Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
THE role of the tagger in modern football is coming back into vogue.
At Sunraysia Football and Netball League (SFNL) level, Imperials’ Jaidyn Nihill, ABOVE, has become one the stronger performers in this role.
The 22-year-old has taken the task of stopping the competition’s elite midfielders in his stride since being handed the challenge by coach Adam Hartlett during the season.
In Imps’ last two match ups against Irymple, Jaidyn shadowed Daniel Coghlan and he will likely be given the job on the star on baller again tomorrow.
Being a tagger can be a thankless task. It is often a sacrificial role for the good of the team, and you come under plenty of attention from opposition players trying to free up their teammate.
Jaidyn, however, tends not to think about the repercussions of doing his job.
“I just go with my opponent as best as I can,” he said.
“It’s pretty challenging taking on blokes like him (Coghlan) who are elite footballers. You’re always going to work hard, but I have enjoyed the challenge.”
After debuting in 2014, Jaidyn has 64 senior matches to his name, the majority of those coming in defence.
It wasn’t until round eight this season when Hartlett gave his young charge the task of blanketing Merbein star Ash Rowe.
He shone in his role, winning praise from the coaching staff and establishing himself as an important team member for the remainder of the season.
“I haven’t done it (run-with role) previously,” Jaidyn said.
“It’s been pretty enjoyable and a good challenge.
“I was a midfielder playing juniors but have always been more of a backman in the last few years. It is a pretty strong defence to break into though with Ben Galbriath, Matt Mazzini and Brendan Rhodes.”
The youngster had performed well against Coghlan in the Round 14 match between Imperials and Irymple, until he was on the receiving end of an accidental hit to the head which saw his day ended through concussion.
Jaidyn would miss the following two matches but immediately returned when available, this time sporting a helmet, similar to teammate Paddy Keogh.
“I also took a head knock in 2018 so I thought I better wear the helmet and keep Mum and Dad happy,” he said.
“The boys have just called me ‘Helmet’, but Paddy has been wearing his before me. His is also a couple of sizes bigger!”
Jaidyn believes the physical semi-final between tomorrow’s grand finalists could repeat itself on the City Oval surface.
“Everyone has been pretty up and about since it sunk in,” he said.
“We have to prepare well and make sure we’re ready to go.”