Tag: josh sinn

Analysis | The importance of fitness testing in modern football recruiting

THERE has been plenty of debate when talking about potential AFL prospects pertaining to the differences between judging ‘athletes’ against ‘pure footballers’. There is an argument that fitness testing should be taken with a grain of salt and that the eye test is most important, but when it comes to players being drafted – especially in the first round – prospects are often at the pointy end in at least one fitness test.

For anyone still unfamiliar with the main fitness tests conducted during preseason and at the AFL Draft Combine, they are as follows:

  • Agility Test
  • 20m Sprint
  • Standing and Running Vertical Leap
  • Yo-Yo Test
  • 2km Time Trial

Last year’s number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan excelled in the 20m sprint and vertical leap tests, with his on-field speed off the mark and jump at the ball highlighting just why he excelled at those tests. The combine, if anything, gives reassurance that those traits are indeed elite and will help try and separate talents like Ugle-Hagan from any other key forwards in that year’s crop. Athleticism is very important in modern football, with players quicker and bigger than what most talented youngsters are used to at the development levels. One club which has seemingly identified this in modern times is the fast-rising Essendon Football Club.

Since 2014, Essendon seems to have had a clear strategy with the types of players they have looked at with their high picks. Below is a list of the Bombers’ top 40 selections since 2014 and which tests those players excelled at. In a lot of cases, they were top 10 in those tests at the end-of-year combine.

2014:

Pick 17 – Jayden Laverde
(Didn’t test but athleticism was a highlight of his game)

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford
Agility

2015:

Pick 5 – Darcy Parish
Average in most tests

Pick 6 – Aaron Francis
(Didn’t test but like Laverde, athleticism was a highlight in games)

Pick 29 – Alex Morgan (Since delisted)
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 30 – Mason Redman
3km time trial

2016:

Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint

2017:

Nil

2018:

Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap

2019:

Pick 30 – Harrison Jones
Vertical Leap, Yo-Yo, 20m Sprint

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint

2020:

Pick 8 – Nik Cox
20m Sprint, 2km TT

Pick 9 – Archie Perkins
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

Pick 10 – Zach Reid
Vertical Leap

Pick 39 – Josh Eyre
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

There is one big outlier here and that’s one of this year’s Brownlow contenders in Darcy Parish, who was only average in test results during his draft year. This could be seen as the biggest clue as to why athletic testing shouldn’t be so important, but it can also be argued that one of the main reasons for Parish’s form is due to improving his running capacity to an elite level.

Even their most recent mid-season selection, Sam Durham tested well for vertical leap and endurance, so its no surprise at least in Essendon’s case that athletic traits are a huge influence in whether the player gets taken. The current favourite for the Rising Star, Nik Cox has taken the competition by storm with his mix of athleticism and height, with that height another factor in the early Essendon selections. It was a matter of time before Cox got his nomination for the Rising Star award and in retrospect, we should have all seen his selection by Essendon coming considering all the traits he possesses are key indicators in the Bombers’ recent draft strategy.

Using this history, we can even try to narrow down the possible field of players that Essendon will look at with its first round pick in 2021. A trio of Sandringham Dragons instantly come to mind with Campbell Chesser, Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan. All three players tested well for the 20m sprint and vertical leap during preseason, highlighting their power and athleticism. With all measuring at over 185cm, they even fill a midfield need for the Bombers. They have another prospect right under their noses in Josh Goater who made his Essendon VFL debut not long ago and is an athletic beast. His speed and leap tests were all elite and at 190cm, he would be another Essendon style selection.

The modern footballer is taller, faster and can run all day, and it is getting harder and harder for pure footballers to make it at the top level. If young, pure footballers can start to develop athleticism in their game, even if it’s an elite endurance base, that’s at least a start in the right direction.

Height used to be a detractor for clubs but now with the likes of Caleb Daniel, Kysaiah Pickett, Brent Daniels and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, that is no longer the same obstacle for potential draftees as it used to be – though you also need to have that speed and class. If you are small and have the athletic traits and determination to make it as an AFL player, then you will be on the right track. If you are tall and have those traits, your chances of making an AFL list are even higher.

Fitness testing is an important tool, not just for clubs and recruiters, but also for up and coming players – especially those at the very early level. I’m hopeful coaches of junior football are able to set up some of these tests to help young players find their best traits, enhance them and embrace them. Understandably, it takes time, money and effort on their part and not every junior club or parent has that available. Programs such as Rookie Me, the official fitness testing partner of the AFL, allow junior athletes to experience professional environments at an early age, proving another handy head-start for budding footballers.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Draft Central Power Rankings: June 2021

POWER Rankings are back. Draft Central’s first edition for 2021 features 25 of the nation’s best AFL Draft prospects, with plenty of football already played and the best yet to come. This year’s crop already shapes as being much different to that of 2020, as many more midfielders dominate the pointy end and a far more open pool sees only four of our selected group already tied to clubs. The race for number one honours is also heating up, currently down to two very worthy contenders. Find out who takes out the top gong and which prospects are on the rise in our June Power Rankings.

Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion and each players’ ability, not taking into account any AFL clubs’ lists or needs.

#1 Jason Horne
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg

Snapshot: A midfielder with next to no weaknesses whose power bodes well for tough ball winning and impressive aerial marking, as well as consistent scoreboard impact.

Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne retains his crown midway through the year. The South Adelaide talent impressed in his debut SANFL League outings as a bottom-ager, and has since transitioned into a more prominent midfield role with guidance from former Carlton and Adelaide champion, Bryce Gibbs. He has long been a standout among the South Australian crop, participating in back-to-back Under 16 carnivals and being crowned his state’s MVP in 2019 as captain. Still yet to turn 18, Horne boasts a well-balanced game with plenty of damaging strengths and very few weaknesses, with his exposure at senior level another factor which sees him awarded with number one status in our eyes.

Season so far:

Horne has hardly missed a beat at SANFL League level for South Adelaide, turning in a consistent level of performance across his seven outings thus far. With added time spent at the centre bounces, he is finding more of the ball and averages a tick over 15 touches per game, including 2.9 clearances and 3.7 inside 50s. Horne has also found the goals in four of those appearances, making the most of his time inside attacking 50 as well. The 17-year-old’s form was good enough to warrant selection in the initial South Australian state squad, though he did not quite make the final cut. He also featured for the AFL Academy against Geelong VFL, proving a key figure in midfield with his attacking intent and maturity on the ball.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus

#2 Nick Daicos (COL F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg

Snapshot: Daicos has an unrivalled understanding of the game; able to bring his teammates into it and anticipate where his next possession will come from, leading to dominant displays.

The Collingwood father-son prospect (son of Peter) has more than justified all the hype leading into 2021, solidifying his status as a bonafide number one contender. Daicos made his long-awaited NAB League debut in Round 1 and has gone on to dominate the competition, putting up ridiculous numbers through the engine room as the skipper of a deeply talented Oakleigh Chargers group. Much like his brother, Josh, Daicos was only due to enter the Chargers’ program last year but was made to wait for his unveiling in Oakleigh colours. It was well worth it, though keen watchers already knew of his supreme ability having seen him hold his own in a Carey Grammar side featuring Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. Daicos is banging down Horne’s door and may well break through as he continues to put runs on the board, in dominant fashion.

Season so far:

Daicos’ figures so far in 2021 are nothing short of remarkable. He leads the NAB League for disposals (average 35.5), kicks (22.3) and goals (nine total) having arguably been the best player afield in all four of his outings to this point. The 18-year-old has increased his disposal output with each passing game as a mainstay in Oakleigh’s midfield, though he has also rested forward at times and is capable of accumulating off half-back. Some of that forward time is down to management, as Daicos suffered a corked thigh in Round 1 and was held back from a VFL debut during the NAB League hiatus. He did turn out for the AFL Academy though, skippering the side and again proving the best among his peers.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3

#3 Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg

Snapshot: A smooth-moving midfielder with terrific poise and class, Sonsie opens up the play with his clean disposal and ability to kick goals.

One of the most highly-touted Victorian prospects before a ball had been bounced in 2021, Sonsie’s best has been exceptional thus far. The Eastern Ranges prospect was Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in 2019 and is one of the few 2003-born NAB Leaguers to have already experienced the Under 19 competition. He was part of his region’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, rolling forward off a wing. Now a draft eligible talent, Sonsie has moved more permanently into midfield and while he is developing his defensive running, has plenty of attacking traits to offer. His ability to exit stoppages with poise and make good decisions with ball in hand is top notch, with that exceptional skill level also translating to dual-sided finishing in front of goal.

Season so far:

Sonsie made a hot start to the season as Draft Central’s Round 1 NAB League Player of the Week. He hit the ground running with 34 disposals and two goals, proving damaging when on top. Across four NAB League outings this year, the 18-year-old has snared five goals from an average of 25 disposals and while he has not always been the best player afield, his class shone through in promising patches. Sonsie also represented Box Hill in the VFL, showing good signs in his state league debut with 24 touches and two well-finished goals, warming to the level steadily. His best has been great to watch, hence his current ranking, but sustaining that impact and doing it both ways is the next step.

>> VFL Player Focus
>> Head-to-Head: Sonsie vs. Daicos
>> NAB League POTW: Round 1

#4 Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 81kg

Snapshot: Roberts is a hard-working and consistent midfielder with senior experience who racks up plenty of the ball, but can also rotate forward.

A second South Adelaide midfielder within the top five of our count, Roberts’ form has seen him prove difficult to deny of such honours. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 17-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, Roberts is also a sound user of the ball and looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a sound model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches the said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.

Season so far:

Starting in the SANFL Under 18s, Roberts put up outstanding numbers across his first three outings. As a key fixture in midfield, he averaged 32 disposals, 6.3 clearances, 7.7 inside 50s, and a tick under two goals per game to earn a richly deserved League call-up. He made a steady start to life in the top flight, ushered in via the front six for two games, averaging 9.5 disposals. School football then came calling, with Roberts captaining the St Peter’s First XVIII and proving one of the more productive campaigners of that competition.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus

#5 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Half-Back/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

Snapshot: A line-breaking half-back who has shown promising development in midfield, Sinn’s greatest strengths are his speed and kick penetration.

Another established leader among the Victorian crop as one of Sandringham’s co-captains, Sinn’s best is as damaging as anyone in the overall draft pool. He is regarded as the best technical kick in the Dragons’ program and is given the license to look for options others simply wouldn’t. His penetrative boot and line-breaking speed make him a meters gained machine, observed most significantly with his well-timed runs off half-back or on the wing. Sinn has also moved onto the inside of late to good effect, showing a handy balance of traits and utilising the size he added during last year’s lost season. His campaign has been interrupted by injury, but he looks poised to return soon and play out a full season in the NAB League.

Season so far:

Sinn’s figures read as consistently as anyone across three NAB League appearances, with the 18-year-old gathering 20 touches in each. A kick-first type, he goes at around three-to-one in terms of ratio and has constantly looked to open games up via that method. While his efficiency has been hit and miss at times, Sinn’s intent and endeavour has been apparent in 2021. A steady start in Round 1 was capped off by a clutch goal late in the piece as Sandringham got up over Oakleigh, with the Dragons coaching staff pulling the trigger early on his midfield release. In Round 3, he was utilised there permanently and registered a whopping 10 inside 50s. He copped a stud to the calf and sat out the late stages of that game, but has been sidelined to this point with a hamstring strain sustained while training with the AFL Academy. The current Victorian lockdown may be a blessing in disguise for Sinn, who should return once the competition recommences.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

#6 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Wing
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

Snapshot: A speedy and productive mover on the outside, Chesser breaks the lines from half-back or the wing but has also shown a good balance in his ball winning.

A second Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 10, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser has the potential to crack Sandringham’s stacked midfield and showcase his balance, though he will be seen moreso in the APS Football competition towards the middle and back-end of the year.

Season so far:

Chesser has featured in just two NAB League games for Sandringham thus far, with a knee complaint seeing him miss the Dragons’ Round 4 clash with Dandenong as well as the AFL Academy showcase against Geelong VFL. He started slowly in his first hitout, but ended up playing a key role in the clutch moments to help lift his side to victory against Oakleigh, winning 23 disposals and five inside 50s. He was less prolific the following week in soggy conditions against Northern, booting a goal from 13 touches on the wing. While he hangs back well for handball receives on the outer, Chesser also showed he can dig in to win his own ball in those fixtures.

#7 Matthew Johnson
Subiaco/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
16/03/2003 | 193cm | 80kg

Snapshot: With smooth agility and clean hands at the contest, Johnson is the premier tall midfielder in this year’s draft crop and has plenty of upside.

Hailed as the best tall midfielder in this year’s crop, Johnson is one with a point of difference and a good amount of development left. The 193cm Subiaco prospect continues to put on size and can win the ball at the coalface, but stands out most with his smooth movement in traffic and clean hands around the ground. He suits an in-vogue modern day prototype and will inevitably yield comparisons to some of the currently dominant midfielders over 190cm. Johnson is already well versed in terms of representative duties and was part of Subiaco’s WAFL Colts premiership side in 2020. He also earned a senior debut this year and would have done so earlier if not for injury on the eve of season proper.

Season so far:

Having been pegged for a League berth in Round 1, Johnson shook off injury to start his season through the Colts in Round 2. His output proved steady, averaging 17.5 touches and a goal per those outings before a promising display for the AFL Academy saw him finally crack the senior level upon his return to Subiaco. He only averaged 6.7 touches in his first three top flight outings, before regaining some ball winning form with 21 and nine tackles back at Colts level. His best has been shown in patches thus far, but his ceiling remains quite high. Dominating in midfield with higher numbers and translating his form to senior grades will be the next step.

#8 Josh Rachele
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg

Snapshot: A lively forward who has drawn comparisons to GWS star Toby Greene, Rachele has unbelievable smarts, skills, and a keen eye for goal.

Rachele is rightly a standout among his draft class, having taken out the Under 16 Division 1 MVP award for Vic Country in 2019. He quickly went on to represent the Murray Bushrangers, averaging a tick under 18 disposals and two goals in four games as a 16-year-old. The exciting forward hails from an elite soccer background and has quick feet to show for it, as well as the smiling celebrations on the end of well-finished goals. Rachele is lauded for his skills and smarts in the forward half, but has shown an aptitude for midfield work with his turn of speed and ability to find the ball at ground level. He’s capable of highlight-reel moments.

Season so far:

In two games so far for the Murray Bushrangers, Rachele was able to show his blend on midfield and forward craft. Against Bendigo in Round 2, he spent more time in the engine room and snared 1.3 from 19 disposals, before coming to life as a more permanent forward in the next game against Geelong Falcons. Rachele’s special finishing ability was on full show as he snared four majors in the Bushies’ big win, running amok inside attacking 50. He copped a head knock in that game and was rested the next week after spending time training with Carlton.

#9 Jack Williams
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Ruck
1/12/2003 | 195cm | 91kg

Snapshot: Williams is an athletic and versatile tall prospect who thrives aerially and consistently kicks goals while rotating through the ruck, or even to defence.

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams is the first genuine tall to appear on our list. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 19 goals in six WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Season so far:

Williams has found the big sticks in each of his six WAFL Colts games this season, booting multiple majors in five of them with two bags of four and one five-goal haul the standout performances. He is yet to drop below 13 disposals and has stayed relevant in each game with his impact up the ground, proving a viable marking target with an average of six clunks per outing. While that marking prowess was tested against senior bodies in the Academy game, Williams’ rate of development is calling for a senior berth some time in the future.

#10 Josh Gibcus
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender 
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg

Snapshot: An intercept marking defender who reads the play well and has a sizeable leap, Gibcus’ eye-catching form has propelled him into top 10 contention.

From one terrific marking player to the next, Gibcus is the second tall prospect on our list and has earned his spot with superb form this year. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender is an intercept type who uses his strengths to advantage; reading the play beautifully and timing his movements to float onto the scene, before rising with his springy vertical leap to take series of marks and force turnovers. While he is working on his ground level game, Gibcus is so clean in the air and usually a sound distributor across the last line, showing great composure on the ball. He was one of the many AFL Academy call-ups and truly held his own in that fixture.

Season so far:

Gibcus has performed exceptionally well across four NAB League outings in 2021, maintaining a high standard and consistently bringing his superpowers to the fore. He has averaged 15.3 disposals, 6.3 marks, and five rebound 50s as a permanent defender for the Rebels, sometimes acting as the floating player back there and even moving onto dangerous marking targets. The 18-year-old looked well up to scratch in his appearance for the AFL Academy, taking on the kick-in duties at times and showing glimpses of his usual best.

#11 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Wing/Half-Back
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

Snapshot: Callaghan is a classy mover with great agility for his size, and has shown a high level of development to prove his balance of outside and inside traits.

One who seems destined to end up in the top 10, and potentially top five come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back is difficult to stop at full flight, with his blend of straight line power and swift agility proving difficult to combat. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his long boot, but recently showcased his potential on the inside as the Dragons shifted their magnets.

Season so far:

Starting as a half-back who would roll up to the wing, Callaghan built on the promise he showed during preseason and at training in years gone by with a terrific NAB League debut. He gathered 19 disposals against Oakleigh and looked ominous, with his Round 4 and 5 performances cementing his top 10 potential. Callaghan booted a goal from 24 disposals against Dandenong, before shifting to the inside against Western to rack up a high of 31 touches. While he has played in midfield at school football level, that confirmation of his inside/outside balance rose his ceiling even further. He also built into the AFL Academy game, showing some dash on the outside.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

#12 Josh Fahey
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Medium Defender
11/11/2003 | 186cm | 76kg

Snapshot: A run-and-gun rebounding defender who gives his all and boasts a raking left-foot kick, Fahey is arguably this year’s leading academy talent.

Our top-ranked Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is quite clearly the best prospect out of the Northern Academies and a real first round contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in the AFL Academy showcase.

Season so far:

Fahey confirmed his potential with a terrific showing for the AFL Academy against Geelong VFL in April, collecting 23 disposals and booting forward nine rebound 50s to take out the Presidents Medal. He was a vocal member of the defence in that game and showcased his leadership qualities, as one of the junior prospects who looked most invested in the contest. Fahey has also turned out for the GIANTS’ VFL side, making a steady debut with nine touches in Round 1 before managing 24 in Round 5 against Richmond. As expected, 16 of them were kicks and he clunked six marks in a showing of his ability to be a safe outlet and intercept threat in defence.

#13 Jacob Van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

Snapshot: Van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands overhead and a booming kick, but has also shown potential to move further afield.

Pegged as Western Australia’s best draft prospect and potentially the leading tall coming into the year, Van Rooyen continues to impress in 2021. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in last year’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis has halted his progress a touch, but Van Rooyen started out the season at League level and is pressing for a return after great form in the WAFL Colts.

Season so far:

Van Rooyen started his senior career in style, booting two goals from 12 disposals and four marks, before being held goalless in a couple of quieter outings. He was rested upon his glandular fever diagnosis, and eased back into action through the Colts grade. There, he regained his goalkicking form with three majors in managed gametime, before returning his best performance to date with 24 disposals, six marks and another three goals in Round 8 against East Perth. The 194cm prospect also got a run through midfield late in that game, having shown nice mobility in his movement up the ground and back towards goal.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

#14 Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder/Forward
2/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg

Snapshot: An exciting forward who has transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching athletic traits and plenty of upside.

Another prospect out of Subiaco who played in last year’s WAFL Colts premiership, Erasmus has built on his potential this year having come in as a potential first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 Grand Final, showcasing great speed and clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this season, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with that scoreboard impact also in his back pocket.

Season so far:

Mixing his time between the WAFL Colts and PSA competitions in Western Australia, Erasmus has been a standout through midfield. He averages bang on 28 disposals for the Lions across four games so far, incredibly with a high of 29 and low of 27. He has also taken almost eight marks per game and has been able to sustain his impact, while having the potential to burst to life at any given moment. Erasmus was also terrific for the AFL Academy as a medium forward, serving a reminder of his aerial skills and looking to have improved his disposal by foot – a growth area – as the game wore on.

#15 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Defender/Forward/Ruck
19/08/2003 | 197cm | 73kg

Snapshot: Darcy is a fast-developing, but raw tall talent who can play in each key position post, is athletic, and marks the ball well.

The apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top 15 pick made on potential, with that versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy has impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck in the NAB League, but has also had an eye-catching forward foray at school football level. Bulldogs fans, you have another on the radar.

Season so far:

Darcy made his NAB League debut in Round 3 against Eastern Ranges, immediately exceeding expectations in tricky conditions for a tall. He looked impressive with his leap in the ruck and down back, earning a steady 13 disposals and seven hitouts for the day. His stocks continued to rise in Round 4, as that marking prowess came into play against the Western Jets. Darcy clunked nine grabs and had 21 disposals, again as a key defender who pinch-hit in the ruck. He then ventured into the school football realm with Scotch College, translating his form to a forward role where he picked up a bag of five goals in one game, and continued to stand out as a dominant key position talent.

#16 Rhett Bazzo
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Tall Defender/Forward
17/10/2003 | 195cm | 81kg

Snapshot: A key defender who has adjusted to a forward role in 2021, Bazzo is fantastic in his aerial judgement and clean with ball in hand.

One of Western Australia’s many promising key position prospects, Bazzo made his name as a defender but has since shifted forward. As he did in the AFL Academy showcase, the Swan Districts product may well revert back to that defence post during state representative duties, but looks just as suited to playing an attacking role with his sound marking and use of the ball. He is another who claimed Under 16 All Australian honours in 2019, making him a well known quantity and one with plenty of class. Bazzo has shown just that in three WAFL Colts games to this point, while also turning out Guildford Grammar in the PSA Football competition.

Season so far:

Bazzo has proven his swingman potential in 2021 by finding the goals in bunches at each level he has played. He snared four majors during a preseason hitout and went on to boot two in each of his opening two WAFL Colts games, before finding similar form for Guilford Grammar at school football level. He was kept quiet in his most recent Colts outing, having just eight touches and being held goalless, but was a solid figure down back for the AFL Academy. His judgement of the ball in flight and intercept marking quality was clear in that game, as always, but Bazzo continues to add strings to his bow.

#17 Ben Hobbs
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg

Snapshot: Hobbs is a hard-nosed, hard-working inside midfielder who loves to compete both defensively, and in a ball-winning sense.

The GWV Rebels ball winner has not been able to fully show his wares in 2021 due to injury, but is one who could break back into top 10 contention with a clean run at it. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety 17-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and will be itching to get back onto the field.

Season so far:

Hobbs’s sole full appearance for the NAB League season came in his side’s opening fixture, against the Geelong Falcons. He was a constant in midfield and proved his ball winning ability, notching 22 touches and five inside 50s while also laying eight tackles. His Round 4 return game against the Murray Bushrangers was cut short, but Hobbs again started in midfield, as he will likely do all year.

#18 Cooper Murley
Norwood/South Australia | Midfielder
20/06/2003 | 178cm | 70kg

Snapshot: A stylish forward runner, Murley holds his own on both sides of the contest and loves to break into attack with speed and slick ball use on the fly.

Murley is an exciting player in full flight, able to break forward quickly with gut running and terrific speed from midfield. He dominated the SANFL Under 18s competition last year and was part of Norwood’s premiership-winning team, showcasing his undeniable talent and upside. In 2021, his progress has been halted by injury, though the 17-year-old has already earned a Reserves berth and remains one of South Australia’s brightest prospects. Having made his return last week, he could well be one to rise up the board with a consistent run of form.

Season so far:

Starting out at Reserves level, Murley adjusted to the more mature bodies steadily with 13 disposals across his first two outings. He is one who will likely use his clean skills and forward run on the outer at senior level, or even as a high half-forward given his knack for finding the goals. Injury meant he could only partially participate in AFL Academy training before missing out on the showcase game against Geelong VFL, but Murley made his return to the SANFL Reserves with 10 disposals in a heavy loss. Watch for his progress as the season wares on.

#19 Josh Goater
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Midfielder
2/06/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with speed, agility and the ability to fly high, Goater is a prospect with great potential.

Goater lays claim to one of the more impressive athletic profiles in the draft pool, particularly in a power sense. His explosive turn of speed and impressive vertical leap are traits which catch the eye at testing events and are transferred on-field, with the Calder Cannons product able to produce exciting passages of play. He has proven his worth in midfield with good ball winning strength and clean hands on the inside, but can also roll out to a wing or pinch-hit up forward. He is another who stakes his claim on upside, and shares similar traits with Essendon draftee Archie Perkins.

Season so far:

Featuring in midfield for Calder straight off the bat, Goater returned a promising first-up performance with 22 disposals against Western in the season opener. He showcased his ability to hit the scoreboard in the next two NAB League games, while bringing a touch of composure to his midfield craft by shifting his focus to be more of a distributor by hand. He did so again after the break against Bendigo, again starting in the middle before switching out to the wing. Goater also got a taste of VFL action in May, turning out for Essendon in Round 5 and booting a goal among his seven touches.

#20 Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg

Snapshot: Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in the engine room, and brilliant marking ability to impact inside attacking 50.

One of the more intriguing and versatile prospects in the draft pool, Draper has garnered attention with his promising bottom-age form and continued success in the SANFL Under 18s this year. The smooth-moving midfielder has had no trouble getting his hands on the ball with more consistent time in midfield, before impacting in his resting stints up forward. He is yet another South Adelaide prospect in the mix, with his stylish form and clean hands making him easy on the eye to keen draft watchers. He is one who may feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.

Seasons so far:

Draper has been super consistent across his seven SANFL Under 18 appearances, averaging 23 disposals and over six clearances per game. He has only dropped below 20 touches once with a high of 27, while finding the goals in all bar two of his outings for the Panthers. He has proven an apt receiver at the stoppages, able to burst away for clearances while also using his leap and smarts around goal to impact the scoreboard. Like Horne and Roberts, he could be one to climb the grades if he continues to post such numbers.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus

#21 Mac Andrew (MEL NGA)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg

Snapshot: A raw tall prospect who has proven his worth in each post, Andrew’s vertical leap and fast-developing craft really catch the eye.

Another key position type who has rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew will have Melbourne recruiters a little nervous with his performances to date. He sits just outside our current top 20 but has that kind of potential, with raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever-improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons Next Generation Academy (NGA) talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Season so far:

Eyes quickly turned to Andrew after he collected 22 disposals, three marks and 11 hitouts on his NAB League debut, before going on to prove it was no fluke by impressing across another three outings. He found himself spending more time forward against the Sandringham Dragons in Round 4 and kicked a goal, but has some development left in his decision making and disposal by foot at times. He boasts clean hands and was better aerially than his averages of three marks and 14.5 hitouts suggest. The same could be said about his game for the AFL Academy, where Andrew was tried up either end before excelling in the ruck during term four, throwing his 200cm frame into each centre bounce with a phenomenal vertical leap.

#22 Ned Long
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
5/02/2003 | 192cm | 88kg

Snapshot: Long is a tall midfielder who navigates the contest with great agility for his size, and can also find the goals when resting forward.

A midfielder in that desired 190cm-plus mould, Long moves well through congestion and often has no trouble getting his hands on the ball. He featured in the 2019 Vic Metro Under 16 squad and was already a good size back then, seeing him play two games for Northern as a 16-year-old. The 18-year-old is one of the many Knights with solid running capacity, which bodes well for extended midfield time despite being able to hit the scoreboard while resting forward or drop back to impact aerially. He will swap his time between the NAB League and APS Football competitions, also representing Melbourne Grammar.

Season so far:

Long made a terrific start to his 2021 campaign, managing 26 disposals, nine marks and three goals against the Western Jets. That dominant display was backed up by 15 touches and a goal against stiff opposition in Sandringham, though his effort to lay nine tackles suited the wet conditions at Preston City Oval. Long’s final NAB League appearance before the break saw him return to his best, impacting both around the ball and close to goal with 25 disposals and another haul of three goals against Gippsland Power. He has since moved on into the APS competition, with promise of a late-season return to NAB League action.

#23 Joshua Browne
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 185cm | 77kg

Snapshot: An ultra-consistent midfielder who runs hard and finds plenty of the ball, Browne is one of the most in-form midfielders nationwide.

Browne is a player whose form has made him hard to deny for a spot in the top 25, with his ability to win big numbers at a remarkable rate making him one of the most consistent performers in the draft pool at the moment. He has built on a promising bottom-age campaign with East Fremantle to hit new heights in the WAFL Colts competition, competing with grunt at the contest and running hard to accumulate around the ground in relentless fashion. He is also quite solid defensively on the inside and is the type of player you want on your side, especially among the centre bounce mix.

Season so far:

While his season as a whole has been outstanding, Browne has hit a purple patch over his last three outings with an average of 36.7 disposals in that time. He hit his season high of 38 touches in Round 8, distributing well by hand on the inside and looking to drive his side forward from where it matters most. Overall, he has averaged 32.5 disposals across six Colts games in 2021, while also showing similar form in his state’s Under 19 trial game. He could well be in for a promotion and should be one of Western Australia’s most prominent figures at the national carnival.

#24 Lewis Rayson
Glenelg/South Australia | Half-Back/Midfielder
14/01/2003 | 181cm | 74kg

Snapshot: Rayson is a lightly-built small defender who sparks attacks on the rebound, with his accumulative factor boding well for more time in midfield.

A dashing half-back who loves to take the game on and can open it up by foot, Rayson has made a terrific start to his 2021 campaign. The 18-year-old is slowly filling out his light frame but is not afraid to win his own ball and compete aerially, making him more than your average running defender. He missed out on AFL Academy honours but was a lock for his state’s academy hub and will likely be a key feature for the Croweaters come National Championships time. Rayson is also being trialled in midfield, where his ball winning ways have continued.

Season so far:

Rayson has been a mainstay in Glenelg’s Under 18s setup, playing six games so far with averages of 30.2 disposals, 7.2 marks, and a combined 7.6 breaches of either arc. Typically a rebounder accustomed to working in space, Rayson has been able to win just as much of the ball on the inside and still looks to be an attacking threat out of the middle. He is still quite light though and is improving his contested game, adding a handy string to his bow which already features some desirable traits.

#25 Darcy Wilmot
Northern Knights | Small Defender
31/12/2003 | 182cm/70kg

Snapshot: A tenacious and brave half-back whose most flashy weapons show on the attack, as he breaks the lines with great speed.

Wilmot has thrust his name into contention with increasingly impressive performances for the Northern Knights in 2021, as well as an impressive senior debut at local football level. The small-medium defender has all the typical class and running prowess you would expect on the rebound, but is also willing to compete above his size in aerial contests. The 17-year-old still has plenty of development left as a December 31 birth, meaning he only just makes the cut to be eligible for this year’s draft. His run-and-gun style is sure to catch many more eyes as the season continues, with Wilmot a prospect truly on the rise.

Season so far:

Wilmot’s numbers so far this NAB League season have been wonderfully consistent, twice registering 15 touches, and twice having it 16 times. His rebounding power is evident with an average of over four per game, and his running bounce total would also be a handy stat to look at given how often he has taken the game on running out of the back half. Wilmot has also shown pretty clean disposal despite the speed at which he operates, proving more than just a one-trick pony across half-back.

IN THE MIX:

There are plenty of prospects vying for position across a very even group past the 20-mark, with near-on another 20 capable of filling those five spots out to number 25. Dandenong Stingrays pair Connor Macdonald and Miller Bergman are among them, with the former a medium midfielder who has started the year well, and the latter a true utility who can use his clean kicking and marking ability off half-back, or up forward.

Almost inevitably, Sandringham also has another couple of prospects around the mark, with 190cm marking forward/wingman Blake Howes a player with plenty of upside, and rising half-forward Luke Nankervis also proving his worth as a genuine prospect this season. Both are developing types who suit a range of roles, and are really excelling with their versatility.

Other NAB Leaguers in the mix include Lachlan Rankin (Oakleigh Chargers) and Josh Ward (Northern Knights), who both have wonderful skills and are clean with ball in hand. Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels) is a half-back who has recently been moved up to the wing, impressing with his kicking and competitiveness. Speaking of, Collingwood NGA prospect Youseph Dib has proven up to the rigours of senior football, turning out in the VFL and cracking in across multiple roles with his mature body. Sam Banks is the Tasmanian to watch, a smooth and classy half-back who is currently out with a broken wrist.

A strong South Australian crop is fronted by the likes of Nasiah Wanganeen and Jase Burgoyne. The latter is a Port Adelaide father-son who has made his League debut, but both have strong family ties to the elite level. Adelaide NGA prospect Isaiah Dudley is another in that boat, with the diminutive midfielder-forward showing his terrific skills upon returning this season. Sturt key forward Morgan Ferres could be another to monitor, having also earned a senior berth in 2021.

Of course, the form of North Adelaide midfielder Hugh Jackson is hard to ignore, with his clean skills and ball winning ability catching the eye. In a similar vein, the exploits of hard running Swan Districts midfielder Max Chipper have also been noted, along with Jackson’s Roosters teammate Blayne O’Loughlin. The latter is also an Adelaide NGA prospect and an AFL Academy representative.

2021 NAB League: Round 4 – Debuts galore as Academies, bottom-agers roll through

AFTER a month-long hiatus, the NAB League returns on Saturday morning as five Northern Academies are welcomed to the fold. The Queensland academies – Brisbane and Gold Coast – will face Northern Knights and Dandenong Stingrays respectively in a Preston double-header, while the NSW academies – GWS and Sydney – take on Geelong Falcons and Gippsland Power in Werribee.

Elsewhere, a Craigieburn triple-header on Sunday sees the Tasmania Devils lock horns with the Northern Territory Thunder Academy on neutral turf. Hosts, Calder Cannons open that grand day of action against Bendigo Pioneers, as the Eastern Ranges and GWV Rebels close out the nine-game round.

Opportunity awaits for bottom-aged prospects too, who were essentially held back during the first three rounds this year to provide ample opportunity for top-age talent to shine. All bar one Victorian talent region will field 17-year-olds in Round 4, along with Tasmania and the Academies, with the Under 17 Championship squads being finalised nationwide.

THE YOUNG GUNS – U17s

Round 5’s standalone opener at Trevor Barker Oval sees Sandringham take on Western, with both sides introducing at least one Under 17 prospect apiece. The Dragons have named lively forward Harry Sheezel, who is dangerous around goals and has impressed in each trial or carnival outing thus far. Ben Hempel is another young Dragon named in the side. Cameron Kizan looms as a new Jets’ under-age representative, set to rotate from the bench after lining up on a wing in the Victorian Under 17 trial games for Metro.

Geelong and Gippsland welcome the NSW academies, with the Power due to unveil a host of up-and-comers against Sydney. Zane Duursma is a name which catches the eye, but the brother of Port’s Xavier is a fantastic talent in his own right. A rare 2005-birth in this mix, he will run out against players three years his elder, but looks to cut the difference with his skills and poise in tight spots. The Power have also named promising half-back Jonti Schuback, while Cooper Vickery and tall Harvey Howe will start on the pine.

Geelong looks poised to start a trio of its Under 17 prospects against the Giants Academy, in important positions too. 195cm bigman Olivier Northam is the Falcons’ starting ruck, while midfielder-forward Jhye Clark is poised to enter via the centre bounce mix. Ted Clohesy is another to watch in the Falcons’ forward half.

Saturday’s other double-header sees Northern look to unleash versatile 194cm prospect Dane Harvey, as he is named on the bench while goalsneak Jason McCormick earns a spot in the forwardline along with even more fresh faces. The Knights take on Brisbane, who have also named a 17-year-old in Bailey Tome, in midfield.

Likewise, Dandenong has a few of its own Under 17 inclusions for its clash with Gold Coast. Henry Hustwaite and Ned Moodie are set to start on the bench, as Jess McManus takes up a starting spot at centre half-back. The Suns will also bring in some under-agers, with Jared Eckersley another starting down the spine, while Marlin Corbett will rotate off the pine.

While some of Oakleigh’s talented bottom-agers will have to wait a little longer to crack the Chargers’ stacked lineup, 200cm ruck-forward Will Elliott gets his chance.  Murray will also have at least one Under 17 in its squad on Saturday, with Joshua Tweedale, a 198cm ruck from Wangaratta included in the squad.

Looking across the team sheets for Sunday’s triple-header, and Eastern has a bunch of youngsters ready to impact. Small midfielder Harry Flynn is one to watch in the guts, while Lewis Hayes has also shown plenty of promise as a tall defender. Also among the group of fresh Ranges faces are Kai Windsor, Lachlan Reidy, and Hayden Smith.

GWV will field its share of Under 17s as well, with Felix Fogarty and Aaron Cadman named on the bench. Both loom as forward options, with Fogarty the taller of the two at 197cm.

In Bendigo’s bout with Calder, Jason Gillbee will come in as a rare 17th-year player with games already under his belt, as Ben Cameron also lines up for the Pios. Calder will unleash the very promising midfield pairing of Caleb Burquest and Paul Pascu, who should both get a look-in for the final Metro squad.

An exciting talent to watch out of the Northern Territory Academy is Beau Tedcastle, a livewire small forward with senior experience under his belt in the Top End. The Thunder face Tasmania, who have given ample opportunity to some under-agers already. Among them, 2005-birth Ryley Sanders has been named with Lachlan Cowan, as at least four others look like cracking the Devils’ side this week.

THE RETURNEES – U19s

While the next generation rolls through, some familiar names will also line up once more for their respective regions. Plenty of eyes will be on Murray and Carlton VFL midfielder Zavier Maher as he comes in fresh off a terrific senior outing for his local club. Young Guns showcase representatives Cameron McLeod and Patrick Parnell will also suit up for the Bushies, against an Oakleigh side with strong top-age talent. Among the Chargers’ brigade is Sam Tucker, who comes in for his first game this year, while Ned Moyle and Youseph Dib are at the top end of those returning from VFL duties – both with Collingwood.

Sandringham ruck Felix Flockart, a 2001-birth, will also get a run for the Dragons as he stakes his claim for mid-season draft selection, with the likes of Charlie McKay and Luke Cleary again set to turn out for the ridiculously strong talent region. Cody Raak is another mid-season candidate to watch in that game, lining up for Western in his usual centre half-back post.

Blake Reid and Noah Gadsby are a couple of handy inclusions for Geelong, who have a solid bunch of 19th-year talents. Northern will be happy to see leader Joel Trudgeon in the squad, with Ben De Bolfo and Dominic Akuei listed in defence along with Regan Uwandu, an exciting type who plays his first game for the year after an injury lay-off. Speaking of, Bayleigh Welsh will finally get to run out for Dandenong, named at half-back as former Hawthorn trainee Will Bravo remains in midfield.

Key forward Sam Paea is among a few Calder prospects to come in after gaining experience in the VFL, named alongside Young Guns representative Sam Clohesy. Among the Young Guns group for Bendigo, Caleb Ernst will look to carry on his impressive form up forward, with skipper Jack Evans also set to return after making his VFL debut. The Pioneers have a good few who remain at that level, too.

Tasmania pair Oliver Sanders and Tyler McGinniss will be in the mix for the Devils having made excellent starts to their seasons, enough to be called up to North Melbourne’s VFL team. In the round’s final game, watch for Marcus Herbert and Fraser Marris in GWV’s midfield, while Marc Massarotti and Jake Arundell form a lively tall-small partnership in Eastern’s forward 50.

THE ACADEMIES

While there is arguably less top-end talent across each academy this year than we have seen previously, fans of all clubs involved and from the Top End will be keen to see what their representatives produce. Out of the NSW lot, GWS standout Josh Fahey has not been named, but mid-season draft candidate Josh Green will start at centre half-forward. Sam Stening is another dynamic type to watch for the Giants up forward, with crafty small Kai Watts his state’s Under 16 MVP in 2019. Elsewhere, Sam Frost (half-back) and Jack Driscoll (ruck/defence) are among those with recent VFL exposure.

For Sydney, eyes will remain on the likes of Marco Rossmann and Pierce Roseby as they return in Swans colours. Both missed out on being drafted last year, but bring class and strong ball winning ability respectively. The likes of Toby Alker and Jeremy Woodford were solid state representative at Under 16 level, along with smalls Felix Rogers, Jordan Endemann, and Byron Middleton.

On the Queensland side of things, Suns Academy member Austin Harris looms as his state’s best talent. He’ll look to provide some outside run and class against Northern, while Bodhi Uwland is a developing type to watch in defence and through midfield. The Suns’ side will also be spearheaded by Will Bella, the brother of Gold Coast AFLW ruck, Lauren. Jed Foggo is another to watch, while Finn Brown has shown good form in midfield and Thomas Hofert is a known key position quantity.

For the Lions, Lochlan Harrop looms as an important figure at the heart of the starting lineup. James Packer is another among the 2003-born crop, while the likes of Connor Bulley and Shatna Cashen-Harris headline Brisbane’s top-age group. In terms of the NT talent on show, livewires Ronald Fejo and Andy Moniz-Wakefield should catch plenty of eyes, while Tedcastle will be the star small forward. Jaeden Watts is another to look out for, along with Jason Baird and Christos Gikas. A bunch of the NT boys have also gained senior experience in the NTFL, which should put them in good stead here.

OTHER NOTES…

Collingwood father-son prospect and potential top pick Nick Daicos will lead Oakleigh out having been managed in recent weeks, robbing him of a VFL debut with the Magpies. He is one of a few 18th-year players to have already graduated, making them available for NAB League selection while the school football seasons roll on. Josh Sinn is another in that category, but he has not quite come up for Sandringham this week. His absence looks to have opened the door for riser Finn Callaghan to be tried on the inside.

The Northern Knights are a side who will lose some key personnel to school football, but dashing half-back Darcy Wilmot remains after making an electric senior debut for Montmorency over the break. Sandringham forward Luke Nankervis is another in that category, with plenty of players getting back to their local roots over the last month.

There are a bunch of 18th-year prospects who also turned out for VFL sides in that time, with Calder’s Josh Goater and Zac Taylor (both Essendon) among them. Potential North Melbourne father-son Jackson Archer was another, as he returns to Northern colours this week. Tyler Sonsie, who turned out for Box Hill, will come back into Eastern’s fold, starting in midfield with Jake Soligo (Richmond) and Tyreece Leiu (North Melbourne).

The decision has been made for many top-agers as they either continue in the VFL competition, get more run in their legs through the NAB League, or part ways to head back to local football. With the mid-season draft fast-approaching, there are many in action this week who will count themselves in with a good chance of making the elite grade. Time will tell.

ROUND 4 FIXTURES

Saturday May 22

Sandringham Dragons vs. Western Jets
11:00am @ Trevor Barker Oval

Geelong Falcons vs. GWS Giants Academy
11:45am @ Avalon Airport Oval

Northern Knights vs. Brisbane Lions Academy
11:45am @ Preston City Oval

Murray Bushrangers vs. Oakleigh Chargers
1:00pm @ Wangaratta Showgrounds

Gippsland Power vs. Sydney Swans Academy
2:15pm @ Avalon Airport Oval

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Gold Coast Suns Academy
2:15pm @ Preston City Oval

Sunday May 23

Calder Cannons vs. Bendigo Pioneers
10:30am @ Highgate Recreation Reserve

Tasmania Devils vs. Northern Territory Academy
1:00pm @ Highgate Recreation Reserve

Eastern Ranges vs. GWV Rebels
3:30pm @ Highgate Recreation Reserve

Image Credit: RF Photography

Compare the Pair: Finn Callaghan / Josh Sinn (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

THE Sandringham Dragons have produced a great number of high-end prospects over the years, whether it be those who are touted from a long way out, or players who bolt into contention with undeniable form in their draft seasons. 2021 is no different, with line-breaking movers Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan fitting perfectly into said categories. The pair showed high-level ability across the first three NAB League rounds, and share plenty of similar traits which have put them in good stead to this point.

Sinn is a co-captain of the Dragons side and has been pegged as a top five draft candidate since captaining Vic Metro’s title-winning Under 16 side in 2019. His speed off half-back and the wing is undeniable, often complemented by penetrative kicks which send his side forward in quick time. The 18-year-old graduated from Xavier College last year and was expected to turn out for Sandringham Zebras in the VFL over the current break, but is recovering from a hamstring strain sustained while training with the AFL Academy. He will be available for Sandringham Dragons once the NAB League resumes.

Callaghan is a prospect who has risen steeply in 2021, catching the eye during preseason and building nicely into his NAB League campaign. He is another line-breaker with good size who shows a tricky turn of speed with ball-in-hand, making him a difficult player to stop at full flight. He is currently completing his studies at St Bede’s College, but will also be available essentially full-time for the Dragons. As a late call up for the AFL Academy, he fittingly proved a capable replacement for Sinn with his work on the outer.

We compare the pair by taking a look at their form to this point, physical profiles, which positions suit them best, what style of play they provide, and their potential areas of improvement.

Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

DOB: January 7, 2003
Height/Weight: 186cm/82kg
Position: Half-Back/Midfielder

2021 averages*:

20.0 disposals | 14.3 kicks | 5.7 handballs | 4 marks | 2.3 tackles | 5.0 inside 50s | 3.7 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (1)

* – from three NAB League games.

Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

DOB: April 26, 2003
Height/Weight: 189cm/82kg
Position: Half-Back/Wing

2021 averages*:

18.6 disposals | 9.3 kicks | 9.3 handballs | 4.3 marks | 1.6 tackles | 3.3 inside 50s | 1.3 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (1)

* – from three NAB League games.

2021 FORM

Josh Sinn
2021 NAB League

Round 1 vs. Oakleigh Chargers | 20 disposals (12 kicks, 8 handballs), 4 marks, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s, 1 goal

Round 2 vs. Northern Knights | 20 disposals (15 kicks, 5 handballs), 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 6 rebound 50s

Round 3 vs. Dandenong Stingrays | 20 disposals (16 kicks, 4 handballs), 5 marks, 5 tackles, 10 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50

Finn Callaghan
2021 NAB League

Round 1 vs. Oakleigh Chargers | 19 disposals (8 kicks, 11 handballs), 3 marks, 3 tackles, 2 inside 50s

Round 2 vs. Northern Knights | 13 disposals (7 kicks, 6 handballs), 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50

Round 3 vs. Dandenong Stingrays | 24 disposals (13 kicks, 11 handballs), 7 marks, 5 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 1 goal

Both players have met at a similar point in terms of form after three NAB League rounds, having come into the season with vastly different expectations. Sinn, pegged as a potential top five candidate and one of his side’s co-captains, warmed to the blockbuster Round 1 clash with Oakleigh well, becoming prominent at crucial stages to help lift his side over the line. The Dragons coaching staff pulled the trigger on his midfield move early, sending him into the guts late in that game to good effect.

Sinn carried that form into his second outing, against Northern, again rotating between the middle and half-back in soggy conditions at Preston City Oval. His game against Dandenong in Round 3 shed light on how Sinn would fare as a permanent midfielder, but his line-breaking ability again came to the fore. The 18-year-old notched his third game of 20 disposals, providing good drive and improving in his disposal as the game wore on. While his best is arguably yet to come, Sinn and Sandringham can be pleased with the form shown across the first three rounds.

Callaghan came into the 2021 season with a touch less fanfare, but had displayed plenty of promise during the Dragons’ preseason intraclub scraps. He proved that rise in attention was warranted in his Round 1 debut, showcasing good speed on the outer and his potential to generate some serious forward momentum. After a steady start in a highly pressurised contest, Callaghan was kept a little quieter amid the tough conditions in Round 2 against Northern, but put forward his best game to date in Round 3.

Stationed on his usual wing, the rising prospect was able to penetrate both arcs and looked to have gained a good deal of confidence from those first two appearances. Encouraged to be more damaging in his disposal, Callaghan was better able to match his impact with ball-in-hand to his use by foot. While his previous form and desirable athletic profile went a long way to justifying his AFL Academy selection, this game was equally important in solidifying that honour. In the Academy showcase against Geelong VFL, Callaghan warmed to the contest in time operating on the wing and then off half-back.

PHYSICAL / ATHLETIC PROFILES

This exercise is clearly one more of comparing, rather than contrasting, as both players are quite similar in a range of qualities they offer. Looking at their physical make-ups, they meet similar ranges in that 185-190cm height bracket and with some good size. Callaghan’s latest listing of 82kg is indicative of his size on the eye, while it has been reported that Sinn put on 13kg over last year’s break, bringing his latest measurement up to 82kg as well.

They size-up virtually identically, and both boast the same kind of athletic superpowers. As line-breaking types, both possess electric speed but tend to use their athleticism in different ways. Sinn, who has a handy sprinting pedigree, is lightning quick in straight lines and can snatch serious meterage in a flash when released into space. With his size, Callaghan is also difficult to stop with a full head of steam and while he backs his speed to burn opponents akin to Sinn, is often seen side-stepping his way out of trouble with great agility and poise.

Both players have that explosive quality which allows for really productive outside run and eye-catching flashes of brilliance. Any passage which sees these two get ball-in-hand often results in a breach of either arc, or good territorial gain at the least. Having built their bodies since entering as tall and rangy types most suited to the outside, they both have the size now to win their own ball confidently and are able to operate on the inside as well.

POSITION / STYLES OF PLAY

At their cores, Sinn and Callaghan have both come to prominence through roles off half-back and the wing. Sinn’s starting position has often been in defence and that was the case before his midfield move this season, while Callaghan has spent most of his time on the wing for Sandringham with the potential to roll back – as he did in the AFL Academy showcase.

Sinn’s developing point of difference is his midfield craft, which has proven to already be at a decent level with good room to grow given his burst and physical make-up. He also rests forward while playing midfield and has a nice balance of inside and outside traits. Callaghan has also been exposed to midfield minutes through his time with St Bede’s College in the ACC school football competition.

Both players have also been served well defensively by the time they spend across-half back. Sinn has been shown to have his head on a swivel when setting up in the back half, showing good leadership to bark instructions to others and get touch at the stoppages. During his time on the wing, Callaghan tracks back well and is often seen mopping up in the defensive 50 arc. Both are also capable of impacting aerially, with Sinn positioning aggressively to intercept while Callaghan has the size and athleticism to compete.

In terms of their styles, they provide a bunch of the same traits; they run-and-carry with speed and can shift angles, with the ability to win their own ball, while possessing terrific left-foot kicks. The consensus is that Sinn can be more damaging with his disposal, while Callaghan is perhaps more impactful with his run. This is evident in their kick-to-handball ratios, with Sinn more willing to back his disposal by foot and take on seemingly low-percentage options which can break the play open.

While Callaghan sits at a perfect 1:1 ratio with his kicks and handballs, averaging 9.3 apiece per game, Sinn is up around 2.5 kicks to every handball per his three NAB League outings this year. Sinn’s kicking consistency has arguably been below his usually high standards in 2021, but that wavering efficiency is indicative of his license to take on riskier kicks. Callaghan is often a good decision maker by foot but bites off a touch less, while his use by hand is also quite efficient.

DISPOSAL / DECISION MAKING

As mentioned above, Sinn tends to back his kicking ability and looks to further break open the play on the end of his runs, which can lead to varying efficiency at times. His Round 3 game against Dandenong serves a perfect example of this. In the first half, Sinn would stream away from congestion or be released beautifully, but lacked the finished product. Undeterred, he continued to show confidence in his ability and managed to execute some fantastic passes to his forwards. He ended with 10 inside 50s, with some of them scuppered, but others perfectly hitting targets and resulting in scoring opportunities.

He is said to be the best and most technically sound kick at Sandringham, and has watched plenty of tape on another penetrating left-footer in Hayden Young. At his best, Sinn can certainly reach those levels and his decision making is solid, but it is just a matter of levelling out his consistency. To ensure he is having the maximum effect, Sinn is being encouraged to lower his eyes a touch more when booting forward on the fly. Speaking of decision making, Sinn’s ability to time runs and make repeat efforts in that sense suits the half-back role really well, showing high-level smarts and game awareness.

Callaghan is one who also uses the ball well by foot and can gain similar penetration to Sinn, showing great improvement in that area. He is being encouraged to be a touch more damaging in this sense though, to bite off a bit more and take the risks that others might. On the flip-side, his poise in tight spots is great as he is more inclined to dish off by hand rather than bombing forward under pressure. In tight spots, he uses his turn of speed to get into space before executing a disposal. While he sometimes distributes to teammates under immediate pressure, the ability to show spacial awareness and find different avenues out of traffic are handy traits to have.

Image Credit: AFL Photos

Full squad: AFL Academy to take on Geelong VFL on Saturday morning

THE AFL Academy is set to take on Geelong VFL tomorrow, making for an exciting curtain raiser to Saturday’s AFL clash between Geelong and West Coast. Bouncing down at 10:10am at GMHBA Stadium, the featured bout sees 24 of the nation’s brightest AFL Draft prospects granted with the opportunity to go head-to-head with a mature outfit containing plenty of elite level talent.

There has been a raft of changes to the original 21-man squad, announced in December of last year, as top-up players and injury replacements filter into the side. Among the inclusions are a good amount of tall prospects, with rucks Mac Andrew, Toby Conway, and Ned Moyle all earning call-ups for their promising NAB League form.

Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) talent Blayne O’Loughlin, the nephew of Michael, came in alongside Conway and Moyle, as did dynamic marking defender, Josh Gibcus. Skilled Oakleigh Chargers utility Lachlan Rankin is the latest inclusion, replacing Josh Sinn who pulled up sore after academy training this week.

Sinn’s Sandringham Dragons teammate Campbell Chesser has also been sidelined with a knee complaint, while Tasmanian Sam Banks (broken wrist) and Ben Hobbs will miss after sustaining injuries during the latest round of NAB League action. Braden Andrews and Cooper Murley will also sit out, sporting previous knocks.

The final couple of additions should add some dash and dare on the outer, with the fast-rising Finn Callaghan and Nasiah Wanganeen both getting their chance, while eye-catching West Australian Neil Erasmus was also rewarded for his early-season exploits.

Here’s a look at how the squad may line up:

FB: Blayne O’Loughlin, Rhett Bazzo, Josh Fahey
HB: Jase Burgoyne, Josh Gibcus, Finn Callaghan
C: Nasiah Wanganeen, Tyler Sonsie, Matt Roberts
HF: Matthew Johnson, Jacob Van Rooyen, Blake Howes
FF: Neil Erasmus, Jack Williams, Josh Rachele
FOL: Ned Moyle, Nick Daicos, Jason Horne

BENCH: Mac Andrew, Toby Conway, Cooper Hamilton, Austin Harris, Lachlan Rankin, Ned Stevens

INJURED: Braden Andrews, Sam Banks, Campbell Chesser, Ben Hobbs, Cooper Murley, Josh Sinn

Starting from the back, there should be plenty of drive to come from this lot. Recent inclusions, O’Loughlin and Callaghan are quite varied in terms of height, but both love to get going on the rebound and use the ball by foot. GWS Academy product Josh Fahey is another in that category, while potential Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne brings clean skills and plenty of versatility. Despite moving forward this year, Rhett Bazzo was the sensical full back choice, with Gibcus’ marking prowess also landing him a starting spot in the spine.

This team gets a big tick for versatility in the key position department, with Bazzo one of the many prospects who can shift roles. Fellow West Australian Jack Williams, named at full forward, has been known to swing back, while Gold Coast Academy tall Ned Stevens can arguably play on each line. He may be freed up to play at either end, given the rich ruck stocks available.

The magnets are likely to be shuffled elsewhere, too. Tall inside midfielder Matthew Johnson has been named at half-forward having endured an injury interrupted preseason, but will likely rotate through the engine room. Matt Roberts, named on the wing can also play on the inside but rests forward well and has terrific running capacity. Blake Howes (half-forward) is also known to roam a wing, while Josh Rachele and Erasmus are others with promising midfield craft.

Elsewhere, Cooper Hamilton is a solid figure who can be utilised up either end or in that midfield rotation, while small utility Austin Harris will look to use his smarts as a defender, forward, or wingman. Rankin is another in that boat, having previously played as a running defender or wingman, but more recently been utilised up forward.

Lastly, arguably the centrepiece of the lineup lies at the centre bounces. Top five candidate Tyler Sonsie joins clear pick one frontrunners, Nick Daicos and Jason Horne at the heart of the team, set to form a potent midfield trio for the Academy bunch.

Full squad:

#1 Blayne O’Loughlin (SA) North Adelaide
#2 Austin Harris (Qld) Gold Coast Suns
#3 Cooper Murley (SA) Norwood*
#4 Josh Rachele (Vic C) Murray Bushrangers
#5 Tyler Sonsie (Vic M) Eastern Ranges
#6 Nick Daicos (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers
#7 Cooper Hamilton (Vic C) Bendigo Pioneers
#8 Ben Hobbs (Vic C) GWV Rebels*
#9 Jason Horne (SA) South Adelaide
#10 Matt Roberts (SA) South Adelaide
#11 Jase Burgoyne (SA) Woodville-West Torrens
#12 Sam Banks (Tas) Clarence*
#13 Lachlan Rankin (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers
#14 Campbell Chesser (Vic C) Sandringham Dragons*
#15 Josh Sinn (Vic M) Sandringham Dragons*
#16 Josh Fahey (NSW/ACT) GWS Giants
#17 Nasiah Wanganeen (SA) Glenelg
#18 Braden Andrews (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers*
#19 Neil Erasmus (WA) Subiaco
#20 Finn Callaghan (Vic M) Sandringham Dragons
#21 Blake Howes (Vic M) Sandringham Dragons
#22 Matthew Johnson (WA) Subiaco
#23 Jacob Van Rooyen (WA) Claremont
#24 Rhett Bazzo (WA) Swan Districts
#26 Ned Stevens (NT) Waratah/Gold Coast Suns
#27 Jack Williams (WA) East Fremantle
#28 Mac Andrew (Vic C) Dandenong Stingrays
#29 Toby Conway (Vic C) Geelong Falcons
#30 Ned Moyle (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers
#35 Josh Gibcus (Vic C) GWV Rebels

* – denotes injured

The game will be streamed live via the official AFL app and website. Keep an eye out for Scouting Notes on each Academy player, post-match.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 3

VICTORIA’S hottest AFL Draft prospects returned for Round 3 of the 2021 NAB League season on the weekend, with plenty of top end talent scattered across the six fixtures. Our scouts were on hand to take note and run you through the top performers from each game, in their opinion-based Scouting Notes. Check out some of the top performers from the 12 talent regions in action.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Hamish Spence

TASMANIA:

#1 Baynen Lowe

Lowe provided a spark whenever he was near the ball, with the 17-year-old splitting his time up forward and in the midfield. He’s a point of difference in the middle with his bursts of speed around stoppages and he looks dangerous anytime he’s inside 50. His leading patterns and strong forward craft saw him take six marks and kick 2.2, while also gathering 20 disposals. He looms as one of Tasmania’s more exciting prospects heading into this year’s draft.

#3 Oliver Davis

Tasmania’s main conduit around the contest, Davis played his usual role as a powerful inside midfielder. He started strongly in the first half, to the point that Eastern started accounting for him more around stoppages in the second half. He starred in the clearances and contested game, finishing with 23 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s. After unluckily going undrafted last year, Davis has strung two impressive performances together to kick off the season.

#4 Samuel Foley

Foley anchored a stout performance from Tasmania’s back six, who restricted the Ranges to just one goal in the first half. He wasn’t afraid to play aggressively and go for the ball, while still being accountable to his direct opponent at centre half-back. In a nice turnaround from last week, he also won several key one-on-one contests, after giving way to Jackson Cardillo against Calder in Round 2. Foley and Tyler McGinniss (his fellow key defender) read the ball well, creating a contest and bringing the ball to ground if they couldn’t mark it. He finished with 18 disposals, six marks, and seven inside 50s in an impressive defensive performance.

#5 Oliver Sanders

Sanders was the most prolific midfielder on Saturday, finishing with an equal game-high 29 disposals, five marks and four inside 50s. He possesses a natural ball-winning ability and knows how to create space around stoppages, often helping the Devils with their attacks going forward. He had a nice moment in the third quarter when he went back with the flight and took a strong mark on the right-hand wing.

#6 Sam Banks

The Devils’ captain led from the front, starring in a best on ground performance off half-back. Banks got the ball rolling with the first goal of the game and was a constant force all match, finishing with 29 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s and four rebound 50s. His ball movement out of the backline often set Tasmania up and he remained level-headed when the team was put under pressure in the second half. Unfortunately, he suffered a suspected broken wrist in the final quarter, which could keep him out for several weeks.

#21 Jacob Young

Young was the most dangerous key forward on Saturday because of the way he presented and marked the ball. He has a safe pair of mitts when he hits full flight and he looked likely all game. He started strongly in the first quarter and didn’t let up, flying for every contest and crashing packs throughout the match. He kicked 2.1, while gathering 11 disposals and clunking six marks. After the Devils’ tall forward set-up struggled to fire last week, the way Young, Noah Holmes and Will Splann worked together and gave each other space was encouraging to see.

EASTERN:

#1 Tyler Sonsie

Sonsie shone through in what was a tough day for most of his teammates, leaving as Eastern’s best player. He was good all game, but had a noticeable impact in the third quarter when there was a hint of a Ranges comeback. He was a threat around stoppages and provided the x-factor that his side needed by kicking two of their four goals for the term, including a neat checkside on the run. He also had 21 disposals in a performance that reinforced his status as one of the top prospects heading into this year’s draft.

#5 Jake Soligo

While he didn’t gather the footy as much as some other players, it was Soligo’s unrelenting pressure and competitiveness that made him stand out. After the Ranges were left shellshocked by the Devils’ dominance in the first term, he was one of the players who immediately lifted his standards, exactly what you’d expect from your co-captain. Eastern was ambushed and tackled 19 times in the first quarter, but it went on to win the tackle count, with Soligo contributing a game-high eight of them. He also had 16 disposals and five inside 50s, and his ball use was often effective despite most of his possessions being contested.

#9 Mitchell Sruk

Sruk was put under constant pressure due to Tasmania’s repeat inside 50 entries, but the half-back flanker didn’t lower his colours and stood up consistently. He led his team in disposals with 22 and the game in rebound 50s with nine. He got plenty of touches because the ball lived at his end of the ground for large portions of the game, but it was his clean decision-making and the way he intercepted the Devils’ attacks that made him one of Eastern’s better players.

#21 Corey Preston

Preston was key to getting his side going in the third quarter, with the Ranges’ coaching staff utilising him in a unique way. He would start at the top of forward 50 during every centre bounce, before running onto the back of the contest and playing as a midfielder from then on. His blistering speed meant this added a new element to Eastern’s game at centre clearances and his work at the contest around the ground was strong. This meant he didn’t spend as much time up forward as in previous weeks though. He finished with 18 disposals, five tackles, four inside 50s and two behinds, with his impact in the second half lifting the team around him.

#29 Harrison Keeling

Keeling had a workman’s like game, running all over the ground and covering an enormous amount of territory. He played his role as a wingman, being an outlet on the outside and supporting his teammates. His hard work saw him rack up 20 disposals, five tackles, four inside 50s and kick one goal. He continued the form that has seen him among the Ranges’ best to start the year.

#30 Jack Diedrich

Diedrich was easily the best ruckman on the ground, finishing with a game-high 32 hit outs (the next best was 10 from Noah Holmes). His dominance didn’t translate at times during the match, with Tasmania winning the midfield battle in the first half. But when Eastern started to get on top in the third term, there was no way to stem his influence. He didn’t make the biggest impact around the ground with just eight disposals, but he still had some key moments. He put himself in the right spots to compete in marking contests and there were a couple of times where he kept a cool head when he was involved in general chains of play.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

GIPPSLAND:

#4 Nathan Noblett

Had a solid game across the board, but was particularly noticeable late in the game, taking a number of strong intercept marks. Showing good hands and an ability to get to the right spots, he tried hard in the defensive 50. One of the better ones in the air in defence.

#5 Chance Doultree

Won plenty of the ball in close, Doultree was able to amass more touches than anyone else on his team. He worked hard to push around the ground against the momentum and even kicked a goal in the last minute to bring the margin back to under 12 goals.

#6 Mitchell Moschetti

Arguably the most noticeable Power player across the four quarters, Moschetti just kept having a crack and then took it upon himself to hit the scoreboard. His work rate in particular, spreading from the contest and winning in space was strong, and he kicked his first goal off the outside of the boot running into goal in the second term. His second major came early in the fourth, and he working hard right to the final siren as one of the prime midfield movers.

#23 Jai Serong

After a quieter first term, Serong began building into the game, and used his size around the ground to spread and take some important marks. He was used in transition from the back half to the forward 50, and whilst it was a tough day for the Power, he generally used it well and was able to have more of an impact as the game went on.

NORTHERN:

#2 Ned Long

A really exciting talent because of his size and versatility. He kicked three goals for the game, with his first a clever snap, then handed off another chance to a free teammate to set him up. He kicked his second major in the goalsquare with a quick boot to ball, then took a good mark and spun well in the fourth term to kick his third. In between his bursts of goals, Long went into the middle and found plenty of the football, using his bigger body to advantage and having an influence around the stoppages.

#3 Josh Ward

Had the ball on a string throughout the match, and whilst he was one of hte few Knights that did not end up hitting the scoreboard, he kept plugging away in close and getting the ball out. A consistent four-quarter performer, Ward did his fair share of defensive acts, and drove the ball forward to end up with the most touches on the field with 33.

#7 Ewan Macpherson

It was an even team performance, but Macpherson might have been the best on the lot. Kicked a couple of goals including a couple of tricky long-range set shots from around 45m out with the blustery wind, then would go into the midfield and create an option. He racked the ball up and did not take a backwards step, laying tackle after tackle and putting his body on the line. He was consistent throughout the four quarters and moved well in the forward half, to utilise his run in transition, and his hardness at the contest.

#9 Darcy Wilmot

Was a rock in defence early, intercepting anything that came his way and opting to switch and try and create more run from the back 50 to the forward 50. As the Knights began to control forward half possession, he did not have a great deal to do, but still pushed up and aided where possible. Used the ball well by foot and was composed under pressure, and was one of the best on in the opening term when the game was alive.

#19 Joel Trudgeon

Another standout performer from the Knights, Trudgeon was hard to stop inside 50, slotting three goals from 29 disposals in a remarkable performance. He missed an early set shot after a great mark, then dropped a rare chance, before seemingly having sticky hands throughout the game. He marked on the line to grab a cheapie one metre out, but worked hard with a couple more great goals, including one from the pocket after a great run. Strong hands and good work rate inside 50, also pushing up the ground to be a leading target.

#22 Jack Rossimel

Showed some promising signs throughout the match, able to kick a couple of goals, though the second was from the goalsquare following a 50m penalty for a late push in the marking contest. His first major was a snap around his body in the second term, ad then a set shot drifted to the right midway through the third. He presented well, and whilst he did not win as much of it as others, took some strong marks and led hard at the footy inside 50.

#26 Dom Akuei

As eye-catching as they get when it comes to athleticism, Akuei has a ridiculous leap, but also has remarkable footy IQ both in the air and at ground level. Time and time again he would leap up and palm off to a midfielder as part of a set play, but when he battled against a couple of opponents on the ground, quickly tapped it out to the extra number on his team rather than take possession. He won a free kick and sidestepped his opponent to gain a few extra metres and kick forward, and was relied upon to be a link in the chain and provide an option around the ground as he did.

#28 Joel Fitzgerald

Another player who just found the ball at will, Fitzgerald worked hard for his touches and finished with the second most on the ground with 30. He would accumulate them and quickly give off or look to get it forward, but also worked defensively when needed to help out the defence. Just a solid four-quarter performance across the board.

#33 Mackenzie Hogg

Could well have been best-on had it not been for an injury early in the third term. His eight disposals, three marks and 2.2 might not look like much, but factoring in that it was effectively from a half of footy, really showed what he could do. The majority of it was also in the second term where he kicked well off his left running in with the breeze to put one through, then nailed his set shot from a tighter angle after marking close to goal. He had another couple of early snaps in the third term for two behinds, then by the third minute was helped off.

#39 Emilio Rinaudo

Showed some great toe around the ground and ended up getting on the end of a couple of goals. His athleticism – which helped him quick a goal thanks to a quick-thinking sidestep in the second term – was a standout of his on the day. He ran down an opponent with his pace in the fourth term, whilst his hard running was rewarded early prior to the previously mentioned goal with a clever snap from the pocket after picking it up cleanly in challenging conditions.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Michael Alvaro

SANDRINGHAM:

#4 Josh Sinn

It was somewhat of a hit-and-miss kind of day for Sinn, who found a good amount of ball but took a few attempts to settle and use it as well as he can. Having been utilised on the inside earlier than expected, Sinn again showed his value there after being granted starting status at the first centre bounce. His size and explosive traits proved a handful around the contest, but it was in situations where Sinn broke on the outer which were arguably more eye-catching. He pumped forward 10 inside 50s and while plenty of his early attempts were turned over or scuffed, Sinn was able to gain confidence by hitting his targets at a greater rate thereafter. Having copped a knock to his calf in the final term, he was put on ice ahead of the AFL Academy game this week.

#11 Jack Peris

This was far and away Peris’ best competitive outing in Sandringham colours, with the St Kilda NGA prospect showcasing his rare athletic traits and causing headaches with his forward movement from the wing. He notched 17 disposals and looked to take the game on with each, backing his speed to burn opponents and showing flashy agility to weave out of sticky situations. Peris is still quite light, so was caught on a few occasions, but was able to produce a game more indicative of his potential this time out. He capped his day with crafty goals in the first and final quarters.

#17 Finn Callaghan

Callaghan is a prospect who built a decent reputation during preseason, but has more than delivered on that early promise three rounds into the NAB League season. The flying wingman was recently added to the AFL Academy squad and richly deserves it on the back of Saturday’s effort, in which he showcased all his best traits. Callaghan was a relentless force on the outer, proving difficult to stop with his size, speed and agility on the move. He constantly looked to break lines with aggression, putting Sandringham on the front foot and driving his side forward superbly. He kicked cleanly and made good decisions, including in the fourth term when he baulked the man on the mark at half-forward before unleashing a terrific long goal from 50 metres out. Watch his rise.

#18 Darby Hipwell

The Sandringham co-captain is one who has actively recognised and worked on his deficiencies to produce some really solid form early this season. He racked up the equal-most disposals on Saturday with 27, working hard to not only win his usual possessions on the inside, but to also make his mark in all areas of the ground. Hipwell led with intent, using good strength at the contest and proving difficult to beat at ground level – as is expected of the 19th-year prospect. He brought a greater accumulation factor this time around and was able to penetrate both arcs too, making for a well-rounded midfield game. He could be one to now move in to the VFL system given his top-age status.

#42 Luke Cleary

One who showed enough potential to earn a National Combine invite last year, Cleary has built up a good head of steam in 2021 having been overlooked at the draft table. Stationed in his familiar defensive post, the 189cm prospect had his most prolific outing to date on the stat sheet with 21 disposals, eight marks and four rebound 50s. His numbers were indicative of his game, able to read the play and set in perfect position to intercept – whether that be aerially or at ground level. From there, Cleary used the ball typically well with shrewd decisions in tight spots, showing his cool head in a crisis. He’s just a reliable figure back there and knows his role well.

#70 Jacob Edwards

Edwards has been touted for mid-season draft selection and it is not hard to see why, with the agile big man again impressive for the Dragons in a big win. He started up forward where his marking has been a real feature, before rotating into the ruck and further showcasing his leap. Edwards’ mobility and work around the ground is also noticeable, though he cuts a raw figure and has some work to do before becoming a physical, contested marking force at senior level. The fast-rising tall again found the goals with two majors at the same end, snagged in the second and fourth quarters. As far as 200cm players go, his consistent output has been outstanding.

DANDENONG:

#6 Connor Macdonald

Having set the scene alight last week with an absolute blinder, Macdonald was arguably Dandenong’s most productive player once more. He was the sole Stingray to tick over 20 touches, finishing with 25 to go with six marks and three tackles. His work rate and accumulative factor again came to the fore, as the 184cm talent penetrated either arc and was able to find the ball in all areas of the ground. He was up against it given Sandringham’s midfield strength, but was a near-permanent fixture there for Dandenong and showed nice speed away from the contest. Macdonald capped his day with a goal, thanks to being awarded a 50-metre penalty just outside his side’s attacking arc.

#10 Clayton Gay

All 15 of Gay’s disposals on Saturday were kicks, which you could have guess given the attack-minded style he adopted. Starting out on the wing before being trialled on the inside, Gay was able to launch the Stingrays forward with his penetrative boot and did so in style on many occasions. His punchy action made for eye-catching spear kicks into the corridor, which were indicative of Dandenong’s intent with ball in hand. As the pressure gauge lifted, those kicks would more often be sent long down the line, but still carried good meterage. Gay has proven his versatility and natural footballing skills, which could set him up for some VFL action in 2021 seeing as he is a top-ager.

#14 Will Bravo

Bravo was a real driver of the ball for Dandenong with his speed and intensity through midfield. That intensity could be observed in both an attacking and defensive sense, as he looked to run with ball in hand and burst away from congestion, while also working back to apply a game-high 10 tackles. Dandenong may not have had the size of some of Sandringham’s midfielders, but Bravo was once who looked to bridge the difference with hard work and some good presence around the ball. Having started on the inside, the top-ager was moved to a variety of roles as the Stingrays shuffled the magnets throughout.

#22 Mac Andrew

The 200cm ruck continues to show great potential and was duly added to the AFL Academy squad. His raw ability and versatility as a tall are exciting, with Andrew spending a good amount of time up forward and contributing strong work around the ground. He finished with four marks for the day but showcased some really nice traits in that area, able to utilise his reach to easily beat smaller opponents while also marking strongly in contested situations. The Melbourne NGA prospect also converted a goal in the second term and may make Demons’ list managers sweat with his top 25 potential, especially in such a strong draft for midfielders.

#46 Justin Davies

Again playing an unheralded role against some dangerous forwards, Davies stood up well and was able to bring forward some of his own best traits on Saturday. He is a pretty good mover for his size and competes well aerially, meaning he can cover all sorts of key forwards. Davies was also able to swing forward and show some nous there, booting a goal in the final term and again looking promising with his work in the air.

WESTERN JETS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Eli Duxson

WESTERN:

#26 Cody Raak

Raak was the General for the Jets defence having a say in most contests and rebounds inside defensive 50. The still weather allowed him to display his aerial prowess where he made good decisions to either mark or spoil the ball, being very effective at both. He read the flight of the ball terrifically, as well as the play where he opted to zone off from his opponent and intercept mark. After one particular intercept he earnt himself a free kick for holding the ball, highlighting his defensive ability both in the air and on the ground. Offensively, he kicked much more than he handballed, but that was partly because his teammates often looked for him to clear play. He was trusted with most of the kick outs and was efficient with his field kicking all game. Raak finished the game with 33 disposals (25 kicks), seven marks, and 10 rebound 50’s.

#33 Billy Cootee

The Jets skipper was valiant all game putting in big efforts deep into the game when the result was beyond doubt. He showed a good mix of inside and outside efforts utilising his speed as he was clean in tight through hands but managed to find space often and be a target. He took 11 marks for the game and displayed a penetrating kick when he was found. A set shot for goal made the distance quite comfortably off just a few momentum-gaining steps as the man on the mark was on the 50-metre arc. Cootee finished with 24 disposals and five inside 50’s.

#35 Liam Conway

The big-bodied midfielder was strong from the outset showing composure and cleanliness in congestion. He had a knack of getting first hands on the ball at stoppages when it was in his vicinity either through relentless bustling or good use of his body. However, his eagerness did result in five conceded free kicks. His first few steps are powerful and allows him to build momentum quickly so he can get into space to dispose of the ball, or break through tackles. Once the ball was cleared, he covered the ground well to find possession or zone off defensively. Conway managed 26 disposals and five tackles for the game.

#50 Paul Tsapatolis

Tsapatolis had a tough battle with Chargers ruckman Ned Moyle where he narrowly lost the hit out count but managed to make an impact forward kicking two goals. He was clean below his knees for his size but often got flustered and rushed with possession. He at times got caught out with his defensive positioning and running but showed good endurance to get to most stoppages as the Jets primary ruckman. He had 10 disposals and 15 hit outs to go with his 2 goals.

OAKLEIGH:

#1 Youseph Dib

The speedy small was seen all over the ground at times but spent most of the game playing half-back and around the middle of the ground. He was utilised in an Adelaide Crows Charlie Cameron-type role streaming off half-back into the centre bounce and actually gaining possession and breaking the line on one occasion. His acceleration and strides were impressively quick which he used to apply immense pressure, laying six tackles for the game. He was reliable with his disposal and when he did miss a handball, his follow up work allowed him to win possession again or help a teammate. He took a terrific intercept mark in the third quarter and was stringent defensively. Dib finished with 20 disposals and six inside 50’s in his best game this season.

#3 Nick Daicos

A class above and clearly the best-on-ground again as he amassed 40 disposals to go with two goals, nine marks, and 11 inside 50’s. He could not stay away from the ball it seemed as he patrolled the middle of the ground and snuck forward to rest. His first goal came from a free quick and his second out the back in the goal square, although he did manage a further four shots that would miss. Two of them were in the final term where he had options to pass, but instead had a shot from 50 metres and another tight against the boundary. Both minor blemishes in a game where the result was out of question and the sting was out of the game though. He looked like he had so much time when he had possession and very few of his 40 disposals would have been ineffective. His set up at stoppages varied and was clearly making to the hit zones, but he then worked hard to spread from stoppages, sometimes at the detriment of his defensive running. He also did a good job of directing teammates and being constructive in structural set ups. Will be interesting to see whether he remains at NAB League level and boosts his draft stock or opts to develop in the VFL.

#8 Fraser Elliot

Backed up a good performance in Round three where he had 18 disposals and 11 tackles, but his defensive ability was not required as much in their comfortable win. Rotating through the middle and forward, the big-bodied midfielder was strong in tight and showed good hip and core strength to remain upright through contact. Often the extractor, he handballed more than he kicked and was clean and level under pressure. Although his tackle count was low, his defensive work rate highlighted his endurance as he often made his way to defensive 50 stoppages or linked up in rebounding forays. Elliot also managed a goal to go with his 19 disposals.

#14 Sam Darcy

The lumbering defender found himself in the ruck where he was serviceable, but his intercept marking and kicking efficiency in defence put him as probably the second best-on behind Daicos. Darcy finished the game with nine marks and most of them would have been interceptions or contested grabs. He read the flight of the ball much better than his opponent and was clean in his one-grab overhead marks. His kicking long and short was consistent and he even showed confidence in his opposite boot late in the game. He had 21 disposals (16 kicks) to go with his nine marks as well as seven hit outs.

#27 Karl Worner

Playing predominantly off half-back and between the arcs either on ball or on the wing, Worner also enjoyed his best game of the season. He found space often enough to accumulate possession with his 10 marks, one notably going back with the flight to mark courageously. He looked calm with ball in hand with a great mark and hit up inside 50 in the first quarter a feature. 22 disposals was his final tally with 13 kicks and nine handballs indicative of his inside/outside mix.

#64 Ned Moyle

The Oakleigh ruckman had his toughest matchup to date in Tsapatolis but managed a minor victory. It was a relatively even ruck contest all game, but he edged out his opponent by three hit outs with better positioning often a factor. Rucks a bit like Oscar McInerney in the sense he is not overtly athletically gifted with his leaping ability like a Nic Naitanui, but he times his jump well and is mobile and fit enough to cover good territory. He often outworked Tsapatolis in that regard as he was able to push back defensively and get in the way of Western’s forward movement. He worked hard the other way too as he pushed forward at times when Darcy gave him a break. Moyle managed a goal early in the second term with a nice mark and set shot. He looked comfortable with ball in hand and found the ball 11 times to go with his 18 hit outs.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Michael Alvaro

BENDIGO:

#1 Sam Conforti

The 19th-year prospect was as productive as any Pioneer on Sunday, ending as their most prolific ball winner with 23 touches. Rotating through the engine room from attacking 50, Conforti was his busy self at ground level and attended a high amount of stoppages. He exited traffic on a few occasions with good agility, using his nous to find a way forward or dish out quickly to bring others into the game. His best moment of the day came in the second term, as he showed great composure to baulk an opponent before letting fly from 50 metres for a terrific long goal.

#4 Jack Hickman

The nippy midfielder-forward again swapped his time between both positions and popped up with some eye-catching work away from the contest. His turn of speed made for some really nice exits from congestion, able to nip away from would-be tacklers and wheel onto his favoured side. A clever kind of player, Hickman won a holding-the-ball free kick in term two after pinning his opponent’s arm, and later hit some nice targets going forward. In the same period of play, he ran onto a loose ball over the top and slotted home his lone goal of the game.

#5 Cooper Hamilton

Part of the AFL Academy squad set to take on Geelong VFL on Saturday, Hamilton got through his final NAB League test unscathed and continues to produce good moments. Playing mostly through midfield, he started well with a bustling clearance and showed his trademark strength at the contest, even under tackling pressure. He found the goals in the second term after stealing an errand Geelong handball and converting in a flash from close range. Hamilton would then kick a steadier in the fourth quarter, finishing with composure from a swift handball receive. Though not overly prolific, 16 disposals and two goals made for a solid contribution.

#11 Cobi Maxted

Maxted has put together a promising couple of weeks, this time performing as a valuable swingman for the Pioneers. Having impressed as somewhat of a marking defender last time out, he continued said form early in this outing before shifting forward and duly hitting the scoreboard. His first major came in the third term, as he latched onto a nice chain of Bendigo handballs to snap home well, while his second goal was a set shot conversion in the following quarter. Overall, Maxted was able to again show some nice traits and get busy in key areas of the ground.

#13 Jack Evans

One who found plenty of the ball in the first half, the Pioneers leader proved a reliable figure across half-back during said period. He often looked to go by foot on the rebound, with 16 kicks and six rebound 50s coming among his total 19 disposals. Evans was able to gain good meterage from the back half, reading the play well to move into the correct areas to either mop up or receive on the outer once Bendigo had forced the turnover. While he faded out of the contest a touch, Evans helped absorb early pressure before Bendigo gained a greater hold on proceedings.

GEELONG:

#12 Noah Gribble

One of the hardest workers in the competition, it is hard to believe Gribble did not come away with more disposals, but 24 still proved a great return. The wingman was employed in his usual post, running hard both ways to accumulate possessions and help generate some forward momentum on the outer for Geelong. He constantly tried to make things happen and was competitive both in the air and at ground level, but looked to fare much better in open spaces where he could cover ground and deliver with more assuredness. Gribble’s hard running earned him a goal in the third term, as he snuck forward to mark uncontested before converting the set shot.

#16 Charlie Ham

Having earned a National Combine invite last year, Ham’s performance on Sunday was perhaps most indicative of what recruiters saw in him back then. The defender did a lot of work to sweep up across Geelong’s back 50 and also distributed from the kick-ins, seeing him finish as the highest ball winner afield with 29 disposals (20 kicks) and six rebound 50s. A beautifully timed overhead mark in the first term set the tone for Ham’s game, as he would go on to take some similarly graceful grabs coming from the side or rear of packs, really utilising his athleticism. He bottled the confidence gained from those acts to provide some dash, but tended to show a little too much of his kicks to the opposition at times, putting pressure on the receiver. Still, there are plenty of positive traits to work with for Ham.

#25 Josh Sorgiovanni

Sorgiovanni was a solid worker for Geelong through midfield, able to provide some much-needed drive through the corridor. He would often win or receive the first possession out of congestion, before looking to run his measure and pump the Falcons forward. He produced a clutch moment after the half time siren, dropping well to earn a high free kick before slotting home a set shot goal to get his side back to within a goal at the main break. As expected, his teammates got around him and he enjoyed some more good patches thereafter.

#28 Mitch Knevitt

The day’s most prolific midfield ball winner, Knevitt amassed 27 disposals and did some solid work on the inside upon his return to the lineup. Hard to miss with his flowing hair, the 18-year-old accumulated well throughout the game and was often able to put first hands on the ball at stoppages. He had a couple of nice moments outside the contest too, streaming forward well on one occasion and also backing back to clunk a courageous mark on the stretch in front of Falcons bigman, Toby Conway. It is easy to see why Knevitt was so highly touted by his teammates in preseason.

#60 Toby Conway

The subject of our Player Focus this week, the AFL Academy inclusion continued his good start to the season as Geelong’s primary ruck. He was simply too big and strong at most contests, able to use his reach or work into prime position to direct helpful hitouts down to his midfielders. Instead of rotating heavily as he did last week, Conway was also able to showcase his improving forward craft as he rested forward, kicking a goal in the second quarter. He also set up behind the ball to provide an outlet or lock it into Geelong’s front half, another aspect he is improving on.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Ed Pascoe

MURRAY:

#2 Charlie Byrne

Likely to feature in the Essendon VFL going forward Byrne has added another strong to his bow as the rebound defender of previous years has made a strong transition into the midfield for Murray this year. Although not his most prolific game he made his disposals count with some strong clearances using his stronger frame to his advantage with some nice bursts and long kicking inside 50 with his trusty long left boot. Also drifting forward he managed to kick a lovely snap goal on the run in the first quarter and almost did the same later in the game with a long goal from 50m but unfortunately a teammate gave away a free kick to take away what would have been a lovely goal. Byrne finished the game with 15 disposals, 4 inside 50s and kicked 1.1 and has set himself up well for a likely debut for Essendon VFL this year.

#3 Toby Murray

Murray started the game in hot form and proved a handful in the first quarter kicking two goals and although he wouldn’t add to his tally he would still go on to have a good game. Murray would kicks his first goal from a nice tackle which was rewarded inside 50 and the 2nd goal was kicked from a nice a lead up mark in the pocket, he would slot both goals with the set shot and looked steady with his approach. The 198cm Murray would also go into the ruck on occasion winning some nice hit outs and following up his work well with some good tackles and great dexterity and clean hands at ground level. Murray finished the game with 11 disposals, 14 hit outs and 2 goals as he puts together a strong start to the season.

#5 Patrick Parnell

The speedy mid-season draft prospect has put together a strong start to the NAB League season and he was again one of Murrays best providing great rebound at half back and was a solid 4 quarter performer. Although a smaller and skinnier defender he did well to take some nice intercept marks and even a contested mark against the highly touted forward Kai Lohmann in the first quarter, Parnell impressed with his quick ball movement and desperate defending showing a good mix down back and its no surprise to see him taking kickouts with his speed and kicking. Along with some nice spoils and 1% plays Parnell finished the game with 24 disposals, 5 marks and 6 rebound 50s.

#9 Kade Chalcraft

The tough inside midfielder adept at winning clearances did so with ease against the Rebels with his strong frame and appetite for the contest really impressing. A no thrills midfielder he won the hard ball and tackled hard all day and didn’t let up in his attack on the contest and with ball in hand sending the ball inside 50 multiple times and always wanting to keep the ball moving. Chalcraft finished the game with 25 disposals, 5 inside 50s and 6 tackles with the mid-season draft prospect continuing to impress.

#10 Daniel Turner

A wall in defence for Murray Bushrangers Turner took plenty of intercept marks throughout the game and despite his 191cm frame he played above his height. Turner has been one of Murrays most consistent players proving to be a big obstacle for the opposition with his courage to sit in the hole or infront of key forwards to stay strong and take big intercept marks. Turner finished the game with 18 disposals and 8 marks with plenty of those being intercepts as the mid-season draft prospect stakes his claim as one of the better defenders in the NAB League.

#13 Tom Brown

After a quiet first round Brown has started to find his feet playing half back for Murray Bushrangers with the super athletic prospect put in a strong performance. Brown is a great athlete and used his athletic traits to his advantage offering plenty of drive from alf back with his endurance and speed across the ground and his leap was handy in taking plenty of good intercept marks including a strong contested mark in the last quarter. Getting better every week the break isnt timely for Brown but should take great confidence out of his recent form, with 22 disposals, 6 mark and 5 rebound 50s it was a great return for Brown.

GWV:

#1 Sam Butler

Usually a crafty forward and starting in that role Butler helped turn the game with his addition to the Rebels midfield in the 2nd half using his speed and class at stoppages to help gets his side over the line. Butler was quiet forward in the first half but had some great forward pressure and he would bring that enthusiasm into the midfield winning some good clearances and he had some strong tackles aswell, his pace and strength over the ball was influential in combating the stronger but slower Murray midfield and with 20 disposals, 5 marks and 4 tackles it was a strong game from Butler despite not kicking a major.

#3 Charlie Molan

Although not prolific it would have been his efforts without the ball that impressed his teammates and coaches the most with Molan playing an outstanding defensive game. The smooth moving defender set the seen for his game with a desperate goal saving tackle in the 2nd quarter and would follow that effort up in the last quarter with a desperate chase down tackle that should have been rewarded and then followed up again with a crunching tackle but gave away the free kick which was dissipating for Molan who showed great determination and really should have been rewarded. Molan started back but was moved to the wing in the 2nd half using his desperate defence all over the ground finishing with 13 disposals and 4 marks.

#8 Josh Gibcus

It’s been an outstanding season so far for the athletic key defender Gibcus who has proved why he has been called up to represent the AFL Academy in their game against Geelong VFL with another fantastic performance down back taking intercept marks with ease.Just about every one of his 9 marks for the day where intercepts, a lot of them took the eye but non more-so than a contested intercept mark in the 3rd quarter and although he turned the ball over after the mark was no less impressive showing of his great leap and timing to mark overhead. Gibcus was just as adept at ground level shaping great composure and agility on multiple occasions deep in defence able to sell a bit of candy which is impressive for a 195cm prospect. Gibcus finished the game with 17 disposals, 9 marks and 5 rebound 50s to further enhance his draft stocks.

#10 Blake Scott

The bulldogs NGA prospect has started the year in fine form and the speedy forward again caused havoc for opposition defenders with an exciting display. Despite a quiet start to the game Scott just got better as the game went on and really hit his straps in the second half as he seemed to be everywhere inside 50 popping up to hit the scoreboard but he wouldn’t kick a goal until the last quarter with a nice set shot goal from the pocket. Scott also did well to set up a goal using his trademark dash to escape his opponents and handball of to a teammate over the top running into open goal, Scott finished the game with 20 disposals, 5 marks, 6 inside 50s and kicked 1.3 in another strong game.

#14 Jamieson Ballantyne

Improving with every game the elusive wingman made that position his own proving pretty of run and creativity using his eye catching agility to get around opponents with ease and dispose of the ball well. Ballantyne did well to push back into defence to help his teammates highlighted with a good spoil going back with the flight showing he had a good defensive side to his attacking style of play with the ball. An elusive and composed player on the wing Ballantyne finished the game with 22 disposals, 8 marks and 6 inside 50s playing the wing role very well.

#16 Kai Lohmann

The exciting forward put together his most complete performance so far this year showing of his athleticism and skills consistently over the 4 quarters highlighting his impressive speed and leap. His best bit of play came in the 2nd quarter with an awesome run from half back starting inside defensive 50 where he took on multiple players while also taking multiple bounces aswell to finally kick inside 50 in a great show of athleticism and what he is capable of. The last quarter highlighted all of his best traits with a leap from the back of the pack and some nice plays deep in the forwardline in one instance going back with the flight and creating a contest and then quickly put on forward pressure. Lohmann finished the game with 19 disposals, 5 marks and 6 tackles and although he didn’t kick any goals himself with 3 behinds he helped set up he helped create so many opportunities

2021 Draft Central NAB League Boys Team of the Week: Round 2

THREE sides have earned a trio of players in our Draft Central NAB League Boys Team of the Week for Round 2. Winners Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons, as well as narrow losers Northern Knights, have all earned players in our team for the second round. Most sides had two representatives, with Bendigo Pioneers and Gippsland Power combining just the two players from their game in an even overall performance, while Geelong Falcons also had just the one player for Round 2.

Oakleigh Chargers were again led by Nick Daicos who booted another three goals from 30 touches to be named vice-captain of the side, joined in the team by centre half-back Jed Rule, and forward Dylan Thomas. They defeated Eastern Ranges who had the two representatives, with Daicos’ co-captain from last week Tyler Sonsie in the team again, with Jake Soligo also make the 24-player squad. On the other wing to Sonsie was the sole Falcons’ representative Noah Gribble who had the ball on a string despite his team’s loss to Murray Bushrangers.

Sandringham Dragons and Northern Knights produced the match of the round with a tight contest at a wet and windy Preston City Oval, and six players from that game made the side. The Dragons’ Josh Sinn and Luke Cleary are named in the back six, with Jacob Edwards at centre half-forward and could relieve in the ruck. Northern had Darcy Wilmot named at half-back, while Ewan Macpherson (half-forward) and Josh Ward (interchange) also made the side. The reason Edwards could slide to half-forward was the dominance of Calder Cannons’ ruck Liam Podhajski who was named starting ruck in the side, while Jackson Cardillo made the bench.

Despite losing to the Cannons by a point, the Devils had a couple of familiar names in the team with Oliver Davis and Sam Banks kicking off their NAB League Boys seasons in style and rewarded with starting spots in the side. Rounding out the stacked midfield is Dandenong Stingrays’ Connor Macdonald who won the Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 2 and will captain the hypothetical side. Miller Bergman also made the team after an impressive performance in the Stingrays’ loss to the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels.

Speaking of the Rebels, they had the two players in the team as well, with Josh Gibcus back in the team locking down full-back, while Nicholas Hodgson was named on the interchange. The other players in this week’s team all featured in the Sunday triple header, as Murray Bushrangers’ big win over Geelong Falcons saw forwards Toby Murray and Josh Rachele named in the forward line, while Bendigo Pioneers’ Hugh Hamilton and Gippsland Power’s Cooper Alger also earned their spot as their team’s sole representatives. This week’s emergencies are Murray Bushrangers’ Charlie Byrne, Calder Cannons’ Flynn Lakey and Eastern Ranges’ Tom Taylor who all had impressive performances in their respective thirds.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE BOYS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 2

B: Sam Banks (TD) – Josh Gibcus (GWV) – Luke Cleary (SD)
HB: Josh Sinn (SD) – Jed Rule (OC) – Darcy Wilmot (NK)
C: Noah Gribble (GF) – Oliver Davis (TD)  – Tyler Sonsie (ER)
HF: Ewan Macpherson (NK) – Jacob Edwards (SD) – Hugh Hamilton (BP)
FF: Josh Rachele (MB) – Toby Murray (MB) – Dylan Thomas (OC)
R: Liam Podhajski (CC) – Nick Daicos (OC) (vc) – Connor Macdonald (DS) (c)
INT: Cooper Alger (GP) – Miller Bergman (DS) – Jackson Cardillo (CC) – Nicholas Hodgson (GWV) – Jake Soligo (ER) – Josh Ward (NK)

EMG: Charlie Byrne (MB) – Flynn Lakey (CC) – Tom Taylor (ER)

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

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.