Draft trumps: Tom Lamb
The Dandenong Stingrays' product can play tall or small and is one of the most gifted players in the draft pool
AFTER a season that didn't quite reach the heights he had hoped for, Tom Lamb remains a difficult draft hopeful to assess.
After missing last year's NAB AFL Under-18 Championships through injury, Lamb played five games for Vic Country at this season's carnival.
He didn't manage to string together breakout performances but did end the championships well, when he was moved to half-back and offered some drive.
It's where he played a large portion of the rest of the season with the Dandenong Stingrays, including a 27-disposal effort in the club's semi-final win over the Geelong Falcons.
Lamb is the son of former Fitzroy and Melbourne player Wayne Lamb and grandson of St Kilda 1966 premiership player Ian Cooper.
Lamb has got so much going for him. He can play nearly anywhere, match up on nearly anyone and do nearly anything.
For a start, Lamb is an elite runner. At last month's NAB AFL Draft Combine, he pushed himself to 9:45 and second spot overall in the 3km time trial and 15.5 in the beep test. For a 193cm and 84kg player, that's good going.
That size and athleticism means he can be used in a number of key roles, and when he gets the ball he uses it well and with conviction. Particularly by foot, Lamb can pick out a target from any distance and hit it.
He can be great when the ball's on the ground, and although he played across half-back towards the end of the season, some of the best games of Lamb's season came as a half-forward who rotated into the midfield.
In round one of the TAC Cup he kicked six goals in a match-turning display, and later in the season gathered 33 disposals, took eight marks and kicked a goal in the midfield against the NSW-ACT Rams. Put it all together and Lamb's an extremely exciting prospect.
The qualifier on all of that is how often he does put it together. Lamb's inconsistency has been an issue for a couple of years, and another hard-to-read season made it no easier for recruiters to know what they're going to see each time he plays.
Technically, athletically and in terms of skills, there really isn't a concern about Lamb. It's all there. It's other stuff like his body language, discipline and consistency of effort that needs to lift. Lamb knows it, and is trying to find a way to do it.
If he settled in the forward half, Lamb could be a third tall forward in the same style as West Coast's Jack Darling. He can run opponents up and down the wings and then turn them around with a burst of pace. He tends to perform better when he's using his tank.
If he put all the pieces of his game together all the time, Lamb would be a top-five pick in most drafts. As it is, he probably fits in somewhere between 10 and 25.
His championships weren't as consistent as he hoped and his season was up and down, but there's no doubting he has some amazing traits. Who else can run, jump, kick, mark and pick the ball off the ground like Lamb does? Recruiters will have to weigh that up against his unpredictable performances.