Tag: judson clarke

2021 NAB League: Round 3 outlook – ‘Rays on the rise

AFTER a couple of all-country clashes, Dandenong Stingrays sit 1-1 heading into the third full round of NAB League action. Although they did not get the four points last time out, a bunch of budding AFL Draft prospects proved one thing – that the ‘Rays may well be on the rise in that capacity.

The typically strong talent region saw only one player selected in the most recent draft intake, as Deakyn Smith landed at Melbourne through the pre-season supplemental selection period. That was after a handful of Dandenong products made it to the elite level in 2019, but it seems at this early stage that the Stingrays may have another few prospects set to make a name for themselves this year.

Round 2 Player of the Week, Connor Macdonald returned a dream performance in the Stingrays’ loss to Greater Western Victoria (GWV); amassing 33 disposals, 10 marks, 10 inside 50s, and laying 12 tackles. A monster effort. It saw the 184cm midfielder rise up draft boards, especially having backed up a strong Round 1 showing.

His speed away from congestion is complemented well by a desire to work hard, as Macdonald could be seen accumulating possessions in all areas of the ground and lifting when his side needed it. Having played on a wing and up forward, Macdonald also has the ability to kick goals and really hurt the opposition with his balanced game.

There are a raft of other names to keep an eye on as they raise their stocks throughout this year’s campaign. Miller Bergman is a versatile type with eye-catching traits. He started at half-back in Round 2 before moving forward to boot three final-term goals, showcasing impressive aerial ability and some real class on the ball at both ends.

James Cahill, the brother of Essendon’s Ned, is another coming through the ranks. The crafty forward shares many traits with his elder sibling, able to play slightly above his size and hit up hard at the ball to mark. He also boasts the obvious ground level craft with clean hands, great smarts, and a real nose for goal. Watch for his rise.

Joining him up forward are livewires Judson Clarke and Josiah Kyle. The former does not need much room or many touches to make an impact inside 50, and the same can be said for the latter. Kyle is also a St Kilda Next Generation Academy prospect, while the speedy Kobi George, Ryan Koo Kwet Kim, and Mac Andrew qualify for Melbourne.

Andrew has raised eyebrows of late as a raw ruck talent with genuine top 25 potential. His athleticism makes for exciting work at each contest, and he also has a good knack for taking marks around the ground – whether it be while dropping back in support or in his time resting forward. At the contest, he also follows up well and while his decision making can do with refining at times, he does well when performing the fundamentals.

Another tall of note is Justin Davies, difficult to miss with his red hair. He showed as an Under 16 prospect that he is capable of playing as a forward, but looks to have swung up the other end of late and played a key role against GWV as he shut down the dangerous Josh Rentsch.

Of course, it would be remiss not to mention a couple of 19th-year prospects who have also lived up to their billings. Will Bravo returned with aplomb last week on the wing and through midfield, making use of his experience with the Hawthorn AFL side during preseason. Utility Clayton Gay has also started strongly, a terrific natural footballer.

Having shown vast development on each line, this emerging Dandenong side will face one of the toughest NAB League tests in Round 3, against Sandringham Dragons. The two sides meet on Saturday afternoon at Trevor Barker Oval, with the 2-0 Dragons boasting a heap of high-end draft prospects.

Tune in to the contest via the NAB League app, where our very own Draft Editor Michael Alvaro, and analyst Declan Reeve will be providing commentary. With so much talent set to take the field, it looms as one of the games of the round.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League – Round 1

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

GWV REBELS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Peter Williams

GWV REBELS:

#1 Sam Butler

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

#2 Ben Hobbs

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

#3 Charlie Molan

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

#5 Josh Rentsch

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

#6 Marcus Herbert

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

#8 Josh Gibcus

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

#10 Blake Scott

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

GEELONG:

#4 Gennaro Bove

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

#7 Flynn Young

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

#12 Noah Gribble

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

#27 Charlie Brauer

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

#34 Indy Parish

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

#60 Toby Conway

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

CALDER CANNONS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Ed Pascoe

CALDER CANNONS:

#4 Sam Clohesy

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

#5 Zac Taylor

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

#25 Josh Goater

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

EASTERN RANGES:

#1 Tyler Sonsie

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

#5 Jake Soligo

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

#21 Corey Preston

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

#31 Tyreece Leiu

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

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Ed Pascoe

NORTHERN KNIGHTS:

#2 Ned Long

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

#3 Josh Ward

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

#9 Darcy Wilmot

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

#22 Jack Rossimel

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

#28 Joel Fitzgerald

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

WESTERN JETS:

#26 Cody Raak

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

#32 Paul Curtis

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

#33 Billy Cootee

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

#50 Paul Tsapatolis

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

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

GIPPSLAND POWER:

#4 Nathan Noblett

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

#5 Chance Doultree

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

#9 Will Papley

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

#23 Jai Serong

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

#38 Thomas Crole

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

DANDENONG STINGRAYS:

#2 Josiah Kyle

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

#3 Miller Bergman

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

#6 Connor Macdonald

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

#7 Judson Clarke

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

#22 Mac Andrew

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

#23 Jai Neal

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

#27 Kobi George

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

#42 James Cahill

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

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Declan Reeve

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS:

#2 Charlie Byrne

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

#3 Toby Murray

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

#4 Josh Rachele

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

#13 Tom Brown

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

#24 Cameron McLeod

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

#29 Noah Bradshaw

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

BENDIGO PIONEERS:

#1 Sam Conforti

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

#2 Harvey Gallagher

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

#5 Cooper Hamilton

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

#8 Hugh Hamilton

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

#9 Aidan Hare

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

#10 Bode Stevens

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

#13 Jack Evans

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

#23 Xavier Mitchell

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

#28 Louis Thompson

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

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Ed Pascoe

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS:

#4 Josh Sinn

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

#6 Blake Howes

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

#7 Campbell Chesser

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

#17 Finn Callaghan

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

#52 Luke Nankervis

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

#66 Charlie McKay

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

Others:

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

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS:

#1 Youseph Dib

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

#3 Nick Daicos

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

#17 Braden Andrews

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

#22 Lachlan Rankin

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

#36 Scott Beilby

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

Others:

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

2021 NAB League Boys snapshot: Round 1 – Dragons salute on Easter Monday as teams dust off cobwebs

IT was a fantastic opening round of NAB League Boys action as teams dusted off the cobwebs and there were a number of top performers across the weekend. Ahead of our Scouting Notes and Team of the Week, we take a snapshot into Round 1 and how the six matches played out across the Easter Weekend.

GWV REBELS 12.9 (81) defeated GEELONG FALCONS 9.4 (58)

IN A SENTENCE:

After a tight start to the game, the Rebels kicked four goals to one in the second term to give themselves a 23-point lead at the main break, with the Falcons attacking hard in the third, before the Rebels again kicked away in the last.

TEAM STATS:

  • Geelong Falcons won the disposal count (280-255), marks (69-55) and hitouts (44-21)
  • GWV Rebels won the inside 50s (44-43) and rebound 50s (34-31)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Ben Hobbs (GWV Rebels) 22 disposals, 2 marks, 8 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Marcus Herbert (GWV Rebels) 21 disposals, 2 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s
  • Josh Gibcus (GWV Rebels) 14 disposals, 6 marks, 4 rebound 50s
  • Sam Butler (GWV Rebels) 13 disposals, 3 tackles, 3 goals
  • Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons) 24 disposals, 9 marks, 3 inside 50s, 5 rebounds
  • Archie Hilderbrandt (Geelong Falcons) 25 disposals, 5 marks, 2 tackles, 5 inside 50s
  • Flynn Young (Geelong Falcons) 11 disposals, 6 marks, 3 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 goals

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Josh Gibcus (GWV Rebels)
4 – Marcus Herbert (GWV Rebels)
3 – Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons)
2 – Sam Butler (GWV Rebels)
1 – Flynn Young (Geelong Falcons)

NEXT UP:

Geelong Falcons vs. Murray Bushrangers @ Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sunday April 11
GWV Rebels vs. Dandenong Stingrays @ Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sunday April 11

CALDER CANNONS 10.6 (66) defeated by EASTERN RANGES 14.14 (98)

IN A SENTENCE:

An 11 goals to three first half wrapped up the game early on for the Ranges in what was a tale of two halves, as the Cannons piled on seven goals to three in the second half, only to go down by 32 points in the end.

TEAM STATS:

  • Eastern Ranges won the inside 50s (52-44) and tackles (41-34)
  • Calder Cannons won the marks (115-85), rebound 50s (36-34) and hitouts (33-26)
  • Both teams were level with disposals (304-304)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges) 34 disposals, 6 marks, 6 inside 50s, 2 goals
  • Corey Preston (Eastern Ranges) 18 disposals, 5 marks, 4 inside 50s, 4 goals
  • Tyreece Leiu (Eastern Ranges) 17 disposals, 5 marks, 6 inside 50s
  • Mitchell Sruk (Eastern Ranges) 21 disposals, 9 rebound 50s
  • Flynn Lakey (Calder Cannons) 27 disposals, 7 marks, 5 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Flynn Gentile (Calder Cannons) 25 disposals, 15 marks, 3 tackles, 5 inside 50s
  • Sam Clohesy (Calder Cannons) 24 disposals, 10 marks, 3 inside 50s, 7 rebounds 50s, 1 goal

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges)
4 – Corey Preston (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Zac Taylor (Calder Cannons)
2 – Sam Clohesy (Calder Cannons)
1 – Tyreece Leiu (Eastern Ranges)

NEXT UP:

Calder Cannons vs. Tasmania Devils @ UTAS Stadium, Saturday April 10
Eastern Ranges vs. Oakleigh Chargers @ Preston City Oval, Saturday April 10

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 8.13 (61) defeated WESTERN JETS 7.10 (52)

IN A SENTENCE:

In a low-scoring tussle with not much between them all day, the Knights managed to kick away with the final goal of the game after Western Jets drew within a point midway through the final term.

TEAM STATS:

  • Northern Knights won the disposals (344-272), inside 50s (55-41) and marks (96-70)
  • Western Jets won the rebound 50s (47-33), tackles (73-58) and hitouts (31-20)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Joel Fitzgerald (Northern Knights) 32 disposals, 12 marks, 4 tackles, 7 rebound 50s
  • Ned Long (Northern Knights) 26 disposals, 9 marks, 3 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 3 goals
  • Josh Ward (Northern Knights) 22 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s
  • Harrison White (Western Jets) 26 disposals, 5 marks, 6 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s
  • Sam Clifford (Western Jets) 19 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 6 rebound 50s
  • Harrison Schumann (Western Jets) 16 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 4 rebound 50s

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Ned Long (Northern Knights)
4 – Joel Fitzgerald (Northern Knights)
3 – Darcy Wilmot (Northern Knights)
2 – Paul Curtis (Western Jets)
1 – Billy Cootee (Western Jets)

NEXT UP:

Northern Knights vs. Sandringham Dragons @ Preston City Oval, Saturday April 10
Western Jets vs. Oakleigh Chargers @ Avalon Airport Oval, Saturday April 17

GIPPSLAND POWER 7.6 (48) defeated by DANDENONG STINGRAYS 12.15 (87)

IN A SENTENCE:

The Stingrays never looked like making it a tight contest with eight goals to one in the first half to open up a 49-point half-time lead, before the Power hit back with six goals to four in the second half to reduce the final deficit to 39.

TEAM STATS:

  • Dandenong Stingrays won the disposals (337-331), inside 50s (55-40), marks (77-64) and hitouts (27-19)
  • Gippsland Power won the rebound 50s (43-32)
  • The teams both laid 64 tackles in the match

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Judson Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays) 23 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • James Cahill (Dandenong Stingrays) 23 disposals, 7 marks, 3 tackles, 8 inside 50s
  • Mac Andrew (Dandenong Stingrays) 22 disposals, 3 marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s
  • Connor MacDonald (Dandenong Stingrays) 24 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 2 goals
  • Max Walton (Gippsland Power) 32 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 10 rebound 50s
  • Luis D’Angelo (Gippsland Power) 21 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 3 rebound 40s
  • Mitchell Moschetti (Gippsland Power) 26 disposals, 6 marks, 5 tackles, 5 inside 50s

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 –  Josiah Kyle (Dandenong Stingrays)
3 – Judson Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
2 – Miller Bergman (Dandenong Stingrays)
1 – Mac Andrew (Dandenong Stingrays)

NEXT UP:

Gippsland Power vs. Bendigo Pioneers @ Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sunday April 11
Dandenong Stingrays vs. GWV Rebels @ Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sunday April 11

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 9.7 (61) defeated by BENDIGO PIONEERS 19.11 (125)

IN A SENTENCE:

A fairly even contest for most of the first half, the Pioneers booted 11 of the last 14 goals to storm to a massive 64-point victory over the Bushrangers.

TEAM STATS:

  • Bendigo Pioneers won the disposals (310-300), inside 50s (59-41), marks (93-76) and hitouts (33-30)
  • Murray Bushrangers won the rebound 50s (40-30) and tackles (49-42)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Sam Conforti (Bendigo Pioneers) 25 disposals, 3 marks, 6 inside 50s, 1 goal
  • Hugh Hamilton (Bendigo Pioneers) 19 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 2 goals
  • Harvey Gallagher (Bendigo Pioneers) 18 disposals, 6 marks, 4 inside 50s, 3 goals
  • Xavier Mitchell (Bendigo Pioneers) 16 disposals, 8 marks, 7 inside 50s, 3 goals
  • Cameron McLeod (Murray Bushrangers) 18 disposals, 6 marks, 4 inside 50s, 2 goals
  • Paddy Parnell (Murray Bushrangers) 22 disposals, 5 marks, 8 tackles, 7 rebound 50s
  • Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers) 19 disposals, 7 marks, 5 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 goal

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Sam Conforti (Bendigo Pioneers)
4 – Xavier Mitchell (Bendigo Pioneers)
3 – Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Hugh Hamiliton (Bendigo Pioneers)
1 – Charlie Byrne (Murray Bushrangers)

NEXT UP:

Murray Bushrangers vs. Geelong Falcons @ Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sunday April 11
Bendigo Pioneers vs. Gippsland Power @ Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sunday April 11

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 11.16 (82) defeated OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 10.6 (66)

IN A SENTENCE:

In an unbelievably high-quality game, the Dragons had the breeze in the last quarter to kick five goals to one, and run over the top of the Chargers by 16 points.

TEAM STATS:

  • Sandringham Dragons won the disposals (306-272), inside 50s (45-36) and marks (63-58)
  • Oakleigh Chargers won the rebound 50s (34-24), tackles (64-50) and hitouts (36-30)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Campbell Chesser (Sandringham Dragons) 23 disposals, 2 marks, 5 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Lachlan Riley (Sandringham Dragons) 24 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Josh Sinn (Sandringham Dragons) 20 disposals, 4 marks, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s
  • Logan Young (Sandringham Dragons) 17 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 2 goals
  • Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers) 28 disposals, 8 marks, 7 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 3 goals
  • Lachlan Rankin (Oakleigh Chargers) 8 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 3 goals
  • Scott Beilby (Oakleigh Chargers) 21 disposals, 2 marks, 2 tackles, 9 rebound 50s
  • Patrick Voss (Oakleigh Chargers) 11 disposals, 3 marks, 3 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 goal

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Campbell Chesser (Sandringham Dragons)
3 – Lachlan Riley (Sandringham Dragons)
2 – Scott Beilby (Oakleigh Chargers)
1 – Logan Young (Sandringham Dragons)

NEXT UP:

Sandringham Dragons vs. Northern Knights @ Preston City Oval, Saturday April 10
Oakleigh Chargers vs. Eastern Ranges @ Preston City Oval, Saturday April 10

2021 NAB League team preview: Dandenong Stingrays

DANDENONG Stingrays head coach, Nick Cox says his side has come back in “really good physical condition” after a year away from competitive action, as its NAB League return edges closer. The Stingrays will take on Gippsland Power in Round 1 of the 2021 season, with the two country regions set to lock horns at Morwell Football Ground on Saturday afternoon. They should know each other well, having trained together and enjoyed a scratch match during preseason.

“I got together with (Gippsland coach) Rhett McLennan and we had a bit of a training session, then played a praccy match or four-quarter match-sim,” Cox said. “Expectations are like usual, we’re a little bit unknown in what we’re going to roll out but hopefully like usual our boys will give themselves every opportunity when they play the first three weeks and hopefully start creating some interest from there.

“Obviously the NAB League season has changed a little bit from previous years, but it’s a credit to our boys and I think it’s across the board, that 95 per cent of them have come back in really good physical condition. “That’s also credit to our strength and conditioning coach Ben Benson with the program he put out before they came back into training.

“We’ve come back in obviously not the same amount of time than in past seasons, but the intrinsic motivation by themselves has been fantastic and I can’t commend them enough at this stage with the physical condition. Whether they’re going to be up to speed fundamentally… we’ll wait and see against Gippsland on Saturday, it’ll will be exciting to see what they roll out.”

As the top age jumps up to 19 in the NAB League, Cox says those returning talents know where they stand and will largely rely on the first three weeks of the season to determine where they go next. Apart from nearly doubling the number of 19-year-olds listed, he maintains it will be “same-same” going forward in terms of how the program incorporates 17 and 18-year-old prospects.

In terms of the Stingrays’ style and strengths across the board, a focus on role specifics and giving players extended runs to shine has been evident, with an “exciting” brand of football what Cox and his troops will look to bring to the table in 2021.

“The big thing this year is getting players to understand role specifics and settling them there,” he said. “Not just for one or two games, but giving them an opportunity for a certain amount of weeks and if they can’t play that role, they’re good enough to move on somewhere else.

“Our style will be an exciting one, I reckon we’ll make a few mistakes along the way but the big thing in the NAB League is being able to showcase and execute talent, and most NAB League players are there because of that. We don’t want to take that away, we’re probably five per cent structure and 95 per cent go out and play.”

Looking at the standouts across Dandenong’s squad, skipper Bayleigh Welsh remains among the top-agers looking to impress, while vice-captain Connor Macdonald is one of the region’s most promising 18th-year talents. Cox highlighted a number of names which should pop up throughout the season as key figures in the side, with the potential to feature at VFL level.

“There have been a lot of standouts,” he said. “We talk about moments a fair bit at training and in gamedays and I reckon a lot of our kids have had those moments, and some more than others.

Judson Clarke, coming back from a knee has been outstanding at training, as have Connor Macdonald and Miller Bergman. They’re three top-end 18-year-olds that have done well at training. Will Bravo has come back after three weeks at Hawthorn bigger and better, and Bayleigh Welsh has been outstanding all preseason.

Clayton Gay and Bryce Milford have gone away and done a little bit of preseason at Casey and played a couple of practice matches there, so it’s clearly evident that they’ve come back stronger. There’s always going to be someone that bobs up out of the ground and produces something from nowhere and at the moment, we could have half a dozen kids doing that. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Welsh and Macdonald will lead a five-man leadership group, which is a touch different to what Dandenong has implemented in the past. Clarke and Bergman will also be in that mix, along with Daniel Didomenicantonio to ensure that four of the five players included are of that 2003-born group. Macdonald will lead the side out on Saturday, with Welsh unavailable for selection.

Cox was also high on some of the Next Generation Academy (NGA) talent rolling through the Dandenong region, with Josiah Kyle (St Kilda) joining Melbourne NGA prospects Mac Andrew and Kobi George in the final squad.

Having already coached through eight rounds with the girls side, Cox gave a glowing review of how the club as a whole has come together, with some serious momentum being gathered. He also sought to thank Dandenong’s strong coaching core for the vast development the region has overseen this year.

“I’m really happy that the club is really coming together as one,” he said. “The way the girls have played and the style they play, we’ll probably try and emulate it in the boys. They’ve created a winning culture and we’ve got girls in Vic Country so I think the boys will make sure they’re doing the same thing. It’s been exciting so far and having the overlap has been good for the NAB League, it’s been really exciting to see how all that’s worked.

“We’ve got a really close, strong coaching panel and I’d like to acknowledge the amount of work they’ve done… the amount of development we got into (the players) through really good coaching is credit to our region and what we’ve been able to do. It’s credit to our local football leagues as well, so things are going quite well in our region and the NAB League is obviously elite, but there’s a lot of work done by a lot of people who go unrecognised and hopefully we can continue to produce players going forward.”

Under 16 National Championships: Division 1 wrap

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

South Australia (1-2)

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

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

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

Vic Country (1-2)

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

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

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

Vic Metro (3-0)

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

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

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

Western Australia (1-2)

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

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

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

Scouting notes: U16 National Championships – Vic Country vs. Vic Metro

VIC Metro outlasted their Country counterparts to open their Under 16 Division 1 campaign with a three-goal win. Michael Alvaro was on hand at GMHBA Stadium to take note of the outstanding players from either side in another edition of scouting notes.

Vic Country:

#1 Judson Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Was one of Country’s main threats in front of goal, proving both opportunistic and clinical. Booted the first goal of the game with a straightforward set shot, but his second goal in the same term caught the eye – snatching the ball off hands at pace deep inside the forward 50 and streaming into an open goal. Added a third with another set shot in the final term to give Country one last shot, and had a good overall day forward of centre.

#2 Campbell Chesser (Sandringham Dragons)

The co-captain was one of his side’s best, making the wing opposite the Kardinia Park coaches box his own. Chesser ran well both ways, but looked particularly damaging when going forward with time and space. Looks a pretty complete player, clean below his knees and even more solid overhead – reaching for a couple of strong clunks early on to also show some good spring. Chesser further showed his ability to read the ball in flight with a defensive 50 intercept in the second term, and was soon seen impacting up the other end with a kick inside forward 50 to Hugh Hamilton, and another to Judson Clarke. Had his own chance to hit the scoreboard with a set shot, but fell short. A good outing, and definitely one to watch.

#3 Ben Hobbs (GWV Rebels)

Hobbs was again the clear best for Country, stepping up with his relentless attack at the stoppages and phenomenal ball winning ability. Won the first clearance of the game from the opening centre bounce, and continued on in the same vein throughout the game with a ton of contested ball wins. Is just a bull in congestion, but also showed his ability to find other ways to prize the ball with a strong one on one mark in the second term. Added class to his obvious grunt with a precise set shot goal from 40 meters out on the boundary to spark his side, and followed up to win the clearance from the resultant centre bounce. Hobbs also speared a nice pass inside 50 to give Oskar Faulkhead his first goal in the third term. Has obvious leadership capacities in his actions, and tried all day to both niggle his opponents and drag Country over the line.

#4 Oskar Faulkhead (Bendigo Pioneers)

The zippy forward came to life in the third quarter, converting two set shots to help Country to its one-point lead at the final break. The first opportunity came from a neat Ben Hobbs pass into the pocket, but Faulkhead had to work a bit more for his second shot as he managed to control a shanked ball forward from Connor Macdonald. Would win the ball high up from half forward as the game went on and looked well skilled, playing a key role in keeping Country within striking distance.

#8 Cooper Hamilton (Bendigo Pioneers)

Did not have a massive game in terms of disposal output, but well and truly caught the eye with two cracking attacks on the ball. The first came in the opening term with an opponent coming the other way, but his effort on defensive wing to win the ball at pace with three Metro players looming was simply outstanding. Showed good strength and breakaway pace in congestion, and looks a player you want on your side when it matters.

#9 Hugh Hamilton (Bendigo Pioneers)

Was a solid performer throughout the day, starting forward but making more of an impact through midfield. Hamilton dug in at the stoppages, often locking the ball or his opponent up. Had the chance to hit the scoreboard in the second term after Campbell Chesser hit him up, but missed with the shot. Was more of a constant at the centre bounces in the second half, with his strong build putting him in good stead for contested situations.

#10 Benjamin Green (Gippsland Power)

Has a trim that greats of the 1980s would be proud of, but Green lets his football do the talking for the most part. Aesthetic frills aside, the Power product has a more no-nonsense approach with his contested style, using his strength to stand up in tackles and flick the ball out. Seems to attract the ball, albeit if he looked to be slightly down on his usual disposal output, and won it more around the ground. Showed good courage in the final term to compete against Metro big-man Alex Lukic in the air, and clearly thrives in the contest.

#11 Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays)

Macdonald showed glimpses of his best traits throughout the day, and was most involved during the third term on the outside. Provided some exciting run forward, weaving his way through traffic and finishing with a kick, but was perhaps more effective when smartly handing off laterally around the forward 50. Had a neat passage of play with Charlie Molan to set up Oskar Faulkhead’s second goal, and is a handy link in the chain.

#13 Joshua Rachele (Murray Bushrangers)

The Country leader was his usual self in the midfield and forward line, always looking like he could produce something special. Had some quick snaps on goal fall short or go wide throughout the game, and things could have gone his way on another day. While Rachele wins the contested ball well, he looks even more damaging when receiving by hand and bursting forward – as seen in the second term with a one-two play down the wing. Took an outstanding pack mark in the fourth quarter to showcase his strong hands and leap, and was one of Country’s better contributors without being totally dominant.

#17 Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels)

Molan built into the game well to make his impact felt, mixing his time between half forward and the midfield. Missed an early set shot chance after finding space inside forward 50 and has a slightly awkward kicking action, but did well to win a centre bounce clearance later. Proved his ability to work both ways, running forward with a handy handball passage in the third term to create a goal, and later running back to chase down Metro skipper Josh Sinn in a fantastic effort in the corridor. Is quite a tall midfielder for this level at 187cm, and looks to be learning quickly.

#25 Justin Davies (Dandenong Stingrays)

The dynamic big man is a great reader of the ball in flight, and attacked it hard despite not always being able to reign in the mark. Spent time through the ruck after starting forward, and competed well there but his best move came with a goal from nothing in the first quarter as Country broke away. Not a big performance, but one to watch.

#27 Josh Rentsch (GWV Rebels)

Played the same rotation as Davies, and is another tall who moves extremely well for his size. Looked particularly lively early with a couple of solid overhead marks forward of centre, and would go on to make an impact through the ruck. Popped up again in the second term with an impressive weave through opponents before letting fly with a shot that was only just touched. Just does things that a player of his size shouldn’t, making him a dangerous prospect at this level.


Vic Metro:

#1 Youseph Dib (Oakleigh Chargers)

The diminutive Metro vice-captain would have to be one of the pound-for-pound strongest players across both sides, injecting a good amount of physicality into the game despite standing at 171cm. Plays like a bigger-bodied prospect in the midfield and forward half, leaping for overhead marks, bursting out of congestion, and tackling hard. Showcased his marking prowess early with a gutsy effort in the second term taken on his chest, and went on to lay two massive tackles on Country stars Campbell Chesser and Ben Hobbs in a couple of terrific second efforts. Despite his unexpected exploits, also has the typical traits of a smaller player with cleanliness at ground level and good speed. Was moved into the centre bounces in the final term after spending most of the day on the outside, and made a difference.

#5 Jake Soligo (Eastern Ranges)

Started in the midfield but despite winning a couple of clearances, looked much better on the wing later on. Runs smartly over the back to set his side up going inside 50, and did so most effectively in the second and third terms. Set up Jack Rossimel for his second goal with a long kick inside the arc, and could be an important forward mover for Metro if he continues to play on the outside.

#7 Darcy Wilmot (Northern Knights)

Was originally named as an emergency in the Metro squad, but took the starting opportunity well. Part of the wing/forward rotation, Wilmot got involved early by using his strong hands and build in the contest – marking overhead and winning contested ground balls. Broke forward to good effect but missed a chance to goal on the run in the second term, and would eventually fade out of the game somewhat. Popped back up with another strong overhead marking attempt, and isn’t afraid of the contest.

#10 Lachlan Rankin (Oakleigh Chargers)

Accumulated at a good rate across the day off half back, seeming to always be in space and providing an outlet to break forward. Did so with his usual kicking game, but proved a touch inconsistent by foot with a few turnovers – although they didn’t prove to be too costly. Also marks well above his head and is clean, but was able to do so at will given the space he afforded himself. A damaging outside player, Rankin continues to see plenty of the ball.

#11 Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges)

One of Metro’s best as a constant through the midfield, catching the eye with repeated bursts around the back of stoppages to kick his side forward. Showed good composure with ball in hand, breaking away with a quick first five steps and making good decisions in the extra space he had afforded himself. While he began to become more involved forward of centre in the second term with a shot on the run, Sonsie went on to accumulate up the other end early in the following term to show he can win the ball wherever it may go. Got involved forward again with a clinical snapped finish to start the final term, and has fantastic agility and awareness.

#13 Lachlan Benton (Sandringham Dragons)

A zippy mover off half-back, Benton provided a good point of difference in a very aerial-dominant Metro back six. Was not afraid to take on opponents and take the game on, but still played within his limits and got the ball off in time. Got involved well moving forward along the wing, and caught the eye with a well taken chest marking with the ball coming over his shoulder – as well as with his bright red boots.

#15 Joshua Goater (Calder Cannons)

Another player who showed patches of good play, Goater did enough to catch the eye. Played mostly on the wing and up forward, and was presented a set shot chance by Cannons teammate Jack Newitt in the second term which he could not convert. Took a nice overhead grab on the wing in the final term, but had his best moment in the same term with phenomenal vision to break open the play and find Tyler Sonsie with a handball, who snapped a goal.

#16 Jack Newitt (Calder Cannons)

Was not Newitt’s best game, but played his role well and looked a threat inside the forward 50. Kicked Metro’s first goal of the game with a set shot conversion, and had another early scoring chance on the run which he missed to the near side. Newitt would go on to make a greater impact later on with assist-driven plays – finding Calder teammate Joshua Goater in the third term to hand him a set shot opportunity, and looking to create from the flank and pocket he called home for most of the day.

#17 Josh Sinn (Sandringham Dragons)

Looked in ominous form early as he intercepted a couple of high balls with clean overhead marks in his usual half back position, which he would follow up with a hard chase-down effort. Oozes obvious class and has a damaging left boot, but showed his hard edge with a contested win where he rode a head-on bump well to hold onto the ground ball and move forward. Was entrusted with kick-in duties, and worked hard to follow up short passes to provide the next option, which was great to see. Is a real 100-metre player when he combines his penetrating kick with run and carry, doing so particularly well through the corridor with one ending in a short shot on goal. Was caught unawares by Charlie Molan in the final term on one of those runs, but it didn’t affect him too much as he made an impact with a move into the middle. Has some real eye-catching traits and looked a class above at times.

#18 Braden Andrews (Oakleigh Chargers)

Made use of on each line, Andrews was a relevant player throughout. Spent some time forward early on, and almost hit the scoreboard after rounding an opponent but missing the shot. Looked good with a more permanent move into the middle after half time, but perhaps played his best team role as he was shifted into defence to close out the game. Andrews would show off his clean hands and cool head to provide an extra bit of solidity in the back six, while also moving forward well as he did with a take-on of Joshua Rachele. Finds the ball well, and could be an important figure for Metro given the versatility he showed.

#19 Blake Howes (Sandringham Dragons)

Howes came in and out of the game with some nice flashes of form, looking most likely when used out on the wing. Is quite slight at 68kg so suits the outside in that sense, but also has the agility and take-on capabilities to make him a dangerous forward mover. Booted a couple of decent balls inside 50 during the third term, where he was most effective.

#22 Jack Rossimel (Northern Knights)

The dangerous forward was again utilised deep inside attacking 50, providing a target for long kicks into his area. Looked primed for a decent game after clunking a fantastic contested mark in the goalsquare and converting the resultant shot, but only managed to find the goals once more with another set shot conversion in the third term. Just seems to always find a way to the big sticks, and almost managed to soccer home a major in an opportunistic effort, but did not have too much else to do for the game.

#23 Jed Rule (Oakleigh Chargers)

Was set to form a formidable defensive partnership with skipper Josh Sinn given both players’ aerial prowess, and showed signs of his outstanding reading of the play. Took a nice intercept mark on defensive wing to cut off a decent Country attack in the second term, and that sort of play formed the crux of his usual play. Was solid defensively too, but did not have a massive amount to do.

#28 Alex Lukic (Oakleigh Chargers)

Ended up being the most effective player inside 50, booting a game-high four goals. Was sighted at both ends, but really made his mark forward of centre with clever positioning and astute finishing. His first goal came from close range – which would become a theme – in the opening term, going on to kick a similar goal over the back for Metro’s only second-quarter major, and later the seal the game with two crucial six-pointers in the final term. Took a nice overhead mark deep inside 50 for his third goal, and got out the back again for his fourth. Loves a loud ‘c’mon’ after finding the big sticks, and moves well for a taller player.