Author: Michael Alvaro

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 15 – Murray the lone home victor

MURRAY Bushrangers ended Round 15 of last year’s NAB League season as the only side to pick up a win on home turf, with four travelling teams making their away trips memorable ones across a shortened, five-game round. Five unique venues were also used over the eventful weekend, and Sandringham took a major leap towards the top three as Oakleigh and Eastern were among the three regions to enjoy a bye.

The Dragons’ move into third spot came on the back of a 65-point thumping of Tasmania on the Apple Isle, with the Devils unable to thwart their opponents’ scoring power. It didn’t take long for Sandringham to click into gear, setting up a handy 31-point margin at the main break, and doubling it over the course of the second half to win comfortably in a consistent effort.

Over-ager Angus Hanrahan was once again the Dragons’ leading ball winner, booting three goals from 33 touches in a massive outing, while Saints draftee Ryan Byrnes notched 28 and Port Adelaide first rounder Miles Bergman (19 disposals, one goal) looked lively. North Melbourne rookie Matt McGuinness led the way for Tasmania, picking up a team-high 26 disposals, with bottom-age guns Sam Collins (21 disposals) and Oliver Davis (19) also standing up in the losing effort.

Gippsland kept the ball rolling for away sides as it travelled to Dandenong’s Shepley Oval to take on the Stingrays. Akin to Sandringham, the Power got ahead early and never looked back, coasting home comfortably to a 34-point victory. After conceding a 33-point deficit to half time, the Stingrays had more than enough opportunities to get back into the contest, but could only manage 1.9 in the third term while keeping Gippsland goalless. It proved costly, as the Power got off the ropes to recover in the final quarter.

Future Fremantle young gun Hayden Young led all comers with 26 disposals and a goal, with Ned Cahill the next best on 22. Clayton Gay was a culprit of Stingrays’ the inaccuracy with four behinds, but got in the right areas, while Lachlan Williams and Will Bravo booted multiple goals for the Stingrays. Speaking of, Harvey Neocleous notched a game-high three majors for Gippsland, while skipper Brock Smith 22 disposals) and Sam Flanders (21) were among their side’s better ball winners. Ryan Sparkes led the way though with 23 touches.

In another Country-based fixture, Murray got the better of Western, credit to a resounding performance in the forward half. The Bushrangers booted 18.13 (121) to blow the Jets away by 72 points, booting at least four goals in each of the first three terms to set up the big victory. The Jets won some ground back in the final period of play after managing a goal per the previous quarters, and booted four majors to Murray’s two.

A 16-year-old star in Josh Rachele did plenty of damage with three goals from 21 disposals, alongside Jimmy Boyer‘s effort of 26 disposals and three goals. Remarkably, Western’s Josh Honey matched their feat in front of goal, contributing a third of Western’s total scoring shots. Cam Wild led all comers with 29 disposals, while Lachlan Ash (26 disposals, one goal) was in the thick of things, and Jets bottom-ager Cody Raak (24 disposals, 11 rebound 50s) was kept busy down back.

Bendigo’s road trip to Preston proved a fruitful one, as the Pioneers notched a brilliant upset win over Northern. After a tight first half which saw Bendigo claim the slight edge, a three-goal to one third quarter put the Pioneers 24 points ahead heading into the last turn. The Knights would do their best to sneak back into the game, but the away side had all the answers and ran away with the 37-point triumph.

One positive on the day for Northern was the emergence of Nikolas Cox in a true key position role, as he booted four goals to be the game’s most dangerous forward. Bendigo’s Jack Evans was the only other multiple goalkicker (two), as Knights pair Justin Davies and Sunny Brazier led the ball winning stakes with 24 touches each. Carlton draftee Sam Philp collected 22 disposals, while Swans recruit Brady Rowles looked threatening in his 11-disposal effort.

The final game of the round produced a thriller, as Calder snuck over the line against the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at Mars Stadium. The game was only ever edged in the Rebels’ favour by a margin of one to two goals, but they seemed the superior side on the day and could have been even further ahead if not for some inaccuracy. The Cannons took full toll, booting three goals to one in the final term to snatch a four-point win.

Former Essendon father-son prospect Mason Fletcher came up clutch with three goals, matched by teammate Ned Gentile. Three Rebels booted multiples, while Collingwood draftee Jay Rantall dominated with a game-high 35 disposals. The cream had clearly risen to the top as Sam Ramsay followed with 33 touches, as the pair displayed all of the traits which saw them bolt into AFL Draft calculations.

AFL Draft Watch: Alex Davies (Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies)

IN the build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state at Under 17 or Under 18s level in 2019. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at pre-season testing, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is Gold Coast SUNS Academy product Alex Davies, a big-bodied inside midfielder who looms as Queensland’s most promising 2020 prospect. Solidly built at 191cm and 85kg, Davies is a terrific extractor at the stoppages and finds the ball at will, setting the tone from midfield. He represented the Maroons at Under 16 and 17 level, but will now be looking to become the centrepiece of the Allies’ engine room as a top-ager. His four NAB League outings as a bottom-ager also put him in good stead, and he could cost the SUNS first round points value come draft time.

PLAYER PAGE:

Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies

DOB: March 18, 2002

Height: 191cm
Weight: 85kg

Position: Inside Midfielder

Strengths: Contested ball, clean hands, distribution, poise
Improvements: Outside impact

2019 NAB League stats: 4 games, 18 disposals (49.3% contested possessions), 2.8 marks, 3.5 tackles, 3.8 clearances, 2.8 inside 50s, 1.3 rebound 50s, 0.3 goals (1)

>> Q&A: Alex Davies
>> Marquee Matchup: Davies vs. McInnes

PRESEASON TESTING RESULTS:

Did not test.

>> Full Testing Results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

2019 SCOUTING NOTES:

Under 17 Futures All Stars

By: Ed Pascoe

The Gold Coast academy prospect was one of Team Dal Santo’s better performers going through the midfield and winning plenty of the ball especially early. He is a nice size as a modern day tall midfielder and he had no trouble winning first possession and dishing it out to his runners. He kicked a lovely goal in the last quarter under pressure he was able to cleanly pickup and quickly kick a nice running goal.

Under 17 Futures vs. Vic Metro

By: Ed Pascoe

The tallest of Queensland’s big midfielders standing at 190cm, he was a strong player around stoppages going in hard to win clearances but also working hard around the ground to be an option. Davies showed good attack on the ball but he also showed his ability to pressure and give multiple efforts through the midfield, and had a good bit of play in the first quarter with a great second effort smother. Davies finished the game with 15 disposals and was his team’s leading clearance player with five.

Under 17 Futures vs. NSW/ACT

By: Michael Alvaro

Davies’ game suited the conditions, with the big-bodied midfielder bustling around packs and forcing his way through at stoppages. His approach was pretty simple, slamming the ball on the boot in traffic and gaining territory for his team – often kicking off one or two steps. He did the hard stuff as well with six tackles and a spoil to kill the ball from a front-half kick-in.

NAB League Round 6 vs. GWV

By: Sophie Taylor

Davies used his height to his advantage, providing a solid option in pack scenarios while showing some good movement in space and shepherds around stoppages. He put pressure on ground ball and crumbers, credit to his clever use of space and ability to barrel through a pack. Had only the 12 touches, three marks and two tackles, but his bodywork around the ball was solid.

>> MORE SUNS ACADEMY CONTENT

>> 2020 Allies U18s Squad Prediction
>> Positional Analysis: Inside Mids
>> July 2020 Power Rankings

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Allies:
Tahj Abberley
Jackson Callow
Braeden Campbell
Oliver Davis
Errol Gulden

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Bailey Chamberlain
Corey Durdin
Luke Edwards
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Tanner Bruhn
Jack Ginnivan
Elijah Hollands
Zach Reid
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Vic Metro:
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Finlay Macrae
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips

Western Australia:
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll
Brandon Walker
Joel Western

AFL Debut Watch – Round 6: Pies, Hawks duos lead list of 11 potential debutants

ROUND 6 of the AFL Premiership Season got underway last night, with a grand total of zero newcomers making it onto centre stage. That is all about to change though, with both Collingwood and Hawthorn naming two debutants each for their Friday night clash, leading a list of 11 total fresh faces named across the league. There could also be three club debuts throughout the weekend, pending the culling of extended squads. We take you through the list and give a little reminder of what each player may bring to the table.

Note: * denotes named on extended bench.

Collingwood vs. Hawthorn

AFL Debuts: Atu Bosenavulagi (COL), Will Day (HAW), Will Kelly (COL), Josh Morris (HAW)
Club Debuts: Nil

Collingwood pulled a selection stunner in naming a pair of untried second year players, which was then matched by Hawthorn’s inclusion of its first year pair. The Pies pair both already had ties to the club upon being drafted, with Atu Bosenavulagi a Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, and Will Kelly a father-son prospect. Both continue the rich link between Oakleigh Chargers and Collingwood, with fellow Chargers graduate Isaac Quaynor also slotting into the lineup.

Bosenavulagi is a pressure small forward who should maintain the pace at ground level for his side, while adding a different dimension when the ball hits the deck. His goal sense, agility, and smarts inside 50 should make for good viewing when he gets into a flow. Despite being drafted as a key position defender, Kelly has made the transition to the forwardline, and will add even more height alongside Mason Cox and Brody Mihocek, with his point of difference being sound foot skills.

For Hawthorn, Will Day was a speculative, high upside pick in last year’s first round, and the faith shown in him is obviously quite high given his relatively early debut. He should provide some much-needed athleticism and class on the outside for the Hawks. Josh Morris is the other newcomer, a fellow South Australian with plenty of potential. His pace in the forward 50 will be eye-catching, and he loves popping up with a goal or two.

West Coast vs. Adelaide

AFL Debuts: Andrew McPherson (ADE)
Club Debuts: Nil

After narrowly failing to make the cut on an extended bench for last week’s clash with Fremantle, Andrew McPherson is set to become the latest Adelaide debutant, as the Crows ready to face West Coast. It has been a long time coming for the 21-year-old, who was taken with pick 40 in the 2017 National AFL Draft despite missing large chunks of his top-age year through injury. His endurance is a standout feature, and he has the right traits to take to the elite level comfortably.

Melbourne vs. Gold Coast 

AFL Debuts: Izak Rankine (GCS)
Club Debuts: Nil

Izak Rankine will make his long-awaited debut on Saturday, putting behind him an arduous run with injury in his short AFL career. The 2018 number three pick was an electrifying junior, able to win games off his own boot with masterful work around goal and terrific athletic attributes. He slots straight into the SUNS forward line, and will look to emulate the success of outgoing 2019 number one pick, Matt Rowell on the big stage. He may not see a heap of the ball, but you’ll definitely know when he has it.

Richmond vs. Sydney

AFL Debuts: Riley Collier-Dawkins* (RIC), Dylan Stephens (SYD), Chad Warner (SYD)
Club Debuts:
Nil

Sydney is set to become the second side in Round 6 to blood a pair of debutants, with 2019 draftees Dylan Stephens and Chad Warner already given the news of their AFL berths. Stephens was the Swans’ first pick in last year’s intake, and had already gained a taste of senior football in his top-age season at Norwood. He slots in on the wing, but boasts a brilliant balance of inside and outside traits which should see him adjust with aplomb. Warner, another midfielder, was a standout for Western Australia during the 2019 national carnival, and is a hardened ball winner who suits the Sydney ethos nicely.

For Richmond, Riley Collier-Dawkins looms as one of five potential inclusions, but will have to compete with a list of seven others named on the Tigers’ extended bench. The 191cm midfielder/forward was a selection made on upside in the 2018 National Draft, with the Tigers using pick 20 on the Oakleigh product. He showed good form at VFL level in 2019, but the Richmond side is a tough nut to crack. Should he get an opportunity, look for his clean hands at stoppages and overhead ability up forward to be key features.

Carlton vs. Western Bulldogs

AFL Debuts: Callum Porter (WB), Jordon Sweet (WB)
Club Debuts: Callum Moore (CAR)

Cal Porter and Jordon Sweet will both be hoping to squeeze into the Western Bulldogs lineup having been named on an eight-man interchange. Porter, a medium sized midfielder, was a late pick in the 2017 National Draft, but has been made to wait for his chance at senior level. His kick penetration and contested work are outstanding facets of his game, and he looks to be a more consistent product having made the long run. Sweet is a 203cm ruck/forward from the 2018 crop, who may also get an opportunity after cutting his teeth in the SANFL and VFL. Tim English has bossed the ruck duties thus far, but a chop-out could come in the form of the South Australian bigman.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Next under the microscope is Northern Knights forward Alyssa Bannan, one of the leading key position prospects of this year’s cohort and a NAB League premiership player.

Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Height: 177cm
Position: Key Position Forward
Strengths: Speed, scoreboard impact, marking/clean hands, versatility

2020 NAB League stats: 3 games | 14.3 disposals | 5.7 marks | 3.3 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 0.7 hitouts | 3.0 goals (9)

2019 NAB League stats: 9 games | 9.8 disposals | 2.2 marks | 3.3 tackles | 2.5 inside 50s | 1.2 hitouts | 1.7 goals (15)

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 6.5 disposals | 3.5 marks | 1.5 tackles | 1.0 goals (2)

A position which has somewhat been lacking in dominance at the AFL Women’s level is that of the key forward. That trend could quickly change should Northern star, Bannan have a say in the matter, with her mix of aerial presence and speed at ground level making for a dangerous package at 177cm, heading into the 2020 draft.

As a middle-ager last year, Bannan was a steady contributor among the Knights’ stacked premiership side, averaging just under two goals per her nine games while also pinch-hitting in the ruck. She booted two majors from eight disposals in the Grand Final to cap off a consistent campaign, in which she also managed to bag two goals on five occasions and three goals, once. Bannan’s form was good enough to earn a berth at the Under 18 National Championships, where she claimed yet another two majors against Western Australia at Metricon Stadium.

In 2020, the athletically gifted forward has taken her game to new heights, upping her output inside 50 on all levels. Bannan has been dominant aerially with an average of 5.7 marks, credit to her height and clean hands, while continuing to utilise her speed across the ground to create diverse avenues to goal, apply forward pressure, and find more of the ball. She started the year off with a bang, booting a game-high five goals against Calder in Northern’s triumphant Round 1 Grand Final rematch, while carrying her form on to claim multiple goals in the following two outings.

Despite having assumed the role of Northern’s primary target inside attacking 50, Bannan’s ability to provide an outlet over the back and read the play as it unfolds means she isn’t merely a benefactor of the silver service her dominant side provides, but a bona fide star in her own right. Her versatility as a forward sets her apart from many other prospects over 175cm, and she is further developed than many of the raw products in the same category – certainly in her smarts and skills.

Should the NAB League Girls competition return in 2020, expect Bannan to pick up from right where she left off, as a spearhead for Northern and one of the more promising forwards of her draft class.

2020 WAFL Club Preview: East Perth

EAST PERTH will be looking to go one better in 2020 with finals appearances across all three grades, having missed out comfortably at League level last time out on the back of a 5-13 campaign. With Jeremy Barnard at the helm for a second year and some significant player movement, the only way is up for the Royals. The Reserves scraped into finals last year after managing a Grand Final berth in 2018, but were bundled out by East Fremantle in week one.

Preseason form has not quite been ideal for the Royals, although they have faced stiff opposition in the form of Subiaco thus far. At League level, the Royals went down by 41 points with the Reserves managing to bridge that gap to 22 points in their hitout. The Colts side were handed a hefty defeat, thumped to the tune of 103 points by the rampaging Lions. Teams across all three grades are set to battle it out against South Fremantle for one last preseason dig this Saturday (July 11), before the season kicks off a week later.

Looking ahead to the squad for this season, and former captain Kyle Anderson stands as a massive loss for the senior squad, with former Collingwood and West Coast midfielder Sharrod Wellingham joining him in retirement amid the current climate. The Royals are also set to lose ex-Fremantle forward Joel Houghton after just one season, with former West Coast rookie Tony Olango rounding out the exits alongside Asher Samelko.

But it is not all bad news on the movement front for East Perth, with a mix of experience and youth set to bolster its stocks for 2020. Former Brisbane Lions teammates Jonathan Freeman and Nick Robertson have made the switch from Queensland, headlining a list of seven inclusions. Freeman is a prolific key position goalkicker, while Robertson promises to add hardness around the ball in a variety of roles.

A couple of young Victorians also top up the list, with former Carlton defender Angus Schumacher making the move west after being axed by the Blues, while Sandringham Dragons graduate Corey Watts will also look for a state league berth in WA. Schumacher provides terrific ball use and has the potential to move further afield, listed as a utility as it stands. 197cm bigman, Watts looks most comfortable in defence where he reads the play well, but can also pinch-hit in the ruck or swing forward.

In terms of inter-league moves, childhood Royals fan Aidan Lynch crosses over from rival club, West Perth, bringing fellow former Falcon, Daniel Rowe in tow. Lynch should further the Royals’ bolstering of their contested ball stocks. Former Swan Districts player Brad Fullgrabe rounds out the changes from 2019, making for even more forward/ruck depth.

The Royals will still boast a decent core of staples, led by standalone captain Patrick McGinnity. Reigning club champion Jackson Ramsay has been among the league’s most dominant players since returning from Collingwood in 2018, and should prove a key cog in the side once again. 2019 leading goalkicker Mitchell Dobson may have to carry a fair burden in front of goal, with the second and third placed scorers (Houghton and Wellingham) no longer at the club.

At Colts level, incoming coach Daniel Curtis will have the task of nurturing the club’s young talent back into draft relevance, after not having any Royals picked up in last year’s AFL cohort. Adam Boules and Jaylen Colegate front a six-man leadership group, while Kade Dittmar and Jack Hindle are the sole AFL Academy hub members.

Improvement will be relatively easy to track for the Royals in 2020, and bringing the League side back to consistent finals appearances will undoubtedly be a key goal. Maintaining form down the grades will be aided by added squad depth, while some elite-level interest will help push the Colts onto improved results.

AFL Draft Watch: Tanner Bruhn (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

IN the build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state at Under 17 or Under 18s level in 2019. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at pre-season testing, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is Geelong Falcons’ Tanner Bruhn, a classy midfielder who remains a first round prospect despite recurring injury bouts. After earning Under 16 All Australian honours as Vic Country’s MVP in 2018, Bruhn broke through for four outings with the Falcons and was primed for a big bottom-age year. A preseason knee injury would momentarily halt his journey, before making a successful return to action in the last two NAB League rounds.

Bruhn may well be a benefactor of the extended lay-off in 2020 given preseason knee surgery would have had him in doubt for the early rounds, and there are plenty who are keen to see him in action. While he remains more of an inside type, Bruhn does not simply rely on strength at the contest, with his agility, smarts, and expert extraction allowing him to rack up big numbers and prove a match winner from the engine room. With an extended run, the Falcons star could well push for top five contention come season’s end given his immense ability.

PLAYER PAGE:

Tanner Bruhn
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

DOB: May 27, 2002

Height: 182cm
Weight: 73kg

Position: Inside Midfielder

Strengths: Contested work, tackling, class, scoreboard impact
Improvements: Durability, size/strength

NAB League stats: 2 games | 17.0 disposals | 1.5 marks | 4.0 tackles | 5.0 clearances | 4.5 inside 50s | 1.5 rebound 50s | 1.5 goals (3)

>> Q&A: Tanner Bruhn

PRESEASON TESTING RESULTS:

Did not test.

>> Full Testing Results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

2019 SCOUTING NOTES:

Under 17 Futures All Stars

By: Peter Williams

Quiet game in realistically what was his third elite level game since a long-term injury. He showed good strength early to get a handball away whilst being tackled in the middle, and had a shot on goal in the opening term but was run down inside 50 by Sam Collins before he could.

NAB League Wildcard Round vs. Sandringham

By: Michael Alvaro

One of Geelong’s only forms of resistance through a midfield that was soundly beaten, Bruhn continues to show no signs of wear from his long-term injury layoff. The bottom-ager had some promising moments at stoppages, winning the first clear disposals at the opening centre bounces of the first and second terms. His clearance work is already sound and he looked unfazed by Sandringham’s bigger bodies, digging in where he could and zipping away with his first few steps. He also provided good drive forward by foot and chipped in with a goal in the third term from close range. Has a wealth of potential and should lead Geelong’s strong bottom-age core into next year.

NAB League Round 17 vs. Dandenong

By: Peter Williams

Returning from a long-term injury, Bruhn showed all of his class in the forward half, booting a couple of goals and could have had another one early in the game with the set shot that swung to the right from 35 metres out. He snapped a goal off a step in the last minute of the opening term, then kicked an unbelievable goal in the third term, taking a step of two and snapping under pressure from 40m out to put it straight through the middle. He had nice composure and poise with his disposals around the ground. A top-end talent for next year and hopefully can stay injury free.

>> MORE GEELONG FALCONS CONTENT

>> 2020 Vic Country U18s Squad Prediction
>> July 2020 Power Rankings

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Allies:
Tahj Abberley
Jackson Callow
Braeden Campbell
Oliver Davis
Errol Gulden

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Bailey Chamberlain
Corey Durdin
Luke Edwards
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Jack Ginnivan
Elijah Hollands
Zach Reid
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Vic Metro:
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Finlay Macrae
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips

Western Australia:
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll
Brandon Walker
Joel Western

Caught the Eye: 2020 SANFL Under 18s – Round 2

UNDER 18s action continued in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) with Round 2 being played over the weekend, and a bunch of talented juniors stepping up to make an impact. In this edition of Caught the Eye, we highlight the key performers from each Under 18s side who stood out in the opening round of action. For extended profiles on each player, click on their names highlighted in red, and for our full scouting notes, click here.

>> 2020 SA U18 Squad Prediction

West Adelaide vs. Central District

Lachlan De Cesare
West Adelaide | Midfielder
29/05/2002 | 175cm | 76kg

Stats: 26 disposals, 4 marks, 8 tackles, 8 clearances, 2 inside 50s, 1 goal

Our scouts said: “De Cesare has kicked off his 2020 campaign well, and was arguably Westies’ best afield in a losing effort. The diminutive midfielder is an absolute workhorse through the engine room, digging in for repeat efforts at ground level, tackling hard, and spreading well to provide an outlet option for his teammates.” – Michael Alvaro

Verdict: Part of West Adelaide’s small midfield fleet, De Cesare looks to be in terrific nick with his endurance setting him apart across the first two rounds. It will be difficult for him to continue as an inside type given his size, but De Cesare spreads from the contest well and applies enough pressure around the ball to suggest he can thrive up forward, too. He remains outside of the current academy bubble and it will be tough to crack the midfield ranks, but form counts for a lot.

Lewis Cowham
Central District | Inside Midfielder
5/09/2002 | 177cm | 70kg

Stats: 20 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 5 clearances, 2 inside 50s

Our scouts said: “Cowham has been a regular for Centrals through midfield, providing value going both ways at the stoppages. The small ball winner is athletically gifted, and showed a couple of nice flashes of his agility and explosive speed despite the contested nature of the game.” – Michael Alvaro

Verdict: Another inside leaning midfielder who is on the small side, but Cowham has all the traits to apply his form in different roles. He excels in midfield with his presence around the ball, awareness, and explosive attributes, but has also shown his ability to find the goals as a small forward during his school football commitments with Prince Alfred College. If he can begin to burst from the contest a touch more, he’ll be on the right track as he does the defensive stuff well.

South Adelaide vs. Glenelg

Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide | Midfielder
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 76cm

Stats: 32 disposals, 14 marks, 9 tackles, 7 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal

Our scouts said: “Roberts was South’s best player on Saturday, finding plenty of the ball and using it well with his reliable left-foot kick. He worked off his opponent to collect many uncontested marks, continually helping his side transition the ball from defence to attack.” – Tom Cheesman

Verdict: The bottom-age prospect is part of a brilliant Panthers midfield rotation, and it was his turn to rack up the monster numbers on the weekend. With leading top-ager Nicholas Kraemer absent, Roberts took it upon himself to provide the grunt through midfield, while also spreading well to find the ball in all areas of the ground. He can provide an outlet at either end, too, making for a top prospect in the 2021 talent pool.

Riley Holder
Glenelg | Key Forward/Ruck
18/12/2002 | 190cm | 84kg

Stats: 22 disposals, 8 marks (4 contested), 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 4 goals

Our scouts said: “Holder was best on ground and clearly the difference between the two sides. He was a major presence at centre half-forward for Glenelg, clunking four strong contested marks. The highlight was a brilliant mark (and goal) in the third term when his side desperately needed it.” – Tom Cheesman

Verdict: This game was the ideal showcase of what Holder provides at the junior level, able to clunk big contested marks and dominate from centre half-forward despite standing at 190cm. His big frame and strong hands on the lead make him difficult to stop aerially, while sound conversion in front of goal ensures he can take full toll with his touches. Holder will be a tricky prospect to place given his in-between size, but that third tall role seems most suitable at senior level.

Norwood vs. North Adelaide

Finn Heard
Norwood | Key Forward

12/02/2002 | 191cm | 87kg

Stats: 9 disposals (8 kicks), 7 marks, 4 tackles, 7 hitouts, 3 inside 50s, 4 goals

Our scouts said: “Four goals to key the forward proved to be the difference in this clash at Coopers Stadium. Heard got goal-side of the contest and strolled straight into the goal-square to nail the game’s first major, however his work in the air ensured he was the most impactful tall on the ground.” – Tom Wyman

Verdict: One who is in a similar mould to Glenelg’s Holder, Heard plays like a bustling key position forward but is not quite of the traditional frame. He is well-built and possesses great strength, able to out-body his opponents to get front position. Heard may only have notched nine disposals, but six scoring shots and seven marks highlight the impact he can have with them.

Jamison Murphy
North Adelaide | Inside Midfielder
9/12/2002 | 180cm | 85kg

Stats: 21 disposals, 4 marks, 4 tackles, 3 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s

Our scouts said: “(Murphy) appeared physically stronger than the other midfielders out there and used his strong frame to bullock his way through several contests, including the opening stoppage where he dished out a handball despite being tackled. However, it was his sublime foot skills which would have really caught the eye of recruiters.” – Tom Wyman

Verdict: Murphy’s stocks continue to rise amid his outstanding start to the season, and the bullish inside midfielder is beginning to show a terrific balance of skills. While he is obviously a terrific extractor from the stoppages at 85kg, the talented dual-sport athlete also works hard to help his teammates at either end of the ground, and released pressure on the weekend with sound disposal.

Sturt vs. WWT Eagles

Morgan Ferres
Sturt | Key Forward
13/03/2003 | 188cm | 80kg 

Stats: 17 disposals, 9 marks (4 contested), 2 inside 50s, 6 goals

Our scouts said: “Ferres was the dominant forward on the ground, proving a handful in the air and on the lead with his impressive leap, judgement, and contested marking coming to the fold… He was a handful all game but mostly in the third quarter where he marked everything in sight… One of the better aspects of his game was not just his ability close to goal, but also his ability to get up the ground and take strong marks up on the wing.” – Ed Pascoe

Verdict: Ferres looms as a 2021 draft prospect with extremely high upside. While the bottom-ager fulfils a key position type of role at just 188cm on account of his aerial dominance, he is a remarkable athlete with speed, agility, and endurance to boot. His ability to impact the play both close to goal and high up the ground makes him a dominant force, and one who could really make a splash over the next two years. For comparison, think Carlton’s Charlie Curnow.

Taj Schofield
WWT | Midfielder
2/07/2002 | 178cm | 72kg

Stats: 20 disposals (17 kicks), 1 mark, 7 tackles, 6 clearances, 8 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s

Our scouts said: “The talented Port Adelaide father-son prospect again showed his class and skill which really stands out amongst his peers. Schofield, who looks best on the outside with his elite kicking and composure, was able to have an impact on the inside wining some classy clearances and also laying some strong tackles at the coal face.” – Ed Pascoe

Verdict: A much improved performance from Schofield compared to last week, and one which justifies the work he has been putting into his inside midfield craft. The agile mover was still just as effective on the outer, but showcased the tools he has been adding to his game with much more sound clearance work against quality opposition. There is still room for improveme

2020 WAFL Club Preview: East Fremantle

WHILE East Fremantle has proven somewhat of a footy factory over the past few years, the Sharks have not quite been able to translate their junior production line to senior success in the West Australian Football League (WAFL). Coming off an eighth place finish at League level in 2019 and five seasons without finals, Bill Monaghan‘s troops will be looking to improve on their five-win campaign last time out.

The Reserves side fared much better as the sole Sharks unit to make finals, finishing fourth on the back of a positive 9-7 record. An exciting finals run ensued, before East Perth ended any hope of a 2’s flag at the preliminary final stage. Despite having a massive five players drafted last year from its Colts squad, including third pick Luke Jackson, the Sharks could only muster a seventh place finish in the junior grade at 6-10, with disruptions to the immense top-end talent proving costly.

If preseason form is anything to go by, there should be some improvement from the Sharks in 2020, with the League boys pushing 2019 finalist Claremont to within a goal, while the Reserves got one over the Tigers’ 2’s to the tune of 28 points. All three levels will run out for their final preseason dig on Saturday, July 11, set to measure themselves against the strong Subiaco squads before taking on South Fremantle the following week in Round 1.

Bigman Jonathon Griffin will again lead the Sharks out in 2020, flanked by last year’s leading goalkicker and fellow former Docker, Luke Strnadica. 2019 club champion Matthew Jupp will look to back up his outstanding year in the blue and white, while the likes of Jarrad JansenBlaine Boekhorst, and Cameron Eardley are also set play key roles once again.

The Sharks won out in the tug-of-war for former Perth utility Cody Leggett, who looked like being left in limbo for some time as the Demons initially denied his transfer request. He’ll add some great depth and experience to the squad, while a couple of former AFL additions also make for promising progression.

Former Sydney rookie Durak Tucker enters the ranks on his return to WA as a talented defender, while developing former West Coast rookie Brodie Riach also joins the club. Jordan Mills is another handy addition to the defensive setup having crossed from West Perth, completing a list of four solid inclusions. The Sharks also lost some personnel post-2019, with 10-year veteran Jack Perham calling time on his career, while James Harrold and Joe Hebiton will pursue interstate opportunities.

The Colts squad is, to no one’s surprise, stacked with draftable talent, led by Fremantle Next Generation Academy prospect, Brandon Walker. The smooth moving medium defender/midfielder boasts terrific athleticism and sharp skills, and his twin brother Christopher is also set to line up for the Sharks once again.

Jack Carroll is another sharp user of the ball, able to play off half-back or through midfield, while inside type Finn Gorringe will be one to operate the engine room. He’ll be aided by bottom-age gun Judd McVee, while fellow AFL Academy hub members Richard Bartlett and Owen Dann can fulfil roles up either end of the ground. Young talent from last year’s crop includes Jai Jackson, Reuben McGuire, and Max Murphy, who should all push for senior selection in 2020.

With another promising batch of juniors and some handy inclusions to the senior ranks, the Sharks will be able to ease the pressure on their experienced leaders and push for marked improvement across each level.

SANFL Player Focus: Riley Thilthorpe (West Adelaide)

IN a return to our Player Focus piece, we take a look at a South Australian National Football League (SANFL) talent who has really stood out on the League stage. In Round 2 of the competition, our eyes were on West Adelaide key forward/ruck Riley Thilthorpe, who took part in the Bloods’ dramatic draw with Central District.

SANFL STATISTICS:

10 disposals
2 marks (1 contested)
5 tackles
15 hitouts
1 clearance
1 goal, 2 behinds

Now a staple among Westies’ League setup, Thilthorpe took the field on the opposing side to fellow South Australian Academy Hub member, Corey Durdin, who was lively for the Bulldogs. Durdin was at the centre of our Player Focus piece last week, and both players have taken to senior football with aplomb.

The Bloods hit the ground running in this game with 6.5 in a hot opening term, and Thilthorpe was the unlikely catalyst. Starting at full-forward, the 200cm prospect had a remarkable first five minutes and was in everything inside West Adelaide’s attacking 50. He notched the first score of the game after snatching the ball from a contest spillage, sending a warning shot to the Bulldogs defenders.

His combination of aerial presence and ground level work helped Westies hit the scoreboard again, but this time with all six points as Thilthorpe again got his hands on a spillage at centre half-forward between three opponents, kept his hands free in a tackle and flicked out a handball to the running Isaac Johnson, who booted the game’s opening major.

Roll forward about a minute longer, and Thilthorpe was impacting the play high on the arc once more, hitting a long centre clearance ball from the side and continuing his momentum to gather the spillage and send a left-foot snap towards goal. The ball would trickle through for a fantastic goal on his wrong side from around 45-metres out, a great effort from the bigman.

Thilthorpe’s reach was also something which stood out, allowing him to get his hands on multiple passes which entered his vicinity even if he started from behind. He did not receive the best delivery early on and often had a Centrals defender sitting in the hole, although his lack of speed off the mark at times saw him caught behind his direct opponent as the ball entered his area.

The potential top five pick continued his solid form heading into the second term, doubling his impact with some work in the ruck at forward half stoppages. That reach of his constantly allowed him to bring the ball to ground despite being outmuscled or out-positioned at times, and a well directed double-handed tap down to Dallas Willsmore almost yielded another goal assist. He had the chance to boot another goal himself too, finding space deep in the forward pocket to mark but hitting the post with his set shot.

He was robbed of another beautiful snap goal in the third term as the ball fell into his lap from the front-and-centre position, before he bent the ball home with confidence. Unfortunately, a free kick was awarded to Central District for an infringement in the marking contest which Thilthorpe sat off. His impact in front of the big sticks did not look like stopping there as he sent Kaine Stevens running into an open goal, only for the star midfielder to fumble his bounce and give the chance away.

While he looked threatening up forward, Thilthorpe also got a run through the ruck rotation, starting a kick behind the ball in general play when it was locked inside the Bloods’ forward 50, and eventually attending a centre bounce. His leap may not be massive, but the Westies youngster managed to get his hand on the ball nicely against Jonathan Marsh.

Thilthorpe looked to be fading out of the game late due to a lack of opportunity and poor delivery once again, but capped off a solid day with a terrific contested mark on defensive wing, something we will be sure to see much more of in future. His work up the ground late proved clutch, despite not being able to help his side get over the line for the win. Once he gains the confidence to leap at the ball more often, those deft touches will turn to eye catching clunks.

>> WEST ADELAIDE TEAM PAGE

Q&A: Thilthorpe/Bloods U18s
Draft Watch: Riley Thilthorpe

>> 2020 South Australia U18 Squad Prediction
>> 2020 AFL Draft Analysis: Key Forwards
>> July Power Rankings

2020 WAFL Club Preview: Claremont

CLAREMONT will be looking to continue its strong form across all West Australian Football League (WAFL) levels as action returns this month, boasting strong squads in each grade. Fourth and third-place finishes over the past two seasons at League level are under Claremont’s belt, but its mission to go at least one better than 2019’s preliminary final berth starts with the huge task of combating reigning premier, Subiaco.

The Reserves side will be made to wait eight rounds before attempting to exact revenge on West Perth, after the Falcons downed them by a goal in last year’s Grand Final – despite having clinched the minor premiership with just one loss to their record. At the junior grade, the Tigers’ Under 18s will hope to defend their 2019 crown, and boast three talented AFL Academy hub members, including Fremantle Next Generation Academy (NGA) hopeful, Joel Western.

Preseason scratch matches have thrown up a mixed bag of results for the Tigers, with the League outfit the only side to scrounge a win. They beat East Fremantle by a goal having made the most of their chances inside attacking 50, while the Reserves went down by 28 points to the Sharks’ 2’s, and the Under 18s got within two points of knocking off South Fremantle. West Perth will be the Tigers’ final preseason opponent across each level, set to face off on July 11 in each club’s last hit-out before season proper kicks off on July 18.

Skipper and fan favourite Kane Mitchell is set to lead the Tigers’ League charge, fresh off a best and fairest winning campaign and backed by the likes of two-time Sandover Medalist Jye Bolton, Declan Mountford, and Tom Curren. Mitchell and Mountford will be joined among the leadership ranks by Anton Hamp (co-vice-captain), and Hayden Busher and Ryan Lim, completing a five-man group. It is that hardened midfield core which is set to help the Tigers thrive in their pursuit for WAFL glory, aided by the ruck craft of 202cm bigman Jeremy Goddard, and the addition of delisted Docker, Ryan Nyhuis.

A blow for the club on the eve of the season has been a serious knee injury to defender, Jack Beeck, who will miss the entire year as a result. But his absence and some list movement at the end of last will see opportunities arise for young players, with the likes of Jack Buller and Tom Baldwin set to enter the senior bracket from Colts level. Cal England and Jake Anderson are also among the promising types who look likely to develop well with some more experience in 2020, while Alex Manuel is a player who may feature having missed a large chunk of 2019.

Western is the clear leader among the Under 18 crop, and will be hoping to impress enough to warrant selection by Fremantle, or a bid from elsewhere come draft time. The mercurial 172cm hopeful is a freak athlete, and ranked among the top 10 for Western Australia in all three vertical jump tests, as well as third in the 20-metre sprint. Able to play off flanks at either end of the field or run through the engine room, Western is a terrific prospect and among those who will be looking to lead Claremont to back-to-back premierships.

A 202cm ruck Kalin Lane is another who is likely to feature among the state side, and he is a terrific story as somewhat of a latecomer to the sport – or at least this level. He featured among the yearly academy intake despite running out for just one Colts game in 2019, and is joined in the hub by bottom-ager, Jacob van Rooyen.

With some good talent coming from the ground, up and established leaders set to continue their search for WAFL gold at senior level, fans will be feeling good about where Claremont sits coming into season 2020.