AS the NAB League season finals approach, we take a look at the sides that are no longer in contention for the title, checking out their draft prospects, Best and Fairest (BnF) chances, 2020 Draft Crop and a final word on their season. The next side we look at is the Bendigo Pioneers.
Points For: 962 (Ranked #8)
Points Against: 956 (Ranked #4)
Top draft prospects:
The standout Pioneers prospect really staked his claim as a potential top 10 talent with his AFL Under-18 Championships performances for Vic Country. He booted the clutch goal to win Country the game against South Australia, and then almost did it again in Country’s tight loss to Western Australia – with more playing out after his important goal. Unfortunately Kemp was ruled out for the year following his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury late in the year for school football, but he did more than enough to suggest he will not drift much, and should be a locked and loaded first round choice.
Had his ups and downs at times, but the brother of Paddy showed he has some real draftable qualities with his traits and ability to look smooth through traffic. He spent time resting forward and would hit the scoreboard which was important, and can go back and help out the defence as well. While his brother was a top five prospect, Dow is one who is potentially in that second round, though could land later in the first if a club wants to pounce early. He has great upside and is more of a longer term prospect by the time he hits his peak.
Other in the mix:
Bendigo has had a number of players put their hand up to be drafted on the back of a strong season in terms of game-by-game performances. Along with the two above, Brady Rowles has surely done enough this year to earn a place on an AFL list after his impressive work in the back half, while Flynn Perez – despite being injured the entire year – has always caught the eye of scouts with his class and upside. Outside the quartet, Ben Worme, Aaron Gundry and James Schischka all received combine invites and have attracted interest from clubs.
There are a few names who put their hand up for the BnF, with bottom-age midfielder and former Vic Country Under-16 captain Sam Conforti leading the way. He was consistent throughout the season and has to be a good shout, while Schischka was another who played all year after not cracking into the Vic Country side despite being named on the list. Gundry, Riley Ironside, Riley Wilson and Josh Treacy also all produced consistent years and played at least 15 games, so expect the count to be tight with plenty of players deserving of the nod.
2020 Draft Crop:
Looking to next year and the likes of Treacy and Conforti are a couple of players who standout front-of-mind. Treacy is the bigger-bodied key forward who can pinch hit in the ruck and will be a leading candidate for the overall goalkicking next season, while Conforti has been tracking nicely in midfield. The real dark horse who based on his last month or two could be the first Pioneer selected next year is Jack Ginnivan, the forward who has midfielder traits and showed he can spend stints in there. There is not much of him in terms of size, but he has that eye-catching class that will standout in the competition. Add in Seamus Mitchell and Jack Hickman – who both played Under-17 Futures – and the Pioneers have a number of names to watch next year.
On face value, the Pioneers finished third last and it is easy to write that off as a bad season. But in no way, shape or form was this season a disappointment, other than the fact they blew a few chances for more wins. This was the best Bendigo side we have seen in seven years purely for its depth and consistency for the entire year. They conceded the fourth least points of any side and still managed to score, ranked in the top eight with a massive percentage of 101. Sure they lost in Wildcard Round and on paper they finished eleventh, but Steve Sharp and the whole Pioneers organisation should be thrilled for what they produced which was a strong, competitive outfit all year round.