WITH top-end talent and some of the best Under 16 performers trickling into the NAB League, there were plenty of standouts across Round 14’s action. We cast an eye on each game, highlighting the performances of representative squad members and some exciting under-agers. All notes are the opinion of the individual writer.
Gippsland Power vs. Tasmania Devils
By: Peter Williams
#4 Sam Flanders
Had a typical big impact around the ground, winning a number of quick handball in contested situations and using his power to burst away. He had a quick snap early in the game but it was marked on the line, but capitalised on a set shot late in the match from 20m out. He read the taps well from his rucks and had a great running shot – though offline but looked good technically bursting through a stoppage in the third term. He fended off an opponent on the wing at one stage and was too strong in the clinches.
#6 Riley Baldi
Winning a lot of the footy early, showing clean hands but rushed kicks at times. Still involved and was one of the muddiest players on the day with and finished the game with a great goal in the dying minutes from a tight angle. He had a flying shot on goal midway through the third term but missed, and his highlight earlier in the match was an intercept mark at half-forward.
#12 Brock Smith
Had a big game after a few errors with his disposal early but his defensive work was top notch. His intercept marking saved a number of goals throughout the match as he patrolled the half-back line. He then snuck forward twice in the final term to kick a couple of cheeky ones himself to ice the game for his side. Time and time again he would spoil or drop back into the hole and mark in defensive 50 and just settle down the team, overcoming some earlier mistakes with his disposal to be really clean in the second half, barely missing a target.
#15 Ryan Sparkes
Had a massive first term picking up double-digit disposals being everywhere for the Power, zipping around the contest. Had a quieter game after that, but still had some nice moments. Won a 50m penalty at half-back and had a shot on goal from forward 50 but rushed it a bit as he did after winning a free at half-forward and kicking inside 50. Also offered himself as an option around the ground and was just solid.
#16 Josh Smith
A dominant big man up forward, booting three goals and should have had a couple more with two posters from gettable shots. He continued to lead out throughout the game, booting his first goal from a tight angle just inside 50, and then his second from 25m out after a downfield free in the second quarter. His third came on the edge of half-time to hand the Power a nine-point lead. His two shots that hit the post came in the second half with one running around from the boundary and another from a set shot straight in front. Presented well throughout and caused headaches for the opposition.
#17 Charlie Comben
Best on ground for mine for his work rate and ability to have an impact in the middle or up forward. He showed good hands under pressure, a terrific leap and able to finish off his work in front of goal. He finished with three majors, but like Smith could have had more, hitting the post from a gettable shot. His first goal was a tight angle set shot from the boundary, and then took a towering mark in the goal square over a smaller opponent in the third term and put it through after he had hit the post from the same angle but slightly further out just moments earlier. Less than 30 seconds into the final term, Comben booted the goal of the day from the boundary on the run and put in motion Gippsland’s big final quarter. His ruck work was first class, with the only concern in his game coming late when he hit his head hard and had to be helped off in a neck brace with just two minutes left on the clock.
#19 Fraser Phillips
Was okay without being outstanding, having a few nice plays around the ground. Often pushed up to the wing and won some touches up the ground, and used the ball well when having time and space. There were a couple of moments where he did a bit too much, getting caught after trying to shake off a tackler, but he stood up late in the game to kick the sealer and put his team 30 points up early in the fourth. He almost had a highlight reel moment running hard in the final term, getting caught and receiving it back but then rushing the shot on goal and hitting the behind post.
#3 Oliver Davis
Worked really hard in the first term winning a number of touches in close and getting it out to runners on the outside. He had a lovely kick under pressure on the wing to hit up a teammate close to the line. Had a quieter second half but was still present around the ground.
#4 Will Peppin
A touch of class in the forward half, winning a great hardball get under pressure in defensive 50 and getting it out to a teammate, then put his side back in front in the second term booting a running goal from 30m. Has good skills by hand or foot in wet conditions underfoot.
#7 Matt McGuinness
Absolutely unbelievable considering his stats sheet might not look as impressive as past weeks, but he was everywhere. His impact across the ground was influential, kicking a goal early in the game in the second term when they needed someone to stand up, and then had an impact in the middle. Stayed in defence in the second half, saved multiple goals from run-down tackles and then took a number of intercept marks – including a brave grab right in front of the leading Josh Smith. He continually ran back to help out his defence and then dropped into the hole, creating run and carry out of defence. He was best-on for Tasmania in my eyes, playing a crucial role on the day.
#8 Jake Steele
Similar to McGuinness, Steele was enormous in defence, not winning a heap of it, but doing the defensive things right. He marked or found the ball on the last line, lapping it up with clean hands and disposing of it well out of defence. He showed great defensive work to cleanly grab the ball first touch and get it away so a spill could not cause a goal to the opposition. The next moment he punched a ball across the line to save a shot on goal.
#13 Sam Collins
Showed some promising signs, booting Tasmania’s fifth goal midway through the second term after a 50m penalty to put them nine points up. He had a powerful clearance out of the middle not long after and provided a marking target around the ground for his side.
Eastern Ranges vs. Oakleigh Chargers
By: Peter Williams
#7 Lachlan Stapleton
Was one of Eastern’s best throughout the day, particularly early on when the Ranges got going in the first term. Stapleton showed good evasion at half-back to evade a would-be tackler and keep the ball moving, running hard around the ground to win the footy. He had a terrific long left foot kick to the middle of the forward 50 and showed courage in the second term to fly back and have an impact on an aerial contest in defence and force a behind from a shot on goal. Continued to apply great defensive pressure as well as clean hands in close.
#20 Connor Downie
Does not need to win much of it to win an impact, but seemed to do some nice things in each quarter of the game. He had a clean pick-up early in the match to kick long inside 50 to set uo Jordan Jaworski for his second goal of the day midway through the first term. He has a lovely kicking technique and just makes things happen when going inside 50, showing class.
#23 Zak Pretty
Another solid game from the inside midfielder who like Stapleton, would drop back into defence and help out. He is a quick thinker who reacts to a loose ball quicker than most and was able to rack up a number of clearances and get the ball forward. Pretty worked hard on the inside and was able to fire out handballs to running midfielders on the outside.
#46 Tyreece Leiu
Just the three touches on debut but you can tell he has that bit of X-factor because his first kick was a lovely low dart delivery into a teammate leading out. He then won a free kick for a great tackle inside 50 in the first term and kicked truly for a great goal from the set shot.
#52 Tyler Sonsie
Like Leiu not huge disposal numbers but made his presence felt with some nice ball use around the ground on debut. He showed great vision to use the ball effectively by foot and was a quick thinker with ball-in-hand, not panicking under pressure.
#5 Trent Bianco
Best on ground in the Chargers’ win and was absolutely sensational throughout the four quarters. No one went near him in the first term as he racked up seven touches in eight minutes then had to have a spell from suffering leather poisoning. He used his touch of class to keep the ball moving quickly, repelling from half-back to half-forward, and showed strength in the second term, shaking off a would-be tackler and kicked well down the ground whilst under pressure. He showed his class and was a rock in defence, dropping back into the hole and marking time and time again, mopping up for the Chargers and repelling opposition defence. He took a crucial intercept mark in the last minute to slow the play down when Eastern was attacking.
#6 Jeromy Lucas
An unheralded effort in the midfield, Lucas won a truckload of the ball around the stoppages, firing off quick handballs to rack up 15 disposals and in the first half and keep his side moving down the ground. He predominantly won the footy in the middle and was spreading out to the wings to provide and option and break up the play with short, sharp disposals. Won a massive one-on-one in the middle in the final term when Oakleigh was charging forward to stop Eastern from starting a counter attack.
#9 Will Phillips
The bottom-ager was ever-present in the midfield using his strength and power to move through stoppages and try and get the ball free to teammates on the outside. His kick-to-handball ratio was even this week which was important given his role is often handball-friendly. In this game Phillips was able to gain some separation on his opponents and kick the ball long, having a flying shot on goal early in the game but missing to the right, and later was able to fire away a quick handball to draw a second opponent and give his teammate a free run through the middle unimpeded.
#23 Dylan Williams
The stats do not tell the full story because Williams played an important role and looked ever dangerous inside 50. His biggest moment came when he kicked the sealing goal late in the game, dribbling it home from the pocket after working his opponent under the ball and goaling. His bodywork to win a one-on-two contest in the first term in the forward pocket was important, and not long after he intercepted a handball inside 50 but missed to the left with his shot. He missed another chance in the second term to the left, but then set up a teammate with a perfect kick to a leading target inside 50. He booted his first goal with a great set shot late in the second term to put his side in front and showed class with deft touches that might not count as a disposal, but were crucial in keeping the ball live at times and his teammates in contention to score.
#73 Cooper Sharman
Has a bit of the Sam Sturt’s about him in the sense that he looks raw, but very exciting. After turning his first kick over, Sharman used the ball effectively pushing up to the wing and then doubling back inside 50, finishing with four goals, all from general play. He has great special awareness and vision to be able to hit-up targets off very little time and space, and can do damage with ball in hand in the forward half. A creative player who can also hit the scoreboard, and took a great towering mark despite front-on contact friendly fire in the third term. Clean and classy, and has the composure not to blaze away, and rather set up teammates forward of the ball.
Sandringham Dragons vs. Dandenong Stingrays
By: Joe Lee
#5 Ryan Byrnes
The tough midfielder was again at his damaging best, putting in another consistent effort for the Dragons, rounded out by 24 disposals, seven tackles and six inside 50s. Byrnes’ body of work over the year is placing him as one of the most consistent players in the draft pool and rarely plays a bad game. Drove Sandringham’s midfield alongside Hanrahan and was a reason the Dragons prevailed.
#15 Angus Hanrahan
The wingman was one of the dominant players of the round, capping off a superb performance with 35 disposals, 14 marks, eight rebound 50s and a classy goal. Was absolutely everywhere in the first half, racking up 22 touches and ball-winning showcased a ball winning ability that hasn’t been seen until now. His recent VFL experience with Sandringham was showcased, and Hanrahan looked a class above his peers, using his speed, electric ball use and smarts to great effect.
#29 Fischer McAsey
The backman’s draft stocks continue to rise on the back of another sound performance, this time up forward for the Dragons. Used as an intercepting key defender for Vic Metro in the Championships, McAsey slotted three goals for the day in a display that highlighted his around the ground capabilities. Had a consistent aerial presence all day and looked threatening as a forward, finishing with 10 marks and generating strong lead patterns and worked well with the smaller forwards. Took a fantastic pack mark from an errant entry in the first quarter, eventually going back and slotting the shot from 40m out. Started the third quarter on fire, slamming home 2.1 which was testimony of his ability to be a game breaker for the Dragons.
#2 Hayden Young
The potential top 10 pick was capped off another sound performance with 24 disposals, five rebounds and five inside 50s. Gave Dandenong life in the last quarter, slotting a long-range goal on the run to put them 21 points down and mount a late surge. Young’s disposal efficiency is what separates him from other midfielders and combing this with his pace, which was on show today, makes him a compelling prospect. Outbodied his Sandringham opponent in the second quarter to take a good contested mark, only to miss the straight forward shot which would have been disappointed him.
#11 Ned Cahill
Played a role further up the ground to win the bulk of his touches in the contest. He won a number of clearances and whilst his kicking was rushed at times, showed versatility in playing through the midfield. Cahill had the most centre clearances of any player on the field, and while his greatest impact is inside 50, no doubt his ability to move through an inside role would have been a big tick for those watching on.
#20 Sam De Koning
The agile big man was solid for the Stingrays with 15 disposals and four rebounds. Playing in a largely defensive role, De Koning did not spend much time in the ruck for the game. Moves well for a big man and has good skills for a 200cm athlete.
Murray Bushrangers vs. Northern Knights
By: Scott Dougan
#5 Cam Wild
Wild’s work-rate remained consistently high and he did his best to provide plenty of run and carry through the middle of the ground. He was a bit rushed with his disposal at times, but he always got the ball moving forward. Although he did not have the biggest game possession-wise, but still caught the eye with his pressure around the contest
#12 Lachlan Ash
Ash started the match up forward and was involved in the first passage of play inside 50. After the Bushrangers fell 30 points behind in the first term, it was Ash who stood up for the home side, with a terrific 50m goal after the quarter-time siren. He moved into the guts in the second term and was very dangerous with ball in hand. His speed also came in handy around the ground, constantly finding a way to escape congestion, finding space in areas that he should not have been allowed. Ash kicked his second goal of the game in the fourth quarter after tucking the ball under his arm and burning off his opponent with his electric speed through the middle of the ground. He was the Bushrangers’ best midfielder on the day and was impressive yet again, finishing with over 20 disposals and two goals.
#14 Jye Chalcraft
Chalcraft is a genuine in-and-under, fierce footballer. He has a good burst of speed and always seems to have a big impact both defensively and offensively – especially when he has minutes through the midfield. He was involved in the first scoring play of the second term when he drove a long ball inside 50 from a centre clearance. Chalcraft was able to use his strength to his advantage on the day, breaking numerous tackles before disposing of the ball by hand to his teammates on the outside. Just love the way he goes about his footy.
#19 Jimmy Boyer
Kicked a crumbing goal in the first 30 seconds of the second term, which swung the momentum of the game back in the Bushranger’s favour. He played in all areas of the ground, showcasing that he can have an impact in any position he’s instructed to play in. Ball-use was again a highlight of his game, along with his speed and vision. Another consistent performance from Boyer, finishing with 20 disposals and one goal.
#20 Elijah Hollands
Hollands played through the Bushrangers’ midfield, as well as up forward where he was a regular target. Hollands had a big impact early on when he spoiled a marking contest after a poor kick-in from the Knights, resulting in Murray’s first goal of the game. He had an electric 10 or so minutes in the first term, where he provided spark and x-factor around the contest. Holland’s forward craft is one of his best attributes and it was evident during the match, with the talented bottom-ager finding plenty of space across half-forward.
#4 Jackson Davies
Davies played across half-back and was immediately involved when he took a nice intercept mark from a ball delivered inside 50 by the Bushrangers. He was reliable with ball in hand and was very patient before making his final decision by foot. Davies controlled the backline on the day and did what he pleased. He played loose and was able to set up plenty of effective passages of play from behind. Intercept marking was a real standout. Davies had a game-high 15 marks.
#5 Josh D’Intinosante
D’Intinosante presented strongly, booting his first major of the day after a brilliant kick from 45m out. He was able to use his speed to break away from his opponent before successfully kicking his second goal of the quarter. D’Intinosante had his third goal of the quarter after crumbing a marking contest perfectly and then dribbling through an easy goal. Just 30 seconds later, D’Intinosante snapped his fourth of the quarter from a tight angle. It was one of the best first-quarter performances of the year and the Bushrangers seemed to have no way of stopping the electric forward. He was awarded a free-kick in the forward pocket at the beginning of the second quarter and once again, converted his set-shot. He had five goals in half an hour of footy! He was a little quieter in the second half, but his first two quarters cannot go unrecognised. One of the main reasons the Knights got the four points.
#11 Ryan Sturgess
Sturgess was involved in the first goal for the Knights when he handballed it to teammate Anthony O’Sullivan in open space, who then went on to dribble the ball through the big sticks. He competed strongly in the air, taking nine marks on for the match. Sturgess had three shots on goal but only ended up with one major. However, Sturgess definitely showed off his versatility by having an impact at both ends of the ground. A really good game where his reading of the play and sticky hands were on display.
Bendigo Pioneers vs. Calder Cannons
By: Michael Alvaro
#19 Ben Worme
It was a solid outing from Worme, performing his usual role off half-back and serving reliably. He linked up well early with fellow flanker James Schischka, often kicking away on the outside. He accumulated well in important areas, and began to take the game on more as it wore on. That culminated in a big run forward to get the hand-off at half-forward and slam home a goal on the run. You know what you are going to get from Worme, and he has enjoyed a consistent month.
#20 James Schischka
The Pioneers’ defensive mainstay endured an up and down day, involved in the action but unable to get his usual running game going and selling teammates into trouble by hand at times. Still, Schischka was strong in one-on-one duels across half-back and showed better composure when running off the last line, competing well both in the air and on ground level. His game could be summed up with one of his last plays in the final term, where he made a terrific tackle to win the ball on the defensive arc, but wheeled around and turned the ball straight over to gift Calder a goal.
#22 Josh Treacy
The enigmatic tall made a good return to the Bendigo side, playing a strong hand in a few different roles. Starting forward, Treacy used his frame to edge his opponent under the ball one-on-one while also hitting up well on the lead. He was not afraid to throw his weight around at ground level either, running straight through an opponent after making a handy spoil from behind on the wing. His timing on the lead when Bendigo broke from stoppages continued to prove smart, and he would eventually make amends for a couple of earlier set shot misses with a free kick goal in the final term. Also popped up with some marks in defensive 50, rucked up forward, and was even thrown on-ball at a centre bounce.
#26 Noah Walsh
Has come into the side in the middle period of the season and provided a bit of spark, this time through midfield and up forward. Donning his helmet, Walsh buzzed around at ground level to win the ball cleanly in congestion, showing good tenacity going both ways. The bottom-ager read the taps well, with one snare resulting in a goal from a forward stoppage in the third term. He would go on to play a bit more forward, hitting up and marking strongly on a couple of occasions, while lowering his eyes well to find targets when running from further afield.
#38 Brady Rowles
Rowles again popped up in patches with glimpses of his eye-catching dash through the middle. While he found the going tough around the ball with a few fumbles, the Vic Country representative fared better when receiving on the outer and being given the license to put his foot down. He made a couple of those typical daring sprints through the corridor in the second half, with one almost leading to a Pioneers goal.
#1 Daniel Mott
It was a steady return for the leading Calder prospect, playing as a constant through midfield. He was often first to the drop of the ball at stoppages, but was also pushed under the rucks at times which hampered his ability to find the pill. When he did latch onto it, Mott’s hands out of traffic were terrific, drawing opponents and dishing off to runners to good effect. Mott also began to get on his bike as the game went on, stringing a nice one-two play together from the centre bounce to go inside 50 and getting a couple of handball receives as we’re used to seeing.
#3 Jackson Cardillo
The bottom-ager was tenacious in the contest, accumulating throughout the day and stringing together clearing kicks. His tackling intent was shown in the second term, giving away an overzealous high free kick but following it up with a holding the ball tackle as Bendigo played on. Cardillo also fared well when used up forward, finding space inside 50 on the back of a turnover to mark and goal, while also improvising a kick to assist a Jake Sutton goal as he gathered on the move. Really rate his aggression and willingness to break tackles.
#8 Sam Ramsay
Ramsay has strung together a massive three weeks in terms of ball-winning, racking it up through midfield and adding strings to his bow. He started off with a couple of nice handballs out from stoppages before providing his more typical ploy of wheeling away from traffic onto his left side and thumping the ball forward. He worked tirelessly to do so repeatedly throughout the game, hardly losing pace and penetration by foot. Ramsay also lowered his eyes well to find Harrison Jones and Samuel Paea on the lead on the end of his runs, showcasing that outside class he provided off half-back earlier in the year. Capped off his game with a goal from close range after finding space inside 50.
#21 Harrison Jones
While he is yet to truly tear a game apart, Jones certainly looks like he has the potential to do so. In his first Cannons outing since Round 3, Jones moved well to get separation on the lead – starting with a mark and set shot goal from 40m in the first term. His work up the ground was handy, plucking a nice grab up on the wing in the following term and tackling well to follow up a pass which had fallen well short of him. Jones added a second after reading the ball well in flight to mark from the side deep inside 50 and slot home the resultant shot.
#29 Campbell Edwardes
The bottom-ager is a dynamic type, this time playing on the wing and again proving clean in the air, off the deck, and in disposal. He does not win massive amounts of ball, but Edwardes catches the eye with most of his touches, starting with a nicely judged mark from behind his opponent inside 50 and slotting Calder’s first goal of the game. He popped up again in the first term with a clean pick up and fend off, going on to provide a presence at ground level with pressure and tackling. Edwardes also positioned well behind the ball when Calder entered attacking 50, taking an intercept mark in the second term to lock the ball in, but would somewhat fade out of the game.
#38 Brodie Newman
Another to return from Vic Metro duties, Newman was solid in his usual defensive post. He immediately got back into the rhythm of intercepting and rebounding, but did get himself into trouble early on as he looked to load up on his right side with limited room. Newman’s positioning and reading of the play was good, playing like a key back while also getting on his bike with ball in hand. Will be important in the back-end of Calder’s season.
Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
By: Michael Alvaro
#6 Archie Hilderbrandt
Proved a handy addition in his first game since Round 9, keeping busy wherever her went. The bottom-ager started forward and was involved at the fall of the ball in Geelong’s front half, while also working hard to get out the back and in space on the counter. Hilderbrandt thought he had a goal in the second term but his snap was touched off the boot, and he later moved into the midfield where he got on the end of some deft Henry Walsh taps to break from congestion at speed – twice at the centre bounces.
#12 Noah Gribble
Has now put together a consistent few weeks, with this arguably his best outing for the season. Gribble came into the game early with some work down back, including a good couple of flies to intercept in defensive 50. He went on to win a good mix of ball at ground level on the outer of stoppages, as well as in general play. The bottom-ager was a constant accumulator and swept up well wherever he went, eventually finding his way into the back half again to help out in sweeping the ball away with some carry.
#36 Charlie Sprague
The shining light up forward for Geelong, Sprague booted his side’s first two goals of the game in an important second term effort. As a more mature body, the over-ager was strong in one-on-one contests – working well to mark up the ground and stand tall deep inside 50. His first goal came after reading the ball best from the back and marking, going on to convert the set shot. His second would come in a similar fashion, bustling through from behind another two opponents to mark and goal. He missed a couple more chances and had one touched off the boot, but Sprague would cap his day with a well finished snap after spilling the mark in the final term. Now has three-consecutive three-goal hauls in the NAB League.
#40 Jesse Clark
Returning to the side after a solid campaign for Vic Country, Clark assumed his usual role in patrolling defensive 50. The Geelong co-captain was a constant outlet option in the back half and used the ball well by foot despite not always breaching the GWV press. He would go on to station himself further afield to lock the ball in Geelong’s front half and did so to good effect before popping up again in defensive 50 as he looked to create early in the final term.
#53 Cameron Fleeton
Fleeton is another bottom-ager the Falcons staff are high on, and he continues to put his hand up in an intercepting role across half-back. His early work included a few repelling kicks as GWV made a quick start, before eventually getting his aerial game going. Fleeton positioned well on the wing to intercept a long Rebels ball forward in the second term, repeating the act with a terrific pack mark to show his clean hands and reading of the ball in flight. Looks to have been a good find in the middle-part of the year.
#3 Toby Mahony
It was a handball-happy game from Mahony, who made most of his impact around the stoppages. His handballs to teammates on the outside proved handy time and time again, using rare vision and clean use to create passages forward for others. Mahony also caught the eye with a couple of neat pieces of evasion, shrugging off and turning his opponents shortly after gathering the loose ball on the move. Was a constant through midfield, adding some class but not collecting massive numbers.
#7 Mitch Martin
The forward/midfielder continues to find both the ball and the goals, proving a dangerous mover as the game wore on. Martin created a bit of spark with a couple of handball chains on the outside, carving up the wing and releasing long by foot. His work forward was also handy, finding separation on the lead just inside 50 and booting his first goal just before half time. His second came in the final term as he got out the back at half-forward before marking and coolly finishing on the run from 45m. Was another to add quality to an end-to-end game.
#13 Jay Rantall
Continuing his role as a centre bounce constant, Rantall was superb when latching onto the ball on the forward side of the stoppages. Did not end up with the big numbers we have become used to, but made each one count this time around with some deft handballs and booting a couple of sensational goals. His first was a classy finish from 50m on the run after arching his back to burn an opponent, and the second was another nice finish at full flight from closer in. Is a steady riser and arguably the Rebels’ best.
#41 Fraser Marris
The bottom-ager was solid forward of centre, pitching in with a couple of nice touches in the first term. One was a set shot goal after earning a free kick inside 50, and another was a strong mark overhead. Marris showed similar form to intercept one-on-one on the wing in the second term, while also bursting aggressively through traffic. He paired that aggression with a neat kick to Mitch Martin inside 50, assisting his goal.
#45 Josh Rentsch
The Under 16 Vic Country representative showed promise on his NAB League debut, thrown straight into the ruck before spending most of his time up forward. While he did not find the goals, Rentsch almost did just that from a shot off the deck after a strong bit of bodywork one-out in the square. He went on to find space well up on half-forward and had a particularly clean half-volley take in the last term to show his athleticism.