Where are all the talls at?

Today against Adelaide, Liam Jones had an absolute stinker.

He looked slow, shanked kicks, fumbled and dropped marks, missed handballs and overall, looked unnervingly lost. In his defence, one might argue he was being played out of position. Often, during the game, I cursed, “Why on earth is he on Pods?” And, “Is that bloody Jones on Tom Lynch!?” Being played out of position, though, was no excuse for the shonky kick he placed on the breast of the lone Crow late in the game. And it was no excuse for the chest mark he fluffed, again, late in the game, failing to even touch the ball, which resulted in a game-killing Crows goal.

Jones clearly has talent, and he teases us ‘Doggies fans with it. On the odd occasion he decides to run and jump at a ball, his clean mitts are a pleasure to watch. But it doesn’t happen enough. He could very well have played badly enough today to become the doggies latest whipping boy, a replacement for the injured Jarrad Grant who has held the mantle for quite some time. As cruel as it can be, the idea of the whipping boy is one of the games great traditions and at least allows for a wit-induced cackle during a time of unbearable spectating.

At the end of the day, though, it was not all Liam’s fault. Our defence was without Roughead and Morris and replacements are few and far between.

And this, of course, is largely due to the phobia our recruiting staff of recent years has shown towards talls in the draft and trade period. Not Liam Jones.

A lack of talls has forever been a problem at our club. You only need to look over the past two decades, where we possessed some of the best small to medium sized midfielders, forwards and defenders in the game. Brad Johnson, Scott West, Rohan Smith, Ryan Hargreave, Lindsay Gilbee, Tony Liberatore, Leon Cameron, Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen and Nathan Brown, to name a few.

But when it comes to talls, the honour roll is lacking. I can think of a couple of recent ‘Doggies legends, such as my all time favourite, Chris Grant. The other being long time ruckman/warrior Scott Wynd. But past these two, only serviceable types Matthew Croft, Luke Darcy, Brian (Harris) Lake and Will Minson come to mind. The anomaly, Barry Hall, was recruited for the 2010 premiership push, but he was retired by the end of his second year at the club.

Once again, our current squad is brimming with up-and-coming small to medium midfield stars. It leaves a bitter sweet taste. Macrae is an absolute ripper, Libba will be a constant accumulator, Hunter has that special spark, Stringer is a proper footballer, Dalhaus is a great decision maker and, although it is early days, Bontempelli looks a talent. We recruited Crameri this year, but, yet again, he is a short second forward at best. Where is all the talented tall timber?

It breaks my heart to see a young gun like Tom Lynch tear us apart. How have Adelaide acquired him along with Tex Walker, Kurt Tippett and Josh Jenkins in the past few seasons, while we come away with a swarm of sub 190cm mids?

Here’s hoping the current ‘Doggies group of Tom Campbell, Jordan Roughead, Michael Talia and Ayce Cordy will come on. But I can’t help but think that we might, once again, be in for a generation of frustration. Oh how I would love to see a tall forward charge out of our forward-fifty and take a one-grab mark, consistently. And what a joy it would be to watch a Harry Taylor type pluck a mark, or even get a good fist in, above a pack in defence, consistently.

We could have come away with a win today had the bounce of the ball been on our side. And hopefully today was a good learning experience for Jones and he is better for it. I have complete faith in Brendan McCartney, and am comforted by the fact that he, and his lieutenants, have confidence in our talls. But I can’t help but vent my apprehension. Time will tell, I suppose.

About Brenton Shaughnessy

Brenton is a student Journo. Having grown up in Ballarat, he gained his football education on a wing at the North Ballarat City footy club. He is also a long suffering, ever optimistic Western Doggies fan.


  1. Neil Anderson says

    Thank you Brenton. A really good summary of how we have lacked talls which seems like forever.
    It’s almost like no-one has dared to speak out about this glaring inefficiency before, while preferring to talk about the depth of our small to medium star recruits.
    What is really galling is playing a team roughly at the same level on the ladder and up crops a bunch of opposition no-name talls to out-mark and beat our guys.
    The usually hard-working mids and small-backs are exhausted by the last quarter of games and those no-name tall forwards and backs just have to stand tall and win the match.
    Good to hear from a Ballarat Doggy supporter. We’ll have to stick together and share our frustrations because unfortunately it looks like we still have still have a long bumpy road ahead .

  2. Dave Brown says

    Yep, Brenton, the Adelaide comparison is a good one. The Crows have brought in Podsiadly, Jenkins, Lynch and Jacobs from interstate clubs in the last few years. They also have Johnston running around in the reserves. In pretty much all cases they were not needed by the club they left so were bargains. While a few of those are South Australians coming home these are precisely the sort of players the Bulldogs should have been targeting to develop as talls.

  3. Paul Jarmain says

    Couldn’t agree more. I’m sick of us complaining about not having any key position players when we flatly refuse to draft any. It all started with Wallace and his apparent dream to build a touch rugby team. We continue to recruit failed big men fom other clubs such as Jakovich, Hunter, Rawlings, Bartlett, Bassett, Bandy etc etc etc. Surely it’s time to build a spine that allows us to compete in finals, or we risk wasting the careers of Little Libba, McRae etc

  4. Cowshedend says

    Great review Brenton.
    Jones did indeed ‘stink the joint up’, and pulled off the rare double of being equally inept at both ends of the ground!
    It is long overdue that the selectors started to have a look at blokes like Fletcher Roberts or Redpath, blokes who can hold a grab and have some real size.(but bet they go down that time honoured path of ;In Cordy Out Jones)
    It’s also time to ease up on the ‘inside hard-nut midfielder who has a big tank’, they need a big tank because when they cough it up by foot, it’s on your bike up the defensive end.
    Reckon the coach had a shocker too. Adelaide scored 8 goals straight, so the ‘let’s play 18 in our back half’ ploy didn’t exactly stem the tide.
    Keeping 2 blokes in your front half will force the opposition into keeping 2 defenders at home in case of a turnover, and also gives your own team a chance of a get out kick to alleviate the pressure.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Very good article , Brenton and yea v rarely is there a game where the inputs of the talls are so different . Yes it is for ever the bullies have lacked quality talls really even ,
    Chris Grant batted above his size and weight at , CHF . Who in bullies supporters eyes have been your best talls ? Where is Cordy at ?

  6. Neil Anderson says

    As usual I quickly check the Footscray side (the reserves) to see how they went. Unfortunately it’s slim pickings for talls to be promoted. This is after a 30 goal to 7 win.
    Best on ground was Clay Smith, not much bigger than Libba Mark 1. Cordy got a mention so it probably will be in Cordy out Jones and we’ll be afraid to look every time he goes for a mark or lines up for goal.
    I’m still trying to work out what happened to Tom Campbell after his great start. He was subbed out and we rely on two short-arses in Dickson and Dahlhaus to mark the ball on the forward-line and kick the goals. So Tom’s on the bench and Jones seems to be playing for the other side. No wonder we lost!

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    How is Matty Fuller going I no he was injured early ( I rate him although I no he is not a tall )

Leave a Comment