Tag: lachlan ash

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 7 – Ranges, Devils clinch thrillers

WITH the school football season in full swing and each Northern Academy back on their way past the Victorian border, normality resumed come Round 7 of the 2019 NAB League competition. Dandenong again remained the sole undefeated side after a top-against-bottom clash, while Eastern showed it was there to stay among the top four with a tense win over Sandringham.

But Avalon Airport Oval would play host to the weekend’s opening fixture, with country sides Geelong and Murray travelling to meet in Werribee. The Falcons looked like causing an upset against the inconsistent Bushrangers after a tight first half, but their inaccurate kicking for goal allowed Murray to hang in there and run over the top for a 21-point victory.

Prize GWS draftee and Murray co-captain Lachlan Ash took the field, notching 19 disposals and a goal, while over-agers Ben Kelly (16 disposals, 28 hitouts) and Zane Barzen (16 disposals, two goals) also impressed, and Cam Wild led all comers with 27 touches. Chas Karpala put in a solid shift for two goals from 20 disposals, only beaten by Charlie Harris‘ 21 touches. Husdon Kaak led the goalkicking stakes with five majors, while Geelong bottom-ager Ollie Henry booted three.

Western hosted Dandenong in Saturday’s only other fixture, but could not weather the home conditions in Williamstown as the Stingrays ran out 63-point winners. The visitors were in control all game having fielded a near full strength line-up, leading at every break and capping the result with seven final term goals.

Essendon draftee Ned Cahill was a constant threat up forward with four goals from 19 disposals, while a bottom-aged Eddie Ford was Western’s sole multiple goalkicker (two). The ball winners were out in numbers, as Darcy Cassar led the way with 29 touches, followed by 26 from Hayden Young and 25 from mid-season recruit, Mitch Riordan for the winners. Another 19-year-old, Daly Andrews (17 disposals, one goal) also pitched in among the losing effort for Western.

A much closer contest followed to open Sunday’s proceedings as Tasmania scraped ahead at the ideal time to edge Bendigo in a thriller. The Devils made a great start but were soon pegged back, still managing to lead at every break. That streak looked like being broken by the final siren, Jye Menzie saved the day with a goal after the siren to see his side hold on.

Menzie’s fourth goal came at the ideal time, and ensured he would double the goal tally of any other player afield. Four Pioneers managed multiple goals, with bottom-agers Sam Conforti (30 disposals, two goals) and Jack Ginnivan (27, two) the most prominent. In an even team performance for the Devils, Ben Simpson won the most ball (22 disposals), while third-gamer Isaac Chugg (15 disposals, 1.3) was dangerous and Sam Collins solid across half-back with 19 touches.

Onto the round’s fourth venue, and Gippsland found little difficulty in accounting for Calder on home turf, thumping the Cannons by 51 points as the visitors could only manage four goals for the game. The Power’s scoring flow got going after the main break, as they piled on nine goals to Calder’s three to coast to victory.

A number of eventual Gippsland draftees showed all their quality, with Brock Smith (28 disposals, one goal) leading all comers, while Sam Flanders (24 disposals, one goal), Charlie Comben (22 disposals, 22 hitouts), and Fraser Phillips (four goals) also caught the eye. Jacob Martin again racked up the pill for Calder with a game-high 33 touches, combining well with Daniel Mott (25 disposals) through midfield as Brodie Newman (22 disposals) also fared well.

The Northern Knights and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels also started their clash at 1pm, with the travelling Knights raiding Mars Stadium successfully. The hosts started the better side with narrow leads at the first two breaks, but were overrun by Northern’s nine-goal second half as they went down by 32 points.

Northern’s strong bodies through midfield made their mark, with Sunny Brazier managing three goals from 19 disposals, while Carlton draftee Sam Philp booted two from his 20 touches. Ryan Sturgess also got on the board as he found the ball 26 times, but found himself beaten out by GWV’s Jay Rantall (36 disposals) in the ball winning stakes. Toby Mahony (20 disposals, three goals) and Mitch Martin (18, two) were others to stand up for the Rebels.

Arguably the best game of the lot was left for last as top four hopefuls Eastern and Sandringham locked horns at RSEA Park to see out the weekend’s action. 13 points was the game’s biggest lead – held by the Dragons early on – as the home side managed to nab a lead at the first three breaks. But Eastern would find an extra gear in the clutch, keeping Sandringham goalless in the final term to come away nine-point winners.

Sydney mid-season draftee Cody Hirst raised his hand for a call-up in his final game for the Ranges, amassing 31 disposals while Zak Pretty had a game-high 33 and bottom-aged gun Connor Downie managed 25 to go with a goal. Ryan Byrnes was Sandringham’s best, collecting 28 touches ahead of Angus Hanrahan (27), while Jake Bowey had 23 and Miles Bergman showed glimpses with his 18 touches and one major.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 6 – Academies bow out, Stingrays go top

FANS, recruiters, and pundits alike were treated to another eight games in Round 6 of the 2019 NAB League, with the early-May weekend serving as the last for each of the five Northern Academies’ cameos. Reigning premier Dandenong broke clear as the sole undefeated side left, while Gold Coast was crowned the Academy Series victor via percentage after Sydney lost its only game for the season. A thrilling finals preview also went down as Gippsland and Eastern battled it out, with the Power getting the better of the eventual premiers on home turf.

The round kicked off in North Hobart, with Tasmania playing host to the heavily-depleted Oakleigh Chargers on Saturday morning. It was the visitors who managed to scrape home in a nail-biting, low-scoring slog by the slimmest of margins, overcoming a half-time deficit to keep the Devils at bay. Winning skipper Trent Bianco, the only national draftee afield dominated with 42 disposals as he stepped-up in the absence of some key personnel.

Fellow top-ager Josh May was also influential with 28 touches, while bottom-aged midfielder Fraser Elliot had it 23 times, and Thomas Lovell put in his best shift for the season with four majors. For the Devils, Harrison Ireland was named best for his work as an undersized ruck, with bottom-age gun Oliver Davis getting to work at ground level with a team-high 21 touches, and fellow Allies Hub member Sam Collins not far behind on 18.

The GWS Academy and Murray Bushrangers went to battle on the New South Wales-Victorian border at midday, with the GIANTS coming away with their second win from five attempts. It was a well drawn out win for the ‘away’ side in its home state, leading at every break but being made to earn the 11-point victory. In another game headlined by the dominance of a future draftee, Tom Green amassed 37 touches for the GIANTS in a mammoth performance.

Over-agers Jeromy Lucas (33 disposals) and Ed Perryman (31) were not far behind, while Harry Grant put in a big shift for 3.2 from his 23 touches, and 2020 19-year-old hopefuls Matt McGrory and Liam Delahunty also got busy. Green’s current GIANTS teammate Lachlan Ash collected 27 touches and booted a goal as Murray’s skipper, aided by Dylan Clarke and Cam Wild who matched his ball-winning output. Jimmy Boyer also impressed with three goals from over 20 disposals, while former GWS Academy member Charlie Byrne had 20 touches exactly.

Saturday’s final fixture took the competition back down to Victoria, as Calder and Bendigo met at Highgate Reserve. It was the Cannons’ day in another low-scoring affair, leading relatively comfortably at every break to eek out a 16-point win over the Pioneers on home turf. The leading Calder draft candidate to that point, Daniel Mott led the way with 36 disposals and a goal in a game which featured just two eventual draftees.

Jacob Martin enjoyed a breakout performance, racking up 36 touches of his own alongside Mott, while skipper Brodie Newman had 21 from defence and Carlton recruit Sam Ramsay had 16 on the same line. James Schischka was Bendigo’s leading ball winner with 20 disposals, with Sydney draftee Brady Rowles collecting his season-high haul of 17 in tricky conditions.

Heading up north to South Pine in the Sunshine State, Gold Coast took out the overall Academy Series with a well-earned 14-point victory over the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. The visitors pushed the talented academy prospects all the way despite trailing for the game’s entirety, with captain and SUNS AFL rookie Connor Budarick capping off a stellar month with another terrific performance.

His 23 disposals led all comers, with the exciting Hewago Paul Oea managing 19 and two goals, while Ashton Crossley provided good fold in midfield with 19 touches. Bottom-ager Max Pescud booted a game-high four majors, matched by Rebels’ Nick Caris in his second consecutive four-goal game. 2020 over-age hopeful Isaac Wareham notched two goals of his own, with fellow Vic Country representative Mitch Martin also impressing, but Jay Rantall kept quiet at just 14 disposals.

Completing the South Pine double-header were the Brisbane Lions Academy and Dandenong Stingrays, with the visitors claiming a resounding 71-point win on their travels up north. After a low-scoring first half, the Stingrays clicked into gear after the main break with 10 goals to one to comfortably ensure they would remain undefeated and atop the NAB League ladder.

Brisbane skipper Will Martyn stood tall in the defeat with a typically professional 32-disposal performance, with fellow Richmond draftee Noah Cumberland (26 disposals) also returning a good shift. 19-year-old Tom Matthews matched Cumberland’s effort, with bottom-agers Will Tasker and Tahj Abberley also impressing. For Dandenong, new Bulldog Cody Weightman bagged three goals, while fellow draftees Hayden Young (28 disposals), Sam De Koning (17, seven marks) Ned Cahill (21, 1 goal) strutted their stuff. Bottom-ager Clayton Gay was another to catch the eye, booting two goals from 21 touches.

A touch earlier and back in Victoria, the Geelong Falcons proved too good for the previously undefeated Sydney Swans Academy in their clash on neutral territory, upsetting the northern hopefuls with a 31-point win. The home side’s four-goal to one fourth term sealed the final margin, with the contest a touch tighter to that point.

It was the bottom-ager who stole the show in this clash, as Ollie Henry booted four goals for the Falcons alongside Charlie Brauer‘s two, while Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden both managed 22 disposals and a goal each. Geelong captain Jesse Clark was the leading ball winner on the ground with 25 touches, followed closely by Sydney top-ager Sam Thorne (24).

Not much may have been expected of the Gippsland-Eastern clash coming into the season, but it proved to be a belting finals preview as the Power took out the four points in Morwell. The game was tight the whole way through, with the high-quality contest ending in a 10-point triumph to the home side.

As had been the case in previous fixtures, the cream rose to the top as Sam Flanders (25 disposals, two goals), Brock Smith (27 disposals), and Fraser Phillips (20 disposals, three goals) all enjoyed fantastic outings for the winners. The midfield trio of Zak Pretty (28 disposals), Lachlan Stapleton (28), and Mitch Mellis (21) was just as handy for Eastern, while forwards Bailey White and Ben Hickleton notched three goals apiece.

The final game of the round saw a seventh venue used in Ikon Park, as the Northern Knights held off a fast-finishing Northern Territory Thunder Academy. A six-goal third term saw the Knights double their goal tally, and it set up a match-defining margin as they went on to salute to the tune of 38 points. The NT’s campaign would finish winless, but not for a lack of trying and talent.

Josh D’Intinosante and Jackson Davies both had a good amount of ball while also booting two goals each for the winners, while 2020 Vic Metro Hub member Liam McMahon also managed two goals from his 15 disposals and eight marks. Ben Jungfer was the Thunder’s leading ball winner with 22 touches, but it was Malcolm Rosas Jnr who shone with 21 and two goals, while Joel Jeffrey found the ball 21 times, Beau O’Connell 19, and Brodie Lake 16.

Classic Contests: GIANTS hold off Bushrangers in tight contest

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 7 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Murray Bushrangers and GWS GIANTS Academy. In this edition, we wind back the clock only one year to 2019, when the two sides met for the first official time in the NAB League competition.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 2.4 | 5.7 | 7.7 | 11.11 (77)
GWS GIANTS ACADEMY 4.5 | 6.8 | 8.11 | 12.16 (88)

NAB League Round 6 | Saturday May 4, 2019
Albury Sports Ground, 1pm

In a battle of the border, Murray Bushrangers took on the GWS GIANTS Academy having had a number of players who represented both sides over the years. A perfect example was Nick Murray on the GIANTS’ team as the overage had played for the Bushrangers in defence for the years prior. Heading into the match, neither team had set the world on fire, having both played four games and won just one, with the Bushrangers holding a 12 per cent lead over the GIANTS in 13th to 14th on the NAB League Boys ladder. The two players touted as top 10 picks coming into the match were Bushrangers’ Lachlan Ash and GIANTS’ Tom Green who both would end up in the orange and charcoal by year’s ned.

Green made an early statement with a strong mark and goal two minutes into the contest, in what would be a rare appearance up forward. With Harry Grant converting the first of what would be three majors, the GIANTS raced out to a 13-point lead midway through the quarter before Jimmy Boyer and Hudson Kaak broke the Bushrangers’ drought with back-to-back goals in 90 seconds. The visiting team kicked away again with two goals in the last five minutes to lead by 13 points at quarter time.

The Bushrangers needed a response early, and like Green in the first term, this time is was Ash who stepped up with a big goal to give his team confidence. After a couple of near misses, Boyer booted his second of the game to level the scores. Liam Delahunty and Jye Chalcraft traded goals before Grant found his second and the GIANTS had a seven-point buffer at the main break.

Josh Green and Jeromy Lucas booted the first two goals of the term as the GIANTS dominated the third stanza of the match, leading by as much as 22 points at one stage, with 2.3 to 0.0 on the board. Luckily for the Bushrangers, they managed to grab some momentum back going into the final break as Kaak and Mitchell Holt found the big sticks. With the deficit back to a manageable 10 points, it was well and truly game on in the final term.

GIANTS’ Lucas Conlan kicked the all-important first goal of the term, before Chalcraft capitalised with his second and the margin was back to 13 points. A couple of misses and then a third Grant goal had the GIANTS back out to a 20-point lead with 15 minutes left on the clock. With a scoreline of 10.15 inaccuracy was an issue for the visitors despite the solid advantage. Lachlan Sykes kept the Bushrangers hopes alive with an important goal, but back-to-back misses, this time from Ash and Chalcraft left Murray with some work to do at 11 points down. With seven minutes remaining, Matthew Hamblin booted his second and the game was as good as done with a couple of late goals to Cam Wilson and Boyer either side of Conlan’s second was not enough to get their side over the line.

It was no surprise to see Tom Green at the top of the disposal count with a mammoth 37 touches, 11 clearances, three marks, five tackles, five hitouts, two inside 50s and a goal in a best on ground performance. Lucas was not too far behind with 33 touches, seven marks, five tackles, four clearances, five inside 50s and a goal, while Ed Perryman picked up 31 disposals, nine marks and six rebounds out of defence. Up forward, Grant booted three majors from 23 touches and eight marks while laying eight tackles, as Liam Delahunty was busy with 21 disposals, seven marks, three tackles, seven inside 50s and a goal. Murray had five rebounds from 10 touches and four marks against his former side, while Conlan and Josh Green both booted multiple goals.

Ash was one of three players to record the most disposals, teaming up with fellow midfielders, Dylan Clarke and Cameron Wild. All three had 27 disposals, and combined for 13 marks and eight clearances. Ash also had the five inside 50s and a goal, while Boyer was the most lively in the forward half with three majors from 22 disposals, five marks and three clearances. Sam Durham (22 disposals, four marks, six tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s) and Charlie Byrne (20 disposals, three tackles and nine rebounds) also found plenty of the ball, while Chalcraft (14 touches, four marks) and Kaak (eight touches, three marks) booted two goals each.

The win was the GIANTS’ last match in the Academy Series, finishing with a 2-3 record, while the Bushrangers would go on to finish ninth, only to narrowly bow out to Dandenong Stingrays in Wildcard Round.

Q&A: Charlie Byrne (Murray Bushrangers/Allies)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Murray Bushrangers’ Charlie Byrne at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

A forward-moving half-back, Byrne impressed in his 16 NAB League outings across 2019 with his ability to generate run and penetrate either arc from defence. The 184cm prospect was also previously been developed through the GWS Academy system, and he has gone on to represent New South Wales at both Under 16 and 17 level.

Having been named in the Allies squad last year despite not getting on the park, Byrne has become a leader among the group and will look to further his game in a half-back/midfield role this season – should it get underway.

Q&A:

MA: Charlie, how’s the day been so far?

CB: “It’s been good. “Eventful for some of the boys, me not particularly. “But it’s been a good day, looking at all the other boys and seeing what they’re capable of.

“Other than that it’s all a bunch of fun, but I think we’re all pushing each other so the day’s been really good. “Couldn’t ask for any better, especially being inside so I don’t have to deal with wind (or) rain.”

How’ve you gone with the testing, do you feel that you’ve improved?

“Yeah, from last year I reckon I’ve improved. “Obviously I needed to, but testing this year for me I’ve actually really enjoyed. “I think I’ve improved in the majority of the things which I find is a big tick for me. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better, just the 20m sprint I didn’t do as well as I wanted but I did what I needed to.”

“The testing day’s also a learning (experience), you go away from it and know what you have to get better at so for me it’s just a big learning day as well.”

And you’ve had a pretty big pre-season so far?

“Pre-season was better and bigger than the others but we dealt with it pretty well. “I think we got through all the hard conditions, got up to 40 (degrees) and we were still doing what we needed to do.

“But I think this year’s pre-season’s really shown all the boys their characters, and I think it’s gotten the best out of me as well so I loved the pre-season this year, loved getting out there and just doing what I needed to do.”

In your bottom-age year, surely there was no better mentor to have as a half-back than Lachie Ash?

“Yeah he told me what to do and I learned from it. “I’d have to give him credit for me just playing this year knowing what he did and me trying to replicate it. “There’s nothing better than Lachie Ash going pick four and playing off half-back, him giving me tips. “He was obviously ripping into me when I needed it but I loved playing alongside him and learning.”

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

“I was quite excited to play with Elijah (Hollands) but it’s unlucky for him, we all were pretty upset about it but that’s just how it goes, you’ve just got to live on. “But I’m pretty keen to play again with Campbell Chesser and Josh Rachele, even Zavier Maher and Harry Beasley coming off half-back. “There’s a lot.”

And with the Allies as well?

“Yeah with the Allies this year and growing up from bottom-age last year to now, I’m seeing myself almost as a leader. “Not to the point where I am a leader but I’m more vocal around the boys and being more vocal gets me to be a better football player as well, just being comfortable.

“So I think the Allies this year has given me a big step up, knowing where I have to be and with those boys pushing me as well. “Unluckily for me I don’t get to play with many of them throughout the season but being around that kind of environment keeps me going and I really love playing with those kinds of players.”

How’s the Academy been for your development over the years?

“Being in the New South Wales development squads, like the GIANTS all the way up to 16s, then going to the Bushies has been quite interesting. “I think (having played) for New South Wales, Victorian and New South Wales footballers are a lot different. The Vics are real big-bodied and structured whereas New-South is like you’re running a bit more.”

“I reckon I learned quick hands and quick skills off New-South and then went to Vic footy and it’s a whole different ball game but learning to cop the hits and get in position I reckon has helped me out tremendously and I just really couldn’t have asked for any better. I reckon it’s given me a huge advantage.”

Are you looking to change position at all this season?

“My heart is set on half-back. “I love playing off half-back, but I really think I’ll strive to play midfield this year. I think as a midfielder you have to be fit and I’ve been pushing to get to that stage where I am fit enough, so I think midfield/half-back will be my position this year.”

Have you set any goals so far?

“I think the main goal for me this year is being happy and not taking anything for granted. “I think boys tend in their draft year to stress out about drafting too much. “I think I really just need to sit here and enjoy it, and just play my football, play how I enjoy, play my brand of football. “If it’s good enough, it’ll get me there. I’m not stressing out, putting all those grey hairs on top of my head.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classic Contests: Power pip Bushrangers in RAMS thriller

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest it is a clash between sides who would have played in Round 1 this year. Today we travel back in time to last year’s Round 1 encounter between the Murray Bushrangers and Gippsland Power who played out a thriller at windy Craigieburn.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 2.4 | 6.6 | 9.9 | 9.12 (66)
GIPPSLAND POWER 2.1 | 6.3 | 9.4 | 10.9 (69)

Round 1 | Sunday, March 24, 2019
RAMS Arena, Craigieburn, 1.00pm

Fresh optimism joined two country sides at Highgate Recreation Reserve for the start of a new season in 2019. The newly rebranded NAB League was about to get underway and Gippsland Power were considered one of the title contenders. The Power had been smashed in the previous preliminary final with the majority of their top-end players in their bottom-age year so there was much excitement about what they could produce in 2019. Murray was always a tough competitor and nearly always produced a hard-fought effort regardless of opponent. With a top five talent in Lachlan Ash co-captaining the side and one of Gippsland Power’s top talents in Caleb Serong out of the team for his respective side, it was anticipated to be a beauty, and the game did not let spectators down.

In what was ultimately a see-sawing affair for the most part, it was Murray that always seemed to have the upper hand when required. The Bushrangers led by three points at the first break and whilst they were missing some opportunities (booting 2.4), they were getting more looks on goal than their highly fancied opponents. The one player on the opposition side that was making life particularly difficult was Kyle Dunkley, who had crossed back to the Power having finished his schooling last year and missing out on being drafted after a season with Oakleigh Chargers. Seemingly making the transition from medium forward to inside midfielder, Dunkley was everywhere with a long-range goal a highlight in the first half. Up the other end, it was co-captain Cam Wilson who was keeping his side in front, with the Murray forward having a real day out roaming in and out of the forward 50 and providing a target despite being just 170cm. At one stage in the second term, Gippsland got out to an 11-point lead before the Bushrangers hit back to grab the advantage at the main break courtesy of a Wilson major.

The second half started and it was more of the same with both sides challenging and making it increasingly difficult to pick a winner. Gippsland seemed to be more on top by kicking consecutive goals, but again Murray would get back in front with Wilson’s third late in the term. By the final break, the Bushrangers led by five points, but were far from sage. In what would be an arm-wrestle of a last term, the Power would kick three consecutive behinds before Harrison Pepper broke free and converted a major to be the difference. With less than 10 minutes remaining, Gippsland had the eighth lead change, which would be the last. Another couple of behinds to the Power stretched the lead out to three points, with Murray doing most of the attacking in the dying few minutes to try and get a result. Jimmy Boyer and Jye Chalcraft both kicked behinds to get within three, and while the Bushrangers had the ball when the siren sounded, Will Chandler was just too far out to score, and played on with the sounding.

The game would ultimately throw Dunkley in the spotlight for his 21 disposals, six marks, seven tackles, three clearances, six inside 50s, two rebounds and three goals to land at Melbourne in the mid-season draft. In the absence of his partner-in-crime, Sam Flanders had a strong performance with 19 disposals, two marks, five tackles, six clearances, six inside 50s and three rebounds through the midfield, while Pepper – who would later become a defender throughout the year – booted two majors including the match-winner from 13 disposals, six marks and four tackles. Ryan Sparkes was the top ball-winner for the Power with 26 touches, three marks, four tackles, three inside 50s and eight rebounds, while future Lions talent and Power captain, Brock Smith had a solid 18 disposals, four marks, three clearances and four rebounds working tirelessly from defence. In terms of other future draftees who played, Leo Connolly (10 disposals), Fraser Phillips (five) and Charlie Comben (three) were all relatively quiet compared to their output later in the season. Talented bottom-ager Sam Berry also made his presence felt in the match, winning a team-high 13 contested disposals, and picking up 18 disposals, five marks, five tackles, four clearances, six inside 50s and a goal to arguably be second best behind Dunkley.

For the Bushrangers, it was the co-captains who led the way with Ash (24 disposals, eight marks, six tackles, two clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds showing off his slick skills, while Wilson finished with 21 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s and three goals in a best-on performance for the losing side. Dylan Clarke (24 disposals, five marks, four tackles, five clearances and five inside 50s) and Cameron Wild (22 disposals, five marks, three tackles, five inside 50s and four rebounds) mixed well on the inside and outside, while Boyer had 16 touches, three marks, five clearances, five inside 50s and two rebounds. Top prospect for 2020, Elijah Hollands looked ever-dangerous inside 50 but could not quite find the accuracy with the wind, recording 15 disposals, 10 marks, three tackles, four inside 50s and 1.3 for the day. He was far from alone though with Boyer (three behinds), Clarke (two) and Chandler (two) also missing opportunities. Another player who stood out in the loss was overage tall, Ben Kelly who racked up 14 touches, seven marks, 25 hitouts, three clearances, two inside 50s and four rebounds seemingly everywhere on the ground.

At the end of the season it was a similar story for Gippsland Power who ultimately suffered a disappointing defeat in the preliminary final after looking so impressive in week one of the finals against eventual premiers, Oakleigh Chargers. For Murray, the Bushrangers would go onto miss finals after bowing out in Wildcard Round to Dandenong Stingrays at Box Hill.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 1 – Future Blues light up Ikon Park

A SPIRITED comeback from the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels was not enough to see them topple the Dandenong Stingrays in the opening round of the 2019 season. The Stingrays led by as much as 36 points at the 15-minute mark of the third term, before the Rebels bolted home to boot eight of the last 12 goals to get within eight points with eight minutes remaining in the game. Unfortunately for the home side, they could only manage back-to-back behinds on the day.

Captain and top prospect, Hayden Young had 15 disposals, five marks, four tackles and seven rebounds in the Stingrays’ win, while the talented Cody Weightman had 12 disposals, two tackles, three inside 50s and a goal. It was Lachlan Williams in defence who was instrumental with 23 disposals and 11 rebounds, as bottom-age talent Clayton Gay had a big game across the ground, picking up 20 disposals, three marks, three inside 50s, two rebounds and two goals. Future draftees, Bigoa Nyuon (seven disposals, three marks, 13 hitouts, four inside 50s and two goals) and Ned Cahill (nine disposals, two marks, three tackles and two goals) had an impact, and Sam De Koning (six disposals, three hitouts, one rebound) also played in the match. Mitchell Riordan also started his overage year positively – though he would only be at the club for another month and a half before heading north – picking up 16 touches, four marks, three tackles, six clearances and five inside 50s.

A former Australian basketballer by the name of Jay Rantall made his debut for the GWV Rebels, picking up 24 touches and having five clearances in a strong performance through the midfield group. Cooper Craig-Peters led the way with 30 disposals (16 contested), 10 tackles, 10 clearances, four inside 50s and a goal, while Mitch Martin (24 disposals, four clearances, seven inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal) and Matty Lloyd (26 disposals, nine marks, three clearances, four inside 50s and three goals) also impressed despite the loss.

The next day, Murray Bushrangers and Gippsland Power engaged in an equally tough tussle at Rams Arena, where Will Chandler had the ball in the dying seconds, but was just a touch too far out to score as the Bushrangers went down by three points. The Bushrangers had been in front by that margin at quarter time and half-time against the title-contending Power team, and even led by as much as five points at the final break. But the only goal of the final term went to the Power in what was a struggle between two top defences in the 10.9 (69) to 8.12 (66) defeat.

Kyle Dunkley made onlookers check twice when they saw the former Oakleigh Chargers forward dominating through the midfield for Gippsland on his way to 21 disposals, six marks, seven tackles, three clearances, six inside 50s and three goals in what would prove to be one of only a handful of outings at NAB League level, switching RAMS Arena for Etihad Stadium. Without Caleb Serong, it was Sam Flanders who brought the highlights, picking up 19 disposals, two marks, five tackles, six clearances and six inside 50s, while Ryan Sparkes had the most touches with 26 disposals, three marks, four tackles, three inside 50s and eight rebounds. Charlie Comben returned for a modest three touches, two marks and 11 hitouts, while other future draftees who played in the game included Brock Smith (18 disposals, four marks and four rebounds), Harrison Pepper (13 disposals, six marks and four tackles), Leo Connolly (10 disposals, two marks) and Fraser Phillips (five disposals, two marks and one goal).

It was no surprise to see future GIANT, Lachlan Ash having a big day out for Murray with 24 disposals, eight marks, six tackles, two clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds, while the midfield duo of Dylan Clarke (24 touches, five marks, four tackles, five clearances and five inside 50s) and Cameron Wild (22 disposals, five marks, five inside 50s and four rebounds) were productive. Co-captain Cameron Wilson slotted three goals in a big game up forward with 21 disposals, seven marks and five inside 50s, while bottom-age talent Elijah Hollands showed off his class with 15 disposals, 10 marks, four inside 50s and a goal.

At RSEA Park, premiership contenders Sandringham Dragons made an early statement on the competition with a big win over Calder. The Dragons had a host of draftable prospects heading into the year and destroyed Calder Cannons by 109 points. It was the likes of future Saint, Ryan Byrnes (26 disposals, five marks, four tackles, five clearances, six inside 50s and a goal) and future Hawk, Finn Maginness (23 disposals, three marks, seven tackles, six clearances and a goal) who shone. Louis Butler (22 disposals) and Miles Bergman (16) both had strong games, as top 10 pick Fischer McAsey had two rebounds from 14 disposals and five marks in what was a pretty comfortable day to be a Dragons defender. Instead it was Charlie Dean‘s five goals that stole the show. For the Cannons, future draftees Sam Ramsay (23 disposals, three marks and a goal) and Harrison Jones (12 disposals, three marks and six hitouts) both played, while Tye Browning and Daniel Mott did all they could sharing in 24 disposals each, with Mott also having four clearances and six inside 50s.

A full-strength Oakleigh Chargers also had an impressive win in the first match of the season against a far-from-disgraced Eastern Ranges outfit. Top two picks, Matt Rowell (21 touches, five tackles, four clearances and one goal) and Noah Anderson (26 disposals, five marks, five clearances, six inside 50s and four goals) were the best, as Joe Ayton-Delaney picked up a game-high 32 touches as well as nine clearances, four inside 50s and five rebounds. The likes of future draftees, Trent Bianco (22 disposals, four marks, three tackles and three clearances) and Dylan Williams (19 disposals, five clearances, six inside 50s and a goal) were also prominent. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan made his Oakleigh debut but was quiet with four touches and two marks, though fellow bottom-age prospect Will Phillips was solid with 17 disposals and five tackles. Future draftees Nick Bryan (10 disposals, 18 hitouts) and Lachlan Johnson (11 touches, five tackles) also played in the match. For Eastern, soon-to-be-listed Swans player, Cody Hirst had 20 touches, five clearances and three inside 50s in the loss, as bottom-age talent Connor Downie was strong alongside top-age hopefuls Zakery Pretty and Mitch Mellis.

Bendigo Pioneers also opened their season off on the right foot courtesy of a big 43-point win over Geelong Falcons. Future Cat, Cooper Stephens did all he could for the Falcons in the loss, picking up 22 touches, three marks, three tackles, four clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds, working hard with Jesse Clark (24 disposals, seven marks and four rebounds). For the Pioneers, Thomson Dow quickly asserted himself on the competition with two goals from 28 disposals, eight marks, three clearances and three inside 50s, while fellow first round selection Brodie Kemp had 22 touches, three marks, five tackles, five clearances and three inside 50s. The Pioneers’ other draftee in the match was Brady Rowles who helped himself to 15 touches, two clearances and two rebounds.

In the final game of the round, Western Jets got up in a thrilling come-from-behind seven-point victory over Northern Knights at Ikon Park. They teams traded blows throughout the match and the Knights led by 18 points at the final break, but a high-scoring last term saw the Jets pile on six goals to two to run over the top of Northern in the end. Future Blue, Josh Honey lit up his future home training ground with 22 touches, six marks, three clearances, six inside 50s and a goal, while future Hawk, Emerson Jeka booted a goal from 14 touches, six marks and four inside 50s. If Honey being Western’s best at Carlton’s home was not freaky enough, Sam Philp – one of Carlton’s first round draft picks – stamped his authority with 22 disposals, nine tackles, nine clearances, three inside 50s and a goal for the Knights. Josh D’Intinosante and Ryan Sturgess booted two goals apiece from 20 touches, while competition leading goalkicker, Archi Manton snagged three majors on his way to that title.

2020 NAB League Boys team preview: Murray Bushrangers

MUCH of the attention given to Murray’s off-season has surrounded the heart-breaking knee injury to number one pick candidate, Elijah Hollands, but the Bushrangers are still primed to make strides on a rollercoaster 2019 campaign. A resilient program, Murray has had to prove as much over what Talent Manager Mick Wilson described as a “massive” pre-season, despite facing a few interruptions along the way.

“We’ve had a massive preseason, we started back in November,” Wilson said. “We’ve had our challenges obviously with the extreme heat and also the fires, we had some training sessions that were postponed because of the smoke, but we’ve got a pretty resilient group of kids and we’re looking forward to a positive season.”

“We’re really confident with the players that we’ve got. “The way things have panned out, the coaching staff have done an incredible job, so we think we’re pretty lucky and hopefully we have a good year on and off the field.”

Hollands’ response to his season-ending injury has been another showing of the resilience according to Wilson, but he is confident the talented midfielder-forward has put enough runs on the board to justify attention from AFL clubs come draft time.

“Obviously it was shattering for him,” he said. “He just basically changed direction and his foot got stuck in the ground and he suffered a ruptured ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), ruptured LCL (lateral collateral ligament) and a torn bicep femoris tendon so that was a significant injury but we know that Elijah had surgery on Thursday just gone and he’s here today (Saturday) and you just wouldn’t know that there’s anything wrong. “He’s a very resilient kid, but we’re hoping that he’s done enough last season to end up on an AFL club this time next year and if you do an ACL it’s best to do it now because hopefully this time next year you’ll be ready to go to just be in match mode.”

Hollands looked primed to follow in the footsteps of Murray’s sole 2019 draftee, Lachlan Ash in pushing for top-end selection, and while he may well still do so, the Bushrangers will have to fare on-field without him this year. Some promising bottom-agers coming through and a more even spread of talent points towards covering the loss through midfield, but in Wilson’s assessment, the Bushrangers will have less of that traditional spine make-up over years gone by.

“We’re lucky, we have a fair bit of midfield cover this year,” Wilson said. “That was probably one area that we lacked last year; you mentioned (Zavier) Maher, Josh (Rachele), Kade Chalcraft‘s another player who could spend some time inside mid, Charlie Byrne from Albury is another player who’s in the Allies Hub who will probably come into consideration. “We’ve got Tommy Panuccio, he played mainly on the wing last year but he’ll probably come into midfield calculations as well. “We think we’ve got enough cover there, we won’t be able to cover Elijah with his ability to play a key position role, but we’re confident with the midfield cover. “Traditionally the Bushrangers have been fairly strong down the spine and we probably don’t have the same cover there we’ve had in past years. “We think we’ve got more of an even team across the board. “We have a very strong bottom-age group coming through, the Under 16 team went through undefeated in the Country Championships last year. “We’ve got seven players in the Academies – two in the Allies Academy and five in the Vic Country Hub. “The way things are shaping at the moment we think we’ll be competitive and hopefully improve on last year.”

Another boost to the squad will be the return of a few 19-year-olds, as well as the rise of some pre-season surprise packets who Wilson highlighted at the NAB League pre-season testing day.

“Sammy Durham who has played mainly wing last year, he’s been offered a Richmond VFL contract, so when Sammy’s in the team he will come in the midfield as well,” he said. “Will Chandler, he’s had a terrific preseason, he’s put on seven kilos. “Will is another player who will transition through the mid, start off higher half-forward and transition through midfield – he’s had an amazing preseason, he’s super fit. “Hudson Kaak who has pretty much been injured or sick in his first two years, as a 19-year-old hopefully he will get a good run at it, he will play mainly forward. “We also have Nick Irvine who had a really strong finish to 2018, came back last year and got a bout of glandular fever which manifested into chronic fatigue, so his season was written off last year. “We’re looking forward to seeing Nick have a really strong year as well.”

“We’ve had a few boys come in from local footy who haven’t been involved in the program or who have missed out as bottom-age players. “Declan Bren from Myrtleford has had a preseason, he booted four goals in an intraclub against the GIANTS Academy in a quarter. “Daniel Turner from Albury, Daniel tried out for the Under 17s and missed out but he’s since grown and got a lot fitter. “He will probably play key back for us even though he plays mid at his own club, he’s 194cm and a really good contested mark and a strong kick so we think he’ll have a really good year. “There’s two boys who have come into the program. Connor Hangan from Shepparton is another boy who has spent most of his time playing cricket and he hasn’t really focused too much on footy and he’s coming in as a top-ager as well.”

With plenty of prospects to keep an eye out for, Murray promises to be a fun team to watch in 2020. The Bushrangers were set to kick off the NAB League season against Gippsland on Saturday, but will instead do so once the competition returns from postponement.

2019 AFL Draft club review: Melbourne Demons

ONE of the most talked about clubs heading into the 2019 AFL National Draft, the Demons looked set to shake up the first round with two top 10 picks at the conclusion of what could only be described as a horror season for the 2018 preliminary finalists. Needing some firepower up forward, in particular a key forward and a small pressure forward, as well as some outside midfield depth, Melbourne would only end up using three selections, and traded back from Pick 8 to Pick 10 – which would become Pick 12 – to select a first round bolter. They then proceeded to select a slider which balanced the proceedings on most draft boards, and Demons fans can come away knowing that there are some strong foundations for the future with the draft haul.

MELBOURNE:

National Draft:
3. Luke Jackson (East Fremantle/Western Australia) | 199cm | 94kg | Ruck
12. Kysaiah Pickett (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia) | 171cm | 71kg | Small Forward
32. Trent Rivers (East Fremantle/Western Australia) | 188cm | 83kg | Defender/Midfielder

Rookie Draft:
Nil.

Melbourne had what was effectively the first “live” selection in the AFL National Draft last Wednesday night, after Gold Coast SUNS made no secret that Oakleigh Chargers duo Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson were the first two selections. Demons fans tended to lean towards Hayden Young or Lachlan Ash with the need for skill coming off half-back, but recruiting guru Jason Taylor had other ideas. Many might have baulked at the idea of the Demons selecting the crop’s best ruck in Luke Jackson with the third selection, especially given for all of Melbourne’s shortcomings on-field, the dominance of Max Gawn is not one of them. But instead, Taylor picked the high upside East Fremantle talent with the belief that he could be the next Brodie Grundy, and in the meantime, hone his craft as a key forward. Jackson’s mobility is much greater than that of Gawn of Braydon Preuss, and would allow the teenager to play alongside one of them more effectively than if that duo were together. Simon Goodwin also hinted during the week that perhaps Jackson could develop into a new-age midfielder, and while it would be partially tongue-in-cheek, the West Australian’s mobility is one of his greatest strengths.

A month out from the draft, the lightning fast, aggressive tackling machine in Kysaiah ‘Kossie’ Pickett was predominantly ranked around the mid-second round. But like Cody Weightman and Miles Bergman after him, the small forward bolted into the first round and became the first of the trio selected in the end. Standing at just 171cm and 71kg, Pickett is not afraid of the contest and loves crashing into opponents and bringing them to ground. Along with his defensive pressure, Pickett has all the traits to be a highlight reel machine, flying for big grabs and snapping unbelievable goals. The only downside is his size which will limit midfield development, but there is nothing stopping him playing a similar role to Eddie Betts, while Pickett’s uncle Byron was made for the biggest stages. While he might have been considered a bolter, the Demons levelled it out with Trent Rivers at Pick 32 with the West Australian a slider in the draft. He joined his Sharks’ teammate Jackson at the Dees, and could play off half-back or along a wing wherever they see fit. Rivers also has the size and hands to play on the inside, making him the ultimate utility. Given he could well be a first round talent, Melbourne picked up a bargain in the mid second round.

The Demons had two picks in the AFL Rookie Draft and passed both, meaning they will have two spots to potentially hand to players over the off-season depending on how they train at the club. They could also hold onto a list spot for the mid-season draft and wait and see which players have started 2020 in good form before offering a list spot to them. While the Demons might have picked up a ruck, Jackson is more than capable of playing a forward role if required, and given the lack of pure key forwards in the draft, he would be one of the more desirable ones in that area. Pickett and Rivers are perfect needs, and Melbourne fans could expect Rivers to potentially play games next year, as could Jackson, while Pickett might feature later in the year, especially to give fans a taste of what he is capable of.