt he had the talent, the problem was that he just failed to put it together when it mattered the most.”
Back in May, it made headlines that Grant was to play reserves football for Williamstown. The media beat up around Grant and his suggested poor form spun reporters into a frenzy, for the former fifth overall selection on the 2007 draft had hit rock bottom.
However, the employee portrayed a different story on Grant’s dumping to the Seagulls reserves, it was evident the entire story was not told.
“(Williamstown) have a deal with the Bulldogs, that only 10 listed (Western Bulldogs) players will play at any one time in the VFL. The rest are in the reserves,” he said. “It was very harsh of the media to pinpoint Jarrad when several other players were also in the reserves that day, too.”
As Williamstown prepare for a standalone side in 2014, they must also protect their own backyard, whilst playing to the wishes of their biggest stakeholder – the Bulldogs – and remaining competitive within the competition.
“Unfortunately for Jarrad, it was his turn.”
Grant has been the ghost of Whitten Oval. The Jack Watts of the Bulldogs, without the public profile.
Grant was taken ahead of Cyril Rioli, Patrick Dangerfield and Harry Taylor, to name a few. But hindsight does not solve the problem that has been pestering Bulldogs fans for over five years.
Despite his obvious talent, he has struggled for form, consistency and continuity and has had some injury woes along the way. He’s battled dodgy groins and had a run in with that now infamous stingray on the shores of Williamstown, and has only played 55 career games to date, whilst others in his draft year have already doubled that.
But it’s the last five weeks in which Grant has truly started to delivered, and how ironic that in this period we’ve seen a ruthless and attacking Bulldogs outfit, who’ve won two out of their last three games.
Since round 16, Grant has averaged 19 disposals at 87% efficiency, six marks, two tackles and over two goals per game, including two three-goal hauls against Sydney and West Coast and a bag of four against Carlton on the weekend. Not only has Grant stamped himself as a genuine marking threat up forward, he is an important avenue to goal both off his own boot and through setting up teammates, currently ranked second overall in the competition over the past month for score involvements, only behind Collingwood’s Dane Swan.
It’s like a switch has been flicked. His work rate has skyrocketed, meaning his impact on games now is truly profound.
For all the scrutiny on Grant, both internal and external, the glaring hole at the Whitten Oval has been the absence of a key forward since Barry Hall’s retirement. Liam Jones will be a good player, but he isn’t the dominant key forward, at best he’s the second banana.
But Grant’s resurgence as a bona fide key forward has backed up against some of the best defence in the competition, providing plenty of hope to not only himself, but all those associated with the Western Bulldogs going forward.
In the past month, Grant has showed his marking, speed, athleticism, clean hands and nous around goal to suggest that it might not all be so doom and gloom for the Western Bulldogs going forward. Sure, another key forward is on the cards to add some serious substance to what you can bet your bottom dollar will be one of the most damaging midfields in three to five years.
Perhaps the talent has been there, but the urgency hasn’t. And perhaps now, Grant can become the forward he’s long been expected to be, full of bite, full of roar, giving his very best.