Lance Franklin could feel it straight after his AFL comeback two weeks ago. “The leading forward is back,” he declared.
Now the evidence to support that assertion is starting to pile up, with big men across the competition suddenly kicking bags again.
Western Bulldogs forward Josh Bruce booted 10 goals against North Melbourne on Friday night – becoming just the sixth active player to have hit double-digits in a game.
Adelaide veteran Taylor Walker is in the midst of a spectacular late-career renaissance, producing his second six-goal haul of the season to sit top of the AFL’s goalkicking charts with 17 – the most by a leading goalkicker at this point in a season since 2010, and more than he’d kicked throughout all of last year.
Carlton’s Harry McKay, who sits third in the rankings behind Walker and Bruce, kicked seven on the weekend.
Not so long ago, AFL pundits feared spearheads were on the brink of extinction. Granted, it’s still early days, but the latest round of rule changes appear to have turned back the clock.
The man-on-the-mark rule, in particular, has opened up previously closed-off angles for kickers, changing the way teams defend as a collective, keeping the ball in motion for longer and thus freeing up more space all over the ground – particularly up forward, where the big blokes roam.
According to Champion Data, inside 50s are at a two-decade high – the competition average of 54.1 per game is the most since 2000 (55.7). Marks inside 50, naturally, have followed, with the AFL’s current top four teams all in the top four for that metric, and the Swans on top with a league-high average of 17.7 marks in their attacking arc every match.