THE 2021 NAB League season rolled over the weekend, with two Northern Academies and Tasmania returning while four of Victoria’s country regions also battled it out. Plenty of draft prospects for 2021 and beyond impressed in Round 8, as the competition draws closer to full resumption. Check out the top performers from all four of Saturday’s fixtures in our opinion-based Scouting Notes.
SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY 13.6 (84) def. by TASMANIA DEVILS 14.4 (88)
By: Michael Alvaro
#3 Felix Rogers
The busy Swans midfielder proved just that in another outing where his ball winning ability came to the fore. He was all-action at stoppages, getting on the move and finding first touch off the taps despite there being little room to operate. Rogers constantly seemed to be at the drop of the ball, while showing good anticipation with his spread to impact away from the contest. Not only did the midfielder kick two goals, but he also set up multiple scores for his teammates with good ball use on the move. His major in the final term put the Swans ahead, but they were unable to hang on.
#7 Pierce Roseby
Another of the Swans’ productive small midfielders, Roseby showcased his typical ability to get in-and-under, while also running hard to accumulate around the ground. Tasmania’s pressure around the ball made it difficult to cleanly extract and break away, but Roseby did his best to gather on the move and bustle out of traffic. While it was tough going at the contest, the top-ager found the ball in a touch more space when working back or spreading forward. He missed his chance to hit the scoreboard in term two after winning a free kick close to goal, ending with one behind from 25 disposals.
#20 Marco Rossmann
Rossmann was finally able to put forward the potential he previously showcased in what was arguably his best academy outing for the year. With a more permanent run in midfield, the top-ager was able to find plenty of the ball with a game-high 31 disposals and still impacted inside 50 with two goals. He looked classy in possession, using a strong five-step burst to break into space and look to use the ball positively, often pumping the ball long by foot. His two majors came during the second term, with the first a gift via the umpire’s whistle, and the second a really classy snap as Rossmann quickly wheeled onto his left side.
#1 Baynen Lowe
After missing Tasmania’s last NAB League game through illness, Lowe returned with the Devils and picked up right where he left off. The midfielder was terrific with his pressure and intent around the ball, remaining relevant going both ways and finding plenty of footy. The ground level contest was hot, and Lowe managed to snatch good meterage for Tasmania with his long kicks out of congestion, notching eight inside 50s from his team-high 28 touches. He cracked in hard but also showed clean hands on the inside, while also producing a couple of nice repeat run efforts in transition on the outside.
#4 Sam Foley
Foley was a reliable sweeper across the back half for the Devils, able to read the play and get into positions to force the turnover. He made a few handy intercepts, pressing aggressively and competing either in the air or at ground level to strongly win possession for his side. He pushed up hard between the arcs to then distribute on the rebound, using his run and usually clean short kicking to hit targets further afield. He bombed a touch under pressure, but so too did many others on the day. Foley finished with 22 disposals and three inside 50s in a solid outing.
#12 Jye Menzie
On his NAB League return, Menzie took up his usual forward post and started brightly by kicking the game’s opening goal. Much of his play suited the high half-forward role, with the top-ager able to work up the ground and use his sticky hands on the lead, while also getting back towards goal. He was a key link-up player down the line with such presentation and showed good intent with ball in hand to get it moving quickly, putting Sydney’s defence under more immediate pressure. Menzie also snared the first goal of the final term, drawing the Devils back to within a goal and setting the tone for their last-ditch push towards victory.
GEELONG FALCONS 9.10 (64) def. BENDIGO PIONEERS 7.12 (54)
By: Michael Alvaro
#11 Cooper Whyte
Again one of Geelong’s most prominent stoppage players, Whyte ended up providing some terrific drive from the engine room. He contributed a lot of his early work from the clinches, dishing out short handballs and getting stuck in at the coalface. Come the second term and beyond, and Whyte began to get going a touch more on the outer and looked to get Geelong on the front foot with driving run and long kicks. He also got his hands dirty in a tackling sense, making for another well rounded midfield performance.
#12 Noah Gribble
Having enjoyed a stint in midfield last time out, Gribble moved into the centre bounces permanently on Saturday and racked up an equal game-high 28 disposals. Credit to his enormous running power and work rate, Gribble seemed to pop up everywhere and won the ball in all areas of the ground. He also did the basics well at the contest, distributing more often by hand and allowing others to be the outside runners. The top-ager came a little unstuck when he tried to bite off a bit more by foot, but looked effective when quickly disposing to those on the move. He almost capped his game with a goal, as his 45m set shot in the final term rocketed into the post.
#28 Mitch Knevitt
The big-bodied midfielder was well and truly in the thick of things early on, as arguably the best player afield during the first half. Knevitt’s tackling and physicality were real features, as he proved combative at the contest and used his size to win plenty of hard balls. He also showed a good turn of speed on the exit at times, while competing aerially to display a couple handy points of difference. He kept his hands free under tackling pressure and flicked handballs out, before spending more time forward after half time and booting a set shot goal in term three.
#60 Toby Conway
The 204cm AFL Academy representative made his NAB League return on Saturday, and showed just why he is considered one of the better Under 19 ruck prospects going around. Conway was simply too big and strong in the ruck, winning a whopping 37 hitouts and dominating that realm. He protected the drop zone with strength and was able to palm down to his rovers’ advantage, before eventually gaining the confidence to snatch out of the ruck on a couple of occasions. In a tick to his work rate and game awareness, Conway worked back onto the defensive goal line when Bendigo took long-range set shots, earning him a contested mark and a couple of rushed behinds. He also marked well when stationed a kick behind the play, which is a good area of development for Conway.
#1 Sam Conforti
Starting in midfield and rotating forward, Conforti was a productive forward mover for Bendigo in his NAB League return. The top-ager did well to stay on the move and collect the ball cleanly in motion, contributing some handy work at ground level. He was forced to work well up the ground to find the ball as a forward, linking his side back towards the attacking arc as he received and ran in transition. Conforti had multiple chances to hit the scoreboard too, with a couple of quick snaps going wide and a second term set shot missing to the near side.
#2 Harvey Gallagher
Gallagher has shown some really nice form for the Pioneers of late, starting up forward in this game before getting to work through midfield. He was a strong contributor at the contest, able to use his speed and strength in tackles to break away and set Bendigo on the front foot. He backed said pace when blazing through the corridor, but also showed some finesse with nice vision and execution by hand in tight spots. Gallagher snared two goals via free kicks after half time, with his second putting Bendigo in front momentarily. His intent and effort were solid in the closing stages, as he looked to make things happen when the game was up for grabs.
#56 Harley Reid
One for the future, Reid is a 2005-born player who has shown some serious talent across his first two NAB League appearances. He is set to feature in the Vic Country Under 17 side this year and has already made an impact at Under 19 level with his explosive traits and goal sense. The 16-year-old started the game magnificently, booting two goals within as many minutes during the opening term. The first was a terrific running snap which showed his eye for goal, and the second came from a pack mark in the goalsquare where he simply read the ball better than anyone else. Reid also showed a knack for the spectacular with his spekky attempt in the same quarter, before bouncing straight to his feet and winning the spill. He went on to snare a third goal after half time, again judging the ball well in flight to mark in a two-on-two situation in the goalsquare. One who doesn’t need many touches to make an impact, Reid promises to catch the eye for years to come if he can keep up such form.
GWV REBELS 16.20 (116) def. GIPPSLAND POWER 6.1 (37)
By: Ed Pascoe
#1 Sam Butler
Butler has been playing some excellent footy this year and this might have been his best outing yet, with the crafty forward/midfielder the most impactful player on the ground. His first quarter really set the tone, kicking two great goals; with the first coming from a nice show of courage going back with the flight before nailing the set shot, and the second showing his forward nous by quickly getting boot to ball in general play. Butler was a handful forward but once the game was won he was moved into the midfield in the second half and despite the impending result, Butler still showed plenty of intent with a lovey chase down tackle in the midfield which was rewarded. Overall, Butler has shown a great mix of flashy brilliance and the ability to do the hard yards and win his own ball. He finished with 27 disposals, seven tackles, six marks, six inside 50s and two goals in a best on ground performance as he continues to build a very strong year.
#3 Charlie Molan
One of the hardest workers in the NAB League, Molan put together a very complete performance this time around, not only showing plenty defensively but also proving to be dangerous with ball in hand as well. Molan has made the wing position his own, using his fantastic work rate and size at stoppages to his advantage. Molan’s ability to get involved multiple times in transition was a key feature of his game, often getting the ball at half-back and finding himself on the end of chains inside attacking 50. He also showed his ability to kick long and accurately with a nice goal from a handball receive at 50m. Although he isn’t the flashiest, his work rate and selfless plays should endear him to his coaches and scouts, and he finished a very strong game winning 26 disposals, eight inside 50s and one goal.
#5 Josh Rentsch
Although he didn’t capitalise on the scoreboard, Rentsch provided a great target for the Rebels going inside 50. He was a constant feature, leading up to cause havoc for the Gippsland defenders who couldn’t go with him due to his size and power – not just on the lead but also at ground level. Rentsch kicked 1.6 with his only goal coming from a nice finish in general play, powering out of congestion. He had many set shots but didn’t miss any by a long way, and his set shot kicking despite the result shouldn’t be a massive concern for clubs. Rentsch was certainly the most dangerous looking tall forward and he also remains one of the prime key forwards in Victoria in general. He finished the game with 14 disposals and six marks, with his marks all very impressive.
#8 Josh Gibcus
The talented defender has had a quieter last two weeks by his standards, but still managed to show why he is rated so highly with his impressive leap and marking ability. Gibcus had a good battle with Jai Serong for parts of the first half but certainly got off the leash once Serong was moved behind the ball. Something for Gibcus to tidy up is his kicking, which has fallen away slightly in the last two weeks and while it’s good that he wants to move the play on quickly, he needs to take more care to execute the kicks to help maximise his rebound ability, as he has no trouble at all intercepting the ball – even marking the return kicks he originally turned over. Gibcus finished the game with 12 disposals, seven marks and four tackles.
#13 Sam Breuer
A change of position worked wonders for Breuer, who has been stationed as a defender all year but transitioned seamlessly into a midfield role against Gippsland. Breuer was a great four-quarter performer and although not the flashiest, he did what was required with efficiency and toughness. Despite not spending much time in the midfield this year, he looked a natural with his ability to read taps and show poise with ball in hand at stoppages, often handballing well and finding targets by foot when in transition. Breuer kicked a nice goal on the siren with a steady set shot on half time and would set up a goal in the third quarter, with his second efforts from a stoppage and tough tackle creating a chance inside 50. This was a promising performance from Breuer and another good back up performance in the midfield could really improve his draft stocks, as he has now shown to be a very versatile and committed player. Breuer finished the game with 30 disposals, seven tackles and 1.2.
#16 Kai Lohmann
The athletic half-forward has looked better and better as the year has gone on and although he hasn’t been able to put results on the scoreboard, his natural traits just make him so exciting to watch, with his dominance in the air and speed at ground level real difference makers. Lohmann was a marking machine, if he jumped at the ball he was a sure bet to take the mark no matter the competition in the air. With his clean hands and natural leap, he might yet take the mark of the year in the NAB League. Although he could be making a play for mark of the year at some point, he almost kicked goal of the year with a stunning piece of play, running and carrying the ball tight on the boundary, taking a bounce and almost snapping the goal. It was a great showcase of his natural athleticism and willingness to take the game on. Lohmann finished the game with a season-high 23 disposals, eight marks and five inside 50s and although he didn’t kick a goal, it seems a matter of time before he starts to really hurt the opposition on the scoreboard.
#2 Cooper Alger
One of the better users of the ball for Gippsland in what was a a dirty day for the team, Alger could hold his head high as he provided plenty of skill and drive from half-back, running hard both ways. Alger’s work rate was rewarded in the second quarter when he would get a mark working into the forwardline, and then slotted the set shot with ease on his trusty left foot. Although not the most prolific for Gippsland with only 13 disposals, he made all of his possessions count with his skill and poise.
#23 Jai Serong
The talented tall, who has spent plenty of time as a forward and midfielder so far this year for Gippsland, would find himself spending time down back later in the game and applying himself surprisingly well in a new role. Serong started the match promisingly up forward with fellow talented tall Josh Gibcus manning up on him in a few contests, with Serong taking a strong contested grab against him in the second quarter. Serong was dangerous up forward, kicking a goal from a holding the ball decision in the first quarter and a classy major in the second, getting boot to ball quickly under pressure in one of the goals of the day. Serong was later moved to defence where he offered plenty of rebound and good skills from half-back. At over 190cm, Serong has shown some great versatility so far this year which could only enhance his draft stocks, and he finished the game with a team-high 18 disposals, seven marks and two goals.
GWS GIANTS ACADEMY 15.14 (104) def. NT THUNDER ACADEMY 3.8 (26)
By: Declan Reeve
#5 Angus Curry
The bottom-aged midfielder was a touch too classy for anyone else afield, as he looked convincingly the best ball user when he had ball in hand. He pin-pointed his kicks going forward and hit his handballs well with precision, at times not even turning his head to see his teammate, but putting it to the voice. Was in the right spots around stoppages from the second quarter onwards, where he’d win first possession consistently but sometimes failed to find a way out of the traffic and got caught for another ball up. Showing his game sense however, he adjusted how he approached stoppages as the game went on to start getting the ball out in a bit more space. Tackled well for a player of his size, where he caught a few off guard with his pace.
#7 Matthew Hamblin
The standout inside midfielder for the game, Hamblin was everywhere early on in the game when others were still trying to find their feet a bit, leading to him having the ball on a string. Was prolific around stoppages for a good chunk of the first half, just able to note subtle cues from the opposition ruck to start winning clearances off NT hitouts. Around the ground he was handy, working hard to pressure opponents and force turnovers, able to get the ball off the deck and dispose of it quickly, where without pressure his kicking was reliable, and under pressure he preferred to fire off quick and sharp handballs.
#14 Luke Lawrence
The bottom-aged forward target was the go-to man in the attacking half for GWS, with his leading patterns at a high level, he was often well placed inside 50 to follow up with a shot on goal when he held onto the marks – but did have some trouble with holding onto them at times. He worked hard without the ball as well, laying an impressive tackle in the third quarter where he ran 25 metres to lay it, rightfully being rewarded with the free kick. When he had the ball he generally used it well, not looking to do anything flashy, but always what was right for the team.
#19 Maximus Monaghan
After a quieter first half than you’d expect from the ball winner, Monaghan started to get into the game really well in the second half, with aggression on the ball around the ground that was hard to deal with for NT. Playing similarly to Hamblin, they formed a strong inside partnership, with Monaghan looking faster and more confident using the ball under pressure. What really stood out with Monaghan was how hard it was to move him for the opposition, he took bumps and heavy contact in his stride to hold his feet, not even being knocked off balance.
#24 Sam Frost
In a game that had relatively little defensive half pressure for the Giants, Frost was always switched on, often stopping NT attacks from transition with his aggressive attack in the air and even at ground level, where he wasn’t afraid to back his size and strength to get through packs of players without being brought down, often following up with a long bomb forward. Frost was consistently able to launch his kicks 60 metres, from kick-ins and from outside forward 50 in attempts to score, where distance wasn’t an issue but accuracy needed some polishing.
#2 Andy Moniz-Wakefield
Battled hard all day to be a player constantly with the ball for NT. Often used as a link-up man from defence, he did well to break away from opponents and create separation on the lead to take marks without much hassle. He used that same speed, mixed with his agility, to get around players in tighter situations and follow up with good ball use forward, which unfortunately often went unrewarded.
#27 Tadhj Evans
On what was a hard day for the NT forwards, Evans managed to stand out as a head above the rest with his leap and strong hands as the main forward target, consistently able to hold contested marks or knock the ball in front of teammates to run onto. He used his body well in marking contests, able to nudge opponents under the ball to allow it to go over the back for either himself or a teammate. He looked good and agile at ground level as well, best displayed in the final term where he gathered a ground ball under pressure from two opponents, spun out of their arms and handed it off to a teammate without breaking stride.
Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos