Diamond needs polishing
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.