There are single role players. There are dual role players. And some rare types who are considered ”triple threats”. They are the ones who can be used basically anywhere, in any position, on the ground.
St Kilda and Sam Gilbert are hoping that he can become a triple-threat player this year. Gilbert has been used in the midfield this pre-season, including spells on the ball, starting in the centre square.
For a player who has been used as a flanker, predominantly in defence but also as a forward, it was an evolutionary move hoped to give the Saints an additional big body around the contests.
Gilbert’s tools for the game are clear – he has height, exceptional speed and a farm dog’s ability to run all day without tiring. It has meant he has been used as a running half-back, who has pinch-hit on tall forwards as well as tracking the crumbers.
His kicking is not in the elite category but his other assets are, which is why coach Scott Watters has proposed the move to the midfield.
”One of the things that has come out as a result of the limited rotations in the pre-season is being forced to experiment with players to be more flexible,” Watters said of the experiment of using Gilbert on the ball.
”So Sam will be used at the defensive end, the front end and in the midfield for us this year. It’s fantastic for us and shows his versatility and strengths as a player.
”From an endurance and speed point of view he has all the attributes to play anywhere on the ground – he has elite speed and endurance and has good height, can mark well overhead. So no doubt at times throughout this year he will be used in those roles.
”As we look forward and the way the game is going [with capped interchanges] and the demands of the game, endurance running and that versatility is important. There’s a lot of players who can play two roles, if you like, or dual roles, but [Gilbert] falls into the category where he is – or could be – a triple threat.”
Luke Hodge is probably the best modern example of the triple threat, while others such as Bulldog Ryan Griffen, Tiger Brett Deledio and Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield are triple threats who are all, like a good cricket all-rounder, equally strong wherever they play on the ground.
There are other players such as Geelong’s Paul Chapman, Adelaide’s Scott Thompson, Magpie Nick Maxwell and Carlton’s Bryce Gibbs who have all played three roles but have largely only been pinch-hitters outside their normal roles.
Brendon Goddard was a triple-threat player but in more recent years at St Kilda he mainly played as a sweeper behind the ball.
For now, Gilbert is likely to fit within that pinch-hitter role and remain predominantly a rebounding defender and switch up forward. But his advantages in the midfield – his rangy size combined with his pace – mean he is defensively very dangerous.
Gilbert said he had learnt from the experience of wingman Leigh Montagna in trying to adjust.
”Leigh Montagna has helped me a bit, especially about moving in there from different points of the ground. He has been really good,” Gilbert said.
”It’s a different type of running in the midfield; it’s more explosive running, which is something I enjoy, but I am still getting used to the body work and the physical game on the ball.
”I don’t think I will be starting there straight away but I would hope during the year I get my chances through there.
”I think I will still mainly be down back but I do like to have that flexibility to be moved around.”
Gilbert had a shoulder operation at the end of last year that restricted him before Christmas but he has been in full training in the new year.
Gilbert’s switch to on-baller is part of Watters’ tinkering with the Saints’ structure coming into the coach’s second year. Watters has shifted Rhys Stanley behind the ball to help solve the need for a tall defender, a move that will continue when Stanley returns from injury after hyperextending his knee in the NAB Cup. He could yet be fit for round one.
Small forward Arryn Sippos has also been pushed up the ground to a wing as the Saints look to better exploit his exceptional kicking skills.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.