Jayden Short should be a man in demand.
The Richmond defender is out of contract at season’s end, and his performances have certainly justified the decision to delay negotiations.
Having started off as a small forward, Short was re-invented as a rebounding defender, however, he couldn’t make the most of his opportunities to become a premiership player in 2017.
Perhaps it was the wake-up call the 22-year-old needed, given he has played every game in 2018 and established himself as one of the league’s best half-backs.
In a position that can often see impact masked by high disposal numbers, Short’s ability to play a major part in every game is impressive.
He is ranked first for metres gained according to official AFL statistics, averaging 525.9 per game for the whole season.
The young Tiger, however, took his game to another level.
From Round 10, and in the eight games to follow, he has averaged 23 disposals, six marks, five rebound 50s and five inside 50s.
Astonishingly, he is averaging 622.4 metres per game in that time, which would be the biggest number ever recorded if he were to sustain this for an entire season.
All of this has come with an elite disposal efficiency of 78%.
He has shown a consistency in the position that has only been matched by Jake Lloyd, and the Swan isn’t having anywhere near the impact Short has had for the reigning premiers.
The likes of Brandon Ellis and the injury-prone Bachar Houli have had to take a backseat to the elite emergence of Short, despite both being important players for a number of years.
Therefore, Short’s contract situation should raise alarm bells for Richmond, who should make it a priority to re-sign their 22-year-old young gun.
North Melbourne is chasing Andrew Gaff and reportedly Jared Polec, and are willing to throw a lot of money at either player.
Both play on the wing and act as linking players who love to kick the ball long.
Short offers an alternative that should not be ignored, despite being a slightly different player to the aforementioned duo.
Short’s penetrating kick from the defensive half depreciates the value of a traditional wingman in a team’s best 22, simply through kicking the ball from one arc to the other.
The 22-year-old loves to run with the ball and ends up distributing from advanced positions anyway, which is why his direct score involvement statistic is above average for his position.
St Kilda, too, is a team that should chase Short and pair him with Jimmy Webster.
With the hard-running of Blake Acres on the wing and the elite kicking of Webster and Short, the Saints could finally play an entertaining and direct style of footy that would create a sharp improvement within the team.
Short would also be a great fit at Hawthorn with the way they like to play, although how a deal would work to get him to the brown and gold is unknown.
Of course, a club like the Suns can throw far more money at Short than any Victorian club may be willing to part with for the soon-to-be 50-gamer.
Despite having potentially elite rebounders in their squad, Short could still be an ideal signing.
Ultimately, any team wanting to play a direct, entertaining style of football will need to be chasing Short.
While some may see this two-month period as a “flash in the pan”, one could argue he showed these signs in 2017, which would have warranted this tag.
Yet 2018 has seen the emergence of what will be one of the league’s top half-backs for years to come, thanks to his fantastic development at the Richmond Football Club.
Putting off negotiations has certainly paid off for the 22-year-old, who will receive some big offers, however, the perfect fit may well be right in front of him.
Short should re-sign with the Tigers before the end of the season and cement himself as a developing star of the team.
A risk-free opportunity at prolonged success should be incentive enough to keep playing at Punt Rd.
He’s the exact player Richmond needs in its defence and re-signing him before the end of the season is crucial.
Securing Short early can be mutually beneficial for both parties and would lead to the Tigers freely making big moves to secure one of its favourite Suns, without needing to worry about the young star.
No longer is Short seen as the elevated rookie who had a shot at the big time.
He is one of the best players at the best club in the land and he’ll be justifiably rewarded for all his hard work.