Image Source: Oakleigh Chargers
Club: Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
– Flexible player who can play multiple positions
– Strong overhead
– High efficiency user of the ball
– Possesses a great attitude
The Oakleigh Chargers’ “three-peat” is alive and well after it defeated the highly fancied North Ballarat on Sunday to reach a Preliminary Final, but it may have to continue its journey without one of the club’s brightest prospects in Jordan Ridley. The tall utility suffered a nasty shoulder injury in the final quarter and immediately left the ground, but the setback won’t hurt his draft chances after two impressive finals performances.
Jordan Ridley had been identified as a player of interest by the Chargers after growing 20cm from age 14 to 16, and was given his first TAC Cup opportunity in Round 6 last year due to the squad being depleted by representative commitments. The Box Hill High School student made an immediate impact forward by kicking 14 goals in his first five games, including a six-goal haul against Queensland. Once top age players started returning from Vic Metro and school football, Ridley’s role began to change and led to less opportunity. Unfortunately, he missed out on a position in Oakleigh’s successful Grand Final side, but still earned admiration internally with his passion, determination and willingness to improve.
2016 has seen Ridley become one of the most flexible players in the TAC Cup, with Chargers coach Mick Stinear willing to throw the 192cm utility to all parts of the ground. His early season form was strong enough to earn a spot in the Vic Metro squad and he was eventually rewarded with games against the Allies and Western Australia to finish the carnival. His best performance came against the former at Etihad Stadium, where he gathered 18 disposals, mostly from defence, and operated at an impressive 94% efficiency. A monster contested mark on the wing also had recruiters searching for their notepad and pens, as the Knox Football Club product showcased his aerial prowess on the big stage.
Ridley returned to Oakleigh’s side for the heritage game against Dandenong and added another promising string to his bow by rotating through the midfield. He appeared to tower over his midfield opponents at the stoppages and provided some clean ground level touches. Ridley has since settled down back where he has played as the extra man or defensively deep on both tall and small opposition. While he has been consistent throughout 2016 and shown many AFL convertible attributes, it wasn’t until the Elimination Final against Calder that he produced his breakout moment. In a roaming role behind the ball, Ridley gathered 28 possessions, 12 marks and disposed of the ball at 93% efficiency. He was backing that outing up nicely in the Semi Final last Sunday with 22 possessions, before going down with that poorly timed shoulder injury.
Jordan Ridley has proven on numerous occasions that his flexibility has the potential to be a great asset at the top level. He has demonstrated that he possesses genuine attributes forward, in defence and through the midfield. He is athletic, clean and extremely skilful by foot, which is going to help you in most positions. Up forward, he has strong hands, leads hard to space and is capable of kicking multiple goals. In defence, he is calm, reads the ball superbly in flight and his teammates love giving him possession due to a very reliable right foot. Ridley looks to possess a strong endurance base judged purely on his ability to work hard into space and provide a constant link up option when his side rebounds. On limited stoppage exposure, Ridley is one touch below his knees, holds position and is capable of releasing creative handballs to outside runners from pressure situations. In the air he is very confident overhead and will back himself to clench the ball no matter how large a pack. By all reports he also has an outstanding attitude toward his football, which creates further confidence he’ll easily cope with the rigours of professional sport.
One thing I love about Ridley is that I rarely find myself writing a negative thought when watching him live, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t improvement and aspects to work on. While the attributes are there for all to see, there hasn’t been enough complete performances for him to be regarded a top draft prospect. At this current stage of his development, he appears very outside oriented and that is most likely by direction. He will occasionally sit off a contested ground situation and back his teammate to distribute the ball out, but there are times when he could provide greater help and protection. As stated earlier he has shown to have inside traits, but I need further proof to be totally convinced and that includes increasing an average tackle count of 1.68 per game. He is an adaptable height at 192cm, but might be thought of as slightly in between to be key position, especially considering it may take a number of preseasons to fill out his 79kg frame.
In the modern era of list management and squad balance, 190cm+ prospects with the ability to play multiple positions and roles are seen as gold. Jordan Ridley certainly fits that mould, but he also possesses the potential to become a quality performer in a specialised category if need be. There is the possibility he becomes that big bodied midfielder that clubs crave, but it is difficult not imagining him intercepting and rebounding behind the ball at AFL level. One thing for sure is that he’s more likely to make it than not due to his adaptable attributes, making him a rare low risk selection with scope. I personally have him pushing toward the top end of the second round, but that shoulder injury may have halted his capacity to rise further if he can’t get back on the field in 2016. He was arguably one more impressive final away from breaking into some top 20 lists, but nonetheless has given recruiters much to ponder.