Jai Newcombe has received his plaudits in the AFL media this week and deservedly so. His improvement this year has been drastic:
23 disposals (+12), 5 marks (+2), 4 tackles (-2), 4 clearances (+2) and 4 inside 50’s (+3)
This is due to an expansion in his role (increased CBA’s and more midfield minutes) and his added impact on the outside of the contest.
On the surface, Newcombe’s strengths are evident. He’s a big midfielder with size (85 kg) who can win his own ball in the contest and can break tackles when he gets on the move. He is a very willing tackler and tackles to hurt. He consistently creates live ball turnovers for Hawthorn due to his ferociousness with his tackling.
There's subtlety in Newcombe’s game that you don't necessarily notice at first glance. It shocked me looking at the statistics that Newcombe actually wins far more uncontested possessions then contested (68%). It’s what has allowed him to have such a strong impact on games. It’s the use of his legs to break the lines out of congested areas and generate damaging forward momentum for Hawthorn.
Newcombe ranks 13th in the AFL for metres gained (498 MG) per game. He showed little of this in 2021 (148 MG).
Mitchell clearly rates Newcombe. As the Box Hill head coach, he would have been a driving force behind picking up Newcombe in the mid-season draft last year. He’s quickly becoming Hawthorn’s most damaging midfielder. It’s early days but Hawthorn may have just unearthed a future star from nowhere.