Tag: cooper sharman

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.

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.

Draft Central Power Rankings: October 2019

AFTER a massive 2018 which saw so many talented players realise their dreams, we turn our attention to the 2019 AFL Draft crop. In the October edition of our monthly Power Rankings which is posted on the first Monday of every month, we extend out to the top 35 players at this stage of the year. So much can change over the next month, but the order is firming as combines are completed around the country. Take note that the order is based purely on opinion and ability, not on any AFL club lists or needs.

#1 Matt Rowell

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
01/07/2001 | 178cm | 75kg

Easily the most consistent player in the 2019 draft crop, having barely ever played a bad game. The inside midfielder is a tackling machine, averaging double-figure tackles at NAB League Boys level, while also racking up a massive 7.3 clearances per game. What is remarkable about Rowell is not only his ability to win the ball, but his ability to bring teammates into the game. Rowell is always looking to provide possession to a teammate in a better position, but when he needs to step up, Rowell is more than capable of finishing on his own. When at forward stoppages, Rowell has a nous of breaking away and snapping off his left as he did twice against Casey Demons on the MCG. There are plenty of candidates to the number one pick this year, but Rowell looks the 2019 equivalent of Sam Walsh – consistent across the board and just ticks all the boxes. He will spend the year playing school footy outside his National Under 18 Championships commitments before returning to the Chargers’ for their finals campaign.

September Ranking: #1

Last month: Had a terrific finals series for Oakleigh Chargers and capped off what was a massive, yet still unsurprising top-age year with a 44-disposal and 11-clearance NAB League Grand Final to lead the Chargers to a premiership. It was his second best on ground in the competition’s ultimate decider despite losing 12 months prior, but this year there was more cause for celebration, just like when he capped off the season with a Best and Fairest victory for the Chargers off just seven games.

#2 Noah Anderson

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder/Forward
17/02/2001 | 190cm | 87kg

In what was thought to be an anomaly last year with Henley High pairing Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine touted as potential pick one and two, Anderson and Rowell both attend Carey Grammar, making it a daunting combo for any other APS school. Anderson is different to Rowell in the sense he is taller, has the ability to break open a game in a quarter, and has a booming kick that easily travels greater than 50 metres. He has enjoyed a consistent start to the year and has not done too much wrong, with his field kicking an area he could improve on at times. When inside the forward half, Anderson is one of the most damaging prospects in the draft crop, and expect him to have an impact around goals at the National Under 18 Championships for Vic Metro. His game-breaking ability is as good as anyone’s in the draft crop.

September Ranking: #2

Last month: Became a premiership player with the Chargers this year and while he did not hit the scoreboard in two of his finals, still showed great strength on the inside, then dominated the preliminary final win over Sandringham Dragons, slotting three goals from 23 touches and four marks.

#3 Caleb Serong

Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Small Forward/Midfielder
09/02/2001 | 178cm | 83kg

A tireless worker, Serong missed the opening game of the NAB League season and has been working his way back into the year finding plenty of the ball around the ground. For a smaller player, Serong never takes a backwards step and seems to find the ball in all three areas of the ground, having plenty of influence around the stoppages, particularly in the forward half. He is very strong overhead and brings his teammates into the game. Both he and close mate, Sam Flanders lead the Gippsland Power charge for draftees in what should be a big year for them. Will miss most of the NAB League season due to school and state commitments, but will be a welcome return come finals time.

September Ranking: #3

Last month: Did all he could across the finals series for Gippsland, with the Power ultimately falling short once again this year. In the Power’s three finals, he averaged more than 25 touches per game, as well as four marks, five tackles, five inside 50s and booted three goals.

#4 Hayden Young

Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | General Defender/Inside Midfielder
11/04/2001 | 188cm | 82kg

One of the prime movers last season and a player who has the potential to be a deadly half-back. He has elite kicking skills coming out of defence, aided by the fact he has a penetrating kick that can clear 50m with ease. He just gets to the right positions and pushes up the ground where he takes a number of intercept marks. He will contest any marking contest regardless of opponent, and is a composed user in defence. He was tried in the middle early in the season, but his greatest influence is in the back half. After an okay start to the year without being anything dazzling, Young reminded everyone of his talent on the MCG, starring alongside Rowell and Anderson, taking a number of crucial intercept marks and setting up scoring plays. A hard edge with terrific kicking skills, Young is one to certainly keep in mind for Pick 1.

September Ranking: #4

Last month: Has not played since the last Power Rankings, but tested well at the National Draft Combine, beating his previous agility record in the pre-season but clocking a sub-eight second agility test last week.

#5 Lachlan Ash

Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | General Defender
21/06/2001 | 186cm | 80kg

Along with Young, Ash is the other standout Country prospect in defence. The Murray Bushrangers runner has few flaws to his game, owning the defensive 50 with a massive amount of intercept marks and rebounds, while slicing up opposition zones with his elite kicking ability. He is a player that just catches the eye, gets himself into the right positions, and can set up teammates around the ground or in attack. He has hardly put a foot wrong this season, and while his performance on the MCG had its ups and downs, his NAB League form is not to be questioned. The noticeable advantage with Ash compared to a lot of half-backs is he can win his own ball, and while he might only win a third of his possessions in a contest, he is comparably low with handball receives, almost winning more touches from marking than from handballs. If he and Young both play off half-back at the National Under 18 Championships, expect Country to have plenty of run and penetration.

September Ranking: #5

Last month: Has not played, but showed off his athletic capabilities at the National Draft Combine, doing well across the board including a sub-three second 20-metre sprint which would have not come as a surprise, but still showed what he is capable of from half-back.

#6 Sam Flanders

Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder/Forward
24/07/2001 | 182cm | 81kg

After playing as a damaging forward in 2018, Flanders has moved into the midfield this season and been one of the more prolific extractors. While it could be argued his greatest impact is around goals – where he seems to kick the impossible at times – he also has the nous in the midfield to find the ball at stoppages and kick long inside 50, or sweep the handball out to a running teammate. Gippsland has missed his influence and strength in attack, but he has added another dimension to a deep Power midfield. Flanders is a player who will divide draft watchers as he could be top five, or later first round depending on what you look at. He plays taller than his 182cm, and is strong overhead or at ground level. Another top-end Country prospect to watch this year.

September Ranking: #6

Last month: Since his qualifying final demolition of four goals in 10 minutes, Flanders had two very different games, with a quiet match against the Western Jets in the semi-final racking up just 18 touches and a goal – though seven tackles – before doing well against Eastern Ranges in the preliminary final despite the loss, with 27 disposals, five tackles and four inside 50s.

#7 Tom Green

GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Inside Midfielder
23/01/2001 | 188cm | 85kg

The inside hard nut has drawn comparisons to Patrick Cripps in the way he excels at the contested ball, bullying his way to a truckload of possessions and clearances. He has clean and quick hands on the inside and a long kick, while having no issues whatsoever finding the pill. In the opening few NAB League games, Green racked up an average of 33 disposals and 10.25 clearances, still going at more than 60 per cent efficiency despite running at greater than 60 per cent contested. Across the board he is very consistent – similar to Cripps – in order to have an influence on the contest. He will be the top pure tall inside midfielder in the draft, with adding more scoreboard pressure the key between Green and the likes of Rowell and Anderson.

September Ranking: #7

Last month: Has missed the past month with a knee injury.

#8 Dylan Stephens

Norwood/South Australia | Balanced Midfielder
08/01/2001 | 182cm | 70kg

Stephens is another lightly built midfielder who despite being just 70kg has forced his way into the SANFL League side for Norwood already in season 2019. Given the Redlegs’ tendancy to restrict kids from being exposed at the top level – see Luke Valente last year – it is a credit to Stephens – and teammate Taheny, to already earn their stripes. He has held his own too, admitedly playing a very outside game, but with many bigger bodies at the Redlegs, Stephens has terrific skills and moves well in transition, able to win the ball in midfield, take off and kick perfectly inside 50. He still has to add bulk to his frame, but he showed when taking on his peers he is capable of playing an inside role as well. Expect him to be the prime mover for South Australia at the Under 18 Championships and raise his stocks with a big couple of months.

September Ranking: #8

Last month: After his League side was eliminated from the SANFL premiership race, Stephens was brought into the Redlegs’ Reserves Grand Final side where he had 26 disposals, three marks, five clearances, five tackles, two inside 50s and three rebounds on his way to a premiership medal. He also tested strongly across the board at the National Draft Combine.

#9 Brodie Kemp

Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country | Tall Utility
01/05/2001 | 192cm | 82kg

Kemp is a player that will be looked at as a long-term prospect, and one who could be moulded into nearly anything. At 192cm, he has played a hybrid role over the past few years, rotating between attack and midfield, and even some time in defence. He knows how to hit the scoreboard and has a long kick but could tidy it up when at full-speed. His ability to get to the outside and move in transition is a strength. He is a smooth mover who looks like an outside player, but wins the majority of his possessions at the coal face. Another player who will miss the majority of the NAB League season due to his school football commitments, but will be one to watch at the National Under 18 Championships.

September Ranking: #9

Last month: Unfortunately for Kemp, he went down with an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear in July school game and missed the remainder of the season.

#10 Fischer McAsey

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Key Position Utility
11/04/2001 | 195cm | 86kg

McAsey is a key position defender who has played up the attacking end in previous years. He has found his place in the defence in 2019. and seems to be a settled player there not only doing well for Sandringham Dragons and at Caulfield Grammar, but stepping up for Vic Metro at the AFL Under 18 National Championships. He is considered one of the draft bolters this season, with not too many key position talls jumping up, McAsey is a player who is firmly putting his hand up as a top 10 prospect should his form continue, and he has plenty of traits to like. His intercept marking, athleticism and ball use by foot is very solid and does not have too many weaknesses across the board.

September Ranking: #10

Last month: Did not play after the first final, cited in a moon boot on semi-finals day for the NAB League. Still looms as the first key position player taken despite the injury ending his year.

#11 Luke Jackson

East Fremantle/Western Australia | Ruck
29/09/2001 | 197cm | 93kg

The athletic West Australian ruck picked Australian Rules over basketball last year despite donning the green and gold on the court. Jackson plays like an extra midfielder when moving around the ground and has been plying his trade at Colts level in the WAFL given the strength of ruck stocks at East Fremantle. Jackson looms as a potential first round pick, even though rucks are traditionally taken later. He would be viewed as a long-term prospect, and certainly if his two National Under 18 Championships games from 2018 are anything to go by, he has plenty of talent at his disposal. Clubs will like the fact he is not out of the contest once the ball hits ground level, and was solid against Casey Demons’ bigger-bodied rucks on the MCG. The standout ruck in the 2019 draft crop in a crop that does not have as many top-end talls as last year.

September Ranking: #11

Last month: Given East Fremantle Colts missed finals, Jackson has not been able to play since August but has enough runs on the board to give himself a first round chance.

#12 Will Gould

Glenelg/South Australia | Key Position Defender
14/01/2001 | 191cm | 98kg

The key defender is the player likely to be the big point of difference in the top-end of the rankings. At 191cm he is a tad undersized for a key position player, but he has the ability to play small or tall, and has been working on his tank to play midfield at times. He wins plenty of the ball at half-back and averages almost eight rebounds per game at League level for Glenelg – holding his own against bigger bodies and dropping into the hole with his game smarts reading the ball in flight well. He has leadership tendencies and captained the Australian Under 18s at the MCG against Casey Demons and will be a prime candidate for the South Australian job as well. Gould has put on seven kilograms since the championships last season, enabling him to take the more monster key forwards, and while he might still be undersized, he just competes and has a massive work rate which stands out each time he plays.

September Ranking: #12

Last month: Had a strong finish to the year for Glenelg in the finals series, taking home a premiership medallion after 18 disposals, four marks and eight rebounds in the Grand Final.

#13 Trent Rivers

East Fremantle/Western Australia | Balanced Midfielder
30/07/2001 | 189cm | 84kg

It is a good year for East Fremantle, with prospects basically growing on trees, and Rivers is another touted top 30 prospect along with Jeremy Sharp and Luke Jackson. Rivers is a natural-born leader who thrives on the contest and is as consistent as they come, racking up more than 20 disposals in most outings. He loves to tackle and put his body on the line, and is a crucial key to the midfield of Western Australia at the national championships. Unlike a lot of other top-end midfielders this year, Rivers has the size on him, standing at 189cm and 84kg, and readymade for senior football.

September Ranking: #13

Last month: Similar to Jackson, given East Fremantle Colts missed out on finals, Rivers has not played in the past month but still looms as one of the top couple of players to be picked from Western Australia.

#14 Trent Bianco

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Outside Midfielder
20/01/2001 | 176cm | 70kg

Arguably quite underrated given his size and the ability of his highly touted Oakleigh teammates, Bianco is one of the best ball users in the draft crop this season. Like Lachlan Ash, Bianco rebounds off half-back and can go into the middle when required, a place he will no doubt spend a lot of time this season having wrapped up his Year 12 studies last year. The co-captain of the Oakleigh Chargers is an outside ball user, and finding more contested ball could be an area he looks to in season 2019, but his skills are good enough that he could easily play as that outside user, especially considering his size. A versatile player, expect Bianco to be one of the Morrish Medal contenders this season when he is not running around for Vic Metro. He had a massive game against Tasmania Devils, racking up 42 disposals, although he did have seven clangers on the day. Keeps rising and despite being smaller, just finds the ball and uses it well more often than not.

September Ranking: #14

Last month: Captained his side to a premiership in the NAB League after a terrific finals series. After being tightly held early, Bianco got off the chain to finish with 29 touches, 10 marks and six inside 50s. This followed on from his 27 touches, six marks and five inside 50s in the preliminary final win over the Dragons.

#15 Finn Maginness

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
23/02/2001 | 187cm | 80kg

The underrated midfielder missed out on being included in the State Victorian Metro Academy, but has not let that get him down, performing strongly across the NAB League and school seasons, and working his way up the boards with some strong performances against the best players around the country. He has a nice sidestep that can get him out of trouble and wins a lot of the ball in close, with a few areas to iron out such as his kicking, but he has some great developing traits and plenty of future development. Most importantly, he can win the ball on the inside and extract it out, but can also play an outside role too.

September Ranking: #17

Last month: After a massive 32-disposal game which included a goal against Calder Cannons, Maginnes was quiet in the Dragons’ preliminary final loss to Oakleigh, amassing just 13 touches. He competed strongly in both the 20-metre sprint (2.957 seconds) and the yo-yo test (21.4 level) to finish top 10 and show off his blend of endurance and speed.

#16 Will Day

West Adelaide/South Australia | General Defender
17/01/2001 | 187cm | 70kg

The underrated South Australian utility has been one of the big improvers this season, showing off some nice signs at school football and then South Australia at the AFL Under 18 National Championships. Like Weightman, Day has been on the periphery of our Power Rankings the past two months, and after some solid performances at the national carnival, makes the list for July. Day has shown signs similar to last year’s bolter, Jez McLennan who had a good carnival and emerged as a top 30 prospect with nice foot skills and composure. Day can kick on either side of his body and is a good size at 187cm despite still being very light at 70kg.

September Ranking: #23

Last month: Finished off the finals series in the Under 18s side with 22 disposals, nine rebounds and four clearances in a losing West Adelaide team at the preliminary finals stage. His consistency across the year and lethal kicking skills were on show and have been real standouts this year. He also finished top 15 in the running vertical leap with a score of 83cm.

#17 Miles Bergman

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Midfielder/Forward
18/10/2001 | 188cm | 77kg

A talented mid/forward, Bergman is strong overhead and can have an impact anywhere inside 50 with a penetrating kick and eye for goals. Bergman is not a massive disposal winner, but can win a game off his own boot. He still has areas of consistency to work on, but in terms of medium forwards, Bergman has been one of the more consistent ones this year, and looms as a potential first round selection.

September Ranking: #15

Last month: Had a quiet semi-final against Calder Cannons with just four touches for the day, before being okay in Sandringham’s heavy loss to Oakleigh in the preliminary final, finishing with 14 touches, five marks, five tackles and a goal. At the National Draft Combine, Bergman topped the vertical jump with 77cm and came second in the running vertical jump with a massive 90cm.

#18 Liam Henry

Claremont/Western Australia | Outside Midfielder/Forward
28/08/2001 | 179cm | 67kg

A member of Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy, Henry is another lightly built midfielder who can go forward and impact a game inside 50. Henry has nice skills and slick athletic traits that help him work his way out of congestion while making good decisions with ball-in-hand. He does need to find a bit more of the football at times which is the next step, but he is a player who will rarely waste a possession and one who Fremantle fans would be excited to have on their list. Still has scope to develop further, and grow into his body at just 67kg and another sub-180cm midfielder. One who would be keen to finish off the year strongly – although perhaps Fremantle would prefer he kept it in check. A highly talented player.

September Ranking: #17

Last month: Unfortunately dislocated his knee in a school football match and has not returned since his impressive 26-disposal, six-mark, two-goal game in Round 14.

#19 Deven Robertson

Perth/Western Australia | Balanced Midfielder
30/06/2001 | 182cm | 80kg

The massive ball-winning midfielder from Western Australia was been a dominant force in the AFL Under 18 National Championships after injury last year, and has boosted his draft ranking after the carnival. He still has areas to tidy up such as kicking under pressure, but would stake a case of the most consistent player in the draft crop and you know exactly what you are going to get from him.

September ranking: #26

Last month: Robertson is done for the year, needing a shoulder reconstruction after dislocating his shoulder in the final championships game. One who has not lost out due to missing out on games with his consistency in big games the reason for his rise as others fall around him.

#20 Josh Worrell

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Key Position Utility
11/04/2001 | 193cm | 78kg

The Sandringham Dragons defender has had an impressive past few weeks after not having to do too much in the Dragons’ obliteration of Calder in the opening round of the NAB League season. On the MCG against Casey Demons, Worrell stood tall in defence, showing an ability to remain calm under pressure and use the ball well. At 193cm, Worrell will be a player that clubs look at differently, being that few cms smaller than the current trend for key position defenders, which is fine considering Worrell’s ability to provide run and carry out of defence. He is still lightly built, but he is strong overhead and has the potential to develop into a tall midfielder or one who roams off half-back and sets up attacking plays. A player who will spend the season at Haileybury College.

September Ranking: #20

Last month: His season is over after a shoulder injury sidelined him for the remainder of the 2019 season.

#21 Mitch O'Neill

Tasmania Devils/Allies | Outside Midfielder
21/02/2001 | 178cm | 69kg

The top Tasmanian prospect was an All-Australian in his bottom-age year, and has a nice blend of inside and outside capabilities. Given his lightly built frame, expect O’Neill to stick to the outside during the National Under 18 Championships, but he can win his own ball at the same time. He reads the taps well and is able to spread to the outside, pumping the ball inside 50 to set up scoring chains. Having spent time in defence last year, O’Neill has moved into the midfield and found just as much of the ball, and is a crucial ball user on the outside. He will be the player most analysed by opposition sides when playing Tasmania Devils in the NAB League, and O’Neill will enjoy added freedom at the National Under 18 Championships for the Allies.

September Ranking: #18

Last month: Has not played in the past couple of months after injury and his side not making the NAB League finals series.

#22 Cameron Taheny

Norwood/South Australia | General Forward
03/08/2001 | 184cm | 80kg

The medium forward is an excitement machine who lit up the National Under 16 Championships in 2017. He continued that form in his bottom-age year for Norwood, booting six goals in a game last year to show off his talents inside 50. Similar to Dylan Williams, Taheny has his ups and downs, but his best is as good as anyone else’s in the draft crop. A good season could propel him into the top half of the first round, and he is a player who could turn a match on its head which will be crucial for South Australia at the National Under 18 Championships. Has already broken into the League side for Norwood and booted three goals on debut. One to watch through the year as someone who could rise.

September Ranking: #22

Last month: After missing the first couple of finals, Taheny returned to Norwood for the Reserves’ Grand Final where he looked fresh, booting four goals from eight disposals in a big game up forward to help the Redlegs win the flag in the competition.

#23 Jackson Mead

WWT Eagles/South Australia | Balanced Midfielder
30/09/2001 | 183cm | 83kg

The son of Port Adelaide inaugural Best and Fairest winner, Darren has made a promising start to the 2019 SANFL season, starting in the Reserves and impressing, showing that a League debut would be in the not-too-distint future. Mead will team up with Stephens at the National Under 18 Championships to lead the side through his penetrating kick and good skills, spreading around and using the ball well forward of centre. Not as prolific a ball winner as some others, Mead has good smarts and does not waste too many disposals. Importantly, Mead hits the scoreboard as a midfielder, and can win his own ball on the inside when required.

September Ranking: #19

Last month: Had a couple of impressive finals before a quieter 14-disposal game in the SANFL Reserves Grand Final where his Eagles’ side went down to Norwood in the decider. A bit up and down at times, but has shown nice signs throughout the year.

#24 Dylan Williams

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | General Utility
01/07/2001 | 185cm | 81kg

After having a terrific second half of the year playing as a medium forward, Williams has spent time mixed between attack and defence in season 2019. He is definitely more suited to attack where he has a high vertical leap and is dangerous around goals. He is as strong overhead as anyone and certainly impressive for a player of his size. Not a huge ball winner, Williams just needs to find four quarter consistency this season as he is the player that can boot four goals in a term and take the game away from the opposition. He also has terrific skills, and hits three out of his four targets despite finding half his possessions in a contest. When at stoppages, Williams is more than capable of winning clearances as he showed against Dandenong, bursting away and pumping the ball long. One area of improvement is his defensive work, which is why he has been played in defence at times to build that area of his game. In the wet at Craigieburn against Calder Cannons in Round 2, Williams had eight out of 12 disposals effective, running at a much higher efficiency than his teammates. Does not have APS school commitments so will play the full year at NAB League Boys level with the Chargers, co-captaining the side with Trent Bianco.

September Ranking: #21

Last month: Has not played in the past two months with back stress fractures ending his year.

#25 Cooper Stephens

Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
17/01/2001 | 188cm | 83kg

Geelong Falcons midfielder unfortunately fractured his fibula in in Round 3. Stephens is a huge loss for Vic Country as Falcons Talent Manager Mick Turner said he would not take part in the National Under 18 Championships next month. Stephens is a neat user of the ball, recording 65 per cent by foot, and in the two games before his injury, Stephens averaged 26 disposals, 3.5 marks, 4.0 clearances and ran at more than 60 per cent contested possessions.

September Ranking: #25

Last month: Did not get on the park since Round 3 due to his long-term injury but was cherry ripe for the National Draft Combine Testing, finishing as the equal winner in the yo-yo test with a 21.8, as well as a top 15 finish in the running vertical leap with 83cm.

#26 Connor Budarick

Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies | General Utility
06/04/2001 | 176cm | 70kg

The Gold Coast SUNS Academy player could draw comparisons to Ned McHenry in both his stature and defensive pressure. Budarick played as a forward last year, and has spent more time in the midfield in 2019, but will likely rotate between both at the National Under 18 Championships. Weighing in at about 70kg, Budarick is outside leaning when in the midfield and just has little bursts where he wins the football. In the exhibition match against Casey Demons, Budarick played in defence and held his own back there, but his best comes forward of centre where he lays an average of seven tackles per game, and forces turnovers close to goal. He runs hard between the arcs and will likely cost Gold Coast a top 30 pick based on his skills and work rate.

August Ranking: #24

Last month: Did not play finals this year given the SUNS missed the NEAFL post-season series, but impressed at the National Draft Combine with a 21.6 yo-yo test and an 8.242 agility test. A free hit for Gold Coast with the new draft concessions and a value one at that.

#27 Jeremy Sharp

East Fremantle/Western Australia | Outside Midfielder
13/08/2001 | 187cm | 79kg

One of a number of East Fremantle potential draftees, Sharp is a skilled midfielder who is capable of playing off half-back as well as along the wing. He is not a massive ball winner, but he is a terrific kick of the footy and is a run-and-carry player. Along with Jackson, Sharp is a potential top 10 player who is a good size at 187cm and has added some bulk to his frame over the off-season. He is one of just three players who earned All-Australian honours as a bottom-ager last season following a magnificent Under 18 Championships. Sharp is one of those players you want the ball in their hands going forward as he will likely pinpoint a target inside 50. One to watch if he can go to another level at his top-age championships.

September Ranking: #27

Last month: Did not play finals for East Fremantle given the Sharks missed out, but had a 2.966 20-metre sprint and 21.3 yo-yo test at the National Draft Combine.

#28 Cody Weightman

Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | General Forward
15/01/2001 | 177cm | 73kg

For the first two months of our Power Rankings, the electric small forward has been on the periphery of making it, and after a terrific national carnival – where he booted four goals in two of his three games – Weightman makes it into the Power Rankings in July. He has a high ceiling given he can create goals out of nothing and score from general play or set shots and has a powerful kicking action to boot. Just 177cm and 73kg, Weightman is another light prospect who has plenty of development left in him. Could be another player who lights up NAB League finals as he is a big game player.

September Ranking: #28

Last month: Given the Stingrays were knocked out in the first week of finals, Weightman has not played NAB League in the past month, but tested well in the vertical jump at the National Draft Combine with 69cm in the standing and 83cm in the running.

#29 Elijah Taylor

Perth/Western Australia | General Forward
01/05/2001 | 185cm | 75kg

Taylor has X-factor and plenty of scope for the future as a medium forward. He always looks damaging when in possession and a worry for opposition defenders when not in possession. He is still raw compared to other forwards, but his ceiling is quite high and no doubt clubs will keep him on their radar. He has been a talented player for some time, but he has started to string together impressive performances to put his name into top 30 calculations. A key player for Perth in the WAFL and stepped up during the AFL Under-18 National Championships.

September Ranking: #30

Last month: Has not played in the past month since his two goals at Reserves level, but blew away draft watchers with a 8.005-second agility test at the National Draft Combine – second overall at the combine behind Hayden Young.

#30 Harry Schoenberg

Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia | Balanced Midfielder
21/02/2001 | 180cm | 78kg

The South Australian midfielder surprised a lot of people on his way to his state’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award at the National Under-18 Championships. He throughly deserved it with the second most disposals behind overall MVP winner Deven Robertson, Schoenberg was crucial on the inside, while being able to go outside as well. He still has areas to work on, but he has a nice balance and is consistent as they come, playing at both Under-18 and Reserves level in the SANFL for Woodville-West Torrens.

September Ranking: #N/A

Last month: After starting the year in the Under 18s, his consistency earned him a place in the Eagles’ Reserves side and he stayed there ever since, including the finals series in the past month. While the Eagles ultimately went down in the decider, Schoenberg had 20 disposals, three marks, six clearances and six tackles in the big game. He averaged 22 disposals and six clearances across his three finals to really step up against senior players.

#31 Thomson Dow

Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country | Balanced Midfielder
16/10/2001 | 183cm | 72kg

The brother of Carlton’s Paddy did a good job of forging his own path this season, splitting his time between school football, NAB League and Under-18 Championships. In his five games for the Pioneers, Dow averaged 21.6 disposals, 4.4 marks and 3.0 clearances, spending time between midfield and forward. He provided a target up forward as he needed to buildup his endurance in season 2019, but has some nice athletic traits such as his agility to get out of stoppages. Still a raw prospect, he has always been in the top half of the draft calculations.

September Ranking: #N/A

Last month: Did not end up playing finals after the Pioneers were eliminated in the Wildcard Round. At the National Draft Combine, Dow ranked third overall in the agility test with a time of 8.061 seconds.

#32 Harrison Jones

Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Key Position Utility
25/02/2001 | 194cm | 75kg

The Calder Cannons and Vic Metro key position utility has played in all thirds of the ground, with the forward half seemingly his most effective role, particularly roaming further up the ground. He spent time assisting in the ruck despite being 194cm, with his leap able to match well against taller opponents. He still has plenty of development left in him, and it would not be a surprise to see a club take a chance inside the top 20 given the lack of quality talls in the 2019 draft.

September Ranking: #N/A

Last month: Jones’ year ended in the semi-finals with a loss to Sandringham Dragons, with the tall utility picking up 15 touches and laying five tackles, backing up his 11 and eight the week before. He tested well across the board at the National Draft Combine last week with running vertical jump (83cm), 20m sprint (2.963 seconds) and yo-yo test (21.4) giving him a great all-round mix of athleticism.

#33 Darcy Cassar

Western Jets/Vic Metro | Medium Utility
31/07/2001 | 183cm | 79kg

As a bottom-ager last year, Cassar thrived as a half-forward/wing who would move the ball in transition and show power in his running to be able to impact for his side going inside 50. He is capable of hitting the scoreboard while playing in the forward half, but as he has shown so far in season 2019, he is just as adaptable in defence. Cassar has spent the season in the backline for the Western Jets, averaging a massive 28.2 disposals, 6.8 marks and 6.9 rebounds per game. He has added that element to his game, and expect him to be a versatile player at the national championships for Vic Metro, playing up whichever end is required of him, while also being able to play in the midfield.

September Ranking: #N/A

Last month: The Jets were eliminated in the semi-finals by Gippsland Power, with Cassar picking up the 17 disposals and three marks in that game after a quiet game against Northern Knights in the elimination final where he had 11 touches and just the one rebound. His form prior to that was quite good, but just showed the consistency to iron out at the next level.

#34 Sam De Koning

Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Key Position Utility
26/02/2001 | 200cm | 85kg

De Koning enjoyed a strong Under-18 National Championships, named All-Australian at full-back after a strong carnival for Vic Country. His form at NAB League level was inconsistent at times, though he can play up either end and even through the ruck. His best position appears to be in defence however, with his intercept marking, positioning and reading of the play top notch. He looks likely to be taken in the first half of the draft with talls at a premium this year and he is a versatile one at that.

September Ranking: #N/A

Last month: Has not played since the Stingrays were eliminated in the elimination final against Calder, where he had just the seven touches and two marks.

#35 Fraser Phillips

Gippsland Power/Vic Country | General Forward
15/05/2001 | 186cm | 71kg

A talented medium forward with high upside, Phillips is a player who can do the impossible inside 50, but like many forwards, struggle with consistency. At his best, Phillips can kick multiple goals off limited possessions, and his season with Gippsland Power has been steadily improving after a slow start. He is great overhead and works hard to maintain an impact even when he is not able to do so closer to goal. Having featured in the Power Rankings earlier in the year, Phillips is still around the mark because of that high ceiling he could reach with strong development.

September Ranking: #N/A

Last month: Gippsland Power made it through to a preliminary final, with Phillips averaging 12 disposals. four marks, four tackles, three inside 50s and booting four goals in his three finals. His year was consistent hitting the scoreboard in all but two of his games, including bags of five and four goals, to finish with 28 majors from 15 games.

Others in contention

Noah Cumberland (Brisbane Lions Academy/Queensland)
Kysaiah Pickett (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)
Cooper Sharman (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
Trey Ruscoe (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
Jay Rantall (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
Jack Mahony (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
Sam Philp (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
Liam Delahunty (GWS GIANTS Academy/NSW-ACT)

Next month… The final edition of Power Rankings. A top 50 released with 50-26 followed by 25-1.

NAB League Boys team review: Oakleigh Chargers

AS the NAB League has come to a close, we take a look at the two remaining sides; checking out their draft prospects, Best and Fairest (BnF) chances, 2020 Draft Crop and a final word on their season. The final side is the 2019 NAB League premiers – Oakleigh Chargers.

Position: 3rd
Wins: 11
Losses: 4
Draws: 0

Points For: 1099 (Ranked #3)
Points Against: 957 (Ranked eq. #5)
Percentage: 114.8
Points: 44

Top draft prospects:

Matt Rowell

What a talent. The most talked about prospect for this year’s draft crop and the clear standout number one pick selection. He was best on ground in nearly all of his games this year, topped it off with a ridiculous 44 disposals and two goals in the grand final, there is not much he cannot do. Similar to Sam Walsh last year, Rowell is just one you know will deliver at an AFL club from day dot, and should enjoy the sunny weather on the Gold Coast.

Noah Anderson

All the expectations and talk are that he will follow Rowell up north with pick two and it is easy to see why. He can win games off his own boot, has that modern-day size for a midfielder, and hits the scoreboard which is crucial for AFL sides. Knows how to find the footy and is so damaging forward of centre. A remarkable season and will be a terrific AFL player going forward.

Trent Bianco

The talented co-captain will feature somewhere in the top 30 depending on where a club rates him, but he has that elite kicking ability and the versatility to play from defence to midfield and can hit the scoreboard. He sets up plays and is one who teammates will be hoping wins a lot of the ball given his effective use and great footy IQ, highlighting his upside.

Dylan Williams

His year was wrecked by injury, but there is no doubting Williams’ talent. The Chargers’ co-captain is arguably the most damaging forward in this year’s draft with his ability to win games off his own boot exactly like Anderson. He can win the ball in the air or at ground level and if he can develop to his potential going forward, is a really special player who could end up as one of the best out of this draft.

Others in the mix:

Oakleigh do not have a shortage on players who have attracted the interest of AFL clubs through draft combine invitations. Nick Bryan and Cooper Sharman are the next two in line above the quartet of stars above, receiving National Draft Combine invites, while Josh May and Kaden Schreiber were invited to the State Draft Combine, and potential Brisbane father-son and Essendon Next Generation Academy (NGA) member Lachlan Johnson, was handed a Rookie Me Combine invite – despite doing his knee mid-season.

BnF chances:

Oakleigh’s BnF was completed on Wednesday, with Rowell remarkably winning it despite playing just seven games. It showed just how dominant he was in that limited period of time, with bottom-ager Lochlan Jenkins finishing second.

2020 Draft Crop:

Oakleigh will have a ridiculous list of talent once again next year and you could start anywhere, but the most talked about player is Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with the high-flying tall forward a Western Bulldogs NGA member. Reef McInnes is a Collingwood NGA and will be thereabouts as well, while you could throw in Under-16 Vic Metro Most Valuable Player (MVP) Will Phillips as one who will go very high. Finlay Macrae – brother of Jackson – is another who is developing nicely, and it is madness that the likes of talented duo of Jenkins and Fraser Elliot could well be the fifth and sixth drafted considering the way they played this season. Still a long way to go, but Oakleigh will be right up there in terms of contending for back-to-back flags.

Final word:

When you win a premiership, there is nothing else to say other than the season was an overwhelming success. The Chargers bounced back from grand final heartache in 2018, and went the step further and claimed the ultimate glory. With a core group of top-end talents for 2020, the Chargers will be thereabouts again next year and will be one of the most exciting teams to watch.

Scouting notes: NAB League Boys Grand Final

OAKLEIGH Chargers triumphed in this year’s NAB League grand final, with a wealth of draftable talent – including the best two prospects of this year’s crop – helping the Chargers to victory. There was also a number of bottom-agers who stood up on both sides along with the usual suspects who earned combine invites. Please note, each note is the individual opinion of our scouts.

Oakleigh Chargers:

By: Peter Williams

#2 Bailey Laurie

Has his moments where he can break a game open, kicking a couple of goals either side of half-time and really making his presence felt. The bottom-age forward is a metres-gained player and while he missed a couple of opportunities with two behinds, he still amassed 17 disposals, five marks, four tackles and crucially had six inside 50s, constantly applying pressure on the Ranges.

#4 Nick Bryan

Had a huge opening term where he collected a game-high 10 touches and eight hitouts to really stamp his authority on the match. He was strong around the ground with a big contested mark in the second term on the wing and then laying good tackles at ground level after following up in the ruck. He had a quieter second term, but finished off big to end the game with 20 disposals, four marks and three inside 50s.

#5 Trent Bianco

After being tightly watched by Mihaele Zalac, he started to get off the chain from the midway point of the second quarter, hitting up targets and having a real influence on the contest. He had a solid second half and ended the game as a premiership captain, racking up 29 disposals, 10 marks and six inside 50s, pushing up to a wing and getting the ball inside attacking 50.

#8 Noah Anderson

Working well with Rowell in the middle, was just a presence to have 12 disposals at half-time and 26 by the final siren. He was so strong through the centre and while he has had bigger impacts on the game before – not hitting the scoreboard on this occasion – he still laid five tackles and teamed up well with Rowell in the middle. Was tightly guarded at stoppages and often set upon once he won the pill, so did well to still find plenty of the ball and help his side on the inside.

#9 Will Phillips

The bottom-ager showed why he will be a highly touted prospect next year with a competitive effort through midfield. Just attacks the ball with vigour not to dissimilar to Rowell, and while he can be handball happy at times, had an even spread of kicks and handballs on his way to 16 touches, also hitting the scoreboard with two majors.

#11 Matt Rowell

Despite being the standout player in the draft crop, continues to surprise us. If you think he has reached the top, he smashes the ceiling and goes a bit more. With 44 disposals in a grand final you are always going to enhance your draft prospects, but it’s a bit hard to go from pick one to pick one. Rowell just finds the footy and simply found it at will. Kicked a crucial goal late in the third term to extend the margin out to 20 points. He reminded us he was human with a couple of missed set shots, but outside of that was just a complete beast with 11 clearances, eight marks, nine tackles and six inside 50s.

#25 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Worked hard throughout the game on his way to three behinds from 10 disposals and eight marks and worked up the ground to present and produce six inside 50s as well. Full credit to Joel Nathan who restricted his chances and matched him in the air. The midfield also did not have as much time and space as previous weeks and the kicks were less pinpoint, and the Ranges’ defence was able to read the play well. But Ugle-Hagan still took a towering mark early and gave spectators a reason to see why he is so highly rated for next year.

#29 Finlay Macrae

The midfielder had some exciting moments throughout the Grand Final on his way to 20 touches and seven marks, only missing a couple of opportunities and finishing with two behinds on the scoreboard. His run and carry and decision making is a highlight and like a number of Oakleigh midfielders, showed why the Chargers will be tough to beat again next year.

#73 Cooper Sharman

Looked busy in the first term with a couple of chances, but uncharacteristically missed a couple of set shots before converting a sitter from the top of the square. Was not his best game, but still worked hard to provide a target and go on searching leads to drag a defender along with him. Had the nine touches and five marks from 1.2 to cap off a big rise up draft boards in the second half of the season.

Eastern Ranges:

By: Ed Pascoe

#4 Joshua Clarke

In what turned out to be a dirty day for Eastern, a shining light was the game from young dashing defender Joshua Clarke who did everything he could to get his team over the line with his dash and dare from the back half. Clarke had some eye catching moments, using his speed to take the game on and get away from any would-be tacklers. He had a huge second quarter highlighted by a fantastic goal on the run on a hard angle and distance while also under pressure. Clarke’s second half wasn’t as strong as his first which was the same for most of his teammates but he had put his name in lights for next year’s draft as he looks one to look out for. Clarke finished the game with 22 disposals, seven rebounds and a goal.

#7 Lachlan Stapleton

Eastern’s Mr. Consistent could not have done more this year to impress recruiters and despite his team coming up short, Stapleton did his draft chances no harm with a strong display through the midfield – showing his trademark tough play and team first attitude. Stapleton showed a lot of aggression and class, picking up balls at ground level with ease and working back to help the defenders. Stapleton has not been a massive ball winner this year but he is incredibly consistent in winning enough of the ball and he was awarded Eastern Ranges’ Best & Fairest which was well deserved for the young midfielder. Stapleton finished the game with 20 disposals, six tackles and five inside 50s.

#11 Mitch Mellis

The small and creative Mellis had another solid outing showing his dash and eagerness to get the ball moving quickly any chance he gets. Mellis was important in the first half helping out the defenders in the first quarter and then offering attacking flair in the second, kicking a classy goal on the run. He would have another shot at goal in the third quarter but would narrowly miss. Despite that he had a solid game, winning 18 disposals to go with four tackles, four inside 50s and a goal and was also rewarded for Eastern, winning their runner-up Best & Fairest.

#19 Wil Parker

Parker has had a fantastic finals series and he has certainly enhanced his draft stocks for the 2020 draft, again showing great composure and skill in defence. Parker had a couple of hiccups which have been rare but considering the amount of inside 50s from Oakleigh there was a lot of pressure and certainly more than usual, but Parker stuck the course and finished the game strongly. Parker didn’t just show his good ball use but also his courage to sit in the hole and take some courageous marks. Parker finished the game with 27 disposals, five marks and 11 rebound 50s and couldn’t have done any more to help his team.

#20 Connor Downie

Downie had a quieter outing playing on the wing and struggling to get into the game. It was a shame as he is one of Eastern’s more dangerous players with ball in hand and it is no wonder they could not get their attacking game going without him kicking long inside 50 with his trusty left foot. He still had some nice movements with his composure and ball use by hand and foot but he will now turn his attention to the Under-17 futures game before the AFL Grand Final. The Hawthorn 2020 NGA prospect finished with 10 disposals and four inside 50s.

#23 Zac Pretty

Pretty had a strong game through the midfield with his clearance work and attack on the ball again a feature. Pretty won most improved for Eastern having come into the year relatively unknown to scouts and was rewarded with a state combine invite so his draft chances are still alive. Pretty was a hard worker through the midfield and although he was mostly digging handballs out, he was doing his best to bring his teammates into the game. Pretty finished the game with 20 disposals and four tackles and topped the NAB League for disposals this year.

Rowell masterclass leads Oakleigh to a dominant premiership

IT was the 10 minutes that won Oakleigh Chargers the premiership that eluded them last year.

Seven goals from the 15-minute mark of the third term to the final break broke the hearts of Eastern Ranges supporters, and elevated almost certain pick one, Matt Rowell into another stratosphere with an absolute masterclass performance. While it was a terrific team effort by the Chargers to outwork the Ranges, there was no stopping Rowell who won the Best on Ground Medal with 44 disposals – the second most disposals by any player in a TAC Cup/NAB League Grand Final behind Mitch Wallis’ 47.

Rowell and Noah Anderson were busy from the opening bounce, combining well at stoppages, while Trent Bianco was receiving close attention and gave away a free kick for retaliating from Mihaele Zalac. Both Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Cooper Sharman had chances early but missed, with Will Phillips opening the account for the Chargers early in the game with a terrific goal on the run from 40m to entice a huge roar from the crowd. Oakleigh continued to pepper the Lygon Street end, booting four consecutive behinds. The causalities were beginning to piled on for the Ranges as Joel Nathan and Tyler Sonsie were helped off the field within a minute of each other. Connor Stone took advantage of the extra forward and found Sharman all alone in the square with the reliable goalkicker making no mistake from 10m out.

Everything was going right for the Chargers in the first term. Stone appealed for a soccer off the ground in the goalsquare but it looked to be a fresh airy. The normally composed Eastern defence looked under siege as Sharman ran down an opponent deep in defence, but his set shot too tight to the boundary but missed. Similarly, Bailey Laurie had a great chance with a running shot that bounced through but was deemed touched off the boot and brought the Chargers to 2.7 for the first term. Then the first massive highlight for Eastern came with a much-needed goal from Harrison Keeling in the pocket with 17 seconds left on the clock. It was the last kick of the quarter as the Ranges breathed a sigh of relief knowing for all of Oakleigh’s dominance, they were 13 points down and in the contest.

Nick Bryan was dominant around the ground for the Chargers, picking up 10 disposals, two marks and eight hitouts in the first term, while Jeromy Lucas (eight) and Phillips (seven and a goal) were also prolific. For the Ranges’ Wil Parker was steady in defence with nine disposals and three rebounds, while James Ross (six touches, two marks) was also busy back there. With 17 inside 50s to five, the Chargers were dominating play, but the Ranges defence was doing enough to limit the score in what could have been a lot uglier for them.

Both sides’ pressure was high as neither team had much time and space to move on, if they found space they had to move it on quickly as opponents closed them down quickly. Just as either side needed a deadlock breaker in the second, it came in the form of Mitch Mellis who burst forward, took a bounce and then launched from 45m for it to bounce home and all of a sudden, the Ranges were back within a kick. The Chargers almost scored a goal from a turnover up the other end, with Thomas Graham winning a loose ball after a spill and snapped around his body only for it to hit the woodwork. Up the other end, Zalac was running into 50 when he unsuspectingly got mowed down by Vincent Zagari. Both sides were finding more open space with end-to-end plays, but a couple of attempts under pressure on goal resulted in behinds for both sides.

Eastern’s defence was desperate and managed to keep a one-on-one ball close to the line in play but the kick landed in the waiting arms of Rowell who showed he can find the footy even when he is not looking for it. His set shot was un-Rowell like though and it was a shank short. Then Eastern seized on the miss as Josh Clarke ran inside 50 dropped it onto his left, negotiated the breeze perfectly and slammed it home to the roar of the eastern faithful and the scores were level again. Oakleigh’s midfield was getting stuck into Zalac to try and let Bianco off the leash, and Bianco’s extra freedom with his slicing kicks was starting to have a real impact on the contest. Both sides were still making uncharacteristic errors going forward, but it was a terrific contest. With a few minutes remaining, Finlay Macrae found some space inside 50 and his set shot from 40m looked good until a late drift that went through for a behind. With the siren imminent and the Chargers leading by three points, Laurie snuck out the side of a forward stoppage, put it on the outside of the boot and it sailed home to give Oakleigh breathing space heading into the main break.

Clarke was a massive player in the second term, picking up 13 touches to head into the break with 18, the most of any Ranges player, while Rowell had one better with 19, as well as three marks and three tackles. Bryan and Lucas both had 13 touches for the Chargers, while Parker (13) and Mellis (12) were the other two who had an influence for the Ranges.

If Rowell needed to convince anyone else how likely it was that he would potentially edge closer to a second best on ground in an Under 18s Grand Final, he found space in the middle and put out a perfect kick to Ugle-Hagan on the lead in the early moments of the game. He missed his set shot, but Oakleigh continued to press forward of centre. Despite holding the momentum, it was Eastern’s second forward 50 entry in the term that saw Jonte Duffy snap off his left and put the margin back to just four points to remind the crowd it was game on. Not long after, Jamieson Rossiter proceed to be the facilitator with a perfectly weighted kick to Jordan Jaworski. His tight set shot also missed, but the heat was well and truly in the game.

Then came the 10 minutes that won Oakleigh the premiership. The exciting Laurie then converted his second goal, sidestepping an opponent on a run towards goal and launching from 50 to add a bit of spice to the margin. Moments later forward pressure saw the Chargers run down Ross in the back 50, then a ruck stoppage from Sharman resulted in the ball landing in the arms of Lucas who snapped and goaled off the right and the margin was 14. When Rowell stepped up to win a 50m penalty and deliver to make it 20 points, it looked like it was going to be tough for Eastern to get back. After Lucas booted another two in two minutes, Rowell booted his second with a long-range bouncing kick that never looked like missing. He could do anything and so could the Chargers, as Thomas Graham capitalised on another Eastern error and snapped around his body and the game was well and truly done and dusted.

The heat was out of the game after that 10-minute blitz, and Nick Stathopoulos added his name to the goalkickers and it was party time for the Chargers in the final 25 minutes. Rowell had to remind onlookers her was human with another set shot miss. It was not long before he was in the thick of it again with a goal assist to Phillips who delivered on the run. Rowell again marked inside 50 but again missed his set shot. Ben Hickleton kicked a consolation goal late in the match as Rowell passed 40 touches. Ugle-Hagan had one last shot after the siren, but it hit the woodwork and the final margin was 53.

Rowell ended the game with 44 touches, eight marks, eight tackles, six tackles, two rebounds and 2.2, while Bianco (30 disposals, 11 marks, three tackles and six inside 50s), Anderson (26 disposals, four marks and four tackles) and Schreiber (26 disposals, 11 marks and two tackles). Bryan built on his form from last week with a dominant performance in the ruck with 20 disposals and 26 hitouts, while Lucas booted three goals and was dominant during that third quarter blitz. For Eastern, Parker had 27 touches, five marks and 11 rebounds to be the Ranges’ best as a bottom-ager, along with fellow bottom-ager Clarke who amassed 23 touches and seven rebounds. The midfield trio of Stapleton (19 touches), Pretty (19) and Mellis (18 and a goal) were consistent as usual, while Nathan did his best on Ugle-Hagan to keep him goalless and tack ip 16 touches and five rebounds.

EASTERN 1.0 | 3.3 | 4.5 | 5.6 (36)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.7 | 3.12 | 10.13 | 12.17 (89)

GOALS:

Eastern: H. Keeling, M. Mellis, J. Clarke, J. Duffy.
Oakleigh: J. Lucas 3, B. Laurie 2, M. Rowell 2, W. Phillips 2, C. Sharman, T. Graham, N. Stathopoulos.

ADC BEST:

Eastern: W. Parker, J. Clarke, L. Stapleton, M. Mellis, J. Nathan, Z. Pretty
Oakleigh: M. Rowell, K. Schreiber, J. Lucas, N. Bryan, F. Macrae, T. Bianco.

Comprehensive 2019 NAB League Grand Final Preview

FOLLOWING on from last year’s Grand Final preview, it is that time again where we try and analyse all facets of the NAB League Grand Final from the players to style and what one might expect from the match.

TEAMS

EASTERN RANGES v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

Grand Final – 21/09/2019
1:05pm
Ikon Park – Carlton

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, 16. T. Garner, 23. Z. Pretty
Int: 6. M. Brown, 14. L. Gawel, 36. B. Hickleton, 26. C. Norris, 59. B. Tennant, 37. J. Weichard, 45. M. Zalac
23P: 44. H. Keeling

In: J. Weichard, M. Brown, B. Tennant

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

B: 15. K. Schreiber, 36. R. Valentine, 34. V. Zagari
HB: 5. T. Bianco, 52. N. Guiney, 49. H. Mastras
C: 39. R. McInnes, 6. J. Lucas, 9. W. Phillips
HF: 27. J. May, 25. J. Ugle-Hagan, 61. C. Stone
F: 29. F. Macrae, 73. C. Sharman, 77. N. Stathopoulos
R: 4. N. Bryan, 8. N. Anderson, 11. M. Rowell
Int: 58. Y. Dib, 18. F. Elliot, 22. T. Graham, 12. L. Jenkins, 30. S. Tucker, 17. G. Varagiannis, 1. L. Westwood
23P: 2. B. Laurie

In: L. Westwood, S. Tucker, Y. Dib

2019 SEASON REVIEW

1. Eastern Ranges – 12 wins, 3 losses, 148.1%, 48 points
3. Oakleigh Chargers – 11 wins, 4 losses, 114.8%, 44 points

HEAD TO HEAD

R1: Eastern Ranges 7.5 (47) defeated by Oakleigh Chargers 12.16 (88)
R14: Eastern Ranges 11.9 (75) defeated by Oakleigh Chargers 12.11 (83)

CHANGES SINCE ROUND 14 THRILLER

Eastern:
IN:
Mitchell Brown, Mitch Mellis, Jamieson Rossiter, Lachlan Gawel, Todd Garner, James Ross, Callum Norris, Ben Hickleton, Jayden Weichard, Joel Nathan, Harrison Keeling, Riley Smith

Oakleigh:
IN:
Nick Bryan, Noah Anderson, Matt Rowell, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Finlay Macrae, Reef McInnes, Harris Mastras, Nick Guiney, Connor Stone, Sam Tucker, Yoseph Dib

WHO HAS COMBINE INVITES?

National

Eastern Ranges [0]: Nil.
Oakleigh Chargers [6]: Noah Anderson, Trent Bianco, Nick Bryan, Matt Rowell, Cooper Sharman, Dylan Williams*.

State/Rookie Me:

Eastern Ranges [8]: Tyler Edwards, Lachlan Gawel, Billy McCormack, Mitch Mellis, Zak Pretty, Jamieson Rossiter, Riley Smith Lachlan Stapleton.
Oakleigh Chargers [3]: Lachlan Johnson*, Josh May, Kaden Schreiber.

*Unavailable due to injury

PLAYERS

EASTERN RANGES

#4 Josh CLARKE

Absolute lightning when he gets going. The bottom-age speedster is capable of breaking lines off half-back and along the wing and makes things happen. He is a player who catches the eye with his high risk-high reward style.

#6 Mitchell BROWN

Included in the extended squad for the grand final, Brown last played in Round 16 against Dandenong Stingrays. The 173cm utility had some good form earlier in the season, including six rebounds from 21 touches against Gippsland Power in Round 6.

#7 Lachlan STAPLETON

Consistent as they come and one of Eastern’s top draft hopefuls who not only wins the ball in the midfield, but hurts opposition teams going forward as well. In his third season with the Ranges, the now top-ager has lifted his numbers by five disposals a game, but his defensive pressure is what makes him stand out from the ground, averaging a massive seven tackles per game.

#9 Jonte DUFFY

The smallest player on the ground, but the tackling half-forward packs a punch. He averages more than five tackles a game and is not afraid to go in hard despite his 166cm, 69kg frame recorded at the start of the season.

#10 Chayce BLACK

The Fremantle father-son hopeful has shown some signs throughout the season and progressed into a defensive role after initially playing at half-forward and pinch-hitting through the midfield.

#11 Mitch MELLIS

Like Stapleton, one of Eastern’s top draft hopes and a dominant player throughout season 2019. A natural ball winner who covers the ground with ease, Mellis spent plenty of time forward this year, booting nine goals in 11 games compared to his three in his previous 20. He has also lifted his disposal numbers and despite being 173cm works hard around the clearances and is often the receiver of the ball who bursts off and gets it forward.

#13 Jamieson ROSSITER

Has been a much talked about prospect over the past couple of years but has struggled with injury, playing just two games in his bottom-age year – booting eight goals – after four as a 16-year-old. He has managed to get some continuity this year in between Vic Metro commitments, and booted 19 goals in 12 games, including six in the finals series. He is hitting form at the right time of year and at 190cm he is a touch small for a key position player at AFL level, but has the ability to go into the midfield and use his bigger frame there to have an impact.

#14 Lachlan GAWEL

Not a huge ball winner, but has a touch of class in the forward half using his vision and accuracy by foot to set up goal scoring opportunities. He has managed the eight games this season, but has booted six goals in that time, also averaging three tackles per game to provide some defensive pressure to the opposition.

#16 Todd GARNER

Brother of former Eastern captain and now Port Adelaide player Joel, Todd is a member of the Hawthorn Next Generation Academy. He has managed just the 15 games over the past two seasons, but has shown some signs playing out of defence. He averages three rebounds and almost four tackles per game and plays a role on a dangerous opposition forward.

#18 Billy McCORMACK

Has been a big improver this season after just the three games last season. McCormack is a smoky in the draft because of his ability to have an impact both in the ruck and forward which is something quite rare in this draft class. He averages more than 10 touches and 15 hitouts per game, while booting 10 majors in his 16 matches.

#19 Wil PARKER

A bottom-age player who got a taste of it as a 16-year-old last season and has progressed through to be a staple in the Eastern defence this year. He is one no doubt likely to move into the midfield in 2020, but has arguably been Eastern’s most consistent rebounding small defender throughout the year, working well with James Ross and Joel Nathan as the keys. Averages 17 disposals and four marks per game.

#20 Connor DOWNIE

The Ranges’ top prospect for next year, and another member of the Hawthorn Next Generation Academy. Has had consistency issues at times, but when he is up and going, Downie is all class. He knows how to use the footy and sums up situations with terrific vision and execution, while hitting the scoreboard playing from a wing and half-forward. Played on the MCG for Vic Metro which is rare for bottom-agers.

#21 James ROSS

The general in defence and captain of the side, Ross is one who represented Vic Metro on one occasion, put together a consistent season and was unlucky not to receive a combine invite. Considering his finals series to-date, Ross has no doubt done all he can to convince recruiters he is worth a shot, and while he is slightly undersized for a key position role, he reads the ball perfectly in the air and is strong overhead. Courageous and a great team leader.

#23 Zakery PRETTY

Eastern’s big improver this season after just the limited three games in 2018. Pretty is one of the taller Eastern midfielders despite standing at 183cm, but at 80kg is more built for that inside role. With more than 50 per cent of his possessions won in contested situations, and racking up a truckload of clearances – six per game – Pretty is one who has flown onto draft radars after a big year.

#26 Callum NORRIS

Returned after 12 months off, to grab a spot in the Ranges’ finals side against Sandringham and was better for the run after the first final, to be a key contributor last weekend on his way to 18 disposals, five marks and a goal. Not a typically high disposal winner, but has been around for the past three seasons but has been marred with injury.

#27 Jordan JAWORSKI

The goal sneak has booted 17 goals in 10 games this season, with seven of those coming in Eastern’s smashing of Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. He is a classic small forward who knows where the goals are and will often run hard to open space back to goal and be in the right spot to win the ball and apply scoreboard pressure for his side.

#30 Tyler EDWARDS

Playing through the midfield, Edwards has produced a solid season in his 10 games, averaging 18 touches and three clearances per game. He did enough to earn a place at the state combine, and is one who provides a role in multiple positions, but will likely play through the midfield and on a wing.

#36 Ben HICKLETON

Eastern’s leading goalkicker this season and a player who stepped up in his top-age year to average two goals a game and provide a target up forward. Hickleton rotated through the ruck with Riley Smith and Billy McCormack despite being just 192cm, often pinch-hitting to give those players a rest, averaging three hitouts per game. At 87kg, he is a strong player who is good one-on-one.

#37 Jayden WEICHARD

Just the three games this season and none since Round 11, but Weichard was included in the Ranges’ extended squad for the Grand Final, with his best game coming against Geelong Falcons in Round 9, amassing 15 disposals spending time on the inside.

#39 Joel NATHAN

A terrific lockdown defender who will beat his man more often than not, Nathan is the ultimate team player in defence. He still wins his own ball with 13 disposals and three marks per game, but has plenty of spoils and one percenters to his name. He and Ross are arguably the top cohesive defensive partnership and will not make it easy for the Chargers’ forwards.

#40 Jack HOURIHAN

His first season for the Ranges as a top-ager, Hourihan has managed every game this year and averaged 14 disposals, four marks, three rebounds and two tackles playing predominantly in defence. A latecomer to the program who has bought into the Ranges system and been a consistent player throughout the year playing his role.

#44 Harrison KEELING

A bottom-ager in his first season, Keeling is lightly built but has strung together six games in the back-end of the season, recalled for the first final and has held his spot. Not a huge disposal winner, but one who like many of his teammates last year, is gaining great experience for 12 months time.

#45 Mihaele ZALAC

Taller midfielder who operates between the arcs, often playing an outside role and rotating onball to have an impact. Has played every game in season 2019, averaging 14 disposals, three marks and three tackles per game, while having similar clearance, inside-50 and rebound numbers showing his ability to spread.

#49 Riley SMITH

The overage ruck took control of the ruck division when in the side this year, playing eight games and averaging more than 27 hitouts per game. He is readymade to play at senior level, earning a Rookie Me Combine invitation and is someone who could provide a presence at ruck stoppages.

#52 Tyler SONSIE

Four years ago Jaidyn Stephenson and Adam Cerra burst onto the scene as 16-year-olds, and for 2019, Tyler Sonsie is that player. He has played the last five games of the season and being a half-forward who can kick off either foot and hit the scoreboard consistently or set others up, Sonsie is a damaging player and with continued development, could be a top pick in the 2021 draft.

#57 Beau TENNANT

A tall target inside 50, Tennant played his best game in his first game this year, booting three goals from six marks and 15 touches against Oakleigh in Round 14. He was named in Eastern’s extended squad for the grand final.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

#1 Lucas WESTWOOD

An unfortunate pre-game injury before the preliminary final ruled him out but he has been named in the extended squad. The reliable defender has been a club favourite with him doing a role each and every week and would play a role on an opposition forward if fit and available.

#2 Bailey LAURIE

The exciting small forward has enjoyed a busy finals series, constantly popping up and helping set up scoring opportunities for his teammates. He teams up well at the feet of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with Nick Stathopoulos, and was instrumental in the qualifying final win over Gippsland Power with two goals from 16 touches and seven marks. A bottom-ager to look out for next season.

#4 Nick BRYAN

Had his best game since the start of the year last weekend when he took control of the ruck and was giving his midfielders first use. Might not have got to the expectations some placed on him at the start of the season, but showed just why people rated him so highly and it will be interesting to see if he can back it up against a strong combination of rucks in this game.

#5 Trent BIANCO

The co-captain is the Chargers’ most damaging player when up and about, and his lethal foot skills can punish opposition from turnovers. He has an array of ways to inflict pain on the opposition with his skills and vision, and leads from the front having no trouble finding the footy whether it be on the wing or half-back. One of the most important players in the grand final.

#6 Jeromy LUCAS

The GWS GIANTS Academy member has had no worries finding plenty of the pill this season, stepping up in the absence of Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, also representing the GIANTS during the Academy Series. Has managed the eight games so far this season, and after a quiet qualifying final – the only game this season with less than 20 touches – he was more prolific last week in the Chargers’ win over the Dragons.

#8 Noah ANDERSON

Hard not to know this name given the publicity around him. In six games this year he had just one game under 23 disposals, and three games with 26 or more, including a whopping 44 touches and 2.2 against the Calder Cannons in Round 2. So big and strong compared to many other midfielders, he goes forward and plays the role of leading targets, hitting the scoreboard with multiple goals in all bar one of his matches.

#9 Will PHILLIPS

Generally a handball-happy midfielder, Phillips can play inside or out and takes some of the burden off the top-age midfielders in that group. He took out Vic Metro’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the Under-16 Championships last year, and practically brings his own ball to every game. Seems to model a fair bit of his game around Matt Rowell with similar intensity at the ball carrier or at ground level and hates being beaten.

#11 Matt ROWELL

Unless you have been living under a rock the past 12 months, it is near-impossible not to recognise the name. The likely number one pick has won just about every award under the sun, including best on ground in both the NAB League Grand Final last year – in a losing team – and on the MCG in the Under-17 All Stars game prior to the AFL Grand Final. Since gathering “just” 21 touches in Round 1, his NAB League disposal hauls are 31, 29, 34, 29 and 32. Disposals are not everything, but when they are in this guy’s hands they certainly are. Just opens things up and not only that, but averages 8.5 tackles per game, including back-to-back weeks of a combined 29 in Rounds 2 and 3.

#12 Lochlan JENKINS

Excited to see what the bottom-ager is capable of producing on the big stage, with him able to play a more outside role at times given the return of Rowell and Anderson to the midfield group. He is not afraid to attack the contest, and was one of the Chargers’ best during the mid-part of the season. One of a number of Chargers who will shape next year’s side.

#15 Kaden SCHREIBER

A State Draft Combine invitee, Schreiber’s form has been building over the past couple of months, rotating between the midfield and defence. Generally handball-happy, he played a more kick-encouraging role in defence for the preliminary finals and had arguably his best game of the year. One who will want to put up a big performance to show recruiters he can be as influential as some of the names in his side.

#17 Giorgio VARAGIANNIS

Another bottom-ager who just keeps popping up, recalled for the preliminary final after having not played since the last time these sides met back in Round 14. With an 18-disposal game, the utility finds the ball and works hard between the arcs.

#18 Fraser ELLIOT

Came off sore with his hamstring iced early in the preliminary final and while it was clear he wanted to get back out there, with the game well and truly on Oakleigh’s terms, on went the tracksuit. An important bottom-age prospect who could develop rapidly in his top-age year next year given his 188cm frame. Can find the ball too when he has the inside role, picking up massive numbers once the school footballers went out and he took control of the midfield.

#22 Thomas GRAHAM

I am not the only one that questions the 190cm listed at the start of the season. He is the ultimate utility, seemingly able to play every role on the field including ruck. With Nick Bryan back in the side, Graham can have the relief role, and he plays a good foil up front with three majors last week while all defenders eyes were on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

#25 Jamarra UGLE-HAGAN

His name has been one on the lips of plenty of draft watchers over the past month with consistency finally creeping into his game. After a quiet start to the year, Ugle-Hagan returned to the team for a couple of weeks mid-season during the school holidays, ad then again from Round 17 onwards, booting a massive 23 goals in his past six games. He has gone from likely first round selection to probable top five pick. His speed off the mark and clean hands are terrific, and if he can clean up some of his set shot attempts, then he could be looking at six-goal hauls most weeks.

#27 Josh MAY

Earned a State Draft Combine invitation after a consistent year playing between a wing and half-back. Has a long kick that can be effective, and benefits from freedom when Oakleigh is at full strength. Not a massive ball winner, May still finds his fair share of the footy – usually in the mid-teens – and is best suited to a role winning the ball on the wing and pumping it inside 50 to dangerous positions.

#29 Finlay MACRAE

The brother of Jack still needs to find his consistency, with a bit of yo-yo form at times, but his best is up there with some of the top bottom-agers. We saw on the weekend just how damaging he can be, racking up 22 touches, nine marks and a goal, and he is a smooth mover in the midfield. While he did not play for Vic Metro, getting named for the side was a big bonus and showed just how highly they rate him in the pathway.

#30 Sam TUCKER

A key position player who still has another year in the system, Tucker was included in the extended squad for the Grand Final after not playing since Round 13. His best game came in Round 12 when he took seven marks from 11 touches and four rebounds playing in defence, and is able to play around the ground as well.

#34 Vincent ZAGARI

You can rely on Zagari to go out and do a role each and every week. He has a long, penetrating kick that clears the defensive 50, and often matches up on the opposition’s most dangerous small forward. With the crafty Jordan Jaworski potentially on the horizon in this game, Zagari will need to be aware of the goal sneak’s ability to double back and find space goal-side. Just a consistent player.

#36 Ryan VALENTINE

Can match up on a taller opposition forward, and at 192cm, might even get the job on Jamieson Rossiter this week. Not a high disposal winner, but the bottom-age prospect just does a job and aims to nullify his opponent in each contest to give his side the best chance of winning.

#39 Reef MCINNES

The fact Oakleigh’s midfield is so strong that this kid can chill out in the backline is just ridiculous. A beast of an inside midfielder who is going to be a top-end prospect next year after showing plenty mid-year in the absence of Rowell and Anderson, the Collingwood Next Generation Academy member is 191cm already and has a raking kick and knows how to find the footy. Can play anywhere on the ground and right now he is doing a role off half-back.

#49 Harris MASTRAS

Another strong role player who has contributed to Oakleigh’s success by limiting the effectiveness of an opposition forward. Had his second most touches of the season on the weekend with 12 disposals, so is not a massive ball winner, but just does his job and makes life difficult for the opposition.

#52 Nick GUINEY

Bottom-ager who tends to play his best footy in defence, Guiney is a medium height at 186cm and while not an accumulator, clears the danger in the back half, while showing he can play further up the ground when required and get the ball inside 50. Like Valentine and Mastras, expect Guiney to fill out the defence and play a role on an opposition forward.

#58 Youseph DIB

The 16-year-old Collingwood Next Generation Academy member earned All-Australian honours this year and stands at just 172cm. He attacks the ball hard and creates opportunities in the forward half of the ground. Dib has only played the one game this season, playing the Sandringham Dragons in Round 17 and having six touches and three marks. He was included in the extended squad for the Grand Final.

#61 Connor STONE

Similar to Guiney but up the opposite end of the ground, Stone is a bottom-age forward who does not mind a goal. He booted two of them on the weekend and just pops up, good for a goal most weeks. He burst onto the scene against Murray Bushrangers with a five-goal haul in Round 9 and had plenty of draft watchers looking up his name, and while he has not replicated the massive haul, he is just consistent inside 50.

#73 Cooper SHARMAN

A late bloomer to the NAB League system, Sharman has booted goals in all bar one of his games, including a season-high four majors against Eastern Ranges in Round 14. He is the most reliable set shot in the competition with some nice athletic traits, and being an over-ager included in the program late, the Balwyn product and former GWS GIANTS Academy member has come on so quickly in draft calculations he earned a National Draft Combine invitation.

#77 Nick STATHOPOULOS

The stereotypical small forward, Stathopoulos is just a handful inside 50. He can smell a goal from a mile away and was a match-winner against Gippsland Power in the qualifying final with four majors from 15 disposals and four marks. He booted five goals against the Bushrangers in Round 9 on debut – exactly the same as Stone – and has hit the scoreboard in all bar one of this games this year.

FATHER/SON AND ACADEMY PROSPECTS

Eastern:

Chayce Black (Fremantle father-son – 2019)
Todd Garner (Hawthorn NGA – 2019)
Connor Downie (Hawthorn NGA – 2020)

Oakleigh:

Lachlan Johnson (Brisbane father-son / Essendon NGA – 2019)
Reef McInnes (Collingwood NGA – 2020)
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Western Bulldogs NGA – 2020)

WHY CAN THEY WIN?

Eastern Ranges:

They have been the best side all year and are deserving of the coveted 2019 premiership. They have the most even team of the entire competition, with their bottom six the strongest of any side. After a down year last year in the bottom two, the Ranges have thrived in 2019, and looking back, a remarkable 14 of their 23 players from the team have been on the list since 2017 as 16-year-olds. We know they will put in a four-quarter performance and are so unrelenting as they have done it all season.

Oakleigh Chargers:

Eastern has had just three losses this year – once to Gippsland Power by 10 points – and twice to the Chargers. Both time Oakleigh has found the formula to success against the Ranges, although now with plenty of changes for both sides since Round 14, it will be interesting to see how it goes down. Also, Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson are the best two players in the draft crop, and chuck in Trent Bianco on the outside, and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Cooper Sharman up forward and there is some serious talent on the park for Oakleigh.

WHO DO THEY NEED TO STOP?

Eastern Ranges:

Trent Bianco and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. These two players are effectively Oakleigh’s barometer. It would be easy to say try and stop Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, but we know that is not realistically going to happen with even poor games from those guys being 20-plus disposals. You can limit their influence at the stoppages and make life difficult for them around the ground, but they are so hard to beat. For Bianco, it will be not allowing him the time and space to slice up your defence and win easy ball on the outside. He can win his own ball, so make him do that. Too often teams focus on controlling the inside of the contest and it allows Bianco to be waiting for the ball in space and then deliver an elite bullet inside 50 to the leading Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. The amount of times no-one got in front of Ugle-Hagan on the lead in the past few weeks is quite remarkable. Oakleigh opens up the forward 50 for him, and Eastern needs to make sure someone is standing in the hole or ready to block the lead. If the Chargers hit-up someone else it is a risk, but the Ranges can ill-afford Ugle-Hagan to get his confidence up and on a roll.

Oakleigh Chargers:

James Ross and Connor Downie. Similar to Rowell and Anderson, the likes of Lachlan Stapleton, Mitch Mellis and Zakery Pretty are hard to stop. They will win the ball regardless of anything you do, it is just forcing them to rush their disposal under pressure or handball rather than kick and keep the ball in the area. The one you do not want getting too much of the ball is Connor Downie. He is a player similar to Bianco in the sense that when he starts to get the ball in time and space, can do some damage going forward. Moreso, Downie hits the scoreboard himself and while his consistency can be up and down, when he is on, he is a super damaging player as Gippsland found out on the weekend. Oakleigh cannot allow him to get his confidence up and start using his vision and skills to pinpoint passes inside 50. As for Ross, he is the key to the defence and if he has 20-plus touches and eight-plus marks, Eastern win the game. His read of the ball in flight is superb and he just settles the team down in defence. He will have the task of chopping off leads and dropping courageously into the hole. For Oakleigh, you have to make him as accountable as possible, and use his direct opponent as an option inside 50, or make it a consideration to restrict the predictability going forward. Otherwise Ross will just pick the perfect moment to peel off his opponent and come across as the third-man to spoil or mark and help out a teammate in defence.

GRAND FINAL HISTORY

Both the Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers are well familiar with the final day of the TAC Cup/NAB League Boys season, having made six grand finals each. Of the 26 previous seasons, one of these sides has been in 11 of them. In 2015, these teams faced off in the decider, rising from fifth and sixth to make the grand final. With four country teams ahead of them, it gave credence to the metropolitan sides being stronger in finals with their school players back, and on that day the sides played out a thriller. Oakleigh won by 12 points with Kade Answerth being named best on ground, along with a host of future talent including Tom Phillips and Ben Crocker (Collingwood), Patrick Kerr (Carlton), Taylin Duman (Fremantle), Sam McLarty (Collingwood) and Alex Morgan (North Melbourne/Essendon) all running around for the winners. Eastern had a list containing a fair bit of super bottom-age talent as well as top-age stars, with Ryan Clarke (North Melbourne) and Dylan Clarke (Essendon), Jordan Gallucci (Adelaide), Blake Hardwick (Hawthorn), Callum Brown (Collingwood) and Jack Maibaum (Sydney) all strutting their stuff, but for draft watchers, a couple of players donning the #56 and #58 jumpers caught the eye most as 16-year-olds Jaidyn Stephenson (three goals) and Adam Cerra stole the show.

Eastern Ranges:

1995: lost to Northern Knights by 29 points
2000: lost to Geelong Falcons by 22 points
2002: defeated Calder Cannons by one point
2004: lost to Calder Cannons by 70 points
2013: defeated Dandenong Stingrays by 112 points
2015: lost to Oakleigh Chargers by 12 points

Oakleigh Chargers:

2006: defeated Calder Cannons by 27 points
2011: lost to Sandringham Dragons by eight points
2012: defeated Gippsland Power by one point
2014: defeated Calder Cannons by 47 points
2015: defeated Eastern Ranges by 12 points
2018: lost to Dandenong Stingrays by six points.

DRAFT CENTRAL TIPS

Peter Williams
Tip: Eastern Ranges
BOG: James Ross (Eastern)

Michael Alvaro
Tip: Oakleigh Chargers
BOG: Noah Anderson (Oakleigh)

Ed Pascoe
Tip: Oakleigh Chargers
BOG: Matt Rowell (Oakleigh)

Craig Byrnes
Tip: Eastern Ranges
BOG: Mitch Mellis (Eastern)

Matthew Cocks
Tip: Oakleigh Chargers
BOG: Trent Bianco (Oakleigh)

Top-end Chargers look to go one better

Tapering expectation is difficult when in the midst of a pathway renowned for both its production of top-end talent and subsequent team success. After falling six points short of ultimate footballing glory in last year’s grand final, the Oakleigh Chargers will be looking to go one better in this year’s NAB League decider.

Along with the likely first two picks in this year’s draft, Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell, 2019 co-captain Trent Bianco is one of a handful of Oakleigh top-agers set to feature in a second-straight grand final on Saturday. While last year’s loss “adds a little bit of extra motivation” for Bianco, he insists his Chargers are not lacking any as they look to rectify the 2018 result.

“(Last year’s loss) just starts that fire inside,” Bianco said at the NAB League grand final press conference.

“Losing by a kick, six points or whatever it was, it still hurts us to this day and we definitely don’t want that to happen again. “It’ll definitely be in the back of our minds but it won’t change too much. “It’s just another game, it sounds like a cliché but it’s just another game and we just want to attack it just like we normally do.”

Chargers coach Leigh Clarke is another who has been here before, remaining at the helm for another Oakleigh lunge for the flag. Speaking of expectations heading into the “final test” for his side, he says success on the big day will go towards the legacy of each player he leads.

“I guess it’s like any final, the expectations rise a little bit and Eastern will understand as well that equally as much as we do,” he said.

“The prize on the line is something we want the boys to share… we talk about it quite often and they get to share that for the rest of their lives – that they’ll never be forgotten at our club if they win a premiership.”

The high stakes that come with a grand final adds another element to how individuals react within a team. Despite boasting a high amount of top-end talent when compared to Eastern’s vast team spread, Clarke maintains selflessness is what will get his side over the line in the big moments.

“An interesting part of the week is you get to see the boys under high game expectation… and see how they react to it. “The boys (who) want to peruse the pathway into the AFL, they need to be able to understand rising to the occasion. “We talk often about it might not be your day but you can always have your moment, so we’ll be expecting our boys to, if it’s not their day, sacrifice to help someone else have their moment as well.”

The different dynamics between the two sides set to meet on Saturday is as interesting a juxtaposition as the NAB League has ever seen, with Oakleigh boasting almost a dozen Vic Metro squad members to Eastern’s handful, while also having six national combine invitees to the Ranges’ nil. While the Eastern line-up has undergone a raft of changes since their last meeting with the Chargers, Oakleigh’s experience of shuffling the deck each week has been a test.

“We’re obviously in a little bit of a different position to Eastern,” Bianco said.

“We’ve got a few more boys (going) in and out every week so it’s a bit hard to in the middle of the year just to stay consistent but I think we’ve done a good job towards the middle and back-end of the year.”

Bianco’s descriptor of a “good job” is somewhat of an understatement, with the Chargers coming in off a massive run of seven wins, as well as 11 in their past 12 outings. The skipper is just pleased to see his side’s consistency.

“We’ve been playing some consistent footy and obviously we played patches we’re not happy with but it’s just putting through that consistent four-quarter effort,” he said.

“We’re playing some good footy so it’s good that in the back-end of the year, this is when it all starts mattering more so we’re in the best situation.”

While the team focus remains at the forefront for Bianco, he conceded there are a few players in his side that may well grab all the attention, including 2018 grand final MVP, Rowell.

“We’ve obviously got some high-end talent but we like to think we’ve played pretty consistent players throughout the whole team.

“We’ve got Matty Rowell and Noah Anderson up the top there so they’re pretty handy players and we’ve got the likes of Nick Bryan, we’ve got a fair few bottom-agers like Jamarra (Ugle-Hagan), Reef McInnes, Will Phillips, who is someone to look out for next year… (they’re) putting in just as much as the top-agers this year so they’ve been really handy and hopefully they can bring it (for) one more game.”

One of those bottom-agers, Ugle-Hagan, has formed a formidable key forward partnership with over-ager Cooper Sharman in the back-end of the season, giving elite kicks like Bianco a target to kick at.

“It’s just good knowing they can make a bad kick look good sometimes so if you put it out into their space and to their advantage side they’re more than likely going to do something with it,” Bianco said.

“(But) it’s not just them, it’s the small forwards and the medium-type forwards that we have in our team as well that help us be successful.”

Oakleigh’s tilt at success begins at 1:05pm at Ikon Park on Saturday, with the game set to be broadcasted live on Fox Footy.

NLB GF 2019: How they got here – Oakleigh Chargers

HEADING into the year, the Oakleigh Chargers were one of the favourites to take out the 2019 premiership after going down by less than a kick in 2018 to the Dandenong Stingrays. With the likely top two picks at their disposal in Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, as well as highly rated talents Trent Bianco, Dylan Williams and Nick Bryan among others, the depth at the Chargers was phenomenal. They held the 2018 Under 16s Vic Metro Most Valuable Player (MVP) in Will Phillips, as well as securing exciting tall forward, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan from the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels following his decision to play closer to where he boards at Scotch College. We look back on the Chargers’ 2019 season to see how they made it to the final match of the season.

ROUND 1:

EASTERN RANGES 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.3 | 7.5 (47)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.3 | 6.9 | 10.13 | 12.16 (88)

In the second game of the double header at RAMS Arena, Eastern Ranges put up a fight before eventually going down to one of the premiership favourites in Oakleigh Chargers. The Ranges booted three goals in the opening term to lead by three points at the first break, before the Chargers hit back in the second term with four goals to one, albeit with inaccuracy plaguing them. They booted 6.9 in the first half, and then 6.7 in the second half, finishing the game strongly and holding the Ranges to just three goals in the last half. Noah Anderson was the clear best on ground with four goals from 26 disposals, while Lachlan Gawel booted two goals for the Ranges. Nick Guiney, Will Phillips and Nick Bryan were named among the best for the Chargers, while Lachlan Stapleton and Cody Hirst were impressive for the Ranges. While the loss would be disappointing, the fact Eastern was able to match it with one of the top teams will give them plenty of confidence going forward.

ROUND 2:

CALDER CANNONS 0.0 | 5.4 | 6.4 | 7.4 (46)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 4.4 | 4.4 | 6.6 | 10.9 (69)

The Rolls Royce stars of Oakleigh slowly clicked into gear on Sunday, helping the Chargers to a 23-point win over Calder. The Cannons were dismantled last week and responded well to going four goals down in the opening term this week, hitting back with five majors to nil in the second stanza to take a lead into the major break. With the ledger all but level going into the home straight, the likes of Dylan Williams and Noah Anderson stood up when it mattered to drag Oakleigh over the line. Williams was kept relatively quiet, but managed to snare three goals in the fourth quarter, while Noah Anderson (44 disposals, five tackles, five inside 50s, two goals) was near-on unstoppable. Matt Rowell also showed his class for 31 disposals, with bottom-ager Finlay Macrae (21 disposals, 1.2) dangerous up forward. Just as dangerous at the other end was Josh Kemp, who pulled Calder back into the game with two crucial goals in the second quarter and ended with three. Brodie Newman (21 disposals, five rebound 50s, four marks) was a calming influence in defensive 50, and Sam Ramsay was a good forward driver with 18 disposals and five rebounds. With plenty of improvement shown, Calder will face Western Jets at RAMS next week, with Oakleigh set to meet fellow premiership fancies, Sandringham in a ripping match-up.

ROUND 3:

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 2.3 | 5.5 | 7.9 | 9.11 (65)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.0 | 3.1 | 4.5 | 8.7 (55)

Hosts Sandringham got the better of the Round 3 top-of-the-table clash, downing the Oakleigh Chargers by 10 points to remain undefeated atop of the ladder. The Dragons were in control for most of the contest in perfect conditions to showcase the raft of draftable talent on display, and held on in the face of a late Oakleigh charge. Charlie Dean started strongly up forward, clunking big marks and putting two majors on the board to remain the competition’s leading goal scorer. Hugo Ralphsmith was the only other Dragon to slot two goals, and was dangerous in each of his forward forays – much like Oakleigh’s Noah Anderson, who booted two goals from 26 disposals. Along with Anderson’s efforts, Oakleigh’s midfield force was led by Matt Rowell (31 disposals, 11 tackles, seven marks) and co-captain Trent Bianco (26 disposals, five rebound 50s, four inside 50s), but was ultimately outdone by the Dragons’ depth. The centre bounce trio of Jack Mahony (25 disposals), Finn Maginness (24, six inside 50s, one goal), and Ryan Byrnes (21, six inside 50s) worked tirelessly to win a wealth of possessions and send Sandringham forward, with Josh Worrell a force off half-back. With the amount of talent on show, the game fully delivered on expectations with respects to getting a good glimpse of the game’s future stars, and the two sides would surely provide another corker should they meet in the post-season. Both teams now go on to face academies in Round 4, with Sandringham hosting Sydney, while Oakleigh travels to Brisbane to take on the Suns.

ROUND 4:

GOLD COAST ACADEMY 1.3 | 6.4 | 10.8 | 14.11 (95)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.4 | 3.6 (24)

Gold Coast SUNS Academy became the third non-Victorian side to pick up four points on the weekend, opening Sunday’s Queensland double-header with a 71-point win over Oakleigh. The Chargers came in heavily depleted like most of their fellow metro sides, but it didn’t show early as they battled well in an even first term. It was all Gold Coast from thereon though, as the Suns pulled away to a 26-point half time lead. With eight goals to one, it was more of the same in a dominant second half from the home side as they pushed to claim top spot at round’s end. Connor Budarick again had a day out, leading the Suns with 28 disposals, eight marks, eight tackles and a goal, while Corey Joyce and Ashton Crossley won the ball well with 22 possessions apiece. Josh Gore could have had a huge game, claiming 2.5 from his 20 disposals as one of four Suns multiple goal kickers, with Mark Steiner booting two of Oakleigh’s three goals for the match. Chargers over-ager and 2018 Vic Metro representative Joe Ayton-Delaney (26 disposals) was influential through midfield alongside Kaden Schreiber (24, seven marks, five clearances), but both were beaten to being named best by ruckman Jacob Woodfull who managed five clearances from 15 disposals. With two losses on the trot, Oakleigh will look to bounce back after the break against Dandenong, while Gold Coast is set to face another metro side in Eastern as its NAB League stint edges over the half-way mark.

ROUND 5:

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.2 | 10.4 | 12.8 | 19.10 (124)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.1 | 3.2 | 4.4 | 8.6 (54)

In their first three clashes, the Dandenong Stingrays have enjoyed absolute nail-biters, winning by a goal twice, and the drawing with Geelong Falcons in Round 3. While the opening term scores suggested this one would head down the same path, the action told a different story with the Stingrays on top, but not putt ing the scores on the board. That happened in the second term when they took full control of the game from Oakleigh Chargers, piling on eight goals to one with the breeze in a windy day at Shepley Oval. In front of a home crowd, the Stingrays put an understrength Oakleigh to the sword, extending the lead to 52 points by the final break, before running away with it in the last term as both sides managed to break through for goals. Eleven majors were kicked as Dandenong won that quarter seven goals to four, and enjoyed a massive 70-point win. In the absence of Hayden Young, Ned Cahill stood tall to be the standout player on the ground, while Luke Williams also contributed with his long-range goals a highlight. Jack Toner and Clayton Gay were solid throughout, as was Sam De Koning who took a multitude of intercept marks at centre half-back. For Oakleigh, Jacob Woodfull is hard to miss, rocking a mullet, but the ruck was sensational throughout the match, while Sam Seach and Ryan Valentine were also named among the best. AFL Academy members and co-captains Trent Bianco and Dylan Williams showed signs across the ground, but the Stingrays controlled the play for the most part in the impressive win.

ROUND 6:

TASMANIA DEVILS 3.0 | 5.2 | 6.5 | 8.7 (55)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.4 | 3.5 | 6.6 | 8.8 (56)

Oakleigh Chargers held on for a hard-fought win by the narrowest of margins over Tasmania at North Hobart Oval, helping them climb back into the NAB League top eight. After breaking to a slim quarter-time lead, the Chargers gave up a nine-point half time lead after going goalless in the second term. With their backs against the wall, Oakleigh stood up to reclaim the lead, and hold on until the final siren as both sides contributed 1.2 in the fourth quarter. Oakleigh’s Thomas Lovell was efficient in front of goal with half of his eight touches ending in six points, but it was co-captain Trent Bianco who was his side’s best with 42 disposals, five marks, seven clearances, nine tackles and eight inside 50s. Josh May was also instrumental with 28 disposals and five clearances, while ruckman Jacob Woodfull was handy with 16 disposals and 27 hitouts. Harrison Ireland was named the Devils’ best for his role as an undersized ruck, while Ollie Davis was their leading ball winner with 21 touches and five clearances. Fellow bottom-age star Sam Collins was not far behind, matching AFL Academy member Will Peppin‘s effort of 18 disposals, while Will Harper and Rhyan Mansell each booted two goals. While Oakleigh can enjoy a bye in Round 7, Tasmania faces a trip to Bendigo to face the Pioneers, who are also 2-3.

ROUND 7:

Bye.

ROUND 8:

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.2 | 2.4 | 4.6 | 5.10 (40)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.2 | 2.6 | 3.8 | 6.10 (46)

Oakleigh Chargers scraped home in a dour low-scoring affair, overcoming a three-quarter time deficit to beat the Northern Knights by six points. The match served as a curtain-raiser to the NAB League Girls finals at Shepley Oval, but both sides came out slowly on the big stage to play out a deadlocked 1.2 apiece first term. It proved much of the same in the following quarter, but Oakleigh managed to hold on to a two-point lead at half time after kicking the first goal of the term through Spiros Sklavenitis. The Knights hit back following the main break after Oakleigh’s Thomas ‘Love Machine’ Lovell again ensured the Chargers had the first goal of the quarter, with majors to Ryan Gardner and Joel Trudgeon putting them in a winning position heading into the last turn. It wasn’t to be though, with Dylan Williams‘ inspired move forward proving the difference as the Oakleigh co-captain booted two last quarter goals and assisted another to help his side sneak ahead and hold on. Bottom-aged Chargers Lochlan Jenkins (23 disposals, eight clearances) and Fraser Elliot (28 disposals, six clearances) were terrific in midfield, with the wing pairing of Josh May (24 disposals, six inside 50s) and Jeromy Lucas (23 disposals) also finding plenty of the ball. Thomas Graham joined Williams as the only other Oakleigh multiple goal-kicker, with no Knight achieving the same feat. Sam Philp (28 disposals, nine clearances) and Gardner (15 disposals, seven inside 50s) were named amongst Northern’s best and also found the goals, with Ryan Sturgess (19 disposals, 10 rebound 50s) resolute in defence and Lachie Potter (17 disposals) providing plenty of run. A second-consecutive narrow win sees Oakleigh sneak into the top eight, with Northern just outside on three wins as the competition heads into a development weekend.

ROUND 9:

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 1.2 | 2.6 | 4.7 | 9.11 (65)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.6 | 8.11 | 14.12 | 18.14 (122)

Oakleigh Chargers made it three wins on the trot as they comfortably accounted for the Murray Bushrangers by 57 points, consolidating their top eight standing. After scraping over the line by under a goal in each of their last two outings, the Chargers emphatically returned to form on the back of huge second and third quarters where they piled on 11 goals to three to establish dominance. Goals came in droves for the winners, with five of their six goal kickers claiming multiples – led by bottom-ager Connor Stone and Nicholas Staphopoulos, who each bagged five majors. Both were named amongst the best, with the bottom-aged midfield pairing of Fraser Elliot (26 disposals, six inside 50s) and Lochlan Jenkins (24 disposals, eight clearances) again right in the thick of it, and Vincent Zagari (17 disposals, seven rebounds) also solid. Jimmy Boyer was the clear best for Murray on a tough day, amassing an equal game-high 27 disposals and nine rebound 50s, with Vic Country squad member Cam Wild (20 disposals, 2.3) also good. Hudson Kaak joined Wild as the only other Murray multiple goal kicker (three), with over-ager Will Christie (12 disposals, nine tackles, 26 hitouts) working well around the ground. Murray’s search for a third win heads to Tasmania next week as they ready themselves to do battle with the Devils, while Oakleigh hosts and in-form Calder side with both teams looking to stretch their win streaks.

ROUND 10:

CALDER CANNONS 2.3 | 2.4 | 3.5 | 4.6 (30)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.1 | 6.6 | 11.6 | 15.9 (99)

Oakleigh continues its charge up the ladder an into form, accounting for the Calder Cannons by 69 points in the sides’ second meeting at RAMS Arena for 2019. While they won ugly in Rounds 6 and 8, the sixth place Chargers are now on par with the top four sides after wins by a combined 126 points in Rounds 9 and 10. While a 26-point half time buffer was more than handy, Oakleigh well and truly pulled away in the second half with nine goals to two in a more typical Chargers display. The inclusion of bottom-age stars Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Will Phillips on the back of school football breaks proved telling, with the former booting five goals and the latter leading the possession count. Fellow bottom-agers Lochlan Jenkins and Fraser Elliot were not far behind Phillips in those stakes to continue their good form, while GWS Academy member Jeromy Lucas played a good hand with two goals. For the Cannons, who had previously won four of their last five, Ben Overman was named best, with Ned Gentile again among the votes alongside the likes of Jeremy O’Sullivan (two goals) and Sam Ramsay. Unable to rectify their Round 2 loss to the Chargers on the same ground, the Cannons now slip below their weekend opponents to seventh with a bye on the horizon. Meanwhile, Oakleigh will look to continue its hot form and break into the top four with a win against Gippsland in Round 11.

ROUND 11:

GIPPSLAND POWER 4.4 | 5.6 | 10.10 | 13.13 (91)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.2 | 4.7 | 4.7 | 6.9 (45)

A Vic Country bye boded well for the Gippsland Power as they climbed into third with a strong win over the dangerous Oakleigh Chargers. After kicking out to a 20-point quarter time buffer, Oakleigh hit back to find themselves just five points down at the main break with 3.5 in the second term. The see-sawing continued though, as the Chargers were held goalless in the next stanza, and could only answer back with 2.2 in the final period to the home side’s powerful eight-goal second half. Four of Gippsland’s best half-dozen were Country representatives, with Fraser Phillips (20 disposals, 5.3) enjoying a day out to lead the lot and earn a Draft Central Player of the Week nomination. Leo Connolly narrowly missed out on that gig with his game-high 32 touches and lone goal, while skipper Brock Smith, Ryan Sparkes, and bottom-ager Sam Berry each had 26 disposals as Gippsland dominated possession. The likes of Tom Fitzpatrick (17 disposals, 2.1), Harrison Pepper (20 disposals, one goal) and Mason McGarrity (18 disposals, 1.4) were others on the verge of having big days. For Oakleigh, whose winning run has snapped, Vincent Zagari was named best for his team-high 22-disposals effort, with Lochlan Jenkins (18 disposals, 10 tackles) and Josh May (18 disposals) working hard in a weakened midfield. Over-aged debutant Cooper Sharman was one who impressed among the raft of Oakleigh changes, collecting 20 disposals and booting a goal. The Chargers will look to get back on the winners list as they clash with Sandringham next time out, while Gippsland faces a Geelong team desperate for form.

ROUND 12:

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 1.3 | 2.8 | 3.8 | 4.16 (40)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.4 | 1.5 | 7.8 | 8.10 (58)

A wasteful Sandringham Dragons squandered the opportunity to defeat a gallant Oakleigh Chargers, kicking 1.8 in the final term in a tight contest at Trevor Barker Beach Oval. Cold and blustery conditions meant skills and finishing were made trying, however Oakleigh willed themselves over the line with some strong tackling and defensive efforts led by Lachlan Johnson and Nicholas Stathopoulos. Oakleigh kicked away halfway through the third term, slamming home six goals and taking a commanding lead into the final break. An inspired Dragons outfit came out with vengeance in the last but their inaccuracy and inability to convert their chances cost them a victory. Failing to capitalise on ample supply from midfielders Hugo Ralphsmith and Jackson Voss (five inside 50s each), the Dragons eventually succumbed to Oakleigh’s superior class and polish in front of goal. Oakleigh power forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan slotted three goals and Stathopoulos two, with midfielders Reef McInnes (23 disposals) and Lochlan Jenkins (21 touches) working hard. For the Dragons, Ralphsmith (23 disposals) and rebounding defender Will Mackay (23 disposals, eight rebounds) were dominant forces in the misfiring Sandringham line-up. Oakleigh’s win places them as a strong contender for the finals, equalling Sandringham’;s seven wins for the year.

ROUND 13:

GEELONG FALCONS 2.3 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 6.6 (42)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 5.4 | 10.6 | 14.8 | 20.9 (129)

All of Oakleigh’s top-end guns fired as the Chargers easily accounted for a depleted Geelong Falcons side by 87 points to see out the round. Returning co-captains Dylan Williams (five goals) and Trent Bianco (24 disposals, two goals) were fantastic, with a raft of bottom and top-age talents helping Oakleigh to their big win. Bottom-agers Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (four goals) and Reef McInnes (29 disposals, two goals) did their best to live up to the standard set by Williams and Bianco, with over-ager Thomas Graham (24 disposals, 23 hitouts, one goal) monstrous in the ruck and Kaden Schreiber handball-happy with 25 among his 29 disposals. For Geelong, Charlie Sprague‘s three goals were a shining light, while bottom-agers Charlie Lazzaro (23 disposals, four rebound 50s), Noah Gribble (20 disposals, five marks), Cameron Fleeton (19 disposals, seven marks) and Henry Walsh (11 disposals, 26 hitouts) gave a glimpse of the future. Desperate for form, a meeting with GWV Rebels is next for Geelong, while Oakleigh will be red hot heading into its top four clash with table-toppers, Eastern.

ROUND 14:

EASTERN RANGES 4.2 | 6.2 | 9.5 | 11.9 (75)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 0.2 | 6.6 | 8.10 | 12.11 (83)

In the second game of the double header, it looked to be a blowout early in the match with Eastern Ranges piling on four goals to zero in the opening term and had six on the board to Oakleigh’s one midway through the second term. The Chargers then roared into action, piling on five consecutive goals to hit the front by the main break. In a see-sawing second half, both sides looked to have a stake in the win, but it was not until Dylan Williams booted a late goal in the final term – as he had done on the eve of half-time, for Oakleigh to be home. While Williams finished with two majors, Cooper Sharman was dominant with four straight goals and 18 touches, looking ever-dangerous. Trent Bianco had a day out with 34 touches and 10 rebounds, camping off half-back and keeping the ball moving forward, while Jeromy Lucas and Will Phillips were among the big ball winners for the Chargers. For Eastern, it was a rare loss for the top-of-the-table side, but Jordan Jaworksi finished with four goals – three in the first half, while Beau Tennant booted three. Lachlan Stapleton was the standout midfielder in the absence of partner-in-crime Mitch Mellis, while Wil Parker and Zak Pretty were also productive in the midfield.

ROUND 15:

Bye.

ROUND 16:

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.2 | 4.3 | 10.5 | 12.8 (80)
WESTERN JETS 1.2 | 5.3 | 5.3 | 9.4 (58)

A barnstorming second half saw Oakleigh get the better of Western and slot into the all-important third place, with all teams bar Tasmania having now played 14 games. The Chargers gave up a six-point half-time lead after heading into the first break with an identical margin to the good, but turned it on in typical Oakleigh fashion to boot six goals to Western’s nil in the third term. While Western managed to claw back a bit of the margin in an improved final quarter, it was to no avail as Oakleigh held firm despite missing both of its co-captains. Chargers midfielder Lochlan Jenkins was the standout with 35 disposals, 10 inside 50s and a goal, backed by fellow bottom-age ball finder Reef McInnes (28 disposals, seven marks, nine tackles). Over-ager Jeromy Lucas (26 disposals, six tackles) was another to stand up with some of the Chargers’ guns absent, while Nicholas Stathopoulos was efficient in front of goal to prize three goals from seven disposals and Cooper Sharman (10 disposals, 2.1) continues to excite. For the Jets, Archi Manton was just as economical with 5.1 from seven kicks to do most of the damage as his side’s only multiple goal kicker, but Josh Honey was named best for his 24-disposal effort. Over-ager Daly Andrews (23 disposals) keeps on finding the ball, with returning defensive duo Lucas Rocci and Josh Kellett doing the same and bottom-ager Billy Cootee booting a couple of handy goals. Both sides are set to play their final regular season games in the Avalon Airport Oval triple-header, with Western opening the show against Northern and Oakleigh closing it in a mouth-watering clash with Sandringham.

ROUND 17:

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 3.2 | 5.4 | 10.6 | 13.6 (84)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.3 | 6.6 | 8.7 | 14.7 (91)

Pure star power dragged the Oakleigh Chargers over the line and into third place with an incredible seven-point come-from-behind win over Sandringham Dragons in the thick of what was a finals-like atmosphere. After the Dragons looked to have sealed the game with three goals in the first five minutes of the final quarter, a Noah Anderson-inspired Oakleigh hit back in style with four majors in the following five minutes, and ended with the last six of the game altogether to snatch victory. Both sides enjoyed spurts of momentum throughout the game and looked like getting on top on numerous occasions, but Oakleigh’s final thrust came at the ideal time as they charged home to claim the remarkable win. Anderson’s game-winning 24 disposals and three goals were arguably matched for importance by the efforts of Matt Rowell (34 disposals, seven tackles) – who hardly put a foot wrong – and skipper Trent Bianco (28 disposals). The high-marking forward duo of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Cooper Sharman also shone, combining for six goals and a couple of highlight reel moments. For the Dragons, Finn Maginness did his level best to drag his side over the line with 17 disposals and three goals, with Darcy Chirgwin (30 disposals, seven tackles) doing the tough stuff through midfield and Angus Hanrahan influential on the outside (23 disposals, two goals). Bottom-ager Archie Perkins was another to impress with his three goals from 11 disposals, while Corey Watts put in a mammoth effort in defence with 12 disposals, six marks and seven rebound 50s. With an absolute raft of combine invitees and representative players taking the field, it was one of the highest quality Under 18 games in recent memory and truly lived up to the pre-game hype as a number of top-end stars stood up.

QUALIFYING FINAL:

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

OAKLEIGH Chargers have advanced through to the 2019 NAB League Boys Preliminary Final after downing Gippsland Power in one of the finishes of the year. Both teams had momentum swings throughout the contest, with the Chargers on top early, the Power storming in front, only for the Chargers to come again with seven of the last 10 goals to run over the top and take home the chocolates.

The first quarter belonged to Oakleigh with four consecutive goals to open proceedings, and Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan looking dangerous against a defence missing their best interceptor in captain Brock Smith. Ugle-Hagan took four marks in the first term, converting two goals from set shots and setting up another one to Bailey Laurie with class tight on the boundary. Without hesitation he spun and delivered a neat centring pass into Laurie who did not let him down with the set shot. The first goal had come from Nick Stathopoulos who found himself free inside 50 and had no problems converting the set shot from straight in front. Facing a four-goal deficit and frustrated, Gippsland Power’s Caleb Serong gave away a downfield free for a late bump, only to suck the player he knocked over to put him on the turf and his appeal to the umpire was successful to win the ball back. It seemed to ignite Gippsland who to that point had been a rung below a switched on Oakleigh side. Trent Baldi booted back-to-back goals with a set shot and then getting free and doubling back to goal to kick one from point blank on the run. Having cut the deficit to a couple of goals, it was painful when Cooper Sharman somehow got his hands free in a congested stoppage inside 50 to flick the handball behind his head to the running Reef McInnes who slammed it home seconds before the siren for Oakleigh to head into the break 17 points ahead. Serong was on fire for the Power, picking up nine touches and taking a contested mark over the much taller Nick Bryan, while Oakleigh had plenty of ball winners with bottom-agers Will Phillips (nine), Finlay Macrae (seven) and Laurie (seven) leading the way. The ominous sign for the Chargers was that despite the lead, their two biggest names in Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson had combined for just 11 touches in the first term.

If the first quarter belonged to Serong, the second quarter belonged to Sam Flanders. The dynamic forward booted four consecutive goals to steal the show and open up a massive 23-point lead at half-time. The term started with Harvey Neocleous booted a goal from a quick snap in the opening minute after great work from Serong out of the middle, before a run-down tackle from Fraser Phillips aided a goal to Leo Connolly who Phillips handed it off to on the run. The long raking kick from Connolly outside 50 sailed through and the Power were up and about. Oakleigh had a rare chance through Laurie inside 50 but his set shot missed to the left, and the Power immediately made them pay. Flanders proceeded to put in one of the best individual quarter performances, piling on 12 touches and four goals over the next 15 minutes, all of which came from set shots. He was isolated one-on-one with an opponent and time and time used great body work to nudge his opponent off and apply more scoreboard pressure. After his fourth Flanders went into the middle and immediately went to work setting up the next major, bombing long inside 50 to Serong who rotated deep with his Vic Country teammate, and it came off hands for Phillips to run onto it perfectly and dribble it home. The siren sounded with Gippsland remarkably on top after booting nine of the past 10 goals.

After counter-opposite opening terms in the first half, the third quarter became an early shootout with both sides showing off their ability to hit the scoreboard. Stathopoulos quickly added Oakleigh’s first major since the last few seconds of the first term, running into the open goal for his second goal. It seemed to open the flood gates at both ends as Tom Fitzpatrick won a 50m penalty and converted from point blank. Both Phillips’ got on the board for their respective sides, with Will turning onto his right and snapping around his body for Oakleigh, before Fraser did the same from the next clearance off his left from a Serong clearance. Flanders had an ambitious shot from the pocket but sprayed it out on the full, then Laurie made it count with a successful shot from the other end. When Stathopoulos made the crowd believe it was Groundhog Day – running into the square and booting it from point blank range again – Oakleigh was back into single digits. Will Phillips and Ugle-Hagan both had chances to cut the deficit further but missed. At the final break, Flanders (23 disposals, six marks and four goals) and Serong (20 disposals, four marks and five inside 50s) were dominant, while Phillips (20 disposals, four inside 50s and one goal) and Trent Bianco (20 disposals, four inside 50s) were the top disposal winners for the Chargers.

As if the players needed a challenge in the last term, the heavens opened and the rain poured down and it became a slog. Not before Ugle-Hagan could slot his third and cut the deficit to within a kick. Riley Baldi quickly responded as the rain began to fall, running into an open goal and answering the call with a major, but from then on goals were hard to come by. Bianco seemed to defy that though when he unleashed a bomb from just inside 50 and it sailed through for a vital major either side of a Ugle-Hagan spray from 15m out. The behinds were enough to put Oakleigh up by a couple as Gippsland desperately tried to get the ball forward. But instead it was Oakleigh through Stathopoulos who somehow found a way deep in the pocket to kick an almost impossible goal and hand the Chargers an unlikely come-from-behind win.

Rowell finished the day with an influential second half and 30 disposals, two marks, five tackles and four rebounds, joined among the big ball winners in Will Phillips (28 touches, four tackles, six inside 50s and three rebounds) and Anderson (25 disposals, three inside 50s), while Stathopoulos and Ugle-Hagan combined for seven majors. For the Power, it was the duo of Flanders (28 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s, seven tackles and four majors) and Serong (24 disposals, four marks, six inside 50s and four tackles) who did the bulk of the damage, while Connolly (21 touches, 11 rebounds and a goal) and Tye Hourigan (16 disposals, four marks, nine rebounds and two tackles) were also consistent.

PRELIMINARY FINAL:

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.2 | 8.3 | 12.6 | 17.7 (109)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 2.3 | 3.5 | 4.9 | 4.10 (34)

OAKLEIGH Chargers earned a second crack at premiership glory in as many years, trumping metro rivals Sandringham by 75 points at Princes Park.

The Chargers got on top early with a 28-point half-time lead and never looked back, sealing the 17.7 (109) to 4.10 (34) result.

The signs were ominous early as Jamarra Ugle-Hagan produced a mark on the lead and set shot goal typical of his form, backed by a Thomas Graham goal on the run shortly after – all within the first three minutes. But as expected, Sandringham hit back as Finn Maginness got on top at the stoppages. The Dragons even snatched the lead for the only time of the game after some improved finishing, with Kyle Yorke’s set shot sailing through. The Chargers hit back swiftly with one of their better passages forward of centre, with Noah Anderson and Trent Bianco combining to set up Ugle-Hagan’s second for the term, sealing the five-point quarter time lead.

The game began to open up as the Chargers quickly got on the board again on the back of a classy Finlay Macrae finish, and he had a say in Oakleigh’s third goal of the term with a nice baulk in the lead up to Graham’s second major. The momentum was halted momentarily as Yorke again found the big sticks with a deft dribbler over the back, but it was business as usual as Cooper Sharman got on the board with a reply and Graham roosted a huge set shot goal late on to give the Chargers an ominous 28-point half time lead.

Oakleigh again started the better in the third and broke out to a game-high lead in the back-end of the term, sparked by a couple of great moments from bottom-age forward Connor Stone. A goal to Hugo Ralphsmith on the back of a spearing Miles Bergman ball was the only form of resistance from the Dragons, as they could only stand and watch as Oakleigh put through another three goals to end the term 45 points to the good and with one foot in the grand final. With the game all but dead and buried, the Chargers added another four goals to the Dragons’ nil to see out the win in a heated final term, with state combine invitee Kaden Schreiber going in the book late on.

Matt Rowell led all-comers with a typically consistent 32 disposals, followed by Schreiber’s 28 and skipper Bianco’s 27. Will Phillips enjoyed his time through midfield with 26 touches, while Anderson was impactful with three goals from 21 disposals in a statement performance. In a dour day for the Dragons, Ryan Byrnes racked up 27 disposals in a trying effort, while Darcy Chirgwin and Maginness combined well early and Louis Butler was solid down back with Harry Loughnan.