Tag: ewan macpherson

Young Guns: 2021 VFL Round 16

A BUNCH of the nation’s most promising Under 19 prospects continues to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL). Many have already made their state league debuts, with more to come as players get the opportunity to test themselves at senior level. We take a look at how the prominent 19th-year players performed as they hit the state league this past weekend.

>> RESULTS: State leagues wrap

A handful of Victorian top-agers ran out for different VFL clubs this weekend, with one debutant among the mix. Hard-running Geelong Falcons wingman Noah Gribble was that player, making his maiden outing for Werribee in a 30-point win over the Northern Bullants. Playing alongside his elder brother Tom, Gribble notched 12 disposals and a goal in what was a solid first-up performance. He has proven a consistent ball winner in the NAB League and represented Vic Country last month, so richly deserved his senior berth.

Returning to the fold with Sandringham Zebras, Dragons co-captain Darby Hipwell continued his promising state league form on Saturday. While his Zebras went down by 49 points to Carlton on home turf, the 18-year-old midfielder snared two goals from 12 disposals in a more advanced role. This was the second-straight VFL game where Hipwell kicked multiple goals, and he looks primed to continue at the level after proving himself in the NAB League.

Western Bulldogs father-son hopeful Ewan Macpherson is another in that boat, having turned out for his sixth appearance in Footscray colours this season. He was among the standout youngsters to take the field this past weekend, registering 16 disposals, six tackles and two behinds in the Bulldogs’ 37-point win over Casey Demons. The Northern Knights midfielder missed out on Vic Metro honours after captaining at Under 16 level, but has found his spot in the state league.

Elsewhere, Bendigo Pioneers utility Cobi Maxted made his club debut for Collingwood having previously turned out for Sydney as a top-up player. He managed five touches as the Magpies went down handily to Box Hill, while Gippsland Power defender Jess McGrath notched four touches and four tackles in his second appearance for Richmond’s reserves.

There were also plenty of Northern Academy members who missed out on fully strutting their stuff in Round 16, especially after the Gold Coast-Southport clash was spectacularly called off early in the first term due to a snap Queensland lockdown. There were six Suns Academy products afield in that game – Jed Foggo, Jack Johnston, Will Bella, Finn Brown, Bailey Reeves, and Bodhi Uwland – with even more named in the extended squad.

The Brisbane Lions and Sydney Swans were also set to lock horns with some academy prospects present, but had their game postponed, while Greater Western Sydney had the bye.

Image Credit: Jonathan Di Maggio/AFL Photos

Young Guns: 2021 VFL Round 13

A BUNCH of the nation’s most promising Under 19 prospects continues to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL), including a raft of top-ups and academy talents. Many have already made their state league debuts, with more to come and a handful sighted this past weekend. We take a look at how the prominent 19th-year players performed as they hit the senior football grade.

>> RESULTS: State leagues wrap

2001-born Sandringham Dragons tall Felix Flockart ran out for his club debut with Port Melbourne on Friday night, notching 10 disposals and 11 hitouts as the Borough went down handily to Frankston. Fellow Dragons product Darby Hipwell continues to turn out for Sandringham Zebras, booting multiple goals for the first time in his VFL career as his side thumped Essendon. Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Jack Hickman was afield for the Bombers, managing four touches.

AFL-aligned clubs from NSW and Queensland again blooded top-up players, with a combined four NAB Leaguers lining up for Gold Coast and Sydney in their respective losses. Tall Dandenong utility Bryce Milford (four disposals) and Geelong Falcons top-ager Lachlan Kidd (five) both lined up for the Suns, while Sam Clohesy (eight disposals, four tackles) and Logan Young (14 disposals, four marks) were drafted into the Swans’ side.

Greater Western Sydney, who downed the Suns, also fielded a handful of academy talents while Sydney gave opportunities to two in its loss to Footscray. Josh Green (16 disposals, six marks), Maximus Monaghan (14 disposals, six tackles) and Harrison Grintell (nine disposals, three inside 50s) were among the Giants’ best youngsters, as Angus Anderson found the goals for the Swans and Pierce Roseby finished with 10 touches.

Bulldogs father-son prospect Ewan Macpherson played his third-straight game in red, white and blue, while Gippsland Power midfielder Chance Doultree also got another run at state league level – his second for the season.

Elsewhere, Brisbane Lions also found room for their academy products, with a quartet of young guns continuing to find their feet. Toby Triffett (14 disposals, five tackles) was solid as his side went down to Southport, while Saxon Crozier and Tahj Abberley each had it 11 times, and Will Tasker contributed five touches.

Western Jets midfielder Harrison White debuted for Werribee in the Tigers’ loss to Casey, while Tasmanian Sam Collins earned a berth with Collingwood and Gippsland Power defender Jess McGrath had his maiden outing for Richmond. Collins’ Oakleigh teammate Lochlan Jennkins reunited with some premiership Chargers in black and white, joined by Eastern Ranges skipper Josh Clarke in the side. Collins was the pick of the bunch, collecting 15 disposals and three marks as the Pies got up by five points against Richmond.

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

Young Guns: 2021 VFL Round 12

A BUNCH of the nation’s most promising Under 19 prospects continues to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL), including a raft of top-ups and academy talents. Many have already made their state league debuts, with more to come and a handful sighted this past weekend. We take a look at how the prominent 19th-year players performed as they hit the senior football grade.

Bendigo Pioneers pair Sam Conforti and Jack Hickman returned the Essendon VFL setup, as the Bombers found the going tough against a rampant Geelong side. The nippy small midfielders both got their hands on the ball, with Conforti ticking up to 18 disposals in his sixth outing to bring his season average up to 17.3. Hickman found it 12 times, making for a solid fourth outing at the level.

A strong bunch of top-up players ran out for Gold Coast in the Suns’ loss to Box Hill, taken from four different NAB League regions. Geelong supplied top-agers Lachlan Kidd (16 disposals, seven marks), Blake Reid (nine disposals, four marks), and Noah Gadsby (nine disposals), who fared well given the Hawks’ dominance. Oakleigh Chargers midfielder Giorgio Varagiannis booted a major from his 10 touches, as Dandenong Stingrays utility Bryce Milford also found the goals. Talls Felix Flockart and Henry Walsh also got a run, combining for 11 hit-outs. Walsh is the 203cm brother of Carlton midfielder, Sam and has been playing local football at St Joseph’s.

Sydney was another reserves side to send out plenty of top-ups, with eight NAB Leaguers from six separate regions taking the field in their loss to Frankston. West Australian Logan Young was the pick of the bunch with 21 disposals, five marks and a goal, while Calder Cannons top-ager Sam Clohesy (18 disposals, six marks, five tackles) was also productive on debut. Clohesy was recently signed by Coburg, but got clearance to fill in for this clash.

Geelong Falcons products Sam Witherden, Gennaro Bove, and Kyle Skene each got a run in their second outings, while fellow country talents Cobi Maxted (Bendigo) and Fraser Marris (Greater Western Victoria) were also called up. Eastern Ranges skipper Josh Clarke ramped up his return from injury with the Swans, making the step up to senior football after two consecutive NAB League outings.

Greater Western Sydney brought in a few of its academy hopefuls to take on, and beat, Casey Demons by a single point. All half-dozen of them had 10 disposals or less, topped by midfielder Maximus Monaghan. Fraser Kelly was productive with two goals from his eight touches, while Harrison Grintell also found the big sticks. AFL Academy member Josh Fahey returned to the fold steadily with seven disposals, as defender Sam Frost got his hands dirty with an equal number of tackles, and Luke Fellows rounded out the cohort.

A couple of powerhouse aligned clubs called upon top-aged guns, with Carlton retaining Joel Trudgeon (eight disposals, four tackles) and Richmond giving a late call-up to Will Bravo (eight disposals, three tackles) as both sides suffered losses. Sandringham co-captain Darby Hipwell also turned out in the VFL once more, snaring a goal from his 12 disposals against Collingwood.

Ewan Macpherson was another to enjoy his extended run at the level, upping his output to gather 17 disposals and four marks for the Western Bulldogs. Fellow club-tied prospect Cody Raak also donned the red, white and blue for a third time. Gippsland Power ball winner Chance Doultree was also busy with 15 touches and six marks on debut, while North Melbourne was serviced well by its own debutant in Western Jets product Sam Clifford (11 disposals, seven marks).

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

Young Guns: 2021 VFL Round 11

WHILE a bunch of draft eligible prospects earned representative honours on the weekend, some of Victoria’s most promising Under 19 talent continues to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL). A raft of top-age talents have already made their state league debuts, with more to come, while members of all four Northern Academies also get some run in their legs. We take a look at how the prominent 19th-year players performed as they hit the senior football grade.

>> Scouting Notes: Victorian U19 trials

A pair of Northern Knights prospects unlucky to miss out on Vic Metro honours made good of the weekend with promising VFL stints, proving they can adjust to the senior level. Knights co-captain Joel Trudgeon managed 13 disposals, 10 tackles, and two clearances on debut for Carlton, while fellow top-ager Ewan Macpherson returned to the Footscray side and booted two goals from his 11 touches and five marks. The latter is quite used to donning the red, white and blue by now, as another Bulldogs father-son hopeful.

Sandringham Dragons co-captain Darby Hipwell also slotted back into the state league system with the Zebras, after spending his bye week back in the NAB League. The midfielder finished with 12 disposals, two tackles, four clearances, and two inside 50s in his side’s terrific upset win over Richmond.

Most of the NAB League and Academy prospects to get a VFL gig were sighted in Sunday’s Sydney derby, with Greater Western Sydney (GWS) and the Sydney Swans fielding a whopping 16 top-up players between them. The Giants had five, all of whom had their moments in the 38-point win.

Geelong Falcons product Lachlan Kidd notched 16 disposals and three inside 50s, while Murray Bushrangers trio Kade Chalcraft (14 disposals, three clearances, five inside 50s), Thomas Panuccio (13 disposals, three marks), and Cameron McLeod (seven disposals) all productive. Academy talent and Allies squad member Harrison Grintell also got a run, kicking a goal from his nine touches.

Sydney blooded 11 top-up players from four different NAB League regions, with nine of them making their debuts. Cooper Smith (10 disposals, four marks, three tackles) and Logan Young (six disposals, four tackles) had previously turned out for North Melbourne, but swapped their colours for this clash. Smith was reunited with Bendigo Pioneers teammates Finn Ellis-Castle (seven disposals, three marks, 0.2), Ryan O’Keefe (six disposals) and Cobi Maxted (one goal), who all lined up against former Pio, Will Shaw.

There were four Geelong Falcons afield, in Kyle Skene (10 disposals, five tackles), Gennaro Bove (nine disposals, three marks), Sam Witherden (eight disposals, three tackles) and Will Kilpatrick (four disposals, two tackles). Bove is a leader among the Falcons group, while Witherden is the brother of West Coast’s Alex and Kilpatrick is a Geelong Cats father-son hopeful (son of Glenn).

Rounding out the selection was a pair of Greater Western Victoria (GWV) talents, with top-ager Fraser Marris crossing from the Geelong VFL program to snare a goal from eight touches, while 17-year-old Isaac Lovison had it nine times and laid three tackles in his first taste of state league football.

Image Credit: Mike Owen/AFL Photos

State Leagues wrap: Full-time action resumes

FULL-TIME fixtures were back in the South and West Australian state leagues, where a raft of upsets shook up proceedings, while Victorian fans were treated to nine games and it was business as usual down in Tasmania. We run you through all the results from around the nation and what they mean in this week’s state leagues wrap.

NSW-ACT / Queensland / Victoria (VFL):

One fixture was cancelled, but the show rolled on in the VFL as Round 11 came around. Geelong emphatically returned to the winners list on Friday night, opening proceedings with a 118-point trouncing of the Brisbane Lions in the Sunshine State. Three of the Cats’ 12 individual goalkickers booted four goals as their AFL-listed brigade took full toll, including Charlie Constable (44 disposals, nine marks, one goal) in the engine room.

All of the round’s remaining fixtures took place in Victoria amid interstate Covid chaos, with a new ladder leader crowned. The undefeated Footscray Bulldogs are that side after easing past Coburg by 32 points, with Patrick Lipinski (29 disposals) among those pushing for a senior call-up. Bulldogs father-son prospect Ewan Macpherson booted two goals from 11 touches after being overlooked for Under 19 Vic Metro honours, while another Northern Knights product in Marcus Lentini racked up 43 disposals for Coburg.

North Melbourne’s positive run of form continued as the Roos knocked off Werribee by under a goal, with the top eight squeeze getting ever-tighter. Collingwood snuck in with a win over Frankston, pushing the Dolphins out in the process, while Box Hill solidified its spot after blitzing Aspley after half time, and Sandringham compounded the hurt of a poor weekend for Richmond fans, getting up by five goals over the Tigers.

A memorable quartet of Sunday games was kicked off at Casey Fields, as the home side improved to 6-0 after beating Essendon to the tune of 48 points. Familiar faces in Ben Brown (five goals) and Nathan Jones (36 disposals) staked their claims for senior action, with the Demons flying at both levels in 2021. The Northern Bullants’ journey came full circle as they defeated Carlton by 32 points at Preston City Oval, making for a fitting first win on the season at their traditional home.

A heated derby clash between Williamstown and Port Melbourne resulted in the Seagulls claiming a 37-point win, with plenty of fines to be handed out after an all-in brawl at quarter time. The round was seen out by another derby, of the Sydney variety, as Greater Western Sydney defeated the Swans by 38 points. The game was played in Melbourne and a host of top-up players were fielded across either side, allowing a bunch of NAB Leaguers to gain some valuable state league experience.

South Australia (SANFL):

Full competition resumed in the SANFL for Round 12, with the weekend’s proceedings extended back out to five fixtures after last week’s two-game set. North Adelaide opened the show on Saturday by dislodging Port Adelaide from the top five, taking the Magpies’ spot with a 76-point beating. Harrison Wigg was excellent for the victors, claiming 30 disposals and two goals, while former Port midfielders Aaron Young and Andrew Moore combined for 49 disposals and 15 clearances. Keenan Ramsey was also key in establishing the Roosters’ ascendancy, finishing with 3.2 from 15 touches and 12 marks.

Norwood solidified its spot in the top five with a five-goal win over Central District, helping the Redlegs draw level on points with the two other sides chasing Glenelg. South Adelaide is one of those teams, but the Panthers faltered on Saturday in an upset loss to Sturt. Inaccuracy cost the top five side dearly, though it meant the Double Blues would send off premiership player Mark Evans off on the right note. In Sunday’s lone fixture, Glenelg stretched its unbeaten run to 11 games, downing reigning premier Woodville-West Torrens by 19 points to only further their flag credentials.

Tasmania (TSL):

TSL frontrunner Launceston flexed its muscle on Saturday, thumping fourth-placed Clarence by 69 points on home turf to stay clear in top spot. The Blues were again spearheaded by competition leading goalkicker Dylan Riley, who booted six majors, while games record holder Jay Blackberry was named best afield. Colin Garland got the votes for Clarence, who still sit two games clear in fourth.

Fresh off a bye, North Launceston kept touch with the Blues after beating Tigers by an even six goals, setting up a two-game buffer to their weekend rivals in the process. A three-goal haul from Northern Bombers player-coach Bradley Cox-Goodyer saw him earn best afield honours. Glenorchy chalked up a fourth win in the round’s other game, beating last-placed North Hobart by 25 points as five-goal hauls to Harrison Gunther and Nathan Hardy headlined either sides’ efforts.

Western Australia (WAFL):

South Fremantle was the only team to beat a side below it on the ladder in Round 12 of the WAFL, amid a weekend littered with upsets. The Bulldogs accounted for Perth with a 34-point win, proving too strong and drawing within a game of top spot. Competition frontrunners Claremont remain clear in first despite a 14-point loss to West Perth, as the Falcons were led by usual suspects Aaron Black (34 disposals, 12 tackles) and Tyler Keitel (12 disposals, five marks, 3.2)

Swan Districts knocked off the other top two side, Subiaco, holding off the Lions despite some goalkicking inaccuracy. Jesse Palmer was a key culprit with one goal and six behinds, though it mattered little as his side got the job done to keep its two-game buffer inside the top five. Looking to close on Swans is East Fremantle, though the Sharks went down by 51 points to West Coast, in the Eagles’ second win on the season.

West Coast remains in bottom spot despite the result, after East Perth also notched its second-straight victory by shaking down the Peel Thunder. The Royals trailed at the first three breaks but enacted a terrific comeback effort after half time, ending up seven points to the good and drawing level on premiership points with their weekend adversaries.

Image Credit: Jonathan Di Maggio/AFL Photos

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 9

METRO regions returned to the NAB League in Round 9 as full-time competition resuming, with seven games played on a bumper weekend of action. It meant plenty of Victorian, Tasmanian, and Giants Academy prospects were able to show their wares ahead of the Under 17 and 19 National Championships, with a good amount of budding representatives strutting their stuff in style. We take a look at some of the top performers from each side, in our opinion-based Scouting Notes.

>> RESULTS | NAB League Round 9 snapshot

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 7.10 (52) def. by NORTHERN KNIGHTS 14.10 (94)

By: Declan Reeve

Oakleigh Chargers:

#3 Nick Daicos

Once again topping the disposal count for the game, Daicos took some time to work into the contest, looking uncharacteristically rushed with his disposal early as Northern burst out of the blocks. When he found his feet later on in the first quarter he returned to his usual classy self, with his ball use, particularly by foot, damaging offensively as he looked to put it into space for his forwards to run onto. He would also handball to teammates already on the fly, keeping Oakleigh moving quickly forward. He continued on with his top level positioning around the midfield, especially at stoppages, to be a constant danger once he had figured out how to play on his opponent – regularly Northern’s Josh Ward.

#14 Sam Darcy

The rapidly rising Western Bulldogs father-son prospect further solidified his claims to the best key position prospect in the pool, with a strong display where he was put into a few different spots. Starting the day in the defensive 50, Darcy looked clean throughout, showing off some clean pick-ups below his knees early on where he followed up with good use by foot, usually into central spots to keep the ground open for Oakleigh up ahead. In the second quarter he seemingly couldn’t drop anything, holding onto the ball overhead even when there was heavy contact, or in pack situations. It was impressive to see his confidence to take the game on following his marks, happy to play on and get past or around opponents to get extra distance and penetration on his kicks. He played a little more in the ruck in the third term where his height was too much to deal with for Northern, directing the ball well from the taps clear from his opposition ruck. In the forwardline, he presented well even with a heavy lockdown focus from the opposition, getting himself a goal in the fourth term.

#33 Patrick Voss

Having less time away than most on ground due to his games for the Giants Academy, Voss looked one of the most up to the task on field, switching from his usual forward role into the defensive half, which paid off wonderfully. He was a threat aerially and generally used the ball well coming out of defence, but what was most impressive was his physicality and confidence with his tackling and carry of the ball. He performed two really good fend-offs in the second quarter, where he had the ball and put his opponents to ground, with the second one being followed by a good run forward and a torpedo kick to a pack. He moved into the midfield later on where that physicality was again on show as he ran through opponents when hunting for the ball.

Northern Knights:

#3 Josh Ward

Arguably the best on ground across both sides, Ward was a step above with his ball winning and clean disposal throughout the game, despite the wet conditions. While it took others a while to work into it, he was ready from the get go. Ward set the tone early, winning the first clearance and kicking well long for a teammate to mark and convert the first goal of the game, and it only continued on from there. Able to get the ball out quickly to teammates, he became a dangerous option for Northern around the ground, made even more obvious by their efforts to get it in his hands. A point of interest from Ward’s game was the fact he often put himself on Oakleigh’s Nick Daicos around stoppages, able to negate his usual impact well in the early stages of the game whilst not letting his own numbers slip.

#7 Ewan Macpherson

The ever reliable inside bull flourished in the conditions early on and then maintained his impact in the latter stages of the game when it became more and more contested. His follow up efforts around the contest and the ground were impressive, applying pressure and laying tackles to everyone that got within arm’s reach, while also able to pick the ball up even when under heavy pressure and fire out hands to outside runners.

#9 Darcy Wilmot

Wilmot was consistently seen streaming out of defence with ball in hand, trying to be creative with his disposal in order to make Northern more dangerous on the rebound. Whilst he occasionally struggled to execute his skills when running at full speed, overall he hit it his targets more often than not. His workrate was exceptional; proving just as willing to work hard offensively by pushing up and getting handball receives, as he was to run back and impact contests or lay tackles. He came into his own in the second half in particular, as Northern started to run over the top of Oakleigh, as he provided a dangerous option behind the ball.

#19 Joel Trudgeon

Felt like he brought his own footy at stages in the game given how much he had it. Was just a constant sight on the inside of contests, battling hard to keep Northern in possession then disposing of it to teammates who were in space. As usual he worked hard defensively as well, seemingly landing every tackle and impressing with his follow up on the ball when it spilled, able to beat all comers to it and hand it out. Whilst he didn’t have many ‘flashy’ moments through the game, Trudgeon was just consistent and showed good football instinct with his positioning, timing and use by hand.

#27 Jason McCormick

The bottom-aged small forward had a game to be proud of, registering a game-high four goals. His read of the ball off hands led to him crumbing well off of packs, able to see if the ball was going to go over the top or in front of the contest and hit the area at speed to pick the ball up, usually with one grab, consistently. Despite being smaller in height than most on field, he wasn’t afraid to compete for the ball in air, leaping for a few high balls and reaching impressive heights, whilst showing strong leading patterns and impressive speed to get separation from opponents. 

GWV REBELS 11.8 (74) def. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 6.5 (41)

By: Peter Williams

GWV Rebels:

#2 Ben Hobbs

An outstanding game from the inside midfielder who racked up a massive amount of the ball and never took a backwards step. In conditions that suited him to a t, Hobbs was a work horse on the inside and just crashed and bashed his way around the ground. Despite injury ruling him out of the first part of the year, Hobbs showed no signs of being held back by it, using the ball by hand regularly and racking up the possessions with ease from the opening bounce. Always under pressure, Hobbs has to rush his kicks, but it was his hands in close which stood out, as well as his fierce tackling. Hobbs won a free kick for being taken high in the second term and earned a 50m penalty where he slotted it from the goalsquare. He had another flying shot on goal running hard from the initial centre square stoppage to receive the ball and launch on goal, only to just miss to the left. Hobbs kicked his second goal from a forward stoppage in the final term, with a clever snap around his body sailing home. His natural footy IQ combined with his desire to never lose a contest made him a difficult player to contain.

#3 Charlie Molan

Started the game with a clever intercept in the middle, reading the handball from an opposition to steal it back and give it off. Composed with ball in hand, Molan spreads well to the outside and often looked to draw the opponent in before firing off the handball to a teammate. Late in the second quarter, Molan pushed back deep into defence and produced a long, accurate kick to the wing, and then early in the third term was back mopping up in defence again. He tried to spin out of trouble in the middle at one stage in the third but was pinged for holding the ball, though he is able to use both feet which helps him get out of trouble when being corralled.

#6 Marcus Herbert

Herbert donned the long sleeves and found plenty of it in the wet, showing clean hands at ground level and being able to shovel out passes to teammates on the outside. He had some more time in the first half where he was able to spread and win a few uncontested marks, and whilst his kicking under pressure was a bit rushed, he used it well with time on his side. Herbert had a nice passage of play in the third term where he dribbled a kick out of the defensive stoppage and then ran hard to win the next possession via hand, before distributing to a teammate. His clean flick out of a stoppage to an open runner early in the fourth, and his hard ball get to aide in Hobbs’ goal meant he had an influence on the game.

#13 Sam Breuer

Set the tone with Hobbs early, going in for a fierce tackle and then getting the ball away to a teammate, and went on to have an impressive game. Winning a match-high 35 disposals, Breuer covered the ground well and kicked a remarkable thumping goal from the wing. By the wing, that’s centre wing, where an open goalsquare saw it bounce home and in early in the first term. Throughout the match Breuer worked hard for his touches, showing good hands in the wet, spreading well and applying immense defensive pressure. He had a poor turnover in the second term trying to cross from the middle to half-forward, but otherwise was able to impact going forward.

#14 Jamieson Ballantyne

Rotating through the midfield, Ballantyne had a few nice moments throughout the match, which included a release handball to Breuer for that long goal, and then showing some nice toe of his own to burst away from an opponent at half-forward. The right footer showed he can kick off his left as well, and predominantly looked to open up the play by hand or with a short kick, finishing off with a good goal from an uncontested mark 20m out in the final term. He then produced a well-weighted kick to Josh Gibcus up forward, but the usual defender missed to the left.

Murray Bushrangers:

#8 Zavier Maher

Maher provided some experience and stoppage nous around the contest, able to win the ball in close and use his elite sidestep to get himself out of trouble. A few times he was a little fumbly, such as dropping a mark on the wing then unable to gather quickly, though he redeemed himself with some great second efforts. He read the taps at the stoppages well, and took a strong contested juggling mark late in the game at half-back. Maher had a flying snap on goal in the second term, but it did not swing enough and missed to the left.

#9 Kade Chalcraft

Started strongly with a gather from the stoppage, and got back in defence to help out not long after to clear the ball to half-back and move it on quickly. Playing on-ball, Chalcraft used his stronger frame to frame in and protect the ball when required, lay a big tackle or shovel it out to the outside. Chalcraft had a flying shot from 50m out under pressure just drifted it to the left early in the second term. At one stage in the second quarter, he was tackled by multiple opponents then still shovelled it out showing great strength.

#52 Tom Bracher

Playing on the last line, Bracher provided some good run and carry out of defence to be one of the best Murray players on the day. He read the ball in flight consistently and then was able to run off and receive the handball when he was not marking it. He timed his marking attempts well, and when he had to spoil, using the ball well by foot coming out of defence. He had a big opening term and took a couple of intercept marks in the opening half, tasked with the kickout duties for the Bushrangers on the day. He took some risky passes at times but was able to open the game up through the middle or via a switch, nailing the short harp attempts to his teammates in the back half more often than not.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 12.11 (83) def. EASTERN RANGES 5.5 (35)

By: Ed Pascoe

Sandringham Dragons:

#6 Blake Howes

In perhaps Howes’ best game this year, he made the wing position his own after playing the bulk of his time as a high half-forward earlier in the year. Howes, standing at 190cm, moves incredibly well for a player of his stature, with his agility over the ground and clean hands – not just overhead but also at ground level – a real feature in his game against Eastern Ranges. One of the best showcases of his talent came in the second quarter, taking a nice mark at half-back before quickly playing on, showing his great speed and willingness to take the game on. He would get better as the game went on as well, showing great skill at the back of stoppages and with a 50m penalty, he converted a goal which was reward for his efforts up to that point. Howes finished the game with 18 disposals in what is two very strong back to back games for Sandringham Dragons.

#17 Finn Callaghan

Callaghan has likely left the wing position behind him playing for Sandringham, as he has not only excelled in his move to the stoppages, but is starting to look like one of the prime midfielders in this year’s draft crop. His game against Eastern was his most complete game to date. It felt like Callaghan was everywhere, not just having an influence at stoppages in winning multiple clearances, but also getting the ball in open play using his trademark agility to escape congestion, leaving opponents in his wake. It’s hard to showcase as a wingman, but as he is now playing on the inside more he has started to show good attack on the loose ball, showing great balance to his outside class which was already well noted. That harder edge is what will push him towards the very top end of the draft and with a game high 31 disposals to go with four tackles and seven inside 50s, Callaghan’s stocks continue to improve.

#32 Dante Visentini

In his best outing to date, the Under 16 Vic Metro representative showed why he won those accolades back in 2019 with a strong display playing forward and pinch-hitting in the ruck. Visentini was a real threat in the air, taking some strong marks highlighted with one contested grab inside 50 in the third quarter. He would miss the resultant set shot there, but his marking on the wing was also impressive, showing he could get on his bike and present as a leading option all over the ground. Visentini finished the game with 13 disposals, seven marks, 13 hit outs and a goal in a timely reminder to recruiters of his talent ahead of the National Championships.

#52 Luke Nankervis

The smooth moving forward hasn’t been the type of forward to kick bags of goals, but he is certainly one of the more creative ones in this year’s crop with his clean hands and agility with ball in hand real features of his game. That was again evident against Eastern Ranges, where Nankervis showed a great ability to take the ball cleanly below his knees and get his arms up to release by hand. Although he hasn’t been able to use those hands in marking contests, he does have that in his arsenal. Defensively, Nankervis was also very sound with six tackles for the game, with one in the first quarter rewarded for holding the ball. If Nankervis can start to really weave around opponents more often with his agility and start to be a threat in the air, he will cause major headaches for any defender. Nankervis finished the game with 18 disposals and five inside 50s.

#61 Max Heath

The newest acquisition to the St Kilda Football Club, Heath was an imposing force around the ground with his trademark bash and crash style on show – not just in the ruck, but also up forward where he would lay multiple bone crunching tackles. Heath relishes on the tackling side of football, which showed with his five tackles and every one of them certainly left his opponent worse for ware. Heath’s ruck work was also good, forming a great partnership with his on-ballers – especially Finn Callaghan who was fed some quality taps from Heath. The AFL-listed bigman finished the game with seven disposals, five tackles and 21 hit-outs in a typical Heath display.

Eastern Ranges:

#1 Tyler Sonsie

It wasn’t Sonsie’s day, with the classy first round prospect struggling to really get going in the midfield and despite looking good when he got the ball at stoppages, those moments were few and far between by his lofty standards. Usually a dangerous forward threat, Sonsie had numerous opportunities to kick some majors but just couldn’t get the finish, missing some snaps at goal he would usually nail. Things wouldn’t get any better for Sonsie late on, going down with a suspected lower leg injury while being tackled early in the last quarter. Sonsie finished the game with 15 disposals and four tackles and we can only hope the leg injury isn’t too serious.

#5 Jake Soligo

In what was Soligo’s most prolific game to date, the hard nosed Eastern Ranges midfielder proved why he was considered one of Victoria’s most promising midfielders after his strong performances in the 2019 Under 16 National Championships. Soligo was a workhorse through the midfield, winning plenty of the ball at the coalface while also getting back into defence to help his defenders. That defensive nous was on show in the second quarter with a strong intercept mark sitting in the hole, as well as a crunching tackle on fellow hardnut Charlie McKay. Soligo looked elusive and composed whenever he got possession and although it has taken a few games for Soligo to find his feet, he looks to have hit his straps at the right time with Vic Metro soon to take on Allies in the Under 19 National Championships, Soligo finished with a team-high 29 disposals to go with eight marks and 10 tackles.

#8 Nick Watson

A player not eligible for the draft until 2023, the nippy and creative forward only stands at 168cm but his impact and smarts make him an incredible prospect to look out for, and he couldn’t have impressed more in his NAB League debut. Watson was active early, having no issue finding the ball and offering plenty of pressure inside 50. His first goal came on the half time siren where he would kick an impressive major from long range. His second was even better in the last quarter, kicking an incredible snap hard on the boundary from a set shot, showing his obvious class and skill. He was rewarded for his first half with some midfield time in the second half and he again showed plenty of dash and skill through the middle. Watson finished with 13 disposals, five tackles and kicked 2.1 and looks a player to watch for Vic Metro in the upcoming Under 17 championships.

#31 Tyreece Leiu

After starting the year in the midfield and up forward, Leiu has had a stunning turn of form playing down back in recent times for Eastern Ranges. His intercept marking was a key feature of his game, taking strong marks in the contest and reading the play really well. The Eastern Ranges defence was adept at taking intercept marks, non more-so than Leiu, but it was also his intercepts in general where he would body line a loose contest and either take the ball himself or cause a 50/50, using his stronger frame to his advantage. Leiu finished the game with 26 disposals, nine marks and nine rebound 50s in a performance which could have solidified his spot in Vic Metro’s backline in the upcoming Under 19 National Championships.

#49 Sahaf Ali

Another exciting debutant for the Eastern Ranges, Ali showed plenty of eye catching traits up forward with his leap and marking ability on show multiple times. The East Ringwood prospect had impressed in his senior EFL debut and has taken that form into the NAB League, where he looks to be a mainstay for the rest of the year. The athletic forward wouldn’t kick a goal until the last quarter, which came from a free kick, but he was certainly one of the more dangerous marking options and he even got a run in the midfield later in the game, showing some versatility. Ali finished the game with 11 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and kicked 1.1.

GWS GIANTS ACADEMY 8.16 (64) def. TASMANIA DEVILS 8.10 (58)

By: Eli Duxson

Giants Academy:

#1 Harrison Grintell

Grintell was crafty, hovering around the half-forward flank all game while also showing a strong intent to hit the contest hard and do his bit defensively. It was his attacking play that stood out on the day though, as he notched seven inside 50’s with impressive sprinting efforts with and without the ball. His ability in space matched his silkiness in tight as his agility allowed him to get out of packs and deliver to a teammate on several occasions. This play led to a goal after a pair of disposals on centre wing saw him deliver to hit a teammate inside forward 50. His field kicking was sound, but he could not quite convert the way he would have liked, kicking 1.2. Grintell also finished with 18 disposals.

#7 Matthew Hamblin

Probably GWS’ best on the day, showing a willingness to hit legs and cover ground to make his way to stoppages and contests all over the ground, but staying mostly between the arcs as a link player. His work rate to contests was on par with his aggression once he got there, often trying to get first hands on it at stoppages with his bustling style. He did also play a role for his side being the sweeper many times to which he received some balls to slingshot forward or move laterally. Hamblin put in some big efforts in the tense final quarter which was eventually rewarded with an off-the-ball free kick, which saw him slot through a set shot from 30 metres out to give the Giants a two-goal buffer. He managed 29 disposals, seven marks, and five inside 50s.

#24 Sam Frost

The GWS captain led all comers with 30 disposals and a whopping 10 rebound 50s. That probably typifies his game as well as possible, as the defender looked solid in one-on-ones, while also looking to attack once the ball hit the deck managing six inside 50s. He played a bit like Brandon Starcevich showing good confidence aerially to mark, while also being a steady user by foot. There were several blunders on his behalf however, including a lazy kick, two free kicks, and a 50-metre penalty which could have resulted in Tasmania goals but luckily did not. Beyond those though, he led valiantly for the Giants.

#31 Josh Green

It seemed no position was impossible for Green as he tried his hand everywhere bar the defence on Sunday. Starting as a lead up forward, he kicked GWS’ first goal of the game with a tidy finish across his body, looking dangerous for in one-on-one situations. His mobility once the ball hit the ground posed more problems for Tasmania as he could bust through packs due to his size. He moved into the middle in the second half and made good decisions with his hands in tight, while also showing a willingness to work back and help defensively at stoppages. Green rucked in the forwardline when he was there, but also rotated as the main ruck at times, especially in the final quarter as he became another midfielder after the ruck contest. He finished with 20 disposals and four marks to go with his goal.

Tasmania Devils:

#12 Jye Menzie

Tasmania’s best on the day playing predominantly half-forward, he managed three goals from 15 disposals, with his goals all coming in the first half. His first two were bursts into space to snap through well, with his third being a set shot after the half-time siren to put Tasmania back in front. He scrapped and hustled in contests and showed a cleanliness in tight not many others on the ground possessed. His defensive abilities were adequate for his role, but his forward movement showed he has a good sense for the forward craft.

#22 Baker Smith

The key defender was generally very good with his positioning and body in aerial contests, being rarely beaten. Repeat entries challenged him, like it would most defenders, but his ability to read the flight of the ball was impressive knowing when to spoil and when to mark. Even more impressive was his temperament. He did not look flustered within his defensive role despite the +22 inside 50s for the Giants, but he also did not give any free kicks away which can be easy to do playing on key forwards.

CALDER CANNONS 10.12 (72) def. WESTERN JETS 8.9 (57)

By: Michael Alvaro

Calder Cannons:

#4 Sam Clohesy

Shifting between the wing and forwardline, Clohesy warmed to the contest and showcased some of his best traits as it wore on. While Calder often opted to play a controlled kick-mark style, Clohesy looked to break the play open with his penetrative disposal by foot, seeing him gain good meterage along the line. His strong overhead marking also came to the fore, with Clohesy clunking some nice grabs in important areas to either intercept, or help keep Calder in possession. Overall a solid outing, with the top-ager ending on 23 disposals and 12 marks.

#5 Zac Taylor

Arguably the best player afield, Taylor was a consistent ball winner for Calder and a productive member of the midfield-forward rotation. A crafty type on the ball, he always took his time in possession and looked to create with his kicks. While some of those kicks were delivered a touch short in the early stages, Taylor continued to back his skills and went on to hit leading targets inside 50. He finished with a game-high 32 disposals and nine inside 50s, while also contributing defensively with a couple of notable chase-down tackles.

#25 Josh Goater

The big body in Calder’s midfield, Goater played the distributor role perfectly at stoppages with his clean hands and strength in tight spots. He often got first hands to the ball and proved difficult to tackle, allowing for fluent ball movement to the outer where runners awaited. Goater is a terrific athlete and showed as much aerially with a spekky during the second term, but could perhaps better showcase his explosiveness at stoppages by pumping his legs instead of always dishing to the first option. Finishing with 28 touches, Goater was typically efficient with his ball use.

#30 Sam Paea

That standout key forward afield, Paea produced arguably his best outing to date. The high-marking Cannon proved near-unstoppable when allowed a full run at the ball, rising to clunk some outstanding overhead marks with his combination of reach and vertical leap. His athleticism also allowed for handy separation on the lead, as Paea worked hard up the ground to provide a link into attack for Calder. He seems a real confidence player, so is still a touch inconsistent with his goalkicking but still managed to convert four set shot goals with fluency. Eight marks and four majors from 13 disposals makes for good reading.

#41 Liam Podhajski

Making his NAB League return after gaining senior experience in the VFL, Podhajski took some of the learnings he inevitably made back into the elite junior competition. The developing ruckman showcased his vertical ability with sizeable leaps at each centre bounce, before following up nicely at ground level. He did not have as profound an impact around the ground in terms of marking, but still had his moments and dropped behind the ball nicely when Western was attacking. His directional work was also handy in the ruck, including some deft taps over his shoulder.

Western Jets:

#2 Harrison White

White ended as Western’s leading ball winner on the day with 23 disposals, which included seven inside 50s and three rebound 50s. He was a positive member of the midfield mix, constantly looking to generate some forward spark with his run and foot skills coming away from the contest. The top-ager backed his speed in those instances but was also quite no-fuss around the ball with quick and clean touches at the contest. He missed a chance to hit the scoreboard via a set shot during term three, but had a solid day overall.

#32 Paul Curtis

Curtis was again Western’s most productive forward, leaning on his smarts and goal sense to snare three goals from five scoring shots. Mostly stationed deep inside 50, he presented well for a player of his size to mark on the lead, while also holding his own in one-on-one situations. He snared two majors via those methods with set shots, with his third an opportunistic volley from the goalsquare. Curtis also tackled well, laying five overall, including a strong effort in the pocket to earn another shot on goal.

#33 Billy Cootee

Western’s skipper lead from the front on Sunday, working hard in midfield and showing positive attacking intent with ball in hand. He would often mark uncontested and look to wheel around quickly to release long by foot, allowing Western’s forwards to get to work on swift inside 50 entries. He also impacted at the contest, with his clearance work at the centre bounces helping the Jets stay in touch during the third term. His urgency remained heading into the closing stages with more of that typical meterage, and Cootee also made his mark with a well-hit snap goal late in the opening quarter.

BENDIGO PIONEERS 6.10 (46) def. by DANDENONG STINGRAYS 22.11 (143)

By: Peter Williams

Bendigo Pioneers:

#15 Jack Stewart

One of the more lively Pioneers on the day, Stewart showed off some neat evasion skills and clean hands in close. More often than not, the midfielder was able to identify the target he needed to hit, and threaded the needle through traffic. His kicking at times was rushed when in play, often trying to open up angles and go long, but when resting forward, Stewart kicked a couple of goals, one from a good mark on the lead and set shot in the second term, and another running into an open goal in the final few minutes of the match.

#29 Cooper Smith

Provided great run out of defence and down the ground, often acting as the interceptor in the back half of the ground. He was often under pressure and forced to rush his kicks, but he kept accumulating the ball and just looking to take grass at every opportunity. One of the Pioneers more prominent ball-winners, he was under siege more often than not, but kept working hard throughout the game.

#56 Harley Reid

A real eye-catcher on the day, Reid was strong in the contest and able to stand up in tackles to get free by brute force, At one stage late in the first term he produced a low bullet to a teammate going inside 50 after leading out to take a great grab. He did not win a heap of the ball, but seemed to look dangerous every time he went near it, clunking a good mark in the final term and converting the set shot.

Dandenong Stingrays:

#2 Josiah Kyle

Possessing high level footy smarts, incredibly clean hands and a great goal sense, Kyle feasted on the Stingrays’ dominance going forward to slot 3.1 from limited touches roaming deep inside 50. He was a worry for the opposition, and still provided that defensive pressure required of him, providing a contest in the air or at ground level. His first goal came with a great run and mark heading with the flight towards goal. He missed his second set shot from straight in front in the second term, then snuck out the back of a contest, to use one mitt to win the ball at speed and kick with the outside of the boot for a goal. More impressively, his second term run-down tackle forced a turnover and goal for the Stingrays. He nailed his third goal in the third term from a mark and set shot.

#3 Miller Bergman

Bergman covered the ground well and was involved from early on, putting pressure on the opposition.He pushed to the outside and an early touch 12 minutes into the game lead to a Stingrays’ goal. He slotted a nice goal on the run himself in the second term from a one-two in one of the plays of the day. Bergman provided some good run throughout the game, worked hard and generally made the right decisions with ball-in-hand, setting up a goal to Judson Clarke in the final term. Bergman then capped off his day with a tidy snap from the pocket as casual as you like to slot home his second.

#14 Will Bravo

Played the role you would come to expect of the talent who was close to earning a spot on an AFL list. He looked too strong for his opponents and showed off his athletic traits in close, often winning the ball and getting and going forward, accumulating the ball at will. Bravo was clean at ground level and able to move through the stoppages well, finding the space to exit. He gave away a number of free kicks going hard at the contest, but his spread and work rate was really impressive, and you can never doubt his intent at the coal face where he really did his best work.

#17 Bryce Milford

Started his day in defence to smack a wayward set shot into the behind post, but funnily enough found himself slotting four majors up the other end. The left footer found plenty of space on the outside, though he was fumbly at ground level, needing to take the ball a little cleaner at times. When in possession and playing his game, Milford was dangerous, missing a chance early in the third term, then went to work slotting four goals in the final 39 minutes of the match. His first was from a mark and lead nine minutes into the third quarter, then he took a good contested grab at half-forward, played on and slotted it from 50m, before kicking back-to-back goals in the fourth, the first from an uncontested mark and the second from getting behind his opponent to get boot to ball on the run.

#23 Jai Neal

A strong presence in the air, Neal’s marking was noticeable throughout the game, positioning himself well in the back 50 from the opening few minutes and taking back-to-back intercept marks in the hole. Neal had a really big first term with plenty of involvements both in the back 50 and pushing up the ground to impact the contest. As the game went well and truly on the Stingrays’ terms, Neal had less work to do, but still positioning himself well.

#40 Colby Nayna

Had a really eye-catching game up forward pushing further afield at times to slot three goals from 13 touches and always look dangerous. His first involvement was an incredibly high leap to grab midway through the first term, with his set shot sailing through the middle. He slotted his second just five minutes later from another mark on the lead, showing his burst to create separation from opponents. He is quick off the first few steps and then set up a goal to Sam Frangalas with a well-weighted kick. His used the ball well by hand or foot and kicked his third in the third quarter on the run cleverly reading the drop of the ball off hands inside 50.

#42 James Cahill

Cahill worked hard around the ground to provide plenty of drive going forward. Not only did he pump the ball inside 50 time and time again, but applied defensive pressure – through tackling or implied pressure – to opponents. Midway through the first term, he got free inside 50, gathered the ball well under pressure and snapped around his body for his first goal. He then played a part in the next forward thrust with a mark, then a rushed handball that proved effective and lead to a goal off the next disposal. He had a chance for goal early in the second term running in but drifted to the left. at times Cahill was a little fumbly under pressure, but he still had an overall solid game, kicking his second goal from a mark and set shot in the third term.

#48 Declan Cole

The leading ball winner on the ground, Cole just accumulated the pill with ease in the big win. He cracked in hard alongside Bravo and Henry Berenger and won a lot of his touches in close be it himself or as the first handball receiver spreading from the contest. Late in the first term he had a set shot but missed to the right in his only score for the day, but his best work was done up the field. He was strong overhead and looked to open up the play when possible and get it to dangerous areas. He made a mistake in the second term missing a crucial handball in defensive 50 which lead to a shot on goal, but generally attacked the ball carrier well and worked hard up and down the ground.

GIPPSLAND POWER 6.9 (45) def. by GEELONG FALCONS 9.13 (67)

By: Michael Alvaro

Gippsland Power:

#6 Mitchell Moschetti

Moschetti offered real class on the ball with his movement coming away from traffic, as he sped into space before looking to deliver by foot. The draft eligible midfielder did well to shift to the outside and managed to get Gippsland going with a couple of running bounce passages, even if the end product was not always effective. He added a stylish centre bounce break to his game in the final quarter, and finished with 20 disposals.

#9 Will Papley

Rotating forward from the midfield, Papley proved a slippery customer with ball in hand. He was hard on the inside with his speed and tackling pressure, but also presented nicely for a small forward when stationed inside 50. He often led to the ball at half-forward, before wheeling around and pumping a long kick to the hot spot. The top-ager finished strongly with more time in midfield, getting busy at the contest and continuing to provide important defensive acts. Papley was lively overall, finishing with 21 disposals, five tackles and five inside 50s.

#17 Luis D’Angelo

D’Angelo was quite crafty and clean with his work on the inside, winning the contested ball and getting it out to receivers on the outer by hand. In more open play, the Gippsland leader looked quite polished in possession with his short kicking, able to find the ball in dangerous areas and deliver forward by foot. He contributed to a couple of scores with that kind of work; the first was an intercept mark from a kick-in which he handed off, and the second was a clever knock on which allowed Chance Doultree to waltz inside 50 and convert a major score.

Geelong Falcons:

#12 Noah Gribble

Gribble continues to be one of the more consistent accumulators in the NAB League, racking up another game-high tally of 32 disposals on the back of sheer work rate and smarts. Having transitioned to the inside, he was able to contribute neat touches around the contest with clean and quick hands, having no trouble finding the ball. As the play broke either way, the top-ager worked hard to impact in either arc and provide an outlet coming out of defence. He seemed a lot more assured in possession, not rushing his disposals as much and not trying to do too much with each touch.

#32 Noah Gadsby

One of the more handy inclusions to this Geelong side of late, Gadsby was able to showcase some of his high-level athletic traits on Sunday. The top-ager was stationed forward for most of the day but worked hard up the ground and was also given a late run in the midfield, attending centre bounces during term four. His athleticism was mostly observed in overhead marking contests, where Gadsby rose well to contest with courage. He also leant on his running capacity to work over his opponent en route to collecting 28 disposals, while also becoming a threat inside 50 with four scoring shots. Only one of them was a goal, converted craftily from a quick snap in the pocket.

#56 Oscar Morrison

The intercept marking defender continues to make strong strides in 2021, putting in a strong shift across the backline and cutting off a number of Gippsland attacks. Morrison was superb aerially, reading the play and flight of the ball beautifully to rise third-up and cleanly take some quality grabs in the back half. He was hardly beaten in the air, but also distributed the ball with good poise and skill to keep the Falcons out of trouble, proving a no-fuss kind of operator.

#60 Toby Conway

Conway returned another strong showing in the ruck, proving too big and strong with his 204cm frame. He showed good confidence to grab out of the ruck and dispose of the ball, while also continuing to show handy ruck craft with his directional taps. He protected his space well and was quite strong on the ball, looking a touch more comfortable in possession than in other weeks. Conway also positioned nicely down the line and behind the ball, with his impact around the ground an area of growth.

PREVIEW | Debuts galore as Metro sides make NAB League return

METRO regions are set to make their long-awaited return to the NAB League this weekend, as the competition extends back out to eight fixtures in Round 9. While fans are still not allowed to attend metropolitan games, one recruiter from each club will be allowed on the scene to observe the next generation of talent, with rules more relaxed at country and interstate fixtures.

As advertised, a bunch of bottom-age prospects will continue to be blooded through the elite talent pathways and there are some absolute gems to keep an eye out for ahead of the Under 17 National Championships. Returning 18th-year and top-age stars also fill out the list of names to watch, while both New South Wales (NSW) academies remain along with the Northern Territory (NT) Thunder.

Scotch College pair Sam Darcy and Scott Beilby have been named in Oakleigh’s side to face the Northern Knights on Saturday morning. Both boast ties to AFL clubs, with the former a Western Bulldogs father-son candidate, while the latter is part of St Kilda’s Next Generation Academy (NGA).

The Chargers will also unveil Tasmanian top-ager Sam Collins, who will make his first appearance for the region having shifted to live in Melbourne this year. 2019 premiership midfielder Fraser Elliot is another 19-year-old back in the mix having had a taste of VFL football, while GIANTS Academy member Patrick Voss is back in Oakleigh colours after earning an Allies nod. Elijah Tsatas is the bottom-ager to watch, an explosive midfielder who was previously sidelined with a broken collarbone.

Northern is also set to blood a couple of promising Under 17s, as coach Leigh Clarke returns to face his former side. Brayden Ham and Josh Hamilton add to those under-age stocks, while Melbourne Grammar student Josh Ward is a welcome addition to the midfield. He’ll operate alongside in-form skipper Joel Trudgeon and Ewan Macpherson, who returns after a stint with Footscray in the VFL.

The day’s other all-metro bout sees Sandringham host Eastern Ranges, boasting mid-season draftee Max Heath. The St Kilda ruck is set to palm down to a formidable midfield trio, which includes co-captain Darby Hipwell, and the newly-formed combination of Finn Callaghan and Charlie McKay. Allies squad member Jack Peris has also been named on the wing.

The midfield battle should be fierce, with Tyler Sonsie and Jake Soligo resuming for Eastern. Dashing top-ager Josh Clarke comes in for his first game in 2021, named in his usual half-back post, while 2005-born talent Nick Watson is in line to make his debut. The diminutive midfielder-forward has serious talent, akin to the likes of Errol Gulden in terms of natural ability which defies his size.

Eastern Ranges half-back Josh Clarke (centre) is in line to return

In the final game on Saturday, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) locks horns with Murray, as Mars Stadium continues to get a workout from the Rebels. Gun inside midfielder Ben Hobbs is set to return for the hosts, named in a forward pocket as GWV boasts an embarrassment of midfield riches.

Allies squad members Toby Murray (ruck) and Cameron McLeod (centre half-forward) are set to rotate through the Bushrangers’ structure, with Carlton VFL listed midfielder Zavier Maher again suiting up for Murray as former Caulfield Grammar schoolmate Josh Rachele comes out of the side.

Sunday’s action starts early as the GIANTS Academy takes on Tasmania Devils in the first game of a Blacktown double-header. Sydney is the other NSW-based academy to play host, taking on the NT Thunder in the afternoon. All four sides boast a bunch of prospects named in the Allies squad, who should acquaint themselves nicely.

Calder and Western battle it out in the round’s sole other metro clash, making for a repeat of the season-opener in Craigieburn. Carlton father-son hopeful Dane Whitnall comes in for his Calder debut, bolstering his side’s spine along with developing ruck Liam Podhajski. The latter is one of a few players afield with VFL experience, including Jets top-agers Cody Raak (defence) and Billy Cootee (midfield).

The in-form Geelong Falcons take on Gippsland Power in Morwell, with both sides having fielded a bunch of up-and-comers of late. Geelong will again go with midfielder Jhye Clark, ruckman Olivier Northam, and forward Will Baker, while Gippsland will be buoyed by the returns of Will Papley and Chance Doultree as Jai Serong goes the other way. 2005-born forward Zane Duursma is again one to watch.

The Dandenong Stingrays enter the fold once again to see out the weekend’s action, travelling to face Bendigo Pioneers at Queen Elizabeth Oval. 2005-born Vic Country Under 17 squad member Harley Reid has shown plenty of promise for the Pios, as one of many under-agers settling into the side. Dandenong will have a bunch of fresh faces take the field too, including 16-year-old Sam Frangalas, along with a strong core of familiar names.

Young Guns: 2021 VFL Round 4 – Debutants raise eyebrows

WITH the NAB League in the midst of a month-long break after three full rounds of action, some of Victoria’s most promising Under 19 talent has begun filtering into the Victorian Football League (VFL). A raft of top-age draft prospects have already made their state league debuts, with more to come, while members of all four Northern Academies also got some run in their legs. We take a look at how the prominent 19th-year players performed as they hit the senior football levels. Note, some prospects missed VFL action this week due to the Under 23 Young Guns showcase.

>> SCOUT NOTES: 2021 Victorian Under 23 Young Guns

Geelong kicked off the round in style on Thursday night, with a 45-point win over the Northern Bullants at Marvel Stadium. The Cats unveiled Greater Western Victoria (GWV) midfielder Marcus Herbert on the night, and he fared well in his official debut with 14 disposals, six inside 50s and a goal. The smooth mover also turned out for the Cats against the AFL Academy last month. In the same game, developing ruck-forward Liam Podhajski showed plenty for the Bullants, booting his first state league goal to go with eight touches and 12 hitouts against stiff opposition.

Podhajski, and Collingwood ruck Ned Moyle were due to play in Saturday’s Young Guns showcase before earning VFL selection, with both firming as viable mid-season draft options on June 2. Moyle suited up for his second game in black and white, almost doubling the output from his debut outing. The Oakleigh Chargers product notched 17 disposals, four marks and 19 hitouts, while NAB League teammate and Next Generation Academy prospect Youseph Dib slotted another two goals for the Magpies. Dib’s disposal tally of 12 was also a new personal best across his three VFL performances thus far.

With little to cheer about in the top flight, plenty of North Melbourne fans would have been eager to see how father-son talent Jackson Archer, the son of club great Glenn, fared in his VFL debut. The 18-year-old managed eight touches (seven kicks) and six marks from defence as the Roos went down heavily to Southport, with Archer among four North debutants out of the NAB League. Most of them got among the goals too, with Tasmanian Jye Menzie and Bendigo’s Nathan Kay snaring majors along with second-gamer Oliver Sanders, who also had 16 disposals and four marks. Cooper Smith, another Pioneers product was a standout with 20 touches and nine marks, but could not quite find the big sticks as he registered two behinds.

Elsewhere, the state league debut of top five prospect Tyler Sonsie raised plenty of eyebrows. His class came to the fore despite Box Hill’s loss to Werribee, as the youngster finished with 24 disposals and a couple of very nice goals. Sonsie’s second was the highlight of his game, coming on the run from 50 metres out during the third term as Box Hill mounted a charge. Potential Bulldogs father-son Ewan Macpherson was also a late call-up for Footscray, managing 11 touches and five tackles in his maiden outing – a win against Carlton.

Around the nation, there were a few more debuts and standout performances. Top 10 prospect Matthew Roberts broke through for his first League outing in South Adelaide colours, joining top pick contender Jason Horne in the Panthers side which beat Woodville-West Torrens. Roberts warmed to the occasion nicely with 14 disposals and a goal, while Horne’s consistent start to the 2021 season continued with 17 touches, five clearances and a goal.

Port Adelaide father-son talent Jase Burgoyne was called up for a SANFL League showdown on Saturday, building steadily for 14 touches as the Magpies won out by 14 points. Elsewhere at League level, Tasmanian key forward Jackson Callow returned his best outing for Norwood, booting three goals from eight marks (seven contested) in the Redlegs’ win over Central District. Nasiah Wanganeen and Blayne O’Loughlin also turned out for their respective sides at Reserves level, continuing their promising runs of form.

Over in Western Australia, Matthew Johnson managed six disposals and three marks as Subiaco beat Claremont in his second League appearance. Star key forward Jacob Van Rooyen continues to be rested by Claremont having been diagnosed with glandular fever.

Image Credit: Mike Owen/AFL Photos

Full squads: 2021 Victorian Young Guns showcase

THE ANNUAL Victorian Young Guns showcase is back in 2021, with Metro and Country squads set to battle it out as prospects look to stake their claims for mid-season draft (June 2) selection. Bouncing down at 2:30pm tomorrow at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee, the fixture will see a selection of Victoria’s brightest Under 23 talent fielded all at once.

Though the parameters have been set at the 23-year-old limit, no player selected is older than 20, with 48 of the nominated prospects coming from the NAB League – including the entire Metro team – and just four out of the Victorian Football League (VFL). With players essentially hand-picked by AFL recruiters, the match promises to provide a useful insight into who is on the draft radar at this point.

>> SCROLL to see the full squads

SQUAD SNAPSHOTS:

Metro

Among the Metro standouts are a couple of talls who come in fresh off some VFL exposure. Oakleigh Chargers bigman Ned Moyle is one of them, and he looms as a favourable mid-season draft option having also turned out for the AFL Academy recently. The other is Calder Cannons ruck-forward Liam Podhajski, a fast-developing type who has proven his upside this year. The pair respectively played for Collingwood and Northern Bullants at state league level.

Some promising Next Generation Academy (NGA) graduates are also in the mix, with Cody Raak (Western Bulldogs) among them. The marking defender has been a level above the NAB League and recently earned a VFL berth with the Bulldogs. The raw athleticism of Carlton-tied prospect Dominic Akuei should also catch the eye, he can rotate up either end of the field while pinch-hitting in the ruck with a huge leap.

Bulldogs and Blues fans should also be on the lookout for a pair of father-sons in NAB League top-agers Ewan Macpherson and Charlie McKay. Both were overlooked last year but have returned in fine form, boasting good size as inside midfielders who win plenty of ball at the coalface, but can also rotate back to defence. Macpherson was also seen kicking a bag of five goals for local side, Diamond Creek a fortnight ago.

Elsewhere, skilled small forward Corey Preston remains on the radar after fighting for a preseason supplementary selection spot at the Western Bulldogs. The likes of Darby Hipwell (midfielder, Sandringham), Dylan Thomas (forward, Collingwood), Sam Paea (key forward, Essendon) have all gained VFL experience this year, while Logan Young is a West Australian native who crossed to play with Sandringham Dragons this year. He is a tall midfielder who has also rotated forward.

Country

Country will field the only four non-NAB League listed players on Saturday, including one of just two selected 20-year-olds in Aaron Gundry. The 201cm Bendigo Pioneers product is a developing ruck who currently plies his trade for Carlton’s reserves. Isaac Wareham (Geelong VFL) and Sam Durham (Richmond VFL) are familiar names with plenty of their own upside, while 2019 Bulldogs NGA graduate Mutaz El Nour (Northern Bullants) rounds out the state league selection.

Dandenong Stingrays speedster Kobi George is Country’s sole current NGA prospect, tied to Melbourne, but the likes of Will Bravo and Charlie Byrne have experienced the rigours of AFL-level training having fought for preseason supplementary selection spots at Hawthorn and Essendon respectively, before rolling back into the NAB League system come season proper.

Among those with VFL exposure this year are nippy Bendigo Pioneers smalls Sam Conforti and Jack Hickman. Both have turned out twice for Essendon’s reserves side and showed plenty – particularly in last week’s outing against Carlton. Expect them to rotate forward through midfield, or station on the outer. Geelong VFL-listed pair Charlie Ham and Marcus Herbert will also play, having turned out against the AFL Academy last month.

Ham, the brother of Essendon’s Brayden will be joined by another brother-of in the squad. Will Papley, who has similar forward craft to his elder sibling Tom, also earned a berth in the side and will likely start inside attacking 50 with the potential to roll into midfield. Elsewhere, watch for the work-rate of wingman Noah Gribble, who has impressed in the NAB League after tearing his ACL last year.

FULL SQUADS:

Metro

1. Jake Arundell, 18, 169cm, 65kg, Eastern Ranges
2. Harrison White, 19, 175cm, 70kg, Western Jets
3. Eren Soylemez, 19, 179cm, 82kg, Sandringham Dragons
4. Ewan Macpherson, 19, 179cm, 82kg, Northern Knights
5. Tom Blamires, 18, 180cm, 76kg, Sandringham Dragons
6. Corey Preston, 18, 181cm, 77kg, Eastern Ranges
7. Darby Hipwell, 18, 182cm, 82kg, Sandringham Dragons
8. Harrison Keeling, 19, 183cm, 68kg, Eastern Ranges
9. Joel Trudgeon, 18, 185cm, 90kg, Northern Knights
10. Charlie McKay, 18, 186cm, 83kg, Sandringham Dragons
11. Lachlan Riley, 19, 186cm, 85kg, Sandringham Dragons
12. Dylan Thomas, 18, 187cm, 77kg, Oakleigh Chargers
13. Liam Conway, 19, 188cm, 87kg, Western Jets
14. Ben De Bolfo, 18, 188cm, 79kg, Northern Knights
15. Sam Clohesy, 18, 189cm, 72kg, Calder Cannons
16. Fraser Elliot, 18, 189cm, 88kg, Oakleigh Chargers
17. Luke Cleary, 19, 189cm, 80kg, Sandringham Dragons
18. Logan Young, 19, 190cm, 84kg, Sandringham Dragons
19. Marc Massarotti, 18, 191cm, 91kg, Eastern Ranges
20. Cody Raak, 18, 192cm, 80kg, Western Jets
21. Dominic Akuei, 18, 192cm, 76kg, Northern Knights
22. Samuel Paea, 18, 194cm, 94kg, Calder Cannons
23. Flynn Maguire, 19, 195cm, 82kg, Oakleigh Chargers
24. Riley Smith, 20, 200cm, 104kg, Eastern Ranges
25. Felix Flockart, 19, 202cm, 80kg, Sandringham Dragons
26. Liam Podhajski, 18, 202cm, 99kg, Calder Cannons
27. Ned Moyle, 19, 205cm, 87kg, Oakleigh Chargers

Country

1. Sam Conforti, 19, 173cm, 74kg, Bendigo Pioneers
2. Charlie Ham, 18, 180cm, 74kg, Geelong Falcons
3. Kobi George, 19, 182cm, 74kg, Dandenong Stingrays
4. Jack Hickman, 19, 177cm, 71kg, Bendigo Pioneers
5. Patrick Parnell, 19, 178cm, 60kg, Murray Bushrangers
6. Clayton Gay, 19, 183cm, 77kg, Dandenong Stingrays
7. Will Bravo, 19, 181cm, 77kg, Dandenong Stingrays
8. Marcus Herbert, 18, 181cm, 81kg, GWV Rebels
9. Flynn Young, 19, 181cm, 69kg, Geelong Falcons
10. Isaac Wareham, 19, 183cm, 81kg, Geelong VFL
11. Will Papley, 18, 178cm, 78kg, Gippsland Power
12. Noah Gribble, 18, 180cm, 79kg, Geelong Falcons
14. Charlie Byrne, 18, 184cm, 79kg, Murray Bushrangers
15. Sam Durham, 19, 190cm, 82kg, Richmond VFL
16. Cobi Maxted, 18, 188cm, 88kg, Bendigo Pioneers
17. Bryce Milford, 18, 195cm, 82kg, Dandenong Stingrays
18. Xavier Mitchell, 18, 191cm, 78kg, Bendigo Pioneers
19. Daniel Turner, 19, 191cm, 79kg, Murray Bushrangers
20. Ryan O’Keefe, 19, 192cm, 69kg, Bendigo Pioneers
22. Caleb Ernst, 18, 194cm, 91kg, Bendigo Pioneers
23. Mutaz El Nour, 19, 192cm, 83kg, Northern Bullants VFL
24. Cameron McLeod, 18, 192cm, 78kg, Murray Bushrangers
25. Jai Neal, 18, 192cm, 88kg, Dandenong Stingrays
27. Mason Hawkins, 19, 198cm, 82kg, Gippsland Power
28. Aaron Gundry, 20, 201cm, 91kg, Carlton VFL

The game is set to be streamed live via the official AFL app and website. Stay tuned to Draft Central for scouting notes on the outstanding players from both sides.

Next Gen gripes: The Academy prospects who will have recruiters sweating

THE SHIFT in Next Generation Academy (NGA) related rules means clubs will only be able to match bids which come after pick 20 in this year’s draft, with the ‘first dibs’ concession set to be pushed back to pick 40 in 2022. Still, there will be a few clubs sweating on the form of their academy talents.

Headlining the list of NGA bolters is Dandenong Stingrays standout Mac Andrew (Melbourne), a raw and athletic tall whose NAB League form earned him a call up to the AFL Academy squad. Having already shown his wares across three games with the ‘Rays, the 18-year-old stamped his top 25 potential with an eye-catching final term performance in the ruck, as the Academy was thumped by Geelong VFL last Saturday.

While Andrews’ form will buoy Melbourne’s recruiting and list management staff, it may also throw a spanner in the works if other clubs take rightful notice of his upside. In a draft pool stocked well on midfielders, versatile talls like Andrew could accelerate up the order. The Dees also have access to Ryan Koo Kwet Kim and Kobi George from the Dandenong region, while Josiah Kyle is tied to St Kilda.

The Saints came into the year with one of the more promising NGA lists, but foster more long-term prospects at this stage. Jack Peris, the son of Olympic champion Nova, is beginning to show his true potential for Sandringham Dragons alongside teammates Angus McLennan, Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens. Peris is an agile outside runner who snuck forward to kick a couple of goals against Dandenong in Round 3, after debuting in Round 1. Scott Beilby is another for St Kilda to monitor, a defender with good attacking traits.

Adelaide may lose out massively with the new rulings – if not this year, than certainly next. The Crows currently lay claim to North Adelaide small defender Blayne O’Loughlin, the nephew of Sydney great Michael, who also played in the AFL Academy game. He started the SANFL Under 18s season with averages of 35 disposals and seven inside 50s, captaining his side. He is arguably still safe of that top 20 range.

Blayne O’Loughlin is tied to Adelaide’s NGA | Image Credit: AFL Photos

The Crows have seen Isaiah Dudley, who also boasts strong family ties to the top level, return with aplomb in 2021 for Central District, while Jacob Lochowiak earned a Reserves berth at Sturt. They will likely have one eye on next year’s crop though, as dynamic tall Isaac Keeler is coming through the ranks. He has already been billed as a first round talent and bagged five goals in Round 1 of this year’s SANFL Under 18s. If he maintains such form, Adelaide will inevitably miss out on him in 2022.

Fremantle is another team with a typically strong NGA program, having nurtured the likes of Joel Western and Brandon Walker to the top level as recently as last year. In 2021, Jesse Motlop is a name making waves. The son of Daniel, he is not eligible to be taken as a father-son by North Melbourne or Port Adelaide, but is another exciting talent for Dockers fans to look out for.

The crafty forward/midfielder has booted five goals in his three WAFL Colts outings thus far, with eyes on a League call-up as he continues to showcase his eye-catching work in the front half. Richard Bartlett is another on the radar, with Freo officially granted access to the East Fremantle talent this year, while South Fremantle’s Riley Colborne has good potential.

Speaking of potential, Collingwood will be able to snap up another NGA product coming through the Oakleigh Chargers’ pathway in Youseph Dib. Having graduated from Caulfield Grammar last year, the well-built small utility has made the step up to Collingwood’s VFL side amid the NAB League hiatus. He is another sitting outside that top 20 range, but has terrific traits.

Collingwood NGA prospect Youseph Dib

Looking at others tied to clubs who have impressed via the NAB League, Cody Raak is arguably top of the list. He trained for a final spot in the Western Bulldogs’ squad over the off-season, and has really hit the ground running in 2021 having been overlooked. Northern Knights ruck Dominic Akuei has impressed with his athleticism and will have Carlton taking a closer look, while Blake Scott (Western Bulldogs) has shown glimpses along with Achoung Agog (Richmond).

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) fans have yet another academy product rising the ranks, with Josh Fahey proving his top 20 credentials of late. The was some conjecture surrounding his eligibility for the Giants after moving up to the Gold Coast last year, but having returned to the region in 2021 he will have enough years in the program to qualify, and be snapped up by GWS when a bid arrives. Gold Coast has classy small Austin Harris in its program, a little further down the order at this stage.

There should be a few father-son prospects in the top 20 mix too, headed by Nick Daicos. The son of Collingwood legend Peter is becoming hard to deny as the number one player in this year’s crop after scintillating performances for Oakleigh. Jase Burgoyne, the son of Peter and nephew of Shaun, played alongside Daicos in the AFL Academy showcase, while Daicos’ Oakleigh teammate Sam Darcy (son of Luke) is shooting up draft boards. He is a key position player with great versatility, upside, and aerial ability.

Elsewhere, Charlie McKay has proven his worth as an inside midfielder and hardened defender, and could be looked at by Carlton, while Ewan Macpherson (Western Bulldogs) and West Australian Taj Woewodin (Melbourne) may also garner some attention this year.