Richmond announced on August 23 that 2017 father-son selection Patrick Naish wouldn’t be offered another contract.
The 22-year-old half back flanker and winger was starved of opportunity in a strong Richmond premiership team, playing just nine games across four seasons.
Naish managed to play six games in 2021, but this was only due to a mounting Tigers injury list. He came into the side to replace the injured Kane Lambert in Round 7, but only ended up coming into the game late as the medical sub.
At his best, Naish is a dynamic and exciting outside player with strong skills by foot and an ability to set up attacking play from down the field.
In his second career match against Adelaide in 2019, he had 19 disposals, five rebounds 50s, three inside 50s and a clearance. He’s also hit the scoreboard on three occasions, able to push up to half forward and be an offensive threat himself.
It took a particularly outstanding VFL season in 2018 to finally earn his debut in 2019, but now Naish finds himself without an AFL home in 2022.
Which club should take a punt on the silky outside runner next season? The Inner Sanctum has considered his options.
Essendon found itself without half back runner Nick Hind for the first time under Ben Rutten in the cutthroat elimination final against the Western Bulldogs. His impact on the team showed.
The Bombers talls stood strong in defensive 50 for most of the second half, before the wet weather rolled in over Launceston.
What they did lack however, especially in comparison to the strong rebounding of the Bulldogs at ground level, was a small defender staying out the back and sweeping the footy back into the hands of the midfield.
Caleb Daniel and Bailey Dale had 17 rebound 50s in between them, while the likes of Mason Redman and Tom Cutler could only manage eight. Hind averages four a game by himself, including a season high of seven while playing higher up in the ground than his compatriots.
Naish, alongside Hind and mid-season draftee Sam Durham can add that extra bit of speed and class along the half back flank and the wing for the Bombers in 2022.
While they can be a blisteringly fast rebounding side on their day, the Bombers rank 13th in the competition for rebound 50s despite being fourth for uncontested possessions, tending to score more from clearance work.
Naish’s hard running and ability to push forward would assist delivery inside 50 to Peter Wright and Harrison Jones in 2022. The Bombers were ranked eighth for marks inside 50 in 2021 with an average of 11.9 a game.
With Jones out, they averaged 15 a game, so adding to a smaller game style when the talls aren’t available could give the Bombers forward line a different look next season.
A bottom four rebounding side, the Dockers lacked a serious driving presence from the half back line and the wing with the loss of Ed Langdon to Melbourne.
Darcy Tucker has been a strong outside player, but seems to lack that penetration and class at times that Naish can bring. Tucker averaged just over an inside 50 and rebound 50 a game, and averaged 246.5 metres gained, There are rumours that he’ll get attention from Victoria, but similar word saying he’ll sign an extension with the Dockers.
James Aish, meanwhile, has managed to improve on his 2020 season in purple. He averaged 19 disposals, two and a half rebound 50s, three inside 50s and 343 metres gained.
Aish can’t do it all himself, however, but his improvement has been crucial to the overall rise of the Dockers.
With the retirement of Stephen Hill and the delisting of Reece Conca, there’s at the very least a depth spot on the Fremantle list for the young Naish to prove that he’s worthy of a best 22 position.
Luke Ryan and Hayden Young have the medium and tall intercepting and rebounding roles down pat; now the Dockers need to add some extra pace and poise along the flanks.
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One of the major gaps in North Melbourne’s list in 2021 was quality (and healthy) small defenders. The midfield was set, the tall forwards were starting to shape up, and the key defensive posts looked strong.
Youngster Flynn Perez suffered a season ending knee injury after impressing in three games in 2020, while Luke McDonald missed the first three weeks of the season and a further 10 weeks after Round 4.
With veteran Robbie Tarrant also unavailable early, it left the North Melbourne backline mostly makeshift for a good swathe of the season.
Aaron Hall and captain Jack Ziebell stood up, Hall having a near career best year as a half back flanker. He earned a one year contract extension after averaging a career high 29 disposals, seven rebound 50s, three inside 50s and 650 metres gained as a 30-year-old.
Winger Jared Polec is contracted until 2023, but only played five games in 2021. Naish has a spot either along the half back flank or along the wing with his name on it.
Even if he earns a spot on the rookie list, he’ll be given the chance to prove himself in the VFL and earn some form there to earn a call-up.
Coach David Noble showed this season that he is willing to reward the strong form of his depth in the VFL at the elite level, with the likes of Eddie Ford, Will Phillips and Tristan Xerri being rewarded for consistent performances in the twos.
Unlike the majority of teams in this article, North Melbourne is actually a strong outside rebounding side. The Roos rank fifth for rebounds 50s, fifth for marks and ninth for uncontested possessions.
West Coast Eagles
West Coast was the second worst rebounding team in the competition, an area that the side struggled in all year.
Alex Witherden was the Eagles’ highest rebound 50 per game player with 6.3, but only managed to break into the Eagles team nine times in 2021.
Former captain Shannon Hurn was the second highest, but missed big chunks of game time through injury. He also certainly doesn’t bring the type of speed that Naish does.
The only other Eagle that managed to crack the top 100 rebounding players in the competition is youngster Luke Foley, who only played six games across the year.
As a now firmly middle of the table team, West Coast and coach Adam Simpson have to weigh up whether they’re keen on making another push for a flag before the veterans age out or to begin a rebuild.
If they go down the rebuilding route, Naish fits firmly in both age profile and list needs for an Eagles team that desperately needs some type of change.
With plenty of young backline players still in their prime or developing including Tom Barrass, Tom Cole, Josh Rotham, Harry Edwards and Jackson Nelson, Naish would slot in nicely.
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