AFL 3 years ago

Is Tom Rockliff really a superstar?

  • Is Tom Rockliff really a superstar?

Brisbane fans spent most of 2014 explaining to other AFL followers that Tom Rockliff was one of the league's most underrated players. Now a club captain, All-Australian representative, and dual best-and-fairest winner, "Rocky" still struggles to be counted among the AFL's absolute elite.

Unfortunately for Brisbane fans, there are statistical reasons for this.

Rockliff's ball-winning capacity is well-documented. To judge him against similar players, check out the statistics for the 20 players who averaged the most disposals in 2014 (before finals). It's an impressive cohort - with Rockliff at the top.

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Yet amid these top 20 accumulators, Rockliff only ranked sixth for stoppages, seventh for clearances, and 12th for goals. Moreover, he ranked second for clangers and first for free kicks against.

Compare this to the superstar's superstar, Gary Ablett. He ranked first for stoppages, clearances, effective disposals, and contested possessions.

Here's another test. Order every player by average disposals in 2014, with Rockliff at the head. To find a player who averaged fewer inside-50s than Rockliff, it's necessary to scroll down to Kane Cornes, at 35th.

Apply the same test to goal assists. The first player to average fewer than Rockliff was Jack Steven, all the way down at 68th.

Only 8% of Brisbane goals in 2014, on average, were kicked or assisted by Rockliff. Compare this to 25% for Gary Ablett at the Gold Coast Suns, or even the 15% for Dayne Beams at Collingwood.

Rockliff gathered 40 disposals against Adelaide in Round 20 of 2014. This didn't prevent the Lions from being smashed 168 to 63. What's the point of having a superstar if he doesn't lift the team to victory?

Clearly a rebuilding team such as Brisbane tries to measure success in more ways than the simple win/loss ratio. Still, it's significant that when St Kilda scraped out victories in 2014, superstar captain Nick Riewoldt performed well. Melbourne's seminal win against Carlton was built on a career-defining game from co-captain Nathan Jones.

Brisbane fans must've been thrilled at Rocky's breakout 2014 season. Still, based on existing statistics, it wasn't enough to transform him into a genuine superstar - yet.

How do you rate Tom Rockliff?


Follow Antony Scholefield on Twitter at @A_Scholefield.

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