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A rock solid start to the season

Dinny Navaratnam, AFL.com.au  April 19, 2017 5:46 PM

Player of the Round: Tom Rockliff Tom Rockliff had a fantastic game on the weekend, earning him this weeks MVP title.

Vice Captain Tom Rockliff has been praised for his strong start to the season both on and off the field.

The midfielder has returned to the top 40 of the Schick AFL Player Ratings for the first time in almost two years.

After starting the season at No.91, Rockliff has risen to No.39.

The dual best and fairest was superb around the stoppages in the loss to the undefeated Richmond last Sunday. He racked up 15 clearances, which was a personal best. The next highest mark in the game was six, from teammates Dayne Zorko and Stefan Martin.

Winning the ball at stoppages has been a point of excellence for the 27-year-old. Part of that has been his connection with Martin. The ruckman has returned to form after a relatively quiet campaign last season.

Rockliff averages 12 clearances per game this season, clearly ahead of Adelaide star Rory Sloane (8.3), Sydney bull Josh Kennedy and Geelong Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield (both eight).

Versus the Tigers, he had 33 disposals, five inside 50s and gained 370m.

The 21 contested possessions he won and 11 tackles he laid were both game-high numbers.

His individual Player Ratings score of 29.1 had him at third of all players for round four, behind Adelaide pair Eddie Betts and Taylor Walker.

The last time the Victorian was in the top 40 of the Player Ratings was round 12, 2015, and he has a career-high rank of No.16.

Player Ratings are calculated by Champion Data, looking at a player's form over their past 40 games over a rolling two-year period. More recent performances are given greater weighting.

With the introduction of new senior coach Chris Fagan, the midfielder started turning things around, with his work in pre-season putting him back into the leadership mix.

But when Fagan turned to Dayne Beams ahead of Rockliff as skipper, with the latter named vice-captain, the 27-year-old could easily have dropped his head.

Instead, he took it on board.

“That was a really hard call because Tommy could easily be captain again given the way he worked over the summer — despite all of the bad things that were said about him last year,” Fagan told Fox Sports News’ AFL Tonight in March.

“He took it well. I mean he was disappointed, as you would expect but immediately was all about how he could support Dayne and help him do a good job.

“Tommy’s done a great effort to rebuild his brand over the past four or five months and I’m sure that you’ll see a guy that supports our new captain to the hilt over the summer and has a great season himself.”

Fagan’s words have proved prophetic. Instead of dropping off, Rockliff has lifted.

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