When Geelong coach Chris Scott casts an eye over which star Eagle he needs to tag in Friday night’s AFL semi-final, he may want to focus his attention on veteran defender Lewis Jetta.
Luke Shuey is an out-and-out star who won last year’s Norm Smith medal, Andrew Gaff has the ball on a string, and Elliot Yeo has now established himself as one of the best on-ballers in the competition.
Those three midfield stars are at the top of their game and will receive silver-spoon service from ruckman Nic Naitanui against the Cats at the MCG.
But what has flown somewhat under the radar is the influence of Jetta from half back, and more specifically his crazy good kicking.
Jetta struggled in the midfield and up forward in his first two seasons at the Eagles.
But the 30-year-old has developed a niche in defence over the past two years, becoming one of the team’s most important players.
Jetta’s dashes from defence are crucial, but it’s his pin-point, long-range passing that takes the breath away.
The 195-game former Swan sees passing options like few other players do.
And what’s more, he is among the very few players in the league who boast the talent to hit those near-impossible options on the chest.
That skill has become a key weapon for West Coast, with Eagles players regularly looking to dish off a handball to Jetta so he can cut open the opposition’s set-up with a slicing pass up the middle.
Tagging defenders isn’t anything new, and it’s an option the Cats are set to explore thoroughly this week.
Teams have regularly tried to play a defensive forward on star Eagles defender Jeremy McGovern over the past two years in order to negate his intercept marking prowess.
And in West Coast’s 55-point win over Essendon last week, Eagles coach Adam Simpson had no hesitation in sending tagger Mark Hutchings straight to rebounding Bombers defender Adam Saad.
Geelong boast the midfield talent to go head-to-head with West Coast in all-out battle, but Scott still may choose to lock down on either Shuey or Yeo.
And a big decision he faces is whether to play a negating forward or tagger on either McGovern or Jetta.
Coaches know that if you apply too many tags it will rob you of the ability to attack, so Scott needs to pick wisely.
Simpson, like many AFL fans, has been mesmerised by Jetta’s skills from defence.
“What he does with the ball is really impressive, and he’s working really hard on how he defends,” Simpson said.
“Every week I see slight improvement in his defensive attributes. He hasn’t let us down too often.”