Charlie Cameron is having one of the best seasons of his career and a significant impact on the Lions charge to the finals and now he’s won seriously high praise by being likened to a Hawthorn and AFL great.
On one of Cyril Rioli’s most famous days, Charlie Cameron enjoyed a sizzling cameo on the MCG.
Brisbane forward Cameron was still a Crow when he watched from the sidelines as Rioli earned the Norm Smith Medal for best afield in Hawthorn’s dominant Grand Final win over West Coast in 2015.
In the infancy of his career, Cameron showed dazzling speed to finish runner-up behind North Melbourne’s Majak Daw in the Grand Final sprint during the half time break.
Four years on and Cameron, who played relatively little football during his boyhood, received a heady compliment from coach Chris Fagan on Saturday.
The Brisbane coach likened Cameron’s impact to that of the Hawthorn champion after his six-goal effort against the Suns helped the Lions secure second spot on the ladder.
“It’s just good to sit back and watch him,” Fagan said.
“I had the great pleasure of watching Cyril Rioli for a number of years at Hawthorn and Charlie’s up there in the sorts of things he can do. He doesn’t need many touches to influence a game.”
Cameron is not actually gathering any more of the football this year than his preceding five seasons. But clearly he is finding it in more dangerous areas for opposition defences and using his speed to turn defenders inside out.
The 25-year-old was born in Mt Isa and went to school in Brisbane before moving to the Western Australia town of Newman, in the Pilbara, in his late teens.
He clocked a time in the higher range of 11 seconds while at school, where he also played rugby league, rugby union and baseball, which took him to the United States. He is certain he has gained some speed since.
“I think I am a bit more explosive now than I was in high school,” Cameron said.
“In those situations, I try to use my speed to the best of my ability … because that is where I am the most dangerous, I guess.”
His goals per match average has jumped to a career best 2.4 a game in 2019.
This is well above his overall average of 1.5 goals per game, which is also the career average of Rioli, who played in four premierships with Hawthorn.
Almost a third of Cameron’s career goals have come this year in just one fifth of the matches that comprise his 104-game career thus far.
Cameron said the comparison to Rioli was flattering but he knows he needs to maintain the brilliance over the remaining weeks of this season and beyond to really fulfil it.
“It is an honour to be compared to Cyril Rioli,” he said.
“It’s been a huge honour to be named like him, put in that category, but I’ve still got a long way to go.”
The 47 goals he has kicked in 2019 matches Rioli’s best season in attack, with the three-time All Australian booting that number in 2016.
“They are big numbers,” Fagan said.
“50 goals is hard to get these days for any forward the way the game is played, the way teams defend. For him to do that, that’s exceptional.”
Cameron said the Lions were treating the clash against Geelong as the biggest game since their outing against Collingwood on Easter Thursday. More than 34,000 fans attended, yet the Lions faltered and were beaten by 62 points.
Cameron feels the experience of playing the top-placed Cats and 2017 premiers Richmond in the lead-in to the Lions’ first finals campaign in a decade will prove beneficial.
“It is going to be interesting to see how we handle it but there is a lot of belief there,” he said.
“It is going to set us up in terms of ‘That’s how finals footy is played’. Our contested ball is going to have to be (at the) top of our game because they have some star players there, so it is going to be interesting.”