MICHAEL Gibbons is beginning to make a name for himself in the AFL.
After so many years aiming to force his way in via the VFL, Gibbons finally got his chance in the pre-season as part of the supplementary selection period.
Thrown in straight away in front of a capacity crowd in the season opener, Gibbons is yet to miss a game in Navy Blue in 2019. And if the last month is anything to go by, he’s beginning to hit his straps.
Speaking on Carlton Coaches’ Corner, development forwards coach Jason Davenport said that was a by-product of Gibbons embracing his relatively new role in attack.
“‘Gibbo’ initially came into the side and wanted to do right by everybody else: if anything, it actually cost him shots on goal. He was trying to block for others, trying to bring others into the game,” Davenport said.
“Now he’s settled into his role as a small forward, he’s backed himself in at times in front of goal and he’s been able to hit the scoreboard.
"There’s some real synergy building there with our talls and smalls. We’re starting to get some good looks.”
A hallmark of Gibbons’ game has been his pressure: after eight rounds, he’s placed in the top 10 for forwards in the competition for pressure acts.
That was never more evident than on the weekend, with Gibbons amassing eight tackles to go with his 14 disposals against Collingwood.
“It’s always nice as a forwards coach when your smalls are getting tackles. There’s a huge emphasis on forward-half pressure,” Davenport said.
"In this modern game, your forwards really need to apply pressure in order to cause front-half turnovers which are critical for scores. ‘Gibbo’ was able to do that.”
After waiting a month for his first senior goal, Gibbons has now hit the scoreboard in three of his last four matches.
Having won awards aplenty for Williamstown as a midfielder, Davenport envisaged Gibbons would be adding elements to his game as the year progressed.
“As a small forward, your work-rate doesn’t change. His ability to win one-on-one contests when the ball is on the ground is quite exception and no doubt some of that craft comes from his midfield time,” he said.
“He’s continuing to grow his game and he’ll start to see more time in the midfield as the year goes on.”