Three years into his AFL career, Cumming had only played ten games of senior football. Last year, he played every game and it became apparent as the year progressed that he could be a quality AFL player. This year, he’s gone to another level.
The first thing to raise is an observation that emphasises his improvement. GWS have seemed comfortable moving one of their best offensive players, Lachie Whitfield, higher up the ground into a wing/forward role. This is partly due to GWS needing better foot skills entering their forward 50 (GWS are 15th for marks inside 50), but I suspect it's also because of Cumming.
He is now just as good of an offensive driver out of the back half.
Cumming is ranked sixth in the AFL for rebound 50’s, and they are quality rebound exits. He has a long, booming kick, complimented by his quickness in foot.
This is a deadly combination, as discussed last week with Jayden Short, because it opens up Cumming’s offensive capability to impact the game with either strength.
A metres gained threat (17th in the AFL), Cumming consistently kicks over zones and creates fast play transition opportunities for GWS from the back half. This creativity and ability to execute the kick results in a shot on goal for GWS in three kicks.
In his last four games, Cumming is averaging 28 disposals. He’s building trust among Giants players, as they look to distribute the ball to him.
They are beginning to recognise how lethal his dash and penetration is from the back half.
The other thing that catches my eye about Cumming is his kicking action. It's one of the best in the AFL, especially because it's so quick hand to foot.
If he can’t drive with his legs, Cumming's kicking motion helps him get out of sticky situations. He’s able to quickly but effectively get distance on his kicks with little time or space around him.
Cumming often turns a certain turnover into, at worst, a turnover higher up the ground in a far more defendable area. It’s even more impactful when he has to make that quick decision going inside 50.
The value in a player like Cumming is that his ball use is in addition to his versatility as a defender. At 185cm and with a big frame, Cumming has the flexibility to play small or tall (although GWS have preferred him on smalls in 2022 to naturally get him higher up the ground).
The positional versatility means teams are unable to target Cumming or take him away from his offensive game (which Whitfield was more susceptible to) because he’s a strong defender.
That defend-first mentality is something Leon Cameron credited to Cumming’s first years at the club, which Cameron viewed as an ‘apprenticeship’.
Cumming’s a bright spot for a team that has badly regressed this year. He’s quickly becoming one of the best half-back flanks in the league and deserves some recognition.