Friday night’s blockbuster between North Melbourne and Hawthorn lived up to its’ pre-game billing. It was a match worthy of a final, and one of the most impressive performances of the night came from young Kangaroos’ forward Mason Wood.
Wood gathered 20 disposals against the Hawks – including 14 contested, took five marks and laid five tackles as well as kicking two goals and three behinds to earn himself 102 fantasy points – the first tonne of his 16 game career
Although a highly talented junior footballer, the then lightly framed Wood played just the one season in the TAC Cup for the Geelong Falcons as a forward/midfielder. Over 15 games he averaged 16.6 disposals, 6.2 marks and 2.5 tackles, while also kicking 23 goals.
Selected for Vic Country in the National Under 18s’ Championships that season, he averaged a respectable 13 disposals over the carnival. However, it was his best on ground performance against Vic Metro that really drew the attention of AFL clubs and had him touted as a possible top 20 draft pick.
Despite a growth spurt of three centimetres in his final season at the junior level, as a key forward Wood often played on much larger opponents, relying on his agility and a huge tank to out run and out manoeuvre his opposite number.
The attributes Wood had shown on the field in 2012 were backed up the draft combine, finishing in the top ten in the agility test, and equal second in the goal kicking with a score of 25.
After being heavily talked about as a top 20 prospect, and with Adelaide, St Kilda and North Melbourne all particular showing interest, Wood would have been feeling somewhat nervous as the first two rounds of the 2012 National Draft had almost passed by before the Kangaroos eventually called out his name at pick 41.
It had been an amazing year for Wood. In the space of only 12 months he had gone from just scraping into the Geelong Falcons’ squad to being an AFL listed player.
Wood has hampered by injuries in his first two seasons at North Melbourne, but managed to get on the park with some consistency in the second half of 2014. After showing some good form for Werribee on their march to finals that season, Wood was rewarded with a call up to the senior side in Round 23 against Melbourne.
It was an impressive debut from the then 20 year old. He booted three goals in the 30 point win, as well as having seven disposals, four marks and three tackles for 63 fantasy points.
Following an injury free pre-season coming into 2015, Wood was selected as the substitute in Round 2 against the Brisbane Lions, playing 42 percent of the game and picking up nine disposals and three marks.
Promoted onto the interchange bench for the Kangaroos Round 3 clash with Port Adelaide, Wood put in an impressive performance. Eight contested possessions from 19 disposals, five marks, four marks and a goal earning him a solid fantasy score of 83.
Wood topped 20 disposals for the first time the following week, and did so again the next before two quiet games in rounds six and eight saw him sent back the VFL.
After working hard on his game in the second half of the season in the lower grade, he was recalled to the senior side in Round 23 when Coach Brad Scott decided to controversially rest a number of regular senior personnel.
It was not a memorable return to the AFL for Wood. Starting on a half forward flank he had little impact, gathering just nine disposals and taking only one mark before being substituted out of the game early in the third quarter.
Over seven senior appearances in 2015 Wood averaged eight kicks, 6.9 handballs, four marks and 1.7 tackles while booting just the one goal for the year, giving him a fantasy average of 56.1 per game.
Not ultra-impressive by any stretch of the imagination. However, in the three games between rounds three to five Wood averaged 21 disposals, 5.3 marks and three tackles, to register fantasy scores of 82, 75 and 91. Not bad for a player in his third, fourth and fifth games.
Wood started the season playing for Werribee, but was called up to the senior side in Round 4 against Fremantle. Although he had a fairly solid game with 15 disposals and 72 fantasy points, he was omitted the following week, and did not return to the senior side until Round 7.
He booted two goals in a close contest against St Kilda. Including one after the siren in which he showed a maturity beyond his 10 games, as he used the controversial shot clock to his and his teams’ advantage.
Holding his spot in the team the following week, Wood was having a strong game before a knock to the head brought a premature end to his day. On the ground for just under a half of football, he had gathered 13 disposals and taken six marks, as well as laying two tackles and kicking a goal.
Although the records will show Wood finished the day with only 67 fantasy points, had he not been forced from the ground due to concussion, he could well have been on his way to his first fantasy tonne.
After sitting out the next fortnight with concussion, Wood returned to the side in Round 11 against Richmond and has held his spot since. In those three games he has averaged 16.3 disposals, five marks, 2.6 tackles, two goals and 82 fantasy points, including his first score over 100 last weekend.
Since being drafted by the Kangaroos Wood has grown another three centimetres and with three pre-seasons under his belt has bulked up considerably. At 192 centimetres and with his agility and increasing endurance he is a difficult match-up for the opposition defence, and he will only become more so as he gains confidence at AFL level.
Wood was only drafted by two percent of Ultimate Footy coaches at the beginning of the season, but his ownership is quickly rising. It has gone up 21 percent so far this week and he is now owned in over half of UF leagues.
Although he may only currently be seen as a solid back-up forward, given his history of late but rapid improvement at each level he has played he could very well be a fantasy bolter in the second half of the season.