17/04/2024

Liam Jones could return to the footy field in 2023 and beyond. Photo: carltonfc.com.au

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at how former Carlton defender Liam Jones can fill a void at your club in 2023 and beyond.

When Liam Jones announced his sudden retirement in November of 2021 due to the AFL’s vaccine mandate, the footy world was stunned.

However, with it becoming increasingly likely that the AFL will lift its vaccine mandate, as seen around the globe, it opens the door for Jones to return to the football field.

With reports emerging surrounding a potential move to Essendon, The Inner Sanctum looks at how Liam Jones can fill a void at your club in 2023.

One of the most significant holes exposed at Adelaide in recent years has been its inability to pick a quality second key defender each week.

When Daniel Talia announced his retirement at the end of 2021, having missed the entirety of the season, Adelaide felt the void more than ever. Despite the emergence of Jordon Butts as the new full-back in the Crows’ lineup, he has struggled to find a consistent sidekick as Adelaide filters through the potential replacements.

The experience and quality of Jones in a rebuilding and emerging lineup would be incredibly undervalued, and he would make a massive difference for Adelaide in 2023 and beyond.

In what has been another fantastic start to the season, Brisbane is primed to play finals football in 2022 once again. One of the biggest reasons for this is down to the quality of the backline.

With superstar key defenders Harris Andrews and Marcus Adams leading the line for the Brisbane backline, the need for a third tall isn’t a priority.

Brisbane may look at Jones as an option to be a third tall defender, but it is unlikely given their success over the past few seasons.

With Carlton playing exciting football under new coach Michael Voss, Liam Jones returning to his old side may be exactly what the navy blues need.

Carlton has had a relatively strong backline so far in 2022, led superbly by Jacob Weitering and Lewis Young, and the Blues would be impressed with how they’ve gone about life after Jones.

Perhaps the biggest talking point from Carlton’s season has been the injury crisis that it finds itself in, with key defensive stocks being hit particularly hard. This has meant Carlton has had to play the undersized Lachie Plowman in a key defensive role, as well as recruiting Sam Durdin in the mid-season draft.

Despite including Durdin to the playing list, he is only on a one-year contract, and a lot of uncertainty remains regarding his long-term future with Carlton.

Jones’s experience and returning to a side that knows his playstyle with teammates he knows and trusts could be exactly what Carlton needs to assert itself as a genuine premiership contender.

While much debate has been thrown about regarding the Magpies’ forward options over the past few seasons, the backline has also come under fire.

Darcy Moore is one of the competition’s best tall defenders, but with the competition full of star-studded forward lines, too much reliance falls upon his shoulders.

While Collingwood would be impressed with how Jack Madgen is developing, and with mature-aged draftee Charlie Dean joining the ranks last year, the Pies are still under pressure in the key position defender department.

The experience of Jones would be significant for Collingwood, as he has a genuine ability to fill a void within their backline. Undoubtedly, he would be a welcome addition at Magpie land.

In what has been an extremely underwhelming season in 2022, Essendon has been massively exposed in the backline.

Bombers fans were delighted with the inclusion of Jake Kelly from Adelaide in free agency, yet a gaping hole remains down back. While youngsters Brandon Zerk-Thatcher and Zach Reid are ones for the future, the playing list would thoroughly benefit from the support of Jones down back.

The inclusion of an experienced second key defender of Jones’ quality could make a massive difference for Essendon as it attempts to get back into finals contention in coming seasons and break its much-discussed finals losing streak.

While some expected them to take the next step in 2022, not many expected Fremantle to climb as high as it has.

One of the reasons for the Dockers’ rise to the top eight has been due to the stability of the backline, as they have entered the conversation as one of the best defences in the competition.

Key defender Alex Pearce is in the best form of his career and is being well supported by the likes of Griffin Logue and Brennan Cox, having career-best seasons. This means the need for Jones to join the ranks isn’t a high priority.

Like others, the Dockers may look at Jones for depth, but it is unlikely to see him call Fremantle home in future seasons.

It has been a relatively up and down start to the season for Geelong so far in 2022, but the backline has continuously stood tall.

With the experience of Tom Stewart and Mark Blicavs both having the ability to play tall in the Cats’ backline and the emergence of Sam De Koning, it is unlikely we see Jones playing for Geelong.

While the Cats have made a lot of preliminary finals and even had a Grand Final appearance over the previous decade, the backline doesn’t seem to be the issue.

Like others, the Cats may look at Jones for depth purposes, but it is doubtful we see him call Geelong home.

Currently playing in the QAFL league this season, Jones has established his life in the nation’s north, and the Suns would be a great fit.

Despite Gold Coast hosting several exciting, young key defenders, including Sam Collins and Charlie Ballard, the club would massively benefit with the weight lifted off their shoulders.

While Gold Coast has recently welcomed back the experience of Rory Thompson, it is still conceding big scores to opposition key forwards.

Adding Jones to their backline would significantly aid the key defensive stocks, as well as help the Suns in its mini-rebuild as it continues the push towards finals football in the coming seasons.

It is set to be an off-season of change for the competition’s youngest club as it looks at life after Leon Cameron.

After making the Grand Final in 2019, the past few years have been incredibly frustrating for the fans of GWS, and one of the most significant issues it faces is in the back half of the ground. With Phil Davis continually struggling with injury, the reliance has heavily fallen on fellow key defender Sam Taylor.

This means the addition of Jones would be something that Giants fans will be crying out for as the void at full-back is desperate to be filled.

It is no doubt that the men from Western Sydney have a talented list, but it does seem to struggle in the key defensive area. So, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones on the Giants’ list in the coming years.

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One of the surprise stories of 2022 has been the emergence of Hawthorn, with many expecting them to be towards the lower end of the ladder. However, life after superstar coach Alistair Clarkson has been exciting, with the Hawks ensuring the rest of the competition know they’ll be around the mark once again.

The main reason for Hawthorn’s early success in 2022 was down to the defence and its ability to prevent high scoring from opposition sides.

In addition, the Hawks have welcomed back James Sicily, who has not missed a beat upon his return from injury and is in All-Australian contention. Elsewhere, the experience of Sam Frost, supported by Denver Grainger-Barras, has proved pivotal for Sam Mitchell’s side.

Hawthorn may believe Jones is a missing piece in their backline and could prove handy to their side as it continues its list rebuild. However, it is unlikely we will see him in brown and gold in 2023.

Much like Brisbane, the top four Melbourne isn’t short for key defenders, with star players such as Steven May and Jake Lever holding down defensive positions.

While Lever often plays as the third tall defender, Melbourne is well supported, with the likes of Harrison Petty and Adam Tomlinson continuously fighting for the second key defender position.

Jones may be looked at for depth purposes, but it is unlikely we see him in red and blue in 2023 and beyond.

Not having the start to the season it would have liked, North Melbourne is desperate to fill a genuine void in the defensive half of the ground.

North fans were thrilled with the signing of Aidan Corr, but he has spent a lot of time on the sidelines. Corr is also faced with a challenging task each week, and it seems he would play his best football as a third tall, with intercept marking being a key feature of his game. With Josh Walker also turning 30 at the end of the year, the Kangaroos are desperate for a key defender. Promising key defender Ben McKay has also spent time up forward in recent weeks, and his future seemingly becomes more uncertain each week.

While Jones might not fit the age bracket that the Roos are looking for, there is no denying his experience and quality. These traits could prove extremely valuable for the young North backline in future seasons.

While it hasn’t been the start to 2022 that Port Adelaide would have liked, it is unlikely that adding Liam Jones to their ranks would solve their issues.

Port has a lot of key defenders with the likes of Tom Jonas, Tom Clurey, Lachlan Jones and Aliir Aliir amongst their defensive stocks.

In a similar scenario to Melbourne, Port may look at Jones for depth purposes, but they’ll likely have other list priorities moving forward.

It has been an intriguing few seasons for Richmond in the defensive end of the ground, with some thinking the loss of David Astbury would be felt more heavily. However, the Tigers seem to be coping just fine. One of the big reasons for this is due to the addition of Robbie Tarrant.

Tarrant’s experience has been very important to a young Richmond backline, who are still experimenting with whether Noah Balta will be a forward or defender for the remainder of his career.

Richmond also blooded youngster Bigoa Nyuon earlier this year, and with Ben Miller also waiting in the wings, it is unlikely the Tigers will pursue Jones. Having also drafted Josh Gibcus with the ninth pick in last year’s draft, the Tigers would be very pleased with his overall progression, having played 13 games in his debut season.

While Richmond, like others, may look at Liam Jones for depth and experience purposes, it is unlikely we see him suit up in yellow and black in 2023 and further.

One of the best stories in 2022 has been the rise of St. Kilda, with the club looking to return to finals football and desperate not to make 2020 an outlier.

The key to St. Kilda’s rise up the ladder has been the ability to score big scores and score quickly, with their small forwards causing havoc amongst opposition backlines.

However, the Saints have had some issues in the defensive part of the ground, with many of their losses due to opposition forward lines getting on top and taking control of them and a lot of reliance falling upon Dougal Howard and Callum Wilkie.

Adding Liam Jones to their backline could prove vital as this young, energetic St. Kilda outfit look to continue its push towards another finals campaign. You would have to expect the Saints to enquire about Jones at the end of the year.

Having seen finals football after two years off in 2021, many people expected the Swans to take the next step in 2022. The Swans quickly decided that its issues lay in the backline and acted swiftly to rectify them.

With Dane Rampe and Tom McCartin proving consistently quality players in Sydney’s defensive half, the Swans also signed Paddy McCartin as a delisted free agent. McCartin has been one of the feel-good stories of the AFL season and, with it, has made Sydney’s backline incredibly strong. It is one of the reasons the club finds itself inside the top eight.

If Liam Jones was on the market 12 months ago, we might have seen him in Swans colours this year, but with how strong the backline is currently, it appears unlikely.

It has been a tough year for West Coast. Ravaged by injuries and COVID alike, the club finds itself towards the bottom end of the ladder.

One of the areas the club have been hit heavily is in the backline, and with talks of Tom Barrass transitioning to the forward line, West Coast is crying out for a key defender.

Fans of the AFL saw the Eagles at their brilliant best in 2018, when it won the premiership, and one of the key factors was the strength of the backline.

However, they have gone away from this in recent seasons, so adding someone of Jones’s experience and quality could see them rise back up the ladder.

Coming off a Grand Final appearance in 2021, many expected the Dogs to be around the mark again for 2022. However, it has been much of the opposite so far.

One of the most significant gaps in the Bulldogs’ backline has been the missing presence of a genuine second key defender. As a result, often, a lot of pressure falls on the shoulders of Alex Keath.

Despite recruiting former Hawk Tim O’Brien to fill the void, the Dogs have still felt the heat in this area of the ground, conceding big numbers to opposition forwards.

Recruiting someone of Liam Jones’ quality and experience could see them become a genuine premiership threat in the coming seasons once again.

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