Tag: josh goater

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 2

AFTER the cobwebs were dusted off in Round 1 last week, Victoria’s hottest AFL Draft prospects were scattered throughout all six fixtures which included a triple-header at Queen Elizabeth Oval, and a double-header at Preston City Oval for Round 2. Our scouts were on hand to run you through the top performers from each game, in their opinion-based Scouting Notes.

>> RECAP: NAB League Round 2 snapshot

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Declan Reeve

Sandringham Dragons:

#4 Josh Sinn

Just super classy even in the poor conditions, with his speed and agility big weapons for his style of play, where his confidence to take on opponents resulted in some solid drive around the ground. Looked good in his midfield stints, as well with his game sense leading to some really strong runs around the stoppages. His disposal was at its usual high standard, although he sometimes asked too much of his teammates with kicks placed just too far out of their leading range or leaping ability, although this happened less later in the game when he had gotten a better feel for the conditions.

#6 Blake Howes

Showed glimpses of his high athletic base throughout, with his bursts of speed when put into the midfield super impressive, even if they did not result in clearances or disposals for him. Drawing the opposition midfielders to him helped Sandy get it going forward. He also applied some excellent pressure and tackles through the midfield which were vital in keeping Northern from entering their 50. Took some opportunistic marks inside forward 50 that were either passed off or kicked out on the full, which really was not reward enough for the effort and skill he had shown throughout. 

#7 Campbell Chesser

Had a good day despite the scrappy conditions. Stationed mostly as a wing, he had a lot of action on his side of the ground, where he was able to show his willingness and ability to win his own ball and get out of the contest cleanly. It was really impressive to see that even with less than favourable conditions he was not afraid to take risks with his disposal, even having the confidence to attempt bounces throughout the game. When he was the offside wing, he made smart leads into dangerous spots, with one leading to him getting a goal in the third quarter. Dropped off a little bit the longer the game went on, after sustaining a heavy knock on the inside of his knee.

#13 Luca Macnab

Put himself under a lot of high balls that entered the defensive 50 and held on to a couple pretty well. The courage to sit under those kicks and create a contest was a big point of difference for the Dragons. Used it daringly out of defence, often kicking a bullet like kick into a central area, like the top of the defensive 50, to give Sandringham a really wide range of options in transition.

#17 Finn Callaghan

Has a nice bit of speed to go well with his ability to hold space, making him particularly dangerous in transition. To go with this, he does not mind taking a bounce and taking on opponents to get a good 50 to 60 metres gained for a few of his touches, really nailing that link up player role on the wing, and playing a vital role in same strong Sandringham counter attacks. Whilst this allows him to enjoy a lot of time without pressure, on the occasion he does find himself in a pack, he works around really well or draws in the opponent to give a teammate running past the ball and space. Going forward his kicking was well suited to the conditions, placing it lightly in front of teammates to move into.

#18 Darby Hipwell

The conditions suited his style very well as a hard-at-it inside midfielder. What was most impressive was his marking around the ground, on the chest and over head, where his courage meant he often beat bigger opponents. He placed and weighted his kicks well, finding teammates that did not have an opponent and placing it in front of them.

#42 Luke Cleary

Got himself involved in a lot of play within the Sandringham defence, seemingly among everything down there in one way or another. His ball use was consistently reliable, helping move the ball laterally to give Sandringham some time to push forward without pressure. Competed well in aerial contests, and the times he was caught behind his opponent he would always manage to get the fist in without giving away a free kick, keeping his opponents accountable and relatively unrewarded. During the latter stages of the game he got involved in a bit more up the ground, coming to meet the ball more often.

#70 Jacob Edwards

Had some extra attention on him after an outstanding Round 1 performance, and did not disappoint any recruiters watching, playing a really complete game as a ruck that rested forward. What was impressive to see was how he never counted himself out of it, taking some really impressive grabs in the wet, some contested, but also following up at ground level on the rare occasion he did not quite hold a mark. Continued to show good signs in ruck contests as well, albeit against much shorter opposition without the strength he has.

Northern Knights:

#2 Ned Long

Appearing to play as Northern’s main target, Long was good as a marking option around the ground in slow play situations, but had a hard time of it when attempting to mark whilst at pace. Used the ball well when he had it, with well-weighted kicks down the line a common sight coming from him. When running through the midfield, being a bigger body he hunted relentlessly, running through opponents to win the ball and then hand off or kick long. 

#3 Josh Ward

Tackled hard through the midfield and was a presence throughout the day as a stronger contested midfielder, with his ball winning being strong and the pressure he applied rushing Sandringham into hack kicks forward. Was clean in the second half when he had it, adding an element of composure for Northern coming out of stoppages, where he would go against the trend of blazing away and bombing long forward, instead opting for some shorter or lateral options to allow Northern to control the tempo. Had some moments where his quickness to switch from an inside hunter to outside receiver were really vital for Northern, with one particular instance in the fourth quarter leading to a really dangerous inside 50 that was unlucky not to result in a goal.

#7 Ewan Macpherson

Used his strength and size to beat opponents around stoppages and even throw his weight about in foot races to knock opponents off balance and collect. Not only able to impact as a stronger body in the centre, he found himself up either end at times as well, with his work up forward, not a regular position for him, was solid, with his marking proficiency on display with a really strong contested mark leading to a good kick to a teammate. He had really clean ball use throughout the game as well, with those shorter inside kicks being his preferred type.

#9 Darcy Wilmot

Not afraid to take on the play and come to meet a loose ball out of the Northern defence, taking on opponents with his speed and evasiveness being highlighted. Even if he did occasionally run himself into trouble, he was more likely to be able to get boot to ball and get it long than to concede a free kick. Clean below his knees as well, with the sight of him picking up a ball with one clean grab even when it was pelting down with rain being a common occurrence. 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Hamish Spence

Tasmania Devils:

#3 Oliver Davis

The Matthew Richardson Medallist from last year (the rising star award for the TSL’s best young player) played at the standard he has set over the last 12 months. He is a prototypical inside midfielder, who knows how to win the ball at the coalface and make an impact in the middle. This was on full display on Saturday, with Davies standing out around stoppages with his clearance work and the way he burst through packs. After being overlooked in his draft year, the 19-year-old made a good start to his NAB League campaign, finishing with 28 disposals, seven tackles and six inside 50s.

#5 Oliver Sanders

Sanders was one of Tasmania’s primary movers through the midfield, finishing the game as the leading disposal getter with 29 disposals, five tackles and 10 inside 50s. While his touches did not always possess the biggest impact, his ability to just accumulate the ball was crucial to the Devils’ chances. His natural ball-winning ability and competitiveness around the contest suggests that he should be one of the teams’ most important players going forward.

#6 Sam Banks

The Devils’ captain and a member of the AFL Academy squad, Banks was prolific off half-back. Despite being rested last week in the TSL, he showed no signs of rust with his clean skills and decision making. He could potentially move up the ground a bit more at times to impact the contest further, but he is such an asset for Tasmania down back, setting up the side with his kick-outs and rebounds coming out off the backline. He led from the front in defeat, finishing with 28 disposals, five marks, four tackles and 10 rebound 50s.

#7 Will Splann

Splann was the pick of Tasmania’s defenders, playing with heart and continually standing up whenever Calder went forward. While the team arguably came in with an oversized backline given the conditions, he flew for every contest and crashed packs. He had a couple of big moments at the start of the third quarter, he took a big relieving contested mark down the line and then intercepted the ball two times in a row a couple of minutes later. He ultimately finished with 14 disposals, five marks, two tackles and two rebound 50s, but the stats do not show some of his once percenters or defensive efforts at crucial times during the game. He was swung forward in the last to give the Devils’ another option up forward, but he did not hit the scoreboard.

#12 Jye Menzie

Menzie looked like the deadliest player on the ground at times, but his inaccuracy prevented his game from going to another level. He presented strongly on leads and looked dangerous whenever he had the ball in his hands or was around goal. He did not convert all of his opportunities with three behinds (which was a theme for both sides throughout the day), but showed his resolve by kicking the goal that brought Tasmania within a kick late in the final quarter. He also pressed up the ground to get involved in the contest, finishing with 19 disposals, eight marks and four inside 50s, to go along with his goal. Saturday’s effort, combined with his form for North Hobart last season, shows that Menzie should be a handful for any opposing backmen in the future.

#29 Dominic White

White played a typical wingman’s game, working hard to cover the whole ground and providing an option for his teammates on the outside. He was often an outlet or part of the chain of play whenever Tasmania exited its backline, finishing with 26 disposals and seven marks for the game. He won a crucial one-on-one ball at the top defensive 50 late in the game, which ended up leading to the Devils’ only goal of the last quarter.

Calder Cannons:

#1 Harrison Andronaco

Saturday’s contest against Tasmania was probably one of Andronaco’s most impactful games to date. While the top-ager usually plays primarily as a small forward, he showed his ability to roll through the midfield and play further up the ground, finishing with 23 disposals, four marks and four inside 50s. The main element of his game that stood out was his inside work, winning several key contests in the middle. He still looked like a threat whenever he was around goal, though he only had the one behind to show for it.

#3 Jackson Cardillo

Cardillo spent more time up forward than in the midfield on Saturday, something which he did to great effect. He was the Cannons’ most likely and dangerous forward with his four scoring shots, though unfortunately only one of them was a goal (though he did give off a goal to Joey Dimasi). He won several one-on-one contests against his direct opponent, hauling in some strong contested marks. Playing at half-forward, he still impacted the game further up the ground with his 15 disposals, four marks and three inside 50s. Adding and improving on his forward craft should hopefully hold Cardillo in good stead going forward, after not getting drafted last year.

#6 Flynn Lakey

A tough nut around stoppages, Lakey’s fiery red hair matched the heat he brought all day. He was Calder’s most prolific player, gathering a team-high 25 disposals, while forcing his way through contests to make sure he got his hands on the ball first. He seemed to thrive in the wet conditions when the heavens opened up in the second quarter, taking his already impressive performance to another level. He put in a full four-quarter effort, finishing with six tackles, five marks and six inside 50s, in addition to his 25 disposals.

#21 Riley Mason

Mason was the Cannons’ main mover out of the backline, enjoying an influential performance off half-back. He read the ball well, using his tall and lanky frame to intercept and cut off the Devils’ attacks several times. He gathered plenty of touches, finishing with 17 disposals, five marks and six rebound 50s. His level-headedness with ball in hand ultimately helped Calder get over the line by one point.

#25 Josh Goater

Goater continued his strong start to the year with another good game against the Devils. He stood up around stoppages, as his tall frame was suited to the congested nature of the match. He was probably the best player on the ground in the first quarter; he was a point of difference in the midfield, weaved through stoppages and kicked a booming goal from outside 50. While the rest of his day did not match his performance in the first term, he still finished with 20 disposals, five inside 50s and three tackles.

#41 Liam Podhajski

Despite the conditions being adverse for a big man at times, it did not stop Podhajski from having a day out. He was strong in the ruck contest; he won a massive 40 hit outs and some of his taps put the ball on a platter for his on-ballers. But it was the work he put in around the ground and his follow up efforts that arguably made him best on. He was like an extra midfielder at times and also filled a hole up forward. It was a complete ruckman’s game, finishing with 21 disposals, six tackles, four inside 50s, three rebound 50s and one goal, to go along with his 40 hitouts.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Declan Reeve

Oakleigh Chargers:

#1 Youseph Dib

The crafty small was vital in Oakleigh’s break away on the scoreboard in the second half, where he was thrown into the midfield and used his agility and speed to break away from the contest with ball in hand. He just has a remarkable ability to get himself out of tricky situations, with a strength of his being his handballing, able to hit difficult targets and then run to support or get the ball back. He pulled off some good kicks as well, although there were a couple of awkward ones where the ball came off flat and wobbly, which is an area he could look to sure up.

#3 Nick Daicos

Following up from his thrilling NAB League debut against Sandringham Dragons, Daicos put in another best on ground performance in a dominant display through the midfield and forward line. His footy IQ is at an obviously high level, this was highlighted with dominance around stoppages, able to win it at will, even head-to-head with top prospect Tyler Sonsie he had the advantage, able to read the ruck tap exceptionally well. His skills were also clean in some unfavourable conditions, hitting some really good kicks into dangerous spots, able to show his composure by hitting them under pressure as well.

#13 Dylan Thomas

Had a really good day playing a hybrid role up forward, sometimes acting as the main target but also able to play as a crumber at the feet of bigger teammates, with that versatility in his approach leading to a massive four-goal haul. He was unselfish in his approach despite the big haul, giving off some good opportunities, and regularly lowering the eyes going forward.

#14 Sam Darcy

One of the tallest, and one of the lightest players on-field, for a 200 centimetre odd player Darcy moved remarkably well around the contests, backing his speed a few times to take on smaller opponents in foot races. Looked good in the back half, taking some commanding grabs and using the ball well by foot, also filling in as a relieving ruck and using smart body positioning to get the advantage and control the taps.

#18 Jed Rule

Positions well behind the play, getting into positions where he can intercept mark and then use his speed and kicking efficiency to move the ball back forward through dangerous areas in transition. I was also impressed by his ability to close in on opponents and force them to dispose of the ball backwards, giving time for Oakleigh to set up behind him or for a pressed up forward to win a free kick.

#36 Scott Beilby

Similar game to Rule which served as a difficult combination for Eastern to get past, just positioned well behind the play and took some good intercept marks in the defensive 50, controlling the tempo f the game from those marks well to get Oakleigh out in good positions. Offered a lot with his run from behind as well, able to kick with momentum to get the ball deep for Oakleigh.

Eastern Ranges:

#1 Tyler Sonsie

The kid is classy, and seemed to win just about all of the clearances that Eastern did, where he could then break free with his speed and dart a kick to a leading forward. His follow up work to support team mates he handballed was impressive as well, he would just work hard to get there and support, often getting the ball back to utilise his elite kicking even under pressure. He just had a game full of highlight type moments, pulling off some ridiculous kicks, or finding ways out of really difficult situations. Came into the game more as it went on, slowly making the midfield his own in the second half.

#5 Jake Soligo

Relentless attack on the ball, whether it be loose or in an opponent’s hand. After the first half he started positioning himself on Nick Daicos around stoppages and nullified his impact well at times, and whilst he was not the beneficiary of this work directly, it got Eastern a lot more opportunities to win those clearances, with the likes of Sonsie stepping up during that period in the midfield. Found himself playing as a bit of a sweeper like player, a kick behind stoppages, afterwards, where he positioned himself well to always make a contest.

#16 Aiden Begg

Gave up a bit of height in the ruck contests but still competed well, possibly even winning the bout against two really solid opponents. Has a really nice leap and ruck craft that make him a genuine chance no matter whereabouts he is positioned heading into the contest. Good around the ground as well following up strongly, using it well and setting up behind play and taking some good grabs in that role, suggesting he could play as a key defender at the next level.

#21 Corey Preston

Did not quite reach the lofty heights he set in his Round 1 game, but still had some really nice moments throughout the game, with his goal, that was preceded by a shrug off of an opponent, a highlight for his day. He spent some time in the midfield where he looked dangerous at times, with his speed being a big weapon around the ground, and his agility being at a good level where he regularly stepped around opponents with ease.

#31 Tyreece Lieu

As a taller midfielder he attracted a lot of attention around the stoppages, but he took that attention in his stride, able to run through and still win his clearances or be in spots where those winning clearances could get the ball to him easily. Had a difficult day up forward with the Chargers defence being really strong aerially, but he still found ways to create contests and win the ball at ground level, handing off to teammates to take shots at goal.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Ed Pascoe

Bendigo Pioneers:

#4 Jack Hickman

After a solid game against Murray Bushrangers last week, the nippy midfielder did so again this week with a great outing, winning some important touches and using his elite speed and endurance across the ground. A handy goal kicker in one of Essendon’s intraclub hitout, Hickman has taken that belief into the NAB League as the speedy 19-year-old kicked a nice long set shot goal from 50 metres in the second quarter, and almost kicked a sensational goal on the run with a banana, swiftly evading his opponents in the third quarter. Hickman provided a lot of good ground coverage, using his endurance to run hard defensively as well as offensively. Despite his small stature, he has some traits clubs will like. Hickman finished the game with 17 disposals, four tackles and kicked 1.1.

#5 Cooper Hamilton

Despite a slow start Hamilton worked his way into the he game, showing some eye-catching movements – especially in the last quarter. Although not a prolific first half, he had some nice movements with good aggression, and used his stronger body to shrug tackles and hand off releasing handballs to teammates. The second half was more prolific once he was moved into the midfield and even given some time forward, which he made the most of with a nice snap goal in the third quarter, he showed plenty of skill on the wing with a nice weighted kick to his teammate’s advantage and his skills in general were solid all day. Hamilton isn’t fancy with his tough tackling and ability to bring teammates into the game, but he is effective when he does get his hands on the ball as he finished with 12 disposals, seven tackles and one goal.

#8 Hugh Hamilton

The tough inside midfielder was a clearance king, using his strong body and his ability to hit those clearances at pace. He was in the action forward of centre early on, kicking a nice snap goal on the run and later missing a set shot. He has certainly showed an ability to get forward and impact which he would do again in the third quarter with perhaps the goal of the day, coming from a great dribble attempt on the boundary under pressure. Hamilton was as tough as they come in the middle and despite not being the greatest athlete, has certainly proven to be one of the more damaging midfielders so far in the NAB League with his ability to win clearances at will and also go forward to hit the scoreboard. Hamilton finished the game with a team-high 22 disposals along with eight inside 50s and kicking 2.2.

#10 Bode Stevens

The crafty midfielder/forward certainly has a bag of tricks and likes using them, with his nice movement in traffic and strong leap seen plenty during the game. Stevens had some nice movements through the midfield but it was his work around goals that impressed, kicking a nice goal in open play during the second quarter and an even better goal in the third, threading the needle. The athletic traits to go with his ability to potentially play multiple roles at the next level make Stevens an interesting prospect. He finished with 17 disposals, four tackles and two goals.

#24 Caleb Ernst

A great focal point for Bendigo going forward, Ernst was arguably the best key forward on the ground, leading up well and looking equally adept at ground level with some great gathers and handballs to smalls running past. Ernst was lively early and presented strongly as a marking option, but a strong tackle that created a goal also showed his hard work at ground level. He continued to be a great target for the first half and would finally get reward for effort with a mark close to goal, which he would then convert with a simple set shot. After winning selection for the Essendon VFL squad, Bendigo might not have Ernst up forward all year but the more games he can spend with Bendigo, the more likely they will keep their winning streak going. Ernst finished the game with 16 disposals, seven marks and one goal.

Gippsland Power:

#2 Cooper Alger

Alger was smooth across half-back with the classy left footer offering plenty of good rebound while also doing the defensive things nicely. Alger was tasked with kick-outs and did well, using his long left foot to clear the ball long but also find some targets short with good vision. A classy kick of the ball, he also showed good class by hand with nice vision and a long handball forward under pressure in the second quarter. Alger also had some nice movements defensively with a strong mark near the goal line and some desperate spoils near the line as well. Alger finished the match with a game-high 25 disposals, six marks and eight rebound 50s.

#5 Chance Doultree

A tough customer and hard to miss with the mullet, Doultree was one of his team’s better contributors all across the ground, showing good aptitude for the contest and providing run on the outside as well. Doultree has a great moment in the second quarter, burning off an opponent at half-back and then following up his work to win a free kick inside 50. Although the set shot would fall short, his teammate took the mark anyway. A strong four-quarter performer, Doultree finished the game with 22 disposals, six tackles and four inside 50s.

#17 Luis D’Angelo

A superb game in the midfield for D’Angelo, who is slick and tough at stoppages and proved it again after a strong game last week. D’Angelo was clean at stoppages, rarely wasting a possession and winning clearances at will. Although he could work on his outside game more, his inside game has been honed and it is hard to argue for many better inside players in the NAB League so far this year. D’Angelo finished the game with 21 disposals and six tackles.

#23 Jai Serong

The younger brother of AFL Rising Star Caleb, Jai is a bit different height-wise, looking more like a key position player. He certainly shares some traits with his older brother, with some strong tackling form despite his light frame and clean hands at ground level also rare for a player of Jai’s height. Although not consistent overhead, he would take a nice contested mark in the last quarter which was a strong quarter all-round for Serong, who took some marks around the ground but also did some nice things as a taller midfielder. Serong is an interesting prospect who, with his athleticism, height and light frame, could be anything. Serong finished the game with 19 disposals, six marks and nine tackles.

GWV REBELS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Michael Alvaro

GWV Rebels:

#1 Sam Butler

Essentially playing exclusively up forward, Butler was ultra-impressive each time the ball entered his area. The brother of St Kilda’s Dan, Sam holds some similar traits but is becoming a very good player in his own right. The GWV prospect was evasive in traffic, attacking the ball at speed and looking to weave his way free across the half-forward line. Though not exactly tall, Butler was also a useful marking target on the lead with impressively strong hands at full tilt, allowing him to grasp bullet-like or wobbly kicks forward with aplomb. He proved very difficult to beat when positioned in front, but marked well over the back in the final term, stretching overhead and then converting an easy set shot.

#3 Charlie Molan

One of the best competitors across the NAB League, Molan proved exactly that with a strong showing in defence. His ability to read the play and get into positions to intercept was terrific, seeing him force turnovers time and time again before delivering well-hit kicks on the rebound. Molan’s second efforts and repeat runs were also noticeable, as he dug in at ground level and laid some really strong tackles inside defensive 50. He would also look to chain together passages with that run, not stopping after his initial act and disposal. Another pleasing part of Molan’s game was his ability to win one-on-one balls against quality opposition, with two outstanding plays in term three. The first was a tussle with Clayton Gay close to goal, and the second was a desperate ground ball split against Judson Clarke further afield. Overall, a solid day from the 18th-year talent.

#5 Josh Rentsch

While blanketed relatively well in the first half after a strong start to the season in Round 1, Rentsch still managed to showcase his talent in small samples. He had a couple of chances to hit the scoreboard in the third term off the back of some good attempts to win the ball, but missed both set shots from different ranges. His strength came to the fore with a contested mark at forward wing, and he used that same physicality to follow up well at ground level. While seemingly unintentional, Rentsch laid another clumsy bump on his opponent having escaped punishment for a similar act last week, so may look to sharpen his work in that area. He looked good in the ruck during the final term, again providing nice bodywork to go with well-placed hitouts.

#6 Marcus Herbert

A smooth midfield mover, Herbert was one of GWV’s mainstays in the engine room and made some eye-catching plays at the stoppages. The top-ager’s agility and ability to break free from congestion in style proved a key feature of his game once again, with nice showings of composure and spacial awareness where others would likely panic. He finished as one of the Rebels’ more prolific ball winners on 21 disposals, and has a promising bag of tricks in that competitive GWV midfield.

#8 Joshua Gibcus

It was no real surprise to see Gibcus added to the AFL Academy squad after a hot start to the season, and the 18th-year defender again put his best traits on show during this outing. His style of play can be observed in his stats, with five marks and seven rebound 50s among his 16 overall disposals. An exciting athlete, Gibcus showcased his unique aerial ability with terrific intercept marking, while also sweeping up with composure at ground level to set GWV on the rebound. His speed also came to the fore in those instances, as well as a few tricks as he sold candy to his opponents to find a greater amount of space on the last line. As Dandenong closed in during the final term, Gibcus lifted to take a couple of clutch intercept marks and was a cool head down back.

#10 Blake Scott

The exciting Western Bulldogs NGA prospect was a lively figure forward of centre for GWV, often using his pace to break the play open and generate good energy inside attacking 50. He built into the game well, with his sole goal coming in the second term. Scott broke into acres of space and eventually latched onto a long kick over the top before slotting his dribbled shot. He has a good nose for goal and with such electric speed and agility, is able to create well with ball in hand.

#16 Kai Lohmann

Clubs will likely have enjoyed the raw athleticism and ability of Lohmann, who caught the eye with acts both aerially and across the ground. Lohmann’s zip off the mark and willingness to hit the ball at speed was complimented well by his clean hands, which resulted in some solid marking play. The GWV talent had a few chances to hit the scoreboard and made good on one during the second term with a lovely set shot. He missed a shot deep in the pocket during term four, but had shown good nous to mark a high ball and was not afraid to fly for audacious specky attempts.

Dandenong Stingrays:

#3 Miller Bergman

A player who really rose in stock this week, Bergman bookended his game brilliantly with work at both ends of the ground. He first came to prominence in the opening quarter, starting down back and showcasing his clean overhead marking ability. He read the play well to intercept, but also became a threat on the rebound with his penetrative and direct kicking. Having swung forward, Bergman again came to life in the final term to cap his game with three classy goals from set shots. He earned each chance by staying active forward of the ball, darting around before making clever leads and marking strongly. While he often gained good separation, Bergman was also clean under opposition pressure. One to keep an eye on.

#6 Connor Macdonald

The Draft Central Player of the Week, Macdonald had an absolutely epic game with 33 disposals, 10 marks, 10 inside 50s, and 12 tackles. He was a consistent figure in midfield throughout the match and seemed to be everywhere at times, working up and back to accumulate in all areas while also getting his hands on contested ball at the stoppages. Macdonald’s speed was on show with nice bursts away from congestion, complimented by the work-rate to either follow up his initial possessions, or work back hard if the ball did not fall Dandenong’s way. His cleanliness both to gather and dispose of the ball efficiently was another superb string to his bow, making for good viewing in such a complete performance. Most importantly, Macdonald lifted in the final quarter when his side was pushing hard to sneak ahead, adding gutsy aerial work and hard transitional running to his play. He has made a top start to the season, and will likely have risen up draft boards after another strong outing.

#10 Clayton Gay

A top-ager who was perhaps unlucky to be overlooked last year, Gay has returned in promising form. He started the day off in style with an awesome one-handed grab deep inside 50, before kicking the game’s first goal from a straightforward set shot. His clean hands were also shown at ground level, with one-touch grabs off the deck and quick reflexes to flick the ball back up to teammates. Gay took another strong overhead mark in the second term but had his set shot come up short, before moving up to the wing after half time and finding a good amount of possessions.

#14 Will Bravo

Another of Dandenong’s 19th-year prospects, Bravo came in for his first game of the season and returned some solid numbers. Mixing his time on the inside and out on the wing, Bravo showed good speed and intent moving forward, while also providing some unheralded work at stoppages. One of his more pleasing plays was one which did not earn him a stat, as he chased hard into defensive 50 to apply pressure on an opponent streaming into goal, but to no avail. Still, it was exemplary of Bravo’s character and work ethic.

#22 Mac Andrew

Melbourne fans may want to tune in and watch Andrew throughout 2021, as the NGA prospect looks to be a very exciting type. While still quite raw, there is no questioning Andrew’s athleticism and aerial nous, which came to the fore with some very handy ruckwork and impressive marking at both ends of the ground. He was clearly the dominant ruck on the day and positioned cleverly behind the ball after his work was done at the contest, which saw him take some clean intercept grabs in defence. Andrew also marked well when playing forward in the fourth quarter, but just lacked the finishing touch in front of goal. His follow-up play was also promising, as he disposed cleanly within his limits and did what was required with ball in hand at the stoppages.

#42 James Cahill

The brother of Essendon’s Ned, Cahill is a player not dissimilar to his elder sibling. The 183cm prospect was super productive in this outing, showing clean hands and outstanding smarts forward of centre. He lead hard up at the ball and was lively when working back towards goal, proving a slippery customer in congestion and one who could improvise in a flash to keep the Stingrays’ momentum moving. He had a direct hand in a couple of goals and booted one himself in the first term with a well finished snap.

#46 Justin Davies

One who played an underrated, but important role for Dandenong was Davies. He matched up on physical GWV forward Josh Rentsch and did a superb job to keep him under wraps for much of the first three terms. Davies competed well aerially and looked to move quite well for his size, with decent disposal to boot. He was freed up a touch in the final quarter as Rentsch moved into the ruck, showing good composure on the last line and a bit of game awareness as he pumped a kick-in long up the middle during the dying stages.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Declan Reeve

Murray Bushrangers:

#2 Charlie Byrne

Following up from a really impressive Round 1 showing, Byrne continues to push his case as a possible mid-season draft selection, looking super impressive as a defender and midfielder for the day. His midfield game looked much improved in just the space of a week, finding himself in good spots around stoppages to win first possession and get it long forward, or out by hand. One particular instance of this was in the fourth quarter, where he won it at the rucks feet, and then fired a handball out between two opponents in less than a second, to an outside receiver. He also continued to do what he does well off of half-back, running at the ball and contesting well with anyone there, hitting them hard if they beat him to it.

#3 Toby Murray

Competed really well in the ruck against one of the premier rucks of the competition in Toby Conway, and whilst he may not have won as many hitouts, he definitely won around the ground, able to cover it easier than his opponent, and impact at ground level whilst in the role. When he rested up forward he impressed with his marking above head, taking some nice grabs in contested situations and getting himself on the scoreboard twice, but assisting in a couple of other goals to put in a nice team orientated performance.

#4/#54 Josh Rachele

Played more as a permanent forward rather than splitting his time in the midfield and to great effect, finishing the game with 4 goals, and having a few other opportunities that either fell short or went just wide of the mark, so realistically could’ve had two or three more. Talk about a highlight reel player, his second goal was an impressive effort, in a foot race with his opponent along the boundary, he took 3 bounces and then snapped it straight through the middle, highlighting his class and athleticism in one fantastic play. Not only kicking the goal himself, his position in contests that allowed him to out-mark much bigger opponents, led to him delivering some bullet-like kicks to teammates inside 50, giving Murray scoreboard dominance all game. He suffered some friendly fire in the third quarter which led to a jumper switch for the final quarter.

#13 Tom Brown

Played a much more settled game in the backline than the week prior where he was thrown about. Was again a presence aerially where he flew for a lot of marks even if they did not all stick he had a fair amount of impact in those contests. Provided as a running option as well out of the back half, where he looked assured in taking on opponents and then delivering well forward.

#17 Benjamin Ashley-Cooper

A really solid outing saw him winning plenty of the ball all around the ground, with his workrate being at an exceptional level, able to out work his opponents all day which made it seem like he had it on a string. Was involved in some eye catching team plays from Murray, where he would be involved in the chain with the ball in hand, and then supporting teammates when he gave it off with a shepherd. 

#29 Noah Bradshaw

Showed that he is able to win his own ball in the midfield when he’s in a good position to do so and not competing with teammates to be the first possession winner. He was clean with the ball as well, looking for shorter and safer options to allow Murray to maintain possession rather than bomb it long forward hoping for the best outcome.

#30 Achuang Agog

Was vital for the Bushrangers in the final two terms when Geelong were really determined to get their first goal by bombing it in long to contests. He would stick his arms up and take some commanding grabs above opponents or even in packs, take the ball back and use his full-time more often than not, then look to switch the ball out to a boundary. Had some moments where he got himself into trouble with some daring runs, but that is something that will be ironed out with more experience.

Geelong Falcons:

#3 Euriah Hollard

Got involved a lot in the forward half for Geelong, so naturally seemed to get better as the game went on. Despite being on the shorter side, I was impressed with how Hollard presented aerially, taking marks out in front or leading to be a switch kick option, then using his own skills to get it into the forward line. Applied a lot of pressure as well, forcing a lot of rushed disposals for Murray and causing a few turnovers from his hard work.

#7 Flynn Young

Has a nice bit of zip to him which makes him extremely dangerous on the lead and at ground level, where his tendency to get separation being a big part of his presence up forward, strong mark as well, even at a full paced lead he was sticking them well. Also offered a lot on the pressure side of things, especially with Murrays kick ins, where he’d close down the gap between the mark and the player moving out of the square really quickly. 

#12 Noah Gribble

Really good agility and footy IQ that makes him difficult to close down, as he has got tricks to get out of most scenarios. One particular instance was in the second quarter where he was surrounded by Murray players, drew in two opponents and used that space to spot a teammate with a kick close to the boundary. Good presence as a marking option around the ground to control tempo as well.

#60 Toby Conway

Really dominant in the ruck out bodying opponents without much issue, good with his positioning around the ground being the play taking some easy uncontested grabs, but also sticking a few contested marks as an option down the line for Geelong. Not a stereotypical ruck with his disposal, with the weighting of his kicks impressive, put in good spots for teammates to run into.

2021 NAB League Boys snapshot: Round 2

IT was a mixed bag of results in Round 2 of the NAB League Boys competition, with some wet weather matches, and some inaccuracy playing a part across the weekend.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 5.11 (41) defeated by SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 6.10 (46)

IN A SENTENCE:

A brave Northern Knights side almost caused a boilover against one of the title favourites in Sandringham Dragons in wet conditions at Preston City Oval, but five goals to two in the second half saw the Dragons come from behind and secure a five-point win.

TEAM STATS:

  • Northern Knights won the disposals (278-271) and rebound 50s (34-33)
  • Sandringham Dragons won the inside 50s (40-39), marks (65-44), tackles (81-78) and hitouts (50-22)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Josh Ward (Northern Knights) 27 disposals, 9 marks, 6 tackles, 4 rebound 50s
  • Joel Fitzgerald (Northern Knights) 27 disposals, 3 marks, 5 inside 50s, 8 rebound 50s
  • Joel Trudgeon (Northern Knights) 23 disposals, 3 marks, 11 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 1 goal
  • Josh Sinn (Sandringham Dragons) 20 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 6 rebound 50s
  • Lachlan Benton (Sandringham Dragons) 20 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Charlie McKay (Sandringham Dragons) 16 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Jacob Edwards (Sandringham Dragons)
4 – Josh Ward (Northern Knights)
3 – Darcy Wilmot (Northern Knights)
2 – Josh Sinn (Sandringham Dragons)
1 – Luke Cleary (Sandringham Dragons)

NEXT UP:

Sandringham Dragons vs. Dandenong Stingrays @ Trevor Barker Oval, Saturday April 17
Northern Knights vs. Gippsland Power @ Morwell Recreation Reserve, Saturday April 17

TASMANIA DEVILS 5.10 (40) defeated by CALDER CANNONS 5.11 (41)

IN A SENTENCE:

The Cannons came from 10 points down at half-time to kick three goals to one in the second half and hold on by one point over the Devils in a scrappy contest in challenging conditions.

TEAM STATS:

  • Tasmania Devils won the disposals (340-307), rebound 50s (41-36), marks (74-66) and tackles (74-51)
  • Calder Cannons won the inside 50s (46-43) and hitouts (52-30)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Ollie Sanders (Tasmania Devils) 29 disposals, 2 marks, 5 tackles, 10 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Oliver Davis (Tasmania Devils) 28 disposals, 7 tackles, 6 inside 50s
  • Sam Banks (Tasmania Devils) 28 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 10 rebound 50s
  • Flynn Lakey (Calder Cannons) 25 disposals, 5 marks, 6 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s
  • Liam Podhajski (Calder Cannons) 21 disposals, 6 tackles, 40 hitouts, 4 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 1 goal
  • Josh Goater (Calder Cannons) 20 disposals, 3 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 goal

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Liam Podhajski (Calder Cannons)
4 – Oliver Davis (Tasmania Devils)
3 – Flynn Lakey (Calder Cannons)
2 – Jackson Cardillo (Calder Cannons)
1 – Sam Banks (Tasmania Devils)

NEXT UP:

Calder Cannons vs. Bendigo Pioneers @ Highgate Recreation Reserve, Sunday May 23
Tasmania Devils vs. Eastern Ranges @ Twin Ovals, Saturday April 17

EASTERN RANGES 6.9 (45) defeated by OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 13.9 (87)

IN A SENTENCE:

Oakleigh piled on eight goals to two in the second half to pull away from Eastern to secure a 42-point win.

TEAM STATS:

  • Eastern Ranges won the inside 50s (43-42)
  • Oakleigh Chargers won the disposals (292-263), rebound 50s (36-29), marks (67-51), tackles (73-56) and hitouts (44-14)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Mitchell Sruk (Eastern Ranges) 27 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 10 rebound 50s
  • Jake Soligo (Eastern Ranges) 22 disposals, 2 marks, 10 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges) 21 disposals, 7 inside 50s
  • Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers) 30 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 3 goals
  • Henry Brown (Oakleigh Chargers) 21 disposals, 5 marks, 8 tackles, 4 inside 50s
  • Dylan Thomas (Oakleigh Chargers) 10 disposals, 4 marks, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 4 goals

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Dylan Thomas (Oakleigh Chargers)
3 – Jake Soligo (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Jed Rule (Oakleigh Chargers)
1 – Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges)

NEXT UP:

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Western Jets @ Avalon Airport Oval, Sunday April 18
Eastern Ranges vs. Tasmania Devils @ Twin Ovals, Saturday April 17

BENDIGO PIONEERS 12.12 (84) defeated GIPPSLAND POWER 3.6 (24)

IN A SENTENCE:

After an even start, Bendigo Pioneers piled on 10 goals to two in the final three quarters to dominate Gippsland Power by an even 60 points.

TEAM STATS:

  • Bendigo Pioneers won the disposals (298-292), inside 50s (50-39), marks (78-67) and hitouts (36-31)
  • Gippsland Power won the rebound 50s (37-36) and tackles (79-77)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Hugh Hamilton (Bendigo Pioneers) 22 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 8 inside 50s
  • Ricky Monti (Bendigo Pioneers) 20 disposals, 8 tackles, 6 inside 50s
  • Jack Evans (Bendigo Pioneers) 20 disposals, 6 marks, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s
  • Cooper Alger (Gippsland Power) 25 disposals, 6 marks, 2 tackles, 8 rebound 50s
  • Chance Doultree (Gippsland Power) 22 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Mitchell Moschetti (Gippsland Power) 21 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 5 rebound 50s

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Hugh Hamilton (Bendigo Pioneers)
4 – Caleb Ernst (Bendigo Pioneers)
3 – Cooper Alger (Gippsland Power)
2 – Jai Serong (Gippsland Power)
1 – Jack Hickman (Bendigo Pioneers)

NEXT UP:

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Geelong Falcons @ Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sunday April 18
Gippsland Power vs. Northern Knights @ Morwell Recreation Reserve, Saturday April 17

GWV REBELS 8.9 (57) defeated DANDENONG STINGRAYS 7.6 (48)

IN A SENTENCE:

The Rebels held on against a fast-finishing Stingrays outfit to win by nine points after leading by as much as 19 points at the final break, as the Stingrays had a whopping 19 more inside 50s in the match.

TEAM STATS:

  • GWV Rebels won the disposals (313-309) and rebound 50s (49-30)
  • Dandenong Stingrays won the inside 50s (57-38), marks (66-56), tackles (86-68) and hitouts (50-24)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Josh Gibcus (GWV Rebels) 16 disposals, 5 marks, 2 tackles, 7 rebound 50s
  • Nicholas Hodgson (GWV Rebels) 25 disposals, 7 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels) 19 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays) 33 disposals, 10 marks, 12 tackles, 10 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s
  • Miller Bergman (Dandenong Stingrays) 20 disposals, 6 marks, 3 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s, 3 goals
  • Clayton Gay (Dandenong Stingrays) 24 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 1 goal

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 – Josh Gibcus (GWV Rebels)
3 – Miller Bergman (Dandenong Stingrays)
2 – Nicholas Hodgson (GWV Rebels)
1 – Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels)

NEXT UP:

GWV Rebels vs. Murray Bushrangers @ Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sunday April 18
Dandenong Stingrays vs. Sandringham Dragons @ Trevor Barker Oval, Saturday April 17

GEELONG FALCONS 2.14 (26) defeated by MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 12.11 (83)

IN A SENTENCE:

The Bushrangers proved too good for an inaccurate Falcons outfit that only booted two goals after 12 straight behinds in the first 70 minutes of the match, as the victors won by 57 points.

TEAM STATS:

  • Geelong Falcons won the inside 50s (47-39), marks (103-92) and hitouts (34-18)
  • Murray Bushrangers won the disposals (353-339). rebound 50s (44-27) and tackles (51-46)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons) 31 disposals, 8 marks, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Josh Sogiovanni (Geelong Falcons) 22 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons) 20 disposals, 7 marks, 4 inside 50s, 21 hitouts
  • Paddy Parnell (Murray Bushrangers) 25 disposals, 6 marks, 3 tackles, 10 rebound 50s
  • Tom Brown (Murray Bushrangers) 21 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers) 17 disposals, 5 marks, 2 tackles, 4 goals

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Charlie Byrne (Murray Bushrangers)
3 – Toby Murray (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers)
1 – Achuang Agog (Murray Bushrangers)

NEXT UP:

Geelong Falcons vs. Bendigo Pioneers @ Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sunday April 18
Murray Bushrangers vs. GWV Rebels @ Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sunday April 18

2021 Draft Central NAB League Boys Team of the Week: Round 1

THREE metropolitan sides and one country team are well represented in our Draft Central NAB League Boys Team of the Week for NAB League Boys in Round 1, recording three players apiece. The huge Easter Monday clash between Sandringham Dragons and Oakleigh Chargers resulted in both sides recording a trio of representatives, as did Northern Knights and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels thanks to their wins over the weekend. Of the eight other teams in action, five had two players apiece, with Geelong Falcons and Murray Bushrangers having one player each, whilst Gippsland Power missed out this week, though did have an emergency.

The Dragons and Chargers had a great battle on Monday, with Nick Daicos a standout despite the loss for the Chargers and named co-captain of the team for being voted in as our NAB League Boys Player of the Week for Round 1. He joins teammates Scott Beilby and ruck Ned Moyle in the team for the opening round. The Dragons supply both wings for the team with Finn Callaghan and Campbell Chesser in the side, whilst Lachlan Riley also made the team on the bench.

GWV Rebels were healthily represented as well with defender Josh Gibcus, midfielder Marcus Herbert and forward Sam Butler all making the starting side for Round 1. The final team with three players in the side this round were the Northern Knights, as Joel Fitzgerald (back pocket), Ned Long (onball) and Darcy Wilmot (interchange) all made the team. At the other end of the scale, Geelong Falcons’ Flynn Young and Murray Bushrangers’ Charlie Byrne were their respective team’s sole representatives.

The other sides who featured all had two players in the 24-player squad, starting with the standalone match’s best player Cody Raak at centre half-back, alongside Paul Curtis on the bench for the Western Jets. Rounding out the midfielder was the team’s co-captain and top ball-winner over the weekend in Tyler Sonsie in the centre, named in the team with forward Corey Preston. The other metropolitan team to feature two players was Calder Cannons, with Sam Clohesy and Josh Goater both making the squad.

Looking at the remaining country teams with two players apiece, the Bendigo Pioneers have Xavier Mitchell and Sam Conforti inside the 24 players, while Dandenong Stingrays are represented by Connor Macdonald and Josiah Kyle in the team. The three hypothetical emergencies were Gippsland Power’s Tom Crole, Calder Cannons’ Zac Taylor and Sandringham Dragons’ Logan Young for this round. Among the other players considered this week, Northern Knights’ Josh Ward, Dandenong Stingrays’ Judson Clarke, Murray Bushrangers’ Josh Rachele, Oakleigh Chargers’ Lachlan Rankin and Geelong Falcons’ Toby Conway.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE BOYS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 1

B: Joel Fitzgerald (NK) – Josh Gibcus (GWV) – Scott Beilby (OC)
HB: Charlie Byrne (MB) – Cody Raak (WJ) – Sam Clohesy (CC)
C: Finn Callaghan (SD) – Tyler Sonsie (ER) (c) – Campbell Chesser (SD)
HF: Marcus Herbert (GWV) – Flynn Young (GF) – Connor Macdonald (DS)
F: Sam Butler (GWV) – Xavier Mitchell (BP) – Corey Preston (ER)
R: Ned Moyle (OC) – Nick Daicos (OC) (c) – Ned Long (NK)
INT:  Sam Conforti (BP) – Paul Curtis (WJ) – Josh Goater (CC) – Josiah Kyle (DS) – Lachlan Riley (SD) – Darcy Wilmot (NK)

EMG: Tom Crole (GP) – Zac Taylor (CC) – Logan Young (SD)

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League – Round 1

AFTER last week’s standalone season-opener, the first full NAB League round of 2021 was run and done across an enthralling five-day stretch. Victoria’s hottest AFL Draft prospects were scattered throughout all six fixtures as they begin their quest for elite level recognition, with some talents blowing out the cobwebs in quick time and proving their top 10 credentials. Our scouts were on hand to run you through the top performers from each game, in their opinion-based Scouting Notes.

GWV REBELS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Peter Williams

GWV REBELS:

#1 Sam Butler

Played a clever small forward’s game inside 50, timing his runs and attack on the ball well. He used the ball well by foot, hitting up Jye Lockett early in the match as an example. He showed off his quick bursts around the goals with a nice running goal mopping up after a minor lapse of cleanliness between Lockett and Josh Rentsch. In the third term, he slickly stole the ball off Indy Parish and ran forward, then kicked an opportunistic goal 16 minutes in when everyone else thought there was a mark to Toby Conway, and Butler slammed home a major from point blank range. He capped off his performance with a hard run into goal 20m out off the back of great defensive work from his teammates.

#2 Ben Hobbs

Cracked in time and time again and provided the inside body the Rebels needed, showing a high work rate early in the match to win plenty of the ball. He was not as prolific in the second half in terms of his impact, but he still had clean hands and used quick disposals around the coal face to get it out and forward for his side. He had a set shot in the opening term from 60m which easily made the distance, but went to the left. Never gave in across the match and was a fierce competitor in the win.

#3 Charlie Molan

Spread well around the ground and had plenty of the football himself, particularly through the middle two terms. He looked to switch up play and be the distributor from defence or in the midfield to open the game up for his teammates. He had a good second term which included a great clearance and thumping ball forward from the stoppage, then would push back into defence such as in the third term, where his desperation saw him rush the ball across the line and get a free kick for his trouble. Has the silky spin moves to get out of trouble in his arsenal as well, and was clean by hand.

#5 Josh Rentsch

The tall forward was busy early, crashing into opponents and packs to try and win the ball. He clumsily hit an opponent front-on and earned a report, then had an unlucky bounce not long after when it went on a right angle as he tried to run into an open goal and collect it on the way. He kicked his first goal 10m out on a tight angle to nail the set shot, then kicked his second in the final term with a strong grab and a set shot on a tight angle. He had a couple of other chances, including a missed handball in the second term to Lockett, a mark that was deemed a push in the back in the second term, and then a set shot from 35m out that missed to the right. Overall he looked a presence inside 50 though.

#6 Marcus Herbert

Made his mark early in he match in a half-forward stoppage when he won the ball against three Falcons, spun out of trouble and kicked inside 50. He put up the don’t argue in the second term to handball clean to a teammate and was busy in the back half throughout the quarter. He worked hard across the ground to win the ball in all thirds, and then intercepted the ball at half-forward, did not break stride and nailed the running goal from 35m out. Darted in and out of traffic cleanly and was one of the better Rebels players on the night.

#8 Josh Gibcus

One of, if not the Rebels’ best on the day, Gibcus was outstanding in defence with his intercept marking and positioning. Time and time again he would mop up in the back 50, taking clean one-grab marks and then when at ground level, showed composure with ball-in-hand. He has a lovely long kick and makes the right decisions, and aside from a couple of kicks that were rushed, generally used it well. In the opening term, Gibcus had a nice sidestep under pressure and chopped the arms to get free and going forward. He was instrumental in ensuring the Rebels did not concede more goals through the middle of the game.

#10 Blake Scott

Stepped up to be one of the better Rebels with some really eye-catching highlights in the middle two teams. He used his pace to run down the wing and break the lines, then pickpocketed an opposition dangerous kick in board, only to miss the set shot. He made no mistake by crumbing a Rentsch attempted mark to snap and goal, with another snap on goal missing to the left. In the third term, Scott took a nice mark and nailed the set shot from 35m out, then won a free kick on the wing for being bumped high front on later in the term, and backed himself with a kick inboard to a two-on-one which worked out.

GEELONG:

#4 Gennaro Bove

Might not have gone his way in the first half with the Rebels in control, but Bove never stopped running and working hard throughout the game. He had a quick snap in the third term which was rushed but still on target, though an unlucky bounce went up instead of forward and was mopped up by the Rebels defence. Thanks to great tackling pressure on Hobbs, Bove won a free kick and received a 50m penalty where he converted the set shot from the goalsquare. He kicked his second midway through the final term by finding space and kicking the set shot from 30m out.

#7 Flynn Young

Was a really busy forward inside 50, kicking three goals from five scoring shots and realistically having chances to go home with a big bag in the opening round. He kicked a set shot goal 25m out in the opening term to put his team within a point, then nailed another set shot in the second term. Keeping his average at a goal a quarter, Young kicked his third from a set shot late in the premiership quarter, with an earlier miss in the third term hitting the post three quarters high.

#12 Noah Gribble

Coming back from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, Gribble wasted no time in asserting himself on the contest. The hard runner in his 19-year-old season worked hard around the ground to rack up the ball with ease. He worked hard out of defence and along the wing to drive the ball forward and remain in the contest. His second and third efforts were good and spread well around the ground. He showed off is agility by sidestepping some opponents at half-back in the final term to create separation from opponents and get out of trouble.

#27 Charlie Brauer

A high-impact-per-disposal player, Brauer only finished with the 11 touches, three marks and two rebounds, but caught the eye on a number of occasions. He was clean and composed coming out of the back 50, and generally made the right decisions by hand or foot. He might not have amassed the amount of ball as some of his teammates, but as he showed, he has the ability to move the ball well in transition.

#34 Indy Parish

Won his fair share of the ball and showed clean hands, but was often tightly guarded at stoppages. He showed quick hands when in possession through midfield, and read the ball well off the fall, also taking a good mark early in the third term and then quickly dishing off to a teammate on the run to keep it moving. Worked throughout the match to be a solid contributor without being outstanding.

#60 Toby Conway

The bigman had his way in the ruck by using his height and strength to position himself well at stoppages and win the lionshare of the hitouts. He was clever around the stoppages on his way to 30-odd hitouts, but it was his ground level work that also stood out. He tracked it at ground level and would provide second and third efforts for his midfielders and had a crack throughout the four quarters to be a reliable player around the ground.

CALDER CANNONS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Ed Pascoe

CALDER CANNONS:

#4 Sam Clohesy

It was back-to-back strong games for Clohesy who has been one of the more impressive players coming back through the new 19s competition, but as a December birth he still has plenty of growth as a player. Clohesy started the game in his preferred half-back position, offering plenty of rebound and using his voice to offer direction and make his own presence known to teammates for the quick receive. As Calder needed to make some changes to get back into the game, Clohesy was moved forward to good effect and was quickly making his presence felt with some nice marks and quick ball movement, but he also hit the scoreboard with a nice set shot. He didn’t add to his goal tally but he looked dangerous and got to show his versatility, ending the game with 24 disposals, 10 marks, seven rebound 50s and a goal.

#5 Zac Taylor

The pick of Calder’s players, the 180cm Taylor worked tirelessly through midfield in all four quarters. Having played mostly forward last week, Taylor showed that crafty nature through the midfield at stoppages, but it was his ability to receive on the outside and push into defence that also stood out and showed he isn’t just a player wanting to look flashy. Taylor’s skills and composure were great on the outside and he won his fair share of clearances on the inside as well, using his clean hands and agility to escape congestion and although it was surprising to see him only finish with the 22 disposals and seven marks as he looked to pop up everywhere, his impact was still high for those 22 touches.

#25 Josh Goater

The incredibly talented Goater started the game in fine fashion, winning the opening clearance of the game. Despite not winning a heap of the ball in that first quarter, he kicked a very nice goal on the run to highlight his impact per possession, which would be a theme for the day for Goater. He was moved to the outside as the game went on and was able to showcase his nice evasion and ability to gain meterage with a nice bit of play in the last quarter; receiving at half-back and then going for a run, taking a few bounces and hitting up teammate Sam Paea on the lead at half-forward. Although he only finished with the 16 disposals and five inside 50s, his impact and dazzling plays couldn’t help but catch the eye.

EASTERN RANGES:

#1 Tyler Sonsie

Sonsie reminded everyone why he is considered one of the top five prospects in the 2021 draft with a dominant display in the midfield, showing his trademark attacking nature and class in a strong four-quarter performance. Sonsie was a clearance specialist in the first quarter, winning plenty of the ball in-close and dishing off cleanly by hand. It wasn’t his usual style of winning the ball and attacking by foot, but he was effective nonetheless. Sonsie had a few running shots on goal in the first half and didn’t quite nail them as he usually would, biting off a bit more than he could chew with some opposite foot kicks, but he would address those issues in the last quarter. Sonsie is usually flawless in his kick execution on both sides and it all finally clicked in the last quarter as he kicked two sensational goals on his non-preferred. The first was a classy rove and snap from a stoppage and the second came after he won a centre clearance and then followed that very clearance up with a running shot at goal from 40-metres out. Sonsie put on a show, finishing the gamer with 34 disposals, six inside 50s and two goals.

#5 Jake Soligo

The impressive Eastern Ranges co-captain led from the front in their engine room and despite not having a huge day on the stat sheet, he certainly played his role in that midfield and helped set up a lot of scoring opportunities. Soligo started the game well, showing clean hands at stoppages and often releasing his runners by hand. He had some chances to hit the scoreboard himself but after missing a running shot at goal in the second quarter, he would later nail a good set shot goal from a mark in the third term. Soligo finished the game with 14 disposals, four inside 50s and kicked 1.2 in a solid outing for the small midfield prospect.

#21 Corey Preston

Preston was one of the unlucky players to miss getting drafted last year after getting a combine invite, but he will certainly have scouts thinking twice about passing him during the mid-season intake after an exciting display up forward. The crafty 181cm left-footer was causing headaches early on, winning plenty of the ball up forward with his first goal coming tight on the boundary from a strong mark, before coolly slotting the snap goal. His second goal was just as impressive, burning off his opponent with speed and then slotting a nice running goal from long range. His next two goals would come in the next quarter, all using his forward smarts with nice crumbing goals. It wasn’t just his crafty work at ground level, as he showed in the second quarter with a really strong contested mark at centre half-forward. Preston would have a quieter second half but he finished the game with an impressive 18 disposals, five marks, and kicked 4.2.

#31 Tyreece Leiu

The big bodied 194cm midfielder-forward spent his time between midfield and the forwardline, proving a good target in attack and around the ground with his height and size. Leiu didn’t kick any goals and really should have converted his early shot in the first quarter from 20 metres straight in front, but he did show his good marking ability by marking strongly against another big-bodied player in Josh Misiti. Although being a handy midfielder at stoppages with his size, his ability to win the ball at half-forward and hit up targets inside 50 was very good – especially in the second half. Leiu had a lot of unselfish plays and while he set up a lot of scoring chains, he couldn’t quite convert another shot at goal late and finished the game with 18 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s and 0.2.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Ed Pascoe

NORTHERN KNIGHTS:

#2 Ned Long

The 192cm midfielder set the tone early with good attack on the ball and good spread around the ground, showing he is more than just that pure big-bodied inside midfielder. Long won plenty of the ball in the first quarter and showed a lot of smarts with ball in hand, drawing in opponents to release better handballs to his teammates. Long was also able to hit the scoreboard, with his first major coming from a strong contested mark and set shot. His marking around the ground was a real highlight, using his big frame to his advantage. His next two goals came in the last quarter and were seemingly match-winning goals both on the run, with the last coming from a quick play-on and long-range bomb. In a best on ground performance, Long finished with 26 disposals, nine marks, seven inside 50s and three goals to mark a near-perfect start to his NAB League campaign.

#3 Josh Ward

The Knights ball magnet didn’t have his usual prolific game but a solid outing nonetheless through the midfield, with his ability inside and outside the contest a real feature of his game. The 181cm midfielder looked classy with his ball use by hand and foot, favouring his left foot, and he hit some nice targets going inside 50. His clean hands at stoppages to go with some nice tackles also really complimented his inside-outside combination. He isn’t the quickest player but he didn’t do a lot wrong with his 22 disposals, getting maximum value out of them and he has shown since Under 16s level that he can win a lot of the ball, so he will prove an important cog in the Northern Knights midfield this year.

#9 Darcy Wilmot

Wilmot certainly wasn’t the most prolific player out there but he certainly had the best moments of the game, which will be touched on, but to describe the 182cm defender’s game in a snapshot, he played the fast rebounder role and offered plenty of drive. His first sensational bit of play came in the second quarter; starting on the wing, he attacked the loose ball to gather and handpass to a teammate, before then working hard to receive again and show his dash to kick a spectacular goal hard on the boundary from 50 metres out – an effort worthy of goal of the year. As flashy as he looked, he was able to intercept really well overhead and was always quick to play on. Another great moment deep in the last quarter saw him take a bounce and stream from half-back, running flat-out through the middle of the ground and although he probably should have been done for running too far it, was such an eye-catching moment. Wilmot finished the game with 15 disposals and five rebound 50s and is only just draft eligible having been born on December 31, so he has even more room for growth as the year goes on. He is certainly a player to keep an eye on.

#22 Jack Rossimel

Although the 193cm key forward didn’t hit the scoreboard, he was certainly influential in his team’s result, providing a great target from centre half-forward with his constant leading at the ball carrier. Rossimel’s greatest strength wasn’t just his ability to lead up and give his teammates a target, it was also his incredible dexterity at ground level – able to gather any ball below his knees at speed and handpass to a teammate perfectly. His skillset lends well to perhaps playing as a midfielder at some point or even as a wingman. He had one shot at goal that didn’t make the distance but expect the goals to come this year to reward his efforts. Rossimel finished the game with 16 disposals and six marks.

#28 Joel Fitzgerald

An emerging leader for Northern Knights, Fitzgerald played his role in defence to perfection, not only defending really well but also offering plenty of rebound from the back half. Although Fitzgerald wasn’t flashy he did the one-percenters well with some timely spoils and one-on-one defending. He showed his rebound ability early with a nice intercept mark then quickly kicking down the line to teammate Rossimel, before receiving back and gaining plenty of meterage. Fitzgerald was a good four-quarter performer but he really stood up in the last quarter when the heat was on. He had some great defensive moments while also taking some strong intercept marks which were a staple of his game all day. The 186cm defender finished the game with 32 disposals, 12 marks and seven rebound 50s and couldn’t have done much more offensively or defensively in a well-rounded performance.

WESTERN JETS:

#26 Cody Raak

It wasn’t a prolific game for Raak compared to last week, but he still showed his great composure and ability to rebound from defence. Raak started the game well with a nice mark deep in defence, followed by a lovely gather and handball to show his class above his head and at ground level. His confidence to quickly hit the switch kick and do it perfectly was a nice sight. He almost got a chance to kick a goal as well, receiving a handball at 50-metres and just missing the running long-range shot at goal in the second quarter. He also showed good intensity during the same term in defence with a good second effort. Raak finished the game with 18 disposals and five rebound 50s in a strong performance down back.

#32 Paul Curtis

“Expect the goals to come if he keeps getting himself in dangerous situations” – that was our quote for Curtis after his game last week and not only did he hit the scoreboard this time out, but he almost did it in a big way. Curtis set the tone early, showing that he would be a handful by taking a nice slips catch mark. Despite missing the set shot, he would add another behind with a snap at goal on his non-preferred side, showing good speed as well. Curtis would finally kick a goal in the second quarter coming from a high free kick. His pressure was outstanding in this quarter and really helped spark his side. Curtis would kick a further two goals in the last quarter, with one from a lovely crumbed snap and the other from a 50-metre penalty. Curtis finished the game with eight disposals, kicking 3.2 as he continues to prove to be one of the standout small forwards in the NAB League.

#33 Billy Cootee

The Jets’ captain led from the front, showing great attacking intent through the midfield with his impact. Though that was not exactly shown on the stat sheet, Cootee provided plenty of drive from the midfield, with his burst from stoppages and long kicking a big driving force especially in the first half. Cootee finished the game with 15 disposals and six tackles, but he certainly made all those touches count and was a key reason as to why the Jets kept within striking distance of the dangerous Knights outfit.

#50 Paul Tsapatolis

Geelong-listed rookie, Tsapatolis seems to be getting better with every game, as the 201cm ruckman was a real presence against the Knights. A strong contested mark in the first quarter set the tone for his game as he proved to be a hard player to stop both in ruck contests and around the ground with his big body and marking ability. He didn’t hit the scoreboard, missing a set shot in the last quarter, but he had some good numbers for the game with 15 disposals, six marks and 22 hit-outs – improving from his eight-disposal game last week.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

GIPPSLAND POWER:

#4 Nathan Noblett

Positioned well in the backline for Gippsland down deep. Often under siege down there, Noblett held himself well, especially in marking contests where he’d be able to out-position opponents to get the mark, then look to switch the ball across the defensive 50 to get the Power started again. Had a few kicks under pressure that didn’t quite come off, but it didn’t slow him down as he continued to take the game on through the day.

#5 Chance Doultree

Played a bit of a mixed role throughout the day, stationed mostly in the backline but he had no issues pushing up and almost playing as an extra midfielder to give Gippsland another body around the contest. Marked well for the game, with his positioning outside of forward 50 being smart and giving himself the best chance to put the ball straight back in. When he was up forward he won a few two-on-ones to create scoring shots, a big reason for Power’s improved scoreboard showing in the third quarter.

#9 Will Papley

Really aggressive towards the ball and opposition ball carrier, making him a menace in close around the midfield, and a high pressure player in the forward 50, where he almost guaranteed a successful tackle when he latches on. His ball use was good as well, knowing when to take the opportunity to kick for goal, but also lowering his eyes and hitting up teammates as well.

#23 Jai Serong

Splitting his time between the midfield and backline, Serong’s biggest strength was his positioning in either role. In the midfield he got to the right spots, where his cleanliness at ground level gave him the upper hand in the contest and led to him feeding it out to teammates under less pressure. In the backline, he was able to impact contests by coming off his own opponent to throw in a spoil or hold off an opponent for his teammates.

#38 Thomas Crole

Presented well up forward all day, making hard and aggressive leads to dangerous spots inside forward 50, with his first four or five steps really hard for Dandenong defenders to keep up with. He kicked a few goals for the day where there wasn’t a whole heap of ball up forward for Power, with his conversion really good from set shots and on the run.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS:

#2 Josiah Kyle

The St Kilda NGA prospect has some very nice traits around the ground that make him a high-impact player whenever he’s around the contest. There were just times where he’d evade two or three opponents and then deliver a handball out to a teammate, or a damaging kick forward to a leading teammate, highlighting his vision and composure in traffic. Being a smaller forward he was naturally good at ground level, but his presence aerially was also impressive, getting on shoulders when he could but also out-bodying opponents through smart positioning in one-on-ones when he was a deeper target. He was dangerous when he went into the midfield as well, with his pace a real asset around stoppages and on the outside, where he’d get himself into space and deliver damaging kicks forward.

#3 Miller Bergman

Provided meaningful run off of the half-back flank throughout the day, coming out to meet the ball when it went over the top of contests or dropped short of his defensive 50. Moved into the forward half for the last quarter, where he was a particularly strong link-up option in transition, working hard up the ground to be a switch option out of defence and beating opponents with his speed when moving with the ball forward, where his long and often penetrating kick was a weapon for the Stingrays.

#6 Connor Macdonald

Was probably the standout midfielder for the day, with his burst of speed and read of the ball off of the rucks’ hands a real strength, leading to a lot of quick entries forward for the Stingrays from centre bounces in particular. He highlighted his versatility by playing as not only an inside ball winner, but an outside receiver as well, where he showed solid ball use and again showcased his speed to move the ball well. Also had his stints up forward where he crumbed well off the talls and used his hands well to give to teammates, or had a shot on goal himself, finishing the day with two majors.

#7 Judson Clarke

Formed a dynamic duo of sorts with Macdonald around the midfield, with one going in to win the ball and the other holding on the outside, both playing either role with the flick of a switch, it was almost like they were reading each others’ minds. Clarke was efficient when moving the ball forward, hitting up teammates with bullet-like kicks, making him particularly damaging when the Stingrays were in transition.

#22 Mac Andrew

Another NGA prospect for Melbourne, he showed some really good signs as a forward that rotated through the ruck, where he displayed a good understanding of the role, timing his leaps and placing his taps well to the advantage of teammates around the ground, leading to Dandenong’s scoreboard pressure. He also positioned well in marking contests, being in spots just outside the forward 50 that he’d create a contest for Dandenong to get it back in.

#23 Jai Neal

Made the most of his opportunities in the forwardline, making really well-positioned leads and marking strongly on the chest when his teammates chose to reward his efforts. He was also opportunistic around the forward 50 arc, looking to attack any spilt balls out of contests and get them going forward.

#27 Kobi George

The Melbourne NGA prospect worked out of the backline, trusted with the kick-ins where he’d deliver to the advantage of teammates. He was a delight to watch when working through traffic, with Gippsland players just unable to get a hold of him. He could run through a pack and come out the other side without losing balance. His speed and precision with his handballing was top class, often getting a good amount of distance behind it to a teammate out on their own, allowing the Dandenong transition to continue quickly going forward. Had a few kicks on the run that didn’t quite come off as well as he’d like, but still managed penetration in them. 

#42 James Cahill

Fit in well on the wing for the Stingrays, making himself an option for switch kicks out of the backline as often as he could, and having the confidence to tuck the ball under his arm and go for a run before kicking long forward. He worked hard to help teammates under pressure, often getting a handball out the back, giving it off and then running to receive it back as well. That hard work was on display all day.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Declan Reeve

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS:

#2 Charlie Byrne

Byrne showed a high level of leadership during the game, very clearly directing teammates whether he had the ball or not. He was courageous at the footy no matter where he was lining up, putting his body on the line to win it out the middle or coming to meet it out of defence. His confidence and composure in pursuit of and with the ball was a highlight for Murray.

#3 Toby Murray

Lined up at full forward for the game, Murray led well for his teammates further up the ground, pushing high up onto the wings when the ball was in Murray’s defensive 50 to become a solid link-up player in transition. He’s not overly physical in marking contests, but uses his body well to just nudge opponents out of the way or push them under the ball. He used the ball well, with his kicking to hit up teammates inside 50 a highlight. Was the relieving ruck for Murray and competed well, able to time his jumps really well to win quite a few hit-outs, without getting much strong direction on them. 

#4 Josh Rachele

A very good user of the footy around the ground, getting penetration behind his kick that was unmatched by anyone else, so when he was moving it centrally as he so often looked to do it was generally a jump start for a Murray attack. Whilst he had a run-with player when in the midfield, he managed well in pulling his opponent out and then beating them on the outside with his burst of speed. For his size, he presented a surprisingly strong aerial presence and proved very clean above his head, even at full speed, which led to him being used and taking some impressive marks around the ground, even against bigger opponents.

#13 Tom Brown

Competed well in marking contests especially, just a really safe set of hands with a well-timed leap which adds an element of reliability for Murray wherever he’s stationed on ground, only dropping a mark when heavy contact was made. Was a bit of ‘Mr. Fix It’, filling in down back in the second quarter when there were a lot of entries, where his tendency to drift in front of contests became a big reason the Bushies didn’t concede more, and his ball use helped get Murray started for a counter.

#24 Cameron McLeod

Has really good speed and running capacity as a tall forward, working his opponents up the ground to be an option high up on the wing, and if he went unused his work-rate running back into the forward 50 was very impressive. Mixed with that speed, it was evident he was a difficult match up for Bendigo. His follow up work at ground level is equally impressive, beating much smaller players regularly.

#29 Noah Bradshaw

Looked most impressive during his stints in the midfield, where he had a knack for moving through congestion without much trouble, and then delivering either a well placed kick to a leading teammate or a clean handball to someone running past on the outside. Was really strong overhead as well, taking some impressive marks when stationed in the forward line. The son of former Brisbane Lions goalkicker, Daniel

BENDIGO PIONEERS:

#1 Sam Conforti

Split his time between the forwardline and midfield, where his ball winning ability and tendency to look for short inside 45 options with his kicking going forward shone. It opened up the game for Bendigo, especially out of stoppages where he could find a way out of congestion to hit up a leading target, or the hot zone up forward. Was also smart with his leading, making some shorter leads to open up the ground, and again utilise that inside 45 kick option.

#2 Harvey Gallagher

Just did a bit of everything throughout the day as a forward and midfielder, doing well to hold his space on the outside of the contest, then use the ball well by foot going forward. His positioning and leading patterns made him a strong marking option going forward as well, just getting into smart spots where he was the clear best option and often alone.

#5 Cooper Hamilton

Played a bit of everywhere, starting as a defender and then getting more midfield time as the game went on, then drifting up forward when the opportunity presented. Was really good with his pressure application throughout the day, never allowing an easy opposition disposal to get away. With the ball himself, he looked at his best when he was involved in the contested stuff, especially with his quick hands out to teammates to keep the ball moving. 

#8 Hugh Hamilton

Used the ball well through the midfield, often winning it on the inside, getting through congestion and then delivering a well weighted kick to a leading forward. The few times his kicks were rushed because of pressure, they were still well placed to the advantage of his forward teammates. He tackled hard around the contest as well, with the Pioneers noticeably stronger with him on the inside.

#9 Aidan Hare

Got better as the game went on, stationed as a midfielder for the majority of the contest. His brute force and hard work around stoppages led to quite a few clearances, whether for him or his teammates. As the game went on it became more evident he was fitter than most on ground, becoming a focal player for Bendigo; taking marks and becoming a regular ball winner around the ground as well. Rested up forward occasionally and akin to his midfield game as the match went on, he became more and more involved, presenting well as a target up forward and even taking a nice mark in particular during the fourth quarter straight from a centre clearance.

#10 Bode Stevens

Lining up for the Pioneers in the engine room, Stevens showed true ability to impact all around the ground. With his inside work particularly strong in the midfield, his ability to get hands out quickly to an oncoming teammate was vital to Bendigo’s forward 50 entry game. He also presented well in the forwardline when he was around there, getting himself a goal just by being free in a more central spot of the 50 than a teammate with the ball.

#13 Jack Evans

Looked good when he was given the freedom to move around the ground and help out everywhere. There were times where he pushed down into the defensive 50 to help out down there, and his composure under pressure to find a free teammate was impressive, with his ability to find shorter options and weight the quick kick well really good as Bendigo worked it out carefully.

#23 Xavier Mitchell

Showed some really good athletic traits, with his leap and speed two in particular that caught the eye and led to a few goals for him. He could’ve had a few more had he not passed it off or had free kicks paid as advantage to teammates. Got to all the right spots for his teammates, making a contest of any ball regardless of how high or fast it came in.

#28 Louis Thompson

Didn’t have a whole heap of the footy, but was very eye catching when he did. Lining up mostly at half-forward, he’d drift across and impact aerial contests well, with one particular instance in the first quarter leading to a mark a good five meters in front of the pack, which he converted into a goal. When in the midfield, he was really clean in traffic, getting around opponents easily to then handball to a teammate on the outside. He went on a few good runs where he’d be confident and assured taking on opponents, standing up strongly on the rare occasions he was caught. Looked to be on the wing for the fourth quarter where he became a strong driver for the Pioneers going forward, using his speed and agility well then kicking to teammates. 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Ed Pascoe

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS:

#4 Josh Sinn

Coming into the season as one of this year’s brightest prospects, the Sandringham co-captain wasn’t given much space to work with by the Oakleigh forwards and he was tasked with the difficult matchup on Lachlan Rankin early, who got the better of him. Sinn tried to get his usual rebound game going but found it tough with Oakleigh’s superb pressure, but he would start to hit his straps more as the game went on. Usually doing his best work at half-back, he was moved through the midfield to provide some spark and even drifted forward to kick an important goal in the last quarter from a mark and set shot. Sinn finished the game with 20 disposals, four rebound 50s and one goal which was a strong return after a shaky start.

#6 Blake Howes

The smooth moving medium forward had plenty of eye-catching moments, showcasing his superb athletic traits; able to be a threat in the air but also show great dexterity and clean hands at ground level. Howes’ kicking under pressure during the game was a real highlight, often getting separation from his opponent before kicking long inside 50 to hit his targets. The talented forward only kicked the one goal but it was certainly a good one, with a nice snap kick on his opposite foot in the second quarter. Howes finished the game with 12 disposals, five marks and a goal, showing he would be a very difficult matchup this year with his combination of height, smarts and athleticism.

#7 Campbell Chesser

Chesser made the wing his own, winning plenty of the ball and really lifting his output and damage in the last quarter when his team needed it most. Chesser wasn’t overly flashy on the outer, just getting the job done with great skill and composure by hand and foot. Rarely flustered, he popped up to give an outlet at the back of stoppages while also working hard around the ground to set up scoring chains. Chesser finished the game with 23 disposals and five inside 50s and was one of Sandringham’s better players for the day in their hard earned win.

#17 Finn Callaghan

A smooth moving wingman with a bit of weight behind him, Callaghan isn’t your typical looking NAB League wingman, but despite his strong looking frame he showed great agility and movement through traffic and looks to be an interesting prospect in 2021. Fleet of foot at ground level, Callaghan also looked comfortable overhead with a nice intercept mark in the second quarter and was comfortable going back to kick on his favoured left boot from 55 metres out. He missed the set shot but certainly showed his cannon-like left boot and would do so around the ground for the rest of the game. Callaghan finished the game with 19 disposals and two behinds.

#52 Luke Nankervis

Although not prolific, Nankervis certainly showed some exciting traits that should see him come into draft consideration as the year goes on, as the lightly built medium forward impressed with his speed and skill. Nankervis looked a threat in the air and at ground level which was a similar trait shared with teammate Blake Howes. Nankervis was very agile at ground level and looked quick in transition, not just with the ball but also when gliding across the ground to receive. Nankervis did well to kick his first goal in the second quarter when he snapped truly with a nice gather after his mark was spoiled. Nankervis only had the 10 disposals but took four marks and kicked 1.1 in a very promising first game at NAB League level.

#66 Charlie McKay

The Carlton father-son prospect impressed last year in the pre-season before Covid impacted his year, but McKay has come back with a point to prove and he certainly went in with an attacking mindset through the Dragons’ engine room. McKay was a bull, putting his head over the ball and putting plenty of pressure on the ball carrier to set the tone for his teammates. Not one to solely operate at ground level, he also showed intent in the air by taking some strong grabs and even pushing into defence at times, and showed some good form behind the ball as well. McKay finished the game with 17 disposals, four tackles and five inside 50s as the big-bodied midfielder made the most of his NAB League debut.

Others:

Promising ruck Jacob Edwards, who has attracted some mid-season draft interest, built on his terrific preseason form with a couple of clutch moments for the Dragons while being solid all game. West Australian recruit Logan Young was reliable in midfield and opportunistic with a couple of goals up forward, as was Eren Soylemez with three majors and great tackling pressure. Lachlan Benton was another lively figure in the attacking half, while Jack Peris showed clean pairs of hands and heels from the wing. In the thick of the midfield action, Lachlan Riley proved a dependable figure and won plenty of ball.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS:

#1 Youseph Dib

The Collingwood NGA member showed a lot of spark from half-back, providing plenty of creativity and composure to help his side provide meaningful rebound. Usually stationed in the forwardline or through the midfield, Dib made the half-back line his own and was busy very early in the game and despite playing mostly in defence, managed to kick a goal in the first quarter following a 50-metre penalty. As much as Dib has been seen as a very agile and exciting little player, his one-percenters really stood out with some nice tackles and some good smothers. Dib wasn’t prolific but had a solid game with 10 disposals, three tackles and a goal.

#3 Nick Daicos

In his NAB League debut, Daicos showed the hype was justified with a best on ground performance against perhaps the team to beat this year in Sandringham. Daicos was superb in the midfield, winning the ball at will and showing great skill and speed when in possession. Daicos started the game perfectly with the game’s first clearance and showed his forward craft, kicking a well-struck set shot from 45 metres out. His second goal came from a set shot from 50 metres in the third quarter, and his third and final goal came in the last quarter with a terrific crumbing effort where he hit the ball at speed and kicked the goal quicker than a hiccup. With an early corky, Daicos had to spend a bit of time at deep forward in the second half but he still looked so damaging whenever he went near the ball. Daicos finished the game with 28 disposals, eight marks, seven tackles and kicked 3.2 in a best on ground performance.

#17 Braden Andrews

Usually very prolific as a tall inside midfielder, Andrews had a quieter game by his standards yet still showed some great signs with his skills and composure. The AFL Academy member finished with 11 disposals but made most of them count with some nice long kicks and classy work by hand. Expect him to bounce back with a more prolific game in the coming weeks as he adjusts to the rigours and speed of play.

#22 Lachlan Rankin

Usually used as a rebounding half-back or wingman, Rankin was stationed up forward, lining up on gun Sandringham captain Josh Sinn. He certainly made Sinn accountable by lighting up the first quarter, kicking two goals and getting Oakleigh off to the perfect start. Both his goals came from free kicks, with one a simple set shot but another a very nice opposite foot snap hard on the boundary which showcased his skill. His third goal would come in the third quarter with a nice dribble close to goal, and after attempting a huge screamer later that quarter he would unfortunately injure himself – putting a stop to his dominant performance up forward. Although not the tallest or quickest forward, Rankin was clean and classy around the ball and his natural football IQ made the foreign position work. Rankin finished the game with eight disposals and three goals.

#36 Scott Beilby

The St Kilda NGA prospect provided a lot of spark down back for Oakleigh, often taking the kick-outs and always looking to attack with them as well. Although Beilby showed great rebounding ability, he also took some really strong intercept marks to prove he isn’t just a running receiver, or one who uses kick-outs to inflate his figures. Beilby finished the game with 21 disposals and nine rebound 50s to be amongst his teams best players, despite some shaky moments at the death.

Others:

New South Welshman, Patrick Voss was ultra impressive up forward in his maiden outing for Oakleigh, defying his size to apply great pressure at ground level. Alex Lukic doubled well in the ruck and was mobile around the ground, supporting the strong efforts of bigman, Ned Moyle. Lochlan Jenkins and Dylan Thomas were among the Chargers to find plenty of ball, as Jed Rule returned a solid shift and Luke Kelvie had some good moments.

2021 NAB League Boys Round 1 preview: Six games in five days across Easter weekend

OPENING the first full round of the NAB League Boys season after a standalone season opener last week, six games will be played across five days to celebrate a blockbuster Easter weekend. After winning last weekend in the standalone clash, Western Jets will head back to the scene of the success on Good Friday to face the Northern Knights in the second game of the double-header there. The team they knocked off by three points – Calder Cannons – will host Eastern Ranges in the earlier match.

There will be plenty of players to watch in that double-header, with key defender Cody Raak having a day out in defence last week, earning best on ground honours with 31 disposals, nine marks and 11 rebounds in a remarkable effort back there. He teamed up well with Liam Conway who feasted on 31 touches himself, as well as seven marks, eight inside 50s and a goal going forward. Sam Clohesy, Josh Goater and Zac Taylor were among those who caught the eye for Calder and will be hoping to get their team over the line against the Ranges.

Eastern will have a number of talented players to keep an eye on throughout the season, led by the slick-moving skilful Tyler Sonsie, whilst Jake Soligo and Tyreece Leiu are other names that will be talents across the field. For Northern, Ewan Macpherson has returned to the club as an overager, whilst Jack Rossimel and Josh Ward are among those who are expected to impress in 2021.

Before we get to Highgate, there is an all-Country clash out at CE Brown Reserve from 5pm between the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Geelong Falcons. The Rebels have some eye-catching talent in 2021, led by midfielders Ben Hobbs and Charlie Molan, key forward Josh Rentsch and Jye Lockett (nephew of Tony) who have all represented their state at Under 16s level, with the latter running out for Queensland. The Falcons have a couple of handy 19-year-olds returning to the side in Noah Gribble and Charlie Ham who both received Draft Combine invitations last year. The athletic Ham and versatile Gribble will join the likes of Toby Conway and Indiana Parish as ones to watch.

Heading to Morwell on Saturday, Gippsland Power hosts Dandenong Stingrays, with the family relations strong in the Power outfit. Will Papley (brother of Tom) and Jai Serong (brother of Caleb) will both create headaches for the opposition, whilst the versatile Brodie Mabilia can bring the athleticism from basketball. The Stingrays will welcome back a couple of handy 19-year-olds themselves in Clayton Gay and Will Bravo, while Bayleigh Welsh has been named captain for 2021.

Murray Bushrangers will unleash a number of potent movers in 2021, with the Bushies’ first game up against Bendigo Pioneers in Shepparton. Charlie Byrne has returned for another season and will use his penetrating kick to advantage, while Zavier Maher will also return after some experience training at Carlton over the summer. Josh Rachele is one of the top players in the competition and has class personified, while Tom Brown is another Bushies player to keep an eye on this year. Bendigo Pioneers will welcome back Sam Conforti as a 19-year-old prospect, while spectators will be seeing double with the Hamilton twins – Cooper and Hugh – will be hard to miss having represented their state at Under 16s level.

The Easter Monday clash might be the biggest of the lot, with two title contenders locking horns at RSEA Park. Sandringham Dragons and Oakleigh Chargers go head-to-head in the perennial massive clash of two heavyweights prior to school football. Nick Daicos (Oakleigh), Josh Sinn and Campbell Chessar (Sandringham) are all highly touted prospects and among the top Victorians running around. Braden Andrews and Alex Lukic are a couple of other Chargers who will catch the eye in 2021, while Luca Anderson – the brother of Noah – and Lachlan Rankin will be on club’s watchlists. Yousef Dib is a Collingwood Next-Generation Academy (NGA) prospect and will be of particular interest to the black and white army.

For the Dragons, they have brought back the athletic Max Heath among a ton of 19-year-old talents, as Darby Hipwell, Dante Visentini and Angus McLennan are among some of the names to keep an eye on for Sandringham. Ex-West Australian representative Logan Young has also crossed to Victoria to run out with the Dragons in a great get for the side that will have a mix of experienced teenagers, and fresh faces coming through the outfit.

Tasmania Devils have a rest first up, with a bye before entering the competition in Round 2.

ROUND 1 FIXTURES:

Thursday, April 1:

GWV Rebels vs. Geelong Falcons @ CE Brown Reserve, 5pm

Friday, April 2:

Calder Cannons vs. Eastern Ranges @ Highgate Recreation Reserve, 10:30am
Northern Knights vs. Western Jets @ Highgate Recreation Reserve, 1pm

Saturday, April 3:

Gippsland Power vs. Dandenong Stingrays @ Morwell Football Ground, 1pm

Sunday, April 4:

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers @ Deakin Reserve, 1pm

Monday, April 5:

Sandringham Dragons vs. Oakleigh Chargers @ RSEA Park, 2pm

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League – Calder Cannons vs. Western Jets

AFTER 554 days without competitive action, the NAB League returned on Saturday as the Calder Cannons and Western Jets locked horns at Highgate Recreation Reserve. It was the Jets who got up by three points in a thriller, as contested ball reigned supreme with either side shaking off the cobwebs. We take you through the standout players on the day in our first edition of Scouting Notes for 2021.

CALDER CANNONS vs. WESTERN JETS

Calder:

#4 Sam Clohesy

The rebounding defender, back as a 19-year-old (December), started like a house on fire; winning plenty of the ball down back and providing plenty of drive from defence for Calder. Although his numbers started to dwindle as the game went on, he still worked hard to provide meaningful rebound and was always giving an option out of defence and he really gave a lot of meterage with his long kicking. Clohesy finished the game with 20 disposals, seven marks and four rebound 50s to be one of Calder’s best players for the day.

#5 Zac Taylor

Taylor offered some spark early on as a small forward but also showed his wares as a speedy midfielder later in the game. Although he didn’t convert any goals, Taylor offered plenty up forward showing good speed and a willingness to leap at the ball, almost taking some ripper marks. He was moved into the midfield and gave some much needed spark in the middle as well, with his best play coming in the last quarter as he sold not one, but two pieces of candy which really caught the eye and cemented Taylor as one of the most exciting players on the day. Taylor finished with 18 disposals but was stuck on the bench late in the game and could have easily added to that tally.

#25 Josh Goater

Goater cemented himself as a prospect to watch this year and could very well be the highest taken in this year’s draft from this game, with his midfield ability not unlike recent top 10 draftee Archie Perkins. Goater was smooth in the midfield, showing great movement out of traffic and his breakaway speed was hard to stop along with his 190cm frame at stoppages. Although not a massive game in terms of production, which was also impacted by some time on the bench with a calf complaint, he went forward in the last quarter and showcased his impressive leap with a huge attempted mark inside 50. He didn’t stick it but proved he could be a real handful drifting forward this year. Goater finished the game with 22 disposals and four tackles in an eye-catching display.

#29 Josh Misiti

The Essendon father-son prospect got to show what he could do as a midfielder just like his father Joe did for the Bombers all those years ago. In his first full game as a midfielder in the NAB League, Misiti showed some promising signs with his strong 193cm frame important in the second half, winning some timely touches in the middle and showing good vision by hand which was another trait shared by Joe. But unlike his father, Josh was also strong in the air and could be a difficult player to play on when he drifts forward. Misiti finished with a solid 14 disposals and will look to improve his production as he gets more time to learn the midfield caper.

#41 Liam Podhajski

The brother of former NAB League gun Mitch, Liam Podhajski is a fair bit taller than his brother at 202cm and playing in the ruck, but really impressed was his ability to play as an extra midfielder and he showed great skill and agility for a player his size. Podhajski managed to show some signs drifting forward as well, kicking a sensational goal hard on the boundary showing great dexterity for his size. Podhajski finished with 16 disposals and 19 hit outs in a good duel against Geelong-listed ruckman, Paul Tsapatolis.

Western:

#26 Cody Raak

Considered unlucky not to win a spot with the Western Bulldogs as a Next Generation Academy (NGA) member, Raak was sensational in a best on ground performance down back, playing a similar role to Essendon’s Jordan Ridley in taking some great intercept marks and hurting the opposition with his vision and kicking out of defence. Raak led a well drilled backline for Western who proved hard to get through for the day, conceding under 40 points. Raak had a big say on the result as Calder struggled to get the ball past him. A cool head and efficient with the ball, Raak finished the game with 31 disposals, nine marks and 11 rebound 50s as he stakes his claim for an AFL spot in the mid-season draft.

#32 Paul Curtis

The dynamic and exciting small forward didn’t hit the scoreboard but provided plenty of spark up forward for Western Jets. His best work came in the second quarter, throwing himself into everything whether at ground level or leaping for marks, he did what a good small forward should do and got involved wherever he could. The exciting left-footer didn’t have the most prolific game with 10 disposals but he took some nice marks with five in total and expect the goals to come if he keeps getting himself in dangerous situations.

#33 Billy Cootee

The Western Jets captain lead by example with some important touches during the game and although he wasn’t hugely productive, he got a lot out of his disposals and his constant drive from the midfield set the tone for the team. Some courageous bits of play during the game really stood out and he could earn himself some games for Essendon VFL as a 19-year-old this year and his game against Calder would have certainly impressed. Cootee finished the game with 17 disposals, five marks and five, inside 50s.

#35 Liam Conway

Arguably the most dominant midfielder for the game, the 19-year-old Conway was a hard player to stop in the engine room with his strong body and clean hands at stoppages. What also impressed with Conway is that he wasn’t just a one-dimensional hard nosed midfielder, but he also worked hard on the outside to drive the ball forward and he also hit the scoreboard with a nice goal. Conway finished the game with 31 disposals, seven marks and eight inside 50s in an eye-catching performance and proved he could be one of the standout 19-year-old prospects in this year’s draft.

#50 Paul Tsapatolis

The Geelong Cats rookie gets to play NAB League despite being on an AFL list like Ivan Soldo before him, and the 202cm player had a great game in the ruck. Already a strong size, he used his stronger body to advantage winning some good hitouts and partnering well in the ruck with Nathan Dowdy. Tsapatolis finished the game with eight disposals and a game-high 24 hitouts and looks like being a big player in the Western Jets’ midfield brigade this year.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Cody Raak (Western Jets)
4 – Liam Conway (Western Jets)
3 – Josh Goater (Calder Cannons)
2 – Liam Podhajski (Calder Cannons)
1 – Harrison White (Western Jets)

Image Credit: Cameron Grimes/AFL Photos

2021 NAB League team preview: Calder Cannons

CALDER Cannons come into the 2021 NAB League season having faced some challenges over the past year, but boast an exciting list with plenty of pace and a highly-touted draft eligible crop which finally gets the chance to shine.

Head coach Ross Smith, who will also overlook the Vic Metro squad on top of Calder’s boys and girls programs this year, was optimistic despite the “unknown” ahead of Saturday’s season opening game against Western Jets.

As the league’s top age rises to 19, Smith says Calder will continue to give opportunities to players in said age group after they missed out on the opportunity to prove themselves in 2020. In terms of the Cannons’ chances against Western, that is where the unknown comes in.

“We don’t know anything about the Jets and they probably don’t know anything about us,” Smith said at the NAB League season launch. “In the season opener that’s probably not a bad way to be.

“We’re going to give most of our 19-year-olds the opportunity, obviously because in the past we’ve probably had four or five of them on our list so we’re going to play most of our available 19-year-olds, certainly in the first part of the year.

“There’s a few of those; Sam Paea and Sam Clohesy in particular, those two are going really well. We’ve also got five guys over 200cm at the moment so our ruck stocks are really good. We’ve got a young kid called Liam Podhajski coming through, Mitch his brother played at the Cannons in the past and he’s really blossomed over the break.”

The NAB League has undergone a structural change ahead of season proper, with a revamped fixture set to be released in full ahead of Round 1. Greater opportunities for draft eligible prospects to train and play at state league level will also present, allowing players an insight into elite level professionalism.

“(VFL opportunities) bring players into a professional environment I suppose,” Smith said. “The Essendon facilities are a bit better than at Highgate (Recreation Reserve) down in Craigieburn, but it also puts them in with some really professional staff and I think it gives them a real snapshot going forward of what it might be like going forward if they get the opportunity to get drafted.”

With a large chunk of Victorian talents about to return to competitive action after around 18 months away, maintaining touch and fitness levels have proven some of the many challenges NAB League regions have overcome in a short time. Despite missing out last year, Smith says some players may even be “better for it”.

“Obviously they’ve missed some footy so it’s going to be a little more challenging kicking off compared to what South Australia and Western Australia have gone through,” he said. “I think that gap will close really quickly, we’ve had them for a period of time now and the break that they’ve had, they’ve come out of nearly over the top in some ways. They might actually be better for it initially. It’ll maybe take a week or two but I don’t think it’ll be too long before they hit their straps.”

While Smith mentioned a few players to watch in 2021, there are plenty of others set to take toll for the Cannons in hopes of being drafted. Below is a brief list of the standouts, who are all draft eligible.

Jackson Cardillo – An explosive midfielder-forward who was unlucky to miss being drafted in 2020. His key strength is his speed, but he is looking to improve on the endurance side of things and enhancing his goal sense. Cardillo will also ply his trade with Essendon’s VFL side throughout the year.

Josh Goater – Another explosive type who stands out in terms of foot speed, Goater also has clean skills by foot and has been working hard on hitting new levels in his endurance. He will likely roam half-back and the wing while attempting to crack Calder’s midfield.

Zac Taylor – The exciting small kept himself busy doing sessions with mates at Oak Park during 2020, and should have little trouble catching the eye with his skills this time around. He is a zippy type but has a solid endurance base to match, which should hold him in good stead to play midfield.

Harrison Andronaco – One of the many top-agers to have already played NAB League football, Andronaco is looking to showcase his dynamism and wow-factor as a small forward who can also relieve in midfield. His speed is a strength, but Andronaco is still refining that area, with pressure and scoreboard impact among the other traits he is hoping to present.

Jack Newitt – A dynamic type who has often played slightly above his size, Newitt is set to take up a key defensive post for Calder in 2021. Coming from a basketball background, his clean hands overhead and athleticism stand out, but it is the improvement areas which Newitt hopes to showcase this year.

Josh Misiti – An Essendon father-son prospect (son of Joe), Misiti did a lot of work with mates to keep on track during 2020. He is a massive Bombers fan and has some nice athletic attributes which will come in handy as he looks to transition into midfield. He would be a solid body in there, but has also played a lot of junior footy in defence.

Cairan Wrigglesworth – One who is yet to debut for Calder, Wrigglesworth has overcome previous injury issues and could be a real surprise packet this season. His speed and marking are key strengths, which should come to the fore running off half-back or through midfield.

Brand’s confidence boost has Essendon NGA eyeing off dream

A CONFIDENCE booster playing school football last year helped Calder Cannons key defender, Cody Brand bring the same level of football back to the NAB League. Rejoining the Cannons after his school commitments were finished, the tall who measured in at 195cm 12 months ago was excited about what the year could bring ahead of the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The Essendon Next Generation Academy (NGA) member started the year a “bit shaky” by his own admission, but his form increased as he got more match fitness under his belt throughout the year. Throw in another 12 months of development and working close with former Essendon player, Heath Hocking at the Academy, and Brand was primed for a big season. Whilst the COVID-19 outbreak has put he and the rest of the competition’s season on ice for the time being, Brand was confident of making an impact when his time came.

“(My bottom-age year) probably started off a bit shaky,” Brand said. “Got to school footy, grew a bit of confidence from there, sort of took that back to NAB League and just showed what I could do I suppose. “(I) worked closely with Heath Hocking. “We’re pretty close with our strength and craft so sort of add another aspect to my game and he’s helped me well this past season.”

Calder Cannons Talent Manager Tom Lonergan told Draft Central in our season preview that Brand was likely to hold down a key defensive post like he had in his bottom-age year, something Brand said he was happy to do, like any other role for his side.

“Yeah obviously played back the whole of last year so look if I’m playing back this year that would be great,” he said. “(I’m) ready for whatever opportunity throws itself at me.”

While last year the Cannons had an abundance of talls, both Lonergan and Brand cited a much smaller playing group, and with the lack of height, came another strength for the team.

“I think we’re going to be a bit of a different team to what we had last year. Just due to height circumstances,” Brand said. “But I think we’re going to be really dangerous with our speed and our ability to cover the ground as well. “We’ve had a big preseason, but I think some of the younger sort of kids, the values they’ve brought to the group, the Josh Goaters, Jack Newitts, and their impact on us preseason has just been to drive us to get better so it’s just been good things.”

Being a member of the Vic Metro hub, Brand is excited to learn off players from other clubs when the AFL Under-18 National Championships roll around. He said in particular he had struck up a friendship with Oakleigh Chargers’ Reef McInnes, and was looking forward to playing alongside both him and fellow Charger, Will Phillips.

The question about his desire to head to Tullamarine and don the sash was posed, with Brand saying any opportunity – by any club – would be a dream, and he would take it with open arms. He knew he would just have to “keep ticking boxes see if we get there”.

“Look just to be given the opportunity would be fantastic,” Brand said. “It’s what every player dreams of, if it falls down that pathway, then that’s the pathway I take, but honestly I’m not fazed one bit.”

NAB League Boys: Round 15 preview – Super Saturday hosts four of five fixtures

A shortened round of action sees just five games set to take place in the NAB League, with four of them to be held on what will be a super Saturday. Sandringham will become the latest Victorian side to make the trip down to Tasmania, looking to roar back into the all-important top three spots. Meanwhile, Dandenong hosts Gippsland in a do-or-die clash, with much of the bottom half of the top eight set for a shuffle as the round plays out.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday July 27, 11:00am
Invermay Park (Tasmania)

A win and already sizeable percentage could help the Sandringham Dragons claw back into the safety of the top three, but a trip to Tasmania and the Devils stand in their way as they ready to clash. Currently sitting fourth, the Dragons snapped a three-game losing streak last week against reigning premiers, Dandenong, and will look to carry a more settled line-up into the back end of their season. In a slight blow to their chances, All Australian swingman Fischer McAsey – who booted three goals against Dandenong – comes out of the side, but the Dragons are set to bolster their midfield stocks with the inclusion of Darcy Chirgwin amongst at least four changes. It means the Devils’ bottom-aged midfield fleet of Oliver Davis, Sam Collins, and Will Harper will have to carry a heavy load against the likes of Sandringham top-age guns Chirgwin, Ryan Byrnes, and Miles Bergman. Tasmania’s key position posts will be bolstered though, with Jackson Callow and Oscar Shaw returning to slot in at either end and cover Sandringham’s tall threats. With the Dragons again looking themselves after a down few weeks, they would be confident of how they match up against Tasmania on paper. But the hosts were no pushovers for much of their clash against second-placed Gippsland in Round 14, and will be typically competitive on home turf.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday July 27, 11:30am
Shepley Oval

Gippsland Power poses as incredibly stiff opposition in the Dandenong Stingrays’ bid to break a streak of five-consecutive losses, with the two set to do battle at Shepley Oval on Saturday morning. The Stingrays will be buoyed by their ability to compete with Sandringham last week, going down by just seven points in enemy territory but slipping to eighth. While their ladder position remains safe regardless of results this week, they will hope to jostle back up the table to gain a better position come Wildcard Round. That cause was helped by the recent returns of the likes of Hayden Young, Sam De Koning, and Ned Cahill, with Dandenong now set to bring in some over-age strength this week as Jai Nanscawen and Corey Ellison slot into the 23. Gippsland’s Vic Country representatives have returned to NAB League action just as well though, with the Power just about back to full strength and adding some bottom-age talent in the form of Sam Berry and Nicholas Prowd this week. The Dandenong talls are some of the best in the competition and should match up well against those in the Gippsland ranks, but it is the Power’s engine room that looks most likely to rip the game apart with Sam Flanders and Riley Baldi in ripping form. Either way, expect a competitive tussle with top-end class suiting up for either side.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday July 27, 1:00pm
Norm Minns Oval

The final rolls of the dice approach for Western as the Jets look to keep touch with the top three, set to face Murray this week with the Bushrangers all but set in ninth place coming into their final two fixtures. After a bye, the pointy-end competition has caught up to the Jets and knocked them out of a top-four position, but they will boast a near full-strength side as they consistently have throughout the year. Vic Metro representatives Josh Honey and Emerson Jeka are in at either end, with over-agers Will Kennedy, Aaron Clarke, and Daly Andrews consolidating the side’s key position strength and midfield depth. Despite a loss last week, Murray has also benefitted from the return of some top-end talent, and welcome over-agers Liam Fiore, Will Christie and Zane Barzen back into the lineup to help deal with Western’s aerial prowess after Young Guns outings. At ground level, bottom-age jet Elijah Hollands is a big out for the Bushrangers among eight changes, but the versatility of some of their mid-sized prospects will put them in good stead to plug any holes. While they have been a touch down this year given their talent on paper, the Bushrangers have won three of their last five outings and should compete well with their higher-ranked opponent this week.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS
Saturday July 27, 2:30pm
Preston City Oval

A fifth-consecutive win is up for grabs for the Northern Knights as they play host to Bendigo Pioneers in a rare fixture at Preston City Oval in Saturday’s final game. The Knights have been on a tear of late, enjoying a rich vein of form with much of its representative talent running back through the NAB League 23. Their charge will be hampered somewhat by injuries to small defenders Lachie Potter and Ewan Macpherson, but the Knights are set to regain the likes of Nikolas Cox and Ryan Gardner among at least 10 changes this week. Josh D’Intinosante is also hot off 10 goals in his last two outings, headlining some of the moving parts in the flexible Northern squad. On the other hand, Bendigo looks to steadily be regaining form, getting up in two of its last four tries and being competitive in each. Their Round 15 side has undergone far less changes (four), with the important top-age half-back/midfield core of Ben Worme, Brady Rowles, and James Schischka all finding solid consistency. The Pioneers look flexible in their key position department too, with the likes of Braydon Vaz, Will Wallace, and Josh Treacy all able to impact up either end. Expect to see some players shuffled around throughout the game, as coaches on both sides look to find a winning combination in the lead up to Wildcard Round.

GWV REBELS vs. CALDER CANNONS
Sunday July 28, 1:00pm
MARS Stadium

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) will be looking to grab just its second win at MARS Stadium in 2019 when it hosts the Calder Cannons in Sunday’s only fixture. Despite the strength of the much-improved Cannons, this firms as the Rebels’ best chance to again win at home as they come in off a two-game win streak. Calder has gone one-better of late to have won three-straight and five of its last six games to sit within striking distance of the top three despite boasting a lower percentage. Youth is the theme for this game, with Under 16 Vic Metro representatives Josh Goater, Jack Newitt, and Zac Taylor all named to make their debuts, while PEGS quartet Harrison Jones, Campbell Edwardes, Cody Brand, and Harrison Minton-Connell make way as huge outs. The Rebels look primed to pounce, with over-agers James Cleaver and Matty Lloyd slotting straight back into the line-up to add some experience and depth on whichever line they are required. While ladder position suggests the sides aren’t so evenly matched, form and a changes on either end have levelled the ledger to make this clash an interesting one.

Under 16 National Championships: Division 1 wrap

VIC Metro claimed its first Under-16 National Championships Division 1 title in 10 years, going through the three rounds undefeated as the clear best side. Each other team broke through for a win each in what was an even carnival played in a variety of conditions. We recap how each side fared and shed light on some of the better performers throughout the competition.

South Australia (1-2)

Results:
Rd 1 – South Australia 13.10 (88) def. Western Australia 9.5 (59)
Rd 2 – Vic Metro 5.15 (45) def. South Australia 3.6 (24)
Rd 3 – South Australia 10.3 (63) def. by Vic Country 11.13 (79)

MVP: Jason Thorne (South Adelaide)
Most Goals: Isaiah Dudley (Central District) & Morgan Ferres (Sturt), 5

The defending champions would have come in with high hopes of replicating last year’s run, with that feeling compounded by an impressive 29-point win over Western Australia to open their carnival. One of three members of the 2018 title-winning squad, Isaiah Dudley was the star of that game, picking up 27 disposals and booting four goals, with key forward Morgan Ferres matching the goal feat and skipper Jason Horne a presence through midfield. In similarly wet conditions up in Queensland for Round 2, the Croweaters simply fell short in firepower against eventual champions Vic Metro, going down by 21 points. Matthew Roberts was the star in that game with his 31 disposals, seven inside 50s and one goal, with Thorne putting in a brave captain’s effort despite being in the wars late-on and midfielder Cooper Murley another to impress. The tri-colours would go on to lose again to a Victorian side in Round 3, this time by 16 points in a plucky effort at the Gabba. Thorne rounded out a magnificent championships with 18 disposals, four clearances and two goals, while Harry Tunkin enjoyed some added midfield minutes to match his skipper’s disposal haul to go with eight tackles and four clearances. Lachlan Thomas and Lewis Rayson were others to round out their carnivals on a high note with run and intercepts from defence. One to watch for next year could be Tyson Coe, who ran through the midfield as an under-ager – much like Dudley, Thorne, and Roberts did last year. Overall, it was not quite the championships that the team would have wanted, but they should plenty of promise and will again provide some exciting top-end talent over the next few years.

Vic Country (1-2)

Results:
Rd 1 – Vic Metro 10.7 (67) def. Vic Country 7.7 (49)
Rd 2 – Vic Country 5.12 (42) def. by Western Australia 6.8 (44)
Rd 3 – South Australia 10.3 (63) def. by Vic Country 11.13 (79)

MVP: Joshua Rachele (Murray Bushrangers)
Kevin Sheehan Medal: Joshua Rachele (Murray Bushrangers)
Most Goals: Judson Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays) & Ben Hobbs (GWV Rebels), 3

As we have come to expect, it was a very competitive carnival from the Country side which found itself in winning positions in each of the three games. They fell away in a three-goal loss to their Metro counterparts in Round 1 after leading by no more than two points at each break, with co-captain Campbell Chesser terrific on the outside to compliment the game of inside bull, Ben Hobbs. Judson Clarke also booted three goals in the loss, but it was not enough to see Country over the line. If the final-quarter fade out against Metro hurt, then a two-point loss at the death against WA could have really been a dagger. Despite again leading at the final break and having a wealth of possession in the fourth quarter, a WA goal in the final 30 seconds ensured they snatched the win in muddy conditions at Southport. Co-captain and eventual MVP Joshua Rachele was almost the one to drag his side over the line with his 32 disposals, six marks and 0.3, while Hobbs was just about the muddiest player afield at the final siren after digging in for 29 disposals, 10 tackles and four rebounds. Benjamin Green was another to enjoy the conditions, and Lincoln White very nearly broke the game open with his two third quarter goals. The narrow loss proved not to break the Vics’ spirits though as they bounced back for an impressive 16-point win against SA in Round 3. Rachele again showed his class and provided the highlight of the carnival in his 26-disposal effort, with Hobbs again doing his thing and Tom Brown influential with three goals from half-forward. Charlie Molan, Hugh Hamilton, and Mitchell Moschetti also rounded out strong carnivals, with Country a side that will count itself unlucky not to have come out with greater results. There are a lot of reliable performers in the squad, and they could rise sharply come their Under 18 year given their competitiveness.

Vic Metro (3-0)

Results:
Rd 1 – Vic Metro 10.7 (67) def. Vic Country 7.7 (49)
Rd 2 – Vic Metro 5.15 (45) def. South Australia 3.6 (24)
Rd 3 – Western Australia 8.7 (55) def. by Vic Metro 18.14 (122)

MVP: Tyler Sonsie
Most Goals: Alex Lukic (Oakleigh Chargers), 9 – most overall

The champions and clear-best side over the carnival enjoyed an undefeated campaign, but were made to earn a couple of their wins. Metro’s first Under 16 title win in 10 years started with a three-goal win over Victorian counterparts, Vic Country at GMHBA Stadium. After trailing at each break and by just one point at the last, Metro ran away with four goals to one in the fourth quarter for a strong win. Key forward Alex Lukic positioned well inside 50 to boot his first bag for the carnival (four goals), while skipper Josh Sinn and Braden Andrews proved a match-winners with their position swaps to finish the game, and Tyler Sonsie was another to provide cleanliness through the engine room. The class of Metro was always going to be tested in their next game against SA, especially given the horrendous conditions. Their top-end talent still managed to shine through in the end, enjoying a solid middle period of the game to run out 21-point winners. Lachlan Brooks was best afield with 23 disposals, six clearances and two goals from midfield, crucially combining with Sandringham teammate Blake Howes to boot four of Metro’s five goals. Tyreece Leiu led the disposal count with 24, while Josh Ward‘s clean hands were eye-catching in the wet. The title decider in Round 3 was a tight one up until the final break, with Metro cruising to victory on the back of 12 second-half goals – including seven to nil in the final term. Lukic again kicked a bag with five goals, while Sonsie ripped it up through the midfield and up forward to have 19 disposals, four clearances and 4.3. Youseph Dib again provided a physical presence to have 20 touches, four clearances and a goal, with Zac Taylor electric forward of centre and Josh Goater again popping up with some nice aerial efforts. The talent across the board extends on each line to the likes of Lachlan Rankin, Jake Soligo, Jed Rule, and Jack Rossimel, with the evenness of the team and top-end talent set to rival Metro’s Under 18 squad of 2019 in years to come.

Western Australia (1-2)

Results:
Rd 1 – South Australia 13.10 (88) def. Western Australia 9.5 (59)
Rd 2 – Vic Country 5.12 (42) def. by Western Australia 6.8 (44)
Rd 3 – Western Australia 8.7 (55) def. by Vic Metro 18.14 (122)

MVP: Blake Morris (Subiaco)
Most Goals: Saverio Marafioti (West Perth) & Ethan Regan (East Perth), 3

Results aside, WA was one of the more evenly spread squads over this year’s carnival, with plenty of contributors standing up at different times over the three games. It all seemed to come together in Round 2 as the Black Ducks pulled off a miraculous win over Vic Country with a Luke Polson goal in the dying seconds, getting the better of the Big V by two points on a Southport mud pit. Judd McVee was a standout from midfield, leading the disposal count with 23 to go with seven tackles and a combined seven breaches of each arc, while Mitchell Brown thrived in the conditions for his 17 disposals and six clearances alongside Kade Dittmar (22 touches, nine tackles, and four clearances). Multiple goals from Ethan Regan and Saverio Marafioti boosted their tallies and proved vital in the win, while match-winner Polson had an important 16 disposals and 14 hitouts. Earlier in Round 1, WA had less fruitful outing against SA on home turf in similarly wet conditions, going down by 29 points despite managing their carnival-high total (59). MVP Blake Morris was sensational in that outing with his intercept marking, while Max Chipper was composed on the outside and Zach Fleiner was positive on the rebound. Matthew Johnson and Luke Taylor booted the multiple goals this time out, with Richard Bartlett another effective mover in the forward half. A late-game fade-out put a dampener on what was a really competitive effort against eventual champions, Vic Metro in Round 3 – conceding seven unanswered goals in the final term to go down by 67 points. Earlier, it was again McVee who stood up with his burst from congestion and some busy work going forward, finishing with 16 disposals, seven clearances and two goals. Chipper and Bartlett again impressed to have 23 disposals each, with Jake Littleton and Rhett Bazzo also serviceable. It was a slightly down end to an otherwise solid carnival for WA, and they should again have some eye-catchers capture out attention. One who also warrants a mention is Lochlan Paton, who was sensational through midfield before injuring his hand in Round 2, keep an eye out for his progress.