TWO of four games being played between the bottom-four sides did not stop a good amount of talent from shining through in Round 16 of the NAB League. We cast an eye over each match, highlighting the performances of representative squad members, as well as impressive under and over-agers, with our notes the opinion of each individual writer.
Oakleigh Chargers vs. Western Jets
By: Peter Williams
#6 Jeromy Lucas
Played an important role through the midfield to be a key cog in linking up the defence through to attack. He worked hard defensively to support the Chargers’ back six and was composed when providing an option and moving the ball off half-back, whilst applying plenty of defensive pressure around the stoppages. He had a number of important inside 50s, but finished off his own work with a good running goal in the third term after running hard to find space 40m out and converting the set shot from straight in front.
#12 Lochlan Jenkins
The small bottom-aged midfielder won the ball with ease throughout the match, having a big influence around the stoppages and then spreading to the outside to set up attacking plays. He had a massive 10 inside 50s, and along with Reef McInnes, provided the link from midfield to the forward line. He not only had some nice attacking plays, but laid a number of strong tackles, accumulating the ball by winning it himself and winning it back from the opposition.
#39 Reef McInnes
One of Oakleigh’s best and was a bigger body in terms of height in the midfield for the Chargers. He had a massive first term and was strong throughout the game, putting together a nice four-quarter effort. The Collingwood Next Generation Academy bottom-ager looked good around the clearances, winning a number of big clearances from in close, and set up scoring opportunities with nice kicks inside 50. He is able to get his hands free when tackles and had a shot on goal in the first term but his kick was rushed and it went to the left. McInnes showed good decision making ability when in congestion, picking the right option when handballing clear and stood tall against a number of opponents.
#72 Alex Lukic
Built on his recent debut with an even improved performance. The tall 16-year-old seemed more like a small with his ability to crumb the ball, kicking the easiest of goals after a free kick and play on by a teammate found him alone at the top of the the square in the first term, then kicked another later on from a tight angle to put it straight through in general play.
#73 Cooper Sharman
Continued his great form with more exciting moments, showing off his terrific vertical leap and clean set shot routine. He missed his first chance to the right – his first set shot miss in four games, but then converted his first opportunity from a 30m set shot on a slight angle in the second term. Sharman’s defensive pressure was noticeably up compared to his other matches, working on that area of his game, laying a great tackle in the back pocket in the second term as an example. He was strong and clean overhead, taking a great mark in front of Emerson Jeka in the third term and converting the set shot from 40m out. He did lose a one-on-one against a smaller but stronger opponent shortly after showing an area of improvement, but again had some really eye-catching moments in the game.
#3 Eddie Ford
The bottom-age forward reads the play well and times his marks, almost providing another massive highlight as he had at the Victorian trials at Ikon Park, but could not quite bring it down. He wanted to keep the ball moving at every opportunity, playing on and getting it deep into attack. Ford set up a goal to Billy Cootee with a quick handball out of congestion to his teammate free in space for a great goal. He had a chance himself earlier in the game but was dragged down and his shot went to the right.
#7 Daly Andrews
Tried hard throughout the four quarters and managed to win the ball in all thirds of the ground. He occasionally would rush kicks to get it out of the danger zone, or have a flying shot on goal such as he did in the first term, but was dragged down as he kicked it. His long raking kick was used to effect to put the ball inside 50 on a number of occasions and it impacted the scoreboard with a long-range shot from 50m out in the final term to cut the deficit to 21 points midway through the final term. Won a lot of his touches in close.
#18 Emerson Jeka
Played a full game down in defence and held his own. It was not his best game, but still showed plenty of signs to continue his good form of late. Jeka took a strong intercept mark one-on-one deep in defence to stop a potential goal early in the first term and had a timely punch short after to get it out of the danger zone. He contested well at every opportunity and continued to present at marking contests, taking another good intercept mark in the second term 25 metres out from goal.
#24 Josh Honey
Impressed throughout the game with a mix of offensive and defensive attributes, and whilst sometimes it might cost him – such as being pinged for holding the ball later in the game – it can be a massive benefit such as when he burst out of the middle in the second term for the first stoppage and set up the opening goal with a damaging long kick. He pushed hard into defence to win the ball at times, but was predominantly used as an option through midfield, kicking it long into attack. Best of all for Honey was his clean use with a slippery ball which forced others to fumble. His defensive work such as tackling and pressure on the ball carrier was also very good.
Tasmania Devils vs. Geelong Falcons
By: Michael Alvaro
#3 Oliver Davis
Just continues to do the dirty-work in Tasmania’s engine room, digging in hard to extract contested ball and tackling with just as much intent. He wasn’t as prolific as usual, but still led the Devils’ disposal count with 23 on the back of some willing clearances in the final term with the game on the line. Is so clean at the stoppages, and looks to be sharpening up his use when coming away from them with more handballs and targeted kicks.
#6 Sam Banks
The 16-year-old has unbelievable class and poise, catching the eye with a couple of deft moves around opponents and long kicks forward. A lot of Banks’ work was done on the outside given his starting position on the wing, but he worked hard to have an impact at either end and penetrate both arcs. Banks’ best moments came with little baulks and clever props, using one to trick an opponent and find Jack Rand inside 50 before creating his own goal opportunity with another, but only managing to hit the post.
#7 Matt McGuinness
Known as the designated kicker for Tasmania, McGuinness was particularly influential in the second term and got to plenty of contests with his superior positioning. Truly plays above his height when setting himself to intercept, and did so on plenty of occasions while doubling as a driver out of the back half. He got forward well early on to get a hand-off on the forward arc, but put the long-range shot wide. Has shown marked improvement from his top-age year.
#8 Jake Steele
You know what you’re going to get from Steele, who put in another competitive shift for the Devils in a range of roles. Starting down back as he has done in the past few weeks, Steele was matched one-on-one against the dangerous Charlie Sprague, but had a greater impact when getting free to provide an outlet out of defence. The Allies representative was thrown into the ruck after half time where he became influential as the game tightened up, taking a couple of nice overhead marks and pushing Tasmania forward with long kicks. Missed a couple of sharp chances on goal, but was solid overall.
#25 Jackson Callow
It was a trying day for the Tasmanian target man but he started really brightly with some terrific shows of sticky hands on the lead and pure one-on-one strength. Callow’s only goal of the game came from a textbook set shot in the opening term, and his influence was quelled as the contest wore on as he was forced to lead up further afield and often flew for marks in packs. Definitely is not afraid to throw his weight around, providing a bit of niggle and sparking a three-quarter time melee – perhaps out of a bit of frustration. Is such a competitor though, and will be a leading tall prospect for next year.
#49 Baynen Lowe
Was by no means a high-disposal output from the 16-year-old debutant, but Lowe showed some nice signs in patches. Employed up forward, Lowe’s aggression and intent when hunting the ball and tackling was impressive given his diminutive size, having a real crack with great tenacity. Lowe paired those traits with touches of class, roving a ball nicely at speed, reading a high ball well to mark over the back of an opponent, and proving clean below his knees.
#1 Jay Dahlhaus
It was a steady return for the zippy top-ager, coming back from a serious knee injury sustained all the way back in Round 2. Playing permanently forward, Dahlhaus made a bright start as he found the goals in the opening term, going on to have his best impact with tackling pressure and by getting in the right spots. Didn’t all come together for him on the day, but it was good to see him moving well and back out there. Could be one to come back as an over-ager if he shows what he is capable of in Geelong’s closing games.
#36 Charlie Sprague
Has really found a home up forward and turned it on in patches to boot three goals for the fourth-consecutive time. Often starting out of the goalsquare, Sprague’s work on the lead made him particularly dangerous, getting good separation while also being able to gain an advantage with his bodywork. Booted his first major in straightforward fashion with a close-range set shot, before assisting Jay Dahlhaus shortly after. He would go on to put through another textbook set shot in the following quarter after finding space inside 50, but missed another chance after a fantastic run-down tackle close to goal. Had arguably the highlight of the day with a beautiful pick up in the pocket, spin, and snap to claim a sensational goal and cap an influential first half. Did not have the same scoreboard impact after half time, but continued to lead up well.
#37 Oliver Henry
Had some sort of start to the game, clunking just about everything that came his way in defence with some brave efforts going back with the flight and others coming in from the side. Henry’s clean hands and reading of the ball in flight were on full show, with his ability to rebound and find short options bringing a calmness to Geelong’s back half. Was arguably the most influential player afield in the first half, just continually attacking the ball in the air and bringing it down. Henry was eventually thrown forward as the Falcons rolled the dice late, but didn’t quite have the same impact. Will be a top prospect next year given his versatility, marking ability, and pedigree.
#40 Jesse Clark
Is doing well to show off different sides to his game with some more midfield minutes, and was relevant throughout the contest with his work at the stoppages. Clark just constantly found a way to find enough space amid congestion and break away or get the ball onto his boot quickly, pushing the Falcons forward. He caused enough of a headache around the ball to earn a holding free kick inside 50 in the first term, which he took full advantage of to boot his only goal for the game. The Geelong skipper accumulated at a good rate across the match, with a couple of nice tap reads and good tackling in-close.
#46 Henry Walsh
The big, lumbering bottom-ager continues to get the job done in the ruck, dominating around the ground to smack down 44 hitouts – albeit against smaller opponents. Walsh’s seems to be growing in his ruck craft, palming some nice hits to advantage and looking to put the ball into the best areas for his ball winners. The brother of Sam also impressed with his follow-up work at ground level, laying some heavy tackles at stoppages and even winning a couple of clearances. Was unfazed by some heat from the Devils after a goal in the third term, putting the ball down Jesse Clark’s throat at the very next centre bounce, which was good to see. Is still pretty raw but has shown his potential in recent weeks.
#53 Cameron Fleeton
Another exciting Falcons bottom-ager, Fleeton played a massive role in what was arguable the contest of the day against Devils forward Jackson Callow. Despite conceding some size, Fleeton trimmed the difference with his leap and combativeness, following Callow’s every step and managing to get a hand in at the opportune moment. He improved his positioning as the game went on after getting caught behind and too far under the ball on separate occasions early, while making his opponent work the other way with some run on the rebound. Can sharpen up his use by foot at times, but has played every game since his Round 8 debut and is coming on in leaps and bounds.
Dandenong Stingrays vs. Eastern Ranges
By: Ed Pascoe
#2 Hayden Young
Young was Dandenong’s clear best on ground and he did everything he could to try and get his team over the line. Young’s first quarter was his best and his first great bit of play was a trademark kick on his left hitting up leading teammate Sam De Koning close to the boundary with no margin for error, and he would later hit up De Koning again with a nice spin out of trouble and great kick inside 50. Young was quieter until the last quarter where he was influential through the midfield attacking the contests hard and working hard up and down the ground to try and win his team the game. Young has been fantastic through the midfield in recent weeks and has certainly showed another string to his bow and using his strong marking and kicking higher up the ground, Young finished the game with 26 disposals, six marks and five inside 50s.
#11 Ned Cahill
Cahill had a slow start to the game but he really came alive in the second and third quarters showing his fantastic work rate through the midfield and proving a dangerous option when forward. Cahill was crafty forward of centre and in the second quarter pulled off a super quick handball that lead to a goal and would kick a goal himself after winning a high free kick and converted the set shot. Cahill’s best bit of play came in the third quarter winning a stoppage at the defensive 50m arc then later linking up on the wing to kick inboard and would then keep running inside 50 to take a well earned mark and would convert the set shot which was well deserved for the massive effort. Cahill finished the game with 18 disposals, five tackles, five inside 50s and two goals.
#20 Sam De Koning
De Koning played forward after showing his quality as a defender at the Under 18 championships winning AA honours. He started the game well taking a nice leading mark to the boundary of a nice pass from teammate Hayden Young, it was a tough spot and he would miss the set shot. Despite being as taller player, De Koning was among the quicker decision makers and users of the ball with his handballs really standing out, he showed great courage going back to try and take a mark and would get hurt in the process and then in the third quarter would come off limping and take no more part in the game. De Koning finished the game with seven disposals, three marks and four hitouts.
#11 Mitch Mellis
Mellis was one of Eastern’s better players for the day working hard through the midfield and using his pace any chance he got. Mellis was not afraid to take the game on and that was evident in the first quarter after taking a great mark, he would take the player on the mark on and got around him comfortably using his great explosiveness, he showed great attack on the ball inside 50 hitting it at pace and then using his explosiveness to evade and narrowly miss the running shot at goal. He would also use his speed without the ball as well doing well to work back into defence in the second quarter going back with the flight to spoil a certain mark to dangerous small forward Ned Cahill, he was a busy player through the day and finished the game with 24 disposals, three tackles and four inside 50s.
#21 James Ross
The Eastern captain was certainly influential and did so at both ends of the ground to remind recruiters of his talent. Ross started the game down back and was an intercept king often taking some courageous marks and also showing his reading of the play and clean hands with some marks coming from the side of contests. He was most annoying to Dandenong in the second quarter seemingly owning the defensive 50m arc. Ross was surprisingly sent forward in the third quarter and that move proved a game changer in a long scoring game as he would go on to kick two goals that quarter, his first came from an uncontested mark and would slot the set shot and the second came from a fantastic contested mark and he would again prove a solid set shot for goal. He wouldn’t add to his tally in the last quarter kicking a behind with a snap but he had done the damage to finish the game with 20 disposals, seven marks and two goals.
#52 Tyler Sonsie
The MVP for Vic Metro in the Under 16 championships, Sonsie showed why he is a highly rated prospect for the 2021 draft with a solid outing playing through the midfield. Sonsie stood out with his quick reaction times and clean and crisp ball use, the one area Sonsie struggled in was his tackling with his lighter build working against him to properly hold up the opposition but the intent was certainly there and you couldn’t fault that for a 16 year old. He did however show good strength in a contest keeping his feet as this year’s highly touted prospect Hayden Young flew from the side to spoil him, he would then gather the ball and step Young in a great bit of play involving two great prospects of the future. Sonsie started on the wing but was moved into the midfield and would contest with Young on multiple occasions and despite the obvious size difference he more than held his own at the contest. Sonsie finished the game with 20 disposals, five marks, six tackles and five inside 50s.
GWV Rebels vs. Bendigo Pioneers
By: Cam Ross
#4 Jed Hill
Really smooth off half-back where he able to showcase his terrific foot-skills. Twice hit up forward targets with perfect long kicks on the lead. Played a very outside game, but his usage by foot was important.
#7 Mitch Martin
Had a quieter first half where he spent the majority of time on-ball. The talented forward was moved back to his natural position in the second half where he immediately hit the scoreboard, and had an influence in the Rebels’ comeback.
#13 Jay Rantall
Despite being closely monitored at stoppages in the first half, he was still was finding a lot of the ball around the ground. Using the word “singlehandedly” in a team sport is usually unfair, but Rantall’s efforts were as close to singlehandedly bringing his side back into the game as you could get. In the opening 10 minutes of the second half he had kicked two goals, and had a hand in two others, bringing the Rebels back into the game.
#45 Josh Rentsch
Barely sighted in the first half, due to the ineffectiveness of the Rebels’ forward 50 entries. Got a nice easy goal from the goal square, which was well deserved considering the amount of work he put in that went unrewarded, and then came alive after that. Took a few really nice marks inside 50, showing signs that he could be one to watch over the next two years. Took a big mark late in the game and kicked a clutch goal to make it a one point game. Really good size, athleticism and agility for a big man.
#11 Aaron Gundry
Took a nice pack mark in front of goal, finishing the goal from point blank range. Looked better up forward than in the ruck.
#19 Ben Worme
Snuck forward and kicked a really important goal in the fourth quarter, turning an solid game into a good game.
#20 James Schischka
Played really well. His direct opponent had hardly any influence on the game. He showcased an ability to mark an opponent closely and defend with a big fist, while also proving his intercept marking ability. Nearly set up the winning goal with a quick kick forward that wasn’t converted on the siren.
#22 Josh Treacy
Best player for the Pioneers. Treacy won his own clearances in the ruck, and impacted further with tackle pressure at ground level. He booted two sensational goals; one on the run from the square, the other from winning a free kick with a nice tackle in front of goal.