Tag: central district

SANFL League Player Focus: Shay Linke (Central District)

CENTRAL District midfielder Shay Linke has enjoyed a successful 2021 season to date, proving a class above Under 18s level and earning a call-up to the club’s reserves side. A product of the Tanunda Football Club in the heartland of South Australia’s Barossa Valley, Linke performed well against seasoned bodies at Reserves level and, last weekend, was selected to make his League debut with the Bulldogs.

A member of South Australia’s preliminary squad ahead of the Under 19 National Championships, Linke is regarded as one of the state’s top prospects. Standing at 190cm, the teenager boasts a tall frame which will likely make him an enticing prospect for scouts and recruiters. Throughout the season, Linke has used his height advantage to good effect in the air. Although he will need to add some muscle, Linke has displayed effective skills through the midfield and thoroughly deserved his call-up to league level.

In this week’s SANFL Player Focus, Draft Central analyses how he performed on debut.

Player Profile:

Club: Central District
State:
South Australia

DOB: 8/05/2003
Height/Weight: 190cm/79kg
Position: Inside Midfielder/Forward

2021 Averages:

SANFL Reserves: 6 games | 13.5 disposals | 9.2 kicks | 4.3 handballs | 3.7 marks | 5 tackles | 2 clearances | 1.5 inside 50s | 0.8 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (2 total)

SANFL Under 18s: 3 games | 27.7 disposals | 20 kicks | 7.7 handballs | 9.7 marks | 3.3 tackles | 4.3 clearances | 6 inside 50s | 2.7 rebound 50s | 0.7 goals (2 total)

2021 SANFL League, Round 11 | Central District 10.10 (70) def. West Adelaide 7.10 (52)
#2 Shay Linke (Central District)

Stats: 12 disposals (7 kicks, 5 handballs), 4 marks, 6 tackles, 2 clearances, 2 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50

Q1: 

Linke started the game at half-forward and didn’t have to wait long to encounter his first contest at League level, as the opening clearance of the game headed his way. Linke, being closely checked by West Adelaide’s Elliot Dunkin, contested the mark but the Bloods defender spoiled the ball to ground. Moments later, Linke roved well but was immediately brought to ground and the ball spilled loose. Despite being involved in a couple of early contests, the rangy utility won his first effective possession by receiving the handball from teammate Aiden Grace. He side-stepped a would-be Bloods tackler with some class and his long right-foot kick inside 50 fell perfectly for medium-forward Ethan East who marked but could not convert the set shot.

After a brief stint on the bench, Linke returned to the field to play a midfield role. He took possession of a loose ball in West Adelaide’s forward 50, however was instantly pounced upon. But at the subsequent stoppage he was able to fire out a quick and effective handball after a clean ground ball pick-up. He looks a great size and was just about the tallest midfielder on the field. After moving back to half-forward, Linke gathered on the 50-metre arc but again found himself with little time or space and was tackled and forced to shoot an errant handball off to avoid being caught holding the ball.

In the latter stages of the first term, Linke attended his first centre bounce and made a impact, laying a strong tackle on Lachlan Squire who was forced to leave the field with a bloodied nose. The debutant finished his busy start to the game by taking an uncontested mark in defence and dishing off a quick handball to a running teammate just before the quarter time siren sounded.

Q2:

Linke began the second term from the bench at X Convenience Oval but moved into the centre bounce at the six-minute mark. Deep in the Bloods’ forward 50, he found himself in the right spot to collect the handball and quickly hack it out of the danger zone. The kick, although not graceful by any means, managed to calm things down momentarily for the Bulldogs. At the opposite end of the ground he laid another very strong tackle to ground Bloods captain Tom Keough.

As half-time approached, Linke found himself in a patch of space in the middle of the ground and was spotted by a teammate. He took the simple uncontested mark and followed up with a clean, short kick as the Bulldogs looked to generate some forward movement. He didn’t get his hands on the ball as often in the second term but fought hard at ground level and tackled with real intent and ferocity.

Q3:

After the half-time break, Linke spent the early stages of the third term on the bench or across the half-forward line. Senior coach Paul Thomas rotated Linke through the centre bounce in order to get his hands on the ball, but it was his hustle and defensive pressure which was on show again. Seasoned West Adelaide on-baller Kaine Stevens managed to evade Linke at a forwardline stoppage and kick a classy goal, but the Bulldogs teenager will learn plenty from lining up on the Bloods premiere midfielder.

Linke’s tackling again featured in consecutive stoppages as the teenager appeared eager to physically immerse himself in the contest on debut. Minutes before the final change, the Tanunda teenager picked up another simple mark and kick after spreading wide from the centre bounce.

Q4:

It took Linke a while to get onto the field in the final quarter, but when he did he rushed straight into a stoppage on the wing. The utility again found himself under a heap of pressure when he gathered the ball deep in defence and was forced to cough up the handball. At the 12-minute mark Linke copped a big hip-and-shoulder but fortunately for the Bulldogs, the ball fell into safe hands after being comprehensively knocked from the teenagers grasp. To his credit, Linke bounced straight back up after the heavy collision. Later, he couldn’t quite pick up a loose ball near the boundary line but recovered well to lay another solid tackle. As the game entered its closing stages, Linke won a holding free kick and opted for the safe kick down the line.

Final thoughts…

Shay Linke performed well on debut for Central District in their 18-point win over West Adelaide. He split his time between an inside midfield role and the half-forward flank and didn’t look overawed by the occasion. Linke was particularly involved in the first quarter as both sides struggled to hit the scoreboard early on. Although slim, Linke threw himself at the contest and tackled strongly. He managed to spread from the contest and found some space at-times to accumulate uncontested possessions, however most of his work was done at the coalface. Due to the nature of the role, Linke often found himself under immediate pressure after gaining possession which impacted his ball use. Overall, Linke produced a solid showing and will certainly have benefitted from the opportunity to rub shoulders with seasoned SANFL campaigners.

Image Credit: Cory Sutton/SANFL

2021 SANFLW team review: Central District

IN summarising the 2021 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season, Draft Central will run through a team-by-team review of how each of the sides fared, and who some of the standout performers throughout the clubs were. The next team in the firing line is Central District.

Position: 6th
Wins: 4
Losses: 7
Draws: 0
Points For: 385 (1st)
Points Against: 337 (5th)

Season in a Sentence: “Regardless of ladder position, Central District’s flair and exciting play to be the top offensive team in the competition had them in the mix for finals right up until Round 11”

TOP PERFORMERS:

Shelby Smith

The captain led from the front all season and was able to provide her consistent intent and clearance work from the start, picking up double-figure disposals in all bar one of her games. She amassed four or more clearances in her first four matches of the season, and was able to also get it forward to create scoring opportunities. Games are won and lost in the midfield, and Smith averaged 15.5 disposals, 6.8 tackles, 3.2 clearances and 2.4 inside 50s in the 2021 season, earning SANFL Women’s Team of the Year honours.

Chantel Reynolds

Having a huge season at full-forward, Reynolds was the SANFL Women’s leading goalkicker for the 2021 season. She booted 14 goals in her 11 games, making the most of her 8.2 disposals and 3.0 marks. Only once was she held goalless, and four times she kicked multiple majors. Kicking three goals against both Woodville-West Torrens and West Adelaide, as well as two against North Adelaide and Glenelg, Reynolds was consistently a threat inside 50, particularly as a leading aerial target and one who could be relied upon to finish off. She kicked just five behinds for her 14 goals, three of which came in the loss to South Adelaide, but otherwise kicked 13.2 for the season.

Katelyn Rosenzweig

Reynolds’ form allowed Rosenzweig to play further up the ground and be a leading target right up to the wing or even further on occasion. Leading the league in contested marks, the talented strong forward was able to play 11 games and still convert 11 goals herself. Averaging 11.6 disposals, 3.8 marks, 2.0 tackles, 1.7 inside 50s and 1.5 clearances, Rosenzweig worked hard in 2021 to have an impact further afield, and was a key reason why the Bulldogs improved this year. A third player to earn SANFL Women’s Team of the Year honours

Caitlen Teague

After the three Team of the Year players, any number of even contributors could have filled the fourth spot on this list, but Teague’s start to the season had her among the most in-form midfielders in the competition. From Rounds 1-5 she did not drop below 13 touches, and whilst her numbers were a little lower in the second half of the season, she still remained a key player in moving the ball in transition. Teague finished with an average of 11.8 disposals, 3.9 tackles, 2.4 inside 50s and 2.2 clearances, disposing of it at a healthy 73 per cent.

OTHERS:

Central District had no shortage of talent across the field, with State Academy members Lauren Breguet, Laitiah Huynh and Madison Lane all enjoying strong seasons. Lauren Smith and Paige Allen were consistent, Demi Sonneman and Nicole Mark rock solid in defence, and Chloe Scheer adding that touch of class in the final month, in what was a terrific season of improvement for the Bulldogs.

Picture credit: SANFL / Cory Sutton

Huynh steps up at State to continue chasing AFLW dream

UNLIKE many of her teammates at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, Laitiah Huynh is no stranger to playing on the national stage at the oldest junior age group. The Central District product ran out for the Central Allies back in 2019 when she was a bottom-ager, and now as an over-ager – in her 19th year – Huyhn was back again, this time pulling on the South Australian standalone jumper.

In 2021, Huynh had a ripping start to the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition, and then in her first return game for her state, turned it on against Western Australia to be one of the best on the field. Even in the Croweaters’ loss to Vic Country, Huynh was again lively in what was an exciting carnival for the talented forward. In describing her form, the Bulldogs small said her start to the SANFLW season was certainly a highlight.

“(I) definitely started off better than I am now, I guess throughout the SANFL,” Huynh said. “But I think it’s because I’ve mainly been focusing on State, my performance at State. “So that within the State games I’ve performed pretty well.”

Despite having that experience of representing her state multiple times with a COVID-19 pandemic in between, Huynh has not been a career-long footballer, having crossed from basketball five or six years back.

“It’s been a bit of a shorter experience compared to some of the other girls because I didn’t start off playing footy,” Huynh said. “I started off playing basketball. “I only played footy back in 2016 or 15. “I started local club then went into state teams and then now playing SANFL obviously and state.”

Deployed as a high-half forward who rests in the pocket, Huynh said her position allows her to exploit some of her key traits such as her speed and athleticism.

“I reckon it definitely does (exploit key traits) because I’m always running around and I consider myself as a fast player, agile as well so I can get around players as well,” she said.

When it comes to improvements, Huynh said there were always challenges as a smaller player, but something she is constantly working on is her one-on-one body positioning. Having to go up against players who are bigger and stronger, Huynh has been developing ways of winning contests that play to her strengths.

“My body position when it comes to different opponents (is an improvement), just adjusting myself so how they work around the ball,” she said. “Especially because I’m smaller I’ll usually get matched up with a bigger person, so I’ve got to make sure I’m aware how to work around that.”

Huynh said she looked up to her parents, especially her mother, who she said have given up plenty to be able to allow her to chase her AFL Women’s dream, and have shown support throughout her entire journey.

“Definitely my parents both mum and dad being very supportive throughout anything I choose to do,” she said. “I guess just especially my mum just her resilience bouncing back from those struggles I can put that into footy scenarios and I’m pretty resilient, strong, things don’t go my way, so that’s pretty good.”

Working two jobs at Peter Alexander and KFC – joking that the latter has turned her off the deep fried chicken – Huynh is also studying criminology at university this year, ensuring that there is always plenty on her plate outside of her football. But on the field, Huynh said she is hoping one day she can join her idols who she looks up to and wants to emulate on the biggest stages.

“I do have a couple of idols, I guess just obviously playing with Teah Charlton and her being a forward as well, I look up to her a lot and my game style,” Huynh said. “But also other players outside of Crows like Georgia Patrikios, I just think they’re brilliant players and I inspire to be like them hopefully one day.”

Scouting Notes: 2021 SANFL Under 18s – Round 2

THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Under 18s rolled on into Round 2, with the latest weekend of action producing some excellent performances from plenty of 2021 AFL Draft prospects. In the second SANFL Scouting Notes edition for 2021, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 19 talent hub members. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

GLENELG vs. WWT EAGLES

By: Liam Badkin

GLENELG:

#32 Oscar Adams

Worked hard through the midfield all day to give his team ascendency. Fought all game in the poor conditions to give his midfielders first use with his hitouts around the ground.

#20 Lewis Rayson

Found plenty of the ball and rarely wasted it. A game-high 29 disposals showcased his creativity with the ball as he set up countless plays with his hard work from half-back. An excellent performance as he continues to impress and demonstrate the quality talent coming out of South Australia.

#5 Hugh Stagg

Didn’t get a heap of the ball, but made the most of it when he did. Kicked a nice goal from a snap in the first quarter to extend his side’s strong lead. Spent time on the ball where he used his big frame to put others in better positions.

#13 Hayden Brokensha

A quieter performance than last week, the hard runner only found the ball eight times but there were still plenty of bright spots. His disposal could’ve been cleaner, but the effort was never in doubt as he looks to build on this performance.

#10 Lachlan Scannell

Another who didn’t accumulate the ball as much as last week, but showed his endeavour and willingness to work hard for his touches. With a solid 15 disposals, Scannell ran tirelessly all day and found himself an integral link up player as his side rebounded the ball out of defensive 50.

EAGLES:

#12 Brayden Calvett

The lethal left footer once again proved his worth to his side. Working around the midfield, he took the game on plenty of times and used his damaging skills to hurt the opposition and incite fantastic ball movement. Missed a shot on goal at the start of the last quarter but would be pleased with his performance overall.

#4 Jase Burgoyne

A handy link-up player who did his best work on the half-forward line. Always crafty, Burgoyne was a key cog in a lot of good Eagles ball movement. Found the ball 23 times and should hold his head high despite the loss. One of his side’s best on the day, and should built into competition well after an interrupted preseason.

#17 Lukas Cooke

A quieter game than last week, Cooke was the victim of the ball not entering his forward 50 enough. It’s hard to judge a key forward on a game where his side is beaten around other areas of the ground. Kicked his sole goal to open the scoring account for the second quarter as he tried to pull his side back into the game. Other than that, lack of opportunities hurt his output.

#2 Jay Watson

Found the footy plenty of times in a game where his side struggled to get their hands on it. Constantly drove the ball forward with his quality kicking skills, and tried until the final bounce to get his side back into the game.

#15 Adam D’Aolia

Another solid performance for the midfielder, as he fought bravely in a losing battle. Was dangerous around the stoppages, where he managed to find a game-high five clearances, despite his forwards not finishing his hard work and being beaten. Also worked his way to six tackles as he forced plenty of stoppages with his ability to stop opponents in their tracks.

 

CENTRAL DISTRICT vs. WEST ADELAIDE

By: Liam Badkin

CENTRAL:

#3 Isaiah Dudley

One of his side’s strongest performers on the day, the highly touted mid-forward lived up to the high expectations he has set for himself. Working through the midfield and forward of the ball, Dudley provided a spark on a dour day for his side. His explosiveness was hard to ignore around the contest, as he burst through packs and finished the day with 17 disposals and two goals. His stocks continue to rise.

#37 Cody Gilchrist 

It was a day that could have yielded so much more for the aerial specialist, but his inaccuracy cost him a bag of six as he finished with 1.5. His marking skills were more efficient as he brought down five grabs, with some contested. His ability to set himself up for a scoring opportunity is a real stand out, and if his accuracy can improve, he will be a nightmare for defenders.

#16 Shay Linke 

The SANFL Academy member once again continued his promising start to the year, and demonstrated his ability to win the footy all around the ground. His work around the stoppages was marvellous as he worked his way to 30 disposals and four clearances. His third quarter goal showcased his ability to hit the scoreboard, and he performed strongly on a tough day at the office.

#28 Luca Whitelum 

Backed up last week’s solid showing with another, consistently competing in a losing side. Missed two shots on goal that he could’ve kicked if he had his time over, but never gave up. Another step in the right direction.

WEST ADELAIDE:

#10 Cade Kennedy 

One of his side’s best performers, Kennedy found plenty of the ball and gave opposition coaches headaches as he continued to rack up possessions. His work at the contest was high-level, extracting three clearances, and he hit the scoreboard with a handy second quarter goal, when the opposition were making a strong run. Fantastic.

#36 Tyson Coe

While gathering slightly less of the ball than last week, Coe still showed his talent as a big-bodied midfielder, finding the ball 15 times. His two goals would’ve pleased his coaches as he continues to add strings to his bow.

#54 Harry Lemmey 

The developing key forward continues his improvement with another nice game. The ball movement inside 50 at times suited his skillset as he reeled in five marks. Could’ve finished with five goals but instead settled for 2.3 in an important performance for his side.

#9 Kobe Ryan

A star in the making, Ryan put in a best on ground performance with his outstanding effort in the midfield. Seemingly always around the play, the bottom ager was herculean for his team, winning eight clearances to drive his team forward. His defensive work was just as strong, laying eight tackles as he refused to be beaten by an opponent. Strong in the air and on the ground, he was impossible to stop, as he remarkably went at 90 per cent disposal efficiency from his 33 touches. An outstanding performance.

 

SOUTH ADELAIDE vs. NORTH ADELAIDE 

By: Tom Wyman

SOUTH ADELAIDE:

#33 Arlo Draper

One of SA’s most highly rated draft prospects, Draper had some nice moments where he appeared a cut above Under 18 level, but didn’t star as the Panthers were beaten by a strong North Adelaide side. Starting at the centre bounce but drifting forward for parts of the match, Draper is a great size for the modern game at 186cm.

His quick snap on goal from the stoppage was soccered through on the goal-line for a major, but highlighted his high-level forward craft. An impressive overall athlete, Draper’s stoppage nous was terrific, reading the taps well and gliding through congestion on a number of occasions. He didn’t attend every stoppage but still won a game-high seven clearances – highlighting his smarts in the midfield. Draper’s hands in-tight were sound and he hit some tricky targets by foot, particularly when looking to centre the ball.

Although the Willunga product didn’t dominate proceedings or find lots of the ball, he had an impact just about every time he touched it. Draper is clearly an aerial threat and his strong midfield craft and ability forward of centre will no doubt have scouts monitoring him closely. He concluded the game with 16 disposals, a goal (10 kicks and six handballs) and four tackles.

Others: 

Angus Bradley was likely best-on-ground for the Panthers. Although South Adelaide were beaten in the midfield, Bradley didn’t back down, winning a team-high 31 disposals (25 kicks and six handballs) to go with seven marks and eight rebound-50s. A kick-first type of player, Bradley used the ball cleanly by foot.

Half-back flanker Lachlan Hayes showed a nice bit of zip from defence. He took the game on wherever he could and appears to be a smart player. He finished with 22 disposals and three rebounds. Key defender Dylan Miller was opposed to talented Roosters forward Isaac Keeler and kept the Adelaide NGA product goalless, after he booted five majors the week before.

Wingman Isaac Birt produced a balanced game, finishing with 19 disposals, six marks, six tackles, three inside-50s and a goal, with fellow midfielder Cooper Rogers (22 disposals, six tackles and three clearances) also busy. Koby Cockshell booted three goals for the home side.

NORTH ADELAIDE:

#4 Isaac Keeler

After kicking five goals in a dominant display against Central District last week, the tall forward was well-held by the South Adelaide backline. The bottom-aged Adelaide NGA product still showed some nice glimpses, with his ability to gain separation on the lead, natural athleticism and impact at ground level all evident.

However, Keeler was slightly off despite the Roosters’ win, dropping a simple chest mark in the opening term and turning the ball over a couple of times by foot. His cleanliness below his knees was a real highlight though. Keeler finished with 11 disposals, three marks, three tackles and a couple of clearances when given a run in the ruck. Expect him to return to the scoresheet against the Redlegs next week.

#12 Hugh Jackson

Jackson has stated the season in dominant fashion and would have to be one of the early favourites to take out the McCallum-Tomkins Medal (SANFL Under 18 best and fairest), after a strong showing against the Panthers. His hands in traffic, on both sides of his body, were not only lightening fast, but they always found their target. Playing as an inside midfielder, Jackson won a lot of his possessions in congestion but, impressively, was still able to hit his targets by foot.

However, like many of his North Adelaide teammates, Jackson has the ability to spread well from the stoppages and get involved in general play, which allows him to best exploit his clean skillset. His running patterns allowed him to get on the end of handball chains and be the one to deliver the ball inside-50. The teenager, from Crystal Brook in the heartland of the Roosters country zone, drew teammates towards him with his kicking and was able to slice through tricky gaps in the play.

He did all the defensive stuff too, laying a game-high ten tackles. He was caught holding the ball a couple of times, however the smooth-mover again looked in complete control, finishing the clash with 33 disposals, five marks, five clearances, five inside 50s. He was unlucky to have a snap at goal hit the post in the fourth quarter too.

#15 Harvey Harrison

Blayne O’Loughlin’s 44-touches are hard to overlook, but the performance of Harrison had a similar influence over the game. Harrison was typically productive around the ground, consistently winning the ball in-tight at the coal-face, but it was his spread from the contest and the run and carry that he provided which proved deadly. Involved in countless handball-chains through the middle of the ground, Harrison was instrumental in turning defensive into attack.

Many players tend to waste their possessions when travelling at full speed, but not Harrison. His delivery by foot was outstanding and his running goal in the third-term triggered a flurry of Roosters majors, however he could have had an even bigger game if he had converted some of his chances in-front of the big sticks (kicking five behinds). The Golden Grove junior looks to have established himself as one of the leading midfielders in the state, after accumulating 64 touches across the first fortnight of action.

A high metres-gained type of midfielder, Harrison finished the round two clash with 31 disposals (21 kicks and ten handballs), four marks, six tackles, six clearances, five inside 50s and a goal. He sits third in the competition for disposals (trailing only teammates Blayne O’Loughlin and Hugh Jackson), equal-fourth for marks and second for clearances – highlighting his well balanced game.

#18 James Willis

Willis returned to the Roosters’ Under 18s set-up and wasted no time in getting involved. He spent time rotating through the midfield and forwardline, where his speed, run-and-carry, and ability to win the contested ball featured prominently. He applied plenty of defensive pressure around the ball and tackled with genuine intent. The SANFL Academy member also bobbed up for two goals late in the game, to go with 18 disposals, three marks, four tackles and five inside 50s.

#22 Blayne O’Loughlin

The skipper led from the front for the Roosters, setting up the play beautifully from half-back. Another Rooster who is tied to the Adelaide Crows via NGA rules, O’Loughlin had the ball on a string right from the start. Although he did accumulate many of his touches from kick-ins, his skills when exiting the defensive-50 were exceptional. Always calm and composed with ball in hand, the SANFL Academy member was largely pin-point with his disposal by foot, weighing up the situation and thinking his way through things.

O’Loughlin reads the game so well and possesses a rare understanding of how the play appears to be unfolding in-front of him, then consistently makes the right decision and executes by hand or foot. The crafty defender is a deep thinker on the field and is equipped with the skillset to match, but he also showed a willingness to crack in hard for his side and win some contested ball, which will have impressed scouts and recruiters watching on.

O’Loughlin’s footy smarts were again on display when he sprinted 30 metres to plug the gap in-front of a leading South Adelaide forward and prevent a near-certain shot on goal. Blayne finished with a game-high 44 disposals (30 kicks and 14 handballs), nine marks, four tackles and eight rebound 50s in what could well be his best performance at Under 18s level to date.

#29 Zyton Santillo

The speedy Santillo was typically industrious for the red and whites through the midfield and in attack. He had no trouble finding the ball and used it really well. One of several North Adelaide midfielders with some speed and skill, Santillo was precise with his kicking, particularly when heading inside 50, and ran hard both ways. Not unlike Brisbane star Dayne Zorko in the way he moves, Santillo once again showed he is an important cog in what appears to be a very strong Roosters squad, accumulating 31 disposals, seven marks, six tackles, six clearances and six inside 50s in an impressive outing.

Others:

Whilst the North Adelaide midfield unit will receive much of the attention and plaudits for their dominance, defender Lewis Saint played an important role in defence, breaking up several Panthers attacks. Medium-forward Thomas Cusack had a blistering third term, booting four goals in six minutes to break-open the game and more-or-less put the game beyond reach. Elliott McNamara was an important target up forward, finishing with 20 disposals, four marks (including two contested), six tackles and five inside 50s.

 

NORWOOD vs. STURT

By: Tom Wyman

NORWOOD:

#1 Tyson Walls

After making a strong start to the season last weekend, the bottom-aged midfielder was again among the best players on the ground in Norwood’s victory. He spent the game in his customary midfield role, where he won his fair share of contested ball and showed an ability to look for the right options in congestion, rather than blaze away.

He possesses a very quick first couple of steps and, importantly, he used this to advantage, often speeding away from stoppages in his bright yellow boots. A well-balanced midfielder who shares some similarities in playing style to Essendon’s Darcy Parish, Walls’ vision and skill execution were also commendable. He banked himself a well deserved goal in the closing stages of the final term and finished with 24 disposals (19 kicks and five handballs), seven marks, six tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s.

#9 Alastair Lord

The speedy half-back/wingman took a while to get going, but worked into the game nicely and proved to be the most damaging player on the ground after quarter time. Primarily stationed in the defensive 50 but pushing up onto the wings when required, Lord provided plenty of his trademark run-and-carry. For a player of just 177cm, he displayed good strength above his head and took a couple of timely intercept grabs.

Lord’s attacking mindset was clear from the outset, as he looked to break lines with his speed whenever possible. At times, he made things more difficult for himself by running into traffic, however his aggressive mindset was pivotal in the Redlegs 32-point win. In what was a scrappy game for the most part with both sides struggling to execute their skills, Lord’s ball use stood out. He finished with 28 touches (17 kicks and 11 handballs), seven marks and four inside 50s.

#25 Matt Dnistriansky 

The athletic defender was once-again Norwood’s designated kicker down back. Often charged with the kick-in duties, Dnistriansky looked to set up the play with his precise kicking. He has a racking right foot kick and was accurate across long and short distances. He positioned himself well throughout the game, dropping in front of the Sturt forwards to cut off several Double Blues attacks. Although many of his touches were accumulated deep in defence, his clean ball-use was important. Concluded the game with a game-high 29 disposals (24 kicks and five handballs), nine marks and eight rebounds.

Others:

SANFL Academy Hub member Taj Rahui showed a couple of nice glimpses in-tight, with his breakaway speed and agility on show. Connor Kent missed a couple of shots on goal but was prolific, accumulating 27 touches and seven marks. Bottom-aged defender Riley Verrall was inconsistent by foot but found plenty of it and provided some handy rebound across half-back, finishing with 26 disposals, seven marks and seven rebounds.

STURT:

#7 Nick Sadler

Bottom-aged midfielder/forward was one of Sturt’s best performers in what proved to be a scrappy contest at Coopers Stadium. Sadler was unlucky to hit the post with a set-shot from a difficult angle in the first term, but made up for it just moments later by sending a piercing kick through for a major. He went head-to-head with Norwood’s Alastair Lord and held his own, even managing to beat the speedster to the ball on the outer wing on one occasion. He looks to have a long and penetrating kick and appears clean on both sides of the body. He finished with 20 disposals (14 kicks and six marks), six marks, three clearances and six inside 50s.

#11 Will Spain

The inside midfielder didn’t set the world alight but was solid through the engine room. He is one of the best tacklers in the competition and a capable ball winner at stoppages, however Spain also ran some nice patterns which allowed him to pick up uncontested possessions. He worked tirelessly, often going head-to-head with Norwood’s Tyson Walls, and used the ball well by hand. He finished with 19 disposals, four marks, nine tackles and four inside 50s.

Others:

With talented key forward Morgan Ferres not playing, the Double Blues clearly lacked a focal point in attack. Powerful medium-forward Jacob Lochowiak had his moments and competed well. Jake Aish (20 disposals, one goal, six clearances and six inside-50s) found plenty of the footy through the midfield and Jordan Hein (24 disposals and ten rebounds) used it well out of defence. Jamie Taylor kicked a goal and had 20 disposals while the ruck-duo of Hugo Kittle and Jackson Bishop provided the Sturt midfielders with first use, winning 17 and 15 hit-outs respectively. Down back, the clean-kicking Zac Becker (20 disposals, five marks and 15 rebounds) provided some handy rebound from defence.

Image Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

Bulldogs build brand and now ready to bite

CENTRAL District coach Shaun Ribbons will head into the 2021 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season confident his side can begin to put into place the learnings of the first two seasons to take the next step in the competition.

Playing in a trial match against North Adelaide on the weekend, it was clear to Ribbons that despite the interrupted year in 2020, and the challenges that have come with being a new club entering the league after the majority of others, the Bulldogs are now progressing to beyond just being competitive.

“I think a lot of our girls have now had two or three preseasons and what we find is all the strength and conditioning, fundamentals of the game, footy IQ, it’s just starting to accumulate and they’re just starting to understand what playing at this level is all about,” Ribbons said. “So we’re really seeing a faster progression than I thought we would this season, and we were able to in our trial match on the weekend, give that a bit of a test, and the girls played really well against North Adelaide and their training this year has been at a really high standard.

“We’ve been able to in the first couple of years implement some pretty strong training standards and expectations, and that takes a little while for girls to adjust to when we’ve really taken them from amateur footy and some of them haven’t played much at all, to semi-elite stuff. “It just takes a bit of time, and the group’s been awesome this year, really positive and we’re starting to see a bit of progression.”

Last season the Bulldogs might have taken home the wooden spoon with just the two wins, but it was clear to everyone that despite dropping back a spot on the ladder, Central District had made massive strides going forward. Ribbons said there were times where his side looked to have had momentum in games, it was about making the most of those opportunities, which was something he is expecting in season three.

“We knew that some of the teams we were coming up against were obviously really talented and they’d been in the comp for longer and just played more footy so we based everything in the first two years in building a brand that was competitive, things that we could control,” he said. “We wanted to be a really good tackling team, we didn’t want to shirk any issues and be a team that’s known to compete really well, and then just add layers upon that.

“In terms of how we use the ball, how we defend, we knew our fundamentals, our strength and conditioning and our footy IQ would come at some point. “We’re starting to see that now, but as long as we competed really well, so I think that’s what we achieved in the first two years. “It didn’t matter who we played, we held our own in the contest in terms of competing, but we just have to be a bit patient with some of the other stuff.”

An example Ribbons used was a match against reigning premiers and 2020 grand finalists South Adelaide, where the Bulldogs had 17 more inside 50s, but still went down comfortably.

“There were some good indicators, but obviously some key areas that we just needed to get better at,” Ribbons said. “Some of that is experience, and some of it is just development and a little bit of personnel.”

Last year the Bulldogs had limited AFL Women’s players coming back to the side, with Sarah Allan being a standout performer, but in 2021, the teams will once again be without their top-level experience for the most part, which is something Ribbons said the playing group used for motivation last year, and as a positive coming into this year.

“For our girls that was a really great learning experience, there’s no doubt about that, and that will hold us in good stead for at least the first part of the year, and I think at times we were able to match it with some of those girls, so that’s the situation we’re in where we don’t have a heap of AFL girls, and we’ve just got to focus on the girls that we do have and building a strong brand within our community and that’s a long-term thing,” Ribbons said.

“We’re pretty hellbent on having good connections within the Barossa and the Northern suburbs in terms of footy growth, and that will be our competitive advantage going forward. “We might not quite have the stimulus of girls coming back from interstate to play for us, but I think we can build something strong if we get it right.”

One aspect the Bulldogs have been able to add over the offseason is experience, with Sturt’s Jess Schulz and Brianna Burt, North Adelaide’s Paige Allan, and South Adelaide’s Nicole Mark providing “an immediate injection of 60 or 60 games”. Ribbons also said the Bulldogs’ good crop of young talents led by Lauren Breguet, Maddy Lane and Laitiah Huynh was promising, in what he described as a “much more balanced group”.

Leading that group is new captain Shelby Smith, who had a remarkable first season in the SANFL Women’s and won the team’s best and fairest, and earned the respect of her teammates enough to be chosen as captain for the 2021 season. Ribbons praised Smith’s ability to represent the brand and herself, whilst still learning the game.

“I remember watching her play at Eastern Park and she’s one of those girls who you know what you’re going to get,” Ribbons said. “She’s just a real competitor, so I was confident in that. “She obviously had a fantastic season, I mean the great thing about her is her attitude, she really fits that brand that we’re trying to drive, and she’s a great learner as well. “She’s still always trying to find ways to improve and I think in terms of what we value at our footy club, she’s just a great role model.

“She has been somebody that anybody within the group can look towards and she’s got so many great attributes, so she’ll be a fantastic captain and leader, and she’s still developing her game because she’s really only played at this level for one year, and we’ve already seen signs that she’s going to be a really strong competitor for us and do well.”

The first match is now just over a week away, with the Bulldogs hosting Woodville-West Torrens Eagles at X Convenience Oval in the second match of a double-header. Ribbons said one focus for the team was improvement in fundamental decision making, which was a focus for the group over the off-season.

“We feel really strong about our brand, but what we’ve been able to do is really try and take the next step in terms of our methods with ball-in-hand,” he said. “We’re probably a team of going forward at all costs, but not necessarily with great method, so we’ve done a lot of work on how we want to exit from contests, and we want to be better users of the ball. “We’ve spent a lot more time on structure and role playing within the preseason.

“Our big improvement will come from how we’re able to use the ball to put teams under pressure, because we had so many times last year where we had opportunities but there’d be a fundamental error, just a dropped mark or a kick where we couldn’t just execute when we had our opportunities, so I think that is our big growth area.”

Picture credit: On the Ball Media

Sprinting ace Grubb takes a tough year in his stride

KEEN South Australian draft watchers may remember him as the winner of last year’s SANFL Grand Final sprint, but Central Districts speedster Lachlan Grubb has more in his locker than pure straight-line speed. Sprinting and football run through the 17-year-old’s veins, with his father a former Reserves player at Norwood, while his uncle took out the 1970 Bay Sheffield meet. It makes his pedigree hard to shake, but the youngster is taking it all in his stride, with his genes helping form many of his most damaging traits.

The draft prospect’s pace, agility, and goal sense makes for an exciting package forward of centre, and Grubb has impressed across the senior grades in his top-age campaign.

“Speaking with ‘Bangers’ (Tony Bamford) and my coaches from Centrals at the start of the year, I think the plan for me was to play predominantly in the position where I was likely to get drafted, if I do at the end of the year,” Grubb said. “So playing that small forward role really suits me well with my goal awareness, speed, and being able to evade people with my agility.

“Last year I played six Reserves games when I was 16 so I guess I had the confidence from last year as well. “Especially with the speed of the game and the sort of player I am, I like to move the ball quicker, get out and use my legs, and I think that’s allowed me to show my weapons.

“It was awesome to play two League games (in 2020). “I was pretty disappointed to go back down into the twos but we’ve got a really good team and culture at the club at the moment so our twos are flying, top of the ladder. “Hopefully we can keep that form up heading into finals.”

After a wildly successful reign between 2000-2011, the Bulldogs have not returned to the final game of the League season since. But Grubb, and the Reserves side he has played most of his footy in this year looks primed for a premiership tilt in 2020, having won more games that the League and Under 18s teams combined to remain one game away from a minor premiership. Grubb is relishing the opportunity to play senior football, and at a “pretty good” standard, no less.

“There’s a really good spirit around the club at the moment and obviously heading into finals, we’ve only lost one game this year,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to be able to play finals footy, obviously not many people in Australia are getting to play footy, and it’s all eyes on SA so it’s a really good opportunity we’ve got and hopefully we can go forward and win a flag.”

But the journey hasn’t been completely smooth sailing thus far, with the obvious early setback of a delayed season compounded by injury, the feeling that people are overlooking the Reserves grade this year and most recently, missing out on a National Combine invite.

“We had just done the whole preseason and found out that the season had stopped, and we didn’t know when it was going to come back,” Grubb said. “It was obviously a bit of a stab in the foot, but I guess everyone across Australia was suffering with it.

“Then starting off the season, I missed the first four games with a syndesmosis injury in my ankle. I did all my recovery pretty quickly, thought I was pretty professional with the way I went about that and just tried to get back as soon as possible.

“I played two League footy games, then went back down to the twos and I’ve been in some pretty good form, but I guess it’s just a bit frustrating because not many people are looking at the Reserves this year.

A breakout game of three goals, and bag of five in Round 12 would have caught plenty of eyes, though, with Grubb garnering some attention from AFL scouts. Having spoken to a couple of clubs recently, the youngster is also moulding his game on a couple of speedy Richmond favourites. Although, he doesn’t support an AFL club at the moment.

“I actually don’t (support) an AFL team,” he said. “Everyone did when we were growing up with the Crows and stuff, but it’s a bit weird, I don’t actually support an AFL team at the moment. “Dad goes for the Pies, they have a bit of a special spot in my heart.

Shai Bolton from Richmond, I mould my game on him. “Just his speed and his pressure – pressure has been a massive improvement for me this year, obviously that’s been the main feature to use my speed to get to players quicker. “At the start of the year I was more of an offensive player rather than a defensive player, so really just trying to hone in on that pressure role as a small forward. “Shai Bolton is definitely one I mould my game on and players like Jason Castagna as well, who can also roll through the forward and wing position.

“The main feedback (from AFL clubs) for me has been just that defensive pressure. “At the start of the year, it wasn’t as good, but it’s been really improving over the past few months of games.”

With help from manager Michael Doughty, a 231-game player at the Crows, Grubb has also taken on extra craft sessions throughout the week. Along with school, sessions at his local JT Performance Centre gym, training with his athletics coach, and regular commitments with Centrals, it makes for a pretty packed week. But as a “laid back” character by his own assessment, Grubb has been able to use each opportunity to his advantage.

“Life’s pretty good in SA,” he said. “School’s been pretty easygoing this year, I’m a laid back sort of a guy so I don’t get stressed over too many things. “The coronavirus hasn’t really effected me too much, I think I really bounced back from it pretty well… (it has been) pretty hectic but I don’t mind it.”

Nearing the end of his top-age campaign, there remains one big goal for Grubb to tick off, but a series of smaller ones come first.

“Obviously the main goal at the end of the year is to get picked up by an AFL club, that’s my dream since I was a young kid,” he said. “But (I am) just setting little goals and trying to play some consistent footy. “I guess I haven’t really been seen much over the last couple of years, last year was my breakout year. “Obviously all the other guys have played a lot of state footy, so I guess I’ve been coming from behind of everyone.

“I’ve just been trying to put some consistent games of footy together to really showcase what I can do to all AFL clubs. “Tackle numbers every game, trying to get that down pat, and then obviously finishing off my goals, because there was a couple of games where I kicked a few points this year.

“If footy doesn’t work out, there’s a lot of things that I can look to. “I do pretty well at school, I’ve got good grades this year and have really honed down on my Year 12. “I’m pretty good at psychology, so maybe just some sort of sports psychology at Uni. I like teaching the younger generation so maybe PE teaching at uni or something like that, too. But I’m really open to anything at the moment.”

Grubb sought to thank his family for their ongoing support, as well as his Centrals coaches for their help throughout the season, and his manager for the effort and time put into him this year.

Featured Image: Lachlan Grubb gets a kick away | Source: (Retrieved from) Central District Football Club

Fast and fierce Huynh embodies Centrals’ spirit

SHE may be small, but packs a punch. Central District forward Laitiah Huynh is a prospect who personifies everything great about her side’s style; pace, an attacking mindset, and ferocity in the tackle.

The 17-year-old has cut her teeth throughout the South Australian pathway, rising the ranks via her state’s Under 16s, and Under 18s squads over the past three years. She has proven a perfect fit for Bulldogs’ senior side since debuting in 2019, harnessing her competitive edge with help from her Centrals family.

“I used to be really hesitant for the ball but with Centrals, they just go for everything so I’m in everything now – or I try to be,” Huynh said. “It made me a more fierce player. “(My coaches and teammates) always help me. Most of them are like my family now, I love them all… at the start it was really nerve-racking because I was the youngest one in the whole team, but they supported me and helped me through it.”

In such a tumultuous year for budding AFL Women’s draftees, the theme of family has helped Huynh come out the other side a better for it. With her release, football, taken away from her amid a global pandemic, the youngster sought to connect the best support network possible.

“I just surrounded myself with my family and friends, mainly my family because I couldn’t really see anyone else,” she said. “But it was hard because I didn’t really have anything to do and footy is usually what I did to get my mind off other things.

“I thought it was going to impact my performance when we came back. I wasn’t sure how well I’d perform because we didn’t really get to train as a team. “My dad’s crazy about my football so he’s just the biggest support ever. (Mum and Dad) come to all my games, they took me everywhere before I had my licence so it’s been really good.”

The lingering unknown was compounded by Huynh’s juggling act of high-level football, Year 12 schooling, casual work, and interests outside all those realms, forcing somewhat of a squeeze on her priorities. But not for long, as she hit the ground running and prospered upon a return to normality.

“I did miss a few trainings because of school, because I was just trying to keep on top of everything,” she said. “But it’s gone better now, I’ve almost finished. “The season came back (during) the important part of school, so I was just a bit stressed out but I just cut my casual work a bit and just did school and footy. “I bought heaps of things off Gumtree and just trained at home. “We had a group chat so we all sent in different activities (and) exercises to do at home, rather than a gym.”

The improvisation paid off, as Huynh impressed throughout her second South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s campaign, while also recently running out in her state’s Under 18 All-Star showcase. Having already proven her worth as a forward, the speedy small was utilised further afield late in the season, and during her representative hitout.

“I’m a bit smaller so I’ve mostly stuck to the forwardline this season,” she said. “I was also chucked on the wing for a couple of games and everyone thinks I’d be better on the wing because I’m fast. “With practice I think I’ll get better at it, I do want to learn the wing more.

“I think I did alright (in the All-Stars game). “I got put on the wing and I went forward for a little bit but the ball wasn’t really coming down when I was there. “But it was heaps fun because all the girls were obviously the best talent in SA, so we were all skilful and it was a good experience.”

The opportunity to play at such a high level against her peers somewhat made up for a lack of a national carnival in 2020, which Huynh says she wishes she could have experienced again in her top-age year. Having transitioned into football at around age 12, she has also observed the expansion of such pathways.

“It was my last year so obviously I would have wished to have a National Championships,” she said. “All in all, you can’t really help what happened but it was a good experience. “Most of my SA friends were in the All-Stars game anyway, I’d played with them for the last couple of years, so it was a good experience to be alongside them again.

“When I started I don’t think there was an AFLW team (in South Australia) but I think when everyone heard that there would be, they just jumped straight into footy and ever since then, with all the different pathways and activities that are put on for everyone to join in, they’ve really gained the skill and experience from all of that.”

As a supporter of the Adelaide’s successful women’s side, Huynh admits playing for the Crows “would be the dream” come draft time, but is happy to move anywhere given she has family all around Australia. Looking forward, Huynh is working on her contested game, especially marking, while also seeking to build her fitness and strength to suit AFLW level.

Should the ultimate dream not come to fruition this year, the fast-developing prospect is happy to hone her craft with help from the Central District family.

Featured Image: Huynh representing South Australia at the 2019 Under 18 National Championships | Source: Dean Martin/The Advertiser

SANFL Women’s season review: Central District

CENTRAL District is the first team up in our South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season review series as we look at the eight sides in reverse ladder order and who their 2020 seasons went down.

Position: 8th
Wins: 2
Losses: 8

2020 IN A NUTSHELL

Coming off a seventh placed finish in their inaugural season last year, Central District was predicted to show some great signs of improvement. Whilst ultimately they did finish a spot lower and take out the wooden spoon, it is fair to say their overall season was much improved on 2019. They had the two wins from 10 games, which were a Round 1 win over Norwood and a Round 7 triumph over Woodville-West Torrens Eagles. The Bulldogs had a tough second half of the season fixture, and had they potentially played more of the bottom four sides, they could well have notched up another win or two. All in all, their gameplay – which was often fast and exciting – was superior to other teams, it was just about the execution inside 50. If that area can be ironed out, then watch out in 2021.

AFL WOMEN’S ALL-STARS GAME REPRESENTATIVES:

Laitiah Huynh

A 17-year-old speedy mid-forward who could break the lines and cause all sorts of havoc for the opposition. She showed clean hands at ground level, and coupled with her athleticism, was able to be a crucial link in the chain between midfield and the forward 50. Huynh was also not afraid to lay some big tackles on more experienced opponents.

Madison Lane

A versatile player who really settled into defence in the latter half of the season. She was able to improve her one-on-one ability and provide some drive up the defensive end, and showed she has the capability of playing forward, after kicking a goal against Norwood in Round 1. Another 17-year-old prospect who improved well after earning the honour of captaining South Australia at Under 16s level.

Katelyn Rosenzweig

Already having been drafted to the Crows and then unfortunately delisted due to the strength there, Rosenzweig is easily a type who can play at the next level. She is strong overhead, has a sixth sense for goals and is rarely beaten in a wrestle. More often than not she is a reliable shot for goal, and led the club’s goalkicking in season 2020.

Shelby Smith

One of the surprise packets of the competition this year. Expect her to potentially take out the Bulldogs best and fairest after a sensational year on debut. At 28-years-old, Smith was hard at the ball, loved a scrap and never took a backwards step. She was a clearance gem and beat a few experienced AFL Women’s talents at times around the contest.

OTHERS WHO STOOD OUT:

  • Sarah Allan
  • Demi Sonneman
  • Alicia Butler
  • Lauren Smith
  • Lauren Breguet
  • Caitlen Teague

It is hard to look past the consistency of AFL Women’s ruck/key defender Sarah Allan, and 2019 best and fairest winner, Demi Sonneman. Allan came into the team after the break and was exactly what they needed – a tall marking target with a booming kick – while Sonneman hardly played a bad game. She had the toughest job on the last line of defence, and even if she made mistakes, would back up and go again. Others who stepped in season 2020 included Caitlen Teague, Alicia Butler and Lauren Smith through the midfield, and 16-year-old Lauren Breguet who came into the side in Round 3 and continually improved until the end of the season, which will make her better for 2021.

Summary

Central District was one of the more exciting teams to watch, particularly in the second half of the season. Yes, the Bulldogs made mistakes going inside 50 and the counter attack on turnover could often be costly, but the way they tried to move the ball with speed and cause hazardous inside 50 entries worked at times. Even against South Adelaide late in the season, if they had been cleaner and made more of their opportunities, they could have caused a boil-over. All in all, Central should be really excited about the future because their 2020 season was a step up from their 2019 one, regardless of ladder position.

All-Star Team of the AFL Draft Era: Which club is the best of the best?

EVERY year, a new crop of AFL Draft talents rise up and make waves at AFL level. Some clubs such as Calder Cannons and Geelong Falcons are referred to as ‘footy factories’. Others are less well known, but nonetheless vital in providing players with their start to the AFL.

Over the past couple of months, Draft Central has gone through all of the NAB League, SANFL and WAFL clubs and tried to determine the best 24-player squad for their respective clubs. The captains and vice-captains were determined by the public through Instagram voting. Now, it is up to the public to decide which All-Star Team is the greatest of the lot. That’s right, the 30 teams from Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia are going head to head in a knockout draw.

Which teams are competing?

NAB League [12]: Bendigo Pioneers, Calder Cannons, Dandenong Stingrays, Eastern Ranges, Geelong Falcons, Gippsland Power, GWV Rebels, Murray Bushrangers, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers, Sandringham Dragons, Western Jets
SANFL [9]: Central District, Glenelg, North Adelaide, Norwood, Port Adelaide, South Adelaide, Sturt, West Adelaide, Woodville-West Torrens
WAFL [9]: Claremont, East Fremantle, East Perth, South Fremantle, Peel Thunder, Perth, Subiaco, Swan Districts, West Perth

How will it work?

Each day at 10am, we will publish the two All-Star Teams of the AFL Draft era, and the public will be able to vote through the article, Facebook and Twitter, with the overall winner moving through to the next round.

Given there are 30 teams, two sides who we have picked out as the top two seeds – East Fremantle and Geelong Falcons – will have the bye in the opening round, with the other 28 teams seeded appropriately similar to the All-Star Player voting (3rd against 28th, 4th against 27th etc.).

Who is up first?

The first All-Star Team battle is between a couple of metropolitan sides who we have seeded 16th and 17th in the draw. They both have some absolute elite stars, but Calder Cannons and Western Jets will begin the voting on Monday. They will be followed by the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Eastern Ranges on Tuesday, before a cross-state clash sees third seed Port Adelaide Magpies tackle Peel Thunder.

Two from two – NT gun Brodie Lake helps Centrals break through

SIX rounds into the 2020 SANFL Under 18s season, Central Districts sat seventh at 1-5. To that point, the Bulldogs had only bettered winless cellar dweller West Adelaide in Round 2. Over the past fortnight, they’ve improved to 3-5 and remain just one game off the top four.

Across that very same two-week period, Northern Territory (NT) native Brodie Lake has settled into the side having moved south to pursue a greater wealth of opportunities in his top-age AFL draft year. It may be a coincidence that Centrals are two from two with Lake in the lineup, but it’s clear the Top End talent is making his mark.

Having arrived in South Australia on the first Monday of August, Lake was able to get straight into training and make his debut for the Bulldogs just five days later.

“This is my second week here. Our season is not on (back home) and NT Thunder got cancelled with the NAB League so I made the decision to come down, get my name out there and play some games,” Lake told Draft Central this week.

“I didn’t have to quarantine coming from Darwin but I had to get a test just to make sure. It was good to get straight into training and playing. I had training on Wednesday and Thursday, and then played on the weekend and got the win.”

Central Districts’ Brodie Lake celebrates a goal with teammates | Picture credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

The daunting factor of living away from home at just 18 years of age is somewhat aided by the fact he has experienced it all before. Lake lived with a host family in Western Australia while representing Peel Thunder during last year’s WAFL Colts competition, making eight appearances. While he has the distraction of football and is currently rooming with older brother, Keenan in South Australia, the youngster still leans on his prior travels to push through.

“(Moving to WA last year) definitely made it a lot easier, knowing I can live away from Mum and Dad… I’m living here with my brother so that’s good.

“For the first couple of months I don’t find it hard because I’m doing stuff and training, but towards the end when the season is about to finish I start missing home a little bit more.

“Mum, Dad and my brother are big helps. They just push me and encourage me to do stuff and they say ‘It’s up to you, it’s your dream, but we’ll help you and support you through it.'”

That dream of playing AFL football has been at the forefront of Lake’s mind since first representing the Thunder at Under 16s level in 2018. He did so once again in 2019, earning his side’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for his efforts across the three-game Division 2 carnival.

“I started getting serious about it at Under 16s, my first year (with NT). I was like ‘Yeah, this is something I want to do.’

“I enjoyed playing with the boys back home, getting into the state side with them and getting to know them a bit more. It was good, especially to get All Australian, I was pretty happy with that.”

Congratulations to Brodie Lake who topped off his family affair during the NAB AFL Under 16 Championships by being named…

Posted by AFL Northern Territory on Friday, July 12, 2019

 

Having grown up in the Darwin zone, Lake is tied to the Gold Coast SUNS, though opted to continue his southern venture rather than represent the Queensland-based program in the current Academy Series.

“I went down (to Queensland) and trained with them for two weeks in the off-season with Joel Jeffrey, Brandon Rusca, and Tyrell Lui. I enjoyed it, they’re a great bunch of boys.

“I haven’t heard much lately because of the virus obviously, but a couple of the boys are down there training with the academy now. I didn’t end up going because I talked to ‘Roey’ (NT Thunder Academy coach, Jason Roe) and Dad, we had a chat and they reckon it’s better for me to stay down here and get some game time.”

The medium-sized utility has had plenty of mentors to aid him as he traverses a path less travelled by, as well as teammates who have made each transition as smooth as possible. Lake played senior football alongside former AFL midfielders Ed and Michael Barlow at Southern Districts in the 2019/20 NTFL season, with senior coach Matt Cannard also playing a hand in his development as a midfielder.

Through the Palmerston Under 12s and the NT system, he played both with and against Jeffrey, and also got to know a bunch of other AFL draft hopefuls when selected in last year’s Under 17 Futures All Star showcase. One of them was current Centrals League gun Corey Durdin, while fellow Bulldogs Austin McDonald and Kobe Wilson have partnered him well through midfield at Under 18s level. Another Palmerston product, Jonty Patrick, who was set to join the Calder Cannons this season, has also made the trip down with him.

While there are a bunch of great minds and players alike to feed off, Lake also takes inspiration from GWS GIANTS midfielder Lachie Whitfield, who he models his game on. The similarities are there; the ability to accumulate on the spread, play on either side of midfield or off half-back, and run all day. Lake enjoys watching Whitfield so much, he even jumped ship from supporting Carlton to embrace the ‘Big Big Sound’ in Western Sydney.

As he blazes his own trail, the 18-year-old sees himself slotting in at half-back among an AFL side, with a good bunch of traits to help stamp his case as a genuine draft chance.

“(I’d fit in) at half-back I reckon… with my running off the backline, I use the ball well and read the play,” he said.

“I enjoy playing inside mid or outside, I love midfield.”

Of his strengths, Lake listed speed, agility, marking, and tackle pressure, while he is looking to improve on his timing and getting to as many contests as possible.

There have been many adjustments to be made too, from the cooler weather, to playing a different brand of football than he’s used to.

“It’s freezing. I just warm up in a jumper, and warm up extra obviously because my muscles are a bit colder… on-field here there’s more structure and (it’s played) in-close with bigger bodies. They move the ball faster too by hand and foot.”

As he further acclimatises across the second half of the SANFL season, Lake is looking to move up the grades and simply put his best foot forward in hopes of realising his ultimate dream. Should it fail to come to fruition in 2020, Lake says he is committed to putting in a full campaign down south next year in between duties with Southern Districts. With his current online Year 12 studies in tow, there is always a Plan B, too.

For now, it’s full steam ahead with exposure and time on the park paramount to his chances of reaching the elite level.

Lake sought to thank his parents, brother, Nan and Pop, aunties, uncles, and cousins, for all their support during his journey.