Tag: josh clarke

Q&A: Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season 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 Eastern Ranges’ Tyler Sonsie at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The classy midfielder was a standout at last year’s Under 16 National Championships, earning the MVP award in Vic Metro’s undefeated carnival-winning side. His form was enough to warrant selection in the back-end of Eastern’s run to the NAB League grand final, with Sonsie featuring six times and employed mostly on a wing or up forward. His eye for goal and clean skills make him a dual-pronged threat through midfield, able to hit the scoreboard and cause real damage with ball in hand, credit to his remarkable vision and smarts.

>> CATCH UP ON OUR FEATURES

Q&A:


MA: Tyler, you’re sitting this one out, what have you picked up?

TS: “I’ve got a back issue at the moment, yes.”

 

Has that hampered your preseason at all or is it more of a recent thing?

“It affected (preseason) at the start but I got into a bit more training lately… I should be back for Round 2 or 3.”

 

Coming off a really successful Under 16 National Championship, it must have been a great experience for you?

“Yes, it was a great experience with a lot of good people as well. Good boys.”

 

Where will you be looking to play as you keep breaking into the Eastern side, more forward or through midfield?

“Mostly through the midfield this year. Hopefully forward as well.”

 

How was it playing at NAB League level as a 16-year-old last year?

“Yes, (I had) a lot of mates there, it was a great experience as well to be in there. Really good.”

 

What are some of the things you’re looking to develop or add to your game at the moment?

“Just more the defensive side of things. Defensive transitions, to get back and help the team out a bit more.”

 

Being in the Vic Metro hub, are you looking to break into the Under 18 side this year?

“Yes, definitely. I’ll try my best.”

 

Who are some of the guys you’re looking forward to playing alongside?

Reef McInnes, Josh Clarke, Will Phillips and all them, they’re good kids.”

Marquee Matchups: Joshua Clarke vs. Bailey Laurie

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.

Our next matchup takes place on the outer, with flying flankers/wingmen Joshua Clarke (Eastern Ranges) and Bailey Laurie (Oakleigh Chargers) put under the spotlight. Of course, the pair will likely be teammates for Vic Metro should a national carnival go ahead, but have already faced off twice in the NAB League – including in the grand final, no less. Both were prominent as bottom-agers in the 2019 season decider, with Clarke assuming his usual role off half-back, while Laurie ran riot at half-forward.

Clarke’s 18 underage games are testament to his ability, as he quickly became a key member of the highly successful Eastern side credit to his damaging work moving forward from the back. Laurie managed seven outings in Oakleigh’s premiership side last year, mixing his time between Chargers duties and APS school football at Caulfield Grammar. A popular teammate, Laurie ranks as elite for his agility and is a livewire in the forward half who harnesses his phenomenal creativity.

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.

PLAYER PAGES

Joshua Clarke
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro

DOB: March 5, 2002

Height: 180cm
Weight: 71kg

Position: Half-back/wing

Bailey Laurie
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

DOB: March 24, 2002

Height: 178cm
Weight: 76kg

Position: Forward/outside midfielder

FITNESS TESTING PROFILES

VERTICAL JUMP

Clarke – 48cm*
Laurie – 58cm

RUNNING VERTICAL JUMP (R/L)

Clarke – 66cm/56cm*
Laurie – 63cm/74cm

SPEED (20m)

Clarke – 3.10 seconds*
Laurie – 3.19 seconds

AGILITY

Clarke – 8.24 seconds*
Laurie – 7.97 seconds

ENDURANCE (Yo-yo)

Clarke – 20.4*
Laurie – 20.5

* – 2019 testing data

Inevitably, it is impossible to compare testing results from the two athletes given only one of them tested this year, however, Clarke did participate in 2019 to give us some data to work with. The pair ranks very highly in agility, with Laurie’s sub-eight second effort landing him in the competition’s top 10. Speed is the area which seems to set the two apart, though Clarke’s 20m time of 3.10 seconds in 2019 is far from flattering to the pace he is able to build at full flight.

The pair fared similarly in terms of endurance albeit if the score are a touch low, and Clarke’s preseason injury interruptions would have made building on the 20.4 score difficult. As smaller players, their power and explosiveness seems to lack in the jumping tests, though they may rarely need to compete in the air given their nous at ground level.

>> PRESEASON TESTING RESULTS:

20m Sprint
Agility Test
Yo-yo Test

ON-FIELD PROFILES

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATISTICS

Clarke:

18 games
16.1 disposals (68.7% UP)
1.9 marks
1.5 tackles
1 clearance
3.1 inside 50s
2.3 rebound 50s
0.2 goals (4)

Laurie:

7 games
15.3 disposals (63.7% UP)
3.1 marks
3.6 tackles
2.6 inside 50s
1.9 rebound 50s
0.9 goals (6)

Obviously it is difficult to compare the figures of two players who have very different appearance numbers, but a factor that is somewhat alleviated given they occurred in the same competition.

Something that is immediately evident across both stat-lines is the uncontested possession rates, with both athletes rating at above 63 per cent. For Laurie in particular, it displays his knack of finding space and getting busy on the outside, and his average of 3.1 marks is credit to his leap and ability to find space.

The rebound and inside-50 numbers for both player are also solid, but stand out more glaringly for Clarke given half-backs typically rack up more rebounds. His greater average of inside 50s highlights his ability to break the lines coming out of defence as a real metres-gained asset, getting on the end of handball receives and putting the ball into goal-threatening areas.

That aspect of Clarke’s game means he is also able to find the goals from further afield, while Laurie is seldom far away from the big sticks either and can create chances from nothing. Having put up solid numbers as bottom-agers, it would have been great to see more of their development in 2020.

BEST GAME

Clarke:

2019 NAB League Round 4 vs. Brisbane Lions Academy
Eastern 13.8 (86) def Brisbane 12.3 (75)

21 disposals
3 marks
2 tackles
5 inside 50s
5 rebound 50s
1 goal

Laurie:

2019 NAB League Grand Final vs. Eastern
Oakleigh 12.17 (89) def. Eastern 5.6 (36)

17 disposals
5 marks
4 tackles
6 inside 50s
2 goals
2 behinds

While there may well have been other appearances right in the mix to be chosen for either player, we feel they best showcased their most significant traits in these games.

Coincidentally, Laurie’s chosen best game is also the pair’s previous meeting, beating out his season-high 19 disposals against Calder, and one of his other two-goal efforts – Round 19 against Gippsland. On the biggest of stages, the elusive forward took the game by storm, setting the base for Oakleigh’s triumph with some eye-catching moments early on. Laurie crucially found the goals, but also brought others into the contest and broke it open with his ability to burst out of congestion.

Clarke also had a good batch of games to choose from, but his 21 disposals and one goal up in Queensland against the Lions Academy was a memorable one. We could well have opted for his 22 disposals and one goal in the grand final, or four other showings of over 20 touches across his 18 games. Against the Lions, Clarke had a similarly profound impact and kicked a crucial goal on the run to lift his side in the tight contest. That is somewhat a trademark of Clarke, as is his ability to penetrate either arc. It was all on show in this game, a top effort.

PREVIOUS MEETING

2019 NAB LEAGUE GRAND FINAL
Oakleigh Chargers 12.17 (89) def. Eastern Ranges 5.6 (36)

Clarke:

22 disposals (15 kicks)
2 clearances
7 rebound 50s
1 goal

Laurie:

17 disposals
5 marks
4 tackles
6 inside 50s
2 goals
2 behinds

You already know about Laurie’s efforts in the grand final given we judged it as his best game, but Clarke was also one of his side’s best players in a losing effort. He managed to collect his second-best disposal tally for the year (22), while also finding the scoreboard in typical fashion on the run from range, and providing plenty of rebound from defensive 50. Clarke’s two clearances and weight of rebound 50s reflect how much pressure the Ranges defence was under, which he held up well in, however tallies of zero marks and tackles reflect Clarke’s reliance on the uncontested and attacking game.

STRENGTHS

Clarke:

Speed
Rebound
Run-and-carry
Kick penetration

Laurie:

Agility/evasion
Creativity
Impact
Finding space

The speed-versus-agility battle comes to the fore in either players’ strengths, with Laurie obviously excelling with sideways movement, while Clarke is able to hit the gas moving forward. Laurie’s evasion can be particularly eye-catching, with his ability to side-step and sneak into improbable pockets of space nothing short of elite.

Finding space also transfers to how busy Laurie gets, proving a pest to opposition defenders as a slippery customer. His creativity with ball in hand also works to break games open, able to hit short-range targets with good vision and execution to thus give him the added – and highly desirable – trait of having a high impact per possession.

Clarke’s best assets all tie into one another, with his speed, carries, and kick penetration essential to any rebounding half-back/wingman. He can prove equally evasive in congestion and once he breaks free, good luck catching him. Clarke is not afraid to carry the ball forward, but also gains serious meterage with his sweet left-foot kicks. Accustomed to booting goals from range, Clarke is a multi-faceted threat in a typically one-dimensional position.

IMPROVEMENTS

Clarke:

Contested ball
Defensive game

Player:

Contested ball
Consistent impact

Laurie’s listed improvement of contested ball is a difficult one to attribute, as he is quite good at weaving through congestion but tended to find more of the ball on the outside or in space up forward. Given his clear ability to move into the centre bounces, Laurie can also work on having a more consistent impact throughout the four quarters, while also accumulating bigger numbers. That aspect was evident even in his best game, where he was electric early but faded away in the latter stages. It may be a product of his forward role in 2019, but can always be worked on.

For Clarke, contested ball is also listed as an improvement given his largely outside game and uncontested possession rate of 68.7 per cent. It ties into the need to improve his defensive game, which Clarke alluded to in preseason himself, adding the defensive attributes to match that attacking flair off the half-back line. A key indicator of improvement will be building on his 2019 tackle average of 1.5, with defensive pressure an in-vogue and required trait for structures at the AFL level.

KEY SCOUTING NOTES

Clarke:

2019 NAB League Boys Grand Final
By: Ed Pascoe

In what turned out to be a dirty day for Eastern, a shining light was the game from young dashing defender Joshua Clarke, who did everything he could to get his team over the line with his dash and dare from the back half. Clarke had some eye-catching moments, using his speed to take the game on and get away from any would-be tacklers. He had a huge second quarter highlighted by a fantastic goal on the run on a hard angle and distance while also under pressure.

Laurie:

2019 NAB League Grand Final
By: Peter Williams

Has his moments where he can break a game open, kicking a couple of goals either side of half-time and really making his presence felt. The bottom-age forward is a metres-gained player and while he missed a couple of opportunities with two behinds, he still amassed 17 disposals, five marks, four tackles and crucially had six inside 50s, constantly applying pressure on the Ranges.

FINAL WORD

The two may be a touch separate in terms of draft range at this point, with Laurie’s agility, damage, and game-breaking abilities forward of centre making him a desirable option. That should not detract from Clarke’s impressive resume and range of traits, though half-backs and outside types are often put into the dime-a-dozen category. But Clarke’s speed and the improvements that can come from his game are exciting, and he can be just as much of a game changer. The pair would make for a dangerous combination up either end in the Metro side, would have again met in the NAB League this year. Laurie may be set for more midfield time, at 178cm, his best position at the next level with likely be up forward. If both players can harness the contested game sharpen their overall games, they will have little trouble in finding a place at the elite level.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 5 – Dragons, Ranges humble Academies to go top

ROUND 5 of the 2019 NAB League season saw the Victorian mainstays peg back their Northern visitors in an action packed nine-game weekend. Sandringham and Eastern delivered big wins over the two Queensland academies at Trevor Barker Oval, while the Sydney Academy won strongly to remain undefeated alongside Dandenong (3-0-1).

But first to take the field were the Bendigo Pioneers and Northern Knights at Queen Elizabeth Oval, with the visitors taking four points back to Preston after trailing at every other break. After streaming ahead by 17 points at half-time with double the goal tally, the Pioneers ran out of legs to be held to just one major in the second half as the Knights snuck ahead to come away five-point victors.

As was a theme in Round 5, both sides were weakened but had some solid talent running around from each age bracket. Josh D’Intinosante and Sunny Brazier had plenty of the ball while also hitting the scoreboard, while Lachlan Potter created some zip on the outside. Top-age Pioneers James Schischka, Ben Worme, and Logan Fitzgerald all had 25 touches, while bottom-age jet Jack Ginnivan showed promise with 20 and a goal.

Sam Philp was the best ball winner of the 2019 draftees, earning 17 touches for Northern, while Swans recruit Brady Rowles had just 11 as he popped up in spurts. Ryan Sturgess, who almost joined Philp at the Blues as a supplementary top-up, was also impressive with 21 disposals and seven marks.

Saturday’s first game opened a Blacktown double-header as the Swans Academy accounted for Murray in a close encounter to move to equal-first. The Sydneysiders shot out of the blocks with five goals to nil to open the match, adding another four in the second term to lead by six goals at half time. Although they fared much better in the second half, the Bushrangers could not fully recover the deficit and went down by 24 points.

Sydney over-ager Kyle Martin led all comers with 29 disposals, just one touch ahead of Bushrangers runner Cam Wild (28, one goal). Dylan Clarke also led the way for Murray with 23 disposals, with Jye Chalcraft, Jimmy Boyer, and Sam Durham all also ticking over the 20-mark. Max Geddes (23 disposals) was also influential for the Swans, but it was big man Hamish Ellem who stole the show with 22 disposals, nine marks, and 3.3 in a performance which went a long way to securing him an Allies berth.

The GWS Academy was next up on its home turf against another Victorian country side in Gippsland, only it could not repeat the feats of its New South Wales rival. The GIANTS trailed at every break but brought the contest to the highly-fancied Power, getting within a single point at three-quarter time before falling by nine points.

Harry Grant had an outstanding game for GWS, booting two goals from his game-high 31 disposals, while Oakleigh squad member Jeromy Lucas had 24 touches and newly-transferred Northern Knight Liam Delahunty booted two goals. But a talent rich Gippsland unit was led well by Brock Smith (24 disposals, seven rebound 50s) and Hawthorn rookie Harrison Pepper (26 disposals, one goal), with Riley Baldi also stepping up through midfield. Draftees Kyle Dunkley, Leo Connolly, Fraser Phillips, and Charlie Comben were also in action for the Power.

Skipping back, and Dandenong extended its unbeaten start to the season with a huge win over Oakleigh on home turf. After a tight opener, the Stingrays played the conditions perfectly to pile on eight goals in the second term, and seven in the last to storm away 70-point victors with 11 individual goalkickers.

Lachlan Williams and Ned Cahill slotted three majors each for the winners, while bottom-ager Will Bravo slotted two and Richmond recruit Bigoa Nyuon managed one from 17 touches. Cahill was the leading disposal getter with 29, while Joe Ayton-Delaney, Lochlan Jenkins, and Trent Bianco all managed 24 for the Chargers. Port draftee Dylan Williams went goalless in a different role, while Gold Coast mid-season recruit Mitch Riordan had 15 touches and Melbourne rookie Austin Bradtke had just eight disposals and a goal.

Saturday’s other double-header began with Sandringham thumping the Brisbane Lions Academy by 97 points on home turf. The Lions had won just one game to that point, and were in for more immediate pain as the Dragons helped themselves to 13 first half goals while holding the visitors to one. There was no way back from there, with Sandringham coasting to victory.

Brisbane skipper Will Martyn was one of the sole Lions to stand up all day, collecting a game-high 31 touches while fellow Richmond draftee Noah Cumberland was kept to just nine. Louis Butler and Ryan Byrnes strutted their stuff for the Dragons to win plenty of the ball, while Miles Bergman started to get into his stride with 17 touches, Jack Bell impressed with two goals from the same disposal haul, and Blake O’Leary finished with a game-high three goals.

Eastern completed the academy rout with a defensively sound 59-point thumping of Gold Coast’s academy, keeping the SUNS to just two goals. After just three goals were scored in the first half, the Ranges clicked into gear to break the game open with seven in the third term and run home comfortable winners.

Zak Pretty had a monster day out with 37 disposals, aided well by Lachlan Stapleton (27) and Mitch Mellis (24), while bottom-age defenders Wil Parker and Josh Clarke also impressed. Bailey White led the goal count with four, while Jamieson Rossiter managed three and Cody Hirst played one of his last games before being snapped up by Sydney. Skipper Connor Budarick was the standout for Gold Coast, accumulating 27 touches, with bottom-ager Max Pescud also thereabouts, and fellow SUNS recruits Matt Conroy and Patrick Murtagh also taking the field.

Saturday’s final fixture saw Calder edge Geelong in a close battle at Highgate Recreation Reserve, with both sides enjoying time in the lead. The Cannons looked the goods after coming out on top in a low-scoring first half, but were pegged back to within a point at the final break. Keeping their heads, the hosts held on to win by seven points.

Sam Ramsay was the sole draftee afield, and he had a decent outing with 27 disposals – behind only Daniel Mott (29) and Brodie Newman (36). Ned Gentile booted three goals from 21 disposals to also be among the best, while skipper Jesse Clark claimed that honour for Geelong. Nineteen-year-old Charlie Sprague was another to impress with two goals from 18 touches, with fellow over-ager Henry Stubbings managing 20.

Fast-forward to Sunday, and Western got the better of Tasmania in their trip to the Apple Isle, trumping the hosts by 47 points to get within touch of the top four. A steady opening half saw Tasmania prove wasteful, booting 1.6 as Western eventually took flight to run home with six goals to two after half-time.

Competition leading goalkicker Archi Manton took full toll with a game-high three majors, supported well by Carlton rookie Josh Honey (two from 25 disposals) and bottom-age jet Eddie Ford (two from 16 disposals). Darcy Cassar racked it up across half back to finish with 31 disposals, while Patrick Walker and Bailey Gordon shared that feat for Tasmania (25). Isaac Chugg was also impressive on debut for a Devils side which was missing a lot of its star power.

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels took home a huge win in the round’s final match, defeating the Northern Territory Thunder Academy by 55 points on neutral territory. The Rebels never looked back after a 10 goals to one opening half at Windy Hill, which proved more than enough for the win despite a more even second half.

Nick Caris led the goal count with four for GWV, while Jay Rantall (27 disposals, two goals), Matty Lloyd (28, two), and Riley Polkinghorne (23, two) all had an impact. There was plenty of class on show for NT despite the loss too, with Beau O’Connell (29 disposals, two goals) having a day out, while Ben Jungfer had it 28 times, Joel Jeffrey had 24 touches and six marks, and new SUNS rookie Malcolm Rosas Jnr also got on the park.

Q&A: Joshua Clarke (Eastern Ranges/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 Eastern Ranges’ Joshua Clarke at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The speedy half-back flanker already boasts an impressive NAB League resume having featured across 18 games in Eastern’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, and is one of five Ranges currently attached to the Vic Metro Academy Hub. Clarke’s speed and line-breaking ability going forward helped him stand out as a bottom-ager, while his penetrating left boot became an asset throughout 2019. Looking to continue a similar role in 2020, the 181cm prospect would have been raring to go come Round 1 despite a pre-season groin niggle.

Q&A:

MA: Josh, you’re sitting out the testing today – what’ve you picked up?

JC: “I’ve got a little bit of a sore groin, it’s not 100% at the moment so I thought I’d just take a rest out.”

Are you going to be ready for Round 1?

“Yeah I’ll be ready for Round 1, definitely.”

What about the rest of the preseason to date, have you had a solid one?

“I’ve had a fairly solid preseason. “Probably been out for maybe two or three weeks but the boys are going along really well and we get along as a great bunch.”

Playing off half-back in a really good team last year, how’d you rate your bottom-age season?

“I was pretty happy to even just play one game as a bottom-ager but was lucky enough to play the whole year so I was very happy with my performance as a bottom-ager. But I’ve just got to step up this year and be a leader.”

What’s it like for the team having the grand final experience from last year, will it put you in good stead?

“Obviously last year we didn’t have any drafted which showed that we are a team and it’s the same this year. “I think we’ve got the same character, the same mottos we go by so again, I think that us as a team will do pretty well this year.”

Are you looking to move up the ground a little bit, or will you lock down that half-back role again?

“I don’t really mind. “I’d love to have a half-back role, I feel like I can play my best footy there. “On a wing is another place I’m pretty good at so yeah, I like to move forward and kick goals.”

Being around the traps at the Vic Metro Hub, how’s that been for your development?

“It’s been a lot of help, surrounded by players that are better than me and a lot of good leaders and people setting the standard. It’s been really good to learn off them.”

Who are some of the players you’re looking forward to playing alongside this year for Metro?

Eddie Ford, a pretty exciting character. “And definitely Bailey Laurie, he’s a very quick sort of player that I want to (emulate).”

In terms of your game on-field, what are some of the things you’re looking to iron out heading into your top-age year?

“Obviously playing half-back, to nail being a defensive player because that’s my role at the start of the day. “So becoming tighter on my defending, more aware but when I can impact and run off, that’s when I’ll do that.”

Are there any landmarks that you’re looking to hit or goals you’re setting at the moment?

“For me it’s just to set the standard at Eastern. “There’s a lot of boys there that haven’t had the experience, were lucky enough to play last year or been through the system. “So to sort of guide them through that, and we have a great captain in Connor Downie to put us under the wing – he’s very good.”

Classic Contests: Seven-goal third term sees Eastern douse Suns

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 5 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Eastern Ranges and Gold Coast Suns Academy. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019 in what has been the only clash between the pair.

EASTERN RANGES 1.3 | 2.5 | 9.7 | 11.11 (77)
GOLD COAST SUNS 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.5 | 2.6 (18)

Round 5 | Saturday, April 27, 2019
Trevor Barker Oval, 1.15pm

After four rounds of the NAB League Boys season, Eastern Ranges were looking good thanks to three consecutive victories to have them fourth with a 3-1 win-loss record. Though Gold Coast Suns Academy had also notched up three consecutive wins, albeit against fellow Academy sides and a weakened Oakleigh Chargers outfit the week before. It still mean the Suns sat atop the ladder with a a massive percentage of 237.5.

The first half was certainly not one to write home about with just three goals kicked from both sides. Bailey White was the first one the board with a major in the 12th minute of the game, while Ben Hickleton made it two early in the second term to hold a 14-point lead. In the last couple of minutes, Riley Buckland finally brought the 48-minute goalless drought for the visitors and despite it being the Suns first major of the match, they trailed by just eight points at the major break.

It was the third term where the Ranges put the foot down and won the game. Keeping their opponents to just two behinds in the quarter, Eastern piled on 7.2 in a dominant performance that would be indicative of the Ranges ability to win when challenged. Zak Pretty was first on the board in the second half, followed back back-to-back goals to White who had three to his name. Jamieson Rossiter got in on the party with two majors of his own, before two late goals in the last two minutes – to Cody Hirst and a remarkable fourth to White after the siren – had Eastern 50 points up with a quarter to play. Danger signs were there when Rossiter booted his third and his side’s eighth consecutive goal just 45 seconds into the last term. Luckily for the Suns, the defence managed to stem the flow over the next 20 minutes until Hickleton converted the Ranges’ 11th and his second for a 65-point advantage. A consolation goal to Ethan Dawson with three minutes to play ensured the Suns at least finished with two goals on the board.

From the 11 goals, White, Rossiter and Hicketon would combined for nine of them in a remarkable effort up forward, also combining for 35 disposals, and 12 marks in the process. From Eastern’s dominant midfield, Pretty had an absolute day out, feasting on 37 disposals (21 contested), five tackles, eight clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal. Fellow consistent ball winners, Lachlan Stapleton (27 disposals, four marks, five tackles, six clearances and four inside 50s) and Mitch Mellis (24 disposals, three tackles, six clearances and three inside 50s) were busy, while bottom-age talents Wil Parker (23 disposals, seven marks and three rebounds) and Josh Clarke (21 disposals, five marks, three tackles, four inside 50s and seven rebounds) were also prominent. Riley Smith was a star in the ruck wiht 37 hitouts from 19 touches, while future Swan Hirst finished with 20 disposals, three marks, four tackles and a goal on the day.

Eventual Hunter Harrison Medallist, Connor Budarick had a team-high 27 disposals, six marks, 16 tackles and five for the Suns, as well as three clearances and four rebounds. Max Pescud (23 disposals, four marks, three tackles, four clearances, five inside 50s and six rebounds) and Ashton Crossley (22 disposals, three marks, three clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds) also found plenty of the ball. In defence, Brandon Deslandes and Corey Joyce combined for 13 rebounds from 39 disposals and seven marks.

Eastern Ranges would go on to earn the minor premiership, making it all the way to the NAB League Grand Final before bowing out to Oakleigh on the big stage. Gold Coast Suns would still win the overall Academy Series thanks to defeating Sydney Swans Academy for the title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 2 – Academies join competition

ROUND 2 last year will be forever known as the return of Allied teams to the Victorian Under-18 boys competition. While some states have participated in past years on and off, all four northern Academies, along with Northern Territory Thunder joined the competition. Tasmania Devils also joined in, but on a full-time basis, with the Devils playing their first official match in the round across a whopping nine games.

Kicking off the round as part of a Triple Header at Blacktown, Tasmania travelled north for its first game, coming up against Sydney Swans Academy. The Devils had to wait until the second term to score, as the Swans booted 3.7 before Nicholas Baker made history as the first official goalkicker for the Devils. A goal to Jye Menzie just 19 seconds into the third term saw the margin cut as little as five points, but that was as close as it got for the rest of the game as the Swans booted the last three goals of the term to be 26 points up at the final break. Jackson Callow converted another major in the opening minute of the final term to give his team a sniff, and by the time Will Harper put his second on the board, the margin was just nine points with 14 minutes remaining. Unfortunately for the visitors, Marc Sheather kicked a settling goal to help ease the pressure and the Swans got up by 14 points.

Bottom-age talent, Errol Gulden had a day out with 33 disposals, six marks, three tackles, two clearances, eight inside 50s, four rebounds and two goals, with Sam Thorne (23 disposals, four marks, four clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal) also prominent for the Swans. Another talented bottom ager in Braeden Campbell collected 15 disposals, three marks, eight tackles and five inside 50s, while Kyle McKellar and Jackson Barling were also impressive. For the Devils, overager Matthew McGuinness picked up 27 disposals, seven marks and seven rebounds, working hard with Patrick Walker (25 disposals, seven marks and seven rebounds) and Sam Collins (23 disposals, five marks and nine rebounds) in defence. The Devils’ top rated prospect, Mitch O’Neill helped himself to 21 touches, nine tackles, 12 clearances, six inside 50s and three rebounds in the loss.

In the next game at Blacktown, the Brisbane Lions Academy fought back from a disappointing first quarter to down the GIANTS Academy, winning 14.12 (96) to 10.10 (70). GWS led by 19 points at quarter time, but a six goals to three second term had Brisbane just three points down by the main break. A seven goals to three second half saw the Lions run over the top of the GIANTS despite the best efforts of GIANTS star, Tom Green (29 disposals – 18 contested – nine clearances, seven inside 50s, four rebounds and three tackles).

Will Martyn (30 disposals, nine marks, five clearances, five inside 50s and a goal) was busy, as was the likes of Tom Griffiths (20 disposals, six marks and four tackles), Ethan Hunt (19 disposals) and Bruce Reville (16 disposals, eight marks and five inside 50s). Aside from Green, Jeromy Lucas had his fair share of the ball with 24 touches, four marks, four clearances, five inside 50s and a goal, while Matt McGrory (18 disposals, seven clearances and four inside 50s), Nick Murray (19 disposals, 10 marks), Lachlan Squire (15 disposals, seven clearances and four inside 50s) and Liam Delahunty (15 disposals, seven marks, three inside 50s and three goals) all impressed.

Rounding out the triple header at Blacktown, Gold Coast Suns Academy never looked like losing to Northern Territory. The Suns piled on eight goals to one in the opening half, and while the Thunder hit back in the third term to cut the deficit to 31 points, Gold Coast stepped up again to boot three goals to one in the final term and win by 44 points.

Ashton Crossley had 27 disposals and seven clearances through the midfield, while top prospect, Connor Budarick racked up 22 touches, six marks, nine tackles, five inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal across the ground. Bottom-age talent, Alex Davies had 22 touches, nine clearances, four tackles and four inside 50s, while Max Pescud (20 touches, three clearances and three inside 50s), Hewago Paul Oea (16 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s and a goal) and Josh Gore (15 touches, three marks, seven tackles and three goals) all looked lively. Future Sun, Matthew Conroy looked strong through the ruck with 22 hitouts from 15 touches, three marks and a goal.

Heading down to Victoria and Dandenong Stingrays caused a boil-over against premiership contenders, Gippsland Power. The reigning premiers had a new-look line-up after the 2018 success, but started strongly to lead by a goal at quarter time. Gippsland hit the front to have the advantage by half-time, but it flipped again by the last break with the Stingrays in front by four points. When Bailey Schmidt kicked a goal with six minutes to play, the Stingrays hit the front and never surrendered it in a match that had a whopping 11 lead changes.

Mitch Riordan picked up 23 disposals, three marks, five tackles, four clearances, five inside 50s and three rebounds in one of his few games before being selected in the mid-season draft, as captain Hayden Young was strong off half-back with 21 disposals, four marks, five tackles and three rebounds. Jack Toner (19 touches, two marks, five tackles, five clearances and seven inside 50s) had a truckload of the ball, while future first round pick, Cody Weightman racked up 14 disposals, five marks, six tackles and a goal. Other future draftees who played in the game included Ned Cahill (12 disposals, seven tackles and a goal), Bigoa Nyuon (six disposals, four marks, four tackles and a goal) and Sam De Koning (four disposals).

For the Power, first round picks Sam Flanders (23 disposals, four marks, four tackles, eight clearances, four inside 50s and a goal) and Caleb Serong (21 disposals, nine tackles, seven clearances and four inside 50s) were prominent. Another mid-season recruit in Kyle Dunkley (20 disposals, six tackles, six clearances and four inside 50s) was lively again, while Leo Connolly (16 disposals, three marks and six rebounds), Fraser Phillips (15 disposals, three tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) and Harrison Pepper (14 disposals, two marks, two tackles, three clearances and one goal) were among other future draftees who impressed.

In the other Saturday game, Murray Bushrangers had a second heart-breaking loss in a row, losing by five points to Bendigo Pioneers after dropping their first game by under a kick. They led by 18 points at the first change, but the Pioneers booted three goals to zero in the second term to lead by half-time, and then a see-sawing contest ensued with the Pioneers saluting in a thrilling game.

Thomson Dow was busy with 24 disposals, four marks, four tackles, seven clearances and a goal, as fellow first round pick, Brodie Kemp had a strong day out with 17 touches, four marks, three tackles, three clearances, three inside 50s and a goal. Future Swan, Brady Rowles would have 12 touches, two clearances and two inside 50s, while Logan Fitzgerald (22 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and four rebounds) had plenty of the ball. Cam Wild was the prominent ball winner with 30 touches, seven marks, seven tackles, seven clearances, three inside 50s and six rebounds, while top five pick Lachlan Ash had 26 touches, eight marks, three clearances, three inside 50s and seven rebounds. Jye Chalcraft (26 touches, four marks, six clearances and two goals), Will Quirk (23 disposals, 10 marks) and Elijah Hollands (22 disposals, three marks and a goal) were also impressive.

Looking to Sunday, Sandringham Dragons continued their form to start the season with a comfortable 43-point win over Northern Knights. The Dragons booted six goals to two in the opening half and then kept their opponents at arms-length after that to secure a strong win in the first of two games at Trevor Barker Oval.

Ryan Byrnes picked up 24 touches, two marks, four tackles and six clearances, as Louis Butler looked lively across the ground thanks to 18 disposals, three marks, three inside 50s and four rebounds. Jack Mahony (17 disposals, four marks, seven tackles, four clearances and six inside 50s), Hugo Ralphsmith (17 disposals, three marks), Josh Worrell (17 disposals, seven marks and three rebounds) and Finn Maginness (14 disposals, six tackles and four inside 50s) were among future draftees to win plenty of the ball as Charlie Dean caught attention with four majors from 15 touches and eight marks. Adam Carafa (28 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, seven clearances and four inside 50s) and Sam Philp (18 disposals, eight marks and five clearances) were busy through midfield, while Ryan Gardner (19 disposals, five inside 50s) worked the outside and Ryan Sturgess (22 touches, eight rebounds) was strong in defence.

A dominant six goals to zero first term set Eastern Ranges up for an impressive 63-point win over Western in the second game of a double header at Trevor Barker Oval. With 13 scoring shots to one in the first term, the margin could have been bigger than the 42 points, and while Western managed to stem the bleeding after that, the Ranges had opened up a 58-point lead by the final break to ensure they would enjoy a big win.

Mitch Mellis (35 disposals, four marks, four clearances, five inside 50s and three goals) and Lachlan Stapleton (33 disposals, four marks, eight tackles, six clearances and 10 inside 50s) ran rampant as future Swan, Cody Hirst (29 disposals, eight marks, four tackles and three rebounds) and inside midfielder, Zakery Pretty (23 disposals, two marks, five clearances and five inside 50s were also prominent. Bottom-ager Josh Clarke work hard with his run-and-carry picking up 15 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s and a goal, while Josh Tilly capped off his day with three majors. For the Jets, Darcy Cassar had the ball on a string from defence, racking up 31 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and nine rebounds, working in tandem with Daly Andrews (24 disposals, six marks, five clearances, three inside 50s and eight rebounds). Josh Kellett was instrumental mopping up in defence as well with 12 rebounds to go with his 20 touches in the defeat.

In the final game of the round, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels put the Round 1 heart-breaking loss to Dandenong Stingrays to the back of their mind as they came from behind to down the Geelong Falcons by a point in a thrilling contest. Darcy McEldrew kicked the winning goal late in the fourth term to get his side over the line. Jay Rantall was enormous in his second game for the Rebels, racking up 24 disposals, three marks, six tackles, six clearances, seven inside 50s, four rebounds and a goal, while James Cleaver booted two majors from 17 touches in his new role up forward. Cooper Craig-Peters impressive with six clearances, five inside 50s and three rebounds from 19 disposals and eight tackles, while Riley Polkinghorne had seven rebounds working hard out of defence.

Cooper Stephens led from the front in his last full game prior to injury, amassing a game-high 28 touches, four marks, five tackles, four clearances and a goal, while Charlie Lazzaro worked hard as a bottom-ager to pick up 26 touches, four marks, five clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds. Out of defence, Keidan Rayner racked up 10 rebounds with his 25 disposals, while Jesse Clark had nine and 16 respectively. Also busy but in the other half of the ground was Charlie Sprague (23 disposals, three marks and seven inside 50s).

Q&A: Connor Downie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season a few weeks 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 Eastern Ranges’ Connor Downie at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

MA: How’s the preseason testing day been for you?

CD: “Yeah it’s alright, it’s been good seeing the other boys from the other regions.”

You must have a bit of that being involved with the Vic Metro hub. How’s that been for your development?

“Yeah it’s really good. “I met a few new boys that I wouldn’t really have met if it wasn’t for that, so I’m really grateful for that experience.”

Which boys are you looking forward to playing alongside you’ve met in the hub?

“Definitely Josh Clarke is one of my good mates at Eastern so keen to play with him. Same with Tyler Sonsie and all those boys.”

You’re a part of Hawthorn NGA as well, how’s that been for you?

“It’s been really good. Nathan Foley who’s is a really good mentor for me down there. “He’s helped me out with a lot of tips about my game and goes through vision with me and stuff, so he’s been really good to me.”

It was a good results-based season for Eastern last year, how’s it been being able to crack that team and being a part of it? Do you feel more of a leader this year?

“Yeah definitely. “Last year I had a really good group of top agers to guide me through the year and help me get experience and this year I can take what I learnt from them. “From the leaders last year like ‘Rossy’ (James Ross) and stuff, to hopefully be a good leader this year for the boys.”

Do you have any goals this year?

“Obviously I want to hopefully help the boys get to the finals and hopefully win the grand final for Eastern. “But I want to have a good impact in Metro carnival and AFL Academy and hopefully the Draft Combine later in the year.”

2020 NAB League Boys team preview: Eastern Ranges

EASTERN Ranges will have a very different look to their NAB League Boys side in 2020 coming off a grand final last year. The Ranges had a top-age heavy group that had come through the program together over the past few years and now a number of fresh faces have joined the club to begin the next year of competition. Eastern Ranges Talent Manager, Sean Toohey said there was an “exciting” element about the unknown.

“We’ve had a different pre-season this year with a lot of newcomers into the program, given we were a very strong top age group last year and probably didn’t have much depth in our bottom age,” he said. “In a way that’s exciting there’s a bit more unknown about that.”

The Ranges have been able to face Gippsland Power in a couple of practice matches over the summer and finalised the list ahead of last Saturday’s NAB League Fitness Testing Day. Toohey said whilst Eastern did not have a draftee in the AFL National or Rookie drafts, the majority of the minor premiers’ side will be running around in the Victorian Football League (VFL) this season. He also said that he believed that those unlucky to miss out could find their way onto AFL lists in the future.

I mean we’ve got an element of bias here but we thought that definitely a couple of boys were very stiff and talking with clubs I know they were very very close and things just didn’t go their way with some trading of picks and availability of other players, you know recycled players and the rookie draft,” Toohey said. “We were a bit unlucky there but we’ve probably got about 14 or 15 of those boys now on VFL lists spread around we’ve got about eight or so at Box Hill our affiliated VFL club. “So really excited about that, great feedback from clubs on how they’re all going and I genuinely believe that some of them, although they will go about it on a different pathway will end up on AFL lists and get an opportunity at some stage.”

One of those unlucky to miss out has come back as a 19-year-old prospect in Jamieson Rossiter who has battled with unfortunate injuries over the past couple of seasons. Toohey said he hoped Rossiter could continue to show the form he did at the back-end of last season such as a dominant performance over Sandringham Dragons in the qualifying final where he kicked four goals in a low-scoring contest to propel his side into the preliminary finals.

Jamieson Rossiter is probably the most high-profile one from previous years,” he said. He hasn’t had any luck with his body at all, really any continuity in his footy for the last two and a half years and again after last years grand final he played with a tear in his shoulder that required a reconstruction. He’s come out of the backend of rehabbing that after the operation last year. He’s starting to return to contact this week and excited to see what he can do between us and maybe even some games with Box Hill.”

“He really is a natural forward,” Toohey said of Rossiter’s position for 2020. “I think he plays his best footy forward which we saw in our first final against Sandringham last year. “He was significant in winning our game, we nearly don’t win our game without him. “We think if he gets his conditioning up to scratch he can have an impact in the midfield as well as a bigger bodied midfielder, inside mid. “I think predominantly you will see him as a forward and do what he does well there but it wouldn’t surprise me that if he gets some continuity over the next couple of months that he might in the middle part of the year get into the midfield if that opportunity arises. “

Looking at the top-agers for 2020, the Ranges have another couple in the Vic Metro Academy Hub with some great storylines this year. Connor Downie is a Hawthorn Next Generation Academy (NGA) member and showed through his representation at the MCG for Vic Metro as a bottom-ager last season that he has the talent to make it at the next level. Wil Parker is juggling his football commitments whilst representing Victoria in the cricket with a big decision weighing on him come year’s end. Along with the duo, Toohey also raised another couple of names in speedster Josh Clarke and tall, Jack Diedrich.

“You know he (Parker) is really committed to his studies and Year 12 as well so he’s got a lot on his plate and probably a decision to make at some stage later this year,” Toohey said. “But we are supportive of him and what he is doing, he is coping really well. “Connor is flying at the moment, we had our camp on the weekend and was voted in as our 2020 captain so I don’t think that will be any real surprises. “He’s in really good shape. “Then you’ve got a couple of others, Josh Clarke played every game for us last year, was in the Vic Metro squad as well wingman half-back flanker, got a lot of speed, can hit the scoreboard and takes the game on he’s very exciting. “Then you’ve got Jack Diedrich who’s a developing tall 200cm tall ruckman, in the metro hub. He’s had a good summer so we’re excited to see what Jack can do. “He played a few games last year, as you know those kind of guys sort of develop quite late, he’s quite mobile for his size. “He’s an exciting prospect.”

At the next level, the Ranges have a number of already high-end talents that impressed through the AFL National Under-16 Championships for Vic Metro and then at the back-end of the year for the Ranges in 2019. Toohey said they would be ones to watch going forward this year and next.

“There’s quite a few of them that are quite exciting, the obvious one being Tyler Sonsie who was Vic Metro MVP in Under 16s last year, All-Australian,” he said. “He’s a bottom ager in the Vic Metro Academy, played in our grand final. “Probably done everything he can do as a footballer up to this age. “He’s ticking along okay, he’s had a bit of a back niggle recently so we will ease him into the season probably tracking to Round 1 or 2, no real concern at all its just conditioning and now getting him back up to speed but he’s super exciting.

Jake Soligo is probably unlucky not to be All-Australian with Tyler, he has probably been a standout in pre-season for us. “He’s a really complete package and for a bottom-ager he’s really pushing to start in midfield and that’s a real credit to him, so we are excited to see what he can do.

“The other one is Tyreece Leiu who is a really big-bodied mid who will probably progress to a Paddy Cripps type size because now he is about 194 and 90 kilos. “He had a back stress fracture pre Christmas and he’s back running now, coming up to speed and now targeting probably around late April from a playing perspective, he’s progressing well. “Those three are probably the standout bottom-agers to this stage and then really it’s up to the rest of the crop to put their hand up which is exciting again.”

Toohey said this year would be really exciting for the Ranges because the squad had a different look to last year, with more top-end prospects but less depth at this stage, but of course that can easily change in a season. Last year there was only 12 bottom-agers in the squad and even across the board, whereas this year has a different feel to it.

“There’s probably more standout draft prospects at the top end but the depth probably isn’t as great as last year,” Toohey said. “So it’s probably a bit of a different group for the next two years. “But generally there’s always a  couple of guys who jump out of the shadows and surprise you a bit and that’s what’s really exciting. “We really knew what we were going to get last year because we had followed them through for so long but there’s a lot of unknowns going into this year and next year probably and our 16s I think are tracking along alright too. “The next few years are quite exciting from that perspective.”

Looking ahead to the season start in less than two weeks, Toohey said the coaching staff and playing group wanted to build on the culture set in place by last year’s group throughout the season.

I think we really became known as a team that did play for each other and were quite selfless and would play their roles and that’s something we would really love to replicate with this team,” he said. “I know they will get the most enjoyment out of their footy if they do that as the boys did last year but also those that really need to elevate themselves will be able to do that. “There’s something in it for everyone with their NAB League experience with the Eastern Ranges and that’s important for the broader group not just the top-end.”

NAB League Boys team review: Eastern Ranges

AS the NAB League has come to a close, we take a look at the two remaining sides; 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 Eastern Ranges.

Position: 1st
Wins: 12
Losses: 3
Draws: 0

Points For: 1115 (Ranked #2)
Points Against: 753 (Ranked #1)
Percentage: 148.1
Points: 48

Top draft prospects:

Lachlan Stapleton

Just a fierce competitor and relentless tackler. He thrives on the contest and impacts forward of centre, but his defensive pressure around the ground and team-first attitude is what will win recruiters over. He can win it on the inside or spread to the outside and hit the scoreboard or set others up going inside 50, and while he was stiff not to get more games with Vic Metro, Stapleton has continued his strong rise over the past few years.

Mitch Mellis

Similar to Stapleton, Mellis just cracks in and wins the ball with a consistent effort each and every week. At 173cm, he is set for a small forward role at the elite level if picked which will more than suit him given his footy IQ around stoppages and ability to create scoreboard pressure either for himself or his teammates. Mellis is one of those players that probably does not have a standout trait, but just ticks a lot of boxes across the board, with not too many deficiencies as a whole.

Jamieson Rossiter

If he had a bit more luck with injury over the past 12 months, he would be talked about a lot more in draft calculations, but he clearly has the talent, and while at 190cm he plays that undersized key forward role, Rossiter has shown he can pinch-hit in the midfield too. Where a club will develop him might be dependent on where he ends up, but considering the talent he has shown in bursts over the past few years, you would have to think he will land somewhere, he is just more of a long-term prospect who with the right continued development could be something special.

Others in the mix:

The Eastern Ranges have such an even team it is hard to identify where their players might fall and in what order. While they did not have a National Draft Combine invite, they had a host of State Draft Combine invites lead by the above trio, as well as Zakery Pretty, Tyler Edwards, Lachlan Gawel and Billy McCormack, while Riley Smith earned a place at the Rookie Me Combine.

BnF chances:

The BnF is done and dusted for the Ranges, not wasting any time after the grand final loss and announcing Stapleton as their top player for season 2019. Mellis and James Ross were not too far behind, while Pretty was the most improved player.

2020 Draft Crop:

There is a bit of excitement in the Ranges’ 2020 draft crop with Wil Parker and Josh Clarke a couple of half-backs who could progress into the midfield and show a bit of talent with their skill and dare respectively. Salele Feagaimalii is one who impressed at the start of the season, while the top prospect for next year is a Hawthorn Next Generation Academy member in Connor Downie. Already represented Vic Metro this year, Downie is one who can win games off his damaging left boot and will be exciting to watch next year. The other player who earned a spot in the Under-17 Futures game back in August for Metro was ruck, Jack Diedrich.

Final word:

Eastern will be proud as punch for what this group was able to achieve. They fell short in the ultimate decider against Oakleigh, but defied external expectations and rose up the ladder like very few before them. To move from second bottom to runners up in a year is a credit to the players, coaching staff and everyone involved at the club. There is no doubt this group will not only fill out some AFL spots, but also state league and high-level local league positions as well. They are well placed heading into 2020.