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Round 1 recap: Cox

FOLLOWING a short-lived start to the 2020 AFL season, we'll be taking a look back at the performances of four players who took the field in round one. This week, Magpie key forward Mason Cox is analysed through the scope.

The American-born big-man appeared to have taken another step forward in his four-year career after providing a physical presence in Collingwood's forward line against the Western Bulldogs. The AFL season is likely being sorely missed by Cox, as he showed a clear improvement in his confidence to compete in the air, his hit-out efficiency and his ability to cover the ground.

Most notably, Cox's round one performance demonstrated a clear intention to fully commit to any arial ball in his vicinity with no concern for surrounding players. This mentality likely came from an improved understanding of his tremendous height and wingspan advantage over all opponents, meaning if he gets first hands to the ball in a marking contest, the chances of an opposition spoil is very low. If the American can continue to develop this aspect of his game, he may pose a huge threat in his side's forward line, as for now, his raw potential is frightening.

Some of Cox's decisive, aggressive arial efforts from round one can be found below.

First quarter, 13:02 remaining

After marking wide on the forward-flank, Jordan De Goey wisely decides to kick high to Cox's advantage deep in the forward line. Once the ball is in the air, the 211 centimetre giant times his run and leap to perfection, as he reaches the highest possible point before marking. Paying minimal attention to opposition presence, he soars over Tim English to gain first hands to the forward entry. However, a reaching English arm manages to knock the ball loose from his grip. Despite it bobbling to the front of the pack, Cox maintains focus on the ball and desperately lunges forward to effectively mark on the second attempt. Understanding he is well within goal-kicking range, the former Oklahoma State University basketball player slowly walks to the top of his mark to calm himself. He then steadily jogs in and kicks a neat, precise goal.

First quarter, 4:44 remaining

Late in the first quarter, De Goey attempts to snap a goal but only manages a behind, before Western Bulldogs defender Zaine Cordy wastes no time in running from the goal square to generate power for a kick-out. Although he was originally standing English, Cox identifies Cordy's intention to clear the ball towards the boundary. With little concern for English's positioning, Cox takes five quick steps away from his opponent and towards the boundary, while observing Cordy burst from the goal square. Once the ball is kicked, the key forward focuses all his attention to the arial ball, understanding his height advantage and marking ability. He continues to travel towards the boundary, while also stepping backwards, as he tracks the ball's drop zone. Once Cox realises he is well-positioned to attempt a mark, he fully extends his arms and launches upwards to just reach a higher position than Bulldog Hayden Crozier. Due to Cordy's hard, penetrating kick, the ball again bobbles from Cox's grasp. However, his soft hands enable the ball to remain close to his body, rather than forcing it to deflect away. As the big-man returns to the turf, he comfortably takes the mark upon second grab. Understanding he is well out of goal-kicking range, Cox gets off his mark much quicker than when he previously lined up for goal. He hurriedly back pedals before opposition defenders can congest Collingwood's forward 50 and in order to locate a target sooner. Noticing Jack Crisp wide on the forward-flank, Cox again executes a decisive, precise kick, allowing teammate Jack Crisp to take a simple mark.

These examples both outline Mason Cox's improved understanding and awareness of his marking ability. If the American can continue to develop his intent and attack on the arial ball, he could further establish himself as a weapon in an already-deadly Magpie forward line. It is highly likely Cox will continue to go from strength to strength in the fifth year of his AFL career.

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