Port Adelaide has been quick to rectify their loss of Jackson Trengove last week by luring ball magnet Tom Rockliff through free-agency on Monday. Whilst Carlton loomed as the frontrunner for the Lion’s services since the end of the home and away season, Rockliff opted to join Ken Hinkley’s team, citing a greater chance to play finals football immediately to be his main motivator.
‘Rocky’ has developed into an accomplished player, racking up insane possession numbers and being acknowledged through his 2014 All-Australian selection. But the midfielder didn’t follow the mainstream pathway to the big league. Missing out on the National Draft following his Best & Fairest year for the Murray Bushrangers in the TAC Cup, Rockliff was picked up in the Pre-Season Draft by Brisbane and cemented his spot as a midfielder in 2011.
Although the star continued to flourish on the field, it wasn’t without controversy, with his outspoken nature rumoured to be a vital cog in the sacking of Michael Voss. He was also critical of Jared Polec and the fleet of youngsters who departed Queensland circa 2013, labelling them as ‘mummy’s boys’. Interestingly, Rockliff will re-align with Voss and Polec at the Power.
The former Lion will add depth to an already strong midfield brigade at Alberton along the likes of Boak, Wines and Ebert and will form an important connection with ruckman Patrick Ryder as they aim to dominate the clearance work around the ground. With the added midfield depth, livewires Chad Wingard and Robbie Gray should be able to spend more time honing their craft in the forward line which should add to their scoreboard impact.
After having such a successful career as a midfielder, it is hard to imagine Rockliff’s role will differ from his time in the Sunshine state. Although, this move could still have significant ramifications for other players. As previously eluded to, Gray and Wingard will probably spend more time as traditional goal-sneaks and have less opportunity to rack up possessions which could potentially inhibit their output in Fantasyland. Other Lion guns Zorko and Beams have not shown any signs of struggling in the games they’ve had without Rockliff, but another vacancy in the midfield could open the door for a Lion cub to have more minutes at the coalface.
There has never been any doubt over Rockliff’s scoring potential, but in recent seasons he has seemed to struggle with injuries. Although he played 20 games in 2017, a shoulder injury against Hawthorn in Tasmania resulted in a prolonged form slump, which saw his season average dip from the 130s to the 90s. Whether this was due to poor fitness or lack of motivation can be speculated over. The midfielder should be relatively cheap in SuperCoach and the reward is way too high for selecting Rockliff if the medical staff at Alberton can get his body right.