THE 2021 NAB League season rolled on over the weekend amid the fourth Victorian lockdown, with a pair of country-based fixtures making up the extent of the Round 7 action. Geelong Falcons and Bendigo Pioneers came away victorious on Sunday, with players from either side impressing, among others. Check out the top performers from both fixtures in our opinion-based Scouting Notes.
GWV REBELS 4.10 (34) def. by GEELONG FALCONS 8.8 (56)
#1 Sam Butler
Butler’s midfield transition continued on Sunday, with the explosive Rebels prospect showing good burst on the inside and a knack for finding the ball. Amid tricky conditions in the first half and beyond, Butler’s clean hands were a point of difference at the contest, while his turn of speed allowed the Rebels to fluently shift to the outside. He looked to grow in confidence as the contest wore on, proving one of the most impactful players in term three and producing a flashy highlight in the final quarter as he spun out of traffic.
#5 Josh Rentsch
On what was an unideal day for marking key forwards, Rentsch managed to make the most of his opportunities for GWV. Most often stationed one-out inside attacking 50, the Rebels skipper looked strong as usual in marking contests and showed massive improvement in his set shot conversion. All three of his goals came via said method, with the latter two well-hit bombs from around the arc. Rentsch went up with one hand on a couple of occasions early on and found it understandably difficult to clunk marks, but was sure to follow up and get involved on the spill.
#6 Marcus Herbert
He may not have been as prolific as other midfielders, but Herbert again stood out with his sheer class on the ball. The smooth mover was particularly terrific in term two, showcasing his innate ability to find clear passages away from the stoppage and delivering forward by foot. That finishing product did let him down at times going inside 50, and even with a set shot on goal during that second quarter. His attempt on goal came shortly after being caught holding the ball, as Herbert backed himself at the next contest to burst away and won a high free kick for his efforts.
#8 Josh Gibcus
It was an up-and-down day for the top 15 prospect, with his key strength of intercept marking clouded by the Ballarat fog and slippery yellow ball. Gibcus was quiet in the early-goings, getting to his usual positions and rising for marks, but struggling to hold onto them amid the tricky conditions. He was moved into the ruck during term three in a ploy to get him more involved, and the 18-year-old did so with his sizeable vertical help helping him win nine hitouts. Having been moved back to defence in the final quarter, Gibcus made some good defensive efforts – including a relieving spoil and last-ditch chase to pressure a Geelong shot on goal.
#15 Nick Hodgson
One of the Rebels’ most consistent ball winners, Hodgson proved as much again on Sunday with a game-high 26 disposals. His combative style suited the contested theme of the game, as he was able to win the ball on the inside and look to bustle out of congestion. Hodgson won a whopping seven free kicks – four more than any other player – having gotten his hands to the ball first and shown a handy knack of slipping his shoulders up under tackling pressure. He got decent penetration on his kicks when bombing long out of the contest and did his part going the other way by laying 13 tackles. Has firmly put his hand up for Allies honours later in the year.
The likes of Jack Bambury and Hamish Sinnott were solid in defence, both able to get their hands on the ball and help provide some drive on the rebound. Charlie Molan continued his trial on the wing as the Rebels continue to try and nail down his best position, while the dynamic Kai Lohmann did some nice things to get the ball but looks to be working on his decision making and execution going forward.
#8 Jhye Clark
The bottom-ager was fantastic in-and-under the packs for Geelong, getting his hands on the ball and proving up for the fight in tough conditions. Essentially a permanent fixture in the Falcons’ midfield, Clark was strong over the ball and competed well against some more mature bodies, winning 16 disposals and laying five tackles. He proved a touch raw in his execution by foot coming away from the contest, but has clear strengths on the inside and plenty of time to add more strings to his bow.
#11 Cooper Whyte
Another mainstay in the Falcons’ midfield, Whyte proved a reliable tone-setter in the engine room. He roved the taps well to win the first clearances in terms one and three, getting his legs pumping and delivering the ball long by foot. He was aggressive in looking to both break and apply tackles at the contest, while also working to receive the ball with run on the outer. Whyte was quite clean in tough conditions too, both in ball winning and marking situations. He finished with 20 disposals and five inside 50s in a solid performance.
#12 Noah Gribble
Having proven himself as a hard-running wingman this season, Gribble tried his hand on the inside during the first half of this outing. He was able to find the ball and worked typically hard away from the contest, but arguably looked more comfortable once shifted back to the outside after half time. He was not afraid to fend off or break tackles in order to manufacture more time and space, but found the going tough in that department at times. His accumulative factor came into play as conditions cleared, ending with 21 disposals in a competitive showing.
#18 Blake Reid
Reid’s day started a little shakily with a turnover he’d like back, as he looked to kick into the corridor, but he was otherwise quite reliable off half-back for the Falcons. The top-ager was tasked with his side’s kick-in duties and while not every disposal came off as planned, he looked to create from behind the ball. Reid also positioned well and took a couple of relieving intercept marks, while using his run to break forward hard. He did so on the outer, but also won some key balls at defensive stoppages and ended with a team-high 24 disposals.
#26 Olivier Northam
The bottom-aged ruck showed plenty of promise in just his second NAB League outing for Geelong. He took on the primary ruck duties and after giving away his fair share of free kicks in the early stages, worked much more positively into the contest. Northam showcased a handy leap and terrific mobility for his size, moving well in traffic and competing hard on the follow-up at ground level. Later in the game, he came to prominence with a few solid aerial marks and his overall impact was quite well-rounded. One to watch.
Mitch Knevitt was his usual self in midfield, winning a good amount of ball for the Falcons. Top-ager Lachlan Kidd also found plenty of it, while local level gun Tom Gillett came into the side and showed good forward craft with 1.2 on debut. Bottom-ager Ted Clohesy also found the goals and showed some good dash as he worked back towards goal from up the ground.
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 8.5 (53) def. by BENDIGO PIONEERS 12.12 (84)
#2 Charlie Byrne
Reverting to his usual half-back role, Byrne finished with a game-high 33 disposals and 10 rebound 50s, looking to provide plenty of offensive drive for the Bushrangers. He took on much of the kick-in duties and was typically kick-first in his ball use, though his execution proved hit and miss at times throughout the game. The top-ager still looked to get his legs pumping with some good run on the outer, while pressing forward aggressively on a couple of occasions – with one instance ending in a second term goal.
#3 Toby Murray
The raw and lean tall prospect again showed promise, rotating through the ruck and enjoying a solid battle with Bendigo’s Jed Brereton throughout the day. His vertical leap and reach were on show at the centre bounces, with those same assets proving handy as Murray gained the confidence to fly for aerial marks. His ability to extend is great in those instances, and he did well to do so both up forward and when dropping back. Murray also followed up well, laying a lunging holding the ball tackle in term one and competing at stoppages.
#4 Josh Rachele
The highly-touted Murray talent started in his usual forward post but took some time to get going, forced to work high up the ground to get his hands on the ball in the first half. He was not afforded much time or space and had to work hard to manufacture it. His presentation as a marking option was solid, a feature which brought his clean hands to the fore and loomed as an opportunity for his usually good foot skills to take toll. Having moved into midfield in the second half, Rachele won a few clearances but struggled to have a massive impact as his side went down.
#29 Noah Bradshaw
The Brisbane Lions father-son hopeful was a strong figure in midfield for Murray, proving difficult to stop in full flight. He was combative at the contest and looked to break out of congestion with aggression, using a powerful turn of speed and fend to move onto the outer. Bradshaw was also able to accumulate away from the contest a touch more after half time, finishing with 19 disposals and 10 tackles.
#45 Oliver Hollands
A familiar name out of the Bushrangers program as the brother of Gold Coast draftee Elijah, Hollands made his mark on debut. He was stationed out on the wing and positioned well on the outside of each contest, proving a viable option to receive and work the ball forward. The bottom-ager showed good intent in possession, having the urgency to move it on quickly when necessary and buying enough time on the ball with his ability to take the ball cleanly. His strong hands also translated overhead with a couple of handy marks, making for a well-rounded maiden performance.
Kade Chalcraft and Maclayn Hallows were among those to find plenty of the ball for Murray, while bottom-ager Max Clohesy was productive out of defence and Jake Hodgkin showed a bit in his first NAB League appearance for the year. Richmond NGA prospect Achaung Agog was also impressive in his move to the forwardline, while Joshua Tweedale had his moments aerially before being stretchered off in the final term.
#8 Hugh Hamilton
One of the best performers across both sides, if not the best, Hamilton was a strong presence around the ball and hit the scoreboard when stationed up forward. He started well with a solid overhead mark under oncoming pressure, before converting his first of three goals from the set shot. Hamilton would go on to stand up in tackles and drive the Pioneers forward, though his use by foot could have done with some sharpening. Nonetheless, he went on to snap a classy goal in the second term having forced a ground ball turnover in the pocket, and added a third in the following quarter with another well-hit set shot.
#11 Cobi Maxted
Maxted’s usually accurate radar was a little off in the early stages, missing three attempts on goal in the first quarter, but he adjusted well to eventually find the big sticks. Having started up forward, he was shifted into midfield and competed well there with his clean hands and strong body. His rotation back to the forwardline yielded a goal in the second quarter – a nice crumb and dribble from the pocket – before Maxted went on to work high up the ground and provide a strong marking target. He was gifted another goal in term three, taking advantage of a downfield free kick close to goal to cap off another solid outing.
#17 Oskar Faulkhead
A really smooth mover off half-back, Faulkhead proved steadfast in his positioning and intercept duties, while also providing positive run on the rebound. He often pushed high up the ground and left his opponent to force turnovers, while also running off to find handball receives before delivering long by foot. Faulkhead lays claim to an effective side-step and made a few opponents look silly, buying a bit more time on the ball as he looked further afield. He finished with an equal team-high 23 disposals and a combined seven breaches of either 50-metre arc.
#24 Caleb Ernst
Often a strong presence for the Pioneers, Ernst again proved as much as he built into Sunday’s contest. The top-ager showcased his ability to not only stand up in tackles, but also power out and get his side moving forward. He provided good intent defensively with hard tackles, and presented up to half-forward as a marking option before also being utilised at the centre bounces. Ernst fared well in terms of scoreboard impact too, booting three goals in the final quarter with terrific marking deep inside 50 as a one-out target. One of those majors was a standout, as Ernst won the ground ball and powered towards goal from the pocket before finishing coolly.
#57 Noah Long
Another of the impressive batch of bottom-agers to feature in this game, Long was hard-at-it all game in midfield. While he stands at 178cm, the 16-year-old showed great tenacity to win the ball and was often seen at the bottom of packs. He looked to baulk clear with quick steps or distribute cleanly by hand, while also applying some hard tackles at the contest. He didn’t have as much impact on the outside but played his role well, accumulating a touch more during the third term and finishing with 20 touches in a promising debut performance.
The likes of Anthony Depasquale and Harvey Gallagher both ticked up over 20 disposals for the Pioneers in midfield, while developing tall Jed Brereton showed plenty as he rotated through the ruck from defence, along with fellow ruck Jacob Nihill. Ricky Monti was one who competed hard, as Harley Reid showed some dash on debut and another bottom-ager in Jason Gillbee continued his promising form on the outer. AFL Academy member Cooper Hamilton showed class in patches, rotating through the middle from defence.
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