Young Guns: 2021 VFL Round 16

A BUNCH of the nation’s most promising Under 19 prospects continues to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL). Many have already made their state league debuts, with more to come as players get the opportunity to test themselves at senior level. We take a look at how the prominent 19th-year players performed as they hit the state league this past weekend.

>> RESULTS: State leagues wrap

A handful of Victorian top-agers ran out for different VFL clubs this weekend, with one debutant among the mix. Hard-running Geelong Falcons wingman Noah Gribble was that player, making his maiden outing for Werribee in a 30-point win over the Northern Bullants. Playing alongside his elder brother Tom, Gribble notched 12 disposals and a goal in what was a solid first-up performance. He has proven a consistent ball winner in the NAB League and represented Vic Country last month, so richly deserved his senior berth.

Returning to the fold with Sandringham Zebras, Dragons co-captain Darby Hipwell continued his promising state league form on Saturday. While his Zebras went down by 49 points to Carlton on home turf, the 18-year-old midfielder snared two goals from 12 disposals in a more advanced role. This was the second-straight VFL game where Hipwell kicked multiple goals, and he looks primed to continue at the level after proving himself in the NAB League.

Western Bulldogs father-son hopeful Ewan Macpherson is another in that boat, having turned out for his sixth appearance in Footscray colours this season. He was among the standout youngsters to take the field this past weekend, registering 16 disposals, six tackles and two behinds in the Bulldogs’ 37-point win over Casey Demons. The Northern Knights midfielder missed out on Vic Metro honours after captaining at Under 16 level, but has found his spot in the state league.

Elsewhere, Bendigo Pioneers utility Cobi Maxted made his club debut for Collingwood having previously turned out for Sydney as a top-up player. He managed five touches as the Magpies went down handily to Box Hill, while Gippsland Power defender Jess McGrath notched four touches and four tackles in his second appearance for Richmond’s reserves.

There were also plenty of Northern Academy members who missed out on fully strutting their stuff in Round 16, especially after the Gold Coast-Southport clash was spectacularly called off early in the first term due to a snap Queensland lockdown. There were six Suns Academy products afield in that game – Jed Foggo, Jack Johnston, Will Bella, Finn Brown, Bailey Reeves, and Bodhi Uwland – with even more named in the extended squad.

The Brisbane Lions and Sydney Swans were also set to lock horns with some academy prospects present, but had their game postponed, while Greater Western Sydney had the bye.

Image Credit: Jonathan Di Maggio/AFL Photos

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