Leagues: NAB League Boys
POSITION: Key Defender
SNAPSHOT: “The standout key defender in this year's draft pool, Gibcus is an athletic intercept marker with sticky hands who defends just as well as he can attack”
With the most ideal combination for a modern day key defender, Josh Gibcus possesses a great leap to go with good speed but most importantly, he knows how to use it in his game. Although his traits could be used up forward and even in the ruck, which he has done on the odd occasion, it's down back where his eye-catching traits are highlighted best. Spending the most amount of time with GWV Rebels in the NAB League, Gibcus also turned out for school team St Patricks College, a team filled with many of his Rebels teammates which won the BAS football grand final. Gibcus shares plenty of traits with 2020 top five pick Denver Grainger-Barras, which is another reason why he is a likely top five draft chance this year as one of the crop's big improvers.
+ Vertical leap
+ Intercept marking
+ Closing speed
+ Clean hands
Gibcus represented Vic Country in the 2019 Under 16 National Championships and also participated in the SSV Under 15 carnival a year prior, showing he has been rated highly from a young age. As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Gibcus would put in the performances which have him poised as a potential top 10 pick this year. Gibcus got to represent the AFL Academy in its annual game against a VFL club, getting to play against AFL-listed players like Darcy Fort and Sam De Koning and more than holding his own. At NAB League level, Gibcus averaged almost 13 disposals a game over 10 outings, headlined by his 17 disposals and nine marks against Murray Bushrangers in Round 4, where he properly announced himself as the best key defender in the draft pool.
The most obvious standout trait you will notice with Gibcus is his leap, and it was no surprise to see him blitz pre-season testing with a 75cm vertical jump, and a running vertical jump of 95cm. That leap is used in every marking contest he gets to, which helps him not only take spectacular leaping marks but also sneak in timely spoils which helps considerably against taller opponents - although Gibcus isn't exactly undersized at 195cm. The other thing that helps Gibcus take so many intercept marks and spoil on the lead is his closing speed, which makes him a very difficult player to get separation from. There are plenty of tall and athletic key forwards in the AFL, so having these traits will hold Gibcus in good stead.
Gibcus has clean hands at ground level which also sets him apart from other talls. He can move like a midfielder at times when the ball hits the deck, able to pick it up cleanly and showing great composure under pressure, which is a great trait to have in defence. Gibcus is never out of the contest and even if he doesn’t take a mark, he will follow up his efforts time and again, showing good desperation and effort. That energy could see him play some senior football early despite the light frame, with plenty of size still to add and with his athletic profile, the upside is huge for Gibcus. He is projecting to be an elite AFL defender, especially with his ability to read the play like the best key defenders in the competition, combined with natural football smarts that are hard to teach.
Gibcus doesn’t have many weaknesses to his game as a developing key defender but the one area that can undo his hard work is his kicking, where he has often bitten off more than he can chew. He punted a few out on the full kicks trying hard to hug the boundary this season, although he often just marks the kick that comes back anyway, but smart teams will try to avoid kicking it straight to Gibcus on the way back. Production is another area to improve, which should get better with more years in an AFL system and some bolstered endurance and size. Two games with only seven disposals shows he can struggle to impact games offensively on occasion, but he can still be effective as a stopper who can shut down a gun key forward.
DRAFT RANGE: Top 15
It’s hard not to get excited about Gibcus with the energy and athleticism he can showcase each week, and the club that drafts him will likely be keen to play him early so fans can see him leap at the ball and take nice grabs while also giving his all at ground level. Not many of the teams with top 10 picks this year are screaming for key defenders, but a club like Sydney could push up the order to nab him and he could be a real steal if he slides outside the top 10. With all his key traits, it would seem unlikely he lasts too long.
NAB League Boys