Who’s been the best Queensland player in the first half of the 2017 Toyota AFL premiership?
Dayne Zorko? Dayne Beams? Or Charlie Dixon?
Brisbane Lions fans could mount a legitimate argument for Zorko or Beams, who have both been outstanding in their team’s tough 1-9 start.
But as the Lions pair enjoy a weekend off to consider how they might help get their team off the bottom of the ladder Dixon has lodged a powerhouse counter argument.
The big Port Adelaide power forward was nothing short of sensational on Thursday night as the Power obliterated Hawthorn by 51 points at Adelaide Oval to move to fourth spot on the ladder with a 6-4 record.
He kicked the first two goals of the game inside 10 minutes to set the tone, and was a dominant focal point all night as Port held an opposition scoreless in the first quarter for the first time in club history and restricted the once-mighty Hawks to their lowest half-time score in history.
The numbers said it all. Dixon, clearly best afield, had 20 possessions (15 contested), eight marks (five contested), six tackles, four goals and two goal assists.
His second and third efforts and his defensive pressure were wonderful allies for his brutal attack on the ball and his strong hands.
Little wonder the great Wayne Carey described it as “the complete game” in Channel 7 commentary.
It earned Dixon a massive 166 Champion Data ranking points – the highest score by a Queenslander this season and the best of his 93 AFL games.
After 11 rounds Dixon averages 101.8 Champion Data points per game to pull within striking distance of Zorko (110.2) and Beams (104.4) at the top of the leaderboard.
Amazingly, Dixon’s career-high 16 contested possessions was the most by any player on the ground as Port sent a further warning to the competition that they are not to be taken lightly.
Only four other players had more than 10, and they were all Port midfielders – Ollie Wines (14), 200-gamer Brad Ebert (13), Sam Powell-Pepper (12) and captain Travis Boak (12).
Dixon’s six tackles was an equal career-high. So, too, was his two goal assists.
His four goals, which saw him pull level with Robbie Gray at the top of the Port goal-kicking list this season with 24, was twice as many as any other player in the game.
And his five contested marks was three more than any other player, and 20% of the total number of 25 contested marks taken by 44 players in the entire game.
Port coach Ken Hinkley, after suggesting mid-week that Dixon would certainly rank among the top three in the Power B&F voting this year, said after the game Thursday night the former Gold Coast Suns ace was in ‘career best form’.
Certainly, again, the numbers over the past five games support the Hinkley argument.
Dixon has five 20-possession games in his career. Three have come in the last five games as he’s gone 20-22-17-13-20 against Brisbane, West Coast, Gold Coast, Geelong and Hawthorn. Average 18.4.
In the same period he’s had 10-14-9-9-15 in the contested possession column at an average of 11.4.
His contested marks have gone 4-6-2-3-5. Average 4.0.
His tackles have gone 3-5-3-3-6. Average 4.0.
And his goal count has gone 3-1-2-2-4. Ave 2.4.
So the key statistics on his mid-season report card to Round 11 sees him average 18.4 possessions, 11.4 contested possessions, 4.0 contested marks, 4.0 tackles and 2.4 goals.
In 18 games at Port last year he averaged 11.4 possessions, 7.1 contested possessions, 1.9 contested marks, 1.7 tackles and 1.7 goals.
And in 65 games at Gold Coast from 2011-15 he averaged 10.4 possessions, 6.9 contested possessions, 1.2 contested marks, 1.9 tackles and 1.4 goals.
It’s a compelling argument, and certainly the significant improvement right across the board more than vindicates Hinkley’s bold move to lure Dixon from the tourist strip to the city of churches after he’d built up an excellent rapport with the former Cairns junior during his time as an assistant-coach at the Suns.
Dixon’s standout performance in his first career win over Hawthorn followed a week in which he’d found himself in the media spotlight after a late mishap in the Round 10 loss to Geelong.
Having taken a big mark late in game and lined up to kick what may have been a winning goal he was caught napping by the 30-second time clock and didn’t get a kick away.
It was an incident which prompted a lot of hot debate and widely contrasting views on radio and television, and a lot of ‘ink’ in the press.
He should have known, said some, as others defended him on the basis that it is a rule rarely applied so strictly and it was applied with the customary warning call at 15 seconds from the umpire.
Hinkley, though, said it hadn’t worried Dixon because “he didn’t read it and didn’t know anything had been said”.
Indeed, it’s just not Dixon to concern himself with the media. The only feedback he worries about is that from his teammates and the Port coaching staff.
As Dixon settled back to enjoy a weekend off fellow Queenslander Brendan Whitecross was among the battered Hawks set to assess just where the club is at.
Whitecross had 13 possessions, four marks and two tackles.
In Queensland selection news Thursday night ahead of the rest of Round 11, the Suns dropped youngster Brad Scheer in the only significant change. He will be given a spell in the NEAFL after the first three games of his promising career.
Jack Bowes, who missed the Suns’ bad loss to Melbourne last week with illness, failed to win back his spot for the Saturday afternoon clash with West Coast at Metricon Stadium and instead will join a stat-studded Suns NEAFL side.
Josh Williams, a Suns academy product originally from Townsville who was drafted last year by North Melbourne, was named among the Kangaroos emergencies for the first time.
Williams joins ruckman Braydon Preuss as standby players for North’s Saturday night clash with Richmond at Etihad Stadium.
By Peter Blucher