WE braved the chilly weather at Ballarat to take notes on some of the top performers in the Country Triple Header, while tomorrow we will post those top performers from today’s Metro Triple Header. The players were focused on either have received a state combine invitation, represented Vic Country or played in the Under 17 Futures game.
Gippsland Power vs. Murray Bushrangers
By: Michael Alvaro
#5 Xavier Duursma
By his own accord, Duursma took time finding his feet in this game, but had a real impact on proceedings in the second half. He started off in typical fashion, on the move at stoppages and looking to push the ball forward quickly with his burst and clearance nous, while finding more ball on the outside in the second term. Some of his best moments came through his sheer presence around the ball, with a good bit of harassment in the third quarter leading to an Austin Hodge goal, and another repeat effort almost gifting Noah Gown one. He was clean in tricky conditions and showed his mix of class and toughness with a Worpel-esque hard ball get, shortly after he had evaded an opponent and dribbled through the sealing goal. A good testament to his character was that he told TAC Cup Radio he had to finish shaking hands with the opposition before giving a post-game interview – the kid is a ripper.
#6 Riley Baldi
Fresh off a great showing in the Under 17 Futures game for Vic Country, Baldi continued his impressive form through the midfield. He’s a master extractor, always busy at the stoppages and ever-present at the centre bounces in his long sleeves. He started off well with good attack on the footy, and his courageous marking attempt in the first term almost led to a Luke Williams goal. Baldi also showed he is a good judge of the ball in flight, with numerous marks taken as the ball came from high over his shoulder – one of which led to his highlight for the game in a clever snap from the boundary. He missed a couple more chances to hit the scoreboard, but his work rate to create those opportunities was fantastic to see, with one coming from an intercepted kick-out. It was a consistent showing throughout the day from the bottom-ager, one to keep an eye on for next year.
#9 Irving Mosquito
The Hawthorn Next Generation Academy product was a little quiet throughout the game, but only needs a few touches to have an impact. He showed his typical flashes of brilliance though, handing off to Fraser Phillips for the first goal of the game, flicking out another to Josh Smith before he missed the shot, and taking the ball at speed in the midfield. He spent a good amount of time at the centre bounces, and was close to bursting away for some highlight reel clearances, but couldn’t quite break away.
#11 Austin Hodge
While Hodge didn’t rack up his usual amount of possessions, he managed to have an impact in a slightly different role. The over-ager started off finding a good amount of the footy between the arcs, but looked most damaging later on in a more advanced position. He kicked a nice goal on the run from just inside the 50 in the third term, but he would be disappointed not to have converted the two or three other chances he had in the second half.
#12 Brock Smith
Smith was part of Gippsland’s solid defensive unit, breaking down Murray’s attack and swiftly moving the ball out of danger. His rebounding was good in the first half as he often chose to kick long down the line, despite coughing the ball back up on occasion. While Smith made him earn it, he struggled during the third term to keep Zane Barzen quiet as Murray made a late push, but overall racked up a good amount of footy and did a good job of mopping up.
#16 Josh Smith
Smith was solid in the ruck with plenty of numbers around the stoppages and hitting his targets with his taps. He also worked well around the ground and found the ball in good areas inside 50, but couldn’t hit the scoreboard with two snaps falling short. He still managed to claim an assist for Riley Baldi’s goal with a long bomb into the pocket.
#19 Fraser Phillips
Another Gippsland product that starred in the Under 17s game, Phillips had an influential first half. Sporting two different coloured boots, Phillips booted the first goal of the game with a nice snap. He was front and centre at a heap of stoppages and pushed up the ground from half-forward to win more of the ball. His twists, turns and handball-fakes confused opponents and gave him time to deliver the ball on his left foot. Phillips had a particularly smooth turn in the second quarter which led to an inside 50, but unfortunately looked to have limped off later on.
#23 Noah Gown
Arguably the in-form key forward of the competition, Gown continued his tremendous second half of the season with another three goals. He looked strong one-on-one with solid contested marks and led up hard at the footy all day. Perhaps the most impressive part of Gown’s game was his work rate and physical presence, with a hard-earned holding the ball tackle in the first term followed by an intercept mark from a kick-out, a shepherd which allowed Harrison Pepper to run into an open goal, and repeat digs at the ball to almost claim an overhead kick goal. The unsurpassable highlight of Gown’s day however was his sensational goal from the boundary from about 40 metres out, with a long hoof somehow bouncing its way through the middle.
#25 Kyle Reid
While Reid didn’t have much to do at times, he led the Gippsland defence well and was solid as ever. He did a good job on the dangerous Hudson Garoni in keeping him goalless, while also calmly rebounding out of defence by foot.
By: Scott Dougan
#7 Zane Barzen
Barzen started off quietly but was able to work himself into the match after quarter time. He kicked the Bushrangers first goal of the match in the second quarter after taking a strong mark on the lead, showing off his sticky fingers. His leading patterns were superb all day, along with his ability to mark the ball at the highest point, which made it extremely difficult for the Power defenders to stop. Barzen was unstoppable in the third quarter, booting two impressive goals to keep the Bushrangers within striking distance. He was the most dangerous forward on the ground, along with Gippsland Power’s, Noah Gown. Overall, Barzen was outstanding for the Bushrangers, kicking three goals. His versatility and athleticism is what makes him such an exciting prospect.
#12 Lachlan Ash
Ash was involved in a heavy collision halfway through the first and appeared to be sore for the remainder of the quarter. He started to get more involved in the second term when he was awarded a free kick for a brilliant tackle in the defensive 50 on livewire, Irving Mosquito. Due to windy conditions on the day, his kicking wasn’t at his usual high standards, but he was still able to find plenty of the ball, especially in the second half. Ash’s final quarter was his best for the day. He was able to find plenty of space throughout the middle of the ground, putting his speed and agility to good use. He did his best to provide some effective run and carry, which was important for the Bushrangers moving forward. Ash has spent a lot of time across half-back this season but he was able to play the majority of his minutes as an outside midfielder today. Definitely one to keep a close eye on next year.
#18 Hudson Garoni
It was a difficult day for Garoni, with the powerful forward lining up on the in-form defender, Kyle Reid. The lack of inside 50s for the Bushrangers in the first quarter made it near impossible for Garoni to get involved. He worked himself into the match during the second quarter, setting up the first score of the day for the Bushrangers. Garoni displayed good vision with ball in hand and he was able to lower his eyes on multiple occasions to deliver the ball to his teammates on the lead. Garoni competed hard all day, but in the end, had his coloured lowered by Reid.
Geelong Falcons vs. Dandenong Stingrays
By: Scott Dougan
#8 Ned McHenry
The fiery midfielder was important for the Falcons with his consistent efforts on the contest and his defensive running. He wasn’t one of the biggest ball-winners on the ground but when he won the ball, he did his best to provide some run and carry for his team. McHenry’s pace and agility proved beneficial when it came to escaping congestion and breaking tackles. He finished with 18 disposals and five tackles.
#20 Brayden Ham
Ham was terrific playing across the half-back line for the Falcons and occasionally contributed through the midfield. He found the ball in all areas of the ground and he was exceptionally clean, especially in the wet conditions. Ham demonstrated that he is capable of playing in any position. This season, he has spent time in the forward line, backline and through the midfield, signifying his versatility. His marking was one of the highlights of his game, along with his clean and quick hands in tight.
#22 Sam Walsh
Walsh did what Walsh does best – accumulate plenty of possessions and run hard. Walsh was consistent throughout four quarters, but I thought he was not extremely damaging with ball in hand. In the first term, Walsh kicked an impressive goal on the run in the first term after impacting a marking contest that resulted in a turnover. He played mainly as an outside midfielder but he was able to win the contested ball when needed. Walsh knows how and where to win the ball, in all areas of the ground, which is what makes him such a damaging player. He was able to boot his second goal of the day in the final term, with an impressive snapshot from 35 metres out, keeping the Falcons within striking distance. The possible number one pick finished two goals and 25 disposals, leading all-comers on the ground.
#30 Oscar Brownless
The father-son midfielder was good but still needs to work on his consistency. He worked hard all day to get from contest to contest and showcased his offensive attributes with an exciting running goal in the second term. His defensive efforts were was also a highlight, laying a match-high 10 tackles.
#39 Connor Idun
It was a tough day at the office for the defender, especially in the difficult conditions. Idun played as a forward and with the strong winds and rain, was unable to get heavily involved. Idun is a natural defender and playing him as a forward had an impact on his output. As he develops, Idun will work on his forward craft and will hopefully become extremely dangerous at both ends of the ground.
#41 Cooper Stephens
The bottom-ager was outstanding in close and he continuously released the ball by hand to his teammates on the outside. Stephens was not afraid to put his head over the ball and he worked exceptionally hard to apply as much defensive pressure as possible. His tackling was relentless and effective, laying eight for the match. An exciting prospect to watch next year.
#44 Sam Conway
The weather did not suit the big man but he worked tirelessly in the ruck all match. His first quarter was his best of the day, gathering plenty of possessions in all areas of the ground while providing his midfielders first use around stoppages. As conditions worsened after half-time, Conway’s impact was limited but he showed positive signs early on.
#48 Blake Schlensog
The imposing 198cm forward was fantastic in the first term. He had two shots on goal within 30 seconds, with the second shot converted successfully. Schlensog’s presence on the ground and in the air, was clear, taking plenty of strong marks and winning plenty of the ball in contested situations. He shared ruck duties with Sam Conway throughout the day and handed himself terrifically. His influence was limited in the second half but his inspiring first half did not go unnoticed.
#49 Dane Hollenkamp
Hollenkamp spent plenty of time on the highly-rated Stingray, Bailey Williams. Hollenkamp competed well and tried hard defensively, laying plenty of tackles and spoils when required. The highlight of his game came in the second quarter when he laid an important smother on William’s attempted shot on goal. Hollenkamp is still lacking in strength and size and will need to build on his frame before he can have an impact at a higher level. However, his defensive positioning, spoiling and efforts are encouraging.
By: Michael Alvaro
#2 Hayden Young
The bottom-ager didn’t have his most damaging game, but showed glimpses of why he is already so highly touted for the 2019 draft. Young was clean in the contest and ran hard to make as many as he could, with one particular effort in the second term seeing him follow up to meet a long kick he had put forward. His best quarter was the fourth, where he almost managed to snare a goal from congestion with a snap, while finding the ball more and clearing pressure for his side.
#7 Jai Taylor
The wingman was again one of the more calm and effective users for his side, most often by foot. Taylor’s pressure and tackling was also handy, as he came hard off the line to have an impact on the centre bounces. He had a good passage of play in the second term with repeat efforts ending in a shot on goal which missed, but it was a decent measure of his effort throughout the game.
#9 Zac Foot
Based on the opposite wing to Taylor, Foot struggled at time to get his typical running game going. He had an opportunity in the first quarter to make a good start with a running shot on goal but sprayed it at speed, but made up for it in the third with a major after narrowly missing another snapshot at goal. Still, his bursts of speed out of defence were effective, and he gains so much ground when ending them with long kicks.
#10 Lachlan Young
Young made his presence felt in defence with manic attacks on both the football and his opponents – fairly, of course. He is a real competitor, and showed his hard edge with tackles early to set the tone, while carrying on with courageous marking attempts and efforts at ground level. His aggression almost hit a boiling point with a strong sling tackle in the third term, but it was otherwise a solid defensive display from the over-ager.
#12 Matthew Gahan
Gahan was part of the Dandenong’s robust defensive unit, providing a touch of class bringing the ball out of the danger-zones. He was cool in traffic, bursting through it on one occasion in the opening term, and delivered the ball forward via foot on many occasions. He had a good moment in the third quarter with a handy intercept mark and long kick forward which put his side on the front foot.
#15 Toby Bedford
Bite-sized Bedford was industrious from the midfield with plenty of one-percenters fronting his impact. He is deceptively strong and laid a huge tackle in the second term, while working hard to impact as many contests as he could and buzzing around the stoppages. Bedford provided a great releasing handball to Zac Foot for his goal in the third term, and stood up for his teammates when things got a bit heated – he loves a chat.
#27 Lachlan McDonnell
McDonnell started well forward of centre with a holding the ball tackle in the first term to set the tone for his game. He missed out on hitting the scoreboard after a desperate sliding intercept mark in the second quarter, and was then thrown back into defence. It was in the back half that McDonnell showed clean hands in congestion and mopped up really well at ground level. The best example of that was his one-on-one contest with Brayden Ham near his defensive 50 arc, where he brought the ball to ground and battled to get it over the boundary line.
#28 Bailey Schmidt
Schmidt was again solid in his rucking role, providing a good match-up for Blake Schlensog. He made a heap of contests around the ground, both intercepting and providing a target for Dandenong’s next kick up the line. Schmidt also chipped in with a couple of clearances and attacked it hard at ground level.
#29 Bailey Williams
It was an unusually tough day at the office for Williams, who battled hard all game nonetheless. His leap was outstanding, as would be expected, and he took a nice mark on the lead in the opening quarter. Williams also clunked a good contested mark in the following term, playing on immediately and indulging in a bounce, only to have his shot smothered. His repeat efforts and shows of agility were also typically great, but conversion has been a big thorn in Williams’ side and today was no different as he didn’t manage to trouble to scorers.
#58 William Hamill
Hamill was effective coming out of defence by both hand and foot, but it was his assist to Lachie Williams for Dandenong’s first goal that proved his best contribution early on. He also narrowly missed what would have been a memorable goal on the wrong side for a left footer after snatching an intercept mark deep in the 50. Hamill’s work rate was good and he found the ball in all areas, putting in a solid shift.
#59 Sam Sturt
Sturt provided one of the most impressive second games in recent memory with three important second half goals proving to be the difference between the two sides. He could have had more, hitting the post after intercepting a kick-out directed at Sam Walsh in the first term, and giving an opportunity off to Luca Goonan later on. Two of his goals came in the dying minutes, with his snap breaking free from congestion proving to be the sealer, and his goal from deep immediately after putting the icing on the cake. Certainly one to watch come finals and draft time, also loves a celebration.
Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels vs. Bendigo Pioneers
By: Ed Pascoe
#6 Charlie Wilson
Wilson was a ball magnet playing through the midfield in the first quarter (26 disposals total) but it was his work forward of centre that he is known for and he showed his outstanding forward craft on multiple occasions. In the midfield Wilson showed good vision by hand at stoppages and often attacked the contest hard. Wilson played predominantly forward after quarter time and kicked two terrific snap goals on either foot which now has him in the lead for the TAC goal kicking. It wasn’t just his goal kicking but his vision and ability to hit targets by foot inside 50 that impressed, hitting up Mitch Martin with a lovely pass in the third term.
#7 Mitch Martin
Martin was another solid performer for Vic Country in the Under 17 Futures game and he brought that form against Bendigo providing a dangerous option when forward while also going through the midfield and attacking the contest hard ending the game with 21 disposals. Martin managed to kick three goals when resting forward with two set shot goals in the third quarter and a lovely opposite foot snap goal where he spun out of trouble. Martin along with Wilson was very influential and a major reason for the Rebels running away with the game.
#14 Jed Hill
Hill was a hard worker throughout the day playing through the midfield and going forward on occasion. Hill finished with 19 disposals and six inside 50s showing his ability to drive he ball forward from the midfield. He attacked the contest hard through the middle and laid some heavy tackles. Hill wasn’t accurate around the goals kicking one goal and three behinds for the match.
#8 Brodie Kemp
AFL Academy member and bottom ager Kemp was one of Bendigo’s strongest performers playing as a big bodied midfielder while also going forward on occasion he finished with 26 disposals. Kemp played his role well, often getting his hands dirty at stoppages winning the ball at the coalface and cleanly dishing off on many occasions. Kemp’s hands where important at stoppages but also overhead where he took many intercept marks behind the ball while also taking some marks up forward with his goal in the second quarter coming from a nice contested mark.
#17 Riley Ironside
Coming off a solid performance in the Under 17 Futures game for Vic Country, Ironside was a hard worker through the midfield going in hard at stoppages while also working hard to win the ball in transition. He finished with 18 disposals for the match. Despite his good work rate, he was let down because of his poor disposals with a lot of rushed kicks at times. It was nice to see him trying to create play across the ground, and consistently go in hard to win the footy.
#25 Flynn Perez
Also coming off a very good game for Vic Country in the Under 17 Futures last week, Perez was all class often running through the wings and half forward where he showed his great agility and composure with ball in hand with his skills a real standout on either side. Perez is the sort of player that can be real damaging when his teammates can look for him and give him time and space to work his magic. He is certainly one to watch for the 2019 draft racking up another 18 disposals and four inside 50s for the match.