As the AFL evolves, defensive pressure from high up the ground is becoming more and more important. Forwards are no longer there to only kick goals.
Gone are the days of the vintage full-forward, sitting in the goal square until the time comes to make a lead, never leaving the forward 50 except to line up for a set shot.
The forward pressure and defensive output of North’s forward group seems to be getting better every week, and it’s led by two of the club’s stars of the future, Curtis Taylor and Jack Mahony.
Playing 16 games so far in 2021, Taylor is putting together his best season to date, averaging 13.6 disposals, 2.1 tackles, and 4.5 marks per game, all career-highs.
Much like the rest of the team, the consistency in Taylor’s game has improved massively since the bye, and the young forward says his own personal improvement can be attributed to the growth of the whole side.
“Since the bye we’ve really been developing holistically as a group. We’ve been playing well so any improvement in my game is largely a product of how we’ve improved up the ground,” he told North Media.
“Gaining a better connection between all the lines has got me in the game a bit more, and I’m continuing to progress and work on my game.
“I’ve been speaking to ‘Nobes’ about my running patterns, and that really improves with the experience of actually implementing it in games. I think that’s what’s helping me find the footy more consistently.”
Like much of North’s young group, Taylor has often offered flashes of brilliance over the course of the season.
Whether it be a solid quarter here, or an exceptional half there, the number five has offered more than enough insight into his quality for North fans to become excited about his future.
In Round 20, Taylor had 11 disposals in the first half, and was a crucial cog in what was a brilliant half of football from the Kangaroos.
“I felt my offensive output was really good [against Richmond], but putting a whole, four-quarter performance together is probably my next goal,” he said.
“The coaches are happy with my ability to come out with energy, play my role, use my flair and do I what I can to stick to my role and work hard on both offence and defence.
“My defence is a huge thing for me, because it’s valued by the leaders and coaches. It’s a massive part of my game, and it’s a massive focus for the whole forward group.”
Approaching the back end of the home and away season, it can be hard not to turn your attention to the upcoming new season, and lose focus on seeing out the current campaign with the respect it deserves.
With the massive improvement shown in 2021, Taylor wants to set up for a massive 2022, from both a team and personal standpoint.
“Heading into these last two games we want to win. We can take some really good momentum into next season if we perform well and win these last two games,” he said.
“Individually, if I have two good games where I play my role, I can really build off of those. They’re the last two games of the season, so you think about them for a while.
“It’s important for the team to keep building confidence in itself, and for me to have the confidence that I’ve played well.
“The plan is to review this year when the time comes, be thankful for what’s happened and the experience I’ve gained and then get right back into it.
“I want to have a bit of a breakout season next year and really make my mark on the team and the competition.”