Category: National Championships

Throwback: 2019 AFL Grand Final curtain-raiser

WITH news that Western Australia will take on South Australia in an epic Under 19-themed AFL Grand Final curtain-raiser event, we take a look back at the last time budding AFL Draft prospects took the field ahead of their future counterparts, in 2019. The annual Under 17 Futures All Star clash has been scrapped for the last two years due to Covid restrictions, but proved a valuable sighter for the 2020 crop.

46 of the nation’s best talents got together to form Team Brown (black) and Team Dal Santo (white), battling it out on the big stage in what ended up being a very rare occasion for last year’s draft class, given it was ridded of an Under 18 National Championship and plenty of regular season football.

Of the 46 players afield, 36 have since been drafted with 22 making their AFL debuts this season. Among them was Sydney Swans Academy graduate Braeden Campbell, who shot into top 10 consideration with a best afield performance for Team Brown, who ran out 47-point winners.

A teammate of Campbell’s on the day, Jake Bowey also showcased his class with quick and clean skills, and will likely line up for Melbourne in this year’s AFL decider – bringing his journey full circle. Also available for selection in the big dance is Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who featured for Team Brown and was last year’s number one pick.

Eight of 2020’s top 10 draftees took the field, and it would have been a perfect record had Denver Grainger-Barras and Nik Cox been available. The earliest pick to miss selection was Luke Pedlar, who was snapped up by Adelaide with pick 11. A range of first round bolters also missed, including 2021 debutants Tom Powell, Conor Stone, Max Holmes, and Brayden Cook.

While the showcase nature of the game makes for required viewing for most keen draft watchers, fans would also have taken a keen interest given the whopping 18 club-tied players who were selected. It was no secret from even that early stage that the 2020 draft would be heavily compromised, and that figure only proved as much.

Nine Northern Academy talents took the field, with Campbell and his Swans Academy teammate Errol Gulden the standouts. Of the seven-man Next Generation Academy crew, Ugle-Hagan, Lachlan Jones (Port Adelaide), and Reef McInnes (Collingwood) were all selected in the first round, while Taj Schofield landed at Port as a father-son candidate. Luke Edwards also fell under father-son eligibility, but was taken by West Coast in the open draft after Adelaide passed on nominating him.

While there were plenty of eventual draftees who missed out on selection in this game, but later proved their worth, the Futures fixture has long been an important one in identifying the next generation of talent. In 2019, it proved particularly essential given the class of 2020 endured a heavily interrupted season and limited opportunities to shine on the big stage.

This year, with another clash between WA and SA, there looms another critical opportunity for budding prospects to stake their claims as genuine contenders under a grand spotlight. There will inevitably be a riser, a surprise packet, one who stamps his first round credentials. We’ll find out who on September 25.

Featured Image: Port Adelaide’s Taj Schofield in action during the 2019 Futures All Star showcase | Credit: AFL Photos

PODCAST EXPLAINER | Western Australia vs. South Australia AFL U19s recap

THE Final Siren podcast team came together for a special pocket podcast edition this week, recapping all the action and fallout from Saturday’s AFL Under 19 National Championships clash between Western Australia and South Australia. Host Peter Williams and analyst Michael Alvaro dissected some of the key topics out of the one-off showcase, detailed in the agenda below.

Podcast Link: Click here!

>> Match Report: WA claims big win in champs opener

KEY PODCAST POINTS:

Themes of the game – where it was won + standout players

While much was made of South Australia’s top-end, consisting of first round candidates Jason Horne-Francis, Matthew Roberts, and Arlo Draper rolling through midfield, Western Australia’s arguably less-heralded mix of Matthew Johnson, Kade Dittmar, Josh Browne, James Tunstill, and Angus Sheldrick proved dominant at times – even without vice-captain Neil Erasmus.

Combine the engine room ascendancy with the aerial feats of their talls at either end, and the Black Ducks’ spine worked wonders. Up forward, Jye Amiss put his hand up for top 15 status as he waxed with Jack Williams, while Rhett Bazzo showed his intercept-marking class in defence alongside newfound swingman Jacob van Rooyen, and Jack Avery.

WA’s strength and depth across the ground was noticeable, and they clearly benefitted from experiencing multiple trial games together. SA had a few showcase their outside class, with wingman Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera a particular standout, while Jase Burgoyne, Cooper Beecken, Lewis Rayson, and Max Litster all worked hard to drive the ball forward.

>> Scouting Notes: Every player covered

– Potential Power Ranking risers

There were a few clear standouts from a draft sense in this game, five of which were highlighted in our earlier Rising Stocks piece. From a South Australian sense, Wanganeen-Milera was one who truly consolidated his status in the first round having shown plenty of class on the ball. He has a few athletic tricks which buy time and uses the ball wonderfully well, carving up the opposition by foot.

Joining him in the top 15 discussion was Amiss, who has been an undeniable talent this year. Having amassed an incredible goalkicking record of 49.12 in the WAFL Colts, the East Perth forward spearheaded WA’s attack with a number of leading forays and most importantly, two goals.

Amiss’ feats and form saw van Rooyen thrown into defence after snaring 11.5 in his last two Colts outings, and the move worked wonders. The physical Claremont prospect was dominant in the air and with his bodywork, waxing beautifully with fellow swingman Bazzo to serve a reminder of their second round credentials.

– Which team would win the championships?

Saturday’s national carnival taster certainly quenched a thirst for the format, but still leaves the lingering question of which region would have taken out this year’s championships if we were treated to a full competition.

Having shown ominous form on Saturday, Western Australia have to be considered in the top bracket – above South Australia despite either state boasting 18 Draft Combine invitees each. Vic Metro is the other team to be considered a contender, as they thumped Vic Country by 59 points in July’s challenge match.

The midfield battle between WA and Vic Metro is a mouthwatering proposition, with some of Saturday’s dominant Black Ducks poised against the likes of Nick Daicos, Finn Callaghan, and Josh Ward. South Australia and Vic Country would also prove an even battle, while the Allies are somewhat of an unknown quantity having not yet played together in 2021, but laying claim to some class.

Pocket Podcast | Western Australia vs. South Australia AFL U19s recap

THE return of the Under 19 National Championships on Saturday left plenty of talking points for the Final Siren podcast team to dissect, and that is exactly what host Peter Williams did alongside usual guest analyst Michael Alvaro in the latest pocket podcast, thanks to Draft Central.

>> Match Report: WA claims big win in champs opener

Join the team this week via the link below, as they cover a range of topics to come out of Western Australia’s 29-point win over the Croweaters – from the themes of the game, to the outstanding players from both sides, and potential risers ahead of September’s Power Rankings update, dropping Monday.

Below is a brief run-down of the podcast agenda. Keep your eyes peeled tomorrow (Thursday) for a more in-depth explainer on each topic covered.

>> Scouting Notes: Every player covered

Podcast Agenda:

  • Result – WA vs. SA U19s
  • Themes of the game – where was it won?
  • Standout players from both sides
  • Potential Power Ranking risers
  • Which team would win the champs?

Podcast Link: Click here!

>> Rising Stocks: WA vs. SA U19s

Rising Stocks: Western Australia vs. South Australia Under 19s

THE 2021 AFL Under 19 National Championships got underway on Saturday as Western Australia hosted South Australia at Lathlain Park, with some of the nation’s most promising prospects producing big performances. With Draft Central’s September Power Rankings edition just around the corner, we take a sneak peak at a handful of players who could be climbing their way up the draft order after the latest carnival clash.

Rhett Bazzo | Swan Districts/WA
17/10/2003 | 195cm/81kg
Tall Defender

An Under 16 All Australian who started out the year in our top 25, Bazzo served a reminder of his talent on Saturday. An early forward foray in 2021 proved Bazzo’s versatility, but he looks most at home in defence and that’s exactly where he dominated in this outing. With the likes of Jacob van Rooyen (see below) and Jack Avery offering some dynamic support, Bazzo was released and allowed to showcase his most effective trait – intercept marking – in arguably a best afield performance. The 195cm tall looked stylish in everything he did, reading the play better than most and rising to cleanly clunk marks across the backline. He used the ball effectively and proved assured in possession, playing his role perfectly. The third-up tall role would suit Bazzo well at the next level, though he has shown he is not limited in any sense. WAFL Colts finals are just around the corner, and could prove a big opportunity for the Swan Districts man to continue his rise back into top 30 contention.

Jacob van Rooyen | Claremont/WA
16/04/2003 | 193cm/91kg
Tall Forward/Defender

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been treated to the kind of form expected of van Rooyen coming into 2021. The strong-bodied swingman has been moved to defence in the state setup out of necessity, but proved on Saturday that he may well be a viable option there. Clunking eight marks, van Rooyen’s aerial ability and physicality were tough to combat for the South Australian forwards, as he worked beautifully in tandem with Bazzo to cut off many an opposition attack. Like his aforementioned state squad teammate, van Rooyen was initially among our top 25 prospects in the early part of the year and will be knocking on the door once more with his current form. He also kicked 11 goals in his last two WAFL Colts outings, and should have an impact come finals with Claremont featuring near the pointy end in all three grades.

Jye Amiss | East Perth/WA
31/07/2003 | 195cm/85kg
Tall Forward

Amiss’ rise has been substantial this season, bolting into top 15 contention having not previously been a significant feature of state level squads. Much has already been made of the key forward’s conversion rate, boasting a league leading tally of 49.12 across his dozen WAFL Colts games in 2021. Those kinds of numbers made him undeniable for state Under 19 selection and Amiss took the opportunity with both hands during trials, stamping himself as the Black Ducks’ spearhead by continuing his streak of bagging multiple goals per outing. On Saturday, the East Perth product burned his opponent on the lead time and time again, marking cleanly out in front and snaring two impressive majors. He also gave plenty of opportunities off and if not for some atypical inaccuracy, could have finished with four or five goals. Having snuck into the Draft Central top 20 in August, he looks destined climb up a few spots and hit a new landmark come September.

Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera | Glenelg/SA
22/02/2003 | 188cm/70kg
Wing

Arguably South Australia’s most impressive player on the weekend, Wanganeen-Milera continues to prove his class against high levels of competition. A raw wingman at 188cm and 70kg, the 18-year-old has an eye-catching bag of tricks which can really carve up the opposition. His kicking is a real weapon, with Wanganeen-Milera consistently showcasing poise in possession to manufacture space with his agility before hitting a target cleanly. Even in poor conditions or under the heat of SANFL League and state Under 19 pressure, the Glenelg prospect is never flustered and just makes things happen with ball in hand. He was unlucky not to crack our top 25 come the end of July, but will certainly be amongst it come Monday’s September Power Rankings edition. It looks like he’s jumped many a talent throughout the last month or so in particular, turning his flashes of class into consistently damaging performances. He comes from great pedigree too, as the nephew of Gavin Wanganeen and son of Terry Milera.

Jase Burgoyne | Woodville-West Torrens/SA
15/07/2003 | 186cm/65kg 
Medium Defender/Midfielder

One of South Australia’s most well known talents throughout the pathway, Burgoyne is a Port Adelaide father-son candidate (son of Peter) and AFL Academy member. His form at Under 18s level has been exceptional over the last two years from a pure numbers perspective, with Burgoyne consistently able to find the ball whether stationed in midfield, off half-back, or rotating forward. He enjoyed a three-game League stint with Port’s reserves this season but remains quite a raw and lean prospect with plenty of filling out to do. The fundamental skills and footballing nous are there though, and Burgoyne was able to show that on Saturday. Utilised off half-back, he looked to rebound with a touch of class and again, had little trouble finding the ball on a tough day for his side. He may still be a touch off the top 30 in our rankings, but is a player Port fans can look forward to seeing.

Featured Image: WA skipper Finn Gorringe addresses his side | Credit: WAFL via Twitter

Scouting Notes: 2021 AFLU19s – Western Australia vs. South Australia

THE 2021 AFL Under 19 National Championships got underway on Saturday in a last-minute clash between Western Australia and South Australia at Lathlain Park, with the hosts getting up 9.13 (67) to 5.8 (38). In a bumper edition of Scouting Notes, we take a look at the performances of every player afield, including some defining showings from top draft prospects. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

>> Match Report: WA claims big win in champs opener

WESTERN AUSTRALIA #1-19:

By: Ed Pascoe

#1 Jesse Motlop (South Fremantle)

The Fremantle NGA member didn’t have that four-quarter performance he would have been after, but still managed to show his eye-catching traits – starting in the first quarter with a trademark rove and snap goal, showing his forward craft. Motlop provided great pressure and second efforts in the second quarter, but was very quiet in the third quarter before moving into the midfield in the last and winning plenty of the ball, while also taking a few marks around the ground.

#2 Jed Hagan (East Fremantle)

The only 2022 draft prospect to take the field, Hagan looked as comfortable as anyone out on the ground and showed plenty of composure and competitiveness down back. Hagan provided some meaningful drive of half-back, often using the ball well by hand and foot, but it was his competitiveness for his size that really impressed. In one instance he won a contest against SA tall forward Morgan Ferres, who had been beating most taller opponents all day in marking contests. A consistent four-quarter performer, Hagan looks a great prospect for the 2022 draft.

#4 Judd McVee (East Fremantle)

The speedy half-back didn’t do a lot wrong, playing a new position this year after showing signs as a midfielder at Under 16s state level. McVee was smooth in most things he did with ball in hand, using it by hand and foot and looking stylish in the way he carried the ball from defence. Although his production wasn’t as high as other teammates in defence, his slick ball use and role was still very important.

#7 Angus Sheldrick (Claremont)

It was a typical game from Sheldrick with the strong bodied midfielder showing his contested prowess around the ball, and equally strong drive and attacking mindset. Sheldrick’s kicking wasn’t at his best standard and he could have kicked a nice goal on the run which ended up hitting the post, and that kicking will be something he continues to work on. His attack on the ball, however, is just about the best amongst this year’s draft crop – winning some free kicks from some courageous plays. His third quarter was his best highlighted by a one-handed intercept mark and another play brushing off an opponent with ease to kick long inside 50.

#9 Max Chipper (Swan Districts)

Chipper was a late in for the injured Neil Erasmus and he made the most of his call-up to be among his side’s major ball winners playing on the wing. Chipper did well to work into defence to be an outlet for a switch and his ball use from the defensive half was solid. Although not the quickest with ball in hand, his work-rate around the ground helped him take plenty of marks and contribute well in transition for WA.

#12 Lochlan Paton (West Perth)

One of the pressure forwards for WA, Paton played his role well despite his low production and he was rewarded late in the game with a nice intercept mark and snap goal. Paton’s pressure and ability to get some timely smothers in set up plenty of scoring opportunities for his teammates and despite a few unlucky free kicks given away, he kept up his pressure for all four quarters. A midfielder for the last few years, Paton has fared well in this forward role of late.

#13 Bryce Watson (Swan Districts)

The athletic small defender didn’t lose too many contests as his leap and speed gave the SA forwards a lot of trouble, with some nice spoils and an ability to close down his opponents on the lead. Watson’s kicking wasn’t to a great standard at times but his work by hand was often clean and creative, and he showed a solid mix of defending and attacking. His strong contested intercept mark in the third quarter was a real highlight.

#14 Taj Woewodin (East Fremantle)

The Melbourne father-son prospect had a solid game playing on the wing and across half-back, showing safe decision making with ball in hand and good skills by hand and foot. His knack of taking intercept marks showed his ability to read the play well and he almost kicked a nice goal from long range in the second quarter, but just missed. It’s been a solid year for Woewodin, with that consistency on show in his game against SA in an as-expected sort of performance from him.

#15 Finn Gorringe (East Fremantle)

The captain of WA was a steady head in defence, often using the ball well by foot and barely losing a one-on-one contest. It was no surprise to see him favour his kicking over handballing, with some very nice kicks well weighted to his teammates. Although this game wasn’t his most productive, he still managed to show why he was made captain of the side.

#18 Josh Browne (East Fremantle)

Although it took until the second half for Browne to really get going, it turned out a rather typical performance form the East Fremantle ball magnet with his ability to win the ball on the inside and outside. Browne’s consistency by foot was just about his only blemish with some great kicks inside 50 but a few poor kicks as well, which where uncharacteristic. Where he excelled was his ability to win the contested ball and feed out nicely by hand, and while usually winning plenty of the ball in the middle, he also managed to win his fair share while playing at half-forward – taking a few marks and being a great outlet. He would finish as one of WA’s most productive players for the day.

#19 Kade Dittmar (East Perth)

A typical performance from the inside midfielder who won his fair share of his disposals at the coal face, using his big frame to his advantage. His ability to break tackles was on show, as was his ability to stick the hard ones, which earned him a free kick in the second quarter where he would slot his only goal for the game. Although his kicking at times was poor, his ability to win clearances cleanly and not just with his strong frame was very promising.

WA's Jesse Motlop (left) and Jack Williams celebrate a goal | Credit: SANFL

WESTERN AUSTRALIA #20-43

By: Declan Reeve

#20 James Tunstill (East Perth)

Having produced a good season to date at WAFL Colts level, Tunstill took the opportunity against South Australia to put his name in the mind of recruiters with a strong display, particularly in the first half. Early on it felt like Tunstill was involved in every bit of WA play, winning the ball from stoppages or receiving a releasing handball to move the ball forward quickly. He timed his runs well and positioned smartly around contests to be in the best spot to win it. In the thick of it, Tunstill did well to keep the ball away from opponents, then fire out sharp handballs to teammates in space. What was arguably most impressive about Tunstill’s game was how he tracked the ball on the ground and refused to be knocked off balance, winning the ball against opponents and flicking it up to teammates before he could be brought to ground.

#22 Jack Avery (Perth)

Having experienced the intensity of WAFL League level, Avery looked mostly composed in the defensive 50, using his strength and size to take intercept marks or throw a fist in to impact an opponent’s attempt when required. Later, he would also followed up with safe ball use to keep WA in possession. In the moments that Avery did push up the ground, he wasn’t afraid to take on opponents and try to hit the most aggressive option.

#23 Matthew Johnson (Subiaco)

The highly touted WA midfielder showed exactly why he is in first round consideration with a skilful display. Whilst Johnson isn’t the fastest player going around, his decision making and evasion in traffic gives him more than enough tools to appear quicker than most opponents, able to spot out a target in the thick of things and execute the skill well. Johnson’s work-rate meant that he was always a chance to impact the play, going in to win it himself or working hard forward of the ball to provide an option, then following up with clean ball use to keep WA going forward. That same work-rate saw Johnson impact inside his defensive 50 more than most other midfielders and worked it out well. When Johnson had the ball he more often than not looked to move it into the corridor to open up the forward 50 for his side. 

#25 Ethan Regan (East Perth)

A game of almosts for Regan saw him show off his best athletic traits in patches, just lacking consistent impact across the game. Regan did well to win the ball below his knees on the move for a taller player, consistently picking the ball up off on half-volleys and turning his opponent around quickly, before moving the ball on by foot. His kicking inside 50 was superb, setting up multiple scoring opportunities by hitting up leading targets rather than bombing long, although he did kick a great goal from outside 50. Regan also utilised his leap to take the ball in the air uncontested, with his intercept of a chip kick in the midfield the best example of this.

#29 Jacob van Rooyen (Claremont)

After making a name for himself as a tall forward option over the past couple of years, van Rooyen has been playing in defence at state level recently, continuing his development in the role with an impressive display. van Rooyen was rarely beaten through the contest, able to spoil the ball when caught behind his opponent, but more often bodying his opponent to protect the drop zone and take the mark. van Rooyen’s disposal was good throughout the game, looking to use it safely out of the defensive 50 but aggressively when going into the forward half. His defensive work-rate stopped a few promising SA plays, working hard to impact the ball on the goal line early on in the game, and then building more confidence to leave his opponent and take marks in front of packs, or fill the hole in defence to take marks from rushed kicks further up the ground. 

#30 Jye Amiss (East Perth)

Amiss had an outstanding display, with his two-goal first half particularly impressive. His opening major was the first of the game, where he was held without the ball in a pack inside 50, earning a free kick and kicking well from straight in front. His second was arguably the highlight of the day, collecting a half-volley along the boundary line inside 50, where he took a couple of steps to balance and slotted the goal from about 40 out. Apart from two goals, Amiss showed off his danger on the lead, where he managed to get separation from his opponents easily and held the ball out in front, more often than not looking to pass it off to a teammate leading towards him or hand it off to a runner if he was further up the ground. In keeping teammates involved, he ultimately sacrificed what could’ve been a four or five goal game. It was promising to see Amiss actively look to push up the ground and take marks on the wings, keeping the SA defence guessing and allowing other teammates to be the main target inside 50 at times.

#31 Eric Benning (Claremont)

Although Benning wouldn’t have put up massive numbers compared to some of his other tall teammates, the Fremantle NGA hopeful’s athleticism caught the eye with his leap and agility particularly impressive for his size. This was highlighted best with a few marking contests where Benning was caught behind but still managed to take a mark over the top of his opponent, or took a clean one grab pick up below his knees and weaved through traffic. 

#34 Corey Warner (East Fremantle)

Playing in his usual wing role, Warner had a few key moments especially early on in the game. Pushing to be an option in the corridor when the ball was on the other wing, but also showed his willingness to win the inside ball and work through traffic with his evasiveness, or at times, sheer strength when pushing opponents away. It was encouraging to see Warner lose opponents by turning them inside out and then getting the ball to a teammate with his quick hands or inside 45 kicks.

#36 Rhett Bazzo (Swan Districts)

This was somewhat a breakout performance for Bazzo, showing off his reading of the game by taking plenty of intercept marks, but also able to drift across the front of packs and take marks out in front, quickly playing on with the ball. Bazzo more often than not looked to switch the ball across the 50 when he won it, putting it in front of his teammates so they could keep running after they had taken the mark. Bazzo was also confident when pushing up the ground, providing as an option in the corridor, even earning himself a free kick and 25m penalty, unfortunately unable to convert the goal from 50 out, although this was one of very few blemishes on his long kicking with his kick ins from SA behinds often getting distance and kick starting offensive plays. What was arguably most impressive from Bazzo was his two way running, where he’d push back hard when SA won the ball to impact contests inside 50, even spoiling a ball right on the goal line.

#38 Brady Hough (Peel Thunder)

The only other multiple goal kicker apart from Amiss, Hough enjoyed a solid display where he showed off some smart leading patterns in the forward half, able to get separation with ease, getting used more often as the game went on and he started to stamp his authority on the contest. The first of his two goals came from a free kick inside 50 where he went for a ground ball and had his legs taken out from under him, kicking it from right in front with ease. The second was more challenging, where he had a set shot pressed into the deep pocket and put it through.

#40 Jake South (Subiaco)

South took advantage of a relatively weaker SA ruck division and flexed his muscle to win most hitouts by outbodying his opponents in the ruck, initiating contact and knocking them off balance to control the stoppages. South grew in confidence as the game went on, starting to take the ball out of the ruck and taking on opponents himself. South also positioned well behind the play, taking intercept marks and looking solid below his knees.

#43 Jack Williams (East Fremantle)

Struggling in front of goal for the day, Williams still looked a dangerous option in the forward 50 where his strength was too much for the SA defenders to handle at times, taking contested marks without really looking challenged. That same strength gave him an advantage when he took ruck contests inside 50, pushing opponents out of the way and taking the ball himself or tapping it straight down in front of a teammate. Williams’ work-rate in the forward half can’t be overstated, consistently providing repeat leads and drawing an opponent to free up space for a teammate to lead into. He did get himself on the scoreboard to reward his efforts, pushing an opponent under the ball and taking it over his head, slotting a goal from right in front about 35 out.

WA skipper Finn Gorringe addresses his side | Credit: WAFL

SOUTH AUSTRALIA #1-18:

By: Tom Wyman

#1 Isaiah Dudley (Central District)

The Adelaide NGA prospect had a quiet start to the game, as South Australia struggled to get the ball past the halfway mark in the early stages. With the Western Australia midfield controlling the game, the small forward was starved of opportunity to impact the game. However Dudley had his moments as the game wore on, particularly when moved into the midfield for the final term. His speed and run and carry was evident in patches, as was his clever football smarts, however the nature of the game denied the Central Districts teenager of an opportunity to assert himself.

#2 Blayne O’Loughlin (North Adelaide)

It was a tough day for North Adelaide defender Blayne O’Loughlin, who wasn’t able to assert his usual calmness upon the contest. Given a close-checking role on dangerous WA forward Jesse Motlopfor much of the game, O’Loughlin struggled defensively as the son of Kangaroos and Power star Daniel gained separation and booted a regulation goal early in the piece. Although he looked more composed down back as the game wore on, nailing a couple of kicks in the defensive-50, he wasn’t able to impact with his usual offensive flair. An uncharacteristic turnover by foot in the final term gifted the home side with the easiest of goals.

#5 Jase Burgoyne (Woodville-West Torrens)

Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne was one of the croweaters best on a difficult day. Stationed across half-back, his work rate and two-way running was admirable. He was involved in much of South Australia’s offensive play, with a couple of nice passages of run and carry along the wing reinforced by some clean ball-use. However he was also quick to run back and offer support when the visitors were under siege down back. The talented utility, who made his SANFL league debut with Port Adelaide earlier in the year, was efficient by foot but his disposals lacked damage. Overall, it was a solid if unremarkable display from Burgoyne, who appears likely to join the Power come draft night.

#6 Lachlan Grubb (Central District)

The speedy 19-year-old small forward struggled to impact the game, but he certainly wasn’t alone. Grubb had a couple of ‘nearly’ moments, including a smart rove and quick snap at goal which ultimately fell short but, like Dudley, wasn’t favoured by the nature of the contest.

#8 Lewis Rayson (Glenelg)

The South Australian vice-captain was one of the visitors best performers in their 29-point defeat. Despite being stationed across half-back in the first couple of quarters, the Glenelg product strolled forward and registered the first genuine shot on goal for SA, a long-range attempt which was touched on the line. Under immense pressure, with the WA midfield sending it inside-50 regularly, Rayson was one of few South Australian’s to exhibit calmness and composure with the ball. Rayson’s run out of defence was important and his quick hands were noticeable. His kicking was largely clean, albeit for a costly turnover in the final term. He pushed up into the midfield at-times as the SA coaching staff looked to shuffle the magnets, but looked at home at half-back, where he read the play well and was able to take a couple of strong intercept marks.

#9 Hugh Jackson (North Adelaide)

Hugh Jackson managed to get his hands on the ball often, but didn’t have the impact on the contest he would’ve liked. Starting on the wing before given a stint on-ball, the skilful Rooster was clean by hand in the clinches, but got caught trying to do too much a couple of times on the broadcast wing. He had a snap on goal after a nice bit of roving, but had an inconsistent day by foot, with some kicks finding their targets and others missing. Nevertheless, he demonstrated a natural ability to find the footy around the ground.

#10 Isaac Birt (South Adelaide)

South Adelaide’s Isaac Birt ran hard up and down the wing all day, working relentlessly to consistently provide an outlet option on his side of the ground. He was able to use his precise left-foot on a couple of occasions and was largely clean with his ball-use. A draft bolter who has risen to become one of the SANFL Under-18s best players this season, Birt showed some run and dash and produced an admirable performance for South Australia.

#12 Cade Kennedy (West Adelaide)

The West Adelaide skipper started the game in the midfield. He got his hands on the ball early but was lacked some cleanness with his first touch. He tackled hard and spread well across the ground to provide an option between the arcs. He found key forward Lukas Cooke inside-50 with a nice kick against the flow of play in the first term, then later released defender Lewis Rayson with a clever gather and intelligent handball. Although he faded out of the game, Kennedy had a couple of nice moments in difficult circumstances.

#13 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (Glenelg)

Wanganeen-Milera was clearly South Australia’s best player in the tough loss. One of few to show poise and execute under pressure, the Glenelg teenager looked up to the level immediately. The wingman used the ball intelligently and his work under pressure was outstanding. Whilst many of his teammates appeared rushed and fumbly as WA brought the heat, Wanganeen-Milera read the game well, moved like a Rolls Royce, made the correct decisions and showed off a couple of nice tricks under duress. He was crunched by WA star Jye Amiss in the final term when going back with the flight of the ball, and was forced to leave the field, but later returned to bravely run out the match. Perhaps one of the only South Australian’s whose draft stocks will have risen after his performance, Wanganeen-Milera appears likely to feature in first round calculations on draft night after a classy display.

#14 Jacob Owens (Glenelg)

Jacob Owens spent the game rotating from the half-forward flank to the wing. A ball-magnet for the Tigers in the SANFL Under-18 competition, Owens ran into some good spaces but lacked composure with his first couple of touches, throwing it on the boot and lofting it forwards instead of lowering his eyes. Appearing rushed at-times, Owens, like many of his teammates, struggled to adapt to the pace of the game at-times, despite finding a bit of the ball and working his way into some good spaces.

#17 Hugh Stagg (Glenelg)

Fresh off a four-goal performance against West Adelaide last weekend, Hugh Stagg spent the game at half-forward for South Australia. His kicking was poor early, contributing to a couple of turnovers, however he slotted the first goal of the game for SA after benefitting from a 50-metre penalty. The powerful flanker missed a shot on goal later in the game, and could have benefitted from a stint on the ball to gain some confidence.

#18 Arlo Draper (South Adelaide)

Top ten pick candidate Arlo Draper showed patches of class and was among South Australia’s best players at Lathlain Park. Draper split his time between the half-forward line and the midfield, as he has done all season. He was a marking target in attack and moved well in-traffic in the midfield. He was classy with his disposal by hand and foot and demonstrating some stoppage smarts to win a couple of clearances. In the final term, Draper expertly outbodied his opponent and took an easy mark before booting the first goal of the final quarter. He could have added a second with a set-shot after winning a high free-kick, then later passed off another gettable attempt to teammate Lukas Cooke in the pocket. He didn’t accumulate high numbers, but used it well and had an impact on the game.

Jason Horne-Francis captaining South Australia | Credit: SANFL

SOUTH AUSTRALIA #20-35:

By: Michael Alvaro

#20 Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide)

It was a hit-and-miss kind of day for Roberts, who featured prominently in South Australia’s midfield. At his best, he found plenty of the ball and helped drag the Croweaters back into the game through sheer work-rate. The South Adelaide talent was particularly prolific in the second term and looked most productive in possession during said period, capping it off with a well hit 45m set shot goal. He made some good double efforts at ground level and was moved forward for longer stints in term four, but found himself rushed and a touch scratchy when disposing by foot at times.

#21 Jason Horne-Francis (South Adelaide)

There were plenty of eyes fixed of Horne-Francis, who skippered the South Australian side in his typical midfield-forward role. He didn’t quite have the impact he would have liked on-ball and just couldn’t get his hands on it, but showed some of his power with lunging pressure acts. His pure class in possession shone through though, as he used the ball well on the move and hardly looked rushed. One of his best kicks was a spearing ball across the top of the 50, hitting Hugh Stagg to prove his short game can be as effective as his long-range penetration. Horne-Francis ended up spending plenty of time forward in term four, converting a free kick and unselfishly handing off to Zac Becker for an assist.

#22 Mani Liddy (Sturt)

Another of the South Australian leaders and one of his side’s most prominent ball winners, Liddy proved an important four-quarter performer. The Sturt top-ager was typically strong around the ball, tackling hard and looking to bustle through congestion to release his outside runners. Liddy sometimes hacked his clearances forward but got good distance, and even found a bit of green ball around the ground through sheer work-rate. He put in a massive shift during the first half when WA was well on top, standing up in tough circumstances.

#23 Cooper Beecken (Glenelg)

Stationed among an under-siege defence, Beecken did a little bit of everything in an overall promising performance. The Glenelg backman was forced to play above his size in competing against the likes of Jack Williams at times, but fared well when running off his opponent on the rebound. Beecken timed his forward forays well to get on the end of handballs and deliver by foot, showing crisp skills and making good choices with his trust left boot.

#25 Max Litster (Woodville-West Torrens)

Another member of the backline who contributed aerially and across the ground, Litster proved his value as one of SA’s 2002-born prospects. The Woodville-West Torrens product has gained great experience at SANFL Reserves level this season and transferred his reliability to this outing. Litster made double efforts at the ball and wasn’t afraid to get in a contest, rising for spoils and chasing up ground balls. He was arguably among his side’s best handful of players overall, especially given he had plenty of work to do.

#27 Morgan Ferres (Sturt)

Ferres just about played a lone hand as SA’s most feasible forward target, presenting up the ground to good effect in what was a terrific first half performance. The Sturt tall worked his direct opponent over time and time again, easily getting separation on the lead and cleanly sticking his marks beyond the forward arc. Ferres was an important link for the Croweaters, but they could probably have done with another of him to make things happen inside 50. He wasn’t quite able to hit the scoreboard, and was moved to defence in term four.

#31 Lukas Cooke (Woodville-West Torrens)

Part of South Australia’s front six, Cooke usually does his best work as a marking option inside 50 but was made to work a little further afield on this occasion. The Woodville-West Torrens tall had a couple of difficult opportunities to kick goals in the first and fourth terms, but put one set shot out on the full while the other shaved the post. He had some nice moments in between when the going was tough, using his reach in the air and presenting on the lead.

#32 Zac Becker (Sturt)

Plenty of play went through Becker in defence, as he took on the task of manning Jye Amiss and mopped up plenty across defensive 50. He was tasked with the early kick-ins and went for distance with his massive boot, though saw plenty balls come straight back his way. Defensively, he got in good positions to make contests and intercept, including a couple of important marks and spoils. He was eventually shifted forward in term four and snared a goal for his efforts.

#33 Oscar Adams (Glenelg)

The tallest timber in South Australia’s starting back six, Adams had to be on his game against WA’s range of key forward options. The 198cm Glenelg prospect stood up strongly, attacking aerial contests and doing well to follow up once the ball had spilt off hands. He didn’t look to do too much with ball in hand, often taking the first and most effective option as SA shifted onto the rebound, using the ball cleanly for a player of his size.

#34 Jordan Lukac (Woodville-West Torrens)

Lukac’s physicality suited the intensity of the game, as the Woodville-West Torrens bigman looked to crash and bash his way into the contest. He played his usual ruck/forward role, rotating between both posts and faring well in the air. While he had a little more trouble gathering cleanly at ground level, Lukac worked hard for his side and added some strength around the ball.

#35 Oscar Steene (West Adelaide)

South Australia’s starting ruck, Steene showed promising potential as a 199cm prospect, but is still a touch raw. While he arrived at plenty of contests and got hands to the ball at most of them with his pure height and reach, Steene was made to battle hard to compete physically in the ruck and marking departments. Still, the West Adelaide tall has an aerial game he can build on.

Featured Image: Player’s fly in Saturday’s AFL U19 National Championships clash between WA and SA | Credit: SANFL via Twitter

Western Australia claims big win over South Australia in champs opener

WESTERN Australia has opened its 2021 AFL Under 19 Championships title defence with a commanding 29-point win over South Australia. Playing in front of a home crowd, the Sandgropers took control in the opening three quarters to blow the lead out to 43 points at the final break – though it should have been more with an 8.12 scoreline – before the visitors hit back with three goals to one in the fourth term, cutting the final margin back, 9.13 (67) to 5.8 (38).

Western Australia started strongly, denying South Australia any easy movement down the ground, and then found open space and runners when they had the chance. Within 12 minutes the home side had three goals on the board, and whilst not always perfect going inside 50, luck proved a fortune and the work rate was overwhelming.

After an early behind, Jye Amiss became the first goalkicker in the 2021 AFL Under 19 Championships, winning a free kick straight in front of goal and making no mistake. Less than 90 seconds later small forward Jesse Motlop pounced at ground level to extend the lead. Not a few minutes had passed and Brady Hough was legged as he went to pick up the ball inside 50, winning the free kick and nailing the set shot.

It took a while for South Australia to mount a threat going forward, with the best passage of play coming in the 16th minute mark of the term. It ended with Lucas Cooke who had a tight shot from the boundary line, but sprayed it out on the full. Jack Williams had a chance up the other end after a juggling contested mark inside 50, but also missed. A couple more chances went awry for South Australia with number one pick potential Jason Horne-Francis having some nice passages inside 50 with strong marks after a quiet start, but the likes of Jacob Van Rooyen stopped them in their tracks to help Western Australia to an 18-point lead.

Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and Mani Liddy were among the most lively for the visitors in the opening term, with Matthew Johnson, Angus Sheldrick and James Tunstill all among the better players for the Sandgropers.

The second term was more even with some end-to-end plays occurring early. East Perth’s Ethan Regan found his teammate in Amiss leading out with speed, and whilst the forward would miss this opportunity, he would convert a ripper later in the term. Instead 50m penalties would start to creep in with encroachments as Rhett Bazzo was the beneficiary first, but his set shot went to the left. Though the turnovers from South Australia out of defence were hurting, and eventually the home team drew a free kick inside 50 to Kade Dittmar who kicked their fourth consecutive goal to start the match.

It took another 50m penalty for South Australia to get on the board, this time off the boot of Glenelg’s Hugh Stagg who slotted through the visitor’s first about 10 minutes into the second term. South Australia had a lot more time in its forward half for the second term, but the likes of Bazzo and Van Rooyen were denying them time and time again with intercept marks or rushed behinds, saving certain goals. Matty Roberts was having a huge quarter, and in the end, another 50m penalty after a delayed tackle following a mark saw the South Adelaide teenager moved within range, and kicking a goal from just inside the arc.

The home team was far from done, with Amiss keeping up his undefeated streak of multiple goals in every game he has played this year, producing easily the goal of the day from the boundary home to slot the Sandgropers’ fifth of the contest. Whilst South Australia had a couple of inside 50s late, they could not find a target nor stop the fist of Bazzo on the line, leaving West Australia in front, 5.6 (36) to 2.5 (17) at half-time. Morgan Ferres and Max Litster were others who had impressed through the first half for the visitors, though to no avail with the West Australian midfield on top.

The third term was all Western Australia despite a slow start, and realistically should have capitalised even further than their three goals on the board. Ruck Jack South continued his solid first half with a prominent few touches in the opening few minutes, leading the way for the Sandgropers to get some early inside 50s. The armwrestle ensued with the visitors kicking out of defence again questionable. It was Hough who won a free kick courtesy of a downfield late bump, and he nailed a beautiful set shot from close to the boundary seven minutes in.

A rare forward foray showed off Horne-Francis’ class with a pinpoint bullet past three opponents into the leading Stagg’s arms, but Stagg could not finish it off. It would be the South Australia’s only real shot on goal as the term belonged to the home team. Not making them pay, Western Australia’s Judd McVee, Corey Warner and Williams had gettable chances whilst it would be Regan who from 50m launched and put it home for his side’s second 16 minutes into the quarter. He almost gave off a goal assist a minute later with clean hands to Hough for his third, but the Peel Thunder forward rushed in front of goal.

When Williams nudged his opponent under the ball in the final 30 seconds, the key forward was keen to atone for his straight in front shank minutes earlier. This time he was further out and kicking through the ball, he never looked like missing, sinking the shot after the siren to hand his team a 43-point lead at the final break.

South Australia started South Adelaide midfielders Horne-Francis and Arlo Draper forward, and it was the latter who took a strong mark and slotted a goal 90 seconds in to kick the Croweaters’ first since the second term. Meanwhile in the middle, Liddy was finding plenty of it going in hard. The West Australians maintaining the pressure forward, working hard and had a flying shot from Amiss who missed.

Both teams were playing possession football and the likes of Jase Burgoyne and Lewis Rayson were trying to create some movement going forward, while Horne-Francis attempted mark of the year flying above a couple of opponents but misjudging the flight. Luckily for the visitors the kick out of defence was poor and subsequent tackle on Draper resulted in another set shot for the South midfielder, though this time he missed. Moments later though Horne-Francis was held going for the mark and he slotted a goal in the 14th minute.

Western Australia finally got on the score 16 minutes into the term with a long kick in from Bazzo landing with Hough at ground level who quickly dribbled towards goal but hit the post. At the other end, Draper was again lively in the forward pocket, instead of taking the set shot chipped in to Cooke who tried to snap from the behind post but just missed. Soon the visitors would kick a third consolation goal as Zac Becker ran into an open goal to cut the deficit to four goals.

Liddy almost joined that consolation party with a flying shot from 50m but just missed. Western Australia went end-to-end and while the South Australian defence managed to win it back, a poor kick in the back pocket proved fatal. This time it was Lochlan Paton who intercepted and kicked it straight over the umpire’s head. That would prove to be the final goal of the day, with Western Australia getting up by 29 points, 9.13 (67) to 5.8 (38).

Bazzo was outstanding for Western Australia in defence, teaming up well with Van Rooyen in both intercepting and providing offensive dash, whilst the midfield took control against its higher-fancied opposition, with Johnson, Tunstill and Sheldrick all busy. Up forward, the potency of Williams, Hough and Amiss proved too much for the South Australian defence, with Wanganeen-Milera a rare highlight back there with slick skills amongst some errant disposal. Liddy and Roberts also pushed hard through midfield, whilst Ferres constantly provided an option leading out of the forward 50.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 3.2 | 5.6 | 8.12 | 9.13 (67)
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 0.2 | 2.5 | 2.5 | 5.8 (38)

GOALS:

WA: J. Amiss 2, B. Hough 2, J Motlop, K. Dittmar, E. Regan, J. Williams, L. Paton.
SA: H. Stagg, M. Roberts, A. Draper, J. Horne-Francis, Z. Becker.

DC BEST:

WA: R. Bazzo, J. Van Rooyen, M. Johnson, J. Tunstill, J. Amiss, B. Hough
SA: N. Wanganeen-Milera, M. Liddy, M. Roberts, M. Ferres, M. Litser, J. Burgoyne

Picture credit: SANFL Twitter

TEAMS | 2021 AFLU19s – Western Australia vs. South Australia

THE 2021 AFL Under 19 National Championships have finally arrived, with Western Australia set to take on South Australia at Lathlain Park on Saturday afternoon. The highly anticipated clash was initially delayed in its original Sunday slot, but is back on after eased border restrictions. The Croweaters will thus travel West, led by pick one contender Jason Horne-Francis, who lines up in midfield alongside deputy Mani Liddy and South Adelaide teammate Matthew Roberts.

Western Australia will be skippered by East Fremantle top-ager Finn Gorringe, who takes his place in defence while vice-captain Josh Browne prepares for an epic engine room battle. Fellow deputy Neil Erasmus will miss due to a bad corky, replaced by running machine Max Chipper. There are few real surprises across either line-up, though the hosts’ tall forward riches sees Jacob van Rooyen starting in defence. The Black Ducks are stacked in midfield too, with first round prospect Matthew Johnson squeezed out to a forward flank.

The South Australians boast a good mix of speed and class, with the likes of Port Adelaide father-son prospect Jase Burgoyne, Glenelg wingman Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, and top 10 candidate Arlo Draper among those to watch in the tricolours. Central District League representative Shay Linke was unlucky to miss the SA interchange, while electric Claremont small Jahmal Stretch would have narrowly missed the cut for WA. Both have been named as emergencies.

The action begins at 1:00pm local time, with both sides inevitably itching to get a proper taste of representative action. All 2021 National Championship fixtures are set to be broadcasted. Stay tuned to Draft Central over the next few days, as we’ll have a wrap of the game and Scouting Notes on every player to come on Monday.

>> PREVIEW: Where it’s won – WA vs. SA U19s

2021 AFL U19 National Championships

Western Australia vs. South Australia
Saturday August 28, 1:00pm AWST
Lathlain Park

FINAL SQUADS

Western Australia:

B: F. Gorringe, J. Avery, B. Watson
HB: R. Bazzo, J. van Rooyen, J. Hagan
C: C. Warner, G. Sheldrick, T. Woewodin
HF: M. Johnson, J. Williams, L. Paton
F: E. Benning, J. Amiss, J. Motlop
R: J. South, J. Tunstill, K. Dittmar

Int: J. Browne, B. Hough, J. McVee, E. Regan, M. Chipper
Emg: J. Busslinger, M. Chipper, K. Harbour, J. Stretch

South Australia:

B: M. Litster, Z. Becker, B. O’Loughlin
HB: C. Beecken, O. Adams, J. Burgoyne
C: I. Birt, M. Roberts, N. Wanganeen-Milera
HF: A. Draper, M. Ferres, L. Grubb
F: H. Stagg, J. Lukac, I. Dudley
R: O. Steene, J. Horne-Francis, M. Liddy

Int: L. Cooke, H. Jackson, C. Kennedy, J. Owens, L. Rayson
Emg: H. Harrison, S. Linke, L. Whitelum

Featured Image: (Left to right) West Australian leaders Josh Browne, Finn Gorringe, and Neil Erasmus | Credit: WAFL via Twitter

Where it’s won: Western Australia vs. South Australia Under 19s

THE 2021 AFL Under 19 National Championships are poised to go ahead in some form on Saturday afternoon, as Western Australia hosts South Australia at Mineral Resources Oval. While the clash, originally scheduled for Sunday, was postponed in the wake of state border closures, eased restrictions will allow the South Australian squad to travel without the need to quarantine.

With extended squads already announced for both states and plenty of stars among them, keen draft watchers will already have a good idea of who to watch in the highly-anticipated fixture. With those players in mind, we take a look at where the game will likely be won, and a few of the marquee match-ups poised to light up the big stage. Stay tuned, as both sides will be revealed tomorrow.

>> Squad Previews: South Australia | Western Australia

WHERE IT’S WON

The Midfield Battle

Both engine rooms match up quite well, with some of the premier players from either side set to feature at the centre bounces. All eyes will be on pick one candidate Jason Horne-Francis, who skippers the South Australian squad and will likely anchor the Croweaters’ midfield alongside top-age deputy, Mani Liddy. Add Matthew Roberts into the starting mix, and SA has a strong, reliable mix of ball winners.

That trio is matched well by WA’s likely lot, set to feature Subiaco pair Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson along with East Perth battering ram, Kade Dittmar. The trio has some serious size about it, measuring up at an average of 188cm compared to the 183cm stature of SA’s group. That may be levelled out by the physicality of Horne-Francis and Liddy, with Roberts and Johnson the types who will respectively look to thrive off that inside battle.

In terms of depth, both teams bat pretty deep. SA will look to rotate recent League debutant and top 10 prospect Arlo Draper from the front six, along with Glenelg bull Hugh Stagg. Classy Port Adelaide father-son candidate Jase Burgoyne is another viable option from half-back, along with the likes of Hugh Jackson, Cade Kennedy, and Shay Linke off the bench. On the outside are a couple of pure wingmen in Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and Isaac Birt, who provide some class and running power to further the team’s balance.

Western Australia’s depth is equally formidable. Corey Warner, the brother of Sydney’s Chad, and East Fremantle teammate Josh Browne would fancy starting spots, with the former also a capable wingman. The strong-bodied Angus Sheldrick has proved his worth as a mid-forward rotation piece, while James Tunstill is another East Perth ball winner who may feature, and Melbourne father-son hopeful Taj Woewodin can chip in from half-back. On the outer, Max Chipper is a running machine, while Brady Hough and Lochlan Paton have the versatility to contribute in multiple roles.

With a handy balance of inside grunt, class, and outside run, both midfields will be quite obviously central to their sides’ fortunes. WA’s representatives have already gotten a taste of how they may work together in a number of trial games, and while the SA squad will share plenty of familiarity, they may have some catching up to do. Having two leaders at the source certainly helps, though.

The Talls

Plenty has been made about Western Australia’s array of tall forward options, with the Black Ducks boasting a true embarrassment of riches in said department. Leading WAFL Colts goalkicker Jye Amiss is an absolute deadeye and doesn’t need too many opportunities to impact with multiple goals, while versatile East Fremantle tall Jack Williams thrives aerially and looks a likely centre half-forward/ruck candidate.

Having been thrown into defence during WA’s trial games, Jacob van Rooyen booted 11.5 in his last two Colts outings, while Claremont teammate Eric Benning has also shown his developing forward craft of late and could pinch-hit from the ruck. The Black Ducks are not as strong at the other end of the ground, but Swan Districts standout Rhett Bazzo is a classy intercept-marker who should organise the fort well and Jack Avery can play above his 190cm standing. 195cm bottom-ager Jedd Busslinger may also feature.

South Australia’s starting key defenders, Zac Becker and Oscar Adams will certainly have their hands full. The former reads the play well and is built nicely at 92kg, but the latter will have plenty to do aerially at 198cm, while Cooper Beecken (191cm) may have to play slightly above his size. The Croweaters have some height and power of their own at the other end, with Jordan Lukac and Morgan Ferres strong starting pair supported by Lukas Cooke and Luca Whitelum off the bench.

We may well see some big bags of goals kicked given how well both sides stack up in attack compared to defence, at least in the tall department. With 2021 looming as largely a midfielder’s draft at the top end, opportunity awaits for the talls who can step up on the big stage and potentially shoot into top 15 contention.

The Smalls

With so many bigmen taking the field, the smalls will be equally important in helping capitalise on contest spills in attack or mopping up down back. South Australia will gain a good mix of speed and smarts from Central District pair Lachlan Grubb and Isaiah Dudley up forward, while the likes of Blayne O’Loughlin and Lewis Rayson are serious rebounders in defence. Rayson may also roll up to a wing, while O’Loughlin can play forward or impact in midfield at 171cm.

WA has some dangerous small forwards to watch, headlined by Fremantle NGA prospect Jesse Motlop. Along with Claremont’s Jahmal Stretch and East Fremantle’s Kaden Harbour, there is some serious skill, speed and smarts at the feet of WA’s talls. Down back, Swan Districts defender Bryce Watson has impressed of late, while Finn Gorringe would provide some physicality to go with the class of fellow Sharks, Jed Hagan and Judd McVee.

Whichever set of smalls can better capitalise on the work of their talls will contribute greatly to opening the game up and releasing a bit of pressure off the bigmen. With such a focus on the talls and midfielders, these are the types who may pop up in important moments or have an impact after flying under the radar.

Featured Image: Western Australia’s Matthew Johnson (left) and South Australia’s Jason Horne-Francis in AFL Academy colours | Credit: Michael Klein/Herald Sun

Top of the Tree: The Larke Medal production line

VOID of an Under 18 National Championships for the past two seasons and with fading hope of some competition next month, keen draft watchers have been itching to see the nation’s best prospects in one place. While interstate action is on the back burner for the time being, we can always reflect on what greatness we’ve seen and just why the annual carnival is so special.

One of the most important reasons for the championships is granting prospects the opportunity to play at the highest level possible, locking horns with others striving just as hard for the same dream. It’s true the cream always rises to the top, and the top is often marked by who earns the Larke Medal – awarded to the best player in each year’s Division 1 championship.

The recipient is immediately marked as a player to watch among generation next and while the award dates all the way back to 1976, there have been many more hits over the last decade or so. Since 300-game Carlton champion Marc Murphy won the award in 2005, nine Larke Medallists have been taken with the first or second National Draft selections.

While the likes of Paul Salmon (1981), Paul Williams (1990) and Shaun McManus (1993) were among them, winners in the first 22 years of the medal’s history averaged 75 games at VFL/AFL level. That number has been bumped up to 120 games since 1999 with 11 recipients still active at the top level – including Tom Hawkins (2006) who is nearing his own 300-game mark.

Showcasing the elite pathway’s development, expansion sides Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) snared Larke Medal winners with top two picks for four consecutive years, producing respective future club captains in David Swallow and Stephen Coniglio. Soon after them came the likes of Dom Sheed and Christian Petracca, who have also risen to become premier players at the elite level.

Even more recently, Sam Walsh and Deven Robertson set new benchmarks with their respective disposal hauls at the championships, with the latter’s 30-touch average surpassing the former’s total disposal record, set just a year earlier. While Walsh was long viewed as the top pick in 2018’s crop, Robertson’s feats boosted his stocks massively in 2019.

Still, three of the last four Larke Medallists, including Robertson, have been taken outside the top 20 picks. They have shown their quality nonetheless, with 2017 winner Oscar Allen currently one of the competition’s most exciting young key position players, while 2016 recipient Jack Graham could not find a home until pick 53, but has gone on to win two AFL premierships with Richmond and looks a future captain.

Should we achieve some form of a championship this year, there are a bunch of top talents who would be worthy of such honours. Vic Metro’s Nick Daicos has proven a level above his peers in each game, so would be a hypothetical favourite, while fellow top pick contender Jason Horne would give him a great run in midfield for South Australia. Vic Country ball winner Ben Hobbs is another you could see taking over, while Western Australia’s Neil Erasmus always puts up eye-catching numbers.

Imagine Western Bulldogs father-son prospect Sam Darcy kicking bags for Vic Metro, or one of WA’s many key forwards like Jye Amiss or Jack Williams stamping their claims with massive goal tallies. Then there’s someone like Finn Callaghan, who could cement his rise to top five contention, while Under 16 carnival MVP Josh Rachele has the mercurial talent to shine again.

As was the case last year, we may not get a Larke Medal winner in 2021, but we can dream. With or without, the game’s future is in good hands with the next crop of draftees and there are many of them who would likely make themselves worthy of such credit should the opportunity present.

2021 AFL Draft Combine list released

THE list of 2021 AFL Draft Combine invitees was released on Monday, with 90 of the country’s brightest prospects selected to show their athletic wares next month. The list will be extended to 120, with 60 of that total allotment set to attend the National Combine on September 29-30 at Marvel Stadium. The remaining 60 invitees will participate in state-based testing days held around Australia.

>> Top 25: August Power Rankings update

Among the initial 90 invitees is an even spread of talent from each National Championships region. With Victoria supplying around half of the usual draft intake each year, 41 of the state’s best prospects (19 country, 22 metro) earned invites. 11 of the 13 included Allies squad members also turned out at NAB League level, giving the competition strong representation.

The West and South Australian crops look strong as ever, with both states producing 18 players to the initial intake. Among them is pick one candidate Jason Horne-Francis, who features alongside South Adelaide teammates and fellow first round fancies, Arlo Draper and Matthew Roberts. Subiaco pair Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson lead the WA contingent, along with a raft of key position options.

>> Indicative draft order: Who’s in the top 10 mix?

There aren’t too many surprises among the allotted crew, with only one player chosen outside of the Under 19 realm and 87 of the chosen 90 born in 2003. 20-year-old Central District key defender Leek Alleer is the lone ‘mature’ ager, while Eastern Ranges’ Corey Preston and Giants Academy member Harrison Grintell are the only 19th-year players in the mix.

For the most part, players have been selected directly from the representative squads put together ahead of this year’s National Championships, which continue to be postponed. Tasmanian Will Splann is one who came from outside the Allies squad, while Northern Knights pair Anthony Caminiti (tall forward) and Ned Long (midfielder) did not feature for Vic Metro after trials – though, the latter was injured.

Nick Daicos is a pick one contender

Nineteen players are club-tied, split between father-sons, Northern Academy products, and Next Generation Academy (NGA) hopefuls. Oakleigh Chargers teammates Nick Daicos (Collingwood) and Sam Darcy (Western Bulldogs) are father-son candidates who could yield bids within the top two picks, while Jase Burgoyne (Port Adelaide) will likely end up at Alberton outside of the first round.

Giants Academy standout Josh Fahey headlines the Northern Academy input, along with fellow AFL Academy member Austin Harris (Gold Coast). Top 10 candidate Mac Andrew looks set to be the sole NGA product taken before pick 20, but there is plenty of talent clubs will have exclusive access to.

Among them is rising St Kilda-tied pair Mitchito Owens and Marcus Windhager, who impressed enough to earn Vic Metro selection. Over in WA, ruck/forward Eric Benning (Fremantle) and athletic utility Ethan Regan (West Coast) have risen into contention, and the has been conjecture over Jesse Motlop, who also features as a Dockers NGA selection but will only land there past pick 40.

2021 AFL DRAFT COMBINE LIST

NSW-ACT:

Angus Anderson – Sydney Swans Academy
Ryan Eyers – Murray Bushrangers
Josh Fahey – GWS Academy
Harrison Grintell – GWS Academy
Patrick Voss – Oakleigh Chargers/GWS Academy

Northern Territory:

Andy Moniz-Wakefield – NT Thunder
Ned Stevens – NT Thunder/Gold Coast Academy

Queensland:

Will Bella – Gold Coast Academy
Austin Harris – Gold Coast Academy
Bodhi Uwland – Gold Coast Academy

South Australia:

Leek Alleer – Central District
Cooper Beecken – Glenelg
Isaac Birt – South Adelaide
Jase Burgoyne – Woodville-West Torrens
Lukas Cooke – Woodville-West Torrens
Arlo Draper – South Adelaide
Morgan Ferres – Sturt
Jason Horne-Francis – South Adelaide
Hugh Jackson – North Adelaide
Shay Linke – Central District
Cooper Murley – Norwood
Blayne O’Loughlin – North Adelaide
Lewis Rayson – Glenelg
Matthew Roberts – South Adelaide
Hugh Stagg – Glenelg
Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera – Glenelg
Luca Whitelum – Central District
James Willis – North Adelaide

Tasmania:

Sam Banks – Clarence
Baker Smith – Clarence
Will Splann – North Hobart

Vic Country:

Mac Andrew – Dandenong Stingrays
Jamieson Ballantyne – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Miller Bergman – Dandenong Stingrays
Tom Brown – Murray Bushrangers
Sam Butler – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Campbell Chesser – Sandringham Dragons
Judson Clarke – Dandenong Stingrays
Toby Conway – Geelong Falcons
Josh Gibcus – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Cooper Hamilton – Bendigo Pioneers
Ben Hobbs – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Mitch Knevitt – Geelong Falcons
Kai Lohmann – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Connor Macdonald – Dandenong Stingrays
Charlie Molan – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Josh Rachele – Murray Bushrangers
Josh Rentsch – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Jai Serong – Gippsland Power
Hamish Sinnott – Greater Western Victoria Rebels

Vic Metro:

Finn Callaghan – Sandringham Dragons
Anthony Caminiti – Northern Knights
Paul Curtis – Western Jets
Nick Daicos – Oakleigh Chargers
Sam Darcy – Oakleigh Chargers
Youseph Dib – Oakleigh Chargers
Josh Goater – Calder Cannons
Blake Howes – Sandringham Dragons
Tyreece Leiu – Eastern Ranges
Ned Long – Northern Knights
Mitchito Owens – Sandringham Dragons
Corey Preston – Eastern Ranges
Lachlan Rankin – Oakleigh Chargers
Josh Sinn – Sandringham Dragons
Jake Soligo – Eastern Ranges
Tyler Sonsie – Eastern Ranges
Zac Taylor – Calder Cannons
Dante Visentini – Sandringham Dragons
Josh Ward – Northern Knights
Darcy Wilmot – Northern Knights
Marcus Windhager – Sandringham Dragons
Karl Worner – Oakleigh Chargers

Western Australia:

Jye Amiss – East Perth
Rhett Bazzo – Swan Districts
Eric Benning – Claremont
Josh Browne – East Fremantle
Kade Dittmar – East Perth
Neil Erasmus – Subiaco
Brady Hough – Peel Thunder
Matthew Johnson – Subiaco
Jesse Motlop – South Fremantle
Lochlan Paton – West Perth
Ethan Regan – East Perth
Angus Sheldrick – Claremont
Jahmal Stretch – Claremont
James Tunstill – East Perth
Jacob van Rooyen – Claremont
Corey Warner – East Fremantle
Bryce Watson – Swan Districts
Jack Williams – East Fremantle