Tag: charlie comben

State Leagues wrap: COVID chaos and big boilovers

WHILE Victoria has descended into COVID chaos once more, state leagues rolled on in South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia with a bunch of intriguing results produced. While it was largely business as usual in the SANFL, there was a major boilover in the TSL, while the WAFL top five is firming as three teams continue to battle for top spot. We run you through all the results from around the nation and what they mean moving forward in this week’s state leagues wrap.

South Australia (SANFL):

While Round 16 proceedings are currently under a COVID cloud, Round 15 went ahead without a hitch in the SANFL. There were two clashes between top five teams this past weekend, as ladder position counted for plenty with every higher-ranked side picking up full points across the five-game round.

At the top of the tree, Glenelg extended its perfect run to 14 games with an 18-point win over South Adelaide, who have now in lost three of their last four outings. A three-goal to nil opening term proved the difference, as the Bays put away another finals candidate. Matthew Snook (29 disposals, one goal), Luke Partington (26 and one), and Chris Curran (24 and one) were all prominent in yellow and black, while Bryce Gibbs managed 27 touches, 14 tackles and a goal in his 50th League match, fittingly against his old side.

Saturday’s other top five clash saw reigning premier Woodville-West Torrens power past Norwood, winning by 36 points on the back of a second half surge. The Eagles piled on nine of the last 10 goals after trailing at the main break, flexing their muscle forward of centre. James Tsitas and Mitch Grigg led the disposal count for either side with 29 touches apiece, while Tyson Stengle‘s two goals at the end of term three helped the Eagles push ahead.

Port Adelaide and Sturt remain in the hunt for finals after respective wins against the bottom two sides, though both came by a mere 13 points. The Magpies did enough to get past a plucky West Adelaide on Sunday, remaining one game out of the top five, while the Double Blues bettered Central District in a low-scoring slog to sit two games off the pace. North Adelaide was the weekend’s other winner, downing Adelaide by 54 points to strengthen its standing in third.

Tasmania (TSL):

Clarence has shaken up the TSL top four frame, defeating North Launceston by two points in a major boilover. The Roos led by a single point at half time and after extending the margin to eight come the final break, were made to reclaim the ascendancy via Colin Garland‘s boot at the death.

The result sees Clarence close to within a game of its weekend rival, as the Northern Bombers suffer rare consecutive losses in what was meant to be a celebration for player-coach Brad Cox-Goodyer‘s 200th game.

Brandon Leary booted four goals for the victors in a losing effort for the Northern Bombers, while Garland finished with three and James Holmes was named best afield.

Meanwhile, league leader Launceston escaped a similar scare against Tigers, snaring three goals to nil in the final term to sneak home by 13 points. The Blues trailed at every break after the hosts got the jump, but clawed their way back and pounced at the ideal time.

Fletcher Seymour and Cody Thorp (two goals) were among the victors’ best, while Luke Graham booted a game-high three majors for Tigers as Zach Adams claimed full votes.

In the weekend’s sole non-top four clash, Lauderdale powered past Glenorchy on the back of a 13-goal second half, saluting to the tune of 81 points. Leading a brigade of nine individual goalkickers for the Bombers was Edward Stanley (five), while Tyler Martin (four) and Allen Christensen (three) compounded their side’s scoreboard dominance.

Western Australia (WAFL):

East Perth inflicted the sole ladder change after Round 15 of the WAFL League season, jumping Perth in eight after its nine-point road win over the Demons. Former Carlton-listed pair Rohan Kerr (41 disposals, 10 marks) and Angus Schumacher (33 disposals, two goals) were prominent for the Royals, who held off Perth’s final term surge after leading by an even five goals at three quarter time.

A three-way tie for points from first to third remains after Claremont, Subiaco, and South Fremantle all claimed their ninth wins for the season. Subiaco still leads the way on percentage having defeated West Coast by 20 points, with 10 of the Lions 12 goals coming at one end of Leederville Oval.

Claremont isn’t far behind after downing Peel Thunder by nine points on Sunday, while South Fremantle’s 36-point win over Swan Districts proved a definitive result between finals contenders. Fremantle Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect Jesse Motlop debut for the Bulldogs, booting two goals from 13 touches.

West Perth came away as the round’s other winner after scraping past East Fremantle by five points, overcoming a half time deficit and near-costly inaccuracy to remain clean in fourth. The Falcons were served typically well by Aaron Black (38 disposals, nine marks), as Tyler Keitel and Lachlan Bailey booted four goals for their respective sides.

NSW-ACT / Queensland / Victoria (VFL):

Victoria’s recently-extended five-day lockdown saw Round 14 of the VFL scrapped, with the competition currently running on a week-by-week scheduling basis. Victorian teams which travelled to Queensland also had their official fixtures cancelled, though Essendon and North Melbourne combined their reserves to face Brisbane in a scratch match on Saturday. Returning Roos tall Charlie Comben impressed with four goals in that hit-out.

The VFL Women’s finals series has also been impacted, but the VFL says it remains committed to awarding a premier with just the preliminary and grand finals left to play.

Image Credit: Cory Sutton via SANFL

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 17 – Chargers, Ranges win thrillers amid dual triple-headers

ROUND 17 of the 2019 NAB League was split into two triple-headers, with the six Metropolitan sides going head-to-head at Avalon Airport Oval on the Saturday, while Queen Elizabeth Oval hosted the six Country regions on Sunday, and Tasmania enjoyed a bye. Top three challengers Oakleigh and Eastern won out in thrillers, with a certain number two pick dragging the Chargers home, while a gun Next-Generation Academy prospect snatched four points for the Ranges with a kick after the siren.

But the weekend’s action started with a clash between Western and Northern, a game which saw the Knights handle the conditions better to run our 32-point winners. The Jets could not take full toll of their promising start, booting 1.4 to Northern’s 2.2 in the first quarter, before the latter pulled away with six goals to nil in term two to set up a game-defining margin. There would be little scoring after that, with the sides combining for just five goals after half-time.

The competition’s two leading goalkickers went head-to-head, with Josh D’Intinosante booting four goals to Archi Manton‘s three, but the Jets forward taking out top honours for his season tally. Promising bottom-ager Nikolas Cox added two for Northern, while Adam Carafa (23 disposals) and Darcy Cassar (22) led the ball winning stakes for their respective sides. Josh Watson enjoyed a breakout game with 21 touches and a goal, and in a cool quirk, Carlton draftees Sam Philp and Josh Honey competed on opposite sides shortly before becoming teammates.

Things really ramped up in the following fixture, as Connor Downie‘s post-siren set shot helped Eastern nab a four-point win over Calder from nowhere. The Cannons looked to have poked their noses in front at the ideal time as the lead changed hands on multiple occasions throughout the match, but a two-goal margin in the final term was quickly reigned back. In a last roll of the dice play, Downie would win a free kick inside 50 and sink the resultant shot to break Calder hearts and seal the minor premiership.

Eastern’s Lachlan Stapleton was massive in the clutch moments, and finished with 23 disposals and two goals in a terrific display of heart. Calder’s Jake Sutton beat him out in the goalkicking department with three majors, while Carlton draftee Sam Ramsay (27 disposals) and Mitch Mellis (26) led all comers in terms of disposals amid their back-and-forth midfield battle. Essendon’s Harrison Jones also looked lively up forward, booting a goal from 17 disposals and four marks.

If spectators thought that game would be the peak of entertainment for the afternoon, they were in for a treat when Oakleigh and Sandringham took the field. 11 eventual draftees were in action, including the top two selections, in what was one of the highest quality Under 18 games in recent history. After Finn Maginness booted the Dragons out to a 29-point lead early in the final term, Noah Anderson stepped up with back-to-back majors to help put the Chargers in front, before Cooper Sharman sealed the remarkable comeback to see Oakleigh home by seven points.

The cream truly rose to the top, with Anderson’s match-winning efforts seeing him finish with 24 disposals and three goals. Potential 2020 number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was spectacular in the air in his four-goal display, while Matt Rowell wowed again with a mammoth 34 touches. Darcy Chirgwin led the way in that department for Sandringham with 30 disposals, but it was Maginness who stole the show with three goals from his 17 touches. Bottom-ager Archie Perkins also snagged a hat-trick of majors, as the wealth of talent on show made for scintillating viewing.

Fast forward to Sunday and switching over to the Country regions, Gippsland opened the show with a 10-point win over hosts, Bendigo at Queen Elizabeth Oval. In another heartbreaker, the Pioneers led at every break, albeit by slim margins, but faltered at the last as the Power surged home with 4.5 to the home side’s 3.0. The quality was evident in this clash too, with eight future draftees running out for their respective sides.

Among them, Fraser Phillips was one of six players on either team to boot two goals, also adding three behinds from his 19 disposals. Riley Baldi put in a terrific shift with a game-high 27 disposals and two majors, while Thomson Dow was among Bendigo’s best ball winners with 24 touches and a goal. Charlie Comben showed promising signs in his ruck/forward role, collecting 12 disposals, three marks, 13 hitouts, and 1.3, while a pair of Pioneers bottom-agers also fared well – with Jack Ginnivan and Seamus Mitchell both earning multiple goals.

Geelong notched just its third win of the season, accounting for reigning premier Dandenong to the tune of 31 points in a convincing effort. The Falcons shot to a five-goal buffer at half time and never looked back, extending the margin to an even 50 points heading into the final break, and coasting home despite the Stingray’s best efforts to claw back the deficit. Remarkably, the Falcons only registered one more scoring shot than their opponents, with their accurate 15.9 proving the difference when compared to Dandenong’s 9.14.

Charlie Sprague capped off his over-age season with a bang, booting six goals as the Falcons’ spearhead. Bottom-age jets Oliver Henry and Tanner Bruhn also contributed two majors each, while Dandenong’s Lachlan Williams (three goals) was his side’s most potent mover. Another 19-year-old, Will Lewis led all comers with 24 disposals, followed by Geelong captain Jesse Clark on 23. The likes of Hayden Young and Cody Weightman ran out for Dandenong, but could do little to thwart the Falcons’ emerging talents from taking hold.

The final game of the 2019 regular season saw the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels down Murray by 15 points in a relatively low-scoring affair, with neither side able to take full advantage of their opportunities. It mattered little in the end for the Rebels, who produced a greater wealth of chances throughout the day, while the Bushrangers could only manage a goal per the first three terms.

Glenelg recruit Mitch Martin snagged a game-high three goals from 17 disposals as the only multiple goalkicker afield, showcasing all of his individual quality. Fellow Rebel Cooper Craig-Peters led all comers with 24 disposals, while Jye Chalcraft (22 disposals) and Cam Wild (21) fared best for the Bushies. Draftees Jay Rantall and Lachlan Ash were kept to 20 and 19 touches respectively, while a bunch of Under 16 talent shone through for both sides.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 14 – Chargers, Power cut gap to Ranges

A SATURDAY double-header at Box Hill City Oval held massive finals ramifications in last year’s NAB League competition, kicking off Round 14 in style. Gippsland Power had Oakleigh to thank as the Chargers knocked off ladder leader, Eastern, seeing the two sides close within a game of top spot. Elsewhere, Sandringham kept pace with the leading pack after a thrilling win over Dandenong, while Northern and Calder got the better of their Country opponents, and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) knocked off Geelong. Western Jets enjoyed the bye.

Gippsland and the Tasmania Devils were first to take the field for the weekend, doing battle on neutral territory on Saturday morning. Having fallen just behind at the first break and jolted two goals ahead heading into the last, the second-placed Power found a spark when it mattered to leave Tasmania in their wake. A six-goal final term saw the Victorians coast to a 51-point victory, not indicative of the overall contest, but a sign of their irresistible form in full flight.

Twin talls Josh Smith and Charlie Comben contributed three goals each to the win, with skipper Brock Smith also booting a rare couple of majors from defence to go with 26 touches. Sam Flanders was the leading disposal getter on the day with 28, while fellow draftee Leo Connolly managed 23. Rhyan Mansell and Oliver Davis found the most ball for Tasmania en route to 18 disposals apiece, as the likes of Matt McGuinness (16 disposals, one goal) and Sam Collins (15, one) also fared well.

In the day’s later game, Oakleigh pegged back Eastern’s first quarter jump to get over the line by eight points in what would prove a Grand Final preview. The Chargers took toll in the two terms they held a wind advantage, booting 10 of their 12 goals in the second and fourth quarters to secure a massive result. While they regained the lead with under 20 minutes to play, the Ranges simply could not stop Oakleigh’s onslaught.

A forward from either side put four goals on the board, with Oakleigh 19-year-old Cooper Sharman, and Eastern’s Jordan Jaworski playing their parts. Port draftee Dylan Williams again proved a hero up forward with two important goals from eight touches in his final game for the year, with his co-captain Trent Bianco (34 disposals) the leading ball winner. Cricketing ace Wil Parker was Eastern’s best with 26 touches, while Oakleigh bottom-agers Lochlan Jenkins and Will Phillips also found plenty of the ball with 22 disposals each.

Fast forward to Sunday morning, and Sandringham was made to work for a seven-point win over Dandenong on home turf. After setting up an early lead and holding the ascendancy for the entire match, it seemed the Dragons would coast home to victory at 29 points to the good come the final break. But the Stingrays would not take the loss lying down, piling on five goals in the final 10 minutes to give the scoreless Sandringham an almighty scare.

Future Adelaide top 10 pick Fischer McAsey proved his swingman value in returning a three-goal effort, also dominating the airways with 10 marks. Ashton Williamson booted three majors for Dandenong, as Hayden Young managed two from his team-high 25 disposals. Angus Hanrahan led all comers with 35 disposals and a goal, while the likes of Ryan Byrnes (22 disposals) and Sam De Koning (16) stood strong against good opposition on either side.

Calder’s Bendigo road trip proved a fruitful one, as the Cannons raided the Pioneers’ territory to snatch all four premiership points. Bendigo held a slight advantage early, but could not quite do enough to match Calder’s constant scoreboard pressure. A four-goal to one second term in favour of Calder proved the defining period of play, with Bendigo matching their opponent otherwise in the 20-point defeat.

Diminutive Calder forward Jake Sutton booted a game-high three goals, while teammate and leading ball winner Harrison Minton-Connell notched two from his 34 touches in a day out, and Essendon draftee Harrison Jones also found the goals twice. Bottom-ager Jack Ginnivan repeated the feat for Bendigo alongside Will Wallace, while Ben Worme and Noah Walsh also hit the scoreboard from their team-high 20 disposals each. Carlton draftee Sam Ramsay (28 disposals, one goal) continued his hot form, and Sydney recruit Brady Rowles was kept to 12 touches.

Another Metro team to make the most of its road trip was Northern, who travelled to Shepparton to take on Murray. All of the damage was done in a 10-goal to three opening half from the Knights, as the home side struggled to claw its way back into the contest. The final margin sat at 27 points having gotten out to 44 in the third term, as Northern picked up its seventh victory.

A massive outing from small forward Josh D’Intinosante saw him bag six majors from 18 disposals in a sharp display inside forward 50, with leading target Liam McMahon booting three of his own. Skipper Justin Davies saw the most ball for Northern with 26 disposals alongside Sunny Brazier, with Carlton draftee Sam Philp managing 25. Murray’s co-captains stood up too, with Dylan Clarke (28 disposals) leading all comers, while number four pick Lachlan Ash kicked two goals from his 24. 16-year-old Josh Rachele also showcased his talent with two majors.

The GWV Rebels ensured they would continue the trend of away sides picking up wins, as they comfortably accounted for Geelong to the tune of 35 points. Like many of the Round 14 winners, GWV got off to an ideal start at Kardinia Park on the back of four goals to nil in the opening term. An inaccurate Falcons outfit spurned chances to get back into the match with 2.7 in the third term, as GWV kicked away with another four majors in the last to cruise to victory.

Collingwood slider Jay Rantall was among a quartet of Rebels to claim multiple goals, booting two alongside Glenelg recruit Mitch Martin, while Nick Caris managed a game-high four. 19-year-old Charlie Sprague added another three majors to his season tally for Geelong, while bottom-ager Noah Gribble had 28 disposals to lead all comers, and skipper Jesse Clark managed 25 in the losing effort.

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

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 11 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Gippsland Power and Tasmania Devils. In this edition, we wind back the clock just one year to relive a contest which was closely contested for three terms, before the Power kicked away late to secure a big win.

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

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

Goals:

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

Best:

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

Draftees in action:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 4 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Gippsland Power and Eastern Ranges. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019 when the teams played out a see-sawing affair in Morwell as the Power held on for victory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 3 clashes in the NAB League this year between Bendigo Pioneers and Gippsland Power. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019, which was the team’s most recent meeting that pulled out a classic in the final round of the year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classic Contests: Power pip Bushrangers in RAMS thriller

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest it is a clash between sides who would have played in Round 1 this year. Today we travel back in time to last year’s Round 1 encounter between the Murray Bushrangers and Gippsland Power who played out a thriller at windy Craigieburn.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 2.4 | 6.6 | 9.9 | 9.12 (66)
GIPPSLAND POWER 2.1 | 6.3 | 9.4 | 10.9 (69)

Round 1 | Sunday, March 24, 2019
RAMS Arena, Craigieburn, 1.00pm

Fresh optimism joined two country sides at Highgate Recreation Reserve for the start of a new season in 2019. The newly rebranded NAB League was about to get underway and Gippsland Power were considered one of the title contenders. The Power had been smashed in the previous preliminary final with the majority of their top-end players in their bottom-age year so there was much excitement about what they could produce in 2019. Murray was always a tough competitor and nearly always produced a hard-fought effort regardless of opponent. With a top five talent in Lachlan Ash co-captaining the side and one of Gippsland Power’s top talents in Caleb Serong out of the team for his respective side, it was anticipated to be a beauty, and the game did not let spectators down.

In what was ultimately a see-sawing affair for the most part, it was Murray that always seemed to have the upper hand when required. The Bushrangers led by three points at the first break and whilst they were missing some opportunities (booting 2.4), they were getting more looks on goal than their highly fancied opponents. The one player on the opposition side that was making life particularly difficult was Kyle Dunkley, who had crossed back to the Power having finished his schooling last year and missing out on being drafted after a season with Oakleigh Chargers. Seemingly making the transition from medium forward to inside midfielder, Dunkley was everywhere with a long-range goal a highlight in the first half. Up the other end, it was co-captain Cam Wilson who was keeping his side in front, with the Murray forward having a real day out roaming in and out of the forward 50 and providing a target despite being just 170cm. At one stage in the second term, Gippsland got out to an 11-point lead before the Bushrangers hit back to grab the advantage at the main break courtesy of a Wilson major.

The second half started and it was more of the same with both sides challenging and making it increasingly difficult to pick a winner. Gippsland seemed to be more on top by kicking consecutive goals, but again Murray would get back in front with Wilson’s third late in the term. By the final break, the Bushrangers led by five points, but were far from sage. In what would be an arm-wrestle of a last term, the Power would kick three consecutive behinds before Harrison Pepper broke free and converted a major to be the difference. With less than 10 minutes remaining, Gippsland had the eighth lead change, which would be the last. Another couple of behinds to the Power stretched the lead out to three points, with Murray doing most of the attacking in the dying few minutes to try and get a result. Jimmy Boyer and Jye Chalcraft both kicked behinds to get within three, and while the Bushrangers had the ball when the siren sounded, Will Chandler was just too far out to score, and played on with the sounding.

The game would ultimately throw Dunkley in the spotlight for his 21 disposals, six marks, seven tackles, three clearances, six inside 50s, two rebounds and three goals to land at Melbourne in the mid-season draft. In the absence of his partner-in-crime, Sam Flanders had a strong performance with 19 disposals, two marks, five tackles, six clearances, six inside 50s and three rebounds through the midfield, while Pepper – who would later become a defender throughout the year – booted two majors including the match-winner from 13 disposals, six marks and four tackles. Ryan Sparkes was the top ball-winner for the Power with 26 touches, three marks, four tackles, three inside 50s and eight rebounds, while future Lions talent and Power captain, Brock Smith had a solid 18 disposals, four marks, three clearances and four rebounds working tirelessly from defence. In terms of other future draftees who played, Leo Connolly (10 disposals), Fraser Phillips (five) and Charlie Comben (three) were all relatively quiet compared to their output later in the season. Talented bottom-ager Sam Berry also made his presence felt in the match, winning a team-high 13 contested disposals, and picking up 18 disposals, five marks, five tackles, four clearances, six inside 50s and a goal to arguably be second best behind Dunkley.

For the Bushrangers, it was the co-captains who led the way with Ash (24 disposals, eight marks, six tackles, two clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds showing off his slick skills, while Wilson finished with 21 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s and three goals in a best-on performance for the losing side. Dylan Clarke (24 disposals, five marks, four tackles, five clearances and five inside 50s) and Cameron Wild (22 disposals, five marks, three tackles, five inside 50s and four rebounds) mixed well on the inside and outside, while Boyer had 16 touches, three marks, five clearances, five inside 50s and two rebounds. Top prospect for 2020, Elijah Hollands looked ever-dangerous inside 50 but could not quite find the accuracy with the wind, recording 15 disposals, 10 marks, three tackles, four inside 50s and 1.3 for the day. He was far from alone though with Boyer (three behinds), Clarke (two) and Chandler (two) also missing opportunities. Another player who stood out in the loss was overage tall, Ben Kelly who racked up 14 touches, seven marks, 25 hitouts, three clearances, two inside 50s and four rebounds seemingly everywhere on the ground.

At the end of the season it was a similar story for Gippsland Power who ultimately suffered a disappointing defeat in the preliminary final after looking so impressive in week one of the finals against eventual premiers, Oakleigh Chargers. For Murray, the Bushrangers would go onto miss finals after bowing out in Wildcard Round to Dandenong Stingrays at Box Hill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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