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Early season numbers

In modern day football, statistics and analytics tend to be the number one measure of a player or a team’s performance.

Although they don’t paint the full picture, numbers allow clubs and fans to describe, compare and relate the form of players.

At the halfway point of the season, North Media takes a look at the key statistical areas of the game, and the Roos that lead the way in those categories.

All numbers are average per game.

Disposals - Shaun Higgins (26.36)

There’s no doubting the body of work star midfielder Shaun Higgins has put together in the early part of 2018.

Averaging 26.36 disposals per match this season, Higgins is producing career-best numbers, with this year’s current disposal average the highest in his 13-season career.

A leader in North’s midfield, the 30-year-old is achieving this average despite missing almost a full half of football after leaving the ground with concussion in Round 5 against Hawthorn.

After sitting out the following week, Higgins showed no signs of his injury, collecting a cool 31 disposals in his return match against the Swans.

That was his fourth match of 30 disposals or more, and his 11th of his career, meaning he’s achieved 36 percent of his 30-plus games this season alone.

Kicks - Shaun Higgins (14.55)

Generally speaking, a team’s leading disposal getter is likely to also be leading in either handballs or kicks, and for Shaun Higgins, it’s the latter.

This stat proves that Higgins’ possessions hurt teams, with over 55 per cent of his disposals coming by foot.

14.55 is his current average, the highest in his career, and the greatest result of this statistic is his number of inside 50’s.

He has produced 68 inside 50’s this season which is the most in the competition, with his ten in Round 12 a season-high for Higgins.

Handballs - Ben Cunnington (12.83)

Now regarded as one of the best contested players in the competition, it’s no surprise that Ben Cunnington is the leading handballer at Arden Street.

The 26-year-old’s ability and willingness to win the ball on the inside is highly regarded, and his possessions in tight confines provide him with the opportunity to handball the ball to teammates on the outside.

His strength and highly underrated agility allows him to break tackles and release his arms to dispose of the ball by hand, a trait which is envied by many.

Marks - Robbie Tarrant (6.00)

From a young age defenders are taught to punch, spoil and simply impact the contest in any way possible to negate their opponent. Robbie Tarrant however, has a different outlook on his role.

An outstanding defender who is widely considered to be in All-Australian contention this year, Tarrant is averaging an impressive six marks per game in 2018, and leads the likes of Jarrad Waite, Jack Ziebell and Ben Brown.

Often playing on the game’s best goalkickers, the 29-year-old has no qualms about attempting to mark the ball if he’s in the right position, which not only extinguishes the opposition’s attack, but starts one for his own side.

Standing at 196 centimetres and weighing in at 97 kilos, Tarrant easily rises above most packs, making him one of the game’s most respected defenders in the competition.

Goals - Ben Brown (2.92)

It’s not surprising to see Ben Brown as North’s leading goalkicker, given he is currently leading the likes of Jeremy Cameron, Jesse Hogan and Lance Franklin in the Coleman Medal race.

At the start of the year many questioned whether Brown could build on his breakout season in 2017, but with 35 goals to his name after 12 rounds, there’s little doubt he’s capable of doing just that.

What’s staggering is the fact that he’s leading the league’s goalkicking despite being kept goalless in two matches this season, Round 1 and Round 12.

The 25-year-old’s incredible accuracy in-front of goal is a big reason for this output this season, with Brown going at 76.1 percent efficiency, the best conversion rate in the competition of any player who has kicked more than 25 goals.

Hitouts - Todd Goldstein (34.75)

After a tough 2017 season, which saw him play a handful of games in the VFL, Todd Goldstein is slowly rediscovering his form this season.

Despite pre-season questions of whether Brad Scott would select Goldstein, Braydon Preuss or both in Round 1, the ruckman has played every match this season.

The 29-year-old is averaging 34.8 hitouts per match, which is unrivalled at Arden Street, and ranks seventh in average hitouts amongst the competition.

His 42 against Fremantle in Round 10 has been his highest this season, surpassing the 40 and 39 he had in Round 7 and Round 9 respectively.

Goal assists - Shaun Atley (0.92)

After spending time as a midfielder and a defender, Shaun Atley was moved forward in 2018 with the aim to bring some defensive pressure.

Not only has he done that, but he’s contributed offensively too, evident by leading the side in goal assists.

Averaging 0.92 per match may seem insignificant, but Atley sits eighth amongst the competition for total goal assists with 11, the same as Trent Cotchin and Patrick Dangerfield.

With quality forwards such as Ben Brown, Jarrad Waite, Mason Wood and Jack Ziebell inside 50 and capable to kick goals, the 25-year-old understands his role, and is playing it well.

Clearances - Ben Cunnington (7.58)

As mentioned previously, Ben Cunnington’s strength and knack to win the contested ball is arguably unrivalled in the competition, and a big reason for his ability to win clearances.

Not only is the hard-nosed midfielder the best clearance player at North, he’s statistically one of the best in the competition.

He ranks first in total stoppage clearances and second in total clearances across the league.

Rebound 50’s - Robbie Tarrant (4.45)

He’s averaging the most marks of any North player this season, so he has plenty of the football, but what he does with it next is just as impactful.

Despite the modern trend being to move the ball laterally and shift the opposition zone, Tarrant isn’t afraid to kick the ball forward and get it out of North’s defensive 50.

His season average of 4.45 rebound 50’s per game is an indication of that.

By quickly moving the ball from defence to attack, and getting it into the hands of the half-backs and midfielders, Tarrant is a big key in transitioning the ball.

Tackles - Ben Jacobs (7.00)

He’s not the biggest in North’s midfield, nor is he the strongest, but Ben Jacobs’ commitment to win the ball and shutdown his defender is second to none.

Considered by many as the best tagger in the game, Jacobs refuses to give an inch to any of his opponents, meaning he is rarely more than a step behind his assignment when they get the ball.

When he’s not applying a tag on the likes of Tom Mitchell, Dustin Martin and Nat Fyfe, he’s looking to win his own football.

The 26-year-old ranks eighth in tackles per game across the competition, ahead of notorious hard-nosed players such as Joel Selwood, Patrick Cripps and Sam Powell-Pepper.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs