Tag: hugh jackson

PODCAST EXPLAINER | The Midfielder’s Draft

THE Final Siren Podcast team returned this week for another pocket podcast edition, this time breaking down why the upcoming AFL intake has been deemed a midfielder’s draft. Chief Editor Peter Williams again took over the host chair to grill Draft Editor Michael Alvaro on some of the prime midfielders available, and why they are likely to feature at the pointy end.

Among the group of likely first-rounders, the team broke prospects into three different categories to get a better understanding of how each of them play, and perhaps help fans narrow in on the exact type of ball winner they want their club to pursue. In this week’s explainer, we delve into said categories and the players which suit them respectively.

Podcast link: Click here!

PODCAST AGENDA

FIRST ROUND PROSPECTS

The top two

It is no secret that Nick Daicos and Jason Horne-Francis are regarded by many as the top two prospects in this year’s draft, and they just so happen to both be midfielders. While clear of the competition, they are very different types and have varying weapons which they lean on.

Daicos is an accumulator who offers an outrageously consistent output with his work-rate, unrivalled smarts, and team-oriented play. While he brings class and grace, Horne-Francis is more of a bull at the coalface with his explosiveness and noted aggression at both ball and carrier. He can open games up with penetrating kicks and high marks, bring his impact per possession to a high level.

The safe/reliable picks

Reliability is a major factor in what clubs look for in their potential draftees, and there are a selection of midfielders which can certainly offer as much among the 2021 crop. For much of the pathway, Ben Hobbs has been one who looks ready to go with his mature frame and strength in contested situations now complimented by hard running and consistent disposal outputs.

Fellow Victorian Josh Ward has added inside elements to his game this season to rise into top 10 contention, complimenting his running ability and wonderfully clean skills with some real grunt in midfield. Over in Western Australia, Neil Erasmus has put up exceptional numbers at PSA and WAFL Colts level, while Matthew Roberts has taken well to senior football in the SANFL.

While Hobbs, Erasmus and Roberts have all battled injury this year around their runs of form, all four players here are the types who will perform each week and look safe bets as 200-game players for the future. They are reliable, tough, and hard-working, so should provide great value in the first round.

The classy types

Many clubs will value midfielders who can not only win the ball at a good rate, but also use it well. This year, there are a few who fit this category with enviable class on the ball and elite decision making which really puts them above many others in the draft class.

Arguably atop the list, and one who could fit a range of categories is Finn Callaghan. The Sandringham Dragons powerhouse has been a big improver this year, developing from a half-back and wingman to become an outstanding centre bounce operator. At 189cm, he has the build of a modern day midfielder but moves so gracefully in traffic, never rushed and always able to manufacture a bit of space before delivering effective disposals.

Tyler Sonsie is a prospect who fits this mould perfectly, and was considered a top five candidate coming into the year. Injury has interrupted his campaign, but the Eastern Ranges midfielder is as poised as they come in possession with top level vision and skills coming out of congestion. His ability to roll forward and find the goals is another string to his bow, and an important point of difference.

Another couple of dynamic types with plenty of class are Matthew Johnson and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera. While one has slid a touch as the other has risen this year, there is no denying that both players use the ball beautifully by foot and are two of the more elite kicks going around. At 193cm, Johnson features more at the centre bounces and moves well in traffic, while Wanganeen-Milera has tricks on the outside and can carve up the opposition in space.

The versatile/hybrid types

Hybrid is a bit of an in-vogue word at the moment, but in this sense we’re talking about the players who are versatile and can impact in other areas of the ground before eventually becoming more permanent midfielders, or pinch-hitting there.

There is a good handful of first round talent which suits this mould, starting with South Australian Arlo Draper. He fares well at stoppages and can certainly get his hands on the ball there, but adds a point of difference with his ability to take marks and kick goals up forward. He has been more of a midfielder-forward at Under 18s level, but has spent more time among the front half in senior grades.

Prominent Sandringham Dragons pair Josh Sinn and Campbell Chesser are players who have notable outside traits, including their speed, line-breaking ability, and kicking skills. Both have developed across half-back and the wing, but can just as capably play on the inside and are true metres-gained assets in all roles.

Along with the above pair, Josh Rachele has been a standout throughout the pathways and while he has more often been used as a half-forward for Murray and Vic Country, can certainly impact with his speed and skill in midfield. From small to tall, Josh Goater is a big-bodied type on the inside who can essentially play anywhere. He has clean hands and unreal athleticism, which boded well for his most recent move to half-back with plenty of run and intercept marking.

DEPTH – OTHERS TO CONSIDER

It’s not just a midfielder’s draft in the first round, with many top ball winners rising into contention or remaining around the mark. There is a healthy scattering of players from different regions, offering a diverse range of skills and mostly being available in the open draft.

Zac Taylor and Mitch Knevitt offer very different styles, but both were in sensational form before the latest Victorian lockdown. Dandenong Stingrays pair Judson Clarke and Connor Macdonald are smaller types with terrific craft, while Jake Soligo is another in that mould. Elsewhere, St Kilda fans with have their eyes on exciting NGA pair Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens, while Northern’s Ned Long is one to keep an eye on.

Western Australia’s engine room has proven very strong in representative hitouts, with a good mix of hardened inside types and accumulating outside runners. Josh Browne is as consistent as they come, while Corey Warner offers some forward drive on the outer, and Taj Woewodin is a Melbourne father-son candidate with nice traits. On the inside, Kade Dittmar and Angus Sheldrick are absolute bulls, with Dittmar’s East Perth teammate James Tunstill another to consider.

Port Adelaide has its own father-son prospect in Jase Burgoyne, who is a really classy type. He is quite light-on though, and may have to lean on his versatility to play off half-back before entering the midfield fray. Elsewhere, Hugh Jackson had an outstanding first half of the season to put his name in the spotlight, and Cooper Murley arguably possesses top 25 talent, but has been struck down by injury for much of the year.

Draft Central’s 2021 SANFL Under 18s Team of the Year

WITH only Saturday’s grand final left to play, now is the perfect time to look back at the SANFL Under 18s season that was in Draft Central‘s 2021 Team of the Year (TOTY). Finalists Glenelg and Woodville-West Torrens combined to contribute nine members of the 22-man squad, which is led by West Adelaide midfielder Cade Kennedy (captain) and highly touted South Adelaide prospect Arlo Draper (vice-captain).

Nine of the selected group represented South Australia in last month’s Under 19 National Championships bout against Western Australia, while a further two did so at Under 17 level this year. There were also plenty of talented South Australians who narrowly missed, either due to playing more football up the grades, in school competitions, or through the squad’s overall strength.

We take you through all 22 selections line-by-line, highlighting the strengths each squad member brings to the collective and exactly why they each feature.

DEFENCE

FB: Charlie Pridham (West Adelaide) – Dayne McGary (Glenelg) – Brock Thomson (Woodville-West Torrens)
HB:
Blayne O’Loughlin (North Adelaide) – Oscar Adams (Glenelg) – Lewis Rayson (Glenelg)

Clean foot skills and composure with ball in hand are prominent traits of the TOTY defence. Named in the back pocket, West Adelaide’s Charlie Pridham enjoyed a standout season for the Bloods, playing every game (including two finals), and finishing with the most disposals and kicks of anyone in the competition. A reliable contributor down back, Pridham remained calm under pressure and provided plenty of rebound and drive from the backline.

Glenelg’s Dayne McGary earned selection at full back following a strong season in the yellow and black, which saw him average 15 disposals and six marks per game. Often assigned the oppositions best tall forward, McGary’s strength and clean kicking were vital for the Bays’ success. Eagles defender Brock Thomson was an obvious selection down back following an ultra consistent year for the grand finalists, which saw him average 23 disposals, four marks and close to six rebound 50s.

North Adelaide gun Blayne O’Loughlin demanded a half-back spot after a terrific season at Prospect which saw him earn state Under 19 selection. As clean and composed as anyone under duress, O’Loughlin’s attacking instincts and dash from defence were hallmarks of the Roosters’ game plan. Oscar Adams joins fellow Tiger McGary in defence, slotting into the centre half-back role. Adams spent the year rotating between the ruck and a defensive role, with his height, reach and aerial prowess earning him state honours.

State Under 19 vice-captain Lewis Rayson slots in on the other half-back flank, having provided the Bays with plenty of trademark run-and-carry throughout the season. Also effective through the midfield, Rayson is a high metres gained type of player, whose dare and attack on the ball has proven valuable for SA and Glenelg alike.

MIDFIELD

C: Isaac Birt (South Adelaide) – Cade Kennedy (West Adelaide, captain) – Dustin Launer (Woodville-West Torrens)
FOL:
Will Verrall (South Adelaide) – Hugh Jackson (North Adelaide) – Arlo Draper (South Adelaide, vice-captain,)

South Adelaide’s Isaac Birt was a simple selection on the wing following a breakout season which saw him rise to become one of the state’s best outside midfielders. His combination of speed, endurance and crisp ball use cut apart games week-after-week, with his Round 10 effort against Norwood (31 disposals, two goals, 11 marks, five tackles and eight inside-50s) sure to have caught the attention of scouts.

Hard-working West Adelaide skipper Cade Kennedy is the starting centreman in the TOTY and has been named captain after displaying tremendous on-field leadership to inspire the Bloods’ rise from bottom last season to a preliminary final berth. He averaged 27 disposals, six marks, five tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s as one of the competition’s most well-rounded on-ballers. Hard at the contest but an effective run and carry option, Kennedy is well-deserving of a spot in the starting midfield.

Eagles utility Dustin Launer could have slotted into just about any position on the team, such is his versatility, but his efforts in a balanced midfield role see him selected on the wing. A classy ball user and hard runner, Launer collected 30 disposals in five games, including efforts of 42 and 37 (twice). Talented bottom-aged Panther Will Verrall narrowly edged out Centrals’ Saxon Evans and West’s Oscar Steene to win the number one ruck role. Verrall finished second in the competition for total hitouts, but was arguably more dominant when the ball hit the ground, with his ball-use and willingness to compete at ground level impressive for a player of his height.

North Adelaide’s Hugh Jackson was another obvious choice in the midfield rotation. He shot out of the blocks and finished with an average of 29 disposals, five marks, four clearances and five inside 50s. A smooth mover and good ball user on his left foot, Jackson was also clever by hand throughout the year. Despite spending time in the Reserves and League grades, South Adelaide’s Arlo Draper was too good at Under 18s level to leave out of the team of the year. Averaging 24 disposals, four marks, five tackles, six clearances and a goal per game, Draper was a class above the field in his nine matches. A classy mover who excels in traffic at stoppages, Draper also proved difficult to handle up forward and has been named vice-captain of the side.

FORWARD

HF: Hugh Stagg (Glenelg) – Will Pearce (Woodville-West Torrens) – Jesse Thackeray (West Adelaide)
FF:
Jack Delean (South Adelaide) – Corey Brougham (Glenelg) – Zyton Santillo (North Adelaide)

The half-forward line of the TOTY certainly packs a punch, led by Glenelg bull Hugh Stagg. Stagg’s power and strength was integral to the Bays’ engine room throughout the year, but he also proved his worth up forward by kicking 23 goals in 13 games for the minor premiers. At centre half-forward, competition leading goal kicker Will Pearce demanded selection after a dominant season with the Eagles which saw him bag 47 majors from 20 matches and lead the competition in contested marks. Loxton North product Jesse Thackeray produced a great season for the Bloods. Splitting his time between the midfield and half-forward, Thackeray’s work rate was always high and his defensive work wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by the West Adelaide coaching staff.

Despite not being draft eligible for another couple of years, brilliant small forward Jack Delean is thoroughly deserving of his forward pocket role. He booted 26 goals in eight Under 16 matches to help the Panthers to the flag earlier in the season, then took to the Under 18 competition like a duck to water, bagging 35 goals in 13 matches – including two hauls of five, never failing to hit the scoreboard. Electric at forward-50 stoppages, Delean wrecked havoc in the air and on the ground in a sensational season in the blue and white.

Glenelg’s Corey Brougham narrowly edged teammate Jack Harding to take out the all-important full forward position. A reliable set shot for goal, booting 38 goals in 14 matches, Brougham was unstoppable on the lead and his vice-like hands saw him mark just about everything which came his way. Zippy Rooster Zyton Santillo‘s defensive pressure and creative ball use through the midfield and in attack saw him earn a spot on the opposing pocket. Santillo produced a consistent season, finishing with an average of 23 disposals, five marks, five tackles, three clearances and three inside 50s per game.

INTERCHANGE

Matthew Dnistriansky (Norwood) – Jordan Lukac (Woodville-West Torrens) – Saxon Evans (Central District) – Harvey Harrison (North Adelaide)

The interchange bench was hotly contested, but Norwood’s Matthew Dnistriansky simply had to be picked to fill a role across the backline. Norwood’s most consistent player in what was a tricky year for the defending premiers, Dnistriansky’s measured ball use, sound vision and decision making were highlights of his year.

Following a dominant preliminary final showing, in which he booted five goals and lead his team to victory, Eagles captain Jordan Lukac was a late inclusion into the squad. Impressive up forward, the athletic big man also helped out in the ruck and got stronger as the season wore on. Bulldogs tall Saxon Evans finished the season with the most hit-outs of anyone and is arguably the best tap-ruckman in the state. Athletically gifted, Evans was perhaps unlucky not to be given a run in the state side against Western Australia.

Harvey Harrison is North Adelaide’s fourth selection in the team of the year. A midfielder with terrific running power and handy skills at top speed, Harrison is good in-tight but spreads as well as anyone in the competition. He finished the year averaging 25 disposals, six marks, four tackles, five clearances and three inside 50s.

Unlucky to miss: 

As is the case with all representative sides, there are a number of talented players who should consider themselves unlucky to have missed the cut. Glenelg had a number of fantastic contributors throughout the season, including medium defender Cooper Beecken, smart forward Harry Tunkin, classy midfielders Darcy Gluyas and Hunter Window, and strong-marking tall forward Jack Harding.

West Adelaide’s Kobe Ryan would have easily made the side but spent much of the year playing college football with Sacred Heart. His Bloods teammates Dylan White and Luke Young also narrowly missed out. Central District struggled at times, but Tahjin Krieg and Isaiah Dudley were standout performers. From South Adelaide, rebounding defender Lachlan Hayes and nimble midfielder Luke Mitton could also consider themselves unlucky to have narrowly missed the cut.

PODCAST EXPLAINER | September Power Rankings update

THE Final Siren Podcast returned this week with another special edition Power Rankings breakdown, fielding your questions following Draft Central’s September update. With the list extended out to 30 names and including six previously unranked prospects, there was plenty to discuss this time around.

Chief Editor Peter Williams took over the host chair to grill Draft Editor Michael Alvaro about the current state of things, before passing on the queries sent through by you, via Instagram. In the latest podcast explainer, we run through the key points of the episode to provide some depth and context to your listen.

Podcast Link: Click here!

PODCAST AGENDA:

Extending the list to 30 players

As is the case towards the end of each year, this month we added five extra spots to fill and with such an even crop, it arguably made things even more difficult. Past the top 10 or so prospects, the rankings have been difficult to consolidate given the wealth of players vying for spots from around the 15-35 mark. With the final five selections, previously unranked players snuck in but there are plenty more who could easily have slotted in instead.

Six fresh faces

Four completely new prospects entered the rankings in September, lead by South Australian wingman Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera. The classy ball user is a terrific decision maker and given his level of play against SANFL League and Under 19 championship competition, he simply had to enter the top 20.

While they lacked any real action in August, Victorians Zac Taylor and Mitch Knevitt were deserving of spots between the 25-30 mark, having produced outstanding levels of output before the NAB League’s latest hiatus. Fremantle NGA candidate Jesse Motlop (29) is the other new name, coming in with WAFL League experience and plenty of tricks as a small forward.

Among those returning to the rankings are Blake Howes (26) and Jacob van Rooyen (30), who featured among our top 25 earlier in the year. The former was beginning to find his feet as an athletic wingman in the NAB League, while the latter proved his worth as a key position swingman in representative colours and looks physically ready for senior football.

Risers and sliders

Along with the previously unranked Wanganeen-Milera catapulting into 18th, West Australian spearhead Jye Amiss proved his top 15 credentials with another outstanding month. The East Perth forward now boasts 51.14 in his 13 WAFL Colts games and kicked a couple in WA colours to stamp his mark as a top tall talent.

Going the other way are the likes of Matthew Roberts (15) and Matthew Johnson (19), who have previously been regarded as top 10 prospects. Both have tasted senior football and Roberts remains a safe and reliable midfield option, but a knock on his disposal under pressure and ability to play inside at senior level remains. For Johnson, others are simply rising around him and his output up the grades has been a touch inconsistent, despite his obvious class.

Other factors – National Championships, scrapped Victorian season, injuries

With South Australia and Western Australia facing off last month in an Under 19 clash, the risk of recency bias comes into play given those in the remaining states and territories have been afforded less opportunities to impress. While there are some clear risers, weighing up prospects against one-another is difficult when half of them aren’t currently playing. Injuries have also impacted the crop this year, with some unable to gain the continuity needed prove their top potential.

In the mix

West Australian accumulator Josh Browne was one of the unlucky ones to miss out this month, having featured among August’s allotment. East Fremantle teammate Corey Warner has also been pressing his case on the back of big performances at PSA, Colts, and League level, while intercept marking machine Rhett Bazzo came close after his outstanding championships performance.

Over in South Australia, Norwood midfielder-forward has been dreadfully unlucky with injury this year but has brilliant potential, while North Adelaide ball magnet Hugh Jackson looked primed for a top 25 push before a slight dip in form.

204cm Geelong Falcons prospect Toby Conway looks poised to be considered the best pure ruck in the pool, so should also be thereabouts. Meanwhile, the rise of St Kilda NGA and Sandringham Dragons pair Mitch Owens and Marcus Windhager has not gone unnoticed. Saints fans and recruiters will be sweating, but they should be safe for now.

Instagram Q&A

Your questions answered!

Draft Central Power Rankings: September 2021

IT has been a long wait, but the Draft Central Power Rankings are back for another edition. The September update sees our list of top prospects stretched to 30 after a last-gasp National Championships fixture and some handy showings from rising stars amid the on-again, off-again nature of season 2021. While changes are scarce at the top-end, there are six fresh faces among the overall intake and a couple of notable risers who continue to garner attention.

Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion of each players’ current ability and potential, not taking into account the bidding system, or AFL clubs’ lists and needs.

>> 2021 AFL Draft Combine List: 90 prospects earn invites

#1 Nick Daicos (COL F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg

August Ranking: #1

Snapshot: Daicos has an unrivalled understanding of the game; able to bring his teammates into it and anticipate where his next possession will come from, leading to utter domination.

The Collingwood father-son prospect (son of Peter) has more than justified all the hype leading into 2021, solidifying his status as a bonafide number one contender. Daicos made his long-awaited NAB League debut in Round 1 and has gone on to dominate the competition, putting up ridiculous numbers through the engine room as the skipper of a talented Oakleigh Chargers group. Much like his brother, Josh, Daicos was only due to enter the Chargers’ program last year but was made to wait for his unveiling in Oakleigh colours. It was well worth it, though keen watchers already knew of his supreme ability having seen him hold his own in a Carey Grammar side featuring Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. The Magpies are in for a rare talent.

Last month:

In what was a quiet month for Victoria’s metropolitan prospects, Daicos still managed to dominate headlines. The father-son candidate officially nominated Collingwood as his destination of choice, committing two years on top of his original starting contract as he waits to join the senior squad in November. He looks a lock to be bid on with one of the first two picks.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

Nick Daicos on the ball for Oakleigh Chargers

#2 Jason Horne-Francis
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg

August Ranking: #2

Snapshot: A midfielder with next to no weaknesses whose power bodes well for tough ball winning and impressive aerial marking, as well as damaging scoreboard impact.

Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne-Francis retained his crown for our first two rankings updates. The South Adelaide talent impressed in his debut SANFL League outings as a bottom-ager, and has since transitioned into a more prominent midfield role with guidance from former Carlton and Adelaide champion, Bryce Gibbs. He has long been a standout among the South Australian crop, participating in back-to-back Under 16 carnivals and being crowned his state’s MVP in 2019 as captain. Only 18 in June, Horne-Francis boasts a well-balanced game with plenty of damaging strengths and very few weaknesses, with his exposure at senior level another factor which sees him well in contention for number one status.

Last month:

We got to see some of Horne-Francis’ blinding best during August, as two of his four SANFL League appearances yielded high level returns. He kicked off the month with 22 disposals and three goals against Central District, before bookending it with 24 disposals, five clearances, seven tackles, nine inside 50s and a goal against West Adelaide. In between those outings, he also skippered South Australia’s Under 19 squad. While down on his usual lofty standards, Horne-Francis spent plenty of time forward and made his presence felt – particularly during a productive final quarter.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

Jason Horne-Francis captaining South Australia | Credit: SANFL

#3 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #3

Snapshot: Callaghan is a classy mover with great agility for his size, and has shown a high level of development to prove his balance of outside and inside traits.

One who seems destined to crack the top five picks come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back has recently transitioned to an inside role, but continues to prove difficult to stop at full flight with his blend of straight-line power and swift agility. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his clean kicking, and seems to manufacture time on the ball in the clinches.

Last month:

While there ended up being no football for Victoria’s metropolitan regions, Callaghan was arguably set for a pretty steady August in any case. The smooth mover was due to return from a foot injury which kept him from representative honours in July, but can now rest up ahead of the combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

Finn Callaghan in Vic Metro colours

#4 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Utility
19/08/2003 | 204cm | 75kg

August Ranking: #4

Snapshot: Darcy is a fast-developing tall talent who can play in each key position post, is athletic, and marks the ball cleanly.

They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top three candidate on potential and the clear best tall in the draft, with his versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy initially impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck at NAB League level, but went on to consolidate his top-end credentials with outstanding performances up forward. Bulldogs fans, you have another key position jet on the radar.

Last month:

Another Vic Metro prospect who did not get on the park in August due to a lack of NAB League and APS football, Darcy remains in top three contention and like Daicos, will inevitably attract a very early bid.

Sam Darcy is the leading tall in this year’s crop

#5 Ben Hobbs
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #5

Snapshot: Hobbs is a hard-nosed, hard-working inside midfielder who loves to compete both defensively and in a ball winning sense.

The GWV Rebels ball winner had an interrupted start to his 2021 campaign due to injury, but has well and truly proved his top 10 credentials since getting back on the park. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety soon-to-be 18-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and has taken full toll with dominant numbers upon his return to action.

Last month:

Victoria’s Country regions briefly got back on the park in August, and Hobbs managed to sneak in a couple of outstanding performances for his GWV Rebels. Consistent as ever, he racked up 34 and 32 disposals across the two games while also finding the goals in each. Hobbs’ hard edge, ball winning ability, and reliability continue to be his key strengths, despite both of his August outings resulting in losses.

>> NAB League POTW: Round 9

Ben Hobbs kicks Vic Country forward

#6 Josh Gibcus
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender 
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg

August Ranking: #7

Snapshot: An intercept marking defender who reads the play well and has a sizeable leap, Gibcus’ eye-catching form has propelled him into top 10 calculations.

Once again, Gibcus is the second tall prospect on our list and has earned his spot with superb form this year. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender is an intercept type who uses his strengths to advantage; reading the play beautifully and timing his movements to float onto the scene, before rising with his springy vertical leap to take series of marks and force turnovers. While he is working on his ground level game, Gibcus is so clean in the air and usually a sound distributor across the last line, showing great composure on the ball. He was one of the many AFL Academy call-ups and truly held his own in that fixture, as he continues to improve at a great rate.

Last month:

Like Hobbs, Gibcus got on the park for a couple more appearances in GWV colours. He was also consistent in his output, managing 12 and 13 disposals in the respective losses, while also rising for three marks in both games. The tall talent may be quiet at times, but has terrific upside and some eye-catching strengths across the backline.

#7 Mac Andrew (MEL NGA)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg

August Ranking: #6

Snapshot: A raw tall prospect who has proven his worth in each key position post, Andrew’s vertical leap and fast-developing craft really catch the eye.

Another key position talent who rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew is well and truly out of reach for Melbourne as a Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate by now. He currently sits inside the top 20 group quite unanimously, boasting raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons NGA talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Last month:

While considered a Country region, much of Dandenong’s list lies within the Metro ring and thus, the Stingrays’ last game came on August 1. Andrew was afield for the loss to Eastern Ranges, notching 17 disposals, four marks and 16 hitouts. He looked quite raw and struggled for footing at times, but popped up with a couple of typically impressive overhead marks as he rotated forward from the ruck.

>> ‘Rays on the rise

#8 Josh Ward
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Midfielder
15/08/2003 | 181cm | 79kg

August Ranking: #8

Snapshot: A classy midfielder who is consistently capable of winning mountains of possessions, Ward proves a centre bounce mainstay with his clean skills and work rate.

Having started the year on the precipice, Ward has broken into and consolidated his spot well among the 2021 crop’s first round bracket. The Northern Knights midfielder is one who works hard both ways and gets stuck in at the contest, able to win his own ball and distribute with clean skills to the outer. He is also beginning to showcase his own traits on the outside and can impact while resting forward, but holds clear value as a reliable ball winner at the stoppages. A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Ward won the same honours this year as a rising draft eligible Under 19 talent.

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based counterparts, Ward did not see any action over the last month due to a lack of APS and NAB League competition.

Josh Ward captained Vic Metro this year

#9 Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder
2/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #9

Snapshot: Initially an exciting forward who has since transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching traits both aerially and at ground level.

Arguably Western Australia’s leading prospect, Erasmus has built on the promise he showed in last year’s WAFL Colts grand final which saw him come into 2021 as a first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 decider, showcasing clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this year, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with scoreboard impact remaining in his back pocket.

Last month:

Western Australia’s vice-captain returned emphatically via the state side at the end of July during trials, but did not get to take the field in last week’s National Championships bout. The Hale School skipper sustained a corked thigh in his August 14 PSA outing and played the next week despite it, but saw said injury flare up just before he was set for representative duties. Erasmus was brave in his school outings as he endured the knock, impacting as one of his side’s best players with more time up forward. He has not played in any WAFL grade since May, and may well have played his last game for the year – pending another state Under 19s clash.

>> WA U19s Player Focus: Neil Erasmus

#10 Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg

August Ranking: #10

Snapshot: A smooth-moving midfielder with terrific poise and class, Sonsie opens up the play with his clean disposal and ability to find the goals.

One of the most highly-touted Victorian prospects before a ball had been bounced in 2021, Sonsie’s absolute best is exceptionally good. The Eastern Ranges prospect was Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in 2019 and is one of the few 2003-born NAB Leaguers to have already experienced the Under 19 competition. He was part of his region’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, rolling forward off a wing. Now a draft eligible talent, Sonsie has moved more permanently into midfield and while he is developing his defensive running, has plenty of attacking traits to offer. His ability to exit stoppages with poise and make good decisions with ball in hand is top notch, with that exceptional skill level also translating to dual-sided finishing in front of goal.

Last month:

Sonsie has been on the sidelines since late-June due to injury, sustaining bone bruising in the second half of Eastern’s Round 9 loss to Sandringham. He was thus ruled out of Vic Metro duties in July, and did not manage to get on the park last month with metropolitan NAB League regions out of action.

>> VFL Player Focus
>> Head-to-Head: Sonsie vs. Daicos
>> NAB League POTW: Round 1

#11 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Defender/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #11

Snapshot: A line-breaking half-back who has shown promising development in midfield, Sinn’s greatest strengths are his speed and kick penetration.

Another established leader among the Victorian crop as one of Sandringham’s co-captains, Sinn’s best is as damaging as anyone in the overall draft pool. He is regarded as the most damaging technical kick in the Dragons’ program and is given the license to look for options others simply wouldn’t. His penetrative boot and line-breaking speed make him a meters gained machine, observed most significantly with his well-timed runs off half-back or on the wing. Sinn has also moved onto the inside to good effect, showing a handy balance of traits and utilising the size he added during last year’s lost season. His campaign has been interrupted by injury, but he looked close to regaining top form at times.

Last month:

Injured during the final term of July’s Victorian Challenge Match, Sinn was set to make his return in the back-end of the NAB League season. With that now scrapped for Metro regions, he can look forward to turning out at the Draft Combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

Josh Sinn carries the ball forward for Sandringham Dragons

#12 Josh Rachele
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg

August Ranking: #13

Snapshot: A mercurial forward who has drawn comparisons to GWS star Toby Greene, Rachele has unbelievable smarts, skills, and a keen eye for goal.

Rachele is rightly a standout among his draft class, having taken out the Under 16 Division 1 MVP award for Vic Country in 2019. He quickly went on to represent the Murray Bushrangers, averaging a tick under 18 disposals and two goals in four games as a 16-year-old. The exciting forward hails from an elite soccer background and has quick feet to show for it, as well as the smiling celebrations you’d expect on the end of well-finished goals. Rachele is lauded for his skills and smarts in the forward half, but has shown an aptitude for midfield work with his turn of speed and ability to find the ball at ground level. He’s capable of highlight-reel moments.

Last month:

The Murray Bushrangers only played once, at the very start of August but had the bye during the competition’s mid-month return. Rachele did not turn out in the aforementioned fixture, and his three-goal APS dig with Caulfield Grammar on July 31 was his last outing.

#13 Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg

August Ranking: #14

Snapshot: Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in tight spaces through the engine room, and brilliant marking ability to impact when stationed inside attacking 50.

One of the more intriguing and versatile prospects in the draft pool, Draper has garnered attention with his promising bottom-age form and continued success in all three SANFL grades this year. The smooth-moving midfielder has had no trouble getting his hands on the ball with more consistent time in midfield, before impacting in his resting stints up forward. He is yet another South Adelaide prospect in the mix, with his stylish form and clean hands making him easy on the eye to keen draft watchers. He is one who will feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.

Last month:

Draper returned from injury through the Reserves last month, with his 14 disposals and four clearances enough to earn a League debut the following week. He looked classy in possession while averaging 11 disposals and five marks in his two top flight appearances, before turning out for South Australia in the Under 19 championships fixture. The first round talent was a touch down on his usual output but did some nice things rotating through midfield from the forwardline. He then dropped back down to Under 18s level, producing 24 disposals, five marks and six clearances in a finals loss to West Adelaide.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus
>> Feature

#14 Jye Amiss
East Perth/Western Australia | Tall Forward
31/07/2003 | 195cm | 85kg 

August Ranking: #19

Snapshot:

You’ll hear plenty of puns regarding the key forward’s ironic surname but it’s true that Amiss is more hit than, well, miss. The East Perth spearhead has dominated the 2021 WAFL Colts season thus far, booting 51 goals in 13 games with a ridiculously good conversion rate of 78 per cent from his scoring shots. He proved undeniable for selection in a West Australian state squad stacked with key position talent, and doesn’t need a wealth of opportunities to make an impact. With sound overhead marking and an improving ground level game, Amiss is an irresistible threat inside attacking 50. He bolted into our rankings with a debut inside the top 20, and makes another move having excelled on the big stage.

Last month:

Amiss has skyrocketed into top 15 contention over the last two months, with his latest patch of form only consolidating said status. He started out with 18 disposals, 11 marks and six goals against the bottom WAFL Colts side after starring in state trials, before snaring two goals on each side of his National Championships outing. As WA’s spearhead, Amiss snared two goals and passed off some gettable opportunities in a terrific display where he constantly found separation on the lead, marked cleanly overhead, and kicked a highlight reel goal.

#15 Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 81kg

August Ranking: #12

Snapshot: Roberts is a hard-working and consistent midfielder with senior experience who racks up plenty of the ball, but can also rotate forward.

Another member of South Adelaide’s football factory, Roberts’ form over the last few seasons has seen him prove difficult to deny of first round contention. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 18-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.

Last month:

Like South Adelaide teammate Draper, Roberts returned from injury through the Reserves where his 18 disposals and five marks were enough to yield a League call-up. He had not trouble finding the ball with 20 disposals and seven inside 50s in his game back in the top flight, before kicking two goals from 13 touches on the other side of his National Championships appearance. Roberts found indifferent form in said fixture, putting in a shift during term two to keep SA in the contest, but proving a touch scrappy with his disposal at times. He found plenty, nonetheless and continues to put up strong numbers.

>> Q&A
>> Feature
>> SANFL League Player Focus

Matthew Roberts gets a kick away | Credit: Nick Hook Photography

#16 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Outside Midfielder/Defender
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

August Ranking: #16

Snapshot: A speedy and productive mover on the outside, Chesser breaks the lines from half-back or the wing but has also shown a good balance in his ball winning.

A third Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 20, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser had only just cracked Sandringham’s stacked midfield in a bid to showcase his balance, having lacked continuity while battling a knee injury earlier in his campaign.

Last month:

Another who was primed to impress in the back-end of the year, Chesser did not get the chance to prove his worth given the lack of APS and metropolitan NAB League football. He already missed a chunk of time earlier in the year having undergone knee surgery, but will be preparing for the Draft Combine.

#17 Josh Goater
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Midfielder/Defender
2/06/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

August Ranking: #17

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with explosive athletic traits and clean hands on the inside, Goater is a prospect with great potential and versatility.

Goater lays claim to one of the more impressive athletic profiles in the draft pool, particularly in a power sense. His explosive turn of speed and impressive vertical leap are traits which catch the eye at testing events and are transferred on-field, with the Calder Cannons product able to produce exciting passages of play. He has proven his worth in midfield with good ball winning strength and clean hands on the inside, but can also roll out to a wing, pinch-hit up forward, and has proven his class off half-back. He is another who stakes his claim on high upside.

Last month:

Goater technically made an appearance in August, albeit on the first day as his Calder Cannons beat the Murray Bushrangers. The talented utility continued to showcase his versatility, starring in defence with 28 disposals, 11 marks and eight rebound 50s before Metro regions again went into lockdown. His intercept marking ability and clean kicking skills proved weaponous.

#18 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera
Glenelg/South Australia | Wing
22/02/2003 | 188cm | 70kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A smooth-moving wingman with plenty of tricks, Wanganeen-Milera can carve up the opposition with his combination of agility and elite decision making by foot.

Wanganeen-Milera comes from good pedigree as the nephew of Gavin Wanganeen and son of Terry Milera, but is blazing his own trail en route to first round contention. Class is the word which often comes up when describing the flying Glenelg wingman, as he dances around opposition players and delivers pin-point passes by foot. The 18-year-old started out in the Bays’ Reserves team this year but has since made an impact at League level, and was a late call-up to the AFL Academy squad in April. He has proven one of the most exciting draft prospects to watch over the last two months, performing well against high levels of competition and holding his own. The scary thing is, he still has plenty of room to grow and improve.

Last month:

While he made his SANFL League debut in July, Wanganeen-Milera made arguably his biggest impact in August. He kicked a clutch goal in Glenelg’s dramatic win over Norwood, and booted another major from 13 disposals the next week before slotting into South Australia’s Under 19 state squad. He was a standout at that level, tearing up the wing and oozing class with each disposal to thrust his name into top 15 calculations. His last outing was back in the League grade, managing nine touches as Glenelg lost its first game for the season on the eve of finals.

>> SANFL Player Focus

#19 Matthew Johnson
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder
16/03/2003 | 193cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #15

Snapshot: With smooth agility and clean hands at the contest, Johnson is one of the premier tall midfielders in this year’s draft crop and has plenty of upside.

Hailed as the best tall midfielder in this year’s crop coming into the season, Johnson is one with a point of difference and a good amount of development left. The 193cm Subiaco prospect continues to put on size and can win the ball at the coalface, but stands out most with his smooth movement in traffic and clean skills around the ground. He suits an in-vogue modern day prototype and will inevitably yield comparisons to some of the currently dominant midfielders over 190cm. Johnson is already well versed in terms of representative duties and was part of Subiaco’s WAFL Colts premiership side in 2020. He also earned a senior debut this year and would have done so earlier if not for injury on the eve of season proper.

Last month:

Johnson turned out for back-to-back games in the WAFL Reserves grade to start the month, returning mixed results. While he was quiet with seven touches in his first dig, the tall midfielder backed it up with 22 disposals and 10 marks to showcase the range between his best and worst form. He had previously proven all class against his peers though, and that was no different as he represented WA in last week’s National Championships showcase. Running through midfield, Johnson’s kicking was outstanding and he proved a top level type with ball-in-hand.

#20 Darcy Wilmot
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Small Defender
31/12/2003 | 182cm | 70kg

August Ranking: #18

Snapshot: Wilmot is a tenacious and brave half-back whose most flashy weapons show on the attack, as he breaks the lines with great speed and ball use.

Wilmot has thrust his name into contention with increasingly impressive performances for the Northern Knights in 2021, as well as an impressive senior debut at local football level. The small-medium defender has all the typical class and running prowess you would expect on the rebound, but is also willing to compete above his size in aerial contests. The 17-year-old still has plenty of development left as a December 31 birth, meaning he only just makes the cut to be eligible for this year’s draft. His run-and-gun style is sure to catch many more eyes as the season continues, with Wilmot a prospect truly on the rise.

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based Victorian counterparts, Wilmot’s last game came on August 1. The speedy half-back was one of Northern’s best in a home loss to Bendigo, contributing 16 disposals, four rebound 50s, and plenty of run out of the back half. A vocal kind of leader, he also read the play well and got behind his teammates with great voice. There have, unfortunately, been no opportunities since.

Darcy Wilmot on the fly for Northern Knights

#21 Jack Williams
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Ruck
1/12/2003 | 195cm | 91kg

August Ranking: #20

Snapshot: Williams is a versatile tall prospect who thrives aerially and consistently kicks goals up forward, while also rotating through the ruck or even to defence.

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams has been in sensational form at WAFL Colts level. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 35 goals in 12 WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

Williams continues to prove an ominous type at WAFL Colts level, consistently kicking multiple goals and dominating in the air. He booted eight goals from a combined 29 disposals and 13 marks in his two games in the lead up to state Under 19 representation, before returning with another three majors from 17 touches and nine marks last week. In his National Championships outing, Williams showed promising signs up forward and found the big sticks, but could have ended up with more had he converted and stuck even more overhead marks inside 50.

#22 Sam Butler
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
10/02/2003 | 184cm | 73kg

August Ranking: #24

Snapshot: Butler has wonderfully clean hands and burning pace, traits which have translated well from an initial forward role, to a more recent midfield venture.

Another prospect with ties at the elite level, Butler is the brother of St Kilda forward, Dan. He is an exciting player in his own right though, with sharp skills by hand and a terrific turn of speed which serve him well in a creative sense. Having proved himself in the forward half, Butler went on to impress with his clean ball winning ability in midfield before injury struck. He missed out on representing Vic Country as an Under 19 having done so at Under 16s level, but is a player who catches the eye and would have been a lock for said honours if the opportunity presented once again.

Last month:

While Butler was steady with 10 disposals and 1.2 in his August 1 outing upon returning from injury, he built back to form in his next appearance. Turning out in a loss against Gippsland, the midfielder-forward racked up 27 disposals and four marks to be one of the Rebels’ better players on the day, before all Victorians were sent back into the current state of lockdown.

>> NAB League Player Focus

#23 Josh Fahey
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Medium Defender
11/11/2003 | 186cm | 76kg

August Ranking: #21

Snapshot: A run-and-gun rebounding defender who gives his all and boasts a raking left-foot kick, Fahey is arguably this year’s leading Northern Academy talent.

Our top-ranked Northern Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is clearly the best prospect out of the Allies crop and a real top 25 round contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in April’s AFL Academy showcase against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

The sole NSW-ACT representative on this list, Fahey has also been impacted by lockdown over the last month but managed to sneak in a senior game. He turned out for local, AFL Canberra First Grade outfit, Queanbeyan on August 7 and produced the goods. Fahey snared three goals and was among the Tigers’ best players in a 129-point win over Gungahlin. Opportunities continue to prove scarce though, unfortunately.

>> Feature

#24 Tom Brown
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Medium Defender
30/07/2003 | 186cm | 71kg

August Ranking: #22

Snapshot: A dashing half-back with terrific athleticism in the form of speed and a vertical leap, Brown is a bolting talent who you’ll likely miss if you blink.

While Geelong gained access to sister, Millie via father-daughter rules, Tom Brown is ineligible to be drafted by the Cats under the father-son category as his father Paul falls just short of the 100-game qualification. Nonetheless, the Murray Bushrangers prospect has plenty of eye-catching traits which will help him blaze his own trail. A Vic Country Under 16 and now Under 19 representative, Brown is capable of playing on each line but looks to have found a home across half-back, where his dashing style and overhead marking shine. An ankle injury kept him out for a large chunk of the season, but he since returned and looked raring to break into first round contention.

Last month:

As has proven a repeated tale for Victorians on this list, Brown only managed one NAB League outing in August. He was steady with 12 disposals, two marks and three tackles in Murray’s low-scoring loss to Calder at the start of the month, but has not had any further opportunities to impress with no APS competition, and the Bushranger’s bye on August 15.

#25 Zac Taylor
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Small Midfielder/Forward
31/01/2003 | 180cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A crafty small prospect with outstanding vision, skills and decision making, Taylor has no trouble finding the ball and makes things happen when in possession.

A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Taylor proved undeniable for repeat honours in the Under 19 grade this year given his outstanding NAB League form. The 180cm midfielder-forward combines toughness with high level smarts; not afraid to work hard to win his own ball, but most effective when able to accumulate and tear sides apart with his sharp skills. The 18-year-old has a great turn of speed and looks to be creative with each possession, breaking into space with his zip before hitting targets further afield. He is particularly reliable by foot and puts up ultra-consistent numbers each week, making him a deserved entrant to the top 25 up our September update.

Last month:

There has been no NAB League action for Metro prospects past August 1, but Taylor made than lone appearance count after impressing at representative level. He racked up a whopping 37 disposals, four marks and four inside 50s in a tight win against Murray on that day, having built into a ridiculous strong vein of form.

>> NAB League Round 15 POTW

Zac Taylor is a crafty user of the ball

#26 Blake Howes
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Wing

7/04/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: One of the best athletes available in this year’s draft, Howes boasts a terrific aerial game but also competes well at ground level and shows promising versatility.

While unranked last month, Howes is one who previously featured in our top 25 and is a player who should be well known to keen draft watchers. He was an All Australian at Under 16 level, plying his trade as a high-marking medium forward with wonderful athleticism and clean hands. While he started the year off in that usual forward post, Howes has since shown his versatility with a shift to the wing and is a classic high-ceiling type of prospect. He was included in this year’s initial AFL Academy intake and continues to back up that selection with form fitting of his potential as a mainstay in the Sandringham Dragons’ side.

Last month:

It was unlucky for a player like Howes that the latest lockdown came, given he had been building into some really promising form for Sandringham Dragons up on the wing. He notched 20 disposals and two goals against strong opposition in GWV on August 1, continuing to show his potential and genuine upside.

#27 Mitch Knevitt
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
8/01/2003 | 193cm | 81kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with great size and reach, Knevitt dominates at the coalface and impacts around the ground with his strong overhead marking, a feature also sighted up forward.

One who was marked by his teammates as one to watch during preseason, Knevitt has taken full advantage of finally getting the opportunity to impress with some outstanding form in 2021. The 193cm midfielder provides range and size which proves difficult to combat at the coalface, as he digs in to win contested ball and stands up in tackles while dishing it out. The Geelong Falcons product is also developing his outside game and is athletically sound, getting to more contests around the ground and making an impact with his contested marking. He fits the modern day midfielder-forward prototype given his built and ability, with the performances to match his potential now coming to the fore.

Last month:

Knevitt had been building ominous form before the latest Victorian hiatus, with his sole outing in August an absolute blinder. The big-bodied midfielder dominated with 36 disposals, 10 marks, eight inside 50s and a goal against the Bendigo Pioneers, steering Geelong to victory in his most complete performance yet. He had also put in a massive shift in late-July and was impressive at representative level, helping him climb into top 30 range.

>> NAB League Player Focus
>> NAB League Round 16 POTW

#28 Judson Clarke
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Small Forward/Midfielder
17/10/2003 | 179cm | 69kg

August Ranking: #25

Snapshot: Clarke is a zippy small forward/midfielder who can light up the game in a flash with his forward run, tricky agility, and eye for goal.

While his exploits were on full show earlier in the year, Clarke stamped his credentials with a breakout performance in the Under 19 Victorian trials, bagging five goals in a starring display. The crafty Dandenong Stingrays product represented Vic Country at Under 16 level and continues to show promising glimpses both in the NAB League and at school footy level. He is nimble in possession with a mix of speed and agility, and looks to make things happen in the front half with creative energy and smarts at the fall of the ball. Clarke often finishes his work with spearing left-foot kicks, making for an exciting package as far as small prospects go. While he can roll through midfield, the 17-year-old looks most damaging up forward and can cement his spot here with more eye-catching big game showings.

Last month:

The Yarra Valley Grammar student had his last outing on July 30, playing against Peninsula Grammar in the AGSV football competition. As a result, he missed out on Dandenong’s August 1 bout and was then impacted by Victoria’s restrictions on metropolitan areas.

#29 Jesse Motlop (FRE NGA)
South Fremantle/Western Australia | Small Forward/Midfielder
23/11/2003 | 176cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A highly skilled small forward with great goal sense, speed and smarts, Motlop comes from good pedigree and can make his presence known in a flash.

Another player with ties to the elite level, Motlop is the son of former Port Adelaide and North Melbourne forward Daniel, but is ineligible for father-son selection. He is part of Fremantle’s NGA, though it will be difficult for the Dockers to secure his services via bidding as Metro-based WA prospects can only be matched on with a bid after pick 40. To any club, Motlop offers an exciting mix of speed and skill as a small forward, able to find the goals regularly with clever finishes while also providing forward pressure. An Aquinas College student, he topped the PSA goalkicking charts last year as a bottom-ager and has cracked the WAFL League grade this season, spending more time in midfield against his peers.

Last month:

Motlop capped off a strong PSA football season with Aquinas College in August, spending more time in midfield after his forward feats in Year 11. He then turned out for Western Australia in last week’s National Championships fixture, snaring a classy small forward’s goal and showing flashes of his brilliance. Upon returning to the WAFL League grade, Motlop booted 2.2 from 13 disposals in a productive display as South Fremantle downed West Coast. He is well poised to now feature in the Bulldogs’ finals campaign.

#30 Jacob van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Defender
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands and a booming kick, but has also shown great potential as a swingman and even in midfield.

Having been earmarked as potentially Western Australia’s best tall prospect coming into the season, van Rooyen has overcome some adversity en route to recapturing his best form. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games as a bottom-ager. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in 2020’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis halted his progress a touch, but van Rooyen started out the season at League level and has shown he is physically a level above the Colts grade.

Last month:

van Rooyen was in serious form heading into last week’s National Championships showcase, booting 11.5 from a combined 44 disposals and 16 marks in two WAFL Colts appearances. Having starred in his usual forward post with all the physicality expected of him, van Rooyen translated that form to a defensive swing for WA’s Under 19 side. He was exceptional against South Australia, helping out on the last line and popping up as an aerial force to clunk multiple intercept marks. He was more steady with seven touches and two goals in his latest Colts dig, but has proven his swingman credentials.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

Jacob van Rooyen is a powerful prospect | Credit: Claremont Football Club

IN THE MIX:

West Australian midfielder Josh Browne is the only player who comes out of last month’s list of 25, but remains around the mark in an even bunch having returned to his ball winning best post-injury. East Fremantle teammate Corey Warner has produced an eye-catching season in the APS and at League level, while intercept marking machine Rhett Bazzo came into consideration after his outstanding National Championships performance for WA. Claremont ruck-forward Eric Benning has also put his hand up of late, but Fremantle fans will want to keep the athletic bigman’s potential on the down-low.

Fellow tall Toby Conway is arguably the best pure ruck of this year’s crop and has hardly put a foot wrong when given the chance. Sandringham Dragons and St Kilda NGA pair Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens have also risen into second round calculations on the back of their desirable traits, while midfielders Connor Macdonald and Jake Soligo are consistent performers who earned representative honours this year.

Over in South Australia, Cooper Murley remains unlucky having again been sidelined through injury (collarbone), but has serious talent. North Adelaide accumulator Hugh Jackson put up some extraordinary early-season numbers and made his Reserves debut last week, with Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne continues to perform and state Under 19 vice-captain Lewis Rayson was a member of our top 25 earlier in the year.

Up the Grades: Which youngsters cracked senior footy?

WITH finals time finally upon us in state leagues around the nation, there are plenty of budding AFL Draft prospects who are stepping up on the big stage. In a look Up the Grades, we highlight some of the National Combine invitees, state squad members, and academy products who plied their trade at senior level this past weekend.

A talented quartet of South Australian Under 19 representatives plied their trade in the SANFL top flight this past weekend, headlined by pick one contender Jason Horne-Francis. After a relatively quiet National Championships dig by his lofty standards, the explosive midfielder-forward sent a reminder of his talents with 24 disposals, five clearances, nine inside 50s and a goal as the Panthers downed West Adelaide. Matthew Roberts also featured as South secured finals, snaring two goals from 13 disposals.

First round bolter Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera also returned to the League grade, though his Glenelg side lost its first game for the season right on the eve of finals. The 18-year-old wingman notched nine disposals and four marks for the Bays. Elsewhere, top-ager Max Litster was productive on debut with 23 touches and seven marks as Woodville-West Torrens trounced Central District. Raw Bulldogs defender and combine invitee Leek Alleer took two marks from eight disposals, while Tasmanian Oliver Davis (16 disposals) turned out for Adelaide’s last game of the season – a loss to Norwood.

There were a few more debuts in the Reserves, including North Adelaide midfield pair Hugh Jackson and Harvey Harrison. Both managed 11 disposals with the latter, an emergency for last week’s championships clash, also kicking a goal. Under 18s skipper and Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate Blayne O’Loughlin also featured for the Roosters, who beat Sturt.

The Double Blues were served well by state vice-captain Mani Liddy (26 disposals, eight clearances) who is in good touch, while Zac Becker also built on his representative form with 22 touches and a whopping 13 rebound 50s in the loss. Up the other end, it was a quieter day for fellow tall Morgan Ferres.

Woodville-West Torrens and Central Districts were the other two sides to field a bunch of Under 19 state squad members, as the Eagles got up by 15 points. Most of them turned out in Bulldogs colours, including debutant Luca Whitelum (21 disposals, nine marks) and Shay Linke (18 disposals, nine marks, eight tackles), who narrowly missed the starting squad.

Adelaide NGA small forward Isaiah Dudley was productive with 15 touches and a goal, while the speedy Lachlan Grubb had it 12 times. For the Eagles, bottom-ager Adam D’Aloia ran out at the level once more and laid six tackles to go with his 14 disposals. Northern Territory native Ronald Fejo was another to watch in the two’s, booting a goal from 24 disposals as West Adelaide downed South.

Over in Western Australia, a trio of state squad guns hit League level after helping the Black Ducks to last week’s Under 19 win. Peel Thunder utility Brady Hough was arguably the pick of the bunch, registering 22 disposals, nine marks, five inside 50s and a goal in his sparkling top flight debut.

Backman Jack Avery took five marks for Perth in a loss to West Perth, while Fremantle NGA prospect Jesse Motlop booted 2.2 from his 13 touches as South Fremantle beat West Coast. Classy Subiaco midfielder Matthew Johnson was also set to line up for the Reserves, but did not end up taking the field at any level.

Three seperate age groups were represented among the Tasmania Devils players to turn out in Sunday’s TSL preliminary final, which saw Launceston qualify for this week’s decider with a big win over Clarence. National Combine invitee Baker Smith was among the Roos’ best in the loss along with Darcy Gardner (one goal), as Noah Holmes again got stuck into his ruck duties.

Bottom-agers Tom McCallum and Bryce Alomes also lined up for Clarence, as did the 2002-born Lachlan Borsboom. In the navy blue of Launceston, Zach Morris continues to provide quality with his versatility, while top-agers Jayden Hinds and Bailey Gillow played their parts off the bench with a grand final appearance up for grabs.

The QAFL entered its second week of finals, leaving a couple more left to play, with a scattering of Brisbane and Gold Coast academy products hitting the senior grade. Suns Academy player of the year Bodhi Uwland turned out for Broadbeach, who secured a spot in the grand final by downing Labrador.

The exciting defender-midfielder was joined by Cody Harrington (one goal) and Ryan Pickering in the winning side. For Labrador, top-ager Bailey Reeves and Mackenzie Riddle were among the squad which will get a second chance at grand final qualification next week.

Maroochydore is the team the Tigers await, after the Roos defeated reigning premier Morningside in style on Saturday. Daniel Lanthois booted a goal for the victors, while big-bodied midfielder Toby Triffett was named the Panthers’ best, as fellow top-ager Saxon Crozier managed a goal and Max Nelson again played his part.

Featured Image: Brady Hough (left) earned a WAFL League debut this week | Credit: Shazza J Photography

Scouting Notes: 2021 AFLU19s – Western Australia vs. South Australia

THE 2021 AFL Under 19 National Championships got underway on Saturday in a last-minute clash between Western Australia and South Australia at Lathlain Park, with the hosts getting up 9.13 (67) to 5.8 (38). In a bumper edition of Scouting Notes, we take a look at the performances of every player afield, including some defining showings from top draft prospects. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

>> Match Report: WA claims big win in champs opener

WESTERN AUSTRALIA #1-19:

By: Ed Pascoe

#1 Jesse Motlop (South Fremantle)

The Fremantle NGA member didn’t have that four-quarter performance he would have been after, but still managed to show his eye-catching traits – starting in the first quarter with a trademark rove and snap goal, showing his forward craft. Motlop provided great pressure and second efforts in the second quarter, but was very quiet in the third quarter before moving into the midfield in the last and winning plenty of the ball, while also taking a few marks around the ground.

#2 Jed Hagan (East Fremantle)

The only 2022 draft prospect to take the field, Hagan looked as comfortable as anyone out on the ground and showed plenty of composure and competitiveness down back. Hagan provided some meaningful drive of half-back, often using the ball well by hand and foot, but it was his competitiveness for his size that really impressed. In one instance he won a contest against SA tall forward Morgan Ferres, who had been beating most taller opponents all day in marking contests. A consistent four-quarter performer, Hagan looks a great prospect for the 2022 draft.

#4 Judd McVee (East Fremantle)

The speedy half-back didn’t do a lot wrong, playing a new position this year after showing signs as a midfielder at Under 16s state level. McVee was smooth in most things he did with ball in hand, using it by hand and foot and looking stylish in the way he carried the ball from defence. Although his production wasn’t as high as other teammates in defence, his slick ball use and role was still very important.

#7 Angus Sheldrick (Claremont)

It was a typical game from Sheldrick with the strong bodied midfielder showing his contested prowess around the ball, and equally strong drive and attacking mindset. Sheldrick’s kicking wasn’t at his best standard and he could have kicked a nice goal on the run which ended up hitting the post, and that kicking will be something he continues to work on. His attack on the ball, however, is just about the best amongst this year’s draft crop – winning some free kicks from some courageous plays. His third quarter was his best highlighted by a one-handed intercept mark and another play brushing off an opponent with ease to kick long inside 50.

#9 Max Chipper (Swan Districts)

Chipper was a late in for the injured Neil Erasmus and he made the most of his call-up to be among his side’s major ball winners playing on the wing. Chipper did well to work into defence to be an outlet for a switch and his ball use from the defensive half was solid. Although not the quickest with ball in hand, his work-rate around the ground helped him take plenty of marks and contribute well in transition for WA.

#12 Lochlan Paton (West Perth)

One of the pressure forwards for WA, Paton played his role well despite his low production and he was rewarded late in the game with a nice intercept mark and snap goal. Paton’s pressure and ability to get some timely smothers in set up plenty of scoring opportunities for his teammates and despite a few unlucky free kicks given away, he kept up his pressure for all four quarters. A midfielder for the last few years, Paton has fared well in this forward role of late.

#13 Bryce Watson (Swan Districts)

The athletic small defender didn’t lose too many contests as his leap and speed gave the SA forwards a lot of trouble, with some nice spoils and an ability to close down his opponents on the lead. Watson’s kicking wasn’t to a great standard at times but his work by hand was often clean and creative, and he showed a solid mix of defending and attacking. His strong contested intercept mark in the third quarter was a real highlight.

#14 Taj Woewodin (East Fremantle)

The Melbourne father-son prospect had a solid game playing on the wing and across half-back, showing safe decision making with ball in hand and good skills by hand and foot. His knack of taking intercept marks showed his ability to read the play well and he almost kicked a nice goal from long range in the second quarter, but just missed. It’s been a solid year for Woewodin, with that consistency on show in his game against SA in an as-expected sort of performance from him.

#15 Finn Gorringe (East Fremantle)

The captain of WA was a steady head in defence, often using the ball well by foot and barely losing a one-on-one contest. It was no surprise to see him favour his kicking over handballing, with some very nice kicks well weighted to his teammates. Although this game wasn’t his most productive, he still managed to show why he was made captain of the side.

#18 Josh Browne (East Fremantle)

Although it took until the second half for Browne to really get going, it turned out a rather typical performance form the East Fremantle ball magnet with his ability to win the ball on the inside and outside. Browne’s consistency by foot was just about his only blemish with some great kicks inside 50 but a few poor kicks as well, which where uncharacteristic. Where he excelled was his ability to win the contested ball and feed out nicely by hand, and while usually winning plenty of the ball in the middle, he also managed to win his fair share while playing at half-forward – taking a few marks and being a great outlet. He would finish as one of WA’s most productive players for the day.

#19 Kade Dittmar (East Perth)

A typical performance from the inside midfielder who won his fair share of his disposals at the coal face, using his big frame to his advantage. His ability to break tackles was on show, as was his ability to stick the hard ones, which earned him a free kick in the second quarter where he would slot his only goal for the game. Although his kicking at times was poor, his ability to win clearances cleanly and not just with his strong frame was very promising.

WA's Jesse Motlop (left) and Jack Williams celebrate a goal | Credit: SANFL

WESTERN AUSTRALIA #20-43

By: Declan Reeve

#20 James Tunstill (East Perth)

Having produced a good season to date at WAFL Colts level, Tunstill took the opportunity against South Australia to put his name in the mind of recruiters with a strong display, particularly in the first half. Early on it felt like Tunstill was involved in every bit of WA play, winning the ball from stoppages or receiving a releasing handball to move the ball forward quickly. He timed his runs well and positioned smartly around contests to be in the best spot to win it. In the thick of it, Tunstill did well to keep the ball away from opponents, then fire out sharp handballs to teammates in space. What was arguably most impressive about Tunstill’s game was how he tracked the ball on the ground and refused to be knocked off balance, winning the ball against opponents and flicking it up to teammates before he could be brought to ground.

#22 Jack Avery (Perth)

Having experienced the intensity of WAFL League level, Avery looked mostly composed in the defensive 50, using his strength and size to take intercept marks or throw a fist in to impact an opponent’s attempt when required. Later, he would also followed up with safe ball use to keep WA in possession. In the moments that Avery did push up the ground, he wasn’t afraid to take on opponents and try to hit the most aggressive option.

#23 Matthew Johnson (Subiaco)

The highly touted WA midfielder showed exactly why he is in first round consideration with a skilful display. Whilst Johnson isn’t the fastest player going around, his decision making and evasion in traffic gives him more than enough tools to appear quicker than most opponents, able to spot out a target in the thick of things and execute the skill well. Johnson’s work-rate meant that he was always a chance to impact the play, going in to win it himself or working hard forward of the ball to provide an option, then following up with clean ball use to keep WA going forward. That same work-rate saw Johnson impact inside his defensive 50 more than most other midfielders and worked it out well. When Johnson had the ball he more often than not looked to move it into the corridor to open up the forward 50 for his side. 

#25 Ethan Regan (East Perth)

A game of almosts for Regan saw him show off his best athletic traits in patches, just lacking consistent impact across the game. Regan did well to win the ball below his knees on the move for a taller player, consistently picking the ball up off on half-volleys and turning his opponent around quickly, before moving the ball on by foot. His kicking inside 50 was superb, setting up multiple scoring opportunities by hitting up leading targets rather than bombing long, although he did kick a great goal from outside 50. Regan also utilised his leap to take the ball in the air uncontested, with his intercept of a chip kick in the midfield the best example of this.

#29 Jacob van Rooyen (Claremont)

After making a name for himself as a tall forward option over the past couple of years, van Rooyen has been playing in defence at state level recently, continuing his development in the role with an impressive display. van Rooyen was rarely beaten through the contest, able to spoil the ball when caught behind his opponent, but more often bodying his opponent to protect the drop zone and take the mark. van Rooyen’s disposal was good throughout the game, looking to use it safely out of the defensive 50 but aggressively when going into the forward half. His defensive work-rate stopped a few promising SA plays, working hard to impact the ball on the goal line early on in the game, and then building more confidence to leave his opponent and take marks in front of packs, or fill the hole in defence to take marks from rushed kicks further up the ground. 

#30 Jye Amiss (East Perth)

Amiss had an outstanding display, with his two-goal first half particularly impressive. His opening major was the first of the game, where he was held without the ball in a pack inside 50, earning a free kick and kicking well from straight in front. His second was arguably the highlight of the day, collecting a half-volley along the boundary line inside 50, where he took a couple of steps to balance and slotted the goal from about 40 out. Apart from two goals, Amiss showed off his danger on the lead, where he managed to get separation from his opponents easily and held the ball out in front, more often than not looking to pass it off to a teammate leading towards him or hand it off to a runner if he was further up the ground. In keeping teammates involved, he ultimately sacrificed what could’ve been a four or five goal game. It was promising to see Amiss actively look to push up the ground and take marks on the wings, keeping the SA defence guessing and allowing other teammates to be the main target inside 50 at times.

#31 Eric Benning (Claremont)

Although Benning wouldn’t have put up massive numbers compared to some of his other tall teammates, the Fremantle NGA hopeful’s athleticism caught the eye with his leap and agility particularly impressive for his size. This was highlighted best with a few marking contests where Benning was caught behind but still managed to take a mark over the top of his opponent, or took a clean one grab pick up below his knees and weaved through traffic. 

#34 Corey Warner (East Fremantle)

Playing in his usual wing role, Warner had a few key moments especially early on in the game. Pushing to be an option in the corridor when the ball was on the other wing, but also showed his willingness to win the inside ball and work through traffic with his evasiveness, or at times, sheer strength when pushing opponents away. It was encouraging to see Warner lose opponents by turning them inside out and then getting the ball to a teammate with his quick hands or inside 45 kicks.

#36 Rhett Bazzo (Swan Districts)

This was somewhat a breakout performance for Bazzo, showing off his reading of the game by taking plenty of intercept marks, but also able to drift across the front of packs and take marks out in front, quickly playing on with the ball. Bazzo more often than not looked to switch the ball across the 50 when he won it, putting it in front of his teammates so they could keep running after they had taken the mark. Bazzo was also confident when pushing up the ground, providing as an option in the corridor, even earning himself a free kick and 25m penalty, unfortunately unable to convert the goal from 50 out, although this was one of very few blemishes on his long kicking with his kick ins from SA behinds often getting distance and kick starting offensive plays. What was arguably most impressive from Bazzo was his two way running, where he’d push back hard when SA won the ball to impact contests inside 50, even spoiling a ball right on the goal line.

#38 Brady Hough (Peel Thunder)

The only other multiple goal kicker apart from Amiss, Hough enjoyed a solid display where he showed off some smart leading patterns in the forward half, able to get separation with ease, getting used more often as the game went on and he started to stamp his authority on the contest. The first of his two goals came from a free kick inside 50 where he went for a ground ball and had his legs taken out from under him, kicking it from right in front with ease. The second was more challenging, where he had a set shot pressed into the deep pocket and put it through.

#40 Jake South (Subiaco)

South took advantage of a relatively weaker SA ruck division and flexed his muscle to win most hitouts by outbodying his opponents in the ruck, initiating contact and knocking them off balance to control the stoppages. South grew in confidence as the game went on, starting to take the ball out of the ruck and taking on opponents himself. South also positioned well behind the play, taking intercept marks and looking solid below his knees.

#43 Jack Williams (East Fremantle)

Struggling in front of goal for the day, Williams still looked a dangerous option in the forward 50 where his strength was too much for the SA defenders to handle at times, taking contested marks without really looking challenged. That same strength gave him an advantage when he took ruck contests inside 50, pushing opponents out of the way and taking the ball himself or tapping it straight down in front of a teammate. Williams’ work-rate in the forward half can’t be overstated, consistently providing repeat leads and drawing an opponent to free up space for a teammate to lead into. He did get himself on the scoreboard to reward his efforts, pushing an opponent under the ball and taking it over his head, slotting a goal from right in front about 35 out.

WA skipper Finn Gorringe addresses his side | Credit: WAFL

SOUTH AUSTRALIA #1-18:

By: Tom Wyman

#1 Isaiah Dudley (Central District)

The Adelaide NGA prospect had a quiet start to the game, as South Australia struggled to get the ball past the halfway mark in the early stages. With the Western Australia midfield controlling the game, the small forward was starved of opportunity to impact the game. However Dudley had his moments as the game wore on, particularly when moved into the midfield for the final term. His speed and run and carry was evident in patches, as was his clever football smarts, however the nature of the game denied the Central Districts teenager of an opportunity to assert himself.

#2 Blayne O’Loughlin (North Adelaide)

It was a tough day for North Adelaide defender Blayne O’Loughlin, who wasn’t able to assert his usual calmness upon the contest. Given a close-checking role on dangerous WA forward Jesse Motlopfor much of the game, O’Loughlin struggled defensively as the son of Kangaroos and Power star Daniel gained separation and booted a regulation goal early in the piece. Although he looked more composed down back as the game wore on, nailing a couple of kicks in the defensive-50, he wasn’t able to impact with his usual offensive flair. An uncharacteristic turnover by foot in the final term gifted the home side with the easiest of goals.

#5 Jase Burgoyne (Woodville-West Torrens)

Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne was one of the croweaters best on a difficult day. Stationed across half-back, his work rate and two-way running was admirable. He was involved in much of South Australia’s offensive play, with a couple of nice passages of run and carry along the wing reinforced by some clean ball-use. However he was also quick to run back and offer support when the visitors were under siege down back. The talented utility, who made his SANFL league debut with Port Adelaide earlier in the year, was efficient by foot but his disposals lacked damage. Overall, it was a solid if unremarkable display from Burgoyne, who appears likely to join the Power come draft night.

#6 Lachlan Grubb (Central District)

The speedy 19-year-old small forward struggled to impact the game, but he certainly wasn’t alone. Grubb had a couple of ‘nearly’ moments, including a smart rove and quick snap at goal which ultimately fell short but, like Dudley, wasn’t favoured by the nature of the contest.

#8 Lewis Rayson (Glenelg)

The South Australian vice-captain was one of the visitors best performers in their 29-point defeat. Despite being stationed across half-back in the first couple of quarters, the Glenelg product strolled forward and registered the first genuine shot on goal for SA, a long-range attempt which was touched on the line. Under immense pressure, with the WA midfield sending it inside-50 regularly, Rayson was one of few South Australian’s to exhibit calmness and composure with the ball. Rayson’s run out of defence was important and his quick hands were noticeable. His kicking was largely clean, albeit for a costly turnover in the final term. He pushed up into the midfield at-times as the SA coaching staff looked to shuffle the magnets, but looked at home at half-back, where he read the play well and was able to take a couple of strong intercept marks.

#9 Hugh Jackson (North Adelaide)

Hugh Jackson managed to get his hands on the ball often, but didn’t have the impact on the contest he would’ve liked. Starting on the wing before given a stint on-ball, the skilful Rooster was clean by hand in the clinches, but got caught trying to do too much a couple of times on the broadcast wing. He had a snap on goal after a nice bit of roving, but had an inconsistent day by foot, with some kicks finding their targets and others missing. Nevertheless, he demonstrated a natural ability to find the footy around the ground.

#10 Isaac Birt (South Adelaide)

South Adelaide’s Isaac Birt ran hard up and down the wing all day, working relentlessly to consistently provide an outlet option on his side of the ground. He was able to use his precise left-foot on a couple of occasions and was largely clean with his ball-use. A draft bolter who has risen to become one of the SANFL Under-18s best players this season, Birt showed some run and dash and produced an admirable performance for South Australia.

#12 Cade Kennedy (West Adelaide)

The West Adelaide skipper started the game in the midfield. He got his hands on the ball early but was lacked some cleanness with his first touch. He tackled hard and spread well across the ground to provide an option between the arcs. He found key forward Lukas Cooke inside-50 with a nice kick against the flow of play in the first term, then later released defender Lewis Rayson with a clever gather and intelligent handball. Although he faded out of the game, Kennedy had a couple of nice moments in difficult circumstances.

#13 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (Glenelg)

Wanganeen-Milera was clearly South Australia’s best player in the tough loss. One of few to show poise and execute under pressure, the Glenelg teenager looked up to the level immediately. The wingman used the ball intelligently and his work under pressure was outstanding. Whilst many of his teammates appeared rushed and fumbly as WA brought the heat, Wanganeen-Milera read the game well, moved like a Rolls Royce, made the correct decisions and showed off a couple of nice tricks under duress. He was crunched by WA star Jye Amiss in the final term when going back with the flight of the ball, and was forced to leave the field, but later returned to bravely run out the match. Perhaps one of the only South Australian’s whose draft stocks will have risen after his performance, Wanganeen-Milera appears likely to feature in first round calculations on draft night after a classy display.

#14 Jacob Owens (Glenelg)

Jacob Owens spent the game rotating from the half-forward flank to the wing. A ball-magnet for the Tigers in the SANFL Under-18 competition, Owens ran into some good spaces but lacked composure with his first couple of touches, throwing it on the boot and lofting it forwards instead of lowering his eyes. Appearing rushed at-times, Owens, like many of his teammates, struggled to adapt to the pace of the game at-times, despite finding a bit of the ball and working his way into some good spaces.

#17 Hugh Stagg (Glenelg)

Fresh off a four-goal performance against West Adelaide last weekend, Hugh Stagg spent the game at half-forward for South Australia. His kicking was poor early, contributing to a couple of turnovers, however he slotted the first goal of the game for SA after benefitting from a 50-metre penalty. The powerful flanker missed a shot on goal later in the game, and could have benefitted from a stint on the ball to gain some confidence.

#18 Arlo Draper (South Adelaide)

Top ten pick candidate Arlo Draper showed patches of class and was among South Australia’s best players at Lathlain Park. Draper split his time between the half-forward line and the midfield, as he has done all season. He was a marking target in attack and moved well in-traffic in the midfield. He was classy with his disposal by hand and foot and demonstrating some stoppage smarts to win a couple of clearances. In the final term, Draper expertly outbodied his opponent and took an easy mark before booting the first goal of the final quarter. He could have added a second with a set-shot after winning a high free-kick, then later passed off another gettable attempt to teammate Lukas Cooke in the pocket. He didn’t accumulate high numbers, but used it well and had an impact on the game.

Jason Horne-Francis captaining South Australia | Credit: SANFL

SOUTH AUSTRALIA #20-35:

By: Michael Alvaro

#20 Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide)

It was a hit-and-miss kind of day for Roberts, who featured prominently in South Australia’s midfield. At his best, he found plenty of the ball and helped drag the Croweaters back into the game through sheer work-rate. The South Adelaide talent was particularly prolific in the second term and looked most productive in possession during said period, capping it off with a well hit 45m set shot goal. He made some good double efforts at ground level and was moved forward for longer stints in term four, but found himself rushed and a touch scratchy when disposing by foot at times.

#21 Jason Horne-Francis (South Adelaide)

There were plenty of eyes fixed of Horne-Francis, who skippered the South Australian side in his typical midfield-forward role. He didn’t quite have the impact he would have liked on-ball and just couldn’t get his hands on it, but showed some of his power with lunging pressure acts. His pure class in possession shone through though, as he used the ball well on the move and hardly looked rushed. One of his best kicks was a spearing ball across the top of the 50, hitting Hugh Stagg to prove his short game can be as effective as his long-range penetration. Horne-Francis ended up spending plenty of time forward in term four, converting a free kick and unselfishly handing off to Zac Becker for an assist.

#22 Mani Liddy (Sturt)

Another of the South Australian leaders and one of his side’s most prominent ball winners, Liddy proved an important four-quarter performer. The Sturt top-ager was typically strong around the ball, tackling hard and looking to bustle through congestion to release his outside runners. Liddy sometimes hacked his clearances forward but got good distance, and even found a bit of green ball around the ground through sheer work-rate. He put in a massive shift during the first half when WA was well on top, standing up in tough circumstances.

#23 Cooper Beecken (Glenelg)

Stationed among an under-siege defence, Beecken did a little bit of everything in an overall promising performance. The Glenelg backman was forced to play above his size in competing against the likes of Jack Williams at times, but fared well when running off his opponent on the rebound. Beecken timed his forward forays well to get on the end of handballs and deliver by foot, showing crisp skills and making good choices with his trust left boot.

#25 Max Litster (Woodville-West Torrens)

Another member of the backline who contributed aerially and across the ground, Litster proved his value as one of SA’s 2002-born prospects. The Woodville-West Torrens product has gained great experience at SANFL Reserves level this season and transferred his reliability to this outing. Litster made double efforts at the ball and wasn’t afraid to get in a contest, rising for spoils and chasing up ground balls. He was arguably among his side’s best handful of players overall, especially given he had plenty of work to do.

#27 Morgan Ferres (Sturt)

Ferres just about played a lone hand as SA’s most feasible forward target, presenting up the ground to good effect in what was a terrific first half performance. The Sturt tall worked his direct opponent over time and time again, easily getting separation on the lead and cleanly sticking his marks beyond the forward arc. Ferres was an important link for the Croweaters, but they could probably have done with another of him to make things happen inside 50. He wasn’t quite able to hit the scoreboard, and was moved to defence in term four.

#31 Lukas Cooke (Woodville-West Torrens)

Part of South Australia’s front six, Cooke usually does his best work as a marking option inside 50 but was made to work a little further afield on this occasion. The Woodville-West Torrens tall had a couple of difficult opportunities to kick goals in the first and fourth terms, but put one set shot out on the full while the other shaved the post. He had some nice moments in between when the going was tough, using his reach in the air and presenting on the lead.

#32 Zac Becker (Sturt)

Plenty of play went through Becker in defence, as he took on the task of manning Jye Amiss and mopped up plenty across defensive 50. He was tasked with the early kick-ins and went for distance with his massive boot, though saw plenty balls come straight back his way. Defensively, he got in good positions to make contests and intercept, including a couple of important marks and spoils. He was eventually shifted forward in term four and snared a goal for his efforts.

#33 Oscar Adams (Glenelg)

The tallest timber in South Australia’s starting back six, Adams had to be on his game against WA’s range of key forward options. The 198cm Glenelg prospect stood up strongly, attacking aerial contests and doing well to follow up once the ball had spilt off hands. He didn’t look to do too much with ball in hand, often taking the first and most effective option as SA shifted onto the rebound, using the ball cleanly for a player of his size.

#34 Jordan Lukac (Woodville-West Torrens)

Lukac’s physicality suited the intensity of the game, as the Woodville-West Torrens bigman looked to crash and bash his way into the contest. He played his usual ruck/forward role, rotating between both posts and faring well in the air. While he had a little more trouble gathering cleanly at ground level, Lukac worked hard for his side and added some strength around the ball.

#35 Oscar Steene (West Adelaide)

South Australia’s starting ruck, Steene showed promising potential as a 199cm prospect, but is still a touch raw. While he arrived at plenty of contests and got hands to the ball at most of them with his pure height and reach, Steene was made to battle hard to compete physically in the ruck and marking departments. Still, the West Adelaide tall has an aerial game he can build on.

Featured Image: Player’s fly in Saturday’s AFL U19 National Championships clash between WA and SA | Credit: SANFL via Twitter

TEAMS | 2021 AFLU19s – Western Australia vs. South Australia

THE 2021 AFL Under 19 National Championships have finally arrived, with Western Australia set to take on South Australia at Lathlain Park on Saturday afternoon. The highly anticipated clash was initially delayed in its original Sunday slot, but is back on after eased border restrictions. The Croweaters will thus travel West, led by pick one contender Jason Horne-Francis, who lines up in midfield alongside deputy Mani Liddy and South Adelaide teammate Matthew Roberts.

Western Australia will be skippered by East Fremantle top-ager Finn Gorringe, who takes his place in defence while vice-captain Josh Browne prepares for an epic engine room battle. Fellow deputy Neil Erasmus will miss due to a bad corky, replaced by running machine Max Chipper. There are few real surprises across either line-up, though the hosts’ tall forward riches sees Jacob van Rooyen starting in defence. The Black Ducks are stacked in midfield too, with first round prospect Matthew Johnson squeezed out to a forward flank.

The South Australians boast a good mix of speed and class, with the likes of Port Adelaide father-son prospect Jase Burgoyne, Glenelg wingman Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, and top 10 candidate Arlo Draper among those to watch in the tricolours. Central District League representative Shay Linke was unlucky to miss the SA interchange, while electric Claremont small Jahmal Stretch would have narrowly missed the cut for WA. Both have been named as emergencies.

The action begins at 1:00pm local time, with both sides inevitably itching to get a proper taste of representative action. All 2021 National Championship fixtures are set to be broadcasted. Stay tuned to Draft Central over the next few days, as we’ll have a wrap of the game and Scouting Notes on every player to come on Monday.

>> PREVIEW: Where it’s won – WA vs. SA U19s

2021 AFL U19 National Championships

Western Australia vs. South Australia
Saturday August 28, 1:00pm AWST
Lathlain Park

FINAL SQUADS

Western Australia:

B: F. Gorringe, J. Avery, B. Watson
HB: R. Bazzo, J. van Rooyen, J. Hagan
C: C. Warner, G. Sheldrick, T. Woewodin
HF: M. Johnson, J. Williams, L. Paton
F: E. Benning, J. Amiss, J. Motlop
R: J. South, J. Tunstill, K. Dittmar

Int: J. Browne, B. Hough, J. McVee, E. Regan, M. Chipper
Emg: J. Busslinger, M. Chipper, K. Harbour, J. Stretch

South Australia:

B: M. Litster, Z. Becker, B. O’Loughlin
HB: C. Beecken, O. Adams, J. Burgoyne
C: I. Birt, M. Roberts, N. Wanganeen-Milera
HF: A. Draper, M. Ferres, L. Grubb
F: H. Stagg, J. Lukac, I. Dudley
R: O. Steene, J. Horne-Francis, M. Liddy

Int: L. Cooke, H. Jackson, C. Kennedy, J. Owens, L. Rayson
Emg: H. Harrison, S. Linke, L. Whitelum

Featured Image: (Left to right) West Australian leaders Josh Browne, Finn Gorringe, and Neil Erasmus | Credit: WAFL via Twitter

Where it’s won: Western Australia vs. South Australia Under 19s

THE 2021 AFL Under 19 National Championships are poised to go ahead in some form on Saturday afternoon, as Western Australia hosts South Australia at Mineral Resources Oval. While the clash, originally scheduled for Sunday, was postponed in the wake of state border closures, eased restrictions will allow the South Australian squad to travel without the need to quarantine.

With extended squads already announced for both states and plenty of stars among them, keen draft watchers will already have a good idea of who to watch in the highly-anticipated fixture. With those players in mind, we take a look at where the game will likely be won, and a few of the marquee match-ups poised to light up the big stage. Stay tuned, as both sides will be revealed tomorrow.

>> Squad Previews: South Australia | Western Australia

WHERE IT’S WON

The Midfield Battle

Both engine rooms match up quite well, with some of the premier players from either side set to feature at the centre bounces. All eyes will be on pick one candidate Jason Horne-Francis, who skippers the South Australian squad and will likely anchor the Croweaters’ midfield alongside top-age deputy, Mani Liddy. Add Matthew Roberts into the starting mix, and SA has a strong, reliable mix of ball winners.

That trio is matched well by WA’s likely lot, set to feature Subiaco pair Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson along with East Perth battering ram, Kade Dittmar. The trio has some serious size about it, measuring up at an average of 188cm compared to the 183cm stature of SA’s group. That may be levelled out by the physicality of Horne-Francis and Liddy, with Roberts and Johnson the types who will respectively look to thrive off that inside battle.

In terms of depth, both teams bat pretty deep. SA will look to rotate recent League debutant and top 10 prospect Arlo Draper from the front six, along with Glenelg bull Hugh Stagg. Classy Port Adelaide father-son candidate Jase Burgoyne is another viable option from half-back, along with the likes of Hugh Jackson, Cade Kennedy, and Shay Linke off the bench. On the outside are a couple of pure wingmen in Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and Isaac Birt, who provide some class and running power to further the team’s balance.

Western Australia’s depth is equally formidable. Corey Warner, the brother of Sydney’s Chad, and East Fremantle teammate Josh Browne would fancy starting spots, with the former also a capable wingman. The strong-bodied Angus Sheldrick has proved his worth as a mid-forward rotation piece, while James Tunstill is another East Perth ball winner who may feature, and Melbourne father-son hopeful Taj Woewodin can chip in from half-back. On the outer, Max Chipper is a running machine, while Brady Hough and Lochlan Paton have the versatility to contribute in multiple roles.

With a handy balance of inside grunt, class, and outside run, both midfields will be quite obviously central to their sides’ fortunes. WA’s representatives have already gotten a taste of how they may work together in a number of trial games, and while the SA squad will share plenty of familiarity, they may have some catching up to do. Having two leaders at the source certainly helps, though.

The Talls

Plenty has been made about Western Australia’s array of tall forward options, with the Black Ducks boasting a true embarrassment of riches in said department. Leading WAFL Colts goalkicker Jye Amiss is an absolute deadeye and doesn’t need too many opportunities to impact with multiple goals, while versatile East Fremantle tall Jack Williams thrives aerially and looks a likely centre half-forward/ruck candidate.

Having been thrown into defence during WA’s trial games, Jacob van Rooyen booted 11.5 in his last two Colts outings, while Claremont teammate Eric Benning has also shown his developing forward craft of late and could pinch-hit from the ruck. The Black Ducks are not as strong at the other end of the ground, but Swan Districts standout Rhett Bazzo is a classy intercept-marker who should organise the fort well and Jack Avery can play above his 190cm standing. 195cm bottom-ager Jedd Busslinger may also feature.

South Australia’s starting key defenders, Zac Becker and Oscar Adams will certainly have their hands full. The former reads the play well and is built nicely at 92kg, but the latter will have plenty to do aerially at 198cm, while Cooper Beecken (191cm) may have to play slightly above his size. The Croweaters have some height and power of their own at the other end, with Jordan Lukac and Morgan Ferres strong starting pair supported by Lukas Cooke and Luca Whitelum off the bench.

We may well see some big bags of goals kicked given how well both sides stack up in attack compared to defence, at least in the tall department. With 2021 looming as largely a midfielder’s draft at the top end, opportunity awaits for the talls who can step up on the big stage and potentially shoot into top 15 contention.

The Smalls

With so many bigmen taking the field, the smalls will be equally important in helping capitalise on contest spills in attack or mopping up down back. South Australia will gain a good mix of speed and smarts from Central District pair Lachlan Grubb and Isaiah Dudley up forward, while the likes of Blayne O’Loughlin and Lewis Rayson are serious rebounders in defence. Rayson may also roll up to a wing, while O’Loughlin can play forward or impact in midfield at 171cm.

WA has some dangerous small forwards to watch, headlined by Fremantle NGA prospect Jesse Motlop. Along with Claremont’s Jahmal Stretch and East Fremantle’s Kaden Harbour, there is some serious skill, speed and smarts at the feet of WA’s talls. Down back, Swan Districts defender Bryce Watson has impressed of late, while Finn Gorringe would provide some physicality to go with the class of fellow Sharks, Jed Hagan and Judd McVee.

Whichever set of smalls can better capitalise on the work of their talls will contribute greatly to opening the game up and releasing a bit of pressure off the bigmen. With such a focus on the talls and midfielders, these are the types who may pop up in important moments or have an impact after flying under the radar.

Featured Image: Western Australia’s Matthew Johnson (left) and South Australia’s Jason Horne-Francis in AFL Academy colours | Credit: Michael Klein/Herald Sun

2021 AFL Draft Combine list released

THE list of 2021 AFL Draft Combine invitees was released on Monday, with 90 of the country’s brightest prospects selected to show their athletic wares next month. The list will be extended to 120, with 60 of that total allotment set to attend the National Combine on September 29-30 at Marvel Stadium. The remaining 60 invitees will participate in state-based testing days held around Australia.

>> Top 25: August Power Rankings update

Among the initial 90 invitees is an even spread of talent from each National Championships region. With Victoria supplying around half of the usual draft intake each year, 41 of the state’s best prospects (19 country, 22 metro) earned invites. 11 of the 13 included Allies squad members also turned out at NAB League level, giving the competition strong representation.

The West and South Australian crops look strong as ever, with both states producing 18 players to the initial intake. Among them is pick one candidate Jason Horne-Francis, who features alongside South Adelaide teammates and fellow first round fancies, Arlo Draper and Matthew Roberts. Subiaco pair Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson lead the WA contingent, along with a raft of key position options.

>> Indicative draft order: Who’s in the top 10 mix?

There aren’t too many surprises among the allotted crew, with only one player chosen outside of the Under 19 realm and 87 of the chosen 90 born in 2003. 20-year-old Central District key defender Leek Alleer is the lone ‘mature’ ager, while Eastern Ranges’ Corey Preston and Giants Academy member Harrison Grintell are the only 19th-year players in the mix.

For the most part, players have been selected directly from the representative squads put together ahead of this year’s National Championships, which continue to be postponed. Tasmanian Will Splann is one who came from outside the Allies squad, while Northern Knights pair Anthony Caminiti (tall forward) and Ned Long (midfielder) did not feature for Vic Metro after trials – though, the latter was injured.

Nick Daicos is a pick one contender

Nineteen players are club-tied, split between father-sons, Northern Academy products, and Next Generation Academy (NGA) hopefuls. Oakleigh Chargers teammates Nick Daicos (Collingwood) and Sam Darcy (Western Bulldogs) are father-son candidates who could yield bids within the top two picks, while Jase Burgoyne (Port Adelaide) will likely end up at Alberton outside of the first round.

Giants Academy standout Josh Fahey headlines the Northern Academy input, along with fellow AFL Academy member Austin Harris (Gold Coast). Top 10 candidate Mac Andrew looks set to be the sole NGA product taken before pick 20, but there is plenty of talent clubs will have exclusive access to.

Among them is rising St Kilda-tied pair Mitchito Owens and Marcus Windhager, who impressed enough to earn Vic Metro selection. Over in WA, ruck/forward Eric Benning (Fremantle) and athletic utility Ethan Regan (West Coast) have risen into contention, and the has been conjecture over Jesse Motlop, who also features as a Dockers NGA selection but will only land there past pick 40.

2021 AFL DRAFT COMBINE LIST

NSW-ACT:

Angus Anderson – Sydney Swans Academy
Ryan Eyers – Murray Bushrangers
Josh Fahey – GWS Academy
Harrison Grintell – GWS Academy
Patrick Voss – Oakleigh Chargers/GWS Academy

Northern Territory:

Andy Moniz-Wakefield – NT Thunder
Ned Stevens – NT Thunder/Gold Coast Academy

Queensland:

Will Bella – Gold Coast Academy
Austin Harris – Gold Coast Academy
Bodhi Uwland – Gold Coast Academy

South Australia:

Leek Alleer – Central District
Cooper Beecken – Glenelg
Isaac Birt – South Adelaide
Jase Burgoyne – Woodville-West Torrens
Lukas Cooke – Woodville-West Torrens
Arlo Draper – South Adelaide
Morgan Ferres – Sturt
Jason Horne-Francis – South Adelaide
Hugh Jackson – North Adelaide
Shay Linke – Central District
Cooper Murley – Norwood
Blayne O’Loughlin – North Adelaide
Lewis Rayson – Glenelg
Matthew Roberts – South Adelaide
Hugh Stagg – Glenelg
Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera – Glenelg
Luca Whitelum – Central District
James Willis – North Adelaide

Tasmania:

Sam Banks – Clarence
Baker Smith – Clarence
Will Splann – North Hobart

Vic Country:

Mac Andrew – Dandenong Stingrays
Jamieson Ballantyne – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Miller Bergman – Dandenong Stingrays
Tom Brown – Murray Bushrangers
Sam Butler – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Campbell Chesser – Sandringham Dragons
Judson Clarke – Dandenong Stingrays
Toby Conway – Geelong Falcons
Josh Gibcus – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Cooper Hamilton – Bendigo Pioneers
Ben Hobbs – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Mitch Knevitt – Geelong Falcons
Kai Lohmann – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Connor Macdonald – Dandenong Stingrays
Charlie Molan – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Josh Rachele – Murray Bushrangers
Josh Rentsch – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Jai Serong – Gippsland Power
Hamish Sinnott – Greater Western Victoria Rebels

Vic Metro:

Finn Callaghan – Sandringham Dragons
Anthony Caminiti – Northern Knights
Paul Curtis – Western Jets
Nick Daicos – Oakleigh Chargers
Sam Darcy – Oakleigh Chargers
Youseph Dib – Oakleigh Chargers
Josh Goater – Calder Cannons
Blake Howes – Sandringham Dragons
Tyreece Leiu – Eastern Ranges
Ned Long – Northern Knights
Mitchito Owens – Sandringham Dragons
Corey Preston – Eastern Ranges
Lachlan Rankin – Oakleigh Chargers
Josh Sinn – Sandringham Dragons
Jake Soligo – Eastern Ranges
Tyler Sonsie – Eastern Ranges
Zac Taylor – Calder Cannons
Dante Visentini – Sandringham Dragons
Josh Ward – Northern Knights
Darcy Wilmot – Northern Knights
Marcus Windhager – Sandringham Dragons
Karl Worner – Oakleigh Chargers

Western Australia:

Jye Amiss – East Perth
Rhett Bazzo – Swan Districts
Eric Benning – Claremont
Josh Browne – East Fremantle
Kade Dittmar – East Perth
Neil Erasmus – Subiaco
Brady Hough – Peel Thunder
Matthew Johnson – Subiaco
Jesse Motlop – South Fremantle
Lochlan Paton – West Perth
Ethan Regan – East Perth
Angus Sheldrick – Claremont
Jahmal Stretch – Claremont
James Tunstill – East Perth
Jacob van Rooyen – Claremont
Corey Warner – East Fremantle
Bryce Watson – Swan Districts
Jack Williams – East Fremantle

Scouting Notes: SANFL U18s – Round 16

THE 2021 SANFL Under 18s season continued over the weekend, with the latest round of action producing plenty more excellent performances from budding AFL Draft prospects. In the next SANFL Scouting Notes edition, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 17 and 19 representative squad member and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

STURT 2.5 (17) def. by WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS 21.17 (143)

By: Michael Alvaro

Sturt:

#12 Jamie Taylor

Taylor was Sturt’s most prolific ball winner with 25 disposals and nine clearances on what was a tough day for his side. He rotated forward through midfield but was also sighted dropping back a heap during the second half to try and help the Double Blues shift out of their defensive half. Taylor also worked to bustle through congestion and provide some intent in his tackling, while also getting around his teammates among what was an undermanned Sturt outfit.

#28 George Pope

A bright spot for Sturt in 2021 has been the emergence of 16-year-old Pope in midfield, and the 2005-born prospect again got his hands dirty on Saturday. He proved powerful with both his burst of speed and tackling pressure around the ball, putting in repeat efforts to help steady against the Eagles’ dominance. While there is work to do on his kicking, Pope got good purchase on a few long balls and was certainly willing to find it himself. He finished with 19 disposals, six tackles and three clearances.

Others:

Kade Harvey rolled up into midfield and again found a good amount of ball, finishing with 19 disposals and seven clearances for the Double Blues. Ethan Field was another to feature in the engine room and notched 12 touches after a promising start, while the likes of Mitch Felton, Lachlan Boscence, and Thomas McCourt all had plenty to do in a besieged defence.

Woodville-West Torrens:

#8 Brock Thomson

Rotating through midfield from defence, Thomson was again solid for the Eagles with his ability to drive his side forward. He had no trouble finding the ball having contributed 24 disposals and seven marks, with his work overhead quite sound. It complimented his burst across the ground and punchy kicking, which helped keep Woodville-West Torrens flowing in possession.

#9 Jase Burgoyne

The Port Adelaide father-son prospect has been nothing short of prolific at Under 18s level and that was no different on Saturday, as he amassed a game-high 40 disposals, nine marks, and nine clearances. He often found a way to claim the first centre break of each term; handling the ball cleanly either off taps, at ground level, or via a handball receive before, using the afforded time and space to deliver an effective kick inside 50. Burgoyne does the fundamentals well in terms of skill execution and while many of the options he chose were short and safe, he still hardly wasted a touch. He has also shown a good knack for taking overhead marks and registered three contested on the day, gaining the confidence to protect his space or leap at the ball. He dropped back plenty during the second half and accumulated at will, looking quite casual in his work.

#14 Blake Hansen

Hansen was another who had plenty of the pill with 34 disposals, nine marks and seven inside 50s, playing the wing role to a t. The dashing bottom-ager hit the scoreboard early with a nice checkside finish under heavy pressure, but put multiple other chances wide on the fly having pushed forward aggressively. Still, his ability to work hard both ways and find space to drive forward into allowed for ruthlessly quick Eagles transitions. Having previously done so off half-back, Hansen looks well suited to the wing position where his attacking instincts take toll.

#17 Mattaes Phillipou

It was a massive day out for Phillipou, who racked up 32 disposals and snared 6.2 in a rather fruitful outing. The developing bottom-ager set the game up in term one, creating separation on the lead and showing good ground level smarts to snare three of his majors from 11 touches. His clean hands both in the air and below his knees made for a dual threat in attack, before shifting into the midfield mix and remaining involved. Phillipou booted a goal in each of the following three quarters, with two coming from set shots and one from a quick snap closer to goal. He’s one to watch closely for 2022.

Others:

The Eagles were dominant around the ball, with thanks to the likes of Will Neumann, Sam Nicholls and Dustin Launer. Big man Jordan Lukac also took on the primary ruck duties and brought even more physicality to the engine room, before resting forward. Will Pearce again snared a trio of late goals to finish with five for the day, while Michael Papanotis claimed three. Elsewhere, Brody Mair provided a bit of dash out of defence and Jay Watson snuck forward well off a wing.

CENTRAL DISTRICT 6.3 (39) def. by GLENELG 18.15 (123)

By: Michael Alvaro

Central District:

#14 Thomas Clements

Charged with plenty of responsibility in defence, Clements had his work cut out for him on Saturday but stood up well to amass a game-high 43 disposals, 10 marks, and 11 rebound 50s. He took on the kick-in duties and was Centrals’ general in defensive 50, where he found plenty of the ball and looked to set his side on the rebound. He had to fight hard to turn the ball over and keep the Bulldogs in possession as Glenelg piled on the pressure all day.

#17 Tahjin Krieg

The nippy Centrals midfielder had another productive outing on Saturday, notching 23 disposals, six marks and seven tackles. Most of his best work was done around the ground as Glenelg took over at the coalface, with Krieg showing good work-rate to drop back and help his side drive forward. He had a few eye-catching running passages, including one three-bounce foray to the wing, often finishing his work with a sharp left-foot kick.

#38 Brodie Tuck

Tuck was again outstanding for Centrals, rotating through the ruck from his usual forward post. While he only registered two marks, they respectively showed the bottom-ager’s terrific judgement of the ball in flight and ability to hold his ground in a wrestle. His clean hands were also observed in general play, as Tuck was able to snatch the bumbling ball with one grab and pump his side into attack. He booted booted three goals, with two slotted from around the 50m arc and the other a handy checkside finish after mopping up his own marking attempt.

Others:

The likes of Jake Grubb and Nash Haynes were others who also had plenty to do in defence alongside Clements, while Henry Ratcliff proved productive on the ball with his 21 touches, nine marks, and goal. Starting ruck Saxon Evans also returned to the grade after a Reserves dig, winning 19 hit-outs and three clearances.

Glenelg:

#5 Hugh Stagg

It was another high-output game for Stagg, as the powerful midfielder registered a team-high 36 disposals, eight clearances, and 1.3 rotating forward from the engine room. He looked ominous when breaking forward and showcased terrific smarts in the clinches, able to rip the ball free and then burst into space. Stagg was dangerous when resting forward too, with his lone goal an outstanding but of one-on-one play where he sped past his opponent to win a loose ball inside 50 and slot the it home. He steadied well in front of goal but put multiple opportunities wide, which would have capped a massive game.

#17 Corey Brougham

Brougham was just about unbeatable in the air on Saturday, claiming 11 marks (three contested) among his 21 disposals. He presented strongly and read the ball better than anyone in flight, before taking it cleanly with one-grab clunks. Brougham also capped his work with four goals and could have had even more if not for a couple of errant set shots. His highlight for the day came in term four, marking at half-forward before taking two bounces and coolly slotting a terrific goal on the run.

#21 Cooper Beecken

The promising 18-year-old continues to show nice glimpses out on the wing, and worked into the contest strongly to finish with 21 disposals, six marks, and three goals. He was generally clean and quick with his skills, helping move the ball fluently without fuss while making an impact on the scoreboard that we haven’t yet seen from him. All three of Beecken’s majors came in the second half, with two snared in term three on the back of pure smarts and those quick skills of his.

#36 Darcy Porter

Starting brightly with the game’s first goal, Porter was always in the contest for Glenelg and finished with impressive numbers of 29 disposals, eight marks, and two goals. He took the game on with his speed and willingness to move the ball on quickly, helping the Bays launch into attack. He rotated through midfield but also worked hard while stationed forward to move up the ground and hurt Centrals on the way back. His positive carry and intent made for some swift ball movement in yellow and black.

Others:

There were plenty of solid contributors for Glenelg in what was a big win. William Watts and Darcy Gluyas were both productive through midfield, while Benjamin Ridgway got busy with a couple of goals up forward. Jack Harding came away with four majors, and Hunter Window also pitched in with some nice moments out on the wing.

North Adelaide 6.9 (45) def. by South Adelaide 18.10 (118)

By: Tom Wyman

North Adelaide:

#12 Hugh Jackson

It was a quiet start to the game for Hugh Jackson, with the clean-kicking onballer struggling to get his hands on the ball. And when he did manage to gather the ball, he seemed to be under immediate pressure from the South Adelaide midfield, who were clearly weary of his ability to inflict damage with his precise ball-use. Denied space to use his damaging left-foot, Jackson resorted to handballing, where he displayed good vision and decision making. Although down on his output from early in the season, Jackson was still one of North’s best, winning 21 disposals along with three marks, four tackles and four clearances.

#22 Blayne O’Loughlin

Blayne O’Loughlin was at his prolific best for the Roosters, despite their hefty loss. Across half-back he was involved immediately, swooping upon the loose-balls and doing lots of cleaning up in defence. His calm head under pressure matched his skill execution and willingness to involve himself in some attacking plays forward of centre. He provided some excellent overlap run and pushed forward to boot North’s third goal, but also ensured he hurried back to defence when South Adelaide looked to attack. The Crows NGA prospect fought to the bitter end and complimented his composure and skill with toughness one-on-one. He finished with a game-high 35 disposals and nine rebound 50s.

#26 Kelsey Rypstra

Kelsey Rypstra played an important role for the home side. Stationed at half-forward and rotating through the midfield, he injected some speed around the contest and, importantly, made the most of his opportunities in front of goal. He intelligently soccered home the Roosters first of the day, then read the play to perfection to take an intercept mark inside 50 and slot the subsequent set shot. The only Rooster who looked dangerous with ball-in-hand at times, Rypstra would go on to boot another two goals and finish the day with a bag of four. He also gathered 15 disposals and five marks.

Others: Utility Adam Heath played well in a variety of roles, but was particularly noteworthy when pushed into the midfield, where he won a team-high six clearances. His bigger frame ensured Heath won plenty of contested ball, which he complimented with sound ball-use going inside 50. Harvey Harrison showed glimpses of his talents in the midfield, with his speed and run and carry providing a point of difference. He gathered 20 disposals, three marks and five tackles. Angus Tully produced his best game of the season, gathering a season-high 23 disposals, five marks and four rebounds. Lewis Saint’s efforts were also commendable, finishing with 18 disposals, seven marks and six tackles down back.

South Adelaide:

#3 Luke Mitton

Clever midfielder Luke Mitton backed up his best-on-ground effort last weekend with another strong showing against North Adelaide at Prospect Oval. Busy from the get-go, his nimble foot work proved effective in the trenches and his speed was a staple throughout the contest. Despite doing most of his work on the inside, Mitton used the ball efficiently. His pressure around the ball-carrier was important, as was his two-way running and balance of defence and attack. Mitton finished with 24 disposals, five marks, three tackles, five clearances and four rebounds.

#4 Jack Delean

After dazzling in South Adelaide’s big win over Central Districts last week, Jack Delean backed it up with another sensational showing. Despite being a couple of years away from draft eligibility, Delean has lit up the SANFL Under 18s competition this season, booting a goal in every match since debuting in Round 5. The small forward showed the Roosters defence just how dangerous he can be in attack when he exploded through a forward 50 stoppage and ran into an open goal not once but twice in the first term. Delean made his direct opponent look hopeless when he accelerated into back-to-back open goals, using his natural smarts and elusiveness to damaging effect. He continued to threaten as the game wore on, flying for marks and booting a couple of set-shots to finish with five goals, 12 disposals and five tackles.

#8 Cooper Rogers

Cooper Rogers is one of several South Adelaide midfielders to have produced consistent seasons to-date, and his efforts in the Panthers 73-point win over the Roosters was one of his best. His confidence received a boost early on when the balanced midfielder’s left-foot snap trickled through for a major. With North possessing some dangerous ball-users through the middle, the relentless and often-fierce tackling pressure applied by Rogers went a long way to restricting their impact. Playing a very physical game, Rogers spent time on Rooster Hugh Jackson at stoppages and nullified his influence to perfection. South Adelaide’s leading possession-winner, Rogers was dominant at stoppages, finishing with a game-high 11 clearances to go with 29 touches, four marks, seven tackles and 10 inside 50s.

#10 Isaac Birt

Wingman Isaac Birt had a decent day out at Prospect. One of South Australia’s best outside midfielders, Birt was often targeted by teammates when looking to turn defence into attack. He provided some meaningful run and drive on the periphery, particularly from the half-back line. His kicking was sharp and bullet-like at times, however Birt’s skills at full speed occasionally let him down. He finished with 25 disposals, seven marks and seven inside-50s.

#39 Will Verrall

Bottom-aged ruckman Will Verrall solidified his standing as one of SA’s brightest young talents with a great performance for the Panthers. Verrall set the tone early, using his strong athletic base to leap into ruck contests and outreach his North Adelaide opponent. He used his body well in the ruck contests but it was his work once the ball hit the deck and around the ground which elevated his game. Verrall worked into some handy positions around the ground, then capitalised on his positioning by taking some great marks down the line. A ruckman who is not generally renowned for his overhead work, it was encouraging to see Verrall haul in a couple of strong grabs. The icing on the cake came when Verrall snapped truly out of a forward-50 stoppage in the third term. He showed great strength and bustle to burst through a couple of stoppages, to further highlight his ground-level impact. Verrall finished with 20 disposals, four marks (three contested), 18 hit-outs, seven clearances and five inside-50s.

Others: Skipper Dylan Brown led from the front for the Panthers, laying six tackles. One of the best pressure players in the SANFL Under 18s competition, Brown also gathered 13 disposals and five marks and seven inside-50s playing on the wing. Busy half-back Lachlan Hayes played a typical game in which he read the play very well in defence, finishing with 25 disposals and nine rebounds. Bottom-aged centre half-forward Koby Cockshell was impressive for the visitors, booting two goals from 18 disposals.

WEST ADELAIDE 12.16 (88) def. NORWOOD 12.7 (79)

By: Tom Wyman

West Adelaide:

#3 Charlie Pridham

It was a stereotypical Pridham performance from the competition’s best small defender. He did as he pleased across the backline, mopping up when necessary, using the ball effectively and turning defence into attack. Although he opted for the safe option on many of his kicks, he executed well and player a key role in the Bloods grinding out a hard-fought victory against the Redlegs. He finished with 26 disposals, eight marks and six rebound 50s.

#10 Cade Kennedy

Cade Kennedy did his draft hopes no harm with a dominant display at Hisense Stadium. The midfielder was everywhere but proved particularly useful in congestion, where his natural, hard-at-it ball-winning tendencies rose to fruition. He was easily the best clearance winner on the ground, but when he didn’t win the ball himself, Kennedy tackled well and denied the Redlegs on-ballers time and space. Although he could have lowered his eyes on a couple of occasions when he probably had more time than he thought, Kennedy’s skills were on full display in a terrific passage of play in the first quarter. It started when he won a free kick and hit up the leading Oscar Steene at half-forward with a precise right-foot kick. He kept on running and received it back before measuring an inside-50 ball to perfection on his left. Throughout the game, he continued to balance defence with attack and did some damage on the outside to compliment his inside grunt work. He finished the game with 34 disposals, six marks, six tackles, ten clearances and 10 inside 50s.

#33 Jesse Thackeray

Jesse Thackeray was again in the thick of it for West Adelaide. His strength in the contest was a highlight when utilised in the midfield, and his presentation and willingness to work hard impressed when he was thrown onto the half-forward flank. He produced a very balanced game, winning plenty of ball on the inside but also doing some damage on the outside, where Thackeray used the ball fairly well. He finished the game with 35 disposals, ten marks, three tackles, seven clearances and four inside 50s.

#45 Oscar Steene

With Norwood’s first choice ruckman sidelined through suspension, Oscar Steene capitalised on his advantage in the ruck to give the Bloods on-ballers first look. He really looked to impose himself on the contest by punching the ball out of the ruck and clearing the area. However Steene balanced this out with some deft tap-work to set-up the likes of Cade KennedyDylan White and Jesse Thackeray at ground level. He took a couple of strong marks around the ground and should have finished with a goal to go with his 13 disposals, seven marks (two contested), four tackles and 29 hit-outs.

Others: Bloods’ forward Jaeden Watts booted four goals in his sides narrow win. Although he had limited opportunities, gathering just ten disposals, he made them count in-front of the big sticks. Midfielder Dylan White impressed with his gut-running. He worked relentlessly hard up and down the wing to accumulate 16 marks for the match, along with 27 disposals, five inside 50s and a goal. Unfortunately he’ll rue missing a handful of opportunities in front of goal.

Norwood:

#15 Riley Verrall

Stationed across half-back, Riley Verrall produced one of his best performances for the season. He looked to generate run and carry from the defensive-50 and showed a desire to cut open the Bloods defensive structures by foot. Although not all of his kicks inflicted damage, his intent was admirable. He read the play well and took a number of intercept marks. The leading disposal-getter for the Redlegs, Verrall collected 26 touches, ten marks and five rebounds for the match.

#25 Matthew Dnistriansky

Half-backman Matthew Dnistriansky has been Norwood’s most consistent performer throughout the season to-date, and he was again among the clubs best in their nine-point defeat to the Bloods. He was composed and clean with ball in-hand but also pushed forward to boot the first goal of the second term and hand the Redlegs the lead. Dnistriansky was effective between the arcs and finished with 20 disposals and five marks.

Others: Over-aged full-forward Ned Carey snapped the Redlegs first from close range and competed well all game to finish with three goals. Small forward Taj Rahui was again one of Norwood’s best players, showing glimpses of his talents throughout the course of the match. He booted a good running goal in the opening term and gave the Redlegs a glimmer of hope with a late major, finishing with 13 touches. Combative on-baller Corey Jones-Bobridge tried hard, winning four clearances and 19 disposals. He was effective going forward, launching the Redlegs inside-50 on eight occasions.

Picture credit: On The Ball Media