By Jonty Ralphsmith
In 2022, it was in the Under-17 All Stars game.
In 2023, it was in the last Coates League home and away game against Tasmania.
A 22 touch, nine mark effort on Tasmanian goalsneak Jack Dolliver, kept to four touches and no scores, was a statement game for Dandenong defender Kobe Shipp, and he handled the assignment of Zane Duursma well in the following week’s loss to Gippsland.
“I think it would be hard to find a small back who’s played a better all round game ever than him that day,” said Stingrays coach Nick Cox.
“His stuff on the ground, his marking in the air, his ability defensively was all fantastic.”
At his best, 187cm Shipp has proven he has a complete skillset to match it with forwards in the modern game.
After a late call up for that Under-17 All Stars game – an annual fixture played on the MCG to raise the curtain for the AFL grand final – Shipp left his mark.
Playing with his trademark 2022 dreadlocks, the Beaconsfield boy started with a bang, taking four intercept marks in the first quarter and finishing the day as one of the prominent play-makers.
Last season was Shipp’s first in the backline, and his read of the play and strength over the footy were assets he built on.
When given a similar role this season, he thrived, mixing his shutdown capacity with his understanding of when to fly and drive.
“Having a match up is good because it keeps me accountable and in line with the footy,” Shipp said.
“I still have the licence to peel off and intercept, but there’s a fine line between doing that too much and playing on your man too much and I found that balance throughout the season.”
In between playing his natural footy off halfback, he spent a reasonable portion of 2023 on the wing, including the national championships due to Vic Country’s long list of rebounding halfbacks.
Shipp accumulated plenty of possession in Vic Country’s first game, giving him a strong foundation to launch off, and as well as the Vic Country and Rays coaching staff, he had an excellent asset in his corner.
Dad, Andrew, played 35 games for Fremantle, falling short of the required games to make Kobe eligible as a father-son, but still having strong nous to impart.
“He doesn’t say as much as what other Dads do but he keeps it really simple,” Shipp said.
“After every game I’ll talk to him about how I played and he knows what to say.
“He knows if I’ve had a sh*t game and he’ll tell me, but has a way of doing it where he keeps me on track and humble and he’ll give me good pointers as well.”
Shipp will learn his fate on 20-22 November at the the AFL National, Rookie and Pre-Season Drafts.