A back line carved around a man

It’s no secret the Giants have shown their fair share of uninspiring performances in 2022, with a 52-point weekend win hopefully a turning point.

There were plenty of notable performances against the Eagles – Stephen Coniglio back in midfield, Harry Himmelberg at full-back – but it was another solid performance for arguably their most consistent performer of the year, Sam Taylor.

He burst onto the scene in Round 21, 2021, keeping Tom Hawkins one goal away in a Giants win that took them to the Finals. It may surprise some that Taylor played his 50th game next week.

The now 63-game full-back has played in a disappointing GWS campaign so far, having previously featured in the current Coleman Medal top five – Tom J. Lynch, Charlie Curnow, Max King, Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron – and conceding just eight. goals from all games. He has been reliably one of the best key defenders in the league.

Lynch was the only one in the group to score three goals on Taylor – Cameron only scored two of his five goals on Taylor after a Nick Haynes quarter change – with Levi Casboult the only other striker to score three goals for him. Since Round 4, Taylor has conceded just nine goals in six games. That’s 1.5 goals per game on a team that allowed 12.8 goals per game during that span.

The metric in which Taylor really stood out, however, is his contested one-on-one defense. Among players with the top 10% of defensive competition in 2022, Taylor ranks second in loss percentage, with 9.1%. That’s second only to Steven May’s 5.3%, who has lost just two games in the first ten rounds. Third is Darcy Moore with 17.9%, showing just how good May and Taylor have been.

To qualify those numbers, over the past ten years, for the top ten percent of defensive players in the contest, 11 have finished with loss percentages below 20 percent. But only two finished below 15% (Liam Jones in 2020 and 2021 playing as second defender to Jacob Weitering, and Alex Rance in 2017 with 14.9%).

Of the 11 players below 20%, four were under 25: Jacob Weitering, 2021, 16.8%; Harris Andrews, 2020, 17.5%; Tom McDonald, 2016, 16.9%; and Eric Mackenzie, 2014, 16.5%. This puts Taylor in the company of some of the big, key defenders, and at just 23 he has the ability to cause attackers problems for the next decade.

If the 23-year-old can continue this form through the second half of 2022 as GWS concede the sixth-most points, it would be one of the truly great defensive seasons.

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