BACK in familiar surrounds.

Assistant coach Jordan Russell has returned to IKON Park, this time as a member of the coaching staff, and he's relished working with Carlton's emerging forward group.

After Aaron Hamill's pre-season report card on the defenders last week (read it here), it's time for some intel on the forwards: stay tuned for the midfielders to come next week!


3. Jesse Motlop

“He’s put together a really strong pre-season so far. All his running parameters have gone up - his repeat speed - the markers that he’s been chasing. He’s a high-speed athlete and the ability for him to get up and down the ground now, he’s been able to build his tank. He did a lot of work in the off-season and hardly missed a session, so he’s going really well with his ability to cover ground, and we know he’s got the talent — those two combined make for an exciting proposition. 

“He had a pretty good match sim on Monday morning, where his ability to go from contest to contest, pressure, be lively and get some opportunities to finish in front of goal stood out. We’ve got to continue on the consistency path, because sometimes as that pressure forward, you can have a day out or you can have no involvement at all — but what needs to be there consistently are his patterns and his ability to do it time and time again.”

10. Harry McKay

“I worked with his brother a little bit at North, and they’re very similar with the way they’re super professional and don’t leave any stone unturned. He went away in the off-season to do some stuff with his goalkicking and really simplified a couple of things with his routine. I’ve been super impressed with his ability to get up and down the ground, be selfless with his running patterns and his contest stuff has been at a high level — I think he’s just keen to play against some opposition now. 

“I’ve loved working with him: the big thing that’s clear is that he cares. He spends a lot of time with Harry Lemmey and some of the other walls around marking craft: as coach of a line, you want to use a couple of guys as reference points and extensions of what we’re trying to do from a coaching point of view, and him, Charlie, Matt Owies, Jack Martin, ’SOS’ — it’s great to have so many guys who care about the group, not just the individual element. ‘H’ has been at the forefront of that.”

20. Elijah Hollands

“His running ability is unbelievable. He’s got himself into a position where he’s in really good shape, his repeat effort stuff is outstanding and he’s been able to give mids like ‘Crippa’, Kennedy and Hewett the opportunity to be able to sneak forward from stoppages. He’s going really well, he’s connected with the mids and forwards extremely quickly and he’s starting to do some special things on the field.”

28. David Cuningham

“‘Cunners’ has probably played more so in the midfield throughout pre-season, he wants to continue to push his case to be available as an inside mid but also have the ability to go forward too. When you’re playing with two teams in match sim, you have to fill two midfield groups, so he’s spent a bit more time as a mid. The last couple of match simulation drills, he’s spent a bit more time up forward: he’s got power and his smarts on the outside are real strengths of his. It’s just working out how much time he’s going to spend as a mid or forwards.”

31. Harry Lemmey

“He’s such a good kid. It always take the talls a little bit longer: coming into his second year, the best thing about ‘Lemm’ is he’s so coachable. He’s got that willingness to go to the next level. He’s working with Harry - senior Harry - so much on his craft, both inside with vision and also out on the ground. He got a little look working with ‘H’ and Charlie in some match play drills, and it’s funny that when you’re with two of those guys, it becomes a bit easier in understanding where to go while they also command the best defenders. 

“He did a really good job, he kicked the sealer in our situational play to win that drill: he’s coming along really well. You wouldn’t expect him to jump out of the box just yet, but what we’re seeing is some really good growth and development. You see that in the way he’s training, he’s hardly missed a session and got a big smile on his face.”

43. Ashton Moir

“His talent is undeniable, his ability to go left foot and right. It’s funny doing goalkicking: if he’s smack bang in the middle, he can go either foot, and then if you go half a metre one side or the other, he’ll kick left or right. There’s no doubt he’s got a lot of raw talent in him, it’s just about harnessing and teaching him the patterns of AFL level. 

“He’s a bundle of energy, he’s willing to learn, he wants to get better and he wants to do it quickly. It’s just about finding the two or three key things that’ll get him the biggest bang for buck immediately, and then let him play, because his instinctual forward craft is very good. He can jump, he’s good at ground level. He’s done a good job to get to where he is.”

“‘Carlos’, we’re trying to get that nickname off the ground after the tennis player Carlos Moya. He hasn’t got a nickname yet, so we thought we’d start with that.”

46. Matthew Cottrell

“Having only been here for a couple of months, from the outside I knew he was a role player: now, being able to watch him really closely, he’s so much more than that — but that’s what he does so well. He’s no fuss, he’ll play half-forward, he’ll get up and support the wings, he’ll go to the wing and run all day. What he does for the team is very powerful, because he allows others to play so well and creates space for others by doing a lot of the heavy lifting. 

“He’s now adding some quicker reactions to his offence, which is something we’re always looking to do: how can he get involved more and more? He’s had another good pre-season, I really enjoy working with him. Tim Clarke and I have had a couple of debates about him already! I’ll certainly be trying to hold onto him for as long as possible.”

Mid-forward conundrum

“There’s a few of them, it’s a great problem to have. I did a function up in Sydney with the Sydney Blues team, and they were trying to get me to pick my forward line — we just started rattling off the names of who could be in there. It’s a great problem to have. These guys allow our big bulls to go to work, and then we can get on the outside as well. 

“‘Fogs’ is another one as well, to go with Elijah and David who we mentioned. He plays his role so well and understands it so well. There are three or four of them that are pretty exciting prospects. What we’ve got is flexibility between roles, which is so important: guys willing to play two positions, being open to it and having the skill level and talent to be able to do it.”

What’s it like being back at Carlton?

“I’ve absolutely loved it. It feels like home: the novelty of being back where it all started hasn’t worn off, but at the same time, it’s a job and I wanted to knuckle down and get to work on fast tracking my understanding of the game model and the connection piece. They’re probably the two things I’ve focused on the most: getting to know players, coaches and staff, and get to do that as quickly as possible. 

“With ‘Vossy’, Ash and the boys, laying such a strong foundation has been really easy for me to understand what we’re trying to achieve — defend first, win the contest and let everything go from there is something that is so strongly engrained in everyone. We’re looking to be a bit more dynamic with the ball in our hands. I’ve loved it: it feels like I’ve been here for a year or two already.”

And finally, the ‘Noofa’ nickname making a return

“It’s funny, the evolution of that nickname. I don’t know where it started, but I got drafted with Adam Hartlett from SA and Mum told him not to bring it over: so he did, the cheeky bastard. ‘Crippa’ knew me as ’Noofa’, ‘Doc’ knew me as ‘Noofa’ and there are one too many Russells with Andrew Russell here as well. The players have taken it upon themselves to start calling me ‘Noofa’ — so, it’s back.”