Category: Victoria

2021 NAB League: Post-Round 3 fallout – Which 19-year-olds have raised their stocks?

THE FIRST three rounds of NAB League action were pegged as important ones for 19-year-old AFL Draft prospects this year, after the competition was restructured and the top-age lifted to provide ample opportunity for said age group to prove their worth. For some, their stocks have risen immensely, so much so that there is already interest awaiting them at the midseason draft. Others are climbing steadily and will take advantage of greater state league opportunities, while a promising group has been held back by injuries.

Atop the list of 19th-year talents to come out of the NAB League in 2021 is Sandringham Dragons tall, Jacob Edwards. The agile ruck-forward caught the eye with an outstanding preseason intraclub performance, before translating that form into three top-notch games for the Dragons come season proper. Partner in crime, Max Heath has returned strongly too, building on last year’s promise to also be in the mix. Both are still in school though, so will likely garner attention mostly from Victorian clubs.

A bunch of up-and-comers will also feature in the VFL as soon as this round. Western Jets standout Cody Raak ran out for the Western Bulldogs’ reserves on Thursday night, taking four marks among his nine disposals on debut. The Bulldogs NGA product has looked above the NAB League level this year, dominating across his usual centre half-back post with intercept marking and ever-improving distributive skills. Calder Cannons forward Sam Paea was also selected for Essendon in Round 1, clunking five marks.

The game to watch this week for draftable talent will be the AFL Academy clash with Geelong VFL, though there will be some exciting youngsters lining up on the side not many would expect to look at in that sense. Athletic Falcons defender Charlie Ham will suit up for the Cats alongside smooth GWV midfielder Marcus Herbert, while Category B rookie Paul Tsapatolis will also feature having represented Western Jets thus far. Oakleigh ruck Ned Moyle will also run out in that game, as the Academy’s sole top-ager.

Elsewhere, Collingwood and Essendon lock horns on Satirday afternoon and will also blood some youth from the elite talent pathway. Dynamic Oakleigh Chargers forward Dylan Thomas gets a gig for the Magpies after booting six goals in three games, with NGA prospect Youseph Dib set to start up forward while Will Hart has been named as an emergency. Nippy Bendigo midfielder-forward Jack Hickman has been named for the Bombers, with Pioneers skipper Jack Evans also an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies, Tasmanian pair Oliver Sanders and Tyler McGinniss are on that list for North Melbourne. Sanders has averaged 29 disposals across his two NAB League outings this season, while 20-year-old McGinniss also showed promise in those two matches. Fellow Devils product Oliver Davis may also earn his own state league shot, set to link up with Sturt over in the SANFL having already trained with the Double Blues.

In terms of other prospects in the mix for opportunities at higher levels, Dandenong’s Will Bravo, Murray’s Charlie Byrne, and Eastern’s Corey Preston should both garner VFL attention after spending the preseason fighting for AFL spots at Hawthorn, Essendon, and Western Bulldogs respectively. While he has not been sighted on-field as of yet, Zavier Maher is a recent Carlton VFL signing having also spent the preseason mixing it with senior Blues.

Bravo’s Stingrays teammates Clayton Gay and Bryce Milford should both soon link up with Casey after spending time there. Oakleigh Chargers midfield duo Lochlan Jenkins and Fraser Elliot have also proven their worth thus far, as has Ewan Macpherson for Northern after being overlooked by the Bulldogs as a father-son. Charlie McKay is also in that boat, having been passed on last year by Carlton.

There are plenty of others in the mix too, with revamped rules allowing for more pathways products to feature each week in the VFL. With so much talent vying for those spots after three rounds of NAB League football, there is sure to be pretty stiff competition for those expanded spots. Some will filter to that next level, while others will stay in or return via the NAB League, as others spill into local leagues. The regeneration will continue too, as Under 17 prospects will soon enter the NAB League at a greater rate.

2021 VFLW Round 8 preview: Anzac Day rivals lock horns at The Hangar

ANZAC Day matches take centre stage, along with a Friday night blockbuster at Whitten Oval, in what is anticipated to be a fantastic round of Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s action for Round 8 of the competition.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Friday, April 23 @ 7:30pm
Whitten Oval

A mammoth win last Sunday afternoon against Darebin saw Western Bulldogs jump from eleventh to eighth on the VFL Women’s table, and draw to within four points of the top six. They will have plenty of percentage to catch up on after some disappointing losses, but the team that currently holds sixth spot is their opponents on Friday night, the Southern Saints. The Saints have a healthy percentage thanks to a similar belting of the Falcons back in Round 5, which had actually snapped a three-game losing streak. They did go down to the unbeaten Magpies last week, so will be seeking to bounce back against the Dogs in this clash. Tara Bohanna is a key player for the Saints, booting eight goals in seven games to be within reach of top spot on the table. Valerie Moreau and Gabbi De Angelis have both slotted four majors, to give the Saints a pretty potent forward line. Alice Burke ran rampant last week with 35 touches, whilst the dangerous Renee Saulitis is another small who can inject pace and class around goals. By comparison, Mary Sandral leads the Dogs’ goalkicking with the four majors, but was injured during the clash against the Falcons, On debut Western Jets’ Jemima Woods slotted three majors, though it is expected she will return for the NAB League Girls’ final clash. Danielle Marshall hit the scoreboard last week, while the return of Nell Morris-Dalton and Eleanor Brown to complement the side was important. Last time they were under lights the Dogs had a shocker against the Magpies, but expect them to be much better here against the Saints in what should be a thrilling contest.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, April 24 @ 10:00am
ETU Stadium

The top of the table Port Melbourne host Casey Demons in an early Saturday morning clash. The Borough saw off their greatest challenge to-date last week, overcoming Carlton from several goals down to remain undefeated from seven matches. The Demons, led by Imogen Milford who slammed home six majors, were too strong for Hawthorn despite the Hawks’ best efforts at Box Hill. If the Demons can continue that form – with more AFL Women’s players available – expect them to really give the ladder leaders a run for their money. Only Port and Collingwood have scored more than the Demons this season, which makes them a potent attack led by Milford (12 goals), while Niamh McEvoy (five) and Brenna Tarrant (five from Round 1) all damaging. Eliza West is the in-form midfielder, having collected more touches than any other player this season at an average of 22.3 disposals, as well as 4.3 tackles. Being able to hit the scoreboard with four majors makes her a threat forward of centre, and the Borough will need to be aware of that, whether it is the likes of Philippa Peschke or Mel Kuys who might be opposed to her. Sophie Locke is second on the goalkicking charts but has been recovering from injury, whilst Emily Harley (five goals) and Cleo Saxon-Jones (four) have been hitting the scoreboard in less games, while Sabrina Frederick has scored two majors in each of her matches thus far. The Borough should be favourites at home, but the Demons have enough talent to bring in that could worry the ladder leaders.

DAREBIN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, April 24 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

Back-to-back home games for Darebin Falcons gives the standalone side a chance to jump off the bottom of the table with a win in this contest. The Falcons knocked off North Melbourne a fortnight ago, but felt the pinch of a Dogs side that recalled a number of AFL Women’s talents in Round 7. They have to find a way to knock off a red-hot Cats outfit that will have similar AFL Women’s numbers to the Dogs last week, with most of those players being able to hit the scoreboard. Geelong has only lost to the top two sides, and has won their past three matches to sit fourth overall, percentage behind Essendon. with Casey Demons not too far behind, the visitors cannot afford to take the Falcons lightly. Olivia Barber is a goal-scoring threat when in the side having kicked six goals in just two games, whilst regulars, Claudia Gunjaca (five), Stephanie Williams (five) and Georgia Clarke (four) can also do damage. Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Carly Remmos will be the future of the AFL Women’s side and are teaming up well through the VFLW midfield, while Tamara Smith leads all-comers with tackles, and Paige Sheppard is one of the most prominent ball-winners in the league. Nicole Callinan is the one to stop for the Falcons, averaging 23 disposals, six marks and 5.5 tackles working hard in the back 50 and pushing up the ground to try and drive her team forward. The Bulldogs premiership player has been a welcome addition to the side, with Sidney Cubasch returning last week and likely to assert herself in the ruck, Samara David impressed around the ground having also kicked the five goals this season, while Stephanie Simpson might not have hit the scoreboard last week against a strong Bulldogs defence, but slotted four the previous week. The Falcons will leapfrog Hawthorn – if the Hawks lose on Sunday – but it will be a very tough ask with Geelong in ripping form and expect the Cats to continue that form in Round 8.

HAWTHORN vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Sunday, April 25 @ 10:30am
Box Hill City Oval

Two of the bottom three clash in what could be one of the closest matches of the round. Hawthorn has been pretty impressive this season and arguably undeserving of eleventh on the ladder. They pushed the Demons last week and can leapfrog the Seagulls here with a win, having averaged more points than their opponents, but also having conceded a lot more as well. Each week Bec Goddard manages to bring in AFL Women’s talent, as Georgia Bevan, Kristy Stratton, Tamara Luke and Nadia von Bertouch have all swapped their colours to return to their roots of the brown and gold, or with the ties to Goddard. Whilst not having massive ball-winners, the Hawks have been able to develop some young talent through the list, such as renowned tackler Dominique Carbone, and a plethora of Eastern Ranges players such as Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy and Eloise Chaston. Jesse Williams is the danger up forward, and with Stratton in for her second game in the brown and gold, expect her to be a second prong of attack up there. Williamstown on the other hand do not have a reliable source of goals, though Aimee Whelan and Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster have each snagged three majors. A total of 14 players have hit the scoreboard in the 2021 season, including prominent ball-winners Ruby Tripodi and Megan Williamson, while Erin Meade continues to provide great run out of defence, and will hope the Seagulls can propel themselves to their third win. With the extra experience coming into the brown and gold though, the Hawks should get up at home.

ESSENDON vs. COLLINGWOOD
Sunday, April 25 @ 11:00am
The Hangar

The traditional Anzac Day rivals will clash at The Hangar before fans head south to the MCG for the AFL men’s edition, with the VFL Women’s clash to provide just as much intensity between the clubs. A potential finals preview looms with the second placed Pies still unbeaten from seven games, coming up against the third placed Bombers who are 5-2 from their season, and building some great form in the middle of the season. The Bombers have been without their spiritual leader for the last game and a half with Georgia Nanscawen on the sidelines. She averaged 23 disposals and 10.2 tackles in her six games, to be a barometer in the side. Alana Barba and Courtney Ugle have stepped up in her absence, while Frederica Frew (eight goals) and Natalie MacDonald (five) have been important up forward with Mia-Rae Clifford (eight). With the NAB League Girls returning this week, expect the Bombers to be without a couple of key youngsters in Zali Friswell and Kasey Lennox, though Elizabeth Snell and soon-to-be Jemma Finning have just the one game remaining in Pioneers colours. The Magpies have been ticking along nicely and now will be able to heavily rotate their AFL Women’s talent if they choose to do so, with the likes of Bella Smith (eight goals in four games), Amelia Velardo in defence and Abbi Moloney (two in three) among those running around in the side. Imogen Barnett has been the standout VFLW-listed Pie with eight goals in six games, while Caitlin Bunker (16.3 disposals, 6.6 tackles) and Matilda Zander (14.3 disposals, 4.1 tackles) are others who have stood out.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 25 @ 12:00pm
Arden Street

The later Anzac Day clash is between another couple of AFLW-aligned clubs in North Melbourne and Carlton. The Roos have enjoyed playing a string of games at Arden Street this season, and whilst they have only won the two games from seven matches, have been steadfast in developing their VFLW-listed talents rather than pouring in AFLW-listed players just for the points. The Blues have been fairly similar, though they were able to bring in some players in recent weeks such as Maddy Guerin, who has been a cut above at the level, averaging 21.7 disposals, 3.3 marks and 7.0 tackles from her three games. Jennifer Lew has been an impressive VFLW-listed Blue with 18.5 disposals, 5.3 marks and 4.3 tackles, whilst Courtney Jones has slotted eight goals in five games, and Akayla Peterson has been utilised at both ends of the field for five goals in seven games. Throw in Serena Gibbs (three in four) who has been supporting Jorja Borg in the ruck, and the form of Winnie Laing this season, and the Blues have a solid team across the board. North Melbourne on the other hand, have had some really consistent ball-winners, but just not enough consistent games to put together wins. Brooke Brown has been sensational up forward with eight goals in four games, while ex-Sun Alexia Hamilton, and Tasmanian Sarah Skinner have both been enjoying outstanding seasons in the blue and white. Meagan Kiely and Molly Eastman both average 20.4 disposals and more than four tackles per game to share the load with Skinner, while Airlie Runnalls and Katelyn Cox are other consistent ball-winning talents. Carlton arguably have the upper hand after pushing Port Melbourne last week, though the development of the Roos will hold them in good stead for the future.

Stat Leaders: 2021 NAB League – Round 3

THE 2021 NAB League season rolled on into its third round over the weekend, with six fixtures split evenly across Saturday and Sunday. There were a number of outstanding individual performances among the Round 3 action, as serious draft contenders and prospects on the rise topped a range of key categories. We take a look at this week’s stat leaders.

It was no surprise to see Oakleigh Chargers standout Nick Daicos enjoy another blinder, but the Collingwood father-son talent keeps on reaching new heights. Daicos racked up a season-high 40 disposals as his side thumped the Western Jets by 46 points on Sunday, with his 27 kicks and 11 inside 50s also registering as highs for the round. It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny him of number one status in the draft pool, with South Australian Jason Horne his lone genuine competitor at this early stage.

In the same game, a bunch of Jets were kept busy by the Chargers’ dominance. Top-age talent Cody Raak continued his brilliant early-season form with 10 rebound 50s, which should see him earn a VFL berth in short time. Co-captains Billy Cootee (11 marks) and Nash Reynolds (10 tackles) led from the front in Western’s loss, staking their own claims as players to watch going forward.

Northern skipper Joel Trudgeon was one of the many Knights to have a day out against Gippsland, with his efforts seeing him top the handball and goal charts. He shared both those honours with teammates, as Josh Ward also racked up 19 handballs and Ned Long was the other Knight to kick three majors, along with Greater Western Victoria’s Ben Kellett.

Elsewhere, another 19th-year prospect in Will Bravo laid 10 tackles to be level with Western’s Reynolds in that category, while Eastern Ranges tall Jack Diedrich was dominant in the hitout department with 32 against Tasmania, putting him ahead of a very strong list of rucks this week.

Find the full list of Round 3’s stat leaders below.


ROUND 3 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:
Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers) – 40

Kicks:
Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers) – 27

Handballs:
Josh Ward (Northern Knights) – 19
Joel Trudgeon (Northern Knights) – 19

Marks:
Billy Cootee (Western Jets) – 11

Tackles:
Will Bravo (Dandenong Stingrays) – 10
Nash Reynolds (Western Jets) – 10

Inside 50s:
Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers) – 11

Rebound 50s:
Cody Raak (Western Jets) – 10

Hitouts:
Jack Diedrich (Eastern Ranges) – 32

Goals:
Ben Kellett (GWV Rebels) – 3
Ned Long (Northern Knights) – 3
Joel Trudgeon (Northern Knights) – 3

2021 VFL: Round 1 Draftee Focus – Tigers pair push for early debuts

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) returned over the weekend after a year away, with the revamped structure seeing 22 teams battle it out across 11 fixtures up and down the eastern seaboard, stretching from Friday to Sunday. Senior-listed players who missed AFL selection were able to get some run in their legs through the state league, with a bunch of 2020 draftees among them. We take a look at how prospects from the latest draft class fared in Round 1.

A pair of first year Richmond talents staked their claims for an early call-up in the competition’s season-opener, as the Tigers ran out 40-point victors over St Kilda’s VFL affiliate, Sandringham. Maurice Rioli Jnr was the first to garner some attention for a senior berth, after booting two goals from his 17 disposals in an exciting display. Loping ruck-forward, Samson Ryan was the other, having translated his preseason form to a three-goal haul on Friday afternoon.

For the Zebras, Tom Highmore pushed his case for a recall after being dropped from the Saints’ senior side. The marking defender reeled in seven grabs against Richmond, among his 16 disposals (13 kicks). The Saints’ first selection in last year’s intake, Matthew Allison also got a run for his new side, contributing five touches. Top-up selections Derek Eggmolesse-Smith and Mason Wood were also solid for their respective teams, leaning on their prior AFL experience.

Number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan continues his attempt to crack the Western Bulldogs’ forwardline, booting two goals from 11 touches in the reserve grade. Dominic Bedendo found the ball eight times as the Bulldogs beat Gold Coast, whose rookie selections proved the pick of their new crop. Aiden Fyfe (16 disposals, eight marks) and Rhys Nicholls (17 disposals) fit in nicely, as Category B rookie Hewago Paul Oea had it 19 times. Prized coups Alex Davies and Joel Jeffrey also ran out for the Suns in their 67-point loss.

While their statesmen went down to a Victorian opponent, the Brisbane Lions came up trumps against Essendon with a 66-point win on Saturday afternoon. Academy graduate Carter Michael found plenty of the ball with 25 disposals and four marks, while the hard-running Harry Sharp (19 disposals, six marks, four tackles) stakes his claim for another senior crack. Raw tall forward Henry Smith booted a couple of goals, as Blake Coleman and Deividas Uosis also ran out in the maroon, blue and gold. Versatile NGA product Josh Eyre (eight disposals, three marks) was Essendon’s lone 2020 draftee afield.

A state league Sydney derby saw the Swans defeat the Giants by 26 points on the same afternoon, with both sides fielding multiple fresh faces across both levels in 2021. Sydney rookie Malachy Carruthers accumulated 19 disposals (16 kicks) and 10 marks in an impressive first-up effort, while academy graduate Marc Sheather notched 10 touches and kicked a goal.

Prized GWS pick Tanner Bruhn got a good run on the ball to amass 27 disposals in the charcoal and orange, an effort capped by two goals. Fellow Victorian Ryan Angwin showed his potential with 18 touches of the ball, while mature-age selection Jacob Wehr had it 17 times with 12 kicks. Cam Fleeton and Category B bolter Will Shaw also got some run in their legs for GWS.

Collingwood’s bumper draft haul has already made an impact at the top level, but there were also plenty of first year players plying their trade in the twos last week. Most hit the scoreboard too, as Collingwood snuck past Werribee; with Oliver Henry (11 disposals, seven marks, two goals), Caleb Poulter (18 disposals, seven marks, one goal), Reef McInnes, Liam McMahon and Jack Ginnivan (all one goal) making their marks. Tasmania rookie Isaac Chugg was also promising, finishing on 15 disposals and six marks.

Sunday saw a couple of aligned units lock horns at Box Hill City Oval, as the hosts went down to Casey Demons by 51 points. First round Melbourne selection, Jake Bowey made a good start to end with 23 disposals and four marks in red and blue, as Deakyn Smith (20 disposals, seven marks, six tackles) and the dynamic Fraser Rosman (10 disposals, two goals) also showed plenty. The Demons’ side is currently hard to crack, though.

Preseason supplemental selection Lachlan Bramble showed his ability at the level by ticking onto 20 disposals for the Hawks, also getting his hands dirty to lay eight tackles in the loss. Hawthorn NGA product Connor Downie looked in line for an early senior berth – not as concussion sub – but had nothing doing. He notched 10 disposals in this VFL outing.

Geelong thumped North Melbourne to start its season on the ideal note, with repeat-run machine Max Holmes arguably the pick of the draftees with 22 disposals (16 kicks). Nick Stevens clunked eight marks in the hoops and snared a goal, as athletic West Australian tall Shannon Neale managed seven disposals.

For North, Eddie Ford made a promising start with 13 touches and three marks, while the speedy Phoenix Spicer also made an appearance. Elsewhere, Corey Durdin was Carlton’s lone draftee in action as the Blues went down by a point to Southport. He had 10 disposals and kicked a goal, playing the small forward role.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 3

VICTORIA’S hottest AFL Draft prospects returned for Round 3 of the 2021 NAB League season on the weekend, with plenty of top end talent scattered across the six fixtures. Our scouts were on hand to take note and run you through the top performers from each game, in their opinion-based Scouting Notes. Check out some of the top performers from the 12 talent regions in action.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Hamish Spence

TASMANIA:

#1 Baynen Lowe

Lowe provided a spark whenever he was near the ball, with the 17-year-old splitting his time up forward and in the midfield. He’s a point of difference in the middle with his bursts of speed around stoppages and he looks dangerous anytime he’s inside 50. His leading patterns and strong forward craft saw him take six marks and kick 2.2, while also gathering 20 disposals. He looms as one of Tasmania’s more exciting prospects heading into this year’s draft.

#3 Oliver Davis

Tasmania’s main conduit around the contest, Davis played his usual role as a powerful inside midfielder. He started strongly in the first half, to the point that Eastern started accounting for him more around stoppages in the second half. He starred in the clearances and contested game, finishing with 23 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s. After unluckily going undrafted last year, Davis has strung two impressive performances together to kick off the season.

#4 Samuel Foley

Foley anchored a stout performance from Tasmania’s back six, who restricted the Ranges to just one goal in the first half. He wasn’t afraid to play aggressively and go for the ball, while still being accountable to his direct opponent at centre half-back. In a nice turnaround from last week, he also won several key one-on-one contests, after giving way to Jackson Cardillo against Calder in Round 2. Foley and Tyler McGinniss (his fellow key defender) read the ball well, creating a contest and bringing the ball to ground if they couldn’t mark it. He finished with 18 disposals, six marks, and seven inside 50s in an impressive defensive performance.

#5 Oliver Sanders

Sanders was the most prolific midfielder on Saturday, finishing with an equal game-high 29 disposals, five marks and four inside 50s. He possesses a natural ball-winning ability and knows how to create space around stoppages, often helping the Devils with their attacks going forward. He had a nice moment in the third quarter when he went back with the flight and took a strong mark on the right-hand wing.

#6 Sam Banks

The Devils’ captain led from the front, starring in a best on ground performance off half-back. Banks got the ball rolling with the first goal of the game and was a constant force all match, finishing with 29 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s and four rebound 50s. His ball movement out of the backline often set Tasmania up and he remained level-headed when the team was put under pressure in the second half. Unfortunately, he suffered a suspected broken wrist in the final quarter, which could keep him out for several weeks.

#21 Jacob Young

Young was the most dangerous key forward on Saturday because of the way he presented and marked the ball. He has a safe pair of mitts when he hits full flight and he looked likely all game. He started strongly in the first quarter and didn’t let up, flying for every contest and crashing packs throughout the match. He kicked 2.1, while gathering 11 disposals and clunking six marks. After the Devils’ tall forward set-up struggled to fire last week, the way Young, Noah Holmes and Will Splann worked together and gave each other space was encouraging to see.

EASTERN:

#1 Tyler Sonsie

Sonsie shone through in what was a tough day for most of his teammates, leaving as Eastern’s best player. He was good all game, but had a noticeable impact in the third quarter when there was a hint of a Ranges comeback. He was a threat around stoppages and provided the x-factor that his side needed by kicking two of their four goals for the term, including a neat checkside on the run. He also had 21 disposals in a performance that reinforced his status as one of the top prospects heading into this year’s draft.

#5 Jake Soligo

While he didn’t gather the footy as much as some other players, it was Soligo’s unrelenting pressure and competitiveness that made him stand out. After the Ranges were left shellshocked by the Devils’ dominance in the first term, he was one of the players who immediately lifted his standards, exactly what you’d expect from your co-captain. Eastern was ambushed and tackled 19 times in the first quarter, but it went on to win the tackle count, with Soligo contributing a game-high eight of them. He also had 16 disposals and five inside 50s, and his ball use was often effective despite most of his possessions being contested.

#9 Mitchell Sruk

Sruk was put under constant pressure due to Tasmania’s repeat inside 50 entries, but the half-back flanker didn’t lower his colours and stood up consistently. He led his team in disposals with 22 and the game in rebound 50s with nine. He got plenty of touches because the ball lived at his end of the ground for large portions of the game, but it was his clean decision-making and the way he intercepted the Devils’ attacks that made him one of Eastern’s better players.

#21 Corey Preston

Preston was key to getting his side going in the third quarter, with the Ranges’ coaching staff utilising him in a unique way. He would start at the top of forward 50 during every centre bounce, before running onto the back of the contest and playing as a midfielder from then on. His blistering speed meant this added a new element to Eastern’s game at centre clearances and his work at the contest around the ground was strong. This meant he didn’t spend as much time up forward as in previous weeks though. He finished with 18 disposals, five tackles, four inside 50s and two behinds, with his impact in the second half lifting the team around him.

#29 Harrison Keeling

Keeling had a workman’s like game, running all over the ground and covering an enormous amount of territory. He played his role as a wingman, being an outlet on the outside and supporting his teammates. His hard work saw him rack up 20 disposals, five tackles, four inside 50s and kick one goal. He continued the form that has seen him among the Ranges’ best to start the year.

#30 Jack Diedrich

Diedrich was easily the best ruckman on the ground, finishing with a game-high 32 hit outs (the next best was 10 from Noah Holmes). His dominance didn’t translate at times during the match, with Tasmania winning the midfield battle in the first half. But when Eastern started to get on top in the third term, there was no way to stem his influence. He didn’t make the biggest impact around the ground with just eight disposals, but he still had some key moments. He put himself in the right spots to compete in marking contests and there were a couple of times where he kept a cool head when he was involved in general chains of play.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

GIPPSLAND:

#4 Nathan Noblett

Had a solid game across the board, but was particularly noticeable late in the game, taking a number of strong intercept marks. Showing good hands and an ability to get to the right spots, he tried hard in the defensive 50. One of the better ones in the air in defence.

#5 Chance Doultree

Won plenty of the ball in close, Doultree was able to amass more touches than anyone else on his team. He worked hard to push around the ground against the momentum and even kicked a goal in the last minute to bring the margin back to under 12 goals.

#6 Mitchell Moschetti

Arguably the most noticeable Power player across the four quarters, Moschetti just kept having a crack and then took it upon himself to hit the scoreboard. His work rate in particular, spreading from the contest and winning in space was strong, and he kicked his first goal off the outside of the boot running into goal in the second term. His second major came early in the fourth, and he working hard right to the final siren as one of the prime midfield movers.

#23 Jai Serong

After a quieter first term, Serong began building into the game, and used his size around the ground to spread and take some important marks. He was used in transition from the back half to the forward 50, and whilst it was a tough day for the Power, he generally used it well and was able to have more of an impact as the game went on.

NORTHERN:

#2 Ned Long

A really exciting talent because of his size and versatility. He kicked three goals for the game, with his first a clever snap, then handed off another chance to a free teammate to set him up. He kicked his second major in the goalsquare with a quick boot to ball, then took a good mark and spun well in the fourth term to kick his third. In between his bursts of goals, Long went into the middle and found plenty of the football, using his bigger body to advantage and having an influence around the stoppages.

#3 Josh Ward

Had the ball on a string throughout the match, and whilst he was one of hte few Knights that did not end up hitting the scoreboard, he kept plugging away in close and getting the ball out. A consistent four-quarter performer, Ward did his fair share of defensive acts, and drove the ball forward to end up with the most touches on the field with 33.

#7 Ewan Macpherson

It was an even team performance, but Macpherson might have been the best on the lot. Kicked a couple of goals including a couple of tricky long-range set shots from around 45m out with the blustery wind, then would go into the midfield and create an option. He racked the ball up and did not take a backwards step, laying tackle after tackle and putting his body on the line. He was consistent throughout the four quarters and moved well in the forward half, to utilise his run in transition, and his hardness at the contest.

#9 Darcy Wilmot

Was a rock in defence early, intercepting anything that came his way and opting to switch and try and create more run from the back 50 to the forward 50. As the Knights began to control forward half possession, he did not have a great deal to do, but still pushed up and aided where possible. Used the ball well by foot and was composed under pressure, and was one of the best on in the opening term when the game was alive.

#19 Joel Trudgeon

Another standout performer from the Knights, Trudgeon was hard to stop inside 50, slotting three goals from 29 disposals in a remarkable performance. He missed an early set shot after a great mark, then dropped a rare chance, before seemingly having sticky hands throughout the game. He marked on the line to grab a cheapie one metre out, but worked hard with a couple more great goals, including one from the pocket after a great run. Strong hands and good work rate inside 50, also pushing up the ground to be a leading target.

#22 Jack Rossimel

Showed some promising signs throughout the match, able to kick a couple of goals, though the second was from the goalsquare following a 50m penalty for a late push in the marking contest. His first major was a snap around his body in the second term, ad then a set shot drifted to the right midway through the third. He presented well, and whilst he did not win as much of it as others, took some strong marks and led hard at the footy inside 50.

#26 Dom Akuei

As eye-catching as they get when it comes to athleticism, Akuei has a ridiculous leap, but also has remarkable footy IQ both in the air and at ground level. Time and time again he would leap up and palm off to a midfielder as part of a set play, but when he battled against a couple of opponents on the ground, quickly tapped it out to the extra number on his team rather than take possession. He won a free kick and sidestepped his opponent to gain a few extra metres and kick forward, and was relied upon to be a link in the chain and provide an option around the ground as he did.

#28 Joel Fitzgerald

Another player who just found the ball at will, Fitzgerald worked hard for his touches and finished with the second most on the ground with 30. He would accumulate them and quickly give off or look to get it forward, but also worked defensively when needed to help out the defence. Just a solid four-quarter performance across the board.

#33 Mackenzie Hogg

Could well have been best-on had it not been for an injury early in the third term. His eight disposals, three marks and 2.2 might not look like much, but factoring in that it was effectively from a half of footy, really showed what he could do. The majority of it was also in the second term where he kicked well off his left running in with the breeze to put one through, then nailed his set shot from a tighter angle after marking close to goal. He had another couple of early snaps in the third term for two behinds, then by the third minute was helped off.

#39 Emilio Rinaudo

Showed some great toe around the ground and ended up getting on the end of a couple of goals. His athleticism – which helped him quick a goal thanks to a quick-thinking sidestep in the second term – was a standout of his on the day. He ran down an opponent with his pace in the fourth term, whilst his hard running was rewarded early prior to the previously mentioned goal with a clever snap from the pocket after picking it up cleanly in challenging conditions.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Michael Alvaro

SANDRINGHAM:

#4 Josh Sinn

It was somewhat of a hit-and-miss kind of day for Sinn, who found a good amount of ball but took a few attempts to settle and use it as well as he can. Having been utilised on the inside earlier than expected, Sinn again showed his value there after being granted starting status at the first centre bounce. His size and explosive traits proved a handful around the contest, but it was in situations where Sinn broke on the outer which were arguably more eye-catching. He pumped forward 10 inside 50s and while plenty of his early attempts were turned over or scuffed, Sinn was able to gain confidence by hitting his targets at a greater rate thereafter. Having copped a knock to his calf in the final term, he was put on ice ahead of the AFL Academy game this week.

#11 Jack Peris

This was far and away Peris’ best competitive outing in Sandringham colours, with the St Kilda NGA prospect showcasing his rare athletic traits and causing headaches with his forward movement from the wing. He notched 17 disposals and looked to take the game on with each, backing his speed to burn opponents and showing flashy agility to weave out of sticky situations. Peris is still quite light, so was caught on a few occasions, but was able to produce a game more indicative of his potential this time out. He capped his day with crafty goals in the first and final quarters.

#17 Finn Callaghan

Callaghan is a prospect who built a decent reputation during preseason, but has more than delivered on that early promise three rounds into the NAB League season. The flying wingman was recently added to the AFL Academy squad and richly deserves it on the back of Saturday’s effort, in which he showcased all his best traits. Callaghan was a relentless force on the outer, proving difficult to stop with his size, speed and agility on the move. He constantly looked to break lines with aggression, putting Sandringham on the front foot and driving his side forward superbly. He kicked cleanly and made good decisions, including in the fourth term when he baulked the man on the mark at half-forward before unleashing a terrific long goal from 50 metres out. Watch his rise.

#18 Darby Hipwell

The Sandringham co-captain is one who has actively recognised and worked on his deficiencies to produce some really solid form early this season. He racked up the equal-most disposals on Saturday with 27, working hard to not only win his usual possessions on the inside, but to also make his mark in all areas of the ground. Hipwell led with intent, using good strength at the contest and proving difficult to beat at ground level – as is expected of the 19th-year prospect. He brought a greater accumulation factor this time around and was able to penetrate both arcs too, making for a well-rounded midfield game. He could be one to now move in to the VFL system given his top-age status.

#42 Luke Cleary

One who showed enough potential to earn a National Combine invite last year, Cleary has built up a good head of steam in 2021 having been overlooked at the draft table. Stationed in his familiar defensive post, the 189cm prospect had his most prolific outing to date on the stat sheet with 21 disposals, eight marks and four rebound 50s. His numbers were indicative of his game, able to read the play and set in perfect position to intercept – whether that be aerially or at ground level. From there, Cleary used the ball typically well with shrewd decisions in tight spots, showing his cool head in a crisis. He’s just a reliable figure back there and knows his role well.

#70 Jacob Edwards

Edwards has been touted for mid-season draft selection and it is not hard to see why, with the agile big man again impressive for the Dragons in a big win. He started up forward where his marking has been a real feature, before rotating into the ruck and further showcasing his leap. Edwards’ mobility and work around the ground is also noticeable, though he cuts a raw figure and has some work to do before becoming a physical, contested marking force at senior level. The fast-rising tall again found the goals with two majors at the same end, snagged in the second and fourth quarters. As far as 200cm players go, his consistent output has been outstanding.

DANDENONG:

#6 Connor Macdonald

Having set the scene alight last week with an absolute blinder, Macdonald was arguably Dandenong’s most productive player once more. He was the sole Stingray to tick over 20 touches, finishing with 25 to go with six marks and three tackles. His work rate and accumulative factor again came to the fore, as the 184cm talent penetrated either arc and was able to find the ball in all areas of the ground. He was up against it given Sandringham’s midfield strength, but was a near-permanent fixture there for Dandenong and showed nice speed away from the contest. Macdonald capped his day with a goal, thanks to being awarded a 50-metre penalty just outside his side’s attacking arc.

#10 Clayton Gay

All 15 of Gay’s disposals on Saturday were kicks, which you could have guess given the attack-minded style he adopted. Starting out on the wing before being trialled on the inside, Gay was able to launch the Stingrays forward with his penetrative boot and did so in style on many occasions. His punchy action made for eye-catching spear kicks into the corridor, which were indicative of Dandenong’s intent with ball in hand. As the pressure gauge lifted, those kicks would more often be sent long down the line, but still carried good meterage. Gay has proven his versatility and natural footballing skills, which could set him up for some VFL action in 2021 seeing as he is a top-ager.

#14 Will Bravo

Bravo was a real driver of the ball for Dandenong with his speed and intensity through midfield. That intensity could be observed in both an attacking and defensive sense, as he looked to run with ball in hand and burst away from congestion, while also working back to apply a game-high 10 tackles. Dandenong may not have had the size of some of Sandringham’s midfielders, but Bravo was once who looked to bridge the difference with hard work and some good presence around the ball. Having started on the inside, the top-ager was moved to a variety of roles as the Stingrays shuffled the magnets throughout.

#22 Mac Andrew

The 200cm ruck continues to show great potential and was duly added to the AFL Academy squad. His raw ability and versatility as a tall are exciting, with Andrew spending a good amount of time up forward and contributing strong work around the ground. He finished with four marks for the day but showcased some really nice traits in that area, able to utilise his reach to easily beat smaller opponents while also marking strongly in contested situations. The Melbourne NGA prospect also converted a goal in the second term and may make Demons’ list managers sweat with his top 25 potential, especially in such a strong draft for midfielders.

#46 Justin Davies

Again playing an unheralded role against some dangerous forwards, Davies stood up well and was able to bring forward some of his own best traits on Saturday. He is a pretty good mover for his size and competes well aerially, meaning he can cover all sorts of key forwards. Davies was also able to swing forward and show some nous there, booting a goal in the final term and again looking promising with his work in the air.

WESTERN JETS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Eli Duxson

WESTERN:

#26 Cody Raak

Raak was the General for the Jets defence having a say in most contests and rebounds inside defensive 50. The still weather allowed him to display his aerial prowess where he made good decisions to either mark or spoil the ball, being very effective at both. He read the flight of the ball terrifically, as well as the play where he opted to zone off from his opponent and intercept mark. After one particular intercept he earnt himself a free kick for holding the ball, highlighting his defensive ability both in the air and on the ground. Offensively, he kicked much more than he handballed, but that was partly because his teammates often looked for him to clear play. He was trusted with most of the kick outs and was efficient with his field kicking all game. Raak finished the game with 33 disposals (25 kicks), seven marks, and 10 rebound 50’s.

#33 Billy Cootee

The Jets skipper was valiant all game putting in big efforts deep into the game when the result was beyond doubt. He showed a good mix of inside and outside efforts utilising his speed as he was clean in tight through hands but managed to find space often and be a target. He took 11 marks for the game and displayed a penetrating kick when he was found. A set shot for goal made the distance quite comfortably off just a few momentum-gaining steps as the man on the mark was on the 50-metre arc. Cootee finished with 24 disposals and five inside 50’s.

#35 Liam Conway

The big-bodied midfielder was strong from the outset showing composure and cleanliness in congestion. He had a knack of getting first hands on the ball at stoppages when it was in his vicinity either through relentless bustling or good use of his body. However, his eagerness did result in five conceded free kicks. His first few steps are powerful and allows him to build momentum quickly so he can get into space to dispose of the ball, or break through tackles. Once the ball was cleared, he covered the ground well to find possession or zone off defensively. Conway managed 26 disposals and five tackles for the game.

#50 Paul Tsapatolis

Tsapatolis had a tough battle with Chargers ruckman Ned Moyle where he narrowly lost the hit out count but managed to make an impact forward kicking two goals. He was clean below his knees for his size but often got flustered and rushed with possession. He at times got caught out with his defensive positioning and running but showed good endurance to get to most stoppages as the Jets primary ruckman. He had 10 disposals and 15 hit outs to go with his 2 goals.

OAKLEIGH:

#1 Youseph Dib

The speedy small was seen all over the ground at times but spent most of the game playing half-back and around the middle of the ground. He was utilised in an Adelaide Crows Charlie Cameron-type role streaming off half-back into the centre bounce and actually gaining possession and breaking the line on one occasion. His acceleration and strides were impressively quick which he used to apply immense pressure, laying six tackles for the game. He was reliable with his disposal and when he did miss a handball, his follow up work allowed him to win possession again or help a teammate. He took a terrific intercept mark in the third quarter and was stringent defensively. Dib finished with 20 disposals and six inside 50’s in his best game this season.

#3 Nick Daicos

A class above and clearly the best-on-ground again as he amassed 40 disposals to go with two goals, nine marks, and 11 inside 50’s. He could not stay away from the ball it seemed as he patrolled the middle of the ground and snuck forward to rest. His first goal came from a free quick and his second out the back in the goal square, although he did manage a further four shots that would miss. Two of them were in the final term where he had options to pass, but instead had a shot from 50 metres and another tight against the boundary. Both minor blemishes in a game where the result was out of question and the sting was out of the game though. He looked like he had so much time when he had possession and very few of his 40 disposals would have been ineffective. His set up at stoppages varied and was clearly making to the hit zones, but he then worked hard to spread from stoppages, sometimes at the detriment of his defensive running. He also did a good job of directing teammates and being constructive in structural set ups. Will be interesting to see whether he remains at NAB League level and boosts his draft stock or opts to develop in the VFL.

#8 Fraser Elliot

Backed up a good performance in Round three where he had 18 disposals and 11 tackles, but his defensive ability was not required as much in their comfortable win. Rotating through the middle and forward, the big-bodied midfielder was strong in tight and showed good hip and core strength to remain upright through contact. Often the extractor, he handballed more than he kicked and was clean and level under pressure. Although his tackle count was low, his defensive work rate highlighted his endurance as he often made his way to defensive 50 stoppages or linked up in rebounding forays. Elliot also managed a goal to go with his 19 disposals.

#14 Sam Darcy

The lumbering defender found himself in the ruck where he was serviceable, but his intercept marking and kicking efficiency in defence put him as probably the second best-on behind Daicos. Darcy finished the game with nine marks and most of them would have been interceptions or contested grabs. He read the flight of the ball much better than his opponent and was clean in his one-grab overhead marks. His kicking long and short was consistent and he even showed confidence in his opposite boot late in the game. He had 21 disposals (16 kicks) to go with his nine marks as well as seven hit outs.

#27 Karl Worner

Playing predominantly off half-back and between the arcs either on ball or on the wing, Worner also enjoyed his best game of the season. He found space often enough to accumulate possession with his 10 marks, one notably going back with the flight to mark courageously. He looked calm with ball in hand with a great mark and hit up inside 50 in the first quarter a feature. 22 disposals was his final tally with 13 kicks and nine handballs indicative of his inside/outside mix.

#64 Ned Moyle

The Oakleigh ruckman had his toughest matchup to date in Tsapatolis but managed a minor victory. It was a relatively even ruck contest all game, but he edged out his opponent by three hit outs with better positioning often a factor. Rucks a bit like Oscar McInerney in the sense he is not overtly athletically gifted with his leaping ability like a Nic Naitanui, but he times his jump well and is mobile and fit enough to cover good territory. He often outworked Tsapatolis in that regard as he was able to push back defensively and get in the way of Western’s forward movement. He worked hard the other way too as he pushed forward at times when Darcy gave him a break. Moyle managed a goal early in the second term with a nice mark and set shot. He looked comfortable with ball in hand and found the ball 11 times to go with his 18 hit outs.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Michael Alvaro

BENDIGO:

#1 Sam Conforti

The 19th-year prospect was as productive as any Pioneer on Sunday, ending as their most prolific ball winner with 23 touches. Rotating through the engine room from attacking 50, Conforti was his busy self at ground level and attended a high amount of stoppages. He exited traffic on a few occasions with good agility, using his nous to find a way forward or dish out quickly to bring others into the game. His best moment of the day came in the second term, as he showed great composure to baulk an opponent before letting fly from 50 metres for a terrific long goal.

#4 Jack Hickman

The nippy midfielder-forward again swapped his time between both positions and popped up with some eye-catching work away from the contest. His turn of speed made for some really nice exits from congestion, able to nip away from would-be tacklers and wheel onto his favoured side. A clever kind of player, Hickman won a holding-the-ball free kick in term two after pinning his opponent’s arm, and later hit some nice targets going forward. In the same period of play, he ran onto a loose ball over the top and slotted home his lone goal of the game.

#5 Cooper Hamilton

Part of the AFL Academy squad set to take on Geelong VFL on Saturday, Hamilton got through his final NAB League test unscathed and continues to produce good moments. Playing mostly through midfield, he started well with a bustling clearance and showed his trademark strength at the contest, even under tackling pressure. He found the goals in the second term after stealing an errand Geelong handball and converting in a flash from close range. Hamilton would then kick a steadier in the fourth quarter, finishing with composure from a swift handball receive. Though not overly prolific, 16 disposals and two goals made for a solid contribution.

#11 Cobi Maxted

Maxted has put together a promising couple of weeks, this time performing as a valuable swingman for the Pioneers. Having impressed as somewhat of a marking defender last time out, he continued said form early in this outing before shifting forward and duly hitting the scoreboard. His first major came in the third term, as he latched onto a nice chain of Bendigo handballs to snap home well, while his second goal was a set shot conversion in the following quarter. Overall, Maxted was able to again show some nice traits and get busy in key areas of the ground.

#13 Jack Evans

One who found plenty of the ball in the first half, the Pioneers leader proved a reliable figure across half-back during said period. He often looked to go by foot on the rebound, with 16 kicks and six rebound 50s coming among his total 19 disposals. Evans was able to gain good meterage from the back half, reading the play well to move into the correct areas to either mop up or receive on the outer once Bendigo had forced the turnover. While he faded out of the contest a touch, Evans helped absorb early pressure before Bendigo gained a greater hold on proceedings.

GEELONG:

#12 Noah Gribble

One of the hardest workers in the competition, it is hard to believe Gribble did not come away with more disposals, but 24 still proved a great return. The wingman was employed in his usual post, running hard both ways to accumulate possessions and help generate some forward momentum on the outer for Geelong. He constantly tried to make things happen and was competitive both in the air and at ground level, but looked to fare much better in open spaces where he could cover ground and deliver with more assuredness. Gribble’s hard running earned him a goal in the third term, as he snuck forward to mark uncontested before converting the set shot.

#16 Charlie Ham

Having earned a National Combine invite last year, Ham’s performance on Sunday was perhaps most indicative of what recruiters saw in him back then. The defender did a lot of work to sweep up across Geelong’s back 50 and also distributed from the kick-ins, seeing him finish as the highest ball winner afield with 29 disposals (20 kicks) and six rebound 50s. A beautifully timed overhead mark in the first term set the tone for Ham’s game, as he would go on to take some similarly graceful grabs coming from the side or rear of packs, really utilising his athleticism. He bottled the confidence gained from those acts to provide some dash, but tended to show a little too much of his kicks to the opposition at times, putting pressure on the receiver. Still, there are plenty of positive traits to work with for Ham.

#25 Josh Sorgiovanni

Sorgiovanni was a solid worker for Geelong through midfield, able to provide some much-needed drive through the corridor. He would often win or receive the first possession out of congestion, before looking to run his measure and pump the Falcons forward. He produced a clutch moment after the half time siren, dropping well to earn a high free kick before slotting home a set shot goal to get his side back to within a goal at the main break. As expected, his teammates got around him and he enjoyed some more good patches thereafter.

#28 Mitch Knevitt

The day’s most prolific midfield ball winner, Knevitt amassed 27 disposals and did some solid work on the inside upon his return to the lineup. Hard to miss with his flowing hair, the 18-year-old accumulated well throughout the game and was often able to put first hands on the ball at stoppages. He had a couple of nice moments outside the contest too, streaming forward well on one occasion and also backing back to clunk a courageous mark on the stretch in front of Falcons bigman, Toby Conway. It is easy to see why Knevitt was so highly touted by his teammates in preseason.

#60 Toby Conway

The subject of our Player Focus this week, the AFL Academy inclusion continued his good start to the season as Geelong’s primary ruck. He was simply too big and strong at most contests, able to use his reach or work into prime position to direct helpful hitouts down to his midfielders. Instead of rotating heavily as he did last week, Conway was also able to showcase his improving forward craft as he rested forward, kicking a goal in the second quarter. He also set up behind the ball to provide an outlet or lock it into Geelong’s front half, another aspect he is improving on.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Ed Pascoe

MURRAY:

#2 Charlie Byrne

Likely to feature in the Essendon VFL going forward Byrne has added another strong to his bow as the rebound defender of previous years has made a strong transition into the midfield for Murray this year. Although not his most prolific game he made his disposals count with some strong clearances using his stronger frame to his advantage with some nice bursts and long kicking inside 50 with his trusty long left boot. Also drifting forward he managed to kick a lovely snap goal on the run in the first quarter and almost did the same later in the game with a long goal from 50m but unfortunately a teammate gave away a free kick to take away what would have been a lovely goal. Byrne finished the game with 15 disposals, 4 inside 50s and kicked 1.1 and has set himself up well for a likely debut for Essendon VFL this year.

#3 Toby Murray

Murray started the game in hot form and proved a handful in the first quarter kicking two goals and although he wouldn’t add to his tally he would still go on to have a good game. Murray would kicks his first goal from a nice tackle which was rewarded inside 50 and the 2nd goal was kicked from a nice a lead up mark in the pocket, he would slot both goals with the set shot and looked steady with his approach. The 198cm Murray would also go into the ruck on occasion winning some nice hit outs and following up his work well with some good tackles and great dexterity and clean hands at ground level. Murray finished the game with 11 disposals, 14 hit outs and 2 goals as he puts together a strong start to the season.

#5 Patrick Parnell

The speedy mid-season draft prospect has put together a strong start to the NAB League season and he was again one of Murrays best providing great rebound at half back and was a solid 4 quarter performer. Although a smaller and skinnier defender he did well to take some nice intercept marks and even a contested mark against the highly touted forward Kai Lohmann in the first quarter, Parnell impressed with his quick ball movement and desperate defending showing a good mix down back and its no surprise to see him taking kickouts with his speed and kicking. Along with some nice spoils and 1% plays Parnell finished the game with 24 disposals, 5 marks and 6 rebound 50s.

#9 Kade Chalcraft

The tough inside midfielder adept at winning clearances did so with ease against the Rebels with his strong frame and appetite for the contest really impressing. A no thrills midfielder he won the hard ball and tackled hard all day and didn’t let up in his attack on the contest and with ball in hand sending the ball inside 50 multiple times and always wanting to keep the ball moving. Chalcraft finished the game with 25 disposals, 5 inside 50s and 6 tackles with the mid-season draft prospect continuing to impress.

#10 Daniel Turner

A wall in defence for Murray Bushrangers Turner took plenty of intercept marks throughout the game and despite his 191cm frame he played above his height. Turner has been one of Murrays most consistent players proving to be a big obstacle for the opposition with his courage to sit in the hole or infront of key forwards to stay strong and take big intercept marks. Turner finished the game with 18 disposals and 8 marks with plenty of those being intercepts as the mid-season draft prospect stakes his claim as one of the better defenders in the NAB League.

#13 Tom Brown

After a quiet first round Brown has started to find his feet playing half back for Murray Bushrangers with the super athletic prospect put in a strong performance. Brown is a great athlete and used his athletic traits to his advantage offering plenty of drive from alf back with his endurance and speed across the ground and his leap was handy in taking plenty of good intercept marks including a strong contested mark in the last quarter. Getting better every week the break isnt timely for Brown but should take great confidence out of his recent form, with 22 disposals, 6 mark and 5 rebound 50s it was a great return for Brown.

GWV:

#1 Sam Butler

Usually a crafty forward and starting in that role Butler helped turn the game with his addition to the Rebels midfield in the 2nd half using his speed and class at stoppages to help gets his side over the line. Butler was quiet forward in the first half but had some great forward pressure and he would bring that enthusiasm into the midfield winning some good clearances and he had some strong tackles aswell, his pace and strength over the ball was influential in combating the stronger but slower Murray midfield and with 20 disposals, 5 marks and 4 tackles it was a strong game from Butler despite not kicking a major.

#3 Charlie Molan

Although not prolific it would have been his efforts without the ball that impressed his teammates and coaches the most with Molan playing an outstanding defensive game. The smooth moving defender set the seen for his game with a desperate goal saving tackle in the 2nd quarter and would follow that effort up in the last quarter with a desperate chase down tackle that should have been rewarded and then followed up again with a crunching tackle but gave away the free kick which was dissipating for Molan who showed great determination and really should have been rewarded. Molan started back but was moved to the wing in the 2nd half using his desperate defence all over the ground finishing with 13 disposals and 4 marks.

#8 Josh Gibcus

It’s been an outstanding season so far for the athletic key defender Gibcus who has proved why he has been called up to represent the AFL Academy in their game against Geelong VFL with another fantastic performance down back taking intercept marks with ease.Just about every one of his 9 marks for the day where intercepts, a lot of them took the eye but non more-so than a contested intercept mark in the 3rd quarter and although he turned the ball over after the mark was no less impressive showing of his great leap and timing to mark overhead. Gibcus was just as adept at ground level shaping great composure and agility on multiple occasions deep in defence able to sell a bit of candy which is impressive for a 195cm prospect. Gibcus finished the game with 17 disposals, 9 marks and 5 rebound 50s to further enhance his draft stocks.

#10 Blake Scott

The bulldogs NGA prospect has started the year in fine form and the speedy forward again caused havoc for opposition defenders with an exciting display. Despite a quiet start to the game Scott just got better as the game went on and really hit his straps in the second half as he seemed to be everywhere inside 50 popping up to hit the scoreboard but he wouldn’t kick a goal until the last quarter with a nice set shot goal from the pocket. Scott also did well to set up a goal using his trademark dash to escape his opponents and handball of to a teammate over the top running into open goal, Scott finished the game with 20 disposals, 5 marks, 6 inside 50s and kicked 1.3 in another strong game.

#14 Jamieson Ballantyne

Improving with every game the elusive wingman made that position his own proving pretty of run and creativity using his eye catching agility to get around opponents with ease and dispose of the ball well. Ballantyne did well to push back into defence to help his teammates highlighted with a good spoil going back with the flight showing he had a good defensive side to his attacking style of play with the ball. An elusive and composed player on the wing Ballantyne finished the game with 22 disposals, 8 marks and 6 inside 50s playing the wing role very well.

#16 Kai Lohmann

The exciting forward put together his most complete performance so far this year showing of his athleticism and skills consistently over the 4 quarters highlighting his impressive speed and leap. His best bit of play came in the 2nd quarter with an awesome run from half back starting inside defensive 50 where he took on multiple players while also taking multiple bounces aswell to finally kick inside 50 in a great show of athleticism and what he is capable of. The last quarter highlighted all of his best traits with a leap from the back of the pack and some nice plays deep in the forwardline in one instance going back with the flight and creating a contest and then quickly put on forward pressure. Lohmann finished the game with 19 disposals, 5 marks and 6 tackles and although he didn’t kick any goals himself with 3 behinds he helped set up he helped create so many opportunities

Reserves wrap: 2021 VFL Women’s – Round 7

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s returned for Round 7 on the weekend, with six fixtures split evenly across Saturday and Sunday. With the 2021 AFL Women’s season run and done, top flight players are now filing through the state league system at a greater rate, strengthening the eight aligned teams. We take you through how some of the standouts performed over the weekend in our Reserves Wrap.

>> Results: VFLW Round 7 wrap

Collingwood’s unblemished run rolled on as the Magpies accounted for Southern Saints for their seventh win of the year. Key forward Bella Smith was best afield for the victors, booting a game-high three goals having gained valuable senior experience in 2021. Another returning player, Maddie Shevlin notched 25 disposals, as twin talls Abbey Green (two goals) and Abbi Moloney (one) both hit the scoreboard in black and white.

First year Saints midfielder Alice Burke was easily the most prolific ball winner on the day, finishing with 35 disposals in arguably her best effort to date – at any level. Fellow youngster Molly McDonald (19 disposals, five marks) featured among the votes with Jacqui Vogt (14 disposals, eight tackles, one goal), as Poppy Kelly fared well in the ruck to win 30 hitouts.

While Hawthorn boasted some former AFLW talent of its own, the standalone was up against it as Casey fielded a strong crop of senior players in a 13-point win. Ruck prospect Maggie Caris looks primed to crack a senior berth next season having continued her terrific year in the twos, with another 11 disposals and 22 hitouts. Megan Fitzsimon and Mietta Kendall also featured, contributing 12 touches apiece, as Isabella Simmons booted a goal and Irishwoman Lauren Magee returned to the fold in handy form.

Geelong was another side to blood plenty of youth through its VFLW-aligned lineup, with senior players among the best afield in the Cats’ win over North Melbourne. Dynamic tall forward Olivia Barber booted an equal game-high three goals, as Laura Gardiner topped the disposal charts with 27. Sophie Van De Heuvel had it 22 times to join the aforementioned pair in Geelong’s votes, while Georgie Rankin (18 disposals, seven tackles) and Darcy Moloney (14 disposals, one goal) played their parts.

At the opposite end of the ground to Barber, first year ‘Roo Brooke Brown also snared three majors in another promising display. She was joined by Sarah Wright and Amy Smith in the side, with both finishing on 13 disposals in serviceable outings. Wright also got her hands dirty with nine tackles.

The Western Bulldogs snapped a long losing streak on Sunday, defeating Darebin Falcons with a side loaded up on elite level players. A bunch of them got among the goals too; Danielle Marshall led the way with three, while Gemma Lagioia and usual defender Eleanor Brown both snared two. Angelica Gogos (23 disposals, one goal) was named best afield in the win, while Amelia Van Oosterwijck was also among the productive brigade of senior stars to do damage in red, white, and blue.

In the round’s final game, Port Melbourne snuck home against Carlton to keep its perfect record in tact, with imposing Richmond forward Sabrina Frederick (two goals) leading the attack. For the Blues, Paige Trudgeon was awarded full votes for her 12 disposals and seven tackles, as Maddy Guerin led her side’s disposal count with 21, and Charlotte Hammans also earned votes. Among the other senior Blues to feature, Serena Gibbs took on some ruck duties with 11 hitouts to go with her 10 touches.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 7

A HEAP of young prospects are now filtering through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 7 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side and a few players make their debuts. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 7

Collingwood maintained its unbeaten streak with a win over the Southern Saints on Saturday morning, with Eastern Ranges standout Olivia Meagher enjoying an extended run in the side. She had 11 disposals, laid three tackles and picked up votes for the Magpies in their seventh win. For the Saints, Gabby De Angelis notched 12 touches, while fellow pathway graduates Amelia Peck and Grace Hodder each found the ball nine times.

Essendon boasted a host of current and former Calder Cannons products in its win over Williamstown, with the young brigade making a real impact. Zali Friswell booted two goals to feature among the Bombers’ votes with Kasey Lennox, as former Cannons Alana Barba (11 disposals) and Grace Dicker (10) also fared well.

Meanwhile, country coup Eloise Ashley-Cooper racked up a team-high 17 disposals, while current Bendigo Pioneers standout Elizabeth Snell laid 10 tackles in the sash. For Williamstown, Ruby Tripodi was again superb as she found the ball 20 times, but could only manage two behinds among them. Megan Williamson had it 16 times, booting a goal and laying nine tackles to feature among the Seagulls’ votes.

Casey and Hawthorn treated fans to a relatively high-scoring spectacle, with the Demons coming out on top and the Hawks continuing to blood exciting youth. The Eastern Ranges representation was high in brown and gold, as Ruby O’Dwyer (12 disposals, four tackles), Isabelle Khoury (11 disposals, seven tackles, one goal), Eloise Chaston (six disposals, five tackles), and Tilly Hardy (five disposals, four tackles) all continue to acclimatise to the level alongside graduate, while Jenna Richardson (eight disposals) also impressed.

Emma Horne was arguably Melbourne’s pick of the NAB League products, notching nine disposals and finishing with four tackles. Versatile tall Bridie Winbanks managed two disposals and eight hitouts, as 19-year-old former Dandenong Stingray, Harmony Thomas also ran out for the Demons.

Geelong’s top four charge rages on, as the Cats kept North Melbourne at bay in Sunday’s opening bout. Paige Sheppard was again terrific in the hoops, racking up 22 disposals to go with seven tackles and four marks. Tamara Smith had it 14 times and got her hands dirty with eight tackles, as current Geelong Falcons guns Annie Lee and Renee Tierney returned to the fold. Ciara Fitzgerald had 10 touches for North, while 20-year-old Tasmanian Camilla Taylor collected seven on debut.

The Western Bulldogs returned to the winners list with an emphatic victory over Darebin Falcons, with a continued injection of youth and AFLW-listed players aiding their cause. Western Jets’ Jemima Woods had a memorable debut with three goals, running out for the first time alongside Stephanie Asciak. GWV’s Lilli Condon celebrated her first win at the level with 11 disposals and five tackles, as Brooke Hards and Molly Denahy Moloney continued their runs in the side. For Darebin, youth product and Calder ruck Peppa Poultney entered the fray with 10 disposals and a couple of marks.

The final game of the round saw Port Melbourne come from behind to edge Carlton on home turf, seeing the Borough remain top of the table. Recently delisted Richmond AFLW tall, Cleo Saxon-Jones finished with 11 kicks among her 12 disposals, as former Carlton utility Bridie Kennedy had 10 touches, and current Oakleigh forward Taylah Morton matched that output, but could not quite snare her maiden goal.

For Carlton, Northern Knights graduate Marnie Jarvis collected 12 touches and laid four tackles, as Amber Micallef had it a handful of times and Murray Bushrangers standout Kate Adams came in for her fifth game – ending with three disposals for the third game running.

2021 VFL Round 1 review: Queensland teams make their mark

A NEW era and a new competition full of surprises saw a number of clubs from New South Wales and Queensland join the still rather oddly-named Victorian Football League (VFL), and the majority came away with the points. The four AFL-aligned clubs in the two northern states on the east coast joined the competition, with standalone teams, Aspley Hornets and Southport Sharks also joining the fold, as did the Northern Bullants who returned to the competition. With 11 games played every weekend in the new 22-team competition, the competitiveness to finish inside the top eight has never been greater.

The match of the round was easily Southport’s come-from-behind win over Carlton at Ikon Park on Saturday. The Blues raced out of the blocks to pile on six goals to two in the opening term and lead by 26 points at quarter time. The Sharks began to claw their way back in the second, kicking five goals to four to draw to within 19 points at the main break, but the Blues seemed to keep them at arms-length. Carlton kicked 4.6 to 4.0 in the premiership quarter to again extend out to 25 points with a quarter to play, but the visitors were not done with just yet. Connor Nutting kicked two goals in the opening six minutes, and by the time Jacob Dawson had converted a major, the deficit was back in the single digits midway through the term, Lukas Webb brought it back to two points a few minutes later, and after Dawson levelled the score with a behind in the 20th minute, many thought it could be the competition’s first draw.

AFL-listed youngster Lochie O’Brien had other ideas, converting a goal in the 25th minute, and when Matt Shannon kicked a major at 26:38 on the clock, it appeared the Sharks had fought gallantly, but would not be able to comeback from a 12-point deficit, The last eight minutes of the term saw the Sharks relentlessly attacking, and forcing a rushed behind, which would prove ultimately important in the end result. Fraser Thurlow kicked a major in red time, and then it was just five points in it. The former AFL-contingent at the Queensland club had stepped up throughout the game, and indeed it would be Webb who would be the man of the moment, kicking a match-winning major in the last minute to seal the game. At one point, the deficit had got out to as much as 31 points, but the visitors had kept believing, and stunned the home side, 17.7 (109) to 16.12 (108).

Whilst he might not have kicked one in the final term, ex-Bulldog Billy Gowers had a day out with five goals from seven scoring shots, 15 disposals and six marks. Thurlow absolutely dominated the ruck for the Sharks, notching up 49 hitouts, but then going forward to slot three goals and take eight marks from 12 touches. Nutting, a former Gold Coast Academy talent kicked the three goals from 11 touches, while Webb’s two goals in the final term added to his 24 touches, five marks and four tackles. Andrew Boston (27 disposals, 11 tackles), Dawson (26 disposals, seven tackles and one goal), Jesse Joyce (23 disposals, four marks, three tackles and a goal) and Michael Manteit (21 disposals, five marks, two tackles and a goal) were among the other top ball winners.

Despite the loss, Liam Stocker practically kicked down the door for AFL selection with a whopping 38-disposal and 13-mark game, as David Cuningham (28 disposals, four marks, four tackles and a goal), Sam Ramsay (22 disposals, seven marks and five tackles) and O’Brien (21 disposals, six marks and a goal) also found plenty of the footy. Matthew Owies kicked a straight four goals from 12 touches, six marks and four tackles, while ex-Pie and Crow Ben Crocker slotted 2.3 from 11 touches and five marks up forward. Another ex-AFL listed talent in Toby Wooller returned to Victoria from Queensland to kick 1.2 from 16 disposals, six marks, eight tackles and have six hitouts tor the Blues.

Fellow standalone Queensland side Aspley Hornets also sent a message to the rest of the competition with an absolute belting of one of Victoria’s proudest clubs Port Melbourne. The Hornets blew the Borough away in the opening term with a 10 goal to two first quarter, and whilst the visitors managed to get back to within 43 points at the final break with six goals to two over the next two quarters, the damage was done and the Hornets booted six last quarter goals to win 20.13 (133) to 12.8 (80). Ryan Bastinac was ridiculous with 39 touches, four marks, six tackles and three goals, with Matthew Payne (28 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and two goals), Corey Lyons (27 disposals, five marks and one goal) and Matthew Hammelmann (11 disposals, eight marks and 4.4) among the dominant players for the Hornets. Harvey Hooper (27 disposals, four marks and two tackles) tried hard for the Borough, while Anthony Anastasio and Matthew Signorello both slotted three goals apiece.

Also in the Sunshine State, Brisbane Lions reserves knocked off Essendon’s reserves in a 66-point belting at Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex. Rhys Mathieson did his chances of a recall no harm thanks to a lazy 34 touches, eight marks and two goals, while Connor Ballenden (31 disposals, 15 marks and one goal) and Keidean Coleman (29 disposals, nine marks, three tackles and two goals) were also up there with the best for the Lions. First-year player Carter Michael showed he has the capacity to match it at senior level, amassing an impressive 25 touches on debut. Ex-Lion Tom Cutler had a team-high 29 disposals and 10 marks for the Bombers, while Nick Bryan racked up 34 hitouts, five marks and three tackles to show off his around-the-ground work with 27 touches.

The only Queensland team to suffer defeat in the opening round of the VFL was Gold Coast Suns, going down by 67 points to a red-hot Western Bulldogs outfit. The Bulldogs kicked 10 goals to three in the opening half to set up the win, restricting the Suns to just 12 scoring shots as the home team won, 16.13 (109) to 6.6 (42). The potent tall forward combination of Josh Schache (19 disposals, 12 marks and 5.4) and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (12 disposals, 2.1) was the issue for the Suns, though father-son talent Ryley West was one of nine individual scorers, picking up 22 disposals, five marks and four disposals in the process. Will Hayes (29 disposals, 11 marks), Riley Garcia (24 disposals, three marks and nine tackles), Lin Jong (24 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and a goal) and Buku Khamis (21 disposals, 11 marks) were other AFL-listed Dogs impressing. For the Suns, Brayden Fiorini (31 disposals, 11 marks and six tackles) and Will Brodie (30 disposals, 10 marks and six tackles) had days out, while talented AFL Academy member Austin Harris kicked two goals from six touches, two marks and three tackles.

In the all-New South Wales battle, Sydney Swans emerged victorious of the GWS GIANTS, booting 12 goals to seven after quarter time to record a 15.6 (96) to 10.10 (70) victory. Colin O’Riordan had 32 disposals and 14 marks, as other Swans-listed talents in Lewis Taylor (32 disposals, eight marks and one goal) and Ryan Clarke (31 disposals, eight marks and four tackles) both racked up the ball with ease. Hayden McLean and Harry Morrison slotted three majors apiece, whilst Paddy McCartin returned to the field to have 19 disposals and nine marks in a promising return. Teenage talents, Sam Thorne (13 disposals, six marks and a goal) and Marc Sheather (10 disposals, three tackles and a goal) also gained some important experience. For the GIANTS, Alex Smout racked up 33 disposals, as Tanner Bruhn showed his AFL debut cannot be too far away with 27 touches and two goals. Josh Green, brother of GIANTS’ Tom stepped up to have 21 touches, as AFL Academy member Josh Fahey had the nine disposals, three marks and three tackles in the loss.

In a couple of the more memorable matches for the VFL, two all-standalone Victorian clashes saw Frankston Dolphins and Williamstown Seagulls win easily against Coburg Lions and Northern Bullants respectively. The Dolphins, led by ex-Bomber Josh Begley (six goals), and ex-Pie and Saint Nathan Freeman (40 disposals), proved too strong for the Lions. Coburg’s Marcus Lentini suffered leather poisoning himself, matching Freeman with a whopping 40 disposals and slotting a goal. Josh D’Intinosante and Mitch Podhajski both slotted three goals in defeat. For the Seagulls, they booted seven goals to one in the first half to set up the victory against the Bullants, as Jake Greiser (29 disposals, eight marks and one goals), Mitch Hibberd (29 disposals, five marks and one goal) and Liam Hunt (29 disposals, one goal) ran rampant. Joel Ottavi slotted four goals from eight scoring shots, while ex-Crow Jordan Gallucci slammed home three goals from 21 touches and six marks. For the Bullants, Tom Wilson had the most touches with 25 and six marks, while ex-GIANT and Roo Paul Ahern had 23 disposals, four marks, four tackles and kicked a goal.

Pies fans had something to smile about over the weekend, with a hard-fought seven-point win over Werribee, 10.9 (69) to 9.8 (62). Second year talent Jay Rantall put his hand up to return to an injury-depleted AFL lineup with 28 disposals, five marks and six tackles, while Tyler Brown (22 disposals), Caleb Poulter (18 disposals, seven marks and a goal) and Ollie Henry (11 disposals, seven marks and two goals) were among the young Pies to make an impact. Ex-Cat Wylie Buzza slotted four goals from 10 touches and four marks, as Tom Gribble (30 disposals, nine marks and five tackles) and Matthew Hanson (28 disposals, four marks and three tackles) did their thing. It was a much more one-sided contest for Richmond’s 40-point win over Sandringham Zebras, as the Tigers piled on 10 goals to three in the first three quarters to lead by 47 points at the final break, before the Zebras cut the deficit back rallying in the final term. Samson Ryan kicked three goals up forward, as Callum Coleman-Jones (22 disposals, six marks, 13 hitouts, four tackles and two goals) found plenty of the football. Jack Ross (34 disposals), Pat Naish (33) and Riley Collier-Dawkins (31) all easily dominated proceedings, whilst for the Zebras, Shaun McKernan was outstanding with 23 disposals, 10 marks, 11 hitouts, four goals and four tackles, while Ryan Byrnes (22 disposals, eight marks and a goal) and Oscar Clavarino (20 disposals, 14 marks) were among the St Kilda-listed talents to impress.

The two Sunday clashes between AFL-aligned clubs resulted in the Casey Demons getting a comfortable 41-point victory over Hawthorn at Box Hill, while Geelong posted a whopping 79-point thrashing over North Melbourne to sit at the top of the VFL ladder. Kade Chandler (25 disposals, 10 marks and a goal), Neville Jetta (25 disposals, 10 marks) and Aaron Vandenberg (25 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and a goal) were busy around the ground, whilst Ben Brown‘s debut in the red and blue (18 disposals, six marks and three goals) was overshadowed by a monstrous performance from Sam Weideman (16 disposals, seven marks and 7.2). Developing Hawk tall Emerson Jeka was one of three in the brown and gold to slot three majors in the loss, while Lachlan Bramble (20 disposals, eight tackles) and Michael Hartley (20 disposals) were among the Hawthorn-listed players to impress. For the Cats, Zach Guthrie had a day out with 27 disposals and 11 marks, as Charlie Constable (26 touches) and Oscar Brownless (24) pressed their cases for a call-up. Josh Jenkins and Ben Jarvis both slotted four goals apiece in the massive win, as two of eight individual goalkickers. Former Bushranger and Hawk’ Mat Walker had three goals from six scoring shots, as well as 16 touches and 10 marks in a dirty day for the Roos, while Dom Tyson (29 touches), Harry Jones (23) and Will Walker (20) tried hard.

VFL ROUND 1 RESULTS:

Richmond 13.17 (95) defeated Sandringham 7.13 (55)
Frankston 20.6 (126) defeated Coburg 14.12 (96)
Western Bulldogs 16.13 (109) defeated Gold Coast Suns 6.6 (42)
Brisbane Lions 15.14 (104) defeated Essendon 5.8 (38)
Sydney Swans 15.6 (96) defeated GWS GIANTS 10.10 (70)
Aspley 20.13 (133) defeated Port Melbourne 12.8 (80)
Carlton 16.12 (108) lost to Southport 17.7 (109)
Werribee 9.8 (62) lost to Collingwood 10.9 (69)
Hawthorn 10.7 (67) lost to Casey Demons 17.16 (118)
Geelong 18.15 (123) defeated North Melbourne 6.8 (44)
Northern Bullants 6.11 (47) lost to Williamstown 14.15 (99)

Picture credit: Southport Sharks Twitter

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.

Scouting Notes: 2021 Vic Metro vs. Vic Country Under 17 trials

WITH the NAB League Under 17 carnival done and dusted, the best performers from each region came together on Friday to compete in two trial games. The pair of scratch matches, held at Trevor Barker Oval, will help determine the final Vic Country and Vic Metro Under 17 squads set to compete at this year’s National Championships.

Vic Country snared wins in both games, though the focus will be on which individuals made claims for representative honours. That is also the case in our Scouting Notes, which are the opinion of each individual author.

GAME ONE:

Vic Country 12.7 (79) def. Vic Country 8.15 (63)

By: Declan Reeve

Vic Country:

#3 Will Baker (Geelong Falcons)

Was a consistent workhorse in the forward half for Country, looking to get into good areas to be a marking option, where he was spoiled a few times by his opponent but comprehensively beat them with the follow up work at ground level, beforegetting it forward with his boot. The workrate translated to his tackling as well, able to bring down bigger opponents or hold them up to cause a stoppage. Finished the day with two goals, with one of those being an impressive effort, as he sold some candy to his opponent before kicking it well straight through the big sticks.

#4 Zane Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Another brother of an AFL-listed player, this time being Port Adelaide’s Xavier Duursma, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re the same player, with Zane also a hard-working runner with clean disposal. He genuinely did not miss a target for the game, with his kicking the standout on field, looking to utilise the width of the ground with switch kicks, but also happy to take those riskier inside 45 kicks and always having them pay off. Being a 2023 draft eligible prospect, you’d expect that his size would be a hindrance against the bigger bodies, but when moved from the wing to the inside role, Duursma took it in his stride, winning a couple of clearances with well timed runs and following up with perfect delivery.

#5 Oliver Hollands (Murray Bushrangers)

The brother of recently-drafted Gold Coast player, Elijah Hollands, Oliver showed that he possesses perhaps equally impressive athletic traits and midfield craft than his older brother. He won the very first clearance of the game, where he got away from his direct opponent, and then outran the other two Metro mids to kick well inside 50 and set up Country’s first goal. That sort of burst and skill continued to be on display throughout the contest. His work rate was immense, with some particularly good defensive work in-close where he intercepted a few handballs from Metro, that were only going from a player 2 meters away from their intended target, and then pumped the ball long forward before he could be wrapped up and brought to ground. Also like his brother, he is impactful forward of centre, taking some good grabs in the forward half and getting himself a goal in the first quarter.

#6 Noah Long (Bendigo Pioneers)

Earning comparisons to AFL Rising Star Winner Caleb Serong from onlookers, it’s not hard to see why Long recieved such high praise. Despite being shorter than most of the opposing midfielders, Long was consistently harder at it on the inside and came off best most times when the ball was contested. Something that really stuck, was he seemed to want to run through packs rather than just run in and win the ball, with his ferociousness meaning he often succeeded and then disposed of it quickly by hand to the outside. Unsurprisingly, this was all paired with possibly the highest defensive workrate on the ground, running both ways and often seen deep in defence to help out his team, with his strong tackling and physicality troubling Metro.

#12 Bailey Humphrey (Gippsland Power)

Really came into the game in the second half where he was a strong defensive presence in the midfield, putting himself in good spots to tackle opponents that thought they had gotten clear out of a stoppage or contest, really driving them into the ground. Also showed some strong aerial strength, where he took some crucial marks, including one particularly impressive contested grab over a pack of four or five other players.

#19 Ashtyn Atkinson (Murray Bushrangers)

A real natural and crafty forward, Ashtyn finished the day with three goals from smart leads and positioning, but could have easily had 5 or 6 had his conversion from set shots been a little higher. The sheer amount of marks inside 50 he got was impressive, and highlighted his ability to lead to the right spots and get separation on those leads, with a quick first three-to-four steps being a big part of that.

#22 Ned Moodie (Dandenong Stingrays)

Despite being on the end of the Hollands’ clearance at the very start of the game, then passing it off to a teammate who kicked the opening goal, he was relatively quiet in the first half of the game where he spent most of his time up forward. It was in the second half when he be moved into the midfield where Moodie showed his potential as a big bodied inside ball winner. He won a few clearances and showed quick, clean hands on the run, as well as a high level work rate, often being involved multiple times in the same chain of play leading forward.

#25 Nate Pipicelli (Gippsland Power)

Played at both ends, kicking the first goal of the match but then going quiet for quite some time, before bobbing up to be one of the better players in the second half as the Country full back. It was there where he took some good intercept grabs in front of packs, but also knew not to get sucked into forming packs, holding out the back to take some easy grabs because everyone was caught too far in front. 

#26 Aaron Cadman (GWV Rebels)

Similar to Atkinson, Cadman just seemed to understand what was required of him as a forward, getting to the right spots to mark, or being in the right place at the right time to receive a handball to get himself a goal, ending the game with three.

#30 Jess McManus (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played in all thirds of the ground, starting as a defender where he took some good grabs working in front of his opponents, or spoiled strongly when stuck behind. Then moved into the ruck where he fought hard for front position in every battle, and followed up much better at ground level than his opponent, even getting himself some free kicks when tackling opponents who tried to get past him. Then moved into the forwardline where he showed a real prowess for leading into good spots with purpose.

Vic Metro:

#2 Nick Watson (Eastern Ranges)

It’s incredible that a player who is a year younger than those he’s playing against, and standing at only 168 cm, can have such a high level performance, arguably best afield for the match across both teams. Watson just consistently had a crack throughout the game, showing enormous bravery with his hunt for the ball, and going back with the flight to take strong marks multiple times – even having a few moments where his speed let him run a good 20-25 meters to take an intercept mark just outside of Metro’s forward 50, against opponents 20cm taller than him. He has blistering speed which allows him to get separation that not many others can, while also seeing him dash away from packs before anyone else has realised what’s happened. He was rewarded for such a well rounded performance with a goal in the third quarter, after setting up four or five himself.

#4 Reuben Rode (Calder Cannons)

The Essendon NGA prospect played up both ends and utilised his scintillating speed and agility to, at times, embarrass opponents with how well he managed to weave through traffic or take them on. His speed was his main weapon though, running head-on to spilled balls around the defensive 50 to then deliver kicks out to the wing, in an attempt to keep his disposals safe. When the ball was inside forward 50 he set up well on the outer, taking some uncontested intercept marks to deliver straight back inside.

#5 Blake Drury (Oakleigh Chargers)

Skipper for Metro in this game, Drury worked his way into the contest as it went on, where he eventually got his move into the midfield and decided he didn’t like other players winning clearances. There was a passage in the fourth quarter in particular, where it felt like he won six or seven clearances in a row, just reading the ball off the ruck tap exceptionally well, taking a few really quick steps to get space and momentum, before delivering long inside 50 to create pressure for the Country defence. Country rotated different players on him, but he just kept on doing it. Presented well as an option around the ground as well, using his kicking skill to move the ball more centrally going forward. 

#6 Alwyn Davey Jnr (Oakleigh Chargers)

Whilst not racking up the most ball of the day, he had some absolute moments of brilliance where you could see the excitement he’ll bring to the game in a few years. Clean below his knees, Davey took the ball with one grab consistently, showing amazing speed that he maintained even when turning 180 degrees. He took on opponents consistently with a few bounces and weaved here and there. Got a brilliant goal assist in the second quarter where he crumbed the ball perfectly from the pack and fired of a handball to a loose teammate who capitalised.

#8 Cooper Harvey (Northern Knights)

A game that was truly made up of two halves for Harvey. In the first half he played his usual role as a smaller forward target, capable of making smart and well timed leads, while linking up well with Nick Watson to get onto the end of some genuine bullet kicks – looking more than comfortable taking them out in front and on the chest. He didn’t always convert to goal, with a couple shots falling short but ending up in the right areas. The one attempt he did slot came from right in front after again leading well. In the second half, he moved into the rover role almost permanently, where that same marking prowess was dangerous and heavily utilised by Metro when looking to slow down the play. He’d look for options most others wouldn’t. In a game where long bombs were common, he lowered the eyes to hit leading targets or switch kick options which made him standout amongst the midfield group. 

#10 Darcy Edmends (Northern Knights)

The word ‘class’ gets thrown about a lot these days, but this kid genuinely demonstrates it in its truest form. Starting the game on the wing, Edmends used his composure well, timing his runs perfectly and holding space as to allow his teammates to break out if they could. If not, he would remain close enough to get the hands on the outside, where his kicking forward or across the ground was a treat to watch. Just had moments where he looked a class above anyone else in his area, with many plays where he was being closed in on by multiple opponents, but weaved through them like they were frozen in place. He was also the standout for drawing opponents in to give more space to teammates to run into, holding the ball until the very last second he could and then releasing, copping contact if needed. Moved into the backline in the second half, where he positioned well for uncontested chest marks.

#11 George Wardlaw (Oakleigh Chargers)

The standout inside midfielder for the game, Wardlaw is a commanding physical presence around stoppages, able to get to top speed with only a few steps. If he gets a clean run at the ball, you can chalk it in for a clearance, and if he doesn’t, you can guarantee that he’ll run through whoever is in the way to get it. What was most impressive was how clean and quick his hands were in-close, just knowing where his teammates were when he had the ball and firing out sharp and accurate handballs. While his kicking was rushed at times, he still got good distance and penetration to quickly move forward. Had a great show of courage in the third quarter, where he was playing as a defender, and went back with the flight of the ball in an attempt to mark it overhead, but collided heavily with a Country player. Not allowing this to stop his hunt for the ball, he then dived across to pick it up and handball to a teammate in the corridor, before going off for the rest of the game icing his calf.

#24 Matthew Jefferson (Oakleigh Chargers)

Does this kid have sticky hands or what? Seemed to mark any ball that was in the air within 10 meters of him, seriously challenging the Country defence as they rotated players constantly in an effort to disturb his aerial impact. Two of his three goals came directly from contested marks, and what would’ve been five or so scoring opportunities created from kicks he earned from marks. His ball use was good as well, putting it in front of teammates to run onto easily and take it on the chest. His three goals obviously suggest his set shots are reliable when he’s in range.

GAME TWO:

Vic Country 13.11 (89) def. Vic Country 8.10 (58)

By: Ed Pascoe

Vic Country:

#1 Jacob Konstanty (Gippsland Power)

The exciting small forward from Gippsland looked dangerous early, kicking his only two goals in the first quarter to get Country off to a great start. The 176cm pocket rocket showed he could make an impact overhead and at ground level, with his first goal coming from a nice lead up mark before the converted set shot from 40 metres, while a great snap goal in the pocket on his opposite foot highlighted his class. He wouldn’t add to his goal tally and was a bit quieter as the game went on, but he still showed great skill and forward pressure and could be a handful for Vic Country at the Under 17 championships.

#9 Jai McGough (Geelong Falcons)

The speedy small defender with the long sleeves had plenty of the ball, being trusted with kick-outs early in the game and showing great creativity and vision by foot. The 178cm McGough offered plenty of drive from half-back and wasn’t hard to miss with his speed. He would later bring those traits to the wing in the second half and would still win plenty of the ball and help drive it forward for Country, even having a running shot at goal despite missing. The Geelong Falcons prospect looks very exciting and one to keep an eye on with his dash.

#14 Jonti Schuback (Gippsland Power)

Usually a smooth moving midfielder for Gippsland Power, Schuback was used at half-back early on, offering plenty of skill and composure in the back half. Schuback started to look more damaging on a wing, kicking a behind from a long shot from 50, while a 50-metre penalty would give him his first goal which he slotted calmly. The 185cm prospect played a similar type of game to that of Josh Browne who is a 2021 prospect out of East Fremantle, and Schuback should be an important cog in Vic Country’s midfield depth during the Under 17 championships.

#17 Ted Clohesy (Geelong Falcons)

With a no-fuss haircut, the 182cm Geelong Falcons midfielder proved tough and damaging, playing a contested and efficient game through the midfield while also looking dynamic forward of centre, where he would kick two very nice goals. Despite a light frame, Clohesy wasn’t afraid of winning the hard ball and to balance out his contested side, he would use the ball well on the outside and really move it forward well. Clohesy did his chances of playing for Country at this year’s Under 17 carnival no harm.

#20 Brayden George (Murray Bushrangers)

Game 1 had a Murray Bushrangers forward at 185cm in Ashtyn Atkinson causing havoc, and Game 2 had his teammate in George do just that. The powerful medium forward kicked two goals in an impressive display. showing plenty of class. The first came from some intelligent work in open play; instead of rushing a snap, he quickly summed up is options and then straitened up to kick a nice drop punt goal. His second was also classy, kicking a great snap goal from a set shot, repeating what many AFL forwards seem to be doing this year. Murray Bushrangers will be a hard team to stop with both he and Atkinson providing plenty of excitement.

#25 Felix Fogarty (GWV Rebels)

The GWV Rebels key forward provided a great target for his midfielders leading up at the ball well and nailing his marks. Fogarty showed plenty of skill for a taller player as well, with the 197cm prospect really hitting his straps in the second quarter to show good agility to get around a man on the mark and kick a lovely set shot goal from 50 metres, which was his only major of the day. Fogarty will look to have a great forward partnership with fellow Rebel Aaron Cadman, not only for the Rebels but perhaps also for Vic Country at the Under 17 championships.

Vic Metro:

#9 Will Ashcroft (Sandringham Dragons)

The Sandringham prospect and son of gun former-Brisbane player Marcus Ashcroft was one of Metro’s best players, winning plenty of clearances and breaking away from congestion. Ashcroft is a talented midfielder much like his father was, and at 183cm looks a top prospect for the 2022 draft. He was able to kick his only goal in the first quarter with a free kick, but converted the set shot from 50 metres out, showing his great kicking skills. Ashcroft has a great mix of skill and burst from stoppages, which is a highly regarded trait. Ashcroft had a few shots at goal stopped on the line and he could have had a much bigger day, but he certainly looks like a player to watch at the upcoming Under 17 championships.

#10 Harry Sheezel (Sandringham Dragons)

Arguably the best small forward for Vic Metro over the two games, the 183cm Sandringham prospect looked dangerous whenever he was around the ball, showing clean hands and agility when in possession and finding the ball in dangerous situations. Sheezel showed great courage early, going the back with the flight to take a nice mark inside 50 and although he didn’t convert the set shot, he would kick his only two goals in the same quarter. One came from a free kick and another a nice shot on the run. Sheezel was quieter in the second half but he was able to show why he would be a player to watch for Vic Metro in the Under 17 championships.

#11 Luke Teal (Oakleigh Chargers)

The dynamic Oakleigh Charger started the game well at half-back, taking some nice intercept marks and playing on at every opportunity. Teal showed great movement in traffic and he would then use those traits in the midfield when he was moved into there in the second half, winning plenty of the ball and escaping congestion well, while also using his clean hands to his advantage. Teal looks like a player to watch for Vic Metro at the championships and he could play a variety of roles at 184cm.

#12 Zac Greeves (Eastern Ranges)

The Eastern Ranges prospect isn’t too dissimilar to Luke Teal in size and style and like Teal, showed some good form in all areas of the ground. A strong player at 185cm, Greeves showed a great willingness to take the game on and he moved well in traffic and looked a very composed player under pressure, willing to stay strong and brace for impact. Before the Under 17 championships start he will certainly be one to watch for Caulfield Grammar in the APS.

#21 Will Elliott (Oakleigh Chargers) 

The athletic young ruckman from Oakleigh Chargers had some real eye-catching moments both in the ruck and up forward. He had plenty of good moments on every line, with a strong contested intercept mark on the last line in defence during the third quarter and a nice bit of play in the last quarter showing good agility under pressure, along with good composure to then handpass to a teammate to set up a goal. Elliot might not be a starting ruck for Metro at the championships but he was able to show plenty of traits behind the play and up forward to make him a potentially versatile prospect at 200cm.