The enigma that is Stef Martin - the Lions' lone wolf

STEFAN Martin hasn't had the easiest of AFL careers.

Since being first drafted in 2007, initially by Melbourne, the ruckman has played 107 games out of a possible 198. That's nearly half of his career he has been out of the side due to injury or form.

He played just 57 games across six seasons with the Demons. After being traded to Brisbane at the end of 2012, he has played a further 50, struggling for a season and a half to cement his place.

However, when Martin actually gets out on the field his form and impact on the game has been fantastic, as shown last year when he awarded the joint-winner of the Merrett-Murray medal.

His athletic ability allows him run other big men all over the ground, effectively tiring them out while he picks up uncontested possessions at will, while also remaining a powerful player in tight.

Coming from a basketball background, Martin has superior strength and agility for someone his size, leading coaches and supporters to often believe that he could be used as a versatile player to cover holes in attack or defence.

However he has also clearly shown is not suited to that.

Martin is most damaging playing as a lone ruckman.

He has struggled in attack for the majority of his career. Kicking 32 goals in 107 games he has never been comfortable around the goals.

Martin is a confidence player, and when he lacks it he just can't seem to get it right.

Martin was wiped-out by Gold Coast defender Steven May in round four. And after that heavy knock he needed some time to get back to his best.

Coach Justin Leppitsch felt he needed support and so implemented a two-pronged ruck attack. With the re-introduction of Trent West, Martin spent a lot of time up forward and due to this his numbers dwindled rapidly.

 

Stef Martin in actoin for the Lions against the Eagles last week.
Stef Martin in actoin for the Lions against the Eagles last week.

Last season Martin averaged 21.65 disposals per game. In the five games West played alongside him, Martin collected tallies of 18, 10, 7, 13 and 13 for an average of 12.2.

It's not just these numbers, nearly all of Martin's stats increased against West Coast when he played as a lone ruckman - he gathering a career-high 51 hitouts, as well as 17 disposals, five clearances and five inside-50m entries.

He just relishes the challenge.

Kicking accuracy requires almost as much mental proficiency as it does physically, and in the five games West played, even with decreased amount of disposals he averaged 2.8 clangers a game. Against West Coast last week he had 100% disposal efficiency.

Another point to this is the output of both ruckmen The idea was for these two to work as a team to improve the contested possession and hit-out count. Out of the five games West played the Lions won the hit-outs and contested possessions twice. Against West Coast the Lions won contested possessions by 13 and hitouts by an astonishing 31.

Martin needs to be in the centre of the ground, playing as a single ruckman. He has premier endurance for his position and he uses that to his advantage by getting to every contest while other ruckmen trail in his wake. His agility makes it easy for him to swoop down and get clearances out of packs which he can only do if he's rucking.

The fact is, Martin is one of Brisbane's elite when he's in form, and anything that compromises his production should be taken out of the equation to make sure he is at his best.

Martin can be a game winner, and if he wants to shoulder the ruck responsibilities and carry the Lions on his back, then they should continue to let him.



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