Mitch McGovern has been a polarising figure since he first put on navy blue. Having never really found a solid place in the side, poor runs of form and injuries have hampered his development since leaving Adelaide.
However, with a gaping hole left in the Carlton defence after the departure of Liam Jones, this has given McGovern a new lease on life. Moving to defence to act as a third key tall defender, McGovern had his first outing against competitive opposition in St Kilda in Thursday morning’s practice match.
With Jacob Weitering and Oscar McDonald playing as the lockdown defenders, McGovern’s free role allowed him to express himself and be a real defensive weapon. He was able to read the ball brilliantly and use his field kicking to good use.
When the Blues were under the pump in the second quarter. McGovern’s ability to remain calm and focused was a key standout. Despite losing out in some contests, he always bounced back with a meaningful defensive act moments later.
Taking a nasty fall halfway through the third term, he landed on his head after a marking contest. He was able to quickly recover and still maintain his intensity, showing the resilience and toughness needed to play in defence at a high level.
Occupying a much more aggressive position, he took the game on and was always proactive in marking contests, often taking front position and getting a clean run at the ball instead of engaging in bodywork.
Very agile and quick on his feet, McGovern used his kicking ability to good use, hitting leading teammates out of the forward line.Embed from Getty Images
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His decision making was his standout attribute against St Kilda, something that caught the eye of assistant coach Ashley Hansen.
“He makes some really good decisions, ‘Gov’,” Hansen said.
“The more he plays there he’s certainly going to continue to be able to make really good decisions with his positioning and when he supports, just another great step forward and progression for him.”
These good decisions were made off the back of his backline partners, Weitering and McDonald holding the posts for most of the proceedings.
Weitering continued his good form from last season, while McDonald performed well against Max King, keeping him relatively quiet all afternoon.
Hansen spoke about this defensive partnership and what to expect heading into Round 1.
“Yeah, you really want those two talls… so two bigs with that intercept defender, which we think ‘Gov’ can do, is probably the blueprint going forward,” he explained.
The main goal now for McGovern is to develop consistency in his play, something he has lacked so far playing as a forward. If he can get continuity in his body and remain injury-free, he has a strong chance at reforming his career as an intercept defender.
Despite only being a practice match, McGovern showed plenty of qualities that will put him in good stead for the regular season and beyond. This new role for ‘Gov’ might reignite his career.
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