Cats too strong and structured for AFL Academy as Daicos furthers his case for top selection

THE NAB AFL Academy suffered a heavy loss to the Geelong VFL side going down 149-19 in what was a one-sided contest from the start. There was no expectation of a win for the Australian side going against AFL-listed players and bigger bodies who have trained and played together for much longer than the few days the Academy players spent together.

Geelong scored the first two goals of the game through Luke Smith and Jordan Johnston who would both remain prolific all game with four and three goals, respectively. The Cats dominated play and possession early, but Australia was able to settle the game a bit and work the ball forward. Nick Daicos eventually found East Fremantle’s Jack Williams inside 50 who kicked truly on a tight angle.

The game would remain between the arcs as Australia wrestled back some momentum, but the likes of Charlie Constable and Quinton Narkle showed why they are in contention for senior selection dominating possession and pushing their side to a 21-point quarter time lead.

The second quarter would only be the start of the significant bleeding for Australia, as Geelong’s pressure around the ball intensified, and their already clean ball movement became cleaner. They would dominate the play, but they could not reflect it on the scoreboard as their inaccurate kicking flattered Australia at half-time.

The Australian defence was working overtime as Smith kicked his second, and Max Holmes and Darcy Fort also hit the scoreboard. While they did well to place pressure on some shots to force five behinds for the quarter, Australia’s foot skills out of defensive 50 were inconsistent as they would either turn the ball over or put it back into dispute.

Subiaco’s Neil Erasmus was lively in the second quarter as was Oakleigh’s Ned Moyle in the ruck, but it was Giants Academy member Josh Fahey (15 disposals) and Daicos (13 disposals) leading the way. Constable managed 17 first-half disposals for the Cats while Narkle (15 disposals, one goal) and Smith (13 disposals, two goals) helped extend the lead to 42 points at the main break.

Geelong showed no remorse for the promising youngsters as Smith’s third goal would propel them to winning the quarter 52-8. Their superior physicality and team cohesion rose to prominence as they were much more composed with ball in hand, moving it forward with ease and cleanliness.

The value of the AFL-listed players remaining in the elite training environments really came to the fore as they just overran the Australian side with spread and pressure. They were plus 58 in disposals for the quarter and never allowed Australia to link with handballs and run and carry. Former Murray Bushranger Jye Chalcraft capitalised on the dominance with a nine-disposal quarter. Current Murray Bushranger Josh Rachele kicked Australia’s second and last goal for the game with a bomb from outside 50.

Geelong ran out the game and kicked away to a commanding 22.17 (149) to 2.7 (19) victory. It was always going to be tough for the Academy players. Brisbane Lions recruitment consultant Leon Harris stressed that it is “more what they take out of it than how well they play”.

Geelong won the disposal count 367-214 and placed enough pressure on Australia to force them into kicking 68 more times than they handballed. They controlled possession and won the mark count 96-59, while the ruck contest was relatively even.

Fahey was named best on ground for the Australian side with 23 disposals, while Daicos continued his NAB League form finding the footy 26 times. Chargers’ teammate Moyle was also serviceable with 11 disposals and 13 hitouts, while South Adelaide’s Jason Horne (12 disposals, six tackles) maintained his effort all game.

For Geelong, Smith managed four goals in the end to go with his 22 disposals and seven marks as Johnston also booted four majors from his 20 disposals. AFL-listed Constable (29 disposals), Narkle, (22 disposals, two goals), and Holmes (23 disposals, three goals) did no harm to their AFL recalls.

No doubt a learning curve for the NAB AFL Academy members as recruiters look forward to their return to their respective state league competitions and of course the national championships where they will hope they implement some learnings from this game. The players will meet with clubs in Melbourne tomorrow as recruiters continue to profile the draft hopefuls.

Picture credit: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos

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