Tag: 2021 afl draft

Draft Central Power Rankings: July 2021

THE Draft Central July Power Rankings have been locked in after an interrupted, but nonetheless productive month of football around the nation. Two fresh faces feature among the top five as a new number one contender arises, while another two previously unranked players have thrust their way into the overall list of 25 on the back of undeniable form. We profile the full array of prospects in our latest edition, taking you through each players’ last month and the factors behind their moves. Also highlighted are some other names potentially around the mark.

Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion and each players’ current ability and potential, not taking into account any AFL clubs’ lists or needs.

#1 Jason Horne
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg

June Ranking: #1

Snapshot: A midfielder with next to no weaknesses, whose power bodes well for tough ball winning and impressive aerial marking, as well as consistent scoreboard impact.

Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne retains his crown in our second rankings edition for the year. The South Adelaide talent impressed in his debut SANFL League outings as a bottom-ager, and has since transitioned into a more prominent midfield role with guidance from former Carlton and Adelaide champion, Bryce Gibbs. He has long been a standout among the South Australian crop, participating in back-to-back Under 16 carnivals and being crowned his state’s MVP in 2019 as captain. Only recently 18, Horne boasts a well-balanced game with plenty of damaging strengths and very few weaknesses, with his exposure at senior level another factor which sees him awarded with number one status in our eyes.

Last month:

Horne has continued on his merry way at SANFL League level, with his consistent output displayed across the last month of action. Despite three of his four outings in that time being losses, Horne played above his season averages to produce numbers of 16 disposals, 4.3 marks, 4.5 tackles, 2.3 clearances, and 0.5 goals per game. Given he is so entrenched in the top three spots, it is easy to look past his development and sustained success, but the pick one contender is in as good a form as ever currently.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

#2 Nick Daicos (COL F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg

June Ranking: #2

Snapshot: Daicos has an unrivalled understanding of the game; able to bring his teammates into it and anticipate where his next possession will come from, leading to utter domination.

The Collingwood father-son prospect (son of Peter) has more than justified all the hype leading into 2021, solidifying his status as a bonafide number one contender. Daicos made his long-awaited NAB League debut in Round 1 and has gone on to dominate the competition, putting up ridiculous numbers through the engine room as the skipper of a deeply talented Oakleigh Chargers group. Much like his brother, Josh, Daicos was only due to enter the Chargers’ program last year but was made to wait for his unveiling in Oakleigh colours. It was well worth it, though keen watchers already knew of his supreme ability having seen him hold his own in a Carey Grammar side featuring Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. Daicos is banging down Horne’s door and may well break through as he continues to put runs on the board, in dominant fashion.

Last month:

Daicos only played one game throughout June, but it was a ripper. The Oakleigh Chargers captain got some decent attention in his side’s loss to the Northern Knights, but still managed to rack up 37 disposals and kick a goal. He was perhaps not as damaging as he could have been with his disposal, but most qualms on his season thus far are essentially nit-picks, and exemplary of the quality he is judged at. His average of 35.8 disposals remains a league high, but he did not have the chance to add to it last week after again being managed. He also missed out on Vic Metro trial duties.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

#3 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Utility/Ruck
19/08/2003 | 204cm | 75kg

June Ranking: #15

Snapshot: Darcy is a fast-developing tall talent who can play in each key position post, is athletic, and marks the ball cleanly.

They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top five pick on potential and the clear best tall in the draft, with his versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy has impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck in the NAB League, but has also consolidated his eye-catching forward forays at school football level. Bulldogs fans, you have another on the radar.

Last month:

Darcy shot into top three calculations with a brilliant few games in June, most significantly his six-goal during the Victorian Under 19 trials. The Bulldogs father-son prospect was swung forward as he has done during the school football season and was near-impossible to stop. He had a 10cm height advantage on most opponents but took full toll to dominate aerially, while also showing great athleticism and football smarts across the attacking arc. During his one outing for Oakleigh, Darcy started in defence and was similarly assured with his clean intercept marking, before rolling through the ruck and eventually finding the goals up forward. He has solidified his status as the best tall available, and may challenge the previously untouchable top two.

#4 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

June Ranking: #11

Snapshot: Callaghan is a classy mover with great agility for his size, and has shown a high level of development to prove his balance of outside and inside traits.

One who seems destined to crack the top five picks come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back has recently transitioned to an inside role, but continues to prove difficult to stop at full flight with his blend of straight-line power and swift agility. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his long boot, and seems to manufacture time on the ball in the clinches.

Last month:

The top five trigger has been pulled on Callaghan after even more undeniable performances, who was arguably best afield during his two NAB League appearances in June and impressive when suiting up for Vic Metro. He continued his transition to the inside with Sandringham, producing 31 and 28 disposals in his most recent outings and looking ominous in the process. Callaghan was shifted back out to the wing in between those games for the Victorian Under 19 trials, warming to the contest and showing some of his best traits, despite not racking up the usual numbers.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

#5 Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg

June Ranking: #3

Snapshot: A smooth-moving midfielder with terrific poise and class, Sonsie opens up the play with his clean disposal and ability to kick goals.

One of the most highly-touted Victorian prospects before a ball had been bounced in 2021, Sonsie’s absolute best is exceptionally good. The Eastern Ranges prospect was Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in 2019 and is one of the few 2003-born NAB Leaguers to have already experienced the Under 19 competition. He was part of his region’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, rolling forward off a wing. Now a draft eligible talent, Sonsie has moved more permanently into midfield and while he is developing his defensive running, has plenty of attacking traits to offer. His ability to exit stoppages with poise and make good decisions with ball in hand is top notch, with that exceptional skill level also translating to dual-sided finishing in front of goal.

Last month:

Another to have only played once during June, Sonsie is currently on the road to recovery after suffering bone bruising in his last appearance for Eastern. The injury was sustained during the final quarter against Sandringham and Sonsie was quiet to that point by his lofty standards, managing 15 disposals and three inside 50s. Luckily the knock wasn’t any worse, though Sonsie also missed out on the Vic Metro trial games and is facing a few more weeks on the sidelines.

>> VFL Player Focus
>> Head-to-Head: Sonsie vs. Daicos
>> NAB League POTW: Round 1

#6 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Half-Back/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

June Ranking: #5

Snapshot: A line-breaking half-back who has shown promising development in midfield, Sinn’s greatest strengths are his speed and kick penetration.

Another established leader among the Victorian crop as one of Sandringham’s co-captains, Sinn’s best is as damaging as anyone in the overall draft pool. He is regarded as the best technical kick in the Dragons’ program and is given the license to look for options others simply wouldn’t. His penetrative boot and line-breaking speed make him a meters gained machine, observed most significantly with his well-timed runs off half-back or on the wing. Sinn has also moved onto the inside of late to good effect, showing a handy balance of traits and utilising the size he added during last year’s lost season. His campaign has been interrupted by injury, but he looks poised to return soon and play out a full season in the NAB League.

Last month:

Sinn was eased back from a hamstring strain in June, turning out twice for the Sandringham Dragons and proving steady in his output. The Dragons co-captain started at half-back in his first outing, finishing on 13 touches in a big win against Oakleigh, before raising that slightly in 15 and five inside 50s against Tasmania last week. He spent more time in the midfield during that game and advanced the ball well, in a promising sign for his run towards the National Championships.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

#7 Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 81kg

June Ranking: #4

Snapshot: Roberts is a hard-working and consistent midfielder with senior experience who racks up plenty of the ball, but can also rotate forward.

A second South Adelaide midfielder within the top 10 of our count, Roberts’ form has seen him prove difficult to deny of such honours. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 17-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, Roberts is also a sound user of the ball and looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.

Last month:

Roberts is currently sidelined with a syndesmosis injury, set for another couple of months out of action due to the injury sustained during a school football hitout. He had played two League games for South Adelaide to that point, but will have to wait to further prove his credentials.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus

#8 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Balanced Midfielder
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

June Ranking: #6

Snapshot: A speedy and productive mover on the outside, Chesser breaks the lines from half-back or the wing but has also shown a good balance in his ball winning.

A third Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 10, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser has only just cracked Sandringham’s stacked midfield in a bid to showcase his balance, having recently returned from injury.

Last month:

Chesser is another who only recently made his return from injury, coming back from work on his meniscus. The dashing midfielder was thrust into a formidable Sandringham Dragons midfield mix having played his earlier games on a wing, finishing with 19 disposals and five inside 50s as his side defeated Tasmania.

#9 Josh Gibcus
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender 
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg

June Ranking: #10

Snapshot: An intercept marking defender who reads the play well and has a sizeable leap, Gibcus’ eye-catching form has propelled him into top 10 calculations.

For the second month running, Gibcus is the second tall prospect on our list and has earned his spot with superb form this year. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender is an intercept type who uses his strengths to advantage; reading the play beautifully and timing his movements to float onto the scene, before rising with his springy vertical leap to take series of marks and force turnovers. While he is working on his ground level game, Gibcus is so clean in the air and usually a sound distributor across the last line, showing great composure on the ball. He was one of the many AFL Academy call-ups and truly held his own in that fixture, as he continues to improve at a great rate.

Last month:

The high-marking defender has had a stead sort of month, playing at both ends of the ground and even through the ruck. When stationed down back, Gibcus performed his usual feats in the air, and is slowly getting back to his best in terms of his distribution by foot. GWV threw him in the ruck against Geelong Falcons to help boost his output, and he has since had a few stints up forward both in the NAB League and Under 19 trials.

#10 Ben Hobbs
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg

June Ranking: #17

Snapshot: Hobbs is a hard-nosed, hard-working inside midfielder who loves to compete both defensively and in a ball-winning sense.

The GWV Rebels ball winner has not been able to fully show his wares in 2021 due to injury, but is proving he can break back into top 10 contention with a clean run at it. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety 17-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and has taken full toll upon his return to action.

Last month:

After enduring an injury-interrupted start to the season, Hobbs returned with a bang to thrust himself back into top 10 contention. The bull-like midfielder helped himself to 34 touches and two goals in his first NAB League outing since Round 3, before starring for Vic Country in the Under 19 trials. His willingness to hunt the ball, tackle, and then move forward to kick goals means he impacts consistently, and hopefully he can do so with an extended run.

>> NAB League POTW: Round 9

#11 Matthew Johnson
Subiaco/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
16/03/2003 | 193cm | 80kg

June Ranking: #7

Snapshot: With smooth agility and clean hands at the contest, Johnson is one of the premier tall midfielders in this year’s draft crop and has plenty of upside.

Hailed as the best tall midfielder in this year’s crop coming into the season, Johnson is one with a point of difference and a good amount of development left. The 193cm Subiaco prospect continues to put on size and can win the ball at the coalface, but stands out most with his smooth movement in traffic and clean hands around the ground. He suits an in-vogue modern day prototype and will inevitably yield comparisons to some of the currently dominant midfielders over 190cm. Johnson is already well versed in terms of representative duties and was part of Subiaco’s WAFL Colts premiership side in 2020. He also earned a senior debut this year and would have done so earlier if not for injury on the eve of season proper.

Last month:

After a three-game stint at League level, Johnson has dropped back down to the Colts competition and as expected, found much more of the ball. He notched 30 disposals and six tackles in his second game back, before a 16-touch effort in his latest outing. With good skills on the inside and a growing frame, Johnson should be dominant against his peers.

#12 Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder/Forward
2/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg

June Ranking: #14

Snapshot: An exciting forward who has transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching athletic traits both aerially and at ground level.

Another prospect out of Subiaco who played in last year’s WAFL Colts premiership, Erasmus has built on his potential this year having come in as a potential first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 Grand Final, showcasing great speed and clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this year, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with scoreboard impact remaining in his back pocket.

Last month:

Erasmus hasn’t returned to the WAFL grades since his Round 7 outing, which consolidated the exciting midfielder’s consistent start to the year. He has been going along strong in the PSA as skipper at Hale though, making him difficult to look past among the top 15 as he continues to sharpen his disposal.

#13 Josh Rachele
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg

June Ranking: #8

Snapshot: A mercurial forward who has drawn comparisons to GWS star Toby Greene, Rachele has unbelievable smarts, skills, and a keen eye for goal.

Rachele is rightly a standout among his draft class, having taken out the Under 16 Division 1 MVP award for Vic Country in 2019. He quickly went on to represent the Murray Bushrangers, averaging a tick under 18 disposals and two goals in four games as a 16-year-old. The exciting forward hails from an elite soccer background and has quick feet to show for it, as well as the smiling celebrations you’d expect on the end of well-finished goals. Rachele is lauded for his skills and smarts in the forward half, but has shown an aptitude for midfield work with his turn of speed and ability to find the ball at ground level. He’s capable of highlight-reel moments.

Last month:

While Rachele is certainly mercurial at his best, we haven’t always seen that level of form in 2021. He has essentially remained a permanent forward while turning out for the Murray Bushrangers and played the same role in his Vic Country trial outing. Rachele is finding the goals though, with a round-high six majors in his latest NAB League appearance an indicator that his best is worthy of top 10 status – if he can find it.

#14 Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg

June Ranking: #20

Snapshot: Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in the engine room, and brilliant marking ability to impact when stationed inside attacking 50.

One of the more intriguing and versatile prospects in the draft pool, Draper has garnered attention with his promising bottom-age form and continued success in the SANFL Under 18s this year. The smooth-moving midfielder has had no trouble getting his hands on the ball with more consistent time in midfield, before impacting in his resting stints up forward. He is yet another South Adelaide prospect in the mix, with his stylish form and clean hands making him easy on the eye to keen draft watchers. He is one who may feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.

Last month:

Draper is said to be sparking a bidding war between the two Adelaide clubs, which could push his value into the top 10. He started June off in the SANFL Reserves, breaking through for two games after scintillating Under 18s form. He averaged 16.5 disposals in those outings, before making a splash on his junior return with 31 touches, seven inside 50s and a goal in South’s win against Sturt. He is set for an extended stint on the sidelines having suffered a syndesmosis injury.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus

#15 Mac Andrew (MEL NGA)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg

June Ranking: #21

Snapshot: A raw tall prospect who has proven his worth in each post, Andrew’s vertical leap and fast-developing craft really catch the eye.

Another key position type who rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew will have Melbourne recruiters a little nervous with his performances to date. He now sits inside our current top 20, boasting raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever-improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons Next Generation Academy (NGA) talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Last month:

Andrew was set to add to his exciting opening rounds with a return to NAB League action, but unfortunately fell to injury early in his outing against Bendigo. Having gone down in a heavy contest, Andrew hasn’t been sighted on-field since and also missed the Under 19 trials.

>> ‘Rays on the rise

#16 Josh Fahey
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Medium Defender
11/11/2003 | 186cm | 76kg

June Ranking: #12

Snapshot: A run-and-gun rebounding defender who gives his all and boasts a raking left-foot kick, Fahey is arguably this year’s leading Northern Academy talent.

Our top-ranked Northern Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is clearly the best prospect out of the Allies crop and a real first round contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in April’s AFL Academy showcase.

Last month:

Another who has had some time away, Fahey did not take part in the Giants Academy’s NAB League stint, but made his third appearance for the Giants’ VFL last week. He was understandably quiet with seven disposals in his first outing at the level since Round 5 (May).

#17 Josh Goater
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
2/06/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

June Ranking: #19

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with explosive athletic traits and clean hands on the inside, Goater is a prospect with great potential.

Goater lays claim to one of the more impressive athletic profiles in the draft pool, particularly in a power sense. His explosive turn of speed and impressive vertical leap are traits which catch the eye at testing events and are transferred on-field, with the Calder Cannons product able to produce exciting passages of play. He has proven his worth in midfield with good ball winning strength and clean hands on the inside, but can also roll out to a wing or pinch-hit up forward. He is another who stakes his claim on high upside.

Last month:

Goater remains in the mix after some really consistent form for the Calder Cannons, as well as a strong showing in the Vic Metro trial game. As a permanent fixture in midfield, the big-bodied prospect showcased his strong ball winning ability and clean hands, playing the role of extractor and distributor perfectly. He ticked over 30 touches in his latest appearance for Calder and uses the ball efficiently, suiting his side’s kick-mark style.

#18 Jack Williams
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Ruck
1/12/2003 | 195cm | 91kg

June Ranking: #9

Snapshot: Williams is a versatile tall prospect who thrives aerially and consistently kicks goals up forward, while also rotating through the ruck or even to defence.

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams has been in sensational form at WAFL Colts level. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 23 goals in eight WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

Williams’ goalkicking record at Colts level speaks for itself, and the East Fremantle tall continues to find the big sticks consistently. He booted two majors in each of his last two outings, but was really impressive in his latest dig with 22 disposals, eight marks and 21 hitouts to continue his aerial dominance. With such a strong group of key forwards at Western Australia’s disposal, Williams’ form will have to be constant if he is to retain focal point status at representative level. He does have the added string to his bow of versatility, with a ruck chop-out proving useful at various times this season.

#19 Josh Ward
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Midfielder
15/08/2003 | 181cm | 79kg

June Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A classy midfielder who is capable of winning mountains of possessions, Ward proves a centre bounce mainstay with his clean skills and work rate.

Having started the year on the precipice, Ward has broken into and consolidated his spot among the 2021 crop’s top 25 places. The Northern Knights midfielder is one who works hard both ways and gets stuck in at the contest, able to win his own ball and distribute with clean skills to the outer. He is also beginning to showcase his own traits on the outside and can impact while resting forward, but holds clear value as a reliable ball winner at the stoppages. A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Ward is destined for the same honours as a rising draft eligible Under 19 talent this year.

Last month:

Ward has been one of the form players of the draft pool since our last edition, seeing him soar into the top 20 and look quite comfortable there. It all started with an outstanding 34-disposal effort in Northern’s win over Oakleigh, where he matched Daicos around the contest and was super productive with his ball use. Ward carried that form into the Vic Metro trial game as captain, showcasing more of his outside ability with transitional run and time in the forward half. He capped off a brilliant month of football by racking up another 35 touches and laying nine tackles as the Knights went down to Murray last week.

#20 Jacob Van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

June Ranking: #13

Snapshot: Van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands overhead and a booming kick, but has also shown potential to move further afield.

Pegged as Western Australia’s best draft prospect and potentially the leading tall coming into the year, Van Rooyen continues to impress in 2021. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in 2020’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis has halted his progress a touch, but Van Rooyen started out the season at League level and was difficult to deny for a return after showing great form in the WAFL Colts.

Last month:

Having been managed back into some form and full-time minutes via the Colts, Van Rooyen returned to the senior WAFL grade last week. He managed a combined 10 goals in his three Colts outings beforehand, but only snared one from six touches and four marks upon cracking into the League set-up for his fourth cap. With an uninterrupted run up forward and potentially some better midfield form, Van Rooyen could once again climb the order.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

#21 Cooper Murley
Norwood/South Australia | Midfielder
20/06/2003 | 178cm | 70kg

June Ranking: #18

Snapshot: A stylish forward runner, Murley holds his own on both sides of the contest and loves to break into attack with speed and slick ball use on the fly.

Murley is an exciting player in full flight, able to break forward quickly with gut running and terrific speed from midfield. He dominated the SANFL Under 18s competition last year and was part of Norwood’s premiership-winning team, showcasing his undeniable talent and upside. In 2021, his progress has been halted by injury, though the 18-year-old has already earned a Reserves berth and remains one of South Australia’s brightest prospects. Having returned from injury last month, he could well be one to rise up the board with a consistent run of form and even more senior exposure.

Last month:

Murley is another who has battled injury in 2021, but is now finding his feet having gotten back on the park. He returned via the Reserves grade but has since found form back in the Under 18s, notching two games of over 30 disposals and two goals in the last three weeks. As was the case at times last season, Murley seems a class above his peers but the true test will be how he can adapt should he be thrust back into the senior grades. If he keeps his form up, a promotion seems inevitable.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus: Cooper Murley

#22 Rhett Bazzo
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Tall Defender/Forward
17/10/2003 | 195cm | 81kg

June Ranking: #16

Snapshot: A key defender who has adjusted to a forward role in 2021, Bazzo is fantastic in his aerial judgement and clean with ball in hand.

Another of Western Australia’s many promising key position prospects, Bazzo made his name as a defender but has since shifted forward. As he did in the AFL Academy showcase, the Swan Districts product may well revert back to that defence post during state representative duties, but looks just as suited to playing an attacking role with his sound marking and use of the ball. He is another who claimed Under 16 All Australian honours in 2019, making him a well known quantity and one with plenty of class. Bazzo has shown just that in four WAFL Colts games to this point, while also turning out for Guildford Grammar in the PSA Football competition.

Last month:

Mixing his time between PSA football and the WAFL Colts, Bazzo continues to be utilised at either end of the ground. He didn’t have much to do in his lone Colts outing for the month, managing 10 disposals, two marks and eight tackles in Swan Districts’ 80-point Round 12 win over Subiaco. It was his fourth Colts appearance for 2021 and it is becoming evident that Bazzo looks most suited to his intercept marking role down back, where he is likely to be stationed for Western Australia at the Under 19 National Championships.

#23 Joshua Browne
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 185cm | 77kg

June Ranking: #23

Snapshot: An ultra-consistent midfielder who runs hard and finds plenty of the ball, Browne is one of the most in-form midfielders nationwide.

Browne is a player whose form has made him hard to deny for a spot in the top 25, with his ability to win big numbers at a remarkable rate making him one of the most consistent performers in the draft pool at present. He has built on a promising bottom-age campaign with East Fremantle to hit new heights in the WAFL Colts competition, competing with grunt at the contest and running hard to accumulate around the ground in relentless fashion. He is also quite solid defensively on the inside and is the type of player you want on your side, especially among the centre bounce mix.

Last month:

Browne’s sensational WAFL Colts form continued into June, as the reliable midfielder found plenty of the ball and even hit the scoreboard in some big efforts. Two of his last three outings for East Fremantle yielded 38 disposals, with his latest appearance also seeing Browne end up with three goals to his name against Perth. His output is undeniable and more dominant performances like that of Round 11 will only put his stocks in good stead around this even range.

#24 Darcy Wilmot
Northern Knights | Defender
31/12/2003 | 182cm/70kg

June Ranking: #25

Snapshot: Wilmot is a tenacious and brave half-back whose most flashy weapons show on the attack, as he breaks the lines with great speed and ball use.

Wilmot has thrust his name into contention with increasingly impressive performances for the Northern Knights in 2021, as well as an impressive senior debut at local football level. The small-medium defender has all the typical class and running prowess you would expect on the rebound, but is also willing to compete above his size in aerial contests. The 17-year-old still has plenty of development left as a December 31 birth, meaning he only just makes the cut to be eligible for this year’s draft. His run-and-gun style is sure to catch many more eyes as the season continues, with Wilmot a prospect truly on the rise.

Last month:

Wilmot continued his exciting form with a strong start to his month, turning out for Northern and notching 22 touches in his usual defensive post, as the Knights toppled Oakleigh. He was able to utilise his running power, speed, and sharp ball use in the trial games too, lining up across half-back and even rolling up to a wing for Vic Metro. He continues to showcase handy points of difference for a player of his size and position, essentially holding his place in our count.

#25 Blake Howes
Sandringham Dragons | Forward/Wing
7/04/2003 | 190cm/79kg

June Ranking: NR

Snapshot: One of the best athletes available in this year’s draft, Howes boasts a terrific aerial game but also competes well at ground level and shows promising versatility.

Rounding out the top 25 is another new name in the mix, but one who should be well known to keen draft watchers. Howes was an All Australian at Under 16 level, plying his trade as a high-marking forward with wonderful athleticism and clean hands. While he started the year off in that usual forward post, Howes has since shown his versatility with a shift to the wing and is a classic high-ceiling type of prospect. He was included in this year’s initial AFL Academy intake and continues to back up that selection with form fitting of his potential as a mainstay in the Sandringham Dragons’ side.

Last month:

A name which has hovered around the mark, Howes makes his Power Rankings debut on the back of some really promising displays over the last month. Since moving up to a wing for Sandringham Dragons, Howes has played the position well by getting his hands on the ball more while still showcasing his marking prowess. In finding more possessions, Howes has also proven his ground level prowess. He very nearly had a blinder on the weekend, managing 24 disposals and nine marks against Tasmania, but just falling short on the end product with four behinds. At 190cm, his athleticism and versatility will excite many watchers.

IN THE MIX:

The two to fall out of the rankings since last month’s edition are Glenelg midfielder-defender Lewis Rayson and tall Northern Knights midfielder Ned Long. Rayson continues to tick along with more midfield minutes in the SANFL Under 18s, while Long has not been sighted at NAB League level in the last month and did not feature in the Victorian trials.

West Australian goalkicking ace Jye Amiss is becoming increasingly hard to deny. The East Perth spearhead is the leading WAFL Colts goalkicking charts with 37 in nine games, proving a dead-eye with his set shot conversions and difficult to stop when stationed one-on-one inside 50. His latest outing yielded a bag of seven majors, and he doesn’t need too many opportunities to make an impact.

After snaring five goals for Vic Country during last month’s trials, Dandenong midfielder-forward Judson Clarke is climbing draft boards. His mix of pace and skill catches the eye, with his current form pointing towards top 25 potential. Sam Butler, the brother of St Kilda’s Dan is another in that boat, but was recently injured having made a successful transition into midfield. GWV teammate Sam Breuer has also done so, only from defence, showing good speed and intent around the ball.

The likes of Zac Taylor and Lachlan Rankin are clever footballers who also enjoyed solid trial games to go with their NAB League form, so too Connor Macdonald. Back over in South Australia, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera could be another to watch after breaking through for his League debut, having strung together some form at the Reserves level.

The race to be number one: What separates Daicos and Horne?

IT’S the great debate surrounding this year’s AFL Draft. Nick Daicos and Jason Horne, the race to be number one. On June 1, Draft Central released its first monthly Power Rankings edition for 2021 and there were plenty of questions raised about the pointy end of the list. Daicos has arrived on the scene with plenty of fanfare and has since dominated both the media landscape, and on-field arena. But one prospect remains in the way him being the outright frontrunner this year – Horne.

We take a look at some of the key arguments to spawn on either side of this debate, essentially answer the question of why Horne topped our Power Rankings list and if Daicos stands a chance of snatching the crown come July’s edition.

Nick Daicos
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

DOB: 3/01/2003
Height/Weight: 183cm/72kg
Position: Midfielder

Season Averages:
2021 NAB League

4 games | 35.5 disposals | 22.3 kicks | 13.3 handballs | 6.5 marks | 3.8 tackles | 6.0 inside 50s | 2.5 rebound 50s | 2.3 goals (9 total)

Jason Horne
South Adelaide/South Australia

DOB: 21/06/2003
Height/Weight: 184cm/78kg
Position: Midfielder

Season Averages:
SANFL League

8 games | 15.0 disposals | 10.6 kicks | 4.4 handballs | 4.4 marks | 3.9 tackles | 3.4 inside 50s | 0.5 rebound 50s | 0.6 goals (5 total)

MEN AGAINST BOYS

The first place distant draft watchers often look when comparing players is the stats sheet. While it’s a fairly useful performance indicator, in this case it needs much more context than is afforded through pure numbers. Daicos is miles ahead of Horne on that basis alone, averaging 20 more disposals and managing just under double Horne’s goal tally in half the amount of games. He leads the NAB League for total disposals, kicks, and goals, while also topping Oakleigh’s charts in a number of other categories. His numbers are ridiculous, there is no denying it, and Horne’s don’t make for bad viewing either.

The difference is the level they’re playing at. Victoria’s elite talent pathway proudly boasts about providing over half of the total draft pool each year, and while that is fact, the standard of the competition has been a touch sub-par in 2021. That is not to discredit Daicos, talent pathway staff, or any of the footballers who have stuck true to their dream throughout a difficult period, but the game of catch-up remains evident after a year away from competitive action and incredibly rushed preseasons.

On the other hand, Horne’s 2020 campaign was merely disrupted, as opposed to cancelled. He got a taste of senior football as a bottom-ager and is better for it now, performing consistently in what is arguably the nation’s strongest state league at the moment. The 17-year-old has fallen below 10 touches just once in eight games and has impacted with more permanent midfield time. He also performed brilliantly in the SANFL Under 18s competition for two seasons as an under-ager.

Through no real fault of his own, Daicos is yet to get an extended run at senior level. He was due to slot into Collingwood’s VFL set-up during the NAB League’s month-long break, but a lingering corked thigh and overall management of his workload meant that did not come to fruition. The saying goes you can only beat who’s in front of you, and Daicos is doing that, but the different levels these two are competing at is a big factor in what their numbers look like.

THE ACADEMY GAME

So these two compete at different levels currently, but what happened when they ran out on the same field this year? The pair was chosen to represent the AFL Academy in a showcase game against Geelong VFL in April, often seen as a good sighter for the year’s talent. The Under 19 Academy was trounced by 130 points, with few prospects truly able to enhance their credentials on what was a tough day at the office.

Daicos was the AFL Academy captain and carried the role with aplomb having also experienced leadership with Oakleigh in the NAB League. Horne has too, at representative level no less, but Daicos got the nod here. The second big tick for Collingwood’s father-son hopeful was that he ended the game as the Academy’s clear highest ball winner. Not only that, but his 26 disposals were double that of Horne.

Now the context of competition is out of the equation, surely it’s conclusive that Daicos is the better-performed prospect – on pure numbers. It’s not quite that simple, as you’ll find below.

>> Scouting Notes: AFL Academy vs. Geelong VFL

IMPACT PER POSSESSION

It’s all well and good winning bucketloads of the ball, but what are these two doing with it?

Horne’s lower disposal rates in comparison do not necessarily indicate lesser impact. 15 of his disposals are arguably more damaging than if Daicos had the same number, but the latter’s sway on the game comes through sheer accumulation and an uncanny knack for knowing when and where his next possession will come. Horne’s penetrative kick and bullet-like passing can be a real weapon, matched with the positive intent to put the ball in ominous areas. His knack for taking eye-catching overhead marks and laying crunching tackles also point towards his undeniable status as a high-impact player.

Daicos is usually a wonderfully clean and clever user of the ball, with the added trait of bringing his teammates into the play. He constantly looks to give and go; kicking short and running hard to get the handball back, or chaining by hand up the field to help bring some fluency to his side’s play. It means he is a productive and creative type in midfield, just in a different way to Horne. He is better able to find the ball in all areas of the ground with his work-rate and smarts, but is that kind of accumulation always as impactful as possible? The verdict is out, but he can certainly have an overwhelming effect on the game with his rate of accumulation, popping up everywhere.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Judging such high-level AFL Draft prospects to the most minute details is often a fickle exercise which does little to actually highlight what they do so well. In this case, it works to better understand some of the key parameters and contexts required to make such judgements. At the end of the year when both likely attract top two selections, and throughout their careers the discussion will rear its head – again and again. Walsh/Rozee, McCluggage/Taranto/McGrath, Hodge/Judd/Ball – all examples of exactly that. It never goes away, but hopefully now there is a better understanding of which factors weight in the favour of both Daicos and Horne, for fans, pundits and recruiters alike to make their own judgement calls. It’s all subjective.

2021 SANFL Under 18 Player Focus: Hugh Jackson (North Adelaide)

NORTH Adelaide midfielder Hugh Jackson is one garnering attention with his eye-catching stat lines and prolific ball winning ability. He has enjoyed a sensational start to the SANFL Under 18s season, averaging 35 disposals and six clearances per his nine games with great consistency in his output. The Rostrevor College graduate is fully focussed on his football in 2021, working hard on his contested game and becoming a more complete midfield package.

His Roosters came up against Sturt for a second week running in the junior grade, trumping the Double Blues to the tune of 38 points at Unley Oval. Jackson was again instrumental in the victory, gathering 41 disposals and 12 clearances to become the prospect placed under our SANFL Under 18s Player Focus microscope this week. We run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 9 showing.

Hugh Jackson
North Adelaide/South Australia

DOB: 3/05/2003
Height/Weight: 181cm/70kg
Position: Midfielder

2021 Averages:

Under 18s: 9 games | 34.7 disposals | 19.1 kicks | 15.6 handballs | 7.4 marks | 3.6 tackles | 5.6 clearances | 6.0 inside 50s | 3.3 rebound 50s | 0.2 goals (2 total)

2021 SANFL Under 18s, Round 9 | North Adelaide 14.12 (96) def. Sturt 8.10 (58)

#12 Hugh Jackson (North Adelaide)

Stats: 41 disposals (30 kicks, 11 handballs), 5 marks, 3 tackles, 12 clearances, 11 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

Jackson made a red-hot start for the Roosters, taking up his usual spot at the centre bounces and proving the go-to rover. He won the first centre clearance of the game and was able to win a couple more in the opening minutes by staying on the move and pushing off his opponent smartly.

He tended to wheel quickly onto his left side once in possession, pumping his legs to get into space before delivering a long kick forward. Once a couple of his initial inside 50 forays failed to hit targets, Jackson fed a lateral handball out of the next centre bounce in a handy adjustment.

The prolific ball winner was rotated off at around the nine-minute mark, earning a short rest before again being sighted about three minutes later. He showed clean hands to pick up off the deck at speed and flick out handballs, but his repeated attempts to burst through tackles saw some of his disposals scuppered under pressure.

Overall, it was a productive period in terms of ball winning, where Jackson was able to break into double digits for disposals and drive North forward with ball in hand.

Q2:

The second term was a touch quieter by Jackson’s standards, despite again winning a good amount of ball. He saw repeat possessions in a few early passages but did much of his work under pressure, sending kicks straight up in the air, along the ground or with an awkward spin around the body.

Jackson still managed to latch onto the ball at stoppages and work into space on occasion, but even then his decision making and execution by foot let him down. His go-to was often a long kick down the line, but they would often be thrust to contests or outnumbers on the wing with no direct target in mind.

He found himself being tackled a lot more and attracted a couple of free kicks, using one to deliver inside 50 but seeing the pass dropped by his leading teammate. While able to register eight kicks for the quarter, Jackson’s impact came mostly at the contest with little damage coming away from it.

Q3:

Jackson lifted once again in the third term, working his way around the outside of stoppages and finding a touch more room to operate. Instead of being caught as he did in the previous period, the North midfielder looked to dispose of the ball quickly and that led to some rushed execution under pressure.

He had a nice moment where he prized the ball out of a pack on the wing, got moving quickly into space and delivered a neat ball inside 50, only for it to again be fumbled by a teammate. That lowering of the eyes is something Jackson can do to further hurt the opposition, with his contested game another clear area for improvement.

Having again cracked into double digits for disposals throughout the term, Jackson was in the thick of things but continued to turn the ball over under Sturt’s pressure around the ball. His output was there, but the end product was not.

Q4:

Jackson looked to finish strong with some added defensive acts, though his light frame made for tough work when looking to stick tackles. He also continued to accumulate a touch more away from the stoppages, dropping back to help transition out of defence and trying to drive forward on the outer.

His disposal by foot remained a touch off from those positions, but Jackson proved much neater when going inside forward 50 and provided some handy score assists. He hit Isaac Keeler and Adam Heath with short passes going inside 50, just putting enough on them for the key forwards to mark low before hitting the scoreboard.

It was a solid finish to the game for Jackson, as he again racked up possessions and did so with different methods. He was eventually able to sure up his disposal and ensure his work going forward resulted in North boosting their score.

Final thoughts…

There is no doubting Jackson’s ability to find the ball. He is prolific in that area and it isn’t a bad key strength to have, especially when the numbers look so good after nine rounds of Under 18 football. As a small midfielder, Jackson does not quite have the agility or strength to consistently burst through traffic, though it seems he is actively trying to boost his contested game. He works well on the outside of stoppages and gets his legs pumping to find space before sending long kicks forward. His neat-looking disposal could do with some sharpening, and being able to inflict more damage with his wealth of possessions will prove a big step in his development.

Image Credit: Naomi Jellicoe/The Advertiser

Analysis | The importance of fitness testing in modern football recruiting

THERE has been plenty of debate when talking about potential AFL prospects pertaining to the differences between judging ‘athletes’ against ‘pure footballers’. There is an argument that fitness testing should be taken with a grain of salt and that the eye test is most important, but when it comes to players being drafted – especially in the first round – prospects are often at the pointy end in at least one fitness test.

For anyone still unfamiliar with the main fitness tests conducted during preseason and at the AFL Draft Combine, they are as follows:

  • Agility Test
  • 20m Sprint
  • Standing and Running Vertical Leap
  • Yo-Yo Test
  • 2km Time Trial

Last year’s number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan excelled in the 20m sprint and vertical leap tests, with his on-field speed off the mark and jump at the ball highlighting just why he excelled at those tests. The combine, if anything, gives reassurance that those traits are indeed elite and will help try and separate talents like Ugle-Hagan from any other key forwards in that year’s crop. Athleticism is very important in modern football, with players quicker and bigger than what most talented youngsters are used to at the development levels. One club which has seemingly identified this in modern times is the fast-rising Essendon Football Club.

Since 2014, Essendon seems to have had a clear strategy with the types of players they have looked at with their high picks. Below is a list of the Bombers’ top 40 selections since 2014 and which tests those players excelled at. In a lot of cases, they were top 10 in those tests at the end-of-year combine.

2014:

Pick 17 – Jayden Laverde
(Didn’t test but athleticism was a highlight of his game)

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford
Agility

2015:

Pick 5 – Darcy Parish
Average in most tests

Pick 6 – Aaron Francis
(Didn’t test but like Laverde, athleticism was a highlight in games)

Pick 29 – Alex Morgan (Since delisted)
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 30 – Mason Redman
3km time trial

2016:

Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint

2017:

Nil

2018:

Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap

2019:

Pick 30 – Harrison Jones
Vertical Leap, Yo-Yo, 20m Sprint

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint

2020:

Pick 8 – Nik Cox
20m Sprint, 2km TT

Pick 9 – Archie Perkins
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

Pick 10 – Zach Reid
Vertical Leap

Pick 39 – Josh Eyre
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

There is one big outlier here and that’s one of this year’s Brownlow contenders in Darcy Parish, who was only average in test results during his draft year. This could be seen as the biggest clue as to why athletic testing shouldn’t be so important, but it can also be argued that one of the main reasons for Parish’s form is due to improving his running capacity to an elite level.

Even their most recent mid-season selection, Sam Durham tested well for vertical leap and endurance, so its no surprise at least in Essendon’s case that athletic traits are a huge influence in whether the player gets taken. The current favourite for the Rising Star, Nik Cox has taken the competition by storm with his mix of athleticism and height, with that height another factor in the early Essendon selections. It was a matter of time before Cox got his nomination for the Rising Star award and in retrospect, we should have all seen his selection by Essendon coming considering all the traits he possesses are key indicators in the Bombers’ recent draft strategy.

Using this history, we can even try to narrow down the possible field of players that Essendon will look at with its first round pick in 2021. A trio of Sandringham Dragons instantly come to mind with Campbell Chesser, Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan. All three players tested well for the 20m sprint and vertical leap during preseason, highlighting their power and athleticism. With all measuring at over 185cm, they even fill a midfield need for the Bombers. They have another prospect right under their noses in Josh Goater who made his Essendon VFL debut not long ago and is an athletic beast. His speed and leap tests were all elite and at 190cm, he would be another Essendon style selection.

The modern footballer is taller, faster and can run all day, and it is getting harder and harder for pure footballers to make it at the top level. If young, pure footballers can start to develop athleticism in their game, even if it’s an elite endurance base, that’s at least a start in the right direction.

Height used to be a detractor for clubs but now with the likes of Caleb Daniel, Kysaiah Pickett, Brent Daniels and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, that is no longer the same obstacle for potential draftees as it used to be – though you also need to have that speed and class. If you are small and have the athletic traits and determination to make it as an AFL player, then you will be on the right track. If you are tall and have those traits, your chances of making an AFL list are even higher.

Fitness testing is an important tool, not just for clubs and recruiters, but also for up and coming players – especially those at the very early level. I’m hopeful coaches of junior football are able to set up some of these tests to help young players find their best traits, enhance them and embrace them. Understandably, it takes time, money and effort on their part and not every junior club or parent has that available. Programs such as Rookie Me, the official fitness testing partner of the AFL, allow junior athletes to experience professional environments at an early age, proving another handy head-start for budding footballers.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 7

THE 2021 NAB League season rolled on over the weekend amid the fourth Victorian lockdown, with a pair of country-based fixtures making up the extent of the Round 7 action. Geelong Falcons and Bendigo Pioneers came away victorious on Sunday, with players from either side impressing, among others. Check out the top performers from both fixtures in our opinion-based Scouting Notes.

>> RESULTS: Round 7 snapshot

GWV REBELS 4.10 (34) def. by GEELONG FALCONS 8.8 (56)

GWV Rebels:

#1 Sam Butler

Butler’s midfield transition continued on Sunday, with the explosive Rebels prospect showing good burst on the inside and a knack for finding the ball. Amid tricky conditions in the first half and beyond, Butler’s clean hands were a point of difference at the contest, while his turn of speed allowed the Rebels to fluently shift to the outside. He looked to grow in confidence as the contest wore on, proving one of the most impactful players in term three and producing a flashy highlight in the final quarter as he spun out of traffic.

#5 Josh Rentsch

On what was an unideal day for marking key forwards, Rentsch managed to make the most of his opportunities for GWV. Most often stationed one-out inside attacking 50, the Rebels skipper looked strong as usual in marking contests and showed massive improvement in his set shot conversion. All three of his goals came via said method, with the latter two well-hit bombs from around the arc. Rentsch went up with one hand on a couple of occasions early on and found it understandably difficult to clunk marks, but was sure to follow up and get involved on the spill.

#6 Marcus Herbert

He may not have been as prolific as other midfielders, but Herbert again stood out with his sheer class on the ball. The smooth mover was particularly terrific in term two, showcasing his innate ability to find clear passages away from the stoppage and delivering forward by foot. That finishing product did let him down at times going inside 50, and even with a set shot on goal during that second quarter. His attempt on goal came shortly after being caught holding the ball, as Herbert backed himself at the next contest to burst away and won a high free kick for his efforts.

#8 Josh Gibcus

It was an up-and-down day for the top 15 prospect, with his key strength of intercept marking clouded by the Ballarat fog and slippery yellow ball. Gibcus was quiet in the early-goings, getting to his usual positions and rising for marks, but struggling to hold onto them amid the tricky conditions. He was moved into the ruck during term three in a ploy to get him more involved, and the 18-year-old did so with his sizeable vertical help helping him win nine hitouts. Having been moved back to defence in the final quarter, Gibcus made some good defensive efforts – including a relieving spoil and last-ditch chase to pressure a Geelong shot on goal.

#15 Nick Hodgson

One of the Rebels’ most consistent ball winners, Hodgson proved as much again on Sunday with a game-high 26 disposals. His combative style suited the contested theme of the game, as he was able to win the ball on the inside and look to bustle out of congestion. Hodgson won a whopping seven free kicks – four more than any other player – having gotten his hands to the ball first and shown a handy knack of slipping his shoulders up under tackling pressure. He got decent penetration on his kicks when bombing long out of the contest and did his part going the other way by laying 13 tackles. Has firmly put his hand up for Allies honours later in the year.

Others…

The likes of Jack Bambury and Hamish Sinnott were solid in defence, both able to get their hands on the ball and help provide some drive on the rebound. Charlie Molan continued his trial on the wing as the Rebels continue to try and nail down his best position, while the dynamic Kai Lohmann did some nice things to get the ball but looks to be working on his decision making and execution going forward.

Geelong Falcons:

#8 Jhye Clark

The bottom-ager was fantastic in-and-under the packs for Geelong, getting his hands on the ball and proving up for the fight in tough conditions. Essentially a permanent fixture in the Falcons’ midfield, Clark was strong over the ball and competed well against some more mature bodies, winning 16 disposals and laying five tackles. He proved a touch raw in his execution by foot coming away from the contest, but has clear strengths on the inside and plenty of time to add more strings to his bow.

#11 Cooper Whyte

Another mainstay in the Falcons’ midfield, Whyte proved a reliable tone-setter in the engine room. He roved the taps well to win the first clearances in terms one and three, getting his legs pumping and delivering the ball long by foot. He was aggressive in looking to both break and apply tackles at the contest, while also working to receive the ball with run on the outer. Whyte was quite clean in tough conditions too, both in ball winning and marking situations. He finished with 20 disposals and five inside 50s in a solid performance.

#12 Noah Gribble

Having proven himself as a hard-running wingman this season, Gribble tried his hand on the inside during the first half of this outing. He was able to find the ball and worked typically hard away from the contest, but arguably looked more comfortable once shifted back to the outside after half time. He was not afraid to fend off or break tackles in order to manufacture more time and space, but found the going tough in that department at times. His accumulative factor came into play as conditions cleared, ending with 21 disposals in a competitive showing.

#18 Blake Reid

Reid’s day started a little shakily with a turnover he’d like back, as he looked to kick into the corridor, but he was otherwise quite reliable off half-back for the Falcons. The top-ager was tasked with his side’s kick-in duties and while not every disposal came off as planned, he looked to create from behind the ball. Reid also positioned well and took a couple of relieving intercept marks, while using his run to break forward hard. He did so on the outer, but also won some key balls at defensive stoppages and ended with a team-high 24 disposals.

#26 Olivier Northam

The bottom-aged ruck showed plenty of promise in just his second NAB League outing for Geelong. He took on the primary ruck duties and after giving away his fair share of free kicks in the early stages, worked much more positively into the contest. Northam showcased a handy leap and terrific mobility for his size, moving well in traffic and competing hard on the follow-up at ground level. Later in the game, he came to prominence with a few solid aerial marks and his overall impact was quite well-rounded. One to watch.

Others…

Mitch Knevitt was his usual self in midfield, winning a good amount of ball for the Falcons. Top-ager Lachlan Kidd also found plenty of it, while local level gun Tom Gillett came into the side and showed good forward craft with 1.2 on debut. Bottom-ager Ted Clohesy also found the goals and showed some good dash as he worked back towards goal from up the ground.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 8.5 (53) def. by BENDIGO PIONEERS 12.12 (84)

Murray Bushrangers:

#2 Charlie Byrne

Reverting to his usual half-back role, Byrne finished with a game-high 33 disposals and 10 rebound 50s, looking to provide plenty of offensive drive for the Bushrangers. He took on much of the kick-in duties and was typically kick-first in his ball use, though his execution proved hit and miss at times throughout the game. The top-ager still looked to get his legs pumping with some good run on the outer, while pressing forward aggressively on a couple of occasions – with one instance ending in a second term goal.

#3 Toby Murray

The raw and lean tall prospect again showed promise, rotating through the ruck and enjoying a solid battle with Bendigo’s Jed Brereton throughout the day. His vertical leap and reach were on show at the centre bounces, with those same assets proving handy as Murray gained the confidence to fly for aerial marks. His ability to extend is great in those instances, and he did well to do so both up forward and when dropping back. Murray also followed up well, laying a lunging holding the ball tackle in term one and competing at stoppages.

#4 Josh Rachele

The highly-touted Murray talent started in his usual forward post but took some time to get going, forced to work high up the ground to get his hands on the ball in the first half. He was not afforded much time or space and had to work hard to manufacture it. His presentation as a marking option was solid, a feature which brought his clean hands to the fore and loomed as an opportunity for his usually good foot skills to take toll. Having moved into midfield in the second half, Rachele won a few clearances but struggled to have a massive impact as his side went down.

#29 Noah Bradshaw

The Brisbane Lions father-son hopeful was a strong figure in midfield for Murray, proving difficult to stop in full flight. He was combative at the contest and looked to break out of congestion with aggression, using a powerful turn of speed and fend to move onto the outer. Bradshaw was also able to accumulate away from the contest a touch more after half time, finishing with 19 disposals and 10 tackles.

#45 Oliver Hollands

A familiar name out of the Bushrangers program as the brother of Gold Coast draftee Elijah, Hollands made his mark on debut. He was stationed out on the wing and positioned well on the outside of each contest, proving a viable option to receive and work the ball forward. The bottom-ager showed good intent in possession, having the urgency to move it on quickly when necessary and buying enough time on the ball with his ability to take the ball cleanly. His strong hands also translated overhead with a couple of handy marks, making for a well-rounded maiden performance.

Others…

Kade Chalcraft and Maclayn Hallows were among those to find plenty of the ball for Murray, while bottom-ager Max Clohesy was productive out of defence and Jake Hodgkin showed a bit in his first NAB League appearance for the year. Richmond NGA prospect Achaung Agog was also impressive in his move to the forwardline, while Joshua Tweedale had his moments aerially before being stretchered off in the final term.

Bendigo Pioneers:

#8 Hugh Hamilton

One of the best performers across both sides, if not the best, Hamilton was a strong presence around the ball and hit the scoreboard when stationed up forward. He started well with a solid overhead mark under oncoming pressure, before converting his first of three goals from the set shot. Hamilton would go on to stand up in tackles and drive the Pioneers forward, though his use by foot could have done with some sharpening. Nonetheless, he went on to snap a classy goal in the second term having forced a ground ball turnover in the pocket, and added a third in the following quarter with another well-hit set shot.

#11 Cobi Maxted

Maxted’s usually accurate radar was a little off in the early stages, missing three attempts on goal in the first quarter, but he adjusted well to eventually find the big sticks. Having started up forward, he was shifted into midfield and competed well there with his clean hands and strong body. His rotation back to the forwardline yielded a goal in the second quarter – a nice crumb and dribble from the pocket – before Maxted went on to work high up the ground and provide a strong marking target. He was gifted another goal in term three, taking advantage of a downfield free kick close to goal to cap off another solid outing.

#17 Oskar Faulkhead

A really smooth mover off half-back, Faulkhead proved steadfast in his positioning and intercept duties, while also providing positive run on the rebound. He often pushed high up the ground and left his opponent to force turnovers, while also running off to find handball receives before delivering long by foot. Faulkhead lays claim to an effective side-step and made a few opponents look silly, buying a bit more time on the ball as he looked further afield. He finished with an equal team-high 23 disposals and a combined seven breaches of either 50-metre arc.

#24 Caleb Ernst

Often a strong presence for the Pioneers, Ernst again proved as much as he built into Sunday’s contest. The top-ager showcased his ability to not only stand up in tackles, but also power out and get his side moving forward. He provided good intent defensively with hard tackles, and presented up to half-forward as a marking option before also being utilised at the centre bounces. Ernst fared well in terms of scoreboard impact too, booting three goals in the final quarter with terrific marking deep inside 50 as a one-out target. One of those majors was a standout, as Ernst won the ground ball and powered towards goal from the pocket before finishing coolly.

#57 Noah Long

Another of the impressive batch of bottom-agers to feature in this game, Long was hard-at-it all game in midfield. While he stands at 178cm, the 16-year-old showed great tenacity to win the ball and was often seen at the bottom of packs. He looked to baulk clear with quick steps or distribute cleanly by hand, while also applying some hard tackles at the contest. He didn’t have as much impact on the outside but played his role well, accumulating a touch more during the third term and finishing with 20 touches in a promising debut performance.

Others…

The likes of Anthony Depasquale and Harvey Gallagher both ticked up over 20 disposals for the Pioneers in midfield, while developing tall Jed Brereton showed plenty as he rotated through the ruck from defence, along with fellow ruck Jacob Nihill. Ricky Monti was one who competed hard, as Harley Reid showed some dash on debut and another bottom-ager in Jason Gillbee continued his promising form on the outer. AFL Academy member Cooper Hamilton showed class in patches, rotating through the middle from defence.

Image Credit: Martin Keep/Getty Images via AFL Photos

2021 NAB League Boys snapshot: Round 7

THE 2021 NAB League season rolled on into Round 7 amid the current Victorian lockdown, with a quartet of country regions back in action after a fortnight away. Two fixtures took place in Ballarat and Echuca respectively, with the Geelong Falcons and Bendigo Pioneers picking up wins. Check out the key figures and stats in our weekend snapshot, with Scouting Notes to follow in the evening.

GWV REBELS 4.10 (34) def. by GEELONG FALCONS 8.8 (56)

IN A SENTENCE:

The Geelong Falcons upset the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels amid heavy fog to pick up their first win of the season, powering away with four goals to nil in the final quarter.

TEAM STATS:

  • GWV Rebels won the handballs (99-84) and inside 50s (42-38)
  • Geelong Falcons won the kicks (157-143) and marks (47-41)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Nick Hodgson (GWV Rebels) 26 disposals (19 kicks), 13 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s
  • Sam Butler (GWV Rebels) 20 disposals, 4 marks, 9 tackles, 1 inside 50, 2 rebound 50s
  • Josh Rentsch (GWV Rebels) 6 disposals, 4 tackles, 1 inside 50, 8 hitouts, 3 goals
  • Blake Reid (Geelong Falcons) 24 disposals (21 kicks), 4 marks, 5 inside 50s, 5 rebound 50s
  • Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons) 21 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s
  • Mitch Knevitt (Geelong Falcons) 20 disposals, 4 marks, 4 tackles, 2 rebound 50s, 2 behinds

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Nick Hodgson (GWV Rebels)
4 – Blake Reid (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Cooper Whyte (Geelong Falcons)
2 – Jhye Clark (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Sam Butler (GWV Rebels)

NEXT UP:

GWV Rebels vs. Northern Knights | Mars Stadium | Saturday June 19, 11:30am
Geelong Falcons vs. Sandringham Dragons | Mars Stadium | Saturday June 19, 2:00pm

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 8.5 (53) def. by BENDIGO PIONEERS 12.12 (84)

IN A SENTENCE:

Bendigo Pioneers led at every break, piling on scoreboard pressure throughout the contest to come away comfortable 31-point victors against the Murray Bushrangers.

TEAM STATS:

  • Murray Bushrangers won the handballs (181-136), marks (91-80), and rebound 50s (42-25)
  • Bendigo Pioneers won the kicks (206-188), inside 50s (54-34), tackles (82-68), and scoring shots (24-13)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Charlie Byrne (Murray Bushrangers) 33 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 10 rebound 50s, 1 goal
  • Kade Chalcraft (Murray Bushrangers) 29 disposals (22 kicks), 7 marks, 5 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s, 1 goal
  • Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers) 21 disposals, 5 marks, 7 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50
  • Hugh Hamilton (Bendigo Pioneers) 23 disposals, 7 marks, 3 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 3 goals
  • Harvey Gallagher (Bendigo Pioneers) 22 disposals, 2 marks, 11 tackles, 3 inside 50s
  • Caleb Ernst (Bendigo Pioneers) 15 disposals, 6 marks, 3 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 goals

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Hugh Hamilton (Bendigo Pioneers)
4 – Charlie Byrne (Murray Bushrangers)
3 – Caleb Ernst (Bendigo Pioneers)
2 – Noah Long (Bendigo Pioneers)
1 – Oliver Hollands (Murray Bushrangers)

NEXT UP:

Murray Bushrangers vs. Tasmania Devils | RAMS Arena | Saturday June 12, 12:30pm
Bendigo Pioneers vs. Tasmania Devils | RAMS Arena | Sunday June 20, 12:00pm

Image Credit: Martin Keep/Getty Images via AFL Photos

SANFL U18 Scouting Notes – Round 8

THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Under 18s returned and rolled on into Round 8, with the latest weekend of action producing plenty more excellent performances from budding 2021 AFL Draft prospects. In the next SANFL Scouting Notes edition for 2021, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 19 talent hub members and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

GLENELG 8.10 (58) def. by WEST ADELAIDE 9.8 (62)

By: Tom Wyman

Glenelg:

#5 Hugh Stagg

Hugh Stagg once-again appeared a class above the rest at ACH Group Stadium. The bull-like utility went head-to-head with fellow ball-magnet Cade Kennedy at various stages when deployed through the middle. However it was his work in attack which almost won the game for the previously undefeated Bays. He opened the scoring for the home side by caressing through a stab kick on the run from a tricky angle. His third-term set-shot cut the margin to two points, before he added a third major late in the frame to extend Glenelg’s lead. He could’ve added a couple more goals too, finishing with three behinds. Stagg’s ability to burst through would-be tacklers with speed, strength and bustle set his game apart. Also showcasing his overhead marking strength, Stagg concluded the match with 30 disposals, five marks (two contested), four tackles, seven clearances and eight inside-50s in another sensational performance from the teenager.

#6 Darcy Gluyas

With teammate and potential first-round draftee Lewis Rayson missing from the side, Gluyas spent some extra minutes on the ball, while still impacting the game when moved to the forward flank. One of several Tigers boasting the versatility to fill a role almost anywhere on the ground, Gluyas was heavily involved early, showcasing plenty of composure and an effective side-step. Although he dropped a couple of marks he would’ve normally taken, Gluyas slotted an important goal from a 45-metre set shot in the second term. Overall, the consistent Gluyas made another solid contribution for Glenelg, accumulating 15 disposals, three marks, three tackles and three clearances.

#12 Brodie Edwards

Brodie Edwards started in the centre-bounce and spent much of the day rotating through the midfield for the Tigers. Edwards was typically workmanlike throughout the game, working hard to apply plenty of pressure around the contest. He was, however, caught out for a lack of pace in the defensive half when he was mowed down from behind. It was a quieter day for Edwards, who finished with 14 disposals, however he still was able to demonstrate level-headedness with ball in hand and a willingness to apply plenty of pressure, laying seven tackles.

Others: Full-back Dayne McGary was strong in the defensive half for the yellow and black. His strength overhead was a real feature of the game, and so too was his ability to read the play and peel off his direct opponent to impact the contest. He was also careful and assured by foot and provided some serviceable rebound. He gathered 22 disposals, 11 marks and five rebounds.

Playing his third game of the season, Benjamin Ridgway collected 19 disposals, three marks, five tackles, three clearances and a goal for the Tigers, with Darcy Porter and Bailey Durant also among the home side’s best performers.

 

West Adelaide:

#3 Charlie Pridham

The ever-reliable Charlie Pridham produced another clean and composed performance in his customary role as the kicker across half-back. Pridham backed his skillset in even when under pressure and displayed good vision to spot up several difficult targets throughout the morning. The blonde-haired ball magnet, who is averaging 26.9 disposals per game in 2021, was largely clean by foot when kicking in from defence and finished the game with 25 disposals, three marks, four tackles and seven rebound-50s.

#10 Cade Kennedy

Following a 49-disposal effort last weekend, West Adelaide captain Cade Kennedy once again led from the front in the middle. Kennedy threw himself at the contest, winning plenty of contested ball and displaying some excellent stoppage nous. When the Tigers won the ball in the coalface, Kennedy ran hard defensively and looked to pressure the ball carrier, as evidenced by his equal team-high ten tackles. He was also effective in general play, working into helpful spaces and often stationing himself in the centre square as an in-board option. Although he wasn’t always effective by foot, Kennedy finished with 23 disposals, four marks, five clearances and five inside-50s.

#13 Hugh Desira

Wingman Hugh Desira played an important role in West Adelaide’s upset win. The hard-working midfielder used the ball well on the outside but also proved more than capable when moved into an inside role, winning a team-high six clearances. His quick snap goal five minutes into the second term helped continue West’s early dominance. In arguably his best game of the season to-date, Desira gathered 19 disposals, two marks, six clearances and four inside-50s.

Others: Midfielder/forward Jesse Thackeray finished the game as the leading ball-winner on the ground, gathering 31 disposals to go with seven marks (three contested), three clearances, six inside-50s, four rebounds and a goal. Opportunist forward Saleh Baltagie booted the first goal of the game from a free kick then capitalised on the loose ball twice to finish the game with three majors. His pressure in the forward half was excellent and his goals were reward for effort.

West’s dual-ruck set-up of Tom Scully and Oscar Steene overwhelmed the undersized Tigers big-men. They finished with 24 and 27 hit-outs respectively and, importantly, worked well around the ground, remaining clean below their knees and effective in general-play.

STURT 5.4 (34) def. by NORTH ADELAIDE 20.16 (136)

By: Tom Wyman

Sturt

#12 Jamie Taylor

Prolific midfielder Jamie Taylor was clearly Sturt’s best player despite the 102-point smashing. He started at the centre-bounce and showed a couple of positive glimpses, including a damaging fend-off, effective side-step and good penetration by foot, in what was an overwise dour day for the Double Blues. One of very few Sturt players who looked capable of matching the Roosters star-studded midfield, Taylor worked hard around the ground and finished the game with ten marks. He also managed 30 disposals, six clearances and a couple of inside-50s.

Others: The Sturt backline was peppered from start to finish, which placed defenders Mitch Felton and Kade Harvey under the pump. Given the ball breached Sturt’s defensive 50 on no less than 67 occasions for the game, the duo did just about all they could. In charge of the kick-ins, Felton provided some important rebound from defence, concluding the game with 24 disposals, three marks, four tackles and 13 rebounds. His racking foot skills were a standout. Meanwhile, Harvey gathered 21 disposals, eight marks and five rebound-50s.

Blake Fidge booted the clubs only two goals of the second-half, while George Pope (23 disposals, eight clearances and five inside-50s) and Patrick Tidemann (22 disposals, ten marks, four inside-50s and five rebounds) were others who could hold their heads up high.

 

North Adelaide

#3 Adam Heath

North Adelaide’s second term acceleration was largely thanks to a four goal quarter from key forward Adam Heath. Heath benefitted greatly from some excellent inside-50 foot skills from the talented Roosters midfield brigade, always playing in-front, timing his leads well and marking relatively unobstructed. His set-shot goal kicking was solid, albeit for a couple of misses. He will rue hitting the post from point-blank range early in the second, however his four-goal heroics more than made up for the blemish. Heath finished the game with 20 disposals, five goals, 12 marks and three inside-50s.

#4 Isaac Keeler

The athletic key forward again proved far too good for the Sturt backline as the Roosters pilled on goal after goal. He wasted little time getting into the contest, having a set-shot sighter early in the first term. He booted his first goal by intelligently staying down when others flew and slotting the regulation goal after the ball fell into his hands. Keeler nailed his second from just inside the 50-metre arc on the tightest of angles, and added a third from a set-shot after simply outreaching the Sturt defender. Possessing natural forward instincts, Keeler often read the play a fraction earlier than everyone else, and these football smarts, combined with his explosive acceleration on the lead, saw him have several shots on goal. Keeler also had an impact when he worked his way up the ground, with his leap allowing him to get on top of the Sturt ruck department. The bottom ager’s speed and mobility allowed him to have a genuine impact at ground level too. Keeler finished the game with 19 disposals, ten marks (two contested), three tackles, ten hit-outs and three majors.

#12 Hugh Jackson

It was another strong showing for Hugh Jackson, who has proven himself to be one of the best ball users in the nation so far this season. Even though the Sturt midfielders were clearly well aware of his damaging left foot and ability to accumulate the ball at will, they were unable to get near the Roosters number twelve. He worked tirelessly throughout the game, moving well in traffic and swinging onto his left-foot whenever possible. North Adelaide were always going to be hard to stop when Jackson and O’Loughlin were afforded time to deliver it inside 50 to damaging effect. Jackson, who leads the competition for disposals by no-less than 48 to West’s Cade Kennedy, added another 37 to his mounting tally, while also managing 12 marks, six clearances, 11 inside-50s and four rebounds in another wonderful performance.

#15 Harvey Harrison 

Prolific onballer Harvey Harrison took a little while to get going, but when he did, his speed and run and carry through the middle of Unley Oval was great to watch. His kicking was inconsistent but his stoppage work was excellent, scrapping around at ground level and feeding it out to the plethora of Roosters waiting to receive. He calmly curled home a major on his left-foot to inflict more pain upon the opposition in the dying minutes of the third term. One of the competition’s best performers over the opening two months of under-18 action, Harrison finished the game with 31 disposals, seven marks, nine clearances and three inside-50s.

#22 Blayne O’Loughlin

Those who have had the pleasure of watching Crows Next Generation Academy member Blayne O’Loughlin go about his business this season will hardly be surprised to see him notch up another 42 disposals in the Roosters 102-point win. Blayne started down back but wasn’t afraid to leave his man and push up around the ball to impact at the stoppages. O’Loughlin’s ball-use got better as the game wore on, with many of his earlier touches being relatively simply short passes. His run and carry through the middle of the ground was important, as was his crafty disposal and calmness under duress down back. O’Loughlin was effective between the arcs, accumulating seven inside-50s, seven rebounds and ten marks to go with his 31 kicks and 11 handballs.

#26 Kelsey Rypstra

The diminutive Rypstra has been one of North Adelaide’s most underrated performers so far in 2021, and his performance against the Double Blues was excellent. He snapped the first goal of the game for the red and whites then, in the final term, added a second on the run after getting on the end of a fast break from the centre bounce. Rypstra’s ball-use, like so many of his teammates, was clean and often damaging. His kicking, particularly going forward, made the job of the Roosters forwards much easier. In addition to his two majors, the half-forward/midfielder finished the game with 24 touches, six marks and seven inside-50s.

Others: Speedster Zyton Santillo played an important role for the Roosters through the midfield. Although he may be small in stature, Santillo broke tackle after tackle and won his fair share of contested ball at the coalface but, importantly, delivered the ball well by foot. He applied plenty of pressure, finishing with seven tackles to go with 23 disposals, six marks, three clearances and three inside-50s.

James White and James Willis both found plenty of the ball for the Roosters. White was clean throughout the contest, gathering 26 disposals, four marks, three tackles and four inside-50s. Willis managed 23 touches, four marks, four tackles, six inside-50s and a goal and showed some draftable qualities, including a quick turn of pace, run and carry and a booming long kick. He was unlucky to have a long-range effort on goal touched on the line.

CENTRAL DISTRICTS 7.5 (47) def. by SOUTH ADELAIDE 14.10 (94)

By: Liam Badkin

Central Districts:

#3 Isaiah Dudley

Displayed his classy playmaking ability again through the midfield, finding the ball 17 times in another impressive outing for his club. His ability to find the ball on the run was on display, hitting up teammates from all over the ground. Rarely took the ball when he was stationary at stoppages, always seeming proactive and attempting to generate some run around the contest. Missed an opportunity to hit the scoreboard in the final term when his team faced an impossible deficit. One of the better ball users in the league and displayed it fully throughout this contest.

#21 Austin McDonald

One of the standout players for his side, McDonald was instrumental through the midfield, finding the ball 24 times and rarely wasted it. His hands within the contest are as elite, and constantly generated some run by moving the ball on quickly. When giving the ball to teammates, he found them on the run, and was brutal around the contest. Headed forward and booted two goals on a day where his side was desperately short on scoring opportunities. No Central Districts player found the ball more than McDonald, and his run of strong form continues.

Others: Through the midfield, Tomas Hahn laid a whopping 19 tackles in one of the toughest performances of the year. Also found the ball 23 times, showcasing his all-around ability, while Adam Deakin was a constant threat in the backline with six rebound-50’s.

 

South Adelaide:

#4 Jack Dealan

The talented youngster was once more a looming threat up forward for South Adelaide, booting three goals in another solid outing. Dealan’s arial presence was once again on display, highlighted by a strong contested mark. Two second-quarter goals proved perfect in demonstrating his ability to rip a game apart in a short period of time. Dealan’s draft stock continues to rise and will likely rank towards the top when his draft eligibility comes in a couple of years’ time.

#10 Isaac Birt

The midfielder was solid without being outstanding in the win for South Adelaide, racking up 15 disposals. With the return of Arlo Draper, Birt spent more time on the outside of the contest, and when given time and space, hurt the opposition with his outside run. Took a strong contested mark to add another bow to his game, and his disposal efficiency improves on a weekly basis. Might have had less of the ball than recent weeks, but certainly lost no respect from coaches and teammates with a decent outing.

#33 Will Verrall

The bottom-aged ruckman beat his opponent, and certainly got the job done in his role, proving crucial to the side’s victory. Finishing with 33 hitouts, Verrall gave his midfielders first use, with his ruck craft improving on a weekly basis. He combined well with a variety of South Adelaide’s midfielders, and even followed up his tap work on plenty of occasions, finishing the match with 19 disposals and even winning eight clearances of his own. Did his draft stock no harm at all.

Others: Draper was strong through the middle, finishing with 27 touches and his contested work was once again a clear standout. Defender Lachlan Hayes found plenty of the ball, racking up 25 touches and consistently repelled the ball from defensive 50.

NORWOOD 5.9 (39) def. by WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS 13.12 (90)

By: Liam Badkin

Norwood:

#11 Connor Kent

The midfielder stood out on a tough day for the side’s engine room, finishing with 32 disposals in a tough performance. With virtually no ruck dominance all day, Norwood had to get creative in getting their clearances, so Kent and other mids began reading the opposition’s tap. Had the opportunity to kick a much-needed goal for his side, but the shot just missed. Nine tackles and seven clearances were reflective of his willingness to get his hands dirty in the contest.

#25 Matthew Dnistriansky

Racked up a game-high 36 disposals from the backline, and worked hard to try and defend countless Eagle attacks on goal. Always clean with his disposal, Dnistriansky took risks with his kicks, and while they didn’t always come off, some attacking ball movement was a nice change of pace on a day where his side was convincingly beaten in most areas of the ground. Finished with eight rebound-50s as he tried to get the ball moving forward for his team.

Woodville West Torrens:

#16 Will Pearce

Was once again one of the focal points for his side, when they were moving the ball forward, mainly due to his strong arial presence at times combined with his impressive work when the ball hit the deck. Could have had four majors, but missed two gettable shots, so only finished with two snags for the day. 13 disposals showed that he can be more than a threat in front of goal, finding teammates in space when he was given the opportunity.

#18 William Neumann

Spending time through the midfield and up forward, Neumann was once again lethal for the winning side, finishing with 17 disposals in a typically tough outing. Like previous weeks, his pressure was outstanding around the contest, constantly harassing opponents into making errors that he or teammates would swoop on. Hit the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, as his side went into party time with the game locked away. Certainly lost no fans with this showing.

COMING SOON | Draft Central’s June 2021 Power Rankings

THE Draft Central Power Rankings are back in 2021, with the year’s first edition dropping on Tuesday June 1. With plenty of football already played across the country, and much more to come, we bring you our list of top 25 AFL Draft prospects based on factors such as form, current ability, and scope for the future. Here, you can find a sneak peak at some of the themes throughout the list.

At the very pointy end, it is no secret by now that the race for number one is down to two candidates. South Australian midfielder Jason Horne was the consensus number one coming into the year, having cracked the SANFL League level as a bottom-ager after dominating the Under 18s. As the Victorians returned to action in 2021, a worthy contender solidified in Nick Daicos, the Collingwood father-son prospect who has put up ridiculous numbers in the NAB League.

In a welcome change to last year’s crop, there are far less top-end talents already tied to AFL clubs. While Daicos could well yield a bid with pick one, there is only one other father-son hopeful among our top 25, and two academy products. With a handful of academy bids made within the first round last year, the talent pool promises to be a bit more open this time around.

Another contrasting element to last year’s crop is the greater amount of medium-size players at the top end, with this class dubbed a midfielder’s draft. The first true key position prospect comes in at number nine, with two in the top 10 and just six among the overall 25. There are a bunch of talls likely to be snapped up in the mid-season draft though, who may have added to that mix.

Looking at the spread across each state and territory, it is unsurprising to see Victorians make up 13 of the 25 players, including six of the top 10. That split is indicative of the overall draft pool each year, with just over half typically coming out of Victoria. Vic Metro went undefeated throughout this age-group’s Under 16 carnival back in 2019, so have plenty of representatives fulfilling their potential in this lot – even after an unforeseen year off.

Victorian football factory, Sandringham Dragons boasts three talents on our list, which all feature within the top 15. Another strong talent producer of late has been South Adelaide, who also have three prospects within this group overall. There are five South Australians included, with two making up an ultra-competitive top five.

Elsewhere, there is also a strong West Australian influence once again, with six future Black Duck representatives earning their spots in our June count. The Sandgropers also bring a distinct tall flavour to the mix, as four of the half-dozen players measure up at 193cm or above. Competition for spots in the West Australian spine will be tough this year, for sure.

There are talents emerging from the Northern Academies who are also around the mark, though the Allies are the least-represented group in our initial list. The talent pool evens out quite a bit past the top 15-20, so competition for spots will be hot and there are sure to be plenty of changes as the National Championships eventually roll on in.

Stay tuned on all our socials and right here on afl.draftcentral.com.au for all the latest AFL Draft content, including a sneak peak at the prospects to watch at this year’s mid-season draft (June 2), and of course, our first Power Rankings edition on Tuesday, June 1.

Who will be number one? Which players will squeeze into the top 10? Who will be unlucky to miss out? Get predicting, and let us know who you think should feature ahead of the big drop.

Scouting Notes: 2021 SANFL Under 18s – Round 7

THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Under 18s returned and rolled on into Round 7, with the latest weekend of action producing plenty more excellent performances from budding 2021 AFL Draft prospects. In the next SANFL Scouting Notes edition for 2021, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 19 talent hub members and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

NORTH ADELAIDE 17.10 (112) def. NORWOOD 6.6 (42)

By: Tom Wyman

North Adelaide:

#4 Isaac Keeler

Ultra-talented bottom-ager Isaac Keeler added another four goals to his season tally, proving far too good for the Norwood backline. Having spent time at full-forward and as the number one ruckman at stages throughout the season, Keeler began the clash in attack. He pushed up the ground nicely, gaining separation on the lead with ease and providing the Roosters midfielders with a spot-up target. At full-stretch, he proved near-on impossible to defend. Along with Keeler’s supreme athleticism, he is also a beautiful set-shot for goal, with his natural, laid-back style cooling converting more often than not. He was even effective when deployed a kick behind the play for a brief period in the second half. Suspect his speed, ground-level cleanliness and leap will cause plenty of headaches for defenders in years to come. Keeler finished the game with 15 disposals, eight marks (two contested), five hit-outs and four goals.

#12 Hugh Jackson

The form-player of the competition was at it again on Prospect Oval, starting from where he left off last round. Jackson waisted no time in getting started, seemingly involved in everything for the red and whites. At the stoppages, the Rostrevor College prospect often lined up on the defensive-side, and if he didn’t win the clearance himself, his Roosters teammates found him by hand and allowed him to swing onto his trusty left-foot. His foot skills are a huge weapon and his ability to pick-off target-after-target has been a treat to watch throughout the season. An aesthetically pleasing midfielder who moves so well, his quick handballs always seemed to find their targets regardless of the nearby pressure – a testament to his skill and vision. Although he didn’t find as much of the ball in the second half, Jackson had already made his mark on the contest and finished with 27 disposals, eight marks, three clearances, eight inside-50s and a goal.

#15 Harvey Harrison

Harvey Harrison has been forced to play second-fiddle to Hugh Jackson for most of the season to-date, but he finished as the best player on the ground in the Roosters 70-point win over Norwood. One of the SANFL Under-18 competition’s most prolific ball-winners, Harrison had managed just one goal for the year before the clash with the Redlegs. However that soon changed, as he nailed four majors, including a beautiful running goal from just inside-50 to highlight his precise ball-use at top speed. A line-breaking midfielder who runs and runs, Harrison was also prepared to crack in and do the hard stuff, laying nine tackles. His contested ball winning and stoppage nous was excellent, as the teenager finished with 26 disposals and eight clearances.

#22 Blayne O’Loughlin

The Adelaide NGA product lined up down back at the opening bounce but quickly worked his way into the on-ball rotation. After proving himself as one of the best small defenders in the country over the first two months of the season, O’Loughlin showed he can also play a role through the midfield. He fought hard at ground level, winning his fair share of contested ball and using his nimble footwork, composure and poise to work his way through congestion on several occasions. However it was O’Loughlin’s long-range goal in the third term which was the highlight. He finished another solid outing with 22 disposals, three tackles and three rebounds.

Others:

Zippy small midfielder Zyton Santillo has been one of North Adelaide’s best performers this season and his round seven effort was no exception. Providing plenty of speed and creativity, Santillo zigged and zagged his way through congestion with ease, and used the ball well inside-50. He gathered 20 disposals, five marks, four tackles, five inside-50s and a goal.

His fellow midfielder James Willis also had an excellent game. He was strong at the coalface, winning six clearances, and tackled hard all day. He finished with 25 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and five inside-50s. Half-forward Sam McTaggart was heavily involved from the get-go and concluding the game with 20 touches, seven marks, six tackles and a goal. Ruckman Oliver Moors was utterly dominant, winning 45 hit-outs. He also found plenty of the ball around the ground, gathering 16 touches, four marks and five clearances.

Norwood:

#11 Connor Kent

Midfielder Connor Kent was Norwood’s best player in what proved to be a difficult day at the office for the visitors. The leading possession-winner on the ground, Kent’s ability to win the contested ball and distribute it cleanly by hand was promising. With the Roosters dominating the hit-outs (54-17), the Norwood midfielders were on the back-foot for most of the day and spent a considerable portion of the day chasing the likes of Jackson, Santillo, Harrison and O’Loughlin. However Kent, arguably Norwood’s most consistent player in 2021, can hold his head up high, finishing the game with 31 disposals, four marks, five tackles and three inside-50s.

#25 Matthew Dnistriansky

Talented backman Matthew Dnistriansky stood tall down in defence, despite the Roosters belting it inside-50 on 54 occasions. The clean-kicking Dnistriansky read the play well and was strong in the air. Although he did try to bite off a bit more than he could chew at-times, particularly when looking to bring the ball back into the corridor, Dnistriansky was largely effective by foot. He provided a game-high 11 rebounds, to go with 29 disposals, eight marks, three tackles and four inside-50s.

Others: 

Half-back Riley Verrall was serviceable in defence, collecting 22 disposals and using it well by foot for the most part. He also registered five marks, three tackles and six rebounds. Forward Jett Boxer kicked three of Norwood’s six goals. His strength overhead was a highlight, hauling in nine marks for the game, three of which were contested. He also managed 23 disposals, three tackles and a couple of hit-outs. Elsewhere, Peter Minervini managed 16 disposals and seven clearances, while Louis Joseph collected 16 disposals, six tackles and a goal.

GLENELG 23.11 (149) def. SOUTH ADELAIDE 5.6 (36)

By: Tom Wyman

Glenelg:

#5 Hugh Stagg

Hugh Stagg has emerged as one of the best players in the under-18 competition this season, and his round seven effort was similarly dominant. Involved in everything from the get-go, Stagg hit every contest with the sort of speed and power of a Patrick Dangerfield-type, looking to use his superior size and strength to burst his way through traffic. Not one to fear using the fend-off, Stagg clearly relished the competitive side of the game. Although not everything he touched turned to gold, with some of his kicks lacking penetration or just missing their desired target, you just felt like something was going to happen whenever he was around the ball. His overhead strength saw him take a couple of nice grabs up forward, as he ended the game with three goals. The goal kicking forward/midfielder, who seems to be going from strength-to-strength with each game, gathered another 31 disposals, nine marks (three contested), three tackles, four clearances and five inside-50s in his sides 113-point demolition.

#17 Corey Brougham

Strong forward Corey Brougham was the beneficiary of the Bays midfield dominance and excellent ball-use inside-50. The clear leading target, Brougham was seemingly always in-front of his man, which allowed him to get first bite at the ball on the lead. His clean hands overhead were once again a big part of his game. Brougham has a simple and effective set-shot routine, but he would have loved to have converted a couple of gettable chances in-front of the big sticks. Nevertheless, the powerful forward finished with 13 disposals, six goals and five marks (three contested) in a dominant display.

#20 Lewis Rayson

Rayson started the game down back, but as we’ve seen all throughout the season, he proved just as effective when thrown into the middle. In either role, his attack on the football and ability to break the lines with both his speed and penetrating foot skills proved damaging. Deceptively strong overhead for a player of his size and stature, Rayson once again played a big part in securing Glenelg their seventh win of the season. Rayson finished the game with 27 touches, five marks, two tackles, four clearances, five inside-50s, four rebounds and a set-shot goal in another well-rounded performance.

Others: 

Utility Darcy Gluyas showed some real class with ball in-hand. His composure was excellent and his ball-use was effective. He finished with 25 touches, seven marks, three tackles and three clearances. Brodie Edwards was also typically calm and assured with ball in-hand. He slotted a goal after the half-time siren and gathered 20 disposals, four marks, five tackles and five clearances. Down back, Cooper BeeckenBailey Durant and Harrison Kaesler generated some meaningful rebound, finished with four, five and seven rebounds respectively. Ethan Murdock and Brodie Patter each booted four-straight for the home side, with Daniel Nicotra and Matthew Wolfenden also contributing two apiece.

South Adelaide:

#4 Jack Delean

Having led the Panthers to a flag in the SANFL Under-16 competition earlier in the year, young forward Jack Delean once-again suited up for South Adelaide’s under-18 side for their clash with the undefeated Glenelg. And he immediately looked the most promising of South’s forwards. Touted as a likely high-pick despite being a couple of years away from draft eligibility, Delean’s aerial ability was immediately obvious, running back with the flight of the ball and hauling in a great grab early in the first term. He kicked his first goal after finding himself in the right place and the right time and also found himself in position-A to soccer home his second. He pushed up the ground well and finished the game with 12 disposals, five marks (four contested) and three goals.

#10 Isaac Birt

Consistent midfielder Isaac Birt was probably South Adelaide’s best player in what was a difficult day for the Panthers. Birt found himself spending more time on the inside this week, with star midfielders Arlo Draper and Matthew Roberts both out of the side. He seemed to relish the added responsibility and really flew the flag even as the Tigers seemed to pile on goal-after-goal in the second half. Birt found plenty of it and used the ball fairly well, especially when he found himself with some time and space. He concluded the game with a team-high 21 disposals, eight marks, three tackles, six clearances and five inside-50s.

#39 Will Verrall

The Panthers may have been soundly beaten on the day, but bottom-aged ruckman did his reputation as one of the state’s most exciting key position prospects no harm. His tap-work and ruck craft at stoppages was impressive, as regularly palmed it down to the Panthers on-ballers with the sort of touch rarely seen in young rucks. He combined particularly well with midfielder Luke Mitton, who seemed to read his tap-work the best of anyone. Verrall followed-up well at ground-level and finished the game with 14 disposals and 33 hit-outs.

Others:

Diminutive on-baller Luke Mitton was certainly one of his sides best, gathering 17 touches, five tackles, nine clearances  and five inside-50s. Cooper Rogers found himself involved in the contest as a high half-forward, winning 12 touches and five inside-50s, while Lachlan Hayes and Dylan Miller were effective in defence, finished with 11 rebounds between them.

CENTRAL DISTRICT 12.17 (89) def. STURT 6.11 (47)

By: Michael Alvaro

Central District:

#3 Isaiah Dudley

Always a creative type through midfield, Dudley proved once again on Saturday that he is exactly the player Centrals would want delivering the ball inside attacking 50. While some of his darting kicks fell short, the Adelaide NGA prospect was often able to hit leading targets with great class on the move, finishing his productive forward runs. That same active streak could also be observed at the stoppages, as Dudley looked to take the ball in motion and either burst forward, or draw an opponent before dishing laterally. He would also repeat run in an attacking sense if the opportunity to go inside 50 presented, as the highlight of his day a long goal which came on the end of two running bounces through the corridor. As expected, he was also clean below his knees and clever around goals, with another major coming in term four from a coolly finished snap.

#7 Austin Poulton

Poulton was part of Centrals’ forward-midfield rotation and like Dudley, was able to compliment his ball winning feats with some scoreboard impact. He started the game as well as anyone, getting busy with presentation up at half-forward, before making his mark with two first-term goals. Both were quickfire, opportunistic shots out of congestion which showed he knew exactly where the big sticks were. Poulton also got his hands on the ball through midfield, but looked most impactful when receiving up on the arc where he would twist, turn, and pick the right option looking laterally or towards goal.

#21 Austin McDonald

In his first Under 18s outing for the year, McDonald picked up from where he left off by unsurprisingly leading all comers with 28 disposals. The bottom-ager simply knows how to find the football, earning or receiving it at the contest and also working to be an option around the ground. His use by hand looked typically sound, and his willingness to move the ball on quickly is a trait which suits the Centrals style of play. McDonald often looked to snatch meterage by foot, but has plenty of area for growth with his kicking – even if some of those left-foot floaters found the intended target. As a bottom-ager, he has plenty of time to fill out his promising skillset.

#29 Saxon Evans

Evans has established himself as a dominant kind of ruck at Under 18s level and was again in the thick of things for Centrals on Saturday. He had his moments at the centre bounces and stoppages with some nicely directed hits to his rovers, but was arguably more impactful with his work around the ground. Evans was able to find the ball between the arcs and at either end of the field – including an contested mark in defensive 50 as Sturt took a long-range set shot. In his time up forward during the second half, Evans continued to prove a solid aerial target, capping his day with a free kick conversion in the fourth quarter after assisting a Brodie Tuck major.

#38 Brodie Tuck

Another impressive bottom-ager for Centrals, Tuck has some nice traits for his size. He worked well in tandem with Jayden Matz up forward to provide a reliable marking target, with his strong hands and contested marking ability coming to the fore. The bigman opened his account in the first term with a straightforward mark and goal deep inside 50, before adding a second in the third term after taking a strong pack mark. He could well have ended up with an absolute bag if not for inaccuracy, finishing with four behinds and a couple of attempts which failed to register scores. While his overhead marking was a highlight, Tuck also showed an uncanny knack for finding space in tight areas, able to shrug off opponents or fein a handball to buy a bit more time on the ball. His poise in those situations was good, proving a nice extra string to his bow.

Others:

The Bulldogs had a number of strong performers, with the likes of Henry Ratcliff, Tahjin Krieg, and Tomas Hahn proving productive members of the forward-midfield rotation. Jayden Matz booted three goals and presented nicely both inside 50 and up the ground, while Matthew Borlace positioned expertly to intercept in the back half and got his side going with positive movement on the rebound.

Sturt:

#8 Lachie Thomas

The hard-working wingman was sighted running deep into either arc, providing some reinforcement on the last line of defence while also pushing forward aggressively. Not only did he work hard up and back, but Thomas also competed in the air and on the ground, proving nice and strong in the contest. His efforts to drop back and help the defence with intercept marks were notable, as were a couple of running-bounce passages going the other way, with Thomas working well in space to create some drive on the outer.

#12 Jamie Taylor

A relatively permanent part of Sturt’s midfield group, Taylor won the first centre clearance of the match and was often able to get his hands on the ball at stoppages. He had a team-high six clearances which allowed him to put the ball into dangerous areas and give his forwards opportunities to strike with quick delivery into the attacking arc. He booted a goal in the second term and could have had another after the siren, but put the shot wide for no score. In what was a solid performance from the engine room operator, he had little trouble getting his hands on the ball and imposing himself on each contest.

#20 Jaymes Tragakis

Another productive member of the midfield group, Tragakis had a nice purple patch in the second term and provided Sturt with some forward drive out of the middle. He was able to work forward and find the ball in advanced areas, not afraid to get his legs pumping with some run-and-carry before delivering inside 50. At the stoppages, he peeled off well on a couple of occasions to get a handball receive in space, allowing him to stream forward unimpeded. One of his best moments started with a possession at half-back, which he followed up to receive back and continue his run before delivering a goal assist inside 50.

Others:

Jake Aish was the Double Blues’ leading ball winner and was a constant in midfield, as Patrick Tidemann lit up the outside on numerous occasions with electric run-and-carry. Kade Harvey proved reliable down back with strong marking, while using his kick-in duties to gain meterage and rebound out of the defensive arc. All 21 of his disposals were kicks, with 12 of them rebound 50s. Archer Bawden was another who had his moments, clunking some nice intercept marks late in the piece.

WWT EAGLES 13.5 (83) def. by WEST ADELAIDE 13.9 (87)

By: Tom Cheesman

Eagles:

#16 Will Pearce

Pearce was the Eagles’ most prominent contributor up forward in this contest. He provided a reliable target for teammates kicking down the line, took some strong marks on the lead and hit the scoreboard with four goals. His third term was a standout, where he nailed two goals on the run (including one from the 50-metre arc) and another from a set shot, helping his side erase the five-goal deficit and hit the front just before the final break. Although Pearce missed two very kickable shots early in the match, the work he did to earn these goal-scoring opportunities were highlights. One was a clever front and square in the first term, and the other was a strong contested grab in the second term after brilliantly working his opponent under the ball. Throughout the match, Pearce brushed off oncoming tacklers with ease, collected ground balls cleanly and pushed back to help his midfielders defend in transition. Pearce’s delivery into the forward 50 was also consistently effective, including when he hit Samuel Harnas lace out on the lead in the second term. Pearce finished with 13 disposals, five marks (two contested), three inside 50s and four majors.

#18 William Neumann

Neumann was another of Woodville-West Torrens’ best players in their four-point defeat. Rotating between midfield and forward, Neumann tirelessly hunted the ball all day, applied strong pressure at stoppages and helped out his teammates when they were under pressure around the ground. Neumann proved that he is a tough player during this contest, as he took multiple very solid hits and kept his feet on each occasion. His ability to take contact from the opposition before cleanly disposing of the ball with quick hands is a major strength, and this opened up the play for the Eagles in several instances. Neumann also used his body well in marking contests, laid some strong tackles and hit the scoreboard with three majors, including a nice set shot in the final term. He finished with 24 disposals, six marks, six clearances, three tackles and three goals.

Others:

Dustin Launer (24 disposals, four tackles, four clearances) and Sam Nicholls (16 disposals, three tackles, three clearances) worked hard all day for the hosts. Speedster Jay Watson (two goals, 14 disposals, seven marks, three tackles) had some important moments up forward.

West Adelaide:

#3 Charlie Pridham

Pridham continued his brilliant season for the Bloods on Saturday at Maughan Thiem Kia Oval. His ball use coming out of defence was outstanding, as he found targets with ease down the wings and through the corridor. The small defender’s ability to find the footy is profound, and his teammates love getting the ball in his hands because of his reliable decision-making and impressive foot skills. Pridham works hard into space to earn uncontested possessions, rarely panics with ball in hand and is not afraid to take heavy contact from the opposition despite his short stature. Pridham finished with 31 disposals (26 kicks), four marks, four inside 50s and three rebound 50s.

#10 Cade Kennedy

Kennedy put in of the best Under 18 performances you will see in 2021 on Saturday, collecting an incredible 48 (yes, 48) disposals (including 34 kicks) to go with 15 marks, nine clearances, seven tackles, seven inside 50s, five rebound 50s and a goal. For AFL Fantasy fans out there, that is 209 points in one match.

Kennedy used the SANFL bye last weekend as an opportunity to make his A-Grade debut for the Mitcham Hawks in the Adelaide Footy League, and it is clear that this experience playing against stronger bodies in the seniors was great for his immediate development. Returning to the Under 18s with aplomb, Kennedy was every bit as dominant as his statline suggests. He was impactful at the clearances, used his pace to breakaway from opponents, initiated plenty of link up through the middle of the ground and worked hard into defence to help his side extract the ball from dangerous areas.

Many of his 48 touches came across the half-back line, where he released teammates into space and started attacking forward thrusts with clean ball use. Kennedy’s kicking, an area that he has needed to work on in the past, was very effective in this contest. He has a reliable left-foot (opposite foot) kick as well, a rare but important attribute for a player to have in today’s game. The number of uncontested marks he took was astounding, and each of these provided his side an opportunity to control the ball and set up across the ground to stretch the defence.

At stoppages, Kennedy showed the ability to keep his feet while being tackled, which allowed him to distribute clean handballs to teammates in space on the outside. If no handball options were on offer, he was more than willing to throw it on the boot and get the ball moving forward. In the third term, Kennedy kicked one of the goals of the day when he intercepted an opposition handball and brilliantly booted a snap off just a few steps to put his side back in front. In typical Kennedy fashion, he immediately got on with the job and won the next centre clearance as well. Kennedy is undoubtedly one of the South Australian prospects to keep an eye on as the 2021 season progresses.

Others:

Jesse Thackeray (25 disposals, seven marks, five clearances, one goal) was important in the midfield, while Ben Burbridge (19 disposals, six marks, four inside 50s, one goal) used the ball effectively around the ground. Ruckman Harry Barnett (12 disposals, 19 hitouts, four marks, four inside 50s) showed impressive agility for his size and Luke Young (17 disposals, three marks, three tackles, two goals) had some great moments up forward.

Image Credit: Hannah Howard / SANFL

2021 NAB League: Round 4 – Debuts galore as Academies, bottom-agers roll through

AFTER a month-long hiatus, the NAB League returns on Saturday morning as five Northern Academies are welcomed to the fold. The Queensland academies – Brisbane and Gold Coast – will face Northern Knights and Dandenong Stingrays respectively in a Preston double-header, while the NSW academies – GWS and Sydney – take on Geelong Falcons and Gippsland Power in Werribee.

Elsewhere, a Craigieburn triple-header on Sunday sees the Tasmania Devils lock horns with the Northern Territory Thunder Academy on neutral turf. Hosts, Calder Cannons open that grand day of action against Bendigo Pioneers, as the Eastern Ranges and GWV Rebels close out the nine-game round.

Opportunity awaits for bottom-aged prospects too, who were essentially held back during the first three rounds this year to provide ample opportunity for top-age talent to shine. All bar one Victorian talent region will field 17-year-olds in Round 4, along with Tasmania and the Academies, with the Under 17 Championship squads being finalised nationwide.

THE YOUNG GUNS – U17s

Round 5’s standalone opener at Trevor Barker Oval sees Sandringham take on Western, with both sides introducing at least one Under 17 prospect apiece. The Dragons have named lively forward Harry Sheezel, who is dangerous around goals and has impressed in each trial or carnival outing thus far. Ben Hempel is another young Dragon named in the side. Cameron Kizan looms as a new Jets’ under-age representative, set to rotate from the bench after lining up on a wing in the Victorian Under 17 trial games for Metro.

Geelong and Gippsland welcome the NSW academies, with the Power due to unveil a host of up-and-comers against Sydney. Zane Duursma is a name which catches the eye, but the brother of Port’s Xavier is a fantastic talent in his own right. A rare 2005-birth in this mix, he will run out against players three years his elder, but looks to cut the difference with his skills and poise in tight spots. The Power have also named promising half-back Jonti Schuback, while Cooper Vickery and tall Harvey Howe will start on the pine.

Geelong looks poised to start a trio of its Under 17 prospects against the Giants Academy, in important positions too. 195cm bigman Olivier Northam is the Falcons’ starting ruck, while midfielder-forward Jhye Clark is poised to enter via the centre bounce mix. Ted Clohesy is another to watch in the Falcons’ forward half.

Saturday’s other double-header sees Northern look to unleash versatile 194cm prospect Dane Harvey, as he is named on the bench while goalsneak Jason McCormick earns a spot in the forwardline along with even more fresh faces. The Knights take on Brisbane, who have also named a 17-year-old in Bailey Tome, in midfield.

Likewise, Dandenong has a few of its own Under 17 inclusions for its clash with Gold Coast. Henry Hustwaite and Ned Moodie are set to start on the bench, as Jess McManus takes up a starting spot at centre half-back. The Suns will also bring in some under-agers, with Jared Eckersley another starting down the spine, while Marlin Corbett will rotate off the pine.

While some of Oakleigh’s talented bottom-agers will have to wait a little longer to crack the Chargers’ stacked lineup, 200cm ruck-forward Will Elliott gets his chance.  Murray will also have at least one Under 17 in its squad on Saturday, with Joshua Tweedale, a 198cm ruck from Wangaratta included in the squad.

Looking across the team sheets for Sunday’s triple-header, and Eastern has a bunch of youngsters ready to impact. Small midfielder Harry Flynn is one to watch in the guts, while Lewis Hayes has also shown plenty of promise as a tall defender. Also among the group of fresh Ranges faces are Kai Windsor, Lachlan Reidy, and Hayden Smith.

GWV will field its share of Under 17s as well, with Felix Fogarty and Aaron Cadman named on the bench. Both loom as forward options, with Fogarty the taller of the two at 197cm.

In Bendigo’s bout with Calder, Jason Gillbee will come in as a rare 17th-year player with games already under his belt, as Ben Cameron also lines up for the Pios. Calder will unleash the very promising midfield pairing of Caleb Burquest and Paul Pascu, who should both get a look-in for the final Metro squad.

An exciting talent to watch out of the Northern Territory Academy is Beau Tedcastle, a livewire small forward with senior experience under his belt in the Top End. The Thunder face Tasmania, who have given ample opportunity to some under-agers already. Among them, 2005-birth Ryley Sanders has been named with Lachlan Cowan, as at least four others look like cracking the Devils’ side this week.

THE RETURNEES – U19s

While the next generation rolls through, some familiar names will also line up once more for their respective regions. Plenty of eyes will be on Murray and Carlton VFL midfielder Zavier Maher as he comes in fresh off a terrific senior outing for his local club. Young Guns showcase representatives Cameron McLeod and Patrick Parnell will also suit up for the Bushies, against an Oakleigh side with strong top-age talent. Among the Chargers’ brigade is Sam Tucker, who comes in for his first game this year, while Ned Moyle and Youseph Dib are at the top end of those returning from VFL duties – both with Collingwood.

Sandringham ruck Felix Flockart, a 2001-birth, will also get a run for the Dragons as he stakes his claim for mid-season draft selection, with the likes of Charlie McKay and Luke Cleary again set to turn out for the ridiculously strong talent region. Cody Raak is another mid-season candidate to watch in that game, lining up for Western in his usual centre half-back post.

Blake Reid and Noah Gadsby are a couple of handy inclusions for Geelong, who have a solid bunch of 19th-year talents. Northern will be happy to see leader Joel Trudgeon in the squad, with Ben De Bolfo and Dominic Akuei listed in defence along with Regan Uwandu, an exciting type who plays his first game for the year after an injury lay-off. Speaking of, Bayleigh Welsh will finally get to run out for Dandenong, named at half-back as former Hawthorn trainee Will Bravo remains in midfield.

Key forward Sam Paea is among a few Calder prospects to come in after gaining experience in the VFL, named alongside Young Guns representative Sam Clohesy. Among the Young Guns group for Bendigo, Caleb Ernst will look to carry on his impressive form up forward, with skipper Jack Evans also set to return after making his VFL debut. The Pioneers have a good few who remain at that level, too.

Tasmania pair Oliver Sanders and Tyler McGinniss will be in the mix for the Devils having made excellent starts to their seasons, enough to be called up to North Melbourne’s VFL team. In the round’s final game, watch for Marcus Herbert and Fraser Marris in GWV’s midfield, while Marc Massarotti and Jake Arundell form a lively tall-small partnership in Eastern’s forward 50.

THE ACADEMIES

While there is arguably less top-end talent across each academy this year than we have seen previously, fans of all clubs involved and from the Top End will be keen to see what their representatives produce. Out of the NSW lot, GWS standout Josh Fahey has not been named, but mid-season draft candidate Josh Green will start at centre half-forward. Sam Stening is another dynamic type to watch for the Giants up forward, with crafty small Kai Watts his state’s Under 16 MVP in 2019. Elsewhere, Sam Frost (half-back) and Jack Driscoll (ruck/defence) are among those with recent VFL exposure.

For Sydney, eyes will remain on the likes of Marco Rossmann and Pierce Roseby as they return in Swans colours. Both missed out on being drafted last year, but bring class and strong ball winning ability respectively. The likes of Toby Alker and Jeremy Woodford were solid state representative at Under 16 level, along with smalls Felix Rogers, Jordan Endemann, and Byron Middleton.

On the Queensland side of things, Suns Academy member Austin Harris looms as his state’s best talent. He’ll look to provide some outside run and class against Northern, while Bodhi Uwland is a developing type to watch in defence and through midfield. The Suns’ side will also be spearheaded by Will Bella, the brother of Gold Coast AFLW ruck, Lauren. Jed Foggo is another to watch, while Finn Brown has shown good form in midfield and Thomas Hofert is a known key position quantity.

For the Lions, Lochlan Harrop looms as an important figure at the heart of the starting lineup. James Packer is another among the 2003-born crop, while the likes of Connor Bulley and Shatna Cashen-Harris headline Brisbane’s top-age group. In terms of the NT talent on show, livewires Ronald Fejo and Andy Moniz-Wakefield should catch plenty of eyes, while Tedcastle will be the star small forward. Jaeden Watts is another to look out for, along with Jason Baird and Christos Gikas. A bunch of the NT boys have also gained senior experience in the NTFL, which should put them in good stead here.

OTHER NOTES…

Collingwood father-son prospect and potential top pick Nick Daicos will lead Oakleigh out having been managed in recent weeks, robbing him of a VFL debut with the Magpies. He is one of a few 18th-year players to have already graduated, making them available for NAB League selection while the school football seasons roll on. Josh Sinn is another in that category, but he has not quite come up for Sandringham this week. His absence looks to have opened the door for riser Finn Callaghan to be tried on the inside.

The Northern Knights are a side who will lose some key personnel to school football, but dashing half-back Darcy Wilmot remains after making an electric senior debut for Montmorency over the break. Sandringham forward Luke Nankervis is another in that category, with plenty of players getting back to their local roots over the last month.

There are a bunch of 18th-year prospects who also turned out for VFL sides in that time, with Calder’s Josh Goater and Zac Taylor (both Essendon) among them. Potential North Melbourne father-son Jackson Archer was another, as he returns to Northern colours this week. Tyler Sonsie, who turned out for Box Hill, will come back into Eastern’s fold, starting in midfield with Jake Soligo (Richmond) and Tyreece Leiu (North Melbourne).

The decision has been made for many top-agers as they either continue in the VFL competition, get more run in their legs through the NAB League, or part ways to head back to local football. With the mid-season draft fast-approaching, there are many in action this week who will count themselves in with a good chance of making the elite grade. Time will tell.

ROUND 4 FIXTURES

Saturday May 22

Sandringham Dragons vs. Western Jets
11:00am @ Trevor Barker Oval

Geelong Falcons vs. GWS Giants Academy
11:45am @ Avalon Airport Oval

Northern Knights vs. Brisbane Lions Academy
11:45am @ Preston City Oval

Murray Bushrangers vs. Oakleigh Chargers
1:00pm @ Wangaratta Showgrounds

Gippsland Power vs. Sydney Swans Academy
2:15pm @ Avalon Airport Oval

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Gold Coast Suns Academy
2:15pm @ Preston City Oval

Sunday May 23

Calder Cannons vs. Bendigo Pioneers
10:30am @ Highgate Recreation Reserve

Tasmania Devils vs. Northern Territory Academy
1:00pm @ Highgate Recreation Reserve

Eastern Ranges vs. GWV Rebels
3:30pm @ Highgate Recreation Reserve

Image Credit: RF Photography