Category: NAB League

Draft Central’s 2019 NAB League predictions

THREE sides appear to be the standout teams in the 2019 NAB League competition, with eight members of the Draft Central team making predictions for the season ahead. In the predictions, we have a guess at Premiers, Runner-up, Top 4, which team will be the biggest improver, as well as Morrish Medal and Leading Goalkicker predictions.

Oakleigh Chargers (five), Sandringham Dragons (two) and Gippsland Power (one) are the three sides who can take out the premiership this year according to the eight writers, with Oakleigh and Sandringham voted by all eight to make the top four, with Gippsland nominated by seven of the eight writers. It is an even spread to predict the fourth placed team, with Murray Bushrangers (three) ahead of fellow country sides and regular finalists, Geelong Falcons and Dandenong Stingrays (two), followed by metro counterparts, Northern Knights and Western Jets (one). The big improver from the competition is expected to be Northern Knights (three votes), while Calder Cannons and Geelong Falcons (two) are another contender to rise above their 2018 performance, with Western Jets also earning a vote.

In terms of the individual awards, it is an even spread, with Murray Bushrangers’ Lachlan Ash earning two votes, ahead of six different players. The Leading Goalkicker award has two candidates out front, with Oakleigh Chargers’ Dylan Williams (three votes) and Gippsland Power’s Josh Smith (two votes).

Peter Williams

Premiers: Oakleigh Chargers
Runner-Up: Gippsland Power
Top 4: Oakleigh, Gippsland, Sandringham, Murray
Big Improver: Northern Knights

Morrish Medal: Lachlan Ash (Murray Bushrangers)
Leading Goalkicker: Josh Smith (Gippsland Power)

 

Taylah Melki

Premiers: Oakleigh Chargers
Runner-Up: Sandringham Dragons
Top 4: Oakleigh, Sandringham, Gippsland, Dandenong
Big Improver: Geelong Falcons

Morrish Medal: Hayden Young (Dandenong Stingrays)
Leading Goalkicker: Charlie Sprague (Geelong Falcons)

 

Michael Alvaro

Premiers: Oakleigh Chargers
Runner-Up: Gippsland Power
Top 4: Gippsland, Oakleigh, Sandringham, Dandenong
Big Improver: Geelong Falcons

Morrish Medal: Cooper Stephens (Geelong Falcons)
Leading Goalkicker: Dylan Williams (Oakleigh Chargers)

 

Sophie Taylor

Premiers: Sandringham Dragons
Runner-Up: Oakleigh Chargers
Top 4: Sandringham, Oakleigh, Gippsland, Western
Big Improver: Western Jets

Morrish Medal: Daniel Mott (Calder Cannons)
Leading Goalkicker: Emerson Jeka (Western Jets)

 

Ed Pascoe

Premiers: Sandringham Dragons
Runner-Up: Gippsland Power
Top 4: Sandringham, Gippsland, Oakleigh, Northern
Big Improver: Northern Knights

Morrish Medal: Ryan Byrnes (Sandringham Dragons)
Leading Goalkicker: Riley Bowman (Sandringham Dragons)

 

Alex Gibson

Premiers: Oakleigh Chargers
Runner-Up: Sandringham Dragons
Top 4: Oakleigh, Sandringham, Geelong, Murray
Big Improver: Calder Cannons

Morrish Medal: Trent Bianco (Oakleigh Chargers)
Leading Goalkicker: Dylan Williams (Oakleigh Chargers)

 

Scott Dougan

Premiers: Oakleigh Chargers
Runner-Up: Gippsland Power
Top 4: Oakleigh, Gippsland, Sandringham, Murray
Big Improver: Northern Knights

Morrish Medal: Lachlan Ash (Murray Bushrangers)
Leading Goalkicker: Dylan Williams (Oakleigh Chargers)

 

Craig Byrnes

Premiers: Gippsland Power
Runner-Up: Oakleigh Chargers
Top 4: Gippsland, Oakleigh, Sandringham, Geelong
Big Improver: Calder Cannons

Morrish Medal: Cody Hirst (Eastern Ranges)
Leading Goalkicker: Josh Smith (Gippsland Power)

 

TOTAL:

Premiers:

Oakleigh Chargers 5
Sandringham Dragons 2
Gippsland Power 1

Top 4:

Oakleigh Chargers, Sandringham Dragons – 8
Gippsland Power – 7
Murray Bushrangers – 3
Dandenong Stingrays, Geelong Falcons – 2
Northern Knights, Western Jets – 1

Most Improved:

Northern Knights – 3
Calder Cannons – 2
Geelong Falcons – 2
Western Jets – 1

Morrish Medal:

Lachlan Ash (Murray Bushrangers) – 2
Hayden Young (DS), Cooper Stephens (GF), Ryan Byrnes (SD), Daniel Mott (CC), Trent Bianco (OC), Cody Hirst (ER)

Leading Goalkicker:

Dylan Williams (Oakleigh Chargers) – 3
Josh Smith (Gippsland Power) – 2
Riley Bowman (SD), Charlie Sprague (GF), Emerson Jeka (WJ) – 1

Weekend preview: NAB League Boys – Round 1

TOMORROW marks the start of a new era in Victorian Under 18 Boys football, with the brand new NAB League Boys competition kicking off. A standalone game at MARS Stadium begins the first round, before a spread of matches across Victoria on Sunday will provide plenty of highlights for the 2019 draft crop.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Round 1 – 23/03/2019
3:00pm
Mars Stadium – Ballarat

The standalone game on Saturday afternoon pits the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels against reigning premiers, Dandenong Stingrays. The game marks the second consecutive match the Rebels have played against the Stingrays, having been on the receiving end of a belting in last year’s elimination final. The Stingrays have made some changes with a new coach and talent manager coming into the fold, while also losing a fair chunk of their premiership side. They will now rely on a lot of bottom-agers as well as some talented top-agers who featured in parts throughout the 2018 season. Led by top prospect, Hayden Young, the Stingrays have a solid team across the board with last year’s co-catain Mitch Riordan slotting into the centre for this match, and the likes of overager Jai Nanscawen and Luca Goonan also named there, while Sam Merrick – who tested well at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day on a wing. It will largely be a new-look side both on an off the field for the Stingrays, while for the Rebels, they have a large among of players who tasted plenty of football last year. The midfield contains overager, Matty Lloyd who is looking at a new inside role, as well as some silky top-agers in Mitch Martin and Isaac Wareham, the inside ability of Cooper Craig-Peters and bottom-age talent, Nick Stevens. Fellow overagers, James Cleaver and Jed Hill provide some good run up either end, while the ruck duel between Patrick Glanford and Bailey Schmidt will be one to watch. The Stingrays deserve to be favourites, having the wood over the Rebels the past few years, but with so much change, it is as good a time as any for the home team to grab much needed points in the opening round.

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. CALDER CANNONS

Round 1 – 24/03/2019
10:00am
RSEA Park – Moorabbin

The next day at RSEA Park, Sandringham Dragons face Calder Cannons in the first of a Metro double header at the ground. The Dragons are stacked with talent across the board and will be one of the teams to beat this season. The Dragons’ spine of Corey Watts, Fischer McAsey, Jack Mahony, Charlie Dean and Riley Bowman looks ominous, while a midfield containing Ryan Byrnes, Finn Magginness and Josh Worrell will match it with the best. For the Cannons, captain Brodie Newman holds down half-back with overager Tye Browning, while the athletic Thomas Cartwright has been named at full-back. The Cannons midfield is a strength with Daniel Mott, Sam Graham and Harrison Minton-Connell named in the middle. Josh Kemp is an exciting prospect who while overage, is still only in his second year in the system. There is no doubt the Cannons have a massive challenge on their hands here against a full-strength Dragons outfit. Winning the midfield battle is crucial and backing themselves to match Sandringham’s run is the challenge, while the Dragons will be keen to win in the first game at their new home in Moorabbin.

 

EASTERN RANGES v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

Round 1 – 24/03/2019
12:30pm
RSEA Park – Moorabbin

In the second match of the double header, Eastern Ranges take on a full-strength Oakleigh Chargers which is a huge challenge for the Ranges. A year more experienced with the likes of Mitch Mellis, Lachlan Stapleton and Chayce Black in the middle, captain James Ross, Todd Garner and Jarrod Gilbee in defence, and Billy McCormack and Jamieson Rossiter in attack, Eastern has a solid side on paper. Overagers, Cody Hirst and James Blanck will play key roles in the side, but they will all need to be at their best to topple the might of the Chargers. Nick Bryan heads up the ruck and will look to get first hands to Noah Anderson, Matt Rowell and Joe Ayton-Delaney who moves into a more contested role this year. Dylan Williams and former Rebel, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan provide excitement up forward, while Trent Bianco and Will Phillips use the ball well coming down the ground. The top-end talent and depth is clearly there for the Chargers and is a key reason why they are arguably the team to beat this season along with Sandringham and Gippsland, of whom all three are well represented in the AFL Academy.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. GIPPSLAND POWER

Round 1 – 24/03/2019
1:00pm
Rams Arena – Craigieburn

The second all-country clash of the weekend occurs at RAMS Arena in Craigieburn where Murray Bushrangers meet Gippsland Power. The Power are one of the contenders this season and look to be the top country team for season 2019. Coming off a preliminary final, albeit with a disappointing exit in the end, the large proportion of bottom-agers who steered the team to such a successful season are now top-agers and have the extra year of experience. For the Bushrangers, they also have their fair share of talented bottom-agers and should be the country side most likely to give Gippsland a run for its money. For Muray, its dynamic forward line will cause headaches, which in the past has been dominated by talls, but is more likely to be the hybrid-medium-smalls who create some issues for opposition defenders. Jye ChalcraftCam Wilson and Elijah Hollands can be damaging at ground level while Will Chandler provides some height up forward, and the match-ups with Jake van der Pligt, Brock Smith, Ryan Sparkes and Tye Hourigan will be the ones to watch. Leo Connolly, Fraser Phillips and Sam Flanders going head-to-head with the likes of Jimmy Boyer, Dylan Clarke and Cam Wild will be another interesting battle, while Josh Smith and Ben Kelly could go head-to-head in the Power forwad line. While Gippsland are missing key midfielder Caleb Serong, expect them to get the job done in what could be a thrilling contest to open the season.

 

GEELONG FALCONS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS

Round 1 – 24/03/2019
2:00pm
Colac Football Ground – Colac

A couple of teams with unknowns about them face-off in Colac, as Geelong Falcons host Bendigo Pioneers. The Falcons have a lot of new players in their side, while the Pioneers are always a young team. With many of the names getting games last year, the Pioneers should feel some line-up consistency for round 1. High-flyers, Braydon Vaz and Will Wallace hold down the key defensive posts for the Pioneers, while Brodie Kemp, Thomson Dow and Riley Ironside all fill out the midfield. They will have to battle top talent, Cooper Stephens, as well as overage forward-turned-midfielder, Charlie Sprague and Charlie Harris. Jesse Clark will look to provide some run and carry out of a new-look defence in 2019, while the likes of Jay Dahlhaus and Charlie Lazzaro are ever-dangerous inside 50. The Falcons given their record and form late last year, including from some of their bottom-agers in 2018, will have them heading in as favourites, but Bendigo could well take home the points given the majority of their line-up – minus Flynn Perez who is out with an ACL and a couple of others like Matt Hird – is able to play.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. WESTERN JETS

Round 1 – 24/03/2019
3:40pm
Ikon Park – Carlton

The final game of the round heads to Ikon Park where the Knights and Jets go head-to-head in what could be a battle of the two most improved sides heading into this year. Last year the Jets made the finals but were bundled out in the elimination final, while the Knights had a disapponting loss to GWV Rebels the week before in the Wild Card round. Both teams are capable of creating scoring opportunities, as Josh D’Intinosante and Darcy Cassar were a couple of the more dangerous half-forwards last season. Emerson Jeka will start at centre half-forward and no doubt be the main target inside 50, while Eddie Ford and Josh Honey know where the goals are. Daly Andrews is a handy overager to return to the side, while Spencer Johnson and Josh Kellett will come out of defence. The Knights’ bottom-agers were among the top players last season, and Nathan Howard will take up the ruck duties, while Adam Crafa, Sam Philp and Sunny Brazier will use their bigger bodies to try and outmuscle the Jets midfield. Ryan Gardner, Lachlan Potter and Ryan Sturgess will move the ball in transition, while former Sandringham Dragon, Will Kennedy and Aaron Clarke are two Jets who will look to stretch the Knights when forward.

NAB League season preview: Sandringham Dragons

FRESH off a premiership with Dandenong Stingrays, new Sandringham Dragons Talent Manager Mark Wheeler has hit the ground running at his new club. While his Stingrays ended the premiership dream of the Dragons last year, Wheeler is now engrossed in the Dragons program and the numbers training with the club when he arrived was a stark contrast.

“Preseason has gone really well, having bigger numbers was probably the main (difference) – having over 100 boys on the track when I rocked up in November was such a difference to deal with. “(The list is) very very deep and I know there’s some names that have been thrown around as potential players for 2019 and 2020 and I reckon there’s a lot more that will pop up during the year and throughout the year so I’m really happy with the program. “For myself, it’s business as usual, you get to learn everyone’s names, you get to learn your staff and then you just roll over and start doing what you were doing previously.”

Wheeler said the Dragons would use their speed and skill to be very dangerous when in transition, describing the style of play as “a little bit like Madball”. Like with change at any organisation, Wheeler said it was important to be clear with communication and make sure everyone at the club is on the same page.

“You always want to get your hands on some very talented programs and very talented young men,” he said. “Everyone knows the hype about this group so there’s some really good top-end talent so you love that, you love that you can have some influence on that, the difference that I’ve found with it is just purely the boys, learning their names first to start to get hold of it. I have my own reputation so I’ve got to really deal with these boys here that they’ve gotta learn to hear what I’m saying, that they’ve got to trust me, and the same with the coach so we’re both coming through, and I think the players – what you’ll see is a very fast brand of football where it’s a little bit like Madball, we’re gonna take the game on.”

Sandringham Dragons have a massive nine top-age players in the AFL Academy for 2019 – Jack Bell, Miles Bergman, Darcy Chirgwin, Andrew Courtney, Charlie Dean, Jack Mahony, Fischer McAsey, Hugo Ralphsmith and Josh Worrell. Wheeler said those players, along with a handful of others would lead an enviable draft crop for 2019. He anticipated as many as 20 players could put their names on the draft radar by year’s end, form permitting.

“The nine draftable boys that are in the Academy program wouldn’t be in that program if they didn’t think they were draftable prospects, but outside that Ryan Byrnes and (Louis) Butler, they’ve been standouts as well,” he said. “Byrnes has been given our captaincy and that’s player voted so he’s highly regarded. “Finn Magginness has probably been our standout poster boy and there’s been a little bit written about that; he’s just done everything right, he took the knocks, he was really disappointed he wasn’t in the Academy program, and then we keep going down the list, you go to Corey Watts, and he was our best and fairest winner as a 17-year-old and locked down on some big key position players last year, played a little bit undersize. “I think those three are some standouts along with some 19-year-olds, we have three. and I believe all three of them are draftable prospects, so we’re expecting the year they need to have as well, we’ll be up to 20 players.”

Despite the hype and expectation, Wheeler said it was important to keep all the players level headed with plenty that can change between season’s start and end. He said regardless of past form, those players had to have good years to ensure they remained front and centre for AFL clubs.

“I just say to the boys, you’re only as good as your next game, it’s your reputation from your last game … so just managing that with this group is probably going to be difficult,” Wheeler said. “There’s a lot of boys out there who have got a lot of expectations within themselves, they all want to get to the next level so we’re pretty happy with the group we’ve got, we think we’re pretty grounded, but yeah there’s really good standout individual talent that next season we’re going to see a lot of boys get their opportunities and all of a sudden we might be talking about their names as well.”

While Wheeler is in a unique position crossing from the premiers to another side over the off-season, he would have seen a familiar face at training, with Stingrays’ ruck Riley Bowman also making the move to Sandringham after missing out on being drafted last year. The Dragons lose a large chunk of players to school football and eventually, representative football, so when asked if Bowman would provide some security as a consistent tall around the ground, Wheeler said it was one of a number of reasons for approaching the former AFL Academy prospect.

“That was one of the factors, its all about the new system as well, the NAB League is really about getting these boys drafted if we possibly can or get them ready for their next level at VFL or potentially a draft in a few years time like we saw last year with that seven to 10 VFL players get picked up,” Wheeler said. “Bowman as nearly a 200cm bloke getting all the game time – we’ve got three of those, we’ve got (Jack) Bell and (Andrew) Courtney as well; both of those boys were gonna get most of the year. “Bell’s finished from year 12 at Haileybury last year, so definitely, it should make a difference for us.”

After a long off-season, Wheeler said he and the club were ready to play for premiership points against Calder Cannons on Sunday at RSEA Safety Park, Moorabbin.

“(We’re) definitely (excited),” he said. “We’re at RSEA Safety Park so our number one spot is RSEA. Running out on our own deck, it suits our game style, we’ve had four months of training on that ground, so super excited probably just as much as the players, we just want round 1 to start so we can get into the real season.”

Team Selection: NAB League Boys – Round 1

AFTER a long off-season, the Victorian Under 18s Boys competition is back under a new name with the NAB League Boys kicking off from 3pm Saturday afternoon at Mars Stadium. In the standalone game on Saturday, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels will be looking to exact revenge on reigning premiers, Dandenong Stingrays with the Stingrays bundling them out of last year’s finals series. In an all-Metro double header to start Sunday, Sandringham Dragons host Calder Cannons, before Eastern Ranges tackle Oakleigh Chargers, both at RSEA Park in Moorabbin.

Up north, Murray Bushrangers and Gippsland Power meet in the middle at Craigieburn’s RAMS Arena from 1pm, with Northern Knights and Western Jets going head-to-head in the other Metro clash at Ikon Park. The final game is out in the state’s west with Geelong Falcons and Bendigo Pioneers beginning their NAB League seasons at Central Reserve in Colac.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Round 1 – 23/03/2019
3:00pm
Mars Stadium – Ballarat

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS

B: 26. N. Nash, 28. I. Ewing, 6. J. Tillig
HB: 8. J. Cleaver, 20. C. Giddings, 11. J. Dwyer
C: 21. N. Stevens, 7. M. Martin, 9. I. Wareham
HF: 14. L. Herbert, 43. J. Wright, 4. J. Hill
F: 47. T. Mahony, 5. M. Jorgensen, 30. I. Thomas
R: 29. P. Glanford, 10. M. Lloyd, 1. C. Craig-Peters
Int: 22. M. Burgess, 19. N. Caris, 35. C. Hinkley, 23. D. McEldrew, 12. R. Polkinghorne, 24. J. Quick, 13. J. Rantall, 32. H. Sharp

DANDENONG STINGRAYS

B: 10. C. Gay, 46. D. Popa, 50. L. Williams
HB: 38. M. Gregory, 20. S. De Koning, 2. H. Young
C: 13. N. Heath, 18. M. Riordan, 40. S. Merrick
HF: 39. J. Toner, 1. H. Berenger, 44. C. Weightman
F: 27. K. George, 24. B. Nyuon, 37. B. Welsh
R: 28. B. Schmidt, 45. L. Goonan, 42. J. Nanscawen
Int: 47. W. Bravo, 11. E. Cahill, 52. C. Ellison, 14. D. Smith, 25. J. Stuart, 33. H. Sullivan, 30. J. Thomas
Emg: 12. M. Haywood, 23. J. Neal

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. CALDER CANNONS

Round 1 – 24/03/2019
10:00am
RSEA Park – Moorabbin

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

B: 10. J. Le Grice , 33. C. Watts, 37. W. Mackay
HB: 13. L. Butler, 29. F. McAsey, 7. J. Voss
C: 36. O. Lewis, 1. J. Mahony, 31. J. Worrell
HF: 9. N. Burke, 12. C. Dean, 11. H. Ralphsmith
F: 15. A. Hanrahan, 28. R. Bowman, 39. B. O’Leary
R: 32. J. Bell, 5. R. Byrnes, 4. F. Maginness
Int: 6. M. Bergman, 43. J. Bowey, 42. L. Cleary, 30. A. Courtney, 19. J. Goddard, 47. N. Grech, 51. D. Hipwell, 16. J. Mifsud, 44. L. Riley

CALDER CANNONS

B: 23. C. Brand, 24. T. Cartwright, 16. J. Keeping
HB: 5. C. Brown, 38. B. Newman, 33. T. Browning
C: 8. S. Ramsay, 10. H. Minton-Connell, 32. M. Simpson
HF: 27. N. Gentile, 21. H. Jones, 30. J. Kemp
F: 3. J. Cardillo, 46. S. Callander, 2. J. Sutton
R: 12. J. O’Sullivan, 35. S. Graham, 1. D. Mott
Int: 49. M. Allison, 14. S. Bell-Bartels, 13. J. Flanigan, 36. P. Luckins, 25. J. Martin, 20. B. Morgan, 39. B. Overman, 55. A. Righele, 19. B. Rigoni

 

EASTERN RANGES v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

Round 1 – 24/03/2019
12:30pm
RSEA Park – Moorabbin

EASTERN RANGES

B: 12. J. Gilbee, 31. J. Blanck, 40. J. Hourihan
HB: 20. C. Downie, 21. J. Ross, 16. T. Garner
C: 11. M. Mellis, 7. L. Stapleton, 45. M. Zalac
HF: 17. C. Hirst, 18. B. McCormack, 13. J. Rossiter
F: 9. J. Duffy, 36. B. Hickleton, 14. L. Gawel
R: 49. R. Smith, 15. S. Feagaimalii, 10. C. Black
Int: 6. M. Brown, 4. J. Clarke, 1. K. Hubber, 23. Z. Pretty, 2. M. Silvaggi, 53. J. Tilly, 61. C. Tilyard, 25. L. Vassis, 48. S. Woodward

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

B: 49. H. Mastras, 52. N. Guiney, 14. C. Oglethorpe
HB: 5. T. Bianco, 7. J. Robertson, 39. R. McInnes
C: 27. J. May, 3. J. Ayton-Delaney, 9. W. Phillips
HF: 28. L. Johnson, 30. S. Tucker, 23. D. Williams
F: 67. H. Mundy, 22. T. Graham, 25. J. Ugle-Hagan
R: 4. N. Bryan, 8. N. Anderson, 11. M. Rowell
Int: 33. N. Dempsey, 18. F. Elliot, 12. L. Jenkins, 29. F. Macrae, 19. D. Romero, 15. K. Schreiber, 63. J. Woodfull, 34. V. Zagari, 10. Z. Hart

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. GIPPSLAND POWER

Round 1 – 24/03/2019
1:00pm
Rams Arena – Craigieburn

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

B: 28. J. O’Dwyer, 35. T. Matthes, 29. K. Williamson
HB: 12. L. Ash, 3. B. Kelly, 42. H. Beasley
C: 17. B. Ashley-Cooper, 19. J. Boyer, 26. S. Durham
HF: 9. J. Chalcraft, 23. E. Keogh, 20. E. Hollands
F: 6. W. Chandler, 1. W. Christie, 53. C. Wilson
R: 25. L. Fiore, 38. D. Clarke, 5. C. Wild
Int: 2. C. Byrne, 14. K. Chalcraft, 34. K. Davies, 44. J. Hillary, 27. A. Martin, 10. W. Quirk
Emg: 22. E. Baxter, 15. P. Parnell, 4. A. Shepherd

GIPPSLAND POWER

B: 14. T. Hourigan, 22. Z. Reid, 35. J. van der Pligt
HB: 29. T. Rees, 12. B. Smith, 15. R. Sparkes
C: 10. L. Connolly, 7. S. Berry, 19. F. Phillips
HF: 30. T. Baldi, 17. C. Comben, 37. H. Pepper
F: 11. K. Dunkley, 16. J. Smith, 13. T. Fitzpatrick
R: 43. Z. Skinner, 4. S. Flanders, 32. L. Williams
Int: 31. B. Macfarlane, 24. B. Maslen, 3. M. McGannon, 21. M. McGarrity, 25. J. McGrath, 20. H. Neocleous, 9. W. Papley, 5. F. Shields, 23. Z. Soutar

GEELONG FALCONS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS

Round 1 – 24/03/2019
2:00pm
Colac Football Ground – Colac

GEELONG FALCONS

B: 40. J. Clark, 52. S. Christensen, 20. W. Kilpatrick
HB: 3. K. Rayner, 47. L. Peck, 21. L. Smith
C: 5. W. Batson, 41. C. Stephens, 42. O. Lewis
HF: 1. J. Dahlhaus, 51. N. Conway, 30. H. Stubbings
F: 8. C. Lazzaro, 49. M. Annandale, 29. B. Miller
R: 54. O. Balderas, 36. C. Sprague, 7. C. Harris
Int: 38. S. Bourke, 12. N. Gribble, 17. S. Ham, 37. O. Henry, 6. A. Hildebrandt, 11. C. Karpala, 43. J. Paatsch, 34. C. Page, 46. H. Walsh

BENDIGO PIONEERS

B: 14. M. Lias, 34. W. Wallace, 41. Z. Shelton
HB: 1. S. Conforti, 10. B. Vaz, 20. J. Schischka
C: 38. B. Rowles, 8. B. Kemp, 25. W. Shaw
HF: 9. E. Roberts, 22. J. Treacy, 49. C. Vick
F: 35. C. Fisher, 24. M. Johnson, 11. A. Gundry
R: 12. A. Cole, 31. R. Ironside, 4. T. Dow
Int: 52. J. Atley, 59. R. Clarke, 30. J. Dick-O’Flaherty, 17. L. Fitzgerald, 6. J. Rodi, 21. R. Wilson, 19. B. Worme

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. WESTERN JETS

Round 1 – 24/03/2019
3:40pm
Ikon Park – Carlton

NORTHERN KNIGHTS

B: 29. J. Collins, 51. R. Uwandu, 11. R. Sturgess
HB: 4. J. Davies, 23. N. Cox, 1. L. Potter
C: 7. R. Gardner, 18. S. Brazier, 41. N. Kitchell
HF: 9. C. Simonsen, 40. L. Mcmahon, 16. O. Simpson
F: 5. J. D’Intinosante, 34. Z. Costello, 3. B. Nikolovski
R: 15. N. Howard, 8. A. Carafa, 13. S. Philp
Int: 26. D. Akuei, 28. K. Brandt, 30. B. Leonard, 10. J. Lucente, 27. E. Macpherson, 52. J. Mazzarella, 6. X. Naish, 2. L. Perry, 19. J. Trudgeon

WESTERN JETS

B: 34. E. Bentley, 42. E. Acevski, 8. J. Kellett
HB: 37. L. Conway, 28. K. Crimmins, 25. S. Johnson
C: 17. N. Reynolds, 29. B. Ryan, 2. H. White
HF: 20. D. Cassar, 18. E. Jeka, 3. E. Ford
F: 5. K. Borg, 44. A. Manton, 31. S. Clifford
R: 47. W. Kennedy, 24. J. Honey, 7. D. Andrews
Int: 13. D. Bolkas, 45. A. Clarke, 33. S. El-Hawli, 1. L. Failli, 38. L. Heaney, 19. J. Horo, 36. C. Mackenzie-George, 41. L. Rzanovski

NAB League season preview: Western Jets

HAVING arrived in the past few weeks, it has been a busy time for Western Jets Talent Manager Luke Williams. The new Talent Manager has taken over from Ryan O’Connor who stepped down over the off-season, and while the prospect of arriving at a club so close to the season start might be daunting, Williams said the staff had been terrific in welcoming him. Williams said the club was keen to keep as consistent on and off the field as possible with so much change this year, including a new coach in former Sydney Swans star, Ryan O’Keefe at the helm.

“I think we’d like to be known for consistency,” Williams said. “Whether that be consistency with the performances on the field, and also the way in which our players conduct themselves at the club and away from the club, that’s the same with our staff, we have some great staff who have been working at the club for quite some time and know what it’s all about, so consistency of performance is something we want to be known for.”

While Williams had not witnessed the full pre-season, speaking to others at the club, he was pleased with the feedback regarding how the players had trained since returning to the club ahead of the 2019 season.

“The players have trained really hard,” Williams said. “We’ve got our squad down to our final 49 now and there’s a really strong cohesion in the group, so the preseason has gone through unscathed. “We’ve managed to play one preseason game against Gippsland last week which we got a lot of positives out of and the players are ready to go.”

Last year three players were drafted into the AFL, with Zak Butters (Port Adelaide) and Xavier O’Halloran (GWS GIANTS) drafted in the first round, and Buku Khamis heading to the Kennel under the Next Generation Academy (NGA). This year there are another handful of prospects already standing out, which he hoped would increase as the year went on with development the key aim rather than onfield success, although the latter would be an added bonus.

“The program focus is developing all the players, so we want to see significant improvement in the players on field and off field, you play football to try one another, the camaraderie, and ultimately share wins together so, we’re hopeful of having enough wins this year to play in the finals, that would be a worthy objective,” he said. “Three standout players for us, to watch this year are Josh Honey – Josh is an explosive midfielder. “Another player to watch is Darcy Cassar, Darcy played most of last season as a bottom-ager across half-forward but hopefully he can move through the midfield, and the last player is Emerson Jeka. “Emerson is a key position player with great skill and balance. “All three of those players are in the Metro program, they’ve had great preseasons and they’ve been in the program for a few years so they’re ready to go.”

Williams said while the above trio had stood out, the depth across the entire squad was healthy and he looked forward to seeing how many players could take another step forward in their development in 2019.

“We’ve got a pretty even group to be honest, in that respect, I can’t say there’s been too many standouts,” he said. “Having said that, there’s been a lot of improvement from a lot of players, so the games will have a lot to do with those players stepping up. “We’ve nominated co-captains in Lucas Rocci and Spencer Johnson, so we’re expecting good performances from them, they continued to improve on their form last year so they could be players to watch throughout the season.”

In readiness for Round 1 and the season ahead, Williams was keen to uphold the pride at the Jets and see the entire playing group and staff work together. Williams said he hoped more consistency could come this season and could not wait for Sunday’s game.

“We’re a proud region,” he said. “We do pride ourselves on getting the best out of one another and working together so hopefully that comes through in our consistency and performance this year.”

Western Jets open their season against Northern Knights at Ikon Park on Sunday.

NAB League season preview: Murray Bushrangers

SIX drafted into the AFL last season and a further four plying their trade at the top state levels around the country, and Murray Bushrangers’ Talent Manager Mick Wilson gave season 2018 a big tick. He said while the year ended at the hands of Sandringham Dragons in the finals series, there was plenty to like about the side, and it showed at draft time.

“We had a pretty good season last year, we made the finals and were knocked out by Sandringham Dragons who finished third,” Wilson said. “Like some other regional teams, we have a lot of travel to contend with, so the players get a bit tired towards the back end of the year, but overall we had six players drafted, we have another four players playing interstate league this season, so 10 from that group will be playing at an elite level this season.”

Wilson said the program was “a pretty rewarding program all-round” because of the close-knit bond between all those at the club from players to staff to volunteers and families. While some might end up interstate for the the next part of their journey, Wilson is pleased to have been involved in the football careers of each of the Bushrangers along the way. He said success on-field and off-field was an added bonus for everyone involved.

“It’s (on-field and off-field success) a really nice byproduct of the program, where you can see kids really go on and make careers out of football, the alternative is also to have good young players who go and hopefully use some of their learnings from the football program in all areas of life, help them with their studies or vocations or premierships or whatever they do, those kids go on to successful and happy careers as well,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he was excited what the year was set to bring after a big preseason and the naming of their 2019 leaders.

“We’ve had a really strong preseason, Lachie Ash and Cam Wilson are going to be our co-captains this year, they’ve both been terrific with their training, and they’re professional, really good leaders, they lead by example on and off the field,” he said. “We’ve got quite a lot of our 19-year-old players this year, they’ve had a solid preseason – Ben Kelly from Albury, who looks like he’s going to be doing a little bit of work for us defensively this year, and Will Christie is another tall player who will play up forward. “Will’s only played five games in the last two years, so we’re looking forward to his development and continued improvement. “Jimmy Boyer is another player from Congupna, who has had a strong preseason working with the forwards so we’ve had a really good start to the year.”

Wilson said the Bushrangers were pleased to escape the practice matches against Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers unscathed. After three season-long injuries put a damper on the 2017/18 pre-season, the Murray Talent Manager was relieved to report there was no significant long-term injuries to come out of the games. One injury last year that worried some was that of Jye Chalcraft who went down late in the year, but Wilson said he was right to go for the 2019 season.

“Jye’s been terrific, he’s resumed full training without any restrictions post-Christmas, so he’s played in all of our practice matches and has shown some really, really strong form,” Wilson said. “He’ll spend a fair bit of time in the midfield early in the season for us, but he’s recovered well, he’s a really good kid, he’s in our leadership group as vice-captain and just fingers crossed that he’ll have an injury uninterrupted season.”

The Bushrangers’ top prospect in season 2019 is Ash, a defender who spent time up the ground for Vic Country, coming on leaps and bounds as the season progressed. Now in his top-age year and sharing the co-captaincy, the athletic talent is ready to shine.

“Lachie is super competitive, his athletic traits are elite, his running off half-back is one of his real strengths,” Wilson said. “But like lots of players there’s lots of things to continue to work on, we’ll be looking to Lachie to play on some of the better players from opposition teams throughout the season, and work on his decision making and his kicking on the run. “He’s been named co-captain this year, he really does lead by example on the field, he’s a team player on and off the field.”

Among other players Wilson is keen to see their development is Boyer and Will Quirk who returns to the team having sat out TAC Cup last season.

“There’s probably two players – Jimmy Boyer, I mentioned him briefly before, he’s had a solid preseason, he played off half-back for us last year so he’ll be playing off midfield this year,” Wilson said. “Another player, Will Quirk, has come into the squad from Myrtleford, and he didn’t play as a bottom-age player so he’s come in as a top-age player. “He played Vic Country Under 16s, but he chose to play local football last season, so we’re hoping by the end of the year Will will be catching attention playing off half-back and maybe through the midfield.”

Off the field, the Bushrangers have welcomed a new coach to take over the reigns from Leon Higgins, with Mark Brown slotting into the role of the regional club. Wilson said the side went into the season without any expectations other than to compete each and every week, while helping player development and growth.

“Mark Brown’s our new coach, taken over from Leon Higgins – Leon has been involved in the system for more than 10 years and obviously has an elite AFL background,” Wilson said. “He was fantastic with the kids; he has coached Vic Country Level in nationals in both U16 and U18s, so Leon is still involved this year, he’ll work with some of who we would consider the draftable players, but Mark has stepped into that role seamlessly, and our expectations are with both Leon and Mark that they just help the team to be competitive. “You won’t see too much changing from that, as long as the boys are competitive and they learn I expect they’ll work on with their IDPs (Individual Development Plans) and they’ll have a good year.”

Murray Bushrangers begin their season on Sunday at RAMS Arena against Gippsland Power following the venue change from Swinburne Centre of the day before.

NAB League season preview: Eastern Ranges

EASTERN Ranges Talent Manager Sean Toohey is looking forward to his second season in the role, with a number of top-agers this year filling key roles in their bottom-age year in 2018. Toohey came on board a month out from the start of the TAC Cup season, and while the year itself was not one of the Ranges’ finest seasons, Toohey is confident the experience from 2018 will hold the side in a strong position this year.

“I came into the role in late February so it was a bit of a baptism of fire but it was a great learning year from a personal perspective,” Toohey said. “But from an Eastern Ranges perspective obviously (it was) pretty difficult with only the two wins and no draftees which is what we are here to do. “We managed to get a few boys onto VFL lists and what we did do was we were pretty bottom-age heavy and we managed to get a lot of game time into our bottom agers, so that should hold us in pretty good stead this year, who are now top-agers, so looking forward to it.”

Toohey said the training over the off-season had been promising with higher fitness levels than the previous year, and seemingly more prepared with the extra year in the system. While injuries have struck the club, Toohey said the practice matches in the lead-up to Round 1 had given the Ranges plenty to work with and are looking forward to the challenge against one of the strong NAB League sides, in Oakleigh Chargers.

“We’ve had a really good summer, we’ve probably had the longer term injuries like most clubs would have, we’ve got a handful of them,” he said. “But generally we’ve been pretty healthy, the boys I think are a lot fitter this year and dare I say, a lot stronger as well so there’s been a lot of focus on education in relation to their conditioning and the boys have embraced it. “Then from a football perspective we’ve had our practice matches now. “Obviously round 1 this week and I think we we’ve probably acquitted ourselves against Gippsland and Calder, and are obviously just excited for round 1 to come around and see where we are at against Oakleigh Chargers who on all accounts are a pretty good team. “

Some talented Ranges are already showing signs of a promising year after strong practice match performances.

“Yeah I think Billy McCormick, he’s a key forward, had a really big summer, hasn’t missed a session and that’s transferred into his early games that we’ve played and match sim internally,” Toohey said. “His work rate has been huge and is giving himself every chance to perform this year and is starting to clunk a few big marks. So if he can just finish off his work in front of goal he sets himself up for a really big year. “Lachlan Stapleton is another one that has had a big summer, he played really well in practice matches and he probably would’ve had close to 30 touches and three goals in the midfield on the weekend. “He is also very gifted technically, a relentless tackler and is probably one of the most professional players we have on our list. “He should have a good season all going well. “

 

Toohey said the Ranges’ top prospect, Jamieson Rossiter did not play against Calder Cannons, but said he was impressive in the game against Gippsland Power, and will spend some time in the midfield as well as his natural position up forward. An over-ager to keep an eye on is Cody Hirst who had a “rotten run” with injuries in his top-age year and has returned to the Ranges and will rotate between wing and high half-forward.Toohey said Hirst is “electrifying when he gets the ball with his pace and the angles he cuts and can hit the scoreboard and provides really good defensive pressure”.

 

Add in developing key defender James Blanck, and 2018 best and fairest winner, Mitch Mellis and the Ranges have a good core to rely upon in season 2019.

 

“There are a couple more I’d throw into that category as well, Mitch Mellis, he won our best and fairest as a bottom-ager last year,” Toohey said. “He will probably transition more into a small forward role this year, probably won our best and fairest playing on a wing. “He’s 174cm so we probably want to expose him at the next level, he could play a small forward role, however he will still get up the ground on a wing because he’s also our best runner. “James Blanck, he was very close to getting drafted last year in his first year in the system, it was a big learning curve for him. “He’s added a little bit of bulk to his frame, he’ll still play key defence for us, his strengths are his intercept marking and his athleticism and backing himself to repel the football, so he will look to continue on with that and hopefully we see another progressive season from him.”

 

While the top-age group will make up the bulk of the side after becoming established players last season, there are still a number of bottom-agers to watch. Toohey said the 2002-born crop have some slick ball users with high smarts that will set them apart throughout the next 18 months.

 

Josh Clarke is quite slight but he’s played across half-back and on a wing, and if he gets the ball and tucks it under his arm and runs and takes the game on he uses it quite well by foot. “So Josh will play some footy for us this year and will acquit himself quite well. “Connor Downie is another one who’s probably a half-back flanker that is a good size, 184(cm) and probably 78, 79 kilos. “Beautiful left foot kick, played Vic Metro Under 16s last year. “He’s a Hawthorn NGA so he has set himself up for a big year as well, diligent as a trainer that we’ve got. “Then there’s Sal Feagaimalii another bottom ager, he’s also a Hawthorn NGA. “He’s been in our starting midfield as a bottom-ager this year so far and he’s done very well, he’s a big body, he’s a beautiful left and right kick, has good hands, good vision, reads it well off stoppages and off hands. “He’s another one we are looking to develop through the midfield this year and see how that goes as a bottom-ager.”

 

In 2019, Eastern is looking to improve on its two-win season from 2018, but the focus remains squarely on development and getting more players drafted into the AFL after a barren year last year following the bonanza that was 2017 with 11 players selected. This year, the playing group has determined how they want to be renowned on the field, settling on a competitive and never-say-die attitude, win, lose or draw.

 

Yeah probably something that the players themselves came up with is that they want to strive to be “relentless” in the way they go about their footy,” Toohey said. “It’s a very difficult thing to maintain at all times but at least if they think they are striving for it then they are going to get the best out of themselves and each other and hold each other to those standards that they’re setting for themselves so they’re a really mature group, they’re led well, they’re a united group.”

 

Eastern Ranges begin their season on Sunday when they tackle Oakleigh Chargers at RSEA Park, Moorabbin.

NAB League season preview: Geelong Falcons

SIX players made their way onto AFL lists last year, and now Geelong Falcons Talent Manager Mick Turner is excited about the increased depth at his disposal this year. After winning the premiership in 2017, the Falcons had some top-end talent in 2018, led by eventual number one draft selection Sam Walsh, but struggled for consistency throughout the year as their young depth was tested. Turner said while their best stacked up against most sides, they were better placed in 2019 with the increased experience of those now top-agers.

“In 2017 we won the premiership; last season was a bit of a hard year for us,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of depth in our squad and our good players were playing for the AFL Academy or Vic Country or at private schools, we just lacked that depth to cover it so I think at the end of the season we finished tenth but we won our Wild Card game and got to the second week of finals, which we were reasonably happy with. “When we got our best side together, our top 23 and Sam Walsh, Ned McHenry; and all those boys were in we had a good side, but during the year we just didn’t have enough depth to be super competitive all the time. “I think the year 2019, from what I’ve seen so far, we’re going to have a lot more depth and I think we’ll go alright.”

The Falcons were one of the top performing teams at the recent NAB League Fitness Testing Day at Maribyrnong College hosted by Rookie Me. They were ranked number one in the yo-yo test, which Turner said boded well for the season showing they had both the speed and endurance to run out games. While they were tested by Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in the recent practice match, Turner said there were some standout performers from the match.

“There’s Charlie Sprague, he’s a 19-year-old, he was a chance to get drafted last year but he broke his finger badly so missed most of the season, so he played really well,” he said. “There’s another boy called Harry Stubbings who was captain of Scotch College football last year, he was at Oakleigh with bad feet last year, and had to have both his feet operated on so he’s come down to Geelong. He’s at Deakin Uni, and he looked good yesterday (on the weekend), as did Cooper Stephens who is obviously a highly rated player and Jesse Clark, they’re both in the AFL Academy, so they all play well yesterday.”

In 2019, Stephens is the number one midfielder, having taken over the role left by Walsh, and with McHenry and Oscar Brownless also out of the midfield and now plying their trade at AFL level, Stephens will look to continue how he finished off 2018.

“Yeah he’ll stand up, he stood up for us last year, and at the end of the year we wanted to play Ned McHenry and Sam Walsh on the wing to give him a bit more space to do their damage with and keep the basic play inside mid as a 17 year old,” Turner said. “He did a really good job for us so he’s bigger and he’s stronger and he’s now playing against boys his own age so all the AFL clubs come around this time of year and interview so we’ve obviously got him ranked highly in the draft this year, but in saying that you’ve still got to get through the year and play well for Vic Country and that as well as play well for us. “He’s a very well prepared player, he’s very much in the mold of a James Worpel, who was captain and also Sam Walsh, so he’s very similar, he just goes about his business but we expect him to have a big year, hopefully injury free.”

As well as their top-end talents, Geelong has a number of bottom-agers who impressed in the Under 16s last year and look to develop them throughout the year ahead of their top-age year in 2020.

“We’ve got a heap of really good 17 year olds, so if we’re not dangerous this year we will be very dangerous next year,” Turner said. “Tanner Bruhn, he’s got a bit of an injury at the moment so he probably won’t play until midway through the year. “Charlie Lazzaro and Henry Walsh – Sam’s brother – there’s also Oliver Henry, who’s Jack Henry’s brother who plays for Geelong, there’s Will Kilpatrick – he’s Glenn Kilpatrick’s son, he played for Geelong and Essendon, Noah Gribble, we’ve got a heap of really good – and there’s a couple injured at the moment, as I said Bruhn’s injured and Sam Witherden, so we’ve got a really good crop of 17-year-olds coming through as well.”

Despite results on paper being better in 2017, the Falcons had more players drafted in 2018. Turner said this exemplified the nature of the development side of the TAC Cup, now NAB League. While winning was terrific, it was more an added bonus to having a high number of players drafted into the AFL.

“Our main thing is development, if you gave me the choice between – lets put a realistic figure on it maybe – five, six, seven, eight players drafted or winning a premiership, I’d take the draft every time,” Turner said. “We’re here to develop the players, we won the premiership in 2017 and got five drafted, last year we finished tenth and we did win the Wild Card and get to the second round of the finals, and we got six drafted, so it’s just that balance. “Obviously in every game – you know, it’s a competitive game and the boys have got to learn to compete, but you’ve got to teach them to win and lose and hope you win more than you lose and there’s no doubt that you can make the finals and the team goes really well, it enhances the draft prospects of players, so it’s a bit of a balancing act between developing the players and winning games because if you’re a very successful team there’s no doubt you get more players drafted.”

It has been well known in the AFL industry that Geelong is regarded as one of the best “football factories” in the country, something that Turner and the Falcons embrace with pride. Turner said it was important to maintain consistency, and more important than anything else, to get the most out of each and every player on the list for them to reach their ultimate potential.

“All the statistics say we’re the number one club in Australia for getting players drafted, so we’re very consistent,” Turner said. “I think we run at about 5.5 per year which is a lot, and we’ve had eight AFL captains at one stage and we’ve produced a lot of elite AFL talent. “I think the boys in the club understand that culture is already there, they understand what the club is about, what we’re here to do for them, and I say to them all the time, they need to reach their full potential and if you’re Luke Hodge, that’s playing AFL, if you’re someone else that might be VFL, and for a fair percentage of them it will be going back to their local clubs and being really good local players within the Geelong region. “So you can only do the best you can, and everyone’s got different abilities and to get drafted these days you have to be a very elite player, you’ve got to be realistic about it.”

Turner said the club always strived to focus on the Falcons’ key message of resilience. At all levels of Australian Rules football, challenges arise whether through injury or selection setbacks, or even within matches, and the Falcons are keen for the players to show resilience on and off the field.

“We want to work on our trademarks, so we like to be resilient – we want to teach the boys to be very resilient,” Turner said. “When you’ve got a setback or a challenge you’ve got to work your way through it, that’s just a life skill that people need to have so just resilience is our biggest thing.”

Geelong Falcons kick off their season on Sunday against Bendigo Pioneers at Central Reserve, Colac.

NAB League season preview: Oakleigh Chargers

HAVING narrowly missed out on a flag last year, Oakleigh Chargers are preparing to launch another assault in 2019 with a number of top-end talents on the list. They have changed Talent Managers with Jy Bond crossing from Western Jets to rejoin the club he played for, replacing Craig Notman who has headed up the Tasmania Devils program. Bond said while the talent amongst the squad was terrific, it was about developing that talent throughout the year, rather than results-based.

“I don’t think the expectations have really changed, year on year we always just want to develop the best possible talent we can, and we’re lucky we’ve got a number of decent boys this year, obviously it’ll translate, hopefully, to success on the field,” Bond said. “Obviously it’s my job to develop talent to be draftable but you know, if you’ve got good kids and you develop them well then you win games and end up with some on field success.”

Oakleigh Chargers had 11 players drafted into the AFL last year, emphasising the strength of their top-end talent. Bond is looking forward to building on the work done with the bottom-agers last season and welcoming in more younger players in 2019. He said while there were a number of potential first round prospects, there was also a lot of underrated talent at the club.

“(Oakleigh) had 11 (drafted) last year, which is really testament to the program and there’s another odd handful again (this year),” Bond said. “There’s (Noah) Anderson, (Matt) Rowell, (Trent) Bianco, the big names that everyone knows, but I think it’s the kids that no one really knows that we get more credit for developing through the year, and there’s a number of kids coming through – (Joel) Capetola, (Lucas) Westwood, (Jacob) Woodfull, Nick Bryan, so there’s a number of kids, and you could throw a blanket over 10 or 15 kids. “You just never know what’s going to happen over the course of the year, so fingers crossed they perform well.”

The Chargers’ pre-season has been strong with both the male and female athletes buying into the values of the club and working hard over the pre-season to be best prepared for the season ahead.

“Internally I don’t think we’re surprised about any of our kids, because we know how hard they’ve worked over summer and they’ve been really bought into the program,” Bond said. “They’ve worked hard, they’ve ticked the boxes, they’re compliant … overall we’re pretty confident that we’re going to have another good crop. “We’re pretty confident about the girls as well, because I look after the girls program so I’m pretty happy that we’ve got some good girls too. “So yeah, we’re confident we’re doing the right thing and hopefully we can get some strong development again.”

One player who missed out on being drafted, but has returned as a 19-year-old listed player this year is Joe Ayton Delaney. The Vic Metro defender/midfielder has the versatility to play anywhere on the field.

“Joey’s been fantastic round the group, his leadership – he’s come back really positive,” Bond said. “The 19th position is a really hard one, you’ve gotta hit the ground running and play good football at the start of the year, and he’s worked hard over summer. “We’ll use him midfield-forward, everyone knows he can play down back so what we’re really happy with is his enthusiasm, his leadership in the group, so I really hope for his sake he does really well.”

Another new player to the list who played TAC Cup last year is Jamarra Ugle-Hagan who has crossed from the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels given he boards at Scotch College.

“We’re very fortunate to have Jamarra in our program, he’s a great kid, he’s bought in, he’s a pleasure to coach,” Bond said. “I don’t know what more you can say about him, it’s just an added bonus to have him in our program and hopefully we can add him to the list in a years time. “Hopefully we can help him develop his football because he’s certainly got the tools at this stage that indicate he’s going to be a good player and we can hopefully see that in two years time.”

Bond said the Chargers were keen to back their players in and stick to the fundamental principle of any sport – having fun. While Oakleigh would still aim to be accountable and have structures within the game, they wanted to play to the players’ strengths.

“I think we instil a lot of confidence in the kids to play their own games, I know ‘Clarkey’ (Head Coach Leigh Clarke) is very strong on individuality and flair amongst the players and we really just want the kids to have fun and enjoy their football,” Bond said. “I know the kids love being part of our program and we all work together and it’s fun and we really talk about love, and loving the game at Oakleigh. “I think Clarkey’s really instilled that in the group and we just want to make sure the kids show what they’ve got, that’s our job, so we don’t want to hold any of them back, we want to give them a bit of licence to obviously follow the team structures but also play to their strengths.”

Oakleigh Chargers’ NAB League season begins on Sunday, March 24 when they face Eastern Ranges at RSEA Park, Moorabbin.