Tag: gws giants academy

Zreika an “inspiration” for fast-rising Whelan

GREATER Western Sydney (GWS) GIANTS Academy member Jess Whelan doesn’t have to look far for inspiration as she powers through her footballing journey. In the same charcoal and orange colours she donned this year during a one-game NAB League Girls stint, a top-flight gem has already paved a path worth following.

That gem is Haneen Zreika, a zippy GIANTS midfielder whose journey to the AFLW skipped through a couple of codes – much like Whelan is currently emulating.

“(Zreika) is an inspiration,” Whelan said. “Probably because she played Rugby League and AFL as well, which is similar to me.”

The 18-year-old says “positional play” and “tackling” are just a couple of the skills she has transferred from one sport to the other, making the transition that bit easier. For a prospect who only started out in Australian football “a few years ago”, she has made significant strides throughout the pathway – representing the Eastern Allies thrice in 2019, before turning out for the Allies this year.

“I played a year and then got picked to play (NSW-ACT) Rams,” she said. “I did that and then got into the Eastern Allies squad that year as well, then Covid hit the next year and now I’m with the Allies.”

In a slightly different mix to Whelan’s Eastern Allies experience, the 2021 Allies squad was comprised of players from NSW-ACT, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory. Whelan was one of eight GIANTS Academy members to be included in the 24-player squad.

“(The Allies experience) has been pretty good,” she said. “I’m getting along with a lot of the Tassie girls and it’s good just to meet people across Australia and see their different ways and how their footy’s going.”

Whelan, a 175cm winger also collected 15 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s and a goal as the GIANTS Academy defeated Murray Bushrangers in Round 6 of this year’s NAB League Girls competition. She was able to showcase a couple of her core strengths in that outing, with the key ones she identified being kicking and her running capacity on the wing.

While kicking on one foot is a strength, Whelan is working on becoming a more dual-sided player as she makes her left-sided kicking “more precise.”

As far as her footballing goals go, the youngster is keeping them relatively simple. Having come so far already in a short span of time, she says the end goal is to “try and get as far as (she) can.”

2021 NAB League Boys snapshot: Round 6

A FOURTH Victorian lockdown failed to bring the 2021 NAB League competition to a complete halt, with four of the five Northern Academies battling it out in a pair of makeshift Round 6 fixtures. Fans were treated to an Under 19s Sydney Derby and Q-Clash on Sunday, as the New South Wales and Queensland-based talent pathway programs returned to home soil to resume their runs. Check out the key figures and stats in our weekend snapshot, with Scouting Notes to follow tomorrow evening.

GWS GIANTS ACADEMY 10.9 (69) def. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY 9.9 (63)

IN A SENTENCE:

The GWS GIANTS Academy lead at every break and held on amid the tense dying stages to defeat the Swans Academy by a single goal, in a Sydney derby where the widest margin at any stage was 14 points.

TEAM STATS:

  • GIANTS Academy won the inside 50s (43-39) and handballs (146-143)
  • Swans Academy won the kicks (185-166), marks (83-75), and hit-outs (36-27)
  • The tackles were tied at 55 apiece

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Sam Frost (GIANTS Academy) 30 disposals (24 kicks), 10 marks, 8 rebound 50s
  • Felix Rogers (Swans Academy) 34 disposals, 7 marks, 4 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 1 goal
  • Matthew Hamblin (GIANTS Academy) 27 disposals, 6 marks, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal
  • Pierce Roseby (Swans Academy) 27 disposals, 8 marks, 11 tackles, 5 inside 50s
  • Josh Green (GIANTS Academy) 25 disposals (18 handballs), 3 marks, 3 tackles, 1 goal
  • Angus Anderson (Swans Academy) 20 disposals, 3 marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Felix Rogers (Swans Academy)
4 – Sam Frost (GIANTS Academy)
3 – Pierce Roseby (Swans Academy)
2 – Matthew Hamblin (GIANTS Academy)
1 – Fraser Kelly (GIANTS Academy)

NEXT UP:

GWS GIANTS Academy vs. Northern Knights | Preston City Oval | Saturday June 5, 11:45am
Sydney Swans Academy vs. Oakleigh Chargers | Preston City Oval | Saturday June 5, 2:15pm

BRISBANE LIONS ACADEMY 7.7 (49) def. by GOLD COAST SUNS ACADEMY 13.18 (96)

IN A SENTENCE:

The Gold Coast SUNS Academy overcame a first term deficit to overpower the Brisbane Lions Academy, running out 47-point victors with help from a five-goal to nil final quarter.

TEAM STATS:

  • SUNS Academy won the disposals (323-255), handballs (146-85), hit-outs (49-25), and scoring shots (31-14)
  • Lions Academy won the marks (78-63) and rebound 50s (29-23)
  • The tackles were tied at 76 apiece

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Saxon Crozier (Lions Academy) 34 disposals, 9 marks, 3 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 2 goals
  • Bailey Reeves (SUNS Academy) 25 disposals, 3 marks, 12 tackles, 5 inside 50s
  • Charlie Bowes (Lions Academy) 19 disposals (17 kicks), 8 marks, 4 tackles, 6 rebound 50s
  • Max Pescud (SUNS Academy) 25 disposals, 7 marks, 3 tackles, 3 goals
  • Zac Young (Lions Academy) 21 disposals, 4 marks, 8 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Will Bella (SUNS Academy) 18 disposals, 5 marks, 5 inside 50s, 11 hitouts, 2 goals

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Saxon Crozier (Lions Academy)
4 – Will Bella (SUNS Academy)
3 – Max Pescud (SUNS Academy)
2 – Charlie Bowes (Lions Academy)
1 – Bailey Reeves (SUNS Academy)

NEXT UP:

To be confirmed.

AFL Draft Watch: Charlie Byrne (Murray Bushrangers/Allies)

IN the build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state in some capacity leading into 2020. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at pre-season testing, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is Murray Bushrangers prospect Charlie Byrne, a classy half-back or outside midfielder who is looking to follow in the footsteps of GWS draftee, Lachie Ash. Byrne was part of the Giants’ Academy before his transition to the Bushrangers program, but is set to run out for GWS as part of this year’s Academy Series.

In 2019, Byrne impressed throughout his 16 NAB League outings as an efficient forward runner from defence, who could also push up onto a wing or into the forwardline. His form was good enough to warrant a spot in the Allies squad, despite not cracking through for a berth in the Under 18 championships. As somewhat of a leader in his top-age campaign, Byrne had his sights set on making half-back his own at all levels, while also striving to shift into midfield.

PLAYER PAGE:

Charlie Byrne
Murray Bushrangers/Allies

DOB: October 26, 2002

Height: 183cm
Weight: 79kg

Position: Half-back/outside midfielder

Strengths: Kicking efficiency, outside run, rebounding, versatility
Improvements: Consistency, defensive game

2019 NAB League averages: 16 games | 15.1 disposals | 2.8 marks | 1.7 tackles | 2.1 inside 50s | 2.8 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (5)

>> Q&A: Charlie Byrne

PRESEASON TESTING RESULTS:

Standing Vertical Jump: 55cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L): 71cm/59cm
Speed (20m): 3.17 seconds
Agility: 8.71 seconds
Endurance (Yo-yo): 20.8

>> Full Testing Results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

2019 SCOUTING NOTES:

NAB League Round 15 vs. Western

By: Peter Williams

Liked the look of the bottom-ager off half-back, playing the Lachie Ash role to allow Ash to play midfield and forward. He is so clean with his ball use, and positions himself well behind the play. He took a number of great intercept marks, and his left foot was a treat to watch. Whilst he did spend the majority of his time in defence, Byrne kicked a nice goal on the run in the opening term.

NAB League Round 12 vs. Bendigo

By: Michael Alvaro

The bottom-ager’s cool finishing in front of goal proved a game-winner as he calmly slotted two crucial majors. Both came on the back of his work rate from the wing – running well both ways to find the ball in either half of the ground. Byrne’s first goal was also his side’s opener, converting calmly on the wrong side for a left-footer to get the Bushies going in the third. His second came in the final quarter, slotting well on the run as he streamed into 50. That forward drive is what proved most damaging as Byrne worked best in space, receiving on the outside and putting the ball into good areas.

>> MORE MURRAY BUSHRANGERS CONTENT

>> 2020 Allies U18s Squad Prediction
>> August 2020 Power Rankings
>> July 2020 Power Rankings

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Allies:
Tahj Abberley
Jackson Callow
Blake Coleman
Braeden Campbell
Alex Davies
Oliver Davis
Errol Gulden

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Bailey Chamberlain
Zac Dumesny
Corey Durdin
Luke Edwards
Lachlan Jones
Caleb Poulter
Tom Powell
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Tanner Bruhn
Jack Ginnivan
Elijah Hollands
Zach Reid
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Vic Metro:
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Eddie Ford
Bailey Laurie
Finlay Macrae
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips

Western Australia:
Heath Chapman
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll
Brandon Walker
Joel Western
Isiah Winder

Northern Academy Series preview: Round 2

GOLD Coast Suns and Sydney Swans Academies will be keen to double-up with victories over their respective cross-state rivals, Brisbane Lions and GWS GIANTS Academies when the Northern Academy series continues this weekend. Originally scheduled to face off against Academies from opposing states, the border restrictions between Queensland and New South Wales have made life difficult, but luckily for the two state’s most talented AFL Draft hopefuls, they will still get to run around.

In a similar structure to last week, the NSW teams will do battle on Saturday at North Dalton Park, Wollongong in conditions that will hopefully be better than the slog fest that greeted the players last week. On Sunday, the Queensland sides will battle it out at Labrador in a change of venue from the first round, which the Lions will be hoping can change their fortunes in the Round 2 clash. All of the teams will have players to watch when talking about both the 2020 and 2021 AFL Drafts, which makes it entertaining viewing.

For Sydney, Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden are the players that Swans fans know plenty about given their role with the Allies last season. The pair use the ball well and can be damaging in the forward half of the ground, with Campbell touted as a top 10 pick and Gulden as a highly rated prospect. But outside the duo, the Swans have a number of others to watch that make them quite a damaging unit, with Marco Rossman up forward likely to build on a quieter first-up appearance, while over-agers Jackson Barling and Sam Thorne are consistent performers for the red and white. Sam Gaden was hitting his straps at the Under 18 Championships last year before injury cut his short, and is worth a look when it comes to key position talents.

Their opponents the GIANTS might not have the standout prospect they had last year in Tom Green, but they do have a number of talents that will excite GIANTS fans, as shown by their capability to push the Swans in the wet last weekend. Josh Green – Tom’s brother – is one of their top talents, with the taller more key position option a player that could follow his brother into the elite program. One of the more unlucky players not to end up on a list is over-ager Liam Delahunty who has plenty of tricks playing as that third-tall utility who can play just about anywhere on the ground. He is one who would love to stake his case, and while he was set to represent Northern Knights in NAB League, the Academy prospect will be thrilled he has a second chance at playing here. Bottom-age talent Kai Watts, and top-age inclusion for Round 2, Charlie Byrne are others to watch, with the latter having some incredible skill coming off half-back that he showed for the Murray Bushrangers last year.

Turning the attention to the Q-Clash, and the Lions will be keen to turnaround their fortunes after a slow start saw them 37 points down before they put a score on the board. The Suns jumped them and utilised the breeze well, but it is easy to see why Lions fans are excited about this year’s crop of Academy talents. Carter Michael and Tahj Abberley are two players who have speed and skill to use coming off half-back, not afraid to take the game on or provide a contest in the air or at ground level. Along with fellow AFL Academy members Saxon Crozier – who often plays off a wing – and Blake Coleman – who worries opposition defenders every time he is in the vicinity of the goals – the Lions have a number of players who really stand out. Shatna Cashen-Harris and Kuot Thok both showed glimpses in the Round 1 loss, while Daniel Lanthois was strong in midfield. Jack Briskey is a key defender who has shown promising signs for Brisbane as well.

The Suns will look to have a similar first quarter start when they take on the Lions at Labrador after their Round 1 blitz basically ended the game in an impressive opening stanza. Bottom-ager Josh Fahey was the top player on the ground in the win while Max Pescud and Josh Gore showed plenty of signs in the forward half of the ground, causing issues for opponents in the air or at ground level. Aiden Fyfe impressed off a wing, while captain Jack Johnston was a rock in defence as he showed last season. The Suns have plenty to like about their side, because the Academy is quite even, shown by the inclusion of over-age forward, Nathan Colenso who kicked a couple of goals. Most of the players have run around in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) this season, with a number of them – such as Colenso and Coleman – transforming from teammates to opponents, or in the case of Michael and Abberley for example – opponents to teammates.

Saturday, August 15

Sydney Swans vs GWS GIANTS, North Dalton Park Wollongong

Sunday 16 August

Brisbane Lions vs Gold Coast Suns, Labrador Park

Scouting notes: Northern Academy Series – Round 1

THE 2020 Northern Academy Series got underway over the weekend, with prospects from the Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns, GWS Giants, and Sydney Swans talent programs all looking to impress. State derbies kicked off proceedings, and made for a couple of hard-fought battles.

In a willing contest under sunny conditions, the Gold Coast Suns Academy won by 53 points over their Sunshine State rivals. The Suns booted the first six goals of the game – five came with the breeze in the opening term – to run out comfortable winners.

The Sydney Swans Academy also ran out winners in their clash with the GWS Giants prospects, setting up the victory with a string of five unanswered goals which extended from the second term, onwards. Soggy conditions ensured hard work would be made for the 15-point triumph, with a good bit of niggle to go with the contested slog.

We took a look at some of the Academy members and how they performed, as well as a bunch of other names who impressed on the day.

Brisbane Lions vs. Gold Coast Suns

Brisbane:

By: Peter Williams

#12 Saxon Crozier

Played a mixture between the wing and getting back to help the defence, Crozier was neat with his ball use and always looking to create run for the Lions. After a quieter first term – though he had a good handball out of defence – he had an number of impressive plays in the second term. He sidestepped an opponent and got it quickly onto the right, and presented to his teammates around the field. His handballing release to teammates streaming down the ground opened up the play for Brisbane to begin to cut the deficit back.

#13 Blake Coleman

Not a high possession player, Coleman has high level footy smarts and clean hands that make him so difficult to stop. He is one of those players who might not get a touch for a half, then can win the game for his side with a couple of impactful plays. After a few silky moves in the first term, he combined well with Tahj Abberley down the ground to win it on the wing and keep paddling the ball in front of him. Somehow he managed to gain distance, shake off his pursuers and launch a goal from 50m having beaten three opponents in the clear goal of the day. His second major in the third term was more straightforward, floating in from the side to then hold his ground and clunk the grab 35m out. He nailed the set shot six and a half minutes into the term, and almost had another good mark in the final quarter but could not quite hold it. As he booted two of the Lions’ four goals, he did well to play his role in the forward half with great pressure.

#14 Carter Michael

Michael showed a great balance of offensive and defensive traits throughout the contest, playing off half-back and then pushing up the ground when required. His first foray in the match was a good early spoil, getting the body contact out of the way. Throughout the match, Michael ran hard to be an option through the middle, and often ran up to the kicker at a stop in play to receive the get and go, to add an extra number to the play and try and use his speed to drive the ball down the ground. He pumped the ball inside 50 on occasions, and was working hard to look for one-two opportunities for his teammates. He copped a knock in the defensive 50 back pocket, but bounced straight back up and was solid throughout the entire game. Showing nice hands out of congestion, Michael ran down the ground and teamed up with Abberley well in keeping the ball moving. He had a snap on goal of his own late in the final term, but the wind did not help him out and it went out on the full. His reaction in one passage of play saw him bolt down the middle and leave his opponents in his wake. He was a treat to watch on the day and a real highlight for the Lions.

#15 Tahj Abberley

One of the Lions’ best throughout the day, he just kept trying to create off half-back and push up the ground. He set up a goal to Coleman in the second term with his pace off half-back, and then teamed up well with Michael in the final term with the one-two handballs down the ground. He stayed involved in all four quarters, and even drifted forward at times to kick it deeper inside 50, having a clever snap from long range, but it drifted for a behind. He won plenty of the ball in all thirds of the ground, and when the heat was on early in the game, Abberley was one of the few who stood up and continued to try hard against the flow. He used the ball well and showed good hands in traffic throughout the contest, and definitely showed plenty of potential in the defeat.

Others:

In terms of others who caught the eye, Shatna Cashen-Harris was lively up forward, with clean hands and a silky side-step, always looking dangerous. In midfield, the combination of Sam Winterbottom and Daniel Lanthois tried hard with the latter kicking a clever goal in the second term, whilst Ben Thomas kicked the other major for the Lions. Over-ager Max McDonald was dominant in the ruck, whilst Noah McFadyen provided a contest up forward, and Kuot Thok was not afraid to crash and bash the packs in defence.

>> Lions Academy Content

Gold Coast:

By: Ed Pascoe

#13 Rhys Nicholls 

Nicholls did not have the most productive game but he was still able to show his skill and talent with some nice spin moves and classy movement from the back half. The clever left-footer looked very smooth whenever he got possession and like many of his teammates, always took the opportunity to move the ball forward as quickly and cleanly as possible. 

#14 Max Pescud 

Maybe the most unlucky Suns player not to be included in the AFL based academy, he has been a regular goal scorer in the QAFL and backed that up again. He kicked multiple goals while also unselfishly passing off more opportunities as he could have easily ended up with about five goals himself. A quick player who takes the game on, tackles, and marks with intent despite his light frame, he came undone a few times with his run but when he was up-and-running and taking bounces, he looked very sharp and even got some time through the midfield late in the game, winning a few clearances. 

#19 Josh Fahey 

Fahey played for NSW/ACT in last year’s Under 16 championships and now finds himself with the Gold Coast Suns, although he wont be tied to any academies for next year’s draft. That’ll come as a sigh of relief for all AFL clubs, as he put on a best on ground performance down back. Fahey wasn’t hard to miss with his blonde locks but he also wasn’t hard to miss for the Lions going inside 50 as they kicked it down his throat multiple times. Fahey cut off plenty of attacks, attacking the contest hard and cleanly. His left-foot kicking from defence was a real feature, both long and damaging, and he had a major influence on the result. Fahey looks to be a very promising prospect for the 2021 draft.  

#20 Aiden Fyfe 

Fyfe had the ball on a string on his favoured wing position, and would had to have been the leading possession winner on the ground as he was involved in every quarter as one of the most consistent players afield. Fyfe found the ball all over the ground, working hard defensively and offensively. He was one of many to kick a goal in the first quarter with a nice snap and he would set up countless others with his clean hands and composure when in possession. Fyfe rarely wasted his touches and often hit teammates in a better position than himself. Despite not being the quickest player out there, he was certainly one of the sharpest in both skill and mind with ball in hand. 

#22 Jack Johnston 

The captain of the side, Johnston was a rock in defence at centre half-back. He took some nice strong marks and was cool and composed across the back half. Johnston is a strong player already standing at 195cm and 95kg, using his frame well both overhead anover the ball, and his disposals were often very clean for a big man. 

Others:

A couple of over-agers who impressed were forwards, Josh Gore and Nathan Colenso. Both were able to hit the scoreboard multiple times and look damaging, with Colenso on the lead, and Gore mixing between the lead and in play. Both have been prominent goalkickers at QAFL level, and brought that same form into the game, with Gore’s clean hands and Colenso’s strength and tackling ability amongst the attributes that stood out for the respective forwards.

>> Suns Academy Content

GWS Giants vs. Sydney Swans

By: Michael Alvaro

GWS:

#1 Harry Grant

The diminutive over-ager was thrown right into the cut and thrust of midfield and hardly looked out of place. Grant hunted the ball from the first bounce, with his pace and tenacity at ground level making for a solid two-way contribution. If he wasn’t digging in to win his own ball at the stoppages, Grant was applying smothering defensive pressure to make life hard for opposition midfielders. It seemed the conditions suited his game well, and he would later move forward where he very nearly added a goal to his game with a sharp snap.

#26 Liam Delahunty

Another 19-year-old prospect to show promising glimpses of form, Delahunty was primed to make is mark on the NAB League and VFL in 2020. Instead, he took the opportunity this weekend to show his worth back with the Giants Academy, and had his moments throughout the game. Starting in defence, Delahunty took a nice contested mark to intercept a deep Sydney entry, while also looking to rebound aggressively by running his full measure and delivering by foot. He is somewhat of an in-between size at 192cm and 87kg, allowing him to compete both aerially and at ground level. He continued to take the game on from defensive 50, but was caught holding the ball as he looked to fend off an opponent in the third term. A move forward followed, and Delahunty capped off his performance with a tidy, quick finish for the final goal of the game.

#27 Josh Green

Green cuts a similar figure to his brother, Tom – albeit a touch taller and leaner – and was tried in an inside midfield role for the Giants early on. His 192cm frame allowed him to compete at the stoppages, while his ability to get up either end of the ground made him an influential player throughout the game. While he was a touch slow to truly build into the contest, Green began to show his best form after half time with some terrific overhead marking in tricky conditions. His clearance work built as well with the added confidence, and a later move behind the ball allowed Green to showcase his strong hands and intercept quality.

#42 Maximus Monaghan

One of a number of Giants to have rotated through midfield, Monaghan also showed some good signs while stationed both in defence and attack. The top-ager is strongly built and applied himself at the contest, showing good aggression and strength to break free and dispose of the ball via foot. He accumulated well through the engine room and was later sighted up either end of the ground where he was able to find his way to the ball.

Others:

On a day where the conditions made it tough to take a lot out of the game, there were a number of players to have provided little flashes of form. Bottom-age forward Sam Stening presented well up the ground early and was later rewarded with a goal for his run-down tackle on Max Geddes. The likes of Coopa Steele and Joel Dunstall dug in to find plenty of the ball, while Harrison Grintell looked lively up forward, and Sam Frost was among a few solid defenders. Under 16 NSW/ACT MVP Kai Watts booted a goal from his permenent forward position, while Jack Driscoll rotated back through the ruck.

>> Giants Academy Content

Sydney:

#2 Sam Gaden

Gaden proved a strong a flexible key position option for the Swans, starting forward and eventually plying his trade down back. The over-ager worked up the ground well in the early stages, presenting as a link into Sydney’s forward 50. He provided a goal assist to Jackson Barling in the second term with a hacked kick into the arc, and doubled his impact with some forward 50 ruck work. Having been moved down back in the second half, Gaden showcased his ability to intercept, sweeping well both in the air and at ground level.

#3 Kye Pfrengle

A player who needs only a few touches or moments to catch the eye is Pfrengle, who looked particularly lively in the first term with some incredible marking attempts. The top-age AFL Academy hub member certainly has a spring in his step, leaping high for the ball to intercept GWS’ long defensive rebounds. While he failed to hold onto most of his speckie attempts, Pfrengle was positioned well behind the ball to begin with, allowing him enact that intercept game. He would later be seen a touch deeper in defence, locking the ball in and taking the kick-outs, making handy contributions just when it seemed he was drifting out of the contest.

#7 Braeden Campbell

The leading Swans Academy prospect looked like tearing the game apart as he dominated the opening stages, showing terrific signs through midfield. While his speed and damaging kicking on the outside often garner the most praise, it was Campbell’s toughness and ability to adapt to the conditions which stood out most on this occasion. His clearance work was sound throughout the match, and despite coughing up a rare turnover by foot in the second term, he was able to find his range consistently. With some opposition attention incoming, Campbell was moved to half-back and also rotated off the wing, while pushing forward to slot a goal in the third term. He looked most dangerous with his burst away from the stoppages though, and hunted the ball well when on the inside.

>> Academy Series Player Focus

#15 Sam Thorne

Another over-ager to have made his mark on the game was Thorne, a small midfielder who thrived in the soggy conditions. He was a regular at the centre bounces and stoppages, accumulating the ball with ease at ground level and releasing well to his teammates on the move. Thorne’s ability to shark the ball off hands and get his legs pumping to burst away was noticeable, and it helped set the tone for Sydney from where it mattered most. He finished as one of the most prolific ball winners on the day, and kept his name in the hat as far as the Swans are concerned.

#22 Errol Gulden

Campbell’s partner-in-crime, Gulden was a consistent threat for Sydney and managed to find the ball at will while rotating from the wing, through the middle, and up forward. The 176cm mover relies more on agility and smarts rather than pure pace, so initially found it hard in the wet conditions to have his usual impact on the game despite constantly getting his hands on the ball.

Still, Gulden snared the opening goal after being tackled high inside 50, and used it as a catalyst to work more effectively at ground level. His work-rate forward of centre was outstanding, and he could be seen pushing inside 50 from the wing to snare his second major, hardly breaking stride as he gobbled up the loose ball and slotted it home on the fly. Gulden was arguably best afield in the second half, and is just so difficult to stop at full flight. It was good to see him get busy up forward too, as that high half-forward role looks most like being his starting position at the elite level.

#25 Jackson Barling

Barling is another Academy talent to have missed out last year, but seems to have taken it in his stride after an impressive performance. He was first sighted using the ball cleanly in the back half, staying composed to provide a refreshing point of difference in the largely-contested game. His biggest impact came upon his move to the forwardline though, where Barling would kick three goals. His first came on the back of a juggled mark inside 50, which was quickly followed by another strong grab and set shot conversion in the second term. Yet another big clunk helped deliver a third major in the final quarter, though he selfishly burned Thorne as he looked for a fourth. Still, Barling’s scoreboard impact helped turn the game significantly in Sydney’s favour, and his hardness at 183cm and 85kg was impressive as it should be for an over-ager.

Others:

The talent in the Swans Academy runs deep, and there were plenty of others to have pitched in across the day. Marc Sheather was hard at the ball through midfield, while fellow AFL Academy member Marco Rossmann showed some promising signs early in his role up forward. Oscar Bird was another solid contributor who got involved in Sydney’s forward surges.

>> Swans Academy Content

Academy Series Player Focus: Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans Academy)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at a prospect who stood out in the recently commenced Academy Series. A Sydney Derby kicked off the carnival, as the GWS GIANTS and Sydney Swans academies locked horns over the weekend. Leading Swans prospect Braeden Campbell is the player we put under the microscope, with his trying performance across a range of positions helping Sydney get up by 15 points in a low-scoring slog.

PLAYER PAGE

Braeden Campbell
Swans Academy/Allies

DOB: February 4, 2002
Height: 181cm
Weight: 72kg

Position: Balanced Midfielder/Forward

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

PLAYER FOCUS

After a scintillating performance in last year’s Under 17 Futures All Star showcase, Campbell is well known to all keen AFL Draft watchers. The Swans Academy jet is lightning quick, boasts a damaging left-foot kick, and provides great balance through midfield while also doubling as a flanker up either end. He can do it all, and Saturday’s game against the GIANTS was a true test of his skillset.

The soggy conditions were hardly conducive to Campbell’s typical run-and-carry, and forced many similar types to revert to different methods of driving the ball forward. Luckily for Campbell and the Swans, he can win his own ball, and his kicking is among the best in the 2020 draft pool. These factors allowed him to have a consistent impact on the attack.

Starting at the centre bounces, Campbell looked lively early, adjusting well to the step-up from representing Pennant Hills in the AFL Sydney Premier Division. He booted a couple of clearances into Sydney’s attacking 50, and looked dangerous on the break as he gained separation from his direct opponents. While the long bombs didn’t quite come off, Campbell would soon enough find a target with his lovely lateral ball to find an unmanned Pierce Roseby inside forward 50.

After a bright start through the middle, the 181cm prospect began to rotate through the lines and primarily off a wing. A rare turnover via foot came in the second quarter, perhaps for a lack of options forward of centre, and it seemed Campbell was receiving a good bit of opposition attention. A more reserved term and some biff on the half time siren would attest to that.

He returned to his usual self after the main break, and showed he doesn’t need to win a mountain of possessions to have an impact. His five-step burst of speed came in handy when wheeling away from the back of congestion, allowing enough room for Campbell to prop and deliver the ball via foot – both laterally and directly forward. Campbell’s lone goal of the game came in the third term, as his direct opponent failed to follow him to the fall of the ball inside 50, allowing for a relatively straightforward finish on the move. He’s deadly accurate within 50 metres.

Moving on into the final period, and Campbell would return to the centre bounces after some time across half-back and on the outer. He seemed a touch frustrated as he lost out in a couple of hard-fought one-on-ones in general play, but was still finding his way to the ball. His desire for the contest remained, hunting the ball amid heavy congestion and proving clean below his knees on the move.

He missed the chance to cap off his day with another major, spurning a hand-off from just outside the 50-metre arc with the result beyond any doubt. Overall, it was a well-rounded display from Campbell in conditions unsuited to good football. While his outside traits (speed, kick penetration) often catch the eye, this time it was his inside game, and the ability to adapt to that style which helped win the day for Sydney. It was by no means his best performance, but Campbell always seems a class above when on the ball and produced some clean plays amid the messy contest.

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020

>> 2020 Allies Under 18s Squad Prediction
>> Positional Analysis: Key Defenders

From Canberra to Adelaide, Squire aspires for the big leagues

THROUGH unprecedented and uncertain times, finding a positive is often key to a good mindset. West Adelaide recruit Lachlan Squire is doing just that, and having faced his fair share of setbacks, hopes a path less travelled by leads to his ultimate goal of playing AFL football.

A Queanbeyan junior, Squire joined the GWS GIANTS Academy as an Under 13 and had been there ever since. A rare joint condition saw him sidelined for 13 months as he entered his 14th year, and a broken ankle right after his Under 15 national carnival with the ACT impacted his Under 16s preseason.

Squire missed out on selection for the NSW/ACT Rams over the next two years, but in his own words, played his best footy as a top-ager. While he was third or fourth in line among the GIANTS Academy midfield, the 19-year-old thrived at NEAFL level and even earned a league Rising Star nomination late in the season.

He was all set to return to NAB League duties with the GIANTS Academy as an over-ager, or otherwise continue to make a splash in the NEAFL across 2020. But with both competitions put on the back-burner due to the current pandemic, Squire was forced to find another way to stake his claim as a draftable talent.

Enter the West Adelaide Football Club, based nearly 12-hundred kilometres away from his hometown in Canberra. Like many mature-age AFL draft hopefuls, Squire has made the move interstate to get some football under his belt and show recruiters what he is made of.

After a two-week quarantine period, the well-built inside midfielder entered the Bloods’ Reserves side and is pushing for a League berth with just five games in the bank. Under the mentorship of housemate and vice-captain Logan Hill, and fellow Queanbeyan native Kaine Stevens, Squire looks poised for a crack at the top grade.

We sat down for a chat with him during the week, touching base on his footballing journey, how he came to the decision to move to South Australia, what he hopes to bring to the Westies side, and his future aspirations. Below are quotes from the man himself on a range of topics.

THE JOURNEY THUS FAR

JUNIOR FOOTY:

“I started playing footy at Queanbeyan Tigers when I was about four, just through AusKick and that. When I was younger, I always used to play up and I’ve always wanted to make the AFL, that’s been my goal ever since I was really young. I used to just play footy and cricket, that was pretty much how it was. I had a few bad injuries when I was about 14 and 16, so I had to choose between footy and cricket. Ever since then it’s been footy.”

INJURIES:

“They always had these carnivals in Albury which was the best out of the Swans and the GIANTS (academies), but I could never go… I had surgery on both of my knees when I was 13 or 14, it was a rare thing (osteochondritis dissecans). I had to have surgery and I couldn’t run for 13 months.

“Coming back from that, I was alright and played Under 15s nationals for ACT, then a week after that I broke my ankle and that put me out for most of the 16s preseason. When I played in the Under 16s Academy Series, I’d only been back training a few weeks beforehand, so that was not ideal. It taught me a fair bit about how you’ve got to look after yourself and coming back from injuries. It’s not easy but I reckon it’s mentally made me understand how to come back from setbacks.

“You get used to it with niggles and stuff like that but ever since then, I’ve made sure I’m really good with my gym work and rehab to try and make sure that I’m putting my body in the best state it can be to not get injured, and to physically be as good as I can.” Obviously that’s what you can control.”

THE GIANTS ACADEMY:

“I played for the NSW Under 12s because that was through school and then in Under 13s we started with the GIANTS Academy. I was with them ever since then… They’ve got good resources there, good coaches and people who will help you. As long as you put in the effort… I’ve sort of been a bit of a late developer with my football, mainly due to my injuries and that sort of stuff. I probably played my best footy in my 18th year, Under 16s I didn’t make Rams, 17s I didn’t make Rams either, so that’s sort of how it went.”

TOP-AGE SEASON (2019):

“At the beginning (2019) I was playing NAB League. I didn’t play badly, I played solidly the whole carnival but I didn’t stand out as much as I wanted to. I had probably one good game where I was able to get a bit more of the footy but I was playing that third or fourth mid behind Tom Green, Jeromy Lucas, and James Peatling. So I was sort of that next mid, I was playing well but just couldn’t get my numbers up.

“Then I played 13 games of NEAFL and probably played better there. I was getting better numbers than I was in the NAB League. It suited me a bit better I reckon, with more structure and I have a pretty mature body so I could play midfield pretty much every game which was good.

“Playing with blokes like Jackson Hately and Jye Caldwell was a really good experience. I think that back-end of the year was where I started playing my best footy, I got a NEAFL Rising Star nomination and had a few other games where I felt I played really well. That helped me, and (the GIANTS Academy) wanted me to come back as an over-ager. I was planning on being one of the hit-to players in the middle, which would have been good. And then to play NEAFL for the rest of the year but it didn’t work out so I’m over here (in Adelaide) now.”

MAKING THE MOVE

INITIAL THOUGHTS:

“It all happened pretty quickly. I guess there was nothing we could really do about it and the whole time we had hopes that things would be able to start up again. I just tried to control what I could control and that was just trying to keep doing my training, to keep trying to be as fit as I can and focus on stuff that I could keep improving on. Trying to find a positive out of it.

“I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do because obviously I wanted to still play with the GIANTS but I spoke with my managers and they thought it would be a good opportunity to come over and play in the SANFL considering it’s one of the only things going at the moment.”

“If things didn’t work out for me this year how I wanted to, I was looking at going interstate anyway to try and play state league footy at a higher level than the NEAFL. It was a good opportunity, but it’s definitely been challenging. I had to quarantine for two weeks and all that sort of stuff, coming to a new place without family and friends. I literally came in, had one week of training and played Round 2 without knowing any of the boys. So it’s been hard but I feel like I’ve played some good footy so far.”

COMMITTING TO THE MOVE:

“Each week it would change. One week I would be like ‘yeah I’m going’ and the next it would be like ‘nah I’m not going’. I didn’t really want to have to quarantine for two weeks because I had a few niggles after probably training a bit too hard in the break. I had a bit of soreness and quarantine wasn’t going to be ideal for that.

“I needed to keep my load up so I was a bit unsure, I didn’t want to come over here and take ages to get going, then have stuff start up back home and miss that so it was a bit hard.

“When they decided the GIANTS weren’t going to be playing in the NAB League, and there was so much uncertainty around when any GIANTS Academy games would start up, I though I might as well come over and give it a crack and just see how it goes.”

QUARANTINE AND KEEPING FIT:

“When we found out about all the gyms closing, I quickly called up our coach at my local club, Queanbeyan and took a heap of gym gear from the club, just stuff I would need. So I set up a gym in my backyard… We got sent programs and stuff to do from the GIANTS so I would go and do that with one of my mates and we trained pretty hard.

“I like writing programs for myself, you’ve got to figure out a way to keep motivated with weekly targets and challenges to keep yourself motivated. I enjoy doing preseason stuff because you get better. As much as it sucks, at the same time you get better and it’s good when you see improvements. I was able to find positives out of it and (understand) there’s probably people who don’t have the facilities right now that I do or the mindset just to work hard.”

“West Adelaide got some gym stuff for me as well, so we set that up in the backyard I was staying at. I made sure I got a treadmill so I could do some running. So I just did that and learned how to cook a bit and that’s pretty much it. I played playstation, there wasn’t much else to do.

“It went pretty quickly, you’ve just got to keep yourself busy throughout the day. I still did my gym sessions and my running sessions. The first week coming out (of quarantine) I felt a bit rusty, just with ball skills and I was pretty sore after the first few sessions, but it didn’t take me long to get back to feeling how I did. I’d only played one game since the end of August last year – I only played one practice match and then went straight into a pretty high quality game.”

THE WEST ADELAIDE ACCOMODATION:

“I’m staying with Logan Hill, who’s the vice-captain of West Adelaide. He’s got his own place so I’ve just got a room there, it’s pretty good. He’s pretty good to learn off and I just cook for myself and that sort of stuff.

“(West Adelaide) have been unreal. Just the support I’ve gotten from them has been second to none. From all the coaches, general managers and football directors. During my quarantine they would all call me up and see how i’m going, if there was anything I needed, they’d get for me and all the boys have been really welcoming.

“It’s a really good culture at the club, we haven’t had a great start to the year performance wise, but internally things are going well. We’ve got a good culture and that sort of stuff so I think we’re in a good spot. It couldn’t have really been much of a better transition for me, especially with my circumstances.”

SEASON 2020:

EARLY FORM:

“I have had a few good games and am starting to get into some good form… I had a quieter game on the weekend but next week I’ll just focus again on winning hard balls and good tackling.”

“But that’s how you learn, each week I’m learning what works for me and I’m trying to showcase how I can get into the League side and some different things. I think the best way forward is just to stick to my strengths and that’s what I’ve done so far this year. I’ve played five games now, my first one was a bit rusty but after that I’ve been playing some pretty good footy.”

STRENGTHS AND IMPROVEMENTS:

“I’m not naturally really quick or anything, I’m just solid all-round. I’m trying to figure out what a weapon of mine is and I’ve been able to (identify) that with my contested work and tackling. But I do have the capability to take pack marks, kick goals.

“I think it’s just more that my inside game’s really good and my contested stuff but that outside work, racking up numbers… that’s what I’ve been working on this year, just accumulating because the more times you get the ball, the more times you’re going to be able to show what you can do.”

GOALS:

“I want to obviously make my League debut, I’m close. I was an emergency last week so hopefully can get an opportunity soon, I’ve just got to keep playing consistent footy. Obviously the (end) goal is to get drafted, whether that’s this year or next year, who knows.

“I’m just going to keep doing everything I can to put myself in the best position, keep trying to play good footy and I think the SANFL’S a good spot at the moment to try and get in and show what I can do. Hopefully I can play some League games towards the back-end of this year and put my name up there with some solid performances.”

MENTORS AND TEAMMATES:

“I knew Kaine (Stevens), because he’s come from my old club so I’ve known him for a while. I like watching his game and he’s pretty good at accumulating the footy. He’s probably a different sort of player to me where I’m probably a bit more on the inside and tackling, whereas he’s able to find the ball a bit more on the outside and he’s really good at receiving the ball at stoppages. I watch his game for his running patterns, he runs smartly and gets himself in good spots and that’s been something that I’m trying to work on, not just running for the sake of running.”

“Ever since I’ve come over I’ve been close with (Hamish Ellem) because we have a similar connection, him and Kyle Martin who also came from the Swans Academy. So I’ve been hanging out with them a fair bit and doing some stuff before training, working on our game.”

LIFE OUTSIDE OF FOOTY

FAMILY:

“I’ve got great support from my parents, they encouraged me to come across. They know what my aspirations are so they knew that this would be a good opportunity for me and they message me throughout the week and watch the games on Digital Pass. My grandparents watch the games on Digital Pass too and also my girlfriend back home, she’s been really supportive about it as well.”

“It is tough. It’s a weird circumstance because usually they’d be able to come up and visit. They were planning on coming up and visiting a couple of weeks ago but because the borders shut, or didn’t open, they haven’t been able to. So I guess that’s hard, because I’m not really probably going to see them until the end of the season, which overall will be about four and a bit months which is a fair while when you’re so young. But that’s just how it is.”

DOWNTIME:

“I just go to the beach for a bit and do recovery, or go out for a coffee with the boys. But I’m pretty focussed on footy at the moment and I’m studying now as well so I’m a bit busy with that too.

“I’m working at the Westies club, behind the bar so that’s pretty chill. We train a fair bit, we train three times a week and then play so you do your gym sessions on top of that as well. You’re spending a fair bit of your time at the club and then in my spare time just exploring Adelaide a bit because I don’t really know much about it. Just going out an checking out the beaches, going out to different restaurants.”

With the SANFL teams named tonight, Squire will hope to breakthrough and make his SANFL League debut against Woodville-West Torrens on Saturday.

>> MORE WEST ADELAIDE CONTENT

Squad predictions: 2020 Allies Under 18s

THE annual Under 18 National Championships may be the only chance we get to catch a glimpse of the class of 2020 before draft day, with carnival likely to take place in October. In the meantime, Draft Central takes a look at how each regional squad may line up should the championships come around, but with a few stipulations in place. We began with our Vic Metro, Vic Country, South Australian, and West Australian squad predictions, and today we take a look at the potential Allies line-up.

GUIDELINES:

  • Top-agers (2002-born) have been prioritised due to the limited season and exposure
  • Of those, AFL Academy Hub members also gain priority for the starting squad
  • The inclusion of bottom-agers (2003-born) in the hub, and top-agers outside it is limited
  • 19-year-old inclusions are also limited, having already staked their claims in previous years

A lot may change between now and when the squad will be announced, and it should be noted that players with known long-term injuries will not be picked here. Of course, the sides may vary greatly as players look to shift and develop in different positions, but each member has been selected based on the roles they have previously played. Given only previous form, preseason testing and scratch matches are what we have to go off, bolters are also difficult to gauge at this point.

Players named as depth outside of the initial squad below are inevitably options who will rotate through the side, and it is impossible to fit all the options within a list of 22. But without further ado, let’s get stuck into the fifth and final squad prediction, with the Allies’ talent broken down line-by-line. The Allies squad is made up of talent from NSW/ACT, Queensland, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory.

DEFENCE

FB – Brodie Lake (NT Thunder/Peel), Jack Johnston (Gold Coast), Patrick Walker (Tasmania)
HB – Charlie Byrne (Murray), Ryan Pickering (Gold Coast), Sam Collins (Tasmania)

Two Gold Coast Suns Academy members make up the heart of our proposed Allies defence, with genuine talls Jack Johnston (195cm) and Ryan Pickering (199cm) slotting into key position posts. The additions of Brodie Lake and Sam Collins contribute even further to the height and marking power of the defence, with Collins’ intercept and rebound qualities also valuable assets.

Collins’ fellow Tasmanian Patrick Walker should provide similarly astute ball use from defence at a shorter range, while Murray product Charlie Byrne also likes to push further afield and deal damage by foot. The back six should have no trouble competing aerially on the defensive side, while being able to yield an attacking threat on the turnover.


MIDFIELD

C – Saxon Crozier (Brisbane), Oliver Davis (Tasmania), Carter Michael (Brisbane)
FOL – Thomas Hofert (Gold Coast), Alex Davies (Gold Coast), Braeden Campbell (Sydney)

Queenslanders take up four of the six midfield spots in our Allies side, with Brisbane Lions Academy members Saxon Crozier and Carter Michael starting on either wing, while 201cm ruck Thomas Hofert has been tasked with tapping down to Gold Coast Academy teammate Alex Davies at the centre bounces.

There is plenty of grunt in the engine room trio of Davies, Braeden Campbell, and Oliver Davis; with Davies the tallest of the lot (191cm) as that pure big-bodied type, while Davis (182cm) is another extractor who comes in at a similar build to the speedy and versatile Campbell (180cm).

The likes of Crozier and Michael may fancy a run through the middle but seem well suited to the outside, with a number of flankers and depth options in our squad also able to pitch in. Still, we feel this is the best mix, and one which gives the Allies a great chance to compete strongly in the area in which each contest begins.


FORWARD

HF – Errol Gulden (Sydney), Josh Green (GWS), Joel Jeffrey (NT Thunder)
FF – Marco Rossmann (Sydney), Jackson Callow (Tasmania), Blake Coleman (Brisbane)

In a similar vein to the defensive mix, this forward six provides good versatility and some great marking power. Jackson Callow is the centrepiece at full forward, a physical key position type who is near-unstoppable with his contested marking, and may well take on ruck duties inside forward 50. Josh Green, brother of GWS draftee Tom, is a 192cm utility who can play up either end. He slots in at centre half-forward for now on account of his aerial ability.

The diminutive but brilliant Errol Gulden comes in on a forward flank but will have eyes on moving up to a wing, with fellow Swans Academy product Marco Rossmann a solid medium type who may also run through the midfield. In the opposite flank to Rossmann is exciting forward Blake Coleman, who along with Northern Territory prospect Joel Jeffrey, provides clean hands and a terrific goal sense. With silver service likely to come from a strong midfield core, this forward mix could do some damage at the national carnival when on song.


INTERCHANGE

INT – Marc Sheather (Sydney), Jared Dakin (Tasmania), Tahj Abberley (Brisbane), Maurice Rioli Jnr (NT Thunder/Oakleigh)

This interchange group is, well, incredibly interchangeable with the group of depth players listed below, but all bring something different to the side. Jared Dakin makes the cut as the only over-ager in the squad given he garnered interest at last year’s draft, and he’ll provide a good ball winning boost.

Tahj Abberley and Maurice Rioli Jnr add some x-factor and smarts at ground level as part of the rotational group. Abberley is likely to play as a small defender but is just as capable up forward or through midfield, while Rioli could well be the genuine small forward that the side is missing. Rounding out the chosen 22 is Marc Sheather, another versatile medium type who can play well above his size at either end given his athleticism.


SQUAD DEPTH

There remains a decent crop of top-agers who narrowly missed the cut, and some bottom-aged talent which will inevitably squeeze into the team minus any stipulations. Among the most unlucky to miss were AFL Academy hub members Rhys Nicholls and Aidan Fyfe, who could both slot in as half-backs or outside types. Kye Pfrengle is another defensive option who will get a look-in, while Jack Briskey and Jack Driscoll are taller types who should also rotate through the same line. Meanwhile, Tyrrell Lui and Ryan Eyers are prospects who may also be thereabouts.

In terms of top-agers outside of the AFL Academy intake, Tasmania’s Isaac Chugg is a terrific athlete, while Devils teammates Will Harper and Jye Menzie are well known to selectors. Sydney’s Pierce Roseby is a tough small who thrived in NSW/ACT colours, as did Max Pescud in the Maroon of Queensland.

Moving on to over-agers, and Tasmanian over-ager Hamish Allan would help the ruck stocks at 206cm, with GIANT-turned-Knight Liam Delahunty another tall who remains among the Under 18 ranks. In terms of Queensland-based 19-year-olds, the likes of forward movers Bruce Reville, Josh Gore, and Hewago Paul Oea have already shown plenty of promise.

Finally, an exciting group of bottom-aged talent is set to cause some selection headaches, lead by Tasmanian gun Sam Banks. He, and Tasmanian teammate Baynen Lowe impressed at Under 16 level enough to warrant NAB League selection in 2019. Queensland Under 16 MVP Austin Harris will also push his case as a small defender, while GIANTS Academy members Sam Stening and Josh Fahey are hard to deny, as is big Queensland forward Noah McFadyen.

>> READ UP ON THE 2020 ALLIES U18s:

Brisbane Lions Academy
Gold Coast SUNS Academy
GWS GIANTS Academy
Sydney Swans Academy
Tasmania Devils

AFL Draft Watch:

Tahj Abberley
Jackson Callow
Braeden Campbell
Oliver Davis
Errol Gulden

Marquee Matchups:

Jackson Callow vs. Cam Fleeton
Braeden Campbell vs. Corey Durdin
Alex Davies vs. Reef McInnes
Errol Gulden vs. Jake Bowey

Positional Analysis:

Key Forwards

>> 2020 UNDER 18 SQUAD PREDICTIONS:

South Australia
Vic Country
Vic Metro
Western Australia

Classic Contests: GIANTS hold off Bushrangers in tight contest

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 7 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Murray Bushrangers and GWS GIANTS Academy. In this edition, we wind back the clock only one year to 2019, when the two sides met for the first official time in the NAB League competition.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 2.4 | 5.7 | 7.7 | 11.11 (77)
GWS GIANTS ACADEMY 4.5 | 6.8 | 8.11 | 12.16 (88)

NAB League Round 6 | Saturday May 4, 2019
Albury Sports Ground, 1pm

In a battle of the border, Murray Bushrangers took on the GWS GIANTS Academy having had a number of players who represented both sides over the years. A perfect example was Nick Murray on the GIANTS’ team as the overage had played for the Bushrangers in defence for the years prior. Heading into the match, neither team had set the world on fire, having both played four games and won just one, with the Bushrangers holding a 12 per cent lead over the GIANTS in 13th to 14th on the NAB League Boys ladder. The two players touted as top 10 picks coming into the match were Bushrangers’ Lachlan Ash and GIANTS’ Tom Green who both would end up in the orange and charcoal by year’s ned.

Green made an early statement with a strong mark and goal two minutes into the contest, in what would be a rare appearance up forward. With Harry Grant converting the first of what would be three majors, the GIANTS raced out to a 13-point lead midway through the quarter before Jimmy Boyer and Hudson Kaak broke the Bushrangers’ drought with back-to-back goals in 90 seconds. The visiting team kicked away again with two goals in the last five minutes to lead by 13 points at quarter time.

The Bushrangers needed a response early, and like Green in the first term, this time is was Ash who stepped up with a big goal to give his team confidence. After a couple of near misses, Boyer booted his second of the game to level the scores. Liam Delahunty and Jye Chalcraft traded goals before Grant found his second and the GIANTS had a seven-point buffer at the main break.

Josh Green and Jeromy Lucas booted the first two goals of the term as the GIANTS dominated the third stanza of the match, leading by as much as 22 points at one stage, with 2.3 to 0.0 on the board. Luckily for the Bushrangers, they managed to grab some momentum back going into the final break as Kaak and Mitchell Holt found the big sticks. With the deficit back to a manageable 10 points, it was well and truly game on in the final term.

GIANTS’ Lucas Conlan kicked the all-important first goal of the term, before Chalcraft capitalised with his second and the margin was back to 13 points. A couple of misses and then a third Grant goal had the GIANTS back out to a 20-point lead with 15 minutes left on the clock. With a scoreline of 10.15 inaccuracy was an issue for the visitors despite the solid advantage. Lachlan Sykes kept the Bushrangers hopes alive with an important goal, but back-to-back misses, this time from Ash and Chalcraft left Murray with some work to do at 11 points down. With seven minutes remaining, Matthew Hamblin booted his second and the game was as good as done with a couple of late goals to Cam Wilson and Boyer either side of Conlan’s second was not enough to get their side over the line.

It was no surprise to see Tom Green at the top of the disposal count with a mammoth 37 touches, 11 clearances, three marks, five tackles, five hitouts, two inside 50s and a goal in a best on ground performance. Lucas was not too far behind with 33 touches, seven marks, five tackles, four clearances, five inside 50s and a goal, while Ed Perryman picked up 31 disposals, nine marks and six rebounds out of defence. Up forward, Grant booted three majors from 23 touches and eight marks while laying eight tackles, as Liam Delahunty was busy with 21 disposals, seven marks, three tackles, seven inside 50s and a goal. Murray had five rebounds from 10 touches and four marks against his former side, while Conlan and Josh Green both booted multiple goals.

Ash was one of three players to record the most disposals, teaming up with fellow midfielders, Dylan Clarke and Cameron Wild. All three had 27 disposals, and combined for 13 marks and eight clearances. Ash also had the five inside 50s and a goal, while Boyer was the most lively in the forward half with three majors from 22 disposals, five marks and three clearances. Sam Durham (22 disposals, four marks, six tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s) and Charlie Byrne (20 disposals, three tackles and nine rebounds) also found plenty of the ball, while Chalcraft (14 touches, four marks) and Kaak (eight touches, three marks) booted two goals each.

The win was the GIANTS’ last match in the Academy Series, finishing with a 2-3 record, while the Bushrangers would go on to finish ninth, only to narrowly bow out to Dandenong Stingrays in Wildcard Round.

Q&A: Charlie Byrne (Murray Bushrangers/Allies)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Murray Bushrangers’ Charlie Byrne at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

A forward-moving half-back, Byrne impressed in his 16 NAB League outings across 2019 with his ability to generate run and penetrate either arc from defence. The 184cm prospect was also previously been developed through the GWS Academy system, and he has gone on to represent New South Wales at both Under 16 and 17 level.

Having been named in the Allies squad last year despite not getting on the park, Byrne has become a leader among the group and will look to further his game in a half-back/midfield role this season – should it get underway.

Q&A:

MA: Charlie, how’s the day been so far?

CB: “It’s been good. “Eventful for some of the boys, me not particularly. “But it’s been a good day, looking at all the other boys and seeing what they’re capable of.

“Other than that it’s all a bunch of fun, but I think we’re all pushing each other so the day’s been really good. “Couldn’t ask for any better, especially being inside so I don’t have to deal with wind (or) rain.”

How’ve you gone with the testing, do you feel that you’ve improved?

“Yeah, from last year I reckon I’ve improved. “Obviously I needed to, but testing this year for me I’ve actually really enjoyed. “I think I’ve improved in the majority of the things which I find is a big tick for me. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better, just the 20m sprint I didn’t do as well as I wanted but I did what I needed to.”

“The testing day’s also a learning (experience), you go away from it and know what you have to get better at so for me it’s just a big learning day as well.”

And you’ve had a pretty big pre-season so far?

“Pre-season was better and bigger than the others but we dealt with it pretty well. “I think we got through all the hard conditions, got up to 40 (degrees) and we were still doing what we needed to do.

“But I think this year’s pre-season’s really shown all the boys their characters, and I think it’s gotten the best out of me as well so I loved the pre-season this year, loved getting out there and just doing what I needed to do.”

In your bottom-age year, surely there was no better mentor to have as a half-back than Lachie Ash?

“Yeah he told me what to do and I learned from it. “I’d have to give him credit for me just playing this year knowing what he did and me trying to replicate it. “There’s nothing better than Lachie Ash going pick four and playing off half-back, him giving me tips. “He was obviously ripping into me when I needed it but I loved playing alongside him and learning.”

Who are some of the boys you’re looking forward to playing alongside this year?

“I was quite excited to play with Elijah (Hollands) but it’s unlucky for him, we all were pretty upset about it but that’s just how it goes, you’ve just got to live on. “But I’m pretty keen to play again with Campbell Chesser and Josh Rachele, even Zavier Maher and Harry Beasley coming off half-back. “There’s a lot.”

And with the Allies as well?

“Yeah with the Allies this year and growing up from bottom-age last year to now, I’m seeing myself almost as a leader. “Not to the point where I am a leader but I’m more vocal around the boys and being more vocal gets me to be a better football player as well, just being comfortable.

“So I think the Allies this year has given me a big step up, knowing where I have to be and with those boys pushing me as well. “Unluckily for me I don’t get to play with many of them throughout the season but being around that kind of environment keeps me going and I really love playing with those kinds of players.”

How’s the Academy been for your development over the years?

“Being in the New South Wales development squads, like the GIANTS all the way up to 16s, then going to the Bushies has been quite interesting. “I think (having played) for New South Wales, Victorian and New South Wales footballers are a lot different. The Vics are real big-bodied and structured whereas New-South is like you’re running a bit more.”

“I reckon I learned quick hands and quick skills off New-South and then went to Vic footy and it’s a whole different ball game but learning to cop the hits and get in position I reckon has helped me out tremendously and I just really couldn’t have asked for any better. I reckon it’s given me a huge advantage.”

Are you looking to change position at all this season?

“My heart is set on half-back. “I love playing off half-back, but I really think I’ll strive to play midfield this year. I think as a midfielder you have to be fit and I’ve been pushing to get to that stage where I am fit enough, so I think midfield/half-back will be my position this year.”

Have you set any goals so far?

“I think the main goal for me this year is being happy and not taking anything for granted. “I think boys tend in their draft year to stress out about drafting too much. “I think I really just need to sit here and enjoy it, and just play my football, play how I enjoy, play my brand of football. “If it’s good enough, it’ll get me there. I’m not stressing out, putting all those grey hairs on top of my head.”