GIPPSLAND Power launched their finals campaign by knocking off a resilient Geelong Falcons by 35 points on Saturday at Ikon Park.
Xavier Duursma had some important eyes on him for his first 2018 finals appearance. Coming up against arguably the league’s best in Sam Walsh, the Gippsland Power captain may have served himself in holding his ground against the possible number one pick.
Duursma was one of four Gippsland players to earn a National Combine invitation. Thought to be a future first rounder, Duursma’s season and form have been hard to fault. His performance in August continued to be impactful, racking up 29, 26 and 21 disposals in his three games. He finished high in the Morrish Medal tally and showed consistently throughout the season that he can play both on the inside and the outside, as well as impact the scoreboard.
He led his team well in their victory over the Geelong Falcons as he has all season, featuring among their best for the day and continuing to put his hand up for a possible top 15 pick. Duursma also earned his selection in the TAC Cup Team of The Year, placed on the half-back flank for his ability to gain metres with the ball in hand and being able fly with the best of them despite his much lighter frame. Weighing only 71 kilograms, nothing has stopped the versatile commodity from getting more involved on the inside for the Power in the second half of the season and doing it well above all else.
Quarter by quarter:
Duursma laid the first tackle for the game on Cooper Stevens following the initial centre bounce and caused an immediate stoppage. After the second bounce he almost snatched it off the deck but copped a hit and lost his feet. He went on to intercept a kick from Walsh heading inside Gippsland’s defensive 50 but began to show unprecedented form, following up with a kick out on the full. Though in everything for the first five minutes, Duursma disappeared midway through and only appeared again late in the quarter. He helped create a chain heading inside 50 early in the game and remained present around stoppages, but it was his dropped hanger late in the quarter where he gathered most of the attention.
Similar to the first, Duursma had an immediate impact from the first centre bounce of the second term, resulting in a stoppage. He applied some good pressure around the ground, laying a tackle to dispossess a player in the Gippsland attacking half. The pressure continued as he maintained a close distance to his opponent and worked hard on the chase. He took a couple marks from defensive kick-ins and delivered well by foot. Again, he was unlucky not to have the ball fly his way, but when it did he made effective use of it. He demonstrated this well when he popped up to take a mark in front of goal from a kick out of congestion. Duursma struck it well and landed his first and only goal for the day.
His first dig at it in the third quarter came from a hurried clanger out of congestion. He struggled with his efficiency at certain points, putting another out on the full and uncharacteristically missing his targets. Despite struggling with his disposals, Duursma marked strongly overhead in front of goal midway through, but missed his set shot from 40 metres out. He intercepted a kick down the passage, reading it better than the rest and later lost a good marking contest against Oscar Brownless. While losing that battle, Duursma continued to pluck the ball from the air, taking two more intercept marks to reset momentum for Power, and earning a free for positioning himself better under the ball. Late in the quarter, he took the ball cleanly in his defensive 50 and created some run out of half back.
Continuing his efforts down back, Duursma began the final quarter with a strong clearance out of the backline. Soon after, he followed up by chasing down Walsh through the midfield bringing him to ground off a diving tackle but failed to hold or dispossess him. The effectiveness of his kicks lifted plenty this quarter, doing well to clear congestion. A big kick from the defensive half resulted in a run on goal, and another launched deep inside 50 to help setup his forwards. He managed to lose his opponents on Gippsland’s defensive 50, taking a crucial mark from a kick-in, and later followed up with a mark inside 50 which he used to set up Bailey Beck. By the second half, Duursma had figured out how he was going to best impact this game, maintaining his superb aerial ability and outstanding kicking.
25 disposals (12 contested)
3 inside 50s
Xavier Duursma is currently pegged as the fourteenth best prospect in Australia in our AFL Draft Central Power Rankings, so we are confident he will get taken early in the draft. Gippsland have made it deep into finals, so Gippsland’s captain could still have a couple games left before a final opinion is cemented. As the contest lifts, Duursma will respond and deliver. I have no doubt that his finals campaign has a lot more to show us.