Collingwood's black and white army are excited
Sons of gun footballers such as Collingwood's Josh Daicos often struggle to emerge from their father's vast shadow.
Comparisons are odious and his dad Peter is one of the most revered players in the Magpies' storied history, an Australian Football Hall of Famer renowned for his magical goalkicking skills in 250 games.
After managing only 17 senior games in his first three seasons with Collingwood, Josh has taken giant strides this year and is one of the competition's most improved players.
Possessing the trademark Daicos kicking skills, he has played with zest and confidence, adding a touch of class around the ball. But the young Magpie does not eschew the defensive side of the game, prepared to run back hard into the backline and tackle ferociously when required. Daicos has played in nine of Collingwood's 10 games and kicked seven goals. Last week against Sydney he capped off a superb performance with a Goal of the Year contender in an effort reminiscent of his father - with a checkside kick from near the boundary line after cleverly keeping the ball in play to seal the win for the Magpies.
Daicos' marked improvement has excited the black and white army and there might be a double dose of magic to enjoy in future seasons, with his younger brother Nick tipped to be the top pick in next year's draft.
While Daicos has been the Magpies' most improved, there are others who have caught the eye with just over half the regular season completed. Here are my nominations at the first eight clubs.
ADELAIDE: Reilly O'Brien. The ruckman has been a rare shining light in a dismal season for the Crows, playing every game and averaging 23.4 hit-outs (ranked ninth in the AFL). He has competed well against some of the league's big men.
BRISBANE: Zac Bailey. In his third season after a strong finish to 2019, the speedster has played every game this year. He has provided the Lions with plenty of run and carry and had an impact with his ability to kick goals.
CARLTON: Will Setterfield. After a slow start to his second season with the Blues, the former Giant has become a solid contributor in the midfield. He is slick with his hands in traffic and clearances, and has improved his use of the ball by foot.
ESSENDON: Jordan Ridley. The skilful half-back has put his injury woes of the past two seasons behind him and has not missed a game, with his ability to read the play and intercept marking standing out. He has averaged 17 disposals and seven marks in 2020.
FREMANTLE: Matt Taberner. The Dockers have been patient with the strong-marking key forward and that is starting to pay dividends, polling AFL coaches' votes in three votes. Fellow Victorian Andrew Brayshaw has also been impressive in the past month.
GEELONG: Cameron Guthrie. Although in the veteran class, he is enjoying career-best form, with skipper Joel Selwood the only better-performed Cat this year according to the AFL coaches' votes. Guthrie has stepped up in the midfield to fill the void left by Tim Kelly, who has returned to Western Australia.
GOLD COAST: Sam Collins. Impressive before being injured last year, the full-back has not missed a game and is in All-Australian contention. He is rarely beaten and provides a strong contest, particularly in the air.
GWS GIANTS: Harry Perryman. After an impressive finish to 2019, he started this season in fine style, kicking nine goals in his first four games. Playing on a wing and occasionally across half-back, he has improved his fitness under the watchful eye of Giants assistant coach Lenny Hayes.
Next week I will nominate the most improved players from the remaining nine clubs.
Head in a spin during festival
We're in the middle of the AFL's Festival of Footy and while the broadcasters and fans, particularly in COVID-riddled Victoria, are celebrating, the jury is out about the viability of cramming so many games into a reduced timeframe.
While shorter quarters are reducing the load on players' bodies, a snapshot of the injury list on the AFL website indicates a raft of soft-tissue problems.
Are there more than normal? We'll have to wait until the end of the season for detailed analysis on that subject. But my view remains the schedule, hopefully, returns to normal next season. I don't mind Thursday night footy, but having shorter quarters permanently compromises the competition's integrity.
It is also preferable to be able to digest weekly results properly and not have games and rounds running into each other.
Question of the week
Bob, of Bendigo, Victoria, asks: I've very much enjoyed the Channel 9 documentaries on Australian cricket legends Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell recently. Was Lawry unfairly treated by test selectors in the 1970-71 Ashes series?
Bob, I was also captivated by those shows. While selectors decided Lawry's time was up as skipper and replaced him with Chappell, the left-handed opener should have been retained as a batsman whose test average was 47.15. Lawry was a hero of mine as a youngster growing up in Melbourne's north and there has been no better ball-by-ball TV commentator than the proud Victorian.
- This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.