Tag: 2020 nga

Q&A: Youseph Dib (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Oakleigh Chargers’ Youseph Dib at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

There may not be much of the Collingwood Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect at 172cm, but he is well-built for his size and makes up for it with tenacious two-way effort. After earning All Australian honours at last year’s Under 16 National Championships in a stacked Vic Metro side, Dib also managed to crack into the premiership-winning Oakleigh line-up for one outing late in the 2019 season.

While he is able to win his own ball and impact contests from as high as the wing or through midfield, Dib will more likely feature as a small forward for Oakleigh this year in between school football commitments with Caulfield Grammar. Read what the impressive bottom-ager had to say about his journey thus far and the year ahead in our latest Q&A.

>> CATCH UP ON ALL OUR FEATURES

Q&A:


MA: Youseph, how’s the day been for you so far?

YD: “Not too bad, it’s been a pretty long day. There’s a lot of boys out here, it’s good to see your competition and where everyone’s at. I’ve just got the yo-yo (test) left and then we’re good to go home.”

 

Is that one you’re looking forward to or dreading?

“Probably dreading. But one thing I’ve been working on in the off-season a lot is my fitness, so I’m excited to see where I’m at and see how I compare to before preseason.”

 

Coming off a really good Under 16 campaign, how did you enjoy the carnival up in Queensland?

“Yes, a good experience. I felt like the difference between our year and maybe some others was that our (group) really jelled well together. We had a really broad range of talent and as soon as we got on the ground, it didn’t take long for us to know each other. We just connected well and our chemistry was up there.”

 

There were plenty of fellow Oakleigh boys as well, did that make the connection easier?

“Definitely. We had about 10 or 11 there and I’ve been training with them for the last few months. But I also felt like we were leaders there and helped some of the other boys who didn’t have too many (others) from their regions. After a couple of training sessions everyone was all mixed together between regions which was one of the reasons why our chemistry was so high.”

 

Given you can go and win your own ball, which position do you see yourself fitting in best at Oakleigh now?

“I’ve been working a lot in the forward (group), so a small forward around some of the talls. I’m hoping to play a bit of midfield, a bit of wing. Playing up and down the ground and working on my fitness so I can be a bit more broad.”

 

You’d have some great mentors as part of the Collingwood Next Generation Academy, how has that been for your development?

“It’s been very good. Reef McInnes, who’s a year older than me as well, when I first came in I was pretty quiet and didn’t really know anyone and he really brought me in. Every training session he gets around all the younger boys with the new (Under) 15s coming in, he’s a very good leader. With ‘Daics’ (Nick Daicos) and Reef training at Oakleigh as well, it helps because we know each other so well… the NGA training has been pretty high-intensity which has been brought up a lot this year.”

 

What kind of goals are you looking to set out this year?

“Most of my year will be played out at school footy which I haven’t really done before, so I’m excited to see what the competition is like there and hopefully I can bring up my stats and fill out my role in the team. It’ll be a pretty long year (with) a lot of small goals, but my main goal from the off-season was my fitness. I’m excited to see what I’m like on the ground and where I’m at.”

AFL Draft Watch: Brandon Walker (East Fremantle/Western Australia)

IN the build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central  takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state at Under 17 or Under 18s level in 2019. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at pre-season testing, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is East Fremantle prospect Brandon Walker, who is part of Fremantle’s booming Next Generation Academy (NGA) alongside twin brother, Chris. The classy, rebounding half-back has already impressed with his line-breaking speed, astute disposal, and vertical leap when intercepting from defensive 50. After earning All Australian honours at Under 16 level, Walker was a standout for Australia in its annual Under 17 fixture against New Zealand, and went on to become a mainstay for East Fremantle’s WAFL Colts outfit as a bottom-ager.

This year, the 184cm prospect will be looking to break into the West Australian Under 18 starting side having been named in the 2019 squad, while also resuming his climb up the WAFL ranks. He managed the second-best running vertical jump off the left side (94cm) across the nation during preseason, and is sure to showcase much more than just his incredible athleticism once the on-field action returns.

PLAYER PAGE:

Brandon Walker
East Fremantle/Western Australia

DOB: October 17, 2002

Height: 184cm
Weight: 75kg

Position: Half-back/midfielder

Strengths: Vertical leap, speed, decision making, reading the play, rebounding
Improvements: Consistency/accumulation

PRESEASON TESTING RESULTS:

Standing Vertical Jump – 73cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L) – 75cm/94cm
Speed (20m) – DNT
Agility – DNT
Endurance (Yo-yo) – DNT

DNT – Did not test

>> Full Testing Results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

2019 SCOUTING NOTES:

WAFL Colts Round 15 vs. Peel Thunder

By: Lenny Fogliani

The 2018 AFL U16s All-Australian defender showed why he is so highly touted for the 2020 AFL Draft with another polished performance. He accumulated 11 possessions, grabbed three marks and laid two tackles, while he also provided a heap of run from the defensive half.

WAFL Colts Round 14 vs. Swan Districts

By: Lenny Fogliani

The 2018 AFL Under 16s All-Australian member increased his draft stocks for 2020 with another superb performance. Against Swan Districts, Walker accumulated 16 possessions, took four marks and laid two tackles, playing primarily across the half-back line. His line-breaking capabilities, decision-making and disposal efficiency are all at a fantastic level for someone his age. He is a part of Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy.

WAFL Colts Round 8 vs. South Fremantle

By: Lenny Fogliani

The 2018 AFL U16 All-Australian showed why he is already being touted as a possible first round draft pick in next year’s AFL Draft. Against the Bulldogs, Walker gathered 21 possessions, recorded five inside 50s, took four marks and laid four tackles to be one of the best players.

WAFL Colts Round 2 vs. Subiaco

By: Lenny Fogliani

The Fremantle Next-Generation Academy prospect was sizzling off the half-back line for East Fremantle. He finished with 15 possessions and five marks, showcasing the traits that made him an All-Australian last year. He used his speed to burn off opponents, was smart with his decision-making and elite with his foot skills.

WAFL Colts Round 1 vs. Claremont

By: Lenny Fogliani

The 2018 WA U16s All-Australian was excellent for the Sharks, showing why he is so highly rated for the 2020 AFL Draft. He used his crisp disposal and electrifying speed from the half-back line to torch the Tigers. He finished with 11 possessions, five marks and three tackles.

>> 2020 WA U18s Squad Prediction

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Allies:
Tahj Abberley
Jackson Callow
Braeden Campbell
Oliver Davis
Errol Gulden

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Corey Durdin
Luke Edwards
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Jack Ginnivan
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Vic Metro:
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins

Western Australia:
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll
Joel Western

AFL Draft Watch: Joel Western (Claremont/Western Australia)

IN the build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central  takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state at Under 17 or Under 18s level in 2019. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at pre-season testing, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is Claremont’s Joel Western, a member of the thriving Fremantle Next Generation Academy (NGA). The 172cm prospect is an excitement machine, catching the eye with his speed and agility away from the contest, combined with an innate ability to pull off improbably plays. While Western is more than capable of playing through the midfield at Under 18 level, roles off flanks at either end of the ground suit his physical makeup in terms of adjusting to the next level.

After his 23 disposals helped Claremont to Under 18 WAFL Colts grand final glory in 2019, the zippy Tiger became one of three players from his club to be included in the West Australian Academy hub. Western was a prime mover in his state’s 2018 Under 16 campaign, and was part of its 2019 Under 18 squad without playing a game. Having lit up preseason testing with top 10 results in each jumping category and the 20-metre sprint, Western is primed to break through this season as a key figure once again.

PRESEASON TESTING HIGHLIGHTS:

Standing Vertical Jump: 80cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L):
88cm/91cm
Speed (20m): 2.88 seconds
Agility: 8.47 seconds
Endurance (Yo-yo):
21.5

>> Full Testing Results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

PLAYER PAGE:

Joel Western

DOB: October 12, 2002

Height: 172.cm
Weight: 67kg
Position: Midfielder/small utility

Strengths: Athleticism, speed/endurance mix, versatility, x-factor, skill

KEY SCOUTING NOTES:

2019 Under 17 Futures All Stars

By: Peter Williams

The West Australian was one of Team Dal Santo’s better players on the day, showing good composure at half-back under pressure. He did go forward at times but looked more rushed going inside 50 with the odd turnover from a quick snap. He had a shot on goal but the kick went out on the full, and spent the second half in the defensive half of the ground, being a reliable player who picked up a number of touches back there trying to settle his team down.

2019 WAFL Colts Grand Final vs. Peel Thunder

By: Lenny Fogliani

The bottom-aged Fremantle Next Generation Academy member showed why he is one of the leading prospects from Western Australia for next year’s AFL Draft. He accumulated 23 possessions, and laid six tackles, often using his speed and skill to break Peel’s defensive zones.

>> Squad Prediction: 2020 WA U18s

>> Marquee Matchup: Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Kaine Baldwin

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Western Australia:
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll

Allies:
Tahj Abberley
Jackson Callow
Braeden Campbell
Oliver Davis

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Luke Edwards
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Jack Ginnivan
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Vic Metro:
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins

AFL Draft Watch: Reef McInnes (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

IN the build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state at Under 17 or Under 18s level in 2019. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at the NAB League Preseason Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft Watch is Oakleigh’s Reef McInnes, a Collingwood Next Generation Academy (NGA) member who contributed to the Chargers’ 2019 NAB League premiership. The 192cm prospect was pushed out to the forward line at times last year, but thrived in his more suited role as an inside midfielder. One of his more notable outings came in that position for Vic Metro’s Under 17s side, but he was just as effective inside 50 for the Chargers and in the Under-17 Futures All-Star showcase.

PLAYER PAGE:

Reef McInnes

Height: 192.1cm
Weight: 83.8kg
Position: Inside midfielder/Forward

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATS: 12 games | 14.7 disposals (36% contested possessions) | 3.9 marks | 3.1 tackles | 1.6 clearances | 1.6 inside 50s | 1.6 rebound 50s | 0.5 goals (6)

Strengths: Contested ball, versatility, strength, agility
Improvements: Four-quarter consistency

>> Q&A: Reef McInnes
>> Marquee Matchup: McInnes vs. Davies

PRESEASON TESTING HIGHLIGHTS:

Did not test.

2019 SCOUTING NOTES:

2019 Under 17 Futures All Star Game

By: Michael Alvaro

McInnes continues to step up in showcase games and did so here with a solid display of ball winning across the day. Starting in midfield, McInnes proved he was more than an inside workhorse with his poise on the ball and decision making when hemmed in.

He has surprising agility at times – much like GWS Academy product Tom Green and Carlton’s Patrick Cripps – which helps to get him out of trouble on top of his strength in the tackle.

He went on to become influential up forward, finding separation on the lead and almost pulling in some strong marks. It proved a shrewd move, as McInnes booted two goals; the first coming from a 50m penalty, and the second shortly after with a classy snap from the tightest of angles.

2019 Under 17 Futures vs. Queensland

By: Michael Alvaro 

The Collingwood NGA prospect looks to be another great find for the Magpies, and he had some sort of start to the game. McInnes was strong from the get-go, winning the very first clearance and working hard to impact a number of contests around the ground – he was involved in just about everything.

His clean hands, strength in the contest, and tackling made him the dominant inside midfielder, but his spread and props in traffic bode well for a well-balanced game. McInnes was a little quieter as the game wore on, but racked up 24 disposals, nine tackles, six clearances, and four inside 50s.

2019 NAB League Round 16 vs. Western

By: Peter Williams

One of Oakleigh’s best and was a bigger body in terms of height in the midfield for the Chargers. He had a massive first term and looked good around the stoppages, winning a number of big clearances from in close, and set up scoring opportunities with nice kicks inside 50.

He is able to get his hands free when tackled and had a shot on goal in the first term but his kick was rushed and it went to the left. McInnes showed good decision making ability when in congestion, picking the right option when handballing clear and stood tall against a number of opponents.

2019 NAB League Round 13 vs. Geelong

By: Joe Lee

McInnes was dominant for the Chargers, highlighted by his two goals, 29 disposals, five tackles and five inside 50s. The impressive display was a testimony to McInnes improved recent form and he was the best midfielder on the ground. With his draft stocks rising after outings such as the weekend, McInnes is one to keep an eye on for next year.

>> MORE OAKLEIGH CHARGERS CONTENT

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Vic Metro:
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Archie Perkins

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Jack Ginnivan
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Luke Edwards
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Western Australia:
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll

Allies:
Braeden Campbell
Oliver Davis

Marquee Matchups: Connor Downie vs. Luke Edwards

DESPITE remaining in the unknown of football’s temporary absence, Draft Central is set to ramp up its draft analysis with another new prospect-focussed series, Marquee Matchups. We take a look at some of the high-end head-to-head battles which look likely to take place should the class of 2020 take the field, comparing pairs of draft hopefuls to help preview who may come out on top.

The next pair under the microscope ironically played together twice last year; for the Australian Under 17 side in April, and in September’s Under 17 Futures showcase fixture. 2020 Eastern Ranges captain Connor Downie and Glenelg’s Luke Edwards are those two players, having progressed through similar journeys despite hailing from different states. Both prospects are also already aligned to AFL clubs, with Downie a Hawthorn Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, and Edwards eligible to nominate as an Adelaide father-son candidate.

Downie was an integral figure in Eastern’s run to last year’s NAB League grand final, proving a reliable and versatile member of the squad. He was also one of the rare bottom-agers to feature for Vic Metro in the 2019 National Championships, running out for his sole appearance against Vic Country to open the carnival. Having played mostly on a wing and off flanks at either end, Downie’s solid build and forward-driving attributes see him poised for more inside midfield minutes throughout 2020.

Edwards is a player in a similar boat, but instead looks to make a return to the engine room having been employed as a rebounding defender in last year’s Under 18 championships for South Australia. Remarkably, Edwards has not put on any height since his Under 16 campaign in 2018, but remains a big-bodied type through midfield at 187cm and 80kg. The son of Crows great, Tyson broke through to SANFL Reserves level for Glenelg as a bottom-ager and may well make the step up to League football as a top-ager when SANFL competitions return in June.

Without further ado, get up to speed with how the two match-up in terms of their form to date, strengths, improvements, and what has already been said about their performances in our scouting notes.

PLAYER PAGES

Connor Downie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro

DOB: May 31, 2002

Height: 184cm
Weight: 83kg

Position: Outside midfielder/utility

Luke Edwards
Glenelg/South Australia

DOB: January 12, 2002

Height: 187cm
Weight: 80kg

Position: Half-back/inside midfielder

FITNESS TESTING PROFILES

VERTICAL JUMP

Downie – 64cm

RUNNING VERTICAL JUMP (R/L)

Downie – 78cm/63cm

SPEED (20m)

Downie – 3.11 seconds

AGILITY

Downie – 8.48 seconds

ENDURANCE (Yo-yo)

Downie – 20.7

Note: Edwards did not participate in the scheduled South Australian preseason testing day.

Attempting to compare these two athletically via preseason testing data is obviously a fruitless task given Edwards did not participate in South Australia’s combine, but we can still extract something out of Downie’s results. The Victorian’s power off one side shows in the 15cm gap in his running vertical jumps, and he definitely uses that leap to compete in the air, while also boasting a penetrating left foot kick. Downie’s time of 3.11 second across 20 metres is not exactly flattering, but his constant forward movement and overlapping runs to chain handballs better show his ability to gain meterage in quick time. Additionally, a decent agility test time of 8.48 seconds allows Downie to evade opponents and is an area Edwards also thrives in through midfield.

>> PRESEASON TESTING RESULTS:

20m Sprint
Agility Test
Yo-yo Test
Jumps

ON-FIELD PROFILES

2019 STATISTICS

Downie:

NAB League: 14 games | 16.4 disposals | 2.6 marks | 1.4 tackles | 1.6 inside 50s |  3.8 rebound 50s | 9 goals

Under 18 National Championships: 1 game | 9 disposals | 4 marks | 2 inside 50s | 2 rebound 50s

Edwards:

SANFL U18s: 8 games | 22.5 disposals | 4.4 marks | 5.8 tackles | 5.1 clearances | 4.6 inside 50s | 1 goal

Under 18 National Championships: 4 games | 18.8 disposals | 4.3 marks | 3.3 tackles | 2.75 rebound 50s | 1.5 inside 50s

Downie may have been the slightly more capped player as far as these statistics go, but was able to showcase some of his best traits on the outside. His NAB League average of 16.4 disposals is a decent output for a bottom-ager, but his ability to impact along the line really comes to the fore in his combination of 3.8 rebound 50s and nine goals for the season.

Edwards’ more inside oriented role shines through in his SANFL Under 18 numbers, reflecting a dominant stoppage game going both ways with 5.1 average clearances, 4.6 inside 50s, and 5.8 tackles. His overall disposal output is also greater, and his slightly bigger frame has something to do with that at Under 18 level.

In terms of their National Championships form, Edwards proved his worth as a consistent contributor across all four games, while Downie could only crack one outing in the stacked Vic Metro side. Again, Edwards’ overall output is more significant, but this time in a different role across half-back as he upped his intercept/rebounding game and maintained similar tackling numbers.

It would have been handy to see the pair go at it when Vic Metro met South Australia, but we will have to wait until this year’s carnival – should one go ahead.

BEST GAME

Downie:

2019 NAB League Round 10 vs. GWV

23 disposals (14 kicks)
2 marks
3 clearances
7 inside 50s
2 rebound 50
3 goals

Edwards:

2019 SANFL U18s Round 14 vs. North Adelaide

32 disposals (22 kicks)
7 marks
10 tackles
9 clearances
9 inside 50s
1 goal

You will be hard-pressed to find a more complete midfield game that Edwards’ display in Glenelg’s Round 14 loss to North Adelaide; the prime mover won plenty of his own ball (32 disposals) both at the stoppages (nine clearances) and on the spread (seven marks), while staying relevant defensively (10 tackles) and impacting the play going forward (nine inside 50s, one goal). It is the kind of game which makes you think a permanent midfield move is a no-brainer for Edwards, and shows how far developed he is for his age.

Downie’s chosen game came in as one-sided a game as you’re likely to see, with Eastern holding its opponent to a total of five behinds while piling on 18.8 (116) in tricky Ballarat conditions. Downie was a key exponent of the onslaught, collecting a disposal tally two touches shy of his season-best, while impacting the play up either end and at the stoppages. His three goals were sweeteners, showcasing his penetrating kick from range as well as his underrated overhead marking in the face of a howling breeze.

STRENGTHS

Downie:

Versatility
Leadership
Kick penetration
Efficiency

Edwards:

Versatility
Contested ball
Reading the play
Efficiency

Conveniently enough, the two share a pair of identical strengths. The first listed for either player is versatility, something they will both be itching to further showcase in expanded roles should the action return in 2020. Edwards has gone from playing permanent midfield, to shifting to defence, to now being poised as a midfielder once again. Meanwhile, Downie is a damaging proposition all the way along the line from half-back, to half-forward, and potentially inside the engine room.

The other shared trait here is their efficiency, with Downie a safe bet on his left side, while Edwards is ruthless on his right. Downie seems to have a touch more penetration and loves to go long, but Edwards is a touch more accustomed to finding the best option and hardly making a mistake. Edwards’ disposal efficiency of 90 per cent, albeit with a much lower output, only proves his case as a poised user of the ball. Downie may waver a touch more, but can cut teams up with his metres gained and put the ball in more dangerous areas.

As captain of the Eastern region, Downie also gets a tick for leadership, and he could be in contention for the same honours at representative level given his experience there already.  Edwards’ remaining strengths tie into different roles on-field, with his contested game suited to midfield minutes, while reading of the play comes down to his defensive duties. Edwards’ frame also helps in one-on-one defensive situations too, adding to that intercept and rebound style from the back half.

IMPROVEMENTS

Downie:

Inside craft
Explosive speed

Edwards:

Explosive speed
Contested marking

The two again have similar improvements to make, and are ordered in terms of importance. Downie’s inside craft will need a lift if he is to spend more time at the centre bounces, with his chaining and penetrative style on the outside currently more suited to his skillset. He has the frame and class to make the move, but isn’t quite there off bottom-age form. Part of that will be adding an element of explosive speed, which is not currently reflected in his 3.11-second 20-metre sprint time. He covers the ground well over time, but needs that burst at the stoppages.

Similarly, Edwards has been working on that five-step burst in congestion to get away from would-be tacklers, with the pressure at the next level too much for pure strength to repeatedly handle. He can get away with being caught slightly in traffic against juniors, but will be brought down in those situations upon entering the elite system. Another area Edwards said he would like to work on during preseason is his contested marking, being able to crash packs and be an even more damaging interceptor.

Of course, it is often difficult and perhaps harsh to split hairs when looking for areas of improvement, but even the best prospects have room to grow to become more complete players.

KEY SCOUTING NOTES

Downie:

Under 17 Futures All Stars

Gave a glimpse into his role for next year with a mix of time between his usual wing/half-back position, and in the midfield. Downie’s willingness to get on his bike at every opportunity and move the ball forward was a feature, fitting the metres-gained role well on the outside. He would often dish off on the move and continue his run to get it back, ending his plays with a long kick forward on his customary left side. He may well continue his shift towards a more inside role and has the size to do so, but arguably looked more damaging on the outer as he has done all year.

Edwards:

Under 17 Futures All Stars

The potential Adelaide father-son has composure beyond his years and looks a versatile type. Starting in his usual half-back role, Edwards showed great poise in his disposal coming out of defence and worked hard to impact the play further afield once he had released the ball himself. His intercept marking game was also sound, reading the ball well in flight to get in the right position on defensive wing. He is the accumulating type in the backline, but looks a different player once thrown into the midfield with his strong hands and frame allowing him to play that inside game. His smart handballs out of congestion were terrific in the second half, especially at centre bounces, and he would benefit from spending more time there.

FINAL WORD

Both of these talents have been highly-touted for a good amount of time, and rightly so. Edwards has the obvious and added pressure of being a father-son prospect identified from a young age, but has performed well in his own right and may even blaze his own trail by nominating for the open draft. Similarly, Downie is already linked to a club but should end up following through with the tie and will cost the Hawks a decent amount of draft points.

Lacking in a couple of athletic areas may see the two slide down the order, but Edwards is one who could be right up there should he stamp his claim as an inside midfielder. Downie’s versatility is a massive plus, as is his impact on the outside. While it would be tempting to see him also grow into an inside role, it seems his best traits fit the wing, or a half-back flank in particular.

Squad predictions: 2020 Vic Country Under 18s

THE annual Under 18 National Championships may be the only chance we get to catch a glimpse of the class of 2020 before draft day, with a decision on the recommencement of competition pushed back to at least September. In the meantime, Draft Central takes a look at how each regional squad may line up should the carnival come around, but with a few stipulations in place. Last week we began with our Vic Metro squad predictions and today we take a look at Vic Country’s potential line-up.

GUIDELINES:

  • Top-agers (2002-born) have been prioritised due to the limited season and exposure
  • Of those, AFL Academy Hub members also gain priority for the starting squad
  • Bottom-agers (2003-born) in the hub, and top-agers outside it are named for depth
  • 19-year-old inclusions are limited, having already staked their claims in previous years

A lot may change between now and when the squad will be announced, and it should be noted that injured players will not be picked here. Of course, the sides may vary greatly as players look to shift and develop in different positions, but each member has been selected based on the roles they have previously played. Given only previous form, preseason testing and scratch matches are what we have to go off, bolters are also difficult to gauge at this point.

But without further ado, let’s get stuck into the second squad prediction, with Vic Country’s talent broken down line-by-line. An alternate squad with no limitations will also be provided below.

DEFENCE

FB – Clayton Gay (Dandenong), Zach Reid (Gippsland), Cam Fleeton (Geelong)
HB – Nick Stevens (GWV), Ethan Baxter (Murray), Isaac Wareham (GWV)

There is a good mix of styles and talent among this back six, with some height, power, dash, and clean ball use all to come from these potential representatives. Versatile 202cm tall Zach Reid seems a lock for full back, able to also double as ruck aid.

Leadership candidate Cam Fleeton and Dandenong standout Clayton Gay provide sound reading of the play and aerial presence on the last line, while Greater Western Victoria (GWV) pair Nick Stevens and Isaac Wareham are solid options off half-back. 19-year-old Wareham has already donned the Big V at under 18 level, but may earn another chance given injury curtailed his top-age season.

Ethan Baxter is the final member of the defence, a solidly-built Richmond Next Generation Academy (NGA) product who is a touch undersized (192cm) to play as a pure key defender, but makes up for it with strength. He could be utilised elsewhere, but we see him fulfilling a role down back.

MIDFIELD

C – Ryan Angwin (Gippsland), Tanner Bruhn (Geelong), Jack Ginnivan (Bendigo)
FOL – Henry Walsh (Geelong), Sam Berry (Gippsland), Zavier Maher (Murray)

Zavier Maher may be the tallest of the Vic Country mids here at 184cm, but by no means will the chosen crop lack power or ball winning ability. Maher, Sam Berry, and Tanner Bruhn are all terrific at the centre bounces, with Maher and Berry the powerful types, while Bruhn is all class in congestion.

Berry can run all day, too, much like Bendigo’s Jack Ginnivan on the outside. Ginnivan could also find a spot up forward like fellow wingman, Ryan Angwin, but the pair have really come on of late and should have no trouble in making an impact further afield.

Of course, Henry Walsh will likely be the one to provide first use to his midfield fleet as the primary ruck. The brother of Carlton Rising Star, Sam is quite apt at the centre bounces with his 201cm frame and is constantly working on his ground level work.

FORWARD

HF – Noah Gadsby (Geelong), Oliver Henry (Geelong), Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo)
FF – Dominic Bedendo (Murray), Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh), Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong)

This is hardly a forward six blessed with height or overwhelming strength, but that is not to say that it lacks marking power. Much like Baxter in defence, the high-flying Oliver Henry could play above his size as a focal point, though may be better suited to a third tall role. Highly touted Bulldogs NGA prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is unbeatable off the lead at full forward, so is a lock for that spot.

Alongside him may be Dominic Bedendo, a fantastic athletic talent who can compete both in the air and at ground level, while Charlie Lazzaro occupies the other pocket. He is arguably predominantly more a midfielder, but has been adding strings to his bow as a small forward.

On the flanks, his Geelong teammate Noah Gadsby also slots in as a newcomer to the forward line, while raw Bendigo product Seamus Mitchell assumes a role familiar to him on the same line. The largely small make-up of this six is somewhat a product of the guidelines we put in place, as there are a few key position products across each age bracket who could easily add some height and strength to the structure.

INTERCHANGE

INT – Sam Conforti (Bendigo), Will Bravo (Dandenong), Bayleigh Welsh (Dandenong), Blake Kuipers (Dandenong)

Filling out the side are some versatile options, with most of these prospects able to be utilised in many roles. Sam Conforti skippered the Under 16 Country side, and could well slot in as a small forward or wingman in this lineup. Dandenong’s Will Bravo is an exciting player who should also get a run up forward, providing a touch of speed and evasion while also being able to contribute in midfield.

Two more Stingrays cap off the side, with Bayleigh Welsh a midfielder the Dandenong program is high on, while athletic over-age swingman Blake Kuipers could be one to again sneak into the team as key position or ruck depth.

TOP-AGE DEPTH

Given this may be the only chance for draft-eligible top-agers to shine in front of recruiters in 2020, there will be plenty who come onto the radar of AFL clubs. Elijah Hollands and Noah Gribble are two who would have featured in the team, but unfortunately miss out due to long-term knee injuries.

Academy prospect Josh Treacy is a key forward who could well fit into the squad having gained experience for Country at Under 17 level, with fellow tall options Mason Hawkins and Keith Robinson of Gippsland others who can fill that forward/ruck role.

In terms of smalls, classy Geelong co-captain Gennaro Bove may be in the mix, while nippy GWV forward Harry Sharp has also caught the eye alongside another Falcon, Blake Reid. Other options from the Geelong region include Charlie Brauer – another outstanding athlete – and Kyle Skene.

Speaking of athletes, Bendigo is high on elite runner Jack Hickman and could also see the likes of ex-Rebel Jack Tillig or Finn Ellis-Castle push into contention. Dandenong has a couple of products around the mark too, with Deakyn Smith and Jai Neal both likely to be considered.

THE BOTTOM-AGERS

Last year’s Under 16 side may not have produced pure results-based success, but there are a few fantastic prospects who should push into contention. Leading the pack is last year’s carnival MVP Josh Rachele, a damaging midfielder/forward who is incredibly skilled.

Ben Hobbs was his partner-in-crime through midfield and should also get a crack as one of many high-end GWV up-and-comers. Those include Charlie Molan, Josh Rentsch, and Josh Gibcus, with the former two already boasting NAB League experience.

Fleet-footed Sandringham prospect Campbell Chesser was another to impress enough to break into the NAB League, while fellow Under 16 All Australians Toby Conway and Cooper Hamilton are also within the Academy bubble.

Given the focus will even more strictly be placed on draft eligible players, the likes of Ben Green, Connor Macdonald, Tom Brown, Justin Davies and so on will likely have to wait until next year to break into the Under-18 representative side.

There are a number of others outside of the current representative and academy bubbles who could also break through in their own top-age seasons, but it simply remains to be seen.

19-YEAR-OLDS

Possibly the most unlucky over-ager to miss out on our squads is Geelong’s Darcy Chirgwin, who was set to return to his original region after representing Sandringham in his draft year. After injury heavily interrupted his 2019 campaign, he should come into consideration once again.

Geelong teammate Jay Dahlhaus also suffered a long-term injury last year but should be back for more, while Murray prospect Sam Durham has shown a good rate of improvement as a latecomer to the code. Jai Newcombe is somewhat of a bolter having only now made the final cut at Gippsland, and could provide that inside presence with Chirgwin given he is yet to capture centre stage.

The two 19-year-olds we chose for both squads, Kuipers and Wareham, come into the category of players with great upside. Kuipers’ height and athleticism make him a handy option to fill gaps up either end or in the ruck, and his phenomenal testing performance puts him in good stead. Wareham is a solid athlete who will more so be looking for consistency after his top-age campaign last year.

With these additional top, bottom, and over-age prospects in mind, below is our potential best Vic Country squad without any provisions.

FB – Clayton Gay, Zach Reid, Cameron Fleeton
HB – Nick Stevens, Blake Kuipers, Ethan Baxter
C – Ryan Angwin, Tanner Bruhn, Jack Ginnivan
HF – Noah Gadsby, Oliver Henry, Seamus Mitchell
FF – Charlie Lazzaro, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Josh Rachele
FOL – Henry Walsh, Sam Berry, Zavier Maher
INT
– Will Bravo, Dominic Bedendo, Ben Hobbs, Isaac Wareham