Category: News

WAFL Colts weekly wrap: Claremont clinch the 2019 premiership

THIS YEAR was one that WA’s most talented youngsters tasted the ultimate success by winning the 2019 Under-18 National Championships. A number of the players in that squad took to Optus Stadium on Sunday for the biggest day on the WAFL calendar. With talent scouts aplenty watching on, there was a real opportunity for one or more of these youngsters to take one major step towards their AFL dream.

After losing their first game to the Tigers this season, Peel responded to claim their other two encounters with the latest being the second semi-final two weeks ago by 34 points in a grinding affair. It would be interesting to see whether the minor premiers would be lacking a bit of sharpness having played just one game in the last three weeks. In contrast, Claremont were match hardened having had three very solid hit-outs during September. The Tigers were aiming for their 16th Colts Premiership and fourth this decade, while Peel was looking to break a 14-year drought and win the third in their history.

Read below for a re-cap of what was a grand final for the ages.

Claremont 13.4 (82) defeated Peel Thunder 11.11 (77)

He carries the same name as an NBA superstar and just like his namesake, Claremont’s Anthony Davis showed he was not afraid of the big moment by kicking the goal which won his side the 2019 Colts Premiership on a picture perfect day at Optus Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Tigers made a enterprising start with a goal to Jack Buller after just a minute of action. Peel then spent the next few minutes looking to find a response but the Tigers were intent on determined defending. The well deserved breakthrough for the favourites eventually came through Isiah Winder from a set shot. The Tigers were in the mood for a right scrap however, and Isaiah Butters took a strong mark and subsequently goaled from 35 metres. The lively forward then made it two in a couple of minutes when he converted an opportunistic snap. The Tigers were officially off to a flyer with Ben Schuhkraft kicking the Tigers’ fourth of the quarter. The swarming pressure of Claremont was a real feature all over the ground, as well as their ability to win the ball from stoppages and perhaps post-bye sluggishness was a factor too. But you never write off a class outfit and Peel did not finish a few games clear of their opposition without being exactly that. Firstly, Jarvis Pina converted form some quick thinking following a 50-metre penalty and then Ben Middleton made the most of a mistake by the Tigers on their last line of defence to cut the margin to two points at quarter time.

Peel claimed their first lead of the game early in the second term which resulted through some hesitant Tiger defence and Winder was able to snap truly from close range. The tide had now turned and it was Peel in the ascendancy. Some quick thinking was again able to catch their opponents off guard with Jaxon Egan converting. You felt Claremont needed the next one to stay within touching distance and stop the surging momentum of the minor premiers. Kade Lines delivered one on the chest to Max Spyvee and he kicked Claremont’s first for the second term. Middleton then responded by kicking his second from a acute angle, but the best forward on the ground in the first half was Butters and he kicked his third for the half through some opportunistic play.

The half-time margin was just four points in favour of Peel and it certainly reflected the state of the game with both teams having their periods of dominance but neither having that momentum to kick right away. Jack Cooley was the lead man when it came to disposals at the long break with 18 along with five inside 50s. Joel Western showed some great dash with 11 disposals while Callum Jamieson was giving his midfielders great service with 19 hit-outs. For Peel it was Tyrone Thorne with 14 disposals and Jackson Knight with 11 and three marks. Key mover Jarvis Pina was quiet with just six disposals for the first half but you would expect him to step up to the mark.

The adage that the third term is the premiership quarter was never more apt in this tight affair and Butters produced the best possible start taking a fine mark running back with the flight to kick his fourth to see the Tigers regain the lead. Buller was then left unattended 30 metres out and duly converted to give the Tigers a mini buffer. It was nip and tuck with mistakes occurring more readily due to some outstanding pressure by both teams. Peel nabbed back the lead in this fantastic ebb and flow contest when Ben Middleton kicked his third. The key forward was shaping as a match winner when he made the most of a pin-point kick from Egan and duly kicked his fourth major for the game. You could really notice the confidence in Peel’s play and there was no greater example than Middleton. He kicked his fifth for the game from right on fifty metres and Peel had their biggest lead of the contest, that being 14 points. The big question was if the Tigers had enough left in the tank to make one last push, or whether the favourites taken the Tigers best shot. What was certain was that the final 25 minutes of the season would be a fascinating one.

The Tigers started on the front foot showing everyone that they had something left in the tank by kicking two quick goals through Schuhkraft and Charlie Malone to cut the margin to two points. Connor Heuer responded for Peel to push the lead beyond a goal but once again the Tigers responded and it was Jye Clark with a quick snap.

It was certainly looking like the Tigers now had the momentum behind them and Malone was stepping up to the mark like good key forwards do. He produced a close range snap which was, the Tigers fourth in the term and gave them back the lead. There was enough time for Peel to hit back and Thorne hit back courtesy of a high free kick. Amazingly, there was another twist and with nerves of steel belying his age, Anthony Davis kicked his first of the game with two and a half minutes left on the clock and suddenly it was the Tigers game to lose. While it was the third lead change in ten minutes, there was still time for some late drama. Peel conjured up a centre break and stormed the ball inside 50. As the clocked ticked inside the 25th minute, you had an inkling there would be a hero in an attacking or defensive sense.

And it came courtesy of the latter with an outstanding piece of play by Tigers defender Leno Thomas in smothering a goalbound kick by Jonathan Ietto in the forward pocket which then ricocheted for a throw-in. It was one of those moments that will go down in club folklore for certain. A few seconds later, the siren went and it was jubilation for the Tigers and absolute devastation for the minor Premiers whose wait for another Colts premiership goes on. It might be scant consolation for the Thunder but once again, the Colts grand final was the best game on the showcase day for WA footy.

In a sign that you don’t need big numbers to have a quality game of footy, the overall disposal numbers were reasonably low (263-240 in Claremont’s favour). Inside 50s were understandably close (43-40 Tigers) but Peel had more scoring shots (22-17). It was also a testament to the closeness of the contest that the margin did not exceed 15 points throughout the four quarters.

Tigers midfielder Jack Cooley was the deserving winner of the Mel Whinnen medal for best player afield with 33 disposals, seven tackles, seven inside 50s and five tackles. Western was not as flashy as normal but displayed another side to his game by distributing by hand with 17 handballs and 23 disposals in total along with six tackles. Butters may have only had seven disposals, but his impact was incredibly telling to the end result with four goals and Malone was magnificent in the last quarter with two goals and had 11 disposals and three marks for the game. For the Thunder, Tyrone Thorne was involved in everything good that Peel produced for the game where he had 22 disposals, eight tackles three inside 50s and two marks. Middleton was absolutely magnificent as a leading target with five goals, five marks and four inside 50s to go with eleven disposals while Zachary Rankin was tenacious with 16 disposals, six marks, six tackles and five inside 50s.

The hard work is not done for a lot of these youngsters with the various draft combines taking place. For those who are selected, the sky will be the limit. And while there will be disappointment for those who miss out, there are plenty of examples of players who go through adversity and come out a lot stronger for the experience.

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.

“Unreal” premiership journey driving Healy to future success

NORTHERN Territory Under-18 representative Alysha Healy might be a year older than many of her AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships peers, but is still learning everything she can about the game. Hungry for knowledge on and off the field, the exercise and sports nutrition student said whatever happens with her on-field career in the future, her goal is to find a place within an AFL Women’s club. Already the 19-year-old has been through quite a journey growing up in the NT and progressing through to the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition.

“I’m originally from the Northern Territory so I started playing for the Waratah Football Club, well it’s been three years now,” Healy said. “I started in the Under 18s and then the year after that I captained the Under 18s team and just last year I played in the women’s team and we actually won the grand final so that was an incredible experience to be with all those senior women we have in there.”

Healy said the experience of winning a premiership was hard to put into words.

“It’s just so unreal, the journey that you travel with those girls, you just can’t describe it,” she said. “It’s just one of a kind, you share so many memories and ups and downs in the season, your hard work, all your trainings, all the strength and conditioning, it just all pays off, it’s a sense of relief and those girls become your family and you just play for each other.”

While her on-field success is important, so is her future career off-field, which is why the switched on Healy is keen to follow her passion in the sports industry.

“I’m now based in South Australia for University so I’ve started playing for Sturt in SANFL and I’m obviously with the club and with me being an overager in this comp, I’m hoping to get drafted.” Healy said. “That’s the dream, to play AFLW and to just be exposed to that experience and that level of footy. “(I’m studying) exercise sports science and nutrition. “I’m loving it and if I don’t end up being drafted, hopefully I can be a support crew for one of the AFLW teams and still be involved there.”

Studying university full-time while also managing a growing football career can be challenging, but Healy said her sport-study balance is getting there, with her social life being the one area that takes a hit.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle, but I think I’ll grow as time goes on and I’ll start to get that balance, uni and footy,” she said. “I’ve got two footy trainings in the afternoons and I’ve got uni during the days so I try and keep my weekends free. “You can’t really have a social life when you’re trying to be a professional footballer I guess and that’s just some of the sacrifices you’ve got to make to be elite.”

Since crossing from Waratah to Sturt, Healy has realised how much professionalism has gone into the South Australian competition to continue to nurture and develop the future of AFL Women’s.

“It’s really good actually, it’s different to playing in the NT,” Healy said. “It’s different standards, the professionalism both on and off the field is there and I love it. “The people at Sturt have welcomed me with open arms, I love the club and I’m just excited to see where I can go from there.”

Healy describes herself as a fast player, credit to her athletics background which is something she has done since she was young. Her power and speed combination enables her to create separation from an opponent at a contest, and create headaches for opposition players. She admits her football IQ and skills are areas she can build on, with her technique and decision making her current focuses. Healy said she draws much inspiration from a world-class athlete.

“I read Sally Pearson‘s autobiography a few times over and just reading her journey and where she’s been, how she’s come through so many injuries and just kept going despite all the obstacles, to just be where she is now, she’s just an incredible athlete,” Helay said.

Her family have always pushed her to do what she loves, and Healy said she is forever grateful for their support.

“I’ve done so many sports over the years and regardless of what it’s been, they’ve always been so supportive of me,” she said. “They were there at my grand final with the biggest smiles on their faces rushing down to me. “I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today without them pushing me through and supporting me.”

Martin leans on Stanton for football journey

WHEN you are new to a sport such as Australian rules football, you always look to find a mentor who can fast-track your development. When your football coach at your high school is an AFL Women’s player, then it is even better. For Haze-Lee Martin, that was exactly the situation she found herself in when she decided to take up the sport.

“Someone who has had a really big impact on my footy journey so far has been Jamie Stanton,” Martin said. “She was my coach at school and then she’s helped me through what I’ve been like through footy so far. “Even though she’s moved to Melbourne to play with North, she still keeps in contact and makes sure I’m staying on track and getting to the goal, which everyone else is, which is the draft.”

Stanton has since returned to Queensland for her AFL Women’s career, announced as a signing for the Gold Coast SUNS. A nice coincidence that the pair might cross paths once again with Martin a member of the SUNS Academy.

“I’m very new to football, I started off playing touch and netball,” Martin said. “So AFL is pretty new to me. I’m a year in to footy. “I started here at the (Southport) Sharks, it’s my first time playing. “Then I played through Sunsets, and I was fortunate enough to make the SUNS Academy and then from there I was fortunate enough to get into the Queensland side, and I’m here now.”

The choice to switch from netball to football was a tough one, but Martin admitted she had fallen out of love with the round ball game.

“I was very passionate with netball,” she said. “I always said I wanted to play that sport and I wanted to continue to play and what not, but I just kind of lost the passion and then I had mates who played footy and were like ‘come have a go’ and played at school.”

There there was another sport that took up her time and added another element to her Australian rules football journey.

“On the side I play Rugby Sevens, so I had the running game different, the tackling’s so different,” Martin said. “It was all something I had to get used to. “I picked it up fairly quickly I’d say given I’m a year in, but I’m still learning.”

Her ability to move down the ground – something she learned in Rugby Sevens – and her fierce attack on the ball are among her strengths out on the football field.

“Definitely my run and carry (is a strength),” she said. “I’m actually playing in a new position in this carnival. “I’m playing off the half-back and off the back, so taking on the game through the mid, running with the ball, taking a bounce, that’s definitely my strength. “Of course. I normally play midfield, I started off playing mid and now getting pushed to the backs and having to learn that mentality, having the mongrel, but still having the drive to want to attack. “It’s difficult, but it’s do-able.”

Martin said she hoped to improve her cleanliness at ground level and go hand-in-hand with her strengths to be able to give herself extra time with ball-in-hand if she was able to pick it up cleanly. All these areas she brings up with her mentor Stanton, someone who no doubt will continue to be a wealth of information for the aspiring AFL Women’s player.

“There’s not one thing we don’t talk about,” Martin said. “We talk about everything. “There’s some things I do well in a game, things I could improve on, just anything. “She’s had a major impact on (my game) and she’s also a mid player, she’s played down back as well so I feed off what she gives me as well.”

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.

Claremont clinches thriller of all thrillers

CLAREMONT secured its fourth WAFL Colts Premiership this decade with a stunning five-point victory over Peel Thunder at Optus Stadium.

Claremont’s Jack Cooley collected the Mel Whinnen Medal as best afield after he accumulated 33 possessions (18 contested), won 14 clearances, laid seven tackles, recorded seven inside 50s and took five marks in a powerful performance.

The Tigers got off to a brilliant start in the game when Jake Wilson found Jack Buller inside 50 within the first minute of the opening term. Buller went back and converted his first goal. Moments later, Peel got one back when Zachary Rankin speared a pass onto Isiah Winder who drilled through the Thunder’s first goal. Isaiah Butters kicked two great goals for the Tigers soon after; the first one came after he took a strong contested mark inside 50, and moments later he cleanly collected a bouncing ball before snapping through his second. Logan Young then added another one for the Tigers to extend the margin to 14 points. After receiving a 50m penalty, Peel captain Jarvis Pina played on, due to no-one being on the mark, and nailed a goal from 40m out. Ben Middleton snapped through his first goal soon after to reduce the margin to just two points at quarter-time.

The Thunder got off to an excellent start in the second quarter when Winder stepped around his opponent before he snapped through his second goal of the game. Soon after, Jaxon Egan nailed his first goal of the game, but Claremont’s Max Spyvee converted his set shot to score the instant reply. Middleton took a strong contested mark inside 50 on the boundary line, then wheeling around and snapping through his second goal. Just before the half-time siren, Butters roved a pack expertly and snapped through his third goal of the game, and kept Claremont within four points of Peel.

After the main break, the Tigers got off to an excellent start. Jye Clark kicked the ball inside 50 and Butters took a great mark going back with the flight of the ball. Butters then kicked his fourth goal. After receiving a free kick, Kade Lines speared a pass onto Buller, who went back and kicked his second goal. But from here, the Thunder and especially Middleton started to shift momentum. Winder speared a pass to Middleton who took a great diving mark, before he converted his third goal. Moments later, Middleton led strongly and was rewarded with a great pass from Egan. Middleton went back and nailed his fourth goal. Just before three-quarter time, Middleton used his body well in a marking contest to take a strong contested mark, before going back to kick his fifth goal. At three-quarter time, the Thunder had jumped to a 14-point lead.

In the third minute of the final quarter, Ben Schuhkraft took a strong contested mark on the goal-line and then kicked his first goal of the game. Charlie Malone roved a pack expertly, before putting through his first goal and suddenly the margin was just two points. Peel’s Connor Heuer kicked his first goal of the game to push the margin out to seven points. Clark then snapped the ball out of a pack to bring the margin back to just one point. Malone then snapped through his second goal after he roved a ruck contest brilliantly to put the Tigers back in front. Tyrone Thorne was awarded a free kick for being taken high in the 21st minute. The Rockingham Junior went back and slotted the goal to put the Thunder back in front. Two minutes later, Anthony Davis intercepted an attempted rebound out of defence by Peel and then slotted a goal that put the Tigers back in front. In the dying seconds, Jon Ietto had the ball on the boundary line and went to snap it through, but Leno Thomas became the hero for Claremont, smothering the ball out of bounds to secure victory for the Tigers.

FINAL SCORE:

PEEL THUNDER 3.5 | 6.7 | 9.11 | 11.11 (77)
CLAREMONT 4.1 | 6.3 | 8.3 | 13.4 (82)

BEST:

PEEL THUNDER: Tyrone Thorne, Ben Middleton, Jackson Knight, Zachary Rankin, Jack Sears, Nick Pemberton.
CLAREMONT: Jack Cooley, Joel Western, Isaiah Butters, Callum Jamieson, Ronin O’Connor, Leno Thomas, Anthony Davis.

MEL WHINNEN MEDAL: Jack Cooley (Claremont)

Keep an eye out tonight for an extended wrap of the game, and scouting notes through the week.

Collingwood create history with dominant second half

COLLINGWOOD painted Ikon Park black and white with a terrific 37-point win over the Western Bulldogs in the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) Grand Final today to claim their inaugural premiership. They had to overcome a second quarter fightback from the Dogs, before running out with the final five goals of the game to win 7.10 (52) to 2.3 (15) and remarkably heard the “Collliiinnnggwwwooooddd” chant echoed around the ground in the last quarter. Reliable key position defender Stacey Livingstone took out the Lisa Hardeman Medal for the best on ground following her 25 disposals and 10 marks – most of which were intercept grabs in defence.

The ball bobbled around in the opening couple of minutes with neither side able to control the footy and settle. Bri Davey inserted herself into the game straight away contesting every ball and finding the footy with ease while Collingwood cross-coder Sharni Layton did not muck around throwing her weight around in the first quarter and winning her own ball in the ruck to provide first use to the Pies. Collingwood retained some control locking the ball inside forward 50 and peppering away at the goals. The Dogs defence stood up time and time again withstanding the Pies pressure but Collingwood kept the forward pressure on despite being unable to convert with six points straight. Brooke Lochland got up high for the Dogs providing a release option while Mikayla Ward did her part for the Western Bulldogs taking a host of strong marks to try and nullify Collingwood. The Dogs defence worked in overdrive chopping off every option inside 50 and making Collingwood work for the ball with Simone Ruedin doing a wealth of work to repel the Collingwood forward forays and send the ball back up the other end. But the damn wall finally broke with Jaimee Lambert awarded a free kick 30 metres directly in front, the first goal of the game. Chloe Molloy created another forward opportunity with a great clearance in the middle of the ground streaming forward and bombing it long leaving Lambert to do the rest putting through her second in less than a minute pushing the lead out to 17 points.

The Dogs had a lot of the ball in their forward half but the Pies remained composed working it out of defence and down the wing. Livingstone did not let up down back controlling the defensive 50 with her ability to read the play and take an intercept mark. Brittany Bonnici took a strong mark deep in defence to chop off the Dogs scoring opportunity. Molloy showcased her strength with a huge tackle pushing her opponent into the ground. Sophie Molan was awarded a free kick directly in front about 30 out to secure the Dogs first goal of the game. The Dogs tails were well and truly up bombing the ball long inside forward 50 with plenty of repeat entries. Emma Mackay kicked an absolute blinder of a goal with the ball bouncing at right angles and dribbling through for their second in as many minutes. With the Dogs mounting a comeback the intensity lifted with Collingwood throwing everything at them in hope to maintain their one goal buffer. Davey took a huge mark throwing her body on the line and absorbing the body contact to keep the Pies nose narrowly in front at the half.

The third quarter started with a bang with Lambert and Lochland going toe-to-toe in a scuffle on the wing. Molloy bagged her first goal of the game with a kick along the ground and despite the Dogs best efforts to convince the umpires it was touched it was awarded as a goal. It was high intensity and physical opening couple of minutes with both sides throwing their body on the line. Gemma Lagioia played her role offering leads inside forward 50 and setting up plays for teammates. Bonnici showcased her strength to read the play and keep the ball inside the Pies attacking half. Bailey Hunt really stepped up her intensity working hard across the ground to win the footy and applying plenty of physical pressure. 35 Pies popped up everywhere in the third term taking a host of strong marks and sending the ball deep inside the Pies 50 with Sophie Alexander reaping the rewards and nailing her first for the game and their second for the quarter. Lagioia presented well up the footy all game taking a strong mark but couldn’t convert. Erica Fowler took a good intercept mark but failed to trouble the scoreboard only registering a point. The Dogs simply could not match the intensity applied by the Pies with Collingwood getting repeat entries and controlling the third term with their defensive set up. Alexander kicked a goal right on the three quarter time siren to give the Collingwood a commanding 26-point lead heading into the final change. 

With one hand on the premiership cup the Magpies maintained their composure and reigned supreme. Despite the Dogs best efforts it was a case of a little too late. The Western Bulldogs pressed hard holding the ball in their attacking 50 and creating options but the Pies were up to the task pouncing on every opportunity. 16 Dogs highlighted her class with a silky pick up off the ground but a pulverising tackle from the Pies saw the ball gobbled back up. Davey showed her class with an underground handball to Lambert on the wing to push the ball further down the lies for the Magpies. Lochland did not let up twisting and turning on the wing to try and propel the ball into the Dogs forward but they struggled to penetrate the Collingwood defence end. Goals to Lagioia and Mikala Cann wrapped up proceedings with last quarter goals to ensure the Magpies got home in a terrific effort.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.3 (15)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 2.6 | 2.6 | 5.9 | 7.10 (52)

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: E. Mackay, S. Molan.
Collingwood: S. Alexander 2, J. Lamber 2, M. Cann, G. Lagioia, C. Molloy.

ADC BEST:

Western Bulldogs: E. Gavalas, B. Hunt, K. Lamb, B. Lochland, A. Guest.
Collingwood: S. Livingstone, J. Lambert, B. Davey, G. Lagioia, C. Molloy.

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.

NAB League Boys team review: Gippsland Power

AS the NAB League grand final approaches, we take a look at the sides that are no longer in contention for the title; 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 Gippsland Power.

Position: 2nd
Wins: 11
Losses: 4
Draws: 0

Points For: 1091 (Ranked #4)
Points Against: 856 (Ranked #3)
Percentage: 122.90
Points: 44

Top draft prospects:

Caleb Serong

The hard-nosed and aggressive ball winner was outstanding in each of his five NAB League outings spilt at either end of the season, while also performing for Geelong Grammar and Vic Country in a high quality year of football. Serong is competitive and his standards are high, helping him get the best out of himself in his time at the Power. He could well be the third player taken after Oakleigh’s two stars, offering goals up forward or a reliable midfield asset to whichever club he ends up at.

Sam Flanders

Flanders’ stocks have risen on the back of a massive finals campaign where he proved he can take big games by the scruff of the neck and make them his own. His combination of inside work and forward prowess makes him a rare prospect, and one who is now pushing the likes of Serong to feature among the top five picks. Explosive yet clean, Flanders has lived up to all expectations coming into the year and has definitely added to the high-flying forward profile he built in his bottom-age season.

Others in the mix:

The leading Country side this year in terms of draftable talent, Gippsland should have a good number of players taken throughout each round. Tall forward/ruck Charlie Comben has shown great improvement to thrown his name in the hat, with skipper Brock Smith a consistent figure throughout the year who missed the back end due to injury, and Riley Baldi is another mainstay who proved his worth. Fraser Phillips is a dynamic forward with huge upside who should also be in the mix alongside classy outside movers Leo Connolly and Ryan Sparkes. The form of Hawthorn NGA prospect Harrison Pepper will give the Hawks something to think about come November, too.

BnF chances:

Flanders’ impact on each game he played will put him right up there despite playing less games than others, while the likes of Connolly, Tye Hourigan, Sam Berry and the Baldi brothers enjoyed consistent patches throughout the middle of the year to give them good chances of getting up.

2020 Draft Crop:

While the class of 2019 has been incredibly strong, the Power has been able to blood a good number of bottom-agers this year which bodes well for sustained form in 2020. Midfield bull Berry and exciting forward/wingman Ryan Angwin lead the charge at this stage, with versatile tall Zach Reid another with plenty of promise. The likes of Will Papley, Tom Fitzpatrick and Tyran Rees saw plenty of action in their bottom-age years too, so should feature heavily again next time around.

Final word:

Gippsland Power will be disappointed they ultimately fell one win short of the decider again, but still had plenty to enjoy this season with a number of draft prospects stepping up and having most of the Vic Country squad this year. The Power were the only Country side in the top seven teams, and they still have some bottom-age talents who will look to take the next step up in 2020. Expect another strong season next year with some important roles filled already based on their form this year.

VFL Women’s preview: Grand Final – Western Bulldogs vs. Collingwood Magpies

A MASSIVE VFL Women’s season and finals series all leads up to the Grand Final this weekend, with a blockbuster match between Western Bulldogs and Collingwood kickstarting a big day of footy action at IKON Park. While Collingwood sat atop the ladder for majority of the season and have class and confidence to boot, the Bulldogs have the added bonus of a six game winning streak, with the most recent a 12 point victory against the Pies in the semi-final two weeks ago. However, the Magpies cannot be written off, with a stellar performance in the preliminary final last week earning them a well-deserved spot in the grand final.

WESTERN BULLDOGS v. COLLINGWOOD

Grand Final – 22/9/19
11:35am
IKON Park

With big names headlining both sides, this match is a battle that will be won through the midfield. Though both coaches have their own game plan, Collingwood’s Penny Cula-Reid and Western Bulldogs’ Sean Kavanagh can agree on one thing – they must stop the midfield flow to limit ball movement coming out of their attack.

“We’ll really need to control and influence the supply, not just through our backs but emphasising through our midfield and the way it comes out of our forward line as well,” Kavanagh said, stating that star players like Jaimee Lambert will find the footy regardless of defensive efforts.

“It seems like we’ve got similar game plans,” Cula-Reid said. “It’s stopping it at the source, trying to defend the whole ground and not just our back half. We know they’ve got a few speedsters down back so it’s just making sure the ball doesn’t get down there, that’s the biggest thing,” she said.

Dominant players such as Britt Bonnici and Bri Davey have the ability to find the ball anywhere on the ground so it is key for the Bulldogs to limit ball movement coming out of their attack. The Western Bulldogs will be aiming to prevent the Pies from getting any freedom in the forward half, with Lambert able to take advantage of any ball coming her way.

The 2019 leading goalkicker has impressed week on week, dictating play with ball in hand and proving to be a massive threat inside 50 with her accuracy and footy smarts to boot.

While the Dogs may not have that one star player up forward who they rely on to boot a bag, it creates a host of issues for the Magpies who will need to lock up their defensive half to reduce the options inside forward 50. Brooke Lochland and Danielle Marshall are just two of a smattering of impressive performers inside 50 for the Bulldogs who could cause headaches for the Pies.

The Bulldogs’ semi-final victory graced the side with a week off prior to the grand final, while the Magpies played the Southern Saints in the prelim. With both sides making their first VFLW grand final appearances on the weekend, it make this match a big one for the progression of women’s footy especially ahead of the AFLW draft.

“One of our main things was to play as many games as possible, giving our VFL girls the opportunity to showcase what they have ahead of the drafting,” Cula-Reid said, with the extra game last round hopefully giving the Magpies an added edge when they take on the Bulldogs.

For Kavanagh, it is the improvement of young up and comers that has spurred on the Dogs in their finals campaign. The Bulldogs come into this match with confidence in their back pocket and a good batch of players that has solidified with every match this season, forging connections across the field with young gun Elisabeth Georgostathis fitting in seamlessly with the likes of captain Mickayla Ward.

“The gap between our AFL and VFL girls is closing which has been very pleasing. That’s our role, that’s my role, to develop these girls for the draft,” Kavanagh said. “If they end up in a Bulldogs jumper – fantastic, and if they don’t, if they’re on an AFLW list next season that’s ultimately where we want to get them to. So that development is probably where our improvement has come from.”

While the Bulldogs have confidence and improvement on their side, the Magpies have the belief, class and determination to call the shots if they play their game right.

“It’s which team can play their brand the longest, which team can play four quarters, who doesn’t have the lapse of concentration during the game,” Cula-Reid said. “It’s been a long season for the girls, the staff, the coaches, but it’s one more week, one more game, it just happens to be the most important game of the season.”

“The Bulldogs play a great brand of footy and we’re really excited … hopefully we play our game a little longer than they play their game and see the best team win.”