The curious case of Dean Towers

Dean Towers has always been a divisive player throughout his Swans career, debuting as a 24 year old mature aged draftee, playing a variety of roles before settling in a defensive forward position.

The 27-year-old has been maligned over recent years, showing off glimpses as far back as the quality game he played against Fremantle in the '15 qualifying final, while games against Richmond last season and Port Adelaide this season have seen him spend considerable stretches in the NEAFL.

He found his way back into the team in round 7 and he's been a mainstay ever since, despite performances that leave you scratching your head, in between games that show glimpses of his potential.

The criticism is understandable, being played as a forward and rarely threatening the scoreboard, occasionally deferring to the more vocal and aggressive players in the squad.

But for the player, breaking into the Swans side and gaining the players trust was difficult to say the least, especially when they weren't seeing him play, and when he did play, he made mistakes at key moments in games, such as Richmond last season.

“If you’re not playing with them, they’re not seeing it,” Towers says.

“With the Swans it’s so hard to break into the side and get a role that the team needs,” Towers says.

“I think that’s been the biggest challenge for me, to break in and play a role for the side that the coaches value. Now I’m feeling a bit more comfortable.”

Occasionally there's fits of brilliance where Deans' full array of talents are on display, his athleticism and endurance that sees him playing in the ruck, or in a shutdown-tagging role, or even as a hard running midfielder.

It's the flexibility that's allowed him to settle into the team, even when he's only notching 6 or 7 disposals and barely visible, but at the same time, preventing his opponent from having much influence on the game.

While he isn't an omnipresent player on the football field, his highlight reels of season 2017 includes a superb passage of play against North Melbourne, culminating in a Jones goal, another terrific effort against Fremantle, once again leading to a Swans goal, and numerous other efforts that have ended up in scoring involvements.

Certainly one that's always on the fringes, his ability to chop out in the ruck and play various positions while his more esteemed team mates take a breather has solidified his position in the team in the true sense of a utility player.

Against Geelong it was another curious case of Dean Towers, gathering just 7 disposals and two tackles. On the outside it looked like another meek effort, playing just under 80% game time, but when you delve deeper and look at the impact his opponents had, a pattern emerges.

While he didn't spend all game on Zak Tuohy, when he did, he limited his impact considerably. Overall, he had just 196 metres gained, well down on his 483 metre average, and a 2:3 kick-to-handball ratio (10/16), compared to his usual 3:2 ratio (15/10).

Can we attribute Towers to all of this? Some yes, with his ability to lay consecutive efforts and pressure acts, 13 in total, and his closing pace forcing players into errors or shorter passes by hand or foot.

7 disposals doesn't look particularly effective, but what he did with the ball is impressive, gaining 166 metres and 4 inside 50s from his paltry total, including 3 intercept possessions.

But there's still times when his "Fawlty" Towers moniker comes to bare. Fortunately those errors are dwindling away, few and far between this season, but he's still capable of producing that heart-in-mouth moment, when it looks like he's about to pull off the impossible error that no other footballer is capable of.

But at least he never drops his head, and he'll go just as hard at the next contest, lay a big tackle, sprint to the next contest and try to impact it any way he can.

Because of his age, there's always an expectation that he should know better, or just be better, but his journey for the AFL is anything other than standard.

He was just 21-years-old when he started playing VFL and only then did he consider AFL as a career, drafted by the Swans less than two years later.

When we spoke to Ted Richards on the podcast, he said that Dean's versatility makes him a very hard match up, and his flexibility allows him to play a number of roles at a good level, and makes him a valuable member of the team.

He's played 14 games in a row and there's no doubt that versatility has allowed him to cement a position in the team and flourish. While he always appears to be on the fringe of the team, he's earned the trust of the players and the coaches, and may well have become a mainstay of the team.

With finals fast approaching, should he stay in the team, he could be playing his 50th in a cut-throat final, and what a match that would be for a milestone game.

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Justin Mitchell

Justin is a passionate AFL and Sydney Swans supporter, and football blogger since 2016. All articles are of his own opinion. You can reach him by twitter and Facebook at @theswansblog

Melbourne, Australia

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