2021 NAB League Boys Round 1 preview: Six games in five days across Easter weekend

OPENING the first full round of the NAB League Boys season after a standalone season opener last week, six games will be played across five days to celebrate a blockbuster Easter weekend. After winning last weekend in the standalone clash, Western Jets will head back to the scene of the success on Good Friday to face the Northern Knights in the second game of the double-header there. The team they knocked off by three points – Calder Cannons – will host Eastern Ranges in the earlier match.

There will be plenty of players to watch in that double-header, with key defender Cody Raak having a day out in defence last week, earning best on ground honours with 31 disposals, nine marks and 11 rebounds in a remarkable effort back there. He teamed up well with Liam Conway who feasted on 31 touches himself, as well as seven marks, eight inside 50s and a goal going forward. Sam Clohesy, Josh Goater and Zac Taylor were among those who caught the eye for Calder and will be hoping to get their team over the line against the Ranges.

Eastern will have a number of talented players to keep an eye on throughout the season, led by the slick-moving skilful Tyler Sonsie, whilst Jake Soligo and Tyreece Leiu are other names that will be talents across the field. For Northern, Ewan Macpherson has returned to the club as an overager, whilst Jack Rossimel and Josh Ward are among those who are expected to impress in 2021.

Before we get to Highgate, there is an all-Country clash out at CE Brown Reserve from 5pm between the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Geelong Falcons. The Rebels have some eye-catching talent in 2021, led by midfielders Ben Hobbs and Charlie Molan, key forward Josh Rentsch and Jye Lockett (nephew of Tony) who have all represented their state at Under 16s level, with the latter running out for Queensland. The Falcons have a couple of handy 19-year-olds returning to the side in Noah Gribble and Charlie Ham who both received Draft Combine invitations last year. The athletic Ham and versatile Gribble will join the likes of Toby Conway and Indiana Parish as ones to watch.

Heading to Morwell on Saturday, Gippsland Power hosts Dandenong Stingrays, with the family relations strong in the Power outfit. Will Papley (brother of Tom) and Jai Serong (brother of Caleb) will both create headaches for the opposition, whilst the versatile Brodie Mabilia can bring the athleticism from basketball. The Stingrays will welcome back a couple of handy 19-year-olds themselves in Clayton Gay and Will Bravo, while Bayleigh Welsh has been named captain for 2021.

Murray Bushrangers will unleash a number of potent movers in 2021, with the Bushies’ first game up against Bendigo Pioneers in Shepparton. Charlie Byrne has returned for another season and will use his penetrating kick to advantage, while Zavier Maher will also return after some experience training at Carlton over the summer. Josh Rachele is one of the top players in the competition and has class personified, while Tom Brown is another Bushies player to keep an eye on this year. Bendigo Pioneers will welcome back Sam Conforti as a 19-year-old prospect, while spectators will be seeing double with the Hamilton twins – Cooper and Hugh – will be hard to miss having represented their state at Under 16s level.

The Easter Monday clash might be the biggest of the lot, with two title contenders locking horns at RSEA Park. Sandringham Dragons and Oakleigh Chargers go head-to-head in the perennial massive clash of two heavyweights prior to school football. Nick Daicos (Oakleigh), Josh Sinn and Campbell Chessar (Sandringham) are all highly touted prospects and among the top Victorians running around. Braden Andrews and Alex Lukic are a couple of other Chargers who will catch the eye in 2021, while Luca Anderson – the brother of Noah – and Lachlan Rankin will be on club’s watchlists. Yousef Dib is a Collingwood Next-Generation Academy (NGA) prospect and will be of particular interest to the black and white army.

For the Dragons, they have brought back the athletic Max Heath among a ton of 19-year-old talents, as Darby Hipwell, Dante Visentini and Angus McLennan are among some of the names to keep an eye on for Sandringham. Ex-West Australian representative Logan Young has also crossed to Victoria to run out with the Dragons in a great get for the side that will have a mix of experienced teenagers, and fresh faces coming through the outfit.

Tasmania Devils have a rest first up, with a bye before entering the competition in Round 2.

ROUND 1 FIXTURES:

Thursday, April 1:

GWV Rebels vs. Geelong Falcons @ CE Brown Reserve, 5pm

Friday, April 2:

Calder Cannons vs. Eastern Ranges @ Highgate Recreation Reserve, 10:30am
Northern Knights vs. Western Jets @ Highgate Recreation Reserve, 1pm

Saturday, April 3:

Gippsland Power vs. Dandenong Stingrays @ Morwell Football Ground, 1pm

Sunday, April 4:

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers @ Deakin Reserve, 1pm

Monday, April 5:

Sandringham Dragons vs. Oakleigh Chargers @ RSEA Park, 2pm

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