Author: Michael Alvaro

Young gun focus: 2020 SANFL Round 14 wrap

WITH young guns impressing at state league level around the nation, we again narrow our focus for this week’s South Australian National Football League (SANFL) wrap to the performances of youth throughout all three grades. There is plenty to unpack in our next altered edition, with Under 18 prospects scattered across the two senior competitions, and a bunch of youngsters impressing in the junior grade in Round 14. Heavy finals ramifications were in place during the ultimate regular season round, which saw the cream truly rise to the top.

Norwood vs. West Adelaide

League: Norwood 6.11 (47) def. by West Adelaide 8.9 (57)
Reserves:
Norwood 5.7 (37) def. by West Adelaide 9.14 (68)
Under 18s:
Norwood 18.12 (120) def. West Adelaide 5.7 (37)

West Adelaide finished both its senior seasons on a high, defeating Norwood in the League and Reserves grades. While the results saw Westies steer clear of the last-place Redlegs Reserves, the Bloods still finished bottom of the League and Under 18s ladders with a combined three wins in either competition. Norwood was the best of the rest at League level, and missed out on top spot in the Under 18s by percentage only after a second-straight win.

The top flight debuts of Bailey Chamberlain and national combine invitee Jye Sinderberry were made memorable, as the two Westies young guns performed solidly in their side’s win. Chamberlain racked up 17 disposals and booted a goal playing on the wing, while Sinderberry managed 12 touches from defence. Lachlan Squire and fellow NSW/ACT recruit Hamish Ellem were also part of the Bloods’ victory. Norwood’s Jack Heard made up another debut for the weekend, notching 14 disposals and five marks for the Redlegs.

Nicholas Couroupis, Cooper Gilbert, Michael Laudato, and Hugo Kelly were among the young Bloods to contribute as West Adelaide saluted to the tune of 31 points at Reserves level, trumping a Norwood team which also boasted some young talent in the form of Mitchell Carroll, Alexander Scali, Lachlan Falco, and Nathan Maunder, the former two of whom booted a goal each.

The junior Redlegs got one back with an 83-point thumping of Westies, headlined by 29 disposals and five goals from the returning Jack Saunders. Henry Nelligan (33 disposals, one goal) was another small to find plenty of the ball, while Xavier Tranfa and Michael Cavallaro joined Saunders in booting multiple goals from over 20 touches. Westies’ tough season ended bluntly, though Eduard van den Berg (27 disposals, 12 rebound 50s) and Cade Kennedy (21 disposals, five clearances) were among those to finish their consistent campaigns in good form.

Central District vs. WWT Eagles

League: Central District 13.10 (88) def. WWT Eagles 13.6 (84)
Reserves:
Central District 13.9 (84) def. WWT Eagles 6.6 (42)
Under 18s:
Central District 9.9 (63) def. by WWT Eagles 16.12 (108)

Woodville-West Torrens (WWT) officially secured the League minor premiership on Saturday despite a shock loss to Central District, with gun small forward James Rowe also tying for the competition’s leading goalkicker award. The Bulldogs also triumphed in the Reserves to secure a minor premiership of their own in front of the second-placed Eagles, while WWT’s Under 18s are every chance to go back-to-back having secured third spot.

Rowe’s sole major and three from Coburg VFL recruit Sam Lowson were not enough to help the Eagles finish the League regular season with a win, though there were some promising young performers. Among them, former Port rookie Kai Pudney managed 20 disposals, followed by 18 from 19-year-old Lachlan McNeil. Northern Territory product Ben Jungfer will also hope to have secured his finals place after 11 touches. Jackson Kelly (21 disposals, 10 tackles, one goal) and Jack Toner (19 disposals, six marks, one goal) were both terrific for the winners, finishing their senior campaigns off well along with the Bulldogs overall.

Lachlan Grubb and Nicholas Lange snared two goals apiece as the Centrals two’s got up by 42 points, doubling their opponents’ total score in the process. But it was 2019 Oakleigh Chargers premiership player Thomas Graham who was named best for the victors in a terrific performance. Thomas is the son of former Hawthorn and Richmond player, Mark Graham, and was eligible to be drafted to the Hawks via the father-son rule.

As usual, the Eagles managed a good spread of performers as their Under 18s secured a comfortable win, led by usual suspects Jase Burgoyne (31 disposals, one goal) and Caleb Poulter (27 disposals, two goals). Port father-son prospect Taj Schofield was in the thick of it, Jordan Kasianowicz booted four majors, and tall pair Henry Smith and Zac Phillips both fared well aerially while hitting the scoreboard. 16-year-old Austin McDonald capped off a stellar season with 32 disposals and 12 clearances against stiff opposition, aided by Lewis Cowham (30 disposals, 10 clearances) and bigman Wyatt Ryan, who matched his hitout haul (25) with disposals.

Sturt vs. Glenelg

League: Sturt 9.13 (67) def. by Glenelg 12.8 (80)
Reserves:
Sturt 7.16 (58) def. Glenelg 8.2 (50)
Under 18s:
Sturt 13.15 (93) def. Glenelg 3.4 (22)

Equal League leading goalkicker, Liam McBean‘s four majors led the Bays to a confidence-building win heading into finals, though it was Sturt who took the points across the Reserves and Under 18s fixtures. Having snuck into the top four, the Tigers’ premiership defence is alive, but their season came to an end in the two remaining competitions. Conversely, the Double Blues will boast finalists in both those grades, with the Under 18s finishing top, but the League side left behind in sixth while the Reserves claimed third.

Glenelg over-ager Callum Park will bring some good form into finals, having managed 19 disposals (17 kicks) and 11 rebound 50s from his usual defensive post. Double Blues ruckman Daniel Fahey-Sparks ended his own season in commanding fashion, winning a monster 49 hitouts to go with his 18 disposals, seven marks (four contested), five clearances, and one goal.

Despite five goals from Nicholas Leck and a raft of young contributors, the Bays’ Reserves couldn’t repeat the feat. Riley Holder and Xavier Robins both played their first games at the level for Glenelg, while the likes of Luke Edwards, Ty Murphy, Cooper Horsnell, Hagan Wright, and Mitch Martin made up the Bays’ youthful core. Anzac Lochowiak and Beau Schwarze both found the big sticks in a winning Sturt side which also boasted Josh Shute and Tom Emmett.

Three Sturt guns racked up 34 disposals each as the Double Blues won comfortably in the Under 18s; with Malachy Carruthers working hard to also claim 15 marks, Bradley Jefferies snaring 10 clearances, and Mani Liddy adding a goal to his tally. Bigman Morgan Ferres booted three majors as he looks to impact during the postseason. Harry Tunkin (24 disposals, seven tackles) was busy for Glenelg, leading the disposal count in front of three teammates – Oscar Clark, Bailey Durant, and Henry McAuliffe – who all managed 23 touches.

South Adelaide vs. North Adelaide

League: South Adelaide 13.9 (87) def. North Adelaide 6.9 (45)
Reserves:
South Adelaide 8.7 (55) def. by North Adelaide 12.8 (80)
Under 18s:
South Adelaide 14.10 (94) def. North Adelaide 11.12 (78)

South Adelaide pulled off a confidence-boosting win over fellow finals bound League side, North Adelaide, while also securing finals at Under 18s level with another quality victory over the Roosters. North managed to get one back in the Reserves though, only cementing the status of their two senior sides in the postseason.

Mature-age national combine invitee Thomas Highmore provided a reminder of his class with 19 disposals and seven marks (four contested) from defence, while Victorian recruit Daly Andrews booted a goal from his 13 touches. For North, Karl Finlay was one of their best young performers with 12 disposals and five marks, as former Gold Coast listed player Harrison Wigg impressed with 23 disposals and seven marks for the Roosters.

Zac Dumesny made his return via the Under 18s, helping his Panthers lock in a top four spot with 33 disposals (26 kicks) and 11 marks. Bottom-ager Matthew Roberts had a day out with four goals from 28 touches, while Harry Spacie (23 disposals, 10 marks) was also handy, and Nicholas Kraemer (19 disposals) was another to return strongly. Draft bolder Brayden Cook booted 2.5 from his 12 disposals. Jayden Davison (28 disposals, six clearances) was again a top performer for the Roosters, while Hugh Jackson and Zyton Santillo both ticked over 20 touches and found the goals. Adelaide NGA gun Tariek Newchurch capped his season with four majors in a more consistent display.

Featured Image: North Adelaide’s Harrison Wigg is shut down by South Adelaide’s Daly Andrews | Credit: Deb Curtis/SANFL

AFL Draft Watch: James Borlase (Sturt/South Australia)

IN the midst of football’s long-awaited return, Draft Central takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state in some capacity leading into 2020, or are bolting into draft contention. While plenty has changed 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 Sturt prospect James Borlase, an Adelaide Crows NGA hopeful who is also the son of 246-game Port Adelaide champion, Darryl Borlase. The key position utility is arguably best suited to a defensive role, but is versatile enough to also impact up forward. After cutting his teeth in the Reserves, Borlase has also cracked League level in this year’s SANFL competition and recently earned the best afield award in Prince Alfred College’s All Schools Cup Grand Final victory over Henley High. While slightly below true key position height, the 191cm prospect uses his strong frame to compete aerially before delivering soundly via foot.

PLAYER PAGE:

James Borlase
Sturt/South Australia

DOB: July 18, 2002

Height: 191cm
Weight: 94kg

Position: Key Position Utility

Strengths: Aerial/contested marking, strength, competitiveness, versatility
Improvements: Speed/athleticism

2020 SANFL League averages: 3 games | 11.0 disposals | 4.3 marks | 1.0 contested mark | 2.3 tackles | 1.0 clearance | 1.3 inside 50s | 2.3 rebound 50s
2019 SANFL Reserves averages: 8 games | 10.8 disposals | 84% efficiency | 4.4 marks | 1.6 tackles | 1.4 rebound 50s
2019 SANFL Under 18s averages: 5 games | 10.8 disposals | 74% efficiency | 3.8 marks | 2.4 tackles | 1.0 inside 50 | 1.2 rebound 50s

>> Q&A: Sturt U18s

PRESEASON TESTING RESULTS:

Standing Vertical Jump: 58cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L): 66cm/74cm
Speed (20m): 3.27 seconds
Agility: 8.78 seconds
Endurance (Yo-yo): 20.4

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

SCOUTING NOTES:

2020 All Schools Cup Grand Final vs. Henley

By: Ed Pascoe

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 Harry Tunkin another strong performer for PAC.

2020 SANFL League Round 13 vs. North Adelaide

By: Eli Duxson

The key position Borlase returned to the senior side and showed glimpses of why people are so excited about him. The Crows Next Generation Academy prospect split his time between forward and back, although he has been touted as a defender during his time in the pathway programs. As a forward, he presented up the ground well and continued to create contests. His marking looked a little bit inconsistent and he seemed to struggle to find space on leads except for one occasion in the second quarter. After a beautiful delivery, he leant back on the set shot kick from around 40 metres and put it out on the full.

He moved back for the second half and did not get much of a chance to show off his defensive traits in one-on-one contests. He looked to be accountable and found himself on a few different opponents, both taller and shorter than him. He became more attacking in the final quarter; seeming to grow in confidence, clearing the ball, and looking to mark. He reads the flight of the ball well but looked a little tentative with his overhead marking at times. A miskick from a kick-out in the final quarter sent the ball straight back over his head for a goal. His first game back showed he was still a bit rusty, and perhaps he has some development left. There is still a lot to like about him with his versatility and size.

2020 SANFL League Round 11 vs. South Adelaide

By: Peter Williams

Much like Jed McEntee was not as prolific as the week before when he shone on debut. What stood out was his ability to pick himself up after an early mistake – he dropped an uncontested mark leading to a South goal – to remain composed under pressure coming out of the back 50. Some of his kicks were superb, with one elite kick coming in the third term off the back of a one-on-one intercept mark to hit up McEntee in the middle on that 45-degree angle. He read the ball flight in the final term to take a strong mark 20 metres out from defensive goal, and showed great pressure to force a turnover just moments earlier.

2020 SANFL League Round 10 vs. West Adelaide

By: Peter Williams

Making his debut at League level, the Adelaide Next-Generation Academy prospect was one of the more impressive players, particularly early in the game. While many debutants might look and hope for an easy first few touches, Borlase held up with a handball under pressure then took a contested intercept mark. He used the ball well and was good in his positioning throughout the game, and while he did not always take every mark he went for, he still racked up quite a few – six in total – and also applied plenty of pressure both through tackling and implied pressure that would have impressed the coaches. In the final term in particular with the game in the balance, Borlase laid a massive tackle, but what was the most impressive fact was he grabbed him once, his opponent almost got free, but Borlase went again and brought him down in a 360-degree tackle. To finish with 14 touches, six marks, three tackles and five rebounds on debut, that was a big tick and Adelaide would have been pleased with his development.

2020 SANFL Reserves Round 1 vs. Central District

By: Tom Wyman

The potential Crows NGA prospect was named at full-back for the Sturt reserves, having played eight matches at the level last year. At 191cm and 88kg, Borlase is strongly-built and able to hold his own against the bigger bodied forwards – a trait which will certainly help his case for senior selection later in the year.

Against a relatively strong Central Districts outfit, Borlase’s performance was encouraging. He spent considerable time matched-up against athletic 196cm tall forward Leek Alleer. While Alleer possesses serious speed and a high leap, he was largely nullified by the lock-down abilities of Borlase. He took a number of kick-ins as well, a testament his improving skillset.

2019 Under 17 Futures All-Stars

By: Michael Alvaro

Borlase is in the rare position of being a player whose father played more than 250 games for Port Adelaide, while also being an Adelaide Crows academy member, and he may cost either club a pretty penny at this stage. Drifting across the defensive 50, Borlase took a couple of strong intercept marks in the third term and chased the ball up well at ground level. He is that in-between size – not quite having key-position height but possessing a strong frame – and can play both tall and small roles. While his marking game was strong, Borlase had a couple of less comfortable moments on the ground, getting caught holding the ball on two occasions despite a solid overall game.

Featured Image: James Borlase gets a kick away during the 2019 Under 17 Futures All-Star clash | Credit: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

>> 2020 AFL National Draft Combine List
>> 2020 South Australia U18s Squad Prediction

>> August 2020 Power Rankings
>> July 2020 Power Rankings
>> September 2020 Power Rankings

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Allies:
Tahj Abberley
Charlie Byrne
Jackson Callow
Blake Coleman
Braeden Campbell
Alex Davies
Oliver Davis
Errol Gulden
Joel Jeffrey
Maurice Rioli Jnr
Patrick Walker

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Bailey Chamberlain
Brayden Cook
Zac Dumesny
Corey Durdin
Luke Edwards
Lachlan Jones
Tariek Newchurch
Caleb Poulter
Tom Powell
Taj Schofield
Henry Smith
Riley Thilthorpe

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

Vic Metro:
Jake Bowey
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Eddie Ford
Max Heath
Bailey Laurie
Finlay Macrae
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips

Western Australia:
Jack Carroll
Heath Chapman
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll
Zane Trew
Brandon Walker
Joel Western
Isiah Winder

Late blooming Buethke leans on dual-sport edge

IT was a move that took great courage.

Tahlita Buethke had played netball since she was six years old, but after some deliberation, made the transition to high-level football with South Adelaide. Despite a rollercoaster year for budding AFL Women’s draftees, the 18-year-old has not looked back.

“It took me a long time to actually have the balls to go out to South,” Buethke said. “When I started playing I always got so much joy out of the game. I definitely want to get somewhere in footy but still have lots of work to do yet.”

Having made her SANFLW debut for the Panthers in 2020 and played seven games, the athletic midfielder has in large part justified the faith shown in her as she entered the South Australian junior talent pathway. Described by SA talent manager Robbie Neill as having a “big future”, Buethke’s rate of development has been steep.

She says the elite pathway has aided her growth despite a pandemic-effected season, combining well with the already-present sporting base which has seen her transition to the level seamlessly. It has her dreaming big.

“The South Adelaide Under 17s program helped ready me for the seniors,” she said. “They have developed me so much within this short season due to Covid-19. “The South Australian pathway, with both of them helping, worked so well and this year I have learnt so much about the sport.

“My speed is very helpful and with me playing netball, my marking is pretty good. (I am still) needing to improve on knowing when to take the game on… (but) I like a fast game.”

“Having the opportunity to play for a team like South (was a big achievement), in the next coming years I’d like to to try get drafted.”

Buethke sees the wing as her best position at senior level, and an impactful showing during this month’s AFLW Under 18 All-Stars showcase undeniably boosted her stocks. The raw prospect supports the Adelaide Crows’ women’s side, but says if given the chance, she “would definitely move away” to play top flight football interstate. With a part-time job as a painter in tow, Buethke is also kept reasonably busy during the week – often enjoying a “quick nap” before scooting off to training.

The South Australian’s next major point of call will hopefully be at the AFL Women’s National Draft on October 6.

Featured Image: South Australian All-Star Tahlita Buethke gets a kick away | Credit: Daniel Kalisz/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Out to impress: 2020 WAFL weekend preview – Preliminary Finals

YOUNG talent continues to turn heads at state league level around the nation, and it has been no different across all three WAFL grades upon the competition’s resumption in 2020. As we roll into the second week of finals, Draft Central continues its new weekly preview format, highlighting some of the best up-and-comers who will be out to impress with each passing game. With Grand Final spots up for grabs, stakes are high for the state’s brightest prospects and bonafide stars.

>> SCROLL for fixtures and League teams

South Fremantle and West Perth play off for the right to play Claremont in the League decider, with the Bulldogs on a mission to add to their minor premiership. The top-ranked side will be made to lean on its second chance after consecutive losses, while West Perth is riding the wave of an 11-point victory in Week One to secure passage to the prelims.

Against a hardened and experienced South Freo outfit, the Falcons will also look to take in its fair share of young talent. 21-year-old midfielder Connor West had a season-low 11 disposals last time out, but laid eight tackles and has what it takes to make an impact amid the finals atmosphere. 202cm bigman Zak Patterson and former Subiaco ball magnet Tristan Hobley have been named on the Falcons’ extended bench, both looking to retain their spots.

Claremont’s Reserves will hope to join their League and Colts teammates in the final week of the season, when they square off against Subiaco on Sunday afternoon. The Lions’ second chance comes into play after a loss to the undefeated East Perth, while the Tigers will hope its winning form counts having beaten South Fremantle last week.

Both sides boast a good array of youth prospects, with brothers Liam and Wil Hickmott among them. The midfielders carry League experience, and make up two of the three centreline selections for Subiaco. Thomas Edwards-Baldwin is another to watch for the Lions, named in the forward pocket to round out a month of Reserves footy after his own League stint. Fellow 21-year-old Koby Fullgrabe also features on the extended bench.

In response, the third-ranked Tigers boast players who can provide a spark on each line. The pacey Isaac Barton looms as one who can open up the game from midfield, while Jye Clark, the brother of Geelong’s Jordan has been named at half-back, and mainstay Jack Buller remains at half-forward.

Subiaco’s Colts will hope to make it a first-versus-second Grand Final, but have to get through the fourth-ranked East Fremantle before attempting revenge on Claremont. Ball-winning quartet Lachlan Vanirsen, Connor Patterson, Jed Kemp, and Matthew Johnson are all coming off strong showings for the Lions, with Kemp and Johnson getting their hands dirty defensively, too.

They’ll all play a key role for Subiaco, especially given the Sharks’ stocks. Bottom-agers Joshua Browne and Corey Warner have risen steeply of late, while Finn Gorringe is enjoying his time across half-back without Jack Carroll. Fellow defensive pair, Brandon Walker and Keanu Haddow have been reliable all season, while Chris Walker will be riding high having been added to the National Combine list.

Other combine invitees to watch include Subiaco defender Blake Morris and forward, Tyler Brockman, while East Fremantle’s Jed Hagan is a 2022-eligible gun who should benefit greatly from the heat of finals football in midfield.

FIXTURES

League:

South Fremantle vs. West Perth | Sunday September 27, 3:35pm @ Fremantle Community Bank Oval

Reserves:

Subiaco vs. Claremont | Sunday September 27, 1:00pm @ Fremantle Community Bank Oval

Colts:

Subiaco vs. East Fremantle | Sunday September 27, 10:25am @ Fremantle Community Bank Oval

LEAGUE TEAMS

Featured Image: West Perth players celebrate their Week One finals win | Source: (Retrieved from) @WAFLOfficial via Twitter

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Murray Bushrangers vs. Northern Knights

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for another intriguing quarter final clash, set to play out between Victorian regions, in the Murray Bushrangers and Northern Knights. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were current Collingwood star, Steele Sidebottom (Murray) and the AFL’s games record holder, Brent Harvey (Northern).

These clubs are seeded fourth (Murray) and fifth (Northern) respectively, as the gap closes to its narrowest margin yet in our overall draw. The proposed Bushrangers squad outvoted Sturt and the Oakleigh Chargers, while Northern’s path to this stage came through Norwood and Swan Districts. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face either East Fremantle or the Sandringham Dragons.

>> SCROLL TO VIEW THE FULL TEAMS

TALKING POINTS

THE REBOUNDERS:

Both defences are stacked, as one would come to expect at this stage of the draw, with rebounding quality a clear strength across either back six. The Stingrays are well stocked in the running department, as flankers Jack Crisp and Jarrod Harbrow are supported by Joel Smith and Zac Williams on the last line. While Harbrow and Williams possess pure pace to break the lines, Smith and Crisp are reliable users by foot who can create in transition. Add the endurance of Sidebottom and power of Brett Deledio up on either wing, and there threatens to be some serious force behind Murray’s attacking play.

But the Knights are also well stocked, with the Shaw brothers – Rhyce and Heath – both sure to generate some forward momentum out of defensive 50. Fellow former Magpie Ben Johnson has a weaponous left peg, while Chris Johnson provides a good balance to the back six alongside Dylan Grimes, and Nick Vlaustin off the bench. Further afield, the likes of Leigh Montagna, David Zaharakis, and Brent Stanton will run all day between the arcs, with Paul Licuria another who accumulates with ease.

Ultimately, it’s clear both sides have serious run in their legs, particularly in defence. But given Northern’s elite runners further afield allow for a greater balance in the defensive setup, we give the Knights a big tick in that third of the ground.

THE KEY POSITION STOCKS:

Northern’s spine has an ominous look about it, propped up by four formidable key position starters. Collingwood fans would get a good hit of nostalgia seeing Simon Prestigiacomo and Anthony Rocca line up at opposite ends, accompanied by Michael Hurley and Lance Whitnall respectively. In terms of starting stocks, particularly in defence, the Knights arguably have Murray covered. Jarrad Waite and Barry Hall stack up well inside forward 50, with Ben Reid and Alipate Carlile up the other end for the Bushrangers.

However, the country region seems to gain an edge in terms of depth, laying claim to some high level bench depth. Ben McEvoy and Justin Koschitzke, who can both rotate through the ruck or at either end of the ground, make for sound back-up, along with Fraser Gehrig hidden in the forward pocket. The ruck duel between Murray’s Steven King and Northern’s Matthew Kreuzer is difficult to split, so it seems Murray has the greater weight of options in the tall department.

THE DEEP MIDFIELDS:

As is the case with almost every side seeded in the top 10, the midfields run deep. Northern’s centre bounce starters jump off the page, with Adam Simpson at the core alongside Trent Cotchin and Marcus Bontempelli. Murray’s selection of David Mundy, Clayton Oliver, and Tom Rockliff is solid in its own right, but doesn’t quite compare to what the Knights have to offer. On the outer, Sidebottom and Deledio ensure Northern’s Montagna and Licuria will be in for a tough day at the office, while the options of Jack Ziebell and Steve Johnson linger up forward. Northern also has options, with Harvey and Josh Caddy among those able to add a spark when required. This is a tough one given Murray’s range of options once again, compared to the weight of elite talent on Northern’s side.

SUMMARY:

As the rankings would suggest, there is hardly anything to split these two sides. Northern was a prolific talent region throughout the 90s and early-2000s, hence why so many of their All-Stars are already household names. Murray has long been a hotbed of talent as far as regional areas go, and it clearly shows in its well-balanced, well-stocked side. In a flip of the coin, and given the areas touched on above, I am taking Northern.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
Murray Bushrangers
Northern Knights
Created with QuizMaker

TSL weekend preview: Round 12 – Finals race heats up

THE PENULTIMATE round of the Tasmanian State League (TSL) home-and-away season got underway on Wednesday, as Lauderdale 10.13 (73) defeated Glenorchy 2.8 (20) on the road. The action picks up again on Saturday with a pair of afternoon fixtures, while Glenorchy is back on Sunday against North Hobart. We take a look at where some of the best Tasmanian youth prospects will line up this weekend, as the finals race heats up.

>> SCROLL for full fixtures

With one hand on the minor premiership, North Launceston could secure its regular season glory and dash Tigers’ finals hopes in one fell swoop, pending other results. The two sides meet at Kingston Twin Ovals, having last played each other in Round 6, when the ladder leaders got up by 56 points.

After coming in on the bench last week, Oliver Sanders features on a wing for the Northern Bombers, with bottom-age jet Baynen Lowe set to provide a spark up forward. Meanwhile, bigman Jackson Callow misses again through injury. Former Tasmania representative Lachlan Gadomski assumes his usual half-back role for Tigers, while the likes of Oliver Burrows-Cheng and Riley Ashlin will rotate off the interchange.

Clarence will hope to hold onto fourth spot with only two rounds left, but faces a tough task in handling the second-ranked Launceston in Saturday’s other fixture. The Roos came out with a win over the Blues last time out in a match where the conditions wreaked havoc, but doing the double seems improbable.

Oliver Davis again anchors Clarence’s midfield alongside Ethan Jackson, with Noah Holmes injecting even more youth into the spine from full forward. Darcy Gardner was terrific in defeat last week and Baker Smith stood strong, starting at either end of the ground. Launceston’s strong side also features some promising youth, albeit off the bench in the form of Jared Dakin and Isaac Chugg.

In Sunday’s lone hit-out, bottom-two sides North Hobart and Glenorchy duke it out in a game which could well decide the wooden spoon. The Demons currently sit last, but a win would draw them level on points with the Magpies, who have an inferior percentage but have played one less game. Glenorchy is coming off a four-day break, but will hope to defeat North Hobart for a second time this season and keep touch with the top four, remarkably enough.

Sam Collins, and recent combine inclusion Jake Steele form the centrepiece of the Demons’ defence, which would also normally feature Patrick Walker. Jye Menzie will look to impact up the other end, with Will Peppin and Tyler McGinniss rotating off the bench. Just missing out this week are George McLeod, and bigman Hamish Allan, who have been named as emergencies. Meanwhile 19-year-old Ryan Banks-Smith is among Glenorchy’s young talent, one of four changes to the Magpies’ lineup.

>> FULL TSL ROUND 12 TEAMS

Fixtures:

North Launceston vs. Tigers | Saturday September 26, 1:30pm @ Kingston Twin Ovals
Clarence vs. Launceston | Saturday September 26, 1:30pm @ Richmond Oval
North Hobart vs. Glenorchy | Sunday September 27, 2:00pm @ North Hobart Oval

Featured Image: Sam Collins gets a kick away for North Hobart | Source: Andrew Woodgate

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Port Adelaide Magpies vs. Dandenong Stingrays

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for another intriguing quarter final clash, set to play out between powerhouse South Australian and Victorian clubs, in the Port Adelaide Magpies and Dandenong Stingrays respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Collingwood champion and current coach Nathan Buckley (Port Adelaide), and fan favourite goalkicker Brendan Fevola (Dandenong).

These clubs are seeded third (Port Adelaide) and sixth (Dandenong) respectively, with the competition getting as tight as ever. Our proposed Stingrays squad outvoted Central District and West Adelaide, while Port’s path to this stage came through Peel Thunder and the Gippsland Power. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face either South Fremantle or the Geelong Falcons.

>> SCROLL TO VIEW THE FULL TEAMS

TALKING POINTS

THE DEFENSIVE STRUCTURES:

You’ll be hard-pressed to not only find a pair of defences with more talent, but also two sets of six with a better balance than what Port and Dandenong have to offer. They match up so well in size, skill, and versatility, with not one player out of place.

A big tick for the Magpies’ selections is the amount of class apparent, with the flankers and pocketmen all sublime users of the ball. Brownlow medalists Gavin Wanganeen and Andrew McLeod are both just as capable further afield, but fit in nicely alongside Geelong great Corey Enright and Crows cult figure Graham Johncock. Aside from the Wakelin brothers up the spine, the only real knock on Port’s defence is its lack of height, though the defensive combativeness of Enright and Johncock makes up for it.

Dandenong’s back six ticks a lot of boxes too; with a couple of true key position players who can also swing up the other end, a small lockdown option, a runner, a sharp user by foot, and an enforcer. Trent Croad and Justin Leppitsch are the tall options, with Adam McPhee providing added physical presence, while Austinn Jones and Chris Newman are club favourites who can both break the lines and mop up at ground level. Add Michael Hibberd‘s classy ball use on the rebound, and you have a pretty complete defence.

While Port Adelaide’s troops may just take our vote on a pure player-to-player comparison basis, Dandenong’s mix makes them difficult to look past. This is a tough one.

SILK VS. RUNNING POWER:

There are many effective ways to quickly gain meterage, whether it be through efficient disposal, pure running power, or a combination of the two. In reviewing some of the outside movers on either side, it seems they may differ slightly in their attacking methods. For Dandenong, the likes of Lachie Whitfield, Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel, Tom Scully, and Travis Johnstone all provide a great mix of speed and endurance, able to transfer the ball forward or provide outlets in transition through sheer gut running. Treloar, Shiel, and Johnstone in particular are known to carry the ball, while Scully is your outside endurance machine, and Whitfield boasts arguably the best balance of the lot.

For Port, it’s the silk that shines through. The near-untouchable pairing of McLeod and Wanganeen can carve up the opposition and set up attacks from the back half, combining their speed with phenomenal skill. Enright, too, has a good balance in his game to provide a similar rebounding quality. The quality remains further afield, as both Burgoyne brothers are prolific decision makers with ball in hand, and Byron Pickett a damaging momentum generator. If that kind of class can’t get them through, the Magpies can match Dandenong’s run through midfield too, with Buckley and Craig Bradley able to accumulate and break lines all day long.

THE FORWARD BALANCE:

The ledger may be quite even in an array of areas, but finding small flaws is key to separating such well-matched sides. When viewing the Dandenong forwardline, it may seem like a high-level bunch on paper, but to us it’s only half-perfect. The twin talls in Fevola and Tom Lynch make for an elite combination, especially with Stephen Milne at their feet. But the remaining forwards – Treloar, Shiel, and Shane Savage – just don’t fit the bill in their given positions, despite being great players elsewhere.

This is especially evident when compared to Port Adelaide’s balance, which boasts two true key position targets, but a more complete array of ground level players. Alan Didak and Lindsay Thomas are very crafty in front of goal, while Peter Burgoyne and Brett Ebert are much more true half-forwards. It makes for a better structure up forward, and gives the Magpies a big tick in that department despite Dandenong’s weight of talent on paper.

SUMMARY:

There is plenty to like about both sides, which is exactly why they both feature among our top six seeds. A superior ruck department and serious running power steals some points for Dandenong, but we feel the greater balance and overall class of Port Adelaide’s team is enough to nab our vote in this matchup.

Which All-Star Team do you think would win?
Port Adelaide Magpies
Dandenong Stingrays
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Out to impress: QAFL Seniors Grand Final preview – Broadbeach vs. Morningside

AFTER nine regular season rounds and two enthralling weeks of finals, it all comes down to this. Undefeated minor premier, Broadbeach meets Morningside (2nd, 7-1) in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Grand Final on Saturday afternoon, and there is plenty of young talent primed to impact on the big stage.

In a new-look QAFL preview, Draft Central again narrows its focus to the young guns in action across the two best sides in the competition, including a bunch of Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast SUNS Academy products. We take a look at who shone when the sides previously met in 2020, while also touching on the strengths of some budding AFL Draft prospects in action.

2020 QAFL Grand Final

Broadbeach vs. Morningside
Saturday, September 26 | 2:30pm
Leyshon Park, Yeronga

Previous meeting…

Round 9 – Broadbeach 13.16 (94) def. Morningside 6.8 (44)

GOALS:

Broadbeach: C. Nutting 3, C. Cameron 3, J. Moncrieff 2, J. Fisher 2, R. Gilmore, B. Chadwick, B. Reeves
Morningside: L. Edwards 2, M. Hammelmann, S. Crozier, E. Mallan, B. Coleman

BEST:

Broadbeach: K. Boakye, E. Reeves, M. Lower, C. Cameron, B. Lowe, S. Mills
Morningside: W. Pendlebury, E. Mallan, L. Russ, R. William, B. Kethro, H. Joyce

It took until the final home-and-away round for the season’s two undefeated outfits to meet, with Broadbeach the side which would stand clear after a statement-making 50-point victory. The Cats’ range of scoring options ensure they pulled away strongly in the second half, overcoming some early woes in front of goal to put Morningside to the sword. Usual suspect and former Gold Coast forward Connor Nutting booted three goals in the winning effort, with fellow SUNS Academy graduate Ryan Gilmore and Bailey Reeves also hitting the scoreboard. For the Panthers, who showed plenty of room for improvement, current Brisbane Academy prospects Saxon Crozier and Blake Coleman also found the big sticks, but 24-year-old leading goalkicker Matt Hammelmann was kept to just one major in a big tick for Broadbeach’s defence.

The finals journey…

After both earning a week’s rest as the top two ranked teams, the preliminary finals proved a relatively straightforward stage for either side. Broadbeach scrapped to beat Sherwood, who employed some defensive tactics, to the tune of 43 points to book its spot in the decider. It should prove a handy tune-up for the Cats as their defence held up well, though the finishing up forward could do with some sharpening. Meanwhile, Morningside held off a pesky Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) to advance via a 19-point victory. Crozier, Coleman, and Hammelmann were all again among the goals, but Victorian recruit Matthew McGannon was named best afield for his efforts through midfield. The Panthers will need another big effort from their forwards this coming Saturday.

Ones to watch…

A race against time will determine whether leading Queensland draft prospect Alex Davies returns to action for Broadbeach. The big-bodied inside midfielder has only managed one outing for the Cats in 2020, and is recovering from an elbow injury which saw him miss the Academy Series. It could be a risk to play him ahead of next month’s draft combine, but he would add clean extraction skills in what is usually the most hotly contested game of the season.

Conversely, another current SUNS Academy player in Aiden Fyfe promises to break the game open for Broadbeach, with his sharp ball use by foot and outside run making for valuable assets when the Cats are in need of a spark. Set to be stationed either off half-back or on the wing, Fyfe looms as a good counter to some of Morningside’s runners. Namely, Saxon Crozier‘s capacity to penetrate on the outer will be a key to much of the Panthers’ success, along with Blake Coleman‘s creativity in attack. Both make up two of the leading Lions Academy prospects for 2020, and have adjusted well to senior football.

Staying with the midfield battle, Broadbeach’s Bailey Reeves has a good mix of ball-winning traits both inside and out, and should battle well against the likes of Toby Triffett and Matthew McGannon, two of Morningside’s prime movers. Up forward, livewire small Josh Gore will look to go big having turned heads in his over-age year. The SUNS Academy graduate should keep a Panthers defence which boasts Nathan Colenso busy alongside the likes of Connor Nutting and Ryan Gilmore. Both Gore and Nutting have booted 17 goals this season.

Tip: Broadbeach by 15

Featured Image: Broadbeach young guns Alex Davies and Josh Gore celebrate after a goal | Source: Russell Freeman Photography

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Geelong Falcons vs. South Fremantle

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for another intriguing quarter final clash, set to play out between a powerhouse Victorian region and West Australian club, in the Geelong Falcons and South Fremantle Bulldogs, respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were ‘the little master’ Gary Ablett Jnr (Geelong Falcons) and West Coast great Peter Matera (South Fremantle).

These clubs are seeded second (Geelong Falcons) and 10th (South Fremantle) respectively, meaning the Bulldogs will be made to pull off another upset in order to advance. Our proposed Falcons squad outvoted the Greater Western Victoria Rebels after a first-round bye, while South’s path to this stage came through Claremont and the Bendigo Pioneers. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face the Port Adelaide Magpies/Dandenong Stingrays.

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TALKING POINTS

THE STINGY DEFENCES:

While there lies plenty more glitz and glamour further afield, a solid starting point is the stingy defences of either side. Geelong’s is one of the best of the lot, boasting premiership skippers Luke Hodge and Nick Maxwell at half-back, while Geelong pair Matthew Scarlett and Tom Stewart take up the key position posts, and Steven Baker takes up the opposite pocket of Will Schofield. If you’re left wanting more, the versatile Lachlan Henderson and Matt McGuire await rotation from the bench, potentially adding a touch more height to deal with monster key forwards. The marking power is evident, as is the pure defensive nous, and leadership in spades. Baker’s addition also adds a much-needed small option, able to lockdown the liveliest of opposition forwards.

We feared there would be no match for the Geelong defence, but alas, South Fremantle’s back six comes in strong. The Bulldogs lay claim to a premiership captain of their own, in outgoing Essendon coach and Eagles champion John Worsfold, who slots in alongside fellow West Coast great Glen Jakovich at half-back. With the ever-reliable Darren Gaspar and James Clement behind them, it would take something special to penetrate South Freo’s last line. Let’s not forget Paul Duffield in the pocket, along with ‘Miracle on Grass’ hero Ash McGrath at half-back, who add a different dimension to the back six.

On paper, these defences are difficult to split. Balance is a key aspect to the equation, slightly favouring South, but versatility looks to clearly be in Geelong’s favour, with the bench depth allowing for a good range of possible lineups. The players themselves, namely Hodge, Maxwell, and Stewart can play a variety of roles down back both below and above their heights, but the key position strength remains. We’re sticking with the Falcons here, just.

THE MIDFIELD BATTLE:

Two contrasting midfields also do battle when these sides line up, with the Geelong side boasting a rich vein of ball winners, while South Fremantle’s prime movers are most significantly based on the outer. Local Cats premiership players Cameron Ling and Jimmy Bartel feature at the heart of Geelong’s engine room alongside Travis Boak, making for a durable trio which balances both sides of the game well. South also lays claim to a tagging centreman in Clinton Jones, who is joined by Fremantle stalwart Peter Bell and current Eagles star, Tim Kelly. In terms of credentials at the centre bounce, Geelong takes the chocolates. That’s without touching on the ruck battle, which looks to also favour Geelong as Matthew Primus opposes Jaymie Graham.

But on the outside is where it gets interesting, with Matera and Nicky Winmar making for one hell of a fine wing pairing. Jordan Lewis and Jack Steven are no slouches, but would have their hands well and truly full with those two for opposition. Steven’s prime running power would serve him well, as would Lewis’ hardness and ball use, but we feel the Bulldogs have their counterparts found out in this area.

Then there is the question of depth, which will also spawn a later talking point. Geelong could well make up three or four centre bounce combinations to rival that of every club, but see many of their midfield options squeezed out to flanks or the bench. While South Fremantle’s proposed engine room is the cream of its crop, Geelong has the like of Patrick Dangerfield, Ablett Jnr, and Shaun Higgins up forward, while Taylor Adams, Ben Cunnington, and Devon Smith remain benched. That kind of depth is scary, and proves another tick for the stacked Falcons side.

THE FORWARD BALANCE:

As alluded to, the weight of Geelong’s midfield depth somewhat hinders its balance on other lines, namely up forward. While the likes of Dangerfield and Ablett Jnr are both no strangers to the forward 50, their work as midfielders is what they are primarily known for. Add Higgins into the mix, and that’s three of the four flanks/pockets filled up by improvised forwards. Luckily, they may not be needed much at ground level with Scott Lucas and Jonathan Brown in the key position posts.

But we feel the balance of South Fremantle’s front six looks much better. Peter Sumich is a terrific spearhead, aided aerially and in strength by Brad Hardie and Allen Jakovich, while true smalls in Phillip Matera and Jeff Farmer are joined by Mark Williams, who made the ‘shotgun’ celebration famous (or, infamous). Add Andrew Krakouer and Ashley Sampi to the mix off the bench, and you have a truly dynamic forward set-up, laden with x-factor and match winners. It gives the Bulldogs a good edge over Geelong, despite its overspill of talent.

SUMMARY:

While South Fremantle lays claim to some important points of difference over the second-ranked Geelong side, it is difficult to look past the Falcons’ weight of elite talent. Geelong’s midfield and defence come up trumps, and there is plenty of firepower up forward despite a lesser structure when compared to South’s. We’re taking the Falcons.

Which All-Star Team do you think would win?
Geelong Falcons
South Fremantle
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What’s in a name? Alex the newest Ballard with big dreams

THE ‘sister of’ tag is something which could easily irk a budding AFLW prospect when repeated over time, but Alex Ballard, the proud sister of Gold Coast defender, Charlie gladly accepts the “compliment”.

“I don’t mind it, I think it’s a bit of a compliment if I’m compared to him because he is a good player,” Ballard said. “I think I’m a slightly different player to him, he’s more of a third tall or a second tall, whereas I would like to be that loose defender. But it’s a compliment, I don’t mind it at all.

“We’ve been playing footy in the backyard ever since we were young so I probably got a bit of my skills from him. “He’s the main reason I started playing footy in the first place.

Fresh off an impressive display in the South Australian Under 18 All-Stars showcase, it’s clear Ballard needn’t look far for inspiration on her own game, with her ever-improving older brother and a certain SUNS star making for the perfect defensive archetypes.

“In particular, (I mould my game on) Jack Lukosius from Gold Coast,” she said. “He’s got a really good kick, so he’s able to get it out the backline really easily and go through the middle which creates a lot of opportunities going forward. “And probably my brother’s intercepting, he’s really good at marking and getting into good positions.”

The 17-year-old is clearly cut from the same cloth as Charlie, boasting outstanding marking ability, a sound kick, and shrewd reading of the play. While she plied a lot of her trade up forward for Sturt in this year’s SANFL Women’s season, Ballard enjoyed a return to more familiar defensive pastures during the recent All-Star dig.

“I think my best position is the half-back flank (as) that defender that drives from the backline and through the middle,” she said. I played a bit of forward at Sturt but that got a bit difficult at times… my greatest strength isn’t my one-on-one play but I am able to read the ball and see where it drops. “Then from there I can look for a short 45 or a long kick to hopefully break through the barriers instead of going down the line all the time.”

Stepping up to senior football, as well as pandemic-related disruptions earlier in the year have seen Ballard also identify some areas of improvement. Among them, Ballard says “everyone can always improve their fitness”, while also alluding to some small fundamental tweaks.

“At the moment my fitness would probably be one (improvement area),” she said. “Hopefully then I’ll be able to do a lot more running throughout the game and maybe spend some time in the midfield if the opportunity comes up. “My ground ball gets too, just being clean off the ground and handballing on the up.

“This season I probably struggled a little bit against the big defenders and just having opportunities to score goals. I’m not really a physical player so I’m not always going to win a marking contest one-on-one against a big body, but I’ll leave my player and intercept the possession.”

The limited training circumstances played into sharpening those ball skills, as well as serving as a much-needed motivation boost amid a difficult period.

“Having to keep up the fitness throughout the break, not being able to train with our teammates and keep up those skills was a bit difficult,” she said. “But as we started to train in small groups, I remembered how fun footy was and it really drove my motivation up.

“Getting out to training was the first step in getting that motivation back, and just seeing your teammates and remembering the bond you have with them. At trainings we weren’t doing contact, so it was mostly just improving our skills and I think that worked really well.”

Having lived and breathed football from all the way back to her backyard kick-arounds with her brother, to junior footy with the Mitcham Hawks, and a long journey with Sturt, there are only a couple of weeks left until the all-important draft day for Ballard. The ultimate goal is clear, and the Double Blues prospect is still doing the “little things” required to realise her big dream.

“Being able to play at the highest possible level would be amazing, so that’s definitely the ultimate goal,” she said. “But obviously you have to do little things before that… you’ve got to take it one step at a time and hopefully that reflects in my game at Sturt, and then hopefully that leads to an AFLW opportunity.

“I’m open to go anywhere at the moment, just because, why not? Queensland would be amazing because Charlie’s there so I’d get to be with him, South Australia too. But at the moment you can’t be picky so I’m happy to go anywhere.”

Ballard will hope to hear her name read out at the AFL Women’s National Draft on October 6.

Picture: Daniel Kalisz/AFL Media