The ‘quiet achiever’ driving Freo’s 2024 resurgence – and why he might just be the best kick in the comp


Season 2024 is now one third of the way complete, and it’s fair to say that Western Australian-based fans will be enjoying what they’ve seen.

West Coast have put together a block of rigid, yet exciting football, while Fremantle have resembled their swashbuckling 2022 form, compared to their stagnant 2023 efforts.

Plenty in Justin Longmuir’s side have taken significant steps forward, but one that has perhaps gone under the radar is Luke Ryan, the peroxide-coated defender who has put together a legitimate case for a second All-Australian selection in the opening stanza of the season.

The art of (effective) kicking

Luke Ryan. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Ryan’s Round 8 performance against Richmond was just about flawless, with the 28-year-old achieving career highs across disposals (39), kicks (31) and fantasy points (161), along with 15 marks to boot.

It’s one thing to be able to win the ball, but being able to use it effectively is another, which is why Ryan’s bullseye-like accuracy is fast becoming impossible to ignore.

Across eight rounds this season, Ryan’s disposal efficiency by foot is 92.1 per cent, currently good enough for seventh in the entire competition.

Support your AFL team in style – check out The Oodie! They’ve got Adult Oodies for all 18 teams as well as Kids Oodies and even Dog Oodies available in selected teams.  Made from the softest, premium fabrics they are the comfiest memorabilia you’ll ever wear!  #GetYourOodieOn

That stat alone, however, is void of key context, with none of the six players ahead of him on raw percentage having played more than three games, and only Jack Buckley and Harris Andrews also featuring in the top ten while playing all eight matches this season.

His per-game disposal average of 25.4, a number good enough to be 31st in the entire competition, is just about peerless when also reflected in efficiency.

The only players to average more than 20 disposals, while also being in the top 30 for kicking efficiency, are Ryan, Nick Vlastuin, Jeremy McGovern, Dyson Heppell and Tom Stewart, which is on the whole a quality quintet.

Luke Ryan telling us which of his mates will be the most upset copping fines for melee involvement ????????????#AFLTigersFreo #ForeverFreo @FreoDockers

— 6PR Perth (@6PR) May 6, 2024

In fact, Stewart’s 2023 All-Australian season provides the closest direct comparison, with Ryan’s current form putting him right on track to replicate, and exceed, the elite numbers put up by Geelong’s star defender last season.

Ryan vs Stewart by the numbers

Ryan (rounds 0-9, 2024)
Stewart (2023)

Disposal efficiency (%)
Rebound 50s
Metres gained

Although there is a gigantic caveat on the above numbers that Ryan will need to maintain these stats across the remaining two thirds of the season, Fremantle couldn’t have asked for a better start from their star defender.

Career quiet achiever

His skill and poise with the ball in hand is certainly no secret to those who keep an active eye on Fremantle, but in the grander scheme of the competition, the argument can be made that Ryan’s talent has been somewhat overlooked.

The 2020 Doig Medallist, awarded to Fremantle’s best and fairest, enjoyed an excellent Covid-interrupted season, winning his sole All Australian nod to date amidst an inconsistent team campaign.

Since then, the medium defender has steadily built himself a reputation as a reliable pillar of a resolute Fremantle defence, with his 2023 campaign seeing him make the 40-man All-Australian squad.

Signed until 2027, Ryan revealed to Perth-based radio station SportFM in February that he wasn’t coming into pre-season at full fitness.

“I’m coming back from an ankle injury, and I haven’t been able to kick the ball really far at the moment… I’ve looked to lower my eyes a little bit and hit harder kicks under 40 metres that can really open up the game,” he said.

Based on his metres gained so far, you wouldn’t know it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.