The NEAFL Sample, Part Two
(Feature image by Sharon Vella/NEAFL).
The Brisbane Lion’s Keidean Coleman features as the focus of our second instalment of ” The NEAFL Sample ” series, analysing the performance of four recent AFL draftees across the 2019 NEAFL season. If you’d like to read up on the details of series, or read any of the other prospects we cover, click here.
Coleman: The Prospect
Overlooked in the 2018 AFL Draft, Coleman returned to the Lions NEAFL program for a full season in 2019, playing an impressive role in the Lions undefeated premiership year. Coleman also earned a place in the 2019 NEAFL Team of the Year, establishing himself as the first Academy player to earn such a selection.
Coleman played a total of 17 regular season games, before also featuring in the Lions Grand Final win over Southport. Coleman’s sample size in regard to 2019 NEAFL games provides us with more confidence when analysing his numbers, compared with other prospects in this series who played significantly less games.
Throughout 2019, Coleman played predominantly off half-back or on the wing, but also spent time forward, providing onlookers with the chance to see him show his value all over the ground at senior level. Coleman’s versatility is something we’ll touch on below.
Accumulation & Efficiency
What first grabbed our attention when analysing Coleman’s numbers from last season, was his efficiency with ball in hand. Averaging ten kicks and seven handballs per game, Coleman’s efficiency numbers ranked beside the competition’s elite (see below).
*5 or more Kicks per game
*5 or more HBs per game
*10 or more Disposals per game
Favouring his left boot, Coleman is precise and deliberate with his disposal by foot. Often hitting teammates on short 45 or lateral kicks, Coleman is calculated with his decision-making, avoiding risk the majority of the time (which we touch on later), but also possessing the ability to pull the trigger on some great kicks that release his teammates into acres of space upfield.
Coleman is especially clean going inside 50 by foot. The art of kicking inside 50 is not as simple as kicking in general play, with precise, measured kicks required to hit leading forwards in stride, limiting the impact of the trailing defender. These requirements suit Coleman’s low, left-footed stab passes, which he often land faultlessly in front of presenting forwards. Last season Coleman averaged 3.12 inside 50s per game, ranking him in the 78th percentile, along the likes of former teammate Ben Keays (79th) and Swan Jackson Thurlow (81st).
We’ve collated some footage below featuring some of Coleman’s best entries inside 50 (skip to 0:42 for our favourite).
As touched on earlier, Coleman featured all over the ground in 2019, often forced to find his niche around the abundance of AFL talent that surrounded him. Mainly featuring off half-back, Coleman was often seen linking defence with attack, finding space to mark and move the ball cleanly to the next Lion in the possession chain.
Out of the three positions Coleman played, forward was where he spent the least of his time. Despite this, Coleman averaged 0.93 scoring opportunities per game, converting these opportunities at a 69% rate of accuracy, ranking Coleman in the 74th percentile among players who averaged at least 0.5 goals per game.
Versatility is a hard attribute to analyse through the limited statistics we have access to, so we’ve done our best to highlight some of Coleman’s best efforts down back and in the forward half through footage.
Considering Coleman’s slight frame, we were surprised to see his intent and tenacity at the contest shine through when watching his footage.
You’d be mistaken for thinking Coleman was nothing more than an outside ball mover. His contested possession ratio (how many contested possessions per uncontested possessions) was well below competition average, highlighting Coleman’s tendency to receive the ball out in space, or in transition. Tackle numbers for Coleman were also just below competition average. This could be justified by the Lions as a team ranking 3rd last in tackles last season, though Coleman was still ranked 14th for tackles per game among Lions players who registered 6 or more games (27).
Contested Possession Ratio
Tackles per game
Despite numbers illustrating a traditional outside ball user, Coleman surprised us in the eyes test, often seen throwing himself into contests across the ground, whether it be making a desperate spoil down back, or smothering an opposition’s clearing kick to force a repeat stoppage inside forward 50.
A couple of questions…
We couldn’t leave this piece without raising questions about Coleman’s performances last season, and the first question highlights the elephant in the room.
Coleman was surrounded by a cast resembling a team that would almost feature in the lower rungs of the AFL. We don’t need to go into detail about the talent the Lions boasted at NEAFL level, but it does raise questions when analysing individual performances.
One view could be that Coleman fitting into a Lions team so seamlessly highlighted his maturity and ability to be an effective contributor despite a marginalised role. On the other hand, some would argue the talent surrounding Coleman enhanced his impressive statistics. It’s a question we can’t answer, but worth consideration.
Secondly, Coleman’s disposal efficiency is somewhat marred by his decision-making, especially regarding kicking. There’s no question Coleman possesses the tools of a clean ball user, but reviewing the footage highlighted some risk-adverse tendencies. These tendencies may have been influenced by his team’s ability to control possession, as the Lions averaged a disposal differential of +91 across the regular season, comfortably ahead of 2nd placed Southport (+29).
Though the benefits of playing with AFL talent likely outweigh the negatives, the pressure on non-listed players to share possession and aid their senior teammates is likely to have also influenced Coleman’s decision-making with ball in hand. Too often kicks upfield were quickly traded in for safe lateral or backward disposals, with little time spent identifying potential targets ahead, rather distributing the ball to teammates in similar field positions.
Coleman’s raw talent is rare to find paired with his disposal efficiency at such a young age. Though questions are raised about his risk-adverse tendencies by foot, and the potential influence of his talented teammates, Coleman’s 2019 NEAFL season was nothing short of incredible.
We hope this piece has highlighted the potential of Coleman for those largely unaware of his season in the NEAFL last year. Considering his selection on Brisbane’s extended interchange in Round One this year, Coleman looked likely to feature at some stage this season for the Lions in the AFL. It’s a credit to his work ethic, which given his circumstances in 2018, and follow-up efforts in 2019, must also undoubtedly be identified as one of his greatest attributes.
Thanks again, and see you in Part Three (Malcolm Rosas Jr, Gcs).
**p.s. all percentile rankings are based off players who played at least 6 NEAFL games in 2019.