Author: Ed Pascoe

Analysis | The importance of fitness testing in modern football recruiting

THERE has been plenty of debate when talking about potential AFL prospects pertaining to the differences between judging ‘athletes’ against ‘pure footballers’. There is an argument that fitness testing should be taken with a grain of salt and that the eye test is most important, but when it comes to players being drafted – especially in the first round – prospects are often at the pointy end in at least one fitness test.

For anyone still unfamiliar with the main fitness tests conducted during preseason and at the AFL Draft Combine, they are as follows:

  • Agility Test
  • 20m Sprint
  • Standing and Running Vertical Leap
  • Yo-Yo Test
  • 2km Time Trial

Last year’s number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan excelled in the 20m sprint and vertical leap tests, with his on-field speed off the mark and jump at the ball highlighting just why he excelled at those tests. The combine, if anything, gives reassurance that those traits are indeed elite and will help try and separate talents like Ugle-Hagan from any other key forwards in that year’s crop. Athleticism is very important in modern football, with players quicker and bigger than what most talented youngsters are used to at the development levels. One club which has seemingly identified this in modern times is the fast-rising Essendon Football Club.

Since 2014, Essendon seems to have had a clear strategy with the types of players they have looked at with their high picks. Below is a list of the Bombers’ top 40 selections since 2014 and which tests those players excelled at. In a lot of cases, they were top 10 in those tests at the end-of-year combine.

2014:

Pick 17 – Jayden Laverde
(Didn’t test but athleticism was a highlight of his game)

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford
Agility

2015:

Pick 5 – Darcy Parish
Average in most tests

Pick 6 – Aaron Francis
(Didn’t test but like Laverde, athleticism was a highlight in games)

Pick 29 – Alex Morgan (Since delisted)
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 30 – Mason Redman
3km time trial

2016:

Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint

2017:

Nil

2018:

Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap

2019:

Pick 30 – Harrison Jones
Vertical Leap, Yo-Yo, 20m Sprint

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint

2020:

Pick 8 – Nik Cox
20m Sprint, 2km TT

Pick 9 – Archie Perkins
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

Pick 10 – Zach Reid
Vertical Leap

Pick 39 – Josh Eyre
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

There is one big outlier here and that’s one of this year’s Brownlow contenders in Darcy Parish, who was only average in test results during his draft year. This could be seen as the biggest clue as to why athletic testing shouldn’t be so important, but it can also be argued that one of the main reasons for Parish’s form is due to improving his running capacity to an elite level.

Even their most recent mid-season selection, Sam Durham tested well for vertical leap and endurance, so its no surprise at least in Essendon’s case that athletic traits are a huge influence in whether the player gets taken. The current favourite for the Rising Star, Nik Cox has taken the competition by storm with his mix of athleticism and height, with that height another factor in the early Essendon selections. It was a matter of time before Cox got his nomination for the Rising Star award and in retrospect, we should have all seen his selection by Essendon coming considering all the traits he possesses are key indicators in the Bombers’ recent draft strategy.

Using this history, we can even try to narrow down the possible field of players that Essendon will look at with its first round pick in 2021. A trio of Sandringham Dragons instantly come to mind with Campbell Chesser, Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan. All three players tested well for the 20m sprint and vertical leap during preseason, highlighting their power and athleticism. With all measuring at over 185cm, they even fill a midfield need for the Bombers. They have another prospect right under their noses in Josh Goater who made his Essendon VFL debut not long ago and is an athletic beast. His speed and leap tests were all elite and at 190cm, he would be another Essendon style selection.

The modern footballer is taller, faster and can run all day, and it is getting harder and harder for pure footballers to make it at the top level. If young, pure footballers can start to develop athleticism in their game, even if it’s an elite endurance base, that’s at least a start in the right direction.

Height used to be a detractor for clubs but now with the likes of Caleb Daniel, Kysaiah Pickett, Brent Daniels and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, that is no longer the same obstacle for potential draftees as it used to be – though you also need to have that speed and class. If you are small and have the athletic traits and determination to make it as an AFL player, then you will be on the right track. If you are tall and have those traits, your chances of making an AFL list are even higher.

Fitness testing is an important tool, not just for clubs and recruiters, but also for up and coming players – especially those at the very early level. I’m hopeful coaches of junior football are able to set up some of these tests to help young players find their best traits, enhance them and embrace them. Understandably, it takes time, money and effort on their part and not every junior club or parent has that available. Programs such as Rookie Me, the official fitness testing partner of the AFL, allow junior athletes to experience professional environments at an early age, proving another handy head-start for budding footballers.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League – Calder Cannons vs. Western Jets

AFTER 554 days without competitive action, the NAB League returned on Saturday as the Calder Cannons and Western Jets locked horns at Highgate Recreation Reserve. It was the Jets who got up by three points in a thriller, as contested ball reigned supreme with either side shaking off the cobwebs. We take you through the standout players on the day in our first edition of Scouting Notes for 2021.

CALDER CANNONS vs. WESTERN JETS

Calder:

#4 Sam Clohesy

The rebounding defender, back as a 19-year-old (December), started like a house on fire; winning plenty of the ball down back and providing plenty of drive from defence for Calder. Although his numbers started to dwindle as the game went on, he still worked hard to provide meaningful rebound and was always giving an option out of defence and he really gave a lot of meterage with his long kicking. Clohesy finished the game with 20 disposals, seven marks and four rebound 50s to be one of Calder’s best players for the day.

#5 Zac Taylor

Taylor offered some spark early on as a small forward but also showed his wares as a speedy midfielder later in the game. Although he didn’t convert any goals, Taylor offered plenty up forward showing good speed and a willingness to leap at the ball, almost taking some ripper marks. He was moved into the midfield and gave some much needed spark in the middle as well, with his best play coming in the last quarter as he sold not one, but two pieces of candy which really caught the eye and cemented Taylor as one of the most exciting players on the day. Taylor finished with 18 disposals but was stuck on the bench late in the game and could have easily added to that tally.

#25 Josh Goater

Goater cemented himself as a prospect to watch this year and could very well be the highest taken in this year’s draft from this game, with his midfield ability not unlike recent top 10 draftee Archie Perkins. Goater was smooth in the midfield, showing great movement out of traffic and his breakaway speed was hard to stop along with his 190cm frame at stoppages. Although not a massive game in terms of production, which was also impacted by some time on the bench with a calf complaint, he went forward in the last quarter and showcased his impressive leap with a huge attempted mark inside 50. He didn’t stick it but proved he could be a real handful drifting forward this year. Goater finished the game with 22 disposals and four tackles in an eye-catching display.

#29 Josh Misiti

The Essendon father-son prospect got to show what he could do as a midfielder just like his father Joe did for the Bombers all those years ago. In his first full game as a midfielder in the NAB League, Misiti showed some promising signs with his strong 193cm frame important in the second half, winning some timely touches in the middle and showing good vision by hand which was another trait shared by Joe. But unlike his father, Josh was also strong in the air and could be a difficult player to play on when he drifts forward. Misiti finished with a solid 14 disposals and will look to improve his production as he gets more time to learn the midfield caper.

#41 Liam Podhajski

The brother of former NAB League gun Mitch, Liam Podhajski is a fair bit taller than his brother at 202cm and playing in the ruck, but really impressed was his ability to play as an extra midfielder and he showed great skill and agility for a player his size. Podhajski managed to show some signs drifting forward as well, kicking a sensational goal hard on the boundary showing great dexterity for his size. Podhajski finished with 16 disposals and 19 hit outs in a good duel against Geelong-listed ruckman, Paul Tsapatolis.

Western:

#26 Cody Raak

Considered unlucky not to win a spot with the Western Bulldogs as a Next Generation Academy (NGA) member, Raak was sensational in a best on ground performance down back, playing a similar role to Essendon’s Jordan Ridley in taking some great intercept marks and hurting the opposition with his vision and kicking out of defence. Raak led a well drilled backline for Western who proved hard to get through for the day, conceding under 40 points. Raak had a big say on the result as Calder struggled to get the ball past him. A cool head and efficient with the ball, Raak finished the game with 31 disposals, nine marks and 11 rebound 50s as he stakes his claim for an AFL spot in the mid-season draft.

#32 Paul Curtis

The dynamic and exciting small forward didn’t hit the scoreboard but provided plenty of spark up forward for Western Jets. His best work came in the second quarter, throwing himself into everything whether at ground level or leaping for marks, he did what a good small forward should do and got involved wherever he could. The exciting left-footer didn’t have the most prolific game with 10 disposals but he took some nice marks with five in total and expect the goals to come if he keeps getting himself in dangerous situations.

#33 Billy Cootee

The Western Jets captain lead by example with some important touches during the game and although he wasn’t hugely productive, he got a lot out of his disposals and his constant drive from the midfield set the tone for the team. Some courageous bits of play during the game really stood out and he could earn himself some games for Essendon VFL as a 19-year-old this year and his game against Calder would have certainly impressed. Cootee finished the game with 17 disposals, five marks and five, inside 50s.

#35 Liam Conway

Arguably the most dominant midfielder for the game, the 19-year-old Conway was a hard player to stop in the engine room with his strong body and clean hands at stoppages. What also impressed with Conway is that he wasn’t just a one-dimensional hard nosed midfielder, but he also worked hard on the outside to drive the ball forward and he also hit the scoreboard with a nice goal. Conway finished the game with 31 disposals, seven marks and eight inside 50s in an eye-catching performance and proved he could be one of the standout 19-year-old prospects in this year’s draft.

#50 Paul Tsapatolis

The Geelong Cats rookie gets to play NAB League despite being on an AFL list like Ivan Soldo before him, and the 202cm player had a great game in the ruck. Already a strong size, he used his stronger body to advantage winning some good hitouts and partnering well in the ruck with Nathan Dowdy. Tsapatolis finished the game with eight disposals and a game-high 24 hitouts and looks like being a big player in the Western Jets’ midfield brigade this year.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Cody Raak (Western Jets)
4 – Liam Conway (Western Jets)
3 – Josh Goater (Calder Cannons)
2 – Liam Podhajski (Calder Cannons)
1 – Harrison White (Western Jets)

Image Credit: Cameron Grimes/AFL Photos

High stakes training: Vic prospects take the field ahead of draft day

VICTORIAN AFL Draft prospects hit the track one last time before draft day, strutting their stuff at Highgate Reserve in a one-off training session on Wednesday. The meet served as a final chance for recruiters to survey the talent available in this year’s pool, just a week out from draft day on December 9.

Players who earned Draft Combine invites in September were split into two major groups, initially separating those from country and metropolitan regions, before being divided even further into small drill groups of five to seven participants. Among those on display were potential number one picks Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Elijah Hollands, the latter of which participated in a running program amid his recovery from a preseason ACL tear.

Draft Central analyst Ed Pascoe was on hand in Craigieburn to recap all the action and give an insight into how things panned out.

>> Download our FREE AFL Draft Guide

RECAP:

By: Ed Pascoe

A sense of irony came over me walking into Highgate Reserve, the same ground I last got to watch a lot of these young players back on March 15, right before Covid derailed the Victorian football season. It was a Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers trial game on that day and the ground was bustling with keen onlookers, many the same faces I would see today and it was great to see the development of some of these players. One of the big matchups in March was Nikolas Cox vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan which looked to be a clash we would see if the National Championships went ahead. Fast forward a few months and both players have bulked up, looking as sharp as ever in the lead up to the most important time of their lives.

To start the day it was the Vic Metro based players who were split into four training groups with the following participants:

Group A

Ewan Macpherson
Reef McInnes
Bailey Laurie
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips
Conor Stone

Group B

Cody Brand
Nikolas Cox
Josh Eyre
Liam Kolar
Ollie Lord

Group C

Jake Bowey
Josh Clarke
Connor Downie
Max Holmes
Finlay Macrae
Corey Preston

Group D

Matthew Allison
Lachlan Carrigan
Luke Cleary
Eddie Ford
Liam McMahon
Fraser Rosman

Injured Group

Max Heath
Campbell Edwardes

Vic Country players would later take the field and were split into three main groups:

Group A

Cameron Fleeton
Zach Reid
Josh Treacy
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Henry Walsh

Group B

Ryan Angwin
Will Bravo
Jack Ginnivan
Charlie Lazzaro
Zavier Maher
Blake Reid
Harry Sharp

Group C

Dominic Bedendo
Sam Berry
Tanner Bruhn
Clayton Gay
Oliver Henry
Seamus Mitchell
Nick Stevens

Injured Group (Laps)

Elijah Hollands
Charlie Ham
Noah Gribble

There were four main drills conducted after a warm-up; with ground balls, marking, kicking, and handballing the respective focus areas. The ground ball drill involved taking half volleys, running towards the loose ball coming from behind them, taking on the bump bag and finally working in pairs to pick the ball up cleanly under pressure from a teammate.

The marking drill was changed slightly as the day went on but the main focuses were receiving a high ball before getting called to a certain colour cone to run to, turn, and then meet at the drop zone of the ball. Contested marking was the final focus, with two players coming from either the back or front to contest a mark. This drill was certainly the most competitive and one of the drills players had the most fun in, with plenty wanting just ‘one more go’.

The kicking and handballing drills were fairly standard with a three-man weave, and a short to long stationary handball among the handball drills. The kicking drills consisted of kicking to a stationary target often 45 degrees to another player, and finally a drill which involved kicking to a leading player which really separated the better kickers on the day – especially in the notoriously windy conditions at Highgate Reserve.

Overall, it was a great day for the players to get a run while bonding with some former teammates and potentially future teammates. It was also a nice little refresher for scouts and recruiters as well, who got to see how some of these players have progressed both in their football and in their body. It is hard to gauge who would be considered the ‘standouts’ from this training session but most players put in the effort required and it was also good to see some really get involved with coaches and looking for advice in certain drills, showing their commitment to getting the best out of themselves.

Scouting Notes: 2020 Western Australia Under 18 All-Stars – Game Two

THE 2020 Western Australia Under 18 All-Stars went head-to-head for a second time on Saturday, serving as the final chance for budding WA draft prospects to impress AFL recruiters. Potential top five selection Denver Grainger-Barras was ultra-impressive, leading Team Gold to a mighty turnaround from game one in his side’s 55-point victory. Claremont prospect Max Spyvee won best afield honours, while last weekend’s most valuable player, Joel Western sustained a nasty finger injury. Our scout, Ed Pascoe was on hand to jot down his notes on some of the big performers and familiar names who took the field.

>> POWER RANKINGS: October 2020

TEAM GOLD:

#4 Max Spyvee

Spyvee has been impressive playing for Claremont’s League side this year and he brought that form into his one and only All-Stars appearance, winning a tonne of the ball in the middle. He was one of the main catalysts in Team Gold’s rebound after a disappointing performance last week. Spyvee got involved very early, using the ball quickly and cleanly at stoppages and winning plenty of clearances. While he is slight in stature, he was a constant around the packs, winning the ball easily on the inside and working hard on the outside to follow up a lot of his grunt work. His disposal started to get a bit scrappy after the main break but he got back to his best in the last quarter, with his clean hands around the ball leading to many scoring chains. Spyvee was a worthy winner of the best on ground honours and would have surely caught the eye of the recruiters in his last chance to do so.

#7 Isiah Winder

Winder had a quieter outing on this occasion but still managed to show some of his eye-catching traits, with his kicking inside 50 his main point of difference this week. The talented Pell Thunder prospect will always lower his eyes going inside 50 and any forward leading out would love the ball in his hands. On the flip side, Winder himself provides a great forward target as he leads hard and his hands overhead are also clean. This came into effect with his goal in the second quarter, judging the flight of the ball well inside 50 and slotting the set shot goal with ease. Winder’s composure and smooth movement have been staples of his game this year, but a stronger four-quarter impact will help maximise his skillset going forward.

#13 Joshua Browne

The talented bottom-ager has had a terrific season for East Fremantle, this year graduating from the back flank to the midfield with ease – not too dissimilar to former East Fremantle player, Trent Rivers. He showed both his defensive and offensive traits in this game playing off the wing and at half-back. Browne showed a great mix between his outside run and ability to attack the ground balls to win his own possessions, which helps set him apart. The smooth mover was a hard player to catch on the run and he rarely fumbled chances to win his own ball. Browne would kick a nice set shot goal in the last quarter, drifting forward to mark 30 metres out in front of goal. His best bit of play would come afterwards with a great run, bounce, and a sublime kick into the middle which opened up the game.

#27 Denver Grainger-Barras

What a performance from the top five prospect, who wowed recruiters with his dominant first half display down back before being sent forward where he kicked two goals and showed his potential versatility. Grainger-Barras started the game extremely well, winning plenty of the ball down back and taking some ripper marks, which he does time and time again in every game he plays. His competitiveness and confidence were again on display, throwing himself into every aerial and ground level contest to give Team Black nothing every time the ball was in his area. The second half is what recruiters would have loved more than anything, as not only was he moved forward to show his versatility, but he also played well in a role he has spent little time in over the last two years. His energy brought a lot to the forward mix with some desperate spoils in the forward 50 creating scoring opportunities and his lead-up marking also impressive. His first goal came from a nice mark on the lead and set shot, while the other was a classy snap which showed his bag of tricks. With his athleticism, combativeness, and football talent it is easy to see why the Swan Districts prospect is considered one of the very best players in the 2020 draft pool.

TEAM BLACK:

#20 Matthew Johnson

Once again the talented bottom-age prospect from Subiaco found it all too easy to earn plenty of possessions, with his ability to win the ball all over the ground again coming to the fold. Although handball happy, Johnson rarely wasted a disposal and often stayed composed and confident whenever he had possession. He exploded in the third quarter, winning an absurd amount of the ball which included two nice bits of play; the first saw Johnson sell candy to a player on the mark, while the second was a nice fend-off to show just how confident Johnson is in his ability. The tall 192cm midfielder is firming as first round prospect in the 2021 talent pool and has put himself ahead as Western Australia’s leading prospect going into that draft.

#25 Heath Chapman

It was a quiet game by Chapman’s standards, especially given the rebound defender averaged more than 20 disposals for West Perth this year. Of all things, he certainly wouldn’t have expected a match up with fellow elite backman, Denver Grainger-Barras in the second half, which forced Chapman to play a more defensive game. Chapman was classy with ball in hand with only one blemish in the last quarter. A lot of his possessions put his teammates in good spots with some risky kicks into the middle. Chapman did well to take a goal-saving mark on the goal line in the third quarter, and this outing perhaps a good indicator of his defensive game, with his offensive game more than proven at Colts level this year.

#31 Kalin Lane

Spending a bit less time in the ruck compared to last week, it was great to see Lane spend more time forward to show of a few more tricks. While missing his partner in crime and Claremont teammate, Joel Western for the second half, he did well to form other partnerships with the likes of the Johnson boys, Matthew and Callum. Lane nailed his only goal in the third quarter, coming from a strong outstretched contested mark which has been a real feature for him in the last month. It is an asset which is sure to separate him from other rucks across the states. He had another chance to kick a goal in the pocket but unfortunately kicked into the man on the mark.

#37 Shannon Neale

Neale finally got to capitalise on his chances up forward, as the big 202cm ruck/forward from South Fremantle was his side’s leading goalkicker with three majors which all came in different ways. His first goal came in the second quarter, kicking a nice goal in general play off two steps. His second was from a nice juggled contested mark and set shot conversion, while the last came in the final quarter as Lane got the ball over the back and ran into an open goal. He could have had even more from another two shots on goal, with one snap just missing. Neale didn’t really influence enough in his time in the ruck, so being able to impact forward of centre was important. With his athleticism and size, he will prove a great project for recruiters.

Featured Image: Retrieved from @WAFLOfficial via Twitter

Scouting Notes: 2020 Western Australia Under 18 All-Stars

THE 2020 Western Australia Under 18 All-Stars went head-to-head on Saturday, with a bunch of budding AFL Draft prospects boosting their stocks in Game One. Fremantle Next Generation Academy member Joel Western was named best afield as Team Black came up trumps by 55 points. Our scout, Ed Pascoe was on hand to jot down his notes on some of the big performers and familiar names.

>> POWER RANKINGS: October 2020

Team Gold:

#7 Isiah Winder

A classy display from Winder, who was a standout at the WA combine. In this outing, he showed what he couldn’t at the combine – his football smarts and skills. Despite his side not having a great day on the scoreboard, Winder had a lot of say in the scores they did get. He crafted some lovely kicks to advantage going inside 50 and received one of his own, but his set shot would fall short. One of his better bits of play came in the last quarter, having a run at half-back and starting a chain of handballs which showed of his speed and class. He would unfortunately come off the ground late with an injury.

#17 Zane Trew

Trew, along with his fellow midfielders couldn’t really get his side going. While Trew has been a huge disposal winner this year for Swan Districts, he found the going tough. Despite not getting ideal delivery form his rucks, he still managed to get some nice clearances and showed his standout traits with clean hands and creative handballs from stoppages. He was handball happy which he usually does well, but he may look to find a better balance between kicking and handballing, and his kicking could have been tidied up a bit. Nonetheless, Trew’s composure in heavy traffic was impressive, showing nice agility to get around opponents.

#24 Logan Young

Young played a solid game through the midfield, attacking contests hard and using his bigger frame to his advantage to dish out to his running players. A trait that has made Young a well-rounded player is his work-rate around the ground, as he is able to find the ball outside of stoppages unlike most bigger midfielders at junior level. His skills by hand and foot where decent and some of his vision with his kicks inboard where eye-catching. It was great to see Young play so well despite the opposition ruck dominance.

#27 Denver Grainger-Barras

It wasn’t a massive game stats wise by any means from Grainger-Barras, but his impact was always apparent whenever he made a contest. He had an eye-catching play early with a nice spoil, followed by a quick gather of his own spoil to showcase his fantastic agility and nimbleness for a player of 194cm. Another great play was his manic attack to make a contest, running full tilt at the ball and his opponent. Upon gathering, he also laid a nice don’t argue. Some great spoils highlighted his second half but it was an impressive leap and intercept mark in the last quarter which really caught the eye. It has been a fantastic year for Grainger-Barras, who is destined to be taken very high in this year’s draft.

#29 Logan McDonald

McDonald continued his impressive year with another strong performance up forward, finishing with 15-plus disposals and two goals. He was made to wait until the third quarter for his two goals, however, with one from a free kick and the other from a very nice conversion on the boundary from about 45 metres out. McDonald played more of a centre half-forward role, showcasing his impressive endurance and taking many marks on the wing, while also showing great composure with ball in hand. He was well held by Jaiden Hunter close to goal, but it was McDonald’s work-rate up the ground that proved a handful. This was showcased in the last quarter as he took a mark on one wing, passed inside, and worked to the opposite wing to provide another target – although this time it was spoiled. McDonald finished his campaign on a strong note as he made his claims to be the first player taken in this year’s draft.

Team Black:

#1 Joel Western

Fremantle supporters must be thrilled, but also annoyed that Western keeps impressing and improving his standing in this year’s draft, with the small and nippy midfielder doing what he does best – exploding away from stoppages with his elite speed. Western loved the supply he got in the ruck from fellow Claremont player Kalin Lane and he would always make the most of his clearances, bursting away and driving his side forward. Western would also hit the scoreboard with a nice goal on the run, followed by another from a mark and easy set shot conversion. He could have had even more goals if he were a bit more accurate on the run. His size hasn’t worried him and he plays very similarly to emerging Richmond midfielder Shai Bolton, with his clean hands and speed a real worry for opposition midfielders. He was named best on ground which was certainly deserved.

#20 Matthew Johnson

The 2021 prospect continues to further his standings in next year’s draft with another impressive display through the midfield. The tall midfielder again showcased his impressive work around stoppages and his ability to win the ball seamlessly on the outside, while using the ball well by hand and foot. Johnson shows plenty of composure with ball in hand and is never flustered. Another thing he does well is block for his teammates after giving a handball, to further put his teammates in better positions. His best bit of play came in the last quarter where he showed great agility to get around two opponents 30 metres out form goal, before slotting a lovely major on his opposite foot.

#25 Heath Chapman

It was another classy display from Chapman down back, where he showcased his ability to intercept and use the ball well from defence. He took numerous intercept marks and after the one he did drop, he did really well to quickly gather the loose ball by attacking it hard and making sure he made up for his mistake. Chapman’s attacking flair is his best trait but he also showed his strong defensive game as well in the second quarter, punching a nice spoil and then nailing his opponent with a strong tackle near the boundary. Chapman has firmed into top 20 calculations in this year’s draft and this game only helped confirm his talent.

#31 Kalin Lane

A brilliant game from Lane who was the standout ruckman on the ground, giving his midfield first use and particularly forming a good partnership with fellow Claremont Tiger, Joel Western. His competitiveness to go with his hitout work was really impressive, as he took numerous strong marks around the ground and was more than willing to tackle once he had competed in a ruck contest. Perhaps his most eye-catching movement came in the second quarter when he managed to nail the elusive Denver Grainger-Barras with a strong tackle, which would lead to his side kicking a goal.

#37 Shannon Neale

It wasn’t a big day for Neale, who played mostly forward for Team Black with Kalin Lane getting the major ruck duties. Neale did some nice things forward without hitting the scoreboard himself, with a nice smother close to goal and numerous leaps at the ball to kill contests. His best work came when he was able to move into the ruck, where he was more involved with some nice taps and follow up work once the ball hit the ground. He will need to push up the ground more as a forward and really showcase his endurance as a former runner.

Featured Image: The 2020 WA Under 18 All-Stars post-match | Retrieved from: @WAFLOfficial

Scouting Notes: 2020 WAFL Colts Grand Final – Claremont vs. Subiaco

SUBIACO took out the 2020 WAFL Colts Grand Final on Sunday, trumping reigning premier and warm favourite, Claremont by 59 points at Fremantle Oval. Our scouts were on hand to take note of some of the outstanding performers, including AFL Academy members, Next Generation Academy prospects, and recent National Combine invitees.

Please consider that each set of notes showcases the opinions of our scouts individually, and there are only so many players we can keep an eye on each week.

Claremont:

#2 Logan Young

It was a quieter game for the big-bodied midfielder, but Young still managed a solid outing and a balanced game. Young covered the ground well, doing some nice work inside the contests but also working hard to push back and help his defenders. Young was later moved forward to switch things up and took a nice mark on the wing. At his size, he could be a hard match up as a midfielder who can push forward and make an impact. Young finished the game with 17 disposals, five marks, and six tackles.

#10 Joel Western

The smooth moving captain of Claremont did all he could to try and get his side over the line. A strong four-quarter performer, he could hold his head high. Western was very silky playing through the midfield, often running from congestion with ease and delivering multiple slick handballs. While not always accurate, he was getting plenty of penetration on his kicks and he would have likely had the most metres gained from his side. Western showed he had a few tricks with a scissor kick over his head in the last quarter – although not exactly effective, it did show his athleticism. Western finished the game with 25 disposals and the Fremantle NGA prospect will now look towards the All-Star games taking place in the next few weeks to continue to show to recruiters his special talent.

#21 Jack Avery

Another big game from the underrated defender who was a recent call-up to the AFL combine, and you could see why with the intercepting machine starting the game in fine form. He showed great courage early with a strong intercept and contested mark, and continued in a similar manner as he went back wit the flight in the second quarter. Despite a hiccup close to goal that lead to an opposition major, he was his side’s best player in the first half. Avery was moved into the midfield in the second half and still won plenty of the ball. Midfield is a position he can hopefully play in the All-Stars games to show off his versatility. While his disposal let him down from the midfield, he had no issues winning it despite not playing the role at all this year. Avery finished with 33 disposals and seven marks and was certainly one of his side’s better players who played hard for four quarters.

#23 Jacob Van Rooyen

The talented 2021 key position prospect started the game in fine form, kicking a nice set shot goal and doing well in ruck contests inside attacking 50. His marking is a strength which he showed all game, but it was his nimbleness that really stood out in a nice passage of play in the second quarter as he streamed through the middle of the ground and kicked long inside 50, showing his athleticism. He would show that athleticism again in the last quarter, almost kicking a nice running goal from long range that just missed. Van Rooyen was moved into the midfield after the game was already lost and he showed some great signs, especially at the first centre bounce, showing a lot of energy by looking to get involved and throw his big frame around. Van Rooyen finished with 17 disposals, five marks and kicked 1.1 in an impressive outing that will help build into his draft year in 2021.

#28 Kalin Lane

Lane was the standout ruck on the ground with his tapwork and follow-up work being first class. Standing at 204cm, it was great to see a player of his size so willing to tackle and impact the contests after his ruckwork. He was rewarded for it with a nice tackle which yielded a holding the ball call in the first quarter. Some of his tapwork was sublime, especially one to his teammate Western who couldn’t have asked for better silver service. His marking around the ground was also strong, which is what you want from your primary ruckman. Lane was a strong four-quarter performer with 14 disposals, five marks and 32 hit outs as he made claims to be the premier ruckman in this year’s draft.

Subiaco:

#12 Matthew Johnson

Perhaps Western Australia’s best prospect going into the 2021 draft, the tall midfielder showed a lot of class with his ability to win the ball in close and distribute by hand cleanly to his teammates’ advantage. His vision by hand was outstanding, whether it was from a clearance or in general play. There was one fine example in the second quarter where he faked a handball nicely and then quickly dished off a perfect pass to his teammate to release him into space. Johnson’s goal came in the second quarter after earning a free kick. His second half was huge, winning plenty of the ball at ease and using it effectively by hand and foot. He had another great play in the last quarter, attacking the ground ball hard, cleanly giving a handball, getting it back, and almost evading another tackle before getting done in the back. Johnson had a complete game in the midfield, finishing with 21 disposals, five marks, six tackles and a goal.

#13/17 Lachlan Vanirsen

What a week it has been for Vanirsen, who capped it off by winning the Mel Whinnen Medal for best on ground after taking out the Jack Clarke Medal as best and fairest of the WAFL Colts earlier in the week, and a premiership medal to go with it. A deserving winner of the each medal, Vanirsen was unstoppable through the midfield where he showed a great mix of class, hard work and impact. He had a number change to start the second quarter, going from 13 to 17 which may have confused some onlookers. He went into full attacking mode in the second half, kicking a lovely goal by crumbing and snapping truly to put the game beyond doubt at that point. He made plenty of chances in the last quarter to add to his goal tally and he really deserved another goal. His work-rate was highlighted with one passage of play where he got multiple possessions starting from defence, and finally latched onto the last chain inside 50 where he won a free kick, but would miss the long range shot at goal. Vanirsen can’t have done much more to help his draft stocks with 33 disposals, 11 marks, five tackles, and 1.3. He will have more chances to stake his claim with the upcoming All-Star games, too.

#22 Blake Morris

Morris started the game slowly but really came into his own in the second half, becoming an intercept marking machine which is a role he played well at last year’s Under 16 championships. Despite not having the size to play as a true key position player, he has shown a great ability to play taller with his marking ability, but what also stood out was his ground level play. Morris showed some great composure and agility to evade opponents, as he rarely gets caught. The third quarter showcased his intercept marking and his work down back really gave Claremont no chance of making any damaging forward entries. Although his kicking was shaky at times, Morris was certainly one of his side’s most damaging players, finishing with 16 disposals and eight marks. Like a few other teammates, he will get more chances to show his wares in the upcoming All-Star games.

#23 Sandon Page

Page has been a constant scoring force for Subiaco this year, but it was his set-up and outlet work up the ground where he was found to be most damaging and useful for his side on this occasion. Page didn’t waste much time with his disposals, often providing a hard contest, gathering cleanly, and quickly forcing the ball forward at all costs, which was a good ploy in a Grand Final when territory can be so important. He would be rewarded for his work up the ground with some goals in the third quarter; one coming from a free kick close to goal, and another being a mark close to goal where he would slot both set shots with ease. Page had a solid outing with 12 disposals and two goals while also setting up others. He is another Subiaco product who will play in the upcoming All-Star games.

#33 Neil Erasmus

Erasmus sure does know how to find the goals. The bottom-ager provided an early spark for Subiaco, helping the Lions get away with three first-half majors. Having plied his trade for Hale School during the PSA season, Erasmus only made his WAFL Colts debut in Round 9, and booted his maiden goal during the first term of this outing. Blink, and you may have missed all four of his scores, as the lively forward showed great goal sense to quickly put boot to ball and find the big sticks each time. His ability to compete aerially, and then show a clean pair of heels across the ground was excellent, as commentators likened him to Port youngster, Mitch Georgiades. He seems a promising, raw prospect for next year with plenty of scope.

Featured Image: Subiaco and Claremont’s fliers contest for a mark | Source: (Retrieved from) @WAFLOfficial via Twitter

Scouting Notes: NT All-Stars – Team Rioli vs. Team McLean

TEAM Rioli defeated Team McLean 11.13 (79) to 7.17 (59) in Friday night’s Northern Territory (NT) Under 18 All-Stars showcase at TIO Stadium. Draft Central scout, Ed Pascoe had eyes on the exiting spectacle, on hand to deliver notes on the Top End’s brightest prospects.

Team Rioli:

#5 Jack Peris

The talented son of former Olympian Nova Peris started the game in fine fashion, with a nice run and handball to then get the ball back in the chain and finish it with a nice running goal. Jack Peris made the wing his own, using it to run hard both ways. He was not afraid to tackle either, and would attack cleanly and quickly with ball in hand. He had a very good last quarter which was highlighted by an unselfish bit of play, receiving a kick from Joel Jeffrey close to goal, but handpassing over to teammate Nathaniel Cooper for an easy conversion. The exciting St Kilda NGA prospect is not draft eligible until 2021, but looks a great talent to watch for in that draft.

#6 Nathaniel Cooper

Cooper was extremely busy on the half-forward flank as he sent the ball inside 50 numerous times and set up plenty of scoring chains with his composure and skill. Cooper was one of the smallest players out there but perhaps had the biggest impact with his ability to turn on a dime and keep his composure under a lot of pressure. He was rewarded for his numerous goal assists with a goal for himself in the last quarter, which came from an unselfish bit of play by teammate, Jack Peris. The Croker Island prospect certainly lit up the game and made a name for himself as a player to keep an eye on for the future.

#8 Alwyn Davey Jr

One of the youngest players on the ground the talented son of a gun really showed his skill and why he will be a highly sought after prospect in the 2022 draft. Davey played most of his time in the midfield where his clean hands and skills where on display, as he rarely missed a target and often put his teammates in a better position than himself. His most exciting bit of play came with a great chase down tackle in the second quarter which would have certainly given Essendon supporters flashbacks of his old man during his playing days with Essendon. Davey had a few chances to hit the scoreboard in the third quarter and could not quite capitalise, but he still showed plenty of forward craft – not just at ground level but with his marking overhead. He is a right-footer and more of a midfielder compared to his father and twin brother, and he will line up for the Oakleigh Chargers next year.

#9 Brodie Lake

Coming back to the NT after spending some time in South Australia with Central District, it was business as usual for Lake who got to show his trademark burst and running power for all four quarters, as he was firmly in the best players for Team Rioli. The main issue for Lake throughout the game was his kicking, as he did not have many problems finding the ball and looking good on the burst, but a fair few times he did not hit a target via foot. That side of his game did get better later in the contest, but what really impressed was his work-rate to push into defence and not only spoil, but quickly back up, win the ball, and go for his trademark dashes to it away from a dangerous position. Lake has plenty of elite traits and if he can tidy up his disposal he could be a real weapon at AFL level and looks likely to be pre-listed by Gold Coast.

>> Feature: Brodie Lake

#16 Ned Stevens

Forming a great partnership with Joel Jeffrey as a tall forward, Stevens started the game well by taking a nice contested mark, coming from behind his opponent then and slotting his first goal. Stevens also helped out in the ruck, using his leap and obvious basketball traits to win plenty of hit-outs and doing so cleanly. His clean hands both at ground level and above his head really stood out and made him a very difficult matchup. His third and final goal was his best, kicking a miracle goal from a tight angle in the third quarter which really showed off his talent. With great athletic traits, size and game sense, Stevens looks like one of NT’s best young prospects going into the 2021 draft.

#24 Joel Jeffrey

Perhaps NT’s finest young prospect for the 2020 draft, it was evident why he is so highly touted with a brilliant display up forward. Although not perfect, he was easily the most dangerous player on the ground and was near impossible to stop on the lead with his speed off the mark, thus providing a great target coming out of full forward. While he was not nailing every scoring opportunity, he remained dangerous and what really impressed was his ability to bring his teammates into the he game in the second half with some lovely pin point kicks. Jeffrey kicked three goals with two coming from lead up marks and one from a free kick. He had a great battle with another quality youngster in Tyrrell Lui. Jeffrey certainly showed off his talent with clean hands, good agility and vision and if he can nail more of his opportunities he could become a real force up forward at the next level.

>> AFL Draft Watch: Joel Jeffrey

Team McLean:

#10 Jesiah Minor

The talented left-footer from Papunya was Team McLean’s most dangerous forward all day, with his long and dangerous boot his weapon of choice which he used well to hit the scoreboard from all angles. Minor did well to lead and take his marks up the ground, not just close to goal where he was equally damaging. He would kick three goals and a fair few behinds, but his best goal came in the last quarter – marking 60m out and without hesitation, wheeling around onto his left and kicking a lovely long goal. It could have been an even bigger day for Minor if he had kicked straighter, but it was nice to see how quick he could get ball to boot in different situations to find an avenue to goal. He certainly looks like a prospect to keep an eye on.

#20 Tyrrell Lui

Lui had the toughest gig of any player on the ground and that was the task of stopping the highly talented Joel Jeffrey. He did the best he could do but some of the delivery to Jeffrey was hard to stop for even the best defenders and he could hold his head up on the consistent four-quarter effort he provided. Lui had a cool head in defence as he was rarely flustered, often picking the right option and executing well by hand and foot. He had some timely spoils and tackles deep in defence and he was certainly important to his side when the ball was coming in fast. The utility is a talented prospect and could yet find a spot on Gold Coasts list as part of its NT Zone.

Scouting Notes: 2020 All Schools Cup Grand Final – Henley vs. PAC

PRINCE Alfred College (PAC) defeated Henley High 10.9 (69) to 8.6 (54) on Tuesday, earning victory in the 2020 All Schools Cup Grand Final at Thebarton Oval. Our scout, Ed Pascoe was on hand to put together scouting notes on the outstanding players, with plenty of 2020 and 2021 AFL Draft prospects among them.

Henley:

#12 Bailey Chamberlain

The speedy Chamberlain spent his time playing through the midfield and in defence as a rebounder and arguably did his best work behind the ball, using his speed and dare to create. He would balance this late in the second quarter with some steady play, taking marks and keeping composed to hit his short targets by foot. Chamberlain has spent most of his time with West Adelaide as a midfielder, but his time with Henley has showed he has a bit more versatility to his game while also still winning plenty of the ball as he had another 20-plus disposals.

#29 Jase Burgoyne

The talented son of a gun isn’t eligible to be drafted until 2021, but he has had an outstanding bottom-age year. His form continued again for Henley, waxing with Chamberlain through the midfield and off half-back where he was classy as ever, showing plenty of skill and flair. Burgoyne was a classy customer all day with clean hands and slick movement through traffic; his best bit of play came in the second quarter, laying a strong tackle and quickly getting up in the blink of an eye to cleanly gather the ball and quickly dart away, flicking out a one-two handball and long kick to finish it off. Another nice bit of play came in the third quarter with another clean pickup and quick handball to Taj Schofield, which would set up a goal. Burgoyne has showed a good balance between his attacking and defensive game and he certainly looks a player to watch for next year.

#66 Tariek Newchurch

The Adelaide Crows NGA prospect has been an excitement machine this year and that continued again for Henley. It didn’t take long for him to show off his talent with a scintillating first quarter. He set the crowd alight with the goal of the day, selling candy in the midfield and then taking a few bounces, getting the one-two before slotting the running goal from 45-metres out. He wasn’t as damaging for the remaining quarters, but he did well to keep involved and try to create with little tap ons and some bursts of speed on the wing. He had another great bit of play in the last quarter, laying a great tackle and then quickly playing on to set up a timely Henley goal. Newchurch only kicked the one major and almost kicked a few more, but he always looked dangerous.

#68 Taj Schofield

Another Port Adelaide father-son but for this year’s draft, Schofield didn’t take long to show his class, slotting and amazing goal tight on the boundary. Despite that, he was struggling with the pace of the game early, getting caught a few times, but this would change as the game went on. He showed great composure with ball in hand all day, rarely panicking and always taking his time to make the right decision to usually execute by hand and foot. His second goal was almost as good, if not better than his first, showing great movement and composure to get out of trouble and slot a classy goal on the run in the third quarter. He did the team things well in the last quarter with some great tackles, with one being rewarded by the umpires and he couldn’t have done much more to try and gets his side over the line.

#80 Caleb Poulter

Poulter was a force all day for Henley, with the tall midfielder continuing his fine form this year with a dominant midfield display that again re-affirmed his draft stocks. What really impressed was his four-quarter consistency which hasn’t quite been a factor in his game as his ability forward of centre takes him away from the midfield in a lot of games. He did well to push behind the ball multiple times to take intercept marks, but also pushed hard offensively to set up and get on the end of attacking chains with plenty of shots from 50-metres out on his booming left-foot. He only kicked the one goal from his numerous shots but it was a pearler, gathering the loose ball cleanly and quickly getting ball to boot from outside 50, with the luck of the bounce seeing the ball make it through for a goal. Poulter would have had around 30 disposals for the day and if Henley had won, would have been a big shot at winning best afield honours.

PAC:

#18 Harry McInnes

The ever-dangerous McInnes just keeps finding the goals week after week. The talented bottom-ager plays the full forward role despite being a bit undersized at this stage. He is a natural forward and knows where to lead and where the goals are. He took numerous strong contested marks during the game and his best came in the third quarter where he also drew the 25-metre penalty, which showed his smarts and natural forward nous. His kicking at goal was a bit shaky and he could have really had a huge game if he was more accurate. The left-footer is building well into his draft year next year, finishing the game with three goals and plenty of behinds to go with it.

#27 Will Charlton

Not his most productive game, but Charlton is a great draft prospect for next year playing as a rebounding, medium-sized defender who has a great mix of defensive traits and attacking flair. His kicking wasn’t as assured as usual, but his intent and ability to intercept or spoil was very strong and I can certainly see him being a leading rebounding option for his side next year. He should do well for Norwood and perhaps have a part in the Redlegs’ finals tilt later this year.

#33 Declan Hortle

The big-bodied ruckman, who is not draft eligible until next year really gave it to one of the leading ruckman from SA this year in Zac Phillips, and he may have gotten the better of him too. The Sturt bigman was very competitive in the ruck, giving up some height but certainly making use of his strong body and smarts around the stoppages. He used the ball well for a his size and wasn’t afraid to tackle hard and really scrap along with his smaller midfielders, who worked well with him. Hortle would kick the sealer with a goal on the run in the last quarter showing good mobility and skill for his size, and he was certainly one of PAC’s most influential players in their grand final win.

#34 Harry Tunkin

Arguably best on ground along with eventual winner James Borlase, the hard working Glenelg bottom-ager was a consistent four-quarter performer through the midfield, winning plenty of the ball at the coalface while also getting on the outside – using his smarts and work-rate. Tunkin also hit the scoreboard with a nice dribble goal in the first quarter, and a nice set shot goal from a free kick in the last quarter. Tunkin was a force offensively and just as much as he was defensively, with the nuggety on-baller tackling with intent and working hard to provide an outlet in defence. Tunkin had the ball on a string winning 20-plus disposals as he looks to build into his draft year in 2021. He has certainly shown to be a consistent and hard working player these last two years.

#44 James Borlase

A worthy winner for best on ground, the talented Crows NGA prospect missed out on father-son qualifications for Port Adelaide and it would frustrate those supporters seeing Borlase playing so well this year. Borlase has had a strong year, earning a senior game for Sturt and also being a strong contributor for PAC, where he has played forward and back. But it was down back where he dominated on this occasion, with his impressive ability to take intercept marks. Borlase was a wall for PAC and he would have had around 10 intercept marks for the game as he read the ball better than anybody and he had the frame to stand strong and take them cleanly. He also did well on the rebound and despite not being super quick, he still moved the ball on in a timely fashion and often used it well by hand and foot. His second quarter in particular was massive, taking five marks with just about every one of them impressive or contested in some way. His composure and sure hands really helped PAC steady the ship whenever Henley came charging through the middle, and his influence made him a clear choice for best on ground in the end, with Tunkin another strong performer for PAC.

Featured Image: PAC players celebrate their Grand Final triumph | Credit: Mark Brake/The Advertiser

WAFL League Player Focus: Logan McDonald (Perth) vs. Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts)

IT was a highly anticipated matchup that did not disappoint. Both Logan McDonald and Denver Grainger-Barras are not only considered the best young players out of Western Australia, but loom as possible top five picks who have been mainstays in their respective League sides. They have both had some impressive performances, with McDonald second in the League for goals and Grainger-Barras closing in on the top 10 for marks in the competition.

In our latest Player Focus edition, we take a look at how the leading West Australian prospects fared as McDonald’s Perth took on Grainger-Barras’ Swan Districts in Round 8 of the WAFL League. The pair did not start on each other, as Nathan Ireland was tasked with manning McDonald early, but Swan Districts would give scouts what they wanted in the second half.

Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia

DOB: April 4, 2002
Height: 196cm
Weight: 85kg

Position: Key Position Forward

>> Draft Watch
>> Round 2 Player Focus

Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia

DOB: April 14, 2002
Height: 195cm
Weight: 78kg

Position: Key Position Defender

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Round 3 Player Focus

PLAYER FOCUS

STATS:
McDonald: 4 kicks | 2 handballs | 6 disposals | 3 marks | 1 tackle | 1 inside 50 | 3 goals
Grainger-Barras: 12 kicks | 4 handballs | 16 disposals | 8 marks | 3 tackles | 1 inside 50

Q1:

Even when McDonald and Grainger-Barras did not start on each other, a lot of their possessions in the first half where linked in some form. The first player to get involved was McDonald, who would almost take a strong grab on the wing. He dropped the mark at the last possible moment but quickly recovered, receiving a handball from good mate Nathan O’Driscoll and in-turn handballing to a teammate running past. Not too long after that, Grainger-Barras almost took an impressive mark in defence, which he began to stick eventually as he snapped up a nice intercept mark before kicking long to the wing. The ball would come back though, and making the most of it was that man McDonald. After taking a strong contested mark at the 50-metre arc, he would go back and slot a long bomb for his first goal of the game.

A few minutes later, McDonald almost took a strong contested mark inside 50, but again it spilled out on the way down. Grainger-Barras was the one to capitalise, sweeping on the loose ball, jumping over McDonald in the process, and handballing to a teammate. Grainger-Barras would have some more good moments soon after on the wing; first doing well in a one-on-one marking contest to nullify it, and a few moments later attacking the ball hard at ground level to gather and release a good handball. About a minute later, McDonald returned to the fray, using good bodywork to work his opponent under the ball. He would run onto the loose ball inside 50 but was well pressured from behind, and sent the dribble shot on a tight angle through for a behind.

A few minutes later both players would be linked again. Grainger-Barras gathered nicely in the middle but his kick out wide was poor, leading to a turnover. Not long after, he went to spoil the next aerial ball but did not kill the contest, which lead to McDonald kicking his second goal further down the ground from 15 metres out directly in front. Grainger-Barras wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, spoiling a marking contest well late in the quarter.

Q2:

The links between the two players continued into the second quarter, with Grainger-Barras attacking the loose ball hard from a defensive stoppage, but being met with a strong tackle. The ball would later be kicked to the leading McDonald, with Grainger-Barras working hard to come from the side to spoil but to no avail. It was a very strong lead and mark from McDonald, who would convert from the set shot nicely for his third and final goal.

At around the 17-minute mark it seemed the move had been made with Grainger-Barras going to McDonald. Grainger-Barras would earn a simple possession, being closest to an out-on-the-full kick deep in defence and booting the free kick long down the line. Late in the quarter, McDonald was very unlucky not to be paid a fantastic contested mark, contesting both Grainger-Barras and impressive ruckman Corey Gault on the wing.

Q3:

Everything form here on out was purely McDonald vs. Grainger-Barras, with Grainger-Barras hot on the heels of McDonald wherever he went. McDonald played centre half-forward which may have been a mistake in hindsight, for as hard as McDonald worked to give strong leads and provide a good outlet, the delivery to him was very poor and very rarely to his advantage. The first notable contest was on the wing where Grainger-Barras used good bodywork to work McDonald under the ball, gather nicely, and get a a scrappy left-foot kick forward. Not long after, Grainger-Barras took a nice intercept mark and this was the point where that side of his game would really start to shine, as he does it better than anyone else in his draft class.

Grainger-Barras is a competitor and despite his light frame, he is not afraid to go in hard not just to win his own ball, but to also tackle hard. He laid a strong tackle and a few minutes later he applied a great spoil on McDonald at half-forward – letting his opponent know about it and further adding to McDonalds growing frustration. Grainger-Barras is not afraid to stir the pot and get under his opponents’ skin, and at the earlier half time scuffle he made sure to get involved in some capacity.

The frustration wouldn’t go away for McDonald because not long after the aforementioned spoil, he again found himself outdone by Grainger-Barras, who took a very nice intercept mark going back with flight and following with a nice kick inboard. You couldn’t blame McDonald for the frustration, with plenty of kicks certainly not to his advantage, but credit also had to be given to Grainger-Barras to still show his strength as an interceptor while also manning up the most dangerous forward on the opposition.

Q4:

It did not take long for Grainger-Barras to get involved with a strong tackle on the wing that should have been rewarded, but he would get a free kick later on at McDonald’s expense. He would have to be considered lucky as their was not much in it, only further adding to McDonald’s frustrating second half. Not long after, Grainger-Barras again took a strong intercept mark on the wing and would kick long inside 50 to a one-on-one. McDonald did not drop his head and still competed hard, crashing one pack hard on the wing. A couple of minutes later, he would again compete hard in a marking contest inside 50 which would allow his smaller teammates to gather the crumbs. It won’t show on the stat sheet, but McDonald certainly worked hard to not only give an option on the lead, but also compete in the contest.

Grainger-Barras was in fine intercepting form for this quarter and he would take a brilliant intercept mark close to goal, before using the ball well with a long switch kick. Apart from his error early in the game, his kicking had been sensational, especially his longer kicks as he can really get under them. About a minute afterwards, McDonald would have another nice moment inside 50. Despite not getting a stat for it, he competed well inside 50 and a timely intercept from a handball would lead to his team gathering the loose ball and kicking a goal. McDonald really proved in the the last quarter that it’s his work inside 50 that’s most generous and advantageous for Perth and his final involvement, he would make a clean gather at ground level and handpass to a teammate close to goal. McDonald has proven this year that he is not only strong in the air but also nimble and clean at ground level for a taller player, and I expect he will hold more of his marks once he puts on some more size in the future. He was beaten by Grainger-Barras in the second half but you couldn’t have asked for more from him, and kicking three goals is certainly not a bad return.

Grainger-Barras wasn’t done yet though, as he had a really good two-minute patch not long after McDonald’s last involvement. He would take a lovely contested intercept mark flying in from the side in defensive 50, and again would release a long kick out from defensive 50 down the line. He competed really well on the wing where he took on a tackler and got a handball out in what was a great act of desperation, despite the game already being won. Not long after that he would put the exclamation point on his great game, taking an awesome intercept mark going back with flight and hurting himself in the process. That was certainly enough to give him a well earned rest anyway.

There was a fear going into the game that these two young guns wouldn’t line up on each other but not only did they line up on each other, they both managed to have very good games with Grainger-Barras perhaps having his best ever game at League level. He finished with 17 disposals and eight marks while McDonald again hit the scoreboard, kicking 3.1 as he firmly looks to finish among the top three in the WAFL goalkicking charts. Fellow draft fancy, O’Driscoll also had a great game backing up his brilliant outing last week, but this game was all about two young talents going head-to-head in McDonald and Grainger-Barras. They did not disappoint.

Power Rankings: September 2020 | July 2020 | August 2020
>> 2020 Western Australia Under 18s Squad Prediction

Featured Image: Leading WA draft prospects Denver Grainger-Barras, Logan McDonald, and Nathan O’Driscoll | Source: Michael Willson/AFL Media

WAFL League Player Focus: Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at another prospect who stood out recently in the West Australian Football League (WAFL). This week, in Round 7 of the League competition, we put Peel Thunder prospect Isiah Winder under the microscope, as he made his second top flight appearance for the Thunder in their 35-point loss to ladder leader, South Fremantle on Saturday.

PLAYER PAGE

Isiah Winder
Peel Thunder/Western Australia

DOB: May 16, 2002
Height: 179cm
Weight: 79kg

Position: Small forward/midfielder

>> AFL Draft Watch: Isiah Winder

PLAYER FOCUS

Stats: 6 kicks, 5 handballs, 11 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles

Winder earned himself a call-up to the League side after another strong performance in the Colts, where he has impressed with his midfield craft and class. While he did not get the opportunity to play midfield at League level, the 18-year-old gained some valuable time battling against the undefeated South Fremantle unit, utilised up either end of the ground down. Winder made his League debut in Round 3 and will be hoping to keep his spot in the young Peel side. He certainly showed some good signs, with his ball use easily up to the standard.

Q1:

Winder started the game down back, which is a position he has not played often at Colts level. He had a nice bit of play early, showing clean hands below his knees to take the ball and quickly execute a dinky left-foot pass which showed a lot of class. Shortly after, he was paired up with the dangerous Haiden Schloithe and would give away a holding free kick against him in a marking contest on the wing, but fared better on him in other contests later in the game. He had another awkward moment with Schloithe, this time after receiving a switch kick at half-back. Winder tried a quick dinky kick down the line, but it was intercepted by that man Schloithe, making for one of his rare errors with ball in hand. He also made some nice defensive efforts; getting back to rush a behind having nullified the contest inside defensive 50, despite getting caught behind an opponent on the lead. He followed up that effort, taking the kick-out with a nice pass to teammate Jack Sears.

Q2:

One eye-catching bit of play came in the second quarter where he gathered the crumbs deep in defence, then faked an opponent and executed a classy little handball to get his side out of trouble. His next disposal came from a mark at half-back, and he would quickly kick the ball long down the line to a leading player which looked nice off the boot, but was just a tad too high for his leading teammate. His last disposal for the quarter was another nice gather at half-back and a slick handball to follow, again showcasing his clean hands.

Q3:

Winder’s third term was his most prolific, starting with a clean handball on the wing. Not long after, he would have another nice play on the wing which came from his pressure on an opponent running to kick inside 50. Winder’s closing speed effected a poor kick, which saw him then quickly work up the field to receive the ball after his side won back possession. Winder followed up with a nice long handball to set up his side’s movement inside 50. It was a great passage from the youngster, showing he could defend and attack to a high standard, and again proving he can really hurt the opposition with his clean disposal. He had a good bit of play later in the quarter with a slick gather close to goal, doing well to sit in the dangerous spot and handball out to a teammate under pressure. The disposal was a little untidy, but a good effort nonetheless.

Q4:

Winder got to play as a forward in the last quarter, which is a position he played well in the Colts last year. Despite his familiarity in the role, Winder did not have any results on the scoreboard and it was his quietest period of the game. His only disposal in this quarter came very late, receiving a handball in the middle. He showed great vision to spot Sears with a snap kick that was perfectly placed, again showing his class with ball in hand. It was quick thinking to not only identify the target, but also identify the type of kick needed to execute the kick. Winder’s forward pressure late in the quarter was fairly good, but he could use a bit more consistency in his intensity to defend as a forward.

Closing thoughts…

Winder got a lot out of this game, playing roles he would not normally play at Colts level to show his potential versatility to recruiters. He had some big matchups, especially on Schloithe, and more than held his own against bigger and stronger opponents. Winder’s skill and class more than held up at the level and is something that sets him apart from his peers. As classy as he looked, I’d like to see some more intensity and consistency in his defensive game, and bringing that up to the level of his skills would go a long way to making a big impact at League level and catching the eyes of recruiters.

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020
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