Tag: draft prospects

2021 WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 3 – Claremont vs. Perth

THE 2021 WAFL Colts competition rolled on into Round 3 over the weekend, with the four fixtures providing some fairly competitive action. The West Australian Under 19s talent continues to build into the new campaign, with Claremont and Perth both enjoying spurts of momentum in our featured match of the round, on Saturday morning.

After being blown out of the water by Swan Districts in Round 2, the Demons came out with hellish intentions and dominated the opening exchanges. The Tigers fought back valiantly though and got back to within striking distance at half time, before mounting a heap of pressure thereafter and eventually running out comfortable 43-point winners, 12.13 (85) to 6.6 (42).

We take you through some of the top performers from either side in our Scouting Notes. Please note, they are purely the opinion of the individual scout.


SCOUTING NOTES

CLAREMONT vs. PERTH

By: Michael Alvaro

Claremont:

#1 Arthur Jones

The speedy small is only light, but electric at full flight. He was initially a little fumbly at ground level and could not quite find clear passage out of traffic, but looked ominous once he worked onto the outer and was able to break the lines in a more linear manner. Having been sighted a lot in the back half during the opening half, Jones worked well at half-forward thereafter with good attacking run through the corridor. He finished nicely for his only goal of the game during term three after composing himself inside 50, capping off a promising 16-disposal display.

#2 Max Mumme

Mumme was Claremont’s second-most prolific ball winner on the day with 19 touches, and his drive from midfield was important as the Tigers took over after quarter time. His burst with the ball and repeat efforts in congestion made for some exciting passages forward, allowing his side to quickly gain momentum. He booted a goal late in the second term and proved a factor at ground level with hard tackles, despite showing raw disposal at times.

#5 Kendyll Blurton

One who has enjoyed a move into the midfield, Blurton was super classy on the ball and showcased great speed away from congestion. The Fremantle NGA prospect popped up in eye-catching bursts, often zipping away having sharked the ball cleanly, and dashing towards Claremont’s attacking 50. He did well to stay on the move and generate some energy in the engine room, with his spread to the attacking half also quite aggressive at times. Blurton also got on the board with Claremont’s first goal, finishing nicely from a snap in the second quarter.

#27 Gus Sheldrick

A necessary point of difference in Claremont’s midfield mix, Sheldrick was the contested bull for his side on Saturday. He finished well clear as the Tigers’ top ball winner with 28 disposals, contributing plenty of hard work at the stoppages while also accumulating touches around the ground. Sheldrick also showed good courage with a mark going back with the flight and proved the kind of player Claremont needed to set the tone after being well down at quarter time.

#31 Edward Allan 

A tall and rangy wingman who likes to attack with his forward run, Allan became more productive as the contest wore on. He showed good spacial awareness in the second term to mop up a loose ball and handball over his shoulder, before applying a shepherd to send his teammate away safely. Allan’s most impactful plays came after half time though, as he began to provide run-and-carry in the attacking half and put the ball into dangerous areas by foot. One transitional passage saw him incite a handball chain on the outer, before delivering well to Joshua Ledger inside 50. The son of former Hawthorn and Fremantle player, Ben, capped off his game with a set shot goal in the final quarter. He is not father-son eligible for either AFL club.

#35 Luke Brown

Arguably the standout forward afield, Brown was able to gain good confidence having been gifted two of his total four goals. The Under 17 state squad member first got on the board in term two after a Perth defender tapped straight to him, allowing for a straightforward snap conversion on the run. He was most dangerous during the following period though, making good on the quality service which came his way for two set shot majors, before snapping up a second gift as Perth again turned the ball straight over inside defensive 50. Having impacted the scoreboard, Brown went on to showcase more of his marking prowess leading up the ground in the latter stages, but at 200cm, has plenty of filling out to do as he develops. To his credit, he took his chances well and grew throughout the game.

Others:

Ben Ramshaw was one a reliable figure down back for the Tigers, notching 18 disposals and four marks. Tall defender Hugh Davies fared well in a tough job and even took on some of the kick-in duties. Another defensive standout was Samuel Gilbey, who provided daring dash and nice aerial plays from his post. In the ruck, Fremantle NGA Eric Benning highlighted his athleticism and ability to follow up at ground level, finishing with 14 disposals, 18 hitouts, and five marks. The Tigers were also serviced well by some exciting smalls and wrestled back momentum brilliantly.

Perth:

#11 Harry Quartermaine

The focal point of Perth’s attack, Quartermaine started brightly as the Demons got on top and finished with quite respectable numbers of 18 disposals, nine marks, and three goals. While not the tallest key forward in the competition, Quartermaine is able to compete aerially with his combination of strength and general forward nous. Time and time again, he gained massive separation from his direct opponent to mark on the lead, which was the method of attack for all three of his goals. If not for some inaccurate kicking and shots falling short, the Demons forward could well have finished with a bag, but that was not to be.

#14 Jack Avery

Undoubtedly the best player afield, Avery was also the most prolific by far as he gathered a whopping 39 disposals (29 kicks) and seven marks. The former Claremont defender swept up almost everything which came his way, reading the play better than anyone else to hit ground balls first and also inflict his usual intercept marking play. He pressed up aggressively in the first half to form a formidable wall at halfway, before later reverting to more work deep inside his own 50-metre arc. As the designated kicker from defence, Avery distributed mostly by foot and was usually reliable in that space, though saw plenty of balls come straight back his way as Claremont piled on late pressure. Still, Avery showed plenty in an under-siege position and looked primed to step up for a senior berth in quick time.

#19 Menno Inverarity 

One of Perth’s best midfielders on the day, Inverarity racked up 24 touches and worked hard for eight marks, while also laying nine tackles. He boosted his numbers well by doing some solid contributions on the inside, while also getting involved in handball chains and consistently working to provide an outlet option. His work rate got him a goal in the first term, the first of the day as he was left unattended inside 50. Inverarity accumulated up and down the ground, cleanly moving the ball on to his teammates with many touches which would often go unnoticed. He was also able to bring teammates into the play and proved productive overall.

Others:

Deklyn Grocott finished with 21 disposals and six inside 50s as one of Perth’s key drivers of the ball, while Angus Luers showed plenty of promise with his 17 touches and six marks, capped by a goal. Jarrod Sturch worked for 27 hitouts in the ruck, as Jack Evans showed good signs in midfield and Daniel Hill was lively up forward.

Image Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

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.

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.

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.

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

2021 SANFL Under 16s Round 5 wrap: Bays snatch win as South and Sturt continue to soar

THE 2021 SANFL Under 16s season rolled on into Round 5, with four fixtures split evenly across Thursday evening and Friday afternoon. League frontrunners South Adelaide and Sturt both dined out with 55-plus point triumphs, while North Adelaide made it three wins on the trot and Glenelg snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in a thriller. All that, and more in our Round 5 wrap.

West Adelaide 9.6 (60) def. by Glenelg 8.13 (61)

Glenelg broke the hearts of West Adelaide on Thursday evening, snatching a one-point win against the Bloods at Hisense Stadium to snap its two-game losing streak. The Bays trailed at every break and only briefly snuck ahead during the second term, but two goals at the death saw them escape with the full set of points, winning 8.13 (61) to 9.6 (60) to make their wealth of opportunities finally count.

Ben Ridgway was exceptional for Glenelg, booting two goals alongside Charlie Hillier while also collecting a game-high 28 disposals and five clearances. The pair also ended up putting their side ahead at the clutch. Ashton Moir and Lucas Camporeale were also among the Bays’ big ball winners, as the former also dominated aerially with 11 marks (five contested).

Will Patton and Marcus Pavlic were Westies’ sole multiple goal kickers with two apiece. Pavlic also worked hard to win 14 hitouts, three clearances, and three marks. Lukas Zvaigzne was terrific with 21 touches and a goal, but it was Jordan Gadeleta who ended atop the Bloods’ disposal charts with 24.

Norwood 5.7 (37) def. by South Adelaide 14.12 (96)

South Adelaide remains the SANFL Under 16s team to beat after defeating Norwood by 59 points at Coopers Stadium on Thursday evening. South led from the first goal and applied consistent scoreboard pressure to comfortably pull away from the Redlegs throughout; managing seven goals in each half, with nine of their total 14 majors coming at one end in the 14.12 (96) to 5.7 (37) drubbing.

Panthers standout Tom Wheaton claimed game-high tallies in disposals (24), marks (11), tackles (seven) and inside 50s (seven) in a terrific performance which also yielded a goal. Sid Draper was Souths’ next best ball winner, as the likes of Phoenix Hargrave (three goals) and Sebastian Oliver (two) both made their touches count. Hargrave was among a trio of Panthers to boot three majors.

Harvey George and Rohan Bailey were kept busy in Norwood’s defence as they both ticked over 20 touches while combining for 11 marks and 15 rebound 50s. Kade Madigan was also amongst it with 17 disposals (15 kicks), seven marks and a goal, as Eamonn Cronin clunked five contested grabs in a solid aerial display.

North Adelaide 10.16 (76) def. Central District 9.4 (58)

North Adelaide claimed its third win on the trot, straightening up in front of goal to down Central District by 18 points at Prospect Oval on Friday afternoon. The Roosters trailed by nearly three goals during the third term despite boasting a wealth of scoring shots, but more than made up for it in the final term with five goals to Centrals’ one, running out 10.16 (76) to 9.4 (58) victors.

Roosters gun Kane McAuliffe racked up a team-high 35 disposals to go with game highs in marks (14), tackles (six), and inside 50s (seven), continuing his incredible run of form in 2021. Jed Dignan led a trio of North players to boot two goals, while Angus Tully and Luke Harvey were others who saw plenty of the ball.

Bulldogs skipper Trent Tattoli led all comers with 37 touches and a goal from midfield, trailed closely by Sebastian Wauer on 36 and 13 marks. William McCabe also won his fair share of possessions, as William O’Brien booted a game-high three goals and Angus Vandenberg notched two from his 20 disposals in Centrals’ losing effort.

Sturt 13.15 (93) def. WWT Eagles 5.8 (38)

Sturt flexed its muscles after half time to thump Woodville-West Torrens (WWT) by 55 points at Unley Oval on Friday afternoon. The Double Blues shot out of the blocks but were pegged back well in term two by a plucky Eagles outfit, before streaming away once again after the main break with eight goals to one. The power-packed flurry contributed massively to their 13.15 (91) to 5.8 (38) victory.

Spearhead Chad Reschke snagged three goals for Sturt, but was one of two players to also notch four behinds. George Pope finished as the Blues’ major ball winner with 26 touches and six clearances, as Kobe McEntee (21 disposals) and Ned Atkinson also got busy in the win.

Defender Jedd Thomson was the only Eagle to tick over 20 disposals, with 22 of his 25 touches coming via foot. Jett Hasting was among a trio of WWT players to finish on 16, while Colby Ackland and bigman Izaac Niemann managed to add two goals apiece despite their side’s loss.

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League – Round 1

AFTER last week’s standalone season-opener, the first full NAB League round of 2021 was run and done across an enthralling five-day stretch. Victoria’s hottest AFL Draft prospects were scattered throughout all six fixtures as they begin their quest for elite level recognition, with some talents blowing out the cobwebs in quick time and proving their top 10 credentials. Our scouts were on hand to run you through the top performers from each game, in their opinion-based Scouting Notes.

GWV REBELS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Peter Williams

GWV REBELS:

#1 Sam Butler

Played a clever small forward’s game inside 50, timing his runs and attack on the ball well. He used the ball well by foot, hitting up Jye Lockett early in the match as an example. He showed off his quick bursts around the goals with a nice running goal mopping up after a minor lapse of cleanliness between Lockett and Josh Rentsch. In the third term, he slickly stole the ball off Indy Parish and ran forward, then kicked an opportunistic goal 16 minutes in when everyone else thought there was a mark to Toby Conway, and Butler slammed home a major from point blank range. He capped off his performance with a hard run into goal 20m out off the back of great defensive work from his teammates.

#2 Ben Hobbs

Cracked in time and time again and provided the inside body the Rebels needed, showing a high work rate early in the match to win plenty of the ball. He was not as prolific in the second half in terms of his impact, but he still had clean hands and used quick disposals around the coal face to get it out and forward for his side. He had a set shot in the opening term from 60m which easily made the distance, but went to the left. Never gave in across the match and was a fierce competitor in the win.

#3 Charlie Molan

Spread well around the ground and had plenty of the football himself, particularly through the middle two terms. He looked to switch up play and be the distributor from defence or in the midfield to open the game up for his teammates. He had a good second term which included a great clearance and thumping ball forward from the stoppage, then would push back into defence such as in the third term, where his desperation saw him rush the ball across the line and get a free kick for his trouble. Has the silky spin moves to get out of trouble in his arsenal as well, and was clean by hand.

#5 Josh Rentsch

The tall forward was busy early, crashing into opponents and packs to try and win the ball. He clumsily hit an opponent front-on and earned a report, then had an unlucky bounce not long after when it went on a right angle as he tried to run into an open goal and collect it on the way. He kicked his first goal 10m out on a tight angle to nail the set shot, then kicked his second in the final term with a strong grab and a set shot on a tight angle. He had a couple of other chances, including a missed handball in the second term to Lockett, a mark that was deemed a push in the back in the second term, and then a set shot from 35m out that missed to the right. Overall he looked a presence inside 50 though.

#6 Marcus Herbert

Made his mark early in he match in a half-forward stoppage when he won the ball against three Falcons, spun out of trouble and kicked inside 50. He put up the don’t argue in the second term to handball clean to a teammate and was busy in the back half throughout the quarter. He worked hard across the ground to win the ball in all thirds, and then intercepted the ball at half-forward, did not break stride and nailed the running goal from 35m out. Darted in and out of traffic cleanly and was one of the better Rebels players on the night.

#8 Josh Gibcus

One of, if not the Rebels’ best on the day, Gibcus was outstanding in defence with his intercept marking and positioning. Time and time again he would mop up in the back 50, taking clean one-grab marks and then when at ground level, showed composure with ball-in-hand. He has a lovely long kick and makes the right decisions, and aside from a couple of kicks that were rushed, generally used it well. In the opening term, Gibcus had a nice sidestep under pressure and chopped the arms to get free and going forward. He was instrumental in ensuring the Rebels did not concede more goals through the middle of the game.

#10 Blake Scott

Stepped up to be one of the better Rebels with some really eye-catching highlights in the middle two teams. He used his pace to run down the wing and break the lines, then pickpocketed an opposition dangerous kick in board, only to miss the set shot. He made no mistake by crumbing a Rentsch attempted mark to snap and goal, with another snap on goal missing to the left. In the third term, Scott took a nice mark and nailed the set shot from 35m out, then won a free kick on the wing for being bumped high front on later in the term, and backed himself with a kick inboard to a two-on-one which worked out.

GEELONG:

#4 Gennaro Bove

Might not have gone his way in the first half with the Rebels in control, but Bove never stopped running and working hard throughout the game. He had a quick snap in the third term which was rushed but still on target, though an unlucky bounce went up instead of forward and was mopped up by the Rebels defence. Thanks to great tackling pressure on Hobbs, Bove won a free kick and received a 50m penalty where he converted the set shot from the goalsquare. He kicked his second midway through the final term by finding space and kicking the set shot from 30m out.

#7 Flynn Young

Was a really busy forward inside 50, kicking three goals from five scoring shots and realistically having chances to go home with a big bag in the opening round. He kicked a set shot goal 25m out in the opening term to put his team within a point, then nailed another set shot in the second term. Keeping his average at a goal a quarter, Young kicked his third from a set shot late in the premiership quarter, with an earlier miss in the third term hitting the post three quarters high.

#12 Noah Gribble

Coming back from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, Gribble wasted no time in asserting himself on the contest. The hard runner in his 19-year-old season worked hard around the ground to rack up the ball with ease. He worked hard out of defence and along the wing to drive the ball forward and remain in the contest. His second and third efforts were good and spread well around the ground. He showed off is agility by sidestepping some opponents at half-back in the final term to create separation from opponents and get out of trouble.

#27 Charlie Brauer

A high-impact-per-disposal player, Brauer only finished with the 11 touches, three marks and two rebounds, but caught the eye on a number of occasions. He was clean and composed coming out of the back 50, and generally made the right decisions by hand or foot. He might not have amassed the amount of ball as some of his teammates, but as he showed, he has the ability to move the ball well in transition.

#34 Indy Parish

Won his fair share of the ball and showed clean hands, but was often tightly guarded at stoppages. He showed quick hands when in possession through midfield, and read the ball well off the fall, also taking a good mark early in the third term and then quickly dishing off to a teammate on the run to keep it moving. Worked throughout the match to be a solid contributor without being outstanding.

#60 Toby Conway

The bigman had his way in the ruck by using his height and strength to position himself well at stoppages and win the lionshare of the hitouts. He was clever around the stoppages on his way to 30-odd hitouts, but it was his ground level work that also stood out. He tracked it at ground level and would provide second and third efforts for his midfielders and had a crack throughout the four quarters to be a reliable player around the ground.

CALDER CANNONS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Ed Pascoe

CALDER CANNONS:

#4 Sam Clohesy

It was back-to-back strong games for Clohesy who has been one of the more impressive players coming back through the new 19s competition, but as a December birth he still has plenty of growth as a player. Clohesy started the game in his preferred half-back position, offering plenty of rebound and using his voice to offer direction and make his own presence known to teammates for the quick receive. As Calder needed to make some changes to get back into the game, Clohesy was moved forward to good effect and was quickly making his presence felt with some nice marks and quick ball movement, but he also hit the scoreboard with a nice set shot. He didn’t add to his goal tally but he looked dangerous and got to show his versatility, ending the game with 24 disposals, 10 marks, seven rebound 50s and a goal.

#5 Zac Taylor

The pick of Calder’s players, the 180cm Taylor worked tirelessly through midfield in all four quarters. Having played mostly forward last week, Taylor showed that crafty nature through the midfield at stoppages, but it was his ability to receive on the outside and push into defence that also stood out and showed he isn’t just a player wanting to look flashy. Taylor’s skills and composure were great on the outside and he won his fair share of clearances on the inside as well, using his clean hands and agility to escape congestion and although it was surprising to see him only finish with the 22 disposals and seven marks as he looked to pop up everywhere, his impact was still high for those 22 touches.

#25 Josh Goater

The incredibly talented Goater started the game in fine fashion, winning the opening clearance of the game. Despite not winning a heap of the ball in that first quarter, he kicked a very nice goal on the run to highlight his impact per possession, which would be a theme for the day for Goater. He was moved to the outside as the game went on and was able to showcase his nice evasion and ability to gain meterage with a nice bit of play in the last quarter; receiving at half-back and then going for a run, taking a few bounces and hitting up teammate Sam Paea on the lead at half-forward. Although he only finished with the 16 disposals and five inside 50s, his impact and dazzling plays couldn’t help but catch the eye.

EASTERN RANGES:

#1 Tyler 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.

#5 Jake Soligo

The impressive Eastern Ranges co-captain led from the front in their engine room and despite not having a huge day on the stat sheet, he certainly played his role in that midfield and helped set up a lot of scoring opportunities. Soligo started the game well, showing clean hands at stoppages and often releasing his runners by hand. He had some chances to hit the scoreboard himself but after missing a running shot at goal in the second quarter, he would later nail a good set shot goal from a mark in the third term. Soligo finished the game with 14 disposals, four inside 50s and kicked 1.2 in a solid outing for the small midfield prospect.

#21 Corey Preston

Preston was one of the unlucky players to miss getting drafted last year after getting a combine invite, but he will certainly have scouts thinking twice about passing him during the mid-season intake after an exciting display up forward. The crafty 181cm left-footer was causing headaches early on, winning plenty of the ball up forward with his first goal coming tight on the boundary from a strong mark, before coolly slotting the snap goal. His second goal was just as impressive, burning off his opponent with speed and then slotting a nice running goal from long range. His next two goals would come in the next quarter, all using his forward smarts with nice crumbing goals. It wasn’t just his crafty work at ground level, as he showed in the second quarter with a really strong contested mark at centre half-forward. Preston would have a quieter second half but he finished the game with an impressive 18 disposals, five marks, and kicked 4.2.

#31 Tyreece Leiu

The big bodied 194cm midfielder-forward spent his time between midfield and the forwardline, proving a good target in attack and around the ground with his height and size. Leiu didn’t kick any goals and really should have converted his early shot in the first quarter from 20 metres straight in front, but he did show his good marking ability by marking strongly against another big-bodied player in Josh Misiti. Although being a handy midfielder at stoppages with his size, his ability to win the ball at half-forward and hit up targets inside 50 was very good – especially in the second half. Leiu had a lot of unselfish plays and while he set up a lot of scoring chains, he couldn’t quite convert another shot at goal late and finished the game with 18 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s and 0.2.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Ed Pascoe

NORTHERN KNIGHTS:

#2 Ned Long

The 192cm midfielder set the tone early with good attack on the ball and good spread around the ground, showing he is more than just that pure big-bodied inside midfielder. Long won plenty of the ball in the first quarter and showed a lot of smarts with ball in hand, drawing in opponents to release better handballs to his teammates. Long was also able to hit the scoreboard, with his first major coming from a strong contested mark and set shot. His marking around the ground was a real highlight, using his big frame to his advantage. His next two goals came in the last quarter and were seemingly match-winning goals both on the run, with the last coming from a quick play-on and long-range bomb. In a best on ground performance, Long finished with 26 disposals, nine marks, seven inside 50s and three goals to mark a near-perfect start to his NAB League campaign.

#3 Josh Ward

The Knights ball magnet didn’t have his usual prolific game but a solid outing nonetheless through the midfield, with his ability inside and outside the contest a real feature of his game. The 181cm midfielder looked classy with his ball use by hand and foot, favouring his left foot, and he hit some nice targets going inside 50. His clean hands at stoppages to go with some nice tackles also really complimented his inside-outside combination. He isn’t the quickest player but he didn’t do a lot wrong with his 22 disposals, getting maximum value out of them and he has shown since Under 16s level that he can win a lot of the ball, so he will prove an important cog in the Northern Knights midfield this year.

#9 Darcy Wilmot

Wilmot certainly wasn’t the most prolific player out there but he certainly had the best moments of the game, which will be touched on, but to describe the 182cm defender’s game in a snapshot, he played the fast rebounder role and offered plenty of drive. His first sensational bit of play came in the second quarter; starting on the wing, he attacked the loose ball to gather and handpass to a teammate, before then working hard to receive again and show his dash to kick a spectacular goal hard on the boundary from 50 metres out – an effort worthy of goal of the year. As flashy as he looked, he was able to intercept really well overhead and was always quick to play on. Another great moment deep in the last quarter saw him take a bounce and stream from half-back, running flat-out through the middle of the ground and although he probably should have been done for running too far it, was such an eye-catching moment. Wilmot finished the game with 15 disposals and five rebound 50s and is only just draft eligible having been born on December 31, so he has even more room for growth as the year goes on. He is certainly a player to keep an eye on.

#22 Jack Rossimel

Although the 193cm key forward didn’t hit the scoreboard, he was certainly influential in his team’s result, providing a great target from centre half-forward with his constant leading at the ball carrier. Rossimel’s greatest strength wasn’t just his ability to lead up and give his teammates a target, it was also his incredible dexterity at ground level – able to gather any ball below his knees at speed and handpass to a teammate perfectly. His skillset lends well to perhaps playing as a midfielder at some point or even as a wingman. He had one shot at goal that didn’t make the distance but expect the goals to come this year to reward his efforts. Rossimel finished the game with 16 disposals and six marks.

#28 Joel Fitzgerald

An emerging leader for Northern Knights, Fitzgerald played his role in defence to perfection, not only defending really well but also offering plenty of rebound from the back half. Although Fitzgerald wasn’t flashy he did the one-percenters well with some timely spoils and one-on-one defending. He showed his rebound ability early with a nice intercept mark then quickly kicking down the line to teammate Rossimel, before receiving back and gaining plenty of meterage. Fitzgerald was a good four-quarter performer but he really stood up in the last quarter when the heat was on. He had some great defensive moments while also taking some strong intercept marks which were a staple of his game all day. The 186cm defender finished the game with 32 disposals, 12 marks and seven rebound 50s and couldn’t have done much more offensively or defensively in a well-rounded performance.

WESTERN JETS:

#26 Cody Raak

It wasn’t a prolific game for Raak compared to last week, but he still showed his great composure and ability to rebound from defence. Raak started the game well with a nice mark deep in defence, followed by a lovely gather and handball to show his class above his head and at ground level. His confidence to quickly hit the switch kick and do it perfectly was a nice sight. He almost got a chance to kick a goal as well, receiving a handball at 50-metres and just missing the running long-range shot at goal in the second quarter. He also showed good intensity during the same term in defence with a good second effort. Raak finished the game with 18 disposals and five rebound 50s in a strong performance down back.

#32 Paul Curtis

“Expect the goals to come if he keeps getting himself in dangerous situations” – that was our quote for Curtis after his game last week and not only did he hit the scoreboard this time out, but he almost did it in a big way. Curtis set the tone early, showing that he would be a handful by taking a nice slips catch mark. Despite missing the set shot, he would add another behind with a snap at goal on his non-preferred side, showing good speed as well. Curtis would finally kick a goal in the second quarter coming from a high free kick. His pressure was outstanding in this quarter and really helped spark his side. Curtis would kick a further two goals in the last quarter, with one from a lovely crumbed snap and the other from a 50-metre penalty. Curtis finished the game with eight disposals, kicking 3.2 as he continues to prove to be one of the standout small forwards in the NAB League.

#33 Billy Cootee

The Jets’ captain led from the front, showing great attacking intent through the midfield with his impact. Though that was not exactly shown on the stat sheet, Cootee provided plenty of drive from the midfield, with his burst from stoppages and long kicking a big driving force especially in the first half. Cootee finished the game with 15 disposals and six tackles, but he certainly made all those touches count and was a key reason as to why the Jets kept within striking distance of the dangerous Knights outfit.

#50 Paul Tsapatolis

Geelong-listed rookie, Tsapatolis seems to be getting better with every game, as the 201cm ruckman was a real presence against the Knights. A strong contested mark in the first quarter set the tone for his game as he proved to be a hard player to stop both in ruck contests and around the ground with his big body and marking ability. He didn’t hit the scoreboard, missing a set shot in the last quarter, but he had some good numbers for the game with 15 disposals, six marks and 22 hit-outs – improving from his eight-disposal game last week.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

GIPPSLAND POWER:

#4 Nathan Noblett

Positioned well in the backline for Gippsland down deep. Often under siege down there, Noblett held himself well, especially in marking contests where he’d be able to out-position opponents to get the mark, then look to switch the ball across the defensive 50 to get the Power started again. Had a few kicks under pressure that didn’t quite come off, but it didn’t slow him down as he continued to take the game on through the day.

#5 Chance Doultree

Played a bit of a mixed role throughout the day, stationed mostly in the backline but he had no issues pushing up and almost playing as an extra midfielder to give Gippsland another body around the contest. Marked well for the game, with his positioning outside of forward 50 being smart and giving himself the best chance to put the ball straight back in. When he was up forward he won a few two-on-ones to create scoring shots, a big reason for Power’s improved scoreboard showing in the third quarter.

#9 Will Papley

Really aggressive towards the ball and opposition ball carrier, making him a menace in close around the midfield, and a high pressure player in the forward 50, where he almost guaranteed a successful tackle when he latches on. His ball use was good as well, knowing when to take the opportunity to kick for goal, but also lowering his eyes and hitting up teammates as well.

#23 Jai Serong

Splitting his time between the midfield and backline, Serong’s biggest strength was his positioning in either role. In the midfield he got to the right spots, where his cleanliness at ground level gave him the upper hand in the contest and led to him feeding it out to teammates under less pressure. In the backline, he was able to impact contests by coming off his own opponent to throw in a spoil or hold off an opponent for his teammates.

#38 Thomas Crole

Presented well up forward all day, making hard and aggressive leads to dangerous spots inside forward 50, with his first four or five steps really hard for Dandenong defenders to keep up with. He kicked a few goals for the day where there wasn’t a whole heap of ball up forward for Power, with his conversion really good from set shots and on the run.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS:

#2 Josiah Kyle

The St Kilda NGA prospect has some very nice traits around the ground that make him a high-impact player whenever he’s around the contest. There were just times where he’d evade two or three opponents and then deliver a handball out to a teammate, or a damaging kick forward to a leading teammate, highlighting his vision and composure in traffic. Being a smaller forward he was naturally good at ground level, but his presence aerially was also impressive, getting on shoulders when he could but also out-bodying opponents through smart positioning in one-on-ones when he was a deeper target. He was dangerous when he went into the midfield as well, with his pace a real asset around stoppages and on the outside, where he’d get himself into space and deliver damaging kicks forward.

#3 Miller Bergman

Provided meaningful run off of the half-back flank throughout the day, coming out to meet the ball when it went over the top of contests or dropped short of his defensive 50. Moved into the forward half for the last quarter, where he was a particularly strong link-up option in transition, working hard up the ground to be a switch option out of defence and beating opponents with his speed when moving with the ball forward, where his long and often penetrating kick was a weapon for the Stingrays.

#6 Connor Macdonald

Was probably the standout midfielder for the day, with his burst of speed and read of the ball off of the rucks’ hands a real strength, leading to a lot of quick entries forward for the Stingrays from centre bounces in particular. He highlighted his versatility by playing as not only an inside ball winner, but an outside receiver as well, where he showed solid ball use and again showcased his speed to move the ball well. Also had his stints up forward where he crumbed well off the talls and used his hands well to give to teammates, or had a shot on goal himself, finishing the day with two majors.

#7 Judson Clarke

Formed a dynamic duo of sorts with Macdonald around the midfield, with one going in to win the ball and the other holding on the outside, both playing either role with the flick of a switch, it was almost like they were reading each others’ minds. Clarke was efficient when moving the ball forward, hitting up teammates with bullet-like kicks, making him particularly damaging when the Stingrays were in transition.

#22 Mac Andrew

Another NGA prospect for Melbourne, he showed some really good signs as a forward that rotated through the ruck, where he displayed a good understanding of the role, timing his leaps and placing his taps well to the advantage of teammates around the ground, leading to Dandenong’s scoreboard pressure. He also positioned well in marking contests, being in spots just outside the forward 50 that he’d create a contest for Dandenong to get it back in.

#23 Jai Neal

Made the most of his opportunities in the forwardline, making really well-positioned leads and marking strongly on the chest when his teammates chose to reward his efforts. He was also opportunistic around the forward 50 arc, looking to attack any spilt balls out of contests and get them going forward.

#27 Kobi George

The Melbourne NGA prospect worked out of the backline, trusted with the kick-ins where he’d deliver to the advantage of teammates. He was a delight to watch when working through traffic, with Gippsland players just unable to get a hold of him. He could run through a pack and come out the other side without losing balance. His speed and precision with his handballing was top class, often getting a good amount of distance behind it to a teammate out on their own, allowing the Dandenong transition to continue quickly going forward. Had a few kicks on the run that didn’t quite come off as well as he’d like, but still managed penetration in them. 

#42 James Cahill

Fit in well on the wing for the Stingrays, making himself an option for switch kicks out of the backline as often as he could, and having the confidence to tuck the ball under his arm and go for a run before kicking long forward. He worked hard to help teammates under pressure, often getting a handball out the back, giving it off and then running to receive it back as well. That hard work was on display all day.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Declan Reeve

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS:

#2 Charlie Byrne

Byrne showed a high level of leadership during the game, very clearly directing teammates whether he had the ball or not. He was courageous at the footy no matter where he was lining up, putting his body on the line to win it out the middle or coming to meet it out of defence. His confidence and composure in pursuit of and with the ball was a highlight for Murray.

#3 Toby Murray

Lined up at full forward for the game, Murray led well for his teammates further up the ground, pushing high up onto the wings when the ball was in Murray’s defensive 50 to become a solid link-up player in transition. He’s not overly physical in marking contests, but uses his body well to just nudge opponents out of the way or push them under the ball. He used the ball well, with his kicking to hit up teammates inside 50 a highlight. Was the relieving ruck for Murray and competed well, able to time his jumps really well to win quite a few hit-outs, without getting much strong direction on them. 

#4 Josh Rachele

A very good user of the footy around the ground, getting penetration behind his kick that was unmatched by anyone else, so when he was moving it centrally as he so often looked to do it was generally a jump start for a Murray attack. Whilst he had a run-with player when in the midfield, he managed well in pulling his opponent out and then beating them on the outside with his burst of speed. For his size, he presented a surprisingly strong aerial presence and proved very clean above his head, even at full speed, which led to him being used and taking some impressive marks around the ground, even against bigger opponents.

#13 Tom Brown

Competed well in marking contests especially, just a really safe set of hands with a well-timed leap which adds an element of reliability for Murray wherever he’s stationed on ground, only dropping a mark when heavy contact was made. Was a bit of ‘Mr. Fix It’, filling in down back in the second quarter when there were a lot of entries, where his tendency to drift in front of contests became a big reason the Bushies didn’t concede more, and his ball use helped get Murray started for a counter.

#24 Cameron McLeod

Has really good speed and running capacity as a tall forward, working his opponents up the ground to be an option high up on the wing, and if he went unused his work-rate running back into the forward 50 was very impressive. Mixed with that speed, it was evident he was a difficult match up for Bendigo. His follow up work at ground level is equally impressive, beating much smaller players regularly.

#29 Noah Bradshaw

Looked most impressive during his stints in the midfield, where he had a knack for moving through congestion without much trouble, and then delivering either a well placed kick to a leading teammate or a clean handball to someone running past on the outside. Was really strong overhead as well, taking some impressive marks when stationed in the forward line. The son of former Brisbane Lions goalkicker, Daniel

BENDIGO PIONEERS:

#1 Sam Conforti

Split his time between the forwardline and midfield, where his ball winning ability and tendency to look for short inside 45 options with his kicking going forward shone. It opened up the game for Bendigo, especially out of stoppages where he could find a way out of congestion to hit up a leading target, or the hot zone up forward. Was also smart with his leading, making some shorter leads to open up the ground, and again utilise that inside 45 kick option.

#2 Harvey Gallagher

Just did a bit of everything throughout the day as a forward and midfielder, doing well to hold his space on the outside of the contest, then use the ball well by foot going forward. His positioning and leading patterns made him a strong marking option going forward as well, just getting into smart spots where he was the clear best option and often alone.

#5 Cooper Hamilton

Played a bit of everywhere, starting as a defender and then getting more midfield time as the game went on, then drifting up forward when the opportunity presented. Was really good with his pressure application throughout the day, never allowing an easy opposition disposal to get away. With the ball himself, he looked at his best when he was involved in the contested stuff, especially with his quick hands out to teammates to keep the ball moving. 

#8 Hugh Hamilton

Used the ball well through the midfield, often winning it on the inside, getting through congestion and then delivering a well weighted kick to a leading forward. The few times his kicks were rushed because of pressure, they were still well placed to the advantage of his forward teammates. He tackled hard around the contest as well, with the Pioneers noticeably stronger with him on the inside.

#9 Aidan Hare

Got better as the game went on, stationed as a midfielder for the majority of the contest. His brute force and hard work around stoppages led to quite a few clearances, whether for him or his teammates. As the game went on it became more evident he was fitter than most on ground, becoming a focal player for Bendigo; taking marks and becoming a regular ball winner around the ground as well. Rested up forward occasionally and akin to his midfield game as the match went on, he became more and more involved, presenting well as a target up forward and even taking a nice mark in particular during the fourth quarter straight from a centre clearance.

#10 Bode Stevens

Lining up for the Pioneers in the engine room, Stevens showed true ability to impact all around the ground. With his inside work particularly strong in the midfield, his ability to get hands out quickly to an oncoming teammate was vital to Bendigo’s forward 50 entry game. He also presented well in the forwardline when he was around there, getting himself a goal just by being free in a more central spot of the 50 than a teammate with the ball.

#13 Jack Evans

Looked good when he was given the freedom to move around the ground and help out everywhere. There were times where he pushed down into the defensive 50 to help out down there, and his composure under pressure to find a free teammate was impressive, with his ability to find shorter options and weight the quick kick well really good as Bendigo worked it out carefully.

#23 Xavier Mitchell

Showed some really good athletic traits, with his leap and speed two in particular that caught the eye and led to a few goals for him. He could’ve had a few more had he not passed it off or had free kicks paid as advantage to teammates. Got to all the right spots for his teammates, making a contest of any ball regardless of how high or fast it came in.

#28 Louis Thompson

Didn’t have a whole heap of the footy, but was very eye catching when he did. Lining up mostly at half-forward, he’d drift across and impact aerial contests well, with one particular instance in the first quarter leading to a mark a good five meters in front of the pack, which he converted into a goal. When in the midfield, he was really clean in traffic, getting around opponents easily to then handball to a teammate on the outside. He went on a few good runs where he’d be confident and assured taking on opponents, standing up strongly on the rare occasions he was caught. Looked to be on the wing for the fourth quarter where he became a strong driver for the Pioneers going forward, using his speed and agility well then kicking to teammates. 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Ed Pascoe

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS:

#4 Josh Sinn

Coming into the season as one of this year’s brightest prospects, the Sandringham co-captain wasn’t given much space to work with by the Oakleigh forwards and he was tasked with the difficult matchup on Lachlan Rankin early, who got the better of him. Sinn tried to get his usual rebound game going but found it tough with Oakleigh’s superb pressure, but he would start to hit his straps more as the game went on. Usually doing his best work at half-back, he was moved through the midfield to provide some spark and even drifted forward to kick an important goal in the last quarter from a mark and set shot. Sinn finished the game with 20 disposals, four rebound 50s and one goal which was a strong return after a shaky start.

#6 Blake Howes

The smooth moving medium forward had plenty of eye-catching moments, showcasing his superb athletic traits; able to be a threat in the air but also show great dexterity and clean hands at ground level. Howes’ kicking under pressure during the game was a real highlight, often getting separation from his opponent before kicking long inside 50 to hit his targets. The talented forward only kicked the one goal but it was certainly a good one, with a nice snap kick on his opposite foot in the second quarter. Howes finished the game with 12 disposals, five marks and a goal, showing he would be a very difficult matchup this year with his combination of height, smarts and athleticism.

#7 Campbell Chesser

Chesser made the wing his own, winning plenty of the ball and really lifting his output and damage in the last quarter when his team needed it most. Chesser wasn’t overly flashy on the outer, just getting the job done with great skill and composure by hand and foot. Rarely flustered, he popped up to give an outlet at the back of stoppages while also working hard around the ground to set up scoring chains. Chesser finished the game with 23 disposals and five inside 50s and was one of Sandringham’s better players for the day in their hard earned win.

#17 Finn Callaghan

A smooth moving wingman with a bit of weight behind him, Callaghan isn’t your typical looking NAB League wingman, but despite his strong looking frame he showed great agility and movement through traffic and looks to be an interesting prospect in 2021. Fleet of foot at ground level, Callaghan also looked comfortable overhead with a nice intercept mark in the second quarter and was comfortable going back to kick on his favoured left boot from 55 metres out. He missed the set shot but certainly showed his cannon-like left boot and would do so around the ground for the rest of the game. Callaghan finished the game with 19 disposals and two behinds.

#52 Luke Nankervis

Although not prolific, Nankervis certainly showed some exciting traits that should see him come into draft consideration as the year goes on, as the lightly built medium forward impressed with his speed and skill. Nankervis looked a threat in the air and at ground level which was a similar trait shared with teammate Blake Howes. Nankervis was very agile at ground level and looked quick in transition, not just with the ball but also when gliding across the ground to receive. Nankervis did well to kick his first goal in the second quarter when he snapped truly with a nice gather after his mark was spoiled. Nankervis only had the 10 disposals but took four marks and kicked 1.1 in a very promising first game at NAB League level.

#66 Charlie McKay

The Carlton father-son prospect impressed last year in the pre-season before Covid impacted his year, but McKay has come back with a point to prove and he certainly went in with an attacking mindset through the Dragons’ engine room. McKay was a bull, putting his head over the ball and putting plenty of pressure on the ball carrier to set the tone for his teammates. Not one to solely operate at ground level, he also showed intent in the air by taking some strong grabs and even pushing into defence at times, and showed some good form behind the ball as well. McKay finished the game with 17 disposals, four tackles and five inside 50s as the big-bodied midfielder made the most of his NAB League debut.

Others:

Promising ruck Jacob Edwards, who has attracted some mid-season draft interest, built on his terrific preseason form with a couple of clutch moments for the Dragons while being solid all game. West Australian recruit Logan Young was reliable in midfield and opportunistic with a couple of goals up forward, as was Eren Soylemez with three majors and great tackling pressure. Lachlan Benton was another lively figure in the attacking half, while Jack Peris showed clean pairs of hands and heels from the wing. In the thick of the midfield action, Lachlan Riley proved a dependable figure and won plenty of ball.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS:

#1 Youseph Dib

The Collingwood NGA member showed a lot of spark from half-back, providing plenty of creativity and composure to help his side provide meaningful rebound. Usually stationed in the forwardline or through the midfield, Dib made the half-back line his own and was busy very early in the game and despite playing mostly in defence, managed to kick a goal in the first quarter following a 50-metre penalty. As much as Dib has been seen as a very agile and exciting little player, his one-percenters really stood out with some nice tackles and some good smothers. Dib wasn’t prolific but had a solid game with 10 disposals, three tackles and a goal.

#3 Nick 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.

#17 Braden Andrews

Usually very prolific as a tall inside midfielder, Andrews had a quieter game by his standards yet still showed some great signs with his skills and composure. The AFL Academy member finished with 11 disposals but made most of them count with some nice long kicks and classy work by hand. Expect him to bounce back with a more prolific game in the coming weeks as he adjusts to the rigours and speed of play.

#22 Lachlan Rankin

Usually used as a rebounding half-back or wingman, Rankin was stationed up forward, lining up on gun Sandringham captain Josh Sinn. He certainly made Sinn accountable by lighting up the first quarter, kicking two goals and getting Oakleigh off to the perfect start. Both his goals came from free kicks, with one a simple set shot but another a very nice opposite foot snap hard on the boundary which showcased his skill. His third goal would come in the third quarter with a nice dribble close to goal, and after attempting a huge screamer later that quarter he would unfortunately injure himself – putting a stop to his dominant performance up forward. Although not the tallest or quickest forward, Rankin was clean and classy around the ball and his natural football IQ made the foreign position work. Rankin finished the game with eight disposals and three goals.

#36 Scott Beilby

The St Kilda NGA prospect provided a lot of spark down back for Oakleigh, often taking the kick-outs and always looking to attack with them as well. Although Beilby showed great rebounding ability, he also took some really strong intercept marks to prove he isn’t just a running receiver, or one who uses kick-outs to inflate his figures. Beilby finished the game with 21 disposals and nine rebound 50s to be amongst his teams best players, despite some shaky moments at the death.

Others:

New South Welshman, Patrick Voss was ultra impressive up forward in his maiden outing for Oakleigh, defying his size to apply great pressure at ground level. Alex Lukic doubled well in the ruck and was mobile around the ground, supporting the strong efforts of bigman, Ned Moyle. Lochlan Jenkins and Dylan Thomas were among the Chargers to find plenty of ball, as Jed Rule returned a solid shift and Luke Kelvie had some good moments.

Top Performers: AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

THE 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 National Championships rolled on into its second fixture on Friday afternoon, as Vic Country and Vic Metro locked horns in perfect conditions at Trevor Barker Oval. It was the Country side, coached by Mel Hickey which got up against its fierce rival in what was a high quality game of football played with plenty of spirit. We take you through some of the top performers from the day, highlighted on the basis of opinion by our individual scouts.

>> Scouting Notes: Vic Country vs. Vic Metro Under 17s

VIC METRO:

By: Michael Alvaro

#4 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Yassir is one of the most crafty ground level midfielders in Victoria and proved as much with another solid performance in representative colours. The Calder Cannons product spent a lot of time competing at half-forward, but made the most of her midfield minutes and was able to combine with some familiar faces in the engine room. Yassir was often the anchor at centre bounce situations and did well to chain handballs as Metro looked to stream forward, with her speed a key feature in those situations. Her tackling pressure was also noticeable, and matched the intensity of the game.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

The top-ager got back to her roots in a way as she was stationed almost permanently down back for Metro, and she was one who stood up well against the efficient Country attack. Her strong physical presence and ability to read the game proved key traits as Chaplin cut off a number of Country forays – whether it was cutting across to intercept mark or rebounding with authority and efficiency. Amid a high stakes pressure cooker, Chaplin was one of the more composed players in important areas and played her role to a t, even doing well to quell the influence of Poppy Schaap after her hot start to proceedings.

#11 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Deed was one of the solid contributors for Metro who played a touch out of position compared to her usual posting in the NAB League. The Eastern Ranges midfielder was predominantly employed at half-forward and was able to use her ball winning ability to impact contests whenever her name was called. She did a lot of the hard stuff well, as we have come to expect, with some important tackles going unrewarded and nice bursts through traffic to break the game open for Metro within their attacking half.

#12 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Donning the long-sleeve ‘Big V’ jumper, there was a sense of familiarity in Prespakis’ game as she again proved to be the best player afield, as she has been throughout nearly every game in her fledgling career. Her cleanliness around the stoppages was on full show, with clean gathers and handballs out under pressure helping her look that class above the rest. Prespakis’ strength on the ball was also noticeable during her permanent midfield role, as was her terrific overhead marking ability around the ground. The Calder product worked hard both ways and impacted in all parts of the ground with her well-rounded style, bringing her teammates into the game with handball chains and instinctive work on the inside. We are running out of superlatives at this point, she is simply a marvel to watch and is likely the top draft prospect in the country right now.

#15 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid played a little bit of everywhere in this game, rotating forward form her usual wing post and finding plenty of the ball. She is almost unassuming in the way she racks up possessions, and carried that trend from her NAB League form this year to again be one of the top ball winners in her latest outing. Having spent a good amount of time up forward of late, Reid used her knack of finding space in attacking areas to good effect, booting two goals with clean touches within Metro’s 50-metre arc. Her run-and-carry game was not as noticeable this time around, but Reid always gains good meterage and that was no different here.

#16 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Another who has been in stellar form for Oakleigh this season, Vickers picked up a familiar role across half-back for Metro and showed her class in moments scattered throughout the game. Her ability to read the play from behind the ball is outstanding, and Vickers often thinks ball-first when looking to intercept, with that attacking kind of mindset paying off as she cut off some threatening Country passages. While she was a little smothered in her usual work going forward, Vickers showed some solid defensive capabilities with spoils, tackles, and some handy mop-up work at ground level.

#18 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

A leader at Oakleigh and a leader in this star-studded representative side, Rowbottom battled well to make an impression on the contest. She was initially stationed deep forward and rotated back there throughout, but arguably looked most damaging in the engine room. At her first centre bounce attendance, Rowbottom was able to bustle free and boot a clearance forward, highlighting her key strength as a midfielder. She has rare power amid heavy congestion which often sees her break out of situations in Houdini-esque fashion, which is more often than not followed by a penetrating kick forward. She skewed a few kicks on the run and under pressure, with lowering her eyes and executing those skills more efficiently a potential next step for her midfield development.

#26 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

Crowley has raised eyebrows in recent weeks as a promising forward target, having mostly plied her trade as a defender for the Calder Cannons. She was again employed at centre half-forward and drifted in gracefully to take some nice aerial marks, credit to her outstanding judgement of the ball in flight. Crowley looked most ominous in the second term, though had her couple of set shot attempts fall short and slide across the face of goal respectively. Overall, it was a solid outing and one which built on the promise she had already shown in advanced positions. Another big tick for her versatility.

#27 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The sole bottom-ager afield for Metro, Ham was thrown right into the deep end with a good number of centre bounce attendances. She has the ideal size to compete against more mature bodies and proved that with some tough work on the inside, though her explosive qualities were more difficult to exploit in the high-pressure contest. She also moved forward at times and was an entertaining asset for Metro, with her ability to snatch considerable distance in quick time proving advantageous for her side’s forwards. With such a penetrating kick and all the tools to be a very high selection, Ham continues to prove her worth heading into next year’s draft.

#28 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Campbell shared the ruck duties with AFLW Academy tall, Tahlia Gillard, but was most impactful during her time as a key forward. Her mobility and attack on the ball stood out as really high-end traits which will continue to raise her draft stocks in 2021, especially if she can also continue to hit the scoreboard. Whether it was competing in the air or crashing ground balls, Campbell was a much-needed physical presence up forward for Metro, and looked natural on a line which saw plenty of players contribute slightly unfamiliar roles. She capped off her game with a richly deserved goal.

 

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Declan Reeve

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Stationed inside the Country attacking half for the game, Schaap took the opportunity with both hands to produce some really good passages of play, and highlight reel worthy goals. Her first goal in particular, a snap from the boundary under pressure, was super impressive, showing composure and poise going forward. She was clean throughout the game at ground level, never fumbling and then using her agility to work through opponents to get a handball to the outside, or snap it over her shoulder forward. She was a consistent link up player, that could reliably keep Country in possession.

#9 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

The bottom-aged forward stepped up in a big way after a quieter first quarter, with Country teammate Tara Slender earning herself more attention after the first quarter, Scott took it upon herself to become the new target up forward, leading hard for marks and being relentless in her pursuit of the footy, running through opponents and even teammates at times to win a contested ball, or tackling opponents hard, her presence was very much felt and noticed by all. Using her strength well, she had no issues pushing opponents off when she wanted to go for a run either.

#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got involved in quite a bit astound the ground, with her pressure work in contested situations a real highlight of her game, regularly being ready to pounce on any Metro player coming out of a contest with the ball. When she won the ball, she used it well, often looking to move it quickly to give the Country forwards the best chance to mark and get shots on goal, but she was versatile with that, also able to match the slower tempo Country were looking to deploy at times. 

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Was really consistent across four quarters, being a strong competitor in the midfield early on, and gradually standing out more and more as others around the ground got tired, she just kept working to get to the right spots and win the ball. Her ability to control the play even without the ball was great later on, where her leading would often change the tempo and style of how Country were using the ball. Showed some good Footy IQ int he second half where she would be able to get around opponents to deliver a kick on the inside, opening up the options down field for Country.

#12 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Despite measuring in at just under 170cm, the athleticism of Featherston saw her become the Country relieving ruck, where her superb leap, and aggression towards the ball and the opposing ruck, saw her win or neutralise quite a few ruck contests, that would lead to her following up at ground level. She was stationed mostly up forward when not rucking, and allowed her work rate and leap to shine, taking on every contests she was near and getting up when she could.

#14 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Donning the helmet in the country defence, her ability to impact every contest in the defensive 50, battling to get the ball to ground and then using her game sense to run past or around opponents, and deliver the ball to contests down the line, was outstanding across the four quarters. Her understanding of her teammates was impressive, dropping back at times to allow other teammates to push up the ground, and directing teammates around when she was behind and could see the play unfolding in front of her. Not only nullifying contests or being a vocal teammate though, she started taking some really good marks out the front of packs or in front of a single opponent, particularly in the second half, completely cutting off some promising Metro attacks, and sending the ball out with great efficiency to get Country moving on the counter.

#17 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Part of Country’s superb defense, Lee did all the things well that she’s been doing for the Falcons, with her positioning down the line, and aerial strength, keeping the Metro midfielders busy by sending the ball back out when they rushed a kick forward. She was particularly dangerous in the first half with her run from behind style getting rewarded with some handball receives, which allowed her to kick long forward and help get Country on the board early.

#19 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Played a really solid role down back as expected, and whilst not racking up huge numbers in terms of disposals, her hard work and 1 percenters in the defensive 50 helped others win the ball and get it out, with her high leap meaning she was able to compete with the taller Metro forwards and rucks in marking contests

#25 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)

Had one of the hardest jobs for Country of the day, playing on whichever of the Metro rucks was resting in the forward line, both being athletic and strong in marking contests. The bottom-ager proved to be up for the challenge, not conceding a mark all day in an impressive defensive display. She was put under pressure a coupled of times in a row in the last quarter, but was able to beat her opponents every time.

#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)

One of Country’s top ball winners around the ground for the day, McRae made the inside her own at stages of the game, forming a good connection with Gippsland teammate Grace Matser to get onto the end of some very well placed taps, using her strength to take contact and then get the ball out via kick or handball. Got involved in some ‘slow’ play passages as well where she’d make a short lead, mark, and then pass the ball to a teammate in a more dangerous position. Was defensively accountable around stoppages as well, rarely letting her opponent get away with a clearance

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Started the game really well, with her workrate to get up and down the ground, despite being stationed a CHF, being a real highlight of the Country Captains game. She was regularly involved in contests on the wing or even on the defensive 50 mark where she’d just get the hard stuff done. As usual her marking was a highlight, taking them easily in the first half, and then receiving a few free kicks in the second half from opponents coming in too late from behind, one of which resulted in a goal for Slender, to top off a really quality game.

#29 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

Coming up against two rucks with different strengths and play styles, Matser adjusted to her direct opponent well, using her physicality and leap against the taller Tahlia Gillard in contests, to great effect as the game went on, and her height advantage over Georgia Campbell to win a few there.