Category: Player Focus

WA U19s Player Focus: Neil Erasmus (Subiaco)

SUBIACO midfielder-forward Neil Erasmus has become arguably Western Australia’s top draft prospect in 2021 after some outstanding form to date. On Saturday, he made his return from a month-long injury lay-off, helping his state Under 19s side defeat a select East Perth squad 16.6 (102) to 9.6 (60). The 17-year-old got right back to his ball winning ways, notching 30 disposals and six marks as he warmed to the contest nicely.

With averages of 28 disposals, eight marks and four tackles at WAFL Colts level for Subiaco, and 37 disposals, nine marks and a goal for Hale School in the PSA, Erasmus is as consistent and dynamic an accumulator as any among the talent pool. We put his latest performance under the Player Focus microscope, covering his every move quarter-by-quarter.

>> Scouting Notes: WA U19s vs. East Perth

Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia

DOB: 2/12/2003
Height/Weight: 188cm/80kg
Position: Midfielder/Forward


Overhead marking
Clean skills

2021 Averages:

WAFL Colts: 28.0 disposals | 7.8 marks | 4.0 tackles | 4.0 inside 50s | 0.3 goals (1 total)

Source: WAFL

WA Under 19s 16.6 (102) def. East Perth 9.6 (60)

Player Focus:
#21 Neil Erasmus (WA U19s)



The West Australian coaching staff would have been forgiven for wanting to ease Erasmus back into action off his quad injury, but the 17-year-old proved ready to go as he started at the opening centre bounce.

His first touch was a sighter for things to come, an uncontested mark at half-back which was followed by a neat kick down the line. In an early showing of his accumulative ability, Erasmus worked into space to receive the kick back and chip another forward.

He looked more comfortable in those open spaces during the opening exchanges, with the couple of times he got first hands to the ball in-tight resulting in rushed handballs away under tackling pressure. That tendency would later be refined.

Most of Erasmus’ work was done by hand as he peeled off the stoppages and worked back to finished the term with seven disposals (two kicks, five handballs) and two marks, despite going off sore with under five minutes left to play.


After being clipped in the latter stages of the first quarter, Erasmus wasn’t sighted at the opening centre bounce of term two. Once rotated on, he was thrust straight back into the on-ball mix and took some time to get involved.

The Subiaco star’s first big moment came with a terrific overhead mark at half-back, cutting across the waiting contest to pluck the ball solidly. In that same passage, Erasmus went on to chain three disposals together, following his short kicks to get the ball back and continue his side’s forward momentum.

In those instances, Erasmus was clean and used both feet with efficiency, showing great improvement in the kicking department. While not overly quick, he also hit ground balls at speed and was quite slick in his ball handling.

He fed plenty of runners in term two to finish with eight disposals (four kicks, four handballs) in total, bringing his tally for the half up to 15 disposals and four marks.


Having attended nine of 14 centre bounces in the first half, Erasmus was present at all seven during term three as he produced his equal-most productive term – at least in terms of pure numbers.

He began to show great poise in possession, taking time to assess his options before delivering neat kicks forward or flicking out handballs under pressure. His use by hand was again effective in releasing runners and opening up the play.

Erasmus also had a good defensive moment deep in his own 50m arc, corralling an opponent towards the boundary line and laying a tackle to force the throw-in.

He finished the quarter with eight disposals (four kicks, four handballs) once more, to go with one mark, one tackle, and an inside 50 kick as he broke clear from the corridor.


Erasmus began to utilise his kicking game in more diverse and impactful ways during a strong final quarter, in which he was again rotated on through the midfield.

His first break with ball in hand came at a centre bounce, where he swooped on the loose pill and kicked a bullet pass up to half-forward, before following up to ask for the hands back.

He still worked around the ground to find plenty of uncontested ball, but also snared first possession more often at the coalface. Erasmus’ best moment came late on as he received on the wing, turned forward quickly and executed a beautiful pass to assist Richard Farmer’s goal.

In the end, another seven disposals (four kicks, three handballs) saw Erasmus finish with 30 touches (14 kicks, 16 handballs) and six marks to put the stamp on an impressive return outing.

In closing…

Erasmus firmed his case as Western Australia’s top draft prospect this year, hardly missing a beat in his return from a quad injury. The Subiaco talent ran out a full game in midfield and leant on his running capacity to find plenty of the ball, which he has had no trouble doing this year. He displayed marked improvement with his kicking on both sides and was typically clean by hand, while showing a single glimpse of his aerial ability with an overhead mark in term two. While not overly quick, Erasmus showed nice poise under tackling pressure and looked to stay on the move at stoppages, most often peeling forward once his teammates had won the contested ball. He attended 21 of 29 centre bounces for the day, but found most of his 30 disposals around the ground. As he continues to work back to full flight, Erasmus will continue to lurk around the top 10 mark, but certainly looks a first round talent.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

WAFL League Player Focus: Jesse Motlop (South Fremantle)

SOUTH FREMANTLE young small forward Jesse Motlop, the son of former Port Adelaide and North Melbourne player Daniel, has had an impressive 2021 season across the WAFL Colts and PSA competitions. His form and undeniable potential earned him a WAFL League debut with South Fremantle, against fellow finals contenders Swan Districts.

The Fremantle Next Generation Academy prospect ended up being an important part of the side’s six-goal victory, chiming in with two goals of his own in the third quarter whilst setting up a few more throughout the entirety of the game.


Jesse Motlop
South Fremantle/Western Australia

DOB: 23/11/2003
Height/Weight: 176cm/74kg
Position: Small Forward/Midfielder

Strengths: Speed, smarts, goal sense

2021 Averages:
WAFL Colts
(4 games)

15.3 disposals | 2.5 marks | 3.0 tackles | 4.0 inside 50s | 1.5 goals (6 total)

Image Credit: South Fremantle/WAFL

2021 WAFL League, Round 15 | Swan Districts 9.5 (59) def. by South Fremantle 15.5 (95)

#49 Jesse Motlop (South Fremantle)

Stats: 13 disposals (10 kicks, 3 handballs), 6 marks, 4 tackles, 1 inside 50, 2 goals


It was a low-key opening term for Motlop in his debut senior outing. Starting the game on the bench, he wasn’t sighted until about eight minutes in as he took his position in the goal square as the deepest forward for his first centre bounce.

His first involvement in general play came deep inside 50 where he hit the front and centre of a marking contest, cleanly picking the ball up off the ground and in a position to run into an open goal, but was brought down as soon as he picked it up for a stoppage.

He held the ball to an opponent not long after to get a stoppage in front of goal, though it didn’t result in anything. The only disposal Motlop would record for the first term came as he pushed up the ground to be a switch option from the corridor to the boundary, taking the ball on his chest uncontested before running it up a few steps and then lacing it out to a teammate on the wing, who was able to move the ball quickly and get it inside 50 for a goal.

Despite not racking up numbers on the stats sheet, Motlop was involved in the South Fremantle forward half, pressuring opponents to cause a few turnovers and stoppages, giving his side opportunities to score and making his one kick count.


Once again taking the role as a deep forward, Motlop wasn’t given many opportunities to use the footy, with the talls of South Fremantle being the targets and Swan Districts doing well to intercept balls as they flew in. He did continue to show the pressure work he did the previous quarter, laying two tackles around the forward 50 where his second efforts saw him get back at the opposition with the ball. He showed a lot of courage at times as well, getting involved in a marking contest where neither player held the ball, but he got straight back up to follow up.

Motlop moved up the ground to get involved when it was a bit of an arm wrestle, where he won the ball off the hands of a marking contest and followed his momentum by running back towards his defensive 50 through traffic, able to maintain possession whilst running through a pack of five Swan Districts players. He side-stepped to avoid being grabbed and hit a handball to a runner from the backline. He made it obvious the front and centres were a speciality area a few times, demonstrating why he was being paired under a tall forward down deep with his clean pick-ups below his knees.

Motlop worked into the game well in the second quarter, making the most of his opportunities to show his potential for eye-catching plays, but really impressing with his pressure work, second efforts and reading of the ball off hands more than anything, playing his small forward role particularly well despite not hitting the scoreboard.


The third quarter saw Motlop taking a bit more freedom and pushing up the ground, getting free around the back end of the centre square to be used a couple of times by his teammates. In those instances, he was able to lose opponents with his acceleration or repeated lead efforts. He followed up with generally good ball use, spotting out leading teammates up the field to put them in a good spot to move the ball forward.

One kick into the middle of the ground initially looked poor, but bounced well for his teammates to win the contest and get it long forward for an easy South Fremantle goal. Motlop’s high work rate was again on display, as he made gut runs to impact opponents, even if they moved the ball on before he got there he’d follow up and try and impact the next contest.

He got himself on the scoreboard with two goals in the third quarter, with both being a good example of his forward craft and ability to get free in dangerous spots. The first was more through his high work rate and repeat leading efforts, as he lost his opponent inside forward 50 and was spotted up by a teammate, taking a mark over his head about 40 out right in front of goal, where he went back and slotted it straight through from afar. The second goal came through his footy smarts, peeling off from where a pack was going to form, standing free right in front of goal about 25 out, then being used by his teammate coming out of the pack taking it on the chest and slotting his second.

Motlop continued to do the things he had been doing well in the third, whilst adding two goals for some additional impact and reward for all his hard work over the game. When given the freedom to push further up the ground, he finds the ball and can get into good spots to be a marking option, with generally strong ball use forward and a great ability to kick start scoring opportunities with his disposal choice.


As both teams reverted to a safer way of moving and carrying the ball the opportunities for a front and centre specialist dried up very quickly, meaning Motlop wasn’t as lively around the goals but still won a bait of ball around the boundary line inside 50. There were a couple of times he found himself stuck with a close option, but opted to kick to the square or go for goal, but the Swan Districts defenders would intercept and move the ball on. Moved up the ground and got a mark in the defensive 50 as South brought it in from a behind and kicked well to a teammate.

He essentially handed a goal to one of his taller teammates in the final quarter, as he collected a ground ball off one bounce about three meters out from the goal square, standing his ground in a tackle as he spun to face the goals, handballing it off to ensure it was a goal.

Closing thoughts:

It was an impressive debut at League level for Motlop after impressing at Colts and PSA levels through the year. He looked comfortable amongst bigger bodies and didn’t noticeably struggle with the physicality, looking courageous as he ran head first into packs and impacted contests in the forward half of the ground.

He had quite a few flashy moments with his agility and ability to find the right options with his disposal, setting up scoring plays, but his fundamentals of the game and work rate are what ultimately sets him up to be the smart and damaging player he is, forcing turnovers or backwards disposals from the opposition by pressuring them with his closing speed. This game showed a good base for Motlop and suggests plenty of potential to impact at the next level.

Image Credit: South Fremantle/WAFL

2021 VFLW Player Focus: Sophie Locke (Port Melbourne)

OUR second Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Player Focus for the week takes a look at Port Melbourne’s Sophie Locke whose season came to an end during the Borough’s defeat at the hands of the Southern Saints, but capped off a really impressive year from the former Murray Bushrangers and Vic Country representative.


Starting in the forward line, with a quick start to the game getting it kicked inside their 50m, Locke sprinted for the ball got a handball away and immediately applied a shepherd and resulted in a point, which was very smart play by the Port Melbourne forward with the instinct to straight away to give and defend. Holding width around contest throw ups gives her space to wait for it to come to her with the knowledge that there is a good chance their ruckman will get the advantage hit so she can run onto it. Burrowing into the packs and putting everything on the line just to get some clearance for her team with nothing holding her back. Ten minutes had gone by in the first term with Port Melbourne up by a point, Locke made her way up around the right side of the wing, pushing up making sure the opposition is covered and they do not have any easy targets.

Locke got around a teammate after kicking a goal and playing some real good hard football, where she was always an option for her teammates and pushing hard. With a minute left to go, Locke did what she needed to do off of the top of the 50m down the opposite end she was playing. Running through the middle and kicking it inside 50m with players running after it, she created a stoppage. Port Melbourne were a goal up at quarter time in a tight contest.


Starting the term in the top four in disposals in her side, unfortunately a lot of the start of the second quarter – up to seven minutes – the ball was stuck in the Southern Saints forward line where there was not a lot that Locke could do other then be ready for when the ball drifted her way. Locke made her way in the area and impacted straight away with a free kick going the way of St Kilda, with a rushed pressured kick coming off the right side of the boot inside the oppositions 50m where Locke was able to push it over the line. With two minutes to go in the second term, Locke pushed up to help the midfielders out and become an option.


Once again Locke pushed hard covering every hole in the opposition’s forward line, making sure everyone has an opponent which just showed the leadership she brought to her side. Being the one at the top of the forward 50m, we see the ball travel to Locke where she attacked it straight away and held it in to help give Port Melbourne a chance to score. Eleven minutes in, the ball was inside Port Melbourne’s 50m. Locke picked the ball up with an opponent on her and fakes to the left and kicks the ball to the right and kicks it through the two big white poles with the ending result being a goal. Locke also showed a nice defensive effort with a big shepherd for teammate Claire Dyett for an un-pressured kick towards goal but goes through as a behind. It was very unselfish play by Locke, recognising her teammate was in the better position and straight away thought to protect her.


Southern Saints were up by nine points when the fourth term started. Port Melbourne needed to get a couple goals early to close the score. Halfway through the last quarter, Locke wrapped up an opposition player and won the free kick. She looked to run and carry, sold candy, dodged another player and just missed getting the football to the boot. It was a very smart move to get the ball running and going down field but unfortunately it all did not work out.


Sophie Locke showed some great football skills and her development was fast-tracked this year playing with players who are at the top end of the AFLW, not only that, but also being educated by them as well. Showing some great passage of play, to take the game on more and to be aggressive at the ball, whilst showing her confidence more. There will be exciting times ahead for the young footballer. Locke ended up with eight disposals, four kicks, one mark, four handballs, six tackles and one goal.


Picture credit: Port Melbourne VFLW

2021 VFLW Player Focus: Georgie Prespakis (Essendon)

IN our latest Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Player Focus, we take a look at Essendon talent and Calder Cannons graduate Georgie Prespakis after an outstanding performance in her first VFL Women’s final on the weekend.


Prespakis started very strong in the midfield being used as Essendon’s main target, continuously kicking it forward to keep the ball alive. Prespakis made use of the football whilst on the ground, resulting in a forward 50 entry their way. With Prespakis laying hard tackles, it gave Essendon’s forwards more opportunity to score. Setting up behind the back of the ball ups let Prespakis the chance to get it over the back and to run and carry because of all the space she already created for herself.

With Casey Demons scoring the first goal of the match, it had Essendon hungrier for the football with Alana Barba being another outstanding player who viciously attacked the ball with everything she has got. Tara Slender showed a lot of effort to boar into the pack inside their 50m goal square but unfortunately could not keep it alive as Casey earned the ball back through a kickout. Prespakis on the other hand kept the ball alive 10 minutes and 45 seconds into their first quarter, laying tackle after tackle to create another ball up as it’s on top of their 50m. With only four minutes to go in the first term, Prespakis bashed through the pack and kicked too much to the right side for one behind.


Early start again for Prespakis with a free kick on the left side of the field within 40 seconds in the second term. Holding space around the ball shows Prespakis’ game smarts not just at stoppages but even when the ball is a 50/50, that resulted her in getting the ball and turning side on and banging it into her teams inside 50 that turned into a goal from teammate Jessie Davies. With 10 minutes passed in the second term, Prespakis made her way back onto the ground heading straight for the ball as per usual, with her tackling pressure nailing a Casey Demons opponent and winning a free kick.

She waited a few seconds and opted to play on and boots it deep into the goal square with teammate Mia-Rae Clifford taking a beautiful mark that resulted as a behind for the Bombers making it a 16-point lead. Not long after, Slender met the ball out in front as she does and receives the kick from 30 metres out straight in front of goals and nails it with her left foot.


Third term starts with Prespakis starting in the middle again, already showing her elite her ball movement across the ground. Giving away a free quick early, it made her eager to win it back for her team as she tracks the ball very smartly and leaves space at ball ups so she can run through with her speed and be free. After Casey Demons kicked their second goal of the match, Prespakis held her ground in the middle where the ball started to flood the opposite way but turned back and she set herself up perfectly putting pressure on the opposition to not get the ball cleanly. Second efforts late in the quarter helped Essendon put it in their favour but unfortunately time ran out.


The Casey Demons 4.1 (25) were catching up to Essendon 4.5 (29), with Prespakis on again in the midfield. She showed a lot of good passages of play throughout the previous three quarters. With a hot heated three minutes into the last quarter being in Casey’s end the whole time, it put Essendon under pressure, but with Prespakis’ tricky skills with a backwards handpass to her player trying to clear the ball out of the oppositions 50 was becoming a struggle. With Essendon only up by three points it was crucial everyone stayed focused. Prespakis tried her hardest to keep up with the play, but it became a little bit difficult after her enormous endurance effort throughout the whole game, but she still continued to run, and push hard to make contests.


Georgie Prespakis showing her talented skills throughout four consistent quarters, with ending up with 14 disposals, 10 tackles, nine clearances and two inside 50s. The promising young talent showed her game smarts are a level up from what she is used to playing, and playing with and against senior opponents who have already had the taste of playing the top level. The athleticism shown from her from a tough game shows a really exciting and bright future for the young talent becoming something real.

2021 VFLW Player Focus: Meagan Kiely

NORTH Melbourne skipper Meagan Kiely has been one of the, if not standout player in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition in 2021. Kiely has racked up an average of 24.5 disposals, 5.3 marks, 5.4 tackles, 3.6 clearances, 3.2 inside 50s and 3.2 rebound 50s in a real all-round effort for the Roos. North Melbourne might have been eliminated from the VFL Women’s title race in the last round of the season, but it did not stop Kiely putting in a record-breaking performance. We take a look at her performance in our latest Player Focus.



First quarter we saw Kiely with some real leather poisoning when she gets the quick handball to the right side of who boots it into their 50m in the first 15 seconds of the game with a beautiful delivery to teammate Elisha King. With a lot of the ball early, Kiely held her space nicely and lead into space that resulted as a mark, continuing with a quick penetrated kick inside their 50m again and hit teammate, Nikki Wallace up, that viciously resulted in their first goal of the game with a hard direct kick to Sarah Skinner. Holding her space early around stoppages wanting the backwards pass, that results in a run and carry. Five minutes into the first quarter Kiely lays a very important tackle for North where it becomes a ball up inside their 50 for another chance on goal. She used her powerful legs to burst through a pack to fight to put another score on the board that was touched and was a behind. Really good footy smarts when she received the ball from the middle and straight away looked to her right side to use her winger to try to create more space.


Second quarter with Kiely starting strongly in the midfield again who quickly got the touch early with a quick kick, that resulted into a turnover, but then we see positively slowly watch her creating and holding space to be the one who will be there to handball backwards to reset or to get the handball receive. Being hardly played on with struggling to get the same touches she was in the first quarter, Kiely stays composed. With 20 seconds left in the second term, North Melbourne have a free kick just outside their 50m, kick goes inside 50 with Kiely flying up for a specky to mark the ball and just misses, but ball hits the ground which lead to North scoring another goal.


It is a tight game with the scores being 3.4 (22) to St Kilda’s 3.3 (21) with North being down by a point. With a kick from the left side of St Kilda’s 50, Kiely clears the ball out. The North captain trying everything she can in the third term but finding it hard to clear it out with St Kilda’s defenders being too strong. Slowly starting to slow the play down while having it in their possession, Kiely has a kick from the middle and slows the play down to keep in control.


Fourth quarter starts with a centre clearance that goes North’s way, with North being hungry for the ball and Kiely trying her best and doing what she does best. With her endurance and speed keeping up with the play from already playing a tough fast three quarters. With St Kilda taking over not only on the score board but the ground as well, it has made it very hard for North’s skipper to continue playing her way, even though she never gave up and continued to put her best foot forward at every opportunity she could

TOTAL STATS: 36 disposals, 11 marks, 2 tackles, 3 clearances, 4 inside 50s, 6 rebound 50s


With a long day for North Melbourne’s skipper Kiely, battling all day against the strong St Kilda team, Kiely never gave up and kept pushing as a strong leader does. Sadly with the loss, there was still impressive plays brought out in this tight game, Kiely with 36 disposals, 11 marks, four inside 50s and three clearances that tells you all how much of a hard worker she is but early start of the game she was all over it with helping her team have a lot of chances to score.

2021 VFLW Player Focus: Sarah Skinner

NORTH Melbourne VFLW winger Sarah Skinner has enjoyed a stellar 2021 VFLW campaign, moving up from Tasmania to link with the Roos and put her hand up as a mature-age draft prospect. While her side went down to the Southern Saints on Sunday, Skinner was one of the best players afield with 17 disposals, seven marks, and two of her side’s three goals. We put her performance under the Player Focus microscope.

Right from the opening minutes of the game, Skinner sprung into action as she took a mark – the first of many that the Tasmanian young gun produced throughout the game. Following on from her classy mark, Skinner booted a goal for her side to set up what would be a stellar performance. Skinner demonstrated poise as she was involved in a passage of play which saw her get possession of the ball before making her first handball for the quarter. Yet another touch for Skinner, this time through her second mark of the game. A missed opportunity emerged in the remaining minutes of the term, as the young gun attempted to gain possession of the ball was too late as it was deemed out of bounds.

The second quarter quickly rolled around and once again, Skinner continued to dazzle. A major highlight included four marks taken in the space of a quarter, all of which were nicely executed under immense pressure. The 21-year-old made a handball over to teammate Alexia Hamilton. She also got a touch of the ball after a Southern Saints player fumbled the ball, leading to her kick made to another teammate Brooke Slaney. Skinner found a slight stumble during the game as she attempted to take a mark but was not able to hold onto it. Another handball was made to Hamilton, an important dynamic shaping up between the two players.

The beginning of the second half was a more quiet one for the Tasmanian star. Quarter three saw Skinner get a touch of the ball as she got amongst the action of a game which was starting to intensify. She also was involved in her first tackle for the game and looked comfortable defending the ball.

Skinner got back to her best in the final term, putting her athleticism on full display but not before a small mishap with a missed attempt at a mark. Her redeeming move came as a result of her seventh mark of the game, which was made in front of an opponent from the Southern Saints. Skinner’s involvement in a second tackle occurred in the final term. She managed to get another kick in during the quarter which ended up in the hands of an opposition player – something which wasn’t needed for North Melbourne with the scoreline steadily widening. The Tasmanian capped off a brilliant game with another kick to a teammate.

TOTAL STATS: 17 disposals, 2 goals, 2 tackles, 7 marks

SUMMARY: An impressive and overall consistent performance from the North Melbourne star, with just a quiet third quarter in the books lowering her impact. Skinner shone in the marks department as she took seven in her side’s loss. Her performance highlighted her versatility as she shown she was good with disposals, bagged a couple of goals and made a statement getting involved in the action with two tackles. Her performance against the Southern Saints in Round 14 highlights how crucial she is to her side.

SANFL League Player Focus: Shay Linke (Central District)

CENTRAL District midfielder Shay Linke has enjoyed a successful 2021 season to date, proving a class above Under 18s level and earning a call-up to the club’s reserves side. A product of the Tanunda Football Club in the heartland of South Australia’s Barossa Valley, Linke performed well against seasoned bodies at Reserves level and, last weekend, was selected to make his League debut with the Bulldogs.

A member of South Australia’s preliminary squad ahead of the Under 19 National Championships, Linke is regarded as one of the state’s top prospects. Standing at 190cm, the teenager boasts a tall frame which will likely make him an enticing prospect for scouts and recruiters. Throughout the season, Linke has used his height advantage to good effect in the air. Although he will need to add some muscle, Linke has displayed effective skills through the midfield and thoroughly deserved his call-up to league level.

In this week’s SANFL Player Focus, Draft Central analyses how he performed on debut.

Player Profile:

Club: Central District
South Australia

DOB: 8/05/2003
Height/Weight: 190cm/79kg
Position: Inside Midfielder/Forward

2021 Averages:

SANFL Reserves: 6 games | 13.5 disposals | 9.2 kicks | 4.3 handballs | 3.7 marks | 5 tackles | 2 clearances | 1.5 inside 50s | 0.8 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (2 total)

SANFL Under 18s: 3 games | 27.7 disposals | 20 kicks | 7.7 handballs | 9.7 marks | 3.3 tackles | 4.3 clearances | 6 inside 50s | 2.7 rebound 50s | 0.7 goals (2 total)

2021 SANFL League, Round 11 | Central District 10.10 (70) def. West Adelaide 7.10 (52)
#2 Shay Linke (Central District)

Stats: 12 disposals (7 kicks, 5 handballs), 4 marks, 6 tackles, 2 clearances, 2 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50


Linke started the game at half-forward and didn’t have to wait long to encounter his first contest at League level, as the opening clearance of the game headed his way. Linke, being closely checked by West Adelaide’s Elliot Dunkin, contested the mark but the Bloods defender spoiled the ball to ground. Moments later, Linke roved well but was immediately brought to ground and the ball spilled loose. Despite being involved in a couple of early contests, the rangy utility won his first effective possession by receiving the handball from teammate Aiden Grace. He side-stepped a would-be Bloods tackler with some class and his long right-foot kick inside 50 fell perfectly for medium-forward Ethan East who marked but could not convert the set shot.

After a brief stint on the bench, Linke returned to the field to play a midfield role. He took possession of a loose ball in West Adelaide’s forward 50, however was instantly pounced upon. But at the subsequent stoppage he was able to fire out a quick and effective handball after a clean ground ball pick-up. He looks a great size and was just about the tallest midfielder on the field. After moving back to half-forward, Linke gathered on the 50-metre arc but again found himself with little time or space and was tackled and forced to shoot an errant handball off to avoid being caught holding the ball.

In the latter stages of the first term, Linke attended his first centre bounce and made a impact, laying a strong tackle on Lachlan Squire who was forced to leave the field with a bloodied nose. The debutant finished his busy start to the game by taking an uncontested mark in defence and dishing off a quick handball to a running teammate just before the quarter time siren sounded.


Linke began the second term from the bench at X Convenience Oval but moved into the centre bounce at the six-minute mark. Deep in the Bloods’ forward 50, he found himself in the right spot to collect the handball and quickly hack it out of the danger zone. The kick, although not graceful by any means, managed to calm things down momentarily for the Bulldogs. At the opposite end of the ground he laid another very strong tackle to ground Bloods captain Tom Keough.

As half-time approached, Linke found himself in a patch of space in the middle of the ground and was spotted by a teammate. He took the simple uncontested mark and followed up with a clean, short kick as the Bulldogs looked to generate some forward movement. He didn’t get his hands on the ball as often in the second term but fought hard at ground level and tackled with real intent and ferocity.


After the half-time break, Linke spent the early stages of the third term on the bench or across the half-forward line. Senior coach Paul Thomas rotated Linke through the centre bounce in order to get his hands on the ball, but it was his hustle and defensive pressure which was on show again. Seasoned West Adelaide on-baller Kaine Stevens managed to evade Linke at a forwardline stoppage and kick a classy goal, but the Bulldogs teenager will learn plenty from lining up on the Bloods premiere midfielder.

Linke’s tackling again featured in consecutive stoppages as the teenager appeared eager to physically immerse himself in the contest on debut. Minutes before the final change, the Tanunda teenager picked up another simple mark and kick after spreading wide from the centre bounce.


It took Linke a while to get onto the field in the final quarter, but when he did he rushed straight into a stoppage on the wing. The utility again found himself under a heap of pressure when he gathered the ball deep in defence and was forced to cough up the handball. At the 12-minute mark Linke copped a big hip-and-shoulder but fortunately for the Bulldogs, the ball fell into safe hands after being comprehensively knocked from the teenagers grasp. To his credit, Linke bounced straight back up after the heavy collision. Later, he couldn’t quite pick up a loose ball near the boundary line but recovered well to lay another solid tackle. As the game entered its closing stages, Linke won a holding free kick and opted for the safe kick down the line.

Final thoughts…

Shay Linke performed well on debut for Central District in their 18-point win over West Adelaide. He split his time between an inside midfield role and the half-forward flank and didn’t look overawed by the occasion. Linke was particularly involved in the first quarter as both sides struggled to hit the scoreboard early on. Although slim, Linke threw himself at the contest and tackled strongly. He managed to spread from the contest and found some space at-times to accumulate uncontested possessions, however most of his work was done at the coalface. Due to the nature of the role, Linke often found himself under immediate pressure after gaining possession which impacted his ball use. Overall, Linke produced a solid showing and will certainly have benefitted from the opportunity to rub shoulders with seasoned SANFL campaigners.

Image Credit: Cory Sutton/SANFL

WAFLW Player Focus: Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder)

PEEL Thunder prospect Ella Roberts is already a well known quantity, establishing herself at senior level in the Thunder’s 2020 premiership side, and earning her state’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award at this year’s Under 19 National Championships. The 16-year-old is already a good size at 175cm and boasts rare talent, able to excel as a forward target or on-ball with her athleticism and clean hands.

Roberts has again proven a key figure at WAFLW level for Peel in 2021, with her side on the eve of a finals campaign as the second-ranked side. She turned it on early and battled through a knock to claim 25 disposals and a goal in the Thunder’s most recent outing, a loss against Claremont. We put her impressive Round 15 performance under the Player Focus microscope.


Ella Roberts
Peel Thunder/Western Australia

DOB: 17/12/2004
Height: 175cm
Position: Forward/Midfielder

Source: WAFL

2021 WAFLW, Round 15 | Claremont 6.5 (41) def. Peel Thunder 4.8 (32)

Player Focus: #8 Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder)



Starting in the near-permanent forward post she dominated throughout the day, Roberts was in ominous form during the opening quarter. She pressed high up the ground to present as Peel’s centre half-forward, making the best of whatever service she received with wickedly clean hands at ground level and combative intent.

The 16-year-old’s ability to swoop on the ball at speed, especially off the deck, and grab it cleanly was outstanding early on. She tried to manufacture space upon gathering but when opponents were on her hammer, she released quick handballs to keep Peel moving forward via outsider runners.

Her kicking at speed was outstanding, booting numerous passes inside 50 to the advantage of her forwards, who could not quite snaffle up a series of marks. In the air, she judged the ball beautifully and recovered best to be first to the loose pill.

Roberts capped her wonderful individual quarter with a highlight-reel goal, chasing up her own pass inside 50 to mop up off the ground, side-step a defender and blast the ball home from 40m for her side’s opening major.

It was no coincidence that Roberts’ most productive term also saw the Thunder sneak ahead at the first break, though the lead proved only momentary. The youngster finished with 12 disposals (six kicks, six handballs), a bunch of inside 50s and a brilliant goal.


While she did not quite hit the heights of the previous quarter as Claremont began to get on top, Roberts still managed to move into all the right spots and compete with a magnificent air of confidence.

One of her best moments came at half-forward, where she sharked the ball from between a couple of less-assured Claremont defenders, before backing her pace and burning towards forward 50.

She was not afforded the same volume of opportunities in the front half, but still looked to link into attack and took her first mark of the day on the 50m arc, proving strong in the air despite heat from two opponents.

Roberts’ second term yielded four disposals (three kicks, one handball), one mark and two inside 50s.


It is fair to say that Roberts was in the wars during the third quarter, battling a knock to her wrist in the closing stages.

She sustained it on the leap up to a marking contest on the wing, going down innocuously but looking in quite some pain and going off. Almost comically, she gave away an unlucky last touch free kick, bumped into an opponent, and smothered with the same hand shortly after.

In a show of her toughness, Roberts rose for a nice overhead mark late in the term having introduced that part of her game to the contest earlier on.

While indifferent delivery, heavy pressure and perhaps fatigue hindered Roberts clean handling, she did produce one outstanding passage with a swift gather and precise pass at full tilt, hitting a teammate inside 50.

Roberts finished with three disposals (all kicks), including two marks and two inside 50s, proving she can be productive with limited looks.


Roberts battled on to run out the game strongly, even earning a late run through midfield. With the result still up for grabs, she looked to make things happen but was caught for a rare holding the ball free kick against, in the early stages.

Still, she carried great intent until the final siren, with her desperate run-down tackle on a breaking Mhicca Carter showing just that.

From that moment, Roberts became more prominent around the contest as she moved into the on-ball division, trying to use the ball positively and get creative with her movement.

Her lone centre bounce attendance came in the second-last minute, and Roberts rounded out a trying performance by adding six disposals (four kicks, two handballs) and a couple of tackles.

Closing thoughts…

It is crazy to think that Roberts is still a year away from being draft eligible, and that she still has so much development left in her as a December birth. The 16-year-old can produce truly special moments and did so in this match, with her first term feats making for must-watch football. Her one-grab ability bodes well for more midfield time, though she is also so effective as a forward target who can not only crash packs and clunk marks, but be the first to recover the ground ball. From there, her smooth coverage of the ground and unbelievably slick use by foot at full tilt is elite. With so many plaudits already and unbelievable confidence at senior level, Roberts is a class above her peers at the moment as the best prospect in next year’s draft pool.

NAB League Player Focus: Sam Butler (GWV Rebels)

GREATER Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels prospect Sam Butler is one of the most promising players out of the country region in 2021, and has a name familiar to most as the brother of St Kilda forward, Dan. The 18-year-old has a similar burst of speed and goal sense, but has recently gained greater exposure in the midfield where his ground level game has shone.

Most recently, Butler starred in the Rebels’ comprehensive 79-point victory over Gippsland Power at Mars Stadium, spending a half up forward before being thrust into the centre bounce mix. He ended up with 27 disposals, six marks, seven tackles, and two goals to come under our NAB League Player Focus microscope for Round 8.

Sam Butler
GWV Rebels/Vic Country

DOB: 10/02/2003
Height/Weight: 184cm/73kg
Position: Midfielder/Forward

2021 Averages:
NAB League (6 games)

19.3 disposals | 9.8 kicks | 9.5 handballs | 4.2 marks | 5.5 tackles | 2.8 inside 50s | 1.0 rebound 50s | 1.0 goals (6 total)

2021 NAB League, Round 8 | GWV Rebels 16.20 (116) def. Gippsland Power 6.1 (37)

Player Focus: #1 Sam Butler (GWV Rebels)

Stats: 27 disposals (11 kicks, 16 handballs), 6 marks, 7 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50, 2 goals



After his recent midfield initiation, Butler started the game back in his equally familiar forward post as the GWV coaches shuffled their magnets.

He served a reminder of his potent forward craft, able to snare two goals with sound finishing inside 50. The first saw him nip in front of the leading Josh Rentsch to mark overhead, before converting a 35m set shot with aplomb. The second was in open play, as Butler picked up the bobbling ground ball on the outside of a forward 50 stoppage and quickly snapped it home as he was spun in a tackle.

Outside of his scoreboard impact, Butler worked hard off the line to impact the opening centre bounce and get his hands on the ball early, looking clean at ground level with his ability to swoop on loose balls at speed and flick out effective handballs.

He also laid a couple of strong tackles, chasing and locking up opponents, to cap off a productive term which yielded six disposals (two kicks, four handballs), two tackles and two goals.


Continuing in his forward role, Butler began to find even more space as he pushed up the ground before helping to link GWV inside attacking 50.

His first act was a well-judged overhead mark from a long Gippsland kick-in, locking the play in his side’s front half. He showed strong hands and judgement once again with a mark on the wing, before working forward to mark uncontested inside 50.

As Butler looked to stamp his mark on the game, he fell short on a couple of occasions. His mark just inside the 50m arc saw him go back and take a set shot, which fell short, while a running foray saw him caught holding the ball as he streamed towards goal, looking to take on the defender with a second bounce.

Ultimately, Butler ended up with a similar output in terms of numbers, managing six disposals (three kicks, three handballs) and four marks as he found space further afield, suiting the high half-forward role.


Butler’s return to the midfield came in term three as he was rotated on-ball after around five minutes.

While it took him a little time to warm to his engine room operations, Butler got involved with some sharp touches on both sides of the contest. He darted a beautiful inboard kick to Marcus Herbert at centre half-forward, and looked typically assured at ground level with his clean use by hand.

He was a touch less productive with his disposals as Gippsland did well to pressure the ball carrier, with a lot of his handballs to the first option and sometimes transferring said pressure. Still, Butler added another six disposals (two kicks, four handballs) and a mark as he adjusted to the midfield move.


The fourth quarter was Butler’s best in terms of numbers and right up there with the opening term for impact – just in a different department.

He started with great intent, earning a holding the ball free kick at the first centre bounce by hunting the ball carrier and catching him unawares. From there, a lot of Butler’s work was done around the stoppages with continually sharp gathers at ground level. He showed an innate ability to keep his arms up and disposal of the ball in tackles, while also using his burst of speed to bustle to the outside.

He added a bit of run on the outer via a one-two play with Fraser Marris, and capped off a really solid outing with nine disposals (three kicks, six handballs) from midfield.

Closing thoughts…

Butler again showed just why he is one of GWV’s most promising prospects in 2021, hitting the scoreboard when stationed up forward before proving sharp at the contest through midfield. Having boosted his running capacity, the 18-year-old has been able to more consistently showcase his key strengths, in that burst of speed and wickedly clean hands. He can impact at ground level and in the air, while also providing solid tackling pressure and the added bonus of goal threat. Going forward, Butler could perhaps back his pace more when coming away from the contest, taking more time to get free himself and taking more meterage before disposing of the ball. His first-option policy is working pretty well at the moment, though.

Image Credit: Jonathan Di Maggio/AFL Photos

SANFL Under 18s Player Focus: Cooper Murley (Norwood)

NORWOOD midfielder and AFL Academy member Cooper Murley has had an interrupted start to his 2021 football season. Having played two games in the SANFL Reserves, an ankle injury kept him out of action for one and a half months, resulting in him missing the AFL Academy game against Geelong VFL in April. 

After returning through the Reserves in Rounds 8 and 9, Murley was brought in to the Norwood Under 18’s side in Round 10 for its clash against South Adelaide. The contest was close but ended with the Redlegs going down by nine points to the Panthers. Murley was prolific in his first Under 18’s game for the season, with a team-high 34 disposals and seven clearances, to draw attention for this week’s SANFL U18’s Player Focus.

Cooper Murley
Norwood/ South Australia

DOB: 20/06/2003
Height/Weight: 178cm/70kg
Position: Midfielder/Small Forward

2021 Averages:

SANFL Reserves: 4 games | 12 disposals | 7.8 kicks | 4.3 handballs | 3 marks | 2.8 tackles | 0.8 clearances | 2.3 inside 50s | 0.8 rebound 50s | 0.8 goals (3 total)

2021 SANFL U18s, Round 10 | Norwood 10.10 (70) def by. South Adelaide 11.13 (79)
#1 Cooper Murley (Norwood)

Stats: 34 disposals (22 kicks, 12 handballs), 5 marks, 3 tackles, 7 clearances, 8 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 2 goals, 1 behind


To start off his 2021 Under 18s campaign, Murley wasn’t overly involved early. He was put into the forward line initially, unable to impact much outside of drawing a player at an early inside 50 stoppage. It wouldn’t be until the 10-minute mark of the first quarter that Murley would come alive. Once moved into the midfield, he looked lively around stoppages, positioning himself well to be a handball receiver from whoever gathered first possession. His first clearance would come not long after his move into the guts, having it palmed down straight to him around the defensive 50 mark, handballing back and then getting it again closer to the boundary line, unable to hit his intended target by foot in the middle of the ground. 

He worked hard to assist in defence when it was down there, earning himself a free kick at one stage and initiating a promising bit of play with his switch kick. From there, Murley’s work was done exclusively at ground level, able to pick the ball up cleanly, even when under direct pressure, and fire off precise handballs to teammates. His approach to ground balls was near perfect in the first quarter, positioning his body well to protect himself and keep his arms free from contact, then getting the handballs away quickly as he stood up, rather than standing up then handballing. 

It was a strong start to his Under 18’s return, looking a class above when he had the ball and in contests, able to beat bigger opponents at ground level almost exclusively with how he positioned his body when picking the ball up.


Murley once again started the quarter in the forwardline but looked to push up straight away, in a high half-forward sort of role. This got him pushing up the ground deeply and more involved in transition from the defensive half for Norwood, where he was the target of a lot of kicks early on. In those situations, he utilised his speed to run onto the ball, even taking a mark running with the flight. He showcased his clean hands below his knees a few times, with the most impressive being a clean pickup off the ground as soon as the ball hit it, so much so it could’ve been paid a mark. To follow that up he handballed to a teammate, then worked hard to u-turn and get in front of the running pack of players, getting a handball over the top and having a shot on goal from 50 out, which was touched just before the line. 

Two things were really obvious in the second quarter in regards to Murley; number one was how good his repeat efforts are, having a couple of marks spoiled or just not being able to hold them, but following up superbly at ground level to win the footy and shoot off a quick handball to a teammate. Number two was how dangerous he was when given even the slightest bit of space to work with, taking the advantage from a couple of free kicks for teammates, where he’d burst away, take a bounce and deliver well forward, with a moment like this leading to his second goal of the quarter right before the siren. 

His first goal was a great showing off his work rate and danger in transition, where a teammate put the ball in front of him, he ran onto it and picked up cleanly, then delivered a pinpoint kick to a teammate inside 50, ran hard to get the handball receive and snapped it through. 

Overall it was definitely a higher production quarter from Murley as he got more involved. As he did so, it got him more attention from opposition as he was being stuck to like glue around stoppages towards the end of the quarter, and given a bit of rough treatment in tackles, which he handled well. His use by foot improved from the first quarter which made Norwood more dangerous in transition.


A quieter quarter than the last for Murley, though he still chimed in with moments of class when he was given the space and used by teammates, with his kicking taking yet another step up to hit essentially every target, or be put to their advantage, perfectly.

Murley’s hands were extra sticky in the third, holding onto a few handball receives he got at pace, before quickly composing himself to deliver a kick forward. His first real involvement played out exactly like this, with the kick and inside 50 that should’ve been marked, but wasn’t. He took a mark a little later at the back-end of the centre square, quickly wheeling onto his right side and kicking it a good 50 meters to go out the back of a pack for Norwood’s quick smalls to run onto. Later on in the quarter, he took an impressive contested grab on the far wing, not breaking stride to play on and deliver it well to a teammate at the top of the 50. 

It was more of the same brilliance for Murley overall, with his one-grab pickups below his knees continually impressive and his vision excellent to hit targets most others wouldn’t even attempt.


Started the quarter in the midfield for the first time all game as the Redlegs needed to find a way to put the game to rest. He was in and under from the get go, getting first hands to the ball from the ruck tap and being wrapped up straight away. Unfortunately he had to spend some time on the bench as early on he copped a corkie after being ran into on the boundary line, coming on about five minutes later. 

Murley didn’t let the injury stop him throwing himself into contests and getting involved, earning a free kick in the defensive half for a good tackle and looking to spread it out wide. He took a mark later on in the quarter and sent it deep inside 50 for a teammate to mark, but unfortunately miss the resultant shot on the goal. 

It’s no surprise that Norwood started to struggle when Murley had to go off to deal with the corkie, highlighting his importance to their play in what was the worst time to see it.

Final thoughts…

There’s no doubting Murley’s quality as a player and it’s clear to see why he’s part of the AFL Academy for 2021. Despite being smaller in stature he wasn’t phased when in contests with bigger bodies, using his smarts to gain the advantages he could and win most contests reliably. At ground level there was no one better, Murley never fumbled and his hands were too quick for opponents to react to in close. Balancing himself as a midfielder is a real strength of Murley’s as well, working hard on the inside and outside to fill the roles well, and that versatility is an asset to any team he ends up a part of in future. Whilst his kicking and marking were more often good than not, they’re two areas from this game he could look to sharpen up on.

Image Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL