Smother of the year?
Rory Laird shows courage to produce an inspirational smother
Rory Laird is quietly making a name for himself in the Adelaide back line
RORY Laird bucks the trend of the modern, extroverted, media-savvy footballer.
Quietly spoken and rarely emotive, Laird is destined to be easily overlooked by those outside of his club, but truly appreciated by those who matter.
He says little but is hard as nails. His incredible goal-square smother against Fremantle in round 10
attests to that.
After making his debut earlier in the season, Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson has trusted Laird enough to handle some of the competition's most damaging small forwards.
Last weekend against Gold Coast Laird collected 29 disposals and took 10 marks; in his debut season he's averaged 17 touches and almost four tackles a game.
Not bad for a rookie-listed defender who's only played nine games.
He's not "the sexy back pocket that some clubs have got", Sanderson said, but he has very rarely been beaten.
Laird's fine with his no-frills attitude – it's who he is – but he told AFL.com.au
his on-field communication was a work in progress.
"I'm a pretty quiet person, as all my teammates would tell you – in the locker room I don't have too much to say," Laird said.
"I'm constantly reminded by 'Truck' (Ben Rutten) and Darren Milburn and all those boys that we're pretty quiet back there in the backline, me and 'Browny' (Luke Brown).
"I get a bit of white line fever, I'm pretty aggressive out on the field, but with my voice it's just a matter of confidence I think.
"Just being able to know the structures down pat, I've got a pretty good knowledge of it, but just in certain situations and knowing what to do.
"It's definitely improved since my first game – I was as quiet as a bee then."
Who could really blame a 19-year-old kid who hasn't even played 10 games yet for feeling intimidated when calling out 207-game veteran Ben Rutten?
It's a tough ask, but in a team sport it's a necessary one.
Laird confessed it was a daunting prospect to sound out the club's more experienced players, but it was getting easier.
He said with increased experience came confidence in his own ability and in the club's game plan.
With every game under his belt Laird is more comfortable in speaking up when required.
"All the young blokes have to be able to talk to the Scott Thompsons, the Dangerfields and tell them when they're doing something wrong," he said.
"Even now, compared to my first game, I'm a lot more confident in doing that, talking to Truck and 'Tarls' (Daniel Talia).
"It's just a progressive thing that I'm getting more and more used to with each game that I play."
In the absence of retired defensive stalwart Michael Doughty, Laird and Luke Brown (20) have begun to form a strong bond deep in defence.
Brown's only played a handful more games than Laird and the pair have experienced the same difficulties associated with starting an AFL career.
Like anything in life, it's easier to go through it with someone else.
"We sort of play exactly the same position, so we talk to each other and when we roll onto each other's opponents we can see what the other does," Laird said.
"The more we play with each other the more we get used to each other's games, which builds that continuity.
"We're just trying to keep learning and working through different experiences that we get with each different team."
Adelaide is yet to indicate to Laird whether he'll be offered a permanent spot on the senior list next season.
He's seemingly got Sanderson's vote, but regardless, if he continues the form he's shown this early in his career, job security will be a formality.
Harry Thring is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Harry.