Long live the big key forward.
Long live the big key forward.

Lynch: Big forwards still key to AFL glory

EVER since footy jumpers had laces on them, key forwards have been the most important figures in the game.

Coaches will say that defence wins premierships but in my opinion that only adds to the value of a key forward.

We can see as the season gets down to the business end that the sides I would consider the premiership favourites all have in-form big forwards.

This previous weekend saw Tom Hawkins (5.2), Josh Kennedy (7.0), Tom Lynch (5.1) and Jeremy Cameron (3.2) all play key roles in important wins for their side.

Of the top six of the Coleman medal, which is led by Cameron and includes all the above names as well as West Coast's Jack Darling, all bar second-placed Kangaroo Ben Brown come from genuine premiership contenders.

The Tomahawk was in vintage form in his 250th game against the Swans on the weekend. Picture: Phil Hillyard
The Tomahawk was in vintage form in his 250th game against the Swans on the weekend. Picture: Phil Hillyard

The seventh name on the list, Brisbane's Charlie Cameron, is the only player who is not a key forward.

It wasn't that long ago we were talking about the end of the big key forward but if you have a look at the top five on the ladder, they all have one thing in common, and in most cases two.

That is dominant big forwards.

When Richmond won its flag in 2018 with a small forward line built around Jack Riewoldt, there was a lot of talk that this was the way of the future.

Fans and even some commentators got swept up in the narrative that the game was set to change permanently.

Jeremy Cameron leads the Coleman Medal race. Picture: Sarah Reed
Jeremy Cameron leads the Coleman Medal race. Picture: Sarah Reed

Except Richmond, the side who had pulled off the premiership with an unorthodox offence, had other ideas.

They went hard after Tom Lynch because they knew that although it was possible to win flags without a couple of big forwards, it was certainly easier if you had them.

West Coast has Kennedy and Darling and GWS has Cameron and Jeremy Finlayson in the top 10 of the Coleman medal with a month to go.

Tom Lynch is beginning to recapture the form that made him one of the best big forwards in the game. Picture: AAP
Tom Lynch is beginning to recapture the form that made him one of the best big forwards in the game. Picture: AAP

Richmond were without Riewoldt for a large part of the season and it is no coincidence they have hit a purple patch of form with his return.

Geelong have also been without Esava Ratugolea for extended periods this season and have received excellent service from Gary Ablett and Gary Rohan - but you can expect Ratugolea has a key role to play in Chris Scott's plans for September.

Brisbane are the outrider among the top five in that they aren't reliant on their big men to win games.

Josh Kennedy booted his 600th career goal in tearing apart the Kangaroos. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
Josh Kennedy booted his 600th career goal in tearing apart the Kangaroos. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Eric Hipwood has kicked 27 goals this season, which is an encouraging return for a young key forward who has yet to fill out and reach his physical peak.

It is in Hipwood where the major upside to the Lions lies.

He has had a couple of days out this year - he kicked six goals against Port Adelaide and five against the Demons, including four in a quarter to turn the game on its head.

And then there was the match against the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat back in round 8 where he left the radar back in Brisbane and finished with 2.5.

Those days where he gets plenty of chances will become more common as he gets bigger and stronger.

Despite injury and a lull in form, Eric Hipwood remains the ace in Brisbane’s flourishing deck. Picture: Getty Images
Despite injury and a lull in form, Eric Hipwood remains the ace in Brisbane’s flourishing deck. Picture: Getty Images

His forward line partner Dan McStay has kicked 17 but as we've mentioned in the past, he plays a key role providing ground level opportunities to their small forwards, which is the key to Brisbane's game plan.

Other than Cameron, who has booted 37 goals, Lincoln McCarthy (19) and Cam Rayner and Dayne Zorko (17) are other forwards hitting the scoreboard for the Lions.

Brisbane may already have the players in place to be the most dangerous forward line in the game in time.

That time may be in the next season or two but if things click for the big men in the next couple of months, the Lions will be hard to stop this year.

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