Zero Hanger's next instalment of 'start, bench, cut' sees us examine a trio of electrifying hybrid forwards.

Richmond forward-midfielder Shai Bolton, Melbourne jackknife Kysaiah Pickett, and Geelong score-involvement maestro Gryan Miers culminate in three of the more dynamic front-half players in the competition.

These goalscoring smalls became premiership players early into their careers, with Richmond's Bolton the sole dual-flag-winner of this group.

As we dissect the careers and recent form of this trio of elusive offensive threats, we ponder who to hypothetically 'start' (our number one choice of the three), 'bench' (our runner-up) and 'cut' (our odd man out).

We reviewed the cases of Bolton, Pickett, and Miers before revealing our start, bench, and cut verdicts.


1. Shai Bolton

Since his entrance into the competition in 2016, Bolton's astronomical ascension has been a sight to behold.

Richmond's marquee utility possesses the capability to terrorise opposition defenders as a forward, as well as glide past opponents through the corridor as a pure midfielder.

Bolton, who commenced his professional career as a small forward before expanding the bounds of his talents, has progressively played more midfield minutes in the subsequent seasons, thus adding another string to his lethal bow.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: Shai Bolton of the Tigers in action during the 2022 AFL Round 10 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Essendon Bombers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 21, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

This season, the 25-year-old averaged 4.0 clearances per game – ranking 'elite' (within the top ten per cent of AFL midfielders) according to AFL Stats – playing a predominantly midfield role during a turbulent season for the Punt Roaders.

While it's difficult to ascertain whether Bolton is a more dangerous proposition as a forward or onballer, one thing is for certain; he's a force to be reckoned with, and he's still ascending.