Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Newsflash: Joel Selwood is not perfect. Just very close.

As far as youthful members of the AFL's elite, there are few who compare with Geelong's favourite son, Joel Selwood. Since his debut during that magical 2007 season, he's gone from the anointed "potential captain" to "talisman" to now a probable second to Cameron Ling in the Sleepy Hollow leadership. A popular early-season pick for the Brownlow Medal, his game has grown at nearly the same rate as his physique. From his first matches, he was one of the AFL's better midfielders and in 2008 he represented Victoria in the All-Star State of Origin match, high honours for a kid of 20.

Now his performance takes on more importance in a Cat midfield shorn of their 2007 pace and devoid of any Abletts. He and Jimmy Bartel are the key to the Geelong midfield, the jewels in their hooped crown. But there's a weakness becoming ever more apparent in his armour: Joel Selwood has the yips.

Not in a Josh Kennedy, Cam Mooney or even Rod "Tilt" Carter kind of way - Joel Selwood just can't seem to get the ball on target when shooting for goal. Remove the big white sticks and he's fine, posesssing the pinpoint delivery required for an elite player. But get him inside the forward fifty and his toughness suddenly doesn't cover scoring shots - he's booted 3.7 this year. And unfortunately for him, several of those behinds have been (relatively) easy misses. Never a goalscorer of note - at least, not since before his Bendigo Pioneer days - he has a total of 36 goals over the 101 games of his wonderful career.

This, in itself, isn't the worst thing in the world - there are very few perfect players, or even players without a weakness. Carey's flaws were his dicky shoulders and occasional dose of white-line fever, Ablett Sr was held back by his debatable off-field work ethic and a strange manner of thinking. Brendan Fevola's weakness is obviously the big squishy thing between his ears, Joel Selwood's fatal (only?) flaw is his scoring accuracy. Unlike running mate Bartel, Selwood has a 30-goal-a-season gap in his arsenal. (Ed: You don't know how much it hurts Matt to write this).

Why harp on such a star? Because with their newfound flair for the close result, Joel Selwood's inaccuracy could end up hurting the Cats. Several times throughout the season he's had the chance to convert on the run from 35-40 metres away and failed. Often those shots have been under only mild pressure.

It could be he doesn't slow his momentum enough before setting himself for the kick or even just that he freezes. I'm sure there are myriad other reasons he could be inaccurate that someone more technically-minded could answer, but the Cats' young leader needs to get this right or else his leadership in inaccuracy could cost Geelong a win or two at crucial times.

Teams look to their leaders for guidance. While no-one ever misses a goal on purpose, a good leader has the ability to inspire their teammates through their play, tacitly demanding accountability. While Selwood's play all over the park does this, his shooting for goal does not. The Cats have played six of their eight matches against teams currently in the eight and won by one, two, three, eleven, nineteen and twenty-one points. Each match swung in the balance for some time. One day, probably soon, Joel Selwood - possibly the third or fourth-best midfielder in the league - will step up to shoot for goal with the Cats needing him to score.

When that day comes, Chris Scott hopes he's over his yips.

Image courtesy: en.wikipedia.org

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