AFL 2 years ago

Cloke Wants To Be A Bulldog, But Do We Want Him?

Western Bulldog fans would've definitely rejoiced on Thursday night after hearing the news that both Marcus Bontempelli and Matthew Boyd earned spots on the interchange bench of the All-Australian team, given the season that the Bulldogs have endured, it's almost safe to say they've earned their places.

But there was some other news on Thursday night, that might not delight Bulldog fans as much, as Collingwood forward Travis Cloke revealed to the AFL Footy Show on the very same night that he would love to play for the Bulldogs in season 2017. 

Despite having a year to run on his current deal, Cloke announced earlier in the week that after 12 seasons and 246 games of service to the Collingwood Football Club, that he would seek a trade at the end of the 2016 season. Cloke has provided years of solid service as the club's number one key forward, kicking 441 career goals, despite all his imperfections in front of goal, but with the emergence of rising star Darcy Moore and the unexpected emergence of American Mason Cox, Cloke has struggled for game time this season, only playing just 13 of a possible 22 games, including three different times he was given the axe at the selection table.

It would be the third omission this year, the game after Collingwood's disappointing loss to strugglers Richmond, that would metaphorically, break Cloke's back. That night, he wasn't even the worst player on the ground, he took nine marks, had 11 kicks and kicked a goal in a side that kicked 11 goals on the night. He came back for Collingwood's final game of the year against Hawthorn, where he kicked two goals and had eight marks, with half of those being contested grabs, in a one-point loss.

Over his time at Collingwood, he's had his fair share of awards. He was awarded the Harry Collier Trophy at Collingwood as the club's best first-year player back in 2005, strange to think that nly three years before that, his brother Jason won the very same award. Only two years after his debut season, he broke out and won the club's best and fairest award – the Copeland trophy after kicking 39 goals and averaged over seven marks a game as the Pies fell agonisingly short to eventual premiers Geelong.

So despite winning a best and fairest, a premiership with Collingwood, four-straight goal-kicking awards (2011-2014), and a two-time All-Australian (2011 and 2013), why do people shake their head when people mention Travis Cloke? His contested marking over these years have been amongst some of the best in the competition, he was 1st in the AFL for contested marks in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The biggest negative on Travis Cloke – and has been for quite some time – has been his goal-kicking. There have been times throughout his career where he has missed some complete sitters, ones the likes of Josh Kennedy, Lance Franklin and Tom Lynch can kick in their sleep, but there have been times where he's slotted goals from the tightest of angles, his inconsistency has longed frustrated Collingwood fans for years, but despite all this, he's still managed seasons of 40 goals, 50 goals and 60 goals (unlucky to be 70).

Another concern that people have pointed out is how heavy Cloke is, as he is billed in by the record as 108 kilograms, and given how the Bulldogs have played 'fast-paced' football under Luke Beveridge, it may not suit Cloke and believe that the game has passed him by. Some are quick to jump to the comparison of Bulldogs' ruckman Will Minson and he's only two kilos lighter, but the massive difference is that they play in two different positions.

But are the Dogs desperately struggling enough to want to bring Cloke to the Kennel?

This year, the Western Bulldogs are 12th in points per game, averaging only 84 points a game. Putting Cloke into the line-up for 2017 can hopefully, relieve some pressure of the likes of Jake Stringer, Tory Dickson and the returning Stewart Crameri, and possibly can give young Tom some tips on how to play as that strong key-forward, hopefully tips to better his career.

Some see this as a similar scenario to when the Bulldogs recruited Barry Hall at the end of the 2009 season to add the final piece to their premiership puzzle back when Rodney Eade was still coaching this mob. I don't think of it like that. Sure the Dogs are back in premiership considerations and a key forward like Cloke would be a good addition to the team, but the biggest difference between then and now is that back then, the Dogs' full-forward was a 182 centimetre superstar called Brad Johnson who was at the twilight of his career. 

But at only 29 years of age, has Cloke still got what it takes at AFL level? I'd love to see the Dogs take him in and see what he can do, but only if the price is right. It's easy to forget that Cloke still has a year to run on a contract that was worth millions. If the rumours are true and Collingwood are set to pay a fair portion of Cloke's remaining salary, then the Dogs need to get him for season 2017, with Jack Redpath out for most of next year and Tom Boyd still a work in progress, this is more of a 'need' for the Dogs as it is a 'want'.

If the Dogs can nab Cloke for a small price, then the worst thing that can happen to the Dogs is that it will do very minimal damage in terms of losing money and that it proves that Cloke's time in the AFL is done, but the best thing that could happen, may just help them in winning that elusive premiership cup. If Cloke can get himself firing again, the forward structure that has been flailing about this year, could virtually be unstoppable.

Imagine it, Jake Stringer returns to form, breaks through tackles and kicks wonderful goals and may have another 40-50 goal season, Tory Dickson remains a decisive sharpshooter, Stewart Crameri is back and kicking goals, but may play a role in the team that is further afield and Travis Cloke once again, monstering defenders and on the end of some gold-standard service from the likes of Bontempelli, Macrae and Johannisen.

That sounds pretty good to me, I often forget that it was nearly two months ago that Cloke towelled up finals' fancies Greater Western Sydney with 12 marks and four goals, despite it coming with a glove that was not approved by the AFL, but if he can do that on a regular basis at the Bulldogs next season, it can seriously help the Dogs going forward, but we're just going to have to wait and see how things pan out.

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