Tag: Isaac Wareham

Squad predictions: 2020 Vic Country Under 18s

THE annual Under 18 National Championships may be the only chance we get to catch a glimpse of the class of 2020 before draft day, with a decision on the recommencement of competition pushed back to at least September. In the meantime, Draft Central takes a look at how each regional squad may line up should the carnival come around, but with a few stipulations in place. Last week we began with our Vic Metro squad predictions and today we take a look at Vic Country’s potential line-up.

GUIDELINES:

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

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

But without further ado, let’s get stuck into the second squad prediction, with Vic Country’s talent broken down line-by-line. An alternate squad with no limitations will also be provided below.

DEFENCE

FB – Clayton Gay (Dandenong), Zach Reid (Gippsland), Cam Fleeton (Geelong)
HB – Nick Stevens (GWV), Ethan Baxter (Murray), Isaac Wareham (GWV)

There is a good mix of styles and talent among this back six, with some height, power, dash, and clean ball use all to come from these potential representatives. Versatile 202cm tall Zach Reid seems a lock for full back, able to also double as ruck aid.

Leadership candidate Cam Fleeton and Dandenong standout Clayton Gay provide sound reading of the play and aerial presence on the last line, while Greater Western Victoria (GWV) pair Nick Stevens and Isaac Wareham are solid options off half-back. 19-year-old Wareham has already donned the Big V at under 18 level, but may earn another chance given injury curtailed his top-age season.

Ethan Baxter is the final member of the defence, a solidly-built Richmond Next Generation Academy (NGA) product who is a touch undersized (192cm) to play as a pure key defender, but makes up for it with strength. He could be utilised elsewhere, but we see him fulfilling a role down back.

MIDFIELD

C – Ryan Angwin (Gippsland), Tanner Bruhn (Geelong), Jack Ginnivan (Bendigo)
FOL – Henry Walsh (Geelong), Sam Berry (Gippsland), Zavier Maher (Murray)

Zavier Maher may be the tallest of the Vic Country mids here at 184cm, but by no means will the chosen crop lack power or ball winning ability. Maher, Sam Berry, and Tanner Bruhn are all terrific at the centre bounces, with Maher and Berry the powerful types, while Bruhn is all class in congestion.

Berry can run all day, too, much like Bendigo’s Jack Ginnivan on the outside. Ginnivan could also find a spot up forward like fellow wingman, Ryan Angwin, but the pair have really come on of late and should have no trouble in making an impact further afield.

Of course, Henry Walsh will likely be the one to provide first use to his midfield fleet as the primary ruck. The brother of Carlton Rising Star, Sam is quite apt at the centre bounces with his 201cm frame and is constantly working on his ground level work.

FORWARD

HF – Noah Gadsby (Geelong), Oliver Henry (Geelong), Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo)
FF – Dominic Bedendo (Murray), Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh), Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong)

This is hardly a forward six blessed with height or overwhelming strength, but that is not to say that it lacks marking power. Much like Baxter in defence, the high-flying Oliver Henry could play above his size as a focal point, though may be better suited to a third tall role. Highly touted Bulldogs NGA prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is unbeatable off the lead at full forward, so is a lock for that spot.

Alongside him may be Dominic Bedendo, a fantastic athletic talent who can compete both in the air and at ground level, while Charlie Lazzaro occupies the other pocket. He is arguably predominantly more a midfielder, but has been adding strings to his bow as a small forward.

On the flanks, his Geelong teammate Noah Gadsby also slots in as a newcomer to the forward line, while raw Bendigo product Seamus Mitchell assumes a role familiar to him on the same line. The largely small make-up of this six is somewhat a product of the guidelines we put in place, as there are a few key position products across each age bracket who could easily add some height and strength to the structure.

INTERCHANGE

INT – Sam Conforti (Bendigo), Will Bravo (Dandenong), Bayleigh Welsh (Dandenong), Blake Kuipers (Dandenong)

Filling out the side are some versatile options, with most of these prospects able to be utilised in many roles. Sam Conforti skippered the Under 16 Country side, and could well slot in as a small forward or wingman in this lineup. Dandenong’s Will Bravo is an exciting player who should also get a run up forward, providing a touch of speed and evasion while also being able to contribute in midfield.

Two more Stingrays cap off the side, with Bayleigh Welsh a midfielder the Dandenong program is high on, while athletic over-age swingman Blake Kuipers could be one to again sneak into the team as key position or ruck depth.

TOP-AGE DEPTH

Given this may be the only chance for draft-eligible top-agers to shine in front of recruiters in 2020, there will be plenty who come onto the radar of AFL clubs. Elijah Hollands and Noah Gribble are two who would have featured in the team, but unfortunately miss out due to long-term knee injuries.

Academy prospect Josh Treacy is a key forward who could well fit into the squad having gained experience for Country at Under 17 level, with fellow tall options Mason Hawkins and Keith Robinson of Gippsland others who can fill that forward/ruck role.

In terms of smalls, classy Geelong co-captain Gennaro Bove may be in the mix, while nippy GWV forward Harry Sharp has also caught the eye alongside another Falcon, Blake Reid. Other options from the Geelong region include Charlie Brauer – another outstanding athlete – and Kyle Skene.

Speaking of athletes, Bendigo is high on elite runner Jack Hickman and could also see the likes of ex-Rebel Jack Tillig or Finn Ellis-Castle push into contention. Dandenong has a couple of products around the mark too, with Deakyn Smith and Jai Neal both likely to be considered.

THE BOTTOM-AGERS

Last year’s Under 16 side may not have produced pure results-based success, but there are a few fantastic prospects who should push into contention. Leading the pack is last year’s carnival MVP Josh Rachele, a damaging midfielder/forward who is incredibly skilled.

Ben Hobbs was his partner-in-crime through midfield and should also get a crack as one of many high-end GWV up-and-comers. Those include Charlie Molan, Josh Rentsch, and Josh Gibcus, with the former two already boasting NAB League experience.

Fleet-footed Sandringham prospect Campbell Chesser was another to impress enough to break into the NAB League, while fellow Under 16 All Australians Toby Conway and Cooper Hamilton are also within the Academy bubble.

Given the focus will even more strictly be placed on draft eligible players, the likes of Ben Green, Connor Macdonald, Tom Brown, Justin Davies and so on will likely have to wait until next year to break into the Under-18 representative side.

There are a number of others outside of the current representative and academy bubbles who could also break through in their own top-age seasons, but it simply remains to be seen.

19-YEAR-OLDS

Possibly the most unlucky over-ager to miss out on our squads is Geelong’s Darcy Chirgwin, who was set to return to his original region after representing Sandringham in his draft year. After injury heavily interrupted his 2019 campaign, he should come into consideration once again.

Geelong teammate Jay Dahlhaus also suffered a long-term injury last year but should be back for more, while Murray prospect Sam Durham has shown a good rate of improvement as a latecomer to the code. Jai Newcombe is somewhat of a bolter having only now made the final cut at Gippsland, and could provide that inside presence with Chirgwin given he is yet to capture centre stage.

The two 19-year-olds we chose for both squads, Kuipers and Wareham, come into the category of players with great upside. Kuipers’ height and athleticism make him a handy option to fill gaps up either end or in the ruck, and his phenomenal testing performance puts him in good stead. Wareham is a solid athlete who will more so be looking for consistency after his top-age campaign last year.

With these additional top, bottom, and over-age prospects in mind, below is our potential best Vic Country squad without any provisions.

FB – Clayton Gay, Zach Reid, Cameron Fleeton
HB – Nick Stevens, Blake Kuipers, Ethan Baxter
C – Ryan Angwin, Tanner Bruhn, Jack Ginnivan
HF – Noah Gadsby, Oliver Henry, Seamus Mitchell
FF – Charlie Lazzaro, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Josh Rachele
FOL – Henry Walsh, Sam Berry, Zavier Maher
INT
– Will Bravo, Dominic Bedendo, Ben Hobbs, Isaac Wareham

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 6 – Academies bow out, Stingrays go top

FANS, recruiters, and pundits alike were treated to another eight games in Round 6 of the 2019 NAB League, with the early-May weekend serving as the last for each of the five Northern Academies’ cameos. Reigning premier Dandenong broke clear as the sole undefeated side left, while Gold Coast was crowned the Academy Series victor via percentage after Sydney lost its only game for the season. A thrilling finals preview also went down as Gippsland and Eastern battled it out, with the Power getting the better of the eventual premiers on home turf.

The round kicked off in North Hobart, with Tasmania playing host to the heavily-depleted Oakleigh Chargers on Saturday morning. It was the visitors who managed to scrape home in a nail-biting, low-scoring slog by the slimmest of margins, overcoming a half-time deficit to keep the Devils at bay. Winning skipper Trent Bianco, the only national draftee afield dominated with 42 disposals as he stepped-up in the absence of some key personnel.

Fellow top-ager Josh May was also influential with 28 touches, while bottom-aged midfielder Fraser Elliot had it 23 times, and Thomas Lovell put in his best shift for the season with four majors. For the Devils, Harrison Ireland was named best for his work as an undersized ruck, with bottom-age gun Oliver Davis getting to work at ground level with a team-high 21 touches, and fellow Allies Hub member Sam Collins not far behind on 18.

The GWS Academy and Murray Bushrangers went to battle on the New South Wales-Victorian border at midday, with the GIANTS coming away with their second win from five attempts. It was a well drawn out win for the ‘away’ side in its home state, leading at every break but being made to earn the 11-point victory. In another game headlined by the dominance of a future draftee, Tom Green amassed 37 touches for the GIANTS in a mammoth performance.

Over-agers Jeromy Lucas (33 disposals) and Ed Perryman (31) were not far behind, while Harry Grant put in a big shift for 3.2 from his 23 touches, and 2020 19-year-old hopefuls Matt McGrory and Liam Delahunty also got busy. Green’s current GIANTS teammate Lachlan Ash collected 27 touches and booted a goal as Murray’s skipper, aided by Dylan Clarke and Cam Wild who matched his ball-winning output. Jimmy Boyer also impressed with three goals from over 20 disposals, while former GWS Academy member Charlie Byrne had 20 touches exactly.

Saturday’s final fixture took the competition back down to Victoria, as Calder and Bendigo met at Highgate Reserve. It was the Cannons’ day in another low-scoring affair, leading relatively comfortably at every break to eek out a 16-point win over the Pioneers on home turf. The leading Calder draft candidate to that point, Daniel Mott led the way with 36 disposals and a goal in a game which featured just two eventual draftees.

Jacob Martin enjoyed a breakout performance, racking up 36 touches of his own alongside Mott, while skipper Brodie Newman had 21 from defence and Carlton recruit Sam Ramsay had 16 on the same line. James Schischka was Bendigo’s leading ball winner with 20 disposals, with Sydney draftee Brady Rowles collecting his season-high haul of 17 in tricky conditions.

Heading up north to South Pine in the Sunshine State, Gold Coast took out the overall Academy Series with a well-earned 14-point victory over the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. The visitors pushed the talented academy prospects all the way despite trailing for the game’s entirety, with captain and SUNS AFL rookie Connor Budarick capping off a stellar month with another terrific performance.

His 23 disposals led all comers, with the exciting Hewago Paul Oea managing 19 and two goals, while Ashton Crossley provided good fold in midfield with 19 touches. Bottom-ager Max Pescud booted a game-high four majors, matched by Rebels’ Nick Caris in his second consecutive four-goal game. 2020 over-age hopeful Isaac Wareham notched two goals of his own, with fellow Vic Country representative Mitch Martin also impressing, but Jay Rantall kept quiet at just 14 disposals.

Completing the South Pine double-header were the Brisbane Lions Academy and Dandenong Stingrays, with the visitors claiming a resounding 71-point win on their travels up north. After a low-scoring first half, the Stingrays clicked into gear after the main break with 10 goals to one to comfortably ensure they would remain undefeated and atop the NAB League ladder.

Brisbane skipper Will Martyn stood tall in the defeat with a typically professional 32-disposal performance, with fellow Richmond draftee Noah Cumberland (26 disposals) also returning a good shift. 19-year-old Tom Matthews matched Cumberland’s effort, with bottom-agers Will Tasker and Tahj Abberley also impressing. For Dandenong, new Bulldog Cody Weightman bagged three goals, while fellow draftees Hayden Young (28 disposals), Sam De Koning (17, seven marks) Ned Cahill (21, 1 goal) strutted their stuff. Bottom-ager Clayton Gay was another to catch the eye, booting two goals from 21 touches.

A touch earlier and back in Victoria, the Geelong Falcons proved too good for the previously undefeated Sydney Swans Academy in their clash on neutral territory, upsetting the northern hopefuls with a 31-point win. The home side’s four-goal to one fourth term sealed the final margin, with the contest a touch tighter to that point.

It was the bottom-ager who stole the show in this clash, as Ollie Henry booted four goals for the Falcons alongside Charlie Brauer‘s two, while Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden both managed 22 disposals and a goal each. Geelong captain Jesse Clark was the leading ball winner on the ground with 25 touches, followed closely by Sydney top-ager Sam Thorne (24).

Not much may have been expected of the Gippsland-Eastern clash coming into the season, but it proved to be a belting finals preview as the Power took out the four points in Morwell. The game was tight the whole way through, with the high-quality contest ending in a 10-point triumph to the home side.

As had been the case in previous fixtures, the cream rose to the top as Sam Flanders (25 disposals, two goals), Brock Smith (27 disposals), and Fraser Phillips (20 disposals, three goals) all enjoyed fantastic outings for the winners. The midfield trio of Zak Pretty (28 disposals), Lachlan Stapleton (28), and Mitch Mellis (21) was just as handy for Eastern, while forwards Bailey White and Ben Hickleton notched three goals apiece.

The final game of the round saw a seventh venue used in Ikon Park, as the Northern Knights held off a fast-finishing Northern Territory Thunder Academy. A six-goal third term saw the Knights double their goal tally, and it set up a match-defining margin as they went on to salute to the tune of 38 points. The NT’s campaign would finish winless, but not for a lack of trying and talent.

Josh D’Intinosante and Jackson Davies both had a good amount of ball while also booting two goals each for the winners, while 2020 Vic Metro Hub member Liam McMahon also managed two goals from his 15 disposals and eight marks. Ben Jungfer was the Thunder’s leading ball winner with 22 touches, but it was Malcolm Rosas Jnr who shone with 21 and two goals, while Joel Jeffrey found the ball 21 times, Beau O’Connell 19, and Brodie Lake 16.

Classic Contests: Rantall and the Rebels roll the Thunder

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 7 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Northern Territory (NT) Thunder Academy. In this edition, we wind the clock back just over a year when the two sides met for the first time in a one-sided clash at Windy Hill.

GWV REBELS 3.3 | 10.6 | 13.9 | 17.10 (112)
NT THUNDER 1.2 | 1.5 | 6.8 | 8.9 (57)

2019 NAB League, Round 5
Sunday April 28, 2:00pm
Windy Hill

Draftees in action:

GWV – Jay Rantall
NT – Malcolm Rosas Jnr

A historic fixture was set for Round 5 of the NAB League as GWV and NT readied to do battle for the first time since the Thunder’s reintroduction to the competition on a part-time basis. It would go down on neutral territory, with the Country side playing host at Windy Hill to the further-travelling Territorians.

The Rebels came in sat in 12th on the back of a 1-2 record, but it could have easily been 3-0 with their two losses coming by a combined 13 points – split by a one-point win over Geelong in Round 2. The Thunder Academy had a much tougher time of it at 0-3, with its average losing margin sitting at 54.3 points across the three games despite boasting a load of exciting talent.

Speaking of, either side would lay claim to a single future draftee each, with Collingwood slider Jay Rantall running out for the Rebels in his emergence through midfield, while Gold Coast rookie Malcolm Rosas Jnr would make his first appearance for the season. Current SUNS NT zone hopefuls Joel Jeffrey and Brodie Lake also took the field as bottom-agers, with National Championships representative scattered across both line-ups.

Starting as they wished to continue, the Rebels broke out to a massive 55-point first half lead thanks to a six-goal to nil second term, with goalkickers coming from across the board. It followed their four-goal effort in the opening period of play, working to overwhelm the Thunder and making it difficult to see a turnaround eventuate.

But that did occur to some extent, with the visitors banging through five goals to three in a more spirited third term and finishing the second half with 7.4 – the same amount that the Rebels would manage. While the margin had shot out to as much as 61 points, 55 was the closing deficit for NT as it went down again by around that average mark of 54.

There were nine individual goalkickers for the victors – including six multiples – as Nick Caris led the way with his four majors. 19-year-old Matty Lloyd had a team-high 28 disposals and two goals, followed closely by Rantall’s 27 and two effort. Riley Polkinghorne, Toby Mahony and Cooper Craig-Peters were others to find both the ball and the big sticks, while 2020 over-age hopeful Isaac Wareham had 16 touches, and ruckman Patrick Glanford was named best for his 24 hitouts against good opposition.

Three of NT’s four goalkickers booted multiples, with Tyson Woods again bagging a three-goal haul, while Matthew Cumming managed 2.3 and Nichols Medalist Beau O’Connell produced 2.2 from his game-high 29 touches. Allies representative Ben Jungfer was named the Thunder’s best for his 28 disposals, while Jeffrey also impressed with 24 touches and six marks. Rosas was kept relatively quiet, finding the ball 11 times on the day.

Despite flashes of good form and some individual brilliance, the NT played on to a 0-5 record in its NAB League cameo, finishing last of the Northern Academies. GWV only managed to add another four wins for the season to finish 10th, but were well represented in the Vic Country squad.

Classic Contests: Devils defeat Rebels in Ballarat raid

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 6 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Tasmania Devils. In this edition, we wind back the clock only one year to 2019, when the two sides met for the first time since the Devils’ full-time return to the competition. While only two future draftees were on show, there could be plenty more to follow from the bottom-aged crop which took the field.

GWV REBELS 1.4 | 2.8 | 3.13 | 5.14 (44)
TASMANIA DEVILS 2.1 | 5.5 | 7.13 | 10.16 (76)

NAB League Round 9 | Saturday June 1, 2019
MARS Stadium, 11:00am

Draftees in action:

Tasmania – Mitch O’Neill (West Coast), Matt McGuinness (North Melbourne)
GWV – Nil

Neither GWV or Tasmania had lit up the NAB League come Round 9 last year’s competition, sharing a combined five wins with some unlucky losses thrown in the mix. The Rebels came in on a three-game losing streak at 2-5, and would have their squad depleted by the losses of Vic Country representatives Jay Rantall, Mitch Martin, and Isaac Wareham – although the latter did not run out against Vic Metro on that day. On the other hand, Tasmania had the luxury of being able to select a near-full strength side, boasting the likes of future draftees Mitch O’Neill and Matt McGuinness, as well as four of their five bottom-aged AFL Academy members. Despite their rich vein of talent, the Devils also held a negative record come Round 9 at 3-4, but had their last three games decided by less than a goal. This one was a touch less tense, with the Devils running out 32-point victors.

A tight first term saw just three goals scored between the two sides, with two slammed home by bottom-aged Tasmanian key forward Jackson Callow. The Allies squad member converted his second in the 20th minute of the quarter, giving his side a lead it would not go on to relinquish for the remainder of the game. Another three unanswered goals in the second term, including another to Callow saw the Devils open up a 23-point buffer mid-way through the stanza, with Flynn Atchinson‘s two majors the Rebels’ only form of resistance until the main break. Although the home side managed to create an equal amount of scoring shots (10), it trailed by nearly three goals at half time on the back of a wasteful 2.8.

Having strung together two 1.4 quarters together, the Rebels could only manage to better their effort by a single point in the third term, while Tasmania began to break the shackles with 2.8 of their own as the game got a touch messy despite the clear conditions. The Devils’ wastefulness after Izaac Grant‘s early goal had neutrals feeling they would be made to pay, but the next major on the board went their way via Oliver Burrows-Cheng, with Will Peppin following suit to ensure the Devils would maintain a four-goal lead heading into the final turn. Given the Rebels had only managed three goals to that point, a complete turnaround seemed unlikely. It proved that way despite another early goal through Jamie Quick, as surer kicking was not enough for the Rebels to overcome Tasmania’s three-goal term.

Callow stole the show up forward for Tasmania with 4.2 from 14 disposals and eight marks as one of the few players to score more goals than behinds. Fellow bottom-ager Jye Menzie was the only other Devils’ multiple goalkicker with two, while future draftees McGuinness (25 disposals) and O’Neill (20) also impressed. Oliver Davis was the key Tasmanian figure around the ball with his equal team-high 25 touches, with the likes of Burrows-Cheng (19 disposals, one goal) and Peppin (18 disposals, one goal) having a say going forward from midfield.

For GWV, Riley Polkinghorne put in a massive shift in the absence of some big guns, racking up a monster 39 disposals, seven marks, and six inside 50s to beat all-comers comfortably in the ball winning stakes. Current Bendigo prospect Jack Tillig was the next best with 25 touches, followed by over-ager Matty Lloyd – brother of Sydney’s Jake – who also booted three behinds. Atchinson finished as his side’s lone multiple goalkicker on the back of two first half majors, a good effort in a low-scoring result.

Both sides would finish the year languishing in the bottom half of the table, with GWV’s 6-9 effort putting them half a game outside of the top eight. Meanwhile, Tasmania finished half a game clear of last spot at 4-11, with both teams going down in Wildcard Round. Rantall became the only GWV graduate to be drafted, while McGuinness and O’Neill found homes at North Melbourne and West Coast respectively as rookies.

Wareham enjoying the moment as he eyes second chance

AFTER injury curtailed his year, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Isaac Wareham is hoping to make the most of a second chance after being picked as one of the overagers in the Rebels’ squad. There is still much unknown about the season or drafts, but Wareham is just taking each moment as it comes.

Born on Christmas Eve, had Wareham been born a week later, he would have had his top-age year in 2020. Nonetheless, the talented midfielder was top-age last year, and copped an injury at the worst possible time later in the season after a promising first half of the season and representing Vic Country at the AFL Under 18 Championships. Speaking to Draft Central at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me, Wareham said he was looking forward to having a full season after overcoming injury in his top-age year.

I’ve been with the Geelong VFL at the moment as an overager and they’ve done heaps for me, which has kind of helped me out me through the offseason and hopefully that can get me playing some good footy this year,” he said.

The decision to come back as a 19-year-old talent – even though if Wareham was to be drafted at the end of the year he would still be 18 on draft day – comes down to the individual, his club and interest from AFL recruiters. With an invitation to the State Draft Combine last year, Wareham had his suitors and GWV Rebels Talent Manager Phil Partington believes if it had not been for injury, the slick midfielder would be on an AFL list now.

“Isaac, unfortunately we probably wouldn’t be talking about him now if he played the last six games of the year without injury, he missed the last half of the year after the national championships,” Partington said. “He’s born on 24/12 so he’s a very young boy still and only a week from being a NAB League player officially as an 18-year-old this year.”

It was Partington’s support that helped Wareham make the decision to return to the Ballarat-based club for another year, while being listed on Geelong’s VFL list.

I think any chance you get at playing high level footy like NAB League, you’re going to take it,” Wareham said. “Parto’s (Partington) been rooting for me for the whole time. “He urged me to go for the 19-year-old (year) and I got it and yeah like I said before, Geelong have been really good with it and have allowed me to do both which is good.”

Growing up in the talent fertile region of the Hampden League playing for Terang Mortlake, Wareham said the style of play might have changed going through the elite pathway, but the simple messages from coaches was the same.

Yeah obviously it’s a little bit different to other areas,” he said. “It’s more country footy so it’s maybe takes a little to get used to this high skill, NAB League. “But I think coaches growing up always gave us the same tips and same pointers that the coaches nowadays are so I think they do really well.”

Not everyone gets a chance at pulling on the ‘Big V’, but that is exactly what Wareham did last season, and the lightly built midfielder said it was enjoyable throughout and despite the end result, was something he would never forget.

I think that was one of the funnest times of football I’ve had,” Wareham said. “I think the team atmosphere we had and the culture we built was pretty special. “It was just so fun to play in. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but everyone tried really hard and that’s what we wanted.”

One piece of play that would become synonymous with Hayden Young in the lead-up to the AFL Draft was a remarkable 50-metre plus kick to hit a target running in space on a 45 degree angle – but Young spotted that player. The player was Wareham who admitted some of the Vic Country kids reminded him of featuring on that highlight reel moment by being the recipient.

I think I’ve been doing that my whole career, but it’s just like Hayden’s one of those blokes who can pull it off pretty easily so yeah I’m just grateful to play among those people like Caleb Serong, Hayden Young who are just so elite.”

Wareham rates his strengths as his running ability to break the lines and use the ball well by hand or foot. Despite being a slick user of the ball, the midfielder said he has improved that aspect of his game even further over the preseason. It was one of a number of areas Wareham has improved since last season and will look to continue to improve throughout 2020.

I think I’ve improved my kicking over the preseason and hopefully I can showcase that in a game,” Wareham said. “Coming in as a skinny 70kg kid, just trying to build my strength up and a bit of weight around the hips. “Trying to get more of that contested ball.

While the COVID-19 global pandemic has rocked the sporting world, as soon as Wareham and his teammates can get back on the field, you can be sure he will just take the moment for what it is and enjoy it.

I think it’s just really enjoying my footy,” he said. “I probably got in a mood towards the start of last year when I got a few injuries where I wasn’t enjoying it as much but coming in as a 19-year-old I really enjoy it a lot more. “I’m just a bit more relaxed and just enjoying the experience.”

Classic Contests: Rebels come from behind to down Falcons in one-point thriller

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 2 clashes in the NAB League this year between Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Geelong Falcons. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019, when the sides took to the field at MARS Stadium and had a number of exciting prospects make it an even contest.

GWV REBELS 1.3 | 3.8 | 5.10 | 8.16 (64)
GEELONG FALCONS 2.2 | 4.3 | 9.6 | 9.9 (63)

Round 2 | Sunday, March 31, 2019
MARS Stadium, 1pm

In recent years, Geelong Falcons have had the wood over GWV Rebels, particularly when at full strength, but given the game was at MARS Stadium and the teams were considered pretty even, many attending the game hoped it would live up to expectations. The first half certainly suggested that might be the case and the two eventual top-age draftees in Cooper Stephens and Jay Rantall showed just why they were so highly rated with some terrific performances. For Rantall it was just his second game, while for Stephens it would be his last full game before breaking his leg a week later.

After the Rebels missed a few chances in the first term, Geelong’s Chas Karpala was the first on the board for the match, handing his side an early four-point advantage 14 minutes into the contest. Isaac Wareham quickly responded for the Rebels to get the home side started, before Harry Stubbings again handed his side the lead in the last few minutes for the visitors to head into half-time with a narrow five-point advantage. Inaccuracy was troubling the Rebels with both side booting two goals in the second term, but the Rebels also booting five behinds in the blustery conditions. Rantall broke the ice in the seventh minute mark for the fifth lead change of the match, but Mitchell Langan again found a response for the Falcons, booting back-to-back goals to open up the largest lead of the game – nine points. A late major to James Cleaver who was being tested forward after playing as a defender in his top-age year brought the Rebels to within a point at the main break.

The Falcons put the foot down after half-time thanks to the likes of Stephens, Charlie Lazzaro and Keidan Rayner, whilst Charlie Sprague was having an influence further up the ground in midfield. Max Annandale, Karpala and Jay Dahlhaus – cousin of Luke – all had majors within 10 minutes of time in the third term and opened up a very comfortable 27-point lead. Darcy McEldrew went forward and kicked a crucial major, which was followed up by a goal to clever forward, Izaac Grant before Stephens steadied his side to push the margin back out to 20 at the end of the third term. Little did Falcons fans know, this would be the last major of the game as the Rebels clicked into gear in the final term – not without further inaccuracy – to boot 3.6 to 0.3 and run over the top of Geelong.

Four consecutive behinds for the Rebels in the opening seven minutes threatened to derail the comeback for the home side, before Cleaver’s second released the pressure valve a couple of minutes later. When Mitch Martin kicked truly five minutes later, the margin was less than a kick and it was well and truly game on. Sprague missed a chance midway through the term for the Falcons, as did the Rebels before McEldrew became the saviour in the dying minutes. He converted a goal with a couple of minutes left on the clock to hand his side the lead. A late behind to Charlie Harris brought the margin back to one with 15 seconds on the clock, but the Rebels were able to hold on for a memorable win.

Rantall finished the game as the clear best on ground, racking up 24 touches (15 contested), three marks, six tackles, six clearances, seven inside 50s, four rebounds and a goal in what showed off his elite endurance and burst speed. Fellow Vic Country member, Liam Herbert had 20 disposals, two marks, five tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds, while Cooper Craig-Peters (19 disposals (17 contested), eight tackles, six clearances, five inside 50s and three rebounds, and Cleaver (17 disposals – 13 contested – two tackles, three inside 50s and two goals) thrived in the less-than-ideal conditions. Riley Polkinghorne worked hard from defence with seven rebounds to go with 15 touches, while Toby Mahony (12 disposals, four clearances), Harry Sharp (15 disposals, four inside 50s and four rebounds) and Connor Hinkley (16 disposals, three marks and three rebounds) all impressed for the Rebels.

Stephens was the standout for the Falcons in midfield alongside Lazzaro, with the pair combining for 54 disposals, seven tackles, nine clearances, five inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal. Rayner racked up 10 rebounds from 25 touches and three inside 50s, while Sprague was equally influential at half-forward thanks to 23 touches and seven inside 50s. Noah Gribble (21 disposals, three marks and five inside 50s) was prominent, while Stephens’ fellow AFL Academy top-age teammate Jesse Clark racked up nine rebounds and 16 disposals,

Neither side would go on to have great seasons, with the Falcons winning just three games and drawing another from 16 outings to finish in the bottom of the table with a heavy Wildcard Round loss to Sandringham Dragons, while GWV Rebels also bowed out at the Wildcard Round stage following a defeat to Western Jets at Box Hill after winning six games throughout the season.

2020 NAB League Boys team preview: GWV Rebels

THE Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels are set to bring a bottom-age heavy list into the 2020 NAB League season, with some fast-developing top-agers and 19-year-olds also in the fold. Talent Manager Phil Partington said his club is “buoyant” about their prospects in the new year despite the current air of uncertainty, with a strong pre-season for all age groups putting the Ballarat-based program in good stead.

“We’ve been really pleased with the way our boys have gone throughout the pre-season,” Partington said. “Certainly our coaches have been really focussing on the fundamentals of the game, the skill development of the game which we’ve seen a marked improvement on in our skillset with the boys. “We’ve performed well over the pre-season trial games and into the practice games so we’re buoyant about how we’ll go this year. “We’ve got a very bottom-age group; we’ve got 50 boys in the squad so basically 18 top-agers this year, four 19-year-olds, and I think it’s 28 bottom-agers, so our bottom-aged boys are really talented across the whole region and we’re looking forward to seeing how they develop throughout the year.”

The Rebels had an impressive nine products turn out at the Under-16 National Championships last year, with a bunch of them injected into the NAB League squad post-carnival to good effect. Among them was Josh Rentsch, a developing tall who, along with Queenslander, Jye Lockett is set to have an impact on the GWV team this season.

“We had eight (16-year-old) players play Vic Country last year and one for Queensland and those boys are ready to go,” Partington said. “Those boys presented themselves really well last year as 16-year-olds in the games they did play so we’re looking forward to seeing how they go. “Young Josh Rentsch is now at boarding school in Ballarat so we’re really pleased to have Josh semi-full-time in our program. “For a young developing tall to be in our backyard and to have a bit more development that we can do with him is good for his development overall.”

“Jye is Tony Lockett‘s nephew and the family have got a really good connection with the North Ballarat Football Club through Tony’s dad and also Jye’s father, Neil. “They’ve sent him down to boarding school to further his studies and have footy opportunities as well so Jye’s been in the program now for the last two years as a 16-year-old with us and now a 17-year-old. “He’s developing quite well over time with us.”

Lockett is a member of the Gold Coast Suns Academy and will represent Queensland or the Allies if selected. He is one of a few familiar names scattered across the Rebels’ list, but Partington insists each prospect merits their own selection.

“We certainly don’t pick players on names, every player in our squad is deserving of their opportunity through their potential and also their development they’ve had through the pre-season, he said. “We want these boys, and the boys want to make their own name in footy going through. “We’ve got Myles McCluggage and young Sam Butler as well – Sam’s the brother of Daniel Butler. “These boys are performing well, we just need them to continue to develop and we don’t want to put too much external pressure on these boys because they are their own player and they’ve got their own traits in how they play.”

Arguably leading the pack of the Rebels’ draft eligible players is their sole 18-year-old Vic Country Hub member, Nick Stevens, who will look to back up a promising 17th year. Partington said the development of returning top-agers and 19-year-olds has been the most pleasing aspect of the program.

“Our talented players are becoming more developed, and our 19-year-olds are developing further through the Geelong VFL program and our alignment with them,” he said. “Nick’s in the AFL Academy, the Vic Country academy. Harry Sharp‘s an elite runner, Harry’s done a lot of things right as a 17-year-old and certainly developed further as an 18-year-old, combining his athletics and football this year. “So we’ve got some nice developing types for our top-age. “The beauty of our program is because we’ve got some boys from all over Western Victoria, (there are) boys who are travelling 3-4 hours to get to training on Thursday night so we see the development for boys that have missed out last year as 17-year-olds that have gone back and played senior football. “I think we’ve had five players that missed our squad as 17-year-olds last year that’ve come into our squad as 18-year-olds this year… so we’re really buoyant that that’s happened.”

Isaac (Wareham), unfortunately we probably wouldn’t be talking about him now if he played the last six games of the year without injury, he missed the last half of the year after the national championships. “He’s born on 24/12 so he’s a very young boy still and only a week from being a NAB League player officially as an 18-year-old this year. “All our 19-year-olds have got special AFL traits about them, but looking to have a bit more consistency in their games. “A lot of those boys have been disadvantaged as well with where they live – one night a week we only see them, compared to some boys in other areas who are two or three nights a week. “Our boys are underdeveloped (in that sense) and being in a Geelong VFL program full-time, we’ve already seen marked improvement in these boys when they’ve come back and played our trial games and we’ll see when the season starts up again they’ll be further developed once they get into it.”

A prime example of what each of the Rebels’ draft hopefuls should be aspiring towards comes from a 2019 graduate who bolted from a long way back in Jay Rantall. As GWV’s sole draftee last year, Partington said one key off-field trait helped him to harness his full potential at the junior level.

“Character and work ethic, that’s the number one driver for boys to make the AFL and Jay had bucketloads of that,” he said. “He’s very determined and he hadn’t been in some of the pathway programs at all because he had his basketball commitments, so he knew he had to improve on parts of his game and his skill assets and he certainly did that in his own time and during training to get himself better.

The Rebels were set to kick off their 2020 NAB League season against Dandenong Stingrays on home turf, but that clash has been pushed back amid competition postponement.

2019 AFL Draft Preview: West Coast Eagles

WEST Coast heads into 2020 as arguably the most balanced list across the competition, with depth across most positions and adding Tim Kelly to a side that was already a premiership contender signals what they might be capable of next year. However everything comes at a cost and grabbing yet another A-grade midfielder has cost them their seat at the draft for the vast majority, placed in the 2019 AFL Draft with picks 46, 91, 108 and 126 – the worst of any club in the competition. The big plus is them not needing a great deal, with only players to replace other ageing talents as the main goal.

CURRENT PICKS: 46, 91, 108, 126.

NEXT GEN ACADEMY/FATHER-SONS – COMBINE INVITES: Nil.

LIST NEEDS:

Overall depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

Coming in at pick 46, it is difficult to determine who might be there by then, and what the Eagles might look at. They might try and add a mature-age prospect to further strengthen their list and bring an immediate player into the fold. Whether that could be a Cole Gerloff or a Frank Anderson to add something in multiple positions, or if they go taller for key utility Joel Ottavi or key forward Jake Riccardi, it is certainly a pick that could go either way. If the Eagles look to youth, the talls available might be Charlie Comben, Callum Jamieson or Nick Bryan who could fill a long-term role as forward-rucks, or going smaller, if Sam Philp is still there they might pounce, or look locally to the likes of Jake Pasini, Riley Garcia, Chad Warner or Trey Ruscoe to fill a need. If high-flying Mitch Georgiades was still on the board, West Coast would have to consider him as a long-term key forward replacement.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

There is not much the Eagles can do other than trade down to try and bridge the gap between their first and second picks. The Eagles could try and swing a deal with next year’s picks but might struggle given their draft placement, and will more likely head to the draft with one or two picks in the third or fourth rounds, which is the downside of being a strong side that has added more class and talent to its list over the off-season.

REMAINING CROP:

As mentioned, the Eagles could well trade down, but if predicting pick 46 was difficult, then 91 or any others the Eagles use are near on impossible. They will just have to assess which players are left by the time their pick rolls around, but be comfortable in knowing the evenness of the draft in the second half means they could get a fourth round value pick in the seventh round. They will have a chance to snap up some players before the rookie draft which is always a bonus, and may well pick up a slider from a player who due to injury or other circumstances might be floating around. Riley Garcia is a local player who while he should be off the board before then, would be one too hard to ignore, while Isaac Wareham is another who could add a long-term need to the team. Ben Sokol is a readymade forward who has been dominant in the WAFL this season, while a sliding injured tall like Jack Bell could potentially fall in their laps. It is difficult to calculate, but the Eagles will at least be able to find some diamonds in the rough despite the late picks.

*Picture credit: Michael Farnell – Sports Imagery Australia

2019 AFL Draft Preview: St Kilda Saints

AFTER a bumper trade period which saw St Kilda bring in a bunch of talent, the Saints are set for a much more subdued draft night. They will open their draft all the way back in Round 3, with just three selections at their disposal but not a massive amount they would be seeking to improve. They have fulfilled a lot of their needs during that trade period and will now likely be a quiet player in the draft, but could deal with a club such as Essendon who has multiple picks in the 60s but will not use them all.

CURRENT PICKS: 51, 82, 100, 118

NOMINATED ACADEMY/FATHER-SONS: Bigoa Nyuon (NGA)

LIST NEEDS:

Long-term ruck depth
Overall depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

Entering the draft all the way back at Pick 51 – which will ultimately become Pick 54 post-bids – is a bizarre position to be in, and is often the approach sides in the premiership window take. But the Saints will back their hand and result of their trade period, with many bases covered and the potential to bring in either project players or readymade mature-agers. They are at the mercy of other clubs’ selections at pick 51, but rucks like Nick Bryan and Callum Jamieson could provide the long-term ruck depth St Kilda looks to be needing as Rowan Marshall matures and Paddy Ryder ages. Flanker types may also interest the Saints as the likes of Jade Gresham, Jack Billings, Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield battle for more midfield minutes, with Brisbane academy product Will Martyn one who could fit the bill along with Louis Butler, Isaac Wareham, Mitch Martin, and Lachlan Williams. Another option might be a versatile tall forward to replace Josh Bruce, such as the dead-eye accurate Cooper Sharman.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

There is not much the Saints have to play with, but they could split pick 51 to give themselves a bit more to work with slightly down the order – such as Essendon with the picks in the 60s. Given they have covered so many bases in the trade period and have immediate cover almost everywhere, it may well be a case of just building that depth.

REMAINING CROP:

Next Generation Academy product Bigoa Nyuon is currently training with the club and could either be taken at pick 82 or in the rookie draft, able to play in each key position post and with good upside as a raw prospect. Mature-agers and real project players come into the fold at the 82-mark, with the Saints lacking any real wriggle room in terms of being able to rely on targeted players still being on the board.

2019 AFL Draft Preview: Fremantle Dockers

HOLDING one of the strongest draft hands heading into the 2019 AFL Draft, Fremantle is in a terrific position to continue its build up the ladder to try and break back into the top eight. The Dockers were strong players in trade week, bringing in Blake Acres and James Aish, while Ed Langdon and Bradley Hill departed the club, all up leaving six spots open on the club’s list. With two top 10 picks and Pick 22 sure to name three quality stars – one of which will be Liam Henry – the Dockers are primed to add some quality talent back on its list. After a host of retirements and delistings as well as the departures, the Dockers could use the draft to pick up some speed and skill around the ground particularly through the middle. A ruck would not go astray with Aaron Sandilands and Scott Jones both departing, while some extra firepower up forward at the feet of the key position players would also be handy.

CURRENT PICKS: 7, 10, 22, 58, 69, 79, 83

NEXT GEN ACADEMY/FATHER-SONS PROSPECTS – COMBINE INVITES: Liam Henry, Isaiah Butters and Leno Thomas (all NGA)

LIST NEEDS:

Outside midfielder with speed and skills
Small/medium forward
Ruck

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

It is an interesting scenario for Fremantle coming into the draft at Pick 7. It is expected the Dockers should be safe from having to match a bid on Henry at this selection, so they can pick safe in the knowledge he fills a need by himself when he heads there not too long after the selection. Western Australia (WA) Under-18 Championships winning captain and Larke Medallist Deven Robertson might come into the thinking, possessing the speed required but still being predominantly inside. Dylan Stephens fits a perfect need and would be a perfect choice for the Dockers to team up with Henry over a decade on either wing, while one would think Luke Jackson would at least be a fleeting glance with the speed and skill important, but the lack of ruck options in the draft might see the Dockers grab the WA ruck. With Pick 10 so close, it would be ideal if Fremantle can survive to that pick without a bid on Henry which is certainly possible, just not guaranteed.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

Fremantle is one of the favourites to get down and trade on draft night with the Henry bid certainly a talking point. With Tom Green the only likely player to be taken ahead of Henry in terms of Academy selections, and Finn Maginness not far behind, the Dockers might look to trade down from Pick to be able to match Henry while gaining an extra selection. If they know say Carlton at Pick 9 will bid on Henry, they could look to do a deal with the Blues, or potential leapfrog them and talk to Melbourne at Pick 8. Given the Demons’ next pick is 97, it will need to likely involve a selection from next year coming back the other way with the Dockers not going to give up Pick 22 and 10 for 8, while the Demons will not want to drop two places in the top 10 for the bonus of Pick 58. They could also look to package up 10 and 22 for for a couple of picks in the teens, such as Geelong’s 14 and 17, enabling them to match Henry, while upgrading their third selection.

REMAINING CROP:

After Fremantle has decided what to do with Pick 10, and likely have picked up a couple of top-end prospects as well as the incredibly talented Henry, the Dockers have a couple of selections to play with later in the draft. They might eye off local ruck, Callum Jamieson to fill the ruck void if Jackson was off the board by their selection early, or Charlie Comben or Nick Bryan if they have slipped to their Pick 58. Some outside speed and skill that might be available late is the likes of Ben Johnson, Josh Shute or even Isaac Wareham, while to fill roles up forward, Jai Jackson, Callum Park or Josh Morris might fancy them at those selections. Lachlan Williams is another interesting pick that could land somewhere in the back-end of the draft and he fills roles up both ends. They have some decisions to make, but it will be fascinating to watch them.