17/04/2024

Former first-round pick Tanner Bruhn has been traded to Geelong. (Image: AFL; Design: Will Cuckson)

The Cats have strengthened their premiership-winning side after trading for former first-round pick Tanner Bruhn from GWS. Geelong sent pick 18 to the Giants in exchange for the Geelong Falcons product, who was taken at pick 12 in the 2020 NAB AFL Draft.

The deal gives GWS five picks inside the top 20, sitting at picks three, 12, 15, 18 and 19. With a deal expected to come for midfielder Jacob Hopper, the Giants will almost certainly make a play for the Kangaroos’ pick one.

Bruhn managed 30 games over his two seasons at the club, often finding himself stuck on the half-forward line and not quite being able to impact games through transition or hitting the scoreboard. He’s registered eight goals and seven goal assists over his career, only contributing to a goal every two games.

The 20-year-old announced himself to the league against a lowly North Melbourne side in round 13 this season. Finding an opportunity in the midfield, he racked up a career-high 24 disposals to go along with seven marks and two goals as the Giants stormed to a 49-point win.

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What role would Bruhn play at Geelong?

Geelong list manager Andrew Mackie noted the club recruited Bruhn as a midfielder, but flagged the possibility of being used in multiple roles around the field.

“Tanner is a very talented player, who will add to our midfield stocks while also having the versatility to play in other positions,” Mackie said.

However, the Cats’ inclusion of Tom Atkins, Mark Blicavs and – at times – Jeremy Cameron to their midfield rotation makes it hard to see where Bruhn finds his spot at the centre bounce.

With the pairing of Isaac Smith and Max Holmes comfortably on the wing, Bruhn will likely have to work his way into the team through the forward line once again. Although, competition for spots will be much tougher at the reigning premiers.

Geelong’s small forward fleet of Brad Close, Gryan Miers and All-Australian Tyson Stengle operated at 5.8 score involvements per game or better in 2022 – more than double Bruhn’s output of 2.6 per game.

His most probable competitor for spots early in the year is Miers, as he had the least impact on the scoreboard and provides minimal pressure inside the forward 50 when compared to Close and Stengle.

How does he get into the side?

Bruhn’s point of difference from Geelong’s small forwards is his contested and pressure game. In 2022 he had a contested possession rate of 45.1 per cent, seven per cent higher than Geelong’s best forward.

He averaged 3.5 tackles per game this season, which would sit him second in the Cats’ forward line, just behind Close. Additional tackle pressure is a major need for Geelong, which sat 14th for tackles inside forward 50 in 2022.

Geelong changed to a highly contested game style in 2022, having the second most contested possessions in 2022 compared to ranking eighth in 2021. Bruhn’s ability to find his own football and operate in a contested system may be enough to find his way into Chris Scott’s side.

He’s likely to also be competing with another of Geelong’s trade targets in Ollie Henry, who played a similar fringe role for Collingwood this season. Both recruits could find themselves starting in the VFL but will be more than capable of forcing their way into the 22.

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