Tag: caleb serong

2019 AFL Draft Focus – Round 5: Pick one down, but draftees fly high

11 RECRUITS from the 2019 AFL National Draft ran out for their respective teams on the weekend, and we take a look at how the best handful of them performed. Top pick Matt Rowell may have been rubbed out early with a dislocated shoulder, but there was plenty to take out of Round 5 for the class of 2019 as plenty of talented youngsters retained their spots at the elite level. For the first time this year, none of the weekend’s debutants came from the most recent draft, but there promises to be plenty to come.

STAR OF THE ROUND: Hayden Young (Fremantle)

STATS: 15 disposals (10 kicks), 6 marks, 2 rebound 50s, 73% disposal efficiency

The stats may not overly flatter him, but Young is building nicely into is AFL career having returned another strong performance in Fremantle’s first win for 2020. Stationed in his usual defensive post, Young delivered 12 of his 15 disposals from the back half and did so with accuracy. His intercept marking ability is also coming to the fore as he gains in confidence, able to read the ball well in flight and have a crack backing into traffic. At four games into his elite level venture, the Dandenong Stingrays graduate is beginning to bring his best traits forward and has cemented his spot in the Dockers’ side.

Noah Anderson (Gold Coast SUNS)

18 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50, 2 score involvements

As good mate, Rowell went down, Anderson stepped up to deliver one of his better performances across his first five career games. Continuing in his role on the wing, Anderson got involved in the contest and managed to find the ball in important areas while also fulfilling his defensive duties with 11 pressure acts. The former Oakleigh Charger may have turned the ball over six times amid the heat of the contest, but has impactful touches and has the potential to have a big say once all the factors in his game click.

Lachlan Ash (GWS GIANTS)

15 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 2 score involvements

Ash is another who is beginning to click into gear having been granted ample opportunity upon his AFL berth, and he was among the GIANTS’ top 10 disposal winners in their win against Hawthorn on Sunday. Moving along the line from defence to the wing, Ash was able to penetrate the forward 50 in transition to show a glimpse of his attacking quality, while also providing a safe outlet in the back half. He won half of his possessions in contested situations too, displaying a good appetite for the contest and the rigours of the elite level.

Tom Green (GWS GIANTS)

14 disposals, 2 marks, 5 tackles, 2 clearances, 3 score involvements

Right behind Ash in terms of disposals was GIANTS Academy graduate, Green with 14. After a breakout game in Round 4 saw him earn a Rising Star nomination, the big-bodied midfielder continued on his ball winning ways to contribute some solid numbers to GWS’ Sunday salute. The GIANTS’ coaching staff has shown great faith in Green in allowing him to run through midfield, attending centre bounces where he thrives on the contested side of the game. He’s another who looks to be locking down a spot, and is providing ample cover some some absent GWS stars.

Caleb Serong (Fremantle)

10 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 2 clearances, 1 inside 50, 1 rebound 50, 2 score involvements, 1 goal assist

Following the example set by former Vic Country teammate, Young is Serong, who also played his part in Fremantle’s opening win for season 2020. The diminutive Gippsland Power product is another who has been thrust right into the engine room action at times, holding his own against big-bodied opposition and remaining relevant going both ways. He is proving more comfortable with ball in hand as time goes on, and it is positive that he manages to find it in the first place.

Others in action:

Connor Budarick (Gold Coast)
Jack Mahony (North Melbourne)
Sam Philp (Carlton)
Kysaiah Pickett (Melbourne)
Trent Rivers (Melbourne)
Matt Rowell (Gold Coast)

2019 AFL Draft Focus – Round 4: Green shoots appear for GWS gun

13 RECRUITS from the 2019 AFL National Draft ran out for their respective teams on the weekend, and we take a look at how the best handful of them performed. From a Gold Coast trio who continue to flourish, to a number of other high picks who earned their spots, the draft class of 2019 is already showing promising signs for the future. There were a total of four debutants from last year’s cohort in Round 4, with others either holding their spots or returning to the line-up.

STAR OF THE ROUND: Tom Green (GWS GIANTS)

STATS: 18 disposals, 12 contested possessions, 72% disposal efficiency, 2 marks, 7 clearances, 1 inside 50, 2 rebound 50s, 6 score involvements, 1 goal

In a low-disposal game, Green was among the GIANTS’ top five ball winners as they snuck home to a thrilling win over Collingwood on home turf. Thrust straight back into the midfield fold, the GWS Academy graduate looked at home in his second AFL outing, getting stuck straight in with the tough stuff to notch 12 contested possessions and seven clearances. Last year’s number 10 draft pick was also able to boot his first goal at the elite level, and an important one at that given the final score.

Louis Butler (Western Bulldogs)

14 disposals (11 kicks), 2 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 4 score involvements

A Thursday night debut saw Butler collect 14 disposals in his usual defensive role, slotting in well across half-back and generating some decent forward momentum. While he kicked well below his usual rate at 21 per cent efficiency, the Sandringham Dragons product put the ball in dangerous areas, breaching either arc five times and having a hand in four score involvements as the Bulldogs downed Sydney.

Kysaiah Pickett (Melbourne)

10 disposals, 9 contested possessions, 3 tackles, 3 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 4 score involvements

After serving an avoidable suspension, Pickett returned to the Demons’ fold and was one of his side’s more lively forward 50 options. He was often Melbourne’s most dangerous outlet at the fall of the ball, wreaking havoc with his ability to hit the contest at full pace and extract, while also doing all the right things defensively. He may have hit five turnovers and could not quite find the goals, but you knew something was about to happen when Pickett neared the ball, and he brings a different dimension to the Melbourne team.

Matt Rowell (Gold Coast SUNS)

20 disposals, 1 mark, 5 tackles, 7 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 6 score involvements, 2 goals

Rowell may finally have been knocked off his ‘Star of the Round‘ perch, but still put in a performance worthy of the honour in his fourth AFL appearance. The Oakleigh Chargers graduate clicked over the 20 disposal mark once again and added another two goals to his haul, while proving a key cog in the SUNS’ engine room operations. Not many draftees have been able to match the grunt work of Rowell, who continues to put up fantastic tackle and clearance numbers to prove his two-way relevance.

Hayden Young (Fremantle)

15 disposals (12 kicks), 6 marks, 4 tackles, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 7 rebound 50s, 1 goal assist

Having kept his spot in the 0-4 Fremantle side, Young repaid the faith this week with arguably his best performance in three games at the elite level. Stationed in his usual half-back post, the 19-year-old provided a great glimpse of his damaging left-foot kick with a spearing goal assist pass as he cut through the corridor, while also contributing seven rebound 50s. As he adjusts to the pace and pressure of the AFL, Young has been able to better showcase his offensive game and join in the play going both ways.

Others in action:

Lachlan Ash (GWS GIANTS)
Noah Anderson (Gold Coast SUNS)
Connor Budarick (Gold Coast SUNS)
Caleb Serong (Fremantle)
Sam Philp (Carlton)
Fischer McAsey (Adelaide)
Trent Rivers (Melbourne)
Jack Mahony (North Melbourne)

AFL Debut Watch – Round 4: Eight in line for AFL debuts

ROUND 4 of the AFL Premiership Season got underway last night, with Sandringham Dragons graduate Louis Butler making his debut in the Western Bulldogs’ win over Sydney. He is one of four confirmed debutants, with a further four hopefuls named among extended squads in anticipation of this weekend’s action. Jamaine Jones will also make his club debut for West Coast after appearing seven times for Geelong. We take you through the list and give a little reminder of what each player may bring to the table.

ADELAIDE:

Shane McAdam* (Halls Creek/Sturt)

Named among an extended squad once again, McAdam will be hoping that new coach Matthew Nicks hands out another debut in Round 4. The high-flying medium forward promises to bring some excitement back to the Crows’ lineup, which has lacked pace and the ability to bring the ball to ground inside forward 50.

As mentioned when McAdam narrowly missed selection last week, the Crows traded to get ahold of the 181cm hopeful as a pre-access draft pick, so obviously think highly of his talent. Adelaide really has little to lose given its current form, so do not be surprised to see yet another fresh face take the field in the tri-colours come Sunday.

Draft Central’s 2018 Player Profile Summary:

“A highly skilled and athletic medium/small forward, McAdam has ability to create goals for himself and those around him with a host of scoring assists all year and 31 goals from 17 League games this year. He averaged almost a scoring shot per game as well as almost two goals per game, making him have a high impact inside 50.

“He has that terrific ability to know how to use the ball, and then find the goals with ease. He is silky and packed with class inside 50 and his X-factor is clear for all to see. These natural footballing abilities go hand in hand with his sensational athletic traits. He has always had these abilities, but in 2018, McAdam has begun to show them on a regular basis.”


BRISBANE: 

Connor Ballenden* (Brisbane Lions Academy)

A Brisbane Lions Academy product who was drafted back in 2017, Ballenden has since staked his claim for senior selection with some promising form at NEAFL level. While he looked poised to suit the Lions’ structures as a key forward in his draft year, the 21-year-old has shown he is capable of also rotating through the ruck and key defensive posts.

The 200cm bigman has been named in an extended squad to take on the Crows, a selection which puts pressure on the likes of Eric Hipwood to perform, and makes for good competition for Stefan Martin‘s currently-vacant ruck spot. The Lions may also feel the need to add height to their defence, so there are plenty of ways which Balldenden could sneak into the Round 4 side.

Draft Central’s 2017 Player Profile Summary:

“If the Brisbane Lions utilise Ballenden as a forward/ruck, there’s no doubting that he has the ability to fit into their structures up forward in the future. His contested marking and pinpoint set shot goal kicking are forwards dreams, and despite a quiet top age season, his bottom-age year was very impressive and suggested that Ballenden has a bright future ahead of him.”


CARLTON:

Sam Philp (Northern Knights)

The first confirmed debutant on this alphabetical list, Carlton fans, coaches, and players alike are excited to see what Philp can produce at the elite level. Somewhat of a surprise first round selection in last year’s National Draft, Philp was a feel-good story of hard work and perseverance among his cohort, bolting into contention despite having missed out on Vic Metro representative selection.

Philp is a hard-nosed midfielder with the ideal balance of speed and endurance, which he uses both ways to either charge the ball forward or apply smothering pressure on the opposition. He was the fastest player of his draft class with a 2.867-second 20-metre sprint time at the National Combine, and will certainly showcase all of that power upon his berth at the AFL level.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“On the field, Philp wins his own ball and is most typically seen bustling out of congestion with his trademark speed and strength to generate some forward run. He is just as apt going the other way too, with Philp’s aggression translating to a fearsome tackling game on the rare occasion where he does not win the ball himself.

“A big improver from his bottom-age season, Philp has continued on the upward trend and could be the kind of player a club will seek to snap up earlier than expected given the upside his unique mix of traits brings.”


FREMANTLE

Caleb Serong (Gippsland Power)

Another confirmed starter who narrowly missed out on a selection nod last week, Serong is set to make his AFL debut against the red-hot Gold Coast SUNS. The opposition boasts a number of 2019 draftees who have made an immediate impact, but the prime-time Saturday night fixture gives Fremantle’s budding first-round stars like Serong and Hayden Young the chance to snatch centre stage.

Dockers fans will love the intensity that Serong brings to the table, a true leader who does not shy away from the tough stuff and will bleed for the jumper. His skills are also notable too, with a terrific burst of speed and the clean hands to make up for the supposed disadvantage of his sub-180cm frame in contested situations. While he is a capable ball winning midfielder, Serong will likely start on a wing or inside forward 50.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“Touted as one of the top prospected behind the obvious Oakleigh Chargers’ duo, Serong is one of the more well-rounded players in the AFL Draft crop, with very few glaring areas of improvement. The biggest upside for the 178cm midfielder/forward is the areas he could improve on are more easily doable compared to other players.

“Among his list of strengths in his game is his clean hands, footy IQ, clearance ability and strength, while his consistency and competitiveness are up there with Matt Rowell. The areas that Serong can improve are his kicking under pressure – which has developed over the course of the season – his on-field emotion – which while good at times can also be a hindrance – and his size – which while his height will not change too much, he can still improve his muscle tone.”


HAWTHORN:

Harry Jones (Murray Bushrangers)

One of a few 2017 draftees who will hope to finally crack the senior side in Round 4 is Jones, an early rookie selection who can provide midfield depth for the Hawks. Despite suffering untimely injuries in his draft year, the Hawthorn showed faith in what the youngster had already produced as a strong, extractor-type midfielder who can accumulate and run all day.

He was touted for a senior opportunity in 2019 and after having been made to wait his turn, could see a debut appear on the cards early this season as Alastair Clarkson searches for the right balance. A starting midfield of James Worpel, Tom Mitchell, and Jaeger O’Meara is tough to look past though, making it tough for budding starters like Jones.

Draft Central’s 2017 Player Profile Summary:

“Jones had his year cruelly ended early after a back stress fracture mid-season. At that stage he was hitting his strides winning plenty of the ball and impressing in close for the Murray Bushrangers. Jones is a strong inside midfielder who has a great centre of gravity which sees him stand up in tackles and handball to teammates who are free on the outside.

“He is a fierce tackler and endurance runner who just wears down opponents across four quarters. While his kicking could improve and he could have more of an impact on the scoreboard, Jones’ bread and butter is at the coal face, dishing off handballs with quick hands.”


NORTH MELBOURNE:

Jack Mahony* (Sandringham Dragons)

Mahony is among two potential newcomers named in North Melbourne’s side to face Hawthorn on Sunday night, having impressed in last week’s scratch match with three goals. The crafty sub-180cm prospect was highly-touted at junior level, but lacked the explosiveness or size to be seen as a true midfielder upon transitioning to the AFL ranks – hence his slide to pick 34.

But the Sandringham graduate has all the smarts, agility, and professionalism to break into the Kangaroos’ side in 2020 should his first opportunity not be afforded here. Employed mostly as a small forward by North, Mahony will use his work rate to get up the field as a high half-forward, while also getting back deep inside attacking 50 to generate terrific creative output and a sneaky goal threat.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“While big-bodied and athletic midfielders seem to be the in-vogue archetype for recruiters in the modern game, Sandringham’s Mahony proved this year that smaller, creative types can have just as much of an impact through the engine room. Touted as a high-end prospect from as early as his Under-16 year, Mahony has consistently performed for the Dragons when available, while also proving a match winner for Vic Metro and school side, St Kevin’s.

“The final on-field glimpse we got of Mahony was one which stuck in the memory, with his 19 disposals and three goals against the Allies very nearly dragging Vic Metro over the line to end a sub-par carnival. His combination of shrewd winning, spread from the contest, and crafty use going forward make him relevant in many ways, with the potential to continue as a forward flanker absolutely there.”

Tristan Xerri* (Western Jets)

From small to tall, Xerri is the other possible Kangaroos debutant for Round 4. With Mason Wood a key omission, Xerri could well slot straight into the forward line to provide a touch more height, while also aiding Todd Goldstein in the ruck. The Western Jets product is a terrific overhead marker and remains strong in one-on-one situations or in the ruck, with his 201cm frame a constant presence around the ground. He has been a big improver upon entering the AFL system, and could be in with a shot in 2020.

Draft Central’s 2018 Player Profile Summary:

“Xerri is a raw tall who despite his 96kg frame is still learning the game. At times he would make some mindboggling decisions on the field, but he seemed better suited in the ruck than up forward. He is a nice field kick who, while not overly quick, is good in the air and can play deep or high in the forward line.”


WESTERN BULLDOGS: 

Louis Butler (Sandringham Dragons)

The sole player on this list to have already taken the field in Round 4, Butler was a late pick by the Bulldogs in last year’s draft, but impressed enough on the training track to make a steep rise into the senior side. A classic rebounding half-back who is hard at the contest and uses the ball well, Butler looked relatively comfortable among more experienced peers, collecting 14 disposals (11 kicks) in his side’s Thursday night victory over Sydney.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“High-possession half-back flankers are dime-a-dozen in each draft crop, but Sandringham’s Butler is one with a point of difference. The ultra-competitive defender has not only proven his worth in setting up play from the back half with long rebounding kicks, but also showed traits more typical of lock-down types.

“Early in the year, Butler caught the eye with his ability to get to a number of contests on the defensive arc and sweep the ball up at pace, earning a spot in the Vic Metro side for all four games before being tried in a couple of different roles upon re-joining the Dragons squad. The kick-happy prospect seldom had a game under 20 disposals across his 10 NAB League games, getting as high as 31 touches and averaging 22.3 to show marked improvement in his impact on games from his bottom-age year.

* – denotes named in extended squad.

AFL Debut Watch – Round 3: Vic Country cohort in line for big-time berths

ROUND 3 of the AFL Premiership Season got underway last night, and while no players made their AFL debuts for either Richmond or Hawthorn, there could be up to six fresh faces running out at the elite level for the first time this weekend. 2019 Murray Bushrangers captain Lachlan Ash is a confirmed starter for GWS’ clash with the Western Bulldogs tonight, while former Gippsland pair Caleb Serong and Sam Flanders join the likes of Shane McAdam, Will Hamill, and Miles Bergman on extended benches.

ADELAIDE:

Shane McAdam (Halls Creek/Sturt)

The Crows traded to get ahold of McAdam as a pre-draft access pick in 2018, such were the wraps on him as a mature-ager at state league level. Originally from Halls Creek in Western Australia, the exciting medium forward’s move south paid off as he booted 31 goals from 17 SANFL games with Sturt in 2017, before being picked up by the Crows.

After injury interrupted his first year in the tri-colours, McAdam may finally get to don the famous jersey as the club enters a rebuild and looks to test the depth of its list. Should he debut, expect to see some eye-catching high marking attempts, speed at ground level, and a fantastic goal sense.

Draft Central’s 2018 Player Profile Summary:

“A highly skilled and athletic medium/small forward, McAdam has ability to create goals for himself and those around him with a host of scoring assists all year and 31 goals from 17 League games this year. He averaged almost a scoring shot per game as well as almost two goals per game, making him have a high impact inside 50.

“He has that terrific ability to know how to use the ball, and then find the goals with ease. He is silky and packed with class inside 50 and his X-factor is clear for all to see. These natural footballing abilities go hand in hand with his sensational athletic traits. He has always had these abilities, but in 2018, McAdam has begun to show them on a regular basis.”

Will hamill (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

Taken at pick 30 in the 2018 National Draft, the Crows obviously saw something great in the Dandenong youngster to jump the gun and snap up his services with their third overall pick. While he is able to adapt his skills and strong athletic base to multiple roles, Hamill will likely be utilised as a lockdown medium defender who uses speed to both apply pressure at ground level, and kick his side into gear going forward. He may finally crack the senior grade after playing 20 SANFL League games in 2019, missing just one outing for the year.

Draft Central’s 2018 Player Profile Summary:

“Hamill got to represent Vic Country, playing in his favoured role down back and despite not getting a lot of the ball still had some eye-catching moments. He was a player known to most draft watchers and recruiters going into the start of the year but his form early, especially with ball in hand was not as good as expected. Nonetheless, Hamill worked through the early jitters to start playing some good footy, especially late in the year where he arguably played his best games.

“His finals performances were impressive being named second and fourth best in the preliminary and grand final with his grand final performance holding the most weight especially for the hard edge he had shown early in the game. Hamill had an up and down year, but his mix of attributes and finals form has him firmly in draft calculations.”

FREMANTLE:

Caleb Serong (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

Fremantle fans will undoubtedly warm to Serong very quickly; a player who bleeds for the jumper, is a terrific leader by example, and has all the skill to match his immeasurable qualities. While he may only stack up as a small, Serong has the tenacity to win his own ball and the work-rate to impact contest after contest, impressing with these traits throughout preseason. There are very few improvements to be made to his game, with Serong already showing remarkable consistency and the cleanliness to be able to keep up to speed at the elite level. As Vic Country’s MVP and best and fairest last year, the Gippsland graduate’s accolades speak for themselves and should he debut, he is sure to make a splash.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“Touted as one of the top prospected behind the obvious Oakleigh Chargers’ duo, Caleb Serong is one of the more well-rounded players in the AFL Draft crop, with very few glaring areas of improvement. The biggest upside for the 178cm midfielder/forward is the areas he could improve on are more easily doable compared to other players. Among his list of strengths in his game is his clean hands, footy IQ, clearance ability and strength, while his consistency and competitiveness is up there with Matt Rowell despite heading into the AFL Draft somewhat underrated – if that is possible from a potential top three pick.

“The areas that Serong can improve are his kicking under pressure – which has developed over the course of the season – his on-field emotion – which while good at times can also be a hindrance – and his size – which while his height will not change too much, he can still improve his muscle tone. Overall though, Serong is one of the more complete packages in the AFL Draft this year.”

GOLD COAST:

Sam Flanders (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

Serong’s partner-in-crime at the Power, Flanders blossomed into a bonafide midfield star come the end of his junior career, but may well revert back to his role as a medium forward upon entering Gold Coast’s lineup. The mercurial 182cm mover has plenty of upside, able to pull down big marks inside 50 on account of his vertical leap, while adapting that same clean hands trait to his midfield craft with strong stoppage work and outstanding power. The SUNS traded up to secure the Victorian with pick 11 in last year’s draft, and while it will be tough to crack Gold Coast’s winning side this week, Flanders will almost certainly get his chance in 2020 and create a few highlights.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

A player with plenty of upside and some readymade attributes is Sam Flanders, a Gippsland Power talent who can fulfil the role as a dangerous forward or a damaging inside midfielder. In his bottom-age year, Flanders spent the majority of his time as a goalkicking forward, booting 19.19 from 12 games, before moving into a midfield role this year, but resting forward in bursts, booting 13.5 from the same amount of games. His attributes lend themselves to moving into this role at AFL level, with the potential top 10 pick able to explode out of a stoppage, give off a clean handball, or get forward and beat his opponent one-on-one in the air or at ground level.

“He showed during the finals series – most notably against Oakleigh Chargers in the qualifying final – that he is capable to winning the game off his own boot, slamming home four goals in a quarter to help his side to the lead at the main break, but it also showed an area of improvement – his four-quarter consistency which does come in and out of games with him being dominant at his best, and ineffectual during quiet periods. Overall, Flanders is a player with serious X-factor and strength that he applies both inside and up forward.”

GWS GIANTS:

Lachlan Ash (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

The only candidate on this list to have already been guaranteed a debut thus far, Ash is yet another product of last year’s Vic Country unit who possessed great leadership capabilities and a raft of traits which can be immediately transferred to the AFL level. Though he has been named on the bench, expect Ash to showcase his trademark dash and daring disposal off half-back or the wing, gaining invaluable meterage and causing headaches for opposition defenders with that lightning-quick transition. Taken with pick four in the 2019 draft, he could be just the man the GIANTS need to unleash the likes of Zac Williams and Lachie Whitfield further afield as he develops in defence, but has the ability to fare just as well in midfield himself.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“The skilful rebounding defender was a consistent performer across the NAB League season for Murray, averaging more than 23 disposals per game. After being elected co-captain of the Bushrangers with teammate Cam Wilson, Ash would go on to co-captain the Vic Country squad throughout the AFL Under-18 National Championships, indicating that he is looked up to by his fellow teammates and admired by his coaching staff.

“Ash is the ideal footballer for an AFL team searching for a line-breaking defender who can consistently hit targets by foot with terrific vision and decision making. His test results at the NAB AFL Combine were also eye-catching, registering a 21.4 yo-yo test (finishing sixth overall) and a sub-three second 20-metre sprint. Similar to fellow half-back Hayden Young, an area of improvement for Ash is further midfield development, particularly with a focus on the contested ball aspect of the game.”

PORT ADELAIDE:

Miles Bergman (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

Yet another Victorian in line for an elite-level berth, but this time from a Metro region. Bergman is the classic pick made on upside; a mercurial athlete and footballing talent who stands up in big moments, can simply pull off things that others cannot, and someone who has a high impact per possession.

The explosive medium forward has an incredible vertical leap and covers the ground quickly, with scope to eventually transition from more outside roles and into the midfield. The Power already boast an array of exciting youngsters who have made an early impact on the side, and Bergman may just be the next. His penetrating kick and light frame may see him utilised on a wing, but he can be just as damaging at half-forward.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“Bolters are part and parcel of each year’s draft and Bergman finds himself fitting that bill in 2019. A confidence player, Bergman has grown into his top-age season to become a lock as one of Sandringham’s first three players to be taken off the board come draft time on the back of a serious highlight reel.

“Athleticism, power, high marking and goals from range are the things that have seen Bergman draw into the first round conversation, with his ability to take games over slowly becoming apparent. The wingman/half-forward also proved a match-winner this year, relieving late pressure in the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final with a sensational pack mark to help St Bede’s scrape home on his way to best afield honours. Bergman’s enormous upside is undeniable, with all of his best traits desirable to clubs across the board.”

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.

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.

Q&A: Sam Conforti (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season a month earlier where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Bendigo Pioneers’ Sam Conforti at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The diminutive midfielder-forward has been a feature for representative sides throughout his junior career to date, running out in Vic Country’s trial games last year after skippering the Under 16 side in 2018. Now a leader among the Pioneers group, the 173cm prospect will be looking to crack a National Championships berth after putting together a 16-game season for Bendigo in the NAB League across 2019. Much of Conforti’s experience has come through midfield or out on the wing, but he is now poised to lock down a role up forward where his agility and pressure around the ball will be invaluable.

Q&A

MA: Sam, you’ve just come off the yo-yo test – how’d you go?

SC: “Not too bad, I think I ran a PB (personal best) so I’m pretty happy. “Collectively, the boys ran pretty well so I think we’re all pretty happy.”

Is the running, particularly on the outside something you’re looking to bring into your top-age year?

“Definitely, trying to lead by example and trying to work both ways. “Obviously it’s good to run forward but, but we try and run back to help the backs out as much as we can as well.”

What sort of role are you looking to nail down this season, maybe a forward role?

“Yeah, this year I’ve moved forward. I’m trying to play a bit of a high half-forward role, trying to get up the ground to try and create in our forward half. “So I’ll probably just try and nail a forward role.”

Being through the Vic Country system for so long, how’s that aided your development?

“It’s helped heaps. I got to learn off the likes of Caleb Serong, Brodie Kemp, and Hayden Young last year and then even the boys around me at the moment – Elijah Hollands, Tanner Bruhn just to name a (couple). “Being around that sort of environment helps my leadership going back to Bendigo as well and trying to drive a good standard. So yeah, it’s been really good.”

Who are some of the Bendigo boys you’re looking forward to running out with?

“I think we had about five in the Vic Country Hub this year so we’re good across the top-agers. “Josh Treacy, Jack Ginnivan, and Seamus Mitchell are all good ones to learn off as well. “They really drive the standards back at Bendigo and even Jack Evans and the likes of that are also pretty handy too.”

In terms of your goals, how will you rate the success of your season by the end of it?

“Well hopefully team success, it’s probably the biggest one for me. “So hopefully winning the NAB League would be nice but as far as on-field goes, just trying to play consistently, to stay in the side and play my role for the side.”

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 3 – First draw of the season in Country Triple Header

IN an action-packed nine games of NAB League Boys action, spectators witnessed the season’s first draw at Queen Elizabeth Oval in Bendigo as part of a huge triple header for the six country teams. The round also included a double header at Trevor Barker Oval the day before, while the Northern Academies went head-to-head across the nation, and the standalone game at RAMS Arena was a close one.

Opening up the round in Sandringham with the double header changed from Preston was the Northern Knights taking on Eastern Ranges. From the start it was clear the Ranges were going to be too strong, and by half-time led by 26 points. It would only get worse for the Knights in the second half, as Eastern piled on 7.9 to 0.2, to run away 75-point winners.

Mitch Mellis was best on ground with three goals from 29 touches, six marks, six tackles, two clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds, while the likes of Zakery Pretty (26 disposals, five marks, three tackles, nine clearances and three inside 50s) and James Ross (30 disposals, three marks, three clearances, five inside 50s and two rebounds) were not too far behind. Connor Downie (25 touches, five marks, five inside 50s and a goal), Josh Clarke (24 touches, five inside 50s and three rebounds) and Lachlan Gawel (21 disposals, six marks, five tackles, four inside 50s and a goal) were all prolific, while Cody Hirst (19 disposals, five marks, nine tackles, five inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal) looked impressive in one of his few games prior to being drafted by Sydney.

Sam Philp was a clear standout for the losing side as he amassed 26 touches, five marks, nine tackles, four inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal. Ryan Gardner (23 disposals, nine marks, six tackles and three rebounds) worked hard on the outside, Josh D’Intinosante (21 disposals, five marks, nine tackles, four clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal) was busy through midfield, and Jackson Davies (20 disposals, six marks and five rebounds) did his best in defence.

The second game at Trevor Barker Oval was much closer with perennial rivals and premiership contenders, Sandringham Dragons and Oakleigh Chargers going at it. The end result was a 10-point win to the Dragons after booting five goals to two in the middle two quarters and then holding off a Chargers comeback to grab the bragging rights, 9.11 (65) to 8.7 (55).

Jack Mahony led the way for his side with 25 touches, five marks, five tackles, three clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds, teaming up well in midfield with Finn Maginness (24 disposals, two marks, three tackles, four clearances, six inside 50s and a goal) and Ryan Byrnes (21 disposals, four marks, three clearances, six inside 50s and two rebounds). Josh Worrell was a rock in defence thanks to 23 touches, four marks, four tackles and five rebounds, while up forward, Charlie Dean continued his good form with 16 disposals, six marks and two goals.

It was no surprise to see who led the way despite the loss for the Chargers with Matt Rowell (31 disposals, seven marks, 11 tackles, eight clearances, four inside 50s and three rebounds) dominating alongside Noah Anderson (26 disposals, two marks, six tackles, three clearances, four inside 50s, four rebounds and two goals). Future Magpie, Trent Bianco picked up 26 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s and five rebounds, while bottom-age talent, Will Phillips had 21 touches, seven marks and three tackles of his own. Dylan Williams booted three goals from nine disposals and four marks up forward.

Up at RAMS Arena, Calder Cannons kicked away in the final term against Western Jets to win by 12 points in what was a thrilling contest. It was only a two goals to one final quarter, but that was enough to see the home side in front at the final siren after leading by just three points at the final break. Western had worked its way back into the game after trailing by 19 and 15 points at the quarter time and half-time breaks respectively, but would ultimately not do enough to get the points in the end.

Cannons captain Daniel Mott had the ball on a string thanks to 32 disposals, seven marks, four tackles, seven clearances, five inside 50s, four rebounds and two goals, while Harrison Minton-Connell joined him with leather poisoning after 30 disposals, six marks, six tackles, seven clearances, two inside 50s, two rebounds and a goal. Flynn Lakey (26 disposals, five marks, four clearances and two rebounds) and Jake Sutton (18 disposals, seven marks, three clearances and six inside 50s) were busy, while Harrison Jones showed off his versatility after 17 disposals, eight marks, four hitouts and three inside 50s.

Darcy Cassar and Josh Kellett were saviours in the defensive 50, combining for 44 disposals, 12 marks and 15 rebounds in a hard working effort for the Jets. Up forward, excitement machine Eddie Ford had 16 touches, four marks, three tackles, two clearances and three inside 50s, while Will Kennedy racked up a whopping 41 hitouts to go with 15 rouches, five marks, four inside 50s and three rebounds. Of the future draftees, Josh Honey had 14 disposals, three marks, six tackles, three inside 50s and a goal, while Emerson Jeka took six marks from nine touches and laid three tackles.

Heading north to Yeronga, the Gold Coast Suns Academy booted the last six goals of the game and five goals to zero in the final term, to post a 10.10 (70) to 5.12 (42) victory over cross-state rivals, Brisbane Lions Academy. The Lions had led by two points at the final break, but it was all Gold Coast in the last term as they ran away with the points.

Ashton Crossley racked up 31 touches, four marks, 10 clearances and two inside 50s, teaming up well with future Sun, Connor Budarick (26 disposals, three marks, five tackles, three clearances and six inside 50s) and bottom-age talent, Alex Davies (22 disposals, three marks, five inside 50s and three rebounds). Josh Gore booted three majors from 12 disposals and seven marks, while another future senior Sun in Matthew Conroy kicked two last quarter goals from eight touches, three marks and 25 hitouts. Hewago Paul Oea was also lively with 17 disposals, three marks, eight inside 50s and a goal.

For the Lions, Tom Griffiths (27 disposals, five marks and four rebounds) and Bruce Reville (26 disposals, eight marks, five tackles, four clearances, four inside 50s and three rebounds) had the most touches, while Saxon Crozier (19 disposals, nine marks, three tackles, two clearances and two inside 50s) and Ethan Hunt (18 disposals, six marks, three inside 50s and six rebounds) were also busy. Future Tigers, Noah Cumberland (13 disposals, four clearances and six inside 50s) and Will Martyn (12 disposals, five tackles) played in the match as well.

In another dominant performance late, Sydney Swans Academy stormed past GWS GIANTS to win by 59 points in Canberra. The Swans trailed at quarter time and half-time, but piled on 12 goals to two in the second half to run away with the contest and gain some serious bragging rights early in the Academy Series.

It was a strong team effort from the Swans, with Jackson Barling (24 disposals, six marks, four tackles and three clearances) and Lachlan Swaney (22 disposals, three marks, five tackles, three clearances, four inside 50s and a goal) both prominent. Captain Sam Thorne (19 touches, six tackles, five clearances and three inside 50s) was busy, while Harrison Parker and Braeden Campbell both booted three goals in the win.

For the GIANTS it was all about Tom Green who racked up 28 touches, six marks, eight clearances, three inside 50s and a goal, while Jeromy Lucas (25 touches, four marks, five clearances and four inside 50s) and James Peatling (24 touches, seven marks, four tackles, five clearances, six inside 50s and two goals) provided support. Liam Delahunty (10 touches, six marks and two goals) was busy up forward, while Nick Murray (15 disposals, seven marks and nine rebounds) stood tall under siege in defence.

Heading into the city for a clash between Northern territory and Tasmania, it was the Devils who came away with their first win after a slow start. Trailing by 10 points at the first break, Tasmania piled on 12 goals to three after that to finish with a commanding 13.14 (92) to 6.8 (44) victory over the Thunder.

Leading draft prospect, Mitch O’Neill had the ball on a string with 35 disposals, three marks, four clearances, nine inside 50s and three rebounds, as Rhyan Mansell (23 disposals, four marks, four tackles, seven inside 50s and a goal) and Oliver Davis (22 disposals, six marks, three tackles, four clearances and six inside 50s) provided great service to the forwards. Bottom-age key forward Jackson Callow showed just what he was capable of with five majors from 19 disposals and eight marks, while Matthew McGuinness was a reliever in defence with 18 disposals, three marks and five rebounds.

All eyes were on Richmond father-son bottom-age prospect Maurice Rioli Jnr for the Thunder, and he had 13 disposals, two marks, six tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s in a lively display. Others who impressed included Stephen Cumming (22 disposals, 40 hitouts and nine clearances), and bottom-age hopefuls, Joel Jeffrey (20 disposals, seven marks, seven rebounds and a goal), Isaac Seden-Kurnoth (18 disposals, nine tackles and five rebounds) and Brodie Lake (15 disposals, six marks and six rebounds).

Heading up the highway to Bendigo, the country triple header took place at Queen Elizabeth Oval. The Pioneers were battling against premiership contender, Gippsland Power and had themselves right in the contest until the final term. The Power led by just one point at the last break, but piled on 4.5 to 1.0 in the last quarter to run away with a 12.10 (82) to 8.10 (58) victory.

Future first round pick, Caleb Serong helped himself to 23 disposals, five marks, three tackles, seven clearances, four inside 50s, four rebounds and two goals, while another first round selection in Sam Flanders amassed 20 touches, two marks, three tackles, five clearances and four inside 50s. Ryan Sparkes (21 disposals, five marks and six inside 50s), Sam Berry (20 disposals, three tackles, six clearances, three inside 50s and a goal), Kyle Dunkley (15 disposals, five marks, eight tackles, six clearances, three inside 50s and a goal) and Leo Connolly (15 disposals, two marks, four inside 50s and six rebounds) were among the best across the four quarters, while Fraser Phillips booted three goals from 12 touches and four marks.

Bendigo’s own future first round pick in Brodie Kemp had a day out with 21 disposals, four marks, three tackles, six clearances, five inside 50s and a goal, teaming up well in midfield with Sam Conforti (22 disposals, four marks, three tackles, four clearances, four inside 50s and three rebounds) and Jeremy Rodi (19 disposals, four marks, four tackles, three clearances, four inside 50s and four rebounds). Riley Wilson (14 disposals, five tackles, five clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds) was prominent in midfield, while Logan Fitzgerald and Brady Rowles combined for 26 disposals and nine rebounds in defence.

The second game was the best of the lot, with Dandenong Stingrays splitting the points with Geelong Falcons. In a wind-affected day, the see-sawing contested had everyone on the edge of their seat. Trailing by 30 points at the final break but with the wind behind their backs, the Stingrays booted 5.6 to 1.0 and managed to draw level at 12.11 (83) apiece thanks to a kick after the siren.

Ned Cahill had 24 disposals, four marks, five tackles, four clearances and eight inside 50s, as all of Dandenong’s future draftees stood out. Hayden Young had 22 disposals, five marks, three clearances, five inside 50s and five rebounds, Cody Weightman had 20 touches, three marks, five clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal, and Sam De Koning picked up 17 disposals, three marks, four hitouts and two goals, switching into attack in the last quarter and being a huge influence on the result.

The game was unfortunately the last for Geelong’s sole draftee, Cooper Stephens who broke his leg in the first term and would not play another game in season 2019. Jesse Clark (26 disposals, four marks and 11 rebounds) and Charlie Harris (24 touches, eight marks and five rebounds) worked hard, while bottom-agers, Noah Gribble (22 disposals, four marks, five inside 50s and a goal) and Charlie Lazzaro (19 disposals, nine tackles and seven inside 50s) were among their side’s best.

In the final game of the round, Murray Bushrangers came back from a goal down at the final break to find their kicking boots and defeat Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by seven points. The Bushrangers had booted 6.12 to three quarter time – four more scoring shots than their opponents – but trailed them by a goal. They picked it up in the final term to slot 3.3 to 1.2 and record a 9.15 (69) to 9.8 (62) victory.

Lachlan Ash had a team-high 28 disposals, six marks, four tackles, seven inside 50s and seven rebounds, while Jye Chalcraft (22 disposals, five marks, six tackles, three clearance and five inside 50s) and Jimmy Boyer (22 disposals, nine marks and two rebounds) found plenty of the ball. In midfield, Cameron Wild (20 disposals, four marks, three clearances and seven inside 50s) and Dylan Clarke (17 disposals, three marks, four tackles, six clearances and three inside 50s) were strong.

Jay Rantall was a clear standout for the Rebels, amassing an impressive 31 touches, three marks, five tackles, five clearances, four inside 50s, two rebounds and two goals in a complete game. Mitch Martin (22 disposals, 10 marks, four tackles, five clearances, six inside 50s and two goals) was also impressive, while James Cleaver and Emmanuel Ajang combined for 33 disposals, 10 marks and 13 rebounds in defence.

Wareham enjoying the moment as he eyes second chance

AFTER injury curtailed his year, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Isaac Wareham is hoping to make the most of a second chance after being picked as one of the overagers in the Rebels’ squad. There is still much unknown about the season or drafts, but Wareham is just taking each moment as it comes.

Born on Christmas Eve, had Wareham been born a week later, he would have had his top-age year in 2020. Nonetheless, the talented midfielder was top-age last year, and copped an injury at the worst possible time later in the season after a promising first half of the season and representing Vic Country at the AFL Under 18 Championships. Speaking to Draft Central at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me, Wareham said he was looking forward to having a full season after overcoming injury in his top-age year.

I’ve been with the Geelong VFL at the moment as an overager and they’ve done heaps for me, which has kind of helped me out me through the offseason and hopefully that can get me playing some good footy this year,” he said.

The decision to come back as a 19-year-old talent – even though if Wareham was to be drafted at the end of the year he would still be 18 on draft day – comes down to the individual, his club and interest from AFL recruiters. With an invitation to the State Draft Combine last year, Wareham had his suitors and GWV Rebels Talent Manager Phil Partington believes if it had not been for injury, the slick midfielder would be on an AFL list now.

“Isaac, unfortunately we probably wouldn’t be talking about him now if he played the last six games of the year without injury, he missed the last half of the year after the national championships,” Partington said. “He’s born on 24/12 so he’s a very young boy still and only a week from being a NAB League player officially as an 18-year-old this year.”

It was Partington’s support that helped Wareham make the decision to return to the Ballarat-based club for another year, while being listed on Geelong’s VFL list.

I think any chance you get at playing high level footy like NAB League, you’re going to take it,” Wareham said. “Parto’s (Partington) been rooting for me for the whole time. “He urged me to go for the 19-year-old (year) and I got it and yeah like I said before, Geelong have been really good with it and have allowed me to do both which is good.”

Growing up in the talent fertile region of the Hampden League playing for Terang Mortlake, Wareham said the style of play might have changed going through the elite pathway, but the simple messages from coaches was the same.

Yeah obviously it’s a little bit different to other areas,” he said. “It’s more country footy so it’s maybe takes a little to get used to this high skill, NAB League. “But I think coaches growing up always gave us the same tips and same pointers that the coaches nowadays are so I think they do really well.”

Not everyone gets a chance at pulling on the ‘Big V’, but that is exactly what Wareham did last season, and the lightly built midfielder said it was enjoyable throughout and despite the end result, was something he would never forget.

I think that was one of the funnest times of football I’ve had,” Wareham said. “I think the team atmosphere we had and the culture we built was pretty special. “It was just so fun to play in. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but everyone tried really hard and that’s what we wanted.”

One piece of play that would become synonymous with Hayden Young in the lead-up to the AFL Draft was a remarkable 50-metre plus kick to hit a target running in space on a 45 degree angle – but Young spotted that player. The player was Wareham who admitted some of the Vic Country kids reminded him of featuring on that highlight reel moment by being the recipient.

I think I’ve been doing that my whole career, but it’s just like Hayden’s one of those blokes who can pull it off pretty easily so yeah I’m just grateful to play among those people like Caleb Serong, Hayden Young who are just so elite.”

Wareham rates his strengths as his running ability to break the lines and use the ball well by hand or foot. Despite being a slick user of the ball, the midfielder said he has improved that aspect of his game even further over the preseason. It was one of a number of areas Wareham has improved since last season and will look to continue to improve throughout 2020.

I think I’ve improved my kicking over the preseason and hopefully I can showcase that in a game,” Wareham said. “Coming in as a skinny 70kg kid, just trying to build my strength up and a bit of weight around the hips. “Trying to get more of that contested ball.

While the COVID-19 global pandemic has rocked the sporting world, as soon as Wareham and his teammates can get back on the field, you can be sure he will just take the moment for what it is and enjoy it.

I think it’s just really enjoying my footy,” he said. “I probably got in a mood towards the start of last year when I got a few injuries where I wasn’t enjoying it as much but coming in as a 19-year-old I really enjoy it a lot more. “I’m just a bit more relaxed and just enjoying the experience.”

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 2 – Academies join competition

ROUND 2 last year will be forever known as the return of Allied teams to the Victorian Under-18 boys competition. While some states have participated in past years on and off, all four northern Academies, along with Northern Territory Thunder joined the competition. Tasmania Devils also joined in, but on a full-time basis, with the Devils playing their first official match in the round across a whopping nine games.

Kicking off the round as part of a Triple Header at Blacktown, Tasmania travelled north for its first game, coming up against Sydney Swans Academy. The Devils had to wait until the second term to score, as the Swans booted 3.7 before Nicholas Baker made history as the first official goalkicker for the Devils. A goal to Jye Menzie just 19 seconds into the third term saw the margin cut as little as five points, but that was as close as it got for the rest of the game as the Swans booted the last three goals of the term to be 26 points up at the final break. Jackson Callow converted another major in the opening minute of the final term to give his team a sniff, and by the time Will Harper put his second on the board, the margin was just nine points with 14 minutes remaining. Unfortunately for the visitors, Marc Sheather kicked a settling goal to help ease the pressure and the Swans got up by 14 points.

Bottom-age talent, Errol Gulden had a day out with 33 disposals, six marks, three tackles, two clearances, eight inside 50s, four rebounds and two goals, with Sam Thorne (23 disposals, four marks, four clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal) also prominent for the Swans. Another talented bottom ager in Braeden Campbell collected 15 disposals, three marks, eight tackles and five inside 50s, while Kyle McKellar and Jackson Barling were also impressive. For the Devils, overager Matthew McGuinness picked up 27 disposals, seven marks and seven rebounds, working hard with Patrick Walker (25 disposals, seven marks and seven rebounds) and Sam Collins (23 disposals, five marks and nine rebounds) in defence. The Devils’ top rated prospect, Mitch O’Neill helped himself to 21 touches, nine tackles, 12 clearances, six inside 50s and three rebounds in the loss.

In the next game at Blacktown, the Brisbane Lions Academy fought back from a disappointing first quarter to down the GIANTS Academy, winning 14.12 (96) to 10.10 (70). GWS led by 19 points at quarter time, but a six goals to three second term had Brisbane just three points down by the main break. A seven goals to three second half saw the Lions run over the top of the GIANTS despite the best efforts of GIANTS star, Tom Green (29 disposals – 18 contested – nine clearances, seven inside 50s, four rebounds and three tackles).

Will Martyn (30 disposals, nine marks, five clearances, five inside 50s and a goal) was busy, as was the likes of Tom Griffiths (20 disposals, six marks and four tackles), Ethan Hunt (19 disposals) and Bruce Reville (16 disposals, eight marks and five inside 50s). Aside from Green, Jeromy Lucas had his fair share of the ball with 24 touches, four marks, four clearances, five inside 50s and a goal, while Matt McGrory (18 disposals, seven clearances and four inside 50s), Nick Murray (19 disposals, 10 marks), Lachlan Squire (15 disposals, seven clearances and four inside 50s) and Liam Delahunty (15 disposals, seven marks, three inside 50s and three goals) all impressed.

Rounding out the triple header at Blacktown, Gold Coast Suns Academy never looked like losing to Northern Territory. The Suns piled on eight goals to one in the opening half, and while the Thunder hit back in the third term to cut the deficit to 31 points, Gold Coast stepped up again to boot three goals to one in the final term and win by 44 points.

Ashton Crossley had 27 disposals and seven clearances through the midfield, while top prospect, Connor Budarick racked up 22 touches, six marks, nine tackles, five inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal across the ground. Bottom-age talent, Alex Davies had 22 touches, nine clearances, four tackles and four inside 50s, while Max Pescud (20 touches, three clearances and three inside 50s), Hewago Paul Oea (16 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s and a goal) and Josh Gore (15 touches, three marks, seven tackles and three goals) all looked lively. Future Sun, Matthew Conroy looked strong through the ruck with 22 hitouts from 15 touches, three marks and a goal.

Heading down to Victoria and Dandenong Stingrays caused a boil-over against premiership contenders, Gippsland Power. The reigning premiers had a new-look line-up after the 2018 success, but started strongly to lead by a goal at quarter time. Gippsland hit the front to have the advantage by half-time, but it flipped again by the last break with the Stingrays in front by four points. When Bailey Schmidt kicked a goal with six minutes to play, the Stingrays hit the front and never surrendered it in a match that had a whopping 11 lead changes.

Mitch Riordan picked up 23 disposals, three marks, five tackles, four clearances, five inside 50s and three rebounds in one of his few games before being selected in the mid-season draft, as captain Hayden Young was strong off half-back with 21 disposals, four marks, five tackles and three rebounds. Jack Toner (19 touches, two marks, five tackles, five clearances and seven inside 50s) had a truckload of the ball, while future first round pick, Cody Weightman racked up 14 disposals, five marks, six tackles and a goal. Other future draftees who played in the game included Ned Cahill (12 disposals, seven tackles and a goal), Bigoa Nyuon (six disposals, four marks, four tackles and a goal) and Sam De Koning (four disposals).

For the Power, first round picks Sam Flanders (23 disposals, four marks, four tackles, eight clearances, four inside 50s and a goal) and Caleb Serong (21 disposals, nine tackles, seven clearances and four inside 50s) were prominent. Another mid-season recruit in Kyle Dunkley (20 disposals, six tackles, six clearances and four inside 50s) was lively again, while Leo Connolly (16 disposals, three marks and six rebounds), Fraser Phillips (15 disposals, three tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) and Harrison Pepper (14 disposals, two marks, two tackles, three clearances and one goal) were among other future draftees who impressed.

In the other Saturday game, Murray Bushrangers had a second heart-breaking loss in a row, losing by five points to Bendigo Pioneers after dropping their first game by under a kick. They led by 18 points at the first change, but the Pioneers booted three goals to zero in the second term to lead by half-time, and then a see-sawing contest ensued with the Pioneers saluting in a thrilling game.

Thomson Dow was busy with 24 disposals, four marks, four tackles, seven clearances and a goal, as fellow first round pick, Brodie Kemp had a strong day out with 17 touches, four marks, three tackles, three clearances, three inside 50s and a goal. Future Swan, Brady Rowles would have 12 touches, two clearances and two inside 50s, while Logan Fitzgerald (22 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and four rebounds) had plenty of the ball. Cam Wild was the prominent ball winner with 30 touches, seven marks, seven tackles, seven clearances, three inside 50s and six rebounds, while top five pick Lachlan Ash had 26 touches, eight marks, three clearances, three inside 50s and seven rebounds. Jye Chalcraft (26 touches, four marks, six clearances and two goals), Will Quirk (23 disposals, 10 marks) and Elijah Hollands (22 disposals, three marks and a goal) were also impressive.

Looking to Sunday, Sandringham Dragons continued their form to start the season with a comfortable 43-point win over Northern Knights. The Dragons booted six goals to two in the opening half and then kept their opponents at arms-length after that to secure a strong win in the first of two games at Trevor Barker Oval.

Ryan Byrnes picked up 24 touches, two marks, four tackles and six clearances, as Louis Butler looked lively across the ground thanks to 18 disposals, three marks, three inside 50s and four rebounds. Jack Mahony (17 disposals, four marks, seven tackles, four clearances and six inside 50s), Hugo Ralphsmith (17 disposals, three marks), Josh Worrell (17 disposals, seven marks and three rebounds) and Finn Maginness (14 disposals, six tackles and four inside 50s) were among future draftees to win plenty of the ball as Charlie Dean caught attention with four majors from 15 touches and eight marks. Adam Carafa (28 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, seven clearances and four inside 50s) and Sam Philp (18 disposals, eight marks and five clearances) were busy through midfield, while Ryan Gardner (19 disposals, five inside 50s) worked the outside and Ryan Sturgess (22 touches, eight rebounds) was strong in defence.

A dominant six goals to zero first term set Eastern Ranges up for an impressive 63-point win over Western in the second game of a double header at Trevor Barker Oval. With 13 scoring shots to one in the first term, the margin could have been bigger than the 42 points, and while Western managed to stem the bleeding after that, the Ranges had opened up a 58-point lead by the final break to ensure they would enjoy a big win.

Mitch Mellis (35 disposals, four marks, four clearances, five inside 50s and three goals) and Lachlan Stapleton (33 disposals, four marks, eight tackles, six clearances and 10 inside 50s) ran rampant as future Swan, Cody Hirst (29 disposals, eight marks, four tackles and three rebounds) and inside midfielder, Zakery Pretty (23 disposals, two marks, five clearances and five inside 50s were also prominent. Bottom-ager Josh Clarke work hard with his run-and-carry picking up 15 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s and a goal, while Josh Tilly capped off his day with three majors. For the Jets, Darcy Cassar had the ball on a string from defence, racking up 31 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and nine rebounds, working in tandem with Daly Andrews (24 disposals, six marks, five clearances, three inside 50s and eight rebounds). Josh Kellett was instrumental mopping up in defence as well with 12 rebounds to go with his 20 touches in the defeat.

In the final game of the round, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels put the Round 1 heart-breaking loss to Dandenong Stingrays to the back of their mind as they came from behind to down the Geelong Falcons by a point in a thrilling contest. Darcy McEldrew kicked the winning goal late in the fourth term to get his side over the line. Jay Rantall was enormous in his second game for the Rebels, racking up 24 disposals, three marks, six tackles, six clearances, seven inside 50s, four rebounds and a goal, while James Cleaver booted two majors from 17 touches in his new role up forward. Cooper Craig-Peters impressive with six clearances, five inside 50s and three rebounds from 19 disposals and eight tackles, while Riley Polkinghorne had seven rebounds working hard out of defence.

Cooper Stephens led from the front in his last full game prior to injury, amassing a game-high 28 touches, four marks, five tackles, four clearances and a goal, while Charlie Lazzaro worked hard as a bottom-ager to pick up 26 touches, four marks, five clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds. Out of defence, Keidan Rayner racked up 10 rebounds with his 25 disposals, while Jesse Clark had nine and 16 respectively. Also busy but in the other half of the ground was Charlie Sprague (23 disposals, three marks and seven inside 50s).