In Darcy, the Dockers already own a formidable ruckman. To land Jackson, one would imagine that it would cost them two first-round picks and a long-term deal starting at $ 600,000-plus. It is a steep price, even if Jackson ultimately fulfills his potential, because he does not redress their most pressing weakness – the absence of an A-grade key forward.
Jackson is only 199 centimeters, which is undersized for a ruckman in an era when Gawn and others stand several centimeters taller. His appeal lies in the belief that he has remarkable agility at ground level, coupled with a decent aerial dimension, which means he can also play forward in spurts.
But for the Dockers – and even Melbourne – the question must be asked whether Jackson can play as a bona fide, starting 18 key forward. On exposed form, this is a doubtful proposition and that doubt ought to give Fremantle pause.
Melbourne, meanwhile, should likewise make Brayshaw their first contracting priority. While it is counter-intuitive to sign the midfielder / flanker before a much younger and talented tall, Melbourne’s period in flag contention makes it easier for the club to take a short to medium, rather than long-term view, on contracting – and in the event Jackson goes, the draft gain will be greater than for Brayshaw.
Jackson could well prove an outstanding player. At this stage, however, he’s clearly been promising as a second ruck – averaging 15 disposals, 10 hitouts and slightly over three marks per game in 2022, plus only eight goals in 13 games. The risk for a buyer is that he’s caught between ruck and key forward size and becomes a jack of both trades, but a master of neither.
The more positive outcome would be that, as a 199-centimeter ruck with a sizeable leap and mobility, he can emulate Paddy Ryder and turn into a highly valuable half of a ruck tandem.
If the game’s rule makers jettison or reduce boundary throw-ins via the creation of a last touch (really last disposal) rule, then Jackson’s value would rise.
The hype around Jackson – burnished by excessive praise for his grand final ruck work in the third quarter – is a further sign of a footy culture in which players are often paid or purchased on perceived potential rather than proven performance; it is the same logic that resulted in Tom Boyd being purloined from the Giants on a ludicrous deal, albeit Jackson will not come close to a Boyd bullion.
Genuine key forwards, potent inside-and-outside midfielders – eg Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca – and a few key defenders are those whom clubs should place first in their pecking orders. Cool hand Luke Jackson, at this stage, is a luxury item for a top team, cream rather than cake.
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