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  • Writer's pictureSheahan "Biscuits" Arnott

Raiders Of The Lost Clark

Like many others in the footy world, I couldn't get enough of the glitches in the newly-released AFL23 video game last week. From Adam Simpson doing his best impression of Cos Martino between the big sticks, to players being unable to pick up the ball or tackle, to the interchange bench randomly appearing in the centre square it was a joyful tour of the issues rife in the video game development industry.

But as much fun as I had looking through all the images and videos of the glitches, it also sucks because I’d love for there to be a good footy video game. Is that too much to ask?

Every sports video game has those players that are just fun to play with - even if they aren't the best players in the game. Watching your mates’ frustration grow as you beat them with three-point snipers in the NBA2K series or impossible-to-tackle running backs in Madden just makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable - for me anyway.

And with his blazing speed and raking right boot, I’m not sure there would be a more fun player to have on your team in AFL23 than Jordan Clark.

A Surprise To Be Sure, But A Welcome One

We don’t need the standard recap of Fremantle’s chequered trading past to illustrate why plenty of fans were cautious about giving up excessive draft capital to bring Clark home from Geelong after three seasons of struggling to make his mark in the league. We were told he was a high-character player with good speed who could fit in on the wing and half-back. It sounded good in theory.

A thumping goal from the centre square against blue-and-yellow witches hats in the preseason signalled that there may be more than just a fast set of wheels and mullet about the boy from Albany. Clark established himself as a key member of the league’s best defence, winning hearts with his toughness and tinge of white line fever as much as with his athletic prowess. A ninth-placed finish in the 2022 Doig Medal was a just reward for a consistent season.

But stop me if you’ve heard this one before - Clark’s numbers are down on his 2022 output through this first slice of the season. Last season, he had 7 games collecting fewer than 20 touches. Though 8 games in 2023, he’s had 5. I don’t say this to bash the bloke - I point it out because he’s a player whose unique set of skills we are not currently making the most of. It’s no secret that we love to play through Hayden Young - and why wouldn’t we - but as teams begin to clamp down on his surgical left boot we need to find different routes up and down the field.

A Very Particular Set of Skills

So what the hell do video games have to do with Jordan Clark - a man who publicly stated he had neither the time nor the interest in them on Old Bull, Young Buck last season? Because the ultimate move you could make in AFL 2003 was shifting Anthony Rocca into the ruck, grabbing the ball from the bounce and attempting to torp goals from the centre square. And that’s what I would do with Jordan Clark - move him to where the ball is to make the best use of his skill set.

Clark adds a different dimension to a midfield group that - as good as it is - can be a bit one note. His larger frame and defensive mindset would potentially help overcome some of the clearance issues we’ve seen so far, while his extra burst of speed and penetrating kick makes him a more difficult prospect to handle for opposing midfielders. Deeper, faster forward entries are critical to our success and we have this guy sitting across halfback almost begging us to use him more.

Of course, we are already struggling to get our midfield minute balance right - especially with Johnson and Erasmus coming through - so adding another name to the mix just makes the gumbo even spicier. But we are talking about a player who might have the potential to be a line-breaking - and game-breaking - explosive midfielder, not just another 25-touch-a-week accumulator.

No Better Time Than Now

The SCG has been an unhappy hunting ground for the Dockers since our inception with just 4 wins in 18 visits. Sure, we have a terrible record at most grounds outside WA, but we haven’t beaten the Swans in Sydney since a 19-year-old Nat Fyfe picked up 3 votes for his 31 disposal masterclass in 2011 - and we nearly blew a 39-point lead to lose that one!

The SCG’s postage stamp dimensions seem perfectly suited to this new, hypothetical midfield version of Jordan Clark, but even if he’s not running around as a follower, it makes sense to deploy him further up the ground this week. His towering goal brought the house down against the Hawks, and this recent reminder of his ability to hit the scoreboard beyond the arc should cast enough doubt in a defender's mind as to whether they should be playing the goal or set-up kick when he sees the ball in Clark’s hands from that sort of range.

But what I think will give Sydney’s undermanned defence the most trouble is Clark’s ability to not just cover long distances with his kicks, but to hit them with decent speed too. He’s not a Blake Acres type who’s lucky not to hit low-flying aircraft whenever he dumps the ball inside 50 - Clark’s kicks travel flat and hard giving opposition defenders less time to zone off and affect the contest.

So that’s my pitch to get Jordan Clark up the ground and into the action this Saturday and beyond. And if JLo isn’t going to shuffle the magnets around, then I guess I better buy this damn video game - glitches and all - to see if I’m right about what number six might be able to do if given the chance.

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