THE AFL Under 19 Academy suffered a 130-point thumping at the hands of Geelong VFL on Saturday morning, with the hosts flexing their muscle in the showcase fixture at GMHBA Stadium. Result aside, it proved an eye-opening opportunity for the nation’s brightest young talents to test their measure against seasoned operators. Our scouts were on hand in Geelong to deliver their opinion-based notes all 24 Academy players.
#1-17 (By Ed Pascoe)
#1 Blayne O’Loughlin (North Adelaide/SA)
The usually prolific North Adelaide prospect found the going a bit tougher against the Geelong VFL side but made his possessions count by both hand and foot and often looked composed under pressure. O’Loughlin showed great courage sitting in front of oncoming talls leading up at the ball where he was crunched.
#2 Austin Harris (Gold Coast/QLD)
The speedy defender tied to the Gold Coast Suns, Harris had some nice moments down back showing plenty of dare and dash with ball in hand, despite his light and small frame Harris still managed to get involved and even got a run on the wing late in the game. It is still up in the air which position will be his best going forward.
#4 Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers/VC)
The exciting Murray forward took some time to get into the game but he certainly looked like the Academy’s most dangerous forward, looking dangerous whenever he got the ball or was in the vicinity. He kicked a great goal from beyond 50m after taking a lead up mark which was one of only two goals scored for the Academy. Rachele was skilful in the air and at ground level and his efforts to tackle were also a highlight.
#5 Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges/VM)
Not the game Sonsie would have wanted as he pushes for his claim in the first round of this year’s draft, the smooth moving midfielder from Eastern Ranges found the going tough against the bigger bodies in the Geelong midfield and was later moved to defence, yet still could not work his way into the game. Despite using the ball well when he got it, he did not get it enough to really make a big impact.
#6 Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers/VM)
The Collingwood father-son prospect continued his strong start to the year with another prolific game through the midfield leading his side as captain he also lead in disposals with 26. The smooth moving midfielder from Oakleigh Chargers was crafty around stoppages and smart around the ground just knowing where to be at all times and his skill by hand and foot was superb especially with some of his kicks inside 50 early in the game. Although he did not kick any goals as he usually does – he had a few missed shots showing great agility both times but just missing – it was another strong game from Daicos who continues to press his claim as the best prospect in this years draft pool.
#7 Cooper Hamilton (Bendigo Pioneers/VC)
The tough Bendigo defender/midfielder showed his usual traits as a clean and tough competitor with his sturdy frame and desperation on show. Starting down back it took a while for Hamilton to work into the game but got more involved with some midfield time in the last quarter.
#9 Jason Horne (South Adelaide/SA)
The impressive midfielder who has already tasted action against senior bodies at South Adelaide, took what he has learnt from that time into the Academy game showing great tackling intent and playing with a lot of maturity. Despite not being overly prolific with 13 disposals for the game, Horne made every touch count, looking impressive with his burst and clean hands at stoppages and his ability overhead with a strong mark at half-back in the second quarter showcasing his overall elite attributes.
#10 Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide/SA)
Coming off a 37-disposal game last week for South Adelaide, the tough midfielder was played forward all game for the Academy and although it was disappointing that he did not get a run in his favoured position, he managed to do some nice things and was perhaps his side’s most prolific forward. Roberts got to show his long left foot with a nice kick inside 50 and a 50m shot at goal in the first quarter. Although the shot was a behind, he would have likely had a more prolific game forward with a closer game and better service coming inside 50.
#11 Jase Burgoyne (WWT Eagles/SA)
The Port Adelaide father-son prospect from Woodville-West Torrens started the game in his usual role at half-back showing his clean hands and composure with ball in hand. Burgoyne would move to the wing in the second half which proved a good move as he started to win more of the ball although his kicking did not come off a few times he did well to try and create although he will want to work on his defensive side on a more consistent basis to better round out his game.
#13 Lachlan Rankin (Oakleigh Chargers/VM)
Used on the wing and later forward, Rankin would not have a prolific day like his fellow forwards and wingmen, and despite his best efforts defensively, he would not get to show why he was a late addition to the Academy squad, with the small utility impressing at NAB League level for Oakleigh Chargers.
#16 Josh Fahey (GWS/NSW-ACT)
One of the few standouts for the Academy side, the GWS GIANTS Academy member offered plenty of drive from defence using his speed and long left foot to break the lines and it was no surprise that he took kick-outs with those strengths. He took one good intercept mark which could be considered low, but he played percentages and went with the fist multiple times to great success. Fahey showed great leadership qualities being vocal down back and he was prepared to work hard with and without the ball. Sharing some similarities to AA defender Michael Hibberd, he could be set for similar accolades at the next level. Speaking of accolades, he would win the Presidents Medal for his 23-disposal and nine-rebound 50 game.
#17 Nasiah Wanganeen (Glenelg/South Australia)
The athletic wingman from Glenelg did not win a lot of the ball, but he had some good moments by foot playing wing early in the game before moving back in the last quarter showing good composure and a nice spoil deep in defence was also good.
#19-31 (By Michael Alvaro)
#19 Neil Erasmus (Subiaco/WA)
The West Australian ended up being quite a handy addition to the Academy squad, able to show his worth in some nice pockets of play. He came to life during a second term purple patch, where his vertical leap and overhead marking were prominent. Erasmus rose well both on the lead and to intercept across half-forward, where he was posted for most of the game. He would later be shifted up onto the wing where he worked back more defensively, but arguably looked more dangerous in attack during the first half. Erasmus had a set shot attempt on goal fall shot in term two and took some time to eventually hit his targets by foot on the move, but returned a promising game overall.
#20 Finn Callaghan (Sandringham Dragons/VM)
Another late inclusion, Callaghan took some time to get up to speed with the pressure gauge set, but began to string together plays more indicative of his talent as the contest wore on. When given the opportunity, he showcased his long and penetrative left-foot kick, looking a touch more comfortable when streaming forward in space. The Sandringham Dragons bolter was a little fumbly below his knees which brought on more pressure than required, though he has the frame to beat opponents when going low and hard. Callaghan shifted to half-back in the final term and was released for a couple of trademark runs before breaching the forward 50 arc by foot. He is difficult to stop in full flight with that mix of size, speed and agility.
#21 Blake Howes (Sandringham Dragons/VM)
On a tough day for Academy forwards, Howes returned a relatively quiet outing having been permanently employed among the front six. With a light frame considering his height, Howes could not quite burst free from tackles he normally would at Under 19s level, but competed well to win a couple of contests in the opening and closing terms. The first was a handy split at half-forward before dishing off to the running Lachlan Rankin, and the second was an instance where he had to cop contact to create a spill inside 50, as the ball was not delivered to his advantage. A good leaper with sticky hands, it was a difficult outing for Howes to show those traits.
#22 Matthew Johnson (Subiaco/WA)
While injury scuppered his chances of an early-season League debut in the WAFL, Johnson put his hand up for such honours with a solid outing against mature bodies. Having played exclusively in midfield, the tall ball winner looks like being in the right shape to do so after his time off. He was the Academy’s third most prolific player, even with a disposal count of 13, showing clean hands and poise at the coalface. His one-touch potential was shown early with a beautiful half-volley gather at half-forward, before going on to take a strong overhead grab later in the first term. Johnson also notched a few clearances but was given little time to think about delivering anything more than a quick kick forward. His uncontested touches were polished though, and he looms as the prime tall inside midfielder in this crop.
#23 Jacob Van Rooyen (Claremont/WA)
Arguably the leading key position forward among a raft of high-level midfielders in this year’s draft pool, Van Rooyen was posted permanently in the familiar centre half-forward position. The Claremont product competed well among a front six that was afforded few opportunities and less than ideal delivery. He presented up the ground and was unlucky not to have been paid a sliding mark on defensive wing in the first term. He would continue to gain separation while up the ground, even when his efforts went unrewarded, while also playing a hand in attempting to lock the ball in his side’s attacking 50 with pressure at the contest. Despite a frustrating outing at times, the ‘Flying Dutchman’ remains a frontrunner in his role.
#24 Rhett Bazzo (Swan Districts/WA)
While he has swung forward to good effect in the WAFL Colts, Bazzo reverted back to his defensive duties for the Academy and built into the game well despite being handed tough assignments. A good reader of the ball, Bazzo was caught lacking early as he was caught behind, but saw that kind of positioning pay off later on as he chimed in with well-timed spoils and some terrific intercept marks inside defensive 50. He was under the pump at times given the speed of which Geelong moved the ball forward, but stood up in one-on-one battles against taller and more developed opponents, like Sam De Koning. His confidence seemed to grow with each defensive act, though he could do little at times as the Cats swept up relentlessly after the initial effort. Bazzo’s disposal, mostly by foot, was also assured on the last line.
#25 Josh Gibcus (GWV Rebels/VC)
The GWV Rebels defender is such a smooth operator on the last line, contributing wonderfully poised disposal on the rebound under a good amount of pressure. He was kept very busy inside defensive 50 and did his best to repel by foot, hitting targets both short and long on the rebound. Gibcus’ reading of the play is also sound, as he popped up to clunk eye-catching marks with nice timing and clean hands. In such a tough role deep among an under-siege defence, he was also impressive at the fall of the ball and swept up as per usual for the Academy. He should be one climbing draft boards after a stunning start to the year.
#27 Jack Williams (East Fremantle/WA)
It was somewhat of an almost day for Williams, who very nearly made the best of limited chances in the Academy forward line. The rising East Fremantle talent started with a strong mark on the lead, before booting his side’s first goal of the game with a wonderfully fluent set shot routine. He would go on to work up the ground and present well down the line, but could not quite hold his marks as he was met with contact by stronger-bodied opponents. Perhaps different umpires would have paid a couple of marks for the balls he got first hands to, but it was not to be for Williams. Still, his short moments were eye-catching despite the absence of end product after his first term goal.
#28 Mac Andrew (Dandenong Stingrays/VC)
One of the steepest risers in this year’s crop, the Melbourne Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect proved his true first round potential. He played up either end and gained a good tick for his versatility, but well and truly came to life in the final term with an awesome showing in the ruck – despite the result being well beyond his side at that point. Andrew caught the eye with phenomenal vertical leaps at each centre bounce, with his first act of the final term a follow-up clearance. He highlighted his marking ability with a nice clunk in front, and showed off some finesse in the ruck with a wonderfully directed hit to the anchoring Jason Horne. Having started forward, the Dandenong Stingrays talent snared the first score of the game with a snap, before displaying clean hands on the move and flying well in his less fruitful move to defence. Demons recruiters will now be sweating on his potential after a string of terrific performances, if they were not already.
#29 Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons/VC)
Playing in his home region, Conway was afforded the starting ruck gig and got to battle it out with an AFL-listed big man in Darcy Fort. He would have learned some handy lessons in positioning and bodywork in each ruck contest, but Conway did his best to compete in those situations. He worked back to offer some aerial support to his defenders and even took an early mark from a long kick-in. Conway also rested forward and spent plenty of time deep in the final term without seeing too much action. He led well on one occasion but was spoiled from behind, unable to cap his outing with a goal.
#30 Ned Moyle (Oakleigh Chargers/VM)
One of two 19-year-old prospects afield, Moyle carried his promising NAB League form into this outing and competed well against stiff opposition. The Oakleigh Chargers big man rotated into the ruck and was not afraid to leap into or wrestle with his senior adversaries. He also did well to stay relevant as the ball fell to ground level, prizing a few clearances forward – even if they were rushed scrubber kicks. Moyle also had the confidence to grab from the ruck and took a nice mark from a kick-in during term two. Like Conway, he rested forward and was stationed there more frequently during the second half, but just lacked the mobility and composure to make a true impact in those attacking positions.
#31 Fraser Marris (GWV Rebels/VC)
The latest of inclusions in this Academy squad, Marris was relatively competitive in his late-notice opportunity and contributed some handy clean touches. Posted in defence as a small, the GWV product fared well in early one-on-ones without having too many wins, but showed his ability to find the ball in space with neat uncontested touches, mostly delivered by foot. He played his role well and should be one to gain some VFL opportunities, ironically enough with the Cats.
Image Credit: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos