Tag: brock smith

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 11 – Gippsland the big winners on super Saturday

FIVE of the six fixtures scheduled for Round 11 of the 2019 NAB League were played out on a super Saturday, with Gippsland among the big winners. In an interesting quirk, the eventual top four sides all squared off against each other, with the Power facing Oakleigh, while Eastern and Sandringham went head-to-head in Sunday’s lone fixture. Mars Stadium in Ballarat hosted the lone double-header of the weekend, while Tasmania was again raided by a Victorian side and Calder enjoyed the bye.

That side was Northern, who came out narrow nine-point winners against the Devils at Kingston Twins Ovals. The Knights looked to be coasting to victory having led at every break, laying claim to a 19-point buffer at three-quarter time, and extending the margin out to 34 points less that 10 minutes into the final term. A late charge by the home side would fall short as Northern took its foot off the gas, but still travelled back to Victoria with the four points.

Tasmania’s Jordan Lane booted a game-high with three majors as his side’s only multiple goalkicker, while Carlton draftee Sam Philp shared top honours in the ball winning stakes alongside Josh D’Intinosante with 30 disposals apiece. Oliver Davis fared best for Tasmania in that department with 28 touches, while fellow bottom-agers Patrick Walker (25 disposals, one goal) and Jackson Callow (16 disposals, 1.2) also impressed.

Heading back to Victoria, and Western made its trip to Ballarat a fruitful one by trumping the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by seven points. In a similar vein to Northern, the Jets led at every break in the low-scoring affair, but were made to work for their victory as GWV pulled to within a single point midway through the final term. The fightback would again prove too little, too late though, as Western held on to secure its seventh win.

Competition leading goalkicker Archi Manton was the only player to boot multiple majors (two), with individual goalkickers spread across the two sides. Liam Herbert (28 disposals) and Mitch Martin were among the Rebels to find a good amount of ball and the big sticks, with Carlton rookie Josh Honey (16 disposals) Western’s highest disposal winner to also bag a goal. Daly Andrews impressed with 27 touches, as did the pairing of Josh Kellett and Lucas Rocci in defence.

They say when it rains, it pours, and that proved the case for Dandenong after having its undefeated streak snapped in Round 10, following it up with another loss – this time to the Murray Bushrangers to the tune of 34 points. Murray’s inaccuracy was the only factor keeping the Stingrays in the game for the best part of three quarters, with its 25 scoring shots to 11 only yielding a 19-point lead at the main break. The Bushrangers finally managed to reverse the trend in the fourth term to run out comfortable winners.

Ryley Bouker and Dominic Bedendo were a couple of bottom-age Bushrangers to impress in front of goal, evenly sharing six of their side’s goals in the win. Another bottom-age pair, Max Gregory and Jai Neal also booted multiple goals, combining for four of Dandenong’s 10 majors. Murray’s hold on the game shone through in its ball winners, with Cam Wild (29 disposals) and Jye Chalcraft (27) well ahead of Dandenong’s best in Bayleigh Welsh, who managed 19 touches and a goal.

In the second game of Saturday’s Ballarat double-header, two country sides went at it for the second time in season 2019. Bendigo would again come up trumps over Geelong, setting up the 29-point win with a six-goal to one second term and holding on to secure victory despite being kept scoreless in the final quarter. The Falcons’ superior finish provided a slight positive despite the loss, as the young side had become known for late fade-outs.

Big-bodied bottom-ager Josh Treacy had a good day at the office with four goals, while the over-age Harry Stubbings also booted multiple goals (two) from his 19 disposals. Sharing the spoils as top ball winners were Geelong’s Keidan Rayner and Bendigo’s Ben Worme with 26 touches apiece, while 2020 Falcons co-captain Cam Fleeton continued his mid-season rise with 21 disposals from defence, and Swans draftee Brady Rowles found the ball 15 times.

Morwell was the next country venue to host NAB League action, as Gippsland took on Oakleigh in what would end up being a qualifying final preview. But the strong Power unit took home the points on this occasion against the undermanned Chargers, keeping them scoreless in the third term while booting five majors of their own to make up most of the eventual 46-point winning margin.

The day arguably belonged to rookie draftee Fraser Phillips, who booted 5.3 from 20 disposals in a huge outing, with Tom Fitzpatrick the sole other multiple goalkicker. St Kilda recruit Leo Connolly led all comers with 32 disposals and a goal, while bottom-ager Sam Berry and former skipper Brock Smith were among three players to notch 26 touches. Vincent Zagari (22 disposals) was Oakleigh’s leading ball winner, followed by bolting 19-year-old forward Cooper Sharman (20 disposals, one goal) on a down day for the eventual premiers.

Sunday’s sole fixture again proved to be a finals preview, as Eastern and Sandringham did battle in a top of the table clash at Box Hill City Oval. Both teams were slightly undermanned, especially the Dragons, and it somewhat showed as the low-scoring affair was played on the terms of the structured and disciplined Ranges side. They would prove a tough nut to crack, holding out for the 18-point victory and keeping Sandringham goalless in the final term.

Big forwards Ben Hickleton and Billy McCormack combined for five of Eastern’s eight goals, with no Dragon able to find the big sticks on multiple occasions. Darcy Chirgwin led the ball winning stakes though with 32 touches, while eventual draftee Ryan Byrnes managed 21 of his own. Jarrod Gilbee (26 disposals) was Eastern’s leading possession getter, followed closely by usual suspects Zak Pretty (24) and Lachlan Stapleton (22).

Classic Contests: Huge final term powers Gippsland to big win over Tasmania

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 11 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Gippsland Power and Tasmania Devils. In this edition, we wind back the clock just one year to relive a contest which was closely contested for three terms, before the Power kicked away late to secure a big win.

2019 NAB League, Round 14
Saturday July 20, 11:45am
Box Hill City Oval

GIPPSLAND POWER 2.1 | 7.3 | 8.7 | 14.10 (94)
TASMANIA DEVILS 2.4 | 5.5 | 6.7 | 6.7 (43)

Goals:

Gippsland: J. Smith 3, C. Comben 3, B. Smith 2, H. Pepper, F. Phillips, R. Baldi, M. McGarrity, S. Flanders, T. Baldi
Tasmania: W. Peppin, J. Menzie, J. Chaplin, M. McGuinness, O. Burrows-Cheng, S. Collins

Best:

Gippsland: H. Pepper, C. Comben, M. Hawkins, J. Smith, T. Baldi, B. Smith
Tasmania: J. Chaplin, J. Steele, L. Deegan, R. Mansell, L. Gadomski, M. McGuinness

Draftees in action:

Gippsland: Sam Flanders, Leo Connolly, Brock Smith, Charlie Comben, Fraser Phillips, Harrison Pepper
Tasmania: Matthew McGuinness

Two sides with perfectly opposite records would do battle in Round 14 of the 2019 NAB League, as the 8-4 Gippsland Power (2nd) met the 4-8 Tasmania Devils (13th) on the neutral territory of Box Hill City Oval. If the win-loss ratios did not already highlight the split between the two sides, the splashing of eventual AFL draftees across Gippsland’s lineup on the day would serve to. Six of the Power’s seven elite-level graduates took the field, while one of Tasmania’s two rookie selections assumed his customary role in the side.

But more recent form suggested this clash would produce a decent showing, with either region wavering in the weeks leading up to their sole clash for the year. Gippsland managed to add just two wins over the previous five weeks, suffering three of their four losses to that point in the process, while Tasmania were in the midst of a massive losing streak having suffered four in a row.

Hungry to make amends for their form across three consecutive home berths, the Devils came out strongly to more than match their fancied opponents at the first break, holding a slender three-point lead. The tide would turn in the second term as Gippsland warmed to the contest, booting five goals to Tasmania’s three to steer 10 points clear at half time – the biggest lead of the game to that point.

The contest would tighten slightly after the main break with just one goal apiece added to either side’s tally across the next 25 minutes, but that trend would be almost immediately banished come the final term. Charlie Comben‘s goal after just 27 seconds sparked a six-goal quarter for the Power, all while keeping Tasmania scoreless in a game-defining period. Gippsland added goals almost methodically, scoring six-pointers in five-minute intervals to pretty up a 51-point winning margin.

Twin talls Comben and Josh Smith did most of the damage with three goals each, accompanied by a rare two majors from Brock Smith as the only other multiple goalkicker. The skipper’s 26 disposals were second only to Sam Flanders‘ 28 on the day, with another draftee in Leo Connolly next best with 23. North Melbourne NGA rookie Matt McGuinness booted a goal from 16 touches, but saw over-ager Rhyan Mansell and bottom-age gun Oliver Davis top the ball winning charts with 18 disposals apiece.

Fremantle top 10 pick Caleb Serong was the only piece missing for Gippsland, while Tasmania suffered from the key absence of West Coast rookie, Mitch O’Neill. The Power would go on to finish second, but could only make it as far as the final four having lost to Eastern in the preliminary finals. After a promising start to life as a full-time team, Tasmania went down by a goal to Calder in Wildcard Round having finished 14th at 4-11.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 8 – Three games decided by under a goal

ROUND 8 of the 2019 NAB League delivered a truly mixed bag of results, with three games decided by less that a goal, two by over 50 points, and one fixture proving an inbetweener. Dandenong survived a scare to remain undefeated, while Gippsland fared well enough to bridge the gap to first to just two points. Two of the next three best Victorian sides – Sandringham and Western – also secured wins to remain in the top three hunt.

Northern and Oakleigh were up first though on neutral territory, battling it out at Shepley Oval in Dandenong. In a low-scoring affair, the undermanned Chargers broke back ahead at the ideal time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. A shrewd change of position for Oakleigh co-captain Dylan Williams changed the game, with his two final term goals sealing a six-point victory.

His fellow skipper, Trent Bianco had an indifferent outing with 17 disposals (but 10 tackles and four rebounds), while a couple of bottom-age Chargers thrived. Fraser Elliot gathered a game-high 28 touches as well as six clearances, while Lochlan Jenkins managed 22 and eight as the pair combined through midfield.

For Northern, Sam Philp also managed 28 disposals, five marks, four tackles, four inside 50s, nine clearances and a goal, while Ryan Sturgess (19 disposals, three marks and 10 rebounds) in a strong defensive effort. Jackson Davies and Lachlan Potter both had 17 disposals and five rebounds in the defeat.

All the way up in Echuca, an inaccurate Sandringham Dragons outfit scraped home against an unlucky and dead-eye Bendigo Pioneers team. Despite having 14 more scoring shots, the Dragons struggled to find the big sticks, booting 10.18 (78) on the border up against the Pioneers’ 12.2 (74).

Future Saint and Dragons captain, Ryan Byrnes had a day out with 31 disposals (15 contested), three marks, seven tackles, eight clearances, five inside 50s and a goal, while Angus Hanrahan found plenty of the ball in the win with 26 disposals, six marks, four clearances and three inside 50s. Miles Bergman was also strong wiht 19 touches, five marks, nine tackles, four clearances, six inside 50s and a goal.

For the Pioneers, Riley Wilson had 23 disposals, six marks, six tackles, five clearances and six rebounds, while Aaron Gundry worked hard for 22 hitouts from 13 disposals, and Jack Hickman worked hard through the middle thanks to 18 touches and four clearances.

Crossing the Bass Strait to the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils fell short against a red-hot Dandenong Stingrays outfit. The Stingrays were up at each break, but never into double-figures, eventually winning 9.6 (60) to 8.8 (56).

The onball brigade of Bailey Schmidt (14 disposals, 42 hitouts and five clearances), Reece Orchard (24 disposals, seven clearances and eight inside 50s) and Mitch Riordan (23 disposals, five clearances and five inside 50s) ran rampant for the Stingrays. Also impressive were bottom-age talents, Clayton Gay (15 disposals, five marks, four inside 50s and three goals) and Henry Berenger (16 disposals, seven marks and six rebounds).

Devils’ bottom-ager Oliver Davis was best-on for the home side, amassing 33 disposals (18 contested), seven marks, three tackles, five clearances and inside 50s in the tight loss. Ethan Jackson (24 disposals, eight tackles, seven clearances and five inside 50s) was impressive as were Sam Collins (23 disposals, eight marks, three tackles and four rebounds) and Matt McGuinness (21 disposals, eight marks, five rebounds and a goal).

Western Jets held Geelong Falcons to just two goals in a 28-point win on the road, one of which came in the last term. The Jets comfortably looked good after a slow first term, piling on four goals in the second to blow out the lead and keep their opponent to just a single-digit score. In the end, they held off any sort of a comeback in the last despite a 1.5 last quarter from the Falcons to win 7.8 (50) to 2.10 (22)

Darcy Cassar suffered leather poisoning with 41 touches, 12 marks and eight rebounds out of defence to be best on ground. Meanwhile overager, Daly Andrews (31 touches, 10 marks, six clearances, three inside 50s and five rebounds) and Morrish Medallist, Lucas Rocci (28 disposals, 11 marks and seven rebounds) both dominated.

For the Falcons, Harry Stubbings led all-comers from his side with 27 disposals (15 contested), six marks, four tackles, seven clearances, five inside 50s and two rebounds. Charlie Harris (23 disposals, eight marks and four rebounds) and Keidan Rayner (22 disposals, six marks, six tackles, six clearances and five inside 50s) were others who stood out in a disappointing day for the wooden spooners.

Meanwhile Gippsland Power had no problems scoring during a 53-point win over Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. The Power dominated from the get-go with five goals to one in the opening term, and never looked back from there to run out 15.8 (98) to 6.9 (45) winners.

Brock Smith was a general in defence with 23 disposals, five marks and 11 rebounds, while Josh Smith dominated across the ground in his best game thanks to 22 disposals (16 contested), four marks, four tackles, 16 hitouts, 11 clearances and three goals. Sam Flanders and Fraser Phillips also booted a couple of goals each, combining for 47 touches, six marks and 10 inside 50s, while Riley Baldi had 29 disposals, five marks, eight tackles, seven clearances, four inside 50s and a goal in the win.

Jay Rantall was the biggest ball winner for the Rebels, amassing an impressive 30 touches (15 contested), as well as three tackles, six clearances, three inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal. Liam Herbert (21 disposals, seven marks and a goal) and Toby Mahony (16 disposals, five clearances and three inside 50s) were also productive.

Calder Cannons had no trouble producing a huge win up in Wangaratta for the final game of the round, defeating Murray Bushrangers by 50 points at Norm Minns Oval. The Cannons were only 18 points up at the half, but really went to town in the second half to run away with the contest, 18.9 (117) to 10.7 (67).

Daniel Mott had a game-high 29 disposals, four marks, six clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal, while Ned Gentile (24 touches, four marks, eight clearances, five inside 50s and two goals) was also very impressive. Captain, Brodie Newman picked up the 24 touches and seven rebounds, while in a rare showing, up the other end, Francis Evans booted three goals from 10 touches and six marks.

Cameron Wild was the clear standout for the Bushrangers with 27 disposals, seven marks, six clearances, four inside 50s, four rebounds and a goal, while Cameron Wilson booted a three goals from 16 touches and nine marks. Dylan Clarke (14 disposals, four marks, eight tackles and five clearances) worked hard in the midfield alongside Wild.

Eastern Ranges was the team that had the bye.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 7 – Ranges, Devils clinch thrillers

WITH the school football season in full swing and each Northern Academy back on their way past the Victorian border, normality resumed come Round 7 of the 2019 NAB League competition. Dandenong again remained the sole undefeated side after a top-against-bottom clash, while Eastern showed it was there to stay among the top four with a tense win over Sandringham.

But Avalon Airport Oval would play host to the weekend’s opening fixture, with country sides Geelong and Murray travelling to meet in Werribee. The Falcons looked like causing an upset against the inconsistent Bushrangers after a tight first half, but their inaccurate kicking for goal allowed Murray to hang in there and run over the top for a 21-point victory.

Prize GWS draftee and Murray co-captain Lachlan Ash took the field, notching 19 disposals and a goal, while over-agers Ben Kelly (16 disposals, 28 hitouts) and Zane Barzen (16 disposals, two goals) also impressed, and Cam Wild led all comers with 27 touches. Chas Karpala put in a solid shift for two goals from 20 disposals, only beaten by Charlie Harris‘ 21 touches. Husdon Kaak led the goalkicking stakes with five majors, while Geelong bottom-ager Ollie Henry booted three.

Western hosted Dandenong in Saturday’s only other fixture, but could not weather the home conditions in Williamstown as the Stingrays ran out 63-point winners. The visitors were in control all game having fielded a near full strength line-up, leading at every break and capping the result with seven final term goals.

Essendon draftee Ned Cahill was a constant threat up forward with four goals from 19 disposals, while a bottom-aged Eddie Ford was Western’s sole multiple goalkicker (two). The ball winners were out in numbers, as Darcy Cassar led the way with 29 touches, followed by 26 from Hayden Young and 25 from mid-season recruit, Mitch Riordan for the winners. Another 19-year-old, Daly Andrews (17 disposals, one goal) also pitched in among the losing effort for Western.

A much closer contest followed to open Sunday’s proceedings as Tasmania scraped ahead at the ideal time to edge Bendigo in a thriller. The Devils made a great start but were soon pegged back, still managing to lead at every break. That streak looked like being broken by the final siren, Jye Menzie saved the day with a goal after the siren to see his side hold on.

Menzie’s fourth goal came at the ideal time, and ensured he would double the goal tally of any other player afield. Four Pioneers managed multiple goals, with bottom-agers Sam Conforti (30 disposals, two goals) and Jack Ginnivan (27, two) the most prominent. In an even team performance for the Devils, Ben Simpson won the most ball (22 disposals), while third-gamer Isaac Chugg (15 disposals, 1.3) was dangerous and Sam Collins solid across half-back with 19 touches.

Onto the round’s fourth venue, and Gippsland found little difficulty in accounting for Calder on home turf, thumping the Cannons by 51 points as the visitors could only manage four goals for the game. The Power’s scoring flow got going after the main break, as they piled on nine goals to Calder’s three to coast to victory.

A number of eventual Gippsland draftees showed all their quality, with Brock Smith (28 disposals, one goal) leading all comers, while Sam Flanders (24 disposals, one goal), Charlie Comben (22 disposals, 22 hitouts), and Fraser Phillips (four goals) also caught the eye. Jacob Martin again racked up the pill for Calder with a game-high 33 touches, combining well with Daniel Mott (25 disposals) through midfield as Brodie Newman (22 disposals) also fared well.

The Northern Knights and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels also started their clash at 1pm, with the travelling Knights raiding Mars Stadium successfully. The hosts started the better side with narrow leads at the first two breaks, but were overrun by Northern’s nine-goal second half as they went down by 32 points.

Northern’s strong bodies through midfield made their mark, with Sunny Brazier managing three goals from 19 disposals, while Carlton draftee Sam Philp booted two from his 20 touches. Ryan Sturgess also got on the board as he found the ball 26 times, but found himself beaten out by GWV’s Jay Rantall (36 disposals) in the ball winning stakes. Toby Mahony (20 disposals, three goals) and Mitch Martin (18, two) were others to stand up for the Rebels.

Arguably the best game of the lot was left for last as top four hopefuls Eastern and Sandringham locked horns at RSEA Park to see out the weekend’s action. 13 points was the game’s biggest lead – held by the Dragons early on – as the home side managed to nab a lead at the first three breaks. But Eastern would find an extra gear in the clutch, keeping Sandringham goalless in the final term to come away nine-point winners.

Sydney mid-season draftee Cody Hirst raised his hand for a call-up in his final game for the Ranges, amassing 31 disposals while Zak Pretty had a game-high 33 and bottom-aged gun Connor Downie managed 25 to go with a goal. Ryan Byrnes was Sandringham’s best, collecting 28 touches ahead of Angus Hanrahan (27), while Jake Bowey had 23 and Miles Bergman showed glimpses with his 18 touches and one major.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 6 – Academies bow out, Stingrays go top

FANS, recruiters, and pundits alike were treated to another eight games in Round 6 of the 2019 NAB League, with the early-May weekend serving as the last for each of the five Northern Academies’ cameos. Reigning premier Dandenong broke clear as the sole undefeated side left, while Gold Coast was crowned the Academy Series victor via percentage after Sydney lost its only game for the season. A thrilling finals preview also went down as Gippsland and Eastern battled it out, with the Power getting the better of the eventual premiers on home turf.

The round kicked off in North Hobart, with Tasmania playing host to the heavily-depleted Oakleigh Chargers on Saturday morning. It was the visitors who managed to scrape home in a nail-biting, low-scoring slog by the slimmest of margins, overcoming a half-time deficit to keep the Devils at bay. Winning skipper Trent Bianco, the only national draftee afield dominated with 42 disposals as he stepped-up in the absence of some key personnel.

Fellow top-ager Josh May was also influential with 28 touches, while bottom-aged midfielder Fraser Elliot had it 23 times, and Thomas Lovell put in his best shift for the season with four majors. For the Devils, Harrison Ireland was named best for his work as an undersized ruck, with bottom-age gun Oliver Davis getting to work at ground level with a team-high 21 touches, and fellow Allies Hub member Sam Collins not far behind on 18.

The GWS Academy and Murray Bushrangers went to battle on the New South Wales-Victorian border at midday, with the GIANTS coming away with their second win from five attempts. It was a well drawn out win for the ‘away’ side in its home state, leading at every break but being made to earn the 11-point victory. In another game headlined by the dominance of a future draftee, Tom Green amassed 37 touches for the GIANTS in a mammoth performance.

Over-agers Jeromy Lucas (33 disposals) and Ed Perryman (31) were not far behind, while Harry Grant put in a big shift for 3.2 from his 23 touches, and 2020 19-year-old hopefuls Matt McGrory and Liam Delahunty also got busy. Green’s current GIANTS teammate Lachlan Ash collected 27 touches and booted a goal as Murray’s skipper, aided by Dylan Clarke and Cam Wild who matched his ball-winning output. Jimmy Boyer also impressed with three goals from over 20 disposals, while former GWS Academy member Charlie Byrne had 20 touches exactly.

Saturday’s final fixture took the competition back down to Victoria, as Calder and Bendigo met at Highgate Reserve. It was the Cannons’ day in another low-scoring affair, leading relatively comfortably at every break to eek out a 16-point win over the Pioneers on home turf. The leading Calder draft candidate to that point, Daniel Mott led the way with 36 disposals and a goal in a game which featured just two eventual draftees.

Jacob Martin enjoyed a breakout performance, racking up 36 touches of his own alongside Mott, while skipper Brodie Newman had 21 from defence and Carlton recruit Sam Ramsay had 16 on the same line. James Schischka was Bendigo’s leading ball winner with 20 disposals, with Sydney draftee Brady Rowles collecting his season-high haul of 17 in tricky conditions.

Heading up north to South Pine in the Sunshine State, Gold Coast took out the overall Academy Series with a well-earned 14-point victory over the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. The visitors pushed the talented academy prospects all the way despite trailing for the game’s entirety, with captain and SUNS AFL rookie Connor Budarick capping off a stellar month with another terrific performance.

His 23 disposals led all comers, with the exciting Hewago Paul Oea managing 19 and two goals, while Ashton Crossley provided good fold in midfield with 19 touches. Bottom-ager Max Pescud booted a game-high four majors, matched by Rebels’ Nick Caris in his second consecutive four-goal game. 2020 over-age hopeful Isaac Wareham notched two goals of his own, with fellow Vic Country representative Mitch Martin also impressing, but Jay Rantall kept quiet at just 14 disposals.

Completing the South Pine double-header were the Brisbane Lions Academy and Dandenong Stingrays, with the visitors claiming a resounding 71-point win on their travels up north. After a low-scoring first half, the Stingrays clicked into gear after the main break with 10 goals to one to comfortably ensure they would remain undefeated and atop the NAB League ladder.

Brisbane skipper Will Martyn stood tall in the defeat with a typically professional 32-disposal performance, with fellow Richmond draftee Noah Cumberland (26 disposals) also returning a good shift. 19-year-old Tom Matthews matched Cumberland’s effort, with bottom-agers Will Tasker and Tahj Abberley also impressing. For Dandenong, new Bulldog Cody Weightman bagged three goals, while fellow draftees Hayden Young (28 disposals), Sam De Koning (17, seven marks) Ned Cahill (21, 1 goal) strutted their stuff. Bottom-ager Clayton Gay was another to catch the eye, booting two goals from 21 touches.

A touch earlier and back in Victoria, the Geelong Falcons proved too good for the previously undefeated Sydney Swans Academy in their clash on neutral territory, upsetting the northern hopefuls with a 31-point win. The home side’s four-goal to one fourth term sealed the final margin, with the contest a touch tighter to that point.

It was the bottom-ager who stole the show in this clash, as Ollie Henry booted four goals for the Falcons alongside Charlie Brauer‘s two, while Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden both managed 22 disposals and a goal each. Geelong captain Jesse Clark was the leading ball winner on the ground with 25 touches, followed closely by Sydney top-ager Sam Thorne (24).

Not much may have been expected of the Gippsland-Eastern clash coming into the season, but it proved to be a belting finals preview as the Power took out the four points in Morwell. The game was tight the whole way through, with the high-quality contest ending in a 10-point triumph to the home side.

As had been the case in previous fixtures, the cream rose to the top as Sam Flanders (25 disposals, two goals), Brock Smith (27 disposals), and Fraser Phillips (20 disposals, three goals) all enjoyed fantastic outings for the winners. The midfield trio of Zak Pretty (28 disposals), Lachlan Stapleton (28), and Mitch Mellis (21) was just as handy for Eastern, while forwards Bailey White and Ben Hickleton notched three goals apiece.

The final game of the round saw a seventh venue used in Ikon Park, as the Northern Knights held off a fast-finishing Northern Territory Thunder Academy. A six-goal third term saw the Knights double their goal tally, and it set up a match-defining margin as they went on to salute to the tune of 38 points. The NT’s campaign would finish winless, but not for a lack of trying and talent.

Josh D’Intinosante and Jackson Davies both had a good amount of ball while also booting two goals each for the winners, while 2020 Vic Metro Hub member Liam McMahon also managed two goals from his 15 disposals and eight marks. Ben Jungfer was the Thunder’s leading ball winner with 22 touches, but it was Malcolm Rosas Jnr who shone with 21 and two goals, while Joel Jeffrey found the ball 21 times, Beau O’Connell 19, and Brodie Lake 16.

Classic Contests: Flanders’ first half magic fails to halt Chargers

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 7 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Gippsland Power and Oakleigh Chargers. In this edition, we wind back the clock only one year to 2019, when the two sides locked horns in a classic qualifying final at Ikon Park.

GIPPSLAND POWER 2.2 | 9.2 | 11.3 | 12.3 (75)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 5.1 | 5.3 | 9.7 | 12.11 (83)

NAB League Qualifying Final | Sunday September 1, 2019
Ikon Park, 1:30pm

Draftees in action:

Gippsland – Caleb Serong, Sam Flanders, Leo Connolly, Fraser Phillips, Harrison Pepper
Oakleigh – Nick Bryan, Trent Bianco, Noah Anderson, Matt Rowell

Both Gippsland and Oakleigh finished the NAB League regular season just one game adrift from top spot at 11-4, enough to see them earn a week’s rest come wildcard round. They would meet in the qualifying final, the last fixture of the competition’s first post-season weekend, and produce an instant classic full of momentum swings.

Oakleigh boasted the would-be first and second picks of the 2019 draft, but the Power had a greater number of draftees on the park in this bout led by Sam Flanders and Caleb Serong. The key absence of skipper Brock Smith would prove vital though, with a certain bottom-aged Oakleigh star having a big impact on the game.

The Chargers stormed out of the blocks with five goals to two in the opening term, spearheaded by in-form forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan at what proved to be the scoring end. Needing a spark at 23 points down in the first 15 minutes, the Power turned to Serong who provided a lift with his aggression from midfield.

But it was Trent Baldi who would have an even bigger say with his scoreboard impact, slamming home consecutive majors to keep Gippsland in touch. An opportunistic Reef McInnes goal late hurt the Power though, especially given they had kept Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell relatively quiet to that point. It would have to last.

The second period of play would belong to Flanders, who stole the show with one of the greatest 10-minute patches of elite junior football in history. Pushing forward, the dynamic first round draftee showed up his new Gold Coast teammates on the opposing side with four consecutive goals from over 10 touches to break the game open.

On a day where scoring was hard to come by, Flanders’ feats helped the Power pile on nine of the last 10 goals to claim a 23-point lead at the main break. The seven-goal term also went unanswered up the other end as the usually potent Oakleigh side would require a big lift come the second half with much of its bottom-age brigade standing up to that point.

Keeping with the ebb and flow of the contest, it was Oakleigh’s turn to get on top in the third stanza, but their four goals to two was not enough to reclaim the lead. But having created more clear-cut chances, the Chargers drew back to within single digits to give themselves a sniff heading into the final change, albeit if they had spurned a couple of chances to further cut the deficit.

Ugle-Hagan converted a third major early in the fourth quarter as the heavens opened, turning the game into an all-out slog. With goals hard to come by, Riley Baldi‘s major to push the margin out to over a kick looked a big one, but Oakleigh found avenues to the big sticks when they needed them as skipper Trent Bianco sunk a long bomb, and Nick Stathopoulos booted a screamer to seal the come-from-behind win.

Proving impossible to keep down, Rowell and Anderson led the disposal count among two others to lead the Oakleigh’s charge. Bottom-age jet Will Phillips also had 29 touches and added a goal for the winners, while Serong managed the same feat in a valiant effort for Gippsland. Flanders would finish with 27 disposals to go with his four second quarter goals, while St Kilda draftee Leo Connolly also hit the scoreboard from 23 touches.

Oakleigh’s bottom-age brigade proved somewhat of a difference aside from the heavyweight battle through midfield, with the likes of Finlay Macrae, Bailey Laurie, and Ugle-Hagan producing the goods early on. Under the leadership of Bianco (24 disposals, one goal), they proved they were not just there to simply fill the numbers.

The Chargers would go on to claim a dominant grand final win over Eastern after comfortably accounting for Sandringham in the preliminary final stage, while Gippsland were done-over by the Ranges at the same mark after overcoming Western in the semi-finals. With a wealth of draftees coming from either side, they were two of the premier clubs of the competition and stand to have a great impact come draft time in 2020 as well.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 5 – Dragons, Ranges humble Academies to go top

ROUND 5 of the 2019 NAB League season saw the Victorian mainstays peg back their Northern visitors in an action packed nine-game weekend. Sandringham and Eastern delivered big wins over the two Queensland academies at Trevor Barker Oval, while the Sydney Academy won strongly to remain undefeated alongside Dandenong (3-0-1).

But first to take the field were the Bendigo Pioneers and Northern Knights at Queen Elizabeth Oval, with the visitors taking four points back to Preston after trailing at every other break. After streaming ahead by 17 points at half-time with double the goal tally, the Pioneers ran out of legs to be held to just one major in the second half as the Knights snuck ahead to come away five-point victors.

As was a theme in Round 5, both sides were weakened but had some solid talent running around from each age bracket. Josh D’Intinosante and Sunny Brazier had plenty of the ball while also hitting the scoreboard, while Lachlan Potter created some zip on the outside. Top-age Pioneers James Schischka, Ben Worme, and Logan Fitzgerald all had 25 touches, while bottom-age jet Jack Ginnivan showed promise with 20 and a goal.

Sam Philp was the best ball winner of the 2019 draftees, earning 17 touches for Northern, while Swans recruit Brady Rowles had just 11 as he popped up in spurts. Ryan Sturgess, who almost joined Philp at the Blues as a supplementary top-up, was also impressive with 21 disposals and seven marks.

Saturday’s first game opened a Blacktown double-header as the Swans Academy accounted for Murray in a close encounter to move to equal-first. The Sydneysiders shot out of the blocks with five goals to nil to open the match, adding another four in the second term to lead by six goals at half time. Although they fared much better in the second half, the Bushrangers could not fully recover the deficit and went down by 24 points.

Sydney over-ager Kyle Martin led all comers with 29 disposals, just one touch ahead of Bushrangers runner Cam Wild (28, one goal). Dylan Clarke also led the way for Murray with 23 disposals, with Jye Chalcraft, Jimmy Boyer, and Sam Durham all also ticking over the 20-mark. Max Geddes (23 disposals) was also influential for the Swans, but it was big man Hamish Ellem who stole the show with 22 disposals, nine marks, and 3.3 in a performance which went a long way to securing him an Allies berth.

The GWS Academy was next up on its home turf against another Victorian country side in Gippsland, only it could not repeat the feats of its New South Wales rival. The GIANTS trailed at every break but brought the contest to the highly-fancied Power, getting within a single point at three-quarter time before falling by nine points.

Harry Grant had an outstanding game for GWS, booting two goals from his game-high 31 disposals, while Oakleigh squad member Jeromy Lucas had 24 touches and newly-transferred Northern Knight Liam Delahunty booted two goals. But a talent rich Gippsland unit was led well by Brock Smith (24 disposals, seven rebound 50s) and Hawthorn rookie Harrison Pepper (26 disposals, one goal), with Riley Baldi also stepping up through midfield. Draftees Kyle Dunkley, Leo Connolly, Fraser Phillips, and Charlie Comben were also in action for the Power.

Skipping back, and Dandenong extended its unbeaten start to the season with a huge win over Oakleigh on home turf. After a tight opener, the Stingrays played the conditions perfectly to pile on eight goals in the second term, and seven in the last to storm away 70-point victors with 11 individual goalkickers.

Lachlan Williams and Ned Cahill slotted three majors each for the winners, while bottom-ager Will Bravo slotted two and Richmond recruit Bigoa Nyuon managed one from 17 touches. Cahill was the leading disposal getter with 29, while Joe Ayton-Delaney, Lochlan Jenkins, and Trent Bianco all managed 24 for the Chargers. Port draftee Dylan Williams went goalless in a different role, while Gold Coast mid-season recruit Mitch Riordan had 15 touches and Melbourne rookie Austin Bradtke had just eight disposals and a goal.

Saturday’s other double-header began with Sandringham thumping the Brisbane Lions Academy by 97 points on home turf. The Lions had won just one game to that point, and were in for more immediate pain as the Dragons helped themselves to 13 first half goals while holding the visitors to one. There was no way back from there, with Sandringham coasting to victory.

Brisbane skipper Will Martyn was one of the sole Lions to stand up all day, collecting a game-high 31 touches while fellow Richmond draftee Noah Cumberland was kept to just nine. Louis Butler and Ryan Byrnes strutted their stuff for the Dragons to win plenty of the ball, while Miles Bergman started to get into his stride with 17 touches, Jack Bell impressed with two goals from the same disposal haul, and Blake O’Leary finished with a game-high three goals.

Eastern completed the academy rout with a defensively sound 59-point thumping of Gold Coast’s academy, keeping the SUNS to just two goals. After just three goals were scored in the first half, the Ranges clicked into gear to break the game open with seven in the third term and run home comfortable winners.

Zak Pretty had a monster day out with 37 disposals, aided well by Lachlan Stapleton (27) and Mitch Mellis (24), while bottom-age defenders Wil Parker and Josh Clarke also impressed. Bailey White led the goal count with four, while Jamieson Rossiter managed three and Cody Hirst played one of his last games before being snapped up by Sydney. Skipper Connor Budarick was the standout for Gold Coast, accumulating 27 touches, with bottom-ager Max Pescud also thereabouts, and fellow SUNS recruits Matt Conroy and Patrick Murtagh also taking the field.

Saturday’s final fixture saw Calder edge Geelong in a close battle at Highgate Recreation Reserve, with both sides enjoying time in the lead. The Cannons looked the goods after coming out on top in a low-scoring first half, but were pegged back to within a point at the final break. Keeping their heads, the hosts held on to win by seven points.

Sam Ramsay was the sole draftee afield, and he had a decent outing with 27 disposals – behind only Daniel Mott (29) and Brodie Newman (36). Ned Gentile booted three goals from 21 disposals to also be among the best, while skipper Jesse Clark claimed that honour for Geelong. Nineteen-year-old Charlie Sprague was another to impress with two goals from 18 touches, with fellow over-ager Henry Stubbings managing 20.

Fast-forward to Sunday, and Western got the better of Tasmania in their trip to the Apple Isle, trumping the hosts by 47 points to get within touch of the top four. A steady opening half saw Tasmania prove wasteful, booting 1.6 as Western eventually took flight to run home with six goals to two after half-time.

Competition leading goalkicker Archi Manton took full toll with a game-high three majors, supported well by Carlton rookie Josh Honey (two from 25 disposals) and bottom-age jet Eddie Ford (two from 16 disposals). Darcy Cassar racked it up across half back to finish with 31 disposals, while Patrick Walker and Bailey Gordon shared that feat for Tasmania (25). Isaac Chugg was also impressive on debut for a Devils side which was missing a lot of its star power.

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels took home a huge win in the round’s final match, defeating the Northern Territory Thunder Academy by 55 points on neutral territory. The Rebels never looked back after a 10 goals to one opening half at Windy Hill, which proved more than enough for the win despite a more even second half.

Nick Caris led the goal count with four for GWV, while Jay Rantall (27 disposals, two goals), Matty Lloyd (28, two), and Riley Polkinghorne (23, two) all had an impact. There was plenty of class on show for NT despite the loss too, with Beau O’Connell (29 disposals, two goals) having a day out, while Ben Jungfer had it 28 times, Joel Jeffrey had 24 touches and six marks, and new SUNS rookie Malcolm Rosas Jnr also got on the park.

Classic Contests: Flanders and Phillips star as Gippsland finds a way against Eastern

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 4 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Gippsland Power and Eastern Ranges. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019 when the teams played out a see-sawing affair in Morwell as the Power held on for victory.

GIPPSLAND POWER 4.1 | 8.2 | 9.7 | 12.9 (81)
EASTERN RANGES 5.1 | 7.2 | 9.3 | 11.5 (71)

Round 6 | Sunday May 5, 2019
Morwell Recreation Reserve, 1pm

The pre and post-National Championships periods often see NAB League sides stacked to the brim with top-end draftable talent, and it was no different in last year’s Round 6 contest between Gippsland and Eastern at Morwell Recreation Reserve. The Ranges had shot out of the blue to make a 4-1 start to the season, but a meeting with the highly-fancied Power side awaited – on the road, no less – and would always prove a test of their true credentials. The Power were 3-1 having already notched up a bye, going down only to reigning premier, Dandenong to that point. Both sides came in off wins over Northern Academies, with Gippsland scraping over the line against GWS, while Eastern comfortably accounted for Gold Coast.

Five eventual AFL draftees lined up for the hosts, as Sam Flanders, Brock Smith, Fraser Phillips, Charlie Comben, and Harrison Pepper formed a formidable spine, with 2020 top-ager Zach Reid only consolidating it at full back. While the 2019 Ranges squad only produced one mid-season draftee (Cody Hirst), there were a bunch of notable players in the line-up. 2020 over-ager Jamieson Rossiter slotted in at centre half-forward, with top-aged Academy members Connor Downie and Joshua Clarke also on the team sheet. 2019 Vic Metro representatives Lachlan Stapleton, Mitch Mellis, and James Ross made for reliable operators all year, and would certainly have their hands full against quality opposition in this fixture as leaders of the group.

A high-scoring opening term set the stage for an action-packed clash, with both sides shooting sharply in front of goal to register a combined 9.2. It was the Ranges who found their way on top though thanks to their superior five-goal effort, hitting back at each of the Power’s advances and gaining the ascendancy late as Bailey White cancelled out Flanders’ equalising goal. But with the advantageous end, Gippsland began to have their say with a four-goal to two second stanza – all while both sides maintained remarkably accuracy. In an end-to-end final five minutes of the half, Phillips and Riley Baldi put the Power two goals ahead, before White’s second goal brought the margin back to single digits.

It was again Eastern’s turn to shift the tide and the Ranges somewhat managed to do so with two goals to one in the third term as the contest tightened up. Harvey Neocleous’ third-minute major did little to stop Eastern from hitting back with six-pointers as the Power began to stray in front of goal. With the lead cut to four points heading into the final change, a grandstand finish awaited. Ben Hickleton immediately put the pressure on the Power as he goaled with two minutes on the clock in the final term, putting the Ranges in front before Billy McCormack extended the buffer to eight points. But the cream rises to the top, especially in the clutch, as Flanders and Comben goaled to reinstate Gippsland’s ascendancy. Tom Fitzpatrick’s major with a tick over six minutes left meant the Ranges required two goals to win, but they could only managed a single behind as the hosts held on for victory.

Eastern’s ball magnets stood up in the engine room despite the losing effort, with Stapleton (28 disposals, nine tackles, six inside 50s) and Zak Pretty (28 disposals, six inside 50s) leading all comers, while Mellis found it 21 times. White and Hickleton were the main culprits in front of goal, each bagging three majors while McCormack managed two as the only other Eastern multiple goalkicker. 2020 top-agers Downie (10 disposals) and Clarke (13) had steady games, with Rossiter able to claim one major from his eight disposals.

For the stacked Gippsland side, Flanders led the way with two goals from his 25 disposals and five inside 50s from midfield, trailing only Phillips (20 disposals, seven marks, three goals) in terms of scoreboard impact. Skipper Smith racked up a team-high 27 touches from defence, while Riley Baldi (26 disposals, one goal) and Ryan Sparkes (21 disposals) were others to stand out. The remaining two draftees, Pepper and Comben, managed 18 and 14 touches respectively, with bigman Comben also notching six marks and a goal.

The two sides would meet just once more in 2019, with Eastern getting the chocolates in their preliminary final tie to the tune of 30 points. The Ranges, who also ended up minor premiers, fell short of a rampant Oakleigh side in the grand final, while Gippsland bowed out at that preliminary final stage after finishing one game adrift in second.

Classic Contests: Gippsland powers home in strong last term against Pios

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 3 clashes in the NAB League this year between Bendigo Pioneers and Gippsland Power. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019, which was the team’s most recent meeting that pulled out a classic in the final round of the year.

BENDIGO PIONEERS 3.3 | 5.5 | 6.9 | 9.9 (63)
GIPPSLAND POWER 1.2 | 5.4 | 6.8 | 10.13 (73)

Round 17 | Sunday, August 18
Queen Elizabeth Oval, 10am

It was a day that promised so much in terms of the weather, and then provided what Victorians have come to expect as “Melbourne weather” – in the Country. A triple header at Queen Elizabeth Oval saw spectators greeted by sunshine, but a few hours later pounded by pouring rain with the sun teasing those who had stuck around, in the final quarter of the day. The first game was between one of the premiership contenders in Gippsland Power, and a side that had been competitive throughout the year despite amassing just the five wins in Bendigo Pioneers – not indicative of how good they had been. Gippsland had to win to ensure the Power took top spot, with a loss relegating themselves to third after Oakleigh Chargers had downed Sandringham Dragons the day before. For Bendigo, they could have finished 10th on the table, regardless of the last game of the day’s result between Murray Bushrangers and Greater Western Victoria Rebels, with Bendigo having a higher percentage than both sides.

Bendigo showed it would be up for the fight with top prospect, Thomson Dow booting a goal early and Seamus Mitchell and Riley Wilson converting first term majors. Riley Baldi ensured his side would get on the board in the opening stanza, but the Power still trailed by 13 points at the break. When Wilson booted his second just 90 seconds into the next term, the Pioneers led by 19 points and the home team was up and a bout. It would not last long however, as Sam Flanders and Ryan Sparkes both kicked majors within three minutes of the Pioneers’ goal to drag the margin back to seven points. Jack Ginnivan kicked a steadier midway through the term, but that was countered by Baldi’s second and a late goal to future Roo, Charlie Comben.

Now holding just a one-point lead at the break, Bendigo needed to maintain the pressure against a side that was capable of scoring in quick succession. For the first 12 minutes, neither side could buy a goal as the Pioneers booted 0.4 to the Power’s 0.3 in what was a case of missed opportunities up either end. Future Carlton draftee, Fraser Phillips broke the 20-minute drought with a major in the 17th minute of the third term to give his side a four-point lead. Comben then added a behind to make it five, but bottom-age tall Josh Treacy came to the rescue and converted a huge goal with a few minutes remaining in the term to secure a one-point lead for the home team. The final term was one of two halves as Ginnivan booted a second goal three minutes into the term, and then Mitchell added another one to his name. Midway through the term, the Pioneers led by 12 and it seemed another goal or two might have been enough. Sensing the importance of a major, Mason McGarrity popped up to kick a vital one for the Power, and then defender Tye Hourigan found himself in the most unique circumstances, thrown forward and taking a crucial mark deep inside 50. He converted a huge goal with nine minutes remaining to put his side in front.

After Zach Reid had won the game against Dandenong Stingrays at a wet Shepley Oval, it seemed another defender had come through at the right time. But Noah Walsh had other ideas, with the Pioneer kicking a goal with three and a half minutes on the clock. Just when it looked like there might be the final twist, McGarrity found another one with a goal in the final two minutes and the Power were back up by three points. Phillips missed the chance to ice the game in the final minute and the Pioneers rushed it down to try and win it all, but it was well rebounded by the Power and a mark to Phillips in the last few seconds handed him another chance at goal. This time he converted it – after the siren – to provide the Power with a thrilling 10-point win and second spot on the NAB League Boys ladder.

Riley Baldi finished with a team-high 27 disposals, five marks, seven tackles, six clearances, five inside 50s, two rebounds and two goals, while Phillips had 19 touches, four marks, three tackles, two inside 50s and a couple of goals. Hourigan was instrumental across the ground with a massive 11 marks to accompany 20 disposals, three inside 50s and two rebounds, while future Saint, Leo Connolly helped himself to 22 disposals, seven marks, three clearances and five rebounds. Other future AFL draftees for the Power included Flanders (14 disposals, three marks, three clearances, three inside 50s and a goal), Comben (12 disposals, three marks, 13 hitouts and a goal), Brock Smith (14 disposals, five rebounds) and Harrison Pepper (six disposals, two rebounds).

For the Pioneers, Riley Ironside had the most touches with 26, as well as six marks, three tackles, two inside 50s and five rebounds, while Dow had 24 disposals, six marks, two clearances, two rebounds and a goal working hard on the inside. Ben Worme (21 disposals, seven marks, four tackles, four clearances, six inside 50s and four rebounds), Wilson (21 disposals, three marks, 10 tackles and two goals) and Walsh (21 disposals, four marks, four tackles and a goal) all found plenty of the ball. Future Swan, Rowles was among the best with 15 disposals and five rebounds, while bottom-age talents Sam Conforti (19 disposals, four clearances and three inside 50s), Ginnivan (17 disposals, three marks, four tackles, four clearances and two goals) and Mitchell (12 disposals, four inside 50s and two goals) were also impressive.

Gippsland Power went on to reach the preliminary finals before bowing out to Eastern Ranges, while Bendigo Pioneers lost to Northern Knights the following round at Preston City Oval in Wildcard Round.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 1 – Future Blues light up Ikon Park

A SPIRITED comeback from the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels was not enough to see them topple the Dandenong Stingrays in the opening round of the 2019 season. The Stingrays led by as much as 36 points at the 15-minute mark of the third term, before the Rebels bolted home to boot eight of the last 12 goals to get within eight points with eight minutes remaining in the game. Unfortunately for the home side, they could only manage back-to-back behinds on the day.

Captain and top prospect, Hayden Young had 15 disposals, five marks, four tackles and seven rebounds in the Stingrays’ win, while the talented Cody Weightman had 12 disposals, two tackles, three inside 50s and a goal. It was Lachlan Williams in defence who was instrumental with 23 disposals and 11 rebounds, as bottom-age talent Clayton Gay had a big game across the ground, picking up 20 disposals, three marks, three inside 50s, two rebounds and two goals. Future draftees, Bigoa Nyuon (seven disposals, three marks, 13 hitouts, four inside 50s and two goals) and Ned Cahill (nine disposals, two marks, three tackles and two goals) had an impact, and Sam De Koning (six disposals, three hitouts, one rebound) also played in the match. Mitchell Riordan also started his overage year positively – though he would only be at the club for another month and a half before heading north – picking up 16 touches, four marks, three tackles, six clearances and five inside 50s.

A former Australian basketballer by the name of Jay Rantall made his debut for the GWV Rebels, picking up 24 touches and having five clearances in a strong performance through the midfield group. Cooper Craig-Peters led the way with 30 disposals (16 contested), 10 tackles, 10 clearances, four inside 50s and a goal, while Mitch Martin (24 disposals, four clearances, seven inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal) and Matty Lloyd (26 disposals, nine marks, three clearances, four inside 50s and three goals) also impressed despite the loss.

The next day, Murray Bushrangers and Gippsland Power engaged in an equally tough tussle at Rams Arena, where Will Chandler had the ball in the dying seconds, but was just a touch too far out to score as the Bushrangers went down by three points. The Bushrangers had been in front by that margin at quarter time and half-time against the title-contending Power team, and even led by as much as five points at the final break. But the only goal of the final term went to the Power in what was a struggle between two top defences in the 10.9 (69) to 8.12 (66) defeat.

Kyle Dunkley made onlookers check twice when they saw the former Oakleigh Chargers forward dominating through the midfield for Gippsland on his way to 21 disposals, six marks, seven tackles, three clearances, six inside 50s and three goals in what would prove to be one of only a handful of outings at NAB League level, switching RAMS Arena for Etihad Stadium. Without Caleb Serong, it was Sam Flanders who brought the highlights, picking up 19 disposals, two marks, five tackles, six clearances and six inside 50s, while Ryan Sparkes had the most touches with 26 disposals, three marks, four tackles, three inside 50s and eight rebounds. Charlie Comben returned for a modest three touches, two marks and 11 hitouts, while other future draftees who played in the game included Brock Smith (18 disposals, four marks and four rebounds), Harrison Pepper (13 disposals, six marks and four tackles), Leo Connolly (10 disposals, two marks) and Fraser Phillips (five disposals, two marks and one goal).

It was no surprise to see future GIANT, Lachlan Ash having a big day out for Murray with 24 disposals, eight marks, six tackles, two clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds, while the midfield duo of Dylan Clarke (24 touches, five marks, four tackles, five clearances and five inside 50s) and Cameron Wild (22 disposals, five marks, five inside 50s and four rebounds) were productive. Co-captain Cameron Wilson slotted three goals in a big game up forward with 21 disposals, seven marks and five inside 50s, while bottom-age talent Elijah Hollands showed off his class with 15 disposals, 10 marks, four inside 50s and a goal.

At RSEA Park, premiership contenders Sandringham Dragons made an early statement on the competition with a big win over Calder. The Dragons had a host of draftable prospects heading into the year and destroyed Calder Cannons by 109 points. It was the likes of future Saint, Ryan Byrnes (26 disposals, five marks, four tackles, five clearances, six inside 50s and a goal) and future Hawk, Finn Maginness (23 disposals, three marks, seven tackles, six clearances and a goal) who shone. Louis Butler (22 disposals) and Miles Bergman (16) both had strong games, as top 10 pick Fischer McAsey had two rebounds from 14 disposals and five marks in what was a pretty comfortable day to be a Dragons defender. Instead it was Charlie Dean‘s five goals that stole the show. For the Cannons, future draftees Sam Ramsay (23 disposals, three marks and a goal) and Harrison Jones (12 disposals, three marks and six hitouts) both played, while Tye Browning and Daniel Mott did all they could sharing in 24 disposals each, with Mott also having four clearances and six inside 50s.

A full-strength Oakleigh Chargers also had an impressive win in the first match of the season against a far-from-disgraced Eastern Ranges outfit. Top two picks, Matt Rowell (21 touches, five tackles, four clearances and one goal) and Noah Anderson (26 disposals, five marks, five clearances, six inside 50s and four goals) were the best, as Joe Ayton-Delaney picked up a game-high 32 touches as well as nine clearances, four inside 50s and five rebounds. The likes of future draftees, Trent Bianco (22 disposals, four marks, three tackles and three clearances) and Dylan Williams (19 disposals, five clearances, six inside 50s and a goal) were also prominent. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan made his Oakleigh debut but was quiet with four touches and two marks, though fellow bottom-age prospect Will Phillips was solid with 17 disposals and five tackles. Future draftees Nick Bryan (10 disposals, 18 hitouts) and Lachlan Johnson (11 touches, five tackles) also played in the match. For Eastern, soon-to-be-listed Swans player, Cody Hirst had 20 touches, five clearances and three inside 50s in the loss, as bottom-age talent Connor Downie was strong alongside top-age hopefuls Zakery Pretty and Mitch Mellis.

Bendigo Pioneers also opened their season off on the right foot courtesy of a big 43-point win over Geelong Falcons. Future Cat, Cooper Stephens did all he could for the Falcons in the loss, picking up 22 touches, three marks, three tackles, four clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds, working hard with Jesse Clark (24 disposals, seven marks and four rebounds). For the Pioneers, Thomson Dow quickly asserted himself on the competition with two goals from 28 disposals, eight marks, three clearances and three inside 50s, while fellow first round selection Brodie Kemp had 22 touches, three marks, five tackles, five clearances and three inside 50s. The Pioneers’ other draftee in the match was Brady Rowles who helped himself to 15 touches, two clearances and two rebounds.

In the final game of the round, Western Jets got up in a thrilling come-from-behind seven-point victory over Northern Knights at Ikon Park. They teams traded blows throughout the match and the Knights led by 18 points at the final break, but a high-scoring last term saw the Jets pile on six goals to two to run over the top of Northern in the end. Future Blue, Josh Honey lit up his future home training ground with 22 touches, six marks, three clearances, six inside 50s and a goal, while future Hawk, Emerson Jeka booted a goal from 14 touches, six marks and four inside 50s. If Honey being Western’s best at Carlton’s home was not freaky enough, Sam Philp – one of Carlton’s first round draft picks – stamped his authority with 22 disposals, nine tackles, nine clearances, three inside 50s and a goal for the Knights. Josh D’Intinosante and Ryan Sturgess booted two goals apiece from 20 touches, while competition leading goalkicker, Archi Manton snagged three majors on his way to that title.