Tag: jackson cardillo

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 13 – Chargers, Cannons win big

SIX different venues played host to the NAB League’s Round 13 fixtures in 2019, with a couple of big upsets kicking off the action, while Oakleigh and Calder came out big winners in their clashes against Country opponents. Some big names returned to the competition as the National Championships came to an end, and school football completed its bye rounds.

Western pulled off the weekend’s first upset victory, holding off a surge from Sandringham and its returning catalogue of big names to claim a nine-point win come the final siren. After Sandringham snuck ahead at half time, the Jets broke the game open with eight goals to one in a defining third term at Downer Oval. The Dragons would keep Western goalless in the last, but failed to make up the difference in time.

The small/tall pairing of Lucas Failli and Aaron Clarke split a combined 6.4 evenly for Western, while Richmond draftee Hugo Ralphsmith led a trio of three Dragons to boot two majors each. Fellow draftees Ryan Byrnes (28 disposals, one goal), Finn Maginness (24, one), and Louis Butler (23) were other high-end Dragons to perform, while Carlton rookie Josh Honey was among Western’s best with 18 touches.

Northern ensured the unlikely victories would roll on early in Round 13, trumping Gippsland by 43 points on the road. Akin to Western’s effort, the Knights battled hard in the first half but only led by two points at the main break, only to boot eight goals to one in a dominant second half display to take the four points back home to Preston.

The versatile Knights forward trio of Josh D’Intinosante (four goals), Ryan Sturgess, and Sunny Brazier (both three) dealt most of the damage as the contest skewed to one side, while Carlton’s Sam Philp (24 disposals, one) goal finished behind only Adam Carafa (28 disposals) in the ball winning stakes. Bottom-ager Sam Berry was Gippsland’s best in that department with 21 touches, while Saints draftee Leo Connolly had 18, and Philp’s Blues teammate Fraser Phillips, 13.

Murray could not quite keep the train going as it hosted the table-topping Eastern Ranges at Norm Minns Oval, falling four points short of its highly-fancied opposition. The Ranges managed to get out to a hot start, leading by 17 points despite wasting half of their 10 first term scoring shots. The lead was extended to 27 at half-time, but only worked to shift the Bushrangers into gear as they stormed home with a 6.6 second half to Eastern’s 3.0, as only wastefulness cost them in the end.

Ben Hickleton‘s season-best effort of four goals helped Eastern over the line, while Jimmy Boyer was one of two Bushrangers to notch three majors. Mitch Mellis put in a shift with two goals from 22 disposals, as he an Zak Pretty were beaten out only by Jye Chalcraft (29 disposals) in the ball winning stakes. In a rare instance, no 2019 draftees took the field in this fixture.

Saturday’s final fixture took the competition back to metropolitan territory, as Calder ran out comfortable 68-point winners against Dandenong at home. The Cannons shot out of the blocks with nine goals to two in the first half and despite being held well in the third term, prettied up the scoreboard with seven goals to nil in the final quarter to put an exclamation mark on the victory.

College punter Mason Fletcher booted four majors in this outing before his departure to the United States, joined by five Calder teammates as multiple goalkickers. Bottom-ager Ashton Williamson‘s three goals were a slight form of resistance for Dandenong, with Jack Toner another to stand up with 28 disposals. But it was Carlton draftee Sam Ramsay who led all comers on 32 touches, followed by bottom-age jet Jackson Cardillo (27, one goal).

Fast forward to Sunday, and Bendigo made its trip down to Tasmania worthwhile, downing the Devils by 29 points at Kingston Twins Oval. In a relatively low-scoring affair, the Pioneers were made to fight back from behind, booting six goals to Tasmania’s one in a one-sided second half effort. The win would also serve as redemption for Bendigo after going down to the Devils by two points in Round 7.

Exciting bottom-age Bendigo products Jack Ginnivan and Seamus Mitchell booted three goals each, while Jackson Callow was one of two multiple goalkickers for the home side. North Melbourne rookie Matt McGuinness had 10 more disposals than the next-best player afield, racking up 34 while Pioneers Sam Conforti and James Schischka had 24 each. Tasmanian academy pair Sam Collins and Oliver Davis also fared well with 19 touches apiece.

Oakleigh saw the round out with the biggest win of the lot, proving ruthlessly brilliant in front of goal to down and already lowly Geelong outfit by 87 points at Avalon Airport Oval. The Chargers led by over seven goals at the main break and never looked back, piling on a further 10 to Geelong’s three in the second half to finish with an incredible 20 goals and nine behinds en route to victory.

The forward partnership of Dylan Williams (five goals) and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (four) proved unstoppable, with the likes of Reef McInnes (29 disposals, two goals) and Trent Bianco (24, two) also finding the big sticks and plenty of the ball. In a stacked Oakleigh side, Will Phillips and Lochlan Jenkins were also prominent with 21 touches each. Bottom-ager Charlie Lazzaro (23 disposals) was among Geelong’s best alongside 2020 co-captain Cam Fleeton (19), while over-ager Charlie Sprague booted three majors.

2020 AFL Draft Positional Analysis: Inside Midfielders

STRONG, big-bodied, and tall inside midfielders have been in vogue for quite a while, but this year’s crop of engine room operators comes in varied shapes and sizes. Though they may not currently have the opportunity to show their worth on the field, exposed form and long preseasons for most allow for a window into how the current stocks stack up.

In ramping up our 2020 AFL Draft analysis, Draft Central continues its line-by-line positional breakdowns, moving on to the best inside midfielders. The following list features pocket profiles of top-age (2002-born) prospects who are part of their respective AFL Academy hubs, while also touching on some names who missed out last year, or may feature on another list.

Without further ado, get to know some of the premier midfielders who are eligible to be drafted in 2020.

Note: The list is ordered alphabetically, not by any form of ranking.

Sam Berry
Gippsland Power/Vic Country

Berry is one of the smaller inside midfielders in terms of height, but one who works incredibly hard and is not afraid to put his head over the ball. The 180cm Gippsland product slotted right into a talented Power engine room pre and post his school football commitments with Melbourne Grammar, proving a match winner on his day with terrific extraction, endurance, and powerful burst from the contest. Berry averaged 17.7 disposals and 4.4 clearances across his 10 NAB League outings, going at a rate of 52 per cent contested possessions while showcasing his two-way work ethic with the all-important addition of 6.5 tackles per game.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies

The leading Gold Coast SUNS Academy prospect for 2020 is Davies, a prototypical big-bodied inside midfielder who will fit right in at the elite level given his physical attributes. Davies ran out four times for the SUNS during their NAB League stint, averaging an even 18 disposals and almost four clearances and tackles per game. He was not quite able to break into the 2019 Allies side, but represented Queensland at Under 17 level and was a prime mover in the Under 17 All Stars showcase fixture. If not for his ties to an AFL club already, Davies would perhaps sit even further up draft boards and is set to cost the SUNS a pretty penny in terms of points come draft time.

>> Get to know
>> Marquee Matchup

Oliver Davis
Tasmania Devils/Allies

Tasmania’s most promising midfield candidate is Davis, a consistent performer who would have always been among the first Devils on the team sheet during their inaugural full-time NAB League season. He is another who is not tall in comparison to other inside types, but his desire at the contest and ability to get first hands on the ball more than make up for the fact. Davis averaged 22 disposals (53 per cent contested) as Tasmania’s prime mover in 13 NAB League games as a bottom-ager, accompanied by a whopping 7.8 tackles and 5.4 clearances per outing. With those kind of numbers, he earned a call-up to the Allies side for a single game and will be a key cog in the same side for 2020.

>> Draft Watch

Luke Edwards
Glenelg/South Australia

One of the more prominent names among the overall 2020 draft crop is Edwards, whose allegiance to the Adelaide Crows as a potential father-son selection remains up in the air. The Glenelg product has already cracked the SANFL Reserve grade, and was a key part of South Australia’s defence throughout the entire 2019 Under 18 National Championships. At 187cm and 80kg, Edwards has remarkably not added a single centimetre to his height since his Under 16 year but remains a readymade body once called upon at senior level. Having been utilised as a general defender who uses the ball efficiently, Edwards is primed to move back into the middle where he can use his big frame and contested prowess to dominate at stoppages.

>> Get to know
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

Finn Gorringe
East Fremantle/Western Australia

Gorringe is somewhat of a bolter among the top-level ranks, but looks set to slot straight into the West Australian state side in 2020 as a ball winning midfielder. The East Fremantle product impressed across his six WAFL Colts outings for the Sharks in 2019, averaging 15.5 disposals and a tick over four tackles to again fit into the category of those who remain relevant going both ways. A very handy string to Gorringe’s bow is his ability to find the goals as an inside type, managing a goal per game last year in a tick to his versatility.

Nicholas Kraemer
South Adelaide/South Australia

There is a good amount of South Australian representation on this list, and Kraemer is yet another solidly-built ball winner who is set to shine in 2020. At 184cm and 81kg, the South Adelaide junior has the perfect makeup for his position, but is more than just an inside battler in the sense that he can also play as a defender, and may swing up the other end at SANFL senior level. He may not have cracked last year’s Under 18 state side, but has been a mainstay in the Academy system and was part of South Australia’s carnival-winning Under 16 squad in 2018. Kraemer played every game in the Panthers’ run to last year’s SANFL Under 18 grand final, finishing the season strongly to average 20.2 disposals and five tackles.

>> Get to know

Mani Liddy
Sturt/South Australia

One of the more versatile inside midfielders to hit this list is Liddy, who has previously been forced out to the flanks at representative level, but thrived with his ground level presence and ability to get to contests nonetheless. Employed in his more comfortable midfield role at SANFL Under 18 level with Sturt, Liddy averaged just over 25 disposals, 4.2 marks, and 5.5 clearances, but surprisingly went at a higher rate of uncontested possessions. Still, the 181cm prospect is hard at the contest and seldom shies away from it, making him a good option for his state come the national carnival.

Zavier Maher
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country


Maher is a rare inside type who also possesses terrific athleticism, seeing him feature a touch higher up draft boards when compared to others of a similar build. He is solid at 82kg and has the typical power you come to expect of an inside type, but what sets Maher apart is his combination explosive speed and agility at the stoppages. A true metres-gained kind of midfielder, Maher averaged around three inside 50s and clearances in his six NAB League appearances for Murray in 2019, while also representing Vic Country at Under 17 level. Expect him to break into the heart of this year’s Under 18 side.

>> Q&A
>> Marquee Matchup

Reef McInnes
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

McInnes is another whose name will already be well known to keep draft watchers, as the next in line among a talented group of Collingwood Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospects. The Oakleigh Chargers midfielder was pushed forward in 2019 due to the Chargers’ incredible depth through the engine room, but he still managed to have an impact across 12 games en route to becoming a NAB League premiership player. At 192cm, he has the size to transition seamlessly into the elite level, and possesses surprisingly good athleticism in congestion to keep him out of trouble. When utilised as a midfielder for Vic Metro’s Under 17s, McInnes truly showed his worth with a great first half display, but can work on staying in the game more consistently.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

Jamison Murphy
North Adelaide/South Australia

Murphy’s story is one of the more interesting ones across the entire 2020 cohort, as he turned down a promising cricketing career which had already seen him captain Australia as a junior to pursue Australian rules football. He is undoubtedly one of the most solidly built smaller types in this lot, weighing in at 85kg to ensure he can endure the rigours of playing such a position, and enforce his way into the contest. The 180cm North Adelaide product played nine SANFL Under 18 games in 2019, averaging 23.6 disposals and 5.2 tackles, putting in the hard yards as per usual.

>> Get to know

Zane Trew
Swan Districts/Western Australia

An outstanding inside midfielder for 2020 is Trew, potentially the best user of the ball both by hand and foot of this entire group. He comes in at a decent height (186cm) but is not at all bogged down, able to weave through traffic with class and deliver the ball expertly with terrific vision and poise. Trew was a standout for the Black Ducks at Under 16 level, earning All Australian honours, and looks set for a similar projection in this year’s Under 18 crop as one of his state’s prime midfield movers.

>> Draft Diary


There are plenty of prospects who you may be itching to point out as deserving for this list, but we think we have them all covered both above and below. Among the most outstanding overall midfield candidates this year are Will Phillips, Tanner Bruhn, and Finlay Macrae, all of whom we categorise as balanced midfielders, rather than pure inside types.

Among those who may transition to inside roles but currently thrive elsewhere are Nathan O’Driscoll (wing/half-back), Connor Downie (wing/utility), Archie Perkins (half-forward), Jackson Cardillo (balanced midfielder/forward), Eddie Ford (general forward), Corey Durdin (small forward), and Braeden Campbell (outside midfielder/forward). Elijah Hollands could also be considered, but is again, more of a forward, while the likes of Will Bravo and Charlie Lazzaro may continue outside of the midfield realm in future.

Outside of the AFL Academy intake are Bayleigh Welsh and Darby Hipwell, both very viable options, while 19-year-old candidates include Jared Dakin, Darcy Chirgwin, and Jai Newcombe.

Positional Analysis: Key Position Forwards


Squad Predictions:
South Australia
Vic Country
Vic Metro
Western Australia

AFL Draft Watch

Preseason Testing Analysis:

Marquee Matchups: Jackson Cardillo vs. Archie Perkins

DESPITE remaining in the unknown of football’s temporary absence, Draft Central is set to ramp up its draft analysis with another new prospect-focussed series, Marquee Matchups. We take a look at some of the high-end head-to-head battles which look likely to take place should the class of 2020 take the field, comparing pairs of draft hopefuls to help preview who may come out on top.

The pair next under the microscope – Calder’s Jackson Cardillo and Sandringham’s Archie Perkins – ironically already played alongside one another at representative level in 2019, and are set to do so again this year as part of Vic Metro’s Under 18 side. But it is at NAB League level where we may see these two line up on opposing sides, with Cardillo already a mainstay in the Cannons’ side, while Perkins is again set to don the Dragon in between school football commitments with Brighton Grammar.

Both are tremendous athletes who ply their trade in a mix of midfield and forward time, able to use their explosiveness in different facets of the game to catch the eye. Having spent the majority of their time inside forward 50 throughout 2019, the two movers of virtually identical size will now look to develop in more prominent midfield roles across all levels. With that being the case, Cardillo and Perkins would well oppose each other at centre bounces during the NAB League, or join each other on the opposite side of the centre and half-forward lines during the national carnival.

Without further ado, get up to speed with how the two match up in terms of their form to date, strengths, improvements, and what has already been said about their performances in our scouting notes.


Jackson Cardillo
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro

DOB: July 3, 2002

Height: 185cm
Weight: 77kg

Position: Midfielder/forward

Archie Perkins
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

DOB: March 26, 2002

Height: 186cm
Weight: 77kg

Position: Midfielder/forward



Cardillo – 66cm
– 70cm


Cardillo – 76cm/82cm
– 92cm/84cm

SPEED (20m)

Cardillo – 2.88 seconds
– 2.94 seconds


Cardillo – 8.15 seconds
– 8.24 seconds


Cardillo – 20.2
– 20.8

These are some of the more outstanding numbers from the Victorian preseason testing day, with both prospects so well matched across each area. Perkins clearly thrives in the jumps, producing massive efforts standing and off either side – something which also shines through on-field. Cardillo certainly does not lag in those areas, but his ground-level prowess is highlighted in very slightly quicker scores in the speed and agility tests. Perkins, a terrific mover across the ground and on the spread boasts a better endurance score, but that is not entirely reflective of Cardillo’s tireless work at the contest.


20m Sprint
Agility Test
Yo-yo Test




18 games
13.2 disposals
2.1 marks
3.8 tackles
2.6 clearances
2.6 inside 50s
0.6 goals (11)


6 games
14.2 disposals
4.2 marks
1.8 tackles
1.3 clearances
3.2 inside 50s
1.7 goals (10)

There is obviously a much smaller sample size to work with on Perkins’ size in terms of NAB League output, but the similarities between the pair are still evident in their 2019 numbers. Both players achieved similar disposal outputs, but it is Cardillo’s ground ball nous (3.8 tackles, 2.6 clearances) and Perkins’ aerial superiority (4.2 marks) which set them apart from one another.

The ability for Perkins to be a weapon going forward is also clear in his greater inside 50 (3.2) and goal (1.7) averages, with his impact hardly waning when used forward of the ball. On the other hand, Cardillo’s tackling pressure and hardness at the ball helps him thrive up forward, with his accumulative impact evident while running through midfield.

Overall, the pair returned very solid numbers as bottom-agers, particularly given they were both moved around the ground and had talented top-aged teammates to content with.



2019 NAB League Round 13 vs. Dandenong

27 disposals
5 marks
9 tackles
8 clearances
3 inside 50s
1 goal


2019 NAB League Round 10 vs. Geelong

20 disposals (16 kicks)
5 marks
4 tackles
1 clearance
5 inside 50s
5 behinds

Cardillo’s season-high effort of 27 disposals stands well clear as his best game from a midfield standpoint, thriving on the inside and remaining relevant going both ways. It was the only game in which Cardillo managed to tick over 20 touches, on top of achieving a season-high in tackles with nine to prove his defensive worth. His ability to hunt the ball was also evident as he slammed forward eight clearances and three inside 50s, providing that all-important metres-gained element.

Speaking of, Perkins is one of the most damaging metres-gained midfielder/forwards in the entire 2020 draft crop, and proved as much in his 20-disposal performance against Geelong. Unlike in Cardillo’s best game, Perkins and his Dragons teammates went perilously close to losing in this encounter, scraping over the line by two points as the player in question booted five behinds. Had he been more accurate in the Ballarat conditions, Perkins’ game would have gone to another level given his outstanding marking efforts and penetration (16 kicks, five inside 50s) from half-forward.

Cardillo’s dual two-goal efforts could well have earned a shout here, but he only managed a combined 27 disposals in those outings, while his 19 disposals and one goal against Eastern in Round 17 made for another outstanding candidate. Perkins, too was well-versed against good opposition, booting three goals against premier, Oakleigh in Round 17, with his 16 disposals and two goals against the Sydney Swans Academy another performance near the mark.


2019 Under 17 Futures, Vic Metro vs. Queensland


18 disposals
1 mark
2 clearances
1 rebound 50
1 goal


21 disposals
2 marks
2 tackles
5 clearances
5 inside 50s
1 rebound 50

As mentioned, Cardillo and Perkins are already familiar with each other, but as teammates rather than foes. The two ran out for the Vic Metro Under 17s in 2019, both returning decent numbers as part of the midfield-forward rotation. Perkins was arguably the better on the day, bossing the half-forward line early while later pumping the ball towards goal amid greater midfield time. Cardillo was utilised a touch more on the outside when running further afield, while also assuming his usual secondary role inside forward 50. With efforts around the 20-disposal mark, both players were among Metro’s most influential and versatile.



Explosive speed
Kick penetration
Stoppage presence


Vertical leap

There are a few slight differences in either player’s listed strengths, despite their very similar makeups. The distinction of Cardillo’s ‘explosive speed’ to Perkins’ ‘explosiveness’ is deliberate, intended to hint that the latter is a more powerful overall package, while the former thrives slightly more in the specific area of speed. Perkins’ other strengths – vertical leap and athleticism – add to that case, though Cardillo is certainly no slouch across the board either.

While Perkins is as damaging as they come with his combination of forward penetration from high up the ground and scoreboard impact, Cardillo provides meterage in his long kicks, mostly from stoppage situations as he bursts away with that five-step speed and delivers the ball forward. The added trait of stoppage presence attributed to Cardillo is largely credit to his two-way work rate, with his attitude towards ball winning matched by a strong tenacity for tackling.

Cardillo’s nod for versatility applies to both players, but may be slightly more applicable to Cardillo at the next level, with his ground-ball presence and tackling pressure incredibly transferable to medium-small forward roles. On the other hand, Perkins is more of a dynamic, aerial threat who can have a greater say around the ground, providing a target while creating forward movement from almost nothing.



Disposal consistency



Picking out improvements for players with high ceilings is usually a relatively simple task, with such players typically quite raw and mistake-prone. But both of these prospects are pretty well polished, with only a couple of areas left to sharpen and help them become better overall footballers. Cardillo’s disposal consistency is something that can be fine-tuned, with his penetration no issue, but shorter options on the move and under pressure sometimes overlooked or missed. Though Perkins is so well suited to the outside, the suggested upping of midfield time means he can increase his ball winning rate, while not losing any of that damage or scoreboard impact he is already known for.



Round 14 vs. Bendigo Pioneers

The bottom-ager was tenacious in the contest, accumulating throughout the day and stringing together clearing kicks.

His tackling intent was shown in the second term, giving away an overzealous high free kick but following it up with a holding the ball tackle as Bendigo played on.

Cardillo also fared well when used up forward, finding space inside 50 on the back of a turnover to mark and goal, while also improvising a kick to assist a Jake Sutton goal as he gathered on the move. Really rate his aggression and ability to break tackles.


2019 NAB League Round 17 vs. Oakleigh

Just continually does eye-catching things up forward and through the midfield, using his power and confidence around opponents to burst through and get Sandringham going.

Perkins started with a really strong mark against two opponents as he worked up the ground from half forward, but had his greatest impact with three important goals from his 11 disposals.

His first goal came after finding space to mark close to the boundary just inside 50 and converting the shot, and his third came from a similar position but on the run – showing his improved finishing and ability to rise to the occasion against quality opposition.


The thing which makes this matchup so intriguing is how closely the pair is matched across their physical attributes. A single centimetre separates them, and they are two of the most remarkable Under 18 prospects across the country in terms of athletic ability across each department. Explosive midfield types are always a joy to watch, with those bursts from congestion often the most replayed moments on highlight reels. Both players may well be capable of producing as much at the elite level, and have the added asset of being able to impact the game up forward. Perkins may feature slightly ahead on draft boards, but both players are sure to provide eye-catching moments once back on the park as two of Vic Metro’s most promising hopefuls.

Classic Contests: Fletcher, Cannons come up clutch

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 9 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Calder Cannons. In this edition, we wind back the clock just one year to when the sides played out a thriller in late-2019.

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

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

Draftees in action:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Squad predictions: 2020 Vic Metro 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.


  • 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 prospects miss out, having already staked their claims in previous years

A lot may change between now and when the squad will be announced, but all players look likely to be available. 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 first stipulated squad, with Vic Metro’s talent broken down line-by-line. An alternate squad with no limitations will also be provided below.


FB – Cody Raak (Western), Cody Brand (Calder), Wil Parker (Eastern)
HB – Joshua Clarke (Eastern), Nikolas Cox (Northern), Connor Downie (Eastern)

There’s a real Eastern Ranges flavour to the back six, with regional skipper and Hawthorn NGA prospect Connor Downie a potential leadership candidate. Athletic Northern utility Nikolas Cox is another NAB League captain in line for those honours, and the two are joined across half-back by Josh Clarke.

The forward penetration Clarke and Downie provide makes for an exciting proposition, though Downie may well find his way up onto a wing or into the midfield in the final squad. The third Eastern product of the defence, Wil Parker can also add value on the rebound, but joins Bulldogs NGA candidate Cody Raak as a capable intercept marker inside defensive 50.

Essendon-aligned hopeful Cody Brand looks set to lock down a role at full back, making for a fairly sturdy last line. The combination of aerial threat and attacking ball use among the six bodes well for Metro, and should set the side up nicely.


C – Jake Bowey (Sandringham), Reef McInnes (Oakleigh), Lochlan Jenkins (Oakleigh)
FOL – Max Heath (Sandringham), Will Phillips (Oakleigh), Finlay Macrae (Oakleigh)

If there was an Eastern feel to the defence, then the midfield is all-Oakleigh. Following on with the NGA theme too is Collingwood academy member Reef McInnes, who takes up a spot in the centre with eyes on fulfilling a more midfield-oriented role in 2020.

The familiar faces of Will Phillips and Finlay Macrae look set to join him at the centre bounces, as smaller outlets who can find plenty of the ball. On the outer, we’ve opted for a small combination with the 174cm Jake Bowey on one side, and 177cm Lochlan Jenkins on the opposite.

Should the Metro coaches opt for more grunt through the middle, the likes of Downie and explosive Sandringham product Archie Perkins could add some extra power, though the chosen core should have little trouble finding the ball. Max Heath is the chosen ruck, one of the few pure talls among the ranks at the moment.


HF – Archie Perkins (Sandringham), Liam McMahon (Northern), Bailey Laurie (Oakleigh)
FF – Jackson Cardillo (Calder), Ollie Lord (Sandringham), Eddie Ford (Western)

Akin to last year’s squad, the forwardline is one of the weaker areas of the squad – not for a lack of talent, but due to the lack of a pure small forward. The likes of Perkins, Bailey Laurie, Jackson Cardillo, and Eddie Ford all pack dynamism, speed, and smarts, but fall into the category of midfielder/forwards.

This forward bunch should also have no troubles in competing aerially, with the high-marking prowess of Perkins and Ford aided by vertically apt key position prospects Liam McMahon and Ollie Lord. Though at 193cm and 195cm respectively, the pair falls a touch short of traditional key position height, so may prove less impactful against some of the bulkier defenders one-on-one.

Within the starting lineup, Cox is also able to swing forward if needed, while Heath may well earn a rest up there in between his ruck duties. In terms of mid-sizers, Macrae and McInnes spent plenty of time forward for Oakleigh in 2019, while Downie is another who can find the goals.


INT – Jack Diedrich (Eastern), Conor Stone (Oakleigh), Luke Cleary (Sandringham), Josh Eyre (Calder)

The interchange bench sees two remaining top-age Academy Hub members named, incidentally also providing good depth down the spine. Eastern’s Jack Diedrich and Calder’s Josh Eyre can play in key position posts, with Diedrich adding ruck depth and Eyre a more dynamic option around the ground.

Conor Stone could fill the traditional medium-forward void given his promising form in Oakleigh’s 2019 premiership side, while Sandringham defender Luke Cleary is one of the few non-Academy choices, though his Under 17 experience and squad balance earns him a look-in.


There are plenty of top-agers who will fancy their chances of cracking into the final squad, but there will always be the unlucky few who don’t. The beauty of having a carnival with multiple games means there is always room for rotation, so plenty of prospects should get their opportunity.

Under 16 representative Darby Hipwell was stiff to miss the Academy cut-off, and provide some great midfield depth. Oakleigh’s Fraser Elliot is a big-bodied mid who could also sneak in, but that midfield is hard to crack.

In terms of smaller options at either end, Lucas Failli could be the small forward Metro is searching for, with the agile 170cm Western product already boasting Under 16 and 17 representative honours.

Northern co-captain Ewan Macpherson skippered the Under 16 Metro side in 2018, and may be another small option. The potential Bulldogs father-son choice would fit in as a defender after his work for the Knights in 2019, though he is set on more midfield minutes in 2020. His Knights teammates Josh Watson, and fellow Under 16 rep Jaden Collins are others who are thereabouts.

Speaking of father-sons, Carlton may want to get a look at Charlie McKay (son of Andy, 244 games), who has impressed during preseason and provides a big body on each line.

Dragons pair Fraser Rosman and Lachlan Carrigan are others who may fly under the radar and into the side, along with raw Calder duo Jack Keeping and Matthew Allison. There are of course two more Academy members – Campbell Edwardes, and Sam Tucker – who could enter the fray, but are unlucky to miss our sides.


Having taken out the 2019 Under 16 National Championships, Metro has the luxury being able to top up its squad with a raft of capable bottom-age talents. MVP Tyler Sonsie is arguably the best of the lot, and could well find his way into the starting 18 on a wing or up forward.

Sonsie’s Eastern teammate Jake Soligo is another who may rise the ranks alongside him, while Vic Metro Under 16 squad member Lachlan Rankin is another handy outside type in the mix.

Sandringham dasher Josh Sinn is another who is capable of settling into the starting side, perhaps at half-back despite his midfield prowess. Potentially filling out the flanks is Nick Daicos, whose selection in the Academy Hub in his first year through the pathways speaking volume of his talent.

Twin talls Dante Visentini and Alex Lukic would provide key position depth up either end under normal circumstances, with Lukic the Under 16 All Australian centre half-forward. Others to gain that honour and Academy selection were Blake Howes, Youseph Dib, Lachlan Brooks, and Braden Andrews, who could all fill roles around the ground.

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

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

FB – Cody Raak, Cody Brand, Wil Parker
HB – Joshua Clarke, Nikolas Cox, Josh Sinn
C – Jake Bowey, Connor Downie, Finlay Macrae
HF – Archie Perkins, Liam McMahon, Bailey Laurie
FF – Tyler Sonsie, Ollie Lord, Eddie Ford
FOL – Max Heath, Will Phillips, Reef McInnes
INT – Felix Flockart, Lochlan Jenkins, Conor Stone, Jackson Cardillo

– Luke Cleary, Nick Daicos, Josh Eyre

Preseason testing analysis: Which State is the fastest?

THE current sporting hiatus serves as somewhat of an extended preseason for the nation’s brightest AFL Draft prospects, who will be itching to get back on the field. Aside from a few scratch matches on the eve of Round 1, much of the 2020 class has had little in the way of competition thus far. But preseason testing always serves to get the competitive juices flowing, with players from each region and academy coming together to test where they are at. Rookie Me hosted the preseason testing in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, while the AFL completed testing in Western Australia and NSW/ACT.

In our first look at the results from those days around the country, we take a look at the 20-metre sprint results and try to answer the question of ‘Which State is the fastest?’. We have compiled the top 10 scores from each State, an overall top 10, and averages from around the nation to help answer the question. Stay tuned for results across each test in the near future.

TOP 10’s

New South Wales:

1. Riley Fitzroy (Sydney Swans Academy) – 2.87 seconds
2. Jordan Endemann (Sydney Swans Academy) – 2.9
3. Hugh Melville (Sydney Swans Academy) – 2.91
4. Harrison Grintell (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 2.915
5. Ed Ogilvy (Sydney Swans Academy) – 2.93
6. Matthew McKenzie (Sydney Swans Academy) – 2.94
7. Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans Academy) – 2.95
8. Matthew McGrory (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 2.951
9. Austin Ball (Sydney Swans Academy) – 2.96
10. Thomas Sase (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 2.962

Top 10 Average: 2.928 seconds
State Average: 3.094 seconds

One of the top three quickest states at the top end was New South Wales, with Sydney Swans Academy members making up seven of an impressive top 10. Riley Fitzroy‘s 2.87-second time was the equal second-best across the nation, with Jordan Endemann‘s 2.9-flat effort also putting him among the final top 10. The biggest name among the NSW group is Braeden Campbell, who looks to be the Swans’ top 2020 draft prospect.


1. Jack Briskey (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 2.92 seconds
2. Riley Buckland (Gold Coast SUNS Academy) – 2.94
3. Darcy Prest (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 2.98
4. Tahj Abberley (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 3.02
5. Flynn Petersons (Gold Coast SUNS Academy) – 3.03
=6. Billy Evers (Gold Coast SUNS Academy) – 3.04
=6. Kirk McGrory (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 3.04
=6. Damon Eastwell (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 3.04
=6. Blake Coleman (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 3.04
=10. 3.06 x4

Top 10 Average: 3.01 seconds
State Average: 3.142 seconds

The Queenslanders lagged a touch on testing day, albeit with a small sample size and some big names not testing, averaging a tick over three seconds with its top 10. Jack Briskey was clear at the top as one of six Brisbane Academy members in the best 10 efforts, while Riley Buckland claimed silver as the fastest Gold Coast Academy prospect. Briskey’s fellow Lions and Allies hub members Tahj Abberley and Blake Coleman also showcased their pace.

South Australia:

=1. Connor Willsmore (Sturt) – 2.93 seconds
=1. Daniel Fairbrother (Norwood) – 2.93
3. Willa Taylor (Sturt) – 2.94
=4. Morgan Ferres (Sturt) – 2.95
=4. Izach Zinndorf (West Adelaide) – 2.95
=6. Ryan Williams (Eagles) – 2.96
=6. Jacob Ferrari (Sturt) – 2.96
=6. Ben Ianniello (Norwood) – 2.96
=6. Tariek Newchurch (North Adelaide) – 2.96
=10. 2.97 x2

Top 10 Average: 2.951 seconds
State Average: 3.171 seconds

The South Australian top 10 managed to sneak just under three seconds with their average score, with each player managing no more than 2.97 seconds in their dash. Connor Willsmore shared first place with Daniel Fairbrother, and the former was one of an impressive four Sturt products at the pointy end. Tariek Newchurch, an Adelaide NGA prospect also featured, while Morgan Ferres, an impressive key forward at last year’s Under 16 carnival is right near the top, too.


1. Isaac Chugg (Launceston) – 2.93 seconds
2. Darcy Gardner (Clarence) – 2.99
=3. Sam Banks (Clarence) – 3.02
=3. Sam Tilley (Lauderdale) – 3.02
=3. Jared Dakin (Lauceston) – 3.02
6. Noah Holmes (Clarence) – 3.04
=7. Sam Collins (North Hobart) – 3.05
=7. Ryan Whitney (North Launceston) – 3.05
=7. Kye Chilcott (Launceston) – 3.05
=7. Baynen Lowe (Devonport) – 3.05

Top 10 Average: 3.02 seconds
State Average: 3.139 seconds

Tasmania managed the unfortunate feat of laying claim to the slowest top 10 performers, with just two players managing to crack the three-second mark. Former athletics star Isaac Chugg was top of the tree with his 2.93-second sprint, joined by Darcy Gardner on the podium. Academy members Sam Banks and Sam Collins also earned their way onto the top list, while Baynen Lowe is another under-age jet to look out for.


1. Jackson Cardillo (Calder Cannons) – 2.88 seconds
=2. Michael Lewis (Sandringham Dragons) – 2.89
=2. Flynn Maguire (Oakleigh Chargers) – 2.89
=2. Charlie Brauer (Geelong Falcons) – 2.89
=5. Kobi George (Dandenong Stingrays) – 2.9
=5. Lachlan Green (Western Jets) – 2.9
=7. Lachlan Carrigan (Sandringham Dragons) – 2.91
=7. Jonah Potter (Northern Knights) – 2.91
=7. Ben Overman (Calder Cannons) – 2.91
=10. 2.93 x2

Top 10 Average: 2.901 seconds
State Average: 3.140 seconds

By far the biggest talent pool, Victoria produced plenty of names among the nationwide top 10, with Jackson Cardillo‘s 2.88-second effort the leading time. There was a good mix of club representation as Calder and Sandringham were the only regions to boast two players each among the top 10. Last year’s clubhouse leader, Jonah Potter was knocked off his perch, notching a 2.91-second time good enough for equal-seventh.

Western Australia:

1. Riley Colborne (South Fremantle) – 2.86 seconds
2. Zac Meloncelli (Perth) – 2.870
3. Joel Western (Claremont) – 2.88
=4. Jordan Berry (West Perth)  – 2.89
=4. Luke Michael (West Perth) – 2.89
6. Jayden Peak (East Perth) – 2.90
7. Seth Roberts (Claremont) – 2.91
=8. Lachlan Rewell (West Perth) – 2.92
=8. Tai Kirkpatrick (Subiaco) – 2.92
=10. 2.93 x6

Top 10 Average: 2.897 seconds
State Average: 3.130 seconds

Riley Colborne not only notched the quickest time in Western Australia, but also the best time across the nation with his 2.86-second burst. He was the lone South Fremantle product in the 10 though, with West Perth represented thrice and Claremont twice. Fremantle NGA prospect, Joel Western was among them. The West Australians also claim the honour of boasting the quickest top 10 sprinters of any state, averaging 2.897 seconds at the top end.


1. Riley Colborne (South Fremantle) – 2.86 seconds
=2. Zac Meloncelli (Perth) – 2.87
=2. Riley Fitzroy (Sydney Swans Academy) – 2.87
4. Jackson Cardillo (Calder Cannons) – 2.88
=5. Michael Lewis (Sandringham Dragons) – 2.89
=5. Flynn Maguire (Oakleigh Chargers) – 2.89
=5. Charlie Brauer (Geelong Falcons) – 2.89
=8. Kobi George (Dandenong Stingrays) – 2.9
=8. Lachlan Green (Western Jets) – 2.9
=8. Jordan Endemann (Sydney Swans Academy) – 2.9

The quickest half-dozen Victorian prospects make up much of the nationwide top 10, but the best NAB Leaguer, Jackson Cardillo‘s 2.88-second time was only good enough for fourth overall.

Western Australia fills two places on the podium, including the all-important number one spot on the back of Riley Colborne‘s scintillating 2.86-second effort.

The Swans’ Academy should have some pace to burn this year too, as the only club to boast two products on the elite leaderboard.

It was tight at the top, with just 0.3 of a second separating first from 10th. With such a competitive field, no athletes from Queensland, South Australia, or Tasmania made the final cut.


1. NSW/ACT – 3.094 seconds
2. Western Australia – 3.130
3. Tasmania – 3.139
4. Victoria – 3.140
5. Queensland – 3.142
6. South Australia – 3.171

In the question of which state is the fastest as a collective? The answer is NSW/ACT with the Swans and GIANTS Academies recording an average of 3.094 seconds across the board to be the fastest as a whole. Western Australia and Tasmania fill out the podium, with South Australia the slowest of the six states.

Picture: AFL Photos

Q&A: Joshua Eyre (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

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

The raw 197cm prospect featured up either end and even on a wing for Calder throughout eight NAB League outings in 2019, but is looking to cement his spot across centre half-forward this season having impressed with his leap and clean hands. Eyre is also part of the Essendon Next Generation Academy (NGA) alongside his younger brother, with both players looking to have a consistent, injury-free run in 2020. The 17-year-old would have been ready to go come Round 1 or 2, but will now have to wait for his chance to impress.



MA: How’s the day been so far?

JE: “It’s been unreal, loving it. “I haven’t really done it before so it’s a good experience.”

Being part of the Essendon NGA with Cody Brand, what’s that been like?

“Yeah, good. “I’ve only had the one session there so far but I’ve been loving it. Very lucky.”

And being around the Vic Metro Hub, how’s that aiding your development?

“It’ll be really good. “Hopefully I’m lucky enough to get a game but yeah, it’s good.”

Juggling a few teams this year, who are you looking forward to playing alongside?

“I’m looking forward to Calder, just playing alongside Jackson Cardillo and Cody Brand. “We should have a good year, we’re looking good.”

You’ve played a little bit of everywhere, are you looking to nail down a particular position?

“I’m hoping to play centre half-forward this year. “I feel like that suits me well but I’m open to play anywhere, whether I go back or maybe even a wing.”

What are some of the things you’re looking to work on this season?

“Probably just making sure I stay involved in the game, just to make sure my work rate’s up and just getting a lot of the footy.”

Have you set up a few goals for the year?

“I want to obviously play the Metro games and be lucky enough to get drafted at the end of the year. “But I just want to put together a good season.”

Your brother’s part of the Essendon NGA as well, are you passing on a few tips?

“He’s probably a bit better than I was when I was that age but he’s going through the same injuries that I had through that period which is a but unlucky, but at least it means he’s going to grow which is good for him. He’s going well.”

Have you managed a good bill of health now heading into Round 1?

“Hopefully. I’ve just come off a hamstring – the bone on my hamstring has flared up a bit. “But I’m working back into that so hopefully in Round 1 or 2 I should be back.”

AFL Draft Watch: Jackson Cardillo (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

IN a build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central will take a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state at Under-17 or Under 18s level in 2019. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at the NAB League Preseason Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Our first AFL Draft watch focuses on Calder Cannons’ Jackson Cardillo who lit up the track at the NAB League Preseason Testing Day, recording the best 20m sprint at the event clocking up a sizzling 2.88 seconds. While it was clear from watching the speedster burst out of the stoppages in his bottom-age year, Cardillo put that on-field ability on display at Maribyrnong College in March, where he was also above average in the vertical jump, running vertical jump and agility test. While his endurance is an area he could improve, his agility (8.15 seconds) and running vertical jump (82cm) were particularly impressive.


Speed: Elite (#1)
Vertical Jump: Above Average (#29)
Running Vertical Jump: Above Average (#38)
Agility: Above Average (#39)

Jackson Cardillo said on how he felt he fared:

“Not too bad, I pride myself on my sprinting so that’s the one I target, I think I did alright. “The rest of them, I think i did alright (too).”

Talent Manager Tom Lonergan said in the preseason:

“Cardillo obviously can play forward and midfield, so we’d like to think all those guys (Vic Metro hub members) can play in multiple positions.”


Jackson Cardillo

Height: 185.5cm
Weight: 77.5kg
Position: Inside Midfielder/Forward

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATS: 18 games | 13.2 disposals (54 per cent contested) | 2.1 marks | 2.6 clearances | 3.8 tackles | 2.6 inside 50s | 11 goals

Strengths: Explosive speed, kick penetration, stoppage presence
Improvements: Disposal consistency


Wildcard Round vs. Tasmania Devils

By: Taylah Melki

Worked hard across the ground to provide an option and use his assets to his advantage. Cardillo showed good pace out of the middle to run through corridor and spear the ball forward. Displayed good tackling pressure to win a holding the ball call and ran hard throughout the match. He used his quick hands to keep the ball moving and stepped up in the last term winning his fair share of the ball.

Round 17 vs. Eastern Ranges

By: Michael Alvaro

Started brightly with a goal in the first term and found a lot of his possessions going forward, proving dangerous when in full flight. While he can sure up his short-range kicking at times, Cardillo made a couple of neat plays in-tight when keeping his hands free and shifting to release around opponents, while also getting good penetration with longer kicks going inside 50. Clunked a really strong mark from behind in the third term and came off worse for wear, but that kind of attack is just part of his game.

Under 17 Futures Game vs. Queensland

By: Michael Alvaro

Having shown his aggression and ball winning ability on the inside in his NAB League outings, Cardillo spent most of his time on the wing and at half forward in this game. His forward running proved effective, hitting up Reef McInnes inside 50 in the first term and moving up towards attacking 50 with intent. After lacking oomph on a snap attempt in the second term, Cardillo made amends with a nice set shot finish after the half time siren for his only goal of the game. He would go on to miss another chance on the run when he had a touch more time to find the intended target, and attended the centre bounces late on.

Round 15 vs. GWV Rebels

By: Michael Alvaro

He might only be a bottom-ager, but Cardillo keeps on providing good grunt in the engine room, battling hard to break tackles and applying his own with force throughout the day. He was a little down on some of his recent numbers but still popped up with a few nice touches around the ground – marking strongly on forward wing in the fourth quarter and later faking a set shot to find Sam Ramsay a little further inside attacking 50.

Round 14 vs. Bendigo Pioneers

By: Michael Alvaro

The bottom-ager was tenacious in the contest, accumulating throughout the day and stringing together clearing kicks. His tackling intent was shown in the second term, giving away an overzealous high free kick but following it up with a holding the ball tackle as Bendigo played on. Cardillo also fared well when used up forward, finding space inside 50 on the back of a turnover to mark and goal, while also improvising a kick to assist a Jake Sutton goal as he gathered on the move. Really rate his aggression and willingness to break tackles.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 4 – Academies run riot among joint top four

DESPITE reverting back to a six-game format after Round 3’s nine-game marathon, there was plenty of worthy action to come out of Round 4 of last year’s NAB League season. The Northern Academies continued to get into the swing of things, with two of them making up a top four all joined on 12 points by the weekend’s conclusion. Fans were treated to two separate double-headers – at Southport and Sandringham – while Calder became the first side to make the trip down to Tasmania to face the Devils. All six Victorian Country sides underwent a bye round, while some of the remaining Metro clubs took slightly weakened line-ups into their matches.

First to take the park in Saturday’s lone pair of fixtures were the Northern Knights and GWS GIANTS Academy, with the New South Welshmen overcoming a half time deficit to storm home 26-point winners. A four-goal to one third term proved the difference for GWS as both sides struggled for accuracy in front of goal in the face of Sandringham’s coastal breeze.

GIANTS Academy jet Tom Green had a day out as his side’s only eventual draftee afield, racking up a game-high 38 disposals as far-and-away the best player on the park. Carlton may have bid on Green in last year’s draft, but would end up taking arguably the next best inside midfielder out there on this occasion within the first round in Sam Philp, who competed hard for his team-high 26 touches. Ayce Taylor, the only other draftee was quiet with eight disposals, while newly-made Knight Liam Delahunty booted three goals, and former Oakleigh recruit Jeromy Lucas managed two majors from his 28 disposals.

Sydney faced a tough test next up on the Trevor Barker Beach Oval turf, facing the talented – albeit slightly compromised – Sandringham side on its home patch. But lead by an inspired couple of bottom-aged smalls, the Swans were able to get on top and stay there for an unlikely win against the eventual preliminary finalists. A 10-goal to five opening half made for an unassailable lead, with the Dragons pouring on some late consolations to bring the final margin to a more respectable 22 points.

Over-ager Angus Hanrahan was Sandringham’s best, covering the ground well for 28 touches and 2.4, while bottom-agers Darby Hipwell (24 disposals, 0.3) and Archie Perkins (16 disposals, two goals) enjoyed some added responsibility given Sandringham’s many omissions. 2020 over-age hopeful Kyle Yorke also impressed with three majors, but was ultimately outdone by Sydney bottom-age gun Braeden Campbell, who booted four from his 13 disposals. Allies squad member Hamish Ellem also managed two majors alongside Sam Thorne, but it was Errol Gulden who caught the eye on the outside and going forward, as he amassed 27 disposals and a goal to continue his electrifying form.

Fast forward a day and travelling up to Southport were the Oakleigh Chargers to take on Gold Coast’s Academy, minus all of their 2019 draftees. The squad shuffling and travel took toll as the visitors went down by a resounding 71 points to the SUNS, managing just three goals in an unusually impotent performance going forward. With eight goals to one in a dominant second half, the home side took away the four points and rose atop of the NAB League ladder with its perfect 3-0 record.

Connor Budarick took the field with fellow SUNS draftees Matt Conroy and Patrick Murtagh, returning a best afield performance on the back of his game-high 28 disposals and one major. The two aforementioned talls were quieter with a combined 11 disposals, but also contributed three collective goals and 29 hitouts. Josh Gore could have had a day out had he been more accurate than his 2.5 from 20 disposals, while 2020 prospect Alex Davies found it 16 times and also booted a goal. For Oakleigh, over-ager Joe Ayton-Delaney stood up to amass 26 disposals, followed by Kaden Schreiber‘s 24. 2020 top-ager Lochlan Jenkins had it 17 times, while Collingwood NGA prospect Reef McInnes was a touch quieter with 13 disposals – two less than 2020 19-year-old prospect Jacob Woodfull‘s 15 to go with 16 hitouts.

The second match in the Sunshine State saw Eastern come from behind to down an accurate Brisbane Lions Academy, with a pair of Richmond draftees having an impact on the contest among a raft of bottom-aged talent. The Ranges had the better of the first half in tricky conditions, but found themselves behind come three quarter time as the Lions turned up the heat. The eventual minor premiers had plenty left in the tank though, booting five goals to Brisbane’s one in an epic final term surge.

At the forefront of the win was bottom-ager Salele Faegaimalii, who racked up 28 disposals and slammed home two goals from midfield in a barnstorming performance. He was supported well by half-back Joshua Clarke, who booted a terrific goal from his 21 touches, while cricketing prodigy Wil Parker found it 14 times. For the Lions, skipper Will Martyn amassed a monster 37 disposals, while fellow Richmond recruit Noah Cumberland snared three goals from 15 touches. Others to impress were bottom-agers Saxon Crozier (24 touches), Carter Michael (19), and Blake Coleman (four goals), while bigmen Tom Wischnat (19 disposals, three goals) and Ben Hickleton (three goals) also had a say for their respective sides. But is was Eastern’s team spread which won it on the day and earned a top four berth.

Down on the Apple Isle, Tasmania made good on its first full-time hosting duties in the NAB League, knocking over Calder by 12 points at Penguin Reserve. While the Devils were essentially at full strength, the Cannons were missing a few top-age stars but came in boasting some promising bottom-agers to match that of their opponent. After a goalless opening term, the game picked up with Tasmania kicking out to a 21-point lead at the main break despite only having one more scoring shot. The Devils’ accuracy held them in good stead, helping them to maintain the lead in the face of Calder’s greater number of opportunities come the final siren.

The only two draftees afield both donned the Tasmanian green, with AFL rookies Mitch O’Neill (16 disposals) and Matthew McGuiness (20) both having their say in patches. But the impressive bottom-age contingent featuring Patrick Walker (24 disposals, one goal), Oliver Davis (19 disposals), Sam Collins (18), and Jackson Callow (four goals) mattered most, with 16-year-old Division 2 MVP Sam Banks also collecting 17 touches on his NAB League debut. For Calder, Essendon NGA prospect Cody Brand booted three goals to prove his versatility, but it was Harrison Minton-Connell who led the way with 26 touches and 1.3 from midfield. Coburg-listed over-ager Tye Browning had it 22 times, with Lions teammate Ben Overman notching 17 touches from defence, and bottom-aged gun Jackson Cardillo showing his potential with 15 disposals.

The final game of the round brought us to our fourth venue, as Western Jets thumped the Northern Territory Thunder Academy by 71 points at Downer Oval in Williamstown. While the Jets struggled to adjust to their ‘home’ conditions with a massive 24 behinds, their weight of opportunities ensured they would also put 18 shots through the big sticks to deliver the winning score. For the Thunder, who ran out of legs after a bright opening term, this would be their third loss in as many NAB League appearances for the year.

Western’s bigmen stood tall on the day, with Aaron Clarke booting 4.6 from 18 disposals and 10 marks, while former-Sandringham product Will Kennedy had 25 disposals and 28 hitouts in the ruck, providing terrific service to fellow over-ager Daly Andrews (25 disposals, six inside 50s). There was a bunch of talent which ran out for the Thunder, as Maurice Rioli Jnr made his debut with 16 touches, Nichols Medalist Beau O’Connell starred with 18 disposals and a goal, and Brandon Rusca lead the disposal count with 25. Stephen Cumming battled hard in the ruck for 18 touches, 30 hitouts and a goal, while Tyson Woods was the standout forward (13 disposals, 3.2).

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

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 2 clashes in the NAB League this year between Eastern Ranges and Calder Cannons. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019, and for Ranges fans, this will be one to savour, while for Cannons fans the ending was a heart-breaking one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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