Jake Stringer

(BULL­DOGS)

Inside Sport - - FOOTY FINALS -

Stringer the­ory in­volves the sheer physics of ge­nius, with a pinch of mys­tery. Nowa­days the ’Dogs have targets, and none bet­ter than Stringer. He’s 22 with a cou­ple of kids and has par­layed that ma­tu­rity into his foot­ball.

Added to his in­choate vir­tu­os­ity, it’s be­come a po­tent brew. In the next decade, be­gin­ning with this fi­nals se­ries, he’ll sum­mon mag­i­cal big-game footy. He can kick late goals in a cri­sis. He can pul­verise a solid de­fence in sec­onds. “The Pack­age” is inim­itable.

What can we ex­pect from him?

A freak show. If you’re op­po­si­tion, a prob­lem. He has no nat­u­ral en­emy. No mat­ter who they put on him, he has a strength to cover it.

Like Ablett Sr, he’s a bolt of ex­plo­sive mus­cle. He jinks his way through swarms and coolly puts boot to ball, pro­duc­ing en­chanted goals, every bit as en­ter­tain­ing as Ri­oli – and that’s say­ing some­thing. His abil­ity to pen­e­trate lines dif­fers from Ri­oli’s sharp, in­tense phys­i­cal­ity. We’ve seen him squirt an en­trapped ball out of an im­pen­e­tra­ble lat­tice of arms and legs like a wa­ter­melon seed, and cause a team-mate to goal. He has eyes for the sticks, and he’ll reach them with a big mark and set shot, or crumb­ing, or charg­ing through the mid­dle after fend­ing off his man with hur­dle-strong arms or swiv­el­ling out of a tackle.

And on those rare oc­ca­sions he’s out of a con­test, whole­some industry gets him back. He’s able to play any po­si­tion, and, like Buddy, he’s a for­ward who can go deep into the mid­field and get what’s rightly his. That makes him a night­mare for the de­fender dragged down­field.

His lurk­ing pres­ence gives op­po­nents a shiver. When­ever he gets it, he’s per­pet­ual mo­tion. In­tent is in the air. He’s one cool gun­slinger.

He, all of the above, will thrive on fi­nals foot­ball.

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