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Moneyball: Why an unwanted Cat could be gold for Swans

Daniel Menzel possesses forward craft comparable to the best forwards in the AFL - AFL,Sydney Swans,Daniel Menzel,Contracts,Geelong Cats
Daniel Menzel possesses forward craft comparable to the best forwards in the AFL

DANIEL Menzel appears to be the perfect fit for a Sydney forward line searching to expand its offensive weapons. 

There is no secret that spearhead Lance Franklin has dominated the lion's share of Swans goals since arriving at the club at the end of the 2013 season, with the superstar forward nailing 20 per cent of Sydney's goals in that time. 

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In 2017 and 2018, Franklin booted 130 goals from 43 games – at an average of 3.02 per game – the most of any player in the AFL during that span. 

These statistics not only illustrate the destructive force Franklin can be, but they also expose an underlying weakness in Sydney's team that Menzel's recruitment could aid significantly. 

In 2017, Franklin kicked 43 more goals than the next best (Tom Papley and Sam Reid) and in 2018 – despite missing four games – he booted 29 more goals than the next best goalkicker (Will Hayward). 

In fact, no Sydney player other than Franklin has booted more than 35 goals in the last three seasons. 

This is why the Swans' decision to sign Menzel as a delisted free agent is an astute one.

Menzel is a unique player, for obvious and not so obvious reasons. 

At 27, the fact Menzel has undergone four knee reconstructions remains a concern. That he battled groin soreness in 2018, which prompted Geelong to explore treatment with a cortisone injection (that ultimately went wrong and saw him miss 10 weeks in the AFL), is another warning sign that his body lacks durability. 

Geelong also took the step of resting Menzel for several games in his final two seasons at the club to alleviate the groin soreness he had been experiencing, so as to ensure he was not sidelined for a longer period of time. 

Menzel has also been criticised for his lack of defensive pressure. He laid just eight tackles inside 50 from 13 games last season, indicating that it is an area of his game that is below AFL standard.

Menzel's mobility, since having the ACL in his knees reconstructed, has also suffered and when you watch him closely at the venue he can be found a little wanting when the ball hits the deck in regard to his second and third efforts. 

However, those issues aside, Menzel was recruited to Sydney for a primary reason and that reason was to kick goals – something he does extremely well. 

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Since arriving at the footy club back in 2010, it has been an incredible journey and although with a fair share of ups and downs, I will always try and find the positives in any situation and there certainly are a lot of them. I can’t thank the people at the @geelongcats enough for helping me develop as a person and overcome many challenges. I will certainly miss my teammates and many friends at the footy club. To the fans and everyone who has supported me, I never expected the amount of goodwill you sent my way and I will never forget that through the tough times, you are the ones who helped pick me up. So thankyou! I am really excited and optimistic about what lies ahead with the @sydneyswans and look forward to the next challenge.

A post shared by Daniel Menzel (@danielmenzel10) on

 

Only Greater Western Sydney's Toby Greene averages more goals per game than Menzel when you rank the AFL's small and medium-sized forwards based upon their average output over 2017 and 2018. 

And the talented former Cat has only kicked 20 less goals than the competition leader for total goals over that span – Hawthorn's Luke Breust – despite playing 13 less games than the star Hawk.

Menzel is a sound converter in front of goal, having added a little hook to his set-shot routine which he believes helps him generate power and accuracy. 

Menzel also possesses forward craft comparable to the best forwards in the AFL – he knows where the goals are and he generally makes his opportunities count, while he ranked sixth in the competition for one-on-one contest wins in 2018 (42.5 per cent) according to Champion Data.

Despite sticking by him for nine years during one of the most challenging runs a player has experienced from an injury point of view, Geelong opted not to offer Menzel a contract extension for 2019. 

The non-offer signalled a distinct, yet not-so-distinct shift, in the club's philosophy toward injured players, with injury-prone duo Lincoln McCarthy (traded to Brisbane) and Cory Gregson (delisted) – other players the Cats had stuck by during their injury concerns – also moved on at the end of the season. 

Geelong has conceded it needs to make a shift in its game style and get up to speed with the modern game to ensure the ball is trapped inside forward 50 more often. That the Cats ranked outside the top five for forward-half turnovers in 2018 is something that has been acknowledged internally and will be a key focus this pre-season. 

The recruitment of Gary Rohan from Sydney and Luke Dahlhaus from the Western Bulldogs should help address those pressure problems the Cats have experienced, while Geelong is also banking on Nakia Cockatoo to remain healthy and deliver on his potential.

Time will tell whether Geelong has made the right call to move on from Menzel, but, at least for now, Sydney's decision to take a punt on one of the AFL's most intriguing players could pay major dividends. 

 

Stats supplied by AFL Statistician Cameron Sinclair 

2017-2018 – Total goals, small forwards (minimum 50 goals)

87 – Luke Breust (Hawthorn), 45 games
84 – Eddie Betts (Adelaide), 42 games
83 – Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide), 44 games
69 – Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong), 46 games
68 – Dustin Martin (Richmond), 48 games
67 – Daniel Menzel (Geelong), 32 games
67 – Josh Caddy (Richmond), 44 games 

2017-2018 – Average goals per game, small forwards (minimum 50 goals)

2.18 – Toby Greene (Greater Western Sydney)
2.09 – Daniel Menzel (Geelong)
2.00 – Eddie Betts (Adelaide)
1.93 – Luke Breust (Hawthorn)
1.89 – Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide)
1.88 – Jeff Garlett (Melbourne)
1.79 – Orazio Fantasia (Essendon)