BOTH Victorian teams toppled Queensland and NSW/ACT respectively by over four goals at Ikon Park on Sunday, with a range of conditions testing the talent on show. Our writers cast an eye over each fixture, taking opinion-based notes on the outstanding players from either side.
Vic Country vs. NSW/ACT
By: Ed Pascoe
#2 Deakyn Smith
Smith was an absolute handful up forward with his speed and overhead marking far too good to stop. Smith got better and better as the game went on and his combination of speed and aerial ability made him a difficult matchup. He kicked two goals with his first coming after a very strong mark and his second spinning and showing his class to kick a nice goal. His marking and ball use were a real highlight and he finished the game with 14 disposals, eight marks and two goals to be his side’s most dangerous player forward of centre.
#6 Seamus Mitchell
Mitchell was a very crafty and nimble small forward showing great speed, skill and agility with ball in hand and he certainly had some eye catching movements. Mitchell showed plenty of run and he had one nice bit of play where he followed up his good run with a nice kick inside 50 and his setups for his teammates made him one of his team’s better creative players going to goal. His only goal came from a mark and set shot and he only gathered the 11 disposals but his impact was more than what the stats show.
#7 Sam Berry
Berry was his team’s standout player wit his grunt work in the middle setting the tone for the day. His work rate with and without the ball was impressive and that carried on for the four quarters. He would also hit the scoreboard with his goal coming from reading the play to mark 40 metres out to slot the nice goal. His clearance work was great but it was also his skill with ball in hand that stood out, and despite looking like the type to just win the hard ball and bomb it, he actually took the time to hit his targets on both feet. His only real blemish was an ambitious kick in the corridor on his opposite foot. Berry finished the game with 23 disposals, six tackles, six clearances and a goal in a complete performance through the midfield.
#8 Zavier Maher
Maher combined well with fellow midfielder Sam Berry to not only win plenty of the ball but also offer something a little different with his ability to get forward and take the game on. Maher covered plenty of ground and played a good mix to win his own ball but also work hard to get around the ground on the outside which showed with his seven marks, three rebound 50s and seven inside 50s. The inside 50s in particular especially late in the game stood out where he often hit his targets and lowered the eyes. Maher had 20 disposals, six tackles and five inside 50s in a well-rounded game through the midfield.
#13 Dominic Bedendo
Bedendo was one of Country’s most dangerous forwards with his ability to get into good spots inside 50 and get himself into scoring situations while also setting up others with good vision. His first and only goal came in the first quarter with a set shot from 50 metres, he showed great movement and marking ability and would take another two marks inside 50 but missed both set shots. Bedendo had a chance early to pass to a teammate but missed a shot, but he would later show better teamwork with an unselfish kick to the hotspot when caught on the boundary. Bedendo has a light frame but is a nice height at 185cm and looks a prospect in the forward half as he finished the game with nine disposals, six marks and kicking 1.3 so he could have been more damaging.
By: Michael Alvaro
#3 Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans Academy/Maroubra)
Came back into the side after missing the annual clash against Queensland on the Gold Coast, shaking off some early cobwebs to showcase his talent. Positioned on his customary wing, Gulden continually used his innate ability to find space of the outside to send the Rams forward, getting on the move and piercing some classy passes along the line. The leading Swans Academy prospect was usually composed with ball in hand, using his agility to prop into space and find a target as he lowered his eyes – a valuable point of difference to many U18 players. While he was almost found out with some kicks across attacking 50 and passes which proved a little too cute, Gulden’s skills were typically fantastic and he makes the play come alive.
#13 Pierce Roseby (Sydney Swans/Willoughby Mosman Swans)
It was another workmanlike shift from the small midfielder, who proved ferocious around the ball going both ways. Roseby was a constant through the Rams’ engine room, winning most of his 17 disposals himself and getting to the ball first to earn six free kicks with some brave contested work. That work culminated in seven clearances to go with seven tackles, showcasing Roseby’s work rate and tenacity at the stoppages. He did well to break forward and find the goals in the second term with a nicely finished snap, but missed a later opportunity on the back of a 50m penalty.
#15 Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans/Westbrook)
Another of the diminutive Swans Academy fleet, Campbell has a great mix of inside and outside skills. His passing going forward was excellent, hitting targets on the move from midfield in each quarter with some good range. Campbell’s ability to weave or break away from congestion proved handy in a hard-fought midfield battle – especially at centre bounces – with his hard tackling (seven) another feature. The Westbrook product capped off an excellent game with two final quarter goals; the first coming after a clean pick up at pace and clinical finish, while the second was a more straightforward set shot conversion.
#26 Marco Rossmann (Sydney Swans/East Sydney Bulldogs)
Playing mostly forward with some of NSW/ACT’s prime movers back in the side, Rossmann was a reliable target leading up to the arc. He only stands at 181cm, but was great in the air with his springy leap and strong hands overhead helping him to clunk five marks from 12 disposals. Much of Rossmann’s ability to find space up the ground came on the back of clever reading of the play, and he also popped up inside 50 for a couple of chances on goal. The first was a miss from the impossible angle in the second term, with a later set shot failing to find the target.
#39 Marc Sheather (Sydney Swans/Terrigal Avoca JAFL)
A versatile prospect, Sheather assumed his usual role down back to start and proved to be a calming influence. He constantly got in the road of Vic Country’s attacks, snapping the ball up in the air and off the deck while following up with some efficient rebound. He would go on to prove his work rate with some of his acts up the ground, continuing his runs up the field and laying a shrewd holding-the-ball tackle just outside of defensive 50. A move into the midfield proved slightly less fruitful, but Sheather’s solid frame makes him a dangerous figure in there.
Vic Metro vs. Queensland
By: Michael Alvaro
#1 Lucas Failli (Western Jets)
A typical small forward, Failli caused headaches inside 50 and created good opportunities for Metro. He started off with some work further afield, pumping a couple of penetrating kicks into the forward arc and finding a teammate with one of them, while going back for repeat efforts at ground level and converting a free kick opportunity in a busy first half. Failli continued to show good desperation at the fall of the ball, proving agile and clean once he had scooped it up and capping his day with a second goal over the back in the final term.
#6 Jackson Cardillo (Calder Cannons)
Having shown his aggression and ball winning ability on the inside in his NAB League outings, Cardillo spent most of his time on the wing in this game. His forward running proved effective, hitting up Reef McInnes inside 50 in the first term and moving up towards attacking 50 with intent. After lacking oomph on a snap attempt in the second term, Cardillo made amends with a nice set shot finish after the half time siren for his only goal of the game. He would go on to miss another chance on the run when he had a touch more time to find the intended target, and attended the centre bounces late on.
#9 Finlay Macrae (Oakleigh Chargers)
Best afield for mine, the brother of Bulldogs star Jack showed off his pedigree with a game-high 34 disposals – 10 more than anyone else – six marks, five clearances, eight inside 50s and a goal. Macrae built into the game nicely, starting with some clean and effective accumulative touches before really having an impact in the second half. He lifted again in the fourth term, hitting the scoreboard with a classy finish from 45m while also assisting goals to Ollie Lord and Jack Diedrich to cap off a fantastic display.
#10 Connor Downie (Eastern Ranges)
Skipper for the day, Downie was the only player afield to have also featured in the U18 carnival. The Ranges gun swapped time between the wing and midfield, having an impact going forward with raking left boot and clunking a strong mark on forward wing under heat. While he didn’t score from his own attempt on goal in the second term, Downie created two opportunities for others with beautiful delivery into forward 50 after moving into the midfield. Is already well built for midfield minutes but looks pretty comfortable on the outside.
#11 Archie Perkins (Sandringham Dragons)
Perkins was another to move through the midfield-forward rotation, catching the eye with some strong and agile bursts through traffic which he finished with smart kicks inside 50. The powerful Sandringham product went on to have an impact around the ball with more midfield time after the main break, slamming forward five clearances and standing up in tackles to dish the ball out from congestion. Sprayed a tough chance on goal on the move, with that area of his game one to work on as he gets in dangerous positions.
#17 Liam McMahon (Northern Knights)
The dynamic tall didn’t find a mountain of the ball but looked lively up forward early on. McMahon put through the first goal of the game with a textbook set shot after plucking the ball at its highest point on the lead. He would go on to add another major in similar fashion during the second term, with strong hands overhead and a lovely kicking action his clear strengths. McMahon was thrown back in the second half where he provided some nice rebound and made some attacking kick-ins work.
#21 Reef McInnes (Oakleigh Chargers)
The Collingwood NGA prospect looks to be another great find for the Magpies, and he had some sort of start to the game. McInnes was strong from the get-go, winning the very first clearance and working hard to impact a number of contests around the ground – he was involved in just about everything. His clean hands, strength in the contest, and tackling made him the dominant inside midfielder, but his spread and props in traffic bode well for a well-balanced game. McInnes was a little quieter as the game wore on, but racked up 24 disposals, nine tackles, six clearances, and four inside 50s.
By: Ed Pascoe
#9 Blake Coleman
Coleman was one of Queensland’s most dangerous players up forward with his skill and composure a real standout in the wet conditions. Coleman although standing at 180cm played more of a half forward lead up role with his marking overhead a real feature with how clean it was, especially in the wet conditions later in the game. Coleman wad classy with ball in hand and rarely wasted a possession. His class around goal was also a feature kicking two goals with his best coming in the last quarter, going for a nice run before steadying himself to kick a classy goal. Coleman finished the game with 13 disposals, four marks, five tackles and two goals.
#12 Max Pescud
Pescud despite his light frame had a real impact on the game kicking two goals and showing his class and composure up the field as well. Pescud was the lightest player on the ground at 60kg and started the game playing more of an outside role using his speed and clean hands on the wings before going forward to kick his two goals and then go into the stoppages in the last quarter to show he could play a range of roles. Pescud finished the game with 16 disposals, six marks, five tackles and two goals to be one of his team’s best players both with and without the ball.
#22 Carter Michael
Michael wasn’t hard to pick out with his bright blonde hair but it was more so his ability to win the football that stood out, playing as a tall midfielder he showed a good mix of inside and outside game being a consistent player over four quarters. Michael would often use his long left foot to his advantage, hitting targets both long and short but it was his long kicks that did the most damage. Michael showed good skill by hand and foot and didn’t waste many possessions as he finished with 21 disposals, six tackles and four clearances.
#24 Saxon Crozier
Queensland had no shortage of tall midfielders and Crozier standing at 189cm showed plenty both inside and outside the contest but mostly did his damage on the outside with his reading of the play and ability to get forward of centre. Crozier was often classy with ball in hand making good decisions and moving well in traffic and he really stood out with his kicking inside 50 in the last quarter with a good run and long kick inside 50 and not long after would show his ability to hot short targets with a nice kick lowering the eyes. Crozier finished the game with 17 disposals, five tackles and six inside 50s.
#26 Alex Davies
The tallest of Queensland’s big midfielders standing at 190cm, he was a strong player around stoppages going in hard to win clearances but also working hard around the ground to be an option. Davies showed good attack on the ball but he also showed his ability to pressure and give multiple efforts through the midfield, and had a good bit of play in the first quarter with a great second effort smother. Davies finished the game with 15 disposals and was his team’s leading clearance player with five.