AS FAR as third options go, there are few more accomplished than Gary Rohan.
The Geelong forward, now 12 seasons and 153 games into an AFL career that has often been filled more with promise than end product, is finally hitting the heights recruiters were acutely aware he could reach as a precociously talented junior prospect.
Traded to the Cats for pick No.62 in 2018, Rohan has built on the consistent football he put together in his first two seasons at GMHBA Stadium to well and truly emerge as one of the League's breakout stars this year.
Champion Data notes that Rohan ranks 'elite' for AFL Player Ratings (10.7 per game), goals (1.9 per game), marks inside-50 (1.7 per game) and contested marks (1.2 per game) as a general forward this season, while he also ranks 'above average' for score involvements (5.6 per game).
All of those aforementioned statistical categories are career-highs, a remarkable feat considering they have been achieved despite the fact his usage rate in Geelong's forward line has actually decreased following the arrival of Jeremy Cameron.
Cats coach Chris Scott remarked earlier in the year that the 30-year-old Rohan wouldn't be adversely impacted by the arrival of Cameron, as the former Giants star joined reigning Coleman Medal winner Tom Hawkins in a high-powered and new-look forward line.
Champion Data stats show that Hawkins is averaging 9.8 inside-50 targets per game this season, while Cameron is nearly on par with 7.2 targets per match. Rohan, meanwhile, has just 4.8 targets per match.
But the 189cm forward, capable of playing as both a marking target and as a threat on ground level, still kicked 14 goals in the five games after Cameron returned from a summer hamstring problem to dispel any doubts that his influence could wane.
Meanwhile, his 17 majors through the season's first 12 rounds is just short of his career-high across a season. It's near-certain he will kick the eight goals required in the final 11 matches of the year to surpass the 25 goals he mustered in Sydney's journey to the 2016 Grand Final.
In a sign of the increased involvement he is having within matches, Rohan won 10 disposals or more in five straight games for the first time in his career earlier this year. In doing so, he's proved his coach's remarks about his continued importance within the side correct.
"If you can somehow get hold of his highlights over the course of his career, if you looked at them in isolation you'd think you're looking at the best player in the competition," Scott said after Rohan's five-goal haul against Richmond back in May.
Indeed, that statement had come after Rohan, Hawkins and Cameron – who kicked six goals himself that night – combined for 15 majors against the reigning premiers earlier this year. It was undoubtedly the best Geelong's forward line has looked since a 60-point victory over Port Adelaide midway through last season.
On that defining night at Metricon Stadium in August 2020, Hawkins kicked six goals and took seven contested marks to completely overwhelm the undersized Tom Clurey, while Rohan chipped in for three more to firmly establish the side's premiership credentials.
On Thursday night, the Cats and the Power meet again at the Adelaide Oval and this time Ken Hinkley won't just be charged with the task of attempting to thwart only two dangerous forward threats. Now, he has three on his hands.
That's because Cameron's arrival hasn't hurt Rohan's impact at all. If anything, it has made him both a better and a more versatile prospect in a dangerous and potent Geelong forward line.