WITH the 2020 AFL season resumption taking place over the weekend, we will be re-commencing weekly player performance recaps. In celebration of the season's return, Richmond premiership player Marlion Pickett is analysed through the scope.
It was clear that Pickett's round two performance wasn't up to the standard he set in the 2019 grand final, or even in Richmond's round one triumph earlier in the year. It appeared the mature-aged recruit's positioning was below standard throughout the Tigers' draw against Collingwood. He drifted out of the contest frequently, only managing seven disposals in the contest. Due to the third-gamer being generally considered as an outside midfielder, it is no surprise he found it difficult to generate possessions while his side struggled to win the contested ball.
However, as Pickett's astonishing story continues to develop in Richmond's success-breathing line-up, there is no doubt he will add components to his weaponry which could likely see him become a star very soon. One appealing factor of the 28-year-old's round two performance was his commitment to the arial ball and a rare willingness to track it with no fear of surrounding players.
Second quarter, 3 minutes remaining
After Collingwood's John Noble marks on his side's half-back flank, he scans the ground for options, before deciding to kick long down the line. Pickett, who is positioned parallel to the ball, back-pedals as he observes Noble prepare to kick. He then turns his body while shifting his entire focus to the ball's trajectory after it's kicked. The 2019 mid-season draftee quickly realises the kick is likely to fall short of its intended target and drop in his vicinity. Therefore, he takes three quick steps back to give himself enough space to launch and attempt a mark. If the tall, agile on-baller wasn't to allow space for his leap, he would have continued to back-pedal, which would likely give his opposition an opportunity to mark or spoil from behind. However, due to Pickett's understanding of the importance to receive the ball at its highest point, he pivots slightly and takes two steps towards the arial ball, before launching from his right foot. Although he slightly mistimes his jump and begins to return to the turf before executing the mark, his renowned stellar vertical leap allows his hands to make contact at an impressive height, not allowing emerging opponents to disrupt him in the process. With his arms at full stretch, Pickett receives the ball incredibly cleanly, and returns to the ground in a fluent motion.
Second quarter, 2 minutes remaining
Receiving a handball on his half-forward flank, Collingwood's Steele Sidebottom evades Tiger Dion Prestia before booting a high ball into his forward 50. In a dangerous position, Marlion Pickett is cleverly positioned about two metres in front of the Magpies' major forward pack. Once the ball is kicked, the 2018 WAFL Team of the Year member locks eyes with it and loses his concern of the surrounding situation. He takes three steps to his left to maintain his balance before bursting towards the arial ball. From here, the pack swallows the former South Fremantle best and fairest winner, due to the lofty kick allowing enough time for surrounding players to reach the likely drop zone. Despite Magpie Jordan De Goey speeding alongside him, Pickett maintains eye contact with the ball and isn't drawn to the star forward's awing presence, like many would be in the same scenario. Instead, Richmond's number 50 steadies his dash forward and halts his body under the ball. He also gives De Goey a slight push in his side to force him out of the marking contest, decreasing the likelihood of opposition interference. The 2019 VFL grand final best afield then courageously launches at the falling ball with no regard for the pack of players emerging behind or even for his own safety. Again reaching the ball at optimum height, Pickett executes an extremely difficult mark in front of his eyes, despite intense physical contact from Collingwood's Darcy Cameron.
Both of these passages clearly highlight Pickett's composure and courage when being tested under the arial ball. He also evidently has an understanding for his remarkably-high vertical leap and exceptionally clean hands. If the AFL/VFL premiership hero can demonstrate this skill more consistently while continuing to improve on other aspects of his skillset, Marlion Pickett will undoubtably translate his young career into becoming a national standout.