Category: NAB League

Lagioia loves team aspect of footy

COLLINGWOOD premiership player, Gemma Lagioia has been in and around Australian rules football for more than a decade and her ability to do some magical things with ball-in-hand attest to her experience. The Oakleigh Chargers’ talent has risen through the program and put together a consistent season, winning the club’s best and fairest award and not looking out of place at Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) level.

“I started playing Auskick but I don’t really know why, I just wanted to and I did,” Lagioia said at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day. “I just played from Under 9s to 13s with the boys, then started playing girls.”

The team aspect of the sport kept the talented utility playing, as she rose through the ranks to now be in her top-age year on the verge of being drafted into the AFL Women’s competition.

“I love just being in a team, working with other girls and having fun and then just going out and playing games and doing your best,” Lagioia said.

Despite being nimble around the stoppages, Lagioia said her speed was an area she wanted to improve, particular her acceleration to gain separation from her opponents. She showed her improvement throughout the VFLW finals series, becoming not only a contributor for the Magpies, but one of their best on Grand Final Day.

The off-season provided plenty of change for the Chargers in the NAB League Girls with so many new faces around the club that Lagioia admitted was difficult at first to get her head around.

“I think we’ve improved a lot, there’s a lot of new girls that are just going to make our team better this year,” she said. “I think it was different at the start, learning a bunch of new peoples’ names and getting to know them but now we’re closer as a team so it’s better.”

While Lagioia said she hoped to play finals with the Chargers, Oakleigh narrowly missed out, instead finishing fifth but showing plenty of improvement on their 2018 season. But her finals goal was met when she ran out at Ikon Park in the black and white stripes, eventually standing on the dais post-game with a premiership medal around her neck. Lagioia’s premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid praised the young gun along with a couple of her Chargers’ teammates in the lead-up to the VFLW finals series.

“You see these young 18-year-olds coming through and they’re just bloody superstars,” Cula-Reid said. “You get them when they’re coming off a championships up in Queensland and we’ve got Gemma Lagioia, Nicola Xenos and Amelia Van Oosterwijck who unfortunately did her ankle, but these are the kids who have been playing high-level football at the highest possible level they can at such a young age and they just bring a completely different dynamic into our team. “We’re just really excited for them and all the other 18-year-olds who are playing through the finals series, and obviously the draft is coming up so no better time to see them in action than the finals series.”

Lagioia’s talent is clear and unfortunately the Magpies are resigned to losing the classy player, with their first pick not until Pick 67. But one thing is for sure, based on her ability to step up at each level, Lagioia will soon adapt to the style of AFL Women’s regardless of the colours she wears.

Grounded top five hopefuls ready to give national combine a crack

GOLD COAST’S massive concession package has received an equally large amount of feedback from the football community over the last couple of days.

One of its key features was the handing over of pick two to the Suns, paving the way for Noah Anderson to join his best mate and expected number one choice Matt Rowell in the Sunshine State.

Despite the wealth of outside noise as draft day approaches, Rowell continues to remain grounded in the face of each possible outcome.

“I don’t look too much into (outside chat) to be honest,” Rowell said speaking at the AFL National Draft Combine.

“If it was to occur that Noah (Anderson) and I went up to the same club I’d love that, it’d be pretty awesome to go up with one of my best mates. “I’m just hoping to put my best foot forward and hopefully at the end of November I can get my name called out.”

“I try not to think about (the chatter) too much and listen to the outside noise because I love just to play footy and play with my mates. “That’s the main thing for me so if I’m doing that, enjoying that and putting my best foot forward that’s all I can do.

The packaging of Rowell and Anderson could be strengthened by the addition of other high-end Oakleigh products like Dylan Williams and Trent Bianco, akin to how Brisbane successfully recruited and kept a raft of Vic Country prospects in recent drafts.

It is another possibility spawned by outside voices, but is one Rowell says would aid the difficult transition into the elite level.

“I’d love to have (Anderson, Bianco or Williams) if I was to go up there and share that experience with (them),” he said. “It worked for Brisbane… so if I was lucky enough to go up to Gold Coast I’d love to have blokes like that around me and we could try and have success there.”

“Going up with a mate would make it easier… obviously if I was to move interstate it is a bit harder because (of missing) family and stuff back home but I’m sure going up with a mate would make the transition a bit easier… nothing’s set in stone for where we’re going so it’s hard to know yet.”

Given nothing is set in stone, the reshuffled draft order not only effects those at the very top, but also those who are poised to immediately follow. Another player destined for early selection is Gippsland’s Caleb Serong, who shares similar sentiments to Rowell in the lead up to draft day.

“If I was lucky enough to go to Gold Coast I think for me the childhood dream has always been to play AFL and you can’t be too picky,” he said.

“For me it’s just whatever club if I’m lucky enough to get drafted and hear my name called out I’m more than willing to go anywhere and (I’m) really looking forward to that opportunity hopefully.”

“Similar to Matty I think it’s just (about)… going out there, training hard, playing the best footy you can and putting your best foot forward. “There’s a fair bit of hype around it, especially the last couple of days… now (I’m) focussing on exams after this and that takes a bit of the heat away from it for sure.”

The two also agreed on which test would be most arduous during the ongoing National Combine, without necessarily dreading any of them.

“The 2km’s always pretty hard but no, (I’m) looking forward to all of them and having a crack,” Rowell said.

“The 2km will probably be the toughest one and the yo-yo as well, the kind of endurance tests, but (I’m) looking forward to Thursday and Friday and getting out there and giving it a crack,” Serong added.

After tackling media street and some hairy questions from recruiters, the budding top five picks will continue their talks with clubs amid medical screenings before official fitness testing begins on Thursday and Friday.

Versatility the key for Xenos

LIKE many other female footballers her age, Nicola Xenos did not have the typical football upbringing. The Oakleigh Chargers player came through the ranks after starting school footy, having wanted to play from a young age.

“I started my footy journey when I was about 11 years old and it was just with the team from school, all my school friends were playing,” Xenos said. “I thought I’d take it up, I always wanted to play it with the boys but I wasn’t allowed. “But that’s where I started.”

The Oakleigh Chargers doubled their wins in 2019, collecting six wins and one draw from 10 games. Xenos attributes the improvement to the team development during the season, and was among a select few from the side selected for Vic Metro in 2019.

“I feel like having a good group of girls you play with and work well with is really effective on and off the field, so I feel like that’s really good in footy.”

As for improvement, Xenos aims to get into more of the contest off the half-back and even head up the ground into the midfield.

“Probably making more of an impact off the half-back line,” she said. “I play half-back and I feel like if the ball doesn’t come down, you’re not having an impact on the game, but using space around the ground to try and impact as much as possible. “I do rotate in the midfield so I wouldn’t say I could go forward, but definitely more time in the midfield I’d love.”

But the peak of Xenos’ season came when her Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) side, Collingwood took out the premiership with Xenos showing flashes of her brilliance at both ends. The talented utility is highly rated within the walls of the Holden Centre and the Magpies’ premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid praised the young gun along with a couple of her Chargers’ teammates in the lead-up to the VFLW finals series.

“You see these young 18-year-olds coming through and they’re just bloody superstars,” Cula-Reid said. “You get them when they’re coming off a championships up in Queensland and we’ve got, Gemma Lagioia, Nicola Xenos and Amelia Van Oosterwijck who unfortunately did her ankle, but these are the kids who have been playing high-level football at the highest possible level they can at such a young age and they just bring a completely different dynamic into our team. “We’re just really excited for them and all the other 18-year-olds who are playing through the finals series, and obviously the draft is coming up so no better time to see them in action than the finals series.”

Xenos’ performances across the season earned her a National Draft Combine invitation and has put her name right up into draft calculations. Whatever the future holds, she will just enjoy the moment.

NAB League Boys team review: Oakleigh Chargers

AS the NAB League has come to a close, we take a look at the two remaining sides; checking out their draft prospects, Best and Fairest (BnF) chances, 2020 Draft Crop and a final word on their season. The final side is the 2019 NAB League premiers – Oakleigh Chargers.

Position: 3rd
Wins: 11
Losses: 4
Draws: 0

Points For: 1099 (Ranked #3)
Points Against: 957 (Ranked eq. #5)
Percentage: 114.8
Points: 44

Top draft prospects:

Matt Rowell

What a talent. The most talked about prospect for this year’s draft crop and the clear standout number one pick selection. He was best on ground in nearly all of his games this year, topped it off with a ridiculous 44 disposals and two goals in the grand final, there is not much he cannot do. Similar to Sam Walsh last year, Rowell is just one you know will deliver at an AFL club from day dot, and should enjoy the sunny weather on the Gold Coast.

Noah Anderson

All the expectations and talk are that he will follow Rowell up north with pick two and it is easy to see why. He can win games off his own boot, has that modern-day size for a midfielder, and hits the scoreboard which is crucial for AFL sides. Knows how to find the footy and is so damaging forward of centre. A remarkable season and will be a terrific AFL player going forward.

Trent Bianco

The talented co-captain will feature somewhere in the top 30 depending on where a club rates him, but he has that elite kicking ability and the versatility to play from defence to midfield and can hit the scoreboard. He sets up plays and is one who teammates will be hoping wins a lot of the ball given his effective use and great footy IQ, highlighting his upside.

Dylan Williams

His year was wrecked by injury, but there is no doubting Williams’ talent. The Chargers’ co-captain is arguably the most damaging forward in this year’s draft with his ability to win games off his own boot exactly like Anderson. He can win the ball in the air or at ground level and if he can develop to his potential going forward, is a really special player who could end up as one of the best out of this draft.

Others in the mix:

Oakleigh do not have a shortage on players who have attracted the interest of AFL clubs through draft combine invitations. Nick Bryan and Cooper Sharman are the next two in line above the quartet of stars above, receiving National Draft Combine invites, while Josh May and Kaden Schreiber were invited to the State Draft Combine, and potential Brisbane father-son and Essendon Next Generation Academy (NGA) member Lachlan Johnson, was handed a Rookie Me Combine invite – despite doing his knee mid-season.

BnF chances:

Oakleigh’s BnF was completed on Wednesday, with Rowell remarkably winning it despite playing just seven games. It showed just how dominant he was in that limited period of time, with bottom-ager Lochlan Jenkins finishing second.

2020 Draft Crop:

Oakleigh will have a ridiculous list of talent once again next year and you could start anywhere, but the most talked about player is Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with the high-flying tall forward a Western Bulldogs NGA member. Reef McInnes is a Collingwood NGA and will be thereabouts as well, while you could throw in Under-16 Vic Metro Most Valuable Player (MVP) Will Phillips as one who will go very high. Finlay Macrae – brother of Jackson – is another who is developing nicely, and it is madness that the likes of talented duo of Jenkins and Fraser Elliot could well be the fifth and sixth drafted considering the way they played this season. Still a long way to go, but Oakleigh will be right up there in terms of contending for back-to-back flags.

Final word:

When you win a premiership, there is nothing else to say other than the season was an overwhelming success. The Chargers bounced back from grand final heartache in 2018, and went the step further and claimed the ultimate glory. With a core group of top-end talents for 2020, the Chargers will be thereabouts again next year and will be one of the most exciting teams to watch.

NAB League Boys team review: Eastern Ranges

AS the NAB League has come to a close, we take a look at the two remaining sides; checking out their draft prospects, Best and Fairest (BnF) chances, 2020 Draft Crop and a final word on their season. The next side we look at is the Eastern Ranges.

Position: 1st
Wins: 12
Losses: 3
Draws: 0

Points For: 1115 (Ranked #2)
Points Against: 753 (Ranked #1)
Percentage: 148.1
Points: 48

Top draft prospects:

Lachlan Stapleton

Just a fierce competitor and relentless tackler. He thrives on the contest and impacts forward of centre, but his defensive pressure around the ground and team-first attitude is what will win recruiters over. He can win it on the inside or spread to the outside and hit the scoreboard or set others up going inside 50, and while he was stiff not to get more games with Vic Metro, Stapleton has continued his strong rise over the past few years.

Mitch Mellis

Similar to Stapleton, Mellis just cracks in and wins the ball with a consistent effort each and every week. At 173cm, he is set for a small forward role at the elite level if picked which will more than suit him given his footy IQ around stoppages and ability to create scoreboard pressure either for himself or his teammates. Mellis is one of those players that probably does not have a standout trait, but just ticks a lot of boxes across the board, with not too many deficiencies as a whole.

Jamieson Rossiter

If he had a bit more luck with injury over the past 12 months, he would be talked about a lot more in draft calculations, but he clearly has the talent, and while at 190cm he plays that undersized key forward role, Rossiter has shown he can pinch-hit in the midfield too. Where a club will develop him might be dependent on where he ends up, but considering the talent he has shown in bursts over the past few years, you would have to think he will land somewhere, he is just more of a long-term prospect who with the right continued development could be something special.

Others in the mix:

The Eastern Ranges have such an even team it is hard to identify where their players might fall and in what order. While they did not have a National Draft Combine invite, they had a host of State Draft Combine invites lead by the above trio, as well as Zakery Pretty, Tyler Edwards, Lachlan Gawel and Billy McCormack, while Riley Smith earned a place at the Rookie Me Combine.

BnF chances:

The BnF is done and dusted for the Ranges, not wasting any time after the grand final loss and announcing Stapleton as their top player for season 2019. Mellis and James Ross were not too far behind, while Pretty was the most improved player.

2020 Draft Crop:

There is a bit of excitement in the Ranges’ 2020 draft crop with Wil Parker and Josh Clarke a couple of half-backs who could progress into the midfield and show a bit of talent with their skill and dare respectively. Salele Feagaimalii is one who impressed at the start of the season, while the top prospect for next year is a Hawthorn Next Generation Academy member in Connor Downie. Already represented Vic Metro this year, Downie is one who can win games off his damaging left boot and will be exciting to watch next year. The other player who earned a spot in the Under-17 Futures game back in August for Metro was ruck, Jack Diedrich.

Final word:

Eastern will be proud as punch for what this group was able to achieve. They fell short in the ultimate decider against Oakleigh, but defied external expectations and rose up the ladder like very few before them. To move from second bottom to runners up in a year is a credit to the players, coaching staff and everyone involved at the club. There is no doubt this group will not only fill out some AFL spots, but also state league and high-level local league positions as well. They are well placed heading into 2020.

In Pictures – 2019 NAB League Boys Grand Final

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS won their fourth NAB League premiership in eight years on Saturday after trumping minor premier Eastern Ranges by 53 points at Princes Park. As is always the case with premiership teams, there are series of stories to tell and this very special team is no different. Here is the story of Oakleigh’s 2019 grand final win, in pictures.

I can only imagine that one of the more rewarding things about coaching kids in the elite talent pathway is when they show everyone else the talent you have seen in them all year. Nick Bryan really came into his own during finals and started the decider on fire with 10 disposals. This was just one of his high flies in the opening term.

Speaking of high flies, there are very few players who do it better than Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. What a rare talent; the leap, sticky hands, authority in his walk after a big mark, and fluent set shot routine. It wasn’t quite his day, but he looked like tearing the game to shreds early on.

Speaking of authority, enter Noah Anderson. He marked just inside the arc and on a ridiculous angle here. You wouldn’t back many to make the kick, but you just felt there was always a chance he could bomb it through. While it wasn’t to be, his top 3 draft hopes are sure to come to fruition.

Joel Nathan, a rock in defence. He had just been crunched by Ugle-Hagan here and soon went off for a concussion test, but came back on and was as brave as any of the Ranges players for the rest of the match. Huge effort.

A famous B. Lawry could always be heard saying “it’s all happening”. Bailey Laurie‘s name is spelt a little differently, but you get the idea. That’s how he plays, all action and a game winner with his line breaking ability. We’ll get to see it all again next year, too.

This was the essence of Oakleigh’s game. Glamour and Hollywood plays aside, the Charger’s forward pressure is what helped fold Eastern in the third term. They just couldn’t keep up.

It might look a touch awkward but this was a terrific goal from Joshua Clarke, it looked a real team-lifter. He has made a habit of slotting goals from deep on his left side, but is more typically a rebounding force from defence. Great pace and dare.

Arguably Eastern’s best draft prospect, Lachlan Stapleton was right with Clarke in his second term exploits. He’s such a hard worker and enjoyed an ultra-consistent year from midfield.

This kid is a ripper. The skipper, Trent Bianco. He took the reigns in the back end of the year with co-captain Dylan Williams out injured and led his Chargers to the flag. Eastern put everything into stopping him, they beat him pillar to post and had Mihaele Zalac – who he turned in this bit of play – paying him close attention. He still managed to get off the leash and rip up the outside.

Write the name Wil Parker in your notes for next year, he and Clarke will be an enjoyable half-back duo to watch. He had a couple of daisy trimmers, but was otherwise sound on the ball and went back to take some important intercept marks.

We might talk about his 60-metre goal on his non-preferred side after the fact, but this image is more typical of Matt Rowell. Not the whole getting tackled part, but how he is always at the bottom of the packs, ball in hand, and attracting a raft of opponents. Gun, and the obvious number one.

I’m not sure what Lochlan Jenkins said here, but fair play to Will Phillips for keeping the peace.

Get around Jeromy Lucas! A game changer in the premiership quarter.
Just ask coach Leigh Clarke; “Full credit to him, he came out and kicked three goals in that quarter and started to turn the game for us. “That was exciting and credit to the coaches in the box, that was a discussion that was brought up in the box, we back the boys in the box and pulled the trigger on that and I think it was a key moment.”

“The true modesty of Matt, we encouraged him over the past month to really celebrate a goal, he said at best he’d give us a thumbs up.” – Leigh Clarke

I know, another photo of Rowell. This, just before he booted that 60-metre goal on his left foot.
His secret? Practice, and a bit of luck.
“It came off sweetly, I didn’t think it was going to go that far but it just ended up sailing through,” he said.

Doesn’t seem that Thomas Graham needs any invitation to celebrate a goal. Scenes.

This kid’s journey to the big dance was a bit… testy. Lucas ‘Testy Westy’ Westwood, a late out in the preliminary final due to a ruptured testicle. Ouch, wasn’t going to stop him here though.

Bitta Selwood about this. Fraser Elliot wore the crimson mask and came out on top.

The best on ground an unprecedented second time. This is the moment Rowell asked “can I do the handshakes first?” when being dragged away for media duties. Shades of Xavier Duursma with TAC Cup Radio last year.

Yeah, get used to it young fella.

Captain and coach. They were happy, trust me.

Often forgotten, the hurt. What a leader James Ross is, had an outstanding year, but unfortunately someone had to lose.

Dermie’s son Devlin played for the Ranges a couple of years ago, he offered some words to Ross post-match.

Moments after Anderson slipped down the podium stairs, probably one of the few mistakes he made on a football ground this year.

“The top three” according to Harris Mastras.

Premiers.

Caught the Eye: NAB League Boys Grand Final

OAKLEIGH Chargers comprehensively earned its fourth NAB League premiership in eight years on Saturday with a 53-point grand final win over Eastern Ranges at Princes Park. There were plenty of players who shone amongst the array of stars on show in the year’s showpiece game, so we will be highlighting 10 outstanding players in this week’s edition of Caught the Eye. For extended profiles on each player, click their names highlighted in red, and for our full scouting notes on the game, click here.

Bailey Laurie
Oakleigh Chargers | Half-Forward
24/03/2002 | 178cm | 76kg

Stats: 17 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 goals

Our scouts said:Has his moments where he can break a game open, kicking a couple of goals either side of half-time and really making his presence felt. The bottom-age forward is a metres-gained player… ” – Peter Williams

Verdict: Like many in the Oakleigh squad, has really impressed during a dominant finals series. Loves to break the lines going forward and can make things happen with his bursts of speed, agility, and clever use. Could well move up the field in his top-age year, but has enough nous around goal to suggest he can maintain his position as a lively half-forward.

Nick Bryan
Oakleigh Chargers | Ruck
22/10/2001 | 202cm | 87kg

Stats: 20 disposals (14 kicks), 4 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 26 hitouts

Our scouts said:Had a huge opening term where he collected a game-high 10 touches and eight hitouts to really stamp his authority on the match. He was strong around the ground with a big contested mark in the second term…” – Peter Williams

Verdict: Has gone from strength to strength after some quieter games throughout the year, finally breaking through to truly show his potential. His attack on the high balls was impressive throughout this outing and if he can clunk a few more marks, watch out. The ruck craft is already there to go with his athletic traits, so expect Bryan to impress at the national combine and further push his daft case.

Trent Bianco
Oakleigh Chargers | Wing
20/01/2001 | 176cm | 70kg

Stats: 29 disposals (21 kicks), 10 marks, 3 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s

Our scouts said:After being tightly watched by Mihaele Zalac, he started to get off the chain from the midway point of the second quarter, hitting up targets and having a real influence on the contest.” – Peter Williams

Verdict: The Oakleigh skipper is a ripper and showed his ability to ward off some heavy opposition attention at the ideal time. Undeterred by a few late hits, Bianco was aggressive with both his attack on the ball and use by foot, making him arguably the most damaging player afield. His versatility on the outside makes him desirable to clubs in a number of roles, with his size one of the few things really keeping him from cementing spot right among the first round calculations at this stage.

Noah Anderson
Oakleigh Chargers | Midfielder
17/02/2001 | 190cm | 87kg

Stats: 26 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 1 inside 50

Our scouts said:Working well with Rowell in the middle, was just a presence… tightly guarded at stoppages and often set upon once he won the pill, so did well to still find plenty of the ball and help his side on the inside. ” – Peter Williams

Verdict: It’s certainly not the first time Anderson has caught our eye – he does it every time he steps on the field and is an absolute lock to be a top three pick. He has it all; using his frame to prize the ball away on the inside, showing great agility to seldom find himself tackled and hitting the scoreboard at will. He garnered heavy attention in this outing so didn’t quite pull off the latter, but always manages to have an impact. So good to watch and is AFL-ready.

Will Phillips
Oakleigh Chargers | Wing/Midfielder
22/05/2002 | 179cm | 78kg

Stats: 16 disposals, 1 marks, 2 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 2 goals

Our scouts said:The bottom-ager showed why he will be a highly touted prospect next year with a competitive effort through midfield. Just attacks the ball with vigour…” – Peter Williams

Verdict: Looks a leading candidate for next year’s draft crop and continues to show glimpses of an all-round midfield game. While his work on the outside has been terrific for most of the year, Phillips has thrived of late at the centre bounces with his clean hands and turn of speed. Don’t be fooled by his stylishness though, Phillips is tough as nails and holds his own at the stoppages. Found the goals too in this game which is a welcome string to his bow.

Matt Rowell
Oakleigh Chargers | Midfielder
1/07/2001 | 178cm | 75kg

Stats: 44 disposals, 8 marks, 9 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 2 goals

Our scouts said:Despite being the standout player in the draft crop, continues to surprise us. If you think he has reached the top, he smashes the ceiling and goes a bit more… He reminded us he was human with a couple of missed set shots, but outside of that was just a complete beast…” – Peter Williams

Verdict: The purpose of this piece is to highlight the players who are rising in stocks, so it’s a bit hard to have a player marked as number one improve his position. Rowell finds a way to do what others simply cannot, so we’re not putting anything beyond him at this point. Looks destined to adjust to AFL level in a similar way to Sam Walsh, never playing a bad game and proving a game-winner from midfield.

Finlay Macrae
Oakleigh Chargers | Forward/Midfielder
13/03/2002 | 184cm | 73kg

Stats: 20 disposals (14 kicks), 7 marks, 1 tackle, 3 inside 50s, 2 behinds

Our scouts said:The midfielder had some exciting moments throughout… His run and carry and decision making is a highlight… (he) showed why the Chargers will be tough to beat again next year.” – Peter Williams

Verdict: Looks a little more forward-oriented than his Bulldog brother at this stage, but still has the work rate and uncanny ball-winning ability that his pedigree would suggest. Macrae’s run, agility, and use by foot have all been top notch of late, making him a key part of Oakleigh’s forward drives and a lively prospect for next year.

Joshua Clarke
Eastern Ranges | Half-Back
5/03/2002 | 181cm | 65kg

Stats: 22 disposals (15 kicks), 7 rebound 50s, 1 goal

Our scouts said:In what turned out to be a dirty day for Eastern a shining light was the game from young dashing defender Joshua Clarke who did everything he could to get his team over the line with his dash and dare from the back half.” – Ed Pascoe

Verdict: Clarke had some sort of second term, showing off all of his best traits and trying his best to break the game open with his run. The Ranges defence was under seige, and he was one of the few players with the dare to take on Oakleigh’s defensive pressure. He is making a habit of slotting goals from range on his left side too, and will be one of the leading attacking half-backs for next year.

Lachlan Stapleton
Eastern Ranges | Midfielder
14/04/2001 | 177cm | 72kg

Stats: 20 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50

Our scouts said:Eastern’s Mr. Consistent couldn’t have done more this year to impress recruiters and despite his team coming up short, Stapleton did his draft chances no harm with a strong display through the midfield – showing his trademark tough play and team first attitude.” – Ed Pascoe

Verdict: As our scouts would suggest, there’s not much more that Stapleton could have done more this year in an ultra-consistent season. A good state combine could get him over the line in terms of draft hope, but clubs will undoubtedly already admire his production, two-way tenacity, and attraction to the big moments. Will be one of Eastern’s leading candidates come November.

Wil Parker
Eastern Ranges | Defender
29/05/2002 | 180cm | 76kg

Stats: 27 disposals, (19 kicks), 5 marks, 2 tackles, 11 rebound 50s

Our scouts said:Parker has had a fantastic finals series and he has certainly enhanced his draft stocks for the 2020 draft, again showing great composure and skill in defence.” – Ed Pascoe

Verdict: The Parker-Clarke combination in defence will be a formidable one in 2020, with Parker’s mix of aerial prowess and sureness by foot making him a productive member of the back six going both ways. His finals series was superb, but he showed glimpses of the same form in a number of games throughout the year, able to find a good amount of the ball and use it well. There’s a long way to go, but Parker is rising in stocks already.

Chargers revel in grand final redemption

THREE years in charge, two grand finals, one premiership. That is not bad going by anyone’s standards, and it is exactly what Oakleigh Chargers coach Leigh Clarke has now achieved at the helm of his NAB League side.

A former Charger himself in the mid-90s, Clarke led his troops to premiership glory a year after falling short by a single goal to Dandenong Stingrays. In that same year, Oakleigh delivered a record-equaling haul of 11 AFL draftees, and while that feat is unlikely to be matched for a second year running, the Chargers boast arguably the best two players in the entire draft crop.

Defining success in the NAB League is difficult – how do you weigh team achievements against the goal of getting as many players drafted as possible? The Chargers seem to have found the perfect balance over the last decade, culminating in yet another year of success. It is a case of getting their just desserts in Clarke’s eyes.

“We’re not going to apologise for the talent we’ve got,” Clarke said after his side’s comprehensive 53-point grand final victory.

“For (our players) to turn up like they did today and produce under the pressure against a team that… had done their homework and clearly came to play individual roles which really worked well from the first half, all credit to our boys they really deserve to feel what they feel right now.”

“We knew what we were going to get from (Eastern) and credit to the boys, we talked about how it was going to be an arm-wrestle, it was going to be physical and personal game and the boys were able to come out and just play that momentum game.”

Planning to ride out waves of momentum is all well and good, but you need the cattle to be able to generate it on your end. Enter Matt Rowell, who firmed as the clear best Under-18 player in the country on the back of a second-straight grand final best afield performance.

The same honour, but a much different outcome this year for the prolific midfielder.

“Obviously it’s a much better feeling this time around after last year,” Rowell said post-match.

“It really hurt last year, we really wanted to get back to this stage and we’ve gone one more so (I) just couldn’t be prouder of the boys and the way we went about it. “(Individual honours) is not what I play for, I’m just much happier this time around getting the medal because we won.”

A similar sentiment was shared by Oakleigh captain Trent Bianco, who played alongside Rowell as bottom-agers in last year’s losing decider. Somewhat lost for words, the damaging outside mover stumbled on his cliches amid the euphoria of premiership victory, but the message remained true.

“What a difference a year can make, this time last year we were arms in our heads, hands in our arms, whatever it is,” Bianco said with an ear-to-ear grin.

“It’s a pretty surreal feeling… we were pretty upset (last year) but we used that as a bit of motivation, so throughout the pre-season it was in the back of our minds the whole time. “We definitely wanted to get back here and we did.”

If getting back to the last game of the season was not arduous enough, the Chargers knew full well that minor premiers Eastern Ranges were not ever going to be a side to let up. But Oakleigh came prepared, armed with the experience and hurt of 2018 on top of two previous wins against the Ranges this year.

Rowell and Bianco also respectively lauded their side’s ability to “stick it out” and “fight through” the Ranges’ early challenge, something that comes more easily with said preparation and the right coaching.

“We prepared well all week, we knew what was coming at us,” Bianco said.

“We try and keep it pretty similar, we didn’t change anything throughout the week training-wise… and just tried to keep it real simple and tried to get our heads in the game – not thinking about too many external pressures or anything. “Credit to the coaches, I think we were led quite well.”

“Like (Trent) said, just keep it simple. “It’s always in the back of your mind, especially the big game but (Clarke) said before the game ‘The bigger the game, the simpler it is’ so that’s just what we went in with,” Rowell added.

It seemed the game went to plan – the margin would suggest as much – but preparation can only take you so far. There are key moments in every game, and it was a roll of the dice move on Oakleigh’s part which unearthed an unlikely hero in the third term.

“We made some changes in the third quarter with Jeromy Lucas,” Clarke said.

“Full credit to him, he came out and kicked three goals in that quarter and started to turn the game for us. “That was exciting and credit to the coaches in the box, that was a discussion that was brought up in the box, we back the boys in the box and pulled the trigger on that and I think it was a key moment.”

Oakleigh’s defensive pressure was admirable all day too, but it seemed a switch flicked mid-way through the third term as Lucas and Oakleigh poured on the goals.

“I just think it was our forward pressure and creating those forward half turnovers which were really key to us piling on six or seven unanswered goals,” Bianco said. “We just backed our game plan and backed our players and that’s what got us there.”

GWS Academy product Lucas’ three goals were accompanied by two from Rowell in the same term, stretching the Chargers’ lead from as little as three points, to 44 at three-quarter time. Arguably the best goal of the lot belonged to Rowell, with his 60-metre bomb on his non-preferred left foot well and truly signalling party time for Oakleigh. Despite the incredible effort, Rowell was reserved both in the moment and when describing it.

“It came off sweetly, I didn’t think it was going to go that far but it just ended up sailing through,” he said. “I think the wind helped a bit.”

“He practices a lot,” Clarke said of his young champion’s feats.

“The true modesty of Matt, we encouraged him over the past month to really celebrate a goal, he said at best he’d give us a thumbs up. “We challenge our mids, they get a special prize of a t-shirt if they kick two goals as a midfielder, so we were riding those last couple of shots. “We had a motorbike last week from Jamarra (Ugle-Hagan) as well, we encourage the boys to celebrate the good moments, that’s for sure.”

And celebrate they will, with their incredible season capped off by a true sense of redemption for the Chargers’ top-end.

With the on-field business out of the way, the likes of Rowell and Bianco will now turn their attention to the national combine before November’s draft.

Scouting notes: NAB League Boys Grand Final

OAKLEIGH Chargers triumphed in this year’s NAB League grand final, with a wealth of draftable talent – including the best two prospects of this year’s crop – helping the Chargers to victory. There was also a number of bottom-agers who stood up on both sides along with the usual suspects who earned combine invites. Please note, each note is the individual opinion of our scouts.

Oakleigh Chargers:

By: Peter Williams

#2 Bailey Laurie

Has his moments where he can break a game open, kicking a couple of goals either side of half-time and really making his presence felt. The bottom-age forward is a metres-gained player and while he missed a couple of opportunities with two behinds, he still amassed 17 disposals, five marks, four tackles and crucially had six inside 50s, constantly applying pressure on the Ranges.

#4 Nick Bryan

Had a huge opening term where he collected a game-high 10 touches and eight hitouts to really stamp his authority on the match. He was strong around the ground with a big contested mark in the second term on the wing and then laying good tackles at ground level after following up in the ruck. He had a quieter second term, but finished off big to end the game with 20 disposals, four marks and three inside 50s.

#5 Trent Bianco

After being tightly watched by Mihaele Zalac, he started to get off the chain from the midway point of the second quarter, hitting up targets and having a real influence on the contest. He had a solid second half and ended the game as a premiership captain, racking up 29 disposals, 10 marks and six inside 50s, pushing up to a wing and getting the ball inside attacking 50.

#8 Noah Anderson

Working well with Rowell in the middle, was just a presence to have 12 disposals at half-time and 26 by the final siren. He was so strong through the centre and while he has had bigger impacts on the game before – not hitting the scoreboard on this occasion – he still laid five tackles and teamed up well with Rowell in the middle. Was tightly guarded at stoppages and often set upon once he won the pill, so did well to still find plenty of the ball and help his side on the inside.

#9 Will Phillips

The bottom-ager showed why he will be a highly touted prospect next year with a competitive effort through midfield. Just attacks the ball with vigour not to dissimilar to Rowell, and while he can be handball happy at times, had an even spread of kicks and handballs on his way to 16 touches, also hitting the scoreboard with two majors.

#11 Matt Rowell

Despite being the standout player in the draft crop, continues to surprise us. If you think he has reached the top, he smashes the ceiling and goes a bit more. With 44 disposals in a grand final you are always going to enhance your draft prospects, but it’s a bit hard to go from pick one to pick one. Rowell just finds the footy and simply found it at will. Kicked a crucial goal late in the third term to extend the margin out to 20 points. He reminded us he was human with a couple of missed set shots, but outside of that was just a complete beast with 11 clearances, eight marks, nine tackles and six inside 50s.

#25 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Worked hard throughout the game on his way to three behinds from 10 disposals and eight marks and worked up the ground to present and produce six inside 50s as well. Full credit to Joel Nathan who restricted his chances and matched him in the air. The midfield also did not have as much time and space as previous weeks and the kicks were less pinpoint, and the Ranges’ defence was able to read the play well. But Ugle-Hagan still took a towering mark early and gave spectators a reason to see why he is so highly rated for next year.

#29 Finlay Macrae

The midfielder had some exciting moments throughout the Grand Final on his way to 20 touches and seven marks, only missing a couple of opportunities and finishing with two behinds on the scoreboard. His run and carry and decision making is a highlight and like a number of Oakleigh midfielders, showed why the Chargers will be tough to beat again next year.

#73 Cooper Sharman

Looked busy in the first term with a couple of chances, but uncharacteristically missed a couple of set shots before converting a sitter from the top of the square. Was not his best game, but still worked hard to provide a target and go on searching leads to drag a defender along with him. Had the nine touches and five marks from 1.2 to cap off a big rise up draft boards in the second half of the season.

Eastern Ranges:

By: Ed Pascoe

#4 Joshua Clarke

In what turned out to be a dirty day for Eastern, a shining light was the game from young dashing defender Joshua Clarke who did everything he could to get his team over the line with his dash and dare from the back half. Clarke had some eye catching moments, using his speed to take the game on and get away from any would-be tacklers. He had a huge second quarter highlighted by a fantastic goal on the run on a hard angle and distance while also under pressure. Clarke’s second half wasn’t as strong as his first which was the same for most of his teammates but he had put his name in lights for next year’s draft as he looks one to look out for. Clarke finished the game with 22 disposals, seven rebounds and a goal.

#7 Lachlan Stapleton

Eastern’s Mr. Consistent could not have done more this year to impress recruiters and despite his team coming up short, Stapleton did his draft chances no harm with a strong display through the midfield – showing his trademark tough play and team first attitude. Stapleton showed a lot of aggression and class, picking up balls at ground level with ease and working back to help the defenders. Stapleton has not been a massive ball winner this year but he is incredibly consistent in winning enough of the ball and he was awarded Eastern Ranges’ Best & Fairest which was well deserved for the young midfielder. Stapleton finished the game with 20 disposals, six tackles and five inside 50s.

#11 Mitch Mellis

The small and creative Mellis had another solid outing showing his dash and eagerness to get the ball moving quickly any chance he gets. Mellis was important in the first half helping out the defenders in the first quarter and then offering attacking flair in the second, kicking a classy goal on the run. He would have another shot at goal in the third quarter but would narrowly miss. Despite that he had a solid game, winning 18 disposals to go with four tackles, four inside 50s and a goal and was also rewarded for Eastern, winning their runner-up Best & Fairest.

#19 Wil Parker

Parker has had a fantastic finals series and he has certainly enhanced his draft stocks for the 2020 draft, again showing great composure and skill in defence. Parker had a couple of hiccups which have been rare but considering the amount of inside 50s from Oakleigh there was a lot of pressure and certainly more than usual, but Parker stuck the course and finished the game strongly. Parker didn’t just show his good ball use but also his courage to sit in the hole and take some courageous marks. Parker finished the game with 27 disposals, five marks and 11 rebound 50s and couldn’t have done any more to help his team.

#20 Connor Downie

Downie had a quieter outing playing on the wing and struggling to get into the game. It was a shame as he is one of Eastern’s more dangerous players with ball in hand and it is no wonder they could not get their attacking game going without him kicking long inside 50 with his trusty left foot. He still had some nice movements with his composure and ball use by hand and foot but he will now turn his attention to the Under-17 futures game before the AFL Grand Final. The Hawthorn 2020 NGA prospect finished with 10 disposals and four inside 50s.

#23 Zac Pretty

Pretty had a strong game through the midfield with his clearance work and attack on the ball again a feature. Pretty won most improved for Eastern having come into the year relatively unknown to scouts and was rewarded with a state combine invite so his draft chances are still alive. Pretty was a hard worker through the midfield and although he was mostly digging handballs out, he was doing his best to bring his teammates into the game. Pretty finished the game with 20 disposals and four tackles and topped the NAB League for disposals this year.

Rowell masterclass leads Oakleigh to a dominant premiership

IT was the 10 minutes that won Oakleigh Chargers the premiership that eluded them last year.

Seven goals from the 15-minute mark of the third term to the final break broke the hearts of Eastern Ranges supporters, and elevated almost certain pick one, Matt Rowell into another stratosphere with an absolute masterclass performance. While it was a terrific team effort by the Chargers to outwork the Ranges, there was no stopping Rowell who won the Best on Ground Medal with 44 disposals – the second most disposals by any player in a TAC Cup/NAB League Grand Final behind Mitch Wallis’ 47.

Rowell and Noah Anderson were busy from the opening bounce, combining well at stoppages, while Trent Bianco was receiving close attention and gave away a free kick for retaliating from Mihaele Zalac. Both Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Cooper Sharman had chances early but missed, with Will Phillips opening the account for the Chargers early in the game with a terrific goal on the run from 40m to entice a huge roar from the crowd. Oakleigh continued to pepper the Lygon Street end, booting four consecutive behinds. The causalities were beginning to piled on for the Ranges as Joel Nathan and Tyler Sonsie were helped off the field within a minute of each other. Connor Stone took advantage of the extra forward and found Sharman all alone in the square with the reliable goalkicker making no mistake from 10m out.

Everything was going right for the Chargers in the first term. Stone appealed for a soccer off the ground in the goalsquare but it looked to be a fresh airy. The normally composed Eastern defence looked under siege as Sharman ran down an opponent deep in defence, but his set shot too tight to the boundary but missed. Similarly, Bailey Laurie had a great chance with a running shot that bounced through but was deemed touched off the boot and brought the Chargers to 2.7 for the first term. Then the first massive highlight for Eastern came with a much-needed goal from Harrison Keeling in the pocket with 17 seconds left on the clock. It was the last kick of the quarter as the Ranges breathed a sigh of relief knowing for all of Oakleigh’s dominance, they were 13 points down and in the contest.

Nick Bryan was dominant around the ground for the Chargers, picking up 10 disposals, two marks and eight hitouts in the first term, while Jeromy Lucas (eight) and Phillips (seven and a goal) were also prolific. For the Ranges’ Wil Parker was steady in defence with nine disposals and three rebounds, while James Ross (six touches, two marks) was also busy back there. With 17 inside 50s to five, the Chargers were dominating play, but the Ranges defence was doing enough to limit the score in what could have been a lot uglier for them.

Both sides’ pressure was high as neither team had much time and space to move on, if they found space they had to move it on quickly as opponents closed them down quickly. Just as either side needed a deadlock breaker in the second, it came in the form of Mitch Mellis who burst forward, took a bounce and then launched from 45m for it to bounce home and all of a sudden, the Ranges were back within a kick. The Chargers almost scored a goal from a turnover up the other end, with Thomas Graham winning a loose ball after a spill and snapped around his body only for it to hit the woodwork. Up the other end, Zalac was running into 50 when he unsuspectingly got mowed down by Vincent Zagari. Both sides were finding more open space with end-to-end plays, but a couple of attempts under pressure on goal resulted in behinds for both sides.

Eastern’s defence was desperate and managed to keep a one-on-one ball close to the line in play but the kick landed in the waiting arms of Rowell who showed he can find the footy even when he is not looking for it. His set shot was un-Rowell like though and it was a shank short. Then Eastern seized on the miss as Josh Clarke ran inside 50 dropped it onto his left, negotiated the breeze perfectly and slammed it home to the roar of the eastern faithful and the scores were level again. Oakleigh’s midfield was getting stuck into Zalac to try and let Bianco off the leash, and Bianco’s extra freedom with his slicing kicks was starting to have a real impact on the contest. Both sides were still making uncharacteristic errors going forward, but it was a terrific contest. With a few minutes remaining, Finlay Macrae found some space inside 50 and his set shot from 40m looked good until a late drift that went through for a behind. With the siren imminent and the Chargers leading by three points, Laurie snuck out the side of a forward stoppage, put it on the outside of the boot and it sailed home to give Oakleigh breathing space heading into the main break.

Clarke was a massive player in the second term, picking up 13 touches to head into the break with 18, the most of any Ranges player, while Rowell had one better with 19, as well as three marks and three tackles. Bryan and Lucas both had 13 touches for the Chargers, while Parker (13) and Mellis (12) were the other two who had an influence for the Ranges.

If Rowell needed to convince anyone else how likely it was that he would potentially edge closer to a second best on ground in an Under 18s Grand Final, he found space in the middle and put out a perfect kick to Ugle-Hagan on the lead in the early moments of the game. He missed his set shot, but Oakleigh continued to press forward of centre. Despite holding the momentum, it was Eastern’s second forward 50 entry in the term that saw Jonte Duffy snap off his left and put the margin back to just four points to remind the crowd it was game on. Not long after, Jamieson Rossiter proceed to be the facilitator with a perfectly weighted kick to Jordan Jaworski. His tight set shot also missed, but the heat was well and truly in the game.

Then came the 10 minutes that won Oakleigh the premiership. The exciting Laurie then converted his second goal, sidestepping an opponent on a run towards goal and launching from 50 to add a bit of spice to the margin. Moments later forward pressure saw the Chargers run down Ross in the back 50, then a ruck stoppage from Sharman resulted in the ball landing in the arms of Lucas who snapped and goaled off the right and the margin was 14. When Rowell stepped up to win a 50m penalty and deliver to make it 20 points, it looked like it was going to be tough for Eastern to get back. After Lucas booted another two in two minutes, Rowell booted his second with a long-range bouncing kick that never looked like missing. He could do anything and so could the Chargers, as Thomas Graham capitalised on another Eastern error and snapped around his body and the game was well and truly done and dusted.

The heat was out of the game after that 10-minute blitz, and Nick Stathopoulos added his name to the goalkickers and it was party time for the Chargers in the final 25 minutes. Rowell had to remind onlookers her was human with another set shot miss. It was not long before he was in the thick of it again with a goal assist to Phillips who delivered on the run. Rowell again marked inside 50 but again missed his set shot. Ben Hickleton kicked a consolation goal late in the match as Rowell passed 40 touches. Ugle-Hagan had one last shot after the siren, but it hit the woodwork and the final margin was 53.

Rowell ended the game with 44 touches, eight marks, eight tackles, six tackles, two rebounds and 2.2, while Bianco (30 disposals, 11 marks, three tackles and six inside 50s), Anderson (26 disposals, four marks and four tackles) and Schreiber (26 disposals, 11 marks and two tackles). Bryan built on his form from last week with a dominant performance in the ruck with 20 disposals and 26 hitouts, while Lucas booted three goals and was dominant during that third quarter blitz. For Eastern, Parker had 27 touches, five marks and 11 rebounds to be the Ranges’ best as a bottom-ager, along with fellow bottom-ager Clarke who amassed 23 touches and seven rebounds. The midfield trio of Stapleton (19 touches), Pretty (19) and Mellis (18 and a goal) were consistent as usual, while Nathan did his best on Ugle-Hagan to keep him goalless and tack ip 16 touches and five rebounds.

EASTERN 1.0 | 3.3 | 4.5 | 5.6 (36)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.7 | 3.12 | 10.13 | 12.17 (89)

GOALS:

Eastern: H. Keeling, M. Mellis, J. Clarke, J. Duffy.
Oakleigh: J. Lucas 3, B. Laurie 2, M. Rowell 2, W. Phillips 2, C. Sharman, T. Graham, N. Stathopoulos.

ADC BEST:

Eastern: W. Parker, J. Clarke, L. Stapleton, M. Mellis, J. Nathan, Z. Pretty
Oakleigh: M. Rowell, K. Schreiber, J. Lucas, N. Bryan, F. Macrae, T. Bianco.