THREE young stars were on show in Saturday’s Tasmanian Football League (TSL) match between Clarence and Launceston. All Allies representatives, Sam Banks, Darcy Gardner, and Baker Smith suited up for the Roos in what was a nail-biting victory over top of the table Blues. Draft Central took a closer look at each of their performances throughout the match.
#23 Sam Banks
Position: Medium Defender/Midfielder
Strengths: Kicking, decision making, athleticism
Banks spent most of the game playing across half back with a few stints in the middle of the ground. A highlight of his game was his clean ball use and his rebounding ability out of defensive 50. Banks showed off his kicking skills by hitting not only short targets, but also impressing with long kicks that hit his teammates on the chest.
When he had his stints in the middle, he attacked the ball hard and laid a few tackles on opposition players.
He played a consistent four quarter game and while he wasn’t the most prolific player on the ground, when the ball came to him, he was in most cases composed and able to find a target by foot.
In the first half particularly, there appeared to be a coaching directive to use Banks’ run and carry off half-back, with his teammates often looking for him when exiting the defensive 50. He received quite a few handballs, backing his skillset to create play moving up the ground.
A couple of great examples of his ball use came at the start of the third quarter when Launceston won the centre bounce clearance, but Banks was able to separate from his man and intercept the ball, before steadying and hitting a teammate 50m away.
A second great passage was when he received a handball on the wing, darted inboard and kicked a lovely long kick to the advantage of Baker Smith.
Overall, Banks played a solid game and certainly showed he is capable at a higher level.
#39 Darcy Gardner
Position: Inside Midfielder
Strengths: Contested work, tackling, footy IQ
Gardner lined up at the first centre bounce of the match and remained in the midfield for the majority of the game. He was relentless for the four quarters, never shying away from a contest and racking up plenty of footy. He was the most prolific of the three young guns in focus.
Gardner took the game on whenever he could. He loves to back his speed to beat his opponents and he is a good ball user as well.
In the first quarter, he had a good piece of play where he positioned himself nicely to beat his opponent and take an uncontested mark from a kick out, before he pushed back quickly off the mark and wheeled onto his right foot to kick the ball inside forward 50.
He continued to attack the footy all game, he also tackled hard and always made sure it was tough for his opponents to win the ball. In the first centre bounce of the second quarter, he laid a tackle and won a holding the ball free, he then took off and hit his leading teammate on the chest for a shot at goal.
He’s skillset was summarised brilliantly when he kicked his goal in the second term, after crumbing the pack he used his speed to get away from an opponent, then evaded another oncoming tackler, before finishing his fine work with a running goal.
Gardner just kept going all game and his hard work paid off with the victory. He was among the best players on the ground, and he highlighted to any scouters watching on that his work rate is one thing that can see him match it with players at the highest level.
#42 Baker Smith
Position: Tall Utility
Strengths: Marking, versatility, defensive efforts
Smith played a decent game. He was not dominant in terms of finding the footy or taking lots of marks, but he stood up in the big moments.
He spent the match rotating between the forward line and the ruck. While he was beaten in the hitout category, Smith’s agility made him like another midfielder in the centre of the ground. He worked hard all game and his one-percent efforts were a highlight amongst his second half goals.
While playing forward in the first quarter, Smith took the ruck in a forward 50 stoppage, he was able to set up the first goal with a great piece of ruck work to tap the ball to Josh Green who then snapped the ball across his body into the goals.
Smith showed good courage to continue playing after he was slammed into the turf when a big tackle was laid on him late in the first quarter.
He really came to play in the second half however, kicking three goals, including one that would end up being the match winner.
His second efforts led to his first goal after he tapped the ball on to a teammate on the edge of the forward 50, before following up to sneak home a little toe poke on the goal line moments later.
He then took two nice marks for his second and third goals, one off a short lead at the top of the 50 in the third term, before Banks kicked a long ball towards him, where he managed to push off his opponent, take the mark and convert the goal from a tight angle midway through the last quarter.
His time up forward, where he was able to take some strong marks and kick goals, certainly looked more in his nature than competing in the ruck, however he showed recruiters that he does have the flexibility to play in multiple positions.
Picture credit: Solstice Digital