Di­a­mond needs pol­ish­ing

Sunday Mail - - SPORT -

JARED Polec is leav­ing and Chad Win­gard could be fol­low­ing him. A ma­jor hole has opened up in the mid­field at Al­ber­ton and a young gun needs to el­e­vate his game to an elite level.

Sam Pow­ell-Pep­per is that man and, given time, he could be bet­ter than both of them.

The Power’s pre­mier­ship hopes over the next decade may de­pend on it, as they once did for the Crows.

Mark Ric­ci­uto in the early 1990s was not dis­sim­i­lar to Pow­ell-Pep­per.

He was a man/child at just 17 years of age when Neil Ker­ley found him and Gra­ham Cornes nur­tured him.

He de­buted for Ade­laide in 1993, was an All-Aus­tralian by 1994, a pre­mier­ship player by 1998, a cap­tain by 2001 and a Brown­low Medal­list in 2003.

It looks sim­ple but it wasn’t al­ways easy.

Robert Shaw loved him as a player, but mis­used him in a role as a hu­man bat­ter­ing ram. Roo didn’t mind, but it wasn’t in his best in­ter­ests.

He was a lad from the River­land who thrived in the phys­i­cal­ity of the AFL.

Roo loved it and Shaw en­cour­aged it. West Coast de­fender Dean Kemp copped it and may still be re­cov­er­ing from that hip and shoul­der. There were oth­ers. The young Roo won con­tested ball at will and used his pow­er­ful leg to dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect.

He was a star in the mak­ing but he needed some pol­ish. En­ter Mal­colm Blight. Blight made him a fully fledged star with a slight, sub­tle tweak to his game style.

Less of the bat­ter­ing ram and more of the qual­ity ball.

The words of ad­vice were grate­fully ac­cepted and the dif­fer­ence in the player was im­me­di­ate.

His 329 dis­pos­als in 1995 be­came 569 by 1998.

In 1998 they counted in­side 50s as a statis­tic for the first time and Roo had 133. Dustin Martin was No. 1 in the AFL this year, 20 years later, and he had 132.

Ric­ci­uto’s tackle count also in­creased 50 per cent af­ter Blight ar­rived at West Lakes, and his free kicks against re­duced by a sim­i­lar num­ber.

The rough di­a­mond added pol­ish and poise to his power game and eight All-Aus­tralian se­lec­tions later, he is truly a great of the AFL.

Blight de­serves some credit for that too.

Pow­ell-Pep­per must take a sim­i­lar course for the Power.

There is much of the old Mark Ric­ci­uto about this young man. He has proven to be a good player but, like Roo, he now must be­come a great one.

Some­one needs to whis­per in his ear and in­spire a tweak to his game to al­low the young­ster to blos­som — and as­sis­tant coach Michael Voss must be that man.

Pow­ell-Pep­per, 20, loves the phys­i­cal­ity of the game, but he doesn’t need to go look­ing for it any more.

He must ad­just his thought process and fo­cus on pos­ses­sion and pen­e­tra­tion ahead of phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment.

He also hand­balls too much.

His 137 kicks and 168 hand­balls in 2018 must be­come 300 kicks and 250 hand­balls in 2019.

More ball but slightly dif­fer­ent use. He needs to learn the art of the 1-2 hand­ball. Give it and get it back. Get some ball out­side to com­ple­ment his in­side num­bers and keep the op­po­si­tion guess­ing.

He also needs to win more ball at stop­pages and more for­ward of cen­tre. It will in­crease his in­side 50 num­bers and his im­pact on the score­board.

With ma­tu­rity and com­po­sure, his ef­fi­ciency will im­prove. In 2018 it was an ac­cept­able 64 per cent but it must be closer to 68-70 per cent. Slight tweaks can lead to big im­prove­ments.

For­mer Power great Kane Cornes made a sim­i­lar im­prove­ment at ex­actly the same age.

As a 20-year-old in 2003, Cornes had 281 dis­pos­als for the sea­son. A year later, in Port’s pre­mier­ship sea­son, that jumped to 499.

Pow­ell-Pep­per must make sim­i­lar ad­just­ments to im­prove in 2019. If he gets bet­ter, the Power will too.

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