Tom Clurey shuts down Geelong's Tom Hawkins.
Tom Clurey shuts down Geelong's Tom Hawkins.

Is Ken’s Mr Fix It the best defender in the AFL?

He's had to bide his time, but a Port Adelaide player is finally starting to showcase his talents, shutting down some of the AFL's best forwards to become one of the league's most dependable defenders.

While some may disagree, he's taken his game to a whole new level in 2019.

Once Ken Hinkley's Mr Fix It, regularly assigned to an on-fire forward charged with the brief of shutting him down, he's now Port Adelaide's best defender, tall or small.

Tom Clurey 25, until now has been developing under the radar in his 73 games to date.

Early on he struggled to win a consistent game, from 2014 to 2016, he played only one, eight and nine games for 18 matches over three seasons.

Caught behind regulars Alipate Carlile, Jackson Trengove and Cam O'Shea, Clurey had to bide his time in the SANFL until an opening appeared.

It wasn't until 2017 he finally cemented his home in Port Adelaide's defensive six, playing 23 matches for the year.

Fast forward to 2019 and Clurey is Ken Hinkley's best defender who gets all the big jobs, replacing co-captain Tom Jonas.

With scoring significantly down, we've been treated to a defensive masterclass in 2019. Superstar defenders Daniel Talia, Jeremy McGovern and Dane Rampe, have delivered yet again, so too young Lion Harris Andrews and Cat Mark Blicavs.

But the defensive bolters for 2019 have clearly been Magpie Darcy Moore, Crow Alex Keath and Power defender Clurey.

While Keath's season has been nothing short of remarkable, he's the Crows second tall defender behind Talia, whereas Clurey is Port Adelaide's main man. And unlike Talia he adds more versatility to his defence by being able to play equally as well on tall or small forward.

If you take a closer look at Clurey's season his star shines even brighter - he's dominated his direct match-ups against the competitions best, all the while giving away size and weight to his direct opponent.

He stands 193cm and only 88kg - at least four centimetres shorter and 10kg lighter than defenders like Talia.

He always appears calm under pressure, something of a necessity when playing on the defensive last line. Averaging 12.4 disposals and five marks per game, he rarely makes an error and he's equally as efficient off his non-preferred left foot when the pressure is at its highest.

So far in 2019 Clurey has made a handful of the best forwards in the game redundant, keeping Ben Brown, Luke Breust and Tom Hawkins goalless.

Plus, he only conceded one goal to dual Coleman medal winning Eagle Josh Kennedy and red-hot Magpie Jordan De-Goey when Collingwood smashed Port by 39 points after having 33 scoring shots on goal.

In the 20-point loss to rival Adelaide in Showdown 46, Clurey convincingly beat Adelaide co-captain Taylor Walker.


Clurey marks over star North Melbourne forward Ben Brown. Picture SARAH REED
Clurey marks over star North Melbourne forward Ben Brown. Picture SARAH REED


Clurey spoils Fremantle recruit Jesse Hogan. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Clurey spoils Fremantle recruit Jesse Hogan. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images


Walker kicked two goals, but both came from horrendous turnovers when Port had the run of play and he was all alone.

What is a relatively unknown about Clurey is he is one of Port Adelaide's best distance runners, who rarely needs a break. He once ran a 15.1 beep test at the under 18 draft camp, and he's also one of the strongest in the gym.

Clurey has been a breath of fresh air in Port Adelaide's backline in 2019 and he keeps getting better.

"The performance of Tom Clurey, to play on Tom Hawkins who I rate unbelievably, he really did (a number on him)," Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley emphatically said after last Saturday night's 11-point win over Geelong.

After a string of great performances, I suspect the AFL world is starting to take notice.