Tag: draft central

2021 AFL Women’s draftee watch: Grand Final

BRISBANE was crowned the 2021 AFL Women’s premier on Saturday after defeating two-time winner, Adelaide by 18 points at Adelaide Oval. A number of fresh faces to the competition continued their contributions for the two remaining sides, producing big moments on the biggest of stages. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest weekend, focusing on players who were selected from the most recent draft crop.

2021 AFL Women’s Grand Final
Adelaide 3.2 (20) def. by Brisbane 6.2 (38) 

In Brisbane’s maiden premiership triumph, rookie speedster Courtney Hodder booted a couple of crucial goals to kickstart the Lions’ day. The diminutive mover got her side off to an ideal start, booting the first goal of the game with a typically shrewd snap only a couple of minutes in.

She then followed it up with a ridiculously good soccered effort in term two, trickling the ball home after latching onto a kick deep in the pocket that she had little right to get to first. It marked a terrific end to Hodder’s debut campaign, as she played every game and finished with nine disposals, five tackles, and those two goals in the all important decider.

18-year-old Indy Tahau was the Lions’ other 2020 draftee afield, with the athletic utility notching five disposals (four kicks), two marks, and one tackle. Her first season at senior level was a promising one, having come into the side in Round 4 and established her place among a well-drilled unit, playing every game thereafter.

Explosive first year forward Teah Charlton was a strong aerial presence for Adelaide, claiming five marks among her 11 disposals. The prized draft pick also managed two inside 50s and laid two tackles in her final performance for the year. Having come into a stacked squad with plenty of plaudits, Charlton played every game and lived up to her pick four billing.

Another Crow to have appeared in every game was Ashleigh Woodland, a 22-year-old who is making good on her second chance at the elite level. Her numbers – three disposals, one tackle – were not flattering on Saturday, but the dynamic forward was involved in some key moments during the first half and if not for Brisbane’s immense pressure, would have been involved in more scores for Adelaide.

Exciting small prospect Rachelle Martin was the Crows’ third draftee afield, with the 22-year-old good at ground level for nine disposals (seven handballs), two marks, three tackles, and two inside 50s. Having previously been a top-up player at the Crows, Martin capitalised on finally being included in the senior squad and played every game after Round 6, proving her AFLW worth.

Image Credit: James Elsby/AFL Photos

NAB League Player Focus: Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons)

GEELONG Falcons ruck, Toby Conway is a prospect on the rise having recently been added to the AFL Academy squad ahead of their clash with Geelong VFL. The 204cm bigman has returned a promising start to the season, averaging a tick under 16 disposals and 28 hitouts across three NAB League outings, making him one of the leading ruck options in this year’s draft pool.

After injury threatened to derail his 2020 campaign, before the pandemic eventually did so, Conway is enjoying being back out on the park and has some key improvements in his sights. During preseason, he outlined ground coverage, forward craft, and marking as areas of growth – all of which were observed in his latest outing, against Bendigo Pioneers.

Conway is the prospect under our Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 3 showing.

PLAYER PAGE

Toby Conway
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

DOB: April 24, 2003
Height: 204cm
Position: Ruck

2021 averages*: 15.7 disposals | 6.7 kicks | 9.0 handballs | 3.3 marks | 2.7 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 1.7 rebound 50s | 27.7 hitouts | 0.3 goals

* – from first three games.

PLAYER FOCUS

2021 NAB League, Round 3
Bendigo Pioneers 9.10 (64) def. Geelong Falcons 7.8 (50)

Stats: 17 disposals | 8 kicks | 9 handballs | 3 marks | 4 tackles | 2 inside 50s | 3 rebound 50s | 29 hitouts | 1 goal

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

In his usual post as Geelong’s primary ruck, Conway started brightly. He was poised against quite a raw tall in Bendigo’s Jed Brereton, who he would compete with throughout the contest. Some of Conway’s first acts saw him dropping back into the defensive half to help relieve pressure, while also setting up shrewdly behind the ball to intercept aerially – both were early ticks for his improving fitness and ground coverage. He also proved too big and strong in stoppage situations, using strength and bodywork to move into prime position and win a good amount of hitouts. From there, he directed the ball down well with a few double-handed taps and his pure height/reach advantage loomed as a worrying factor for the Bendigo engine room. Later in the opening term, Conway was sighted taking a mark on the lead up forward.

Q2:

Speaking of the forwardline, Conway seemed to spend more time resting inside attacking 50 than in previous weeks, where he would instead be heavily rotated to the bench out of the ruck. He managed to take toll during the second term as he found space to mark uncontested, before duly converting a set shot goal from about 35 metres out. It was the first goal of the quarter and extended the Falcons’ lead to nine points at the 10-minute mark. While his height and reach were again troublesome for the undersized Bendigo defenders, Conway would revert back to his ruck duties and showcase even more craft in that area. His directional taps at the centre bounces meant midfielders like Mitch Knevitt could get first use of the ball where it mattered.

Q3:

Picking up from where he left off, Conway was dominant in the ruck stakes to start the third period of play. He also looked to be gaining confidence at the contest, imposing himself by following up his aerial work and actively looking to take the ball out of the ruck more often. One solid bit of ground level play saw Conway lay a smother to help his side turn the ball over, before kicking the Falcons back inside attacking 50 on the run. While not overly aggressive, the bigman was able to stay involved at the coalface and even won some of his own ball to register those clearance and inside 50 stats. His seeming lift in urgency matched Geelong’s need for any form of momentum as the Pioneers began to hit back, and eventually snuck ahead.

Q4:

Conway looked a little worse for wear after contesting the first centre bounce, but got back up and lumbered on. He is not always the most continually active ruck, but was able to work when called upon after taking some moments to recoup. His knack of taking the ball out of the ruck continued and while some of his hand-offs were to midfielders under immediate pressure, the idea and intent were good. The Falcons tall again rested forward and even got a go against some of Bendigo’s second-string rucks late in the piece. He showed some more ruck craft with directional taps, not just thumping the ball forward or hitting with his momentum on the rise. Overall, it was a solid outing for Conway despite his side going down, finishing as the dominant ruckman afield.

Final thoughts…

On a pure squad-needs basis, it was no great surprise to see Conway added to the AFL Academy mix alongside fellow tall Ned Moyle. While he has shown some active improvement in his areas of growth, the Geelong Falcons prospect can still strive for betterment throughout 2021. Conway’s work around the ground and ability to impact up forward will be key to his development, as his ruck craft is already quite sound. Given his ability to do so in the ruck, utilising his size and building on that strength will help translate to some solid contested marking. Endurance also comes into the fold there, and Conway will inevitably spend less time with hands on head or hip with better match fitness throughout the year. In terms of his own strengths though, Conway delivers and has done so across three promising games this this season.

Scouting Notes: 2021 Vic Metro vs. Vic Country Under 17 trials

WITH the NAB League Under 17 carnival done and dusted, the best performers from each region came together on Friday to compete in two trial games. The pair of scratch matches, held at Trevor Barker Oval, will help determine the final Vic Country and Vic Metro Under 17 squads set to compete at this year’s National Championships.

Vic Country snared wins in both games, though the focus will be on which individuals made claims for representative honours. That is also the case in our Scouting Notes, which are the opinion of each individual author.

GAME ONE:

Vic Country 12.7 (79) def. Vic Country 8.15 (63)

By: Declan Reeve

Vic Country:

#3 Will Baker (Geelong Falcons)

Was a consistent workhorse in the forward half for Country, looking to get into good areas to be a marking option, where he was spoiled a few times by his opponent but comprehensively beat them with the follow up work at ground level, beforegetting it forward with his boot. The workrate translated to his tackling as well, able to bring down bigger opponents or hold them up to cause a stoppage. Finished the day with two goals, with one of those being an impressive effort, as he sold some candy to his opponent before kicking it well straight through the big sticks.

#4 Zane Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Another brother of an AFL-listed player, this time being Port Adelaide’s Xavier Duursma, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re the same player, with Zane also a hard-working runner with clean disposal. He genuinely did not miss a target for the game, with his kicking the standout on field, looking to utilise the width of the ground with switch kicks, but also happy to take those riskier inside 45 kicks and always having them pay off. Being a 2023 draft eligible prospect, you’d expect that his size would be a hindrance against the bigger bodies, but when moved from the wing to the inside role, Duursma took it in his stride, winning a couple of clearances with well timed runs and following up with perfect delivery.

#5 Oliver Hollands (Murray Bushrangers)

The brother of recently-drafted Gold Coast player, Elijah Hollands, Oliver showed that he possesses perhaps equally impressive athletic traits and midfield craft than his older brother. He won the very first clearance of the game, where he got away from his direct opponent, and then outran the other two Metro mids to kick well inside 50 and set up Country’s first goal. That sort of burst and skill continued to be on display throughout the contest. His work rate was immense, with some particularly good defensive work in-close where he intercepted a few handballs from Metro, that were only going from a player 2 meters away from their intended target, and then pumped the ball long forward before he could be wrapped up and brought to ground. Also like his brother, he is impactful forward of centre, taking some good grabs in the forward half and getting himself a goal in the first quarter.

#6 Noah Long (Bendigo Pioneers)

Earning comparisons to AFL Rising Star Winner Caleb Serong from onlookers, it’s not hard to see why Long recieved such high praise. Despite being shorter than most of the opposing midfielders, Long was consistently harder at it on the inside and came off best most times when the ball was contested. Something that really stuck, was he seemed to want to run through packs rather than just run in and win the ball, with his ferociousness meaning he often succeeded and then disposed of it quickly by hand to the outside. Unsurprisingly, this was all paired with possibly the highest defensive workrate on the ground, running both ways and often seen deep in defence to help out his team, with his strong tackling and physicality troubling Metro.

#12 Bailey Humphrey (Gippsland Power)

Really came into the game in the second half where he was a strong defensive presence in the midfield, putting himself in good spots to tackle opponents that thought they had gotten clear out of a stoppage or contest, really driving them into the ground. Also showed some strong aerial strength, where he took some crucial marks, including one particularly impressive contested grab over a pack of four or five other players.

#19 Ashtyn Atkinson (Murray Bushrangers)

A real natural and crafty forward, Ashtyn finished the day with three goals from smart leads and positioning, but could have easily had 5 or 6 had his conversion from set shots been a little higher. The sheer amount of marks inside 50 he got was impressive, and highlighted his ability to lead to the right spots and get separation on those leads, with a quick first three-to-four steps being a big part of that.

#22 Ned Moodie (Dandenong Stingrays)

Despite being on the end of the Hollands’ clearance at the very start of the game, then passing it off to a teammate who kicked the opening goal, he was relatively quiet in the first half of the game where he spent most of his time up forward. It was in the second half when he be moved into the midfield where Moodie showed his potential as a big bodied inside ball winner. He won a few clearances and showed quick, clean hands on the run, as well as a high level work rate, often being involved multiple times in the same chain of play leading forward.

#25 Nate Pipicelli (Gippsland Power)

Played at both ends, kicking the first goal of the match but then going quiet for quite some time, before bobbing up to be one of the better players in the second half as the Country full back. It was there where he took some good intercept grabs in front of packs, but also knew not to get sucked into forming packs, holding out the back to take some easy grabs because everyone was caught too far in front. 

#26 Aaron Cadman (GWV Rebels)

Similar to Atkinson, Cadman just seemed to understand what was required of him as a forward, getting to the right spots to mark, or being in the right place at the right time to receive a handball to get himself a goal, ending the game with three.

#30 Jess McManus (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played in all thirds of the ground, starting as a defender where he took some good grabs working in front of his opponents, or spoiled strongly when stuck behind. Then moved into the ruck where he fought hard for front position in every battle, and followed up much better at ground level than his opponent, even getting himself some free kicks when tackling opponents who tried to get past him. Then moved into the forwardline where he showed a real prowess for leading into good spots with purpose.

Vic Metro:

#2 Nick Watson (Eastern Ranges)

It’s incredible that a player who is a year younger than those he’s playing against, and standing at only 168 cm, can have such a high level performance, arguably best afield for the match across both teams. Watson just consistently had a crack throughout the game, showing enormous bravery with his hunt for the ball, and going back with the flight to take strong marks multiple times – even having a few moments where his speed let him run a good 20-25 meters to take an intercept mark just outside of Metro’s forward 50, against opponents 20cm taller than him. He has blistering speed which allows him to get separation that not many others can, while also seeing him dash away from packs before anyone else has realised what’s happened. He was rewarded for such a well rounded performance with a goal in the third quarter, after setting up four or five himself.

#4 Reuben Rode (Calder Cannons)

The Essendon NGA prospect played up both ends and utilised his scintillating speed and agility to, at times, embarrass opponents with how well he managed to weave through traffic or take them on. His speed was his main weapon though, running head-on to spilled balls around the defensive 50 to then deliver kicks out to the wing, in an attempt to keep his disposals safe. When the ball was inside forward 50 he set up well on the outer, taking some uncontested intercept marks to deliver straight back inside.

#5 Blake Drury (Oakleigh Chargers)

Skipper for Metro in this game, Drury worked his way into the contest as it went on, where he eventually got his move into the midfield and decided he didn’t like other players winning clearances. There was a passage in the fourth quarter in particular, where it felt like he won six or seven clearances in a row, just reading the ball off the ruck tap exceptionally well, taking a few really quick steps to get space and momentum, before delivering long inside 50 to create pressure for the Country defence. Country rotated different players on him, but he just kept on doing it. Presented well as an option around the ground as well, using his kicking skill to move the ball more centrally going forward. 

#6 Alwyn Davey Jnr (Oakleigh Chargers)

Whilst not racking up the most ball of the day, he had some absolute moments of brilliance where you could see the excitement he’ll bring to the game in a few years. Clean below his knees, Davey took the ball with one grab consistently, showing amazing speed that he maintained even when turning 180 degrees. He took on opponents consistently with a few bounces and weaved here and there. Got a brilliant goal assist in the second quarter where he crumbed the ball perfectly from the pack and fired of a handball to a loose teammate who capitalised.

#8 Cooper Harvey (Northern Knights)

A game that was truly made up of two halves for Harvey. In the first half he played his usual role as a smaller forward target, capable of making smart and well timed leads, while linking up well with Nick Watson to get onto the end of some genuine bullet kicks – looking more than comfortable taking them out in front and on the chest. He didn’t always convert to goal, with a couple shots falling short but ending up in the right areas. The one attempt he did slot came from right in front after again leading well. In the second half, he moved into the rover role almost permanently, where that same marking prowess was dangerous and heavily utilised by Metro when looking to slow down the play. He’d look for options most others wouldn’t. In a game where long bombs were common, he lowered the eyes to hit leading targets or switch kick options which made him standout amongst the midfield group. 

#10 Darcy Edmends (Northern Knights)

The word ‘class’ gets thrown about a lot these days, but this kid genuinely demonstrates it in its truest form. Starting the game on the wing, Edmends used his composure well, timing his runs perfectly and holding space as to allow his teammates to break out if they could. If not, he would remain close enough to get the hands on the outside, where his kicking forward or across the ground was a treat to watch. Just had moments where he looked a class above anyone else in his area, with many plays where he was being closed in on by multiple opponents, but weaved through them like they were frozen in place. He was also the standout for drawing opponents in to give more space to teammates to run into, holding the ball until the very last second he could and then releasing, copping contact if needed. Moved into the backline in the second half, where he positioned well for uncontested chest marks.

#11 George Wardlaw (Oakleigh Chargers)

The standout inside midfielder for the game, Wardlaw is a commanding physical presence around stoppages, able to get to top speed with only a few steps. If he gets a clean run at the ball, you can chalk it in for a clearance, and if he doesn’t, you can guarantee that he’ll run through whoever is in the way to get it. What was most impressive was how clean and quick his hands were in-close, just knowing where his teammates were when he had the ball and firing out sharp and accurate handballs. While his kicking was rushed at times, he still got good distance and penetration to quickly move forward. Had a great show of courage in the third quarter, where he was playing as a defender, and went back with the flight of the ball in an attempt to mark it overhead, but collided heavily with a Country player. Not allowing this to stop his hunt for the ball, he then dived across to pick it up and handball to a teammate in the corridor, before going off for the rest of the game icing his calf.

#24 Matthew Jefferson (Oakleigh Chargers)

Does this kid have sticky hands or what? Seemed to mark any ball that was in the air within 10 meters of him, seriously challenging the Country defence as they rotated players constantly in an effort to disturb his aerial impact. Two of his three goals came directly from contested marks, and what would’ve been five or so scoring opportunities created from kicks he earned from marks. His ball use was good as well, putting it in front of teammates to run onto easily and take it on the chest. His three goals obviously suggest his set shots are reliable when he’s in range.

GAME TWO:

Vic Country 13.11 (89) def. Vic Country 8.10 (58)

By: Ed Pascoe

Vic Country:

#1 Jacob Konstanty (Gippsland Power)

The exciting small forward from Gippsland looked dangerous early, kicking his only two goals in the first quarter to get Country off to a great start. The 176cm pocket rocket showed he could make an impact overhead and at ground level, with his first goal coming from a nice lead up mark before the converted set shot from 40 metres, while a great snap goal in the pocket on his opposite foot highlighted his class. He wouldn’t add to his goal tally and was a bit quieter as the game went on, but he still showed great skill and forward pressure and could be a handful for Vic Country at the Under 17 championships.

#9 Jai McGough (Geelong Falcons)

The speedy small defender with the long sleeves had plenty of the ball, being trusted with kick-outs early in the game and showing great creativity and vision by foot. The 178cm McGough offered plenty of drive from half-back and wasn’t hard to miss with his speed. He would later bring those traits to the wing in the second half and would still win plenty of the ball and help drive it forward for Country, even having a running shot at goal despite missing. The Geelong Falcons prospect looks very exciting and one to keep an eye on with his dash.

#14 Jonti Schuback (Gippsland Power)

Usually a smooth moving midfielder for Gippsland Power, Schuback was used at half-back early on, offering plenty of skill and composure in the back half. Schuback started to look more damaging on a wing, kicking a behind from a long shot from 50, while a 50-metre penalty would give him his first goal which he slotted calmly. The 185cm prospect played a similar type of game to that of Josh Browne who is a 2021 prospect out of East Fremantle, and Schuback should be an important cog in Vic Country’s midfield depth during the Under 17 championships.

#17 Ted Clohesy (Geelong Falcons)

With a no-fuss haircut, the 182cm Geelong Falcons midfielder proved tough and damaging, playing a contested and efficient game through the midfield while also looking dynamic forward of centre, where he would kick two very nice goals. Despite a light frame, Clohesy wasn’t afraid of winning the hard ball and to balance out his contested side, he would use the ball well on the outside and really move it forward well. Clohesy did his chances of playing for Country at this year’s Under 17 carnival no harm.

#20 Brayden George (Murray Bushrangers)

Game 1 had a Murray Bushrangers forward at 185cm in Ashtyn Atkinson causing havoc, and Game 2 had his teammate in George do just that. The powerful medium forward kicked two goals in an impressive display. showing plenty of class. The first came from some intelligent work in open play; instead of rushing a snap, he quickly summed up is options and then straitened up to kick a nice drop punt goal. His second was also classy, kicking a great snap goal from a set shot, repeating what many AFL forwards seem to be doing this year. Murray Bushrangers will be a hard team to stop with both he and Atkinson providing plenty of excitement.

#25 Felix Fogarty (GWV Rebels)

The GWV Rebels key forward provided a great target for his midfielders leading up at the ball well and nailing his marks. Fogarty showed plenty of skill for a taller player as well, with the 197cm prospect really hitting his straps in the second quarter to show good agility to get around a man on the mark and kick a lovely set shot goal from 50 metres, which was his only major of the day. Fogarty will look to have a great forward partnership with fellow Rebel Aaron Cadman, not only for the Rebels but perhaps also for Vic Country at the Under 17 championships.

Vic Metro:

#9 Will Ashcroft (Sandringham Dragons)

The Sandringham prospect and son of gun former-Brisbane player Marcus Ashcroft was one of Metro’s best players, winning plenty of clearances and breaking away from congestion. Ashcroft is a talented midfielder much like his father was, and at 183cm looks a top prospect for the 2022 draft. He was able to kick his only goal in the first quarter with a free kick, but converted the set shot from 50 metres out, showing his great kicking skills. Ashcroft has a great mix of skill and burst from stoppages, which is a highly regarded trait. Ashcroft had a few shots at goal stopped on the line and he could have had a much bigger day, but he certainly looks like a player to watch at the upcoming Under 17 championships.

#10 Harry Sheezel (Sandringham Dragons)

Arguably the best small forward for Vic Metro over the two games, the 183cm Sandringham prospect looked dangerous whenever he was around the ball, showing clean hands and agility when in possession and finding the ball in dangerous situations. Sheezel showed great courage early, going the back with the flight to take a nice mark inside 50 and although he didn’t convert the set shot, he would kick his only two goals in the same quarter. One came from a free kick and another a nice shot on the run. Sheezel was quieter in the second half but he was able to show why he would be a player to watch for Vic Metro in the Under 17 championships.

#11 Luke Teal (Oakleigh Chargers)

The dynamic Oakleigh Charger started the game well at half-back, taking some nice intercept marks and playing on at every opportunity. Teal showed great movement in traffic and he would then use those traits in the midfield when he was moved into there in the second half, winning plenty of the ball and escaping congestion well, while also using his clean hands to his advantage. Teal looks like a player to watch for Vic Metro at the championships and he could play a variety of roles at 184cm.

#12 Zac Greeves (Eastern Ranges)

The Eastern Ranges prospect isn’t too dissimilar to Luke Teal in size and style and like Teal, showed some good form in all areas of the ground. A strong player at 185cm, Greeves showed a great willingness to take the game on and he moved well in traffic and looked a very composed player under pressure, willing to stay strong and brace for impact. Before the Under 17 championships start he will certainly be one to watch for Caulfield Grammar in the APS.

#21 Will Elliott (Oakleigh Chargers) 

The athletic young ruckman from Oakleigh Chargers had some real eye-catching moments both in the ruck and up forward. He had plenty of good moments on every line, with a strong contested intercept mark on the last line in defence during the third quarter and a nice bit of play in the last quarter showing good agility under pressure, along with good composure to then handpass to a teammate to set up a goal. Elliot might not be a starting ruck for Metro at the championships but he was able to show plenty of traits behind the play and up forward to make him a potentially versatile prospect at 200cm.

2021 NAB League: Round 3 outlook – ‘Rays on the rise

AFTER a couple of all-country clashes, Dandenong Stingrays sit 1-1 heading into the third full round of NAB League action. Although they did not get the four points last time out, a bunch of budding AFL Draft prospects proved one thing – that the ‘Rays may well be on the rise in that capacity.

The typically strong talent region saw only one player selected in the most recent draft intake, as Deakyn Smith landed at Melbourne through the pre-season supplemental selection period. That was after a handful of Dandenong products made it to the elite level in 2019, but it seems at this early stage that the Stingrays may have another few prospects set to make a name for themselves this year.

Round 2 Player of the Week, Connor Macdonald returned a dream performance in the Stingrays’ loss to Greater Western Victoria (GWV); amassing 33 disposals, 10 marks, 10 inside 50s, and laying 12 tackles. A monster effort. It saw the 184cm midfielder rise up draft boards, especially having backed up a strong Round 1 showing.

His speed away from congestion is complemented well by a desire to work hard, as Macdonald could be seen accumulating possessions in all areas of the ground and lifting when his side needed it. Having played on a wing and up forward, Macdonald also has the ability to kick goals and really hurt the opposition with his balanced game.

There are a raft of other names to keep an eye on as they raise their stocks throughout this year’s campaign. Miller Bergman is a versatile type with eye-catching traits. He started at half-back in Round 2 before moving forward to boot three final-term goals, showcasing impressive aerial ability and some real class on the ball at both ends.

James Cahill, the brother of Essendon’s Ned, is another coming through the ranks. The crafty forward shares many traits with his elder sibling, able to play slightly above his size and hit up hard at the ball to mark. He also boasts the obvious ground level craft with clean hands, great smarts, and a real nose for goal. Watch for his rise.

Joining him up forward are livewires Judson Clarke and Josiah Kyle. The former does not need much room or many touches to make an impact inside 50, and the same can be said for the latter. Kyle is also a St Kilda Next Generation Academy prospect, while the speedy Kobi George, Ryan Koo Kwet Kim, and Mac Andrew qualify for Melbourne.

Andrew has raised eyebrows of late as a raw ruck talent with genuine top 25 potential. His athleticism makes for exciting work at each contest, and he also has a good knack for taking marks around the ground – whether it be while dropping back in support or in his time resting forward. At the contest, he also follows up well and while his decision making can do with refining at times, he does well when performing the fundamentals.

Another tall of note is Justin Davies, difficult to miss with his red hair. He showed as an Under 16 prospect that he is capable of playing as a forward, but looks to have swung up the other end of late and played a key role against GWV as he shut down the dangerous Josh Rentsch.

Of course, it would be remiss not to mention a couple of 19th-year prospects who have also lived up to their billings. Will Bravo returned with aplomb last week on the wing and through midfield, making use of his experience with the Hawthorn AFL side during preseason. Utility Clayton Gay has also started strongly, a terrific natural footballer.

Having shown vast development on each line, this emerging Dandenong side will face one of the toughest NAB League tests in Round 3, against Sandringham Dragons. The two sides meet on Saturday afternoon at Trevor Barker Oval, with the 2-0 Dragons boasting a heap of high-end draft prospects.

Tune in to the contest via the NAB League app, where our very own Draft Editor Michael Alvaro, and analyst Declan Reeve will be providing commentary. With so much talent set to take the field, it looms as one of the games of the round.

Draft Central go behind the scenes at the 2021 AFLW U19s Championships

DRAFT Central is excited to bring you some behind the scenes content from the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships in the form of player features from across the nation, having completed interviews with South Australia, Western Australia and the Allies in the past week. Around 50 of the brightest young talents will have features coming out of the championships, with more to come as the year goes on.

Having previously compiled more than 100 written features on the future talent of the AFL Women’s and state league competitions each year over the past couple of years, Draft Central will once again reach the benchmark. In the preseason, we chatted to a host of Victorian and Tasmanian talent at the Preseason Testing events in their respective states, and completed YouTube videos which can be viewed via the Draft Central YouTube channel.

Western Australia’s midfield dynamo Courtney Rowley chatting to Draft Central.

Having chatted to players across the non-Victorian and Tasmanian states, keep an eye out on the YouTube channel – and over the coming months as interviews from players filter out, accompanied by written features. This will provide audiences with the ability to not only read what the future talent has to say, but also see it in their own words. The AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships will continue on next month with the Victorian teams to face off against Queensland, and the most northern state in Australia will not be forgotten either, with player features to come from the Sunshine State.

Sydney Swans Academy captain and Allies talent Jess Doyle chatting to Draft Central.

Alongside those features, there will be plenty of content around the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, and the state leagues across the country as they continue post-championships. With the NAB League Girls finals series getting underway, Draft Central is your one-stop shop for everything women’s football. Make sure you are following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for notifications and all the fantastic content coming up.

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Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 2

AFTER the cobwebs were dusted off in Round 1 last week, Victoria’s hottest AFL Draft prospects were scattered throughout all six fixtures which included a triple-header at Queen Elizabeth Oval, and a double-header at Preston City Oval for Round 2. Our scouts were on hand to run you through the top performers from each game, in their opinion-based Scouting Notes.

>> RECAP: NAB League Round 2 snapshot

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Declan Reeve

Sandringham Dragons:

#4 Josh Sinn

Just super classy even in the poor conditions, with his speed and agility big weapons for his style of play, where his confidence to take on opponents resulted in some solid drive around the ground. Looked good in his midfield stints, as well with his game sense leading to some really strong runs around the stoppages. His disposal was at its usual high standard, although he sometimes asked too much of his teammates with kicks placed just too far out of their leading range or leaping ability, although this happened less later in the game when he had gotten a better feel for the conditions.

#6 Blake Howes

Showed glimpses of his high athletic base throughout, with his bursts of speed when put into the midfield super impressive, even if they did not result in clearances or disposals for him. Drawing the opposition midfielders to him helped Sandy get it going forward. He also applied some excellent pressure and tackles through the midfield which were vital in keeping Northern from entering their 50. Took some opportunistic marks inside forward 50 that were either passed off or kicked out on the full, which really was not reward enough for the effort and skill he had shown throughout. 

#7 Campbell Chesser

Had a good day despite the scrappy conditions. Stationed mostly as a wing, he had a lot of action on his side of the ground, where he was able to show his willingness and ability to win his own ball and get out of the contest cleanly. It was really impressive to see that even with less than favourable conditions he was not afraid to take risks with his disposal, even having the confidence to attempt bounces throughout the game. When he was the offside wing, he made smart leads into dangerous spots, with one leading to him getting a goal in the third quarter. Dropped off a little bit the longer the game went on, after sustaining a heavy knock on the inside of his knee.

#13 Luca Macnab

Put himself under a lot of high balls that entered the defensive 50 and held on to a couple pretty well. The courage to sit under those kicks and create a contest was a big point of difference for the Dragons. Used it daringly out of defence, often kicking a bullet like kick into a central area, like the top of the defensive 50, to give Sandringham a really wide range of options in transition.

#17 Finn Callaghan

Has a nice bit of speed to go well with his ability to hold space, making him particularly dangerous in transition. To go with this, he does not mind taking a bounce and taking on opponents to get a good 50 to 60 metres gained for a few of his touches, really nailing that link up player role on the wing, and playing a vital role in same strong Sandringham counter attacks. Whilst this allows him to enjoy a lot of time without pressure, on the occasion he does find himself in a pack, he works around really well or draws in the opponent to give a teammate running past the ball and space. Going forward his kicking was well suited to the conditions, placing it lightly in front of teammates to move into.

#18 Darby Hipwell

The conditions suited his style very well as a hard-at-it inside midfielder. What was most impressive was his marking around the ground, on the chest and over head, where his courage meant he often beat bigger opponents. He placed and weighted his kicks well, finding teammates that did not have an opponent and placing it in front of them.

#42 Luke Cleary

Got himself involved in a lot of play within the Sandringham defence, seemingly among everything down there in one way or another. His ball use was consistently reliable, helping move the ball laterally to give Sandringham some time to push forward without pressure. Competed well in aerial contests, and the times he was caught behind his opponent he would always manage to get the fist in without giving away a free kick, keeping his opponents accountable and relatively unrewarded. During the latter stages of the game he got involved in a bit more up the ground, coming to meet the ball more often.

#70 Jacob Edwards

Had some extra attention on him after an outstanding Round 1 performance, and did not disappoint any recruiters watching, playing a really complete game as a ruck that rested forward. What was impressive to see was how he never counted himself out of it, taking some really impressive grabs in the wet, some contested, but also following up at ground level on the rare occasion he did not quite hold a mark. Continued to show good signs in ruck contests as well, albeit against much shorter opposition without the strength he has.

Northern Knights:

#2 Ned Long

Appearing to play as Northern’s main target, Long was good as a marking option around the ground in slow play situations, but had a hard time of it when attempting to mark whilst at pace. Used the ball well when he had it, with well-weighted kicks down the line a common sight coming from him. When running through the midfield, being a bigger body he hunted relentlessly, running through opponents to win the ball and then hand off or kick long. 

#3 Josh Ward

Tackled hard through the midfield and was a presence throughout the day as a stronger contested midfielder, with his ball winning being strong and the pressure he applied rushing Sandringham into hack kicks forward. Was clean in the second half when he had it, adding an element of composure for Northern coming out of stoppages, where he would go against the trend of blazing away and bombing long forward, instead opting for some shorter or lateral options to allow Northern to control the tempo. Had some moments where his quickness to switch from an inside hunter to outside receiver were really vital for Northern, with one particular instance in the fourth quarter leading to a really dangerous inside 50 that was unlucky not to result in a goal.

#7 Ewan Macpherson

Used his strength and size to beat opponents around stoppages and even throw his weight about in foot races to knock opponents off balance and collect. Not only able to impact as a stronger body in the centre, he found himself up either end at times as well, with his work up forward, not a regular position for him, was solid, with his marking proficiency on display with a really strong contested mark leading to a good kick to a teammate. He had really clean ball use throughout the game as well, with those shorter inside kicks being his preferred type.

#9 Darcy Wilmot

Not afraid to take on the play and come to meet a loose ball out of the Northern defence, taking on opponents with his speed and evasiveness being highlighted. Even if he did occasionally run himself into trouble, he was more likely to be able to get boot to ball and get it long than to concede a free kick. Clean below his knees as well, with the sight of him picking up a ball with one clean grab even when it was pelting down with rain being a common occurrence. 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Hamish Spence

Tasmania Devils:

#3 Oliver Davis

The Matthew Richardson Medallist from last year (the rising star award for the TSL’s best young player) played at the standard he has set over the last 12 months. He is a prototypical inside midfielder, who knows how to win the ball at the coalface and make an impact in the middle. This was on full display on Saturday, with Davies standing out around stoppages with his clearance work and the way he burst through packs. After being overlooked in his draft year, the 19-year-old made a good start to his NAB League campaign, finishing with 28 disposals, seven tackles and six inside 50s.

#5 Oliver Sanders

Sanders was one of Tasmania’s primary movers through the midfield, finishing the game as the leading disposal getter with 29 disposals, five tackles and 10 inside 50s. While his touches did not always possess the biggest impact, his ability to just accumulate the ball was crucial to the Devils’ chances. His natural ball-winning ability and competitiveness around the contest suggests that he should be one of the teams’ most important players going forward.

#6 Sam Banks

The Devils’ captain and a member of the AFL Academy squad, Banks was prolific off half-back. Despite being rested last week in the TSL, he showed no signs of rust with his clean skills and decision making. He could potentially move up the ground a bit more at times to impact the contest further, but he is such an asset for Tasmania down back, setting up the side with his kick-outs and rebounds coming out off the backline. He led from the front in defeat, finishing with 28 disposals, five marks, four tackles and 10 rebound 50s.

#7 Will Splann

Splann was the pick of Tasmania’s defenders, playing with heart and continually standing up whenever Calder went forward. While the team arguably came in with an oversized backline given the conditions, he flew for every contest and crashed packs. He had a couple of big moments at the start of the third quarter, he took a big relieving contested mark down the line and then intercepted the ball two times in a row a couple of minutes later. He ultimately finished with 14 disposals, five marks, two tackles and two rebound 50s, but the stats do not show some of his once percenters or defensive efforts at crucial times during the game. He was swung forward in the last to give the Devils’ another option up forward, but he did not hit the scoreboard.

#12 Jye Menzie

Menzie looked like the deadliest player on the ground at times, but his inaccuracy prevented his game from going to another level. He presented strongly on leads and looked dangerous whenever he had the ball in his hands or was around goal. He did not convert all of his opportunities with three behinds (which was a theme for both sides throughout the day), but showed his resolve by kicking the goal that brought Tasmania within a kick late in the final quarter. He also pressed up the ground to get involved in the contest, finishing with 19 disposals, eight marks and four inside 50s, to go along with his goal. Saturday’s effort, combined with his form for North Hobart last season, shows that Menzie should be a handful for any opposing backmen in the future.

#29 Dominic White

White played a typical wingman’s game, working hard to cover the whole ground and providing an option for his teammates on the outside. He was often an outlet or part of the chain of play whenever Tasmania exited its backline, finishing with 26 disposals and seven marks for the game. He won a crucial one-on-one ball at the top defensive 50 late in the game, which ended up leading to the Devils’ only goal of the last quarter.

Calder Cannons:

#1 Harrison Andronaco

Saturday’s contest against Tasmania was probably one of Andronaco’s most impactful games to date. While the top-ager usually plays primarily as a small forward, he showed his ability to roll through the midfield and play further up the ground, finishing with 23 disposals, four marks and four inside 50s. The main element of his game that stood out was his inside work, winning several key contests in the middle. He still looked like a threat whenever he was around goal, though he only had the one behind to show for it.

#3 Jackson Cardillo

Cardillo spent more time up forward than in the midfield on Saturday, something which he did to great effect. He was the Cannons’ most likely and dangerous forward with his four scoring shots, though unfortunately only one of them was a goal (though he did give off a goal to Joey Dimasi). He won several one-on-one contests against his direct opponent, hauling in some strong contested marks. Playing at half-forward, he still impacted the game further up the ground with his 15 disposals, four marks and three inside 50s. Adding and improving on his forward craft should hopefully hold Cardillo in good stead going forward, after not getting drafted last year.

#6 Flynn Lakey

A tough nut around stoppages, Lakey’s fiery red hair matched the heat he brought all day. He was Calder’s most prolific player, gathering a team-high 25 disposals, while forcing his way through contests to make sure he got his hands on the ball first. He seemed to thrive in the wet conditions when the heavens opened up in the second quarter, taking his already impressive performance to another level. He put in a full four-quarter effort, finishing with six tackles, five marks and six inside 50s, in addition to his 25 disposals.

#21 Riley Mason

Mason was the Cannons’ main mover out of the backline, enjoying an influential performance off half-back. He read the ball well, using his tall and lanky frame to intercept and cut off the Devils’ attacks several times. He gathered plenty of touches, finishing with 17 disposals, five marks and six rebound 50s. His level-headedness with ball in hand ultimately helped Calder get over the line by one point.

#25 Josh Goater

Goater continued his strong start to the year with another good game against the Devils. He stood up around stoppages, as his tall frame was suited to the congested nature of the match. He was probably the best player on the ground in the first quarter; he was a point of difference in the midfield, weaved through stoppages and kicked a booming goal from outside 50. While the rest of his day did not match his performance in the first term, he still finished with 20 disposals, five inside 50s and three tackles.

#41 Liam Podhajski

Despite the conditions being adverse for a big man at times, it did not stop Podhajski from having a day out. He was strong in the ruck contest; he won a massive 40 hit outs and some of his taps put the ball on a platter for his on-ballers. But it was the work he put in around the ground and his follow up efforts that arguably made him best on. He was like an extra midfielder at times and also filled a hole up forward. It was a complete ruckman’s game, finishing with 21 disposals, six tackles, four inside 50s, three rebound 50s and one goal, to go along with his 40 hitouts.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Declan Reeve

Oakleigh Chargers:

#1 Youseph Dib

The crafty small was vital in Oakleigh’s break away on the scoreboard in the second half, where he was thrown into the midfield and used his agility and speed to break away from the contest with ball in hand. He just has a remarkable ability to get himself out of tricky situations, with a strength of his being his handballing, able to hit difficult targets and then run to support or get the ball back. He pulled off some good kicks as well, although there were a couple of awkward ones where the ball came off flat and wobbly, which is an area he could look to sure up.

#3 Nick Daicos

Following up from his thrilling NAB League debut against Sandringham Dragons, Daicos put in another best on ground performance in a dominant display through the midfield and forward line. His footy IQ is at an obviously high level, this was highlighted with dominance around stoppages, able to win it at will, even head-to-head with top prospect Tyler Sonsie he had the advantage, able to read the ruck tap exceptionally well. His skills were also clean in some unfavourable conditions, hitting some really good kicks into dangerous spots, able to show his composure by hitting them under pressure as well.

#13 Dylan Thomas

Had a really good day playing a hybrid role up forward, sometimes acting as the main target but also able to play as a crumber at the feet of bigger teammates, with that versatility in his approach leading to a massive four-goal haul. He was unselfish in his approach despite the big haul, giving off some good opportunities, and regularly lowering the eyes going forward.

#14 Sam Darcy

One of the tallest, and one of the lightest players on-field, for a 200 centimetre odd player Darcy moved remarkably well around the contests, backing his speed a few times to take on smaller opponents in foot races. Looked good in the back half, taking some commanding grabs and using the ball well by foot, also filling in as a relieving ruck and using smart body positioning to get the advantage and control the taps.

#18 Jed Rule

Positions well behind the play, getting into positions where he can intercept mark and then use his speed and kicking efficiency to move the ball back forward through dangerous areas in transition. I was also impressed by his ability to close in on opponents and force them to dispose of the ball backwards, giving time for Oakleigh to set up behind him or for a pressed up forward to win a free kick.

#36 Scott Beilby

Similar game to Rule which served as a difficult combination for Eastern to get past, just positioned well behind the play and took some good intercept marks in the defensive 50, controlling the tempo f the game from those marks well to get Oakleigh out in good positions. Offered a lot with his run from behind as well, able to kick with momentum to get the ball deep for Oakleigh.

Eastern Ranges:

#1 Tyler Sonsie

The kid is classy, and seemed to win just about all of the clearances that Eastern did, where he could then break free with his speed and dart a kick to a leading forward. His follow up work to support team mates he handballed was impressive as well, he would just work hard to get there and support, often getting the ball back to utilise his elite kicking even under pressure. He just had a game full of highlight type moments, pulling off some ridiculous kicks, or finding ways out of really difficult situations. Came into the game more as it went on, slowly making the midfield his own in the second half.

#5 Jake Soligo

Relentless attack on the ball, whether it be loose or in an opponent’s hand. After the first half he started positioning himself on Nick Daicos around stoppages and nullified his impact well at times, and whilst he was not the beneficiary of this work directly, it got Eastern a lot more opportunities to win those clearances, with the likes of Sonsie stepping up during that period in the midfield. Found himself playing as a bit of a sweeper like player, a kick behind stoppages, afterwards, where he positioned himself well to always make a contest.

#16 Aiden Begg

Gave up a bit of height in the ruck contests but still competed well, possibly even winning the bout against two really solid opponents. Has a really nice leap and ruck craft that make him a genuine chance no matter whereabouts he is positioned heading into the contest. Good around the ground as well following up strongly, using it well and setting up behind play and taking some good grabs in that role, suggesting he could play as a key defender at the next level.

#21 Corey Preston

Did not quite reach the lofty heights he set in his Round 1 game, but still had some really nice moments throughout the game, with his goal, that was preceded by a shrug off of an opponent, a highlight for his day. He spent some time in the midfield where he looked dangerous at times, with his speed being a big weapon around the ground, and his agility being at a good level where he regularly stepped around opponents with ease.

#31 Tyreece Lieu

As a taller midfielder he attracted a lot of attention around the stoppages, but he took that attention in his stride, able to run through and still win his clearances or be in spots where those winning clearances could get the ball to him easily. Had a difficult day up forward with the Chargers defence being really strong aerially, but he still found ways to create contests and win the ball at ground level, handing off to teammates to take shots at goal.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Ed Pascoe

Bendigo Pioneers:

#4 Jack Hickman

After a solid game against Murray Bushrangers last week, the nippy midfielder did so again this week with a great outing, winning some important touches and using his elite speed and endurance across the ground. A handy goal kicker in one of Essendon’s intraclub hitout, Hickman has taken that belief into the NAB League as the speedy 19-year-old kicked a nice long set shot goal from 50 metres in the second quarter, and almost kicked a sensational goal on the run with a banana, swiftly evading his opponents in the third quarter. Hickman provided a lot of good ground coverage, using his endurance to run hard defensively as well as offensively. Despite his small stature, he has some traits clubs will like. Hickman finished the game with 17 disposals, four tackles and kicked 1.1.

#5 Cooper Hamilton

Despite a slow start Hamilton worked his way into the he game, showing some eye-catching movements – especially in the last quarter. Although not a prolific first half, he had some nice movements with good aggression, and used his stronger body to shrug tackles and hand off releasing handballs to teammates. The second half was more prolific once he was moved into the midfield and even given some time forward, which he made the most of with a nice snap goal in the third quarter, he showed plenty of skill on the wing with a nice weighted kick to his teammate’s advantage and his skills in general were solid all day. Hamilton isn’t fancy with his tough tackling and ability to bring teammates into the game, but he is effective when he does get his hands on the ball as he finished with 12 disposals, seven tackles and one goal.

#8 Hugh Hamilton

The tough inside midfielder was a clearance king, using his strong body and his ability to hit those clearances at pace. He was in the action forward of centre early on, kicking a nice snap goal on the run and later missing a set shot. He has certainly showed an ability to get forward and impact which he would do again in the third quarter with perhaps the goal of the day, coming from a great dribble attempt on the boundary under pressure. Hamilton was as tough as they come in the middle and despite not being the greatest athlete, has certainly proven to be one of the more damaging midfielders so far in the NAB League with his ability to win clearances at will and also go forward to hit the scoreboard. Hamilton finished the game with a team-high 22 disposals along with eight inside 50s and kicking 2.2.

#10 Bode Stevens

The crafty midfielder/forward certainly has a bag of tricks and likes using them, with his nice movement in traffic and strong leap seen plenty during the game. Stevens had some nice movements through the midfield but it was his work around goals that impressed, kicking a nice goal in open play during the second quarter and an even better goal in the third, threading the needle. The athletic traits to go with his ability to potentially play multiple roles at the next level make Stevens an interesting prospect. He finished with 17 disposals, four tackles and two goals.

#24 Caleb Ernst

A great focal point for Bendigo going forward, Ernst was arguably the best key forward on the ground, leading up well and looking equally adept at ground level with some great gathers and handballs to smalls running past. Ernst was lively early and presented strongly as a marking option, but a strong tackle that created a goal also showed his hard work at ground level. He continued to be a great target for the first half and would finally get reward for effort with a mark close to goal, which he would then convert with a simple set shot. After winning selection for the Essendon VFL squad, Bendigo might not have Ernst up forward all year but the more games he can spend with Bendigo, the more likely they will keep their winning streak going. Ernst finished the game with 16 disposals, seven marks and one goal.

Gippsland Power:

#2 Cooper Alger

Alger was smooth across half-back with the classy left footer offering plenty of good rebound while also doing the defensive things nicely. Alger was tasked with kick-outs and did well, using his long left foot to clear the ball long but also find some targets short with good vision. A classy kick of the ball, he also showed good class by hand with nice vision and a long handball forward under pressure in the second quarter. Alger also had some nice movements defensively with a strong mark near the goal line and some desperate spoils near the line as well. Alger finished the match with a game-high 25 disposals, six marks and eight rebound 50s.

#5 Chance Doultree

A tough customer and hard to miss with the mullet, Doultree was one of his team’s better contributors all across the ground, showing good aptitude for the contest and providing run on the outside as well. Doultree has a great moment in the second quarter, burning off an opponent at half-back and then following up his work to win a free kick inside 50. Although the set shot would fall short, his teammate took the mark anyway. A strong four-quarter performer, Doultree finished the game with 22 disposals, six tackles and four inside 50s.

#17 Luis D’Angelo

A superb game in the midfield for D’Angelo, who is slick and tough at stoppages and proved it again after a strong game last week. D’Angelo was clean at stoppages, rarely wasting a possession and winning clearances at will. Although he could work on his outside game more, his inside game has been honed and it is hard to argue for many better inside players in the NAB League so far this year. D’Angelo finished the game with 21 disposals and six tackles.

#23 Jai Serong

The younger brother of AFL Rising Star Caleb, Jai is a bit different height-wise, looking more like a key position player. He certainly shares some traits with his older brother, with some strong tackling form despite his light frame and clean hands at ground level also rare for a player of Jai’s height. Although not consistent overhead, he would take a nice contested mark in the last quarter which was a strong quarter all-round for Serong, who took some marks around the ground but also did some nice things as a taller midfielder. Serong is an interesting prospect who, with his athleticism, height and light frame, could be anything. Serong finished the game with 19 disposals, six marks and nine tackles.

GWV REBELS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Michael Alvaro

GWV Rebels:

#1 Sam Butler

Essentially playing exclusively up forward, Butler was ultra-impressive each time the ball entered his area. The brother of St Kilda’s Dan, Sam holds some similar traits but is becoming a very good player in his own right. The GWV prospect was evasive in traffic, attacking the ball at speed and looking to weave his way free across the half-forward line. Though not exactly tall, Butler was also a useful marking target on the lead with impressively strong hands at full tilt, allowing him to grasp bullet-like or wobbly kicks forward with aplomb. He proved very difficult to beat when positioned in front, but marked well over the back in the final term, stretching overhead and then converting an easy set shot.

#3 Charlie Molan

One of the best competitors across the NAB League, Molan proved exactly that with a strong showing in defence. His ability to read the play and get into positions to intercept was terrific, seeing him force turnovers time and time again before delivering well-hit kicks on the rebound. Molan’s second efforts and repeat runs were also noticeable, as he dug in at ground level and laid some really strong tackles inside defensive 50. He would also look to chain together passages with that run, not stopping after his initial act and disposal. Another pleasing part of Molan’s game was his ability to win one-on-one balls against quality opposition, with two outstanding plays in term three. The first was a tussle with Clayton Gay close to goal, and the second was a desperate ground ball split against Judson Clarke further afield. Overall, a solid day from the 18th-year talent.

#5 Josh Rentsch

While blanketed relatively well in the first half after a strong start to the season in Round 1, Rentsch still managed to showcase his talent in small samples. He had a couple of chances to hit the scoreboard in the third term off the back of some good attempts to win the ball, but missed both set shots from different ranges. His strength came to the fore with a contested mark at forward wing, and he used that same physicality to follow up well at ground level. While seemingly unintentional, Rentsch laid another clumsy bump on his opponent having escaped punishment for a similar act last week, so may look to sharpen his work in that area. He looked good in the ruck during the final term, again providing nice bodywork to go with well-placed hitouts.

#6 Marcus Herbert

A smooth midfield mover, Herbert was one of GWV’s mainstays in the engine room and made some eye-catching plays at the stoppages. The top-ager’s agility and ability to break free from congestion in style proved a key feature of his game once again, with nice showings of composure and spacial awareness where others would likely panic. He finished as one of the Rebels’ more prolific ball winners on 21 disposals, and has a promising bag of tricks in that competitive GWV midfield.

#8 Joshua Gibcus

It was no real surprise to see Gibcus added to the AFL Academy squad after a hot start to the season, and the 18th-year defender again put his best traits on show during this outing. His style of play can be observed in his stats, with five marks and seven rebound 50s among his 16 overall disposals. An exciting athlete, Gibcus showcased his unique aerial ability with terrific intercept marking, while also sweeping up with composure at ground level to set GWV on the rebound. His speed also came to the fore in those instances, as well as a few tricks as he sold candy to his opponents to find a greater amount of space on the last line. As Dandenong closed in during the final term, Gibcus lifted to take a couple of clutch intercept marks and was a cool head down back.

#10 Blake Scott

The exciting Western Bulldogs NGA prospect was a lively figure forward of centre for GWV, often using his pace to break the play open and generate good energy inside attacking 50. He built into the game well, with his sole goal coming in the second term. Scott broke into acres of space and eventually latched onto a long kick over the top before slotting his dribbled shot. He has a good nose for goal and with such electric speed and agility, is able to create well with ball in hand.

#16 Kai Lohmann

Clubs will likely have enjoyed the raw athleticism and ability of Lohmann, who caught the eye with acts both aerially and across the ground. Lohmann’s zip off the mark and willingness to hit the ball at speed was complimented well by his clean hands, which resulted in some solid marking play. The GWV talent had a few chances to hit the scoreboard and made good on one during the second term with a lovely set shot. He missed a shot deep in the pocket during term four, but had shown good nous to mark a high ball and was not afraid to fly for audacious specky attempts.

Dandenong Stingrays:

#3 Miller Bergman

A player who really rose in stock this week, Bergman bookended his game brilliantly with work at both ends of the ground. He first came to prominence in the opening quarter, starting down back and showcasing his clean overhead marking ability. He read the play well to intercept, but also became a threat on the rebound with his penetrative and direct kicking. Having swung forward, Bergman again came to life in the final term to cap his game with three classy goals from set shots. He earned each chance by staying active forward of the ball, darting around before making clever leads and marking strongly. While he often gained good separation, Bergman was also clean under opposition pressure. One to keep an eye on.

#6 Connor Macdonald

The Draft Central Player of the Week, Macdonald had an absolutely epic game with 33 disposals, 10 marks, 10 inside 50s, and 12 tackles. He was a consistent figure in midfield throughout the match and seemed to be everywhere at times, working up and back to accumulate in all areas while also getting his hands on contested ball at the stoppages. Macdonald’s speed was on show with nice bursts away from congestion, complimented by the work-rate to either follow up his initial possessions, or work back hard if the ball did not fall Dandenong’s way. His cleanliness both to gather and dispose of the ball efficiently was another superb string to his bow, making for good viewing in such a complete performance. Most importantly, Macdonald lifted in the final quarter when his side was pushing hard to sneak ahead, adding gutsy aerial work and hard transitional running to his play. He has made a top start to the season, and will likely have risen up draft boards after another strong outing.

#10 Clayton Gay

A top-ager who was perhaps unlucky to be overlooked last year, Gay has returned in promising form. He started the day off in style with an awesome one-handed grab deep inside 50, before kicking the game’s first goal from a straightforward set shot. His clean hands were also shown at ground level, with one-touch grabs off the deck and quick reflexes to flick the ball back up to teammates. Gay took another strong overhead mark in the second term but had his set shot come up short, before moving up to the wing after half time and finding a good amount of possessions.

#14 Will Bravo

Another of Dandenong’s 19th-year prospects, Bravo came in for his first game of the season and returned some solid numbers. Mixing his time on the inside and out on the wing, Bravo showed good speed and intent moving forward, while also providing some unheralded work at stoppages. One of his more pleasing plays was one which did not earn him a stat, as he chased hard into defensive 50 to apply pressure on an opponent streaming into goal, but to no avail. Still, it was exemplary of Bravo’s character and work ethic.

#22 Mac Andrew

Melbourne fans may want to tune in and watch Andrew throughout 2021, as the NGA prospect looks to be a very exciting type. While still quite raw, there is no questioning Andrew’s athleticism and aerial nous, which came to the fore with some very handy ruckwork and impressive marking at both ends of the ground. He was clearly the dominant ruck on the day and positioned cleverly behind the ball after his work was done at the contest, which saw him take some clean intercept grabs in defence. Andrew also marked well when playing forward in the fourth quarter, but just lacked the finishing touch in front of goal. His follow-up play was also promising, as he disposed cleanly within his limits and did what was required with ball in hand at the stoppages.

#42 James Cahill

The brother of Essendon’s Ned, Cahill is a player not dissimilar to his elder sibling. The 183cm prospect was super productive in this outing, showing clean hands and outstanding smarts forward of centre. He lead hard up at the ball and was lively when working back towards goal, proving a slippery customer in congestion and one who could improvise in a flash to keep the Stingrays’ momentum moving. He had a direct hand in a couple of goals and booted one himself in the first term with a well finished snap.

#46 Justin Davies

One who played an underrated, but important role for Dandenong was Davies. He matched up on physical GWV forward Josh Rentsch and did a superb job to keep him under wraps for much of the first three terms. Davies competed well aerially and looked to move quite well for his size, with decent disposal to boot. He was freed up a touch in the final quarter as Rentsch moved into the ruck, showing good composure on the last line and a bit of game awareness as he pumped a kick-in long up the middle during the dying stages.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Declan Reeve

Murray Bushrangers:

#2 Charlie Byrne

Following up from a really impressive Round 1 showing, Byrne continues to push his case as a possible mid-season draft selection, looking super impressive as a defender and midfielder for the day. His midfield game looked much improved in just the space of a week, finding himself in good spots around stoppages to win first possession and get it long forward, or out by hand. One particular instance of this was in the fourth quarter, where he won it at the rucks feet, and then fired a handball out between two opponents in less than a second, to an outside receiver. He also continued to do what he does well off of half-back, running at the ball and contesting well with anyone there, hitting them hard if they beat him to it.

#3 Toby Murray

Competed really well in the ruck against one of the premier rucks of the competition in Toby Conway, and whilst he may not have won as many hitouts, he definitely won around the ground, able to cover it easier than his opponent, and impact at ground level whilst in the role. When he rested up forward he impressed with his marking above head, taking some nice grabs in contested situations and getting himself on the scoreboard twice, but assisting in a couple of other goals to put in a nice team orientated performance.

#4/#54 Josh Rachele

Played more as a permanent forward rather than splitting his time in the midfield and to great effect, finishing the game with 4 goals, and having a few other opportunities that either fell short or went just wide of the mark, so realistically could’ve had two or three more. Talk about a highlight reel player, his second goal was an impressive effort, in a foot race with his opponent along the boundary, he took 3 bounces and then snapped it straight through the middle, highlighting his class and athleticism in one fantastic play. Not only kicking the goal himself, his position in contests that allowed him to out-mark much bigger opponents, led to him delivering some bullet-like kicks to teammates inside 50, giving Murray scoreboard dominance all game. He suffered some friendly fire in the third quarter which led to a jumper switch for the final quarter.

#13 Tom Brown

Played a much more settled game in the backline than the week prior where he was thrown about. Was again a presence aerially where he flew for a lot of marks even if they did not all stick he had a fair amount of impact in those contests. Provided as a running option as well out of the back half, where he looked assured in taking on opponents and then delivering well forward.

#17 Benjamin Ashley-Cooper

A really solid outing saw him winning plenty of the ball all around the ground, with his workrate being at an exceptional level, able to out work his opponents all day which made it seem like he had it on a string. Was involved in some eye catching team plays from Murray, where he would be involved in the chain with the ball in hand, and then supporting teammates when he gave it off with a shepherd. 

#29 Noah Bradshaw

Showed that he is able to win his own ball in the midfield when he’s in a good position to do so and not competing with teammates to be the first possession winner. He was clean with the ball as well, looking for shorter and safer options to allow Murray to maintain possession rather than bomb it long forward hoping for the best outcome.

#30 Achuang Agog

Was vital for the Bushrangers in the final two terms when Geelong were really determined to get their first goal by bombing it in long to contests. He would stick his arms up and take some commanding grabs above opponents or even in packs, take the ball back and use his full-time more often than not, then look to switch the ball out to a boundary. Had some moments where he got himself into trouble with some daring runs, but that is something that will be ironed out with more experience.

Geelong Falcons:

#3 Euriah Hollard

Got involved a lot in the forward half for Geelong, so naturally seemed to get better as the game went on. Despite being on the shorter side, I was impressed with how Hollard presented aerially, taking marks out in front or leading to be a switch kick option, then using his own skills to get it into the forward line. Applied a lot of pressure as well, forcing a lot of rushed disposals for Murray and causing a few turnovers from his hard work.

#7 Flynn Young

Has a nice bit of zip to him which makes him extremely dangerous on the lead and at ground level, where his tendency to get separation being a big part of his presence up forward, strong mark as well, even at a full paced lead he was sticking them well. Also offered a lot on the pressure side of things, especially with Murrays kick ins, where he’d close down the gap between the mark and the player moving out of the square really quickly. 

#12 Noah Gribble

Really good agility and footy IQ that makes him difficult to close down, as he has got tricks to get out of most scenarios. One particular instance was in the second quarter where he was surrounded by Murray players, drew in two opponents and used that space to spot a teammate with a kick close to the boundary. Good presence as a marking option around the ground to control tempo as well.

#60 Toby Conway

Really dominant in the ruck out bodying opponents without much issue, good with his positioning around the ground being the play taking some easy uncontested grabs, but also sticking a few contested marks as an option down the line for Geelong. Not a stereotypical ruck with his disposal, with the weighting of his kicks impressive, put in good spots for teammates to run into.

Reserves wrap: 2021 VFL Women’s – Round 6

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s returned for Round 6 on the weekend, with five fixtures played on a super Saturday, and one on Sunday. As the season runs concurrently alongside that of the AFLW, senior-listed players from Victorian clubs who miss out on senior selection will be able to run out for what are effectively reserve sides in the VFLW. As no Victorian teams remain in the top flight finals hunt, state league sides will now be able to load up on elite level talent.

>> Results: VFLW Round 6 wrap

A pair of recently-delisted Saints swapped red, white and black for brown and gold in a battle between standalone clubs, as Hawthorn took on Essendon. The players in question, Nadia Von Bertouch and Tamara Luke, both featured in the Hawks’ votes having notched 10 disposals each, but could not quite help their new side to a win.

Their old VFLW team, the Southern Saints had a win over Williamstown in the same Saturday morning timeslot, after stocking up well on top level players. Jacqui Vogt was named best afield for her 17 disposals and 11 tackles, while Alice Burke fared well in the engine room with 15 touches, and Molly McDonald found it 12 times for the victors.

Port Melbourne’s unblemished record remained so after the Borough beat Western Bulldogs comfortably. Sabrina Frederick booted two goals in her first VFLW outing this year, while Sarah Sansonetti was prominent with five marks down back and recently-delisted forward Emily Harley (16 disposals, one goal) was named her side’s best player.

For the Bulldogs, Annabel Scott gathered a team-high 20 touches and was supported well by young duo, Isabelle Pritchard and Isabella Grant. The latter two have swung between senior and reserves level this year, gaining valuable experience against senior bodies among the young Bulldogs squad.

Geelong held on to beat a fast-finishing Casey Demons on Saturday, with a bunch of top flight products proving impactful. A quartet of senior Cats kicked goals, in Darcy Moloney, Carly Remmos, Laura Gardiner, and Georgia Clarke, while Georgie Rankin gathered 18 disposals. Gardiner also laid 13 tackles and Moloney had 16 touches in the win.

North Melbourne was defeated by Darebin, but that did not stop Katelyn Cox from continuing her good form with 19 disposals and seven tackles. In Collingwood’s victory over traditional rival Carlton, Amelia Velardo thrived with a team-high 20 touches, as Maddy Guerin led all comers to notch a game-high 27 disposals.

Stat Leaders: 2021 NAB League – Round 2

THE 2021 NAB League season rolled on into its second full round over the weekend, with six fixtures split evenly across Saturday and Sunday. There were a number of outstanding individual performances among the Round 2 action, as serious draft contenders and even more fresh faces topped a range of key categories. We take a look at this week’s stat leaders.

Standout Dandenong Stingrays midfielder Connor Macdonald achieved what would effectively be considered Australian football’s version of a quadruple-double; accumulating 33 disposals, 10 marks, 12 tackles, and 10 inside 50s. His efforts were not quite enough to drag the ‘Rays home to four points, but Macdonald earned the Round 2 Draft Central Player of the Week nod and topped all four aforementioned stat charts. His draft stocks are rising.

Joining Macdonald on a round-high 10 inside 50s was Tasmania’s Oliver Sanders, who led all comers as the Devils went down to Calder in their maiden 2021 outing. His teammate, Sam Banks started the season well with a high of 23 kicks and 10 rebound 50s, both of which were matched by Eastern Ranges rebounder Mitchell Sruk. Murray’s Paddy Parnell also ticked into double digits for rebounds.

A couple of top-agers who were unlucky to be overlooked last year also found themselves among the most prolific ball winners. A third Tasmanian, Oliver Davis racked up 16 handballs alongside tough Northern Knights midfielder Ewan Macpherson. In the same game as Davis, fast-developing Calder ruck Liam Podhajski won a monster 40 hitouts, with his form likely to see him tried in the VFL this year.

Rounding out this week’s stat leaders were the goalkickers. Leading Murray talent Josh Rachele took full toll as he spent most of his outing up forward, booting four majors and showing plenty of forward 50 smarts in his side’s win over Geelong. His efforts were matched by promising Oakleigh forward Dylan Thomas, whose crafty left foot did plenty of damage as the Chargers trumped Eastern on Saturday.

Find the full list of Round 2’s stat leaders below.

ROUND 2 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:
Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays) – 33

Kicks:
Sam Banks (Tasmania Devils) – 23
Mitchell Sruk (Eastern Ranges) – 23

Handballs:
Ewan Macpherson (Northern Knights) – 16
Oliver Davis (Tasmania Devils) – 16

Marks:
Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays) – 10

Tackles:
Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays) – 12

Inside 50s:
Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays) – 10
Oliver Sanders (Tasmania Devils) – 10

Rebound 50s:
Sam Banks (Tasmania Devils) – 10
Paddy Parnell (Murray Bushrangers) – 10
Mitchell Sruk (Eastern Ranges) – 10

Hitouts:
Liam Podhajski (Calder Cannons) – 40

Goals:
Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers) – 4
Dylan Thomas (Oakleigh Chargers) – 4

Head-to-head: 2021 NAB League Round 2 – Tyler Sonsie vs. Nick Daicos

THE 2021 NAB League season rolls on into Round 2 on the weekend, with six games split evenly across Saturday and Sunday. Headlining the matchups is an all-Metro double-header at Preston City Oval on Saturday afternoon, which will be capped by an exciting clash between the Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers.

In a brand new series, we delve into the most eye-catching head-to-head matchups set to take place during the next round of action, starting with an absolute blockbuster. Having earned co-captaincy in the Draft Central Round 1 Team of the Week, top five prospects Tyler Sonsie (Eastern) and Nick Daicos (Oakleigh) are poised to lock horns this week in a mouthwatering midfield battle. Both are also AFL Academy members.

Neither player really requires an introduction, but below are the key points which aim to compare and contrast these two elite talents.

JOURNEY SO FAR:

Sonsie already boasts a terrific resume and should be well-known to keen NAB League watchers. The Eastern prospect proved his credentials by taking out Vic Metro’s MVP award at the 2019 Under 16 National Championships, before later earning his Ranges Under 18 debut. He would go on to play six games as a wingman/forward, averaging 11 disposals and a goal every other game while also featuring in the Ranges’ grand final loss to Oakleigh.

Daicos is another name who is already well-hyped, but has seen a touch less top-level exposure through the Victorian talent pathways. His name speaks for itself – the son of Peter and brother of Josh – so Collingwood fans are understandably excited to see their latest father-son prospect. He more than held his own in the APS Football competition alongside the likes of Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, and was set to join the Chargers’ program last year. Instead, we had to wait until last week for his maiden NAB League outing (it was worth the wait).

PRESEASON: 

Both players had interrupted preseasons but were quite obviously raring to go in Round 1. Sonsie had some back issues at the end of 2020 which carried on into early-2021, but he shook them off to get back up to speed. Daicos went through minor ankle surgery last September and spent some time getting his confidence back in the lead up to his NAB League debut. He did not participate in the preseason testing event, but ran out in a Collingwood VFL practice match and impressed. That form carried on into Round 1.

POSITION:

Both players will predominantly run through midfield this season and proved as much last week. There are some slight differences in their secondary positions, though. While Sonsie is more of a midfielder who rests forward, Daicos is a midfielder who also rolls off half-back and looks to open up play from there. Despite that, we did see Daicos spend a good amount of time up forward in Round 1 after he copped an early leg knock. Both players took full toll during their time inside attacking 50 last week, with Sonsie classily converting two late goals on his non-preferred side and Daicos slotting three majors from a half-dozen attempts.

SIZE AND STYLE:

These two should measure up quite well against each other, with both between 180-185cm and shaping up relatively similarly weight-wise. In terms of style, they bring some real class to the game each time the ball is in their hands and use it brilliantly by hand and foot. They are both so smooth in possession and while they are not overtly strong, can extract and come away from congestion beautifully. Daicos’ half-back work and Round 1 showing point towards having a greater defensive acumen, whereas Sonsie is perhaps a touch more forward-thinking, more often. Like two heavyweights slugging it out in the ring, this bout should be a great watch for the neutral – if you’re not too big a fan of defence.

IMPROVEMENT AREAS:

While breaking the game open is something Daicos can clearly do, one of his goals this year is to do that even more. His bursting clearance at the first centre bounce last week, and work rate to win the ball in dangerous areas points towards that being a factor going forward. He is a team driven player too, so will look to bring his teammates into the game.

As alluded to above, Sonsie is working on his defensive transition and endurance base. While his attacking acumen is so effective, applying that tackling pressure and becoming more relevant going the other way is the next step in Sonsie’s development. He has no trouble finding the ball and slides away from congestion with ease, but will be more inclined to rip away contested ball as he puts on more size.

ROUND 1:

Stats:

Daicos – 28 disposals (20 kicks), 8 marks, 7 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 3.2
Sonsie – 34 disposals (20 kicks), 6 marks, 2 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 2.1

Scout Notes:

Daicos – “In his NAB League debut, Daicos showed the hype was justified with a best on ground performance against perhaps the team to beat this year in Sandringham. Daicos was superb in the midfield, winning the ball at will and showing great skill and speed when in possession.

Daicos started the game perfectly with the game’s first clearance and showed his forward craft, kicking a well-struck set shot from 45 metres out. His second goal came from a set shot from 50 metres in the third quarter, and his third and final goal came in the last quarter with a terrific crumbing effort where he hit the ball at speed and kicked the goal quicker than a hiccup.

With an early corky, Daicos had to spend a bit of time at deep forward in the second half but he still looked so damaging whenever he went near the ball. Daicos finished the game with 28 disposals, eight marks, seven tackles and kicked 3.2 in a best on ground performance.” – Ed Pascoe

Sonsie – “Sonsie reminded everyone why he is considered one of the top five prospects in the 2021 draft with a dominant display in the midfield, showing his trademark attacking nature and class in a strong four-quarter performance. Sonsie was a clearance specialist in the first quarter, winning plenty of the ball in-close and dishing off cleanly by hand. It wasn’t his usual style of winning the ball and attacking by foot, but he was effective nonetheless.

Sonsie had a few running shots on goal in the first half and didn’t quite nail them as he usually would, biting off a bit more than he could chew with some opposite foot kicks, but he would address those issues in the last quarter. Sonsie is usually flawless in his kick execution on both sides and it all finally clicked in the last quarter as he kicked two sensational goals on his non-preferred.

The first was a classy rove and snap from a stoppage and the second came after he won a centre clearance and then followed that very clearance up with a running shot at goal from 40-metres out. Sonsie put on a show, finishing the gamer with 34 disposals, six inside 50s and two goals.” – Ed Pascoe

FINAL WORD:

This battle looms as a much-watch for draft followers, with two potential top five picks set lock horns while they look to be in scary form. The match itself should also be a ripping contest, with Eastern coming off a win and Oakleigh keen to rectify its Round 1 loss to Sandringham. Should Daicos be fully over the knock he sustained last week, he will likely get a massive run through midfield once again, right alongside the irresistible class of Sonsie.

Stat Leaders: 2021 NAB League – Round 1

THE 2021 NAB League season commenced across a five-day stretch from Thursday to Monday, with players blowing out the cobwebs and getting stuck back into competitive action. There were a number of outstanding individual performances across the six fixtures, with top five draft candidates and some fresh faces topping a range of categories. We take a look at this week’s stat leaders.

It was no surprise to see Eastern Ranges jet Tyler Sonsie soar straight to the top of the disposal charts, racking up a round-high 34 touches in his side’s win over the Calder Cannons. A classy midfielder who can roll forward, Sonsie also notched up six inside 50s and booted two goals in his best afield display. The 18-year-old’s performance only solidified his standing as a top five draft candidate this year.

Gippsland prospect Max Walton was not far behind his metro counterpart in the Power’s loss to Dandenong, kept busy in the back half with 32 disposals. A remarkable 30 of them were kicks, making him a clear leader in that category as well as in the rebound 50s count (10).

Both players had teammates feature elsewhere, with Gippsland skipper Luis D’Angelo notching a high of 15 handballs to be equal with Geelong top-ager Archie Hildebrandt, and Thomas Crole booting four goals for Gippy as Corey Preston managed the same feat for Eastern. Preston’s teammate Jake Arundell also recorded the most inside 50s (eight) alongside Calder’s Harrison Andronaco and Dandenong’s James Cahill.

Flying Calder wingman Flynn Gentile has found plenty of the ball in his two games thus far, and that was no different on Friday as he worked hard for 15 marks. Speaking of, Oakleigh’s Julian Gangi got his hands dirty with nine tackles in one of the most high-quality games of Under 19s football ever, against Sandringham. Geelong tall Toby Conway was the round’s other chart-topper, winning a monster 33 hitouts on Thursday evening.

It is worth noting, a trio of Western Jets talents also achieved would-be highs in their standalone season opener against Calder. The players in question were Liam Conway (eight inside 50s), Cody Raak (11 rebound 50s), and Adam Azzopardi (nine tackles).

Find the full list of Round 1’s stat leaders below.

ROUND 1 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:
Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges) – 34

Kicks:
Max Walton (Gippsland Power) – 30

Handballs:
Luis D’Angelo (Gippsland Power) – 15
Archie Hildebrandt (Geelong Falcons) – 15

Marks:
Flynn Gentile (Calder Cannons) – 15

Tackles:
Julian Gangi (Oakleigh Chargers) – 9

Inside 50s:
Harrison Andronaco (Calder Cannons) – 8
Jake Arundell (Eastern Ranges) – 8
James Cahill (Dandenong Stingrays) – 8

Rebound 50s:
Max Walton (Gippsland Power) – 10

Hitouts:
Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons) – 33

Goals:
Thomas Crole (Gippsland Power) – 4
Corey Preston (Eastern Ranges) – 4