THE 2021 NAB League season resumed over the weekend after a month-long hiatus, with a handful of Northern Academies entering the fray and making for a bumper nine-game weekend. It meant budding AFL Draft prospects from around the nation were on full show, with some staking their claims for mid-season draft honours. Check out the top performers from each fixture in our opinion-based Scouting Notes.
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. WESTERN JETS
By: Declan Reeve
#6 Blake Howes
A knock-on effect of the outs that Sandringham had saw Howes play majority of the game on the wing, where his speed, skill and ball winning were well highlighted in what was his most prolific performance of the season to date. As a winger, he still managed to find ways to impact on the inside with his quick and clean hands at ground level, as well as to teammates, tearing up the Western midfield at various points in the game. His positioning and ability to time his run led to some highlight moments, winning crucial clearances in the early stages of the game while also gathering intercept marks around the ground, with one leading to the first goal of the game.
#17 Finn Callaghan
With some starting midfielders out due to injury or VFL selection, Callaghan got the chance to shine with a move inside, playing the game out as a major ball winner for the Dragons. What stood out most with Callaghan’s game, was his stoppage craft and clearance winning in tight space, demonstrating this best at stoppages around the ground where he’d read the ball off the rucks hands, and then burst free from opponents and look to switch the play across ground with his strong kicking. Able to balance his disposal well, Callaghan also looked to get his defenders involved in offensive play, encouraging teammates to run past and receive the handball to then kick long. When Sandringham were looking to get back into the game in the fourth quarter Callaghan’s defensive workrate shone, even taking a kick in late, then running up and winning the clearance that resulted from the kick to the wing.
#42 Luke Cleary
Continued to do the things he does well, playing to his strengths with his run from behind setting up plenty of opportunities, linking up well with teammates Callaghan and Howes with his handball receive work when he pushed up the ground. Cleary positioned himself really well in the backline, especially after the initial first two goals from Western in the third quarter, to be one of the first players to the ball every time it entered defensive 50, looking to handball it to a teammate out the back.
#52 Luke Nankervis
Splitting his time between the forward line and midfield, Nankervis Stood out with his ability to keep his hands free through traffic, or when being tackled, to get a handball off to a teammate and keep Sandringham moving with the ball. Bringing a creative spark around goals in the second half, he kicked two highlight reel worthy goals, using the wind to his advantage to get them from tricky spots along the boundary. When he was given his opportunity on the inside he looked good, being clean below his knees and maintaining that cleanliness through traffic.
#53 Eren Soylemez
Always capable of having an impact if given even the smallest of opportunities, Soylemez continued his goal kicking ways with 3 goals in the tight contest, kicking 2 of them in the second quarter to give Sandringham a lead heading into half time. He was able to find the goals from almost anywhere when in the forward 50, with a couple of shots falling just short or being touched, with a little refining on finishing, Soylemez could’ve had 5 or 6.
#66 Charlie McKay
With Hipwell selected for Sandringham VFL, his spot as the major contested ball winner for Sandringham opened up for McKay who has been forced into a defensive role prior to this game. Not looking to waste his opportunity, Mckay impressed with his constant attack on the ball and opponent around stoppages, leading to a game high 37 disposals and playing a big part in Sandringham’s attempt to claw back the lead in the fourth quarter. Perhaps lacked some penetration with his skills at times, but looked to move the ball to the right spots.
#2 Harrison White
Perhaps Western’s most consistent player throughout the day, White was a constant driver from the midfield, looking to create dangerous plays around stoppages with his speed and agility. This agility was shown throughout the day, with plays where he’d get through packs with the ball, avoiding tackles, a pretty common occurrence through the game. His use by foot was particularly impressive as well, able to follow up that dancing through packs with pinpoint kicks to targets inside 50. Got himself two goals in the scoring frenzy third term, with the first being the most impressive as a snap under pressure from about 50 out.
#26 Cody Raak
Returning from the NAB League Break with added VFL experience, the mid-season draft prospect had a solid performance as a composed figure in the Western defence. He was rarely caught behind his opponents, but managed to close down the distance well and spoil. He used the ball exceptionally well by foot, especially in the defensive half, where he’d look to switch the play or slow it down to assess his options. As usual, he intercepted well throughout the game, pushing off opponents, especially in the last quarter, to impact the ball further up the ground and keep the pressure on.
#32 Paul Curtis
Started the game fairly quiet as the ball was around the Sandringham forward half for majority of it, still managing to get a couple of tackles inside 50 when it came down. It was the third quarter in particular where the Jets piled on 8 goals, with Curtis putting in 4 of those for his side. Whilst not a tall player, he played as a lead up target, with his leading patterns near perfect, getting his first two goals by leading well to smart spots, where his midfielders could put it easily in front of him from the centre clearances.
#35 Liam Conway
Was the main player in the Western midfield to step up in the second half, with his work around the ground crucial to Western’s massive third quarter. What was most evident, was how well he uses his burst around stoppages to get away from opponents, where with that separation he steadies himself well and uses the ball beautifully by foot, setting up the first goal of the third quarter with the first clearance, pinpointing the kick to teammate Curtis. He was also a threat aerially, with his leap and ability to hold the ball well making it hard for anyone to impact his marking without giving away a free kick. When he wasn’t the target of a kick, he played a crumbing role well at ground level around contests, often at the fall of the ball off hands and then able to take it cleanly.
#50 Paul Tsapatolis
Comfortably the most dominant ruck in the game, Tsapatolis took full advantage in the absence of Jacob Edwards and Max Heath, the main Sandringham rucks, who were out with school football commitments. What was most impressive for Tsapatolis was how easily he found front position in the ruck contests to win taps relatively uncontested, taking full advantage of the height and size difference of his opponents. After Sandringham had started to read his taps he switched on and started to grab the ball from the ruck and bomb it long forward.
NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. BRISBANE LIONS ACADEMY
By: Liam Badkin
#9 Darcy Wilmot
Fantastic off half back, particularly in the first half when the Knights had most of the footy. His pace was damaging, as he sliced through the opposition with his inboard running, and was able to find a target by foot. For his size at 183cm, he showed his fantastic capability above his head, taking a nice intercept mark in the second quarter, and provided countless spoils that thwarted Brisbane attacks. He was closely checked in the second half, as the opposition realised how much damage he was capable of causing, but overall he combined very well with his fellow backmen, and was probably his side’s strongest performers on the day. Disappointingly, finished the game with an injured neck after smashing in hard to a contest, and had to be helped off.
#10 Ben De Bolfo
Much like Wilmot, was damaging off half back, combining with teammates to clear the ball out of defensive 50 with ease. Has a talent for reading the crumb off the marking contest, consistently reading the drop of the ball and finding a teammate to rebound the ball out of Brisbane’s forward line. Skills by foot and hand were solid all day, and his defensive work was fantastic too. Combined well with Wilmot on multiple occasions in the first half when the Knights half back line was the most damaging weapon in their arsenal.
#19 Joel Trudgeon
The Knights captain led by example in a masterful display through the midfield. You will struggle to find a better set of hands in the contest, as he was rarely wrapped up, instead using his strength to keep his arms free and find a teammate to clear the contest. From the very first bounce, he was prominent in and around the contest, never fearful of attacking the ball. His tackling pressure was immensely physical too, and his knack for timing his tackles perfectly to avoid giving away a free kick. Floated forward to kick a goal in the third quarter, and nearly booted two in a row, but his set shot faded right. Was clearly best on ground for the day, leading his side to a strong victory.
#26 Dominic Akuei
A strong defensive performance from the 192cm backman, as he delivered a performance that will give him confidence moving forward. Had a desire to create run from the backline, constantly looking to spread from the backline when his side gained possession. Kept his opponents quiet and wasn’t afraid to get in the face of his opponents. He was even thrown into the ruck in the last quarter and displayed his athletic capabilities. Had his moment of the day in the last term with a brilliant goal saving run down. A promising outing, and plenty to build on in future matches.
#28 Joel Fitzgerald
Worked his way into the game strongly after a quiet first term. A moment that seemed to kickstart his game came in the second term, when he won a contest on the wing, handballed to a teammate, ran hard to receive it back, before delivering a lace-out pass to a teammate inside 50. After this, he was finding himself in all the right positions, and proved hard to tackle on more than one occasion. Kept his players accountable and hurt them with his two-way running.
#4 Shatna Cashen-Harris
Looked capable of breaking the game open at stages, with his pace around the ball evident, and his pressure constantly making the opposition nervous. Quietened off after a bright first quarter, but still showed promising signs in glimpses throughout the match. Spent time rotating up forward and through the midfield, where he injected some desperately needed energy.
#16 Lochlan Harrop
Was impressive for the Lions on a tough day at the office. Started the match coming off the bench straight into the midfield, before moving to the backline where he truly excelled. Can read the ball outstandingly well, and while he didn’t mark them all, his willingness to launch himself at the Knights’ inside 50 delivery stopped plenty of scores and displayed tremendous courage. Missed a couple of targets by foot, but overall a gutsy performance that would have inspired his teammates.
#24 Connor Bulley
Was solid throughout the day, as he battled hard to defend the Knights’ attacks. Found himself on the losing side of a few contests, with near perfect delivery to his opponents, but never dropped his head. Was much better in the third quarter, when his side put themselves in the contest. Floated forward to boot a goal in the third term, and will be better for the experience.
GEELONG FALCONS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY
By: Peter Williams
#4 Gennaro Bove
Played a four-quarter effort with his usual impact up forward, getting involved further up the ground when the Falcons were struggling to get it forward. He kicked his first goal in the opening minute of the second term from a set shot, and whilst his second did not come until the final quarter thanks to some clever crumbing, he still worked hard across the ground, set up another goal to Mitch Knevitt and took some strong grabs for a smaller player.
#11 Cooper Whyte
Had some eye-catching plays through the midfield and had more of an impact than his stats might suggest. Whilst he had lower numbers compared to some others in the game, he showed off a sweet sidestep, a front-on fend-off and a clean set of hands in close when being tackled. At times he might do too much, but he tried to create, which did pay off as well.
#12 Noah Gribble
Brought his own football to the game with 14 more disposals than anyone else on his team. Personified four quarters and kept working hard, and whilst at times his field kicking still let him down, his work rate and spread was what helped him stand out. He has a thumping long boot that can travel 50m, and he hit the scoreboard early in the second term with a great running goal after going from the wing to just inside 50. His defensive pressure and second efforts, as emphasised by his great smother on the wing 17 minutes into the fourth term was indicative of his effort.
#16 Charlie Ham
Found plenty of the ball working up and down the ground, and whilst he might have had more impactful performances before, got back into it after a few weeks off pretty well. A kick-first player, Ham was able to get back and help his defence, then drive it forward to put it to his teammates advantages when in transition, to finish with the second most touches on his team.
#28 Mitch Knevitt
A mixed performance where his best was unbelievable, but he had patches where he needed to get more involved. His ability to clunk contested marks, and athletically take control was really impressive, and he was able to play both through the midfield and up forward. He did cop a knock which limited him somewhat forward, but he still kicked a goal and did some nice things across the board.
#32 Noah Gadsby
It was great to see Gadsby back after a long-term injury, with the talent really standing out in the forward half. He slotted two goals, which included one from hard running and popping it through the goalsquare, then a second major off a step to slot it home early in the second quarter. In the same term he produced a well done run-down tackle at half-back, spreading well to the wings and covering the whole ground impressively.
#1 Harry Grintell
Ended up being the match-winner with three last quarter goals to help his side over the line. Spending time in the midfield then going forward to be that damaging player close to goal, Grintell really came alive in the final term after a quiet game to-date. His first goal came from a free kick nine minutes in, then responded to the Falcons’ major with a quick-fire goal two minutes later, then kicked the winning goal late in the game after running hard towards a bouncing ball, getting boot to ball in a flash to snap it through.
#19 Maximus Monaghan
Was arguably the GIANTS’ most eye-catching midfielder, working well at the stoppages and even sliding in to take a mark in the second term and converting the set shot. He applied plenty of defensive pressure and showed some nice moves out of congestion with clever sidestepping. He was able to adjust his kick mid-run which was impressive and overall had an impact for his team.
#21 Fraser Kelly
Kicked a couple of goals from 12 touches and only the two kicks. He kicked a very clever goal from 50m that caught the eye and bounced through well, then took a strong contested grab in the fourth term and nailed the set shot from 15m out. One moment he had that really caught the eye was his ability to win the ball at the coal face, and hold off delivering the handball until the second option which he did well to execute perfectly.
#24 Sam Frost
His defensive work was really impressive, gobbling up anything that came his way and then offered himself up as a rebounding option. His disposal at times was a concern, turning over a number of touches including one not under pressure. However his work without the ball and an ability to rebound out of the back 50 was a real highlight, as Frost picked up 12 rebounds – nine more than any other player on his team and served as an anchor back there.
#30 Brad Rauter
Another defender who had some great defensive work but just needed to sharpen his disposal, Rauter stood up well against pressure and was able to often win contests against multiple opponents. He laid a great tackle after trapping the ball in against an opponent – and beating another – to win a free kick, but unfortunately turned over the kick. He took some good marks and had some solid moments as a whole.
#31 Josh Green
Constantly involved inside 50 and always looked liked a damaging forward, he kicked an early major for the GIANTS dribbling one home from the behind post. He kicked his second in the third term with a snap around his body to cut the deficit to five points at that stage. He was always lively, pushing up and down the ground and racking up some big numbers rotating through the midfield and laying some big tackles. Possibly the more impressive aspect was his ability to get up the ground then get it inside 50.
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
By: Michael Alvaro
#3 Toby Murray
One of a few promising talls afield, Murray seemed to grow in confidence as the game wore on and showcased his upside rotating through the ruck and forwardline. He started in attack and was able to get separation on the lead while presenting out, with his reach also coming in handy while attempting overhead marks. While he may have some filling out to do to clunk those grabs more consistently and wrestle in the ruck, Murray’s athleticism and ability to adapt by using said trait was terrific to watch. One of his best moments was a holding the ball tackle at centre half-forward, which he used to hit up Cameron McLeod inside 50.
#5 Paddy Parnell
A run-and-gun type of rebounder out of defence, Parnell seemed to be in perpetual forward motion throughout his latest outing. There isn’t much of him, but the top-ager made an impact with his aggressive running patterns and timing when searching for handball receives. Tasked with taking the kick-outs, Parnell would often play on and weave through holes in the zone, getting as far as 40 meters at times before delivering by foot, or chaining by hand. While it sometimes invited unnecessary pressure, he would often opt to kick short so he could run on and get the hand off – such instances saw him move the ball across the defensive 50 arc, or all the way through the corridor. Parnell’s clean kicking skills were also a feature, and he used them to launch a nice goal on the fly in term two.
#8 Zavier Maher
In his return NAB League outing, the top-age mid-season draft candidate would have done his chances no harm. Maher found plenty of the ball in his usual midfield post, proving a strong body at the stoppages and dropping back well during the second half to accumulate a wealth of possessions. A couple of knocks which saw him overlooked at last year’s draft were his kicking skills and ground level cleanliness, which he still looks to be working on. He bombed out of the contest and sent forward a few floaters on the move, but looked clean by hand at the stoppages when fresh. His upside is clear to see, with great power and an explosive turn of speed allowing him to drive Murray forward out of congestion. Maher showed good smarts when using his body, and if he can continue to add polish to his game and impact away from the contest, will be very hard to deny at the next level.
#24 Cameron McLeod
Another promising top-age prospect, McLeod played a key hand in Murray’s win by allowing his side to apply sustained scoreboard pressure. The 19-year-old presented beautifully high up the ground, where he would mark and quickly move the ball on with terrific skills for his size. Most things he did on Saturday were clean, able to clunk the ball without much fuss and then keep the chain going smoothly by foot. The first of McLeod’s four majors came in the second term, where he waited down inside 50 and latched onto the bouncing ball before finishing well. He showed similar ground level nous in the following period for goal number two, dropping a mark but recovering quickly before snapping home once more. He booted two more well-struck goals, both coming from range with one being a set shot. Arguably his best outing to date.
#1 Youseph Dib
Changes in the Oakleigh side saw Dib utilised almost permanently through midfield, where his physicality, turn of speed, and pressure game combined well. He looked to have brought in a good deal of confidence having gained VFL experience during the break, but made some costly skill errors coming away from the contest at full tilt. As the game wore on, he seemed to actively take more time before disposing of the ball, getting the legs pumping and choosing the right option. Dib also spent a bit of time up forward but was a midfield mainstay, setting a good tone at the stoppages and welcoming a bit of niggle.
#3 Nick Daicos
The Chargers skipper missed out on a berth with Collingwood’s VFL side having been managed over the break, but had the ball on a string in his return to action. His game-high 44 disposals were accumulated on the back of an unbelievably sound understanding of the game, which saw Daicos anticipate exactly where his next possession would come. He stayed active at the stoppages, looking to push off his man and burst through the contest to work a viable exit from congestion. Later in the game, he put more of a defensive hat on by anchoring the stoppages and opting against streaming to the front. A team-first kind of leader, he showed clear intent to bring his teammates into the game and that is why his numbers were so inflated, as he also worked to demand the ball back and push into dangerous areas. He won and received the ball in good spots, but did a lot of early work under pressure which limited the impact of his disposals – particularly by foot. While that was the case, you have to marvel at Daicos’ ability to consistently look a class above the Under 19 level.
#4 Sam Tucker
Another top-ager who made his first appearance in 2021, Tucker was a prominent forward figure.He got amongst the action early too, boosting his confidence with consecutive first term goals – both from long range. Tucker’s presentation up to the forward 50 arc allowed him to showcase his clean hands at ground level, operating in front position and making good of whatever kind of delivery came his way by running through the line of the ball, collecting, and disposing. He missed a few more chances to find the goals throughout the game, but overall made for a steady return.
#64 Ned Moyle
A true ruckman, Moyle again proved why he is one to watch at the upcoming mid-season draft. He looked to impose himself on the contest by using his strength against less mature opponents, nudging them under the ball and grabbing clearance after clearance. While some of his kicks under pressure can be scrubbers with little penetration, Moyle got better length on his disposals in this outing and also did well to dish by hand when appropriate. His work around the ground is also improving, but adjusting against more athletic rucks who won’t engage and can outmanoeuvre him will be the bigman’s next big test. Elsewhere, he followed up well and tackled hard, while also doing the one-percenters like shepherding to release his midfielders.
DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. GOLD COAST SUNS ACADEMY
By: Liam Badkin
#8 Bayleigh Welsh
The Stingrays captain provided some of his signature run against the Suns. He frequently burst from deep in the backline to provide some pace for his side that proved crucial in the end. His kicking skills are to be marvelled at, as he never tried to do too much with the ball, just enough to hit a target and keep the ball in his side’s possession. Kept his opponents accountable playing on the likes of Shaye Walsh for the majority of the contest. His leadership was also fantastic as he marshalled the troops from half back.
#14 Will Bravo
Was busy throughout the midfield for the entire contest as he battled for the ball on the inside of the contest and was used as an outlet on plenty of occasions. Was willing to run both ways, as he worked hard into defence to clear the ball. Gathered a crucial ball in the second term and was able to clear the ball from the contest despite the pressure from Gold Coast forward Malachi Dumas. Displayed incredible endurance as he pushed from contest to contest, and worked hard for the entire game.
#17 Bryce Milford
The talented utility was used in the backline throughout the contest, as the Dandenong coaches attempted to take away Gold Coast’s height advantage up forward. Didn’t get too much of the ball, but certainly nullified the impact of his opponent, being matched up on players such as Will Bella at times. Moved to a wing where he displayed his ability to play multiple positions, where he used his height and endurance to create some space. His 195cm height gives him a significant advantage on his opponents on the wing and looked more settled out there.
#22 Mac Andrew
The Melbourne Next Generation Talent displayed his enormous potential in the contest as he proved to consistently prove a threat wherever he was placed. Starting the game up forward, Andrew launched at everything, showcasing his tremendous athletic ability. While he didn’t clunk any marks, he was vital in bringing the ball to ground for his smaller teammates. He later moved into the ruck, where he displayed outstanding leaping ability, but his follow up work was just as impressive. Andrew didn’t let his 200cm height prevent him from battling hard on the ground to fight for the ball. A player with no ceiling and one to keep an eye on.
#4 Austin Harris
The AFL Academy member certainly lived up to the hype whenever he got the ball, using his magnificent foot skills to clear the ball from defensive 50, or find a teammate up the field. Splitting his time between half back and the wing, Harris stood out in both lines. When he was in the backline, he played as loose man at times, which is logical given his lethalness when the ball is in his hands. He took plenty of kickouts too, which showcased his booming boot that cleared the ball from the Stingray forward line. Delivered a bullet pass to Bella in the second term, but the forward couldn’t convert. Continues to impress.
#17 Bodhi Uwland
Was terrific in the backline, with an ability to compete in the air, and then mesmerise opponents when the ball was on the ground. Had an outstanding second term, as he appeared to pop up everywhere for the Suns, saving countless scores with his ability to read the play. Had serious composure when the ball was in his hands, and was able to weave his way through traffic despite the manic Dandenong pressure. Looked settled down back and likely impressed coaches with his performance.
#35 Will Bella
The talented big man worked his way into the game, despite close checking from the opposition. The delivery to him was scrappy at times, but he never stopped competing, and was able to draw a few free kicks, despite being out positioned in the marking contest. Booted Gold Coast’s first with an absolute ripper, as he gathered the ball at the point post, and snapped around his body from a tight angle to give his team some desperately needed spark. Didn’t spend too much time in the ruck, and was stationed around the 50m arc most of the time, allowing Hamann to play one out deep in the forward line.
GIPPSLAND POWER vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY
By: Peter Williams
#5 Chance Doultree
Had the ball on a string all day for the Power and never stopped trying over four quarters, although his efficiency throughout the contest could lift as he was often forced into rushing or bombing long. He was able to have an influence on the game with two goals, including a thumping kick after a sidestep from 50m to nail a long-range goal. His penetrating kick was able to get his team out of trouble on a number of occasions, but just needed more composure at times to have the full effect. Could not fault his effort on the day though, as always.
#28 Zane Duursma
The excitement machine up forward, Duursma certainly had a memorable debut with three goals to his named. Playing as that permanent forward, Duursma kicked his first eight and a half minutes into the second term with a clever snap off the right boot inside 50. His net two came from set shots in the third term, the first from a mark and then the second from a push in the back. He pulled down a lovely contested grab in the fourth term on the wing, and looked the most damaging every time he went near it.
#37 Max Walton
While he has typically looked more suited to defence, Walton was able to expand his repertoire to include forward and through the midfield. He ran hard, was able to use the ball well under pressure and read the ball well in flight. He took a nice grab on the wing at one stage, chipped quickly to the boundary line playing on, ran hard and marked 60m out, but was pushed late so got a 50m penalty and nailed the set shot goal.
#3 Felix Rogers
A real lively type in the forward half, Rogers was the dynamic link between midfield and forward, setting up a number of goal-scoring opportunities. He finished the game with a goal himself, but it was his work in transition getting it inside 50, and working hard around the ground that stood out, and he moved quickly in little bursts, finding space to mark and then keep it moving.
#7 Pierce Roseby
Another one who worked hard through the midfield then drifted forward to hit the scoreboard with two majors, Roseby found plenty of the ball in the win. He was able to extract it from the contest and get it going forward inside 50, then kicked a couple of goals as one of a number of midfielders who went forward and converted important shots.
#10 Jordan Endemann
Had a great day up forward with three majors from 19 disposals and four marks. His first goal came from point-blank range, but his next one showed just what he was capable off, winning it at speed, grabbing it cleanly off the burst and a half-volley pickup, turning around and snapping for a major late in the second term. He was a dangerous forward and did all his work in the first half when his team was down moreso than adding cheapies at the end, which was impressive.
#26 Angus Anderson
Really stood out for mine as a prominent midfielder with high-level competitiveness and an ability to work through traffic. He made the odd mistake, but as a whole he showed off a penetrating kick and looked lively through the midfield, accumulating the ball at will and finishing with a goal for his troubles. A lot of his touches were in close, and he was the one shovelling it out to teammates, or bursting away, drawing an opponent and handballing to a teammate on the outside.
#28 Luke Giacometti
One to keep an eye on in 2021, Giacometti showed good footy IQ and an ability to read the ball well in flight coming off half-back. He tried to create from defence and move the ball in transition, and whilst he would make the odd mistake, he certainly knew how to find it and then keep it moving going forward. A player with upside for the future.
CALDER CANNONS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS
By: Michael Alvaro
#4 Sam Clohesy
Employed in a couple of different roles after his Young Guns outing, Clohesy started forward and was also sighted up on the wing this time out. He registered the second score of the match with a quick snap close to goal and hit the post in term three, making up a couple of Calder’s 20-plus minor scores. The top-ager found it difficult to stay involved at times, but timed his runs well to be a handball receive option on the outer, and adjusted well overall. One of his best moments came in the final quarter, as he propped and made a brilliant decision to kick inboard from the wing. With nothing on down the line, the poise to look and deliver into the corridor opened up the play for Calder.
#5 Zac Taylor
Arguably the best player afield, Taylor came up clutch with some wonderful exhibitions of skill and smarts at crucial junctures in the match. He started up forward and was a busy member of the attack, looking to get the ball on the move and working over his opponents to find space inside 50. He rotated into midfield during term two, where he got his hands on the ball more and showed terrific decision making on the uptake. His foot skills going inside 50 were superb, particularly during the final term where he made all the right choices and hit teammates on the lead. He was one who really stood up when it mattered and helped drag Calder over the line.
#8 Paul Pascu
This kid is one to watch for the future. Having participated in the Under 17 carnival and trialled for Vic Metro, Pascu slotted into the Cannons’ engine room and looked right up to the level. He looks a hardened ball winner who competes well and is pretty slick in possession, with a couple of plays seeing him fend off when exiting congestion or breaking forward with aggression. He capped his day with a clutch goal on the run during the final term, showing he is not afraid of the big moment.
#18 Jack Newitt
This was one of Newitt’s better outings for the Cannons this year, with his best traits coming to the fore more consistently. Stationed out on the wing, he was able to move forward dangerously and competed well in the air, showcasing his sticky hands and solid leap. When allowed more minutes inside 50, he presented on the lead and was found on multiple occasions, allowing for chances to add to his first term goal. He would eventually do so in the final quarter via a set shot, but did most of his good work earlier with clean hands and skills on display.
#25 Josh Goater
Goater was one of the bigger bodies in midfield, as per usual, and got to work by getting first hands on the ball at stoppages. His size and power proved difficult for the Bendigo midfielders to combat, as he slipped out of would-be tackles and was constantly able to get a disposal away. While some kicks were rushed, Goater was clean by hand and improved in that facet as the game wore on. His closing speed and pressure on the ball carrier were prominent during term three, before he was moved out onto the wing in the latter stages.
#11 Cobi Maxted
Arguably Bendigo’s best and most important player on the day, Maxted was made to quickly adjust to a variety of roles on the fly and did so with aplomb. He started forward and was rotated into the ruck, where he competed well despite being quite undersized. The top-ager was also used as a rover at the centre bounces, showcasing his versatile range and sound movement. He did most of his best work up forward though, booting three goals and taking eight marks. All three of those majors came at important points of the match; scoring against the run of play, in red time, and during the final term with what should have been the sealer. His set shot motion was quite fluent and made for good viewing, with plenty to like about Maxted’s overall game.
#13 Jack Evans
A leader of this Bendigo side from the back, Evans was kept busy in defence and had to lean on his strengths to help Bendigo stay alive. Much of his work was rinse and repeat, as Evans looked to distribute by foot and went long on many occasions. He was tasked with the kick-ins and often breached the defensive 50 arc with those responsibilities, before later taking on more attacking and varied options as Calder caught onto his tendencies. Overall, it was a solid return for Evans, who was made to absorb a heap of pressure in the backline.
#23 Xavier Mitchell
The top-ager was level as Bendigo’s top rebounder for the day, employed deep in defence and doing his best work there. He was a productive driver of the ball out of danger zones, able to use his long peg to gain good meterage coming away from his own scoring end. Mitchell was able to compete aerially but also did some solid work mopping up at ground level, sweeping cleanly under pressure and being kept busy during the second and third terms in particular. With Calder holding so much territory throughout the game, he played an important role.
TASMANIA DEVILS vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY THUNDER ACADEMY
By: Michael Alvaro
#2 Darcy Gardner
The leading ball winner on the day, Gardner caught the eye with slick work at the stoppages and agile spins out of trouble. His decision making while exiting congestion was sound, able to zip away and hit targets further afield. He looked deceptively strong for his size and was very difficult to wrap up, proving a slippery mover around would-be tacklers and making some look silly. He could not quite hit the scoreboard in this clash, putting wide a set shot after the half time siren.
#5 Oliver Sanders
Another of the relatively small Tasmanian midfielders, Sanders continued his good form to date with a productive outing in the engine room. He was able to cleanly extract or receive at the contest, before getting the legs pumping and looking to deliver into attack by foot. While he was able to snatch meterage in those plays, Sanders also showcased a sound short-range game and generated some really positive momentum for his side. He was in the wars a bit too, copping a knock during the third term but running out the game.
#9 Jonty McIvor
McIvor may not have had a wealth of possessions, but made them count and broke the game open in term two for his side. Playing his first game for the season, the opportunistic forward was first sighted closing in for an intercept mark in attacking 50, which he used to slot his first goal. He looked strong on the lead and used that method to boot goal number two, before making it three in quick succession by snapping up a forward 50 spillage first and finishing well on the left. McIvor bagged a fourth in term three, converting from the tightest on angles right on the siren.
#29 Dom White
Difficult to miss out on the field, White impacted well on the outer and worked hard to find plenty of the ball. He came off the line hard to receive from centre bounces and go inside 50, getting good separation in quick time from his direct opponent. That also became a factor in general play, as White worked over his opponent by running forward aggressively to become a free option in the front half. His ball use was generally sound too, and he even found the big sticks with a goal in the second quarter, running in over the back.
NT Thunder Academy:
#4 Beau Tedcastle
Tedcastle came into the game as one of the NT’s most highly fancied youngsters, and he didn’t disappoint with some slick work up forward. He snared the first goal of the game after about five minutes, using his instinct and foot speed to sneak the ball home from close range. The St Mary’s product also presented well as a target inside 50, playing slightly above his size and thriving on the chaos footy his side attempted to enforce. He made good on another quick entry to boot goal number two in the third quarter, before providing pressure around the ball during his move into midfield in the next period. Tedcastle can zig, zag and create in the front half, looming as one to watch.
#8 Ronald Fejo Jnr
An over-ager in this clash, Fejo looked far and away the NT’s most clean and skilful prospect. He started on the wing and operated there for most of the day, slicing forward like a knife through butter with his speed and repeat run efforts to chain through the corridor. He often looked to position at the back of stoppages, where he could clearly view the best path forward and carve out an attack in electric form. Fejo also showcased good foot skills, hitting targets on the move and picking the right options going inside 50.
EASTERN RANGES vs. GWV REBELS
By: Michael Alvaro
#1 Tyler Sonsie
The highly touted prospect started brightly and was able to get his hands on the ball, but found the going tough as GWV’s midfield began to get on top. He got first hands to the ball at the opening centre bounce and showcased his slick hands with a nice dish-off, which he would continue to do around the ground. A lot of his work was done under pressure, but Sonsie proved his class and was not afraid to compete. He jagged a goal from nothing in the opening term and later combined his dual-sided foot skills with rare vision to turn and hit targets others would not attempt to. A really smooth mover, his classy stoppage exits were blanketed, but still came through in spurts.
#2 James O’Connor
The top-ager played an unheralded role on GWV key forward Josh Rentsch, thrust into the lop-sided matchup (in terms of size) after quarter time and competing well despite the clear discrepancy. While he had his hands full with the Rebels goalkicking ace one-out inside defensive 50, O’Connor was still able to compete aerially and had some nice moments sweeping out of his own area. He looked to make every post a winner at ground level and ran the ball well, providing a bit of spark on the rebound in some tough spots.
#3 Jake Arundell
One who showed a bit in the Young Guns fixture, Arundell returned with the Ranges and got back to his busy ways up forward. He looked a lot more productive in the second half, showing great speed to chase up loose balls up onto the wing and presenting a solid option there on the lead. With his back to goal, Arundell would twist and turn to buy enough time before disposing of the ball, and hit some really nice kicks going inside 50. He finished well and added a goal to his game in the fourth quarter from a set shot, 35 metres out after being made to earn the mark.
#5 Jake Soligo
Soligo finished equal as the Ranges’ leading ball winner and set the tone for a terrific first term with the game’s opening goal. Having turned his back on goal at the 50-metre arc, his decision proved a good one as he slammed home the long-range shot with aplomb. The Eastern skipper proved nice and evasive in traffic and often found a way to dish out of congestion, while not being afraid to crack in and do the tough stuff. He had a good moment late on, flying in a contest against Fraser Marris and winning the ball before hitting Bradley Watson inside 50 with plenty of class.
#31 Tyreece Leiu
A constant in the Ranges’ besieged defence, Leiu proved a reliable figure who was able to read the play well and intercept a number of promising GWV attacks. His intercept marking ability was evident throughout the game, as he did so in one-on-one battles or by peeling off his direct opponent to impact third-up. Leiu’s clean hands allowed him to be a cool head in the crisis, while sound disposal furthered that influence on the rebound. A really solid game overall, and one which forced the Rebels to get creative with their ball use.
#3 Charlie Molan
Employed up on the wing, Molan did all the fundamentals well and was reliable as ever for the Rebels. He positioned well at the back of stoppages to help his defence and read the play well to know when to attack, or when to hang back. Working into the back half, he was a sound outlet option on the rebound and in possession, his strong kicking came to the fore. Molan is as competitive as they come and got the Rebels out of trouble on numerous occasions by splitting or winning key ground balls, sweeping his side onto the front foot.
#5 Josh Rentsch
The skipper looked on track for a mammoth goal haul and settled on five, with no Eastern defender able to properly go with him throughout the entire contest. He looked ominous early, with his power and marking ability causing headaches as he positioned one-out inside 50. Rebels players only had to kick the ball long over the back and he would easily clunk the mark within range of goal. The finishing touch was Rentsch’s only downfall, as he missed some gettable opportunities from set shots in between those five conversions. He was either incredibly unselfish, or lacking in a bit of confidence in that department as he constantly looked to dish off to teammates – even at the top of the goalsquare after a strong mark. It was a commanding display though, and a good showcase of his key strengths.
#6 Marcus Herbert
A really classy type in midfield, the top-ager just knows how to get out of tight spots. Herbert may have been in the wars during this outing, but battled on to run out the game and displayed his typically smooth ability to slip away from the stoppages. His delivery by foot was a bit shaky in the first half, but he soon fixed up and made his exit kicks work. One particular passage saw him come away from the centre bounce and deliver laterally to the wingman, who ran onto the kick without breaking stride. The Geelong VFL representative certainly looks ominous at his best.
#8 Josh Gibcus
The fast rising intercept defender picked up right from where he left off, putting in another handy shift across the back half. He reads the play so well and proved as much with a series of intercept marks, using his sizeable leap and clean hands to stop Eastern attacks in their tracks. While the ball did not enter his area for long periods in the match, Gibcus set up beautifully and was consistently in the right spots, making the right decisions to ensure he could intercept. From there, he distributed the ball nicely despite a rare kicking error in the final quarter. He continues to be one to watch.
#12 Fraser Marris
Marris finished as the best player afield and really took over as the game wore on with his unrelenting accumulation of possessions. Running through midfield, the top-ager got his hands on it early and was able to distribute, using the ball cleanly at short range and using his smarts to navigate at the stoppages. He ramped up his forward drive in the second half, finding the ball in increasingly advanced areas and getting his legs pumping through the middle of the ground to have a greater impact outside the contest. He even hit the scoreboard in term free after winning a free kick, and had a hand in many more goals throughout the game through sheer weight of numbers in the engine room.