Category: South Australia

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: Brayden Cook vs. Conor Stone

OVER the last week, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, Chief Editor Peter Williams again sat down with AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro to compare two of the most exciting and similar medium-forward available in this year’s crop.

The players under our microscope are South Adelaide’s Brayden Cook, and Oakleigh Chargers’ Conor Stone. They measure up virtually identically in terms of size and athletic attributes, with both prospects having also enjoyed steep rises on the back of their on-field performances. Cook has come from the clouds this year to consolidate his standing as a draft bolter, while Stone burst onto the scene with promising showings in the Chargers’ 2019 NAB League premiership team. Their claims to dual-position status as deep forwards who can also play on the wing adds another air of similarity, making them an ideal pair to set alongside one another.

To listen to the comparison in full, click here.

Here are the respective players’ pocket profiles:
(Click on their names highlighted in red to read their full draft profiles)

Brayden Cook
South Adelaide/South Australia

DOB: July 18, 2002
Height: 189cm
Weight: 82kg

Strengths: Versatility, athleticism, goal sense, smarts/evasion, overhead marking, game-winning ability, decision making/creativity

Improvements: Finishing consistency, strength

Conor Stone
St Kevin’s/Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

DOB: April 22, 2002
Height: 188cm
Weight: 81kg

Strengths: Goal sense, finishing, athleticism, vertical leap, smarts/anticipation, endurance

Improvements: Untapped versatility, explosive speed, consistent impact/output

Here’s how they match up athletically:

Cook:

Standing Vertical Jump – 58cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L) – 72cm/74cm
Speed (20m) – 3.103 seconds
Agility – 8.45 seconds
Endurance (2km) – 6:48

Stone:

Standing Vertical Jump – 67cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L) – 73cm/83cm
Speed (20m) – 3.10 seconds
Agility – 8.67 seconds
Endurance (yo-yo) – 21.5

Ultimately, there are a few points of difference which separate these two prospects. It should also be pointed out, in the interest of fairness, that Cook’s testing data has been pulled from the recent South Australian Draft Combine, while Stone’s results are from preseason as he awaits the Vic Metro combine on October 31. Furthermore, Cook has been able to push his case massive in 2020 with a full season of football, while Stone has been made to wait it out on the sidelines like all other Victorian prospects this year. Like Cook, he could well have been another to push into top 25 calculations with a big top-age campaign.

Though they measure up at essentially the same height/weight and play the same role, clubs will find little areas which have them leaning towards one player more than the other. At least at NAB League level, Stone has proven more of a forward/wingman, whereas Cook has proven to start on the wing before shifting forward. Both are capable of kicking big bags of goals and can take eye-catching overhead marks, while their smarts at ground level bode for outstanding forward craft. Stone has a strong athletics background and arguably boasts a greater endurance base, but Cook is a touch lighter and more nimble across the ground in open play.

At this point, and by no fault of Stone, Cook is potentially ahead in terms of draft stocks having been able to prove his worth on-field more recently. Time will tell whether that is the case come draft day, which looms on the week of December 7. Both look like second round candidates.

Scouting Notes: 2020 South Australian Under 18 All-Stars

THE 2020 South Australian Under 18 All-Stars and Under 17 Futures took to Thebarton Oval on Friday night, performing in their final showcase for the year. While a number of highly touted top-age draft prospects were unable to take the field, other big names were able to show their class. In the main event, Team Grundy defeated Team Hurn 12.18 (90) to 4.12 (36), while Team Smith held on to beat Team Ebert 9.6 (60) to 7.10 (52) in the curtain raiser.

Draft Central Football Editor, Michael Alvaro was on hand to take note of the standout players and familiar names who impressed across both games. For the full teams and replays of either game, click here.

>> Power Rankings: October Update

Under 18 All-Stars – Team Grundy (Red) vs. Team Hurn (Yellow)

Team Grundy:

#4 Jase Burgoyne

One of a half-dozen Team Grundy bottom-agers, the 2021-eligible Port Adelaide father-son prospect showed off some of his best traits in patches. Able to adapt on each line, the smooth moving son of Peter boasts plenty of upside, but remains quite raw and light-on at 184cm/62kg. He was able to show nice agility in traffic and evasive techniques which helped him keep clear of closing opponents. Much of his work was done in general play, but he is known to be a strong accumulator who can utilise his sound short kicking game to help his side maintain possession.

#6 Will Spain

Another bottom-ager on Team Red, Spain popped up with some nice moments throughout the game. The diminutive Sturt midfielder was mostly utilised on the outer, where he was able to get his legs pumping with ball in hand and provide quick linkage between the arcs. He conveyed a good work-rate to get back and take a relieving diving mark inside defensive 50 during the second term, but showed his best form when taking the game on and gaining repeat possessions with his line-breaking run.

#7 Blayne O’Loughlin

O’Loughlin is a 2021-eligible prospect who is sure to provide Adelaide fans with continued hope, given he is tied to the Crows’ Next Generation Academy (NGA). There may not be much of the 172cm defender, but he packs a punch. He was able to compete well in his usual defensive post, proving strong at ground level and rebounding quickly once he had snapped up possession. While stationed a touch deeper than usual, O’Loughlin’s penetration by foot was somewhat replaced by his sound decision making, as he was able to find shorter options. He was even entrusted with the kick-ins at times, much like he has been with North Adelaide.

#8 Henry Nelligan

The 2020 SANFL Under 18s premiership player had a case for being best afield, as his sheer work-rate and ability to accumulate possessions across the ground took full toll. Nelligan is one of the most consistent players among his South Australian peers in terms of pure ball winning; able to win it at ground level, in space around the ground, or even on the lead up forward. His craftiness forward of centre came to the fore, with a beautifully improvised snap to Tom Emmett in the second term making for a nice goal assist. He also had chances to find the goals himself, but saw a set shot and attempt on the run dragged wide, while a quick snap in the final term was rushed over. His second efforts and clear footballing smarts make up a lot for what he lacks in size, and it seems he had a point to prove having missed out on a National Combine invite.

#11 Lachlan Grubb

Perhaps another National Combine omission with a point to prove, Grubb seems to have gained a great deal of confidence having turned out at senior level. The speedy forward brought exactly that to the contest, breaking the lines and proving a menace going inside 50. While he missed multiple chances to get on the scoreboard himself, Grubb assisted goals to Zac Dumesny in the second term and Cooper Horsnell in the fourth, while also unselfishly hitting up Tom Emmett on the fly when he could easily have sunk a shot from 35 metres out. But arguably his biggest play of the night came via a three-bounce dash on the wing during the third term, where he showcased his high-level sprinting ability to burn an opponent and deliver inside 50. A solid outing, he just needs to refine that finishing product.

#12 Daniel Fairbrother

Fairbrother is another Norwood premiership player, and one who has also gained some valuable senior experience. In a defensive role which he looks comfortable in, the top-ager was able to prove his worth with ball in hand on the back of some clean kicks and composed touches. He is the type of player you want to be exiting the defensive 50, and was a strong contributor across half-back.

#15 Max Clifton

Another solid contributor, Clifton popped up with glimpses of his best form in each quarter. In the first term, it was his courage to mark strongly overhead and willingness to move the ball on immediately which stood out. In the second stanza, the midfielder showed nice agility and was difficult to tackle. After half time, he had more of an impact inside attacking 50 with a set shot attempt which went wide, followed by an assist to Nasiah Wanganeen who tapped-in a snap on goal from point-blank range.

#16 Mani Liddy

The hard-nosed Sturt midfielder proved a fast starter, nearly snaring two impressive goals within the opening term. He did manage to claim Team Grundy’s first major, taking advantage from a free kick inside 50 and finishing with aplomb on the checkside. He almost followed it up with a snap moments later, but could not find the same spark as the contest wore on, rotating between the midfield and forwardline.

#17 Cooper Beecken

Arguably the most impressive bottom-ager afield, Beecken is a light and athletic 190cm defender who boasts many similarities to Hawthorn’s Will Day. The Glenelg prospect proved very clean and composed in possession across the back half, chiming in with timely intercept marks and mopping up at ground level. He seems to cover the ground well too, able to float into good positions in the defensive arc and help initiate rebounding forays. Having spent a good chunk of his season turning out for Sacred Heart, Beecken has emerged as an early top 25 prospect ahead of his draft eligible year in 2021.

#20 Zac Dumesny

The highly touted South Adelaide prospect was back to his best in this contest, taking up a spot on the wing and even rotating through the inside at times during the second half. Dumesny’s third quarter was arguably his best; as his clean hands, sharp skills, forward running capacity, and intercept qualities all came to the fore. He got forward well to become an option in said term but hit the post with his 30-metre set shot, and was also sighted marking on the defensive goal line during the following stanza. A typical Dumesny play was evident in the second quarter, as he gathered superbly on the half-volley at pace and flicked out a releasing handball to Caleb Poulter on the run. Top effort overall, one of the best afield.

#21 Riley Holder

Another prospect out of Sacred Heart and Glenelg, Holder proved dangerous inside attacking 50 with his strong aerial marking and sound conversion in front of goal. He booted three majors overall, with all three coming from set shots. Two of them were claimed in the opening term, as Holder’s ability to gain separation on the lead and hold onto marks on the move helped earn those scoring opportunities. He sunk a third after half time by presenting well once again, capping off a handy display up forward.

#22 Nic Couroupis

Couroupis is an over-ager who has flown a little under the radar, but came to prominence with some nice plays in this outing. The strongly-built midfielder spent a lot of time in defence, utilising his overhead marking ability to relieve some contested situations in the back half. He had a nice attacking moment too, with a well-taken mark in the corridor helping him continue his run and provide Tom Emmett with a goal assist just before the half time siren, while his kicking game was also generally sharp.

#33 Caleb Poulter

Far and away the best and most classy player afield, particularly in the first half, Poulter may well have cemented his first round status with this performance. The 192cm midfielder started at the centre bounces and made an impact straight away with a couple of clearances right out of the middle. He was simply cleaner and more effective than any other player, extracting beautifully and hitting a teammate with nearly every disposal. His ability to release long handballs from congestion has always been a key trait, and one particular pass from the centre bounce found Zac Dumesny on the wing, who hardly had to break stride to gather. It is difficult to do justice to his impact in the first half, with his silk and poise on the ball proving a class above the rest. Hardly reliant on pure strength, Poulter proved elusive and athletic in his craft. He was quieter after the main break, but had done plenty to prove his worth beforehand.

#34 Tom Emmett

About a month shy of his 19th birthday, Emmett looks a mature type in terms of his physicality and willingness to compete. At 186cm/86kg, the Sturt forward provided great presence inside 50 and finished with a game-high four goals. He was particularly aggressive at opposition kick-ins, reading the play well to intercept and even snaring a turnover goal that way. His long-range set shot conversion right on the half time siren showed his finishing ability, and some Reserves experience this year seems to have boosted his stock back down at Under 18s level.

Team Hurn:

#3 Corey Durdin

The Central District product found some form in spurts as he returned from repeat hamstring injuries, though it was a tough night to be a Team Hurn forward. As has always been the case with Durdin, his ground level efforts were terrific; not only digging in to win his own ball, but also applying strong tackles, smothers, and attempting to accelerate away. The 173cm prospect moved high up the ground in search of possession and attended some stoppages in general play, before moving into the centre bounces during the final term. He was most prominent during the last quarter, showing good toe away from congestion and finding a couple of teammates inside 50 with neat kicks.

#4 Bailey Chamberlain

Having staked his claim for Westies’ Under 18s as a primary ball winner, Chamberlain showcased his balance with a decent performance on the wing. He played there upon earning a senior call-up and was able to utilise his speed in transition to help link Team Hurn inside attacking 50. He tended to shift into the corridor at times, which proved a dangerous ploy when his teammates found him and he was able to accelerate forward. Chamberlain’s kicking at speed remains a touch scrappy, though back-to-back forward thrusts in the final term proved he is capable of finding his targets, but just needs to do so more consistently.

#7 Xavier Robins

Somewhat of a bolter in this year’s talent pool, Robins comes from good pedigree and possesses some handy weapons at half-back. The dashing defender was in the thick of the action early, mostly sighted attempting to repel Team Grundy’s attacks within the defensive arc, and darting kicks forward. While still a touch light, Robins has great speed and repeatedly worked all the way up to half-forward to move his side into attacking 50. While it didn’t always come off, Robins GPS data should show some solid numbers from those efforts.

#8 Liam Hamilton

It was somewhat of an ‘almost’ performance from Hamilton, who ended up with plenty of chances inside forward 50 but could not quite come away with a major score. The South Adelaide top-ager found the ball in dangerous positions nonetheless and was particularly lively in the second half. Perhaps his biggest stumbling block was the distance many of his shots came from, with some falling short from around 40 metres out, while others went wide either on the run or at a closer range. With a more refined finishing ability, Hamilton could have ended up with a bag of goals.

#9 Tom Powell

It often takes a keen watcher to observed Powell’s true impact in midfield, as many of his disposals are easily missed on the inside. The 2020 McCallum Tomkins Medallist showcased his wonderfully clean and quick hands in congestion, keeping his hands up in tackles and flicking out accurate passes to his runners. He just always seems to be able to get a handball away at the ideal time and is one of the most effective stoppage players in this year’s crop. His biggest impact was arguably felt in the early stages, but he also finished well and was able to accumulate at either end in between.

#11 Tariek Newchurch

Plenty was made of Newchurch’s starting position on the wing for Team Hurn, though he did not quite have the overall impact he would have liked. He was first sighted making a darting run inside attacking 50, not afraid to go backwards to find space before delivering well across the arc. Newchurch then popped up with a couple of nice moments in the second and third terms, forced right into the defensive half to take a strong intercept grab overhead, and tracking back to take another in the following quarter. He looked to move the ball on and generate some attack with his pace, but it was a tough night for the men in yellow. Plenty of Crows fans will be excited to get Newchurch on board as an NGA selection.

#13 Brodie Lake

Lake was arguably his side’s most impressive player and was Team Hurn’s sole goalkicker for the best part of three quarters. The Northern Territory native was outstanding in the first half, booting a couple of classy majors and impacting the play from midfield. While rotating forward, he first latched onto a Luke Edwards kick on the lead and sunk a lovey set shot from 40 metres on a tough angle. His second goal was a party trick, converting a checkside attempt from a fair distance out on the boundary line. He also laid a fantastic tackle in the first term to force a stoppage in his defensive goalsquare, exemplifying his work-rate. Lake faded a touch in the second half, but his early moments would have stuck clear in the memory of onlookers.

#14 Nicholas Kraemer

The big-bodied South Adelaide midfielder had his top-age season interrupted by injury, but has fared well upon his return with plenty of time in defence. That was no different in this game, as Kraemer was able to bring great physicality and cleanliness to an under-siege back six. He was busy to start with and had an impact through midfield, but arguably did his best work down back with intercepts and hard work at ground level. It would not have been easy to compete so consistently given the one-sided nature of the game, but Kraemer stood up and was generally reliable with ball in hand, even from the kick-ins.

#15 Beau McCreery

Team Hurn’s only 19-year-old afield, McCreery provided some good spark for his side working up the field from his forward post. He was even thrown into the midfield during the second half having suffered from a lack of service inside attacking 50. The lively South Adelaide product got involved going forward, and his highlight for the game came via an outstanding run-down tackle in the second term to earn possession back.

#16 Luke Edwards

Edwards is one of the many South Australian prospects to have been highly touted from a long way out, especially given his father-son ties to the Adelaide Crows. He somewhat reverted back to a familiar state-level role in this outing, rotating between the midfield and backline for Team Hurn. He provided Brodie Lake with his side’s first goal in the opening term and was generally safe in his disposal via foot. Having won a clearance or two, most of Edwards’ contributions came in defence as he took the kick-ins and looked to calmly distribute out of the back half. He did run into trouble with a couple of turnovers from defensive 50, but worked to recover the ball and was a solid figure overall.

#24 Nathan Hearing

Fresh off his best afield SANFL Under 18s Grand Final performance, Hearing took on the ruck duties once again at 195cm. He is a competitive unit, able to claim the ball out of the ruck and pump it forward, or compete at ground level to help his midfielders with a physical presence. He missed the chance to cap off his game with a goal in the final term, sending a set shot wide.


Under 17 Futures – Team Ebert (Blue) vs. Team Smith (Yellow)

Team Smith managed to hold off Team Ebert in the Under 17 Futures fixture, with a bunch of promising 2021 and 2022-eligible prospects strutting their stuff at Thebarton Oval. As is often the case in showcase games, particularly at the end of a strenuous season, a raft of players popped up in patches throughout the contest to provide a taste of what’s to come in terms of South Australian talent.

For the Yellow side, Jacob Lochowiak was physical in midfield, while also proving dangerous within the attacking half. Eagles prospect Brayden Calvett had an enthralling battle with Isaac Birt on the wing, as both players showcased their line-breaking speed and forward running. Lachlan Scannell is a prospect to watch for 2022, as he rotated with fellow 16-year-old Kobe Ryan from half-back to the wing. Tyson Coe is another from that crop, and his work in midfield and defence was solid. Tyson Walls was a lively figure up forward, with Harry Tunkin doing some nice early work down back and through midfield. Sturt’s Brad Jefferies was able to find the ball as he moved forward from the middle, while Shaun Bennier was a dangerous figure inside 50 despite some conversion worries. Bigmen Adam Heath and Declan Hortle were also prominent, with the former presenting well from his starting forward post, while the latter booted two majors in his ruck/forward role.

Twin tall forwards Harry McInnes (three goals) and Luca Whitelum (two) were terrific targets for Team Ebert, with Glenelg’s McInnes mostly stationed inside 50 while Whitelum presented up the ground. James Willis‘ acceleration away from congestion was an eye-catching feature through midfield, and he was supported well by classy 16-year-old Jaiden Magor. Another 2004-birth, Austin McDonald also found plenty of the ball, while Isaac Keeler showed some promising athleticism in the ruck. Cade Kennedy was a handy member of the midfield/forward rotation, with Lachlan Thomas a threatening link into attacking 50 along with Blake Hansen.

Featured image: Nicholas Kraemer gets a kick away for Team Hurn | Credit: Mark Brake/AFL Photos

Scouting Notes: 2020 SANFL Grand Finals

GRAND Final week in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) brings along with it another edition of our scouting notes, focusing on the top draft-relevant performers from around the competition this weekend. In this instalment, we widen our scope to cover the prospects running around across all three grades, with a particular focus on State Academy based talentNational Combine invitees, and others who may push for selection along the line.

Please consider that each set of notes showcase the opinions of our scouts individually, and there are only so many players we can keep an eye on each week.

>> Power Rankings: October Edition

LEAGUE/RESERVES

WWT Eagles vs. North Adelaide

By: Tom Wyman

WWT Eagles:

#9 Rhyan Mansell (League)

The young defender again played an integral role down back for the premiers. The Tasmanian combined well with Lachlan Jones and veteran Patrick Giuffreda in the back half, finishing with three rebounds. Mansell used the ball with precision and orchestrated a number of successful attacks. He showcased his sound vision, composure, and decision making and positioned himself well to take a number of intercept marks. Mansell finished the game with 19 disposals, eight marks and five tackles.

#16 James Rowe (League)

As has been the case all season, the excitement machine looked threatening whenever he was near the footy. He demanded attention all day and capitalised on his opportunities, as all good small forwards do. North’s Mitch Clisby was given the big job on Rowe and kept him quiet early on as the Roosters started strongly. However, when the Eagles were well on top, he nailed a goal in the dying minutes of the first half. The son of former-Crow Stephen, Rowe kicked a fantastic goal from 40 metres out after his Eagles teammates forced a turnover in the third term. Whenever he wasn’t lurking around the forward line, Rowe was getting under the skin of his Roosters opponents. He used the ball to terrific effect in general play and finished the day with 15 disposals and four inside 50s to go with his two goals. After a dominant season, Rowe is becoming increasingly difficult to overlook for a spot at the elite level.

#28 Jacob Wehr (League)

The 22-year-old from Balaklava in South Australia’s mid-north was excellent for the Eagles. Wehr was able to get the ball in some time and space, allowing him to cut up North’s defence with his pin-point foot skills. The wingman worked hard both ways between the arcs and continuously provided an outlet for Woodville-West Torrens. He finished the contest with 19 disposals, six marks, five tackles, two inside 50s and three rebound 50s. Wehr has been a revelation for the Eagles this season and is one of several mature-aged prospects who could attract some AFL attention over the coming months.

#34 Lachlan Jones (League)

The bull-like defender produced another sensational performance on the big stage and once again showed class beyond his years. As he has shown time and time again throughout the year, Jones refused to be beaten one-on-one. He was deployed as the loose defender for much of the day and read the play exceptionally well. He positioned himself like a seasoned veteran, taking a number of important intercept marks. He showed great composure and poise both with and without the ball, using it efficiently by hand and foot. He produced a number of terrific defensive actions which didn’t show up on the stats sheet, but will have impressed coach Jade Sheedy. Jones finished with 18 disposals, five marks, four tackles and three rebound 50s. A premiership medal is a fitting way to end a wonderful season for Jones, who appears likely to be a first round selection come draft night.

#51 Lachlan McNeil (League)

In a game where all the Eagles youngsters contributed well, McNeil was the best of the bunch. He provided relentless run along the wing and used the ball as well as anyone. McNeil’s high work rate allowed him to take a host of marks on the outer side. He used the ball well and his teammates clearly looked for him to hit a target going inside 50. But the clear highlight of his game was a terrific running goal in the second quarter, which featured two bounces and a beautiful finish. He concluded the match with 23 disposals, nine marks, two tackles, three clearances and six inside 50s. The Clare product missed out on being drafted as an 18-year-old last year, but after a great performance on Grand Final day and a consistent season at senior level with the Eagles, McNeil could find himself a home at AFL level at the second time of asking.

>> MORE WWT EAGLES CONTENT

North Adelaide:

#37 Karl Finlay (League)

It was a difficult day for the Roosters, who struggled to get anything going after quarter time as Finlay and his fellow backmen had their backs against the wall all day. However Finlay was one of North’s best, particularly in the air. He spent some time on dangerous Eagle forward Jack Hayes and also rolled onto Jake Von Bertouch at times. Given the duo’s ability to clunk big contested marks, Finlay held his own. He was thrown up forward by coach Jacob Surjan for a brief stint when the Eagles were in full control and took one of his three contested marks. Finlay tackled hard at ground level and also provided some rebound. He finished with 13 disposals, three marks, five tackles and two inside 50s.

#38 Dyson Hilder (Reserves)

Much like Finlay in the League game, fellow teenaged defender Hilder was similarly strong in the air for the Roosters’ Reserves. He took a couple of strong contested marks and finished the game with seven grabs overall. Hilder, who played a couple of senior games with North Adelaide earlier in the season, provided some clear rebound by foot and was among his side’s best players, despite the loss. He also gave number one ruckman James Craig a break by rotating through the ruck and winning seven hitouts. He finished with 16 disposals and four rebound 50s.

>> MORE NORTH ADELAIDE CONTENT

UNDER 18s

Norwood vs. Sturt

By: Michael Alvaro

Norwood:

#1 Cooper Murley

With Norwood at full strength and solid top-age operators roaming through the engine room, Murley has been squeezed out a touch in this finals series after an outstanding regular season. Nonetheless, the speedy bottom-ager managed to have an impact with bursts of pace and some crafty plays forward of centre. His instinctive attacking runs allowed him to find space inside 50 from the get-go, sinking one of two first term set shots. His kicks were a touch rushed on the outside under the heat of battle, but most of his running game came in that kind of fashion. He missed a few more chances to hit the scoreboard, albeit from tough positions and distances, with a two-bounce dash through the corridor during the final term ending in a flying shot which just did not have the legs. It was more a game of glimpses for Murley compared to his previous form, but he looms as a first round prospect for next year’s draft.

#4 Henry Nelligan

Nelligan is the kind of player you want on your side during a big game, with his consistency and work rate up there with the best of players. Starting in midfield and rotating forward, the diminutive ball winner ended with a game-high 28 disposals to go with six inside 50s and 1.3 in an inspired display. Not only did Nelligan showcase his clean hands and quick skills at ground level, but he was also able to accumulate around the ground and provide a reliable outlet in all areas. A lot of his clearances were booted over his shoulder, but still gained good meterage in the high-stakes contest. While stationed forward, Nelligan stayed busy and used his smarts to position beautifully upon Norwood’s inside 50 entries. His lone goal came in the first term from a strong mark close to goal, and he put two other chances just wide with another touched before bouncing through the big sticks. After some massive performances for the Redlegs, he remains an outside chance to be drafted as a natural footballer with great smarts.

#5 Ethan Schwerdt

Donning the knee brace once again, Schwerdt was a very handy part of Norwood’s midfield-forward rotation. His first big contribution came inside attacking 50, as he put a quick snap wide, but followed up with a shrewd crumb and dribble goal in the opening term. Schwerdt’s skills were neat in the short range and his little bursts of speed away from congestion proved key in setting Norwood on the front foot. His second goal, which came in the final term, was undoubtedly his highlight of the day. Schwerdt bravely marked between two opponents, moved on immediately to burn both of them, and slotted home a long-range bomb on the run.

#11 Xavier Tranfa

Another of Norwood’s prolific midfielders who also impacted in the front half, Tranfa’s two third term goals truly broke the game open. His first came via a strong mark directly from the centre clearance against a couple of opponents, with the set shot converted emphatically from around the 50-metre arc. Shortly after, he found himself on the end of another forward chain, wheeling on his favoured left side and sinking a powerful shot through the big sticks. That kind of impact was complimented by some strong work at the contest, as Tranfa attacked both the ball and carrier with intent. He was clean at ground level and while not overly quick, he would get his legs pumping or buy enough time to eventually send Norwood into attack. 19 disposals, six tackles, four clearances, and a couple of goals made for a terrific all-round game.

#15 Harlee Chandler

Chandler has proven somewhat of a finals wildcard for Norwood, slotting into the midfield with aplomb and providing great balance at the contest. He began proceedings with a sharp run through the middle and goal assisting pass inside 50, with that kind of run and movement through the corridor a sign of things to come. He was able to fend off opponents and break free, with much of his work as clean as and impactful as anyone else afield. A rush of blood saw Chandler miss his final term attempt on goal after a terrific play to win the ball, but it hardly took away from what was an eye-catching performance from the youngster. He finished with 19 disposals, six tackles, and three clearances.

#27 Nathan Hearing

The 2020 Alan Stewart Medal winner was best afield, Hearing was his usual heroic self through the ruck. Hardly a one-dimensional bigman, the 195cm prospect won a game-high 11 clearances, one more than his 10 hitouts throughout the day. His 21 disposals all-up came in various positions and fashions, but the majority of his work was done at the fall of the ball at stoppages to release his runners at ground level. Hearing’s imposing figure was also sighted down back where he took a couple of relieving marks close to goal, using his reach and timing to stand tall amid forming packs. He may have been beaten vertically at times at the centre bounces, but fared well around the ground and even took balls directly out of the ruck to send the Redlegs forward.

Others:

As is often the case for Norwood, an even team spread saw many contributors stand up across the day. Mitchell Trepka stood up early from defence, with Billy Haebich providing some dash and Sam Duke proving an important aerial figure on the same line. Daniel Fairbrother, who gained senior experience this year was also part of Norwood’s sturdy defence. Marcus Roberts fared well up forward with a couple of goals while big Finn Heard spearheaded the attack, and Michael Cavallaro provided a classy outlet on the wing.

>> MORE NORWOOD CONTENT

Sturt:

#9 Malachy Carruthers

Usually one of the more attacking defenders who is capable of impacting through the corridor, Carruthers’ rebounding efforts mostly came from inside own defensive 50. While his long-range kicking was as sound as ever amid the breeze and Norwood’s pressure, Carruthers seldom had reliable targets to kick to as the ball would often eventually find its way back to his area. He was one of Sturt’s only consistently cool heads down back, but was too often forced too far away from positions in which he would normally attack. Carruthers seemed to lift in the third term as the Double Blues’ hopes began to fade, with his intercept marking, urgent running, and weighted kicks all coming to the fore. It would end up being an effort in vein, but the potential draft bolter finished with a very handy 21 disposals, nine marks, and nine rebound 50s as one of Sturt’s best.

#17 Mani Liddy

Arguably Sturt’s most impactful midfielder in the first half, Liddy was particularly prolific at the centre bounces. His core strength and clean hands gave the Double Blues numerous opportunities to attack first, though some grubber kicks out of congestion on Liddy’s end did his side few favours in that sense. His disposal on the move was a touch untidy in those opening stages despite finding the ball at will, apart from his obvious proficiency via hand. Not shy of a bit of niggle, Liddy’s lone goal for the game came in the second term after being crunched inside 50, with his set shot conversion proving sound. He attempted to force some forward momentum in the latter stages, finishing with 18 disposals, seven clearances, and a goal.

#18 Tom Powell

Powell may have seen the most ball for Sturt with 25 disposals and six marks, but had a touch less than his usual impact around the stoppages. His ability to extract and quickly release via hand was still on show, with numerous drawing handballs and well-timed distributive touches showcasing his best assets. It also lent to his high-level vision and decision making, especially amid the contested Grand Final chaos. Powell’s clean hands were also shown as he gathered well below his knees and snapped home a sharp goal in the second term, something he is increasingly bringing to the fore. With a couple of goal assists to cap off his outing, that attacking prowess is something which will be important in shaking that one-dimensional accumulator tag. He lived up to his billing for the most part, but could not quite help Sturt get over the line.

#25 James Borlase

Borlase was in the thick of the action as tensions boiled over in the third term, not afraid to throw his large frame around and get involved in the biff. He was hardly the only one, but got very heated and seemed to be a prime target for Norwood as ill discipline crept into Sturt’s game. Outside of that, Borlase once again proved a class above many of his Under 18 competitors with terrific reading of the play down back and strong intercept marking. His ball use was often sound and allowed Sturt to retain possession, without being overly damaging. He had a purple patch in the second term with a string of aerial marks, while also bringing his kick penetration into play. He was thrown into the centre bounces during the final quarter in hopes of turning the midfield battle with his physicality, but would have little impact there and revert back to his defensive duties in open play. The Crows Academy prospect finished with 22 disposals and eight marks (three contested) as arguably Sturt’s best player afield.

#32 Morgan Ferres

Ferres finished his bottom-age season strongly, providing a much-needed target leading up from the forward half. It proved a tough gig as Sturt struggled to transition the ball, with Ferres forced to search all the way up to defensive wing at times to find the ball. Half of his six marks were contested, and he was also able to make an impact closer to goal with some touches inside 50. Ferres ended the game with 1.1, sinking a set shot in the final term after seeing multiple attempts either go wide, fall short, or end up out of bounds. If he can tidy up that conversion, Ferres may well prove to be a force in next year’s competition.

Others:

Will Spain‘s efforts to win the ball and tackle at ground level were noted by his coaches, while fellow bottom-ager Brad Jefferies also gave it his all while rotating forward through midfield. Blake Higgins provided his usual run on the outside, while skipper Ned Walter was valiant in defence. Declan Hortle‘s 33 hitouts in the ruck also proved a big effort against the player judged best afield.

>> MORE STURT CONTENT

Featured Image: Norwood’s Under 18s celebrate their 2020 SANFL premiership | Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

Young gun focus: 2020 SANFL Grand Final wraps

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS (WWT) took out both senior South Australian National Football League (SANFL) premierships on Sunday, defeating North Adelaide in the League and Reserves Grand Finals at Adelaide Oval. Meanwhile, Norwood’s even team spread helped the Redlegs take home the Under 18s flag.

With young guns impressing at state league level, we again narrow our focus for this week’s SANFL wrap to the performances of youth throughout the competitions. There is plenty to unpack in our final edition for the year, with Under 18 prospects scattered across the two senior levels, and a bunch of youngsters impressing in the junior grade. Amid make-or-break situations in dramatic season finales, the cream of South Australia’s finest crop rose to the top.

LEAGUE:

WWT EAGLES | 1.1 | 10.3 | 12.8 | 13.9 (87)
NTH ADELAIDE | 3.4 | 4.4 | 5.6 | 7.6 (48)

Woodville-West Torrens converted its minor premiership into a League flag after defeating North Adelaide by 39 points at Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon. Just a fortnight removed from their semi final defeat to the Roosters, the Eagles soared to victory on the back of a nine-goal to one second term. The match-defining period saw WWT inflict a 50-point turnaround, inspired by three goals to Jack Oatley medal winner, Jordan Foote en route to seven unanswered majors. North was unable to truly recover from there, with a pair of late consolation goals only slightly trimming the final margin.

As has been the case all season, a bunch of promising young types excelled for the Eagles. Competition leading goalkicker, James Rowe has attracted a heap of elite level interest after a fantastic season, which he capped off with two goals from 15 disposals. Jacob Wehr is another in the same boat, and he was strong once again with 19 disposals, six marks, and five tackles. Defender Rhyan Mansell proved his worth with eight marks from 19 touches, joined down back by Port Adelaide NGA prospect Lachlan Jones (18 disposals, five marks). Up the other end, VFL import Sam Lowson snared 1.2, while Ben Jungfer‘s mid-finals senior promotion yielded seven disposals and plenty of promise.

Former Adelaide and Gold Coast player Harrison Wigg was among North Adelaide’s best, notching a team-high 29 disposals to go with eight tackles and seven breaches of either arc. His rating for effort was arguably matched by 2020 Magarey Medallist Campbell Combe, who got his hands dirty with 15 disposals, seven clearances, and a game-high 10 tackles. Will Combe managed a goal from his 10 touches, while 19-year-old defender Karl Finlay justified his senior selection once again with 13 disposals, three marks, and five tackles.

RESERVES:

WWT EAGLES | 2.1 | 3.5 | 5.8 | 8.11 (59)
NTH ADELAIDE | 2.2 | 3.2 | 5.6 | 6.8 (44)

The Eagles’ Reserves provided the perfect base for their League teammates to build off, trumping North Adelaide by 15 points in a tense decider at Adelaide Oval. 20-year-old Mitch Mead earned the Bob Lee Medal as best afield, as he snared a goal from 15 disposals and laid a whopping 15 tackles. While the Roosters snuck ahead during the first and second terms, they could not catch the Eagles back up after half time as fresher legs perhaps prevailed for the premiers.

An injury to key midfielder Harrison Magor in the first term meant North was always going to be up against it, though Lee Minervini showed just why he has played at League level this season with 20 disposals, nine tackles, six clearances, and a goal. He formed a strong partnership with 2020 Reserves Magarey Medallist Dakota Nixon, who also managed 20 touches. Patrick Davies was another to impress up forward with two majors from 19 disposals, while Dyson Hilder had it 16 times and clunked seven marks.

For the triumphant Eagles, Ethan Haylock clearly led all comers with 27 disposals, topped by five clearances and a goal. Jackson Lee also contributed a handful of clearances among his 21 touches, while former Port Adelaide rookie Kai Pudney showed his class at the level with 17 disposals and a goal. But it was Mead, the son of Port champion Darren who stole the show and best afield honours.

UNDER 18s:

NORWOOD | 4.4 | 5.7 | 11.10 | 15.13 (103)
STURT | 2.3 | 4.4 | 5.5 | 8.5 (53)

The best two SANFL Under 18s sides went head-to-head in this year’s decider at Thebarton Oval, but it was Norwood who claimed a second victory in three weeks over minor premier, Sturt to claim the premiership flag. Kicking towards the wind-favoured end, the Redlegs put together four goals in the opening term to set up a two-goal buffer, and proceeded to strangle any form of Sturt attack in the following period. The Double Blues seemed to grow increasingly frustrated as the contest wore on, with Norwood’s astute defensive structure and quick transitional play allowing them to stay on top. Undisciplined acts followed as the umpires kept their whistles up, with Norwood cruising home to an emphatic 50-point win.

Redlegs ruckman Nathan Hearing was named best afield after bombing forward 11 clearances from his 21 disposals. Teammates Henry Nelligan (28 disposals, 1.3), Xavier Tranfa (19 disposals, two goals), and Harlee Chandler (19 disposals, six tackles) were not far behind either. Nelligan worked hard to accumulate around the ground, while Tranfa’s majors came in quick succession to break the game open, and Chandler proved a very handy finals addition. Ethan Schwerdt also booted two goals from midfield, while pacy 17-year-old Cooper Murley managed 1.3, and bigman Finn Heard provided a terrific target en route to bagging three majors. Up the other end, co-captain Sam Duke was solid as ever, leading a phenomenal team effort from his side.

Mani Liddy was arguably Sturt’s best in a losing effort, particularly early as he finished with 18 disposals, seven clearances, and a goal. If not, Adelaide NGA hopeful James Borlase (22 disposals, eight marks) was a worthy candidate having brought some serious fire and physicality to the contest, albeit a touch overzealous. Malachy Carruthers‘ ball use off half-back was quality as he booted forward nine rebound 50s from 21 touches, while usual suspect Tom Powell found the most ball with 25 disposals and a goal. Skipper Ned Walter tried hard with five rebound 50s in a tough gig from defence, with Morgan Ferres (15 disposals, six marks, one goal) a lively target leading up the field. Will Spain also had an impact, digging in at ground level and laying a game-high seven tackles.

Featured Image: Eagles coach Jade Sheedy holds aloft the 2020 SANFL League premiership trophy | Credit: SANFL

Out to impress: SANFL Grand finals

A HOST of teenaged and mature-aged draft prospects will be in action on grand final weekend of the 2020 SANFL season. At league level, the minor premiers, Woodville-West Torrens will be looking to win the clubs first Thomas Seymour Hill Trophy since 2011. But standing in their way are the 2018 premiers, North Adelaide, who booked their place in the decider with a 15-point win over the Eagles a fortnight ago.

Potential top ten draft pick Lachie Jones will once-again be expected to curtail one of the Roosters dangerous forwards. Jones has caught the attention of recruiters across the nation for his performances at senior level this year. The strong-bodied defender has been named on the half-back flank and provides plenty of flexibility for Eagles coach Jade Sheedy. Fellow youngsters Jacob Wehr and Rhyan Mansell have also been key components of the league’s most dour defensive unit.

Clare product Lachie McNeil has been a revelation through the midfield for Woodville-West Torrens, providing the side with plenty of run and carry between the arcs. North Adelaide simply must restrict the influence of superstar small forward James Rowe if senior coach Jacob Surjan is to win a flag in his first season at the helm. Rowe, who was the joint leading goalkicker during the minor rounds, broke open last weekend’s preliminary final by booting three goals in under seven minutes to start the second half. AFL recruiters will no doubt be eager to see him perform in the biggest game of the season.

With question marks looming over the fitness of dependable backman Tanner Smith, the Roosters have named young key defender Dyson Hilder on the extended bench. If selected, he would team up in defence with fellow teenager Karl Finlay, who has impressed in his first full season at senior level.

The Roosters and Eagles will also do battle in the reserves grand final, set to take place earlier in the afternoon. After finishing the home and away season in second place, the Eagles beat minor premiers Central Districts by 22 points in the semi final to earn a spot in the decider. It has been a longer road for the men from Prospect, who narrowly beat Sturt then overcame the Bulldogs to make it to the final weekend.

Eastern-suburbs rivals Sturt and Norwood have been the pace-setters of the SANFL under-18 competition all season, and have both thoroughly deserved their place in the grand final. The midfield battle looms integral to the outcome of this one, with both clubs boasting a host of draft prospects. The Double Blues will be led by consistent on-ballers Tom Powell, Mani Liddy and Will Spain, while the Norwood on-ball brigade is headlined by pocket-rocket Henry Nelligan, gut-runner Jack Saunders and arguably the competitions best ruckman, Nathan Hearing.

Sturt will be relying heavily upon talented bottom-ager Morgan Ferres, who has been named at centre-half-forward. Adelaide Next Generation Academy prospect James Borlase will line-up on the forward flank, but could easily be thrown down back if the Redlegs start to get on top. Defenders Malachy Carruthers and skipper Ned Walter will be hoping to control proceedings down back, as they have done all season.

Meanwhile, Norwood’s Finn Heard has been the competitions best key forward for much of the season and will demand plenty of attention from the Sturt defenders. Talented tall Ned Carey has also been included in the Redlegs side, along with skilful utility Michael Cavallaro and speedy bottom-ager Cooper Murley, who finished second in the McCallum Tomkins Medal voting earlier in the week, behind the aforementioned Powell.

FIXTURES

League:

Woodville-West Torrens vs. North Adelaide | Sunday October 18, 3:00pm @ Adelaide Oval

Reserves:

Woodville-West Torrens vs. North Adelaide | Sunday October 18, 11:30am @ Adelaide Oval

Under-18s:

Norwood vs. Sturt | Saturday October 17, 11:30am @ Thebarton Oval

2020 AFLW Draft review: West Coast

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with West Coast, a team that had the one win over in the west last year and whilst did not manage to get going too much in their debut season, was able to bring in some more experience to the lineup and position itself well heading into the draft.

West Coast:

#3 – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)
#18 – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#32 – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
#53 – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont/Western Australia)
#56 – Amber Ward (North Adelaide/South Australia)
#59 – Lauren Gauci (North Adelaide/South Australia)

West Coast had a balanced draft, picking up a couple of young stars, some experienced West Australian talents and a couple of SANFL Women’s premiership talents. They managed to get three teenagers all up, and three that have had more experience under their belt as they look to rise up the ladder in 2021.

The Eagles’ first pick in the draft came at Pick 3 when they snapped up Claremont’s Bella Lewis. The hard midfielder who can also play at half-forward had an outstanding year that came off a memorable AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships last year. A member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, Lewis is one who will join fellow tough nut, Mikayla Bowen in the middle and really create headaches for opposition sides.

Fellow AFL Women’s Academy member Shanae Davison caught attention with her massive hanger earlier in the year, but the Swan Districts product put in a consistent season all up, showing clean hands in the air or at ground level, even in challenging conditions. She will likely play forward with an eye to work into the midfield in the coming years, but is an exciting talent for the future.

Julie-Ann Norrish was consistency personified in the WAFL Women’s competition this year. The East Fremantle defender was a persistent rebounder for the reigning premiers, hardly putting a foot wrong with her intercepting and running ability. Good one-on-one with her positioning and reading the ball in flight, expect her to walk into the starting side.

Andrea Gilmore is a former West Coast Fever netballer who turned her attention to football of late and was a train-on player with the club. The 31-year-old forward/ruck is a towering presence at 183cm and has terrific athleticism. Needing a forward target, the Eagles could look to Gilmore to make an immediate impact, providing further depth to that end after completing a consistent season with Claremont this year.

The Eagles passed their final two selections, but ended up using them on North Adelaide duo, Amber Ward and Lauren Gauci. Ward is an over-age tall defender with a powerful kick and great hands that make her a brick wall at centre half-back. Like Norrish, she could slot straight into the back 50 and provide some resistance for the Eagles, earning a spot after year another brilliant year in a premiership-winning SANFL Women’s outfit.

Gauci was alongside her with the slick ball user also in the back 50. The 23-year-old is one who loves to run off intercept possessions and played in the Roosters’ defence alongside Ward and former Eagle Talia Radan. The glowing reviews gave the Eagles enough to select the pair and allow them to move west together.

Overall the Eagles managed to grab some extra depth in both the front and back halves as well as elite midfield talent which will hold them in good stead for the future.

Picture: West Coast Women’s Twitter

Scouting Notes: 2020 SANFL preliminary finals

PRELIMINARY finals week in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) brings along with it another edition of our scouting notes, focusing on the top draft-relevant performers from around the competition this weekend. In this instalment, we widen our scope to cover the prospects running around across all three grades, with a particular focus on State Academy based talentNational Combine invitees, and others who may push for selection along the line.

Please consider that each set of notes showcase the opinions of our scouts individually, and there are only so many players we can keep an eye on each week.

>> Power Rankings: October Edition

LEAGUE

WWT Eagles vs. South Adelaide

By: Tom Wyman

Eagles:

#5 Sam Lowson

The Victorian forward kicked Woodville-West Torrens’ first goal of the game at the tenth minute mark of the opening term. Although he didn’t see a lot of the ball (seven disposals), in-part due to James Rowe‘s dominance, Lowson made the most of his opportunities as all good forwards do. He booted his second of the game in the dying moments of the third quarter and certainly complimented the likes of Rowe, the Hayes brothers, and Jake von Bertouch well inside the Eagles’ forward 50.

#9 Rhyan Mansell

Another interstate import, Mansell consistently breached the arcs at both ends of the ground and provided plenty of run-and-carry, as he has done all season. The Tasmanian used the ball beautifully and his teammates evidently trust his delivery whenever he’s in possession of the footy. The damaging half-backman finished his side’s impressive preliminary final victory with 11 disposals, six tackles, four inside 50s and three rebound 50s.

#16 James Rowe

The sheer brilliance and craftiness of Rowe turned the game on its head in the second half and proved vital in the Eagles’ win. He booted goals late in first and second terms, then nailed the first three shortly after half-time to heap the pressure on South Adelaide. One of the hottest mature-aged prospects in the country, if Rowe’s Ken Farmer Medal hadn’t already gotten recruiters talking, his forward smarts, terrific vision, innate goal sense and ability to win the game off his own boot will have almost certainly impressed AFL onlookers. Rowe produced a classic small forward’s game by sparking an abundance of excitement inside 50; drawing free-kicks at ground level, nailing most of his opportunities in front of goal, and annoying the Panthers defenders with his constant niggle and banter. He finished with 22 disposals, five goals, three marks, three tackles and three inside 50s and looms as key to the Eagles’ chances in next weekend’s Grand Final.

#28 Jacob Wehr

Wehr continues to go from strength-to-strength for the Eagles. His neat disposal was a real feature of his game, along with his drive from defence and run up and down the wings. Another Eagle who looked to utilise his damaging foot skills whenever he had possession, Wehr has been one of several youngsters to perform well for the club in season 2020. He finished with 14 disposals (including 12 kicks), three marks, three inside 50s and six rebound 50s.

#34 Lachlan Jones

As he has been all season, the Port Adelaide Academy prospect was a rock in defence. Calm and composed with ball in hand, Jones rarely went to ground, kept the ball in front of him at ground level, and was typically strong in the air, taking a couple of nice contested marks. He read the play well in what was another strong defensive game down back from the potential top 10 draftee, concluding the match with 13 disposals, five marks and three rebound 50s.

#51 Lachlan McNeil

McNeil produced another strong showing in the gold, green and blue as Woodville-West Torrens booked its ticket to Sunday’s SANFL decider. His ability to win the ball on the inside, then run-and-carry the ball when in space was an important factor in the win. His clean, quick hands in-tight were also a highlight of his game. One who will need to perform strongly against the Roosters next week if the Eagles are to claim their eighth premiership, McNeil finished with 14 disposals, a goal, three marks and three inside 50s in a neat display.

>> MORE WWT EAGLES CONTENT

South Adelaide:

#32 Beau McCreery

The teenage small forward has enjoyed a terrific season at SANFL League level, but unfortunately, like many of his teammates, McCreery struggled to have much of an impact on the contest. However, he kicked a true small forward’s goal in the second term when the game still hung in the balance and did just about all he could from minimal effective forward entries. McCreery finished with nine disposals and three tackles.

#33 Jason Horne

The 17-year-old battled hard all day but ultimately struggled against the fast-finishing Eagles, who proved far too good in the second half. After starting up forward, Horne was moved into the midfield in an attempt to stop the Eagles’ momentum as James Rowe ran amok. Horne showcased his overhead marking capabilities by taking a contested grab and nailing a goal in the fourth term, and will certainly have benefitted from the SANFL finals experience. He finished with eight disposals, a goal and a couple of inside 50s.

#35 Tom Highmore

The Canberra native fulfilled a key position role down back and did just about all he could against an onslaught of Eagles inside 50s. He wasn’t as effective in the air as we have become accustomed to seeing, but generally used the ball well when exiting the backline. He backed his foot skills in and provided some nice rebound, finishing with nine touches and five rebound 50s. It was a disappointing end for South Adelaide, but Highmore has proven to be one of the recruits of the season and may find his way onto an AFL list later in the year.

#45 Daly Andrews

Andrews was the most prolific of the young Panthers. South’s best clearance winner for the game, the former-Williamstown and Western Jets product ran tirelessly between the arcs, helping to rebound from defence and also sending the ball inside 50 on three occasions. Andrews pieced together an excellent season after joining the club in July and will likely have caught the eyes of a couple of AFL recruiters.

>> MORE SOUTH ADELAIDE CONTENT

RESERVES

Central District vs. North Adelaide

By: Michael Alvaro

Central District:

#49 Thomas Graham

He may come from good pedigree as the son of former Hawthorn and Richmond defender, Mark Graham, but Thomas is quite raw in a footballing sense having only committed to the code over the last couple of years. Much like his champion father, the basketball convert is sound aerially and kicks on his left side, with both assets coming to the fore in this outing. Taking up a key defensive post, Graham was seen following his direct opponent up the ground and getting a hand in for countless spoils. He also chimed in with some nice intercept marks inside defensive 50, with one clunked after shrewdly deciding to run off his man.

Graham was quite sound with ball in hand and despite a somewhat unconventional kicking action, he showed good composure to spread the ball out of defence. He also bolted up the corridor in the third term to get on the end of a handball receive and boot a booming goal on the run from 50 metres. Versatility and scope are ticks for Graham, as he also showed off his vertical leap in the ruck late on. The next step in his defensive development will be to clunk contested marks where he would usually opt to spoil.

#52 Lachlan Grubb

The flying wingman has returned some of his most notable performances in the forward half this season, but played almost exclusively on the wing throughout this outing. His first contribution came through a strong mark at half-forward, keeping his hands up to hold on as opposition heat arrived from behind. He was often stationed on the outside of stoppages, hunting the loose ball when not afforded the space or opportunity to handball receive. In general play, Grubb worked hard to find space on the outer and link into forward 50, but could not always use his pace to close down direct opponent, Mason Neagle in the opposite situations. The defensive side is something Grubb is working on, and the 17-year-old is still quite light-on at senior level.

The highlight of Grubb’s day came in the attacking realm; as he latched onto a loose ball over the back, burnt his opponent with three running bounces inside 50, steadied, and kicked arguably the goal of the day on his right foot. It takes a good deal of confidence to pull off such a play on the big stage, and it provided a window into what the youngster can do in full flight. He was a touch scrappy by foot, particularly on the move, but backed himself to dispose on either side of his body and gained some decent meterage down the line. As a December birth, the top-ager could be one to come on quickly with a touch more time to develop, but has plenty of eye-catching qualities.

Others:

Small midfielder Steve Burton worked hard through the engine room to be Centrals’ most prolific ball winner, while Joseph Brown was relentless in his pursuit to take the game on from defence. 21-year-old Cooper Dahms snared a couple of nice goals up forward, including the Bulldogs’ first of the day. Fellow forward Ben Kelly was another to contribute in the front half, and is the son of Sydney Swans champion, Paul.

>> MORE CENTRAL DISTRICT CONTENT

North Adelaide:

#27 Harrison Magor

The 19-year-old was one of North Adelaide’s best, doing all the tough work and one-percenters through midfield. He extracted plenty of ball at the coalface, able to stay strong through the hips, gather cleanly at ground level, and flick out handballs to release teammates. Magor also managed nine clearances among his team-high 23 disposals, but saw many of them bombed forward with no real direction. Nonetheless, his ball winning prowess allowed North to gain meterage and control the territory.

Not one for frills, Magor’s most significant efforts came on the defensive end, as he laid some tone-setting tackles to earn possession back for his side. His run-down effort to win a holding the ball free kick in the second term was crucial, thwarting a Centrals fast break. He continued with the same vigour, digging in hard and punishing his opponents who proved idle in possession. Magor could not quite cap off his day with a goal in the final term as a quick snap fell short of the big sticks, but it was a solid outing in any case.

#32 Mason Neagle

Neagle was in everything early, putting in a monster first term to help his side gain the major ascendancy. Stationed out on the wing, his work-rate to push back into defence and spark North Adelaide’s transitional play was impactful. He gained plenty of ground, and even added a goal to his monster first term. While a little quieter in the latter proceedings, Neagle popped up with some nice moments on the outer, carrying the ball forward with purpose and putting it into dangerous areas. He even got under the opposition’s skin, frustrating Nicholas Gillard into giving away a free kick in the second term. His line-breaking ability could prove key in the Grand Final for the Roosters.

#42 Dakota Nixon

The 2020 Reserves Margery Medal winner showed just why he was so deserving of the award this year, returning another powerful display from midfield. The strongly built engine room operator kicked off his game with a courageous two-grab overhead mark, before playing on quickly and hitting up Mason Neagle for a goal assist. His ability to wrench the ball free from congestion and bomb it forward proved a tick to his contested game, but Nixon was also able to improvise some nice kicks on the outer as he moved forward. His lone goal of the day came in the second term while resting forward, as he found space to mark and converted the set shot opportunity. In essence, Nixon is hard at the ball and uses his physicality to put the Roosters on the front foot. As much was evident on this occasion.

Others:

Mackenzie Slee was outstanding in defence, providing a cool head with his intercept marking and sound use of the ball. He also shut down dangerous Bulldogs forward, Nicholas Lange, which went a long way to earning credit as North’s best player afield. James Langley was a busy figure up forward, and Charlie Dowling put the cherry on top of North’s even team performance with a goal after the final siren.

>> MORE NORTH ADELAIDE CONTENT

UNDER 18s

Sturt vs. WWT Eagles

By: Eli Duxson

Sturt:

#9 Malachy Carruthers

One of the better performers in a strong team performance for Sturt, the dashing half-back ended with 21 disposals, one goal, six marks, and six inside 50s. A massive first half after missing last week’s game saw him reach 16 disposals as he was prepared to defend stoutly and intercept mark, but then run off his opponent and break lines. His strong work in tackling and nice kicking were both aspects which allowed him perform defensive and offensive duties. He quietened up in the second half as the Double Blues began to get on top, so he was seen pushing higher and higher up the ground to impact. He eventually intercepted an errant kick and after gathering the bouncing ball, he accelerated and goaled from 50 metres.

#13 Bradley Jefferies

Another good game for Jefferies saw him playing in every third as he reached 24 disposals, while managing a goal, nine marks, and six inside 50s. He kicked a goal in the forwardline early from a nice set shot, having moved to a dangerous spot after trusting his teammates to work it out of congestion. Not just a glory-hunter, he pushed back defensively when playing in the midfield to help clear or work it out of the back half. Jefferies hunts the ball and does the bulk of his work on the inside, staying strong over the ball and often extracting a kick or a handball from nowhere. He provided some run off half-back in the final quarter and showed off his composure and tidiness with ball in hand. He even managed to sneakily work his way just inside 50 to mark, but just missed the set shot.

#17 Mani Liddy

The equal-leading ball winner, Liddy put up strong numbers as he usually does; finishing with 29 disposals, one goal, five tackles, eight clearances, and seven inside 50s. His innate ability to always manage a handball out of obscurity highlighted his inside work in the first half, utilising the strength that we have come to expect from him. A three-versus-one on the wing saw him apply relentless pressure and then force a stoppage, a team-lifting sort of play. A big second half saw him do some damage on the outside as Sturt dominated possession. He was everywhere on their slow play and though he lacks blistering pace, he found space on the outside to construct forward sequences. A beautiful set shot from the boundary saw Sturt’s lead get out to two goals and capped off a good game for him.

#18 Tom Powell

The Torrens University Cup MVP winner was again a big contributor the Double Blues, but that is hardly a surprise at this point as he further pushes his case for draft night. Powell finished with 29 disposals, one goal, 10 marks, seven clearances, and seven inside 50s to help his side reach a Grand Final. His strong handballing and spread from stoppages were his main modes of contribution, sensing the opportunity to go on several occasions and provide supporting runs. A quiet second quarter all but reserved energy for a 17-disposal second half where he started on fire, intercepting Eagles forward entries and running endlessly to be involved in transition. He runs all day so even if he is closely checked at a stoppage, he will just run off and seek another opportunity to get ball in hand. The closing stages of the game highlighted the highs and lows of football for Powell, copping a whopping falcon, but then scoring the final goal with a snap out of a stoppage.

#25 James Borlase

Returning to the Under 18s to bolster the Double Blues’ defence saw Borlase start the game on fire, taking intercept mark after intercept mark. After quietening down after the first term, he finished with 11 disposals and five marks. He spent all game in the defensive half and was mopping everything up early as it looked like he was going to have the massive game he has been waiting for. The Eagles eventually worked it out to avoid him, although sometimes if you do not notice a defender, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Besides an undisciplined 25-metre penalty, there were no real blemishes to his game either defensively or offensively. He pushed up the ground with the Sturt squeeze later in the game to try and impact so it will be interesting to see if he stays in his defensive post in the Grand Final, or if he is tried up forward.

#27 Ned Grieve

A bit of a quiet game for Grieve but much like Borlase, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He finished with 13 disposals, five marks, and six rebound 50s as he just did his job. The height of the Eagles’ forwardline did not seem to bother the key defender as he hardly lost a contest. He also pushed up the ground at times to get involved and in combination with Borlase, proved difficult to get through. A brilliant one-handed mark was the highlight of his game in the final quarter, having read the flight of the ball better than his opponents. Sturt’s midfield and forward line will play a big role in Grieve’s and Borlase’s effectiveness next week as they managed to slow down the Eagles’ transitions and force long, high, and poorly placed entries. If Norwood can use its fast and attacking style of ball movement well, it may stretch the tall stalwarts of Sturt.

Others:

A good spread of input is exactly what Sturt was after, needing to bounce back from the Norwood game to earn another crack at the Redlegs. Morgan Ferres enjoyed a good game but was not far off a best afield performance. He kicked 2.4 from his 17 disposals and nine marks, providing a solid leading target for much of the game. He found space on leads and held his marks, with only wayward kicking letting him down. Jordan Opperman also provided a good target up forward, kicking 2.3 and taking eight marks, while Lachlan Thomas worked hard for his 20 disposals.

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Eagles:

#3 Taj Schofield

Under an injury cloud coming into the game, Schofield’s heavily strapped right hamstring was aggravated after receiving a crunching tackle in the first quarter. He hobbled off and did not return, ending the game with just the three disposals.

#7 Caleb Poulter

One of the best for the Eagles as he continues to push his name up the draft board with 22 disposals, seven marks, and four clearances. He started on the wing but eventually pushed forward and into the midfield, showing his versatility with his height. A very reliable distributor, he made good decisions with his trusty left boot while also working hard both ways. He was forward for much of the third quarter and proved to be a viable option, but the delivery was not great. A nifty one-hand intercept mark and inside 50 gave the Eagles a bit of hope early in the final quarter, but the Sturt dominance left little room for rectification. A solid game capped off a very handy season for Poulter as he bolstered his draft stocks in a big way.

#19 Zac Phillips

One of the twin-towers for the Eagles lost the ruck battle and even though he worked hard around the ground, it was a quiet return. Finishing with just 10 disposals and 11 hit outs, Phillips did do a decent job of at least not letting Sturt ruckman Declan Hortle get clear taps to advantage. Although he did not get a lot of it, he looked to be trusted by teammates with ball in hand to clear defensively and handball in-tight. A tall with a lot of potential, but still quite raw it seems.

#25 Henry Smith

Played a similar game to Phillips but at 204cm, he was able to make more of an impact up forward. His five marks from 13 disposals were mostly taken on the lead as he managed to get separation from his opponent, but his finishing let him down. Although he was not able to get great looks on goal, his kicking still needs some work, but his movement and agility is a positive for someone of his height. Also a player who is raw with potential, it will be interesting to see how and where he develops.

#31 Jase Burgoyne

Starting in the midfield, Burgoyne again managed to find plenty of it, finishing with 21 disposals and a goal. His speed allowed him to accumulate the ball, although it must be said that he still does move it forward as he opts to kick more than handball. He spent some time down back but when he moves into the middle, he tends to float and drift unnoticed by defenders. This allowed him to sneak forward and boot a goal. His second half saw him get more uncontested ball which is where he is most damaging. He has shown glimpses of inside prowess but with his slight frame, he is not someone who breaks packs open but rather extracts it. In saying that, he has proven to be a great outside option with his tidy ball use. The final quarter saw him give away a silly free kick when playing in defence. Whether it was the warm weather or his otherwise, he seemed to lack intensity and his checking was loose in the closing stages.

Others:

The Eagles stayed in it for the three quarters, but it was perhaps Sturt’s depth that had them undone in the end. The leading ball winner was Brock Thomson who had 31 disposals, but as the designated kickout taker, 22 Sturt behinds contributed to that a decent amount. Liam Ueding showed effort to the very end as he still provided contests late. His defending was valiant and with some work on his kicking technique, he could become a very handy player. Jay Watson managed 22 disposals and a goal, while Max Litster had 17 disposals and two goals, one of them being the very first of the game.

Featured Image: Sturt’s Tom Powell gets a kick away | Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

2020 AFLW Draft review: St Kilda Saints

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with St Kilda, a team that showed promising signs in its inaugural season and will be on the rise in 2021 after being one of the most impressive performers through the draft.

St Kilda:

#6 – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
#24 – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#34 – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#40 – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)
#51 – Tahlia Meyer (South Adelaide)

Every club is a winner post-draft, but St Kilda’s draft hand is one to celebrate and leave the red, white and black supporters really excited. Three young guns who were steals in the draft, followed by a couple of mature-agers including one already in the Saints’ program and another underrated talent in the SANFL Women’s, this is a side to watch in 2021.

Tyanna Smith was one of only a few who could challenge as the best player in the AFL Women’s Draft crop, so to see the Dandenong Stingrays star land at pick six and join former Stingrays’ teammates Molly McDonald and Isabella Shannon at Moorabbin is a coup in itself. She is arguably the most complete player from the Under 18s, with elite athleticism, great skills, terrific decision making and a big-game player. She will complement Georgia Patrikios in there and the two will almost be uncatchable.

Alice Burke is one the fans would have been tracking for a little while given the men’s team has not had too many father-sons over the years. The daughter of club legend and now Western Bulldogs’ coach Nathan, Burke is a tenacious midfielder who has also spent time at half-back. Coming from a soccer background, Burke would have been a top 15 pick in an open draft, so again like Smith, represents value. With her defensive pressure and dual-sidedness, Burke is a massive inclusion to the Saints’ outfit.

Renee Saulitis was the premier pure small forward in the draft, and while she showed over the last 18 months she could play in defence or midfield, she is most at home in a forward pocket. Oozing X-factor and goal sense, she is another who could come straight in and cause all sorts of damage at the feet of Caitlin Greiser, and is one to watch as a quick developer. She provides a niche little role in there, and cannot be left alone inside 50.

Jacqueline Vogt comes out of the Southern Saints program where she performed as a versatile forward. Strong and not afraid of the contest, the mature-age Vogt could slot into the side straight away if required following her consistent 2019 VFL Women’s season.

Finally, the Saints picked up slick ball user Tahlia Meyer with the extra pick they opted to pass on draft night. The South Adelaide prospect was one of the most underrated players in the SANFL Women’s competition, but hardly put a foot wrong with her disposal and vision going inside 50 a treat to watch. It seems to be a running theme with the Saints – good ball use and decision making – and Meyer fits the bill and is also readymade to have an impact at senior level.

Overall the Saints included some serious X-factor and talent to their line-up with fans likely to see them continue to rise up the ladder and worry some more experienced teams next season.

Picture: St Kilda Women’s Twitter

Young gun focus: 2020 SANFL preliminary finals wrap

TWO of three South Australian National Football League (SANFL) minor premiers booked Grand Final tickets in their respective grades, while Central District’s Reserves bowed out in straight sets. With young guns impressing at state league level around the nation, we again narrow our focus for this week’s SANFL wrap to the performances of youth throughout the competitions. There is plenty to unpack in our next altered edition, with Under 18 prospects scattered across the two senior levels, and a bunch of youngsters impressing in the junior grade during the second week of finals. In make-or-break situations, the cream of South Australia’s finest crop rose to the top.

League:

WWT EAGLES | 3.8 | 7.12 | 14.14 | 16.15 (111)
STH ADELAIDE | 5.2 | 8.5 | 9.6 | 10.8 (68)

GOALS:

Eagles: J. Rowe 5, S. Lowson 2, J. Foote 2, M. Goldsworthy 2, A. Poole, L. McNeil, N. Hayes, J. Lonergan, J. Firns
Panthers: E. Wilkinson 3, S. Overall 2, B. McCreery, N. Schwarz, J. Horne, L. Bogle, A. Cailotto

BEST:

Eagles: J. Rowe, J. Tsitas, J. Sinor, J. Wehr, J. Redden, M. Goldsworthy
Panthers: M. Broadbent, E. Wilkinson, M. Karpany, J. Summerton

Minor premier, Woodville-West Torrens (WWT) earned passage to the 2020 League decider after bolting home 43-point winners over South Adelaide. Electric small forward James Rowe turned it on when it mattered, booting five goals for the Eagles to only enhance his stocks as a mature-age AFL Draft candidate this year. Rowe’s scoreboard impact helped the Eagles overcome a half-time deficit, as they piled on nine goals to South’s two in a romping second half display.

Fresh off four majors in the Reserves, Sam Lowson made the most of his senior return with two goals in this outing, while 19-year-old midfielder Lachlan McNeil also found the big sticks. Defender Jacob Wehr, who is also attracting some elite level interest, managed 14 disposals (12 kicks) and six rebound 50s, while Port Adelaide NGA prospect Lachlan Jones contributed 13 touches and five marks. Tasmanian Rhyan Mansell proved his fitness in making a return, while Ben Jungfer was another to earn a call-up via the Reserves.

There were a few Panthers who stood tall as their season came to an end, with Eamon Wilkinson among them. The 20-year-old forward snared three goals to take his season tally to 25. 17-year-old gun Jason Horne capped off a fine maiden run of senior football by hitting the scoreboard, with boom Victorian recruit Daly Andrews managing 16 touches and six clearances in a balanced effort. National Combine invitee, Tom Highmore (nine disposals, five rebound 50s) did not quite have his usual impact, but has enjoyed a stellar debut SANFL season.

The Eagles will go on to face North Adelaide in the SANFL League Grand Final, just a fortnight after going down by 15 points to the Roosters in an entertaining semi final bout.

Reserves:

CENTRAL DISTRICT | 0.3 | 1.4 | 4.4 | 6.9 (45)
NORTH ADELAIDE | 3.2 | 7.6 | 8.11 | 10.14 (74)

GOALS:

Bulldogs: B. Kennedy 2, C. Dahms 2, T. Graham, L. Grubb
Roosters: S. Davis 2, T. Rigney, C. Dowling, D. Nixon, C. Barns, J. Neade, J. Langley, J. Byrne, M. Neagle

BEST:

Bulldogs: J. Brown, N. Madden, S. Burton, T. Graham, D. Haydon, E. East
Roosters: M. Slee, S. Parsons, D. Nixon, P. Davies, H. Magor, M. Neagle

Reserves minor premier, Central District has been knocked out of the finals in straight sets after falling short for a second-straight week, this time at the hands of North Adelaide. A seven-goal to one first half saw the Roosters crow to a 38-point lead at the main break, which they comfortably managed to hold onto despite the Bulldogs’ best efforts. 29 points was the final margin of victory, seeing Centrals bow out after losing just once during the home-and-away rounds. North goes on to meet Woodville-West Torrens in the decider, with the ledger sitting at one win apiece between the two sides in 2020.

20-year-old Mackenzie Slee was recognised as best afield for the victors, returning eight marks and six rebound 50s from his 15 disposals in the back half. Meanwhile, Harrison Magor notched a team-high 23 touches to go with nine clearances, seven inside 50s, and five tackles, forming a formidable midfield partnership alongside Dakota Nixon, who managed 20 disposals, seven clearances, and a goal. Charlie Dowling was another to find the big sticks for North.

In a losing effort, Joey Brown was named the Bulldogs’ best for his 23 disposals and nine marks, while Steve Burton led all comers with 28 touches to go with nine tackles and six clearances. Nicholas Madden racked up nine rebound 50s from defence, with Thomas Graham providing solid cover on the same line. Among those to kick goals were Cooper Dahms and Brett Kennedy (both two), while Lachlan Grubb also got in on the act with one major.

Under 18s:

STURT | 2.6 | 4.11 | 8.14 | 12.22 (94)
WWT EAGLES | 3.0 | 8.3 | 10.4 | 10.4 (64)

GOALS:

Blues: J. Opperman 2, O. Britten-Jones 2, M. Ferres 2, M. Liddy, M. Carruthers, T. Powell, J. Ferrari, Z. Parker-Boers, B. Jefferies
Eagles: B. Calvett 2, M. Litster 2, J. Burgoyne, Z. Scott, J. Godden, J. Hunter-Price, J. Kasianowicz, J. Watson

BEST:

Blues: M. Carruthers, M. Liddy, J. Opperman, W. Spain, B. Higgins, M. Ferres
Eagles: R. Williams, Z. Buck, J. Burgoyne, L. Ueding, C. Poulter, D. Branford

Sturt leant on its finals double chance, bringing an end to the Eagles’ premiership defence while punching its own Under 18s Grand Final ticket in one fell swoop. The Double Blues found themselves trailing at the second and third breaks, but found an extra gear when it mattered. In a remarkable turnaround, Sturt slammed home a total of 4.8 (32) while keeping the Eagles scoreless in a one-sided final term, which saw the ball locked in the victors’ front half. A 30-point final margin was the result, with Norwood awaiting the Blues for what will be a semi final rematch.

AFL Draft bolter and National Combine invitee Malachy Carruthers was again outstanding for Sturt, showcasing all of his class with 21 disposals, six marks, and a goal. Mani Liddy accumulated a team-high 29 touches, which included eight clearances and a booming final term goal, while Tom Powell also managed 29 disposals, 10 marks, seven clearances, and a classy major of his own. Bottom-age forward Morgan Ferres snared two goals from 17 disposals and nine marks, while Will Spain laid 10 tackles, and Crows NGA hopeful James Borlase returned to the level with five marks.

Caleb Poulter was arguably the Eagles’ best in a losing cause, doing his draft chances no harm with 22 disposals and seven marks. Ryan Williams was also recognised for his efforts, while 2021 Port father-son prospect Jase Burgoyne capped off a brilliant year with 21 touches and a goal, with Brock Thomson (31 disposals, 10 rebound 50s) leading all comers from defence.

Featured Image: Eagles forward Sam Lowson celebrates a goal | Credit: SANFL

Out to impress: SANFL Preliminary Finals

BOTTOM-AGED superstar Jason Horne will take to Adelaide Oval when his Panthers clash with Woodville-West Torrens for a place in the SANFL Grand Final. The 17-year-old, who kicked the sealer for South Adelaide in their semi-final win last weekend, has been named on the bench for the Sunday afternoon match.

Canberra-born key defender Tom Highmore will once again be expected to handle one of the oppositions key forwards – a task he has excelled in throughout his first season at SANFL level. Victorian import Daly Andrews has been named on the half-back flank, after he gathered 17 disposals and three marks in the victory over Glenelg.

Meanwhile, Eagles teenager Ben Jungfer is in line to return to the senior side after being included on the extended interchange bench. If dashing defender Rhyan Mansell is unable to recover from his concussion sustained in the semi-final loss to North Adelaide, Jungfer looms as a likely inclusion. The aggressive tackler made his League debut earlier in the season and immediately looked at home at the level. Eagle forward Sam Lowson has also been named on the extended bench and is a chance to rejoin Ken Farmer Medalist James Rowe in attack.

Central Districts draft hopeful Corey Durdin has been named in the reserves for the Bulldogs’ semi-final clash with the Roosters. Durdin will be a valuable inclusion, after having missed several games this season with hamstring issues, which also prevented the forward from testing at the recent draft combine. He will be joined by Lachlan Grubb, who has been a regular in the reserves throughout the year.

At under-18s level, Sturt has named a strong side for their encounter with Woodville-West Torrens. Adelaide Next Generation Academy prospect James Borlase has been named on the half-forward flank for the Double Blues and looms as a potential match-winner. Malachy Carruthers will look to generate plenty of drive from half-back and midfield trio Tom Powell, Mani Liddy and Will Spain will need to perform strongly if Sturt is to keep their season alive, following a disappointing loss to Norwood last weekend.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have named a settled side for the clash, after recording a narrow and controversial victory over South Adelaide last weekend. Tall forward Henry Smith will look to be a focal point at centre-half-forward, with the likes of Taj Schofield and Jack Wheare also out to impress in the must-win clash. In the middle, Zac Phillips will lead the ruck division, with Jase Burgoyne, Max Lister and Caleb Poulter looking to gain the upper hand in the contest.

FIXTURES

League:

Woodville-West Torrens vs. South Adelaide | Sunday October 11, 3:15pm @ Adelaide Oval

Reserves:

Central Districts vs. North Adelaide | Sunday October 11, 12:15pm @ Adelaide Oval

Under-18s:

Sturt vs. Woodville-West Torrens | Saturday October 10, 11:30am @ Thebarton Oval