Category: Player Focus

NAB League Player Focus: Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons)

GEELONG Falcons ruck, Toby Conway is a prospect on the rise having recently been added to the AFL Academy squad ahead of their clash with Geelong VFL. The 204cm bigman has returned a promising start to the season, averaging a tick under 16 disposals and 28 hitouts across three NAB League outings, making him one of the leading ruck options in this year’s draft pool.

After injury threatened to derail his 2020 campaign, before the pandemic eventually did so, Conway is enjoying being back out on the park and has some key improvements in his sights. During preseason, he outlined ground coverage, forward craft, and marking as areas of growth – all of which were observed in his latest outing, against Bendigo Pioneers.

Conway is the prospect under our Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 3 showing.

PLAYER PAGE

Toby Conway
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

DOB: April 24, 2003
Height: 204cm
Position: Ruck

2021 averages*: 15.7 disposals | 6.7 kicks | 9.0 handballs | 3.3 marks | 2.7 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 1.7 rebound 50s | 27.7 hitouts | 0.3 goals

* – from first three games.

PLAYER FOCUS

2021 NAB League, Round 3
Bendigo Pioneers 9.10 (64) def. Geelong Falcons 7.8 (50)

Stats: 17 disposals | 8 kicks | 9 handballs | 3 marks | 4 tackles | 2 inside 50s | 3 rebound 50s | 29 hitouts | 1 goal

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

In his usual post as Geelong’s primary ruck, Conway started brightly. He was poised against quite a raw tall in Bendigo’s Jed Brereton, who he would compete with throughout the contest. Some of Conway’s first acts saw him dropping back into the defensive half to help relieve pressure, while also setting up shrewdly behind the ball to intercept aerially – both were early ticks for his improving fitness and ground coverage. He also proved too big and strong in stoppage situations, using strength and bodywork to move into prime position and win a good amount of hitouts. From there, he directed the ball down well with a few double-handed taps and his pure height/reach advantage loomed as a worrying factor for the Bendigo engine room. Later in the opening term, Conway was sighted taking a mark on the lead up forward.

Q2:

Speaking of the forwardline, Conway seemed to spend more time resting inside attacking 50 than in previous weeks, where he would instead be heavily rotated to the bench out of the ruck. He managed to take toll during the second term as he found space to mark uncontested, before duly converting a set shot goal from about 35 metres out. It was the first goal of the quarter and extended the Falcons’ lead to nine points at the 10-minute mark. While his height and reach were again troublesome for the undersized Bendigo defenders, Conway would revert back to his ruck duties and showcase even more craft in that area. His directional taps at the centre bounces meant midfielders like Mitch Knevitt could get first use of the ball where it mattered.

Q3:

Picking up from where he left off, Conway was dominant in the ruck stakes to start the third period of play. He also looked to be gaining confidence at the contest, imposing himself by following up his aerial work and actively looking to take the ball out of the ruck more often. One solid bit of ground level play saw Conway lay a smother to help his side turn the ball over, before kicking the Falcons back inside attacking 50 on the run. While not overly aggressive, the bigman was able to stay involved at the coalface and even won some of his own ball to register those clearance and inside 50 stats. His seeming lift in urgency matched Geelong’s need for any form of momentum as the Pioneers began to hit back, and eventually snuck ahead.

Q4:

Conway looked a little worse for wear after contesting the first centre bounce, but got back up and lumbered on. He is not always the most continually active ruck, but was able to work when called upon after taking some moments to recoup. His knack of taking the ball out of the ruck continued and while some of his hand-offs were to midfielders under immediate pressure, the idea and intent were good. The Falcons tall again rested forward and even got a go against some of Bendigo’s second-string rucks late in the piece. He showed some more ruck craft with directional taps, not just thumping the ball forward or hitting with his momentum on the rise. Overall, it was a solid outing for Conway despite his side going down, finishing as the dominant ruckman afield.

Final thoughts…

On a pure squad-needs basis, it was no great surprise to see Conway added to the AFL Academy mix alongside fellow tall Ned Moyle. While he has shown some active improvement in his areas of growth, the Geelong Falcons prospect can still strive for betterment throughout 2021. Conway’s work around the ground and ability to impact up forward will be key to his development, as his ruck craft is already quite sound. Given his ability to do so in the ruck, utilising his size and building on that strength will help translate to some solid contested marking. Endurance also comes into the fold there, and Conway will inevitably spend less time with hands on head or hip with better match fitness throughout the year. In terms of his own strengths though, Conway delivers and has done so across three promising games this this season.

SANFL Player Focus: No alarms in consistent start to season for Jason Horne

HIGHLY rated South Adelaide Panther Jason Horne backed up his 19 disposal and one goal effort in Round 1 in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) again with 16 disposals, one goal, six tackles, and four inside 50s on Saturday afternoon at Prospect Oval. Horne was set for a challenge coming up against the experienced North Adelaide Roosters in Jarred Allmond’s 200th League game, one of the various Roosters players to get physical with Horne throughout the contest.

He started the game in the middle and showed his already-accustomed comfortability with the bigger bodies of senior footy, consistently looking to engage body around stoppages and get first hands on it. Reigning Magarey Medallist Campbell Combe in particular worked to deter Horne from contesting but to little effect. Horne did a good job of getting to stoppages all game when playing on-ball, but at times was too overzealous in his attack. He would often move into a stalemate contest in a pack and leave his opponent at the stoppage open on the outside. After the first goal of the game, he moved forward and continued to spend seven to eight minutes on-ball, and then to half-forward.

He was a lead up target on centre wing twice in the first term but mis-kicks in blustery conditions did not favour him despite the separation from his opponent. When the ball was in his aerial vicinity, he displayed his leap and competitiveness to get hands on it without clunking those big marks he has shown he can. A brilliant chase down smother highlighted his manic defensive pressure in the forward half as he followed up cleanly to dispose of it through hands. Despite his age, he showed good volume in his tackles and bumps as he was able to move bodies when required.

He started in the middle to begin the second quarter and gravitated less to the drop of the ball, while still maintaining a strong front position. His spread from the stoppage was smooth as he got involved in a rebounding link. Although it perhaps was not the best choice to go to with his kick, he followed up well again to apply enough pressure to skew the North Adelaide kick. He covered good distance to get to stoppages again and found himself deep in defensive 50 unsure of what to do. After taking on a couple of tackles and only just handballing to no one in particular, the rebounded ball came straight back for a Roosters goal. He was again confronted by senior North Adelaide players as they let him know how they felt, but he showed good temperament and maturity to uphold a positive body language and strong intent as the game restarted.

Moving back forward he continued to try and be dangerous aerially, but the wind was making it hard. Horne then made something out of nothing as a pressured shot on goal hit the behind post after a nice gather. Despite his aerial efforts, he showed a good awareness of his role to play as a traditional half-forward pushing up at the centre bounce to open room behind him for his key forwards, and also working through most contests to get front and centre.

Horne would not get to another centre bounce in the second half as he spent most of his time at half-forward and looked his most dangerous in the third quarter. After some more confident push and shove, a classy one-handed pickup resulted in a point after kicking from 45 metres out under pressure. The physicality continued, and he was dropped by Allmond after some wrestling saw Horne on top and was able to receive the free kick. He slotted the set shot which was pivotal to the positive attitudes of his teammates as the Panthers ultimately won the game on the back of their third quarter effort. Immediately after, Horne missed a snap attempt on goal and continued to cause headaches for the Roosters. His defensive pressure remained, as did his workrate, finding space on multiple occasions with long sprints.

Looking to work on his field kicking inside 50 before the season, he found a teammate beautifully who dropped a mark which would have resulted in a set shot for goal, but a lot of his field kicking for the day was somewhat rushed out of stoppages and contests. He had 12 kicks and four handballs but when he had time, his skills were flawless.

Horne backed up his performance last week and played a quality role rotating through the middle and half-forward, and could have very easily had a three-goal game. South Adelaide will play Port next week as he will be challenged with some AFL-listed players.

SANFL Player Focus: No first round blues for Sturt’s Morgan Ferres

ATHLETIC Sturt youngster Morgan Ferres is a member of the 2021 State Talent Hub, and one of the most highly-rated South Australian forwards in this year’s draft class. His season commenced on Friday at Unley Oval when Sturt came up against Woodville-West Torrens, and he started the year in blistering form. With six goals, ten marks (two contested), 17 disposals and two inside 50s, it was a day out against reasonable opposition. With four behinds and multiple unselfish goal assists during the contest, it is fair to say that he could have kicked nine or ten. Regardless, he leads the SANFL Under 18 goalkicking tally after Round 1 and has set himself up for a strong season.

Ferres started the match by taking a nice mark on the lead, but sprayed his first shot on goal. He quickly redeemed his miss by juggling a mark, playing on and snapping the Double Blues’ second major in the opening six minutes. This was the first of many instances where Ferres read the flight of the ball far better than the Eagles defenders and got himself into ideal positions. Later in the first term, Ferres pushed up to half-forward to create a higher option for teammates streaming off half-back. He showed that he has quick hands when his handball released a teammate into space and led to a goal from Kai Tucker. Ferres should have kicked his second from the next centre bounce, but he missed an open shot from 35 metres out. Soon after, he worked hard to get open, marked and quickly delivered to Henry Read inside 50, who kicked Sturt’s fourth goal of the day. Ferres’ score involvement numbers were very high on Friday, and he regularly attempted to give the ball to teammates who were in better positions to kick at goal. Another example of this occurred late in the first term when, after earning a free for a hold on the 50-metre arc, Ferres looked like he was going to have a shot but instead passed it off. This unselfish play led to a goal by Cormac Dwyer.

Ferres linked up well with wingman Tucker throughout the match, who used his accurate foot skills to find the leading Ferres on numerous occasions. In the second term, after Ferres got on the end of a pass from Tucker, he was tight on the boundary and attempted to pass it off, but the kick fell short of his target. Ferres is naturally unselfish and passing was the right option on this occasion, it was just the execution that missed the mark. Four minutes in, Ferres completed a beautiful fat-side lead to earn an uncontested mark and he drilled his set shot from 35 metres out. His marking appears to have gone to another level this year, as demonstrated when he took a tough contested grab after a long kick down the line from Brad Jefferies. Ferres immediately looked inside and found Jordan Hein in the corridor, thus opening up the other side of the 50 for Sturt forwards to lead into. At the 22-minute mark, as the deepest forward, Ferres outbodied his opponent, marked and strolled into an open goal for his third. Sturt went into half time with a two-point lead, thanks in large part to Ferres’ three majors and numerous score involvements to that point.

The Eagles got well on top at the start of the third, so the ball did not enter the Blues’ forwardline much during that period. With Sturt ten points down, Ferres claimed a mark but was penalised for a push in the back. It was not until the 23-minute mark that Ferres got another opportunity to make an impact, and he did not waste it as he took a chest mark on the lead and booted through his fourth. He had another chance to goal from the next centre bounce after picking up the ball cleanly and turning sharply around his opponent, but his snap went through for a behind. Sturt reclaimed the lead just before three-quarter time and looked to have the momentum at the break.

Early in the last quarter, Ferres led into the pocket to took a strong overhead mark. With his impressive vertical leaping ability and long reach, it is difficult for his opponents to get a spoil in without chopping his arms. These traits will assist him as he rises up the grades, and this is why coaches will encourage him to take more marks overhead or out in front as he continues his development. After his grab, Ferres went back and kicked a beautiful snap around the body for his fifth. Ferres said in his preseason interview that he has been working on his goalkicking during the offseason, and this hard work clearly paid off in this instance. Ferres is very good at letting his man play in front and calling for the kick over the top into space, thus allowing him to take comfortable uncontested marks. He did this again at the 12-minute mark, which led to his sixth and final goal of the day from approximately 35 metres out. Soon after, Ferres crumbed a contest in the forward pocket, sidestepped an Eagles defender and attempted to dribble through a goal, but he just missed to the near side. As the siren sounded, Sturt ran out winners by 40 points. Ferres would have been happy with the result and his performance, as he proved that he is already a class above Under 18 level.

The scoreboard flattered Sturt in the end, as it kicked the final nine goals of the match to come away with the points. Ferres was certainly their most prominent contributor throughout, and the side required his contributions to be able to score consistently. Although Ferres will also be playing school football at St Peter’s College for much of 2021, he could also earn an opportunity to play at SANFL League level depending on how Sturt’s senior side fares. Playing against bigger bodies would be a fascinating challenge for Ferres, and he will also seek to compete and shine at the Under 19 National Championships in September and October. It will be interesting to see how Ferres’ game develops throughout the year as he attempts to impress AFL scouts en route to the 2021 AFL Draft.

Image Credit: Mel Faull/Get Snapt

QAFL Player focus: Carter Michael (Maroochydore/Brisbane Lions Academy)

IN our latest edition of the Player Focus, we take a look at how Brisbane Lions Academy prospect Carter Michael fared in Maroochydore’s QAFL Elimination Final against Sherwood. Although his side went down by five points, Michael showed glimpses of why Brisbane fans should be excited about his potential. His strongest asset is his booming left foot kick, which makes him an ideal person to take the kick ins for his side. Most of his disposals in Saturday’s final came from kick ins as a result, but he had some effective moments in general play as well.

Q1:

Despite spending time in the midfield during last week’s clash, Michael started this game on his customary half-back flank. He was in the thick of the action straight away, running past for a handball receive that did not quite him as he would have liked. Once the ball hit the deck, he dove into congestion to cause a stoppage. He started the game with a defensive approach, as he stayed very tight on his opponent and did not run off to provide an attacking option as much as usual. At a stoppage in the defensive 50, Michael won a contested possession but was immediately tackled for a ball up. A few minutes later, he ran hard in transition to pick up a loose ball in defensive 50, got the arms free of an oncoming tackler and dished out a handball.

After a Sherwood behind, Michael took the kick in and used his booming left foot to get the ball to a contest just in behind centre wing, and it trickled over the boundary line. He tried to be more conservative with his next kick in by going short to the pocket, but uncharacteristically he missed his target and it went out on the full. With his next one, Michael chose to go long to a contest down the line. Sherwood kicked 14 points for the match and Michael received 11 or 12 extra kicks as a result.

Late in the quarter, Michael started to get more involved in the game. Shortly after laying a solid tackle in defensive 50 to stop Sherwood’s forward momentum and force a stoppage, he ran around the back of a teammate that received a free kick and delivered a beautiful short pass to a teammate leading up on the wing. When Sherwood next went inside 50, he flew as a third man up into a marking contest to spoil the ball nicely over the boundary line.

Q2:

Michael had a very quiet second term. He took a kick in at the seven-minute mark and went long down the middle and hit ruckman Jacob Simpson lace out. This kick was fantastic because it opened up the game for his side and cleared the defensive zone.

He also had a nice moment where he contested a mark at half-back, collected the ball with one take at ground level and then dished it forwards cleanly to two running teammates. This started a great passage of offensive transition play which resulted in a goal over the back of Sherwood’s defence. Although Michael did not have any impact for the remainder of the quarter, his side was playing well and went into half time with a 10-point lead.

Q3:

Michael took another kick in early in the third where he went long down the line. Although it was marked by the opposition, this was because his teammate did not read the flight of the ball well. From his next kick in a minute later, he went up the middle and found a teammate in the centre square in between three Sherwood players. This was an incredibly difficult kick to pinpoint, yet he had the confidence to go for it (in a tight elimination final, no less) and executed it effectively which was outstanding.

His next kick was from an out-on-the-full free kick in the back pocket, from which he cleared the defensive zone and found a teammate on the wing. Although most of his kicks were great, at this stage they were all coming from behinds or other free kicks, which showed that Michael was struggling to find his own footy in general play.

At the 11-minute mark, Michael ran back to take a nice intercept mark in front of Sherwood’s Zane Lovell. He followed it up by delivering a nice short kick to a teammate on the wing. From his next kick in, Michael smartly ran wide to push the defenders in that direction before pulling his kick straight down the corridor to find teammate Thomas Holt. It was very windy at this point, so Michael’s ability to hit a flat 50 metre kick was very handy for his side coming out of defence.

Michael went up for another intercept mark in defence shortly after, but he and his teammate got in each other’s way. Fortunately for them, the crumber for Sherwood only snapped a behind. With that kick in, he went long to a contest on the wing. A few minutes later, Michael got a handball receive and fumbled it, but cleaned up his own mess and handballed back to an open teammate.

There was a lot of spice in the game late in this quarter, and the ball was consistently locked in Maroochydore’s defensive 50. Sherwood failed to take their chances though, so Michael had a couple more kick ins where he just went long to one-on-one contests on the wing. He and the other defenders held up well under immense pressure and got their side to three quarter time with a 20-point lead.

Picture: RF Photography


Q4:

At the opening centre bounce of the final term, Michael came off the back of the square, collected the ball cleanly, used his pace to break away with a few quick steps and delivered the ball inside 50. This is the type of running play that Michael has done well in the last few weeks but did not do often on Saturday. After the next stoppage, Sherwood got the ball forward but Michael worked back to take the ball cleanly and dish it out the back to a teammate.

From a kick in, Michael found a teammate 50 metres away for an uncontested mark. This was an important kick to hit because Sherwood had just slotted back-to-back goals so his side was under the pump. At the 12-minute mark, Michael gave an important handball over the top to start a link-up chain for his side down the wing. Shortly after, he affected a spoil on his opponent that was leading up at the ball carrier. Michael had two more kick ins where he simply bombed it long down the line to a contest, which was definitely the safest option at the time given that his side was only up by a goal.

When Sherwood kicked another goal and took the lead, Maroochydore’s coaching staff immediately threw Michael into the midfield. This demonstrated how much trust they have in him as a young player, and he rewarded them by having a decent impact in there. He got a couple of quick touches, rushed an important kick forward and applied good body pressure on the opposition. On the back of good midfield work from Michael and others, Maroochydore had multiple shots on goal and took a one point lead late in the quarter. However, they could not capitalise on the hard work by kicking a goal.

Sherwood and former Brisbane Lions player Ryan Harwood then kicked a miraculous goal from a stoppage in Sherwood’s forward pocket to put them five points ahead. A few minutes later, the siren sounded and Sherwood ran out victors in a thriller.

Closing Thoughts:

Competing in an elimination final at League level will prove valuable experience for Michael, as this level of football is not something that many young prospects get exposed to. His skills were typically outstanding throughout the game, and there is no doubt that his left foot will be a major weapon at any level of football that he plays. He has shown in recent weeks that he is also a good contested player, but he did not get many opportunities to showcase this on Saturday. In saying that, it was great to see Michael get some midfield time late in the contest after his inspired bursts in that role last weekend. Although half-back is probably his strongest position at this stage, he has a great size and speed that could help him become a very effective midfielder in the years to come.

For more news and updates about the AFL Draft, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

WAFL League Player Focus: Logan McDonald (Perth) vs. Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts)

IT was a highly anticipated matchup that did not disappoint. Both Logan McDonald and Denver Grainger-Barras are not only considered the best young players out of Western Australia, but loom as possible top five picks who have been mainstays in their respective League sides. They have both had some impressive performances, with McDonald second in the League for goals and Grainger-Barras closing in on the top 10 for marks in the competition.

In our latest Player Focus edition, we take a look at how the leading West Australian prospects fared as McDonald’s Perth took on Grainger-Barras’ Swan Districts in Round 8 of the WAFL League. The pair did not start on each other, as Nathan Ireland was tasked with manning McDonald early, but Swan Districts would give scouts what they wanted in the second half.

Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia

DOB: April 4, 2002
Height: 196cm
Weight: 85kg

Position: Key Position Forward

>> Draft Watch
>> Round 2 Player Focus

Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia

DOB: April 14, 2002
Height: 195cm
Weight: 78kg

Position: Key Position Defender

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Round 3 Player Focus

PLAYER FOCUS

STATS:
McDonald: 4 kicks | 2 handballs | 6 disposals | 3 marks | 1 tackle | 1 inside 50 | 3 goals
Grainger-Barras: 12 kicks | 4 handballs | 16 disposals | 8 marks | 3 tackles | 1 inside 50

Q1:

Even when McDonald and Grainger-Barras did not start on each other, a lot of their possessions in the first half where linked in some form. The first player to get involved was McDonald, who would almost take a strong grab on the wing. He dropped the mark at the last possible moment but quickly recovered, receiving a handball from good mate Nathan O’Driscoll and in-turn handballing to a teammate running past. Not too long after that, Grainger-Barras almost took an impressive mark in defence, which he began to stick eventually as he snapped up a nice intercept mark before kicking long to the wing. The ball would come back though, and making the most of it was that man McDonald. After taking a strong contested mark at the 50-metre arc, he would go back and slot a long bomb for his first goal of the game.

A few minutes later, McDonald almost took a strong contested mark inside 50, but again it spilled out on the way down. Grainger-Barras was the one to capitalise, sweeping on the loose ball, jumping over McDonald in the process, and handballing to a teammate. Grainger-Barras would have some more good moments soon after on the wing; first doing well in a one-on-one marking contest to nullify it, and a few moments later attacking the ball hard at ground level to gather and release a good handball. About a minute later, McDonald returned to the fray, using good bodywork to work his opponent under the ball. He would run onto the loose ball inside 50 but was well pressured from behind, and sent the dribble shot on a tight angle through for a behind.

A few minutes later both players would be linked again. Grainger-Barras gathered nicely in the middle but his kick out wide was poor, leading to a turnover. Not long after, he went to spoil the next aerial ball but did not kill the contest, which lead to McDonald kicking his second goal further down the ground from 15 metres out directly in front. Grainger-Barras wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, spoiling a marking contest well late in the quarter.

Q2:

The links between the two players continued into the second quarter, with Grainger-Barras attacking the loose ball hard from a defensive stoppage, but being met with a strong tackle. The ball would later be kicked to the leading McDonald, with Grainger-Barras working hard to come from the side to spoil but to no avail. It was a very strong lead and mark from McDonald, who would convert from the set shot nicely for his third and final goal.

At around the 17-minute mark it seemed the move had been made with Grainger-Barras going to McDonald. Grainger-Barras would earn a simple possession, being closest to an out-on-the-full kick deep in defence and booting the free kick long down the line. Late in the quarter, McDonald was very unlucky not to be paid a fantastic contested mark, contesting both Grainger-Barras and impressive ruckman Corey Gault on the wing.

Q3:

Everything form here on out was purely McDonald vs. Grainger-Barras, with Grainger-Barras hot on the heels of McDonald wherever he went. McDonald played centre half-forward which may have been a mistake in hindsight, for as hard as McDonald worked to give strong leads and provide a good outlet, the delivery to him was very poor and very rarely to his advantage. The first notable contest was on the wing where Grainger-Barras used good bodywork to work McDonald under the ball, gather nicely, and get a a scrappy left-foot kick forward. Not long after, Grainger-Barras took a nice intercept mark and this was the point where that side of his game would really start to shine, as he does it better than anyone else in his draft class.

Grainger-Barras is a competitor and despite his light frame, he is not afraid to go in hard not just to win his own ball, but to also tackle hard. He laid a strong tackle and a few minutes later he applied a great spoil on McDonald at half-forward – letting his opponent know about it and further adding to McDonalds growing frustration. Grainger-Barras is not afraid to stir the pot and get under his opponents’ skin, and at the earlier half time scuffle he made sure to get involved in some capacity.

The frustration wouldn’t go away for McDonald because not long after the aforementioned spoil, he again found himself outdone by Grainger-Barras, who took a very nice intercept mark going back with flight and following with a nice kick inboard. You couldn’t blame McDonald for the frustration, with plenty of kicks certainly not to his advantage, but credit also had to be given to Grainger-Barras to still show his strength as an interceptor while also manning up the most dangerous forward on the opposition.

Q4:

It did not take long for Grainger-Barras to get involved with a strong tackle on the wing that should have been rewarded, but he would get a free kick later on at McDonald’s expense. He would have to be considered lucky as their was not much in it, only further adding to McDonald’s frustrating second half. Not long after, Grainger-Barras again took a strong intercept mark on the wing and would kick long inside 50 to a one-on-one. McDonald did not drop his head and still competed hard, crashing one pack hard on the wing. A couple of minutes later, he would again compete hard in a marking contest inside 50 which would allow his smaller teammates to gather the crumbs. It won’t show on the stat sheet, but McDonald certainly worked hard to not only give an option on the lead, but also compete in the contest.

Grainger-Barras was in fine intercepting form for this quarter and he would take a brilliant intercept mark close to goal, before using the ball well with a long switch kick. Apart from his error early in the game, his kicking had been sensational, especially his longer kicks as he can really get under them. About a minute afterwards, McDonald would have another nice moment inside 50. Despite not getting a stat for it, he competed well inside 50 and a timely intercept from a handball would lead to his team gathering the loose ball and kicking a goal. McDonald really proved in the the last quarter that it’s his work inside 50 that’s most generous and advantageous for Perth and his final involvement, he would make a clean gather at ground level and handpass to a teammate close to goal. McDonald has proven this year that he is not only strong in the air but also nimble and clean at ground level for a taller player, and I expect he will hold more of his marks once he puts on some more size in the future. He was beaten by Grainger-Barras in the second half but you couldn’t have asked for more from him, and kicking three goals is certainly not a bad return.

Grainger-Barras wasn’t done yet though, as he had a really good two-minute patch not long after McDonald’s last involvement. He would take a lovely contested intercept mark flying in from the side in defensive 50, and again would release a long kick out from defensive 50 down the line. He competed really well on the wing where he took on a tackler and got a handball out in what was a great act of desperation, despite the game already being won. Not long after that he would put the exclamation point on his great game, taking an awesome intercept mark going back with flight and hurting himself in the process. That was certainly enough to give him a well earned rest anyway.

There was a fear going into the game that these two young guns wouldn’t line up on each other but not only did they line up on each other, they both managed to have very good games with Grainger-Barras perhaps having his best ever game at League level. He finished with 17 disposals and eight marks while McDonald again hit the scoreboard, kicking 3.1 as he firmly looks to finish among the top three in the WAFL goalkicking charts. Fellow draft fancy, O’Driscoll also had a great game backing up his brilliant outing last week, but this game was all about two young talents going head-to-head in McDonald and Grainger-Barras. They did not disappoint.

Power Rankings: September 2020 | July 2020 | August 2020
>> 2020 Western Australia Under 18s Squad Prediction

Featured Image: Leading WA draft prospects Denver Grainger-Barras, Logan McDonald, and Nathan O’Driscoll | Source: Michael Willson/AFL Media

TSL Player focus: Jared Dakin

FOLLOWING on from yesterday’s Tasmanian State League (TSL) notes, Fraser Stewart took a look at Jared Dakin‘s performance for Launceston against Tigers during their huge win on Sunday. Dakin tested at the Rookie Me Combine last year after gaining club interest, and ran a 2.99-second 20m sprint and 21.3 yo-yo test showing his nice balance of speed and endurance. In 2020, Dakin has been an important part of the Blues’ campaign playing between midfield and forward for the top of the table side.

Q1

Spent most of the quarter in the midfield, and got plenty of the ball, including getting most of his disposals around the contest. He also managed to get some clearances. He showed why he is highly rated, even though he was not damaging in the first quarter on the scoreboard, he was very effective with the use of the ball, often slowing the game down and looking for his options with effective delivery and providing good service to teammates and inside 50 entries.

Q2

Moved to his normal full-forward position, but drifted in and out of the midfield to get more use of the ball. When he was in the middle and with the ball, it was more the same, slowing the game down to assess the situation in a bid to slice open the Tigers defence to catch them off guard. When he was in the middle he got another couple of clearances.

Q3

Returned to full forward did not have that much of an impact in the first couple of minutes, once again moved to the middle of the ground, where he got in and around the contest, as well getting a few clearances. Midway through the quarter he had a goal assist as he delivered the ball inside 50 and a teammate ran onto his kick and kicked the goal.

Q4

Played most of the quarter at full forward so he did not get as much of the ball as he did in the first three quarters. He did kick a goal midway through the term, as he led for a mark catching the Tigers player off guard as he created plenty of space for him.

SUMMARY

Dakin finished the match with an impressive 19 disposals, five marks and three clearances, with a 73 per cent disposal efficiency and 52.6 per cent contested rate. He also had four inside 50s, two rebounds and kicked that goal in the final term to be the equal sixth in the Premier Data rankings points for the game. It was a much improved performance from his Wednesday night game where he started strong, but had the 10 touches, three marks, two clearances, two tackles and one goal.

PLAYER PROFILE
PLAYER FOCUS: DAKIN & CALLOW

WAFL League Player Focus: Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at another prospect who stood out recently in the West Australian Football League (WAFL). This week, in Round 7 of the League competition, we put Peel Thunder prospect Isiah Winder under the microscope, as he made his second top flight appearance for the Thunder in their 35-point loss to ladder leader, South Fremantle on Saturday.

PLAYER PAGE

Isiah Winder
Peel Thunder/Western Australia

DOB: May 16, 2002
Height: 179cm
Weight: 79kg

Position: Small forward/midfielder

>> AFL Draft Watch: Isiah Winder

PLAYER FOCUS

Stats: 6 kicks, 5 handballs, 11 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles

Winder earned himself a call-up to the League side after another strong performance in the Colts, where he has impressed with his midfield craft and class. While he did not get the opportunity to play midfield at League level, the 18-year-old gained some valuable time battling against the undefeated South Fremantle unit, utilised up either end of the ground down. Winder made his League debut in Round 3 and will be hoping to keep his spot in the young Peel side. He certainly showed some good signs, with his ball use easily up to the standard.

Q1:

Winder started the game down back, which is a position he has not played often at Colts level. He had a nice bit of play early, showing clean hands below his knees to take the ball and quickly execute a dinky left-foot pass which showed a lot of class. Shortly after, he was paired up with the dangerous Haiden Schloithe and would give away a holding free kick against him in a marking contest on the wing, but fared better on him in other contests later in the game. He had another awkward moment with Schloithe, this time after receiving a switch kick at half-back. Winder tried a quick dinky kick down the line, but it was intercepted by that man Schloithe, making for one of his rare errors with ball in hand. He also made some nice defensive efforts; getting back to rush a behind having nullified the contest inside defensive 50, despite getting caught behind an opponent on the lead. He followed up that effort, taking the kick-out with a nice pass to teammate Jack Sears.

Q2:

One eye-catching bit of play came in the second quarter where he gathered the crumbs deep in defence, then faked an opponent and executed a classy little handball to get his side out of trouble. His next disposal came from a mark at half-back, and he would quickly kick the ball long down the line to a leading player which looked nice off the boot, but was just a tad too high for his leading teammate. His last disposal for the quarter was another nice gather at half-back and a slick handball to follow, again showcasing his clean hands.

Q3:

Winder’s third term was his most prolific, starting with a clean handball on the wing. Not long after, he would have another nice play on the wing which came from his pressure on an opponent running to kick inside 50. Winder’s closing speed effected a poor kick, which saw him then quickly work up the field to receive the ball after his side won back possession. Winder followed up with a nice long handball to set up his side’s movement inside 50. It was a great passage from the youngster, showing he could defend and attack to a high standard, and again proving he can really hurt the opposition with his clean disposal. He had a good bit of play later in the quarter with a slick gather close to goal, doing well to sit in the dangerous spot and handball out to a teammate under pressure. The disposal was a little untidy, but a good effort nonetheless.

Q4:

Winder got to play as a forward in the last quarter, which is a position he played well in the Colts last year. Despite his familiarity in the role, Winder did not have any results on the scoreboard and it was his quietest period of the game. His only disposal in this quarter came very late, receiving a handball in the middle. He showed great vision to spot Sears with a snap kick that was perfectly placed, again showing his class with ball in hand. It was quick thinking to not only identify the target, but also identify the type of kick needed to execute the kick. Winder’s forward pressure late in the quarter was fairly good, but he could use a bit more consistency in his intensity to defend as a forward.

Closing thoughts…

Winder got a lot out of this game, playing roles he would not normally play at Colts level to show his potential versatility to recruiters. He had some big matchups, especially on Schloithe, and more than held his own against bigger and stronger opponents. Winder’s skill and class more than held up at the level and is something that sets him apart from his peers. As classy as he looked, I’d like to see some more intensity and consistency in his defensive game, and bringing that up to the level of his skills would go a long way to making a big impact at League level and catching the eyes of recruiters.

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020
>> 2020 Western Australia Under 18s Squad Prediction

Featured Image: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

WAFL League Player Focus: Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at a prospect who stood out recently in the West Australian Football League (WAFL). This week, in Round 7 of the League competition, we put Perth prospect Nathan O’Driscoll under the microscope, as he made his second top flight appearance for the Demons in their 26-point loss to reigning premier, Subiaco on Saturday.

PLAYER PAGE

Nathan O’Driscoll
Perth/Western Australia

DOB: May 17, 2002
Height: 187cm
Weight: 76kg

Position: Midfielder/Utility

>> AFL Draft Watch: Nathan O’Driscoll
>> Marquee Matchup: O’Driscoll vs. Hollands

PLAYER FOCUS

Stats: 6 kicks, 14 handballs, 20 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 3 inside 50s

O’Driscoll had to wait a little longer to earn his spot in Perth’s League side, but despite an interrupted pre-season, he made is League debut last week and kicked the sealer in the Demons’ impressive win over Claremont. Able to play in numerous positions, it was forward and through the midfield that he was used against Subiaco. It was promising to see the 18-year-old get an opportunity to play midfield at League level and while he may lack the strength of more mature bodies, he didn’t lack the endeavour to compete, which would have pleased his coaches.

Q1:

O’Driscoll started the game forward and didn’t take long to get involved, winning the ball at half-back, having a nice run, and handballing to a teammate inboard. His next bit of play came less than a minute later, gathering nicely at half-forward and then balking an opponent to kick inside 50. Although the kick was scrappy, it was nice to seem him back himself to get around the opponent. He would show great attack on the ball for the rest of the quarter and despite not getting many opportunities across that period, O’Driscoll would later win the ball at a centre stoppage with a nice gather and quick clean handball. That kind of play later proved to be a key feature of his game.

Q2:

He was far more involved in the second quarter, starting with another run through the middle and finishing with a nice long kick inside 50. A few minutes later, he would attack the loose ball with a great pick-up at the forward 50 arc, but lost his footing on the move. His ground balls were again a feature later in the term, as he made a great gather at half-back in a stoppage situation and fired out a quick little handball to a teammate. Soon after, O’Driscoll nailed a great tackle in defensive 50, saving a scoring opportunity and winning the free kick. He received a 50-metre penalty and then quickly kicked long inside 50. A few minutes later, he won another holding the ball free kick with a nice chase and tackle at half-forward, but saw his team take on the advantage rule. Very late in the quarter, he would keep the ball in play with a kick off the ground very close to the boundary to gain some more meterage.

Q3:

O’Driscoll continued his good form and efforts in the third quarter working, into the backline and forward line. I hadn’t touched on it before, but his work-rate around the ground was outstanding the whole day, running hard both ways. He showed great attack on the footy deep in the forward line, winning the ball with a second effort and flicking a little handball out to his teammate. The hard running I touched on was influential in the same passage of play which lead to his good mate Logan McDonald kicking a goal. As Perth moved the ball along the wing, O’Driscoll was right there, streaming forward to become an option and continuing to work down the ground. Eventually, he got to the fall of the ball 20-metres out from goal, sweeping on the ball and then quickly firing out a handball to McDonald. This bit of play really highlighted everything about his game that stood out with his work-rate and clean hands.

Later in the quarter, he would gather the ball on the wing from a stoppage, going for a little run and handpassing over the top to a teammate. The ball spilled but he quickly mopped up with a strong second effort. He had a few more possession late in the quarter with his trademark clean gathers at ground level and quick, clean handballs – with one showing good vision from a stoppage.

Q4:

O’Driscoll’s last quarter was also superb, again getting to start in the midfield were he had fully deserved to be at that point in the game. He started the quarter well with a strong tackle, leaping straight at the hips showing good technique. His tackling had been strong all day and has also been a staple of his game for years. His attack on the ball was again superb in the last quarter and his endeavour again great. He contributed some desperate efforts in defence during the middle parts of the quarter, winning the ball through sheer desperation. Perhaps his biggest highlight of the game came with a strong contested mark at the defensive 50 arc. With pressure coming from behind, O’Driscoll stuck the mark outstretched, a grab which many young players wouldn’t be able to hold.

His purple patch continued, attacking the ball hard at a stoppage. Despite fumbling once, he would still gather the ball and handpass it off. Soon after, he again swooped on the loose ball and fired a nice long handball to a teammate. The game was lost, but he still put in some great efforts, especially in the forward zone – working hard to cut off the ball and cause a spoil. He almost took a great mark inside 50 coming from the side, and it was great seeing him still trying to win the ball. One of the last contests of the day was a stoppage on the wing where he just hunted the ball in flight and nailed the opponent from the hit-out with a strong tackle. I cant wait to see what he can do with that endeavour when he puts on some muscle.

Closing thoughts…

It was an outstanding game from O’Driscoll, who was instrumental in ensuring the game wasn’t a complete blowout. His efforts over the four quarters and enthusiasm really lifted his side. O’Driscoll finished the game with an equal team-high 20 disposals and also laid six strong tackles in a well balanced midfield display. Named second-best on ground by the coaches, I cant see him coming out of this Perth side any time soon, and look forward to seeing him continue to build on this game, showcasing his attributes. The youngster has grown 5cm since last year and could still grow even more. He should become a genuine tall midfielder, which is in vogue throughout the AFL right now.

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020
>> 2020 Western Australia Under 18s Squad Prediction

Featured Image: (Retrieved from) @WAFLOfficial via Twitter

TSL Player focus: Jackson Callow (North Launceston)

NORTH Launceston’s Jackson Callow was a star for his side in the Tasmanian State League (TSL) competition on Wednesday night, but not in the way that many NAB League spectators who were unable to see the game might have expected. The key position forward is a contested marking beast – comfortably the best in the draft crop when it comes to his hands above his head – but what has been trialled in stints this season for the Bombers, became a full-time role for the 194cm, 96kg 18-year-old.

That role is a rebounding centre half-back that not only nullified his direct opponent – of which there were many on the night – but also provided some drive. Callow is not the most athletic of players as you might expect from a key forward, but what he showed under lights was his ability to read the ball in flight regardless of what end he was up. In the TSL season so far, Callow played predominantly forward in the first few games – including kicking three majors against the Blues in the team’s first encounter – whilst having stints further up the ground and even around the stoppage at times. In recent weeks, Callow has spent quarters here or there in defence, lining up at centre half-back and holding his own against some of the league’s top performers. On Wednesday night, that trial became a full-time job.

One of the knocks on Callow coming into the season compared to some key position players was the unknown versatility. As a key forward, he is too big and too strong, and he showed that against NAB League defenders last year on his way to 24 goals in 14 games – an average of 1.7 a match – often against multiple opponents. While it might be just the one full-time game – and several quarters here and there – Callow is proving that he has the versatility to play multiple roles at the elite level.

Here’s how we assessed his performance:

Q1:

Starting at centre half-back, Callow ironically won his first touch through a mark on the forward side of the wing and then managed to short kick and hit his target by foot. Back at half-back midway through the term, Callow spoiled the ball cleanly away from his opponent on the lead, but unfortunately it fell to a Launceston opponent who mopped up, kicked it forward and it led to a goal. In this case, there was no other logical option for Callow to take, and it was bad luck rather than poor decision making. He would push up on the wing and use quick hands to keep the ball moving whilst working hard defensively to provide a block for his teammate.

Q2:

Callow first featured with a free kick deep in defence, going up for a mark in a pack but was pushed out of it. He used the ball well by foot and then would again push up the ground and dispose of it by hand quickly. One aspect of Callow’s game was the fact that he played within his limitations, not going for massive runs, but doing enough to keep the ball moving quickly. His first of a number of highlights came in the 18th minute mark of the term where he charged out of deep defence to intercept a ball at full speed and open up the game on the counter attack. His pass which went long to the wing hitting a target caught Launceston at a disadvantage and led to a Tom Bennett mark inside 50 and set shot goal.

Q3:

There were plenty more of those highlights to come, with Callow’s contested marking ability unsurprisingly being a feature of his performance. He had a good effort early in the quarter but could not quite pull it down with so many players around him, but soon played the role of a smaller man by reading a tackled opponents handball off the deck, cutting it off and then kicking it long outside the defensive 50. He was too strong for his opponents in the air, taking a contested mark at half-back, and then had what was his best play of the game. Launceston had won the ball at half-back and with so many numbers camped in the Blues forward half, there was space galore down the field. Launceston launched off half-back to spot up a free player on the forward side of the centre, but then out of nowhere Callow had raced across, clunked the mark one-grab and then charged down the middle until he could steady and pump it back inside attacking 50.

Q4:

The fourth term also provided some highlights, but also some areas that the young key position player could work on. He was unluckily pinged for walking the ball out of bounds at half-back in the opening minute, but was fortunately not made to pay the price by the Blues. His marking spree continued through the final term with yet another intercept mark at half-back, reading the play perfectly and cutting off a forward’s marking avenue. He took a remarkable grab over a smaller opponent in a goalsquare pack, putting the arms up and clunking it one-grab with ease, and was able to hit a target in the back pocket. A couple of times he made mistakes by hand, such as at the 16-minute mark when being tackled he rushed a handball to no one in particular with Launceston having the outnumber and the Blues ran it down to kick a goal. His work at ground level as a whole was quite good though, opposed to Jared Dakin late in the term, he was able to keep the ball in front of him and not take possession until he had to, but again just coughed up the handball to an opponent facing him.

Summary:

If there was one aspect to take out of this game, it is the fact that Callow showed he can read the ball in flight at either end and comfortably play in the defensive 50. It is one thing to outmark your opponent in a one-on-one – no one would ever doubt Callow’s ability to do that – but another to make the choice to come off your opponent knowing he was not going to impact, and instead chop off a forward thrust. While he has set the bar high for himself with this performance, if Callow is able to continually provide that aerial presence and a bit of drive wherever he is on the ground, he may have found that point of difference as a swingman.

Picture: Solstice Digital & Photography

QAFL Seniors Player Focus: Rhys Nicholls (Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at a prospect who stood out recently in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Seniors. This week, we put Gold Coast SUNS Academy prospect Rhys Nicholls under the microscope, as he returned to senior action for the Labrador Tigers in their 50-point home loss to Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) on Saturday.

>> Scouting Notes: Academy Series – Round 1
>> Wrap: Academy Series – Round 2

PLAYER PAGE

Rhys Nicholls
Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies

DOB: September 30, 2002
Height: 187cm
Weight: 77kg

Position: Half-back/wing

PLAYER FOCUS

Q1:

Stationed on the wing he occupied for most of the game, Nicholls made a promising start to proceedings. While he began on the outside, the 17-year-old got involved at the contest as soon as each centre bounce went down, attacking every scrimmage on the move and reading the direction of play well. He had a couple of nice moments carving through traffic, as he used his clean hands and agility to weave out of trouble and dish out to runners.

While his first term was overall his best, Nicholls was found wanting in a couple of minor moments. The first was for pace against fellow SUNS Academy product Riley Buckland, who beat him to a loose ball and burned him off to pump the ball inside 50. The second instance came after a nice bit of composure to gather and dispose inside defensive 50, before receiving the ball back and delivering a daisy-cutter with his exit kick. Still, Nicholls was getting to good spots and having an impact on the game with his carry and class.

Q2:

Nicholls’ anticipation really came to the fore in the early stages of term two, as he continued to attack contests at speed. Running in from the wing once again, Nicholls bolted off the line and wasn’t afraid to throw his bodyweight around at the coalface. He became particularly adept at reading which direction the play was heading, and running to the right spots to either sweep up the ground ball, or receive on the move and generate some forward momentum.

The extra string to his bow came in the form of aerial impact, which he has been known for when patrolling the half-back line. Nicholls used his smarts to read where PBC would look to kick the ball next and hit the packs with courage to create spillages. He would follow up that work with ground ball gets as well, doubling his impact on the play.

Nicholls’ game seemed to go south in the latter stages of the second term though, as he went a little far with his physicality; driving his opponent into the ground for a free kick against, before seeming to rub in the contact to his downed adversary with a bit of forearm action, to put it nicely. After a short scuffle, he was sent to the bench for the remainder of the period.

Q3:

If he hadn’t already showed his lack of fear in competing against more mature bodies, Nicholls really did so after the main break. His work on the outer consisted of breaking to the open side when Labrador began to transition into attack, but it was Nicholls’ hardness at the contest which better summed up his third term. His strength and presence around the ball was obvious, laying solid bumps to force stoppages, and generally throwing his weight around. It did uncover a slight tendency though, as Nicholls would often seek to bump and hurt his opponent, rather than tackling.

His ability to track back and mop up ground balls in defence remained amid the chaos, with some good aerial efforts proving fruitless, but showing good determination and sound reading of the game. Nicholls may have been sucked in on a couple of occasions later in the term, as he twice caught 2018 Queensland Under 16 teammate, Liam O’Brien solidly and copped some attention from PBC opponents.

Q4:

After a promising start to the game, Nicholls’ final term was arguably his quietest. It may have hardly been his fault though, with a late move forward proving a touch untimely as PBC began to kick away up the other end. Still, Nicholls continued to roam the outer and proved strong over the ball when his number was called. He leapt for aerial balls until the end, but seemed a touch frustrated as he just missed out on a few marks to taller or better positioned opponents. Nicholls can be damaging with his combination of intercept marking and sharp kicking, but with the latter of those weapons put away for most of the match, his willingness at the contest and reading of the play were what stood out most.

>> MORE SUNS ACADEMY CONTENT

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020
>> 2020 Allies Under 18s Squad Prediction

Featured Image: RF Photography