Tag: Harrison Jones

Analysis | The importance of fitness testing in modern football recruiting

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

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

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

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

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

2014:

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

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford
Agility

2015:

Pick 5 – Darcy Parish
Average in most tests

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

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

Pick 30 – Mason Redman
3km time trial

2016:

Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint

2017:

Nil

2018:

Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap

2019:

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

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint

2020:

Pick 8 – Nik Cox
20m Sprint, 2km TT

Pick 9 – Archie Perkins
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

Pick 10 – Zach Reid
Vertical Leap

Pick 39 – Josh Eyre
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Classic Contests: Riccardi ensures Cannons share points in Morwell

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back our series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 17 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Calder Cannons and Gippsland Power. In this edition, we wind the clock back to 2018 when the two sides played out a thrilling draw decided right at the death.

2018 TAC Cup, Round 9
Sunday June 17 1:00pm
Morwell Football Ground

GIPPSLAND POWER 1.1 | 7.3 | 7.4 | 11.6 (72)
CALDER CANNONS 1.5 | 4.5 | 7.9 | 10.12 (72)

GOALS:

Gippsland: J. Smith 3, H. Pepper 2, A. Hodge 2, B. Smith 2, B. Motton, N. Gown.
Calder:
J. Riccardi 5, J. Roumeliotis 2, S. Ramsay, M. Abou-Eid, H. Minton-Connell.

BEST:

Gippsland: J. van der Pligt, A. Hodge, B. Smith, B. Beck, N. Gown, R. Baldi
Calder:
W. Jury, J. Riccardi, M. Abou-Eid, H. Jones, I. Moussa , S. Graham

Draftees in action:

Gippsland: Noah Gown, Brock Smith, Fraser Phillips, Leo Connolly, Harry Pepper
Calder: Jake Riccardi, Harrison Jones, Sam Ramsay, Lachlan Johnson (via Oakleigh Chargers)

There may have been a host of top-age draft prospects out of TAC Cup action in Round 9 of the 2018 season, leaving it up to Calder and Gippsland’s bottom, and over-agers to produce a thriller in Morwell. The Power were the more fancied side, sitting pretty in second spot with a 6-1-1 record on the back of four-straight wins. Calder’s 3-5 start to the season had it poised in eighth spot, having lost two on the trot and failed to string together consecutive wins to that point.

With those factors in mind and despite both sides coming in heavily depleted, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Calder get the early jump with a two-goal head start. That two-goal buffer was the best Calder would muster, and only lasted until six minutes into the second term, when back-to-back Brock Smith goals send Gippsland in front. With Josh Smith and Harrison Pepper also boasting two majors each, the Power broke out to a 16-point lead at half time.

Cue the next momentum shift, as the Cannons hit back with a three-goal to nil third term to inflict a 21-point turnaround. Touches of inaccuracy threatened to hurt the away side, but they were well and truly in the hunt heading into the final change. It seemed for all money that Boadie Motton‘s 23rd-minute major would see Gippsland snatch the four points, but Jake Riccardi‘s reply with under a minute left on the clock saw the two sides share spoils come the final siren.

In a remarkable game-defining patch, Riccardi booted Calder’s last five goals for the game to prove his credentials as a potential draft bolter. While he would be made to wait at least another year for his chance at the elite level, his AFL qualities shone through. John Roumeliotis had a similar, steadying impact for the Cannons early on, but it was Will Jury who was adjudged his side’s best. Harrison Jones showed some promise, taking the field alongside fellow draftees Sam Ramsay and Lachlan Johnson.

Josh Smith led the Power’s goalkicking charge with three snags, followed by three players who managed two, including Brock Smith, Pepper, and Austin Hodge. Jake Van Der Plight beat them all to best afield honours, even trumping the likes of Noah Gown on the day.

The drawn clash would be the only meeting between the two sides in 2018, and was Gippsland’s second tie for the year. The Power went on to finish second at 12-2-2, before having their season ended in emphatic fashion by way of a 93-point thumping at the hands of Oakleigh. Calder improved slightly to finish seventh at 7-8-1, but bowed out in Wildcard Round to a replenished Geelong Falcons outfit.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 17 – Chargers, Ranges win thrillers amid dual triple-headers

ROUND 17 of the 2019 NAB League was split into two triple-headers, with the six Metropolitan sides going head-to-head at Avalon Airport Oval on the Saturday, while Queen Elizabeth Oval hosted the six Country regions on Sunday, and Tasmania enjoyed a bye. Top three challengers Oakleigh and Eastern won out in thrillers, with a certain number two pick dragging the Chargers home, while a gun Next-Generation Academy prospect snatched four points for the Ranges with a kick after the siren.

But the weekend’s action started with a clash between Western and Northern, a game which saw the Knights handle the conditions better to run our 32-point winners. The Jets could not take full toll of their promising start, booting 1.4 to Northern’s 2.2 in the first quarter, before the latter pulled away with six goals to nil in term two to set up a game-defining margin. There would be little scoring after that, with the sides combining for just five goals after half-time.

The competition’s two leading goalkickers went head-to-head, with Josh D’Intinosante booting four goals to Archi Manton‘s three, but the Jets forward taking out top honours for his season tally. Promising bottom-ager Nikolas Cox added two for Northern, while Adam Carafa (23 disposals) and Darcy Cassar (22) led the ball winning stakes for their respective sides. Josh Watson enjoyed a breakout game with 21 touches and a goal, and in a cool quirk, Carlton draftees Sam Philp and Josh Honey competed on opposite sides shortly before becoming teammates.

Things really ramped up in the following fixture, as Connor Downie‘s post-siren set shot helped Eastern nab a four-point win over Calder from nowhere. The Cannons looked to have poked their noses in front at the ideal time as the lead changed hands on multiple occasions throughout the match, but a two-goal margin in the final term was quickly reigned back. In a last roll of the dice play, Downie would win a free kick inside 50 and sink the resultant shot to break Calder hearts and seal the minor premiership.

Eastern’s Lachlan Stapleton was massive in the clutch moments, and finished with 23 disposals and two goals in a terrific display of heart. Calder’s Jake Sutton beat him out in the goalkicking department with three majors, while Carlton draftee Sam Ramsay (27 disposals) and Mitch Mellis (26) led all comers in terms of disposals amid their back-and-forth midfield battle. Essendon’s Harrison Jones also looked lively up forward, booting a goal from 17 disposals and four marks.

If spectators thought that game would be the peak of entertainment for the afternoon, they were in for a treat when Oakleigh and Sandringham took the field. 11 eventual draftees were in action, including the top two selections, in what was one of the highest quality Under 18 games in recent history. After Finn Maginness booted the Dragons out to a 29-point lead early in the final term, Noah Anderson stepped up with back-to-back majors to help put the Chargers in front, before Cooper Sharman sealed the remarkable comeback to see Oakleigh home by seven points.

The cream truly rose to the top, with Anderson’s match-winning efforts seeing him finish with 24 disposals and three goals. Potential 2020 number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was spectacular in the air in his four-goal display, while Matt Rowell wowed again with a mammoth 34 touches. Darcy Chirgwin led the way in that department for Sandringham with 30 disposals, but it was Maginness who stole the show with three goals from his 17 touches. Bottom-ager Archie Perkins also snagged a hat-trick of majors, as the wealth of talent on show made for scintillating viewing.

Fast forward to Sunday and switching over to the Country regions, Gippsland opened the show with a 10-point win over hosts, Bendigo at Queen Elizabeth Oval. In another heartbreaker, the Pioneers led at every break, albeit by slim margins, but faltered at the last as the Power surged home with 4.5 to the home side’s 3.0. The quality was evident in this clash too, with eight future draftees running out for their respective sides.

Among them, Fraser Phillips was one of six players on either team to boot two goals, also adding three behinds from his 19 disposals. Riley Baldi put in a terrific shift with a game-high 27 disposals and two majors, while Thomson Dow was among Bendigo’s best ball winners with 24 touches and a goal. Charlie Comben showed promising signs in his ruck/forward role, collecting 12 disposals, three marks, 13 hitouts, and 1.3, while a pair of Pioneers bottom-agers also fared well – with Jack Ginnivan and Seamus Mitchell both earning multiple goals.

Geelong notched just its third win of the season, accounting for reigning premier Dandenong to the tune of 31 points in a convincing effort. The Falcons shot to a five-goal buffer at half time and never looked back, extending the margin to an even 50 points heading into the final break, and coasting home despite the Stingray’s best efforts to claw back the deficit. Remarkably, the Falcons only registered one more scoring shot than their opponents, with their accurate 15.9 proving the difference when compared to Dandenong’s 9.14.

Charlie Sprague capped off his over-age season with a bang, booting six goals as the Falcons’ spearhead. Bottom-age jets Oliver Henry and Tanner Bruhn also contributed two majors each, while Dandenong’s Lachlan Williams (three goals) was his side’s most potent mover. Another 19-year-old, Will Lewis led all comers with 24 disposals, followed by Geelong captain Jesse Clark on 23. The likes of Hayden Young and Cody Weightman ran out for Dandenong, but could do little to thwart the Falcons’ emerging talents from taking hold.

The final game of the 2019 regular season saw the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels down Murray by 15 points in a relatively low-scoring affair, with neither side able to take full advantage of their opportunities. It mattered little in the end for the Rebels, who produced a greater wealth of chances throughout the day, while the Bushrangers could only manage a goal per the first three terms.

Glenelg recruit Mitch Martin snagged a game-high three goals from 17 disposals as the only multiple goalkicker afield, showcasing all of his individual quality. Fellow Rebel Cooper Craig-Peters led all comers with 24 disposals, while Jye Chalcraft (22 disposals) and Cam Wild (21) fared best for the Bushies. Draftees Jay Rantall and Lachlan Ash were kept to 20 and 19 touches respectively, while a bunch of Under 16 talent shone through for both sides.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 14 – Chargers, Power cut gap to Ranges

A SATURDAY double-header at Box Hill City Oval held massive finals ramifications in last year’s NAB League competition, kicking off Round 14 in style. Gippsland Power had Oakleigh to thank as the Chargers knocked off ladder leader, Eastern, seeing the two sides close within a game of top spot. Elsewhere, Sandringham kept pace with the leading pack after a thrilling win over Dandenong, while Northern and Calder got the better of their Country opponents, and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) knocked off Geelong. Western Jets enjoyed the bye.

Gippsland and the Tasmania Devils were first to take the field for the weekend, doing battle on neutral territory on Saturday morning. Having fallen just behind at the first break and jolted two goals ahead heading into the last, the second-placed Power found a spark when it mattered to leave Tasmania in their wake. A six-goal final term saw the Victorians coast to a 51-point victory, not indicative of the overall contest, but a sign of their irresistible form in full flight.

Twin talls Josh Smith and Charlie Comben contributed three goals each to the win, with skipper Brock Smith also booting a rare couple of majors from defence to go with 26 touches. Sam Flanders was the leading disposal getter on the day with 28, while fellow draftee Leo Connolly managed 23. Rhyan Mansell and Oliver Davis found the most ball for Tasmania en route to 18 disposals apiece, as the likes of Matt McGuinness (16 disposals, one goal) and Sam Collins (15, one) also fared well.

In the day’s later game, Oakleigh pegged back Eastern’s first quarter jump to get over the line by eight points in what would prove a Grand Final preview. The Chargers took toll in the two terms they held a wind advantage, booting 10 of their 12 goals in the second and fourth quarters to secure a massive result. While they regained the lead with under 20 minutes to play, the Ranges simply could not stop Oakleigh’s onslaught.

A forward from either side put four goals on the board, with Oakleigh 19-year-old Cooper Sharman, and Eastern’s Jordan Jaworski playing their parts. Port draftee Dylan Williams again proved a hero up forward with two important goals from eight touches in his final game for the year, with his co-captain Trent Bianco (34 disposals) the leading ball winner. Cricketing ace Wil Parker was Eastern’s best with 26 touches, while Oakleigh bottom-agers Lochlan Jenkins and Will Phillips also found plenty of the ball with 22 disposals each.

Fast forward to Sunday morning, and Sandringham was made to work for a seven-point win over Dandenong on home turf. After setting up an early lead and holding the ascendancy for the entire match, it seemed the Dragons would coast home to victory at 29 points to the good come the final break. But the Stingrays would not take the loss lying down, piling on five goals in the final 10 minutes to give the scoreless Sandringham an almighty scare.

Future Adelaide top 10 pick Fischer McAsey proved his swingman value in returning a three-goal effort, also dominating the airways with 10 marks. Ashton Williamson booted three majors for Dandenong, as Hayden Young managed two from his team-high 25 disposals. Angus Hanrahan led all comers with 35 disposals and a goal, while the likes of Ryan Byrnes (22 disposals) and Sam De Koning (16) stood strong against good opposition on either side.

Calder’s Bendigo road trip proved a fruitful one, as the Cannons raided the Pioneers’ territory to snatch all four premiership points. Bendigo held a slight advantage early, but could not quite do enough to match Calder’s constant scoreboard pressure. A four-goal to one second term in favour of Calder proved the defining period of play, with Bendigo matching their opponent otherwise in the 20-point defeat.

Diminutive Calder forward Jake Sutton booted a game-high three goals, while teammate and leading ball winner Harrison Minton-Connell notched two from his 34 touches in a day out, and Essendon draftee Harrison Jones also found the goals twice. Bottom-ager Jack Ginnivan repeated the feat for Bendigo alongside Will Wallace, while Ben Worme and Noah Walsh also hit the scoreboard from their team-high 20 disposals each. Carlton draftee Sam Ramsay (28 disposals, one goal) continued his hot form, and Sydney recruit Brady Rowles was kept to 12 touches.

Another Metro team to make the most of its road trip was Northern, who travelled to Shepparton to take on Murray. All of the damage was done in a 10-goal to three opening half from the Knights, as the home side struggled to claw its way back into the contest. The final margin sat at 27 points having gotten out to 44 in the third term, as Northern picked up its seventh victory.

A massive outing from small forward Josh D’Intinosante saw him bag six majors from 18 disposals in a sharp display inside forward 50, with leading target Liam McMahon booting three of his own. Skipper Justin Davies saw the most ball for Northern with 26 disposals alongside Sunny Brazier, with Carlton draftee Sam Philp managing 25. Murray’s co-captains stood up too, with Dylan Clarke (28 disposals) leading all comers, while number four pick Lachlan Ash kicked two goals from his 24. 16-year-old Josh Rachele also showcased his talent with two majors.

The GWV Rebels ensured they would continue the trend of away sides picking up wins, as they comfortably accounted for Geelong to the tune of 35 points. Like many of the Round 14 winners, GWV got off to an ideal start at Kardinia Park on the back of four goals to nil in the opening term. An inaccurate Falcons outfit spurned chances to get back into the match with 2.7 in the third term, as GWV kicked away with another four majors in the last to cruise to victory.

Collingwood slider Jay Rantall was among a quartet of Rebels to claim multiple goals, booting two alongside Glenelg recruit Mitch Martin, while Nick Caris managed a game-high four. 19-year-old Charlie Sprague added another three majors to his season tally for Geelong, while bottom-ager Noah Gribble had 28 disposals to lead all comers, and skipper Jesse Clark managed 25 in the losing effort.

Classic Contests: Fletcher, Cannons come up clutch

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 9 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Calder Cannons. In this edition, we wind back the clock just one year to when the sides played out a thriller in late-2019.

2019 NAB League, Round 15
Sunday July 28, 1:00pm
Mars Stadium

GWV REBELS 3.3 | 5.6 | 7.11 | 8.13 (61)
CALDER CANNONS
2.1 | 4.3 | 6.7 | 9.11 (65)

Draftees in action:

GWV – Jay Rantall (Collingwood)
Calder – Sam Ramsay (Carlton)

There was not much on the line when the Calder Cannons and GWV Rebels faced off late in the 2019 NAB League season, but it would not stop the sides from giving it their all in search of a win. The finals-bound Cannons came in riding high off an undefeated month of action, sitting sixth at 8-5 and level on points with fourth. The Rebels were on a decent run too, winning two of their last three games to improve their record to 4-8, good enough for 14th spot at the time.

Both regions named relatively unexperienced sides for the bout in Ballarat, with all three age brackets represented across the two lineups. Of course, either side still managed to squeeze in a future draftee each, with Collingwood slider Jay Rantall at the heart of GWV’s midfield, while Sam Ramsay played the same role for Calder. Ramsay would be one of four Cannons drafted in 2019, but the only one afield in this clash.

With pride on the line, the hosts looked as if they had a point to prove after what had been a lacklustre season to date, and took the lead at 10 minutes into the first term. Although Calder managed to remain just over a goal adrift at every break, GWV did not relinquish its lead until the final term, while pushing the margin out to 21 points in the second term and 23 in the third.

Inaccuracy would end up costing the Rebels, with their 21 scoring shots to Calder’s 20 still not enough to prize the four points. The Cannon’s late third quarter momentum carried on into the fourth, as Mason Fletcher found the big sticks with just over a minute played, and put his side in front shortly after. Nick Caris snatched the lead back for GWV in quick time, but that advantage would again prove short-lived as Ned Gentile booted the deciding goal with over 10 minutes left to play.

Both sides spurned opportunities to score in the late stages, with the typically windy conditions making life hard for a would-be hero. It meant the Cannons came up trumps at the ideal time, holding on to win by four points and remain in the hunt for an unlikely top three berth.

Former Essendon father-son prospect Fletcher booted 3.3, including two majors in the final term to play a key role, with his goalscoring feat match by teammate, Gentile. The Rebels laid claim to three multiple goalkickers, with Caris, Harry Sharp, and Matty Lloyd all finding the big sticks in a valiant losing effort.

Unsurprisingly, the two eventual draftees led all comers for disposals, with Rantall racking up a game-high 35 touches, while Ramsay trailed closely to notch 33 of his own – along with three behinds. The Rebels had plenty of the ball, with seven players racking up over 20 disposals, including the returning Liam Herbert (23). Among the Cannons youngsters to impress were Jackson Cardillo (18 disposals) and Harrison Andronaco (17, one goal).

Calder would go on to mount a decent finals run, advancing through Wildcard Round and the first week of finals before losing comfortably to Sandringham in the semis – all after narrowly missing out on the top three. GWV improved its position slightly to finish 10th at 6-9, before being bundled out of Wildcard Round by Western.

Rantall was the sole Rebel drafted from the class of 2020, though he could be joined by some teammates on the day in future. Calder’s impressive haul of four included Ramsay, Harrison Jones, and bolters Lachlan Gollant and Francis Evans.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 3 – First draw of the season in Country Triple Header

IN an action-packed nine games of NAB League Boys action, spectators witnessed the season’s first draw at Queen Elizabeth Oval in Bendigo as part of a huge triple header for the six country teams. The round also included a double header at Trevor Barker Oval the day before, while the Northern Academies went head-to-head across the nation, and the standalone game at RAMS Arena was a close one.

Opening up the round in Sandringham with the double header changed from Preston was the Northern Knights taking on Eastern Ranges. From the start it was clear the Ranges were going to be too strong, and by half-time led by 26 points. It would only get worse for the Knights in the second half, as Eastern piled on 7.9 to 0.2, to run away 75-point winners.

Mitch Mellis was best on ground with three goals from 29 touches, six marks, six tackles, two clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds, while the likes of Zakery Pretty (26 disposals, five marks, three tackles, nine clearances and three inside 50s) and James Ross (30 disposals, three marks, three clearances, five inside 50s and two rebounds) were not too far behind. Connor Downie (25 touches, five marks, five inside 50s and a goal), Josh Clarke (24 touches, five inside 50s and three rebounds) and Lachlan Gawel (21 disposals, six marks, five tackles, four inside 50s and a goal) were all prolific, while Cody Hirst (19 disposals, five marks, nine tackles, five inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal) looked impressive in one of his few games prior to being drafted by Sydney.

Sam Philp was a clear standout for the losing side as he amassed 26 touches, five marks, nine tackles, four inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal. Ryan Gardner (23 disposals, nine marks, six tackles and three rebounds) worked hard on the outside, Josh D’Intinosante (21 disposals, five marks, nine tackles, four clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal) was busy through midfield, and Jackson Davies (20 disposals, six marks and five rebounds) did his best in defence.

The second game at Trevor Barker Oval was much closer with perennial rivals and premiership contenders, Sandringham Dragons and Oakleigh Chargers going at it. The end result was a 10-point win to the Dragons after booting five goals to two in the middle two quarters and then holding off a Chargers comeback to grab the bragging rights, 9.11 (65) to 8.7 (55).

Jack Mahony led the way for his side with 25 touches, five marks, five tackles, three clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds, teaming up well in midfield with Finn Maginness (24 disposals, two marks, three tackles, four clearances, six inside 50s and a goal) and Ryan Byrnes (21 disposals, four marks, three clearances, six inside 50s and two rebounds). Josh Worrell was a rock in defence thanks to 23 touches, four marks, four tackles and five rebounds, while up forward, Charlie Dean continued his good form with 16 disposals, six marks and two goals.

It was no surprise to see who led the way despite the loss for the Chargers with Matt Rowell (31 disposals, seven marks, 11 tackles, eight clearances, four inside 50s and three rebounds) dominating alongside Noah Anderson (26 disposals, two marks, six tackles, three clearances, four inside 50s, four rebounds and two goals). Future Magpie, Trent Bianco picked up 26 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s and five rebounds, while bottom-age talent, Will Phillips had 21 touches, seven marks and three tackles of his own. Dylan Williams booted three goals from nine disposals and four marks up forward.

Up at RAMS Arena, Calder Cannons kicked away in the final term against Western Jets to win by 12 points in what was a thrilling contest. It was only a two goals to one final quarter, but that was enough to see the home side in front at the final siren after leading by just three points at the final break. Western had worked its way back into the game after trailing by 19 and 15 points at the quarter time and half-time breaks respectively, but would ultimately not do enough to get the points in the end.

Cannons captain Daniel Mott had the ball on a string thanks to 32 disposals, seven marks, four tackles, seven clearances, five inside 50s, four rebounds and two goals, while Harrison Minton-Connell joined him with leather poisoning after 30 disposals, six marks, six tackles, seven clearances, two inside 50s, two rebounds and a goal. Flynn Lakey (26 disposals, five marks, four clearances and two rebounds) and Jake Sutton (18 disposals, seven marks, three clearances and six inside 50s) were busy, while Harrison Jones showed off his versatility after 17 disposals, eight marks, four hitouts and three inside 50s.

Darcy Cassar and Josh Kellett were saviours in the defensive 50, combining for 44 disposals, 12 marks and 15 rebounds in a hard working effort for the Jets. Up forward, excitement machine Eddie Ford had 16 touches, four marks, three tackles, two clearances and three inside 50s, while Will Kennedy racked up a whopping 41 hitouts to go with 15 rouches, five marks, four inside 50s and three rebounds. Of the future draftees, Josh Honey had 14 disposals, three marks, six tackles, three inside 50s and a goal, while Emerson Jeka took six marks from nine touches and laid three tackles.

Heading north to Yeronga, the Gold Coast Suns Academy booted the last six goals of the game and five goals to zero in the final term, to post a 10.10 (70) to 5.12 (42) victory over cross-state rivals, Brisbane Lions Academy. The Lions had led by two points at the final break, but it was all Gold Coast in the last term as they ran away with the points.

Ashton Crossley racked up 31 touches, four marks, 10 clearances and two inside 50s, teaming up well with future Sun, Connor Budarick (26 disposals, three marks, five tackles, three clearances and six inside 50s) and bottom-age talent, Alex Davies (22 disposals, three marks, five inside 50s and three rebounds). Josh Gore booted three majors from 12 disposals and seven marks, while another future senior Sun in Matthew Conroy kicked two last quarter goals from eight touches, three marks and 25 hitouts. Hewago Paul Oea was also lively with 17 disposals, three marks, eight inside 50s and a goal.

For the Lions, Tom Griffiths (27 disposals, five marks and four rebounds) and Bruce Reville (26 disposals, eight marks, five tackles, four clearances, four inside 50s and three rebounds) had the most touches, while Saxon Crozier (19 disposals, nine marks, three tackles, two clearances and two inside 50s) and Ethan Hunt (18 disposals, six marks, three inside 50s and six rebounds) were also busy. Future Tigers, Noah Cumberland (13 disposals, four clearances and six inside 50s) and Will Martyn (12 disposals, five tackles) played in the match as well.

In another dominant performance late, Sydney Swans Academy stormed past GWS GIANTS to win by 59 points in Canberra. The Swans trailed at quarter time and half-time, but piled on 12 goals to two in the second half to run away with the contest and gain some serious bragging rights early in the Academy Series.

It was a strong team effort from the Swans, with Jackson Barling (24 disposals, six marks, four tackles and three clearances) and Lachlan Swaney (22 disposals, three marks, five tackles, three clearances, four inside 50s and a goal) both prominent. Captain Sam Thorne (19 touches, six tackles, five clearances and three inside 50s) was busy, while Harrison Parker and Braeden Campbell both booted three goals in the win.

For the GIANTS it was all about Tom Green who racked up 28 touches, six marks, eight clearances, three inside 50s and a goal, while Jeromy Lucas (25 touches, four marks, five clearances and four inside 50s) and James Peatling (24 touches, seven marks, four tackles, five clearances, six inside 50s and two goals) provided support. Liam Delahunty (10 touches, six marks and two goals) was busy up forward, while Nick Murray (15 disposals, seven marks and nine rebounds) stood tall under siege in defence.

Heading into the city for a clash between Northern territory and Tasmania, it was the Devils who came away with their first win after a slow start. Trailing by 10 points at the first break, Tasmania piled on 12 goals to three after that to finish with a commanding 13.14 (92) to 6.8 (44) victory over the Thunder.

Leading draft prospect, Mitch O’Neill had the ball on a string with 35 disposals, three marks, four clearances, nine inside 50s and three rebounds, as Rhyan Mansell (23 disposals, four marks, four tackles, seven inside 50s and a goal) and Oliver Davis (22 disposals, six marks, three tackles, four clearances and six inside 50s) provided great service to the forwards. Bottom-age key forward Jackson Callow showed just what he was capable of with five majors from 19 disposals and eight marks, while Matthew McGuinness was a reliever in defence with 18 disposals, three marks and five rebounds.

All eyes were on Richmond father-son bottom-age prospect Maurice Rioli Jnr for the Thunder, and he had 13 disposals, two marks, six tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s in a lively display. Others who impressed included Stephen Cumming (22 disposals, 40 hitouts and nine clearances), and bottom-age hopefuls, Joel Jeffrey (20 disposals, seven marks, seven rebounds and a goal), Isaac Seden-Kurnoth (18 disposals, nine tackles and five rebounds) and Brodie Lake (15 disposals, six marks and six rebounds).

Heading up the highway to Bendigo, the country triple header took place at Queen Elizabeth Oval. The Pioneers were battling against premiership contender, Gippsland Power and had themselves right in the contest until the final term. The Power led by just one point at the last break, but piled on 4.5 to 1.0 in the last quarter to run away with a 12.10 (82) to 8.10 (58) victory.

Future first round pick, Caleb Serong helped himself to 23 disposals, five marks, three tackles, seven clearances, four inside 50s, four rebounds and two goals, while another first round selection in Sam Flanders amassed 20 touches, two marks, three tackles, five clearances and four inside 50s. Ryan Sparkes (21 disposals, five marks and six inside 50s), Sam Berry (20 disposals, three tackles, six clearances, three inside 50s and a goal), Kyle Dunkley (15 disposals, five marks, eight tackles, six clearances, three inside 50s and a goal) and Leo Connolly (15 disposals, two marks, four inside 50s and six rebounds) were among the best across the four quarters, while Fraser Phillips booted three goals from 12 touches and four marks.

Bendigo’s own future first round pick in Brodie Kemp had a day out with 21 disposals, four marks, three tackles, six clearances, five inside 50s and a goal, teaming up well in midfield with Sam Conforti (22 disposals, four marks, three tackles, four clearances, four inside 50s and three rebounds) and Jeremy Rodi (19 disposals, four marks, four tackles, three clearances, four inside 50s and four rebounds). Riley Wilson (14 disposals, five tackles, five clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds) was prominent in midfield, while Logan Fitzgerald and Brady Rowles combined for 26 disposals and nine rebounds in defence.

The second game was the best of the lot, with Dandenong Stingrays splitting the points with Geelong Falcons. In a wind-affected day, the see-sawing contested had everyone on the edge of their seat. Trailing by 30 points at the final break but with the wind behind their backs, the Stingrays booted 5.6 to 1.0 and managed to draw level at 12.11 (83) apiece thanks to a kick after the siren.

Ned Cahill had 24 disposals, four marks, five tackles, four clearances and eight inside 50s, as all of Dandenong’s future draftees stood out. Hayden Young had 22 disposals, five marks, three clearances, five inside 50s and five rebounds, Cody Weightman had 20 touches, three marks, five clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal, and Sam De Koning picked up 17 disposals, three marks, four hitouts and two goals, switching into attack in the last quarter and being a huge influence on the result.

The game was unfortunately the last for Geelong’s sole draftee, Cooper Stephens who broke his leg in the first term and would not play another game in season 2019. Jesse Clark (26 disposals, four marks and 11 rebounds) and Charlie Harris (24 touches, eight marks and five rebounds) worked hard, while bottom-agers, Noah Gribble (22 disposals, four marks, five inside 50s and a goal) and Charlie Lazzaro (19 disposals, nine tackles and seven inside 50s) were among their side’s best.

In the final game of the round, Murray Bushrangers came back from a goal down at the final break to find their kicking boots and defeat Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by seven points. The Bushrangers had booted 6.12 to three quarter time – four more scoring shots than their opponents – but trailed them by a goal. They picked it up in the final term to slot 3.3 to 1.2 and record a 9.15 (69) to 9.8 (62) victory.

Lachlan Ash had a team-high 28 disposals, six marks, four tackles, seven inside 50s and seven rebounds, while Jye Chalcraft (22 disposals, five marks, six tackles, three clearance and five inside 50s) and Jimmy Boyer (22 disposals, nine marks and two rebounds) found plenty of the ball. In midfield, Cameron Wild (20 disposals, four marks, three clearances and seven inside 50s) and Dylan Clarke (17 disposals, three marks, four tackles, six clearances and three inside 50s) were strong.

Jay Rantall was a clear standout for the Rebels, amassing an impressive 31 touches, three marks, five tackles, five clearances, four inside 50s, two rebounds and two goals in a complete game. Mitch Martin (22 disposals, 10 marks, four tackles, five clearances, six inside 50s and two goals) was also impressive, while James Cleaver and Emmanuel Ajang combined for 33 disposals, 10 marks and 13 rebounds in defence.

Classic Contests: Downie kicks after-the-siren winner for Ranges

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 2 clashes in the NAB League this year between Eastern Ranges and Calder Cannons. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019, and for Ranges fans, this will be one to savour, while for Cannons fans the ending was a heart-breaking one.

CALDER CANNONS 3.1 | 4.1 | 7.6 | 9.9 (63)
EASTERN RANGES 1.4 | 4.5 | 6.7 | 10.7 (67)

Round 17 | Saturday, August 17, 2019
Avalon Airport Oval, 12.30pm

It was the final round of the season last year and two of the top five teams were doing battle with plenty on the line. While the top of the table Eastern Ranges had sewn up the minor premiership – they were only four points clear of Gippsland Power but a good 28 per cent in excess – it was all about Calder Cannons who sat fifth on the table and percentage out of the top four. The match straight after would see fourth placed Sandringham Dragons and third placed Oakleigh Chargers go at it, with a loss to Sandringham allowing Calder to sneak into fourth spot on the ladder ahead of Wildcard Round if the Cannons could get it done. The Ranges would refuse to make it easy on the Cannons and one of the games of the season ensued with a see-sawing contest with plenty of swings and one of the best end-to-end last plays possible.

Eastern was coming off a narrow five-point win over Dandenong Stingrays a couple of weeks prior – with a development weekend in between – while the Cannons had not played since July 28 where they survived a scare from the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels to win by four points. The first term of the clash saw Calder race out of the blocks as Harrison Jones, Curtis Brown and Jackson Cardillo all piled on goals with Eastern’s inaccuracy hurting the Ranges. Trailing by 15 points at one stage, Ranges’ forward Ben Hickleton got his side on the board with a late major. It sparked four consecutive goals for the minor premiers either side of the break as Eastern showed it had come to play. Draft prospects, Jamieson Rossiter, Lachlan Stapleton and Lachlan Gawel all booted majors with Calder not scoring until the 21st minute when Jake Sutton put through a crucial settler. Heading into the main break, the Ranges were back on top, but only marginally – by four points.

Eastern’s leading goalkicker, Jordan Jaworski got his name on the board just 90 seconds into the third term to stretch the margin to 10, before Sutton kicked his second, and defender-cum-forward Mason Fletcher regained the lead for the Cannons with a major 15 minutes into the term. Another lead change occurred when Mihaele Zalac found the big sticks, but that lasted three minutes as Sutton’s third goal provided the Cannons with the lead at the last break. The fourth term might have been slow to get going, but the finish was insane, with the first goal coming 11 minutes into the quarter to Calder’s Jeremy O’Sullivan. Two minutes later, Riley Smith pulled the deficit back to a goal and less than 60 seconds more had expired on the clock when Stapleton levelled the scores. Fletcher booted his second goal of the match 16 minutes into the term and the Cannons held a crucial six-point lead, with a rushed behind to the Cannons with five minutes to play a potential separator between the teams. Hickleton converted his second with four minutes to play, but the Cannons still held the lead. A behind to Ned Gentile made the margin two points with a couple of minutes on the clock, ensuring the Ranges would have to kick a goal to win.

Fast forward to the last 32 seconds of play. The Ranges still trail by two points with the ball in defence and in possession of the pill. They need a near perfect end-to-end play in order to execute the unthinkable and win the match. For Calder, one mark would surely be enough to chew up the clock and hold on for a remarkable upset. With 32 seconds left, Parker has the ball and looks straight down the middle of the ground. He uses his pace to give himself some extra space on an opponent and hits up a loose Mitch Mellis on the back of the centre square. He turns around hoping to play on but an opponent is there, so he thumps the ball as far as he possibly can to a one-on-one at half-forward. Chayce Black and Giacomo Thomas grapple in a marking contest and the umpire determines both – or neither – have infringed and the ball spills to ground. The class and quick thinking of Under 16s star, Tyler Sonsie comes to into play as he collects the loose ball, runs a few metres to the top of the 50 with 17 seconds remaining and puts a lace-out pass to Smith. He has the front position, but Calder’s Declan Tully does enough to force a spill. Brown pounces on the loose ball and goes to take off but runs into teammate, Ben Overman. He bounces back and is immediately set upon by Connor Downie with the ball spilling free with less than 10 seconds on the clock. Overman picks up the loose ball but no sooner has he done that the whistle sounds. The umpire had cited incorrect disposal and now Downie would take the free kick from just 25 metres out on a 35-degree angle. The Calder players protest the free, but it falls on deaf ears as Downie, one of the most accurate kicks for goal in the competition – with 14.2 for the season to that point – slotted the winner. Teammates flocked from everywhere to celebrate, and for the Cannons it meant a missed opportunity to potentially steal fourth spot.

Calder would end up going through to the semi-finals to play Sandringham Dragons – their likely opponent in that match up anyway if they had won this match – before going down, while Eastern would reach the Grand Final with wins over Sandringham and Gippsland Power before falling to eventual premiers, Oakleigh Chargers.

In terms of the performers on the day, the Eastern midfield trio of Mellis (26 disposals, four marks, six clearances and three rebounds), Stapleton (23 disposals, three marks, six tackles, seven clearances, three inside 50s and two goals) and Zakery Pretty (24 disposals, two marks, five tackles, four clearances and four inside 50s were all busy. In defence, James Ross had 17 touches, three marks, two inside 50s and three rebounds, while Sonsie showed his class despite being two years below many of his peers with 17 disposals, three tackles, two clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds. In defence, Todd Garner and Billy McCormack combined for 10 rebounds, while the hero Downie had 12 touches, three tackles, three inside 50s and that match-winning goal.

For the Cannons, future-Blue Sam Ramsay had a game-high 27 disposals, two marks, seven tackles, six clearances, five inside 50s and two rebounds, while Daniel Mott (21 disposals, four tackles, 10 clearances and six inside 50s) and Gentile (20 disposals, two marks, three tackles, three clearances and four inside 50s) were both busy. Cardillo was lively in the attacking half of the ground with 19 touches, four marks, five tackles, three clearances, five inside 50s and a goal, while Brown was just as prolific in the back half with 17 disposals, three marks and six rebounds. Of the other draftees, Jones had 17 disposals, four marks, four hitouts, two inside 50s and a goal, while Lachlan Gollant finished with 10 disposals, two tackles, three clearances and three inside 50s in the loss.

2019 AFL Draft club review: Geelong Cats

WHEN it comes to approaching the National AFL Draft for Geelong, the Cats fans and wider general public expect a couple of things. Firstly, a player linked to the Geelong region in some way, shape or form, and a bolter from obscurity that anyone outside serious draft watchers would have to deep dive into Google to find out information about. The mastermind of Stephen Wells did it again, ticking both boxes in a bid to add extra depth to the list. Coming into the draft Geelong could do with a replacement midfielder, a key position player, ruck and some more firepower up forward. Three of those four areas were ticked off, with the Cats just not in the right ball park to snag a ruck – too late in the order to pick up Luke Jackson and too early to reach on the next handful of long-term talents.

GEELONG:

National Draft:
16. Cooper Stephens (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country) | 188cm | 83kg | Inside Midfielder
19. Sam De Koning (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country) | 201cm | 86kg | Key Position Utility
41. Francis Evans (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro) 182cm | 78kg | Medium Forward
50. Cameron Taheny (Norwood/South Australia) 185cm | 80kg | Medium Forward

Rookie Draft:
14. Brad Close (Glenelg) | 180cm | 68kg | Midfielder/Forward
27. Oscar Brownless (Geelong Cats)
35. Lachlan Henderson (Geelong Cats)

As late as draft night itself, Geelong was linked to the likes of Brodie Kemp and Deven Robertson, with the belief the Cats would select a midfielder with their first pick. That occurred, but instead it was local boy Cooper Stephens who missed the majority of the year with a broken leg. His recovery has been nothing short of sublime – and as the Falcons showed on Instagram last week – he is fit and ready to go in 2020. He is predominantly an inside midfielder with good strength and hands around the contest and clever decision making skills. He is that Tim Kelly replacement, although the Cats as a collective will replace the West Coast Eagles’ recruit. They then went tall as expected with their second pick inside the top 20, opting for Sam De Koning at Pick 19, after the likes of Harrison Jones and Josh Worrall were also in the conversation. De Koning has the most versatility of the talls, having the size to play in the ruck at AFL level, but will likely play as a key defender or swingman going forward.

The final two selections in the National Draft ticked off the firepower in the forward half. Wells’ obsure pick for the year was Francis Evans, a medium forward from Calder Cannons who stepped up from the amateur leagues on the word of close mate Daniel Mott, and had an immediate impact. Injury ended his NAB League run, but between that and his work in the VAFA, Geelong believed Evans had done enough to earn a spot on the list. He was the surprise of the draft, and Cats fans were scrambling to find any information they could on him. Luckily, Draft Central spoke to the forward at the State and Rookie Me Draft Combine and the interview can be found here. Along with Evans, a highly rated South Australian forward in Cam Taheny was selected in what could be the steal of the draft. Heading to the blue and white hoops at Pick 50, Taheny is a first rounder on talent, but had an injury interrupted year that also impacted his form. Expect once he can build his endurance and get on the park, he will make a few clubs look silly down the track.

The Cats closed out their draft period with a mature-age selection in Brad Close, a late blooming midfielder/forward who played all 21 games in Glenelg’s premiership-winning League side. The 21-year-old still has further development in him, but his athletic traits – notably his speed and agility – and his competitive nature make him a real goer. He is ready to step right into the side if required, while Stephens is another who is most prepared to tackle senior football once he has built up more match fitness. Taheny could be a surprise packet later in the year in 2020, while both De Koning and Evans would not be expected to feature next season as they are long-term prospects with the Cats to build their development first. The Cats also redrafted Oscar Brownless and Lachlan Henderson with the final two picks in the AFL Rookie Draft, making it a mix of long-term and readymade prospects.

2019 AFL Draft club review: Essendon Bombers

AFTER a trade period that saw Essendon largely retain most of its list despite the likes of Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia linked to other clubs, the Bombers headed into the draft to just fill some holes and improve their mid-table finish to a top four hopeful. Fans were keen to see at least one tall taken, as well as a potential goalkicking forward, but most importantly a big-bodied inside midfielder. Whilst the Bombers managed to achieve the first two aims, in the National AFL Draft, fans were concerned that they had not picked up the third. Then a day later, a mature-ager in Mitch Hibberd was selected to provide immediate support in the area.

ESSENDON:

National Draft:
30. Harrison Jones (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro) | 196cm | 78kg | Key Position Utility
38. Nick Bryan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro) | 202cm | 87kg | Ruck
56. Ned Cahill (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country) 179cm | 78kg | Small Forward
63. Lachlan Johnson (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro) 176cm | 74kg | Small Utility

Rookie Draft:
10. Mitchell Hibberd (Williamstown) | 191cm | 90kg | Inside Midfielder

It was rumoured from the outset that the Bombers were keen on Harrison Jones, a key position utility with high upside, and, conveniently a Bombers supporter. The 196cm tall has played back, forward and even in the ruck, with a sub-three second 20m sprint and an elite endurance base. While only standing at 78kg and viewed as a long-term prospect, the Bombers were confident enough to select him with Pick 30 – trading up to secure the talented tall. Essendon then doubled up on high potential big men with the selection of athletic star, Nick Bryan. While Bryan’s year was not as consistent as some would have hoped given his start, he showed during the finals series what he was capable of, picking up plenty of touches in the NAB League Finals Series and clunking the contested marks that he was not earlier in the season. Still a lot of room to build into his body, Bryan is worth the selection based on his upside, even if some might have considered it a bit of a reach on the night. With the premiership ruck considered in the top few rucks this year, it was too hard to pass up for Essendon who were in dire need of a quality back-up to Tom Bellchambers as Sam Draper continues to show great signs but unfortunately injured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Essendon met its small forward need at Pick 56 when it pounced on Dandenong Stingrays’ excitement machine, Ned Cahill. The 179cm forward has shown he is capable of playing through the midfield, but is much more damaging around goals with a good endurance base and ability to apply defensive pressure to the opposition. Whilst his best weapons are his offensive ones close to goal, Cahill can make opposition defenders nervous with his implied pressure and quick footsteps helped by his nimble movement. Along with Cahill, Next Generation Academy member Lachlan Johnson was picked up in what was an unusual set of circumstances. Tied to the Brisbane Lions through the father-son ruling thanks to his 300-game father Chris, the Lions had nominated him as a rookie prospect. It did mean any selection in the National Draft would trump the Lions’ offer and it was somewhat ironic that the Bombers chose to do so. Earlier, Essendon bid on Brisbane Academy prospect Keidean Coleman, but that bid was matched by the Lions.

In their only selection of the 2019 Rookie Draft, Essendon picked up Hibberd, in what was a blessing for Bombers fans. They wanted a big-bodied inside midfielder who could come in and play a role, and given Hibberd’s experience at AFL level, that is exactly what they got with the selection. The Williamstown midfielder needed just one year in the state league system before showing clubs he was more than capable of earning a second chance, this time with the red and black.

Overall, Essendon drafted for long-term, before grabbing Hibberd who could immediately fill a role in the midfield from early in the season. Do not expect many of the others to see too many games next year, with Jones and Bryan having to add size to their frame and develop their games further, while Johnson is coming off an ACL injury. Cahill is some chance throughout the season, but will be another who is more likely to impact in a couple of years.

2019 AFL Draft club review: Collingwood Magpies

ENTERING with an uninspiring hand and exiting with two steals of the National Draft, Collingwood supporters and staff alike should count themselves as one of the big winners out of the 2019 AFL Draft. Much of the talk around the Magpies coming in was that they would take a tall with their first pick, but with two sliders up for grabs and the high premium on key position players, they opted for a different and just as fruitful route.

National Draft:
40. Jay Rantall (GWV Rebels/Vic Country) | 185cm | 83kg | Balanced Midfielder
45. Trent Bianco (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro) | 178cm | 73kg | Midfielder/Defender
55. Trey Ruscoe (East Fremantle/Western Australia) 192cm | 75kg | Defender/Midfielder

Rookie Draft:
Nil.

A diverse group of draftees with enormous skill and upside combined, Jay Rantall (pick 40), Trent Bianco (45), and Trey Ruscoe (55) provide enormous value for the price payed. After Port Adelaide pulled arguably the shock of the first round in selecting Mitch Georgiades at pick 18, the Collingwood recruiting team would have hoped that the likes of Harrison Jones and Charlie Comben would sneak down to its next selection at 40. With that not to be and with some crazy talent still on the board, it seemed that the strategy shifted from targeting a tall, to nabbing the best available sliders – and boy did the Magpies do that. Rantall and Bianco proved too hard to ignore with picks in the 40s, and the aforementioned shift was confirmed as the Pies traded down with GWS to allow the GIANTS to select Jake Riccardi – another key forward linked to Collingwood’s first pick.

Rantall brings elite running ability to the table having broken the 2km time trial record at this year’s National Combine, giving him huge upside having transitioned from a junior Australian basketball career. The promising midfielder could spend some time on the outside as he develops, filling a gut-running role akin to Steele Sidebottom and Tom Phillips, but looked most damaging at Under-18 level when bursting through the middle and delivering forward. Bianco, a lifelong Magpies supporter is one of the best users by foot in this year’s crop, providing a mix of precision and penetration in his disposal. The 2019 Oakleigh Chargers’ premiership captain continues the longstanding partnership between the Chargers and Magpies, and is a terrific story having landed at the club he supports after training there during pre-season. Both Rantall and Bianco were names in the late-first round mix, so are nothing short of steals at this range.

West Australian Ruscoe is a versatile option who looks like being a new-age defender as he steps up to the next level. Filling more of a key defensive post for the Black Ducks this year, Ruscoe is the perfect size for that intercept/rebound defensive role which has been taken up by the likes of Matthew Scharenberg and Jeremy Howe of late. But with the size, ability, and endurance to roam through the midfield, Ruscoe could really be anything with time in the elite system and is a shrewd choice later in the draft.

Having passed on making rookie selections – including not re-listing Lynden Dunn – do not be surprised to see the Magpies top up their key position stocks with a mature-ager or improving 19-year-olds with supplementary picks or in next year’s mid-season draft. But with Darcy Cameron now in the fold and a settled side firmly in the premiership window, this was a well executed draft haul that points toward sustained success.