THE cream always seems to rise to the top in tough conditions, and it was no different in Round 12 of the NAB League as top-end talents stood out in low-scoring affairs. We cast eyes over all five games in the slightly shortened round, taking note of Vic Country, Metro, and Allies squad members, as well as some eye-catching bottom and over-agers, with all notes the opinion of the individual writer.
Sandringham Dragons vs. Oakleigh Chargers
By: Joe Lee
#11 Hugo Ralphsmith
The midfielder led the Dragons engine room, finishing his strong performance with 0.2, 23 touches, seven tackles and five inside 50s. Missed a set shot after making nice lead, 35-out on a tight angle in the first but was strong all day for the Dragons, using his run and carry and inside skills to push Sandy forward. Worked tirelessly and rarely wasted a possession, with few weaknesses in his game.
#12 Charlie Dean
The Vic Metro key forward had a reasonably quiet day by his standards, managing just one goal from three opportunities. Finished with 10 disposals and four marks, Dean showcased his mobility and skills below his knees for a big forward. Didn’t really impact on the game and was well held in the first half but did slot his only major for the day in the second. Can look to improve his work around the ground to impact the game more and provide an option down the line. Slotted a nice set shot goal from about 40m out after making a smart lead to space, highlighting his strong forward nous. Missed a tough shot right on half time and missed another in the four but lead well and presented a strong option inside 50 to get the opportunities.
#30 Andrew Courtney
The ruckman had a solid day, working tirelessly against the bigger Jacob Woodfull, capping off a trying effort with nine touches, 26 hit outs and six tackles. Whilst Courtney lacks polish around the ground with his skills, he does do some strong defensive work inside the contest and backs up his midfielders with his bigger frame. Did some nice things and won a number of hit-outs to the Dragons advantage, an area which he has improved throughout the year.
#33 Corey Watts
Started forward for the Dragons, the workmanlike big man did a couple of nice things but his disposal needs work. Won a down the ground free kick and had the chance to hit up a number of teammates inside 50 but kicked it straight out on the full in the second. Watts uses his frame well and leads to the right areas, with his improving forward craft adding another important string to his bow. Does provide a strong option down the line and out of defence, taking a couple of contested grabs off the Dragons kick-ins. Finished with 13 touches and a behind.
#25 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
The big left-footer had a great day for the Chargers, slotting three goals in a sound forward display. Should’ve had four goals had he not missed a simple set shot in the second, but nonetheless was the dominant forward on the ground. Moves well and is quick off the mark for a big man but seemed to struggle below his knees slightly. Finished with 10 touches to go with his haul of three, Ugle-Hagan was solid for the Chargers.
#30 Sam Tucker
The Oakleigh swingman and Vic Metro Under 16 representative had a solid day down back, finishing with 11 touches, seven marks and four rebound 50s. Tuckers intercept marking was strong and he combatted a number of Dragons entries with his strong hands and mobile attributes. Moves really well and possesses clean skills but may need to work on his positioning and bodywork to raise his stocks.
#63 Jacob Woodfull
The blonde-haired ruck was a physical presence in the ruck, using his large frame effectively in contests both in the air and on the deck. A late hit on Jake Bowey was deemed a reportable offence in the second term but otherwise, the Chargers big man followed up his ruck work with some strong tackling and ground ball gets. Finished with 17 touches and 22 hit outs against Andrew Courtney, comfortably winning the battle around the ground. Works hard to help out his defenders and didn’t allow the Dragons to bomb it in long into their 50 in the fear that Woodfull would intercept.
Dandenong Stingrays vs. GWV Rebels
By: Peter Williams
#8 Brock Cliffe
A bottom-age prospect with some nice tricks, including smarts and vision. He was able to set up Jai Neal for his goal in the first term and was busy in the quarter. He times his handballs well under pressure, and played a team-oriented role in defence, laying a block for a teammate rather than asking for the cheap handball. Against the momentum in the second term he won an important clearance, and looks to move the ball quickly in transition. He had a great kick down the middle considering the conditions, in the third term, going from half-back to half-forward.
#10 Clayton Gay
A talented bottom-age prospect, Gay spent the whole game up one end with two quarters in attack and two quarters in defence. He used the ball pretty well off his left foot across the first three quarters, and as the weather deteriorated, adapted to the wet weather footy and looked for distance. Whether it was a long bomb down the wing or keeping the ball in front of him to gain some meters for his side, Gay was prominent throughout. He took a few strong intercept marks when in defence and looked to take the game on when possible.
#3 Toby Mahony
Was one of the Rebels best, particularly in the first half before a quieter second half. He looked composed through the stoppages and won it in close to keep it moving. At one stage he was able to stand up in a number of tackles and get his handball away, showing good hands under pressure. He laid a really strong tackle in the second term, and looked classy in terrible conditions.
#7 Mitch Martin
A class above for most of the day, Martin overcame a forgetful first five minutes to put together a dominant performance in the midfield before resting forward in the final term. His first few minutes consisted of a lookaway handball that missed, a free kick in the back and beaten for the ball on the wing after an awkward bounce, but once he settled in he was clearly the standout in terms of class. He used quick disposal going forward, applied great pressure and covered the ground well. He used the ball well by foot despite the windy conditions and was one of the few who could make something happen on the day. He booted two goals for the game, with two majors in the second term and almost a third, booting one of the ground and another from a snap off a step. As the weather deteriorated, Martin played appropriate wet weather football, though conducted a social experiment in how much he could get the ball to the line before being pinged for deliberate. The first couple of times he disguised it well, but the third time on the wing he was pinged for the deliberate, so instead he turned his attention to selling candy and did it a couple of times in the second half to kick into dangerous positions inside 50, before effectively resting forward in the last term.
#21 Nick Stevens
He was injured earlier in the season, but the talented Under-16 Vic Country representative was clean with his ball use and showed good hands under pressure in terrible conditions. He possesses a nice long kick, and was often tasked with the kickout duties. He tried to play on and take the game on more often than not, and benefited late when the opposition gave away a 50m penalty trying to stop him doing just that. Stevens applied good pressure on the kicker having a shot for goal inside 50 and forced a mistake by foot. Aside from an errant out-on-the-full kick in the third term thanks to the wind, he played a really solid game.
Bendigo Pioneers vs. Murray Bushrangers
By: Michael Alvaro
#19 Ben Worme
Slotted straight into the back six and brought some good heat in the contest, doing his best to bust through tackles and drive forward in the wet. He proved composed under pressure early in traffic, and also did well to push the ball out of bounds in a dangerous spot down back. Worme went on to accumulate well in the defensive half across the day, providing a good outlet to head on the outside but also competing really well to win contested ball. Did not always have a massive impact with his run or kicking, but played a good wet weather game.
#20 James Schischka
Provided a nice point of difference down back even if his style didn’t always suit the wet conditions. Started nicely with some good bodywork to keep the ball away from his direct opponent as it came to ground, and looked composed on the ball with his movement. While he did not always clunk the mark, Schischka’s intercept game got going in the back half, and he made a brave play to attack the ball at speed in the corridor to cut off a Bendigo kick forward. His aerial threat was a consistent theme throughout as he also popped up in the last term with a couple more flies, but again couldn’t bring the marks down. Struggled a bit by foot as many did with their ball drops, but looked much more comfortable by hand when sweeping up inside defensive 50.
#34 Will Wallace
Usually provides a few highlights but had to play a more subdued role down back, still managing to contribute well in the air with a couple of spoils from the side. Wallace’s impact came more obviously from his kick-ins and defensive rebounds, going for pure distance and unleashing on the run. He proved his understanding of the game as he attacked even more late on as Bendigo fell behind, but it was to no avail. Also made a brave smother after giving up the ball inside defensive 50 to prevent a goal in the final term, while positioning well in the goalsquare earlier to rush over a snap.
#2 Charlie Byrne
The bottom-ager’s cool finishing in front of goal proved a game-winner as he calmly slotted two crucial majors. Both came on the back of his work rate from the wing – running well both ways to find the ball in either half of the ground. Byrne’s first goal was also his side’s opener, converting calmly on the wrong side for a left-footer to get the Bushies going in the third. His second came in the final quarter, slotting well on the run as he streamed into 50. That forward run is what proved most damaging as Byrne worked best in space, receiving on the outside and putting the ball into good areas.
#6 Will Chandler
Chandler assumed his usual position at half-forward, finding most of his ball inside the attacking 50. He waited down well from a high ball early to show his smarts and also poked a nice handball over the top to compound it. Chandler won a good amount of ground balls but couldn’t quite capitalise on getting it in good areas, missing a long-range snap in the final term and being caught on other occasions. Had a good duel late-on with Ben Worme.
#7 Zane Barzen
The athletic over-ager was named best for Murray, showing some of the promise from his bottom and top-age years. Utilised as a centre half-back, Barzen looked unfazed as anyone in the wet conditions when flying for marks and cutting off Bendigo’s attacks. He looks great in full flight and meets the ball at its highest point, clunking solid overhead grabs in the first and final terms. Barzen also rebounded well, penetrating long down the line and even taking a couple of kick-ins. He even snuck forward for a mark inside 50 in the third term, but his set shot fell short.
#14 Jye Chalcraft
Was one of Murray’s with a lot of his work going unnoticed despite the bright green boots he opts for. The Draft Central Player of the Week nominee was a constant through midfield and dug in well at stoppages, pumping his legs through traffic to drive forward after hunting the ball. Chalcraft’s ability to pick up the ball cleanly off the ground was outstanding, somehow raking it up at pace in the trying conditions. The diminutive midfielder also bombed a few clearances forward when he finally got space, with distance paramount in the wet. His short kicking game looked a lot neater though, with his hands out of congestion also proving effective. Went 0.3 in front of goal in the only blight on a good game – under heavy opposition pressure for all three quickfire chances.
#19 Jimmy Boyer
Continues to find consistency for the Bushrangers, and adapted well in this game with a move into the forward half. While Boyer’s goalkicking was slightly off, he still managed to snare a crucial goal late on to seal the game, finishing with a grubber along the ground under pressure as latched onto the ball inside 50. Boyer’s attack on the ball in the air early was solid, flying well but looking cleaner below his knees. His smarts in releasing the ball stood out, drawing in opponents to give his teammates more space when running forward. Found a good amount of the ball, with a lot of his missed shots on goal coming from snaps that fell short or missed completely. Could’ve ended with a massive game, but still contributed 27 touches, eight tackles, five inside 50s, and the lone goal.
Gippsland Power vs. Geelong Falcons
By: Peter Williams
#7 Sam Berry
A match-winning performance by the small midfielder who put together a terrific four quarter performance. He showed great thinking under pressure with quick hands and was able to balance well between offensive and defensive work. He laid a massive amount of tackles, and booted three goals – all of which came from tackles. His first goal came in the second quarter, nailing the set shot with a Ben Brown-like run-up from 55m, while the last two came back-to-back at a crucial time in the last quarter, converting set shots from 40m and 30m out respectively. His last quarter was special and he is so strong one-on-one for his size.
#10 Leo Connolly
Connolly was the outside presence working well with Berry who had the inside covered. He used the ball to effect by kicking long and getting a number of important inside 50s, or to half-forward and giving his teammates a chance to score. He spread well and was able to keep the ball in front of him and paddle it out of bounds whilst under pressure.
#22 Zach Reid
The unlikeliest of heroes found himself kicking the winning goal from 25m out in the dying moments of the match. The consistent full-back went forward late in the game to be a point of difference, and he was certainly that, taking a terrific one-on-one grab straight in front, out-bodying his opponent. He slotted it and the teammates came from everywhere to celebrate. In the first three quarters he was his usual unflappable self in defence, using good hands and composure when in the back 50, laying some strong tackles, including one goal-saving one on Oliver Henry in the back pocket.
#4 Gennaro Bove
An aggressive small forward who tackled hard and managed two majors for the game was one of Geelong more impressive players across the course of the match. Bove burrows in and wins the footy, hunting the ball or the player with it, and kicked a goal from a 50m penalty in the first term, then a second one in the third term after working hard into space. He had a chance for a third prior to that conversion but sprayed it to the right.
#12 Noah Gribble
Held his own throughout the four quarters, winning early touches through flick handballs in close. He dropped into defence to help out his teammates, and was able to use the ball effectively under pressure. He had a flying shot on goal from the impossible angle against the boundary line in the second term, but missed. Gribble was clean around stoppages reading it well off the taps and got to the right positions. He also found himself in the middle of a few big tackles with little space to work with on the inside.
#37 Oliver Henry
Had a really strong first half before a quiet second half. He applied plenty of pressure to opposition defenders, and did well to win a one-on-one at ground level and keep the ball alive with the handball back into play. He took a great sliding mark inside 50 in the second term and converted the set shot – his only major for the low-scoring contest. Henry kept working hard and protected the ball drop with a mark a kick and a half out from goal, and almost had a highlight in the third term, dancing around an opponent but was run down from behind when trying to have a shot at goal.
#46 Henry Walsh
The dominant ruck on the ground, Walsh was too tall and held his ground well at the stoppages. He was quick with his hands to give it off to his running teammates, and while he did get caught flat footed once or twice, he had an influence at the stoppages, sometimes grabbing it out of the ruck. He had a shot on goal on one occasion but was mark deep in attack. Laid some strong tackles at ground level with good second efforts.
Calder Cannons vs. Western Jets
By: Ed Pascoe
#8 Sam Ramsay
Ramsay was the clear best player on the ground with his run and effort through the midfield a key factor in Calder winning the game. His slick ball movement by hand was a real feature, as was his willingness to take the game on. Ramsay had a complete performance in the midfield winning the ball on the inside and outside while also putting on pressure to lay eight tackles for the game. Ramsay finished the game with 31 disposals – the highest for anybody in the game and it could have been more if he didn’t cramp up in the last quarter, missing the last few minutes.
#26 Mason Fletcher
Fletcher started the game in defence, often tasked with the kickouts and showing his lovely kicking skills that are reminiscent of his famous father, Dustin. Fletcher was moved into he forward line during the third quarter which turned out to be a game-breaking move, where he would kick two goals to lead all-comers on the ground. His first goal came from a strong contested mark at the top of the square in the third quarter and his second came in the last quarter, taking a nice lead up mark coming from the back of a pack and kicking truly from 30 metres out. Fletcher finished the game with 11 disposals and four rebound 50s.
#3 Eddie Ford
Ford was the most dangerous forward for the Jets, proving a good option as a marking target and a player capable of creating something at ground level. Ford would only kick the one goal but how he kicked it was impressive – he lead up at the ball to take a mark and would win a free kick in that contest but he was quick to gather the loose ball and run to the 50 metre arc and slot a lovely running goal. Ford showed great aggression and agility throughout the game and finished with 21 disposals and the one goal.
#24 Josh Honey
Honey didn’t have the biggest game by his standards, failing to kick a goal and only finishing the game with 12 disposals, but he still showed his dynamic skill-set and was one of the Jets’ harder tacklers throughout the game. Honey had his best quarter in the third, getting more involved and tackling with intent. He had one huge tackle near the boundary that really caught the eye and it is that sort of intent when he doesn’t have the football that will make up for when he isn’t able to show his flash around goals. Honey also finished the game with five inside 50s showing his eagerness to attack and get the ball moving.