Tag: charlie comben

2019 AFL Draft Preview: Geelong Cats

FOR the first time since 2001, Geelong heads into the 2019 AFL Draft with an array of first half picks, lead by two top 20 selections. Tipped to potentially be a big player on draft night in terms of live trading, the Cats have positioned themselves well after the departure of Tim Kelly to West Coast, and will be keen to grab some readymade selections who will also have a long-term future in the blue and white hoops.

CURRENT PICKS: 14, 17, 24, 36

NEXT GEN ACADEMY/FATHER-SONS – COMBINE INVITES: Nil.

LIST NEEDS:

Balanced midfielder with speed and skills
Key forward
Ruck

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

Geelong has publicly stated it wants to work its way back into the top 10 if possible, which means those clubs with Academy ties, in particular Fremantle, might bite at the prospect. Given the Cats need another ruck and key forward, the likes of Luke Jackson and Fischer McAsey would come into thinking, with McAsey able to play down either end. Sandringham Dragons’ teammate, Josh Worrell would also be a good shout at that selection, or if he slid to 17, but both could foreseeably be off the board at the same time. Will Gould is a natural footballer who could fill a need in defence for the future, while the Cats might end up going best available and replacing Kelly with Deven Robertson who is not too dissimilar in terms of his inside winning capabilities, but still have pace but greater defensive pressure. Trent Rivers is another who could play a multitude of roles and is that good size at 188cm and 83kg.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

As mentioned above, Fremantle might consider trading Picks 10 and 22 for 14 and 17, which would catapult Geelong into the top 10 and almost certainly guarantee them one of the three talls in Jackson, McAsey or Worrell. Filling four spots on the Cats list, it is unlikely they will trade down, unless dropping their pick 24 gives them a higher pick in their first two selections.

REMAINING CROP:

If they can trade up, Geelong might also eye of Geelong Grammar teammates, Caleb Serong – if he fell far enough – or Brodie Kemp who fits the bill as that speedy inside midfielder who has high upside. At pick 17 and 24, local Geelong Falcons’ midfielder Cooper Stephens might come into the thinking, while speedy inside midfielders Jay Rantall and Sam Philp would be considered at 24 and 36 respectively. Flynn Perez and Jeremy Sharp are some other names that provide some dash around those later Cats picks, or if Geelong goes tall with one of those selections, Charlie Comben could be a perfect fit as a forward/ruck at 36. The Cats draft night will depend on how they fair with live trading and whether or not they can jump into the top 10, because if they can, and Jackson is still on the board, it is hard to imagine they will not pounce on the big man who could lead their ruck division over the next decade.

2019 AFL Draft Preview: Fremantle Dockers

HOLDING one of the strongest draft hands heading into the 2019 AFL Draft, Fremantle is in a terrific position to continue its build up the ladder to try and break back into the top eight. The Dockers were strong players in trade week, bringing in Blake Acres and James Aish, while Ed Langdon and Bradley Hill departed the club, all up leaving six spots open on the club’s list. With two top 10 picks and Pick 22 sure to name three quality stars – one of which will be Liam Henry – the Dockers are primed to add some quality talent back on its list. After a host of retirements and delistings as well as the departures, the Dockers could use the draft to pick up some speed and skill around the ground particularly through the middle. A ruck would not go astray with Aaron Sandilands and Scott Jones both departing, while some extra firepower up forward at the feet of the key position players would also be handy.

CURRENT PICKS: 7, 10, 22, 58, 69, 79, 83

NEXT GEN ACADEMY/FATHER-SONS PROSPECTS – COMBINE INVITES: Liam Henry, Isaiah Butters and Leno Thomas (all NGA)

LIST NEEDS:

Outside midfielder with speed and skills
Small/medium forward
Ruck

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

It is an interesting scenario for Fremantle coming into the draft at Pick 7. It is expected the Dockers should be safe from having to match a bid on Henry at this selection, so they can pick safe in the knowledge he fills a need by himself when he heads there not too long after the selection. Western Australia (WA) Under-18 Championships winning captain and Larke Medallist Deven Robertson might come into the thinking, possessing the speed required but still being predominantly inside. Dylan Stephens fits a perfect need and would be a perfect choice for the Dockers to team up with Henry over a decade on either wing, while one would think Luke Jackson would at least be a fleeting glance with the speed and skill important, but the lack of ruck options in the draft might see the Dockers grab the WA ruck. With Pick 10 so close, it would be ideal if Fremantle can survive to that pick without a bid on Henry which is certainly possible, just not guaranteed.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

Fremantle is one of the favourites to get down and trade on draft night with the Henry bid certainly a talking point. With Tom Green the only likely player to be taken ahead of Henry in terms of Academy selections, and Finn Maginness not far behind, the Dockers might look to trade down from Pick to be able to match Henry while gaining an extra selection. If they know say Carlton at Pick 9 will bid on Henry, they could look to do a deal with the Blues, or potential leapfrog them and talk to Melbourne at Pick 8. Given the Demons’ next pick is 97, it will need to likely involve a selection from next year coming back the other way with the Dockers not going to give up Pick 22 and 10 for 8, while the Demons will not want to drop two places in the top 10 for the bonus of Pick 58. They could also look to package up 10 and 22 for for a couple of picks in the teens, such as Geelong’s 14 and 17, enabling them to match Henry, while upgrading their third selection.

REMAINING CROP:

After Fremantle has decided what to do with Pick 10, and likely have picked up a couple of top-end prospects as well as the incredibly talented Henry, the Dockers have a couple of selections to play with later in the draft. They might eye off local ruck, Callum Jamieson to fill the ruck void if Jackson was off the board by their selection early, or Charlie Comben or Nick Bryan if they have slipped to their Pick 58. Some outside speed and skill that might be available late is the likes of Ben Johnson, Josh Shute or even Isaac Wareham, while to fill roles up forward, Jai Jackson, Callum Park or Josh Morris might fancy them at those selections. Lachlan Williams is another interesting pick that could land somewhere in the back-end of the draft and he fills roles up both ends. They have some decisions to make, but it will be fascinating to watch them.

2019 AFL Draft Preview: Essendon Bombers

ESSENDON heads into the 2019 AFL National Draft with a couple of solid picks in the second round, but nothing that will net the club an immediate solution. The Bombers have some flexibility when it comes to live trading both through the second and fourth rounds potentially, with two clumps of picks together for their selections. Despite having a couple of players potentially leaving the club over the off-season, those trades did not occur and they remain relatively intact from their finals season this year and will be hoping to finally break the winless finals drought in 2020.

CURRENT PICKS: 31, 33, 61, 64, 65

NOMINATED ACADEMY/FATHER-SONS: Nil.

LIST NEEDS:

Inside Midfielder with skill
Outside Midfielder
Key forward
Goal kicking pressure forwards

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

The Bombers enter the draft at Pick 31, and will have two selections within three picks in order to likely pick up a couple of midfielders, or a midfielder and a forward. Ideally, an inside midfielder with some pace like Jay Rantall or Sam Philp if available would be perfect for the Bombers, or they might look to a Hugo Ralphsmith to add both the midfield and forward elements to their side. Thomson Dow is another name Bombers fans might want to keep in mind, while if any of Elijah Taylor or Cameron Taheny slide, you would expect Essendon would want to secure them into the forward line. Similar to Collingwood, Essendon is in a bit of no-man’s land for talls, with really Harrison Jones or Jake Riccardi the two possible selections, though Jones may be off the board.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

The Bombers could package up their two picks in the 30s for one in the 20s, whether that be North Melbourne’s 26 or 27, Sydney’s 25 or Geelong’s 24, or they could trade down their Pick 33 to try and grab a couple of Richmond’s three picks between 38 and 41. It does feel like they need to do something on the night to put themselves in contention with many of the names raised above a worry to be off the board.

REMAINING CROP:

Ideally Essendon fans would want to walk away from the draft with at least one tall, particularly forward. Charlie Comben can play both ruck or forward, but is rated in between the two clumps of picks, while Mitch Georgiades, Cooper Sharman and Liam Delahunty are others who have athletic talent in different ways. Emerson Jeka is another name the Bombers might consider, but like the others is likely to fill somewhere in between the clumps of picks which means they might opt to do some live trading. From the non-talls perspective, Ronin O’Connor, Jai Jackson and Darcy Chirgwin are others who provide great pressure in different areas of the ground, while Lachlan Stapleton or Josh D’Intinosante could be great late pick-ups that provide that forward pressure and ability to play through the midfield.

2019 AFL Draft Preview: Collingwood Magpies

COLLINGWOOD heads into the 2019 AFL National Draft with a less than inspiring draft hand which means the 2018 Grand Finalists and 2019 Preliminary Finalists will need to get creative with their picks. Luckily for the Magpies, they have been two kicks away from a flag and a second Grand Final, so the strength in the list is there, with just depth needed across the board. They need to address a lack of key position players, with both form and injuries taking a toll, particularly a lack of key position forwards, and perhaps another ruck – though they acquired Darcy Cameron in the off-season. Otherwise some speed and skill around the ground to replace the recently retired or ageing stars most of whom possessed pace with enough elite inside midfielders at the Magpies’ disposal.

CURRENT PICKS: 35, 62, 74

NOMINATED ACADEMY/FATHER-SONS: Nil

LIST NEEDS:

Key position depth – forward first priority
Ruck depth
Fast and skilful half-back or half-forward

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

At Pick 35, the Magpies will either need to hope there is a slider or perhaps pluck out a surprise player at the selection. West Australian Mitch Georgiades could well slide into that range, which would be a risk given he missed all of his top-age year, but his athleticism and high flying marks would certainly provide the Magpies with something different from a tall. However he is not the traditional key forward height, so if Harrison Jones is available he might be the first choice, while Jake Riccardi might be considered here, though they could hope he slides to their next selection. A couple of left field choices could be Fraser Phillips or Karl Finlay, with the former providing some X-factor and skill inside 50, while the latter provides the rebounding key position depth in defence.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

The Magpies need to do something as they seem to be stuck in the AFL Draft’s version of no-man’s land. They are just beyond the picks likely to secure a key position player they need, and ahead of the next batch which might be 10-20 picks below. This means Collingwood will need to either trade up – perhaps looking at Brisbane’s Pick 21 for a second rounder in 2020 along with their Pick 35, or one of North Melbourne’s Pick 26 or 27 to try and secure one of their key targets. Or perhaps the Magpies will trade down, offering up Pick 35 to perhaps Brisbane again who might want another pick before they need to match their Academy picks, which Picks 48, 52 and 55 are there, or more likely perhaps a Hawthorn with Pick 42 or 54.

REMAINING CROP:

With what the Magpies have left, they could hope Riccardi slides to Pick 62, or perhaps snatch up another available tall such as Charlie Comben, Nick Bryan or Callum Jamieson, or Cooper Sharman if the tall forward is on the board. Dyson Hilder down back could be a consideration if around, or Jake Pasini. If they go smaller, perhaps the Magpies pluck out a school footballer again with a Derek Hine special – picking up a Louis Butler or Kaden Schreiber. One player to keep an eye on is Angus Baker with the Canberra Demons’ half-back a terrific user of the ball and one that the Magpies would be keen to snap up as he fills an immediate role in the side. While their picks are not great, the Magpies can look to mature-agers and plug holes where required.

AFL Draft Preview: Adelaide Crows

ADELAIDE CROWS’ draft hand will be one which unlocks much of the first and second rounds, with picks four and 23 key to how the following selections will pan out. The Crows made headlines in their live trading last year, which could have an indifferent effect on how they approach this year’s proceedings. Either way, a regeneration is on the cards after a trade period clean-out with speed, class and energy all priorities.

CURRENT PICKS: 4, 23, 28, 37, 45, 49

NOMINATED ACADEMY/FATHER-SONS: Nil

LIST NEEDS:

Midfield speed
Key position depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

The Crows are at a key pivot point at the top end, with theirs and Melbourne’s selections at picks three and four respectively likely to dictate how the following ten picks unfold. After cleaning house, the Crows could look towards players who can add a certain freshness and excitement to what has become a stale list, and may find just that with the fourth pick this year. Sam Flanders and Lachlan Ash are two around the mark, with Flanders a powerhouse inside midfielder/forward who can win games off his own boot, while Ash is a daring half-back with rare speed and a damaging left foot. Both can inject great energy and flair into the squad, and are types who can slot in come Round 1. Add to that their enormous upside and scope to play in multiple roles, and they can cover multiple bases with class. Hayden Young will be around the mark but is heavily linked with Melbourne’s pick three, and Norwood’s Dylan Stephens would be a safe local pick with a good inside/outside balance, perhaps better valued later in the top 10. Caleb Serong and Deven Robertson could be considered, but the Crows have more than enough inside types in midfield.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

Last year’s ‘Stocker trade’ was a prime example of the gamble live trading brings to the fore, with the ‘winner’ of that deal fruitlessly debated even 12 months after the fact. While some Crows fans would be deterred by the outcome of that trade, others could be keen to see more. Pick four looks like being untouchable, unless the Crows could get back a pick just after the mark and one near the 20s to even the ledger. That would allow them to nab someone of the Ash, Flanders or Stephens ilk while also bringing in another fresh face just after the first round. Their stocks around the 20-mark are strong though, so picks 23 and 28 could even be packaged for a single selection in the teens if they fancy the likes of Will Day or Will Gould. But in such an even draft and with little to worry about in terms of father-son or academy selections this year, don’t be surprised to see Adelaide go in content with its hand as it stands.

REMAINING CROP:

Having two picks in the 20s could offer great value for the Crows, with a mix of local boys and key position players likely to come into consideration. The aforementioned Gould looks destined to be taken around the 23 mark and is as naturally talented as any player in the 2019 pool. With Eddie Betts out the door, dynamic forwards in the form of Kysaiah Pickett, Dylan Williams and Cameron Taheny could be in the mix, with Pickett a traditional small and the latter two lead-up medium prospects with sticky hands and nous around goal. Each would add a spark Adelaide desperately needs, and some higher-end class that the current group of medium-small forwards lack. If the Crows look towards key-position depth, All-Australian Sam De Koning looms as a versatile and athletic tall option who could develop into a special player in time, with Harrison Jones another tall who could be snapped up before Adelaide’s pick 37. Value in talls may also come via picks 45 and 49 with North Adelaide defensive duo Karl Finlay and Dyson Hilder around the mark to fill the Alex Keath void, while Charlie Comben and Nick Bryan are options to cover losses in the ruck and key forward slots. Adelaide SANFL players Jy Farrar and Tom Hutchesson are mature-aged state combine invitees who could also come into consideration.

Draft Central Power Rankings: November 2019 – 60-41

AS the 2019 AFL National Draft is just around the corner, we work up to the November 27-28 event with a three-part Power Rankings series, counting down our top 60 players heading into the AFL Draft. We have not taken into account any draft selections or club needs, it is purely our opinion. Furthermore, given the evenness of the draft, there were plenty of unlucky players on the cusp of making it into the top 60. This edition looks at those players we have ranked 60-41.

#60 Lachlan Stapleton
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
14/04/2001 | 179cm | 73kg

The only State Draft Combine player in our Power Rankings, the Eastern Ranges ball magnet has been one of the more consistent players this year. One of the few unlucky not to get a National Draft Combine invite, Stapleton has plenty of tricks despite his size, and can win the ball inside or out. In season 2019, Stapleton averaged 22.3 disposals, 2.5 marks, 5.2 clearances, 4.5 inside 50s and 7.1 tackles from 13 games, predominantly playing an inside role. His hands in close were very good, with athletic traits that are handy but could still improve such as his in-game acceleration – clocking a sub-three second 20m sprint at the State Combine, and his kicking consistency. A rough chance still, but should have done enough to find a place on an AFL list.

#59 Ryan Byrnes
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
03/05/2001 | 182cm | 84kg

Mr Consistent, Sandringham’s fearless captain has been as reliable as just about anyone in the NAB League this season. Byrnes can play inside or out, wins the ball out of a stoppage and has a trademark five-step burst to create separation from his opponent and send the ball inside 50 to leading teammates. His kicking could certainly sharpen up, but he can use either foot which makes him more of an asset, and while he is shorter compared to some inside midfielders, he has the readymade frame to compete at senior level. Almost missed out on a bottom-age year at Sandringham and has been a workhorse to put himself in a position where he could be drafted. Just a no-fuss footballer who leads by actions and will be a popular player at a club should he be selected.

#58 Emerson Jeka
Western Jets/Vic Metro | Key Forward/Defender
18/09/2001 | 198cm | 90kg

On upside, Jeka is a lot higher, but it is just piecing all of his traits together for some consistency. He is an elite contested mark, is virtually an eight-second flat agility test and near three seconds 20m sprint candidate. This athleticism is something rare in players of his size, but the inconsistencies of the past few years, as well as finding his best position – between forward and back – means he is still a raw prospect who has to develop. Given his traits, if he can be put to work and learn off a more aggressive mentor at an AFL club, then he will add more to his game. He has the physicality to really worry opposition defenders when leading out, it is just showing it on a more consistent basis. His best is winning a game off his own boot, but it just happens in seldom, so the best is yet to come from the Western Jets tall.

#57 Louis Butler
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Defender
25/04/2001 | 185cm | 74kg

An interesting prospect, Butler at his best can be a damaging half-back who floats through the middle and wins plenty of the ball. When it comes to off-field testing, Butler’s numbers do not jump off a page. But when it comes to in-game work, he moves well and has the smarts to evade opponents with ball-in-hand and open up space for his teammates. He seems a confidence player, because when he starts hitting targets, he can hardly miss, but when he sprays the odd kick early, he can be a bit more error prone throughout the game. Showed plenty throughout his school footballing, and finished the NAB League season averaging 23 disposals and three rebounds a game.

#56 Josh Shute
Sturt/South Australia | Outside Midfielder
28/03/2001 | 187cm | 74kg

A lightly built, but talented outside midfielder with some good size, Shute is the stereotypical winger who likes to run and create from the back half going forward. Shute has nice foot skills with a touch of class, as well as a high work rate that sees him push up and down the ground. His endurance could still improve, as could his impact per possession, and while standing at 73kg, Shute could add size to his frame. Overall though, Shute has a nice outside game from which clubs can work with, and is one of the more prominent wingers available in the AFL Draft crop. He could go higher than this based on his ball use and outside run, but is still a developing talent.

#55 Flynn Perez
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country | Outside Midfielder
25/08/2001 | 188cm | 81kg

One of the players hardest to rate this year, Perez has missed his entire top-age season after injuring his knee late last year at a Vic Country camp. From what he showed as a bottom-ager, Perez has some neat outside traits, and class when in close. He moves well and is a creator for his team, it is just about getting some consistency in both his disposal and game. At 188cm, Perez is a nice height for a midfielder, and when adding in his athleticism, the Bendigo Pioneers’ midfielder is unlikely to be forgotten by an AFL club come November.

#54 Nick Bryan
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Ruck
22/10/2001 | 202cm | 87kg

Considered a potential first rounder at the start of the year, Bryan has slipped down the order after an inconsistent year. He had a good finals series, particularly in the last couple of games which gave recruiters another glimpse at the highly athletic ruck. While he is far from the finished product, it is hard to imagine he will be overlooked based on his sub three-second 20m sprint and his size at 202cm makes him a valuable commodity. While he might not have the consistency of some of the other talls higher on the list, he has plenty of upside and a club could certainly find a need for Bryan should they be on the lookout for another ruck.

#53 Josh Honey
Western Jets/Vic Metro | Mid/Forward
17/10/2001 | 185cm | 82kg

Another player with great upside, Honey has the versatility to rotate between midfield and forward, and is an athlete to-boot. Honey was one of the more impressive performers at the National Draft Combine, clocking up times of 2.97 seconds (20m sprint) and 8.10 seconds (agility test). His consistency can be a worry at times, particularly when it comes to influence throughout long periods in games, with his accumulation lower than most other comparable players – 16.1 disposals per game. But when on his game, Honey has that hurt factor about him, with his clean hands and defensive pressure – 4.6 tackles per game – a feature, as well as his ability to hit the scoreboard regularly, contributing 12 goals in 14 games at NAB League level, and two from two at the Under-18 National Championships.

#52 Jake Pasini
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Defender
06/02/2001 | 193cm | 82kg

A really consistent and reliable defender, Pasini is a player who could step up and play from early on in his career. At 193cm, Pasini is a little undersized to match up against the bigger-bodied key forwards, so will likely fill out as a running defender who takes a third tall, or could play on smaller players if need be. He has the skill level to be that offensive running back, and he reads the ball in flight really well. Averaging 18.3 disposals and 4.1 marks at WAFL Colts level from seven games, Pasini also got a call-up to both the Reserves and League sides for Swan Districts where he did not look out of place in two and one games respectively. After playing for Western Australia at the Under-18 Championships as a bottom-ager, Pasini returned as a top-ager and again was able to provide a steadying influence, picking up his rebound numbers to average two per game.

#51 Mitch Georgiades
Subiaco/Western Australia | Tall Forward
28/09/2001 | 192cm | 87kg

Similar to Perez, Georgiades is one who is hard to read where he goes. On talent, he could be a top 30 pick, but the fact a quad injury has kept him out of action throughout his entire top-age year would be a concern. He is too talented and has too much upside to not be looked at, and with his vertical leap (85cm running) and acceleration (2.925 seconds 20m sprint), Georgiades is a headache for any defender. Once the air space is clear and there is a body in front of him, expect the high-flying forward to sit on their head and bring the ball down. While he has not been able to show any improvements this year due to injury, he could also improve his defensive attributes, with few tackles despite his obvious athletic talent. In terms of what he offers offensively however, Georgiades can be a dominant goal kicker both in the air and at ground level and be that X-factor that sets him aside from other tall forwards in this draft.

#50 Charlie Comben
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Forward/Ruck
20/07/2001 | 199cm | 84kg

A versatile player who could well end up as a key forward and second ruck, Comben is capable of playing either role to a high standard. His ruck craft itself is good, and his second efforts at ground level such as laying a follow-up tackle or providing a block or shepherd is impressive. He can float forward and lead out of the goalsquare with sticky hands and an ability to crash a pack if needed. He has had his fair share of injuries over the journey so is arguably a tad behind on his development. But the fact he has come such a long way in his top-age year means Comben has plenty of upside for the future and is one who clubs can look to for the long term if they are after a bigger body up forward who can play that second ruck role to a t. Could be the second ruck picked in the AFL Draft, depending on how clubs view his progress against Bryan’s and what they are looking for, but we have him here due to his versatility and greater consistency over the season, as well as impact at the Under-18 National Championships for Vic Country.

#49 Liam Delahunty
GWS GIANTS/Allies | Forward/Defender
13/02/2001 | 192cm | 91kg

A member of the GWS GIANTS Academy, where Delahunty ends up on draft night will be interesting considering the GIANTS’ picks in this year’s draft. With Pick 6 likely to be Tom Green, Delahunty could be matched with one of the later picks, potentially 59 or 60. If the GIANTS choose to trade up to grab a second elite talent to avoid using Pick 6 on Green, then matching Green with their few picks, they might struggle to match a bid. Either way, Delahunty has shown enough to suggest a club could use a player of his services, with his kicking ability and reliability up forward – or in defence at times. He is a strong mark and covers the ground well, and while he is undersized, he could develop into a midfielder with time if required, and given his smarts could be very handy there. He could improve his accumulation numbers from ground level with the majority of his touches coming from marks. Once he develops that area of his game, he can have an equal impact at ground level as he can in the air.

#48 Karl Finlay
North Adelaide/South Australia | Tall Defender
14/07/2001 | 193m | 90kg

The Under 16s Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner from the championships two years ago, Finlay has remained consistent across all areas. While his ground balls and decision making at times could improve, his work without the ball is top notch, able to intercept at will across half-back. He will likely play as that third tall defender, and has superb agility for a player of his size, and captained his school, Prince Alfred College (PAC) during the season. He reads the play well and is a dominant one-on-one player who could play from early on in his career if given the chance, but still has those areas to work on and will undoubtedly do so. A potent defensive weapon, Finlay might be the awkward size at 192cm, but he is a two-way player, nullifying an opponent and creating drive from half-back.

#47 Noah Cumberland
Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies | Forward
15/03/2001 | 183cm | 79kg

A player we at Draft Central are a fan of, Cumberland has some seriously great athletic traits. In particular his break-neck speed coming off a flank or charging down the ground, recording a 2.931-second 20m sprint and 8.208-second agility test at the National Draft Combine. Tied to the Lions’ Academy, Cumberland could well be the first Lion bid on in the AFL Draft, and his versatility and high upside would be something attractive to the club and other clubs. He is a great pressure player as well, with his aggression at both the ball and opponent, and with ball-in-hand or without. He averaged almost five tackles a game at the championships, and while he will want to lift his accumulation and kicking consistency – he averaged just the 11 touches per game – he has some great traits from which a club can develop.

#46 Brock Smith
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Defender
13/03/2001 | 189cm | 82kg

As reliable and competitive as they come, Smith is a defender who can play both offensive and defensive roles, and almost always achieve the team requirement of him by the end of the game. Rarely having a game where he does not in some part contribute, Smith will attack contests without fear for his own safety, and also provide rebound out of the back half. He ticks a lot of boxes across the board, and while he could improve his speed, and add more dimensions to his game up the ground, his flexibility to play against taller or smaller opponents is a bonus. His one-on-one strength helps him take on the stronger players, while his competitive nature helps him challenge those with greater athletic traits. His rebounding and intercept marking, as well as his penetrating kick are other features of his game, and he is a player who will be loved by teammates, but bemoaned by opposition players.

#45 Dyson Hilder
North Adelaide/South Australia | Key Defender
31/03/2001 | 196cm | 91kg

There are not too many readymade key defenders in this AFL Draft, which makes Hilder a unique prospect for clubs. If an AFL club is contending and needs a key position player who is more prepared to tackle senior footy earlier in his career, then Hilder looms as a value mid-draft option. While he is not as agile as some others, and could work on his ground ball craft, Hilder is strong in the air, and composed with ball-in-hand in defence. Much like his North Adelaide teammate Finlay, Hilder has experienced all three levels of SANFL football this year, with eight games at Reserves level his predominant grade. He was as reliable as they came for South Australia at the national carnival, and is a nullifying defender who can take an opposition forward out of the game, averaging almost five marks from 12.5 disposals per game at the championships.

#44 Cooper Sharman
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Forward
25/07/2000 | 192cm | 79kg

Another player who is difficult to rate and could go anywhere from 30 to 60 is Sharman, who had plenty of highlights this year since joining the Oakleigh Chargers program. Having made the move from New South Wales to Victoria and playing out at Balwyn, Sharman burst onto the scene with a few hauls of goals, including four against Eastern Ranges in a tight game. His goal kicking accuracy and marking is quite impressive, and while he has to build his endurance and other areas of his game to be more of a complete package, Sharman has that upside which clubs will hope to harness. For a player of his size with his smarts and X-factor, Sharman could play that third tall role inside 50 and with his athleticism, he is able to play as a leading forward out of the square.

#43 Jack Mahony
Sandringham Dragons | Small Midfielder/Forward
12/11/2001 | 178cm | 72kg

A smart player who knows how to find the ball and use it delicately to hit targets over short distances like very few can, Mahony is a bit of a unique option as a small utility. Predominantly used in the forward half, Mahony is still light, but can compete with players in contested situations, and with his footy IQ and creativity, Mahony rarely makes too many mistakes by hand or foot. In saying that, his size will always come into question as a sub-180cm player, with Mahony lacking that explosiveness that others have playing a similar role. He will likely become that half-forward who can rotate through the middle, mainly because of his ability to pinpoint players inside 50 with sharp 45-degree kicks in between a host of opponents. Importantly, Mahony does not try and go for too much outside his limitations and therefore is highly influential with the game he employs.

#42 Trey Ruscoe
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Defender
03/11/2001 | 192cm | 87kg

A bit undersized to be a key defender at the elite level, Trey Ruscoe has proven to be a player who can easily play that role in the WAFL Colts, and while that is against lighter bodies, he will be challenged to do so against bigger-bodied forwards. In saying that, Ruscoe has great strength and the skills to also play as a running half-back. He has spent time in the midfield which is an area he can further develop and potentially become a readymade inside midfielder who can have an influence around the stoppages. Ruscoe is ultra-competitive and positions himself well in the defensive 50, but could play a midfield-defence hybrid role with his running capacity and versatility to play either position.

#41 Darcy Chirgwin
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
25/07/2001 | 191cm | 80kg

A good sized inside midfielder who might be somewhat underrated compared to his peers due to injury issues that ruled him out of early season games then was injured in the opening quarter of his Under-18 Championships match. What he offers to a club is a big body with an appetite for winning the ball in the contest. His disposal (24.7), clearance (5.2) and tackling (7.9) numbers are right up there with the best, and his defensive approach to the game will certainly win him over at AFL level. His outside game and athleticism could do with some work, as could his ability to hit the scoreboard, but lock him in to be a inside midfielder who can provide a presence around the stoppages, especially once he has added more size to his frame in the coming years.

NAB League Boys team review: Gippsland Power

AS the NAB League grand final approaches, we take a look at the sides that are no longer in contention for the title; checking out their draft prospects, Best and Fairest (BnF) chances, 2020 Draft Crop and a final word on their season. The next side we look at is the Gippsland Power.

Position: 2nd
Wins: 11
Losses: 4
Draws: 0

Points For: 1091 (Ranked #4)
Points Against: 856 (Ranked #3)
Percentage: 122.90
Points: 44

Top draft prospects:

Caleb Serong

The hard-nosed and aggressive ball winner was outstanding in each of his five NAB League outings spilt at either end of the season, while also performing for Geelong Grammar and Vic Country in a high quality year of football. Serong is competitive and his standards are high, helping him get the best out of himself in his time at the Power. He could well be the third player taken after Oakleigh’s two stars, offering goals up forward or a reliable midfield asset to whichever club he ends up at.

Sam Flanders

Flanders’ stocks have risen on the back of a massive finals campaign where he proved he can take big games by the scruff of the neck and make them his own. His combination of inside work and forward prowess makes him a rare prospect, and one who is now pushing the likes of Serong to feature among the top five picks. Explosive yet clean, Flanders has lived up to all expectations coming into the year and has definitely added to the high-flying forward profile he built in his bottom-age season.

Others in the mix:

The leading Country side this year in terms of draftable talent, Gippsland should have a good number of players taken throughout each round. Tall forward/ruck Charlie Comben has shown great improvement to thrown his name in the hat, with skipper Brock Smith a consistent figure throughout the year who missed the back end due to injury, and Riley Baldi is another mainstay who proved his worth. Fraser Phillips is a dynamic forward with huge upside who should also be in the mix alongside classy outside movers Leo Connolly and Ryan Sparkes. The form of Hawthorn NGA prospect Harrison Pepper will give the Hawks something to think about come November, too.

BnF chances:

Flanders’ impact on each game he played will put him right up there despite playing less games than others, while the likes of Connolly, Tye Hourigan, Sam Berry and the Baldi brothers enjoyed consistent patches throughout the middle of the year to give them good chances of getting up.

2020 Draft Crop:

While the class of 2019 has been incredibly strong, the Power has been able to blood a good number of bottom-agers this year which bodes well for sustained form in 2020. Midfield bull Berry and exciting forward/wingman Ryan Angwin lead the charge at this stage, with versatile tall Zach Reid another with plenty of promise. The likes of Will Papley, Tom Fitzpatrick and Tyran Rees saw plenty of action in their bottom-age years too, so should feature heavily again next time around.

Final word:

Gippsland Power will be disappointed they ultimately fell one win short of the decider again, but still had plenty to enjoy this season with a number of draft prospects stepping up and having most of the Vic Country squad this year. The Power were the only Country side in the top seven teams, and they still have some bottom-age talents who will look to take the next step up in 2020. Expect another strong season next year with some important roles filled already based on their form this year.

Scouting notes: NAB League Boys – Preliminary Finals

THE Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers advanced to the NAB League grand final after comprehensive preliminary final victories on Saturday at Princes Park. Before they do battle at the same venue a week later, we take a look at the standout combine invitees and under-agers players from all of the final four sides in our opinion-based scouting notes.

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Sandringham Dragons

Oakleigh Chargers:
By: Ed Pascoe

#4 Nick Bryan

Bryan had one of his better games for the year hitting 15 disposals in a game for the first time. Despite looking calm with the ball around the ground some of his kicks where rather laconic so there is certainly room for improvement there. His hitout work again was great, often giving his midfielders first use. Bryan finished the game with 15 disposals, five marks and 21 hitouts.

#5 Trent Bianco

The Oakleigh captain was again all class for four quarters, patrolling the wing and back flank, winning plenty of the ball and using it incredibly well. Bianco’s kicking especially on both feet is perhaps one of the best in the NAB League as he often picks the right option and weights his kicks perfectly – one kick he had inside 50 in the third quarter was particularly sublime. Bianco had a complete performance finishing the game with 27 disposals, six marks, five tackles and five inside 50s.

#8 Noah Anderson

Anderson was kept goalless for the first time this year in Oakleigh’s first final but he was back to his damaging best kicking three goals and making it look easy. Anderson was again solid through the midfield showing great composure with ball in hand and using the ball well by hand and foot. Anderson’s first goal was a solid set shot from 45m and second was an easy goal running into open goal but his third was the best showing confidence to go back and kick a huge set shot from 55m. Anderson finished the game with 23 disposals, four marks and three goals.

#9 Will Phillips

Phillips backed up his impressive game in the first final to once again make an impact in the preliminary final, showcasing his ability to find the ball and use it well, also showing great movement in traffic and composure with ball in hand. Phillips has been playing mostly on the wing where he does well but he looks most natural winning his own ball and exiting the stoppages with his acceleration out of traffic and ability to weave through congestion and hit a target by hand or foot. He can also impact the contest with his strong tackling which he also showcased against Sandringham, Phillips finished the game with 27 disposals and eight tackles.

#11 Matt Rowell

Rowell had a slow start but finished the game extremely strongly as usual with his work rate first class, ability to attack the contest all day and tackle hard as well. Rowell just continues to power through with his strength at the contests and willingness to win the ball and extract it for is teammates but he works equally as hard to cover the ground and help out. Rowell showed off his great acceleration getting away from his opponent but just missing a goal on the run, it was a tough kick and the effort to even get the kick away was eye catching. Rowell finished the game with 32 disposals, five marks, six tackles and five inside 50s

#15 Kaden Schreiber

Schreiber enhanced his draft stocks with an eye catching display on the wing winning plenty of the ball and showcasing his ability to hit targets with his trusty left foot. Schreiber started the game well getting involved willing to get his hands dirty and although his handballs at times lacked penetration he did well to get in positions to bring teammates into the game. Schreiber was a solid four-quarter player winning plenty of the ball and working well offensively and defensively showing good courage with an intercept mark in defensive 50. Schreiber finished the game with 24 disposals and eight marks.

#25 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Another dominant outing from the 2020 draft prospect who is tied to the Western Bulldogs’ NGA, the talented key forward was again the clear standout key forward with his speed off the lead and marking power too much for Sandringham to handle. Ugle-Hagan had a great start taking two great lead up marks an converting both set shots but his best goal came in the third quarter marking deep in the pocket and kicking a sensational goal right on the siren. His last goal came easy in the last quarter with a mark and quick kick in the goal square. Ugle-Hagan finished the game with 12 disposals, nine marks and kicked 4.2 with a few on the full as well.

#29 Finlay Macrae

It would seem a second Macrae is on the horizon in the AFL with 2020 prospect Finlay playing a fantastic game showing his class and composure. Macrae’s best bit of play came in the second quarter selling a bit of candy before kicking a perfect pass inside 50 to teammate Cooper Sharman, Macrae found it easy to find space around the ground and use the ball superbly by hand and foot. Macrae finished the game with 22 disposals, nine marks and six inside 50s.

#73 Cooper Sharman

Despite not having a huge game Sharman was able to showcase why he was invited to the national combine with some great bits of play and showing his solid set shot technique. His first goal came from a free kick in the second quarter converting an easy set shot from 30m and he kicked the last goal of the game from a great pass from teammate Will Phillips then converting the set shot from a slight angle. Sharman looked at his best early in the game presenting up the ground and showing some nice plays on the wings. Sharman finished the game with seven disposals and two goals.

Sandringham Dragons:
By: Craig Byrnes

#2 Darcy Chirgwin

The tall midfielder started at the first centre bounce and began the contest really well, gathering 11 disposals in the opening quarter. His hands were clean and he moved through traffic with ease at times, highlighted by a couple of stylish side steps. He made an awful error late in the first term, turning the ball over in the defensive 50, but there was certainly more good than bad. As Oakleigh took control in the second and third quarters, Chirgwin wasn’t sighted as often, but he finished the game off well to end with a respectable 22 disposals.

#4 Finn Maginness

It was an uncharacteristically quiet game from the Hawthorn father-son prospect, who struggled to get involved when Oakleigh was on top. When he did win the ball, he was able to get clear from the stoppage and get the ball long inside 50 on occasions. There were times when he lacked options though, which lead to him being chased down in the corridor during the third term. He would only finish the game with 13 disposals, but he has shown more than enough throughout the year for the Hawks to know they have a good one on their hands.

#5 Ryan Byrnes

On a dirty day for the Dragons, the prolific Byrnes still found a way to get involved and win plenty of the footy. He just knows how to get in ball winning positions and is often used as a dangerous conduit to enter the forward 50. He possesses underrated pace from congestion and uses the ball well on either side of his body. As we have become accustomed to, Byrnes finished the day as Sandy’s leading ball winner with 23.

#6 Miles Bergman

This guy is a really exciting talent. Starting forward, Bergman took a strong mark on the lead in the first term before launching a set shot goal from outside 50. It was an impressive start and while he didn’t win mountains of the ball, the eye catching AFL attributes continued to emerge as the day went on. Some smooth movement through traffic in the second term was not long followed by a lace out 55 metre pass inside 50 to set up a goal to Hugo Ralphsmith. During a play in the second half, he sold some candy and side stepped an opponent without fuss, before kicking long to advantage. You can add courage to his list of qualities too, as he threw himself with the flight of the ball to impact an aerial contest late in the day, despite his side being done and dusted. 14 touches and a goal doesn’t sound too exciting, but Bergman passes the eye test with flying colours.

#11 Hugo Ralphsmith

It was a tough day for a Sandringham forward to get involved, but Ralphsmith always looked a likely option whenever the ball entered his area. He attacked the aerial contests and got in dangerous scoring options when Sandy won the ball forward of centre. He took some nice overhead marks and could have easily finished with more than one goal, kicking three behinds of which a couple were very convertible set shots. His one goal was a stylish banana finish though, after being on the end of a superb Bergman hit.

#13 Louis Butler

The ball winning half-back did not start the game in great fashion, missing an easy target in the pocket which resulted in a goal for Oakleigh. From then on his ball use was much better, picking out safe options in the corridor and down the line. He spent more time in the midfield as time went on, winning a couple of excellent ground balls in the final term with his head over the ball. He finished the game with 19 disposals.

#14 Kyle Yorke

Yorke is a bit of an old school key position forward who can mark, kick and importantly has some goal sense. Playing in front, he took an easy overhead mark in the first quarter and converted the set shot from close range directly in front. In the second term he got involved again, collecting the ball in the left hand pocket and superbly executed a dribble kick from the angle for a second.

Eastern Ranges vs. Gippsland Power

Eastern Ranges:
By: Ed Pascoe

#7 Lachlan Stapleton

It was another typical game from Stapleton, showcasing his hard edge at the contest in winning the contested ball and tackling hard to once again be an important cog in the Eastern Ranges midfield. Stapleton was a strong four-quarter player, putting his body on the line all day and moving quickly to either win the ball at a stoppage or hit the opposition with a hard tackle. Stapleton finished the game with 22 disposals, eight tackles and four inside 50s in a great performance to keep enhancing his draft stocks.

#11 Mitch Mellis

Mellis was again a hard worker for Eastern Ranges, setting the standard with his two way running and willingness to take the game on and create. Mellis although not hitting the scoreboard as much as recruiters would like is doing great work to set up countless forward forays with his speed with ball in hand. Mellis finished the game with 21 disposals and four tackles.

#13 Jamieson Rossiter

Rossiter again was Eastern’s main target up forward and once again was able to hit the scoreboard and make an impact from his limited disposals. He came out with good intent with a strong tackle inside 50 to lock the ball in and soon after would take a nice lead up mark and slot the set shot from 25m with not much angle. He would set up a goal in the third quarter with a nice turn and handball to Jordan Jaworski running into open goal and he finished his game converting a set shot from a downfield free kick. Rossiter finished the game with nine disposals, four marks and two goals.

#19 Wil Parker

The young defender Parker was cool, calm and collected with his ball use a real feature coming out of defence. Often tasked with the kickouts, his ability to sum up his options and hit a target was superb. Not just a designated kicker and runner, he also showed he could take an intercept mark with a well read mark in the first quarter. Parker’s composure was sensational, often picking the right option instead of blazing away and his ball use from defence was a big reason for Eastern winning the game. The talented Parker finished the game with 23 disposals, six marks and eight rebounds.

#20 Connor Downie

The Hawthorn NGA prospect for the 2020 draft continued his fine form in this years finals series with another stellar game on the wing, showcasing his ability to get around the ground and cause havoc with his silky left boot and marking ability across the ground. Downie would show his class with a long goal on the run from 50m in the second quarter after receiving a handball from a teammate, and Downie glides across the ground well and looks to have great athleticism to go with his skill. Downie finished the game with 18 disposals, six inside 50s and a goal.

#52 Tyler Sonsie

The 16-year-old sensation would get a rude awakening getting matched up on dour defender and Gippsland captain Brock Smith, showing how dangerous Sonsie can be to get the quality defender to curb his influence. Smith ruffed up Sonsie early not giving him an inch and testing the young player, but Sonsie would show his class with a brilliant pick up and turned his opponent inside out to hit a nice kick out wide. Smith would sit out the rest of the game, which allowed Sonsie off the leash to quickly hit the scoreboard in the second term for only a behind, he would finally kick a goal in the last quarter with a nice snap, and Sonsie finished the game with 11 disposals while kicking 1.2.

Gippsland Power:
By: Craig Byrnes

#2 Caleb Serong

Serong started the game hot, collecting numerous inside possessions in the opening minutes and getting in ball winning positions. He used his body to advantage and got the ball forward when he could. He gave his side a sniff in the second term, running down an opponent inside 50 before converting the set shot to get Gippsland within a goal. As the Ranges took control, Serong’s influence lessened, but he hit the scoreboard again late to finish with a respectable 21 disposals and two goals. He has almost locked himself a top five position now and is a big chance to be playing senior footy early 2020.

#4 Sam Flanders

It was another bullocking performance by Flanders who has enhanced his reputation further with a massive finals series that may now have him in top five contention. He was explosive at the stoppages, at one point handballing to himself (I’m not sure whether deliberately or not to be honest) before collecting and kicking long inside 50. He’s become a genuine two-way midfielder now and has a natural feel on how to impact the contest offensively and defensively. Flanders has much improvement to come in an AFL environment too, he is going to be great fun to watch develop.

#6 Riley Baldi

The inside midfielder was solid at the contest again, but was arguably more influential on the spread as he won the ball on the flanks and made good decisions. He isn’t blessed with pace, but makes up for that with smarts and finds a way to get away from his opponents. He has courage in the air too, going back with the flight during the second quarter to impact a contest. He finished with 23 disposals to match his NAB League average and prove again how reliable he is.

#15 Ryan Sparkes

Sparkes has had some great games throughout 2019, but I feel Saturday’s effort was one of his best for the season. Starting on the wing, he ran hard up and down the ground to provide a target or impact any contest he could. He won a brilliant ground ball in the second term, before kicking long inside 50 to advantage in a rare Power attacking foray. When Brock Smith went down with a shoulder injury in the first half, Sparkes took it upon himself to help out in the back half. He seemed to intercept and rebound at will in the fourth term, impacting aerial contests and running offensively when the opportunity presented. One of Gippsland’s highlights on a disappointing day, finishing with 26 disposals.

#17 Charlie Comben

It certainly was not one of Comben’s better days, but he wasn’t alone. He took an excellent reaching contested mark in the first term, but that was about as good as it got for Comben. Riley Smith had the better of him in ruck, while he lacked supply inside the forward half. Despite that, I love what he offers and I doubt there are many more talls in the draft who have a higher ceiling. An AFL club could land themselves a bargain here.

#19 Fraser Phillips

The highly talented Phillips was in and out of the contest, but provided some eye catching moments as he always does. He took a nice lead up mark early and a long running kick inside 50 during the first term. He earned a 50m penalty and kicked a vital goal after the siren on three quarter time to keep Power alive, but couldn’t have an impact in the final term. Didn’t have the finals series he would have liked, but was one of the leading goal kickers in the NAB League with 28 majors and has the scope to develop rapidly once in that AFL environment. He has many admirers.

#37 Harrison Pepper

Another outstanding final by the thick set defender, who has come to life and given recruiters (particularly Hawthorn) a bit to ponder over the coming months. He got Gippsland on the board in the first term with a long running goal that lifted spirits after Eastern kicked the first two. He had long metres gained, highlighted taking an intercept mark in defensive 50 and playing on to run through the corridor and get the ball forward fast. His body positioning was excellent to win the ball or protect a teammate. He had genuine claims to be Gippsland’s best and carried the flag on a day when his side had minimal winners.

Eastern punches grand final ticket with five-goal win

MINOR premier Eastern Ranges advanced to the NAB League grand final with a 30-point win over the Gippsland Power at Princes Park. The Ranges fought off every Gippsland challenge to run out comfortable winners in the end, claiming the 10.8 (68) to 5.8 (38) result.

In a slow opener, it was Eastern who edged ahead through goals from Jamieson Rossiter and Jordan Jaworski, with a long-range major to Harrison Pepper splitting the two Ranges efforts. The midfield battle was tight, with Gippsland’s key ball winners doing everything in their power to give their forwards first use. But the Ranges continued to get on top as the scrum-like contest wore on, working hard in general play to lock the ball in their half and create the better opportunities. Their chances were not all taken though, with the 11-point half-time lead not looking nearly as comfortable as the Ranges did out on the field and something they could have gone on to rue. In another two goals to one term, Caleb Serong’s set shot goal was Gipplsand’s sole response to majors from Todd Garner and a beauty from Connor Downie at range heading into the main break.

It took a while for the shackles to break after half-time too, but the Ranges made a brief spell of dominance count as Joshua Clarke broke the early deadlock while Jordan Jaworksi and Callum Norris followed suit. With the margin stretched out to 30 points the Power needed a lift. It came in the form of Sam Flanders up the field, with Nicholas Prowd almost an unlikely hero with two chances on goal, settling for the one major. A silly 50m penalty to Fraser Phillips gave Gippsland a sniff as he converted after the siren. In a familiar scene, it took until the six minute mark of the final term for a goal to be scored, and it came through Ben Hickleton to make things really tough for Gippsland. It was soon all over as Tyler Sonsie slotted home the sealer after Charlie Comben missed the chance to instantly reply, with Rossiter booting another and Serong adding his second just before the final siren.

Lachlan Stapleton led the charge with an equal game-high 28 touches, with bottom-age defender Wil Parker next best on 23 touches and Connor Downie impactful with his goal from 17 disposals. For Gippsland, it was the typical duo of Flanders (28 disposals) and Serong (21 disposals, two goals) who stood up, while Pepper was terrific in defence.

EASTERN RANGES 2.1 | 4.3 | 7.4 | 10.8 (68)
GIPPSLAND POWER 1.2 | 2.4 | 4.7 | 5.8 (38)

GOALS:

Eastern – J. Rossiter 2, J. Jaworski 2, T. Sonsie, B. Hickleton, J. Clarke, C. Downie, T. Garner, C. Norris.
Gippsland – C. Serong 2, N. Prowd, H. Pepper, F. Phillips.

ADC BEST:

Eastern – L. Stapleton, W. Parker, C. Downie, J. Clarke, J. Ross, M. Mellis
Gippsland – S. Flanders, R. Sparkes, H. Pepper, C. Serong, S. Berry, Z. Reid

NAB League Boys 2019 Preliminary Final preview: Eastern Ranges vs. Gippsland Power

EASTERN RANGES (1st, 12-3) vs. GIPPSLAND POWER (2nd, 11-4)
Saturday September 14, 1.30pm
Ikon Park, Carlton North

Match Preview:

Minor premier Eastern Ranges takes on second-ranked regular season side Gippsland Power on Saturday for a spot in the NAB League Grand Final.

Comfortable winners in their semi final, the Power come in as one of only two teams to have beaten the Ranges this season – all the way back in Round 6. Both sides were at relative full strength that day and with similar lineups set to take the field in this clash, the 10-point difference in May points toward another flip of the coin kind of result. Notorious for their evenness across the board, the Ranges have benefitted from remaining almost untouched in terms of disruptions to their starting 23, which conversely is something Gippsland has been forced to work through with its wealth of top-end representative talent.

Power skipper Brock Smith, who has been named in the side after missing the past two weeks with illness, was his side’s leading ball winner in Round 6, and his addition to the line-up would be more than welcome in countering Eastern’s forward threats. Jamieson Rossiter is one Ranges forward hitting peak form at the right time, with the likes of Ben Hickleton and Billy McCormack also worth their salt around goal. The Power will have their own threats up the other end in Charlie Comben, Josh Smith, and Fraser Phillips, with both sets of defences to be stretched for height given the depth of tall options, so expect the second and third leading options to get involved.

It is the midfield battle where the game will be decided though, with Eastern’s reliable trio of Mitch Mellis, Lachlan Stapleton, and Zak Pretty coming up against the star-power of Gippsland duo Sam Flanders and Caleb Serong. The Ranges’ engine room often outworks its opposition and finds a way through traffic via series of handballs, but the lockdown pressure and aggression from Flanders and Serong threatens to shut that movement down at the source. The Power’s midfield depth in the likes of Riley Baldi, Sam Berry, Ryan Sparkes, and Leo Connolly makes them tough to beat, but if any team has proven to outshine names on paper, it is Eastern.

There is hardly anything separating the final four and this fixture should prove it. If we could tip a draw, we would, so expect a tense contest with the consistency of Eastern grappling the X-factor Gippsland’s match-winners can bring.

Prediction: Eastern by 5 points.

Key match-ups:

Zak Pretty vs. Sam Flanders

As already discussed, the midfield battle will be the one that wins the war. Similar in shape and size, Pretty and Flanders present a perfect match-up as ironically two of the bigger midfielders on the park for either side. Flanders has reminded us of his forward craft of late, and snuck inside 50 well last time out against the Ranges to boot two goals from 25 disposals. The Eastern midfielders arguably won’t afford him the same luxuries this time, and Pretty is one of many Ranges extractors who can match Flanders in going both ways. Both players tackle hard and win the ball at will, making this a battle that could decide which forward line gets first use. Expect to see Flanders’ explosiveness from the stoppages, countered by Pretty’s shrewd vision and handballs out to runners.

Connor Downie vs. Ryan Sparkes

With the majority of finals action played out in a contested manner, teams often look towards their outside runners to break the game open. Enter Downie and Sparkes. Often lining up on the wing, both players have the ability to rack up possessions on the outer and use it well going forward, with the wealth of inside midfielders in this game able to feed them both. The point of difference for the bottom-aged Downie is that he may be used off flanks at either end or even at the centre bounces, while Sparkes has very much found a home on the wing. Expect to see them line up on each other but find plenty of space on Ikon Park, breaking the lines and gaining serious meterage.

Head to Head:

2019:

Eastern Ranges – 0
Gippsland Power – 1

Overall:

Eastern Ranges – 24
Gippsland Power – 19

Teams:

EASTERN RANGES

B: 10. C. Black, 39. J. Nathan, 40. J. Hourihan
HB: 4. J. Clarke, 21. J. Ross, 19. W. Parker
C: 20. C. Downie, 7. L. Stapleton, 30. T. Edwards
HF: 11. M. Mellis, 18. B. McCormack, 52. T. Sonsie
F: 9. J. Duffy, 13. J. Rossiter, 27. J. Jaworski
R: 49. R. Smith, 23. Z. Pretty, 16. T. Garner
Int: 6. M. Brown, 14. L. Gawel, 36. B. Hickleton, 26. C. Norris, 41. K. Phelan, 59. B. Tennant, 45. M. Zalac
23P: 44. H. Keeling

In: K. Phelan, M. Brown, B. Hickleton

GIPPSLAND POWER

B: 24. B. Maslen, 14. T. Hourigan, 35. J. van der Pligt
HB: 37. H. Pepper, 22. Z. Reid, 12. B. Smith
C: 1. R. Angwin, 4. S. Flanders, 15. R. Sparkes
HF: 21. M. McGarrity, 33. N. Prowd, 20. H. Neocleous
F: 7. S. Berry, 16. J. Smith, 19. F. Phillips
R: 17. C. Comben, 6. R. Baldi, 2. C. Serong
Int: 30. T. Baldi, 40. T. Mann, 8. B. McAuliffe, 25. J. McGrath, 9. W. Papley, 29. T. Rees, 32. L. Williams
23P: 39. M. Hawkins

In: J. McGrath, T. Mann, M. Hawkins, W. Papley, B. Smith, L. Williams
Out: T. Fitzpatrick, L. Connolly, M. Bentvelzen