Essendon coach John Worsfold says young onballer Dylan Clarke is not a one-dimensional player following his exceptional tagging role on Carlton star Patrick Cripps in round 11.
Clarke kept Cripps to just 11 disposals – his lowest total since round 16 in 2017 – while claiming 23 disposals and laying 10 tackles himself.
The Bombers haven’t played since, but Cripps then returned to his dominant best without a tag in a sensational performance in the Blues’ defeat of Brisbane on Saturday, gathering 38 disposals and four goals.
Clarke’s effectiveness in shutting down one of the league’s best players in just his second game was brilliant, but Worsfold warned a tagger may not be needed when the Dons take on Hawthorn this Friday.
While he admitted Clarke is no certainty to take on the Hawks with a string of players potentially returning from injury, Worsfold said the 20-year-old midfielder’s VFL form showed he can offer plenty to the side in a variety of roles.
“(Whether or not he plays is) really specifically around match ups and roles that we want in the team,” Worsfold said on Tuesday.
“There’s no guarantee that we’ll use a tagger this week, but that doesn’t mean that Dylan doesn’t play regardless.
“He has played as a run-with player in the VFL but he has also played as a ball-winner, so we’ll be weighing up the best team to take on the Hawks.
“Of course, there are potentially roles for anyone on (Hawk Jaeger) O’Meara, so that’s what we’ll be discussing.”
The lack of a tagging role won't necessarily hinder Dylan Clarke's chance for selection. (Image: AFL Photos)
Midfielder Dylan Shiel and forwards Orazio Fantasia and Jake Stringer are in the mix to return and Worsfold said that could come at the expense of the Dons’ youngsters.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll squeeze them in, so players have to make room for them and that is a challenge.
“Some of the younger players are performing really well. But ultimately, if they aren’t performing at a level that will hold those more experienced or senior players out then they do make way until their performance says that they’re in front of those guys.”
Key-position Bomber Aaron Francis has mixed his time in the senior side both forward and back this season, spending recent weeks in attack with the side’s key-forward stocks taking a hit on the injury list.
While Stringer’s possible return would provide a big boost to the forward line, Worsfold said that won’t necessarily force Francis back to defence.
“He’s been playing up forward for us with the number of injuries that we’ve had to our forwards,” Worsfold said.
“(He is) going to be (played) where we need him to play; he can play at both ends and he can contribute in that regard.
Worsfold is keen to keep Aaron Francis flexible in the team line-up. (Image: AFL Photos)
“He’s another young player who is in the very early stages of his career, so he’s not settling into a role just yet, but that will come in time for him.
“He was playing up forward when Stringer was up there before anyway, so it will be an overall balance of what we need.”
Final teams will be announced on Thursday evening, with the first bounce against the Hawks set for 7:50pm at Marvel Stadium on Friday.