Tag: Essendon Bombers

Analysis | The importance of fitness testing in modern football recruiting

THERE has been plenty of debate when talking about potential AFL prospects pertaining to the differences between judging ‘athletes’ against ‘pure footballers’. There is an argument that fitness testing should be taken with a grain of salt and that the eye test is most important, but when it comes to players being drafted – especially in the first round – prospects are often at the pointy end in at least one fitness test.

For anyone still unfamiliar with the main fitness tests conducted during preseason and at the AFL Draft Combine, they are as follows:

  • Agility Test
  • 20m Sprint
  • Standing and Running Vertical Leap
  • Yo-Yo Test
  • 2km Time Trial

Last year’s number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan excelled in the 20m sprint and vertical leap tests, with his on-field speed off the mark and jump at the ball highlighting just why he excelled at those tests. The combine, if anything, gives reassurance that those traits are indeed elite and will help try and separate talents like Ugle-Hagan from any other key forwards in that year’s crop. Athleticism is very important in modern football, with players quicker and bigger than what most talented youngsters are used to at the development levels. One club which has seemingly identified this in modern times is the fast-rising Essendon Football Club.

Since 2014, Essendon seems to have had a clear strategy with the types of players they have looked at with their high picks. Below is a list of the Bombers’ top 40 selections since 2014 and which tests those players excelled at. In a lot of cases, they were top 10 in those tests at the end-of-year combine.

2014:

Pick 17 – Jayden Laverde
(Didn’t test but athleticism was a highlight of his game)

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford
Agility

2015:

Pick 5 – Darcy Parish
Average in most tests

Pick 6 – Aaron Francis
(Didn’t test but like Laverde, athleticism was a highlight in games)

Pick 29 – Alex Morgan (Since delisted)
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 30 – Mason Redman
3km time trial

2016:

Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint

2017:

Nil

2018:

Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap

2019:

Pick 30 – Harrison Jones
Vertical Leap, Yo-Yo, 20m Sprint

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint

2020:

Pick 8 – Nik Cox
20m Sprint, 2km TT

Pick 9 – Archie Perkins
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

Pick 10 – Zach Reid
Vertical Leap

Pick 39 – Josh Eyre
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

There is one big outlier here and that’s one of this year’s Brownlow contenders in Darcy Parish, who was only average in test results during his draft year. This could be seen as the biggest clue as to why athletic testing shouldn’t be so important, but it can also be argued that one of the main reasons for Parish’s form is due to improving his running capacity to an elite level.

Even their most recent mid-season selection, Sam Durham tested well for vertical leap and endurance, so its no surprise at least in Essendon’s case that athletic traits are a huge influence in whether the player gets taken. The current favourite for the Rising Star, Nik Cox has taken the competition by storm with his mix of athleticism and height, with that height another factor in the early Essendon selections. It was a matter of time before Cox got his nomination for the Rising Star award and in retrospect, we should have all seen his selection by Essendon coming considering all the traits he possesses are key indicators in the Bombers’ recent draft strategy.

Using this history, we can even try to narrow down the possible field of players that Essendon will look at with its first round pick in 2021. A trio of Sandringham Dragons instantly come to mind with Campbell Chesser, Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan. All three players tested well for the 20m sprint and vertical leap during preseason, highlighting their power and athleticism. With all measuring at over 185cm, they even fill a midfield need for the Bombers. They have another prospect right under their noses in Josh Goater who made his Essendon VFL debut not long ago and is an athletic beast. His speed and leap tests were all elite and at 190cm, he would be another Essendon style selection.

The modern footballer is taller, faster and can run all day, and it is getting harder and harder for pure footballers to make it at the top level. If young, pure footballers can start to develop athleticism in their game, even if it’s an elite endurance base, that’s at least a start in the right direction.

Height used to be a detractor for clubs but now with the likes of Caleb Daniel, Kysaiah Pickett, Brent Daniels and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, that is no longer the same obstacle for potential draftees as it used to be – though you also need to have that speed and class. If you are small and have the athletic traits and determination to make it as an AFL player, then you will be on the right track. If you are tall and have those traits, your chances of making an AFL list are even higher.

Fitness testing is an important tool, not just for clubs and recruiters, but also for up and coming players – especially those at the very early level. I’m hopeful coaches of junior football are able to set up some of these tests to help young players find their best traits, enhance them and embrace them. Understandably, it takes time, money and effort on their part and not every junior club or parent has that available. Programs such as Rookie Me, the official fitness testing partner of the AFL, allow junior athletes to experience professional environments at an early age, proving another handy head-start for budding footballers.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

2020 AFL Draft recap: Essendon Bombers

ESSENDON became the first club since the expansion era to utilise three top 10 picks at this year’s AFL Draft, taking a mix of the best available players and those who can help form a formidable spine for years to come.

After finishing 13th and losing some key personnel at the trade table, incoming coach Ben Rutten will have some very handy tools to work with as he looks to steer the Bombers back into finals.

Homegrown talent of sorts in Next Generation Academy (NGA) products also entered the list, making for one of the biggest and best draft hauls of any club – as was expected with the Bombers’ starting hand. Immediate improvement may not show, but the ceiling is unbelievably high on this crop.

ESSENDON

National Draft:
#8 Nik Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#9 Archie Perkins (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#10 Zach Reid (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#39 Josh Eyre (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
#53 Cody Brand (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Rookies: Martin Gleeson (Re-listed), Dylan Clarke (Re-listed)

Essendon clearly favoured bolstering its tall stocks at the top end, with versatile 200cm prospects Nik Cox and Zach Reid bookending a top 10 three-peat on either side of midfielder/forward Archie Perkins.

Northern Knights product, Cox was the first option and somewhat of a prospective one in that range. The Bombers like his high ceiling as an endurance beast who kicks well on both feet and can play a variety of roles.

Reid is arguably the more nailed-on key position get and should slot into the defence for years to come. He is also an elite kick for his size and reads the play beautifully to intercept.

Perkins could be the midfield wildcard Essendon has been crying out for, with his explosiveness at 186cm a desirable trait and something the Bombers currently lack. He also finds the goals and will likely develop off half-forward before earning more permanent midfield minutes.

Then there came the two NGA selections, with a bid for Josh Eyre coming perhaps a touch early for the Bombers’ liking at Pick 39. It did not stop them from matching for the promising key forward, with his raw athleticism and high rate of improvement really impressing recruiters this year.

Essendon then placed a bid on Maurice Rioli Jnr at Pick 51 before having that matched and trading down the order, with the Western Bulldogs springing a bid on Cody Brand late in the piece. Another Calder Cannons product, Brand is a key defender who can shut down opposition forwards and has been working hard on his contested craft in order to transition that game quickly to the next level.

With Cox, Reid, Eyre, and Brand all over 196cm, Essendon has some extremely exciting tall stocks which could go on to form the base of a competition-best spine – key word, could. Throw Perkins into the midfield mix, and the Bombers are building nicely.

Featured Image: Essendon’s trio of top 10 picks | Credit: Dylan Burns/Herald Sun

Number Crunching: VFLW – Round 10

WHEN it comes to Australian Rules, if kicks are the bread, then surely handballs are the butter. In keeping with last weeks’ theme, we are continuing with taking a deeper look into disposal stats in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition. This time we specifically are looking at most handballs in round ten and all throughout the season. Round ten saw a outstanding effort from all teams, proving that despite the season drawing to a close, no team has the dream of finals out of its sight.

Alison Drennan of the Southern Saints topped with 69 per cent handball efficiency as well as having the most handballs in the league with 115 in eight games. Bulldog’s Naomi Ferres and Sarah Jolly both made the top 10 with their win over Essendon (35-2), with 80 per cent and 83 per cent efficiency respectfully. Geelong also saw three of its team making the list. Midfielder Richelle Cranston showed a dominant performance against the Saints with 79 per cent efficiency and topping disposals for that game. Following Cranston was Madaleine McMahon with 62 per cent and Kate Darby 80 per cent efficiency.

In the season so far, Drennan once again has shown clear command as far as individual handballs go. Drennan has three separate positions in the top 10, taking out both the first, second and seventh spots. Other honourable mentions include Renee Garing who feature three times on the list too, as well as keen utility player Kate Gillespie-Jones with two spots also. There is a clear distribution among the list where players of teams that are high and low on the ladder are presented, which really shows how spectacular the talent in the VFL Women’s really is.

Most Handballs: Round Ten

Player Team Handballs in Round 10
Alison Drennan Southern Saints 16
Naomi Ferres Western Bulldogs 15
Richelle Cranston Geelong 14
Madaleine McMahon Geelong 13
Tahni Nestor Hawthorn 13
Sarah Jolly Western Bulldogs 12
Lauren Tesoriero Richmond 11
Emily Paterno Williamstown 11
Clara Fitzpatrick Melbourne Uni 11
Kate Darby Geelong 10

Most Individual Handballs: Season so Far

Player Team Number of Handballs Round
Alison Drennan Southern Saints 22 4
Alison Drennan Southern Saints 20 2
Renee Garing Geelong 18 5
Lily Mithen Darebin 17 4
Renee Garing Geelong 16 1
Kate Gillespie-Jones Melbourne Uni 16 5
Alison Drennan Southern Saints 16 10
Renee Garing Geelong 15 2
Kate Gillespie-Jones Melbourne Uni 15 4
Bianca Jakobsson Casey Demons 15 9
Emma Mackie Hawthorn 15 9
Naomi Ferres Western Bulldogs 15 10

VFL Women’s 2018 season preview

THE new-look VFL Women’s season features 10 new teams in a 13 team competition. The sides feature plenty of elite AFLW, TAC Cup and local talent in what is shaping up to be a fascinating season of the state league. We have looked at each side’s players in the lead-up to the season’s commencement on Saturday.

 

Carlton Blues

The Carlton Blues have one of the most exciting TAC Cup Girls players joining their new team in 2018.

Gippsland Power co-captain and gun midfielder, Tyla Hanks will pull on the navy blue to test her skills against some bigger bodies. Hanks has been named in the best players in each game she has played for the Power this season and is a member of the AFLW Academy. Hanks will be joined by fellow AFLW Academy member, Rene Caris. Caris has been a solid force in the ruck for the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels this season and has been awarded with a navy blue jumper. Oakleigh’s Isabella Gietzmann will also suit up for the Blues this season. Gietzmann plays cricket as well as footy and could be a potent player for Carlton.

The Blues have also secured the services of their AFLW players including 2017 AFLW leading goal-kicker, Darcy Vescio, 2018 club best and fairest, Breann Moody, 2017 TAC Cup Girls best and fairest, Bridie Kennedy, 2018 Carlton captain, Sarah Hosking and 2017 Carlton captain, Lauren Arnell.

 

Casey Demons

The Casey Demons have combined Melbourne stars with Dandenong guns in their inaugural VFL Women’s side.

Coach and former Melbourne defender, Colin Garland will be able to work with plenty of AFLW talent, including Aliesha Newman, Bianca Jakobsson, Kate Hore, Katherine Smith and Shelley Scott. Two well-known former TAC Cup Girls players will also join the Melbourne brigade, with Eden Zanker and Darcy Guttridge donning the red and blue in this VFL Women’s season. Zanker hails from the Bendigo Pioneers and starred in her late appearances for the Demons in the AFLW. Guttridge on the other hand is a former Gippsland Power player who suited up for the Pies in the AFLW season, and will now get an opportunity to combine her skills with a new group of players in the VFL Women’s season.

In terms of TAC Cup players, the Demons have gone with two talented Dandenong Stingrays to fill their side. Captain, Jordyn Allen is a key acquisition for the club, as she is a talented defender who oozes composure and class. She will be joined by forward, Brooke Struylaart, who knows how to find the goals and provides plenty of assists along the way.

 

Collingwood Magpies

Collingwood’s VFL Women’s coach is a pioneer in female football.

Penny Cula-Reid was instrumental in getting the Youth Girls competition up and running. After being told at the age of 14 that she could not play football with the boys anymore, she took the case to the Victorian and Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and AFL Victoria created the competition for the young female footballers. Although Cula-Reid only played two games for Collingwood, she played in excess of 150 games at the St Kilda Sharks VFL Women’s club and has a brilliant footy mind.

Collingwood will have a very strong line-up with plenty of its AFLW players joining the Magpie brigade in the VFL Women’s season. 2018 Collingwood best and fairest, Chloe Molloy will be joined by AFLW captain, Stephanie Chiocci, former Calder Cannon, Sarah Dargan, and plenty more. The club also has a strong connection to TAC Cup Girls club, Oakleigh Chargers, signing three players for its inaugural VFL Women’s campaign. Oakleigh captain, Hannah McLaren is the most notable of the signings. McLaren has been one of the Chargers’ most important players this year, demonstrating her versatility in the side’s line-up. Other Oakleigh signings include former players, Julia Halaseh-Russo and Sarah Cameron, who will be players to watch throughout the VFL Women’s season.

 

Darebin Falcons

The Darebin Falcons are the most successful VFL Women’s side, having won five consecutive premierships.

The Falcons have lost Melbourne AFLW captain, Daisy Pearce, who will take a year off from VFL Women’s. However, they have plenty of players from local roots, with all but three coming from Darebin. These include AFLW players, Karen Paxman, Elise O’Dea, Lauren Pearce and Maddy Guerin. But that’s just from Melbourne. The Falcons will also have the services of Greater Western Sydney star, Jessica Dal Pos, as well as Aasta O’Connor and Nicole Callinan from the Western Bulldogs. Perhaps the most notable signing is Ainslie’s Hannah Mouncey. The transgender footballer was ineligible for the 2017 AFLW draft, but will be keen to play some good football for Darebin.

Darebin has also recruited the services of three TAC Cup Girls stars. Northern Knights forward, Alex Pronesti will pull on the Falcons jumper this year, after kicking nine goals for the undefeated Knights so far. She will be joined by teammate, Marnie Jarvis, who has been a valuable player for the Knights with her agility and speed around the contest. Eastern Ranges defender, Lauren Szigeti also has the opportunity to pull on the Darebin jumper in the VFL Women’s season. Szigeti has been a solid asset in defence for the Ranges, and could have the same impact for the Falcons.

 

Essendon Bombers

The Essendon Bombers have recruited a number of Calder Cannons and Diamond Creek players to join the newly-formed VFL Women’s side.

Current Calder players, Carla Rendelmann and Molly Warburton have earned a spot on the Bombers’ list this year. Rendelmann is a dominant force in the ruck and has represented Vic Metro while Warburton is a hard-working defender who boasts a place in the AFLW Academy squad. Premiership Cannons captain, Lauren Caruso also has an opportunity to pull on the footy boots again after not playing as an over-ager in the TAC Cup Girls this season. Caruso was a fantastic on-field leader in the midfield and 2018 is likely not to be any different. The Calder trio will be joined by another solid ruck presence in Bridie Winbanks from the Oakleigh Chargers. In the upcoming VFL Women’s season, Winbanks will have an opportunity to go head-to-head against Chargers teammate, Hannah McLaren, who will play for Collingwood.

The Bombers have also poached 17 (14 VFL Women’s players and three development players) Diamond Creek players, including the face of their AFLW bid, Michaela Long, who is the daughter of Essendon legend, Michael Long. Essendon has also recruited some local talent, including Natasha Hardy, who hails from the Sunbury Lions in the Essendon District Football League (EDFL). Hardy is a fantastic on-field leader and adds a mature presence in the Bombers’ VFL Women’s line-up. She will be joined by another experienced player in GWS defender, Tanya Hetherington, who often matched up on the damaging key forwards in the AFLW this year.

 

Geelong Cats

The Geelong Cats boast a number of AFLW players as well as some TAC Cup talent, but not who you may think.

GWV Female Talent Manager, Krista Woodroffe will line up for the cats in 2018, having an opportunity to do battle against Rebels ruck, Rene Caris, who will don the navy blue in the VFL Women’s competition. She will be joined by GWV defender, Georgia Clarke, who has been fantastic in the Rebels backline this seasonGeelong’s Mia-Rae Clifford will be another player who will be involved in an intriguing battle. Clifford, who is a former Melbourne AFLW player will play against the side that her partner, Penny Cula-Reid coaches, in the Collingwood Magpies.

Speaking of Melbourne, Geelong boasts two current AFLW Demons players on its VFL Women’s list. Powerful forward, Richelle Cranston and agile ruck, Erin Hoare will line up for the Cats in 2018. Hoare, who is a former Melbourne Vixen, got the opportunity to play AFLW this year for the Demons after being a rising star for the Cats last year.

 

Hawthorn Hawks

Hawthorn boasts a very experienced VFL Women’s list, with a host of AFLW players donning the brown and gold for the upcoming season.

Recently retired Pie, Meg Hutchins was one of the club’s first signings, and will provide a level head in defence. The forward line on the other hand, will be explosive with Adelaide’s Sarah Perkins and Greater Western Sydney’s (GWS) Phoebe McWilliams headlining the Hawks forward 50 line-up. Perkins was named as an AFLW All-Australian forward in 2017 while McWilliams was the Giants’ leading goal-kicker in 2018. Perkins grew up in Waverley and was a Hawthorn supporter growing up. The club also welcomes back Collingwood AFLW mid/ forward, Melissa Kuys, who captained Box Hill in 2017.

There is also no shortage of TAC Cup talent, with 2017 TAC Cup Girls Team of the Year member, Olivia Flanagan suiting up for the Hawks. Flanagan played for Box Hill last year and was also a key cog in the forward line for the Eastern Ranges. She will be joined by current Eastern Ranges players, Emerson Woods, Georgia Macpherson, Mikala Cann and Sarah Kendall. Woods is the co-captain of the Ranges side this year and is a member of the AFLW Academy. Macpherson is also a member of the Academy, and has been a key cog in Eastern’s defence this year with one some of the best hands in the TAC Cup Girls competition. Cann is a basketballer, and has showed her immense speed in the midfield this year for Eastern. Kendall has been dominant in the ruck and can also play a sweeping role in defence.

 

Melbourne University

There is plenty of TAC Cup Girls talent in the Melbourne University lineup this year, including one Calder Cannon who has been tearing up the competition so far.

Calder captain Madison Prespakis will have the opportunity to play VFL Women’s for the first time this year, and could be a key cog in the Melbourne University midfield. She will be joined by fellow AFLW Academy member, Rebecca Webster, who has been a versatile player across the midfield and in defence for the Murray Bushrangers this year. Up forward, Western Jet Caitlin Greiser will have an opportunity to continue her solid goal-kicking form into the VFL Women’s competition, after kicking eight goals for the Jets so far this season. Former Bendigo Pioneer, Aisling Tupper will be one to keep an eye out for, as the small and powerful midfielder starred for the Pioneers last season. Sandringham’s Alanna Dalley and Nicole Amiet round out the elite list of TAC Cup Girls players in the Melbourne University side.

As far as AFLW players go, Melbourne University only has one. But it is the best of the lot, as 2018 AFLW best and fairest, Emma Kearney will suit up for Melbourne University this season. After dominating in the midfield for the Bulldogs in 2018, Kearney will be a North Melbourne player in 2019, as the club prepares to enter AFLW for the first time.

 

Northern Territory Thunder

The Northern Territory (NT) Thunder unsurprisingly has a number of Adelaide AFLW players in its VFL Women’s side.

The club has a strong connection to the Crows, and could be a surprise package in the VFL Women’s competition. This is because the club has acquired the services of Adelaide co-captain, Chelsea Randall, Adelaide United’s Jenna McCormick, leading ruck, Rhiannon Metcalfe and exciting forward, Ruth Wallace. Defenders, Marijana Rajcic, Deni Vernhagen, Jasmyn Hewett and Angela Foley are among the other notable inclusions for the side.

The Thunder outfit also features two GWS players in Renee Forth and Emma Swanson. Forth was a solid presence for the Giants in the AFLW season, and is a mentor in the AFLW Academy program. Swanson is the GWS vice-captain and was a fantastic on-field leader for the side in 2018.

 

Richmond Tigers

Richmond have poached some Collingwood AFLW players ahead of its first season in the VFL Women’s competition.

Emma King, Lauren Tesoriero and Amelia Barden will swap the black and white for yellow and black, as they prepare to suit up as Tigers for the 2018 VFL Women’s season. All three players were key contributors to Collingwood’s AFLW outfit, with King dominating in the ruck, Barden having some nice moments in the forward line while Tesoriero was a lively player around the ground.

The Tigers have also acquired two Murray Bushrangers, Grace Egan and Sophie Damon. Egan has been a star in defence for the Bushrangers this season, and has also proven her versatility through stints in the midfield. Damon has been solid in the ruck for Murray and has been one of the most valuable players for the side in the TAC Cup Girls season. Eastern Ranges’ Jess Provan will also pull on a yellow and black jumper this season, after formerly playing at Diamond Creek.

 

Southern Saints

The Southern Saints are one of the new sides in the VFL Women’s competition, and have a diverse line-up.

The line-up will feature two Sandringham Dragons stars in Eleanor Brown and Jemma Owen. Brown has been a key cog in the midfield and has produced plenty of fantastic performances throughout the TAC Cup Girls season. Owen, who is the Dragons captain, has been leading from the front, as she has been dominant in the midfield and has even found herself up forward a couple of times, proving her versatility. Dandenong midfielder, Shelley Heath also joins the Saints side, and may have an opportunity to match up against TAC Cup Girls teammates, Jordyn Allen and Brooke Struylaart, who will suit up for Casey this season.

While the Saints have no AFLW players, they have a combination of players from Cranbourne, Seaford, and Mornington, recruiting local talent to boost their side’s chances in 2018.

 

Western Bulldogs

The Western Bulldogs have a host of AFLW premiership players in their VFL Women’s side.

Players include 2018 leading goal-kicker, Brooke Lochland, captain, Katie Brennan, and Rising Star nominees, Monique Conti, Aisling Utri and Bonnie Toogood. Star midfielder, Ellie Blackburn has also joined the side after making the move from Melbourne University. The club has also acquired the services of Bree White, who retired from AFLW in 2018 after playing for the Pies.

Three TAC Cup Girls players will also feature for the Bulldogs’ VFL Women’s outfit. GWV Rebels captain, Lauren Butler has been a wonderful leader for the Rebels this season, after making solid contributions in the midfield. Also joining the Bulldogs is Western Jets, Lauren Basto and Katarina Rebuffo. Rebuffo has been a key cog in defence for the Jets and will look to continue her form into the VFL Women’s season. Basto played for the Jets last season and would be keen to make an impact at the Bulldogs. 

 

Williamstown Seagulls

Williamstown has an even mix of local, AFLW and TAC Cup talent in its inaugural VFL Women’s side.

Bendigo captain Megan Williamson will play for the Seagulls this year, after being a shining light for the Pioneers in the midfield this season. She will be joined by AFLW Academy forward, Sophie Van De Heuvel. Van De Heuvel has kicked five goals in five games for the GWV Rebels this season, and has been a key link in the chain in the Rebels forward line. Western Jets defender, Sharnie Whiting will also have the opportunity to stay close to home, after doing a wonderful job in the Jets’ backline during the TAC Cup Girls season.

The Seagulls have one of the leading AFLW defenders lining up for their side this year. Collingwood’s Jess Duffin was dominant in the back line, and was able to show composure and class at all times. She will be joined by teammate, Jasmine Garner, who revolutionised her game through moving from the forward line to the back line. Garner showed that she can dominate in both roles, which is a dangerous prospect in the VFL Women’s competition. Bulldogs premiership player, Jenna Bruton rounds out the AFLW players who are featuring in the Seagulls outfit.