Author: Michael Alvaro

NAB League Player Focus: Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons)

GEELONG Falcons ruck, Toby Conway is a prospect on the rise having recently been added to the AFL Academy squad ahead of their clash with Geelong VFL. The 204cm bigman has returned a promising start to the season, averaging a tick under 16 disposals and 28 hitouts across three NAB League outings, making him one of the leading ruck options in this year’s draft pool.

After injury threatened to derail his 2020 campaign, before the pandemic eventually did so, Conway is enjoying being back out on the park and has some key improvements in his sights. During preseason, he outlined ground coverage, forward craft, and marking as areas of growth – all of which were observed in his latest outing, against Bendigo Pioneers.

Conway is the prospect under our Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 3 showing.

PLAYER PAGE

Toby Conway
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

DOB: April 24, 2003
Height: 204cm
Position: Ruck

2021 averages*: 15.7 disposals | 6.7 kicks | 9.0 handballs | 3.3 marks | 2.7 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 1.7 rebound 50s | 27.7 hitouts | 0.3 goals

* – from first three games.

PLAYER FOCUS

2021 NAB League, Round 3
Bendigo Pioneers 9.10 (64) def. Geelong Falcons 7.8 (50)

Stats: 17 disposals | 8 kicks | 9 handballs | 3 marks | 4 tackles | 2 inside 50s | 3 rebound 50s | 29 hitouts | 1 goal

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

In his usual post as Geelong’s primary ruck, Conway started brightly. He was poised against quite a raw tall in Bendigo’s Jed Brereton, who he would compete with throughout the contest. Some of Conway’s first acts saw him dropping back into the defensive half to help relieve pressure, while also setting up shrewdly behind the ball to intercept aerially – both were early ticks for his improving fitness and ground coverage. He also proved too big and strong in stoppage situations, using strength and bodywork to move into prime position and win a good amount of hitouts. From there, he directed the ball down well with a few double-handed taps and his pure height/reach advantage loomed as a worrying factor for the Bendigo engine room. Later in the opening term, Conway was sighted taking a mark on the lead up forward.

Q2:

Speaking of the forwardline, Conway seemed to spend more time resting inside attacking 50 than in previous weeks, where he would instead be heavily rotated to the bench out of the ruck. He managed to take toll during the second term as he found space to mark uncontested, before duly converting a set shot goal from about 35 metres out. It was the first goal of the quarter and extended the Falcons’ lead to nine points at the 10-minute mark. While his height and reach were again troublesome for the undersized Bendigo defenders, Conway would revert back to his ruck duties and showcase even more craft in that area. His directional taps at the centre bounces meant midfielders like Mitch Knevitt could get first use of the ball where it mattered.

Q3:

Picking up from where he left off, Conway was dominant in the ruck stakes to start the third period of play. He also looked to be gaining confidence at the contest, imposing himself by following up his aerial work and actively looking to take the ball out of the ruck more often. One solid bit of ground level play saw Conway lay a smother to help his side turn the ball over, before kicking the Falcons back inside attacking 50 on the run. While not overly aggressive, the bigman was able to stay involved at the coalface and even won some of his own ball to register those clearance and inside 50 stats. His seeming lift in urgency matched Geelong’s need for any form of momentum as the Pioneers began to hit back, and eventually snuck ahead.

Q4:

Conway looked a little worse for wear after contesting the first centre bounce, but got back up and lumbered on. He is not always the most continually active ruck, but was able to work when called upon after taking some moments to recoup. His knack of taking the ball out of the ruck continued and while some of his hand-offs were to midfielders under immediate pressure, the idea and intent were good. The Falcons tall again rested forward and even got a go against some of Bendigo’s second-string rucks late in the piece. He showed some more ruck craft with directional taps, not just thumping the ball forward or hitting with his momentum on the rise. Overall, it was a solid outing for Conway despite his side going down, finishing as the dominant ruckman afield.

Final thoughts…

On a pure squad-needs basis, it was no great surprise to see Conway added to the AFL Academy mix alongside fellow tall Ned Moyle. While he has shown some active improvement in his areas of growth, the Geelong Falcons prospect can still strive for betterment throughout 2021. Conway’s work around the ground and ability to impact up forward will be key to his development, as his ruck craft is already quite sound. Given his ability to do so in the ruck, utilising his size and building on that strength will help translate to some solid contested marking. Endurance also comes into the fold there, and Conway will inevitably spend less time with hands on head or hip with better match fitness throughout the year. In terms of his own strengths though, Conway delivers and has done so across three promising games this this season.

2021 NAB League: Round 3 outlook – ‘Rays on the rise

AFTER a couple of all-country clashes, Dandenong Stingrays sit 1-1 heading into the third full round of NAB League action. Although they did not get the four points last time out, a bunch of budding AFL Draft prospects proved one thing – that the ‘Rays may well be on the rise in that capacity.

The typically strong talent region saw only one player selected in the most recent draft intake, as Deakyn Smith landed at Melbourne through the pre-season supplemental selection period. That was after a handful of Dandenong products made it to the elite level in 2019, but it seems at this early stage that the Stingrays may have another few prospects set to make a name for themselves this year.

Round 2 Player of the Week, Connor Macdonald returned a dream performance in the Stingrays’ loss to Greater Western Victoria (GWV); amassing 33 disposals, 10 marks, 10 inside 50s, and laying 12 tackles. A monster effort. It saw the 184cm midfielder rise up draft boards, especially having backed up a strong Round 1 showing.

His speed away from congestion is complemented well by a desire to work hard, as Macdonald could be seen accumulating possessions in all areas of the ground and lifting when his side needed it. Having played on a wing and up forward, Macdonald also has the ability to kick goals and really hurt the opposition with his balanced game.

There are a raft of other names to keep an eye on as they raise their stocks throughout this year’s campaign. Miller Bergman is a versatile type with eye-catching traits. He started at half-back in Round 2 before moving forward to boot three final-term goals, showcasing impressive aerial ability and some real class on the ball at both ends.

James Cahill, the brother of Essendon’s Ned, is another coming through the ranks. The crafty forward shares many traits with his elder sibling, able to play slightly above his size and hit up hard at the ball to mark. He also boasts the obvious ground level craft with clean hands, great smarts, and a real nose for goal. Watch for his rise.

Joining him up forward are livewires Judson Clarke and Josiah Kyle. The former does not need much room or many touches to make an impact inside 50, and the same can be said for the latter. Kyle is also a St Kilda Next Generation Academy prospect, while the speedy Kobi George, Ryan Koo Kwet Kim, and Mac Andrew qualify for Melbourne.

Andrew has raised eyebrows of late as a raw ruck talent with genuine top 25 potential. His athleticism makes for exciting work at each contest, and he also has a good knack for taking marks around the ground – whether it be while dropping back in support or in his time resting forward. At the contest, he also follows up well and while his decision making can do with refining at times, he does well when performing the fundamentals.

Another tall of note is Justin Davies, difficult to miss with his red hair. He showed as an Under 16 prospect that he is capable of playing as a forward, but looks to have swung up the other end of late and played a key role against GWV as he shut down the dangerous Josh Rentsch.

Of course, it would be remiss not to mention a couple of 19th-year prospects who have also lived up to their billings. Will Bravo returned with aplomb last week on the wing and through midfield, making use of his experience with the Hawthorn AFL side during preseason. Utility Clayton Gay has also started strongly, a terrific natural footballer.

Having shown vast development on each line, this emerging Dandenong side will face one of the toughest NAB League tests in Round 3, against Sandringham Dragons. The two sides meet on Saturday afternoon at Trevor Barker Oval, with the 2-0 Dragons boasting a heap of high-end draft prospects.

Tune in to the contest via the NAB League app, where our very own Draft Editor Michael Alvaro, and analyst Declan Reeve will be providing commentary. With so much talent set to take the field, it looms as one of the games of the round.

Vic Metro survives West Australian fightback at the death

VIC Metro survived a dramatic late fightback from Western Australia on Thursday morning, holding on to win by four points at Trevor Barker Oval after Chloe Reilly‘s post-siren set shot drifted wide in the Sandringham wind. The Big V led from the first goal and were in the box seat to coast to a straightforward victory, until WA turned up the heat in a dramatic last-ditch lunge.

Over two goals down heading into the final break and throughout much of the fourth quarter, the Black Ducks were at long odds to sneak ahead, but made a real fist of it as Amy Franklin and Ella Roberts got them back to within a goal. Metro looked to have the result locked up as Tahlia Gillard held the ball inside Metro’s defensive 50 with 30 seconds left, but a miscued kick across goal sent players into a scramble, as the second-last kick of the game landed in Reilly’s lap.

While her resultant shot went wide, the West Australians got around their number 25 and could be proud of the effort they showed to play out the game to the death. In the end, Metro’s win was perhaps the deserved result for their effort across the first three terms, though it was very nearly snatched from them. Either way, inaccuracy reigned amid heavy wind in the 4.13 (37) to 4.9 (33) result.

West Australian bottom-ager and MVP, Roberts was clearly the best afield in a losing effort; collecting a game-high 31 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s, and booting two goals. Her teammate Courtney Rowley dug in for 23 touches (18 handballs) and seven clearances through midfield, and Reilly had 15 touches. Lauren Wakfer did some good work in the ruck, and the spark of Makaela Tuhakaraina was eye-catching.

It was hardly surprising to see Georgie Prespakis (23 disposals, six clearances) and skipper Charlie Rowbottom (20 disposals, eight inside 50s) lead Metro’s count from midfield, supported well by small ball winners Amanda Ling and Emelia Yassir. Tall prospect Georgia Campbell showed good signs up forward and in the ruck, as Maeve Chaplin held up in defence, Stella Reid ran the outer, and Eliza James (four behinds) had plenty of chances deep forward.

The result sees Metro earn its first win of the carnival, while Western Australia has its one victory over the Allies in the bag. The Vics will go on to play Queensland, while the Black Ducks’ championships come to an end after wonderfully competitive outings.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 0.3 | 2.3 | 2.6 | 4.9 (33)
VIC METRO 1.3 | 2.8 | 4.10 | 4.13 (37)

GOALS:

Western Australia: E. Roberts 2, M. Tuhakaraina, A. Franklin
Vic Metro: P. Staltari, A. Ling, G. Campbell, T. Gillard

DC BEST:

Western Australia: E Roberts, C. Rowley, L. Wakfer, C. Reilly, M. Tuhakaraina
Vic Metro: C. Rowbottom, G. Prespakis, S. Reid, E. Yassir, M. Chaplin

Reserves wrap: 2021 VFL Women’s – Round 6

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s returned for Round 6 on the weekend, with five fixtures played on a super Saturday, and one on Sunday. As the season runs concurrently alongside that of the AFLW, senior-listed players from Victorian clubs who miss out on senior selection will be able to run out for what are effectively reserve sides in the VFLW. As no Victorian teams remain in the top flight finals hunt, state league sides will now be able to load up on elite level talent.

>> Results: VFLW Round 6 wrap

A pair of recently-delisted Saints swapped red, white and black for brown and gold in a battle between standalone clubs, as Hawthorn took on Essendon. The players in question, Nadia Von Bertouch and Tamara Luke, both featured in the Hawks’ votes having notched 10 disposals each, but could not quite help their new side to a win.

Their old VFLW team, the Southern Saints had a win over Williamstown in the same Saturday morning timeslot, after stocking up well on top level players. Jacqui Vogt was named best afield for her 17 disposals and 11 tackles, while Alice Burke fared well in the engine room with 15 touches, and Molly McDonald found it 12 times for the victors.

Port Melbourne’s unblemished record remained so after the Borough beat Western Bulldogs comfortably. Sabrina Frederick booted two goals in her first VFLW outing this year, while Sarah Sansonetti was prominent with five marks down back and recently-delisted forward Emily Harley (16 disposals, one goal) was named her side’s best player.

For the Bulldogs, Annabel Scott gathered a team-high 20 touches and was supported well by young duo, Isabelle Pritchard and Isabella Grant. The latter two have swung between senior and reserves level this year, gaining valuable experience against senior bodies among the young Bulldogs squad.

Geelong held on to beat a fast-finishing Casey Demons on Saturday, with a bunch of top flight products proving impactful. A quartet of senior Cats kicked goals, in Darcy Moloney, Carly Remmos, Laura Gardiner, and Georgia Clarke, while Georgie Rankin gathered 18 disposals. Gardiner also laid 13 tackles and Moloney had 16 touches in the win.

North Melbourne was defeated by Darebin, but that did not stop Katelyn Cox from continuing her good form with 19 disposals and seven tackles. In Collingwood’s victory over traditional rival Carlton, Amelia Velardo thrived with a team-high 20 touches, as Maddy Guerin led all comers to notch a game-high 27 disposals.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 6

A HEAP of young prospects are now filtering through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 6 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side, and we take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently play in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

Essendon welcomed a couple of fresh faces to the fold as it trumped fellow standalone side, Hawthorn by 14 points on Saturday morning, The Bombers called upon current Calder Cannons guns Kasey Lennox (defender) and Zali Friswell (midfielder), who enjoyed solid runs in their debuts. They ran out alongside former Cannons Alana Barba and Grace Dicker, the former of whom has established a key role in the team.

Hawthorn also had a NAB League product make her debut, in Eastern prospect Ruby O’Dwyer. She was one of three current Ranges to run out in the brown and gold, with Jess Grace and Isabelle Khoury returning for their second games at the level. Khoury, a likely type up forward, was named among the Hawks’ best players.

The Southern Saints notched their third win of the season, also on Saturday morning, as they defeated Williamstown by 10 points on home turf. Gabby De Angelis booted two goals in the winning effort, while Ruby Tripodi claimed full votes for the Seagulls as she continues her stellar season. Promising forward Tahlia Merrett also returned after nearly a month out.

Despite another heavy loss, the Western Bulldogs continue to present strong opportunities to their young players, headlined this week by Molly Denahy Maloney. The tall was named best afield for the Dogs in their loss to Port Melbourne, while debutant Lilli Condon proved lively at ground level and Nikita Wright returned to the fold. Former Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards fared well in a new role, trialled in defence and matching up on Borough first-gamer, Taylah Morton.

Elsewhere, Bridie Winbanks featured in the votes for Casey as the Demons went down by two points to a Geelong side boasting the likes of Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard. Collingwood remains undefeated after keeping Carlton goalless on Sunday, with Olivia Meagher getting an extended run while Amber Micallef and Marnie Jarvis ply their trade in navy blue. Ciara Fitzgerald again found the goals as North Melbourne went down to Darebin, in the Falcons’ first win for the season.

Stat Leaders: 2021 NAB League – Round 2

THE 2021 NAB League season rolled on into its second full round over the weekend, with six fixtures split evenly across Saturday and Sunday. There were a number of outstanding individual performances among the Round 2 action, as serious draft contenders and even more fresh faces topped a range of key categories. We take a look at this week’s stat leaders.

Standout Dandenong Stingrays midfielder Connor Macdonald achieved what would effectively be considered Australian football’s version of a quadruple-double; accumulating 33 disposals, 10 marks, 12 tackles, and 10 inside 50s. His efforts were not quite enough to drag the ‘Rays home to four points, but Macdonald earned the Round 2 Draft Central Player of the Week nod and topped all four aforementioned stat charts. His draft stocks are rising.

Joining Macdonald on a round-high 10 inside 50s was Tasmania’s Oliver Sanders, who led all comers as the Devils went down to Calder in their maiden 2021 outing. His teammate, Sam Banks started the season well with a high of 23 kicks and 10 rebound 50s, both of which were matched by Eastern Ranges rebounder Mitchell Sruk. Murray’s Paddy Parnell also ticked into double digits for rebounds.

A couple of top-agers who were unlucky to be overlooked last year also found themselves among the most prolific ball winners. A third Tasmanian, Oliver Davis racked up 16 handballs alongside tough Northern Knights midfielder Ewan Macpherson. In the same game as Davis, fast-developing Calder ruck Liam Podhajski won a monster 40 hitouts, with his form likely to see him tried in the VFL this year.

Rounding out this week’s stat leaders were the goalkickers. Leading Murray talent Josh Rachele took full toll as he spent most of his outing up forward, booting four majors and showing plenty of forward 50 smarts in his side’s win over Geelong. His efforts were matched by promising Oakleigh forward Dylan Thomas, whose crafty left foot did plenty of damage as the Chargers trumped Eastern on Saturday.

Find the full list of Round 2’s stat leaders below.

ROUND 2 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:
Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays) – 33

Kicks:
Sam Banks (Tasmania Devils) – 23
Mitchell Sruk (Eastern Ranges) – 23

Handballs:
Ewan Macpherson (Northern Knights) – 16
Oliver Davis (Tasmania Devils) – 16

Marks:
Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays) – 10

Tackles:
Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays) – 12

Inside 50s:
Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays) – 10
Oliver Sanders (Tasmania Devils) – 10

Rebound 50s:
Sam Banks (Tasmania Devils) – 10
Paddy Parnell (Murray Bushrangers) – 10
Mitchell Sruk (Eastern Ranges) – 10

Hitouts:
Liam Podhajski (Calder Cannons) – 40

Goals:
Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers) – 4
Dylan Thomas (Oakleigh Chargers) – 4

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Preliminary Finals – Martin helps Crows surge to another decider

THE 2021 AFL Women’s season rolled on into its second week of finals, with two enthralling knockout bouts played on Saturday. A number of fresh faces continue to make their mark on the competition having already established roles in each remaining team, producing big moments on the biggest of stages. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest weekend, focusing on players who were selected from the most recent draft crop.

Adelaide vs. Melbourne

Two-time AFLW premier, Adelaide became the first side to book its spot in this year’s decider, beating Melbourne by 18 points at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. The Crows were led by their usual band of ball winners, but also had a bunch of handy contributions across the board. 22-year-old Rachelle Martin was one who provided great spark for the winners, applying punishing pressure and digging in hard at ground level. The diminutive speedster finished with 13 disposals, three tackles, and four inside 50s in an important outing.

First year forward Teah Charlton was also productive with 10 touches, two marks and three tackles for the winners, while fellow attacker Ashleigh Woodland brought great intensity with six tackles. The latter two have played every game this season and will likely suit up next week, with Martin another in that boat having impressed across a five-game run in the side.

Melbourne was dealt a crushing blow early as tough midfielder Eliza McNamara was ruled out with concussion following a heavy collision with Adelaide skipper, Chelsea Randall. She played every game in her debut season and has been an excellent addition to the Dees’ squad. 24-year-old Irish recruit Lauren Magee notched three touches in her sixth-straight outing, as prized draftee Alyssa Bannan finished her maiden senior campaign with two disposals in red and blue.

Brisbane vs. Collingwood

Brisbane earned passage to its third grand final in five AFLW seasons on Saturday, via a thrilling four-point win over Collingwood at the Gabba. The Lions now have the chance to claim their first AFLW premiership, with plenty of members from the 2017 and 2018 squads remaining in the maroon, blue, and gold. Rookie sensation Courtney Hodder has played every game this season and while she only registered one disposal on Saturday, played her role with four tackles. South Australian native Indy Tahau has cemented her spot since a Round 4 debut, and will also look to cap off her year in a big way after managing three touches and two tackles.

While they did not achieve the desired result, the Magpies were served well by their two first-year players afield. Father-daughter selection Tarni Brown proved she is every bit the finals player with another outstanding goal in black and white. During the second term, she gathered in the centre square before tucking the ball under her arm, taking on an opponent and slotting the goal from about 40-metres out. She finished with 11 disposals and three inside 50s to cap off a terrific debut season. Bella Smith was also solid with three marks among her eight touches. The tall recruit played the first and last three games for Collingwood in 2021.

2021 AFL WOMEN’S GRAND FINAL:

Adelaide Crows vs. Brisbane Lions

Date: Saturday, April 17
Venue: Adelaide Oval
Time: 1:30pm (ACST)

Image Credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

Slick West Australian guns zip past Allies

WESTERN Australia claimed its first win of the AFLW Under 19 National Championships on Monday afternoon, defeating the Allies by 33 points at Avalon Airport Oval. The Black Ducks led from the first goal and never looked back, absorbing a good amount of heat during the second term and applying their own scoreboard pressure to win 9.7 (61) to 4.4 (28).

Quick ball movement in transition and even more speedy play inside forward 50 proved the Sandgropers’ main avenue to goal, with the well-drilled unit moving the ball well in some delightful end-to-end passages.

Usual defender Mel Hardy started up forward for Western Australia and snagged the game’s first goal, benefitting from one of her side’s trademark forward surges from defence. Ella Roberts was one to tear the game open with her run-and-carry, which was a prominent feature in the build-up to Tajah Griffiths’ major. It saw Western Australia take a two-goal lead into the first break.

Needing a spark, Cynthia Hamilton kick-started the Allies’ game with a couple of fierce tackling efforts. She booted her side’s opening goal after the second defensive act, slotting a set shot after a 50-metre penalty. After Jessica Doyle soccered the ball home from point-blank range, the Allies were back to within a goal.

But for all their dominance in the second term, the Allies could only break even as Western Australia hit back through Ashleigh Reidy and Sarah Lakay. The 16-point half time buffer was unkind to the Allies, but put Western Australia in the box seat to really take hold.

Having taken their opponents’ best blows on the chin, the Black Ducks broke the contest open with three goals in the third quarter to all-but ice the game. Two of the three came late in the stanza, making it a 33-point lead heading into the last break.

Lakay snapped up a contested mark and slotted her second goal early in the final period to put the result to bed, though the Allies played out until the final siren and added a couple more major scores to their total. Still, they could only break even in the term overall, in the face of WA’s forward firepower.

Courtney Rowley was classy for the winners, while Roberts provided some excitement forward of centre despite being in the wars late on. The spark of Makaela Tuhakaraina was also important among others up forward, while talls Lauren Wakfer and Lakay also shone at either end and through the ruck.

For the Allies, Hamilton was hard at it and collected plenty of the ball playing off a wing and through midfield. She and Doyle were the two standout players, with the latter adding to her promising highlight reel up forward. Claire Ransom was also serviceable alongside goalkicker, Isadora McLeay.

In the next round of action, Western Australia will take on Vic Metro on Thursday, while the Allies prepare to lock horns with South Australia on the same day, with both games to be played at Trevor Barker Oval.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 2.3 | 4.5 | 7.6 | 9.7 (61)
ALLIES 0.0 | 2.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

Western Australia: S. Lakay 2, M. Hardy, T. Griffiths, A. Reidy, M. Leitch, A. Wright, C. Reilly, N. Anderson
Allies: C. Hamilton, J. Doyle, A. Bush, I. McLeay

DC BEST:

Western Australia: C. Rowley, E. Roberts, M. Tuhakaraina, L. Wakfer, E. Bennett, B. Mann
Allies: C. Hamilton, C. Doyle, C. Ransom, I. McLeay, M. Hendrie

Head-to-head: 2021 NAB League Round 2 – Tyler Sonsie vs. Nick Daicos

THE 2021 NAB League season rolls on into Round 2 on the weekend, with six games split evenly across Saturday and Sunday. Headlining the matchups is an all-Metro double-header at Preston City Oval on Saturday afternoon, which will be capped by an exciting clash between the Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers.

In a brand new series, we delve into the most eye-catching head-to-head matchups set to take place during the next round of action, starting with an absolute blockbuster. Having earned co-captaincy in the Draft Central Round 1 Team of the Week, top five prospects Tyler Sonsie (Eastern) and Nick Daicos (Oakleigh) are poised to lock horns this week in a mouthwatering midfield battle. Both are also AFL Academy members.

Neither player really requires an introduction, but below are the key points which aim to compare and contrast these two elite talents.

JOURNEY SO FAR:

Sonsie already boasts a terrific resume and should be well-known to keen NAB League watchers. The Eastern prospect proved his credentials by taking out Vic Metro’s MVP award at the 2019 Under 16 National Championships, before later earning his Ranges Under 18 debut. He would go on to play six games as a wingman/forward, averaging 11 disposals and a goal every other game while also featuring in the Ranges’ grand final loss to Oakleigh.

Daicos is another name who is already well-hyped, but has seen a touch less top-level exposure through the Victorian talent pathways. His name speaks for itself – the son of Peter and brother of Josh – so Collingwood fans are understandably excited to see their latest father-son prospect. He more than held his own in the APS Football competition alongside the likes of Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, and was set to join the Chargers’ program last year. Instead, we had to wait until last week for his maiden NAB League outing (it was worth the wait).

PRESEASON: 

Both players had interrupted preseasons but were quite obviously raring to go in Round 1. Sonsie had some back issues at the end of 2020 which carried on into early-2021, but he shook them off to get back up to speed. Daicos went through minor ankle surgery last September and spent some time getting his confidence back in the lead up to his NAB League debut. He did not participate in the preseason testing event, but ran out in a Collingwood VFL practice match and impressed. That form carried on into Round 1.

POSITION:

Both players will predominantly run through midfield this season and proved as much last week. There are some slight differences in their secondary positions, though. While Sonsie is more of a midfielder who rests forward, Daicos is a midfielder who also rolls off half-back and looks to open up play from there. Despite that, we did see Daicos spend a good amount of time up forward in Round 1 after he copped an early leg knock. Both players took full toll during their time inside attacking 50 last week, with Sonsie classily converting two late goals on his non-preferred side and Daicos slotting three majors from a half-dozen attempts.

SIZE AND STYLE:

These two should measure up quite well against each other, with both between 180-185cm and shaping up relatively similarly weight-wise. In terms of style, they bring some real class to the game each time the ball is in their hands and use it brilliantly by hand and foot. They are both so smooth in possession and while they are not overtly strong, can extract and come away from congestion beautifully. Daicos’ half-back work and Round 1 showing point towards having a greater defensive acumen, whereas Sonsie is perhaps a touch more forward-thinking, more often. Like two heavyweights slugging it out in the ring, this bout should be a great watch for the neutral – if you’re not too big a fan of defence.

IMPROVEMENT AREAS:

While breaking the game open is something Daicos can clearly do, one of his goals this year is to do that even more. His bursting clearance at the first centre bounce last week, and work rate to win the ball in dangerous areas points towards that being a factor going forward. He is a team driven player too, so will look to bring his teammates into the game.

As alluded to above, Sonsie is working on his defensive transition and endurance base. While his attacking acumen is so effective, applying that tackling pressure and becoming more relevant going the other way is the next step in Sonsie’s development. He has no trouble finding the ball and slides away from congestion with ease, but will be more inclined to rip away contested ball as he puts on more size.

ROUND 1:

Stats:

Daicos – 28 disposals (20 kicks), 8 marks, 7 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 3.2
Sonsie – 34 disposals (20 kicks), 6 marks, 2 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 2.1

Scout Notes:

Daicos – “In his NAB League debut, Daicos showed the hype was justified with a best on ground performance against perhaps the team to beat this year in Sandringham. Daicos was superb in the midfield, winning the ball at will and showing great skill and speed when in possession.

Daicos started the game perfectly with the game’s first clearance and showed his forward craft, kicking a well-struck set shot from 45 metres out. His second goal came from a set shot from 50 metres in the third quarter, and his third and final goal came in the last quarter with a terrific crumbing effort where he hit the ball at speed and kicked the goal quicker than a hiccup.

With an early corky, Daicos had to spend a bit of time at deep forward in the second half but he still looked so damaging whenever he went near the ball. Daicos finished the game with 28 disposals, eight marks, seven tackles and kicked 3.2 in a best on ground performance.” – Ed Pascoe

Sonsie – “Sonsie reminded everyone why he is considered one of the top five prospects in the 2021 draft with a dominant display in the midfield, showing his trademark attacking nature and class in a strong four-quarter performance. Sonsie was a clearance specialist in the first quarter, winning plenty of the ball in-close and dishing off cleanly by hand. It wasn’t his usual style of winning the ball and attacking by foot, but he was effective nonetheless.

Sonsie had a few running shots on goal in the first half and didn’t quite nail them as he usually would, biting off a bit more than he could chew with some opposite foot kicks, but he would address those issues in the last quarter. Sonsie is usually flawless in his kick execution on both sides and it all finally clicked in the last quarter as he kicked two sensational goals on his non-preferred.

The first was a classy rove and snap from a stoppage and the second came after he won a centre clearance and then followed that very clearance up with a running shot at goal from 40-metres out. Sonsie put on a show, finishing the gamer with 34 disposals, six inside 50s and two goals.” – Ed Pascoe

FINAL WORD:

This battle looms as a much-watch for draft followers, with two potential top five picks set lock horns while they look to be in scary form. The match itself should also be a ripping contest, with Eastern coming off a win and Oakleigh keen to rectify its Round 1 loss to Sandringham. Should Daicos be fully over the knock he sustained last week, he will likely get a massive run through midfield once again, right alongside the irresistible class of Sonsie.

Stat Leaders: 2021 NAB League – Round 1

THE 2021 NAB League season commenced across a five-day stretch from Thursday to Monday, with players blowing out the cobwebs and getting stuck back into competitive action. There were a number of outstanding individual performances across the six fixtures, with top five draft candidates and some fresh faces topping a range of categories. We take a look at this week’s stat leaders.

It was no surprise to see Eastern Ranges jet Tyler Sonsie soar straight to the top of the disposal charts, racking up a round-high 34 touches in his side’s win over the Calder Cannons. A classy midfielder who can roll forward, Sonsie also notched up six inside 50s and booted two goals in his best afield display. The 18-year-old’s performance only solidified his standing as a top five draft candidate this year.

Gippsland prospect Max Walton was not far behind his metro counterpart in the Power’s loss to Dandenong, kept busy in the back half with 32 disposals. A remarkable 30 of them were kicks, making him a clear leader in that category as well as in the rebound 50s count (10).

Both players had teammates feature elsewhere, with Gippsland skipper Luis D’Angelo notching a high of 15 handballs to be equal with Geelong top-ager Archie Hildebrandt, and Thomas Crole booting four goals for Gippy as Corey Preston managed the same feat for Eastern. Preston’s teammate Jake Arundell also recorded the most inside 50s (eight) alongside Calder’s Harrison Andronaco and Dandenong’s James Cahill.

Flying Calder wingman Flynn Gentile has found plenty of the ball in his two games thus far, and that was no different on Friday as he worked hard for 15 marks. Speaking of, Oakleigh’s Julian Gangi got his hands dirty with nine tackles in one of the most high-quality games of Under 19s football ever, against Sandringham. Geelong tall Toby Conway was the round’s other chart-topper, winning a monster 33 hitouts on Thursday evening.

It is worth noting, a trio of Western Jets talents also achieved would-be highs in their standalone season opener against Calder. The players in question were Liam Conway (eight inside 50s), Cody Raak (11 rebound 50s), and Adam Azzopardi (nine tackles).

Find the full list of Round 1’s stat leaders below.

ROUND 1 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:
Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges) – 34

Kicks:
Max Walton (Gippsland Power) – 30

Handballs:
Luis D’Angelo (Gippsland Power) – 15
Archie Hildebrandt (Geelong Falcons) – 15

Marks:
Flynn Gentile (Calder Cannons) – 15

Tackles:
Julian Gangi (Oakleigh Chargers) – 9

Inside 50s:
Harrison Andronaco (Calder Cannons) – 8
Jake Arundell (Eastern Ranges) – 8
James Cahill (Dandenong Stingrays) – 8

Rebound 50s:
Max Walton (Gippsland Power) – 10

Hitouts:
Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons) – 33

Goals:
Thomas Crole (Gippsland Power) – 4
Corey Preston (Eastern Ranges) – 4