14/04/2024
AFL 2022 position change player

Which player should be changing positions at your club in 2022? Photos: @WestCoastEagles; @westernbulldogs; @sydneyswans Twitters

Last year Bailey Dale earned an All-Australian blazer as a half-backman in an inspired move by Luke Beveridge. Who could that player be for your club in 2022?

Each year, coaches earn their keep in the pre-season with position changes that completely alter the trajectory of players’ careers.

This was on full show across the two Grand Finalists last season, with coaches getting the best out of their players by shifting names around the whiteboard before the season began.

Luke Beveridge gave Bailey Dale a role across half-back, and in his first year in the position he earned an All-Australian blazer for the Bulldogs. Angus Brayshaw became a premiership-winning wingman under Simon Goodwin, while Bayley Fritsch and Tom McDonald kicked eight goals between them after plying their trade as defenders in the past.

There are other examples across the league with Aaron Hall, Jayden Laverde and Tom Atkins all enjoying career years.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the player from your AFL club that would unlock their potential with a position change in 2022.

AFL player position change: Darcy Fogarty to centre-half-back

It’s been a slow burn for Adelaide fans waiting for Darcy Fogarty to have his breakout season. He’s one that has shown plenty of promise but can’t find the consistency to cement a spot in the Crows’ best 22.

Fogarty is known for his dead-eye abilities from set shot, but struggles to create enough chances to warrant permanent selection.

The 22-year-old has been trialled and tested in other areas of the ground. In 2021, we saw Mathew Nicks throw him into centre bounce contests with the hope his size would help the Crows win more clearances.

As it’s proven to be effective for promising forwards in the past, a move to centre half-back could be an opportunity to kickstart a career of regular selection for Fogarty. His size and strength is a valuable asset, and if he’s showing enough mobility to be thrown in the guts, then he has attributes that will aid the Crows in defensive transition. 

Additionally, Jake Kelly’s move to the Bombers means that there’s a defensive position up for grabs if Fogarty is daring enough to go after it. It is the AFL player position change that makes the most sense in 2022.

Jack Dobson

Zac Bailey to the midfield

Alongside Hugh McCluggage, Bailey is the face of the next generation of Lions that are pushing the club towards its first flag since 2003. 

He’s powerful, composed, tough as nails and uses the ball beautifully, and it seems inevitable that he eventually moves into the midfield and rips the competition apart. With Dayne Zorko well into his 30s, this move should be happening in 2022. 

Bailey has all the tools to make an immediate impact on-ball, and with the returning Cam Rayner ready to assume a spot in the forward 50 it makes sense to give him the keys to the engine room now.

Jasper Chellappah

AFL player position change: Mitch McGovern to full-back

It’s been a tough slog at Ikon Park since moving over from Adelaide, but McGovern’s ability is undeniable and he could revive his career with a move to the backline. 

The Blues are desperate for a key position defender with Liam Jones now retired, and – much like his brother – McGovern can read the play and take contested marks beautifully. 

He needs to improve his engine and learn the defensive game, but he could be the answer to the biggest question at Carlton in 2022.

Jasper Chellappah

Reef McInness to the midfield

He hasn’t made his debut yet, but McInness is one of the most uniquely powerful youngsters in the competition and needs to be given a steady diet of centre bounces from the start.

At 193 centimetres and 86kgs, McInness tackles as hard as anyone on the Pies’ list, loves to rip the ball out of stoppages and burst away with his blistering acceleration, and immediately adds a point of difference to the Collingwood midfield.

There are big question marks surrounding this engine room in 2022 with ageing stars Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom unlikely to spend much time there and in their place could stand a group of Taylor Adams, Pat Lipinski and Jordan De Goey. At 19 years of age, McInness immediately needs to be a part of that mix and will turn heads around the league.

Jasper Chellappah

AFL player position change: Mason Redman to the wing

Redman had a career year in 2021, cementing a place off half-back with his penetrating right foot a key feature of his game. He runs aggressive patterns, uses the ball well and loves to get forward and hit the scoreboard from range. 

All of this would make him an exceptional weapon further up the ground, releasing the shackles so ‘Red Dog’ can roam. 

As a winger, Redman would be able to use his elite foot skills going inside 50, and link up across the ground more than he’s been able to so far in his career and better his tally of six goals last season. 

With Jake Kelly added to the backline unit, Dyson Heppell and Nick Hind prospering and Garrett McDonagh a mature-age inclusion, the Dons can cover his move up the field.

Jasper Chellappah

Liam Henry to the wing

The Dockers uncovered some small forward gems in 2021 with Sam Switkowski and Lachie Schultz, which could unlock a move rumoured over the pre-season. 

Henry was drafted as a livewire inside 50, but hasn’t been able to find the ball as much as the Dockers would like. Whenever he does have it, something good happens with his unbelievable evasiveness and lightning quick reaction speed – he’s great above his head for his size and often did his best work pushing up the ground last season. 

Henry is a player capable of taking mark of the year and goal of the year; it’s time for him to assume the roles of the departed Ed Langdon and Brad Hill.

Jasper Chellappah

AFL player position change: Sam De Koning to full-back

Lachie Henderson is gone, which leaves just Mark Blicavs manning the key defensive posts in defence. De Koning made his debut last year as a forward, kicking two behinds but looking the part and doing some good things.

As a defender through his junior years, the 200cm prospect showed off tantalising athleticism and closing speed for his size. He has the traits needed to play as a defender for the Cats, with his strength the only question mark right now. 

With Jack Henry, Tom Stewart and Jake Kolodjashnij amongst the elite interceptors of the competition, De Koning will simply be tasked with denying his opponent a clear run at the football before his teammates take over.

The Cats will need the soon-to-be 21-year-old to step up soon, and there’s a spot for the taking if he has a big pre-season. It makes sense as the Cats best player position change.

Jasper Chellappah

Jack Lukosius to the midfield

Arguably the Suns’ most important player, Jack Lukosius has shown tremendous ability in the Gold Coast defence, but it’s time that his skills got put to better use up the ground. 

Lukosius, turning 22 this year, flies under the radar as one of the elite young players of the competition, but a move into the midfield would highlight the influence he can have in games. Aside from his elite kicking ability, his physicality and agility would see him thrive and potentially take the Suns to a level that could see them challenge for finals. 

Playing as a forward at junior level, Jack Lukosius can also provide a scoring threat. He has the potential to become a Brownlow Medal contender in the future; it’s time he stopped hiding in the backline.

Jack Dobson

AFL player position change: Harry Perryman to half-forward

Often underrated with the stars surrounding him at the Giants, Perryman has been an exceptional half-backman for a number of years, and has played some of his best football on a wing.

With Lachie Ash emerging and Isaac Cumming coming off a career year, the Giants are stocked with talent down back but desperately need a presence across half forward – especially with Toby Greene missing the first five weeks of the season.

Perryman is an elite one-on-one player, takes marks at the highest point and kicks accurately. He boasts a huge engine and reads the play beautifully.

These are all attributes that would make him a dynamic high half-forward, linking the play up through the midfield and streaming back on goal. His ability to beat his opponent bodes well for situations where he’ll have an acre of space on the fat side of the ground with one man in his way.

Jasper Chellappah

Will Day to the wing

Day has had an injury riddled start to his career but has excited many Hawks fans with his confidence to take the game on and break the lines off of half-back. 

One of the best kickers in the Hawthorn side, Day’s run and carry and deadly delivery to his teammates by foot could see the 20-year-old become an elite winger off the back of what he has already shown in just his first 16 games. 

With current Hawthorn wingers Tom Phillips, Harry Morrison and Lachie Bramble still trying to cement their place in the side, Day may be the answer if he can come back strongly from an ankle injury which restricted him to just five games in 2021. 

The return of James Sicily may help Day’s push up the ground. Sicily, along with regular half-backs like Blake Hardwick, Jarman Impey, Jack Scrimshaw and Changkouth Jiath means that Day could be the one who may be trialled up the ground.

James Strebinos

AFL player position change: Max Gawn 50 per cent forward

Gawn is one of the greatest ruckmen of all time, and has just captained his club to a drought-breaking premiership. 

He’s a tap specialist, boasts fantastic hands in congestion for his size and isn’t afraid to put his body on the line in the contest. But he’s also now on the wrong side of 30, has a history of long-term injuries and has a Rising Star apprentice impatiently waiting in the wings. 

Gawn showed the damage he can cause up forward in the Preliminary Final against Geelong when he kicked five goals in a demolition job. He’s also shown his clutch factor with crunch-time goals, and Luke Jackson has proved he’s more than ready to take on more responsibility in the middle. 

Jackson was one of Melbourne’s best when he moved into the ruck in the Grand Final, and a transition to 50 per cent ruck time would help Gawn age gracefully as his protegee continues to grow his own game.

Jasper Chellappah

Tarryn Thomas to the wing

2021 was a breakout season for Thomas, playing all but one game under David Noble as both a half-forward flanker and inside midfielder. But with a change of position to play to his strengths, Thomas could cause even more damage on a wing. 

The 21-year-old was most effective when he was able to gather bulk possession, often breaking past 500 metres gained when he picked up 20 disposals or more. Given space on a wing to use his silky skills more often could prove beneficial to a growing North Melbourne. 

With the departure of Trent Dumont, and number one pick Jason Horne-Francis likely to pick up a post in the forward line with bursts through the midfield, Thomas has the opportunity to make the wing his own.

Alex Catalano

AFL player position change: Dan Houston to the midfield

It looked as if Houston would rocket into Port’s midfield throughout early stages of 2021 and the pre-season, but a shoulder injury put that on the backburner. 

With Port’s growing collection of rebounding defenders, Houston’s ball movement and ability to run and carry would fit into the club’s midfield.

With Travis Boak set to slow down in the coming years and the rotation of Connor Rozee, Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters also going through the guts, Houston would be perfect to take up the role.

Jack Hudson

Daniel Rioli to half-back 

There were flashes of it in the backend of 2021, and Rioli has all the hallmarks of slotting into the spot left vacant by Tigers great Bachar Houli. 

By all reports he has shown more confidence than ever before over the pre-season, tucking the ball under his arm and taking off with his electric speed. He’s a clean ball user and would form a dynamic partnership with Jayden Short over a full season. 

The Tigers have always had a plethora of small forward options so Rioli won’t be missed at the other end of the ground – filling the boots of Houli is vital for the club and Rioli can slot straight in.

Jasper Chellappah

AFL player position change: Josh Battle to centre-half-back

Josh Battle is a player that has struggled to find his spot in the St Kilda side, but a move down back could be the tonic towards cementing a best 22 position.

Battle has played in attack, down back and on the wing for the Saints over the past two years, and while he’s shown glimpses that he’s a more than capable contributor, the emergence of Max King and the desire to play Rowan Marshall as a forward has left the 23-year-old in limbo.

However, the delisting of Jake Carlisle leaves a gaping hole in St Kilda’s defence and the 193cm Battle looks the logical replacement. 

After spending the summer training with the defenders, Battle looms as the man most likely to get the first opportunity at the vacant role. 

Todd Davey

Isaac Heeney to the wing

We’ve seen him have small runs in the guts before, his athletic capability and goal sense has proven dangerous, but it is time for Isaac Heeney to become a full time wingman.

He’s an obvious replacement for Jordan Dawson who’s left the position vacant in 2022. We all know about Dawson’s kicking ability, but what the Swans particularly loved about him was his marking ability and tendency to intercept in the middle of the ground. 

Isaac Heeney has one of the best pairs of hands in the competition, let alone at the Swans. Additionally, his work ethic and gut running ability complemented with his flair could see him become a dangerous outside midfielder and finally reach the potential he was expected to.

Jack Dobson

AFL player position change: Oscar Allen permanently forward

Allen will be the face of the Eagles in a couple of years, but his development has been stunted with the swingman role he’s been forced to play. Through the backline, forwardline and even ruck, the Eagles’ hand may be forced with the news surrounding Jack Darling.

Allen’s timing and hands make him one of the best contested marks in the game at just 22 years old, and he has an insatiable work rate that often sees him get a metre of space on his opponent. His combination of physicality and athleticism makes him a nightmare matchup, and he’s typically a good set shot as we’ve come to expect from Eagles key forwards.

Allen could be one of the league’s next stars if he cements a spot in the forward 50 in 2022.

Jasper Chellappah 

Aaron Naughton to centre-half-back

It seems crazy to push the league’s best contested mark and the Bulldogs’ focal point to a key back position heading into 2022, but it could be the inspired move that propels Beveridge’s Bulldogs from runners-up to flag winners.

Wayward kicking is one of the cardinal sins of modern day football, and unfortunately for Naughton, it is an all too common occurrence in his game. However, a shift down back – to the position he was drafted at – could unlock the mercurial marking target’s best footy. The switch worked wonders for Darcy Moore, could Bevo be brave enough to do the same?

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is entering his second year and chomping at the bit to lead this Bulldogs forward line, and with Sam Darcy coming into the fold fresh off a stellar under 18s season, a move to sure up the Dogs’ defence could be a masterstroke en route to another tilt at a flag.

Todd Davey 

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