A RAFT of draft eligible representative guns returned to the NAB League in Round 11, ensuring squads were stacked in one of the strongest weekends for talent so far this year. There were plenty of top showings across the six fixtures, as players stepped up across a generally competitive round – which featured three games decided by a goal or less. We take a look at some of the top performers from each side in our opinion-based Scouting Notes.
CALDER CANNONS 8.5 (53) def. GEELONG FALCONS 7.8 (50)
By: Michael Alvaro
#5 Zac Taylor
It seemed Taylor was everywhere at times, with the small midfielder a consistent figure at each contest and a hard-worker around the ground. While Geelong applied decent pressure, Taylor often looked to back his pace and nearly always steadied before delivering by foot. That kind of trait made for better efficiency going forward, with the Calder midfielder very creative in possession. He also claimed the game’s first goal after launching a huge set shot from the arc in a tone-setting act.
#6 Flynn Lakey
Another constant in Calder’s midfield mix, Lakey continues to play an under-appreciated and selfless role for the Cannons. He was often the one digging in for first possession before dishing out to runners, bringing his teammates into the game with slick handballs. Even when accumulating away from the contest, Lakey did not bite off too much and continued to feed his runners, allowing Calder to flow forward. He defies his size in terms of toughness too, a factor observed as he laid a big hit on big-bodied Falcon, Mitch Knevitt.
#25 Josh Goater
Shifting from midfield to half-back, Goater was simply superb in a game which fully showcased his rare versatility. His clean hands have been evident within his midfield craft, but Goater transferred that same skill to be a reliable intercept marker in the backline. When in possession, he used the ball typically well by foot with precision passes and hardly wasted a touch. In motion, Goater leant on his athleticism with eye-catching turns of speed to weave through traffic and spark rebounding chains. He worked well with others too, starting one-two passages to move the ball down the field in style. The draft eligible talent did it all and was near-untouchable at times.
#30 Sam Paea
Paea was the dominant key forward afield and proved far too much for his opponents to contain across a five-goal game. He made good on two set shot chances in the opening term and never looked back, harnessing the confidence gained from his conversions to provide marking presence up the ground and get dangerous inside 50. Paea did not always clunk the ball cleanly overhead, but showed good athleticism in his follow-up work to snare two more goals. His fifth was a lovely snap from the boundary in the third quarter, capping a promising display from the developing tall.
#11 Cooper Whyte
While others had more of the ball, Whyte was one of the more productive midfielders out there on Saturday. He often got his legs pumping to exit the contest with speed and looked to break tackles, proving aggressive in his approach to driving Geelong forward. He hardly took a backwards step and defied his size to clunk overhead marks in important areas, before again generating that forward momentum and moving the ball on quickly.
#12 Noah Gribble
One of the league’s most consistent accumulators, Gribble racked up another 39 touches for the Falcons in his latest effort. He runs as hard as anyone at the level and leans on that work rate to find the ball at either end of the ground, while also following his disposals to get the ball back and go again. Gribble sometimes halted the Falcons’ momentum when turning back into traffic, but did well to find more ball on the outer after half time and lifted when the game was up for grabs late. His intent to achieve penetration with each kick during that period was clear, but ultimately to no avail.
#28 Mitch Knevitt
Spending a good chunk of time forward in this outing, Knevitt enjoyed a handy little purple patch late in term two. The big-bodied midfielder continually worked his direct opponent over, finding separation on the lead inside 50 and being afforded shots on goal. He missed a set shot and sent a snap into the post, before eventually converting before the half was up. When running though midfield, Knevitt’s hard tackling and clean hands were key features of his game.
#56 Oscar Morrison
Morrison was handed a tough match-up for most of the day in Calder spearhead Sam Paea, but looked effective when he was able to roll off and take intercept marks. The Falcons defender clunked some nice grabs early, stretching well overhead to cut off Calder’s forward forays and often relieve Geelong on the last line. He was sometimes beaten in the follow-up work after competing aerially, having initially done well to create spills by having body on his opponent or affecting a spoil.
GWV REBELS 5.7 (37) def. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 4.11 (35)
By: Michael Alvaro
#2 Ben Hobbs
Having made a splash upon his return from injury over the last few weeks, Hobbs continued his strong ball winning form on Saturday. The hard-at-it midfielder started forward but soon found his way into the middle, bringing his usual grunt and hardness to the engine room. Hobbs often looked to bustle his way out of congestion and break tackles, which saw him caught on a couple of occasions, but set a positive tone for his side. He also worked hard around the ground to boost his disposal tally, as one of the leading possession-getters afield.
#3 Charlie Molan
The ever-reliable Molan was again integral to the Rebels’ cause, stationed in his newly-customary wing position. He got in all the right positions behind the ball to either intercept or contest and force turnovers, producing plenty of influential play. His radar was a touch off at times, particularly when opting to go long, but Molan sharpened up and knocked around some clever forward passes as the game wore on.
#6 Marcus Herbert
Such a stylish mover on the ball, Herbert came to prominence in the early stages with a terrific goal. The Rebels top-ager showed off his dancing feet and strong core, baulking past two opponents in quick succession before slamming home the six points. He looked strong over the ball at ground level and competed well in that aspect, while also looking far more polished with his disposal by foot. Herbert later missed another chance on goal from range, but hit a couple of nice targets going inside 50 in what was a really solid performance in midfield.
#14 Jamieson Ballantyne
Another who has found some promising form of late, Ballantyne continued that trend in Round 11. While he is known to provide a bit of dash on the outer, the wingman showed he is not afraid to contest the hard ball and get his hands dirty. There was less room than usual to operate in for Ballantyne, but he adjusted well to run through the loose balls and dispose cleanly even with contact imminent.
#15 Nick Hodgson
The Allies Under 19 hopeful returned to the Rebels’ line-up and has seen competition for midfield spots rise, but went about his usual business with some tough work on the inside. Hodgson thrives at the contest and that was hardly different on Saturday, as he dug in at ground level and made his mark with fierce tackles. He really started to warm to the contest in term two, finding a good amount of ball and getting others into the game.
#1 Youseph Dib
Operating through midfield as he has done in recent weeks, Dib leant on some of his strongest traits to have an impact. The Collingwood Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect proved evasive with his turn of speed, but was also strong at the contest where his mature build held up well. Dib also rotated forward, but missed a fourth quarter set shot via the post. He still produced a couple of big moments; running down Herbert as he broke from a centre bounce, and winning a crucial late clearance to help give Oakleigh once last chance on goal.
#12 Lochlan Jenkins
The top-ager produced work expected of him at this stage, getting busy though midfield with tough work in the clinches. He was particularly busy early on as he and his Chargers looked to set off on the right foot, competing well in-and-under the packs. Jenkins did well to consistently rip the ball free and pump his legs to get a bit of space before sending kicks forward. His tackling was also strong, making for a solid inside midfielder’s game.
#22 Lachlan Rankin
A player capable of being employed on each line, Rankin was mostly sighted in defence during his latest NAB League appearance. The Chargers trusted his skills as he took on kick-in duties, mixing up his outlets to search for both short and long targets. Rankin also opened up general play by foot, with one particularly daring defensive switch in the final term catching the eye. The utility would also sneak forward but could not quite make good on his shots on goal, including a 20m set shot in the last 90 second which may well have won Oakleigh the game.
#27 Karl Worner
Fresh off his impressive Vic Metro trial outing, Worner continued his usual stints out on the wing for Oakleigh and had a say moving forward. He found his fair share of ball but could not quite get the space he was after early on, before finding a few more blades to operate in and pumping his side into attack by foot.
#33 Patrick Voss
Voss brought all the physicality and intent he usually does to this contest, setting the tone early with a crushing holding the ball tackle. His strength was impressive throughout the contest, but sometimes resulted in free kicks against due to overzealous defensive acts. Voss also tended to bomb forward by foot and while he gained good meterage, would sometimes have been better off lowering his eyes. He got a run in midfield late on and proved a pest to opposition ball winners.
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 11.5 (71) def. NORTHERN KNIGHTS 8.7 (55)
By: Michael Alvaro
#2 Charlie Byrne
Pushed back out to the wing after a foray on the inside, Byrne went about his usual business by generating positive run on the outer. His skills looked sharp and Byrne was often the player Murray looked for at half-back to spark their transitional play. The top-ager would either use the ball soundly by foot, or move on quickly with a fend-off or burst of speed to kick-start the attack. He played an ideal outside role and would have gained plenty of metres throughout the day.
#4 Josh Rachele
It is fair to say that Rachele was well and truly back to his best on Saturday. The highly talented forward looked switched on from the outset, working over his first direct opponent and forcing a switch having repeatedly gotten loose up the field. He sunk two goals in the first term to get things rolling, before turning it on in the second with three typically genius conversions. Rachele showed his smarts with a nice tap over the back, before running onto the loose ball and snaring his third major, with his fourth a clever checkside out of the forward 50 stoppage. He sent through another on the half time siren and after getting few looks in term three, made it six with a wonderfully hit 50m bomb in the final quarter. Outstanding stuff from the Draft Central Player of the Week, who served a reminder of his top five potential.
#13 Tom Brown
In his first NAB League outing since Round 4, Brown took little time to get going. With a tricky match-up at half-back, the defender was constantly able to mop up at ground level and get a better read of the aerial ball to intercept Northern’s attacks. Brown also backed his pace on the rebound, setting off quickly before delivering neat passes at full tilt. While he was a touch less prominent after half time, this was a more than steady return for the 17-year-old.
#24 Cameron McLeod
McLeod popped up to snare goals in three of the four quarters against Northern, showcasing classy finishing skills on the move for a player of his size. The top-ager got on the board in term one with a nice bit of play on the forward break, and kicked another on the run in term four after working up the ground. McLeod became more prominent in that department as the game wore on, searching outside the attacking arc to help link Murray into attack.
#3 Josh Ward
It was another stellar display from Ward on Saturday, who has put himself firmly in the first round frame with a series of top performances. The Northern Knights standout was his side’s most permanent and prolific midfielder, getting stuck in at the coalface while also continuing to show good speed away from the contest. Ward’s ability to get productive and chain together one-two handball passages proved a positive way forward for the Knights, who sometimes needed that kind of spark on the uptake. He was also made to work into defence to find the ball and start such passages, leaning on a strong work ethic to do so. Ward appeared to clutch at a knee after being brought down in a fourth quarter tackle, but ultimately ran off the knock.
#23 Anthony Caminiti
Caminiti has proven to be one of the finds of the season for Northern, with such status only consolidated after just his second NAB League outing. The mobile tall forward was able to repeat his best skills, which were often marks taken on the lead at full stretch with plenty of separation to his direct opponent. Caminiti also showcased his mobility on the ball, proving confident enough to burn the trailing opponent and manufacture some space to dispose efficiently. He was also thrown into the ruck and while there was no reward in the form of goals, Caminiti certainly deserved at least one for his efforts.
#27 Jason McCormick
With a certain small forward exciting at the opposite end of the ground, McCormick proved his own worth with a well-crafted four-goal outing – his second for the season. The bottom-ager converted well from set shots and was clever in his reading of the play, nudging his opponent under the ball to then either mark or run onto it over the back. He also lurked at the back of packs and finished in quick time after sharking the spills, playing the small forward role perfectly in terms of his attacking 50 craft.
#28 Joel Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald racked up plenty of possessions on the rebound from defence, setting Northern on the front foot with his run and clean kicking game. He cushioned the ball well for leading targets and often looked to carry through the corridor, making for more direct avenues forward. Fitzgerald put together a pretty neat performance and was another to perform repeatable skills, with that short kicking game quite sound in transition.
TASMANIA DEVILS 2.6 (18) def. by SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 6.20 (56)
By: Michael Alvaro
#1 Baynen Lowe
Lowe was his usually busy self throughout the day, but understandably found the going tough at times against some pretty stiff opposition. He often worked back to help out Tasmania’s besieged defence, accumulating across the back half and looking to pump his side forward under pressure. He also popped up at the other end after half time, hitting the post with a set shot and contributing the one-percenters – like a spoil at half-forward to help lock the ball in.
#6 Sam Banks
One of the many highly-touted prospects making their return this week, Banks’ first game back was a steady one in defence. He looked to generate some momentum out of the back half when kicking short, working hard to get the next possession and continue his foray up the field. Banks, who took on kick-in duties, also looked for distance in his use by foot, as Tasmania struggled to exit its own half at times. He seemed to be managed after half time but showed some positive signs early on.
#8 Zach Morris
Morris was solid as a rock in defence, with his strong intercept marking a real feature throughout the day. He often rose against an opponent and managed to pull the ball down, not afraid to do so from behind or with heat coming either way. He had a really tough gig in the backline but stood up well with plenty of work to be done.
#15 Lachlan Cowan
Cowan has shown some really promising signs this season as a bottom-ager, looking quite assured in defence. He was another who fared well aerially and had plenty on his plate, but took to the task with aplomb. Cowan pushed a high line early and intercepted in advanced areas, before being forced to drop much further back after half time and produce the same feats inside defensive 50. He proved a good judge of the ball in flight and often clunked the ball at full stretch, before calmly distributing.
#22 Baker Smith
The Allies Under 19 squad member is the fourth Tasmanian defender to feature here, and rightly so after standing up in a tough spot. He did much of his work under enormous pressure on the last line, but positioned well to prevent many Sandringham scores by intercepting on the goal line. Smith was another whose marking became prominent, but it was also his tackling and one-percent efforts which helped the Devils keep their opponents somewhat at bay.
#4 Josh Sinn
After getting back into the swing of things off half-back last week, it did not take long for the Dragons to thrust Sinn back into midfield this time around. The Sandringham co-captain looked terrific in the early stages, sharking the ruck taps at speed and backing his pace to burn forward out of congestion. He trusted his foot skills too, taking on aggressive options going forward. Sinn registered a couple of behinds in the second term; one on the run as he just could not steady enough, and the other a 45m set shot after marking uncontested. He was not as prominent in the second half, perhaps a product of being managed.
#5 Lachlan Benton
After enjoying some added responsibility in different roles over the last couple of weeks, Benton rolled forward from the wing on Saturday. He proved strong in the air for a player of his size, rising with courage to take a couple of solid overhead marks in the first half. Benton dropped back well to find the ball and worked hard to chain his possessions in transition, even if he did not always get the ball back. Another example of his repeat running came in the third term, when Benton hit Blake Howes on the lead, then worked inside 50 to receive a short kick over the top. He missed the resultant set shot, but later got a run at the centre bounces and was a solid contributor overall.
#6 Blake Howes
There is plenty to like about Howes’ game and he once again impressed with not only his athletic traits, but footballing ability. The forward-turned-wingman remained prolific in the air and got to plenty of good spots forward of centre to get involved in scoring passages. He was incredibly unlucky not to hit the scoreboard himself, at least in a major way, registering four behinds with most of his efforts coming from range on the fly.
#7 Campbell Chesser
At risk of sounding like a broken record, Chesser was another player to return this week and took some time to get adjusted to the pace of the game. Usually a prolific carrier of the ball, he backed himself to do so but was afforded less time and space than he might have desired, which impacted his ball use. Still, Chesser found his groove and got in some great positions to receive on the outer – using his speed once released, rather than to manufacture than space himself. The midfielder had a nice patch in the third term with a couple of clearances, rounding out a solid game to build off.
#17 Finn Callaghan
Callaghan’s output of late has been simply exceptional, and he was again the best player afield on Saturday among a host of big names. He has truly found a home on the inside, where is poise and agility in traffic has only become more pronounced with each passing week. Callaghan hardly wasted a touch and was effective both by hand and foot, never looking rushed on the ball and proving a level above in terms of his overall polish. His first half was as good as it gets and he carried that on to finish with a game-high 28 disposals.
#45 Marcus Windhager
Fresh off a promising display in the Victorian Under 19 trials, Windhager popped up to produce some eye-catching plays once again. The St Kilda NGA prospect rotated through the midfield and forwardline, with his disposal while on-ball leading to plenty of chances on goal in the first half. He was consistently able to hit targets inside attacking 50, working up to half-forward and using the ball beautifully by foot heading back towards goal. While he did not find the goals himself, Windhager helped the Dragons do so with his sound decision making.
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 7.8 (50) def. by EASTERN RANGES 7.10 (52)
By: Declan Reeve
#3 Miller Bergman
Taking up a role on the wing for most of the game, Bergman was a big part of transitional play from the defensive half, working hard to push in the back 50 and provide an option for a switch kick or to apply pressure of his own, getting a free kick early on when he caught an opponent holding the ball. Was effective with his ball use throughout the game even if he had little time to balance himself when delivering a kick, hitting some pinpoint kicks from just a step. Used his agility to get around opponents quickly, selling candy at crucial moments to keep the ball moving quickly forward.
#6 Connor Macdonald
Continuing to impress as he did prior to the NAB League break, Macdonald was a major ball winner through the Dandenong midfield. Continually clean below his knees, Macdonald took some clean one-hand pick-ups whilst moving at top speed, or under pressure from opponents, bursting away to get a disposal away. Macdonald has become somewhat renowned for that burst, as well as his leap, able to impact plays he has no right to, at times leaping high to get a hand to an attempted handball and tapping to his own advantage, or taking marks over the top of opponents, getting above their reach. Whilst he didn’t have much luck getting goals himself, missing a few ones you’d expect him to nail, his footy IQ and decision making around the forward 50 helped set up a few in the second half, happy to pass the ball off to options behind or in more central spots to open up the inside 50, or handball and follow up with a shepherd to buy his teammates more time with the footy. Was strong around stoppages as well, winning hardballs at ground level at times to win clearances, with one in the third quarter resulting in a goal after one of his teammates ran onto it.
#7 Judson Clarke
Coming into the game with the momentum of five goals from the previous weeks Victorian trial games, Clarke wasn’t quite given the time in the forwardline against Eastern, but still looked dangerous forward of centre with his lighting speed and agility catching a few eyes. One of the biggest strengths Clarke showed was his workrate around the ground, both offensively and defensively, working hard around the contests to apply pressure and assisting in the defensive 50 to work the ball out. Would follow up his handballs and kicks to get it back and dispose of it with momentum, with one of these moments in the final term seeing him run about 80 meters, starting on the wing, getting a handball to a teammate on the 50 meter mark, getting it back and snapping a goal to momentarily put Dandenong in front.
#43 Billy Taylor
The 2004-born ruck/forward had some impressive moments throughout the game, where his athleticism and skill at ground level suggested he was a smaller than his 195cm stature would suggest he could. Kicked the first two Dandenong goals in the second quarter, with the second one particularly impressive as he got an opponent for holding the ball inside the forward 50 when he looked like he was out of the contest. When he went through the ruck his leap allowed him to win most of the hitouts, with his follow up work around the ground also impressive, seemingly marking everything that came his way.
#46 Justin Davies
Being switched between the forwardline and backline throughout the game, whilst Davies struggled to gain consistency in finding the ball, his aerial dominance was a constant, able to hold onto the ball even when copping heavy contact in the contest. His positioning when approaching aerial contests was impressive as well, putting himself in a spot where if he didn’t hold the mark, he’d be able to follow up strongly at ground level.
#5 Jake Soligo
After an impressive display in the recent Victorian trial matches, Solgio returned to the NAB League with another impressive outing through the Eastern midfield and forwardline. Continuing to impress with the things he does well, getting separation around the ground and looking strong overhead, winning contested ball and clearances well, working hard both ways and hitting his in tight handballs. What was different was the cleanliness of Soligo’s kicking, hitting a lot of targets by foot through the game, even when under pressure. Took a good mark inside 50 where he nudged his opponent under it to hold it out the back, and kicked it straight through.
#21 Corey Preston
Continued his transition into the defensive half as he lined up at half-back for a large majority of the game. Not overly flashy as he can be in the forward half, Preston did the fundamentals really well, positioning strongly behind the ball to intercept when it came in from his side of the ground, and pushing wide to be a switch kick option for his teammates. His follow up ball use was also impressive, with his kicking in particular getting penetration behind it going forward. In the dying stages of the game, as Eastern looked to hold onto their two-point lead, Preston was switched into the rover role, adding some composure on ball.
#35 Max Hall
Looking at his best around stoppages, Hall seemingly won every second clearance he could, able to burst away from opponents to collect it off the ground and bomb the ball forward. Was impressive with his hands in close, finding teammates out of congestion to release them going forward. Was really strong in holding his ground when copping contact, not being knocked off balance when opponents tried to bring him down.
GIPPSLAND POWER 9.3 (57) def. WESTERN JETS 7.9 (51)
By: Eli Duxson
#4 Nathan Noblett
Not typically one to dominate the scoreboard with just two majors before this game, but he proved to be the difference bagging four goals straight to get the accurate Power over the line. It was a mixture of fortune and opportunistic positioning with two of his four goals coming from well timed runs out the back into open goals. His pressure up forward was strong in a day that was tough to exit defensive 50 with a holding the ball free kick for netting him a set shot chance which he drilled. Noblett found most of his 15 disposals in the forward half of the ground often presenting outside 50 and working back. When around the ball, he was able to get in and find it as well as receive on the outside, his second goal came from a kick out of a pack.
#11 Caleb Van Oostveen
The 17-year-old small enjoyed one of his better days out from his four games this season collecting 13 disposals to go with a goal, but more importantly laying a game-high 10 tackles. His goal came from a holding the ball free kick for of which he nailed the set shot for, a reward for effort. Van Oostveen averages eight tackles a game and played a pivotal role in making the already difficult rebound 50’s for the Jets even more so compensating for his 171cm frame with tenacious pressure.
#17 Luis D’Angelo
Another reliably productive game from D’Angelo in conditions made for contested football, and clearly made of him. Was one of Gippsland’s more prominent inside midfielders using his hip strength to keep his balance and offload from packs more efficiently. He had a perfect balance of inside and outside play and disposal type (11 handballs and kicks) due to his ability to spread from stoppages and get involved further down the chain. His vision was solid on multiple occasions with pulled kicks and on a better day weather wise, he would have looked a lot more polished. Despite his presence in the contest, he did not lay a tackle all game.
#2 Harrison White
Was lively all game and kept the Jets in the contest for much of the day. He almost kicked three goals in a row for Western with his first coming after the quarter time siren to extend their lead, and his second coming early in the second term as he manufactured a snap out of nothing. It seemed he could not be stopped as he was almost everywhere at one point, his third shot at goal being deemed touched halted the Jets momentum. White spent more time in the forward line but pushed up the ground and found the ball 21 times with some midfield minutes, providing great run and contest all game.
#11 Harrison Schumann
Entrusted with the kick out duties on a day you would rather not but did a serviceable job for the few behinds the Power scored and was generally reliable with ball in hand coming out of defence. The 18-year-old recorded five rebound 50’s among his season-high 17 disposals (12 kicks, five handballs), but he also managed to push further afield and deliver inside 50 following his opponent on a day where balls were falling short and swirling. Defensively he was disciplined being strong in the contest aerially and on the deck, with his cleanliness below the knees a feature of his tidy abilities.
#14 Mace Cousins
Looked threatening and classy all in one selling candy and spinning out of trouble onto his often-trusty left boot. His cleanliness also suffered at times due to the blustery conditions but looked one to be dangerous entering forward 50 which he did on five occasions. Playing out of half forward he would not push up too far and chose to remain closer to goal. Like many of his teammates he was unable to hit the scoreboard and was often a little too kick-happy, but it was an almost game for Cousins who was not far off breaking the game open.
#20 Dylan Laurie
The small defender put together another solid game collecting 17 disposals and three rebound 50’s in a similar role to Schumann. Often got on the end of handballs to exit defence and was generally efficient considering the conditions which no one could master consistently. Laurie defended well and applied good pressure at ground level, despite being pushed up into space to meet the ball. Disciplined in position and disciplined with ball in hand.
#35 Liam Conway
A season-high in disposals in what has been an impressive season for the big-bodied midfielder as he made his way to 34 disposals along with five marks and a whopping 11 inside 50s. Around the contest he showed his strength and balance over the ball and ability to extract, while then also spreading and creating space for teammates with his disposal. He played a more defensive role setting up behind the ball well to intercept and drive the ball back in to the forward 50, while also sweeping at stoppages and using his strength and acceleration to find teammates or clear forward. The Jets best on the day as he continues to compile a strong case for a spot at the higher level.
Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos