Tag: AFL Academy

Compare the Pair: Finn Callaghan / Josh Sinn (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

THE Sandringham Dragons have produced a great number of high-end prospects over the years, whether it be those who are touted from a long way out, or players who bolt into contention with undeniable form in their draft seasons. 2021 is no different, with line-breaking movers Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan fitting perfectly into said categories. The pair showed high-level ability across the first three NAB League rounds, and share plenty of similar traits which have put them in good stead to this point.

Sinn is a co-captain of the Dragons side and has been pegged as a top five draft candidate since captaining Vic Metro’s title-winning Under 16 side in 2019. His speed off half-back and the wing is undeniable, often complemented by penetrative kicks which send his side forward in quick time. The 18-year-old graduated from Xavier College last year and was expected to turn out for Sandringham Zebras in the VFL over the current break, but is recovering from a hamstring strain sustained while training with the AFL Academy. He will be available for Sandringham Dragons once the NAB League resumes.

Callaghan is a prospect who has risen steeply in 2021, catching the eye during preseason and building nicely into his NAB League campaign. He is another line-breaker with good size who shows a tricky turn of speed with ball-in-hand, making him a difficult player to stop at full flight. He is currently completing his studies at St Bede’s College, but will also be available essentially full-time for the Dragons. As a late call up for the AFL Academy, he fittingly proved a capable replacement for Sinn with his work on the outer.

We compare the pair by taking a look at their form to this point, physical profiles, which positions suit them best, what style of play they provide, and their potential areas of improvement.

Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

DOB: January 7, 2003
Height/Weight: 186cm/82kg
Position: Half-Back/Midfielder

2021 averages*:

20.0 disposals | 14.3 kicks | 5.7 handballs | 4 marks | 2.3 tackles | 5.0 inside 50s | 3.7 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (1)

* – from three NAB League games.

Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

DOB: April 26, 2003
Height/Weight: 189cm/82kg
Position: Half-Back/Wing

2021 averages*:

18.6 disposals | 9.3 kicks | 9.3 handballs | 4.3 marks | 1.6 tackles | 3.3 inside 50s | 1.3 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (1)

* – from three NAB League games.

2021 FORM

Josh Sinn
2021 NAB League

Round 1 vs. Oakleigh Chargers | 20 disposals (12 kicks, 8 handballs), 4 marks, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s, 1 goal

Round 2 vs. Northern Knights | 20 disposals (15 kicks, 5 handballs), 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 6 rebound 50s

Round 3 vs. Dandenong Stingrays | 20 disposals (16 kicks, 4 handballs), 5 marks, 5 tackles, 10 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50

Finn Callaghan
2021 NAB League

Round 1 vs. Oakleigh Chargers | 19 disposals (8 kicks, 11 handballs), 3 marks, 3 tackles, 2 inside 50s

Round 2 vs. Northern Knights | 13 disposals (7 kicks, 6 handballs), 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50

Round 3 vs. Dandenong Stingrays | 24 disposals (13 kicks, 11 handballs), 7 marks, 5 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 1 goal

Both players have met at a similar point in terms of form after three NAB League rounds, having come into the season with vastly different expectations. Sinn, pegged as a potential top five candidate and one of his side’s co-captains, warmed to the blockbuster Round 1 clash with Oakleigh well, becoming prominent at crucial stages to help lift his side over the line. The Dragons coaching staff pulled the trigger on his midfield move early, sending him into the guts late in that game to good effect.

Sinn carried that form into his second outing, against Northern, again rotating between the middle and half-back in soggy conditions at Preston City Oval. His game against Dandenong in Round 3 shed light on how Sinn would fare as a permanent midfielder, but his line-breaking ability again came to the fore. The 18-year-old notched his third game of 20 disposals, providing good drive and improving in his disposal as the game wore on. While his best is arguably yet to come, Sinn and Sandringham can be pleased with the form shown across the first three rounds.

Callaghan came into the 2021 season with a touch less fanfare, but had displayed plenty of promise during the Dragons’ preseason intraclub scraps. He proved that rise in attention was warranted in his Round 1 debut, showcasing good speed on the outer and his potential to generate some serious forward momentum. After a steady start in a highly pressurised contest, Callaghan was kept a little quieter amid the tough conditions in Round 2 against Northern, but put forward his best game to date in Round 3.

Stationed on his usual wing, the rising prospect was able to penetrate both arcs and looked to have gained a good deal of confidence from those first two appearances. Encouraged to be more damaging in his disposal, Callaghan was better able to match his impact with ball-in-hand to his use by foot. While his previous form and desirable athletic profile went a long way to justifying his AFL Academy selection, this game was equally important in solidifying that honour. In the Academy showcase against Geelong VFL, Callaghan warmed to the contest in time operating on the wing and then off half-back.

PHYSICAL / ATHLETIC PROFILES

This exercise is clearly one more of comparing, rather than contrasting, as both players are quite similar in a range of qualities they offer. Looking at their physical make-ups, they meet similar ranges in that 185-190cm height bracket and with some good size. Callaghan’s latest listing of 82kg is indicative of his size on the eye, while it has been reported that Sinn put on 13kg over last year’s break, bringing his latest measurement up to 82kg as well.

They size-up virtually identically, and both boast the same kind of athletic superpowers. As line-breaking types, both possess electric speed but tend to use their athleticism in different ways. Sinn, who has a handy sprinting pedigree, is lightning quick in straight lines and can snatch serious meterage in a flash when released into space. With his size, Callaghan is also difficult to stop with a full head of steam and while he backs his speed to burn opponents akin to Sinn, is often seen side-stepping his way out of trouble with great agility and poise.

Both players have that explosive quality which allows for really productive outside run and eye-catching flashes of brilliance. Any passage which sees these two get ball-in-hand often results in a breach of either arc, or good territorial gain at the least. Having built their bodies since entering as tall and rangy types most suited to the outside, they both have the size now to win their own ball confidently and are able to operate on the inside as well.

POSITION / STYLES OF PLAY

At their cores, Sinn and Callaghan have both come to prominence through roles off half-back and the wing. Sinn’s starting position has often been in defence and that was the case before his midfield move this season, while Callaghan has spent most of his time on the wing for Sandringham with the potential to roll back – as he did in the AFL Academy showcase.

Sinn’s developing point of difference is his midfield craft, which has proven to already be at a decent level with good room to grow given his burst and physical make-up. He also rests forward while playing midfield and has a nice balance of inside and outside traits. Callaghan has also been exposed to midfield minutes through his time with St Bede’s College in the ACC school football competition.

Both players have also been served well defensively by the time they spend across-half back. Sinn has been shown to have his head on a swivel when setting up in the back half, showing good leadership to bark instructions to others and get touch at the stoppages. During his time on the wing, Callaghan tracks back well and is often seen mopping up in the defensive 50 arc. Both are also capable of impacting aerially, with Sinn positioning aggressively to intercept while Callaghan has the size and athleticism to compete.

In terms of their styles, they provide a bunch of the same traits; they run-and-carry with speed and can shift angles, with the ability to win their own ball, while possessing terrific left-foot kicks. The consensus is that Sinn can be more damaging with his disposal, while Callaghan is perhaps more impactful with his run. This is evident in their kick-to-handball ratios, with Sinn more willing to back his disposal by foot and take on seemingly low-percentage options which can break the play open.

While Callaghan sits at a perfect 1:1 ratio with his kicks and handballs, averaging 9.3 apiece per game, Sinn is up around 2.5 kicks to every handball per his three NAB League outings this year. Sinn’s kicking consistency has arguably been below his usually high standards in 2021, but that wavering efficiency is indicative of his license to take on riskier kicks. Callaghan is often a good decision maker by foot but bites off a touch less, while his use by hand is also quite efficient.

DISPOSAL / DECISION MAKING

As mentioned above, Sinn tends to back his kicking ability and looks to further break open the play on the end of his runs, which can lead to varying efficiency at times. His Round 3 game against Dandenong serves a perfect example of this. In the first half, Sinn would stream away from congestion or be released beautifully, but lacked the finished product. Undeterred, he continued to show confidence in his ability and managed to execute some fantastic passes to his forwards. He ended with 10 inside 50s, with some of them scuppered, but others perfectly hitting targets and resulting in scoring opportunities.

He is said to be the best and most technically sound kick at Sandringham, and has watched plenty of tape on another penetrating left-footer in Hayden Young. At his best, Sinn can certainly reach those levels and his decision making is solid, but it is just a matter of levelling out his consistency. To ensure he is having the maximum effect, Sinn is being encouraged to lower his eyes a touch more when booting forward on the fly. Speaking of decision making, Sinn’s ability to time runs and make repeat efforts in that sense suits the half-back role really well, showing high-level smarts and game awareness.

Callaghan is one who also uses the ball well by foot and can gain similar penetration to Sinn, showing great improvement in that area. He is being encouraged to be a touch more damaging in this sense though, to bite off a bit more and take the risks that others might. On the flip-side, his poise in tight spots is great as he is more inclined to dish off by hand rather than bombing forward under pressure. In tight spots, he uses his turn of speed to get into space before executing a disposal. While he sometimes distributes to teammates under immediate pressure, the ability to show spacial awareness and find different avenues out of traffic are handy traits to have.

Image Credit: AFL Photos

2021 VFL Player Focus: Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges/Box Hill Hawks)

TOP five AFL Draft prospect Tyler Sonsie became one of the few 18-year-old NAB Leaguers to break through for a Victorian Football League (VFL) berth on Saturday, debuting for the Box Hill Hawks in their 37-point loss to Werribee. The Eastern Ranges talent is a silky midfielder with clean skills and an eye for goal, traits which have put him in good stead during his three NAB League outings so far in 2021. He also turned out for the AFL Academy last month and while he was quieter than usual, was afforded full-time midfield minutes.

Sonsie has long been on the draft radar, bursting onto the scene in 2019 to take out Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP award, before becoming a member of Eastern’s minor premiership winning side which contested the NAB League grand final. With the elite Victorian Under 19 competition in the midst of a month-long hiatus, Sonsie and Box Hill took the opportunity to test his worth at senior level. It is fair to say he took it with aplomb.

Sonsie is the prospect under our VFL Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 4 showing.

>> HEAD-TO-HEAD: Tyler Sonsie vs. Nick Daicos

Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro/Box Hill Hawks

DOB: January 27, 2003
Height/Weight: 181cm/76kg
Position: Midfielder

2021 averages*: 25.3 disposals | 15.6 kicks | 9.6 handballs | 3.0 marks | 1.3 tackles | 4.3 inside 50s | 1.6 rebound 50s | 1.3 goals (4)

* – from three NAB League games.

2021 VFL, Round 4

Box Hill Hawks 8.5 (53) def. by Werribee 13.12 (90)

Stats: 24 disposals | 15 kicks | 9 handballs | 1 mark | 5 tackles | 5 inside 50s | 4 rebound 50s | 2 goals

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

Easing into his first taste of state league football, Sonsie rotated into the game and was first sighted at just over five minutes into the first term. His opening act was a lock-up tackle to hold the ball in a force a stoppage, having followed the play well from off the bench. Off that ball up, the 18-year-old received on the periphery of the contest and booted a clearance forward which fell to space and was turned over. Sonsie looked up for the contest in these early stages, winning a holding the ball free kick for good blanket pressure near the boundary line, and kicking long down the line.

Before long, we got to see how Sonsie would fare at stoppage situations. Stationed on the attacking side of a forward wing throw-in, he reacted first as the rucks both fresh-aired their hits to swoop on the ground ball and flick out to a teammate, who then kicked long inside 50. Sonsie tended to sag off at stoppages and was rarely manned with touch, allowing him to follow the flow of play and look to be an attacking threat in those situations. It meant he afforded time and space to opponents who gained first or second possession, but seemed to have been given that license to roam free and play his own game first.

While he was pushed off the ball at times and rushed a little under pressure, Sonsie showed some of his trademark silk when baulking an opponent at half-back, before his left-foot kick to the wing was unlucky to be picked off. Having rotated forward, he had the last say in term one having presented inside 50 for a nice mark on the lead, as Box Hill broke quickly. With a cool head, the debutant went back and slotted his first senior goal with a post-siren set shot from about 45 metres. He finished the term with four kicks and one handball, including that major score, his lone mark for the game, and a stoppage clearance. His repeat early pressure acts were also solid.

Q2:

Starting at the opening centre bounce, it was evident the Box Hill coaching staff and midfield group rated Sonsie’s talents highly, as he was the go-to option on multiple occasions. For the most part, he set up in an anchor position behind the ruck and was not always manned. Even when an opponent shifted to his side of the stoppage, they would seldom engage in a wrestle as either player tended to allow each other to make their own ball-winning movements.

Sonsie made a few uncharacteristic skill errors in this term, perhaps feeling the pinch of Werribee’s superiority at that stage. If not the direct tap option, Sonsie again lurked on the outer and looked to receive from congestion, where he would normally send a damaging disposal forward. It meant that while he was not always defensively accountable, he remained active and looked to have a positive say at each contest.

While he moved to good positions and again showed nice composure to shift through traffic on one instance, Sonsie just lacked the finishing touch to find a teammate up ahead. To be fair, he had a severe lack of options at times, so those quick kicks forward were snapped up easily by the well-structured Werribee defenders. The tendency to react to heat with rushed disposals proved the main source of his inefficiency, which is not usually how he plays at Under 18s level. There, he uses his turn of speed and class to exit traffic with poise. In a sign of his smarts, Sonsie looked to correct that by coming away by hand and was much better in this sense after half time.

In a term where he essentially played permanently through midfield, Sonsie registered four kicks and two handballs, with a couple of those disposals counting as clearances and inside 50s. It brought his tally up to 11 disposals at the main break, split with eight kicks to three handballs. Having dipped his feet in senior football, it was time for Sonsie to dive in.

Q3:

Akin to the first term, Sonsie started the third from the pine but came on after about five minutes and resumed his follower role. In what was arguably his best period of play for the game, the youngster attended plenty of centre bounces and began to really look lively as Box Hill broke back into the contest. His first possession saw him play for a high free kick on the move at half-forward, but he was forced to pop a left-foot kick to the hot spot when the umpire saw through his trick.

Sonsie began to get the ball in those dangerous areas though, able to send it inside 50 and get some run going in the process. The final 10 minutes of the term is when he came to life, starting with his highlight of the day. Sonsie latched onto a handball as he streamed through the corridor, before steadying nicely and effortlessly booting a goal from 50 metres to give Box Hill a big lift. At that point, the Hawks had kicked three-straight majors and were drawing to within striking distance. Scoreboard impact; tick.

Still relatively free at the stoppages, Sonsie showcased his high footy IQ by continuing to read the flow of play nicely – both in an attacking and defensive sense. At one stoppage, he would time his run perfectly to receive or latch onto a tap, before coming off his line hard to tackle at the next contest. His clean hands were also evident, making one-grab plays and on one occasion, hitting a ball at pace on defensive wing to gather off the deck and flick out a quick handball all in one motion.

Sonsie ended another quarter of midfield play with consistent figures once more; four kicks and two handballs. His goal served as a potentially key moment in the match and will certainly end up in his highlight reel, but there were a few more isolated efforts which stuck in the memory and highlighted the 18-year-old’s elite-level potential.

Q4:

Following on from the confidence gained in term three, Sonsie produced another terrific quarter of play and looked much more settled. He remained quite casual in his work on the spread, but got to good positions again and showed the right intensity when called upon. His usual composure at stoppages began to unveil, with his cleanliness a real feature as he chained together some nice passages by hand and allowed teammates to clear in space with releasing passes.

Speaking of confidence, Sonsie even showed a bit of cheek after dragging an opponent over the boundary line with a great tackle, earning a free kick for his trouble. On the other hand, he could not quite stick a tackle inside defensive 50 and was made to pay as Werribee slotted a goal, which was essentially the dagger in Box Hill’s hopes of a comeback. His efforts were still an improvement on previous work, with his offensive work in possession becoming a highlight and making up for any misses going the other way.

He capped off his day with another three kicks and four handballs, making for his most prolific quarter stats-wise. His production throughout the game was consistent though, staying around the same mark throughout and becoming more influential with his disposals as time wore on. Overall, a top effort in his first game.

Final thoughts…

It was great to see one of this year’s true top five talents be afforded the license to play his own game and showcase his strengths, even as he climbs the grades with points on the line. While his work in defensive transition remains an area of improvement, Sonsie was still able to show why he is one of the more damaging midfielders available with his class on the ball and knack for kicking goals. He took some time to find his feet and adjust to the speed of the game, but brought a hunger and came away with some terrific moments. His numbers were very good too, particularly in a losing side on debut, with this state league stint potentially being a long one if such form continues.

Image Credit: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos

SANFL League Player Focus: Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide/South Australia)

SOUTH Adelaide midfielder Matthew Roberts broke through for his maiden SANFL League outing on Saturday, joining fellow top 10 AFL Draft candidate Jason Horne in the Panthers’ seven-point win over Woodville-West Torrens (WWT). The hard-working youngster earned his call-up though sheer domination in the Under 18s, where he averaged 32 disposals, 6.3 clearances, and almost two goals a game across his three outings this season. Roberts also turned out for the AFL Academy last month, playing exclusively up forward in the side’s heavy loss to Geelong VFL.

The 18-year-old has long been one of South Australia’s most promising prospects, having represented his state twice at Under 16s level and dominated the SANFL Under 18s competition as a bottom-ager. He also captains the St Peter’s College First XVIII and looms as a key figure in SA’s Under 19 carnival side this year. Roberts’ running capacity, decision making, and ability to hit the scoreboard while resting forward are just some of the desirable traits which have him pegged towards the pointy end of this year’s draft crop.

He is the prospect under our SANFL Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 6 showing.

Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia

DOB: July 31, 2003
Height/Weight: 183cm/81kg
Position: Midfielder/Forward

2021 averages*: 32.0 disposals | 23.0 kicks | 9.0 handballs | 8.3 marks | 7.7 tackles | 6.3 clearances | 7.7 inside 50s | 4.0 rebound 50s | 1.7 goals (5)

* – from three Under 18 games.

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

2021 SANFL League, Round 6

Woodville West Torrens 13.13 (91) def. by South Adelaide 15.9 (99)

Stats: 14 disposals | 5 kicks | 9 handballs | 2 tackles | 3 inside 50s | 1 goal

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

Roberts started and stayed at half-forward in the greasy conditions, but set the tone for himself early as the wet ball did not affect his cleanliness. An early gather around a pack with a slick handball under pressure was a sign of things to come as all his work was done below his knees for the day. Although he was a little passive at some stoppages around forward 50, he was still trying to work into his first League game and understand where to position best. Despite this, he did manage to get first hands off a ruck tap but was unable to find a teammate before the ball was knocked from him. Roberts pushed in at centre bounces when starting high and managed to wrangle in a hacked kick to space and find a teammate with a beautifully weighted kick inside 50. Pushing up the ground when the ball was stuck in his defensive 50, he did a good job of positioning himself to be able to hit the contest from a clearing kick at pace, and when presented the chance to crumb, he did so very well on one occasion, opting to find a teammate with a sweeping handball which opened up the attacking fore.

Q2:

The second quarter was one of Roberts’ quieter ones although it did highlight his good acceleration to apply defensive pressure, which he did all day. Two tackles are not earth-shattering but in his first League game, he adjusted to the pace well and would have registered plenty more pressure acts without a tackle. Once he settles in, you can expect that tackle count to rise. A hack kick off the ground also assisted with the surge forward as he applied a defensive effort to follow up after an Eagles defender swept up at ground level.

Q3:

His output picked up again this quarter as he continued his good timing to rove around packs and do it with one grab, brilliantly composed. He showed good strength to bump off a tackler on one occasion, showing he is physically up to the League level, accentuated by his stability over the ball in congestion having rarely hit the deck. Pushing down from his high positioning after a deep forward entry from the centre bounce saw him gather cleanly after the ball spilled out, before snapping around on his trusty left boot to put through his first League goal – a tidy and clean finish in-tight. Although a pair of fumbles came later in the quarter off some hot, tumbling balls, he showed he was getting to good positions to win his own ball. Roberts then made up for them with a perfect pass to Jake Tarca inside 50 for a goal. He had a couple of missed handballs on the far wing, but also showed solid positioning after contests and packs to either fill gaps, get dangerous, or prevent exits for the opposition.

Q4:

Although it was not a busy quarter like the previous for Roberts, he did some important things as the tight contest intensified. More clean pickups and quick hands from below the knees allowed the Panthers to maintain possession on several occasions. He also started to find his feet with his positioning in forward half stoppages, often leaving the contest to ready his run into forward 50 should his side clear it forward.

Final thoughts…

Coming off a dominant Under 18 performance, Roberts repaid the faith from head coach Jarrad Wright for bypassing a typical Reserves induction game. A serviceable outing playing a role should warrant another selection as he seemed comfortable in the contest to gather cleanly so often. 14 disposals with no marks indicates his ground ball nous and barring a few missed handballs, his disposal was reliable all game. The half-forward role is a difficult one to make a massive impact on the game, but Roberts did well to maintain his space and get to the front of contests to keep driving the ball forward. He was able to do this by not always flying for contests and positioning himself well, while working hard to get dangerous when the opportunity presented itself. Overall, a solid first League game with a goal for Roberts.

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

Young Guns: 2021 VFL Round 3 – Debutants continue to roll through

WITH the NAB League in the midst of a month-long break after three full rounds of action, some of Victoria’s most promising Under 19 talent has begun filtering into the Victorian Football League (VFL). A raft of top-age draft prospects have already made their state league debuts, with more to come, while members of all four Northern Academies also got some run in their legs. We take a look at how the prominent 19th-year players performed as they hit the senior football levels.

>> INSIGHT | Which 19-year-olds have improved their stocks?

Debuts have been synonymous with Collingwood of late, and the Magpies continued the theme by fielding another fresh face through the state league system. Mid-season draft fancy Ned Moyle came into the side and looked comfortable in his usual ruck post, winning 11 hitouts and taking four marks among his eight disposals. The 19-year-old Oakleigh product was joined by Chargers teammate Youseph Dib in the Magpies’ three-point win over Gold Coast. Dib, a Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect, booted two goals as he played mostly forward of centre once again.

Leaning on their Academy stocks, the Suns also continue to blood a good amount of youngsters. Leading draft prospect Austin Harris returned after his AFL Academy commitments, notching eight disposals and four marks as he rotated further afield from the forwardline. Bigman Will Bella, the brother of Suns AFLW ruck Lauren, clunked seven marks and booted a goal, while Bodhi Uwland also took seven marks among his 12 touches. 2002-born players including Bailey Reeves, Jack Johnston, and Thomas Hofert also ran out for the Suns in their narrow loss.

The Western Bulldogs were too strong for a gallant Preston Bullants outfit on Saturday afternoon, as both sides gave berths to promising NAB League products. Cody Raak suited up for his second game in red, white, and blue, with the defender bringing his marking game to the fore. He took seven grabs and delivered nine of his 10 disposals by foot. Developing Calder Cannons tall Liam Podhajski was another to make his VFL debut in Round 3, battling against AFL-listed opposition for Preston to finish with four disposals and 10 hitouts.

A relatively young Brisbane outfit went down to Coburg on Sunday afternoon, with a raft of Academy graduates and members filling the squad at present. 18-year-old small Daniel Lanthois booted a goal in his maiden VFL appearance, as the youngest player afield. A bunch of 2002-born players also ran out for the Lions; Will Tasker had 19 disposals and five marks, Saxon Crozier and Toby Triffett both claimed 16 touches, while Tahj Abberley had it 14 times (11 kicks), Charlie Bowes kicked a couple of behinds, and Jack Briskey took three marks from 11 disposals in the defeat.

Essendon is another club which has turned to youth to good effect and despite going down to Carlton on Sunday, yielded good results from their NAB League talents. In their second outings, nippy Bendigo Pioneers pair Sam Conforti (23 disposals, one goal) and Jack Hickman (17 disposals, four marks) both impressed, working hard for their keep. Pios’ skipper Jack Evans made his debut in the sash and ended with five marks from 10 touches, while fellow debutant Billy Cootee (Western Jets) also found it 10 times and booted a goal.

Elsewhere, Sandringham Dragons co-captain Darby Hipwell enjoyed a second outing for the Zebras, despite their loss to Box Hill. He worked hard for 18 disposals and eight marks, which included a couple of nice moments. Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Academy standout Josh Green, the brother of Tom, again turned out for the Giants, ticking up to 17 disposals in his side’s win over Southport.

Image Credit: Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos

Scouting Notes: 2021 SANFL Under 18s – Round 5

THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Under 18s rolled on into Round 5, with the latest weekend of action producing some excellent performances from plenty of 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 15.10 (100) def. NORTH ADELAIDE 8.14 (62)

By: Tom Wyman

GLENELG:

#2 Harry Tunkin

Tunkin provided good intensity, speed and pressure up forward as he has all season. Pushing up into the midfield at times, the diminutive Tunkin won a number of clearances through excellent stoppage nous, positioning himself well to get on the end of the taps. He booted two goals, including a terrific rove and snap, but could have had a couple more if not for two half-chance misses. A consistent performer throughout the contest, Tunkin finished with 23 disposals, two goals, four marks and four clearances.

#5 Hugh Stagg

Powerful utility, Stagg was terrific for the Bays in their 38-point victory. Starting at the centre bounce, Stagg split his time between the midfield and the forwardline and made a real impact whenever he was around the ball. A strongly-built teenager, Stagg used his physical advantage to damaging effect, brushing off a number of would-be tacklers in-tight throughout the game. Importantly, Stagg made sure his tackles stuck and also showed his strength overhead to take a strong contested mark early in the match. His snap goal in the third term put the icing on a really strong game from the midfielder/forward, who finished with 22 disposals, six tackles, three clearances and seven inside 50s.

#20 Lewis Rayson

Rayson was everywhere for the Tigers in what was a clear best on ground performance. The speedster started the game in the middle, where scouts will have been impressed by his contested ball winning and fight at ground level. Rayson moved to the backlines at various stages throughout the contest, to damaging effect. His ability to read the play and position himself to take intercept marks put a stop to several Roosters forward thrusts. Although he did turn the ball over a couple of times by foot, Rayson was predominantly clean and effective, particularly when going inside 50. A very dangerous player when allowed to float a kick behind the play, Rayson concluded another strong outing with 31 disposals, 11 marks, four inside 50s and five rebound 50s.

#21 Cooper Beecken

Medium-defender, Beecken played a crucial role down back for Glenelg, particularly when the Roosters were threatening early on. He was strong one-on-one, composed with ball in hand and found himself in the right place at the right time on several occasions to mop up in the defensive 50. Especially busy early in the contest, Beecken finished with 25 disposals and five rebound 50s.

Others:

Forward Corey Brougham was Glenelg’s most damaging player forward of centre. Brougham bagged a game-high four majors, with his contested marking ability proving a real handful for his Roosters opponents. He finished the game with nine disposals and six marks (four of which were contested). Darcy Gluyas was heavily involved for the Tigers. Patrolling the wing, he looked poised and composed with ball in hand and used it to great effect. His snap goal late in the piece was a highlight of his game. Gluyas finished with 23 disposals and six marks. Crows father-son prospect Brodie Edwards (22 disposals, four marks and three clearances) and ruckman Oscar Adams (six disposals, 16 hit-outs and a goal) were also among the Tigers’ best performers.

NORTH ADELAIDE:

#4 Isaac Keeler

The athletic bottom-ager was terrific for the Roosters. After spending time as a permanent forward earlier in the season, Keeler had a greater impact on the game when given the lead ruck role. A classy mover, Keeler fought hard against Glenelg ruck duo Oscar Adams and Sam Thomson, but it was his follow-up work and efforts at ground level which elevated his performance. Keeler was involved in several handball chains, with his natural football smarts and cleanliness holding him in good stead. He was also very clean by foot, with an inside 50 kick to teammate Adam Heath a prime example of his skillset. Certainly one of the Roosters’ best players on the day, Keeler finished with 21 disposals, six marks (two contested), 15 hit-outs and two clearances.

#12 Hugh Jackson

Prolific midfielder, Jackson spent some more time on the defensive side of the ball this week, with star teammate Blayne O’Loughlin elevated to the Reserves. Always assured with ball in hand, the classy left-footer may not have been as dominant on the inside as previous weeks, but his skills helped set up several Roosters attacks. His work rate between the arcs was high, and his distribution by hand was clean. North’s Mr. Consistent finished the game with 26 touches, seven marks, five inside 50s and three rebound 50s.

#29 Zyton Santillo

Zippy on-baller, Santillo was typically productive for the red and whites. He looked the most threatening Rooster around the contest, winning a game-high nine clearances – four more than any other player on the ground. Santillo was clever with ball in hand, using his quick turn of pace to weave around opponents with ease. He booted an important goal at the 10-minute mark of the third term which triggered a run of four-straight Roosters goals, and finished the game with 24 disposals, three tackles and five inside 50s.

Others: 

Midfielder James Willis found plenty of the ball, gathering 26 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and seven inside 50s. However, his kicking did let him down at times, particularly in front of goal where he booted four behinds. His fellow on-baller Harvey Harrison won 18 disposals, three tackles and two clearances. Although he didn’t accumulate his regular numbers, Harrison’s run-and-carry through the middle of the ground was still evident. Key forward Adam Heath provided a strong target, taking a couple of nice contested grabs to go with 22 disposals and a couple of majors.

WEST ADELAIDE 13.9 (87) def. CENTRAL DISTRICT 13.8 (86)

By: Tom Wyman

WEST ADELAIDE:

#3 Charlie Pridham

Small defender, Pridham was once again productive in West Adelaide’s narrow victory under Saturday night lights. Tasked with setting up the play from the half-back line, Pridham had the ball on a string from the get-go. He has a knack of getting into the right spots in defence, and his teammates clearly recognise his talent with ball in hand, looking to give it to him whenever possible. What he lacks in size, Pridham makes up for in polish and smarts, whilst also applying plenty of pressure on the ball carrier. One of the SANFL Under 18 competition’s most consistent performers across the opening five rounds of action, Pridham finished the game with 29 disposals, eight marks, five tackles and nine rebound 50s.

#10 Cade Kennedy

With gun bottom-aged midfielders Kobe Ryan and Tyson Coe missing the clash due to college football commitments, Kennedy stood up through the middle for the Bloods. The skipper did struggle by foot at times, with a couple of his kicks resulting in turnovers, however he was typically combative in-tight, winning plenty of contested ball at the coalface. Kennedy pushed forward at stages to good effect, with his hands overhead a feature. He worked hard between the arcs, sending the ball inside 50 on eight occasions, and finished with a game-high 30 disposals, six marks (two contested), five tackles and three clearances.

Others:

The smooth-moving Dylan McCormick showed off his speed, run and booming long kick. He kicked the Bloods’ first goal of the game and finished the contest with 17 disposals, four marks, three tackles and three rebounds. In the ruck, Tom Scully and Oscar Steene battled hard against competition hit-out leader Saxon Evans. Scully, whose mobility and cleanliness were again impressive, finished with 12 disposals, 15 hit-outs and two clearances, while Steene managed 15 disposals, five marks (four contested), four tackles, 19 hit-outs and five inside-50s in a strong aerial display. Luke Young stood up in attack, booting three majors and taking a couple of strong grabs, while Hugh Desira (21 disposals, three marks, two tackles, three clearances, six inside 50s and three rebounds) produced his best performance of the season, with his speed, foot skills and relentless work rate impressive.

CENTRAL DISTRICT:

#3 Isaiah Dudley

The Adelaide Next Generation Academy prospect provided genuine spark whenever he was around the ball for Central District. In a side which came within a point of claiming its first win of the season, Dudley did just about all he could to get his side over the line. As he has done throughout the opening month of action, Dudley divided his time between the small forward role and midfield, and it was in the middle where he looked most damaging, able to use his terrific blend of fancy footwork, power and contested ball winning to best effect. Dudley’s skills appeared a class above those of his teammates for parts of the night, with his kicking boasting accuracy and penetration. But whilst his fancy side-steps, elite agility and eye-catching skills will fill the highlight reels, Dudley’s relentless pressure and tackling intensity will also have recruiters excited. Against the Bloods he tackled with real intent, never backing down despite being smaller than the majority of his opponents. In another encouraging display, Dudley gathered 23 disposals, nine tackles, three clearances and four inside 50s.

#37 Cody Gilchrist

Gilchrist provided the Bulldogs with a genuine target in attack. He often appeared simply too big for the West Adelaide defenders, positioning himself well to take grab after grab up forward. Gilchrist’s ability to not only use his size to advantage, but read the flight of the ball proved too difficult to contain. He finished the game with five goals, the most of anyone for the round, to compliment his 19 disposals and eight marks (four of which were contested).

Others:

Half-backman Ruben Carreno was excellent for the Bulldogs, winning a team-high 25 disposals and nine rebounds. Bigman Saxon Evans has clearly been the best performed ruckman in the competition’s early stages, however the Bloods talls were able to curb his influence on the game at Hisense Stadium. However, the Willaston product was still able to play a role, finishing with 11 disposals, four tackles, three clearances and 13 hit-outs. When he wasn’t stationed up forward, fellow tall Brodie Tuck provided Evans with a chop-out in the ruck, winning nine hit-outs of his own. He didn’t hit the scoreboard, but managed five disposals, five marks and four inside 50s.

WWT EAGLES 14.13 (97) def. STURT 8.12 (60)

By: Tom Cheesman

EAGLES:

#9 Jase Burgoyne

Port Adelaide fans should get excited (if they aren’t already), as father-son prospect Burgoyne returned to the Eagles’ Under 18 line up this week and delivered a best on ground performance. After an interrupted pre-season due to knee surgery, Burgoyne showed that he has lost none of his agility and deserves to be considered among South Australia’s best AFL Draft prospects in 2021. He was on fire from the opening bounce against Sturt, spreading from a stoppage just minutes into the game and kicking a beautiful goal on the run from 45 metres out. He played predominantly in the midfield but also spent some time at half-back, exhibiting his silky skills in both positions. Burgoyne won plenty of ground balls, rarely fumbled and made great decisions when disposing of the footy. No Double Blues player could go with him when he spread from stoppages, as his turn of speed was too much for them to handle. His skills by foot were magnificent, finding targets all over the ground with ease. Going inside 50, he always kicked it to his forwards’ advantage to enable them to capitalise on one-on-one situations. At half-back, he read the play well and used his height and leaping ability to take some nice intercept marks. He finished with 28 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s, four tackles and two clearances for the day.

#15 Adam D’Aloia

D’Aloia backed up his best on ground performance last weekend with another strong showing on Saturday. Playing mainly has an inside midfielder, the State Talent Hub member read the ball well off the hands of the ruckmen, released his side’s outside midfielders with quick hands, and always followed up to the next contest. His composure with ball in hand was outstanding, as he made smart decisions and consistently chose the right option. The highlight of his match occurred in the second term when he received a short pass from Burgoyne on the 50-metre arc, immediately turned, took three steps and booted a magnificent goal on a tight angle. D’Aloia is already one of the best handballers in traffic in the competition. This was demonstrated on many occasions including when he gave quick hands to set up Mattaes Phillipou’s important goal midway through the third term. His defensive pressure was relentless as well, both at stoppages and around the ground. The bottom-ager finished with 26 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s, four tackles, four clearances and a goal.

Others:

Brock Thomson (33 disposals, ten marks) found plenty of the ball in defence once again, showing class with both feet coming out of the defensive 50. Will Pearce (19 disposals, five marks, four clearances) was prominent in the midfield and up forward, while Nick Mitzithras (23 disposals, seven marks, two goals) and Liam Ueding (16 disposals, nine marks, four tackles) were important contributors. Ben Schwartz (ten disposals, two contested marks, four goals) closed out the game well, booting three of his four goals in the second half.

STURT:

#5 Jordan Hein

Hein was one of Sturt’s best, finishing with an impressive stat-line of 29 disposals, eight tackles, seven marks, six inside 50s, five clearances and a goal. His hands were good inside, and he used his pace to apply solid pressure on the opposition throughout the match. Hein used his endurance to work to each contest and provide teammate Brad Jefferies with some much-needed assistance in the midfield. His goal came at an important stage late in the third term with a left-foot snap from a forward 50 stoppage, and this brought his side to within 12 points at three-quarter time. While he is a nice kick on most occasions, he did make a couple of costly turnovers by foot, including a misguided short pass late in the second term that should have led to an Eagles goal. Despite this, it was a strong performance from Hein and he will be an important player for the Double Blues this season.

#13 Brad Jefferies

Jefferies was Sturt’s best player again, finding the ball with ease and using it to the best of his ability. He collected a game-high 37 disposals (28 kicks) to go with 12 marks, nine inside 50s, eight clearances, four tackles and two rebound 50s. While his contested ball-winning ability and dominance at stoppages was profound once again, it was his work rate and desire to earn uncontested possessions that took his game to a new level on Saturday. Jefferies pushed into the right spots to gain uncontested marks and help side bring the ball out of defence on numerous occasions. Some of his kicking completely opened up the play, including when he went down the middle to Jake Aish in the final term. He attempted to use the corridor as much as possible, and he found Felix Packer up forward on the lead several times. Jefferies earned free kicks at stoppages because he got to the ball first, held his ground and proved difficult for opposition players to tackle. It will be interesting to see whether Jefferies moves up the grades at Sturt in 2021.

#39 Felix Packer

Packer was Sturt’s most imposing forward in this contest. He provided a powerful presence, pushed hard on the lead and used his reach to take the ball at its highest point. He booted three majors for the match, and they all came in different ways. The first was from a set shot after taking a mark on the lead, the second came from a nice kick on the run (following some good work from teammate Lachie Thomas), and the third came from a set shot after a free kick for a push in the back. Given Packer’s size, reach and ability to hold front position, it is difficult for defenders to spoil his marking attempts without giving away free kicks. Packer had 16 disposals and five marks in a solid outing.

Others:

Charlie Fryer (14 disposals, eight marks, four tackles) and Will Torode (12 disposals, five marks, eight rebound 50s) were great in defence, as they consistently read the ball well and took some nice intercept marks. Patrick Tidemann (16 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s) worked hard throughout the contest, and Jake Aish (24 disposals, three goals) was lively.

SOUTH ADELAIDE 16.10 (106) def. NORWOOD 7.8 (50)

By: Tom Cheesman

SOUTH ADELAIDE:

#13 Lachlan Hayes

Hayes was Mr. Reliable for South in defence on Saturday. He was very active from the beginning of the match, using his agility to impact contests and provide an option for teammates on the outside. His brilliant quick hands helped set up an Isaac Birt goal in the second term, one of several occasions where he made good instinctive decisions with ball in hand. He also has a nice sidestep, which is valuable when used in the right situation, and he spread well off half-back to help his side switch the play. He finished with 22 disposals, five marks and three tackles.

#21 Matthew Roberts

Roberts was easily the best player on the ground in this contest. He set the tone at opening bounce, where he laid a strong run-down tackle on Redlegs ruckman Aidan Lake to earn a free kick for holding the ball, and then delivered his kick beautifully inside 50 to a leading Jack Delean to set up the first goalscoring opportunity of the match. Roberts dominated at the stoppages, winning eight clearances to go with 34 disposals, 10 inside 50s, nine tackles and eight marks for the day. Most of his marks were uncontested, as he used his incredible work rate to burn away from opponents and help his side bring the ball out of defence. Roberts delivered several classy forward entries from his 10 inside 50s, including when he kicked a huge goal from inside the centre square (with the wind) off a couple of steps to give his side the lead in the second term. He also spent some time resting at full forward, and he kicked two more goals in the second term while playing this position. He showed great composure to steady when drilling his second on the run at the 16-minute mark, and his third came from the next centre clearance when Luke Mitton hit him beautifully on the lead. Roberts was never in doubt from the set shot, as he has a wonderful kicking technique and is reliable under pressure. He took two contested marks in this game as well, proving that he truly has no weaknesses. Akin to fellow Panther Jason Horne, Roberts is a class above the Under 18 level, so don’t be surprised if he moves up the grades this season.

#33 Arlo Draper

Draper is another of South Adelaide’s promising draft prospects and he churned out another solid performance on Saturday. He was particularly impressive early, finding plenty of the ball and winning clearances with ease. His balance between getting contested and uncontested ball is fantastic, and his versatility enables him to play almost any position. Draper spent some time forward to rest in this contest, and although he provided a strong marking target, he did not get any opportunities to hit the scoreboard. His best moments in this match came at the midfield stoppages, where he and Roberts tore the game apart in the second term. Draper is a reliable kick, good size and very athletic. His composure under pressure is elite, as he regularly gets his arms free when tackled to give handballs that release teammates on the outside. Draper could be another to earn an opportunity to play at higher levels later in the season as well.

#35 Koby Cockshell

Cockshell was South’s most powerful presence up forward in this match, finishing with 15 disposals, six tackles, four marks and three majors. He was a reliable marking target, showed impressive agility and, as evidenced by his tackle numbers, applied relentless pressure on the opposition. Some highlights of his performance included a clever intercept mark and beautiful set shot goal in the second term, and a fantastic contested mark against Norwood’s Matthew Dnistriansky early in the third term. Another exciting moment also came in the third quarter when Cockshell swooped on a loose ball, took a bounce down the wing and found fellow key forward Tom Schirmer with a long kick inside 50 to set up a score. Cockshell’s second and third goals came from the goalsquare in the final term.

Others:

Will Verrall (31 hitouts, six clearances) was a major reason why the Panthers had the ascendancy at the stoppages, and Tom Schirmer (five marks, three tackles, three goals) was good in tandem with Cockshell up forward. Isaac Birt (20 disposals, six inside 50s), Luke Mitton (20 disposals, eight clearances, seven tackles) and Jack Delean (11 disposals, two goals) were also standouts.

NORWOOD:

#10 Taj Rahui

Rahui was fantastic for the Redlegs in defeat. Playing off half-back, the State Talent Hub member provided some exciting run-and-carry, used his body well and produced many significant defensive efforts. His spoiling was solid, his attack on the ball was ferocious and his willingness to commit to the contest was outstanding. A prime example of his commitment occurred when he took a brave contested mark at half-back after standing under the flight of the ball for a lengthy period. Rahui knew the contact was coming from all directions, but he was not afraid to take the hit and did not back out of the contest. This was a great sign from a young player. Rahui was also composed in traffic, reliable by foot and agile in evading oncoming tacklers. He finished with 21 disposals, five marks, three inside 50s, two rebound 50s, two tackles, two clearances and a goal, which came from a nice set shot in the opening term.

#25 Matthew Dnistriansky

Dnistriansky was solid in defence for the visitors, particularly in the first half. He used his booming right foot kick to switch the play, open up the centre of the ground and clear the defensive 50. He was not afraid to take the game on by foot, as demonstrated when he hit teammate Joseph Cristancig with a beautiful pass down the corridor in the opening term. Dnistriansky intercepted South’s forward thrusts on many occasions and provided some nice run and link up with teammates coming out of defence. He is a good size for his position and can hold his own in one-on-one contests. Besides one uncharacteristic turnover in the second term that handed Cockshell a goal, Dnistriansky’s ball use was very effective. He finished with 25 disposals, 10 rebound 50s, six tackles and five marks.

Others:

Oliver Stenchlik (13 disposals, two marks) and Riley Verrall (19 disposals, six marks, five tackles) were solid in defence, while Corey Jones-Bobridge (16 disposals, four tackles, three clearances) did some good things in the midfield.

Image Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

Scouting Notes: 2021 SANFL Under 18s – Round 4

THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Under 18s rolled on into Round 4, with the latest weekend of action producing some excellent performances from plenty of 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.

SOUTH ADELAIDE 10.11 (71) def. CENTRAL DISTRICT 10.8 (68)

By: Tom Wyman

SOUTH ADELAIDE:

#3 Luke Mitton

The speedy inside midfielder was among South Adelaide’s best performers as they squeezed past Central Districts at Noarlunga. With star on-baller Matthew Roberts missing the round four clash due to AFL Academy commitments, Mitton benefitted from the additional midfield minutes. Although he is on the smaller side, Mitton was strong in the coalface and applied genuine pressure around the contest, laying 10 tackles. Mitton displayed intelligence at the stoppages, winning a game-high eight clearances, including a quick snap goal following an expert piece of roving. Although his kicking was up and down, Mitton’s tackling intensity, contested ball winning and speed with ball in hand proved important. He finished with 20 disposals (14 kicks and six handballs), four marks, ten tackles, eight clearances and five inside 50s.

#8 Cooper Rogers

McLaren Vale junior, Rogers produced another consistent performance in the blue and white. Splitting his time between an inside midfield role and the forwardline, Rogers was typically prolific. A smooth mover who looks in control with ball in hand, Rogers used the ball cleanly despite pushing a couple of shots at goal across the face. He nailed a terrific goal from 40 metres out on his dominant foot in the third term to extend the Panthers’ lead. One of South Adelaide’s best ball users going inside 50, Rogers finished the game with 21 touches (11 kicks and 10 handballs), six marks and four inside 50s.

#33 Arlo Draper

With a handful of South Australia’s top junior footballers in Melbourne on AFL Academy duties, Draper gave onlookers a gentle reminder of his elite talent. Starting in the centre bounce, the Willunga product showed some excellent evasiveness in-tight, stepping his way through traffic with relative ease. Draper was clean by foot, however it was his distribution by hand which particularly stood out. Not only was he exceptionally clean, his handballs often found their intended targets in time and space and set up another Panthers’ attack. As the game wore on, Draper drifted deep forward where he simply proved too good, outmuscling his direct opponent with ease. His three goals all came via set-shots deep in attack, after taking one-on-one marks. A natural forward, Draper read the flight of the ball to perfection, then nudged his opponent under the drop zone to take the grab. Whilst Draper was clearly the best midfielder on the ground when on the ball, his one-on-one marking ability in attack is what elevated his game to the next level. The smooth-moving teenager collected 24 disposals (14 kicks and 10 handballs), four marks (two contested), three tackles, six clearances and five inside 50s.

Others: 

Wingman Isaac Birt confirmed his reputation as one of the competition’s best pure wingmen. Typically hard-working between the arcs, Birt was clean and found plenty of the ball, concluding the game with 20 disposals (16 kicks and four handballs), eight marks, four inside 50s and five rebounds. The hard-working Angus Bradley was prolific, gathering 23 disposals (18 kicks and five handballs) and four marks, while Lachlan Hayes finished with 20 touches (13 kicks and seven handballs) and eleven rebounds to solidify his standing amongst the state’s best rebounding defenders.

Talented bottom-aged midfielder/forward Jaiden Magor had his moments and showed some promising glimpses, finishing with 11 disposals (eight kicks and three handballs), three marks, four tackles and three clearances. South Adelaide’s ruck duo of Heath Treloar and Will Verrall fought hard against Central Districts big-man Saxon Evans, both winning 13 disposals. Medium-forward Hugo Hoeck missed a couple of shots earlier in the game but nailed a major with the final kick of the match to secure the points for South.

CENTRAL DISTRICT:

#3 Isaiah Dudley

Talented pocket-rocket and Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect, Dudley produced arguably his best performance of the season to date. Dudley may be on the smaller side, but he packs a punch and hits every contest with speed and ferocity. He started in the midfield and impressed with his one-touch cleanliness at ground level, agility and fancy footwork in traffic. Able to evade would-be tacklers with his nimble side-step, Dudley was clean by hand but deadly by foot, seemingly nailing all of his targets. In a Central District side which sorely missed star on-baller Shay Linke (who earned a call-up to the Reserves), Dudley provided some important run-and-carry through the middle. But even at top speed, his kicking was exceptional, consistently lacing out his teammates. His spearing ball to find teammate Thomas Clements led directly to a Bulldogs goal late in the contest. Then moments later, Dudley gave Central Districts its first lead of the season so far, nailing a major with a booming right-foot kick on the run from just inside 50. Although the lead was short-lived, it was fitting Dudley was the man to provide the spark for the Bulldogs. Other highlights of his game included a powerful fend-off, a flashy selling of candy and several repeat run-and-carry efforts. Dudley showed some really encouraging signs to suggest he may well have a bright future at AFL level. He finished the game with 19 disposals (10 kicks and nine handballs), two marks, six tackles, three clearances and a goal.

#29 Saxon Evans

Evans was clearly the most dominant ruckman on the ground. Competing against South Adelaide’s Heath Treloar and Will Verrall, Evans started brilliantly, winning the hit-outs comfortably and, importantly, following up well at ground level. With tall forward Brodie Tuck taking control of the ruck contests in attack, Evans was able to drift a kick behind the play and take a number of intercept marks. His dominance in the contest provided the Bulldogs midfielders with first look while his strength in the air saved a number of South Adelaide forward 50 entries. Evans concluded the game with 14 disposals (seven kicks and seven handballs), five marks (two contested), three tackles, 28 hit-outs and two clearances.

Others: 

Key forward Cody Gilchrist appeared to land awkwardly on his left leg early on but soldiered on seemingly unimpeded for the rest of the game. He used his height and reach to advantage and at times looked simply too tall for the South Adelaide defence. However, he would have been frustrated with a couple of missed opportunities in front of goal. He finished the game with six disposals (four kicks and two handballs), two contested marks and a goal.

Brodie Tuck provided a marking presence and looked the most threatening of the Central Districts forwards, while also providing Evans with a chop-out in the ruck. He concluded the game with 15 disposals (10 kicks and five handballs), three goals, five marks, four tackles, nine hit-outs and four inside 50s. Half-backman Ruben Carreno was his side’s most prolific ball-winner, accumulating 24 disposals (15 kicks and nine handballs), seven marks and 11 rebounds, while Austin Poulton won 22 disposals (11 kicks and 11 handballs), three clearances and five inside 50s.

WEST ADELAIDE 16.6 (102) def. NORWOOD 13.10 (88)

By: Tom Wyman

WEST ADELAIDE:

#9 Kobe Ryan

Prolific midfielder, Ryan might not have had the same impact on the contest as in the previous three rounds, however he was still West Adelaide’s most productive midfielder in their 14-point triumph. Ryan took a few minutes to get going, but worked his way into the contest well by getting busy at stoppages and running into smart positions. His kicking, usually pin-point, was slightly off at Hisense Stadium but he still hit most of his targets. The classy balanced midfielder, who is capable of winning plenty of the ball on the inside or the outside, was strong overhead and looked the Bloods’ most threatening option at stoppages and around the ball. Possessing a high work rate, he finished the game with 28 disposals (18 kicks and 10 handballs), six marks, nine tackles, six clearances and six inside 50s.

#10 Cade Kennedy

West Adelaide skipper, Kennedy led from the front on Saturday. The prolific on-baller provided a spark around the contest with his quickness and fierce attack on the ball. An early highlight came when he perfectly roved ruckman Tom Scully’s tap and booted it long, resulting in a goal for his side. Kennedy’s kicking improved as the game wore on. Although he missed a couple of targets early on, he found his touch after the main break and nailed some excellent kicks, a couple of which led directly to West Adelaide majors. An agile prospect, Kennedy concluded the game with 22 disposals (18 kicks and four handballs), six marks and six inside 50s.

#54 Harry Lemmey

The developing tall forward again showed glimpses of his exciting talent. Another West Adelaide key position player who looks just as capable at ground level as he does in the air, Lemmey provided a great target in attack. Agile with a quick turn of pace, Lemmey presented well all day on the lead. He possesses a booming right-foot kick, with a perfect example being his 55-metre bomb on the run which bounced through for a goal to restore the Bloods’ lead in the final term. One of several talented bottom-ager Bloods, Lemmey finished the game with six disposals (all kicks), four marks, three inside 50s and a goal.

Others:

West Adelaide’s ruck combination of Tom Scully and Harry Barnett worked a treat, with the duo helping their club win the hit-outs 40-10. Scully was dominant in the second term in particular, taking mark after mark and moving around the ground well. Barnett was sensational at stoppages, winning a game-high 23 hit-outs and four clearances. Both were able to impact the game up forward too, with Scully booting two and Barnett contributing a third-quarter major.

Blonde-haired backman Charlie Pridham was terrific for the home side, providing plenty of meaningful drive from defence. Crucially, Pridham stood up in the final term when the Bloods were under siege, remaining calm and composed with ball in-hand to finish with 20 disposals (19 kicks and one handball), four tackles and eight rebounds.

Luke Young once again worked well in attack with the aforementioned Lemmey, taking a couple of nice grabs and booting two goals from his 12 disposals. Speedster Hugh Desira (10 disposals and four inside 50s) and Riverland midfielder Dylan White (18 disposals, five marks and five clearances) played their roles well, with the latter nailing his sides first goal of the match after the Redlegs compiled four unanswered.

Powerfully-built bottom-ager Tyson Coe fought hard through the midfield and up forward but struggled to find the ball in time and space. He still finished with 11 disposals and a goal but wasn’t able to have his usual impact on the contest. Opportunist forward Mitch Hahn finished with four goals and Jesse Thackeray collected 16 disposals (13 kicks and three handballs), six marks and six inside 50s.

NORWOOD:

#6 Corey Jones-Bobridge

Powerful midfielder/forward, Jones-Bobridge was a standout performer for Norwood. A high x-factor type of player, Jones-Bobridge started the contest in the centre bounce, where he was clearly the Redlegs’ number one on-baller. His ability to win the contested ball was a big reason behind his side’s fast start. He pushed forward and slotted his first goal after a shrewd piece of roving, then nailed his second 10 minutes later from close range. Jones-Bobridge’s third major came from a 40-metre set-shot and his fourth from a little closer to goal. Although he proved sharp in front of goal, his ball use in general play was inconsistent, misplacing a couple of kicks and missing with some sharp handballs. However, Jones-Bobridge showed plenty of power and a handy ability up forward in spite of his side going down on the scoreboard. He finished with 25 disposals (16 kicks and nine handballs), six marks, eight clearances, five inside 50s and four goals.

#9 Alastair Lord

Lord was undoubtedly one of Norwood’s best players, despite the loss. From the get-go, the half-backman provided real drive from the backline by looking to take the game on wherever possible. His eye-catching dash through the middle of Hisense Stadium was well complimented by his neat skills, which often hit their target but lacked some penetration at times. Lord’s willingness to get and go and take the game on at will was vital for the Redlegs. On countless occasions he received the ball at centre half-back and took several bounces as he ran through the middle of the ground before looking for a target inside 50. A member of the SANFL State Academy program, Lord finished the contest with 18 disposals (14 kicks and four handballs), six marks, four tackles and six inside 50s.

#25 Matthew Dnistriansky

Prolific medium-sized defender Dnistriansky held his own throughout the contest down back. Charged with the kick-in duties, Dnistriansky was typically measured and accurate by foot, rarely wasting a possession. Although he never tried to bite off more than he could chew, Dnistriansky’s impressive skillset ensured he hit a number of long range targets by foot. He finished the game with 20 disposals (16 kicks and four handballs), five marks and five rebounds.

Others:

Connor Kent (21 disposals, six marks and four inside 50s) and Will Charlton (20 disposals, four marks and five inside 50s) produced strong showings for the ‘Legs. Tall forward Damon Pitt bagged two goals from his 12 disposals and Charles Kemp applied plenty of pressure through the midfield, laying eight tackles to go with his 13 touches and a goal.  

NORTH ADELAIDE 5.8 (38) def. by WWT EAGLES 18.13 (121)

By: Tom Cheesman

NORTH ADELAIDE:

#12 Hugh Jackson

Midfielder Jackson was easily North Adelaide’s best performer on Saturday afternoon at Prospect Oval. He gathered a massive 37 possessions to go with six marks, three clearances, two tackles, three rebound 50s and two inside 50s. Jackson provided an option for teammates coming out of defence and earned many uncontested possessions because of his enormous work rate. He facilitated numerous switches of play using his left foot kick, his strongest attribute. You would be hard-pressed to find a more consistent kick at Under 18 level than Jackson in 2021, as he keeps his kicks flat and seems to always find his target with ease. His kicking masterclass was highlighted by a spearing pass inside 50 to Kelsey Rypstra in the opening term that led to a goal. Jackson was not afraid to use his right foot on occasion as well. His teammates tried to get the ball in his hands at any opportunity because of his skillset, but they almost tried too hard and sometimes passed it to Jackson when he was under pressure or out of position. His toughness and class was further demonstrated early in the third when he picked up the ball, burst through two defenders and delivered a clever handball while being tackled over the top to Isaac Keeler, who kicked the first goal of the term. Jackson is a member of the SA Under 18 Talent Hub and will aspire to earn State selection at the Under 19 National Championships in September and October.

Others:

Harvey Harrison (31 disposals, eight marks, six clearances) and Zyton Santillo (31 disposals, seven tackles) found plenty of the ball in defeat, while Shaun Bennier (14 disposals, five marks, five rebound 50s) took some impressive intercept marks in defence.

 

WWT EAGLES:

#8 Brock Thomson

Thomson was impressive for the Eagles in defence. He was clean with ball in hand, read the play well and used his pace to create some exciting ball movement for the Eagles coming out of the defensive half. Thomson always kicked to his teammates advantage and never wasted a possession whether exiting the defensive 50 or going inside 50, and this was highlighted by a long kick in down the corridor that led to an end-to-end goal for his side. His willingness to follow up his possessions and get handball receives was fantastic, and his defensive work in defence was solid too. He finished with 34 disposals, nine marks, three tackles, seven rebound 50s and two inside 50s.

#15 Adam D’Aloia

D’Aloia, a bottom-ager, was the best player afield on Saturday. Rotating between midfield and forward, he had 33 disposals, seven clearances, six inside 50s, four rebound 50s, four tackles and three marks in an outstanding all-round performance. His positioning and body-work in the midfield was exceptional, he attacked the ball with ferocity and never took a backwards step. He used quick hands well under pressure, and his ability to stay standing and keep his arms up while being tackled is impressive. D’Aloia showed early in the contest that he never gives up on a possession as, after he missed a target with a kick into the corridor, he followed it up and laid an aggressive tackle on North’s Thomas Cusack to earn a free kick for holding the ball. This also showed D’Aloia’s desperation and willingness to rectify a mistake that he made, all for the benefit of the team. Other highlights were a brilliant chase-down tackle on North’s Lewis Saint in the second term, and his hands while being tackled in the second term to set up Jordan Lukac for a goal. D’Aloia could be a star of the future.

#16 Will Pearce

Pearce was the Eagles’ most productive forward in this contest. He applied relentless pressure, led well up the ground, used the ball well and hit the scoreboard with four goals. He continually got to ideal positions for a small forward, including many clean crumbs front and centre of the marking contests. Pearce took a strong contested mark in the second quarter that was arguably the mark of the day, and he had the composure to go back and kick truly from the set shot after the half time siren. His aggression at the contest helped inspire his teammates, as he was willing to put his body on the line for the betterment of the team on many occasions.

#17 Lukas Cooke

Cooke was the most imposing key forward on the ground. He pushed up the field to provide a target and get involved whenever necessary, and he mostly brought the ball to ground for the smaller players to run onto. A highlight was a strong contested mark he took at half-forward in the second term, and he quickly gave the handball to a teammate to allow the ball to get inside 50 before the Roosters got more numbers back. Cooke attacked the ball hard, used the ball well by hand and took multiple intercept marks from kick ins. Three of Cooke’s four majors came in the last quarter, and if not for a bizarre miss from a set shot, he would have had five. He finished with 20 disposals, seven marks and four inside 50s to go with his four goals.

Others:

Jordan Lukac was imposing up forward with three goals, but he could have easily had five or six if he converted his chances. Mattaes Phillipou was a consistent contributor in the midfield with 36 disposals.

GLENELG 15.17 (107) def. STURT 5.7 (37)

By: Tom Cheesman

GLENELG:

#1 Kane Viska

Viska was an important contributor for the Tigers in their 70-point victory over Sturt at ACH Group Stadium on Saturday. He collected 16 disposals, kicked four majors and had multiple other score involvements throughout the contest. He has quite a reliable set shot (despite one miss in the final term), was agile on the lead and took two strong contested marks. Remarkably, all four of his goals came in the third term, and this enabled Glenelg to run away to a healthy lead at the final break before putting the result beyond doubt.

#5 Hugh Stagg

Stagg was Glenelg’s best in their comfortable victory. His statline of 28 disposals (19 kicks), 13 inside 50s, four marks, three clearances and three goals is impressive, but even that does not tell the full story of his dominance. Stagg has the size and explosiveness that AFL recruiters love, and an electrifying run down the wing in the second term showed that he is not afraid to use these traits. He proved incredibly difficult for opposition players to tackle in this match, as shrugged Sturt players off with ease before making good decisions by hand and linking-up with teammates to move the ball forward. Stagg always followed up his possessions and worked hard to get to the next contest, whether playing as a midfielder or a forward. He attacked the ball with ferocity and showed composure once he got it, as demonstrated in the first term when he collected a beautiful half-volley and hit up a fat side lead to create his side’s third major of the day. His clearance work was solid, and he showed glimpses of his potential as a full-time midfielder when he exploded from the contest to initiate forward thrusts for his side. One example was when he and William Watts combined to run the ball out of Sturt’s forward 50 in the third term. All three of his goals came in the final term when Glenelg had the match won, but each of them were kicked under pressure from long distances on the run. His second was the most impressive, as he used his power and strength to rip the ball out of his opponent’s hands and kicked truly from 35 metres off two steps. Stagg is an exciting prospect to watch in 2021.

#21 Cooper Beecken

Beecken was outstanding for Glenelg in defence with 16 disposals, three marks, three tackles and four rebound 50s. He run and link-up was exciting, but it was his composure that had the greatest effect in this match. While other players for both sides were rushing their disposals in defence and turning the ball over, Beecken was the opposite. He never panicked when he got the ball, collected it cleanly and made great decisions coming out of the defensive half. He used his reliable left-food kicking to great effect, going short on the 45 to find teammates and control the game. He always keeps his kicks flat, thus not giving opposition players the opportunity to intercept it or force a turnover. As mentioned, Beecken also followed up his work with second, third and fourth efforts to link up with teammates and run the ball out of defence. His defensive work throughout the contest was almost faultless, highlighted by an intercept mark in front of Sturt’s Felix Packer in the third term and a smother early in the final quarter.

#23 William Wiseman

Wiseman provided a strong marking target for the Tigers up forward. He is a good size and has a strong presence about him, so he is an important part of Glenelg’s spine. He kicked the first goal of the game with a nice snap, and he demonstrated that he has reasonable agility when laying an excellent tackle on Sturt’s Jake Aish to win a holding the ball decision. Wiseman provided a strong target down the wings and applied some important defensive pressure throughout the match. He showed potential when he went into the ruck, as he won many hitouts and followed up his work at the stoppages. He finished with 14 disposals, ten hitouts, six tackles, four inside 50s, two marks and a goal.

Others:

William Watts (23 disposals, seven marks, six tackles, five clearances) was fantastic for the Tigers, and Jakob Ryan (21 disposals, seven marks, three tackles, one goal) showed athleticism up forward. Harry Tunkin (18 disposals, five clearances, two goals) and Hunter Window (19 disposals, eight inside 50s, six marks) were also consistent contributors.

STURT:

#13 Brad Jefferies

Jefferies was Sturt’s best performer on Saturday. He rotated between midfield and forward, using his size and power to win contested possessions and apply pressure on the opposition. A brilliant kick that hit up Packer on the lead in the first term showed his classy his ball use can be when he gets time and space to compose himself. He is the ideal size to be a hybrid athletic forward, but he did not get to show many of his skills in this position on Saturday. Jefferies has great game awareness, as demonstrated when Durant attempted to take the advantage but Jefferies noticed and allowed him to make a move before catching him holding the ball. This made it clear that Glenelg had taken the advantage before Jefferies pounced to stop them in their tracks. He finished the match with 27 disposals, seven marks, five clearances, three tackles and three inside 50s.

#40 Hugo Kittel

Kittel, a member of the South Australian State Talent Hub, impressed for the Double Blues in their defeat. The ruckman was dominant in the hitouts (24 for the match) and followed up his ruck contests to lay tackles and give blocks to create space for his teammates at stoppages. He also provided a key target coming out of defence, as teammates continued to look for him whenever they had to go long. Kittel is tough to spoil because he takes the front spot and uses his body well. One area he needs to improve is his kicking, as he made a couple of costly clangers in the middle of the ground. At the same time, Sturt players should be running past to get the handball off their big ruckman. He went forward for rests when Declan Hortle went into the ruck, but the delivery going inside 50 to him was subpar. Kittel finished with 10 disposals, two marks, 24 hitouts and one clearance.

Others:

Jamie Taylor (20 disposals, six clearances, four marks) worked hard once again for the visitors, while Felix Packer was Sturt’s sole shining light up forward with four majors. Zac Becker (15 rebound 50s) and Will Torode (eight disposals) were solid in defence.

Image Credit: Mel Faull/Get Snapt

Scouting Notes: 2021 AFL Under 19 Academy vs. Geelong VFL

THE AFL Under 19 Academy suffered a 130-point thumping at the hands of Geelong VFL on Saturday morning, with the hosts flexing their muscle in the showcase fixture at GMHBA Stadium. Result aside, it proved an eye-opening opportunity for the nation’s brightest young talents to test their measure against seasoned operators. Our scouts were on hand in Geelong to deliver their opinion-based notes all 24 Academy players.

>> Match report: AFL Academy vs. Geelong VFL

#1-17 (By Ed Pascoe)

#1 Blayne O’Loughlin (North Adelaide/SA)

The usually prolific North Adelaide prospect found the going a bit tougher against the Geelong VFL side but made his possessions count by both hand and foot and often looked composed under pressure. O’Loughlin showed great courage sitting in front of oncoming talls leading up at the ball where he was crunched.

#2 Austin Harris (Gold Coast/QLD)

The speedy defender tied to the Gold Coast Suns, Harris had some nice moments down back showing plenty of dare and dash with ball in hand, despite his light and small frame Harris still managed to get involved and even got a run on the wing late in the game. It is still up in the air which position will be his best going forward.

#4 Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers/VC)

The exciting Murray forward took some time to get into the game but he certainly looked like the Academy’s most dangerous forward, looking dangerous whenever he got the ball or was in the vicinity. He kicked a great goal from beyond 50m after taking a lead up mark which was one of only two goals scored for the Academy. Rachele was skilful in the air and at ground level and his efforts to tackle were also a highlight.

#5 Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges/VM)

Not the game Sonsie would have wanted as he pushes for his claim in the first round of this year’s draft, the smooth moving midfielder from Eastern Ranges found the going tough against the bigger bodies in the Geelong midfield and was later moved to defence, yet still could not work his way into the game. Despite using the ball well when he got it, he did not get it enough to really make a big impact.

#6 Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers/VM)

The Collingwood father-son prospect continued his strong start to the year with another prolific game through the midfield leading his side as captain he also lead in disposals with 26. The smooth moving midfielder from Oakleigh Chargers was crafty around stoppages and smart around the ground just knowing where to be at all times and his skill by hand and foot was superb especially with some of his kicks inside 50 early in the game. Although he did not kick any goals as he usually does – he had a few missed shots showing great agility both times but just missing – it was another strong game from Daicos who continues to press his claim as the best prospect in this years draft pool.

#7 Cooper Hamilton (Bendigo Pioneers/VC)

The tough Bendigo defender/midfielder showed his usual traits as a clean and tough competitor with his sturdy frame and desperation on show. Starting down back it took a while for Hamilton to work into the game but got more involved with some midfield time in the last quarter.

#9 Jason Horne (South Adelaide/SA)

The impressive midfielder who has already tasted action against senior bodies at South Adelaide, took what he has learnt from that time into the Academy game showing great tackling intent and playing with a lot of maturity. Despite not being overly prolific with 13 disposals for the game, Horne made every touch count, looking impressive with his burst and clean hands at stoppages and his ability overhead with a strong mark at half-back in the second quarter showcasing his overall elite attributes.

#10 Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide/SA)

Coming off a 37-disposal game last week for South Adelaide, the tough midfielder was played forward all game for the Academy and although it was disappointing that he did not get a run in his favoured position, he managed to do some nice things and was perhaps his side’s most prolific forward. Roberts got to show his long left foot with a nice kick inside 50 and a 50m shot at goal in the first quarter. Although the shot was a behind, he would have likely had a more prolific game forward with a closer game and better service coming inside 50.

#11 Jase Burgoyne (WWT Eagles/SA)

The Port Adelaide father-son prospect from Woodville-West Torrens started the game in his usual role at half-back showing his clean hands and composure with ball in hand. Burgoyne would move to the wing in the second half which proved a good move as he started to win more of the ball although his kicking did not come off a few times he did well to try and create although he will want to work on his defensive side on a more consistent basis to better round out his game.

#13 Lachlan Rankin (Oakleigh Chargers/VM)

Used on the wing and later forward, Rankin would not have a prolific day like his fellow forwards and wingmen, and despite his best efforts defensively, he would not get to show why he was a late addition to the Academy squad, with the small utility impressing at NAB League level for Oakleigh Chargers.

#16 Josh Fahey (GWS/NSW-ACT)

One of the few standouts for the Academy side, the GWS GIANTS Academy member offered plenty of drive from defence using his speed and long left foot to break the lines and it was no surprise that he took kick-outs with those strengths. He took one good intercept mark which could be considered low, but he played percentages and went with the fist multiple times to great success. Fahey showed great leadership qualities being vocal down back and he was prepared to work hard with and without the ball. Sharing some similarities to AA defender Michael Hibberd, he could be set for similar accolades at the next level. Speaking of accolades, he would win the Presidents Medal for his 23-disposal and nine-rebound 50 game.

#17 Nasiah Wanganeen (Glenelg/South Australia)

The athletic wingman from Glenelg did not win a lot of the ball, but he had some good moments by foot playing wing early in the game before moving back in the last quarter showing good composure and a nice spoil deep in defence was also good.

#19-31 (By Michael Alvaro)

#19 Neil Erasmus (Subiaco/WA)

The West Australian ended up being quite a handy addition to the Academy squad, able to show his worth in some nice pockets of play. He came to life during a second term purple patch, where his vertical leap and overhead marking were prominent. Erasmus rose well both on the lead and to intercept across half-forward, where he was posted for most of the game. He would later be shifted up onto the wing where he worked back more defensively, but arguably looked more dangerous in attack during the first half. Erasmus had a set shot attempt on goal fall shot in term two and took some time to eventually hit his targets by foot on the move, but returned a promising game overall.

#20 Finn Callaghan (Sandringham Dragons/VM)

Another late inclusion, Callaghan took some time to get up to speed with the pressure gauge set, but began to string together plays more indicative of his talent as the contest wore on. When given the opportunity, he showcased his long and penetrative left-foot kick, looking a touch more comfortable when streaming forward in space. The Sandringham Dragons bolter was a little fumbly below his knees which brought on more pressure than required, though he has the frame to beat opponents when going low and hard. Callaghan shifted to half-back in the final term and was released for a couple of trademark runs before breaching the forward 50 arc by foot. He is difficult to stop in full flight with that mix of size, speed and agility.

#21 Blake Howes (Sandringham Dragons/VM)

On a tough day for Academy forwards, Howes returned a relatively quiet outing having been permanently employed among the front six. With a light frame considering his height, Howes could not quite burst free from tackles he normally would at Under 19s level, but competed well to win a couple of contests in the opening and closing terms. The first was a handy split at half-forward before dishing off to the running Lachlan Rankin, and the second was an instance where he had to cop contact to create a spill inside 50, as the ball was not delivered to his advantage. A good leaper with sticky hands, it was a difficult outing for Howes to show those traits.

#22 Matthew Johnson (Subiaco/WA)

While injury scuppered his chances of an early-season League debut in the WAFL, Johnson put his hand up for such honours with a solid outing against mature bodies. Having played exclusively in midfield, the tall ball winner looks like being in the right shape to do so after his time off. He was the Academy’s third most prolific player, even with a disposal count of 13, showing clean hands and poise at the coalface. His one-touch potential was shown early with a beautiful half-volley gather at half-forward, before going on to take a strong overhead grab later in the first term. Johnson also notched a few clearances but was given little time to think about delivering anything more than a quick kick forward. His uncontested touches were polished though, and he looms as the prime tall inside midfielder in this crop.

#23 Jacob Van Rooyen (Claremont/WA)

Arguably the leading key position forward among a raft of high-level midfielders in this year’s draft pool, Van Rooyen was posted permanently in the familiar centre half-forward position. The Claremont product competed well among a front six that was afforded few opportunities and less than ideal delivery. He presented up the ground and was unlucky not to have been paid a sliding mark on defensive wing in the first term. He would continue to gain separation while up the ground, even when his efforts went unrewarded, while also playing a hand in attempting to lock the ball in his side’s attacking 50 with pressure at the contest. Despite a frustrating outing at times, the ‘Flying Dutchman’ remains a frontrunner in his role.

#24 Rhett Bazzo (Swan Districts/WA)

While he has swung forward to good effect in the WAFL Colts, Bazzo reverted back to his defensive duties for the Academy and built into the game well despite being handed tough assignments. A good reader of the ball, Bazzo was caught lacking early as he was caught behind, but saw that kind of positioning pay off later on as he chimed in with well-timed spoils and some terrific intercept marks inside defensive 50. He was under the pump at times given the speed of which Geelong moved the ball forward, but stood up in one-on-one battles against taller and more developed opponents, like Sam De Koning. His confidence seemed to grow with each defensive act, though he could do little at times as the Cats swept up relentlessly after the initial effort. Bazzo’s disposal, mostly by foot, was also assured on the last line.

#25 Josh Gibcus (GWV Rebels/VC)

The GWV Rebels defender is such a smooth operator on the last line, contributing wonderfully poised disposal on the rebound under a good amount of pressure. He was kept very busy inside defensive 50 and did his best to repel by foot, hitting targets both short and long on the rebound. Gibcus’ reading of the play is also sound, as he popped up to clunk eye-catching marks with nice timing and clean hands. In such a tough role deep among an under-siege defence, he was also impressive at the fall of the ball and swept up as per usual for the Academy. He should be one climbing draft boards after a stunning start to the year.

#27 Jack Williams (East Fremantle/WA)

It was somewhat of an almost day for Williams, who very nearly made the best of limited chances in the Academy forward line. The rising East Fremantle talent started with a strong mark on the lead, before booting his side’s first goal of the game with a wonderfully fluent set shot routine. He would go on to work up the ground and present well down the line, but could not quite hold his marks as he was met with contact by stronger-bodied opponents. Perhaps different umpires would have paid a couple of marks for the balls he got first hands to, but it was not to be for Williams. Still, his short moments were eye-catching despite the absence of end product after his first term goal.

#28 Mac Andrew (Dandenong Stingrays/VC)

One of the steepest risers in this year’s crop, the Melbourne Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect proved his true first round potential. He played up either end and gained a good tick for his versatility, but well and truly came to life in the final term with an awesome showing in the ruck – despite the result being well beyond his side at that point. Andrew caught the eye with phenomenal vertical leaps at each centre bounce, with his first act of the final term a follow-up clearance. He highlighted his marking ability with a nice clunk in front, and showed off some finesse in the ruck with a wonderfully directed hit to the anchoring Jason Horne. Having started forward, the Dandenong Stingrays talent snared the first score of the game with a snap, before displaying clean hands on the move and flying well in his less fruitful move to defence. Demons recruiters will now be sweating on his potential after a string of terrific performances, if they were not already.

#29 Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons/VC)

Playing in his home region, Conway was afforded the starting ruck gig and got to battle it out with an AFL-listed big man in Darcy Fort. He would have learned some handy lessons in positioning and bodywork in each ruck contest, but Conway did his best to compete in those situations. He worked back to offer some aerial support to his defenders and even took an early mark from a long kick-in. Conway also rested forward and spent plenty of time deep in the final term without seeing too much action. He led well on one occasion but was spoiled from behind, unable to cap his outing with a goal.

#30 Ned Moyle (Oakleigh Chargers/VM)

One of two 19-year-old prospects afield, Moyle carried his promising NAB League form into this outing and competed well against stiff opposition. The Oakleigh Chargers big man rotated into the ruck and was not afraid to leap into or wrestle with his senior adversaries. He also did well to stay relevant as the ball fell to ground level, prizing a few clearances forward – even if they were rushed scrubber kicks. Moyle also had the confidence to grab from the ruck and took a nice mark from a kick-in during term two. Like Conway, he rested forward and was stationed there more frequently during the second half, but just lacked the mobility and composure to make a true impact in those attacking positions.

#31 Fraser Marris (GWV Rebels/VC)

The latest of inclusions in this Academy squad, Marris was relatively competitive in his late-notice opportunity and contributed some handy clean touches. Posted in defence as a small, the GWV product fared well in early one-on-ones without having too many wins, but showed his ability to find the ball in space with neat uncontested touches, mostly delivered by foot. He played his role well and should be one to gain some VFL opportunities, ironically enough with the Cats.

Image Credit: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos

Full squad: AFL Academy to take on Geelong VFL on Saturday morning

THE AFL Academy is set to take on Geelong VFL tomorrow, making for an exciting curtain raiser to Saturday’s AFL clash between Geelong and West Coast. Bouncing down at 10:10am at GMHBA Stadium, the featured bout sees 24 of the nation’s brightest AFL Draft prospects granted with the opportunity to go head-to-head with a mature outfit containing plenty of elite level talent.

There has been a raft of changes to the original 21-man squad, announced in December of last year, as top-up players and injury replacements filter into the side. Among the inclusions are a good amount of tall prospects, with rucks Mac Andrew, Toby Conway, and Ned Moyle all earning call-ups for their promising NAB League form.

Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) talent Blayne O’Loughlin, the nephew of Michael, came in alongside Conway and Moyle, as did dynamic marking defender, Josh Gibcus. Skilled Oakleigh Chargers utility Lachlan Rankin is the latest inclusion, replacing Josh Sinn who pulled up sore after academy training this week.

Sinn’s Sandringham Dragons teammate Campbell Chesser has also been sidelined with a knee complaint, while Tasmanian Sam Banks (broken wrist) and Ben Hobbs will miss after sustaining injuries during the latest round of NAB League action. Braden Andrews and Cooper Murley will also sit out, sporting previous knocks.

The final couple of additions should add some dash and dare on the outer, with the fast-rising Finn Callaghan and Nasiah Wanganeen both getting their chance, while eye-catching West Australian Neil Erasmus was also rewarded for his early-season exploits.

Here’s a look at how the squad may line up:

FB: Blayne O’Loughlin, Rhett Bazzo, Josh Fahey
HB: Jase Burgoyne, Josh Gibcus, Finn Callaghan
C: Nasiah Wanganeen, Tyler Sonsie, Matt Roberts
HF: Matthew Johnson, Jacob Van Rooyen, Blake Howes
FF: Neil Erasmus, Jack Williams, Josh Rachele
FOL: Ned Moyle, Nick Daicos, Jason Horne

BENCH: Mac Andrew, Toby Conway, Cooper Hamilton, Austin Harris, Lachlan Rankin, Ned Stevens

INJURED: Braden Andrews, Sam Banks, Campbell Chesser, Ben Hobbs, Cooper Murley, Josh Sinn

Starting from the back, there should be plenty of drive to come from this lot. Recent inclusions, O’Loughlin and Callaghan are quite varied in terms of height, but both love to get going on the rebound and use the ball by foot. GWS Academy product Josh Fahey is another in that category, while potential Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne brings clean skills and plenty of versatility. Despite moving forward this year, Rhett Bazzo was the sensical full back choice, with Gibcus’ marking prowess also landing him a starting spot in the spine.

This team gets a big tick for versatility in the key position department, with Bazzo one of the many prospects who can shift roles. Fellow West Australian Jack Williams, named at full forward, has been known to swing back, while Gold Coast Academy tall Ned Stevens can arguably play on each line. He may be freed up to play at either end, given the rich ruck stocks available.

The magnets are likely to be shuffled elsewhere, too. Tall inside midfielder Matthew Johnson has been named at half-forward having endured an injury interrupted preseason, but will likely rotate through the engine room. Matt Roberts, named on the wing can also play on the inside but rests forward well and has terrific running capacity. Blake Howes (half-forward) is also known to roam a wing, while Josh Rachele and Erasmus are others with promising midfield craft.

Elsewhere, Cooper Hamilton is a solid figure who can be utilised up either end or in that midfield rotation, while small utility Austin Harris will look to use his smarts as a defender, forward, or wingman. Rankin is another in that boat, having previously played as a running defender or wingman, but more recently been utilised up forward.

Lastly, arguably the centrepiece of the lineup lies at the centre bounces. Top five candidate Tyler Sonsie joins clear pick one frontrunners, Nick Daicos and Jason Horne at the heart of the team, set to form a potent midfield trio for the Academy bunch.

Full squad:

#1 Blayne O’Loughlin (SA) North Adelaide
#2 Austin Harris (Qld) Gold Coast Suns
#3 Cooper Murley (SA) Norwood*
#4 Josh Rachele (Vic C) Murray Bushrangers
#5 Tyler Sonsie (Vic M) Eastern Ranges
#6 Nick Daicos (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers
#7 Cooper Hamilton (Vic C) Bendigo Pioneers
#8 Ben Hobbs (Vic C) GWV Rebels*
#9 Jason Horne (SA) South Adelaide
#10 Matt Roberts (SA) South Adelaide
#11 Jase Burgoyne (SA) Woodville-West Torrens
#12 Sam Banks (Tas) Clarence*
#13 Lachlan Rankin (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers
#14 Campbell Chesser (Vic C) Sandringham Dragons*
#15 Josh Sinn (Vic M) Sandringham Dragons*
#16 Josh Fahey (NSW/ACT) GWS Giants
#17 Nasiah Wanganeen (SA) Glenelg
#18 Braden Andrews (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers*
#19 Neil Erasmus (WA) Subiaco
#20 Finn Callaghan (Vic M) Sandringham Dragons
#21 Blake Howes (Vic M) Sandringham Dragons
#22 Matthew Johnson (WA) Subiaco
#23 Jacob Van Rooyen (WA) Claremont
#24 Rhett Bazzo (WA) Swan Districts
#26 Ned Stevens (NT) Waratah/Gold Coast Suns
#27 Jack Williams (WA) East Fremantle
#28 Mac Andrew (Vic C) Dandenong Stingrays
#29 Toby Conway (Vic C) Geelong Falcons
#30 Ned Moyle (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers
#35 Josh Gibcus (Vic C) GWV Rebels

* – denotes injured

The game will be streamed live via the official AFL app and website. Keep an eye out for Scouting Notes on each Academy player, post-match.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 3

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

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Hamish Spence

TASMANIA:

#1 Baynen Lowe

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

#3 Oliver Davis

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

#4 Samuel Foley

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

#5 Oliver Sanders

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

#6 Sam Banks

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

#21 Jacob Young

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

EASTERN:

#1 Tyler Sonsie

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

#5 Jake Soligo

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

#9 Mitchell Sruk

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

#21 Corey Preston

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

#29 Harrison Keeling

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

#30 Jack Diedrich

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

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

GIPPSLAND:

#4 Nathan Noblett

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

#5 Chance Doultree

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

#6 Mitchell Moschetti

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

#23 Jai Serong

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

NORTHERN:

#2 Ned Long

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

#3 Josh Ward

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

#7 Ewan Macpherson

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

#9 Darcy Wilmot

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

#19 Joel Trudgeon

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

#22 Jack Rossimel

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

#26 Dom Akuei

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

#28 Joel Fitzgerald

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

#33 Mackenzie Hogg

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

#39 Emilio Rinaudo

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

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Michael Alvaro

SANDRINGHAM:

#4 Josh Sinn

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

#11 Jack Peris

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

#17 Finn Callaghan

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

#18 Darby Hipwell

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

#42 Luke Cleary

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

#70 Jacob Edwards

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

DANDENONG:

#6 Connor Macdonald

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

#10 Clayton Gay

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

#14 Will Bravo

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

#22 Mac Andrew

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

#46 Justin Davies

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

WESTERN JETS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Eli Duxson

WESTERN:

#26 Cody Raak

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

#33 Billy Cootee

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

#35 Liam Conway

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

#50 Paul Tsapatolis

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

OAKLEIGH:

#1 Youseph Dib

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

#3 Nick Daicos

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

#8 Fraser Elliot

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

#14 Sam Darcy

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

#27 Karl Worner

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

#64 Ned Moyle

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

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Michael Alvaro

BENDIGO:

#1 Sam Conforti

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

#4 Jack Hickman

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

#5 Cooper Hamilton

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

#11 Cobi Maxted

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

#13 Jack Evans

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

GEELONG:

#12 Noah Gribble

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

#16 Charlie Ham

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

#25 Josh Sorgiovanni

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

#28 Mitch Knevitt

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

#60 Toby Conway

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

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Ed Pascoe

MURRAY:

#2 Charlie Byrne

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

#3 Toby Murray

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

#5 Patrick Parnell

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

#9 Kade Chalcraft

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

#10 Daniel Turner

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

#13 Tom Brown

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

GWV:

#1 Sam Butler

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

#3 Charlie Molan

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

#8 Josh Gibcus

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

#10 Blake Scott

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

#14 Jamieson Ballantyne

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

#16 Kai Lohmann

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

NAB League Player Focus: Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons)

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

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

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

PLAYER PAGE

Toby Conway
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

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

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

* – from first three games.

PLAYER FOCUS

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

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

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

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

Q2:

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

Q3:

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

Q4:

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

Final thoughts…

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