By Peter Blucher.
It’s hardly a headline-grabber and doesn’t guarantee anything, but at least it’s a confidence-booster for Jono Freeman and a reason for optimism in the Brisbane Lions camp.
Playing just his second game of the 2016 AFL season, and his first since Round 1, Jono Freeman pulled down five contested marks against Melbourne at the MCG last Saturday.
He was only the second Lions player to do so since the retirement of power-marking club legend Jonathan Brown.
The other was 2016 newcomer Josh Schache, who had five contested marks in just his second AFL game against North Melbourne at the Gabba in Round 2.
So, while the Lions as a team rank 17th in the League this year for contested marks, ahead of only Essendon, coach Justin Leppitsch can at least take consolation from the fact that he has some promising raw material to work with in what is such a critical facet of the game.
It’s no small thing. The contested mark tally posted by Freeman and Schache, who have played only 12 and eight AFL games respectively, has been bettered by only five players in Lions history since contested marking statistics were kept for the first time in 1999.
They are the imposing premiership trio of Brown, Alastair Lynch and Daniel Bradshaw, plus Tom Rockliff and Daniel Merrett.
Bradshaw holds the club record for contested marks in a game at nine against St.Kilda at the Gabba in 2001.
He also had six contested marks three times against Carlton at the Gabba in 2004, North Melbourne at the Gabba in 2008, and North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium in 2010.
Brown is next on the list with seven contested marks against Essendon at Etihad Stadium in 2005,
when he made a late start to the season due to injury and kicked eight goals in one of the more dominant performances of his 256-game career.
He also had six contested marks against Collingwood at the MCG in 2003.
Lynch had six contested marks in a game twice in 2005 – against Adelaide at the Gabba and Melbourne at Etihad.
Merrett had a day out when he grabbed six contested marks against Adelaide at Football Park in Adelaide in 2011. Likewise Rockliff against Melbourne at the MCG in 2012.
Other Lions to have had five marks in a game have been Leppitsch and premiership teammates Darryl White, Clark Keating and Jamie Charman, plus Bradshaw, Brown and Lynch.
The GWS Giants’ Rory Lobb leads the League in contested marks this season at 26, or 2.9 per game.
Then comes Gold Coast’s Tom Lynch (23), Carlton’s Levi Casboult (23), Port Adelaide’s Charlie Dixon (22), West Coast’s Josh Kennedy (21), Melbourne’s Jesse Hogan (21), North Melbourne Jarrad Waite (20) and Geelong’s Tom Hawkins (20).
Freeman, who kicked four goals against Collingwood in his only other MCG appearance in 2014, will look to take the confidence from last weekend into Saturday’s Round 10 Gabba clash with Hawthorn.