Carlton's Liam Jones battles with Collingwood's Travis Varcoe. Pic: Michael Klein
Carlton's Liam Jones battles with Collingwood's Travis Varcoe. Pic: Michael Klein

Blues backman leads AFL’s least-wanted ‘award’

CARLTON defender Liam Jones has been urged to tighten up on his direct opponent as statistics show he has conceded more goals than any other backman in the game this year.

Jones leads the unwanted "Reverse Coleman" award after Round 4, having had 21 goals kicked on him by direct opponents so far this season. Richmond's David Astbury (13 goals) coming in second and Gold Coast's Steven May and West Coast's Tom Barrass (both 12 goals) are equal third, according to Champion Data.

In more bad news for the Blues, Jacob Weitering has conceded 11 goals to his direct opponent.

Recast as a defender after managing just 16 goals from 17 games across two seasons as a forward, Jones finished ninth in Carlton's best-and-fairest last year despite playing just 12 games (conceding 31 goals).

However, the 27-year-old's form has not been what is was last season and he has come under increasing pressure given fellow Blues defenders Sam Docherty (knee), Sam Rowe (knee), Caleb Marchbank (ankle), Ciaran Byrne (quad), Alex Silvagni (hamstring) and Tom Williamson (back) have all been missing in action.

Ben Brown kicked five goals and scored 167 SuperCoach points in Hobart.
Ben Brown kicked five goals and scored 167 SuperCoach points in Hobart.

The Blues have also conceded an average of 57 inside-50s across the opening four rounds, including 71 against Richmond in Round 1.

Carlton head of strategy and performance John Barker said last week Jones was performing well in difficult circumstances.

"We have a strong team defence we rely on and Jonesy is in reasonable form, but we have to make sure our midfields and forwards are putting enough pressure on to adequately assist any of our defenders," Barker said.

Liam Jones is outmarked by Magpie Steele Sidebottom. Picture: Michael Klein
Liam Jones is outmarked by Magpie Steele Sidebottom. Picture: Michael Klein

"What happens in our backline is often a result of the amount of pressure that occurs up the field."

Carlton great Robert Walls said Jones needed to change his positioning in a bid to bounce back to form.

"Liam Jones got a lot of pats on the back last year and I just thought hang on, just be careful, because I just thought it was a bit of an over-reaction," Walls said on Fox Footy's AFL Tonight on Monday.

Dustin Martin gets the better of Liam Jones in Round 1. Picture: Michael Klein
Dustin Martin gets the better of Liam Jones in Round 1. Picture: Michael Klein

"He's got to go back and just play shoulder-to-shoulder on his opponent.

"He's playing 10m in front and he's getting lost. Good teams will expose him and exploit him, which they've done.

"He's just lost the ability to play tight on an opponent and that's the No. 1 thing you should do as a defender. I hope that he does that."

While the Reverse Coleman statistics aren't enviable, Jones does rank elite for his position in one percenters (8.8 a game), spoils (7.8 a game) and intercept marks (3.3 a game).

Liam Jones makes a flying spoil against Jarryd Roughead last season. Picture: Michael Klein
Liam Jones makes a flying spoil against Jarryd Roughead last season. Picture: Michael Klein

Jones joined the Blues at the end of 2014 in a trade with the Western Bulldogs for pick 46 in the draft.

He is due to play his 100th AFL game on Saturday afternoon against West Coast. His likely opponent is two-time Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy.

For the record, Sydney superstar Lance Franklin leads the real Coleman Medal race with 17 majors.



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