NEW South Wales/Australian Capital Territory (NSW/ACT) and Queensland Under 16s both picked up wins under lights at Metricon Stadium on Tuesday, with plenty of stand-out performers from each side. Michael Alvaro cast an eye over the two games, taking opinion-based notes on the outstanding players from all four teams.
NSW/ACT vs. Northern Territory
#1 Austin Ball (Sydney Swans Academy)
The diminutive forward caused headaches inside attacking 50, zipping around the arc and looking dangerous in spurts. Ball enjoyed a strong second term through midfield, coming into the game with a good clearing kick to find Louis Wilson and bursting out of the centre bounces at pace. He had the chance to hit the scoreboard after intercepting a kick-in but couldn’t finish, and missed another chance in the following term after a smart bit of crumbing inside 50. Has the traits to be influential, but couldn’t quite finish the job at all times, finishing with 12 disposals, three marks, two clearances, three inside 50s and 0.2.
#2 Byron Middleton (Sydney Swans Academy)
Busy in-close, Middleton did well to rack up 17 disposals (12 handballs), five tackles and five clearances in a solid outing for the Rams. He looked really clean below his knees, using his low centre on gravity to evade opponents once he had collected the ball and flicking it out to teammates on the run. One of his better moments was a neat kick inside 50 to Joshua Fahey in the second term after finding a bit of space, and he was productive all game.
#3 Will Sexton (GWS GIANTS Academy)
Another from NSW/ACT’s brigade of small and quick midfielders, Sexton was one of his side’s best and most consistent ball winners. He seemed to be everywhere at times, intercepting on defensive wing early on, gathering cleanly and brilliantly turning an opponent further a field shortly after, and winning plenty of ball around the stoppages. A pleasing part of Sexton’s game was his work rate, winning the ball up either end and tackling well to ease pressure on his defence. His bursting pace also came in handy when breaking forward, but Sexton sometimes lacked a touch of penetration by foot. Still a fantastic game with 19 disposals, six marks, five tackles, and a goal which came in the third term.
#4 Jordan Endemann (Sydney Swans Academy)
Endemann was a productive member of the Rams’ forward setup, looking dangerous with his 14 disposals, five marks and three inside 50s. Despite not hitting the scoreboard himself, Endemann was constantly looking to create with his forward movement, zipping around the forward 50 and delivering well short by foot. His sole behind for the game came after marking well out the back but missing the resultant set shot, with that finish product again dearly missed in the final term with another chance. Is quite raw, but had some really nice moments and was close to putting it all together.
#6 Felix Rogers (Sydney Swans Academy)
The rebounding small defender was a dangerous asset moving forward from the back half, possessing line-breaking speed and the willingness to take the game on. Rogers won an equal team-high 19 disposals, but it was his eight rebounds and three inside 50s that truly told the tale of his game – getting on the move with ball in hand and ending with a long kick. He also showed a handy knack for pin-pointing shorter options in the third term, finding Will Sexton well inside 50 to assist his set shot goal. Could also be a handy midfielder with his ability to crumb off hands, but is so valuable in that half-back slot as it is.
#22 Joshua Fahey (GWS GIANTS Academy)
While he ended up winning the ball at both ends, Fahey was initially sighted in defence – entrusted with a couple of early kick-ins and responsible for one of the more bizarre standings of the mark as he performed a crow-pleasing handstand. Fahey’s influence up the other end also came in the second term, with an errand set shot finding its way to Euriah Hollard to gift him a goal. It was a well-rounded display from Fahey between the arc, finishing with 17 disposals, five marks, three inside 50s and four rebound 50s.
#23 Matthew McKenzie (Sydney Swans Academy)
Not overly tall but was one of NSW/ACT’s bigger midfield bodies alongside Kai Watts, providing some good drive as he got on his bike and wheeled through the corridor. McKenzie’s clearing long kicks into space proved valuable, but he also showed good awareness in congestion to not always blaze away – instead handing out to better-placed teammates. The Swans Academy member also hit the scoreboard, converting a set shot in the second term and snapping home from the pocket in the fourth as he shifted into a forward role. He ended up being productive there, finding Sam Stening for a chance on goal and operating in space. He finished with an impactful 16 disposals (13 kicks), five tackles, three clearances, and two goals.
#24 Kai Watts (GWS GIANTS Academy)
Along with Matthew McKenzie, Watts was a terrific mover of the ball forward and also managed to hit the scoreboard. Watts was first sighted inside 50 when he marked deep from a short Jordan Endemann set shot and converted his opening goal, while later popping up to get on the end of another errand shot to crumb and snap truly in the third term. He won the first clearance of the final quarter on the move and another similar one shortly after, showing a quick first five steps and nice long kick. Watts ended with 16 disposals (14 kicks), six inside 50s and two goals in an important role through the midfield-forward rotation.
#25 Sam Stening (GWS GIANTS Academy)
The bookend quarters of Stening’s game were as good as anyones, proving an influential and flexible part of the NSW/ACT forward structure. Stening made a nice start with his beautiful kick to find Patrick Voss inside 50 and provide the resultant goal, while popping up again in the same term to show off his strong hands. His final quarter was the true standout though, again showing his sticky hands on the lead from centre half-forward and proving strong one-on-one. While he managed to boot his only goal of the game with a dribbler to seal the win late on, Stening could have finished with an incredible stat-line had he buried multiple other chances. He put a low shot on the run wide, hit the post with a later snap and missed from very close range with a snare off hands – finishing with 1.5 from his 19 disposals, five marks and seven inside 50s.
#26 Patrick Voss (GWS GIANTS Academy)
Voss started like a house on fire, booting all of his game-high four goals in the first half. Playing like a slender key forward at 190cm and 79kg, Voss positioned and led well inside attacking 50 to benefit fully from good delivery. He slotted a set shot for his first major in the opening term and played on quickly to snap his second shortly after. He made a good read to take a strong chest mark inside 50 in the following term and boot his third goal, later barrelling through traffic in the goalsquare to slam home a fourth in almost identical fashion to how his first two goals came. While Voss could not find the goals after that, he still had a couple of tough chances and looked a threat inside the dangerous Rams forward 50.
#5 Ariki Lowe (Federals)
The zippy midfielder matched up well on NSW/ACT’s smaller movers, but more importantly found a good amount of his own ball. He proved dangerous around the stoppages, keeping on the move and setting NT forward when he managed to claim possession. After missing a snap earlier in the second term, Lowe quickly made amends with a better finish in similar fashion, going on to impact around the ball. Finished with 13 disposals, four tackles, two clearances and 1.2.
#11 Mark White (Wanderers)
One who didn’t win mountains of possessions but made them count with his work forward of centre. White applied good pressure early but was a little shaky himself with tacklers oncoming, gaining confidence with a nice one-on-one mark inside 50 and set shot goal. The Wanderers product was dangerous from then, on, dinking a clever checkside to Jamie Jones to set up his goal to finish an influential first term. White went on to have fewer highlights as the game wore on, but popped up with a smart bit of play in the third quarter – knowing he could not make the distance after falling short with a couple of shots from around 45 metres, and taking on the man on the mark to finish well from closer in. Looks a crafty type forward of centre and had some nice moments.
#14 Riley Stone (Palmerston)
Was a good accumulator on the wing with his outside movement and ability to penetrate both arcs. Went about his business with little fuss but influenced the play between the 50s, finishing with 16 disposals, three marks, three tackles, two inside 50s and three rebound 50s in an well-rounded outing.
#16 Antonio James (Darwin)
The nuggety defender was as solid as anyone down back, doing the defensive things well while also providing some valuable attack from the defensive 50. While he seemed to attract the ball, James also worked hard to make the play from defence – making a terrific spoil, laying hard tackles and kicking well down the line to clear the area. Laid another important tackle in the final term to prevent a Patrick Voss shot, and was importantly one of the NT’s best in their two scoreless quarters.
#17 Jaden Watts (Palmerston)
A dynamic yet light-on mover, Watts made a profound impact going forward. He started off working up the ground to provide a link into attacking 50, and added a bonus goal in the first term with a shrewd steal and finish on the move. While he was important on the attack, Watts also did well to follow up his work, and laid an impressive tackle in the second term after spilling the initial marking attempt. Went on to get reward for his tackling in the following quarter, and was rewarded for his overall effort with a goal later in the same term with a set shot goal after the siren. Has a good amount of spring and does some nice things going both ways, bringing some spark to the game.
#24 Jason Baird (Palmerston)
Baird made a fantastic start in the forward half, leading up well into the corridor to mark, sending a beautiful kick inside 50 to assist Jamie Jones’ goal and just falling short with his own set shot attempt in a solid opening term. His ability to find space was uncanny and he worked well in it, later moving into the midfield to impact the stoppages with his constant movement and create via a willingness to deliver inboard from wide areas. Gets in dangerous areas and influences the play, ending up with 16 disposals (14 kicks), five marks, two clearances and six inside 50s.
#28 Brody Lake (Peel Thunder/Southern Districts)
The Southern Districts midfielder was far and away NT’s best throughout the game, collecting a game-high 26 disposals, seven marks, five tackles, eight clearances, four inside 50s and two goals in an incredible outing. He built into the game beautifully, using his height to get up well in marking contests and holding firm in one-on-one contests, all the while accumulating possessions. Lake really came to life in the second half though, bursting from stoppages to earn clearances while also kicking two quality goals in the third term. The first came after shrugging off his opponent and snapping truly, with the next coming off the back of a strong pack mark against two opponents as NT mounted a come-back. He went on to continually have a say in the game with his possessions, and was a real standout.
#30 Tyrell Lui (Wanderers)
Lui started well in the midfield, breaking away with an early clearance and showing a good mix of strength and evasion in those situations. He went on to win a wealth of clearances (game-high nine), and had the same kind of impact around the ground despite sending a long-range set shot sprayed out on the full. Still, had 18 important disposals from midfield and produced seven inside 50s with his long balls out of congestion. Also managed to find the goals in the third term to cap off a solid game.
Tasmania vs. Queensland:
#2 Baynen Lowe (Devonport)
Did all of the hard stuff through midfield in a very well rounded game, ending with 20 disposals, nine tackles, eight clearances, and four inside 50s. He looked lively in bursts with his speed from the contest, latching onto the ball quickly at stoppages to have an influence there. Lowe was one who had a few very good chances to put pressure on Queensland via the scoreboard, but only managed the one goal. He had an early checkside shot miss after marking a wayward Sam Sherriff shot inside 50, missed another set shot in the second term, but eventually made amends for both with a snap in the final quarter to cap off his game.
#3 Darcy Gardner (Clarence)
Another smaller player with good breaking speed, Gardner showed it off early with a nice passage through traffic which he ended with a kick. Did well to get back and win the ball around defensive wing to clear the danger and push forward with more long balls forward, and had the chance to hit the scoreboard late in the game with a fortunate in-the-back free kick which he couldn’t quite put away. Had a solid 14 disposals, nine tackles and five clearances.
#5 George McLeod (North Hobart)
Is quite light-on, so enjoyed some of the space he was afforded to receive on the outside of stoppages and send Tasmania into attack with six inside 50 entries. That outside recieving proved damaging as McLeod got on the end of a handball and slammed home a nice goal on the run. McLeod was also given another chance to find the goals on the back of a later 50-metre penalty, but could only boot the ball into the post. Much of his game consisted of getting the ball in space and kicking long, finishing with 18 disposals (14 kicks) and 1.2.
#9 Sam Sherriff (Launceston)
Sherriff popped up early with a strong mark deep inside 50 from a long ball in but sprayed the resultant shot, going on to get another opportunity in the same term as one who positioned well in attack in the opening stages. He made up for two earlier missed with a fantastic chase down tackle and goal in the following term, going on to find a good amount of possession around the ground to finish with 12 disposals, three marks and a goal.
#10 Samuel Banks (Clarence)
Caught the eye straight off the bat with a booming kick forward off the back of the first centre bounce, and continued on in similar fashion throughout the day to have a team-high 21 disposals (19 kicks) and eight inside 50s. He also hit the ground running straight after half time with a streaming clearance and long kick forward, which was a part of his game that featured most prominently. Put in a solid shift and possesses qualities which are easy on the eye.
#16 Dominic White (North Hobart)
Was a really calm and reliable figure down back, first coming into the game with a mark on the last line to show good positioning. With his helmet clipped on, White was solid in the air and efficient with his short kicking game out of defence, clearing danger with no frills fuss. Did not have massive numbers with 14 disposals and four marks, but hardly put a foot wrong with his touches.
#21 Zac Morris (East Launceston/Launceston)
Morris was one who warmed into the game slowly, but had a really influential fourth quarter and seemed to be everywhere. Earlier, he first appeared with a good couple of pressure acts and tackles in the second term, earning a free kick for one of them. He came back into the game late on with his leads up to half-forward and strong hands to mark on two occasions, getting on the end of some good service by presenting in the right areas. Had the chance to trouble the scorers after intercepting a kick-in but fell short with the shot, finishing with 14 disposals, four marks, six tackles, and three inside 50s in a hard-working display.
#3 Daniel Lanthois (Brisbane Lions Academy)
Was a strong inside ball winner throughout the match, digging in at the stoppages with some tough work going both ways. Lanthois well around the ground for 18 disposals, 11 tackles, seven clearances and four inside 50s. His clearance work and ability to prize the ball out despite his frame was effective, and he even showed a good bit of poise to lower his eyes early on and hit up a teammate laterally. Lanthois’ game was one of accumulation, and he proved to be as consistent as anyone across the ground while pitching in with solid tackling work.
#6 Austin Harris (Gold Coast Suns Academy)
Led well with team-highs in disposals (19) and marks (seven), working hard around the ground to provide good run and produce lateral short kicks. His use from the corridor was particularly noticeable, but like Lanthois, Harris was one who just seemed to be everywhere with his accumulative possessions and put in a really hard-working shift for the Maroons.
#24 Ethan Kerr (Brisbane Lions Academy)
Kerr first popped up with a long rebounding kick from a kick-in, and it truly set the tone for his 18 disposal, five mark and six rebound 50 effort. The Lions Academy member proved to be a calm user of the ball, often opting for long kicks to clear his lines and potential danger. It was a relatively all-round performance from Kerr, and he should be a solid contributor coming into Round 3.
#25 Bodhi Uwland (Gold Coast Suns Academy)
Another who ran well through the midfield, Uwland was a strong figure in the engine room as a point of difference to the wealth of fleet footed runners going around. He was a big ball winner around the contest, applying big tackles, standing up in them, and trying to pry his way through the congestion. His standout moment came in the final term with a courageous mark with opponents in his eyeline, which broke up an early Tasmanian push. Uwland finished with a serviceable 14 disposals, three marks, four tackles and six inside 50s.
#28 Jye Lockett (Gold Coast Suns Academy)
Lockett was one of a few big bodies for Queensland in the forward half, but made plays of a smaller unit with some work in the first term. He kicked Queensland’s first goal of the game with a snap and missed another shortly after, with not much to do until he popped up again in the third term with his second goal to finish a nice passage of play from the Maroons. Finished as a danger up forward, and had 12 disposals, three marks and two goals across the day.
#32 Noah McFadyen (Brisbane Lions Academy)
Another McFadyen to come through the Lions Academy program, Noah has been a useful forward target for Queensland as a strong unit inside 50. First caught attention with his opening goal from a set shot in the second term, making it two in quick succession with a quick snap to give Queensland some breathing space. While he didn’t have a big game numbers-wise, but had some nice moments and read the play well with his leads up to half forward.
#37 Will Bella (Gold Coast Suns Academy)
Would have to be one of the biggest 16-year-olds to have gone through the carnival at 194cm and 100kg, and while he used his frame well throughout, proved to be more than just a brute. Kicked his first of three goals with a long-range set shot in the second term, benefitted from a down-field free kick in the following term to convert from a tight angle, and booting his third after a holding free kick in the final term. Bella led up and marked well to add to his clinical conversion rate, having a bigger impact than his 10-disposal game would suggest.