Tag: ben thomas

QAFL finals wrap: Cats’ Colts join Seniors in the big dance

GRAND finalists have been set across the QAFL Senior, Reserves, and Colts grades with Gold Coast clubs Labrador and Broadbeach represented across two of the three levels. The Cats will face Maroochydore in the senior decider after the Roos jumped minor premier Labrador in an epic comeback win, but the Tigers’ Reserves and Colts downed Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) and Morningside respectively to set up final week appearances.

Maroochydore’s epic last gasp victory in the top flight sets up an intriguing grand final meeting with Broadbeach, who will be out to rectify last year’s loss to Morningside after earning the week off. The Roos got the jump with a five goals to one opening term but fell 18 points behind at half-time, and were 22 points down with less that 10 minutes left to play. As Labrador began to rest its guns, a five-goal swing ensued and the Roos saluted to the tune of 10 points, 13.10 (88) to 11.12 (78).

Sam McLaughlin was outstanding for the victors and slotted a key late major, as the likes of Michael Steven (four goals), Lochie Laing and Mitchell Scholard (both three) also found the big sticks throughout. Former-AFL Irishman Pearce Hanley booted five goals for Labrador, while Alex McKay played a key role through the engine room. From an Academy sense, products Mackenzie Riddle (Gold Coast) and Ben Thomas (Brisbane) featured for either side.

While the seniors were done-in, Labrador’s second side defeated PBC by 22 points to secure a spot in the grand final alongside Morningside. Minor premiers across both grades, the Tigers were able to convert on this occasion having set up an early buffer and lead at every break.

Northern Territory native and Gold Coast eligible tall Ned Stevens snared a goal in just his fourth game for the season, having battled a niggling groin injury. Fellow tall Thomas Hofert also got a run for the victors, along with 2002-born SUNS Academy products Bailey Reeves, James Smith, Shaye Walsh, and Riley Johnson. Top-ager Luke Coombes notched his 12th reserves game, while Brinn Little turned out for PBC.

In the Colts grade, Labrador will take on Broadbeach after the Cats downed Morningside on Saturday, restricting the second-ranked Panthers to just two goals from 11 scoring shots in a dominant 46-point victory. State Under 17 squad members Jared Eckersley and Kye Reynoldson were among the Cats’ best, while Cooper Parkes snared four majors in the win. For Morningside, representative selectees Harry Taylor, Thalayn Ryschka, and Bryce Longland all featured in their side’s final game for the season.

Image Credit: Brooke Sleep Photography via AFLQ

State Leagues preview: QAFL’s first full round begins as other states go again for Round 2

IN a Draft Central first, we have streamlined a look across the nation with a number of state leagues coming back for Round 2 after a big opening round. Competitions in South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland all take place over the weekend and we preview them all in one convenient preview.

QUEENSLAND:

The full bill of teams will be out in force for Round 2 of the QAFL after last year’s wooden spooners Wilston Grange got the one-point win over newcomers Noosa Tigers last weekend. The Gorillas matched their total wins from last season – albeit from a shorter nine-game season – from just one match, and will host Maroochydore this weekend. The Roos have teenager Ben Thomas on the wing, with key position tall Max McDonald named at half-back. For the Gorillas top-age draft prospect Bae Gallop has been named onball, alongside Kuot Thot (half-forward flank). Ky McKenzie (interchange) and Oscar Stewart (back pocket) are others who are young talents to watch for the home side.

Meanwhile grand finalists Broadbeach will host Labrador in the Cats’ first game of the year, while reigning premiers Morningside will travel to Palm Beach Currumbin for an away game first up. Naturally the Panthers were happy to wait until Round 3 to unfurl the flag against the team they conquered in the 2020 decider. The Cats will have a couple of Suns Academy members who have come through the program in Ryan Pickering and Finn Brown (emergency), while for Labrador, small forward Blair Rubock is back again in the yellow and black, with Bryce Retzlaff to provide a a tall target and crucially, ex-Gold Coast and Brisbane talent Pearce Hanley named onball.

Will Bella is the one to watch for the Lions as they try to take down the reigning premiers in Round 1, as the Gold Coast Suns’ tall has been named in the forward pocket. He will play alongside the likes of Ethan Hunt and Ashton Crossley who have both come through the Northern Academy programs in recent years. For Morningside, Ben McCarthy has been named at half-back and is one to watch from the Brisbane Academy, while Nathan Colenso and Tom Griffiths have come through the Northern Academies in recent years and remain youngsters to keep an eye on.

The 2019 QAFL premiers Surfers Paradise will be eyeing off a much better season in 2021 after just two wins last year, taking on another new team in Redland-Victoria Point. The Demons will hit the road against the Sharks in the clash, whilst the final match of the round will see Sherwood Districts hosting Mt Gravatt. Noosa Tigers will have a bye after the tight Round 1 loss.

Not named as a starter, but young Jaspa Fletcher will be one to watch for Sherwood this season, with Adrian’s son set to create plenty of headaches inside 50. Speaking of headaches inside 50, it is great to see Kobe Tozer returning from injury to be named at full-forward for the black and whites. Up the other end, Conner Bulley has been named in a forward pocket as another teenager in the side, whilst for the Vultures, Lochlan Harrop (half-forward) and Ethan Kerr (back pocket) are a couple of teenagers in the Round 2 team.

Surfers Paradise have players to keep an eye on as they keep developing such as Matthew Green and Myles Jewell returning to the side to take on the Sharks. Redland-Victoria Point is a new side entering the QAFL, though Redland has had its success in the NEWAFL, and ex-Collingwood talent Peter Yagmoor is one to watch on the list, as well as ex-Sherwood player Caleb Franks.

South Australia:

Former Tasmanian State League (TSL) and ex-West Coast Eagle Mitch O’Neill has been named for his South Adelaide debut, coming into the Panthers’ team alongside another former TSL and ex-AFL talent in Fraser Turner. They will beef up the Panthers’ starting team to take on North Adelaide in the SANFL League clash, who celebrate Jarred Allmond‘s 200th game. Top draft prospect will start on the interchange for the Panthers, whilst Dyson Hilder will be at full forward for the Roosters.

Another Tasmanian coming into the league is Hamish Allan, with the ex-North Hobart 20-year-old running out for Sturt this year. He will be amongst the side that features past South Australian representatives at Under 18s level, Tom Lewis, Josh Shute and Jed McEntee among others. Their opponents Norwood will celebrate Cameron Shenton‘s 100 games, but will be without Richard Douglas for the clash due to personal reasons, though a player who has garnered draft interest in recent years in Cole Gerloff returns to the Redlegs.

A trio of teenagers will potentially line-up for the League side with Brady Searle, Cooper Horsnell and Will Chandler all named in the side for their debuts, with ex-Demon Billy Stretch out with an ankle injury. Their opponents Woodville-West Torrens will unveil Canberra Demons’ recruit Mitchell Hardie who comes into the side along with the huge – physical and metaphorical – inclusion of ruck Jarrad Redden.

Teenage talent Bailey Chamberlain has been named for West Adelaide as one of three inclusions up against Adelaide’s reserves side. He joins new recruit Nick Steele as a potential inclusion, with no outs as of yet, and the likes of Josh Gore and Elliot Dunkin as ones who have caught AFL clubs attention in past years. The Crows will include ex-Glenelg onballer Luke Pedlar for the first time, with Daniel Jackson rested from the match.

Meanwhile Port Adelaide will be without Lachie Jones (debut) and Tom Rockliff (concussion) in a couple of massive outs, which gives Central District a big bonus at the selection table, welcoming in former Panther Brett Kennedy alongside ex-Tiger Ben Nason who returns into the team for the clash against the Magpies.

 

TASMANIA:

In Round 2 of the TSL, Glenorchy enter the competition after a Round 1 bye, set to take on a Clarence team coming off a hard-fought seven-point defeat. The Roos took a little too long to get going against an Allen Christensen-inspired Lauderdale outfit, and they will be keen to step it up against the Magpies.

Glenorchy will of course be without legend Jaye Bowden who retired last season, with Matthew Joseph set to be the focal point up forward, whilst youngster Callum Thompson is one to keep an eye on in the match. The Roos lose a shot of young guns due to Tasmania Devils returning to the NAB League with Oliver Davis, Baker Smith, Darcy Gardner and Noah Holmes all out, while ex-Demon Colin Garland has been named at full-forward.

In the Tigers-Lauderdale clash, much has been spoken about the huge impact that Sam Siggins and Nat Franklin had through the midfield with Christensen dominating up forward. The trio will look to have a similar impact when they travel to Kingborough to take on Tigers, who had a young gun stand out in Round 1 with Zach Adams impressing off a wing, whilst Lachlan Gadomski and Riley Ashlin are other young talents.

North Launceston will be without the Sanders brothers in Ollie and Ryley Sanders, as well as Nathan Pearce for the clash against North Hobart, as the Northern Bombers need to find a way to bounce back from a 55-point loss to reigning premiers Launceston. They still have experience in Brad Cox-Goodyer through the middle, but have a new-look side to its recent years. For the Demons. The Demons are coming off a loss themselves, going down to Tigers by 11 points, and will be massively depleted with a ridiculous amount of young talent out of the side including George McLeod and Jye Menzie. It will be up to the next ground of players coming in, with 12 inclusions – including four emergencies – to the Demons side.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

East Perth and Peel Thunder will be keen to quickly move on from Round 1 losses as they do battle in Round 2. The Royals will be without Nick Robertson, but still have Jackson Ramsay and Rohan Kerr among the midfielders as former AFL talents. Peel Thunder will bring in a quartet of Fremantle players with Griffin Logue and Liam Henry joining Mitch Crowden and Bailey Banfield in the side, with Sam Sturt‘s five-goal haul enough to earn a recall at the Dockers, as Connor Blakely and Taylin Duman also are out. A non Fremantle-listed talent to watch for is young gun Brodie Lake who is named in the back pocket.

Two teams that picked up wins in Round 1 were Claremont and South Fremantle, with ex-Dockers Jason Carter and Alex Pearce a couple of big inclusions for the Tigers. They have plenty to like about their lineup with Jye Bolton, Kane Mitchell and Jake Patmore among the talented experienced players in there, though Jacob Van Rooyen is the one to watch as a potential Top 10 pic, lining up on ex-Geelong Cat Blake Schlensog who is playing for South Fremantle. The Bulldogs will be without Cam McCarthy for this match, but still have Haiden Schloithe and Matthew Parker, and the exciting Ben Rioli.

A potential matchup between Chris Masten and Lewis Jetta on the team selection sheets is a mouth-watering clash for any West Coast Eagles fan, with the two ex-talents doing battle for Perth and Swan Districts respectively. Jetta might just have the leg speed in that head-to-head, with Sam Fisher, Jesse Palmer and Frank Anderson among the other Swans to keep an eye on. For Perth, ex-Murray and St Kilda talent Doulton Langlands joins ex-Docker Brady Gray and ex-Eagle Brant Colledge in the Perth midfield which will provide some resistance for the clash.

It is early days, but a top of the table clash between Round 1’s big winners in East Fremantle and Subiaco opens the second round with plenty to get excited about. Ex-Docker Hugh Dixon is joined by youngster Finn Gorringe who comes into the Sharks’ League side, while Jonathon Marsh and Dillon O’Reilly make a damaging forward duo. For the Lions, Ben Sokol is a goal-scoring machine, with Lachlan Delahunty starting his year off strong, set to go head-to-head with Josh Schoenfeld in a battle of the leather poisoning talents from the opening weekend.

At the time of publishing, the West Perth and West Coast teams were not out.

Picture credit: Bronia Henty-Smith Photography

Out to impress: QAFL Seniors weekend preview – Elimination Finals

AFTER nine regular season rounds, finals time has arrived in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL), with the top six sides set to battle it out for premiership glory. Week one provides a pair of elimination finals, as Sherwood (4th, 4-4) hosts Maroochydore (5th, 4-4), while Palm Beach Currumbin (3rd, 6-2) takes on Mt Gravatt (6th, 3-5). Undefeated minor premier Broadbeach and second-placed Morningside (7-1) await in the semi finals stage, and have both earned a week off.

In a new-look QAFL preview, Draft Central narrows its focus to the young guns who will look to make a splash on the big stage this weekend. Get to know the prominent Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast SUNS Academy players set to take the field, as well as the other young prospects who have impressed over the course of the season.

Elimination Final 1:

Sherwood vs. Maroochydore
Saturday, September 12 | 2:00pm
McCarthy Homes Oval

Two sides with identical records will do battle as Sherwood takes on Maroochydore in the first elimination final, set to play out at McCarthy Homes Oval. The clash serves as somewhat of a reverse fixture to the clubs’ Round 6 meeting, which the ‘Roos won by 31 points on home turf. Despite that result, it’s the Magpies who hold a superior ladder position on account of their percentage buffer.

Bruce Reville is a name which jumps off the hosts’ team sheet, named at half-forward. An over-aged Brisbane Lions Academy member, Reville ran out in this year’s Academy Series in between his five outings for Sherwood. Listed at 185cm, Reville is a smooth moving and versatile prospect who can play both sides of midfield, and find the goals while stationed up forward. He proved as much with two goals against Labrador last week and his run-and-carry could serve to open up the contested nature of finals football.

Fellow Lions Academy products Jack Briskey and Connor Bulley have both been named as emergencies for the Magpies, while former academy ruckman Samson Ryan has been tasked with the ruck duties. Briskey, a promising athlete with raw potential, faces a fight to squeeze back into the side despite recently earning a National Combine invite.

Potentially a matchup for Reville on Maroochydore’s side is Carter Michael, one of the leading Lions AFL Draft prospects in 2020. The 187cm left-footer moves well and while he may start on the wing, can also move to half-back or into the midfield. Another couple of academy products will line up for the ‘Roos, with 19-year-old bigman Max McDonald named on the bench, while top-ager Ben Thomas slots in at half-back for just his third game at the level in 2020.

This game promises to be a cracker, with both sides evenly matched across the park and some young talent primed to make an impact. With even more prospects waiting in the wings for a late change, all of the aforementioned players could prove game-changers for either side.

Elimination Final 2:

Palm Beach Currumbin vs. Mt Gravatt
Saturday, September 12 | 2:00pm
Salk Oval

Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) will fancy its chances of advancing into week two of finals, but can take nothing for granted as Mt Gravatt comes to town. The Lions are the top-ranked side in action this week, and come up against the only finalist with a negative record. The Vultures will be up against it, especially given they went down to PBC by 48 points just last week.

18-year-old Liam O’Brien is among the young Lions to be taking the field, named alongside former Suns Academy midfielder Ashton Crossley on the bench. O’Brien is a state Under 16 representative who can craft on the outside, while Crossley provides a big body on the inside. The Lions have also named Riley Buckland, a promising 19-year-old who has played into some great late-season form and retains his senior spot. Ethan Hunt was not so lucky, listed as an emergency after seven top flight appearances.

Diminutive, but tough Lions Academy bottom-agers Lochlan Harrop and Sam Winterbottom are both set to line up for Mt Gravatt, named in the midfield and forwardline respectively. Harrop should bring some good hardness and versatility to the fore, while Winterbottom is a classy small who could wreak havoc inside 50. Others around the academy traps to be named include Ethan Kerr (interchange) and Zac Young (half-forward). While the deck is stacked against Mt Gravatt, the Vultures’ young talent should benefit from the finals experience, and give it a red-hot crack against good opposition. The Lions’ experience depth bode well for them after a solid regular season. They’ll be raring to go.

Featured Image: PBC’s Ashton Crossley gets a kick away | Credit: Jerad Williams/Gold Coast Bulletin

Scouting notes: Northern Academy Series – Round 1

THE 2020 Northern Academy Series got underway over the weekend, with prospects from the Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns, GWS Giants, and Sydney Swans talent programs all looking to impress. State derbies kicked off proceedings, and made for a couple of hard-fought battles.

In a willing contest under sunny conditions, the Gold Coast Suns Academy won by 53 points over their Sunshine State rivals. The Suns booted the first six goals of the game – five came with the breeze in the opening term – to run out comfortable winners.

The Sydney Swans Academy also ran out winners in their clash with the GWS Giants prospects, setting up the victory with a string of five unanswered goals which extended from the second term, onwards. Soggy conditions ensured hard work would be made for the 15-point triumph, with a good bit of niggle to go with the contested slog.

We took a look at some of the Academy members and how they performed, as well as a bunch of other names who impressed on the day.

Brisbane Lions vs. Gold Coast Suns

Brisbane:

By: Peter Williams

#12 Saxon Crozier

Played a mixture between the wing and getting back to help the defence, Crozier was neat with his ball use and always looking to create run for the Lions. After a quieter first term – though he had a good handball out of defence – he had an number of impressive plays in the second term. He sidestepped an opponent and got it quickly onto the right, and presented to his teammates around the field. His handballing release to teammates streaming down the ground opened up the play for Brisbane to begin to cut the deficit back.

#13 Blake Coleman

Not a high possession player, Coleman has high level footy smarts and clean hands that make him so difficult to stop. He is one of those players who might not get a touch for a half, then can win the game for his side with a couple of impactful plays. After a few silky moves in the first term, he combined well with Tahj Abberley down the ground to win it on the wing and keep paddling the ball in front of him. Somehow he managed to gain distance, shake off his pursuers and launch a goal from 50m having beaten three opponents in the clear goal of the day. His second major in the third term was more straightforward, floating in from the side to then hold his ground and clunk the grab 35m out. He nailed the set shot six and a half minutes into the term, and almost had another good mark in the final quarter but could not quite hold it. As he booted two of the Lions’ four goals, he did well to play his role in the forward half with great pressure.

#14 Carter Michael

Michael showed a great balance of offensive and defensive traits throughout the contest, playing off half-back and then pushing up the ground when required. His first foray in the match was a good early spoil, getting the body contact out of the way. Throughout the match, Michael ran hard to be an option through the middle, and often ran up to the kicker at a stop in play to receive the get and go, to add an extra number to the play and try and use his speed to drive the ball down the ground. He pumped the ball inside 50 on occasions, and was working hard to look for one-two opportunities for his teammates. He copped a knock in the defensive 50 back pocket, but bounced straight back up and was solid throughout the entire game. Showing nice hands out of congestion, Michael ran down the ground and teamed up with Abberley well in keeping the ball moving. He had a snap on goal of his own late in the final term, but the wind did not help him out and it went out on the full. His reaction in one passage of play saw him bolt down the middle and leave his opponents in his wake. He was a treat to watch on the day and a real highlight for the Lions.

#15 Tahj Abberley

One of the Lions’ best throughout the day, he just kept trying to create off half-back and push up the ground. He set up a goal to Coleman in the second term with his pace off half-back, and then teamed up well with Michael in the final term with the one-two handballs down the ground. He stayed involved in all four quarters, and even drifted forward at times to kick it deeper inside 50, having a clever snap from long range, but it drifted for a behind. He won plenty of the ball in all thirds of the ground, and when the heat was on early in the game, Abberley was one of the few who stood up and continued to try hard against the flow. He used the ball well and showed good hands in traffic throughout the contest, and definitely showed plenty of potential in the defeat.

Others:

In terms of others who caught the eye, Shatna Cashen-Harris was lively up forward, with clean hands and a silky side-step, always looking dangerous. In midfield, the combination of Sam Winterbottom and Daniel Lanthois tried hard with the latter kicking a clever goal in the second term, whilst Ben Thomas kicked the other major for the Lions. Over-ager Max McDonald was dominant in the ruck, whilst Noah McFadyen provided a contest up forward, and Kuot Thok was not afraid to crash and bash the packs in defence.

>> Lions Academy Content

Gold Coast:

By: Ed Pascoe

#13 Rhys Nicholls 

Nicholls did not have the most productive game but he was still able to show his skill and talent with some nice spin moves and classy movement from the back half. The clever left-footer looked very smooth whenever he got possession and like many of his teammates, always took the opportunity to move the ball forward as quickly and cleanly as possible. 

#14 Max Pescud 

Maybe the most unlucky Suns player not to be included in the AFL based academy, he has been a regular goal scorer in the QAFL and backed that up again. He kicked multiple goals while also unselfishly passing off more opportunities as he could have easily ended up with about five goals himself. A quick player who takes the game on, tackles, and marks with intent despite his light frame, he came undone a few times with his run but when he was up-and-running and taking bounces, he looked very sharp and even got some time through the midfield late in the game, winning a few clearances. 

#19 Josh Fahey 

Fahey played for NSW/ACT in last year’s Under 16 championships and now finds himself with the Gold Coast Suns, although he wont be tied to any academies for next year’s draft. That’ll come as a sigh of relief for all AFL clubs, as he put on a best on ground performance down back. Fahey wasn’t hard to miss with his blonde locks but he also wasn’t hard to miss for the Lions going inside 50 as they kicked it down his throat multiple times. Fahey cut off plenty of attacks, attacking the contest hard and cleanly. His left-foot kicking from defence was a real feature, both long and damaging, and he had a major influence on the result. Fahey looks to be a very promising prospect for the 2021 draft.  

#20 Aiden Fyfe 

Fyfe had the ball on a string on his favoured wing position, and would had to have been the leading possession winner on the ground as he was involved in every quarter as one of the most consistent players afield. Fyfe found the ball all over the ground, working hard defensively and offensively. He was one of many to kick a goal in the first quarter with a nice snap and he would set up countless others with his clean hands and composure when in possession. Fyfe rarely wasted his touches and often hit teammates in a better position than himself. Despite not being the quickest player out there, he was certainly one of the sharpest in both skill and mind with ball in hand. 

#22 Jack Johnston 

The captain of the side, Johnston was a rock in defence at centre half-back. He took some nice strong marks and was cool and composed across the back half. Johnston is a strong player already standing at 195cm and 95kg, using his frame well both overhead anover the ball, and his disposals were often very clean for a big man. 

Others:

A couple of over-agers who impressed were forwards, Josh Gore and Nathan Colenso. Both were able to hit the scoreboard multiple times and look damaging, with Colenso on the lead, and Gore mixing between the lead and in play. Both have been prominent goalkickers at QAFL level, and brought that same form into the game, with Gore’s clean hands and Colenso’s strength and tackling ability amongst the attributes that stood out for the respective forwards.

>> Suns Academy Content

GWS Giants vs. Sydney Swans

By: Michael Alvaro

GWS:

#1 Harry Grant

The diminutive over-ager was thrown right into the cut and thrust of midfield and hardly looked out of place. Grant hunted the ball from the first bounce, with his pace and tenacity at ground level making for a solid two-way contribution. If he wasn’t digging in to win his own ball at the stoppages, Grant was applying smothering defensive pressure to make life hard for opposition midfielders. It seemed the conditions suited his game well, and he would later move forward where he very nearly added a goal to his game with a sharp snap.

#26 Liam Delahunty

Another 19-year-old prospect to show promising glimpses of form, Delahunty was primed to make is mark on the NAB League and VFL in 2020. Instead, he took the opportunity this weekend to show his worth back with the Giants Academy, and had his moments throughout the game. Starting in defence, Delahunty took a nice contested mark to intercept a deep Sydney entry, while also looking to rebound aggressively by running his full measure and delivering by foot. He is somewhat of an in-between size at 192cm and 87kg, allowing him to compete both aerially and at ground level. He continued to take the game on from defensive 50, but was caught holding the ball as he looked to fend off an opponent in the third term. A move forward followed, and Delahunty capped off his performance with a tidy, quick finish for the final goal of the game.

#27 Josh Green

Green cuts a similar figure to his brother, Tom – albeit a touch taller and leaner – and was tried in an inside midfield role for the Giants early on. His 192cm frame allowed him to compete at the stoppages, while his ability to get up either end of the ground made him an influential player throughout the game. While he was a touch slow to truly build into the contest, Green began to show his best form after half time with some terrific overhead marking in tricky conditions. His clearance work built as well with the added confidence, and a later move behind the ball allowed Green to showcase his strong hands and intercept quality.

#42 Maximus Monaghan

One of a number of Giants to have rotated through midfield, Monaghan also showed some good signs while stationed both in defence and attack. The top-ager is strongly built and applied himself at the contest, showing good aggression and strength to break free and dispose of the ball via foot. He accumulated well through the engine room and was later sighted up either end of the ground where he was able to find his way to the ball.

Others:

On a day where the conditions made it tough to take a lot out of the game, there were a number of players to have provided little flashes of form. Bottom-age forward Sam Stening presented well up the ground early and was later rewarded with a goal for his run-down tackle on Max Geddes. The likes of Coopa Steele and Joel Dunstall dug in to find plenty of the ball, while Harrison Grintell looked lively up forward, and Sam Frost was among a few solid defenders. Under 16 NSW/ACT MVP Kai Watts booted a goal from his permenent forward position, while Jack Driscoll rotated back through the ruck.

>> Giants Academy Content

Sydney:

#2 Sam Gaden

Gaden proved a strong a flexible key position option for the Swans, starting forward and eventually plying his trade down back. The over-ager worked up the ground well in the early stages, presenting as a link into Sydney’s forward 50. He provided a goal assist to Jackson Barling in the second term with a hacked kick into the arc, and doubled his impact with some forward 50 ruck work. Having been moved down back in the second half, Gaden showcased his ability to intercept, sweeping well both in the air and at ground level.

#3 Kye Pfrengle

A player who needs only a few touches or moments to catch the eye is Pfrengle, who looked particularly lively in the first term with some incredible marking attempts. The top-age AFL Academy hub member certainly has a spring in his step, leaping high for the ball to intercept GWS’ long defensive rebounds. While he failed to hold onto most of his speckie attempts, Pfrengle was positioned well behind the ball to begin with, allowing him enact that intercept game. He would later be seen a touch deeper in defence, locking the ball in and taking the kick-outs, making handy contributions just when it seemed he was drifting out of the contest.

#7 Braeden Campbell

The leading Swans Academy prospect looked like tearing the game apart as he dominated the opening stages, showing terrific signs through midfield. While his speed and damaging kicking on the outside often garner the most praise, it was Campbell’s toughness and ability to adapt to the conditions which stood out most on this occasion. His clearance work was sound throughout the match, and despite coughing up a rare turnover by foot in the second term, he was able to find his range consistently. With some opposition attention incoming, Campbell was moved to half-back and also rotated off the wing, while pushing forward to slot a goal in the third term. He looked most dangerous with his burst away from the stoppages though, and hunted the ball well when on the inside.

>> Academy Series Player Focus

#15 Sam Thorne

Another over-ager to have made his mark on the game was Thorne, a small midfielder who thrived in the soggy conditions. He was a regular at the centre bounces and stoppages, accumulating the ball with ease at ground level and releasing well to his teammates on the move. Thorne’s ability to shark the ball off hands and get his legs pumping to burst away was noticeable, and it helped set the tone for Sydney from where it mattered most. He finished as one of the most prolific ball winners on the day, and kept his name in the hat as far as the Swans are concerned.

#22 Errol Gulden

Campbell’s partner-in-crime, Gulden was a consistent threat for Sydney and managed to find the ball at will while rotating from the wing, through the middle, and up forward. The 176cm mover relies more on agility and smarts rather than pure pace, so initially found it hard in the wet conditions to have his usual impact on the game despite constantly getting his hands on the ball.

Still, Gulden snared the opening goal after being tackled high inside 50, and used it as a catalyst to work more effectively at ground level. His work-rate forward of centre was outstanding, and he could be seen pushing inside 50 from the wing to snare his second major, hardly breaking stride as he gobbled up the loose ball and slotted it home on the fly. Gulden was arguably best afield in the second half, and is just so difficult to stop at full flight. It was good to see him get busy up forward too, as that high half-forward role looks most like being his starting position at the elite level.

#25 Jackson Barling

Barling is another Academy talent to have missed out last year, but seems to have taken it in his stride after an impressive performance. He was first sighted using the ball cleanly in the back half, staying composed to provide a refreshing point of difference in the largely-contested game. His biggest impact came upon his move to the forwardline though, where Barling would kick three goals. His first came on the back of a juggled mark inside 50, which was quickly followed by another strong grab and set shot conversion in the second term. Yet another big clunk helped deliver a third major in the final quarter, though he selfishly burned Thorne as he looked for a fourth. Still, Barling’s scoreboard impact helped turn the game significantly in Sydney’s favour, and his hardness at 183cm and 85kg was impressive as it should be for an over-ager.

Others:

The talent in the Swans Academy runs deep, and there were plenty of others to have pitched in across the day. Marc Sheather was hard at the ball through midfield, while fellow AFL Academy member Marco Rossmann showed some promising signs early in his role up forward. Oscar Bird was another solid contributor who got involved in Sydney’s forward surges.

>> Swans Academy Content

Classic Contests: Falcons scrape home under Friday night lights

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 5 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Calder Cannons and Geelong Falcons. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2017 when the teams played out a contest closer than their ladder positions would suggest in a top-versus-bottom clash.

GEELONG FALCONS 3.3 | 5.4 | 6.7 | 11.11 (77)
CALDER CANNONS 2.0 | 4.5 | 7.6 | 11.7 (73)

TAC Cup Round 8 | Friday May 19, 2017
Torquay Football Ground, 7:00pm

Draftees in action:

Geelong – Connor Idun*, Joshua Jaska, Gryan Miers
Calder – Noah Balta, Jack Bytel*

* – denotes bottom-ager

Geelong was flying come Round 8 of the 2017 TAC Cup season at 7-0 and atop the competition ladder, ready to put on a show under Friday night lights against the Calder Cannons, whose 1-6 record had them sitting last. But it did not totally pan out that way in Torquay, with the pesky Cannons outfit out to build on picking up its first win for the year in the previous round. A handful of future AFL draftees would take the field, with breakout Geelong Cats forward Gryan Miers named alongside GWS utility Connor Idun and former Gold Coast rookie, Josh Jaska for the home side. For Calder, Noah Balta was the sole 2017 draftee, playing a forward-ruck role while bottom-aged future Saint Jack Bytel also donned the Cannon. In what was the only meeting between the two teams in 2017, a belter ensued.

Despite being down on three of their eventual five draftees, the Falcons still managed to set up a three-goal buffer in the opening term with unanswered majors from Adam Garner (two) and Ethan Floyd within just under 15 minutes. But the Cannons would hit back through Mohammed Moustafa and Daniel Hanna to trail by nine points at the first break. The hint of momentum continued into the second term too, with Moustafa adding a second early on before a 15-minute stalemate. As Calder closed to within a point, Miers stepped up to boot his first goal and was followed swiftly by Cooper Cartledge to provide a bit of breathing space. But a red time goal to the visitors kept them within striking distance heading into half time.

A boilover looked on the cards come the third term as Balta got on the board after two minutes following a behind from Cassidy Parish up the other end, beginning a chain of two more unanswered goals to Calder. Ben Thomas stood up to somewhat arrest the skid, with Geelong now a goal behind as things began to heat up. The lead would change hands five times in a see-sawing final term, as Thomas’s second goal put the Falcons back in front early in the quarter. The Falcons had chances but could not quite break away, edging 10 points to the good before Jesse Firebrace and Mitch Podhajski stole the lead back for Calder. After Lachlan Noble again snuck Geelong ahead, two more Cannons goals had them seven points in front with under five minutes left to play. But the lead went as quickly as it came as Geelong booted two decisive goals within as many minutes, while Matthew Borg spurned a tough chance late-on as the hosts scraped over the line.

Harry Benson, whose goal proved the match-winner was named best afield for the winners on the back of a monster game, while Parish and Noble also impressed. Jaska was named in the best half-dozen as well alongside Idun, while Miers’ 23 disposals and 2.3 were not enough to earn him the same honours. For Calder, Coburg-listed Brad Bernacki was adjudged his side’s best in front of Balta, while Lions teammate Aidan Tilley also featured alongside Bytel, who managed 32 touches as a bottom-ager.

The overall Geelong 2017 squad would go on to produce 11 draftees, split five and six over the next two drafts and including the likes of James Worpel and Sam Walsh respectively. Miers went on to finish as the competition’s leading goalkicker after booting seven in the Falcons’ famous grand final win over Sandringham in the same year, breaking out for Geelong at senior level in 2020. Calder built well on its 2017 effort with four draftees coming in 2018 including Bytel, Curtis Taylor, and Rhylee West. The Cannons would miss finals despite twice beating the eighth-placed Northern Knights, but won five of their last 10 games for the year.

GOALS:

Geelong: B. Thomas 2, A. Garner 2, G. Miers 2, L. Noble 2, E. Floyd, H. Benson, C. Cartledge
Calder: M. Moustafa 2, N. Balta 2, B. Caluzzi 2, D. Hanna, M. Borg, T. Browning, J. Firebrace, M. Podhajski

BEST:

Geelong: H. Benson, C. Idun, C. Parish, J. Jaska, L. Noble, S. Wolfenden
Calder: B. Bernacki, N. Balta, J. Bytel, A. Tilley, P. Brookes, B. Caluzzi