Author: Tom Wyman

Keeping Tabs – Season Review: Part 1

TO finish off what has been a huge year for first-year players, we take a look at some of the top performers from each AFL club now the season is done and dusted. In today’s piece we look at the first nine clubs, from Adelaide through to GWS GIANTS, with the remaining nine clubs to come next week.

Adelaide 

Darcy Fogarty

The Crows were thrilled, perhaps even surprised, when their boy from south-east SA was still available to the Crows at pick 12 of the 2017 National Draft. Debuting in round one, Fogarty’s first kick was a beautiful set-shot goal – a theme Crows fans would soon become accustom to. He averaged 8.4 disposals (5.7 kicks and 2.7 handballs at 68 per cent disposal efficiency), 3.2 marks and two tackles for the year, also managing nine goals (just three behinds) in his ten matches. Fogarty played predominately as the third Adelaide tall forward, alongside the well-established Josh Jenkins and Taylor Walker, laying out plenty of fierce bumps – not a common thing for a draftee. No doubt “Fog” will have learnt plenty in his first season at AFL level. His main focus for the pre-season will be to again improve his tank, allowing him to spend more time on ground. However his ferocious attack on the football, beautiful foot skills and brute strength should see Darcy become a focal point of the Crows forward line for the next 10 years.

Lachlan Murphy

One of the success stories in a lean year for the Crows was the birth of Lachie Murphy. Fans of the TAC Cup may remember him fronting up for the Northern Knights back in 2016. Not being picked up in the draft, Murphy moved to Adelaide to play with the clubs SANFL side and was rewarded for his strong form with a rookie selection. The energetic small forward brought with him manic pressure, speed and an eye for the goals in his 11 games, in which he managed 12 goals and an average of 3.7 tackles and 8.7 disposals. “Murph” will look to maintain his place in the competitive Adelaide side as they aim to bounce back in 2019.

 

Brisbane 

Cameron Rayner

The number one draft pick always has a certain level of expectation associated with them, however being up at Brisbane, away from the media bubble of Melbourne, would have no-doubt helped Cam Rayner settle into life in the AFL. Utilised as a medium forward with stints in the middle, he played all 22 games for the club, averaging 13.5 disposals (73 per cent disposal efficiency), 3.5 marks, 20 goals (14 behinds), 1.7 clearances, 2.4 tackles and 2.5 inside-50s. His ability to launch for pack grabs was exciting for Lions fans. Like many draftees, he will look to build up endurance in his second pre-season.

Zac Bailey

The skilful small forward/balanced midfielder fronted up for 12 senior games games, averaging 13.5 disposals (74 per cent disposal efficiency), three marks, 2.3 tackles. Next season, competition for selection will be as tough as it has been in a long time at the Gabba, particularly given the likely inclusions of Lachie Neale and Lincoln McCarthy. However rest assured Zac Bailey remains well within the clubs plans for the future as the look to return to the glistening heights of the early 2000s.

 

Carlton 

Paddy Dow

It was a tough year for the Blues, however the encouraging performances of prized draft pick Paddy Dow gave fans a glimpse into the future. Playing a solid amount of midfield minutes in his 20 games, Dow averaged 14.2 disposals (67 per cent efficiency), two marks, seven goals, 2.6 clearances, 3.2 tackles and 2.6 inside 50s. Perhaps most impressive was his smarts around the stoppages for such a young player. There’s no-doubt Carlton will look to form their midfield core around Dow, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Patrick Cripps and potentially number one pick Sam Walsh as the continue to rebuild.

Lochie O’Brien

The top 10 draft selection spent the year playing across half-back where he was able to show off his classy foot skills and speed. O’Brien was given plenty of opportunity, playing 18 matches, where he averaged 14 disposals (at 71 per cent efficiency), 222 metres gained, 4.4 marks and 2.1 rebounds. His best game came in the final round in what proved to be a hefty loss to Adelaide. Here, O’Brien accumulated 22 disposals, sent the ball inside-50 on six occasions and took four marks.

 

Collingwood

Jaidyn Stephenson

The deserved Rising Star winner, Jaidyn Stephenson played a full-forward-type role for the Grand Finalists, which often allowed him to get out the back, beat his opponent one-on-one and speed away using his rapid pace to advantage. “Stevo” kicked a super impressive 38 goals in his 26 games, including two in the first quarter of the Grand Final, to go with an average of 12.3 disposals, 3.9 marks and 5.2 score involvements in what was a remarkable season. May spend more time on the wing next season where his blistering speed and athleticism will once again be expected to excite ‘Pies fans.

Brody Mihocek

Mihocek’s story is one of the best of the year. Rookie drafted as a mature aged recruit from Port Melbourne in the VFL, Mihocek came in as one of the best tall defenders in the state leagues, but was moved forward to fill a need for the Magpies. He crucially provided a decoy for tall teammate Mason Cox, with his ability to get off the chain and take a stack of marks important. Averaged nearly 2 goals per game, 11.6 disposals (73 per cent efficiency), 4.9 marks (1.4 contested) and 5.6 score involvements. With the Pies in pursuit of some tall timber, it remains to be seen where Mihocek will be played in coming seasons.

 

Essendon

Matt Guelfi

Essendon’s mature-aged recruit from WAFL side Claremont, Matt Guelfi came into the Bombers lineup and filled a variety of roles, showing off his strong versatility in his 15 senior games. He held his own at the highest level of football, averaging 15.1 disposals, 3.3 marks, one clearance, 3.1 tackles and also kicking five goals. In the WAFL his stoppage nous and contested ball winning were strengths, so it will be interesting to see whether he is able to push for more midfield minutes in 2019.

 

Fremantle

Andrew Brayshaw

The high draft pick managed to play 17 games in his debut season in the west. He spent a large chunk of time in the midfield alongside stars Lachie Neale and Nat Fyfe, from whom he will have learnt plenty. Averaged an impressive 15.9 disposals (69 per cent efficiency), 2.9 marks, 1.5 clearances and 4.4 tackles with his ready-made frame and willing attitude ensuring a strong start to life at the highest level for the brother of Angus and Hamish. However his season came to an early end when he was unfortunately on the receiving end of the now infamous Andrew Gaff uppercut, perhaps stealing the limelight from what was a sturdy start to his career.

Adam Cerra

Adam Cerra, the second of Fremantle’s 2017 first round picks, showed moments of absolute class off half-back. After debuting in round two, Cerra went on to play all remaining games for an average of 13.7 disposals (71 per cent efficiency), 3.3 marks and 3.4 tackles. Despite his precise foot skills and polish, Cerra showed he was not afraid of cracking in hard. Could potentially spend more time in the middle given the impending departure of Lachie Neale. The former Eastern Ranges midfielder looks destined to become one of the leagues most damaging onballers.

 

Geelong

Tim Kelly

Tim Kelly produced one of the greatest debut seasons ever seen at AFL level. He slotted into the star-studded Geelong midfield with ease, complimenting the likes of Dangerfield and Ablett. A key aspect of his game was the ability to push forward and hit the scoreboard, allowing the coaching staff to play one of their star on-ballers up forward for stints. His work at the coal face was super impressive, extracting the ball and evading would-be tacklers with class. Playing ever game for his side, Kelly averaged 22.9 disposals, 368 metres gained, 3.3 marks, 4.2 clearances, 3.5 tackles and kicked 24 goals. Additionally, the former WAFL star sent the ball inside 50 on an average of four times per game. Could not as for much more.

Lachlan Fogarty

Lachie Fogarty, Geelong’s first selection in the 2017 National Draft, came over the Cats from the Western Jets regarded as one of the better midfielders in the draft. Yet due to the Cats strong onball brigade, he was limited to a forward line role where Fogarty’s renowned tackling created plenty of forward pressure. Averaged 13.3 disposals and 3.5 tackles, but will aim to sharpen up his kicking in-front of and around goals, with a scoring accuracy of just 24 per cent. However he will have been pleased to have played 15 games for the finalists.

 

Gold Coast

Charlie Ballard

The athletic South Australian utility came from the clouds to be drafted in the third round of last years National Draft. Given his light-frame, the former Sacred Heart College student will be rapt to have broken through for 11 games, debuting against the Bulldogs in Bendigo. He was never going to set the world on fire with his statistics, but showed plenty of promise, particularly in the air, taking 39 grabs for the season (average of 3.5 per game). Was utilised down back and up forward, although those who have seen him play at school and club level with Sturt know of the X-factor he provides on the wing. Gold Coast will be patient.

Brayden Crossley

The big ruckman certainly has some spunk about him with his slick hair and mustache. A member of the Gold Coast Suns Academy, Crossley played 10 senior games for the battling club, averaging six hit-outs and 9.4 disposals (at 69 per cent disposal efficiency). Isn’t one to shy away from the hard stuff, averaging more contested than uncontested possessions and laying 22 tackles on the whole. Will need time to learn but is developing nicely and already has a strong frame.

 

Greater Western Sydney

Aiden Bonar

Having played just the four games for the Dandenong Stingrays in 2017, due to an ACL injury, Bonar managed a further four games this season, albeit at senior level in a strong GWS side. His supreme athleticism, explosiveness and acceleration were evident, as was his tackling intensity. The tall midfielder/third tall forward averaged 10.5 touches at a neat 71 per cent efficiency, to go with three marks, 4.5 tackles and a total of five goals. He shapes as being a star of the game, with his size and strength making him hard to contain at the stoppages. Will only improve as he increases his endurance.

Sam Taylor

Taylor, a key component to the Western Australian under-18 Championships side last year, played eight games for Greater Western Sydney in what was yet another injury-riddled season. He averaged just the 8.9 disposals per game, however it was his clean ball use out of the defensive-50 which really caught the eye. Given his foot skills were regarded by some as an area in need of improvement, he and the Giants will be pleased with a disposal efficiency of 80 per cent. Looks set to be a key defensive prospect the club can rely upon.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Finals Week Two

Six teams became four from the weekend, with a number of first-year players standing out in the two semi-finals.

Charlie Spargo

The small forward has managed 17 solid games in his first year at AFL level, occupying a role in the Demons forward line and kicking 14 majors. In his second final, Spargo managed 12 possessions (seven kicks and five handballs) at a strong disposal efficiency of 83 percent. Spending the vast majority of his 83 minutes on the ground in the Demons half of the MCG, Spargo was able to pressure the opposition ball carrier and lay three tackles. The Murray Bushranger alumni took three marks (two inside 50) and also had three goal assists. His ability to get off the chain will see him make the trip over to Perth to face West Coast.

Bayley Fritsch

Having seamlessly slotted into the Dees best 22, Bayley Fritsch again proved their is still plenty of AFL quality talent running around in the state leagues. In the famous victory over Hawthorn, the wingman/half-forward gathered 16 disposals (eight kicks and eight handballs) at a typical 81 percent disposal efficiency. A key component of his game this year has been Fritsch’s ability to roam up onto the wings and half-back areas, take a lead-up grab then pin-point a target with precision. This, combined with his aerial strength and defensive pressure, has made him a handful for opposition teams to match up on. He also took a further four marks and laid three tackles in another consistent performance last weekend for the Dees, helping his side book their tickets to Western Australia.

Brody Mihocek

Coming on late in the home and away season, Brody Mihocek has proven to be a valuable addition to the strong Collingwood outfit. Given the Magpies battles with injuries to key players, his presence up forward has been crucial at times, proving the perfect match-up with teammate Mason Cox. In the victory over the Giants, Mihocek managed nine disposals (seven kicks and two handballs at a 67 per cent disposal efficiency), three marks, two tackles and a goal. Interestingly, four of his disposals came at true centre half-forward, allowing Cox to utilise his superior height closer to goal. The Port Melbourne recruit could be a vital cog as the Pies look to take down the high-flying Richmond on Friday night.

Jaidyn Stephenson

The NAB Rising Star winner was again serviceable, however his night could have been better if he was able to convert in-front of goal and by foot. Stephenson, who operated across the wing and forward-line during the win over the Giants, managed 10 disposals (seven kicks and three handballs), but only went at a 30 per cent disposal efficiency. In-front of goal, he had a host of opportunities, but managed just three behinds. His speed and aggression saw Stephenson lay three tackles, while he was slightly below par in the air, taking just two marks. The future-star looms as a serious x-factor in the all-important upcoming clash against the Tigers.

David Mirra

Despite the Hawks loss, the mature-age player from Box Hill could hold his head high. It is never easy returning to a team in the midst of a finals campaign, but an injury to Ben Stratton saw Mirra earn his place back in the team. He amassed 19 disposals, 10 marks and laid two tackles, playing on the outside with a disposal efficiency of 79 per cent, and winning the ball in the back half of the ground. He finished the game with four rebounds and two inside 50s as well, along with two score involvements.

James Worpel

Known as a contested ball winner, Worpel had a quieter night, spending two thirds of his evening in the forward half. He had the nine touches and kicked a goal, while also laying five tackles. Much like a number Hawks later in the game, the impressive first-year player dropped away with just the one touch in the final term. While it was not his best game of the year, he can be proud of his first season in the AFL.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Finals Week 1

JUST eight teams remained last week with finals commencing, but it did not stop a number of first-year players standing out on the big stage of AFL Finals.

Jack Higgins

The talented ball winner was at it again on Thursday night, gathering another 20 disposals (14 kicks, six handballs) at 70 per cent efficiency in the reigning premiers Qualifying Final triumph over Hawthorn. Higgins managed 10 contested possessions, four marks, one goal and one behind, eight score involvements, six inside 50s and three tackles, playing predominantly as a small forward with limited bursts through the midfield. The 2017 first round draftee has looked at home all year and will continue to be an integral part of the forward and midfield rotations for the potential premiers.

James Worpel

Having endured a terrific start to his AFL career in the latter parts of season 2018, “The Worpedo” is now a fan favourite at Hawthorn. In his first final, the midfielder looked a bit shaky early on, as would be expected, with some of his possessions missing their targets. However he cracked in hard as he always does, winning 17 disposals (59 per cent disposal efficiency) and applying 33 pressure acts to go with four tackles and three inside 50s. He played a more outside role, finding most of his possessions across the wings of the packed Melbourne Cricket Ground. It will be interesting to see how the former Geelong Falcon handles the pressure on Friday night against an up-and-about Demon outfit.

Bayley Fritsch

The athletic winger/half-forward didn’t impact the scoreboard and had just the 12 disposals, however Frtisch was still able to influence the game with his pin-point ball use by foot. Finishing with a disposal efficiency of no less than 100%, the 21-year-old recruit from VFL side Casey also impressively laid five tackles, showcasing the defensive side to his game. Bayley was able to use his strong aerobic capacity to push down into defence, where he produced three rebound-50’s. Interestingly, 92 per cent of his touches came in the defensive half of the ground.

Tim Kelly

On a bad night for the Geelong Football Club, Tim Kelly hit the scoreboard yet again and was one of his sides best. A hefty loss was a poor way to end what has been an incredible debut season for the mature-aged Tim Kelly, who has produced one of the best first seasons in modern memory. Kelly amassed 18 disposals in what was one of his lowest totals for the year – an amazing statistic considering his AFL level immaturity. Whether or not he stays in Geelong or returns to his native Western Australia remains to be seen, however the quality he has been able to produce this season will fill many mature-agers in the state leagues with confidence.

Brody Mihocek

With Mason Cox struggling to assert any dominance up forward, Collingwood’s mature-aged recruit Brody Mihocek stood up when it mattered, bagging two goals and at-times keeping his side in it. His aerial prowess and strong overhead marking ability was integral when the Pies looked for a target across half-forward, with the former Port Melbourne VFL star constantly presenting himself up to the ball carrier. At-times, particularly in the first quarter, Brody looked the most dangerous player on the ground. He finished the game with 13 disposals (69 per cent efficiency), six marks (including two contested and three inside-50 grabs), 414 metres gained and five inside 50s. However he will likely rue his three behinds, considering the close final margin.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 22

ANOTHER impressive debutant joined the list of first year players who adapted to the level, while a mature-aged star just continues to exceed expectations.

Tim Kelly

Every week this guy turns up and proceeds to tear it up. Can you honestly believe it is his first year in the AFL system? In the Cats demolition of a hapless Fremantle outfit, Kelly’s stat line once again left us all mesmerised. He collected 26 disposals (14 kicks and 12 handballs at 73 per cent disposal efficiency), three marks, three goals, five clearances, six tackles, seven inside 50s and 515 metres gained. Yet again, his stoppage work and ability to seriously hit the scoreboard when going forward, was brilliant. The Western Australian’s impact this year has been right up there with Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett.

James Worpel

After watching the Hawks/Saints clash expecting somewhat of a snooze-fest, the performance of James Worpel really caught my attention. A premiership captain with TAC Cup club Geelong Falcons, Worpel has transitioned beautifully into the midfield of another successful club. The blonde-haired ‘Worpedo’ impressed with his aggression and attack on the footy. After one tackle, the umpire even asked him to calm it down – not a normal conversation to be had with a first-year player. Worpel finished with 27 disposals (15 kicks and 12 handballs at 52 per cent disposal efficiency), three marks, one goal, 481 metres gained, five clearances, three tackles, six inside 50s and a number of seriously powerful stiff-arms. The Hawks have unearthed yet another talent.

Cam Rayner

Rayner is quickly becoming a fan favourite up at the Gabba and is showing strong signs why he is rated so highly among regular underage football viewers and scouts alike. While he does not collect as much of the ball as some of his fellow draftees, Rayner generally does something positive whenever he does have possession. Once again, his leap allowed him to impact almost every marking contest he was involved in during the weekends Q-clash. The future star collated 14 touches (eight of which were contested), three marks, one goal (two behinds), three stoppage clearances and four inside 50s. He certainly looks to have added a bit of excitement and X-factor to a Lions side on a steep incline.

Lochie O’Brien

The top 10 draft pick from the 2017 National Draft has fronted up 17 games this season, with his best game of his career coming against the Dogs on Sunday afternoon. O’Brien, who was utilised in an outside-leaning role across the half-back line by senior coach Brendan Bolton, impressed with his cleanness, composure, decision making and precise ball use with his penetrating left-foot. The 19 year-old recruited from the Bendigo Pioneers collected 20 disposals (at a positive 85 per cent disposal efficiency) to go with six marks and a couple of tackles. Carlton will be hoping O’Brien can build on what has been a solid, steady start to what projects to be a long and successful career. Potentially adding some more size to his frame, we could see the athletic O’Brien spend more time in the midfield rotation.

Tom De Koning

It’s never easy for young key position players to make an immediate impact, however Tom De Koning showed some seriously impressive signs on debut during Sunday’s loss to the Dogs. De Koning, or ‘TDK’ as he is commonly referred to, managed 11 disposals (eight of which were contested), five marks (including two contested grabs and two inside-50 marks), three tackles and a goal on the weekend. He had some presence about him around the ground, and held his own when playing in the ruck for a couple of contests. After an impressive start to his infant career, the forward-line partnership between De Koning, Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay will prove absolutely critical for the Blues’ as they look to improve.

Aaron Naughton

Just the nine disposals for Naughton in his sides victory over the lowly Blues’, the youngster used the ball terrifically well, recording a disposal efficiency of 89 percent. His kicking action is unusual to say the least, however so far it has proven to work well enough. Naughton, a first round draft pick in 2017, showcased his aerial prowess against an inexperienced, but talented Carlton key forward line featuring Curnow, McKay and De Koning, clunking six marks with two of which were contested.  Having also been utilised in attack by senior coach Luke Beveridge at-times during his rookie year, the WA-products flexibility is a real asset. 

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 20

A NUMBER of new faces were among the first-year players who impressed in their games on the weekend, continuing the season trend of readymade draftees from last year’s AFL National Draft.

Hunter Clark

Hunter Clark was typically calm and composed across the St.Kilda half-back line in their defeat to the Western Bulldogs. The 19 year-old collected 20 disposals and recorded three rebounds but crucially, managed a disposal efficiency of 90 per cent, hitting 18 out of 20 targets by hand and foot and helping his side maintain possession of the Sherrin. The long-haired Hunter, who is versatile but looks perhaps best suited to a role in defence, has performed well enough this season to suggest he will live up to the hype as a future star of the competition.

Will Walker

Second-gamer Will Walker bagged the first two goals of his young career at the Gabba on Saturday afternoon. Viewed by some as a surprise selection when he was taken as early as pick 23 by the ‘Roos last year, Walker collected the majority of his possessions across the half-forward and wing areas, where his long leg and speed make him an exciting prospect for North. In addition to his two smart goals, Walker collected 11 disposals (seven kicks and four handballs at 64 per cent disposal efficiency), two clearances, one tackle and five score involvements. With the likes of Shaun Higgins and Ben Jacobs looking to make their returns to the side, Walker will have his work cut-out to keep his position. However he will undoubtedly have learned greatly from exposure in his first year.

Kane Farrell

In what was his second game and first Showdown, Kane Farrell was impressive, netting three goals. Opposed to Crows 199-game veteran David Mackay for much of the contest, Farrell was damaging out the back of the contests, hitting the scoreboard to help Port crawl back into the game after Adelaide got off to a flyer. Despite his side enduring a heartbreaking loss, the Victorian fitted in nicely, gaining 384 metres, moving the ball inside-50 five times and taking two strong contested marks. He looks to have made the small forward role his own, for the time being at-least.

Cameron Rayner

It was a performance which he will remember for crucially missed a chance to snatch the game late, however the number one draft pick was strong across the board. Rayner presented well up the spine of the ground as a medium forward, collecting six of his 14 disposals in the true centre-half-forward region. In addition to his six marks and two goals, also impressive was Cam’s time on-ground percentage which, at 82 per cent, suggests the has really worked hard to improve his endurance over the course of the year, given this was arguably the Western Jet’s lone flaw as a draftee. Rayner’s field kicking was terrific, ending with a disposal efficiency of 86 per cent however he will rue his final kick of the match.

Jack Higgins

In the absence of Premiership on-baller Dion Prestia, first-year small Jack Higgins stepped up the the plate, relishing his chance of added midfield minutes. A high draft pick from 2017, Higgins tallied 18 disposals (11 kicks and seven handballs), took two marks, laid a couple of tackles and kicked 1.2 in-front of goal. The former Oakleigh Charger showed off his stoppage smarts with four clearances and was an important piece in getting the ball moving for the Tigers. Although his role saw Higgins focus on winning and extracting the contested ball from inside, his disposal efficiency of 44 per cent will be an area for improvement moving forward.

Bayley Fritsch

In the Demons rout of the struggling Gold Coast, Bayley Fritsch once again more-than justified his second-round selection in the 2017 National Draft. His ability to cover the ground, pushing up across the wings and into the defensive half is becoming a trademark, as is his aerial prowess which saw him take another nine marks (including five intercept possessions). Recruited from the Dees’ VFL affiliate side Casey, notched up 21 touches (15 kicks and six handballs at 67 per cent efficiency) to go with 332 metres gained, three inside-50’s and two rebound-50’s. Fritsch is now not only an established best-22 player, but fast becoming an important link-up player for the Demons as they head into a draught-breaking finals series.

Tim Kelly

The incredible story of Tim Kelly rolls on, this time with the Western Australian collecting 36 touches (19 kicks, 17 handballs), three tackles, three marks, four clearances, 669 metres gained and one goal in the nail-biting loss at the hands of Richmond. Kelly was typically cool and composed under pressure in a game where many players struggled to get clean possessions away, highlighting his immense talent. I feel as if Kelly’s disposal efficiency (53 per cent) does not quite justify how good he was. Whenever the smooth-mover was in possession of the ball, you feel as if something good will come from the disposal. Kelly continues to star in just his first year in the competition, ignoring the media attention regarding his future at Kardinia Park to perfection.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 18

SOME lower order draftees stood tall in Round 18 of the AFL, while other top-end picks continued their incredible season for this week’s Keeping Tabs.

Jack Higgins

Higgins once again provided the Richmond forward line with even more energy, which was highlighted by his four tackles (two inside-50 tackles) and 16 pressure acts. Incredibly prolific as a junior, Higgins’ ball winning ability has transferred over to the biggest stage with 18 disposals (seven kicks and 11 handballs), 10 of which were won in contested situations, four clearances and a goal. Look for Higgins to spend more stints on-ball in future games where his ability to find an abundance of the ball, apply a stack of pressure and win the clearances. The Premiers have found another star small forward.

Hunter Clark

Whilst St Kilda’s miserable season continues to roll on with the loss to Richmond, Hunter Clark played one of the best matches of his young 13 game career. The former Dandenong Stingray found more of the ball than in previous weeks and once again looked composed and clean with ball in hand from his role along the Saints backline. Clark found 20 disposals (12 kicks and eight handballs at a sound 70 per cent disposal efficiency), took six marks and rebounded from the half-back line on three occasions. The 2017 first round draftee will be aiming to finish off the season strongly, with four of his sides next five games coming at Etihad Stadium.

Jaidyn Stephenson

Now the clear Rising Star favourite, Jaidyn Stephenson just keeps on playing his role in the Magpies lineup, once again having a significant impact on the scoreboard booting three majors in the win over North Melbourne on Saturday afternoon. Stephenson collected 11 possessions (eight kicks and three handballs) at an improved 82 percent disposal efficiency, three marks and a pair of strong tackles. His speed and leap make Stephenson a nightmare match-up for his direct opponent and a valuable asset in the Pies forward line.

Bailey Banfield

Bailey Banfield has played a prominent role in the Dockers on-ball brigade so far this season. In the 29 point defeat at the hands of the Bombers, the Claremont boy was able to get his hands on the ball 22 times with 14 kicks and eight handballs playing an inside/outside balanced role through the middle. Banfield, an imposing figure at 189cm and 86kg, was dominant particularly around the stoppages and in the contest, collecting six clearances and eight contested possessions. Banfield’s 398 metres gained was also a strong aspect of his performance.

Cameron Rayner

The number one draft pick flew and took a massive hanger close to goal from four deep, then converted the set-shot in what was one of the highlights of the night up at the Gabba. Rayner has impressive strength through his legs which allowed him to launch into packs often. It is only a matter of time before he starts to clunk these grabs more consistently. The highly touted forward/midfielder seems to have created a bit of a presence for himself when the balls in his area, a terrific sign for an 18 year-old. Rayner, who has featured in every game for the Lions in his rookie year, managed 14 disposals, seven kicks and seven handballs at an 86 per cent disposal efficiency. He spent considerably more time on-ball last weekend, matching up on All-Australian Crow Matt Crouch at the stoppages on occasions.

Tim Kelly

Tim Kelly must now be recognised by most as an A-grader of the competition despite it being just his first year in the big league. The silky Western Australian midfielder has brushed off speculation regarding a potential return to his home state, and is beautifully complimenting established stars in Selwood and Dangerfield. Kelly ended the game with  32 disposals, 18 kicks and 11 handballs at a 59 per cent disposal efficiency, six marks, five clearances, a goal and 506 metres gained. Kelly’s stoppages and evasiveness on the run are particularity noticeable. His efforts in the Cats incredible fourth quarter comeback went a long way to getting his side over the line.

James Worpel

The blonde-haired onballer played the best game of his career in the smooth-sailing victory over Carlton. Worpel collected the majority of his career-high 32 disposals (12 kicks and 20 handballs) across the wing area. Worpel managed to balance his game out nicely, winning 14 contested possessions and three clearances, but also send the ball inside-50 five times and collect a handful of intercept possessions. Also impressive was his disposal efficiency at 88 per cent, is a significant improvement on some of the numbers Worpel put up last season in the TAC Cup. The Geelong Falcon graduate will no-doubt gain plenty of confidence and belief from this encouraging performance as he and the Hawks look to launch themselves into another finals series.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 16

A HOST of first round picks from last year shone in Round 16, as the top Rising Star favourites cement a place in their respective team’s 22s.

Tim Kelly

The mature-aged Geelong midfielder was once again brilliant in his sides win over the Swans at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Having displayed his class, cleanness and smooth movement through traffic already this season, Kelly showcased an ability to impact the scoreboard when inside-50, finishing with two majors. Additionally, the Western Australian collected 21 disposals (nine kicks and 12 handballs), four marks and five tackles. His disposals were well spread out across the ground, however Kelly will be hoping to be a touch more effective with his ball use after ending the night with a disposal efficiency of 57 per cent. Continues to fit into and compliment a ‘stacked’ Geelong midfield.

Lachlan Fogarty

The small utility impressed against the Swans with his defensive pressure particularly crucial. Fogarty spent time up forward, looking to pounce on the crumbs left by the tall forwards but was also utilised in a role as an outside midfielder, which allowed him to find six of his 12 disposals across the wing. The former Western Jets product managed to snag a goal, to go with his seven kicks, five handballs, two marks and five tackles – four of which were recorded inside the Cats forward 50.

Jack Higgins

The energetic excitement-machine has already lit up the AFL with his upbeat post-match interviews, but against the Crows it was his on-field performance that did the talking. Higgins spent large periods of the game on-ball, as opposed to the small forward role he has played so well for the premiers so far. With a renowned ability to have the ball on a string, Higgins collected 25 disposals (10 kicks and 15 handballs), five marks, three clearances, two tackles and five score involvements. Also impressive was his 68 per cent disposal efficiency. Higgins has slotted into a premiership side and is thriving from the winning culture that has been constructed at Punt Road.

Lochie O’Brien

In Carlton’s hefty and utterly disappointing loss to Brisbane, the performance of wingman Lochie O’Brien would have been encouraging to even the most frustrated of Blues fans. O’Brien – selected with pick ten of the most recent national draft – played almost exclusively on the wing and presented himself as an option on a number of occasions. His tally of seven marks perhaps best displays his hard work to get into the right spaces. O’Brien also managed 16 disposals, two tackles, three inside 50s, 282 metres gained and a goal. His disposal efficiency of 56 per cent was uncharacteristically low for a young, future-star with such clean skills.

Ed Richards

In what was a poor second half performance from the Bulldogs, youngster Ed Richards was again flashy and exciting with ball in hand. Filling a role across the half-forward line and wing, the former Oakleigh Charger amassed 15 touches (eight kicks and seven handballs) at a super-impressive 87 per cent disposal efficiency. Richards speed, run and carry combined with his damaging foot skills make him a high impact per possession player. Whenever he’s around the ball, you feel as if he will make an impact. The Doggies youngster has shown some seriously promising signs and has the potential to become a cult-figure at the Whitten Oval.

Adam Cerra 

Despite his Fyfe-deprived side losing to the Demons by 54 points at Darwin’s TIO Stadium, Adam Cerra was one of his sides best performers. Playing in a role across the half-back line, the clean-kicking high draft pick found plenty of the ball and showed some trademark composure and poise when looking transition from defense into attack. Cerra concluded the Northern Territory visit with 23 touches (16 kicks and seven handballs at 65 percent disposal efficiency), 6 intercept possessions, seven marks, 358 metres gained, three clearances and five rebound 50’s. His ability to read the play, calmness and class make Cerra a suitable fit for the backline, however expect him to move into the midfield within a couple of years, where his unique skill set can be put to even more damaging use.

Andrew Bradshaw

Cerra’s teammate and fellow first-round draftee Andrew Brayshaw pieced together a nice game. His ferocious attack on the ball, toughness and tackling strength were particularly noticeable in the clash against his older brother Angus. Brayshaw collected 16 disposals (eight kicks and eight handballs at 69 per cent disposal efficiency), with 82 percent of his disposals coming from the defensive half of TIO Stadium. He also managed three marks, 244 metres gained, eight tackles, three rebound-50s and two clearences in what was a typically well-rounded display from the 18 year-old onballer.

Jaidyn Stephenson

The Rising Star favourite has become a regular fixture in the ‘Keeping Tabs’ articles due to his consistent performances for the Magpies throughout his first season in the system. Playing in the forward line role he has become accustom to over the past 15 weeks, Stephenson collected 15 disposals (ten kicks and five handballs), eight marks (including three grabs inside-50), 287 metres gained, one goal and three inside-50’s. His speed, ability to regularly hit the scoreboard and aerial prowess make him a genuine x-factor up forward for the high-flying Magpies. However Stephenson’s foot skills will be an area of further improvement with his disposal efficiency at a low 83 percent. Perhaps only Crow Tom Doedee is in with a chance of coming close to snatching the rising star award away from the former Eastern Ranger.

Brayden Ainsworth

The fourth gamer went hard at the ball all game, finishing with 14 disposals, five marks, three tackles, five inside 50s and a goal from his role as an outside midfielder. He showed some great traits for a first-year player and looked powerful when on the ball. Ainsworth’s kicking action, however, appears awkward and his disposal efficiency of 71 per cent. Although it may appear sound, it didn’t reflect some of the errors he made by foot. Having said that, it was a good game from the baby-faced, WA-born Ainsworth.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 14

PADDY Dow earned the Rising Star nomination, while names that have featured in this column a number of times, again stood out for their respective teams in Round 14 of the AFL.

Matt Guelfi

The Essendon utility has been one of the most consistent of the recent draftees, having again contributed nicely in his sides upset triumph on the road over West Coast. Guelfi chipped in with 13 disposals, six of which were contested, at a solid 62 per cent disposal efficiency. He slotted a major and maintained his impressive forward pressure, laying six tackles. The Western Australian has proven to be a nice late-draft pickup for the Bombers pushing up from the half-forward line and playing on the wing. 

Bayley Fritsch

Bayley Fritsch showcased some of his most valuable assets in the Melbourne’s close loss to Port Adelaide last Friday night. His terrific, clean hands overhead and elite leap allowed him to clunk another haul of five marks, to go with five tackles and 13 disposals at a terrific disposal efficiency of 85 per cent. Although he wasn’t able to hit the scoreboard, it was impressive to see Fritsch still make an impact on the game through his neat foot skills, relentless presentation, along with his tackling pressure. The dynamic medium-tall also had two clearances and gained 358 metres.

Aaron Naughton

After debuting in round one and playing the first eight games of the season, the top 10 draft pick was moved to the forward line on Saturday night  where he kicked his first two goals at AFL level. Naughton, who had missed the previous four weeks with an ankle complaint, collected 81 per cent of his ten possessions in the Bulldogs forward 50. Not only did he take a couple of big contested grabs, he also followed up nicely at ground level, which will have no-doubt impressed coach Luke Beveridge. Having shown great potential at both ends of the ground, it will be interesting to see where he plays his football once the Bulldogs regain a number of players.

Ed Richards

Following up on his terrific three-goal performance in wet conditions against the Power, Richards again showed some exciting signs. He amassed 13 disposals, two marks, two tackles and a goal, but also  collected nine contested possessions on the weekend. Richards dash, foot skills, and ability to play on the wing across half-back or forward, are traits that will generate a bit of excitement at Whitten Oval. It certainly looks as if the Dogs have a winner in Ed Richards.

Jaidyn Stephenson

The current favourite for the NAB Rising Star award, Jaidyn Stephenson further enhanced his case with another three majors in Collingwood’s 20-point win over Carlton. Winning 87 per cent of his touches up forward through his role as a third-tall option, Stephenson had just the eight disposals, but maximised the impact of each touch by finishing with a disposal efficiency of 88 per cent. His aerial prowess was again evident, taking five marks and having six score involvements. Having now booted 21 goals in 13 games, Stephenson has already exceeded the first-year expectations of many draft watchers.

Paddy Dow

The top five pick has been building form for some time and finally earned the recognition through a Rising Star nomination. The classy midfielder had 20 disposals, two marks, four tackles, four clearances and three inside 50s, with nine of his possessions won in a contest. He played a balanced role and negotiated his way through traffic well, and showed off his trademark acceleration and top vision under pressure. Expect plenty more to come from Dow as the season progresses.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 12

THE 2017 draft crop are playing some impressive football in the middle of the season, as Rising Star favourite Jaidyn Stephenson continues his great form, as does a number of mature-age stars and high draft picks.

Jaidyn Stephenson

In Collingwood’s terrific Queens Birthday victory over the Demons, top 10 draft pick Jaidyn Stephenson again showed extremely impressive signs. Spending the entire day almost isolated in the Magpie forward line (93 percent time in the forward half), the former Eastern Rangers product kicked another bag of goals, this time ending the day with four. His speed off the mark has always been one of Jaidyn’s biggest strengths and it was again on show on the big stage of the Big Freeze match. He took five marks for the game, including four inside 50, gained 271 metres and was involved in nine Collingwood scores. His defensive pressure was also impressive, which saw him lay six tackles (four tackles inside 50) and show great endurance (playing 103 of a possible 122 minutes on-field). Although his kicking will need to be worked on, having recorded a disposal efficiency of 50 percent from his 12 disposals and kicking three behinds. However, Stephenson has endured a super start to his AFL career, with his impact per possession high.

Charlie Spargo

Spargo’s game got off to a slow start against the Pies, as he looked to find his feet, playing in front of easily the biggest crowd of his career. He failed to record a disposal until after quarter time, but a prolific second term saw him finish the game with a major-statistic line which read – 12 disposals (five kicks and seven handballs), four marks, seven tackles (three inside 50) and a behind. Deployed in his natural role as a small forward, Spargo applied a heap of defensive pressure (also finished with 23 pressure acts) and worried the opposition with his speed. Spargo continues to build on his numbers each week, despite playing in a potentially difficult role for a draftee.

Bayley Fritsch

Bayley Fritsch once again proved himself at the home of football, producing a solid performance in a loosing side. Strength overhead is a real feature of Fritsch’s game, along with his tackling intensity. In the air, Fritsch was extremely strong, considering his light frame, tallying nine marks (two inside 50 and one contested). His speed, run and carry was important in linking up play from the wing into the forward 50, gaining 454 metres for the match. The former Casey forward was also typically sound with his skills, registering a disposal efficiency of 84 per cent. 

Stefan Giro

In just his second game in the purple and white of Fremantle, South Australian boy Stefan Giro had a couple of great moments which would have impressed the Dockers coaching staff. Playing across the midfield in an outside-leaning role, Giro’s effectiveness by hand was a prominent feature in his game. He was reasonably clean at ground level and did not miss a target with his handballs. Giro spent only 66 per cent of the game on-ground, but ran hard when he got his chances, expanding out to all areas of Optus Stadium to collect his possessions. Giro concluded the successful outing with 18 disposals (seven kicks and eleven handballs at a superb 89 percent disposal efficiency), two marks and two tackles. As the Dockers continue to blood their youth, expect the long haired Stefan Giro to combine with fellow 2017 draftees Bailey Banfield, Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw in the midfield for the remainder of the season and beyond.

Adam Cerra

In a performance that could potentially see him collect a few Brownlow votes, Adam Cerra proved why he was regarded so highly coming into the 2017 National Draft. In what was no doubt his best showing at AFL level to date in the Docker’s three-point win against the Crows, Cerra was deployed in the midfield and across half-back, where he was able to set up play with his silky foot skills. Last year’s fifth overall pick amassed a career-high 30 disposals (at 70 per cent disposal efficiency), eight intercept possessions, six marks (including two contested), eight inside 50s and four tackles. He showed terrific versatility, vision, composure and class, proving to be instrumental in the Dockers dismantling the Crows at Optus Stadium. Since debuting in round two, Cerra has looked right at home at the level, slotting into a relatively inexperienced Dockers side and immediately providing them with a Rolls Royce type future star.

Tim Kelly

Kelly is fast becoming one of Geelong’s most dependable players, having so far contributed more than what was expected of him as a supporting act to the trio of Dangerfield, Selwood and Ablett. This weekend, in the win over North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium, Kelly managed 19 disposals (11 of which were contested at an impressive 79 per cent disposal efficiency), five marks, four tackles and a goal in his role as an inside ball winner. Kelly was typically dynamic around the stoppages, finishing with five clearances, proving instrumental in getting the ball moving in Geelong’s direction. Another draft masterstroke by the Geelong recruiting staff, Kelly must surely be considered one of the best mature-aged pickups in recent drafts.

Charlie Ballard

Despite his side getting trounced by the Giants, Gold Coast’s South Australian draftee Charlie Ballard showed some positive signs, playing in a role across the wing which saw him also spend plenty of time in the backlines. Ballard’s nine contested possessions were a highlight, given his slim build and the fact he spent most of his under-age career as an outside type. Perhaps the Suns officials see him as more of a big-bodied, balanced midfielder once he further develops. His 10 intercept possessions were also good to see, with his overhead marking and ability to read the play standing out. Look for Ballard to be played in a wide variety of positions, such is his versatility.

Matt Guelfi

Essendon’s Matt Guelfi continued his solid start to life in the big league with a 17-disposal, two-mark, three-tackle and one-goal showing in the win over Brisbane. Guelfi found 67 per cent of his possessions in the defensive half of the Gabba, contributing to multiple Bomber attacks off the half-back line (three rebound-50’s and two intercept possessions), whilst amassing nine disposals on either wing. Guelfi was effective by foot, finishing with a 71 per cent disposal efficiency – an area of his game which he has clearly spent time working on back at Essendon’s Windy Hill base. The Western Australian’s 22 pressure acts, three tackles, eight contested possessions and six score involvements were also worth noting.

Scouting notes: South Australia vs. Western Australia

THE National Championships kicked off yesterday, with South Australia having an imposing 89-point win over Western Australia. Here are the scouting notes by Tom Wyman and David Chapman from that game.

South Australia:

#14 – Izak Rankine

As usual Rankine was creative and dangerous, and with his five inside 50s helping to setup his teammates. In the first quarter he showed some real class by “duking” two opposition players to get a shot on goal. But the highlight was a brilliant cross the body kick from the pocket to hit Lukosius 30m directly in front. He ended the game with one goal and two behinds along with a heap of possessions.

#15 – Robert Irra

The rebounding small defender was lively coming out of defensive 50 and assisted in repelling numerous WA forward thrusts. He had four rebound 50s and 13 of his 14 disposals were kicks to underline his metres gained impact.

#22 – Jacob Kennerley

The winger was everywhere in the first half and his nine marks and 22 disposals really allowed the rebound from the defensive 50 to link to the forward line. Kennerley was busy around the ground and worked hard to get into the space.

#25 – Tom Sparrow

Another midfield clearance machine. Sparrow had eight clearances and also six tackles and was aggressive around the contest, bullying the opposition on a number of occasions. His gut running at pace was also on show in another solid performance.

#30 – Ben Jarvis

In the team as an undersized backup ruckman and athletic tall forward, Jarvis countered his height deficiency in the ruck by getting plenty of followup ball around the contest. When up forward he was impressive in finding the space and kicked three goals and two behinds for the game.

#32 – Luke Valente

The inside midfielder started off well with the opening goal. Valente worked well, racking up seven clearances around the contest and his 26 disposals were highly effective. He also seemed suited to quarterbacking the play from the defensive 50 when he was needed.

#34 – Jackson Hately

The on-baller led the stats with 28 possessions but really starred amassing 10 clearances, especially given SA ruckmen were conceding a lot of height. Hately read the ball well off either ruckman’s hands and drove many a SA forward entry. He also ended up with a goal but it was his poise and composure through traffic that stood out.

#42 – Jack Lukosius

By kicking 4.2 Lukosius got off to his expected great Championship start. He also impressed with his strong hands taking 14 marks both inside and outside 50. After a good contest early with his opponent, he really dominated after quarter time showcasing his accuracy in front of goal.

#43 – Will Gould

Playing as the key defender, Gould was impassable. With three rebound 50s, Gould was rarely beaten in the air or on the ground and looked to run from the back. He had an imposing play in the second half where he ran with the ball, gave off a handball and the oncoming tackler was the one who bounced off Gould as he tried to jam him.

#47 – Hugo Munn

The key forward was deadly in front kicking four goals straight. Not needing much of it and like most of the SA forwards were given plenty of opportunities he clunked five marks – all in dangerous positions.

 

Western Australia:

#1 – Ian Hill

Regarded by many as Western Australia’s most talented player, Ian Hill showed flashes of his silky skills and lightning speed. “Bobby” started the game up forward and was isolated against over-ager Robert Irra in the goal square at various times early on. Moved onto the ball in the second half and took a classy one-handed mark right in-front of many club recruiters. Kicked a nice snap goal from close range but life was tough for the AFL Academy member who was given little opportunity. Still looked ominous when in the vicinity of the ball. Hill finished with eight kicks, five handballs, five marks and three tackles to go with the goal.

#8 – Luke Moore

Moore was the only multiple goalscorer for Western Australia. The strongly built small forward looked dangerous in-tight and continued his goal kicking form from the WAFL colts with South Fremantle, despite managing a team-low five disposals. Moore will look to get his hands on the ball more often in future games, as he looked a threat against SA, especially with the ball close to goal.

#10 – Rylie Morgan

Morgan battled hard on the ball despite his side getting severly beaten in the midfield. The Claremont junior spent time as an inside and outside midfielder, showcasing the balance he has in his game. Morgan finished with 15 disposals (nine kicks, six handballs) but seemed to always be around the ball. Sent it inside-50 seven times, but I would suggest Morgan would’ve had even more of an impact had the other WA mids been able to feed out the ball more often from stoppages.

#11 – Luke English

English, Caleb Daniel-like in his helmet, was Western Australia’s best performer across the midfield in a side that had few contributors. Spending the entire game on-ball in tandem with teammate Rylie Morgan, English’s courage and work rate was exceptional. He tackled strongly and burrowed in hard during congested situations, ripping the ball out of the stoppage and hacking forward a clearance on a couple of occasions. What was also impressive was the Perth products intent to receive a couple of handballs from his teammates out the back, showing he is prepared to back his foot skills in. He will still need to keep working on his kicking, particularly when exiting stoppages. Going head-to-head with Jackson Hately for parts of the day, English finished the game with 16 kicks, nine handballs, seven marks, six tackles, five clearances, seven inside 50s, five rebounds and a goal in what was a very well-rounded performance.

#13 – Jason Carter

Carter spent the day in defence, assigned to the dangerous Izak Rankine early on. He showed glimpses here and there of his talent, the highlight being a big intercept mark in the defensive 50. However he unfortunately butched the inboard kick straight to Ben Jarvis who goaled. The Fremantle next generation academy member was reasonably strong in one-on-one contests but was unable to provide much of his usual run and carry from half-back with the SA mids repeatedly bombarding it inside-50. Carter had 13 disposals and six marks.

#17 – James Sturrock

Playing as an inside midfielder, James Sturrock concluded the outing with 18 disposals but had little influence on the game with many of his touches ineffective. His work in close was solid and his defensive pressure stood out, laying six tackles. Sturrock also managed three clearances in a midfield unit that was simply outclassed from the get-go.

#22 – Damon Greaves

Greaves was very productive all game, finishing with 15 kicks, eight handballs, five marks and a tackle. After lining up across the half-back line for the first part of the game, where he managed three rebounds, Greaves then switched to an outside midfield role when the game was getting out of hand for the Black Swans. His run and carry was strong all game as one of few WA players who really stood out. Having racked up plenty of the ball on a consistent basis for East Perth in the WAFL tiers, Greaves will be one to keep an eye on for the remainder of the carnival.

#24 – Regan Spooner

Spooner took the kickouts for WA in the first half before he switched into a role on the ball. The South Fremantle 18-year-old had more of an impact in the middle, showing some class with his silky foot skills, cleanness and speed. Spooner was one of Western Australia’s best, finishing with 17 touches (nine kicks and eight handballs), three marks, four tackles and two rebounds. Given his nice size and skill set, the WA utility will look to rise up the rankings with a strong remainder of the carnival.

#29 – Dillon O’Reilly

In what was a very difficult day for WA’s lead-up forwards, Dillon O’Reilly showed some nice signs. He looked to have sticky hands, clunking numerous strong marks on the lead along the western side of Alberton Oval. O’Reilly showed persistence, continuing to make himself an option by repeatedly presenting himself up the ground, irrespective of the scoreboard. O’Reilly finished the day with eight kicks, one handball and six marks.

#30 – Luke Jackson

The ruckman tried hard and competed well all game in the ruck and around the ground, winning the head-to-head battle with James Braidwood. The East Fremantle product was not afraid to get involved in the hard stuff, attempting to use his strength and size to barge through tackles in tight on a few occasions. He took a nice contested mark in the second quarter over his opposite number and delivered a nice touch kick inside 50 to the leading Xavier Peacock. Jackson finished the day with three kicks, twelve handballs, two marks, two tackles and 29 hitouts.