IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at a prospect who stood out recently in the West Australian Football League (WAFL). This week, in Round 7 of the League competition, we put Perth prospect Nathan O’Driscoll under the microscope, as he made his second top flight appearance for the Demons in their 26-point loss to reigning premier, Subiaco on Saturday.
DOB: May 17, 2002
Stats: 6 kicks, 14 handballs, 20 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 3 inside 50s
O’Driscoll had to wait a little longer to earn his spot in Perth’s League side, but despite an interrupted pre-season, he made is League debut last week and kicked the sealer in the Demons’ impressive win over Claremont. Able to play in numerous positions, it was forward and through the midfield that he was used against Subiaco. It was promising to see the 18-year-old get an opportunity to play midfield at League level and while he may lack the strength of more mature bodies, he didn’t lack the endeavour to compete, which would have pleased his coaches.
O’Driscoll started the game forward and didn’t take long to get involved, winning the ball at half-back, having a nice run, and handballing to a teammate inboard. His next bit of play came less than a minute later, gathering nicely at half-forward and then balking an opponent to kick inside 50. Although the kick was scrappy, it was nice to seem him back himself to get around the opponent. He would show great attack on the ball for the rest of the quarter and despite not getting many opportunities across that period, O’Driscoll would later win the ball at a centre stoppage with a nice gather and quick clean handball. That kind of play later proved to be a key feature of his game.
He was far more involved in the second quarter, starting with another run through the middle and finishing with a nice long kick inside 50. A few minutes later, he would attack the loose ball with a great pick-up at the forward 50 arc, but lost his footing on the move. His ground balls were again a feature later in the term, as he made a great gather at half-back in a stoppage situation and fired out a quick little handball to a teammate. Soon after, O’Driscoll nailed a great tackle in defensive 50, saving a scoring opportunity and winning the free kick. He received a 50-metre penalty and then quickly kicked long inside 50. A few minutes later, he won another holding the ball free kick with a nice chase and tackle at half-forward, but saw his team take on the advantage rule. Very late in the quarter, he would keep the ball in play with a kick off the ground very close to the boundary to gain some more meterage.
O’Driscoll continued his good form and efforts in the third quarter working, into the backline and forward line. I hadn’t touched on it before, but his work-rate around the ground was outstanding the whole day, running hard both ways. He showed great attack on the footy deep in the forward line, winning the ball with a second effort and flicking a little handball out to his teammate. The hard running I touched on was influential in the same passage of play which lead to his good mate Logan McDonald kicking a goal. As Perth moved the ball along the wing, O’Driscoll was right there, streaming forward to become an option and continuing to work down the ground. Eventually, he got to the fall of the ball 20-metres out from goal, sweeping on the ball and then quickly firing out a handball to McDonald. This bit of play really highlighted everything about his game that stood out with his work-rate and clean hands.
Later in the quarter, he would gather the ball on the wing from a stoppage, going for a little run and handpassing over the top to a teammate. The ball spilled but he quickly mopped up with a strong second effort. He had a few more possession late in the quarter with his trademark clean gathers at ground level and quick, clean handballs – with one showing good vision from a stoppage.
O’Driscoll’s last quarter was also superb, again getting to start in the midfield were he had fully deserved to be at that point in the game. He started the quarter well with a strong tackle, leaping straight at the hips showing good technique. His tackling had been strong all day and has also been a staple of his game for years. His attack on the ball was again superb in the last quarter and his endeavour again great. He contributed some desperate efforts in defence during the middle parts of the quarter, winning the ball through sheer desperation. Perhaps his biggest highlight of the game came with a strong contested mark at the defensive 50 arc. With pressure coming from behind, O’Driscoll stuck the mark outstretched, a grab which many young players wouldn’t be able to hold.
His purple patch continued, attacking the ball hard at a stoppage. Despite fumbling once, he would still gather the ball and handpass it off. Soon after, he again swooped on the loose ball and fired a nice long handball to a teammate. The game was lost, but he still put in some great efforts, especially in the forward zone – working hard to cut off the ball and cause a spoil. He almost took a great mark inside 50 coming from the side, and it was great seeing him still trying to win the ball. One of the last contests of the day was a stoppage on the wing where he just hunted the ball in flight and nailed the opponent from the hit-out with a strong tackle. I cant wait to see what he can do with that endeavour when he puts on some muscle.
It was an outstanding game from O’Driscoll, who was instrumental in ensuring the game wasn’t a complete blowout. His efforts over the four quarters and enthusiasm really lifted his side. O’Driscoll finished the game with an equal team-high 20 disposals and also laid six strong tackles in a well balanced midfield display. Named second-best on ground by the coaches, I cant see him coming out of this Perth side any time soon, and look forward to seeing him continue to build on this game, showcasing his attributes. The youngster has grown 5cm since last year and could still grow even more. He should become a genuine tall midfielder, which is in vogue throughout the AFL right now.
Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020
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