2019 was a year of significant growth for young midfielder Dylan Clarke.
After getting a taste of AFL football on debut in round nine, 2018, Clarke returned to the top level again in round 11 to immediate impact.
He added a new and important facet to the on-ball brigade, quickly proving himself as one of the league’s best taggers in the second half of the season.
Clarke also played an important role in helping fill the void left behind by injured pressure beast Devon Smith, finishing the season with the club’s leading game average for tackles (6.4) and finishing fourth for average pressure acts per match (20.3).
Average disposals: 15.5
Average tackles: 6.4
Average pressure acts: 20.3
Average clearances: 2.5
Clarke’s return to the senior side in round 11 against Carlton was monumental. He was given a task and he performed it perfectly.
It wasn’t a simple challenge either; quash in-form Blues star Patrick Cripps’ influence on the game.
But Clarke was more than up to the challenge, thriving as a tagger to keep Cripps to just 11 disposals – the midfielder’s lowest total from a full game in his career.
And he didn’t let it hurt his own ability to find the ball, gathering 23 disposals, 10 tackles, six clearances and five inside 50s on his way to the round 11 Rising Star nomination.
✅ Stop a prolific ball winner— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) June 3, 2019
✅ Rack up 23 disposals
✅ Celebrate a win
A day to remember for Dylan Clarke. pic.twitter.com/sVfQ1haYrd
In the same game, Clarke showed he can also be classy on the outside of the contest in a sensational goal assist for Mark Baguley in the first term.
He quickly pounced on a loose ball in the centre square before smartly shimmying his way out of an attempted tackle from Blue Matthew Kennedy and launching a penetrating kick inside 50 under pressure to help Baguley mop up the rest.
Clarke boots the ball forward to Baguley against the Blues. (Image: AFL Photos)
Despite unfortunately missing out on selection in the club’s elimination final against West Coast, Clarke is sure to take plenty of confidence into the 2020 season.
After proving he can go toe to toe with the best and emerge on top on a number of occasions this year, the young onballer should continue to get more senior opportunities next year as he looks to cement his spot in the line-up.