WHILE National Championship commitments took away much of the top-end NAB League talent this weekend, we took a look at those players in the extended Victorian squad or Young Guns squads that impressed, as well as a couple of father-son options. All notes are opinion-based by the individual writer.
Greater Western Victoria Rebels vs. Tasmania Devils
By: Joe Lee
#3 Toby Mahony
The tall midfielder was in and out of the game and wasn’t overly damaging with ball in hand. Ended up with 12 touches and five tackles and, like many of his teammates, struggled to have a profound impact on the outcome. Missed a set shot that could’ve kept the Rebels in touch with the Devils in the third quarter. but tackled hard and used his bigger frame well.
#8 James Cleaver
The midfielder registered a solid 15 disposals for the game. Worked hard but struggled for impact, but it was a tough game for all of the Rebels’ midfield group. Covers the ground and helps out his teammates, highlighted by his three inside 50s and two rebound 50s.
#10 Matt Lloyd
Was one of the Rebels’ best, finishing with 22 disposals and six inside 50s. Almost kicked a brilliant set shot goal, judging the wind perfectly from 50 out but it faded late, ending up as one of Lloyd’s three behinds for the day. Could’ve had a day out had he converted his chances but nonetheless was one of the Rebels better performers, playing consistently well across four quarters. Uses his bigger frame to great effect, breaking a couple of tackles and pumping the ball long into attack.
#1 Mitchell O’Neill
The Devils midfielder worked well with Davis and Peppin to overwork the Rebels engine room in a solid midfield win. O’Neill registered 20 disposals for the game, coupled with 5 tackles, and worked hard on the inside of the contest, spreading the ball with his clean hands to teammates outside of the stoppage. Wasn’t as prolific as he normally is and was reasonably well held but still influences the game with his quick hands inside the contest, picking up a number of clearances.
#3 Oliver Davis
Davis was a dominant midfielder all day, picking up 25 touches but also a huge nine inside 50s. his skill and precision when delivering the ball, often to Callow on the lead, was sensational. Makes the forwards move when he has the ball and rarely misses a target. Stood out for his clean disposal and willingness to hit up his options in the blustery and slippery conditions. Was a handful for the Rebels to contain and once he gets into space, he makes the most of his possessions. Was a clear standout.
#4 William Peppin
The classy midfielder was solid all day, picking up when the game was on the line in the third quarter. Nailed a clutch set shot on goal from 40 meters out to put the Devils in control. Positions himself really well around the ground, picking up multiple front and centres and roving the ball off the aerial contest to drive it forward. Stood out with his clean hands and ‘one touch’ possessions, generating three inside 50s from his 18 disposals, it is Peppin’s evasiveness, agility and breakaway speed that make him a dangerous proposition for opposition clubs.
#7 Matt McGuinness
Positions incredibly well in defence, intercepting the play at will and setting up offensive strikes. Was involved in multiple score assists, including setting up the Devils first goal with an intercept mark and rebound 50 that say a smooth transition into the goals. Is a classy left footer out of defence who always hits targets from long range, the tall defender was outstanding for the Devils. His intercept marking, kicking skills and athleticism are all traits that will hold McGuinness in good stead, as he utilises his attributes very well. Finished the day with 25 disposals, including 20 kicks, eight marks and four tackles.
#13 Sam Collins
The rebounding defender worked outstandingly with McGuinness to provide the Devils with drive and rebound off half-back, picking up 8 rebound 50s. Possesses a driving and penetrating right foot out of defence that breaks the oppositions zone. The defensive duo worked in tandem to thwart any chance of the Rebels mounting a fightback, intercepting their inside 50s at will. Finished the game with 18 disposals and seven marks and was a key pillar in combating the Rebels forward forays.
#25 Jackson Callow
Callow was a force to be reckoned with all day, slotting four majors and clunking eight marks, en route to a superb performance. Kicked the Devils first of the game, courtesy of some smooth ball movement up the ground. Took plenty of marks inside 50 and had a number of shots on goal, spraying one out on the full and missing a couple of gettable others. Did nail a drop punt, 35 out on the boundary that was a highlight for the day but didn’t make the most of his ample opportunities. Took a couple of marks when he was outnumbered but won due to his superior body work and reading of the ball trajectory. Finished with 15 disposals and was the dominant forward on the ground
Northern Knights vs. Calder Cannons
By: Michael Alvaro
#4 Jackson Davies
Was arguably the Knights’ most composed and influential player in the back half, leading from the front in tough conditions. Davies is deceptively strong overhead, with a good leap and sticky hands allowing him to get to and impact a wealth of aerial contests. Most often opts to kick out of defensive 50, with 16 of his 22 disposals being kicks, and six of them being rebounds. Davies is clearly the designated kicker out of defence as he shouldered the kick-in duties, but looked most effective when impacting the play off the square or intercepting up on defensive wing.
#5 Josh D’Intinosante
A decent display from D’Intinosante, who again spent a lot of time forward. Started brightly with a nice sliding mark inside 50, but missed the resultant set shot. Would eventually get on the board in the final term with a very nice dribbled finish on the run, highlighting his credentials in front of goal. Looks most dangerous when on the move at forward stoppages and gets involved there, as well as with his front and centre positioning from long kicks in. Falls short at times in one on one contests and had opponents reach over him for marks, but is otherwise a reliable competitor.
#7 Ryan Gardner
Gardner’s day was unfortunately cut short by injury early in the second quarter, hurting his lower leg after being caught in an awkward tackle. It was a real shame as Gardner had started brightly in the midfield, collecting nine first-quarter disposals. He kicked long inside 50 well, with one particular centre bounce break catching the eye. While he looked to be lacking a certain spark off the mark, Gardner kept on the move at stoppages and reads the taps well. Can still sharpen up his disposal at times, and hopefully gets back on the park this year to show it.
#5 Curtis Brown
Brown is one who has come on strong of late, and looks a real smooth mover off half back. He burst away well from defensive 50, sweeping up the ground balls and providing effective rebound by foot. Brown stays strong in one-on-one contests, and took a nice clean take against his Northern opponent early on. Was influential off the back of the square with his 23 disposals, and is constantly one of Calder’s better contributors.
#8 Sam Ramsay
Ramsay has been pushed up onto a wing to good effect, providing positive forward movement through his run and long kicking. Got involved well early and had a shot on goal that fell short, but caught the eye with a great run down effort on his defensive arc to show his two-way running. Tended to blaze away at times when under pressure, but is definitely more effective in space.
Murray Bushrangers vs. Oakleigh Chargers
By: Scott Dougan
#6 Jeromy Lucas
On a day where the Chargers’ dominance was clear, Lucas was able to do as he pleased, winning a game-high 27 possessions. His foot skills were terrific and his spread from the contest was handy for the Chargers moving forward. He first caught the eye when he delivered an opposite foot kick to a leading forward inside 50, which unfortunately didn’t end up in a goal. Lucas’s agility would come in handy on the day, side-stepping around his opponents to break away. A positive performance.
#27 Josh May
May was immediately involved in the contest when he used his strength and size to release a handball away after breaking a tackle from two Bushranger opponents. He was one of the Chargers’ top ball winners on the day and his ball use on both feet was sublime. At 195cm, his athleticism and cleanliness at ground level is definitely something that stood out to me. May’s versatility makes him a very dangerous player in all areas of the ground. He finished with 19 disposals, three marks, and four inside-50s.
#1 Will Christie
Christie had his hands on the pill early on and was very competitive in the ruck, winning 26 hit-outs. He was a threat around the ground, gathering 12 disposals, taking four marks and laying a notable nine tackles. Christie stood his ground in many contests and his repeated efforts around stoppages caught the eye. His contested grab in the third quarter on the Chargers’ goal line was one of his best moments of the game. A standout for Murray.
#5 Cam Wild
Wild played through the midfield and would occasionally drift forward. He didn’t have many possessions in the first half, but he did have three shots on goal – that were all behinds. Wild’s second half was much more encouraging, he won more of the ball and his foot skills were at most times, pretty good. He finally kicked his first goal of the day deep into the last quarter and would follow it up with a second minutes later. It wasn’t a dominant game by any means, but he showed that he can be a threat up forward when required. Wild finished with 20 disposals and 2.3.
#10 Will Quirk
Quirk played across half-back and through the Bushrangers’ midfield. He did his best to drive the ball forward at all times. Quirk drifted forward in the second quarter and had a set shot on goal that just missed. One of his best moments came in the fourth term when he took a really good intercept grab in defence. He finished the match with 10 disposals and three marks.
#14 Jye Chalcraft
In such a big loss, it was hard for any of the Bushranger players to stand out. Nevertheless, Chalcraft gathered 17 possessions, four tackles and booted one of his teams’ nine goals. He may be of short stature, but there’s no denying his competitiveness, courage, and strength. Chalcraft was able to break tackles due to his strength around the hips and he disposed of the ball really well by hand.
#19 Jimmy Boyer
In a disappointing day for the Bushrangers, Boyer was the shining light. It was his cleanliness at ground level that stood out after an extremely scrappy start from both teams. Boyer would collect a ground ball, tuck the ball under his arm, run 15metres and then deliver the ball effectively to a teammate in space. He spent the majority of the match across half-back and would mop up everything that came his way. Boyer would put his pace and agility to good use and would give his team plenty of momentum going forward. He finished with 27 disposals (18 kicks) and nine rebound 50s.
Eastern Ranges vs. Geelong Falcons
By: Joshua Ward
#11 Mitch Mellis
Absolutely dominant in midfield yet again. Continues his hot start to the season with his second 30+ disposal game, increasing his average to 27.5 a game. Used his speed and carry well yet again, adding seven inside 50’s and three rebound 50’s as well to go with six tackles and a fair amount of clearances.
#18 Billy McCormack
Won the battle between him and bottom-age prospect Henry Walsh in a pretty tight battle in the end. Did get quite a few more touches in the end, and was pretty good in the air as well with a few good contested marks. Did also score the goal to snuff out any hope for the falcons early in the fourth. Looks like an X-factor for the Ranges.
#23 Zak Pretty
He and Mellis continue to impress as a duo as well as individually, had around 30 touches, including 20+ in the second half. He also added a pretty darn good goal in the second half, kicking it over his shoulder and managing to just sneak it through. Also included six tackles, three inside and three rebound 50’s. Looks a good prospect.
#46 Henry Walsh
Didn’t come out on top of this huge ruck contest, but still did pretty well in the end. Managed again to only get a few touches, but was still pretty good in the ruck contest, finishing just behind Billy McCormack in the end with 18 (McCormack had 22). Did take a good contested mark in the first but showed limited impact in the air for the rest of the game.
Gippsland Power vs. Sandringham Dragons
By: Craig Byrnes
#10 Leo Connolly
It was a bit strange to see Connolly on the bench during the early stages of the game, but once on, he was a class above the standard with both teams depleted. He hit some lovely targets in the corridor and took the game on, breaking lines, changing direction and creating space for his teammates. His highlight came early when he won the ball behind centre and hit a quality corridor target, kept running to receive the ball by hand from Skinner and kick a long goal. It wasn’t quite the complete break out performance that we’ve been waiting for from the Moe junior, but 20 quality disposals and four clearances is still a good day out.
#43 Zac Skinner
It was a bit of a mixed bag for the 200cm tall Skinner, who spent a majority of his time forward, as well as relieving Nicholas in the ruck. He had some genuinely exciting moments, highlighted by a huge contested flying mark inside 50 during the second quarter which saw him reach over the top of his opponent. He gave the highly rated Corey Watts issues, taking another contested mark deep only a minute later. Unfortunately his kicking let him down, missing that particular set shot from close range and turned a ball over in the corridor later on with options available inside 50. He ended with a respectable six marks and a goal, but is capable of being more influential by making his chances count.
#7 Jackson Voss
The St Kilda father-son prospect had arguably his best performance of the season, taking advantage of extended midfield minutes with the Dragons depleted due to representative duties. He is the son of Brett and nephew Brownlow Medallist Michael, so you could say footy pedigree is top notch. Voss is a nice two way midfielder, capable of winning the heavy inside ball or running into space to utilise a quality left hoof. He constantly found ways to release the ball effectively in congestion, often twisting his hips to slip away from an opponent. He finished the day as one of the highest ball winners on the ground, collecting 27 possessions, five clearances and seven tackles.
#14 Kyle Yorke
Yorke is a bit of an old school full forward type who utilises smart leading patterns, has strong hands and most importantly impacts the scoreboard. He keeps presenting all day and his teammates honour that work. His set shot goal kicking in particular was outstanding, starting with a quality “J Curve” in the first term, before slotting two brilliant efforts from tight angles in the third term. His three goal third term was match defining, often on highly respected Gippsland defender Tye Hourigan. In last quarter he showed off ground skills and agility, cleanly picking up a loose ball before snapping his fifth goal over his left shoulder. He presented high up the flanks too with eight inside 50s, finishing with an impressive 19 disposals (17 kicks), 9 marks and 5 goals, 2 behinds. It brings his season tally to 12 goals from five matches and at 194cm, crafty forwards with such stature deserve due consideration.
#17 Tyson Milne
Milne is another St Kilda father-son prospect who is taking full advantage of the Sandringham player exclusions. He is the son of celebrated forward pocket Stephen, but plays off half back and is a different size to his dad standing 184cm. He really impressed both offensively and defensively, holding excellent body positioning one on one and taking the game on with ball in hand. He showed both elements in one play during the third term, holding front position to win a ground intercept, before handballing, getting it back and kicking long to Yorke deep inside 50. He finished with 25 disposals (19 kicks) and seven rebounds in an eye catching display.
#32 Jack Bell
The Vic Metro squad member looks a real talent, but he is raw and will take time to hit his peak. He is your modern prototype ruckman or KPF, 201cm, athletic and moves more like a six foot midfielder. He is strong overhead, possesses lovely skills for his size and is impressively clean at ground level. He took two strong intercept contested marks in the first and third terms and even presented well on the lead when positioned inside 50. You can tell he is confident with his ball use as he attempted the occasional audacious bullet pass inside 50, which is a decision that will mature with time. He finished with 15 disposals, 14 hit outs and got on the end of a goal out the back late in the game.
#33 Corey Watts
Another Vic Metro squad member looking to impress and earn a Championships call up, Watts had the difficult task of manning the much taller Zac Skinner deep in defence. There wasn’t much he could do when Skinner plucked the ball from the highest position, but smart positioning and well timed spoils ensured he had his share of aerial wins one on one. Offensively, he was outstanding, combining great decisions and vision with great effect. He reads the play so well and is a one touch footballer, which gives him much more time than his opponent. He uses it well, but admittedly missed some targets on Sunday. I like him most as a third tall interceptor and he produced a couple of fast forays through the middle of the ground, which he produces consistently when released from a close checking role.
Western Jets vs. Bendigo Pioneers
By: Sophie Taylor
#3 Eddie Ford
Ford was among the Jets’ best against the Pioneers, and did a good job finding space as one of the key ball getters for the Jets. Had a kick on goal in the second but went through for a behind, put some good pressure on the contest while also providing a good kick inside 50 with three inside 50s from 22 touches and five marks.
#1 Sam Conforti
Though not named in the Pioneers’ best on the weekend, Conforti was solid with 27 touches combining well with his midfielders to create options forward. Kicked a goal towards the end of the first to keep the Jets in check, while his six marks and seven tackles were solid in keeping clean possession of the ball as the Jets kicked away. Despite six inside 50s, Conforti’s efforts weren’t enough on the day.
#11 Aaron Gundry
Gundry was another among the best on ground, finishing well with 28 hitouts 19 touches, three marks and four tackles to his name in certainly his best match of the season so far. Also kicked his first goal for the season in the opening term, assisting at both ends well with two rebounds and three inside 50s moving well despite his size.
#17 Logan Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald was best on ground for the Pioneers in a disappointing day out, notching up 29 disposals in another season-high performance. Of 29 touches 19 were handballs, showcasing his ability to feed off into better space putting his clean hands to good use against the pressing defence of the Jets. Picked up some good clearances with six marks, one rebound and two inside 50s, while his pressure on the carrier was solid with six tackles.
#20 James Schischka
The captain had a quieter outing this round, not generating a lot of the footy but putting on some good pressure courtesy of his two tackles, five marks and two rebounds. All of his 10 disposals were kicks, showcasing his ability to create and find space off the man as well as clean hands. Had a kick on goal early but went through for a behind.
#21 Riley Wilson
Wilson was another who piled on some good pressure, racking up 17 touches as he went hard at the footy for five tackles, getting into the scrap well. Clean hands to grab two marks but otherwise didn’t have too much of an impact on the play as the Jets took over.
#22 Josh Treacy
The bottom-ager had a solid match, moving well courtesy of some smooth movement through the midfield and clean ball use. Assisted Gundry in the ruck at times, finished with 12 touches, five marks and three inside 50s as he assisted the mids in their struggle to create opportunities downfield.
#30 Jake Dick-O’Flaherty
An improvement on last week saw Dick-O’Flaherty lift for 16 touches and a dominant seven tackles, going in hard to the contest to win some good ball and create opportunities out of the pack. His disposals were spread evenly for eight kicks and marks apiece, credit to his ability to read the play for the best option in the moment. Also had a kick on goal but couldn’t convert.