Tag: leigh brown

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Port Adelaide Magpies vs. Gippsland Power

OUR next All-Star Team battle is between a South Australian club in the Port Adelaide Magpies, and a Victorian region in the Gippsland Power. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Collingwood greats, Nathan Buckley (Port Adelaide) and Scott Pendlebury (Gippsland).


These clubs are seeded third (Port Adelaide) and 14th (Gippsland) respectively, forming another Round of 16 clash in our draw. Port defeated Peel Thunder to earn its place in the stage, while Gippsland got the nod over South Adelaide. The winner will qualify for the quarter finals, set to face either West Adelaide or the Dandenong Stingrays.


It’s a near-pointless task identifying the strengths of our proposed Port Adelaide Magpies side, because it is ridiculously good across all three lines. The defence is terrific, headed by the Wakelin brothers – Darryl and Shane – while Brownlow medalists Gavin Wanganeen and Andrew McLeod feature on one side, and are accompanied by 300-gamer Corey Enright and Graham Johncock on the other.

There’s such a great mix of skill and solidity in that bunch, and same goes for the midfield group. The brawn of Buckley and Scott Thompson is complemented well by the presence of Craig Bradley, with the trio boasting nearly 1000 games of AFL experience between them. A bit of x-factor is also evident as Byron Pickett lines up on the wing, while Alan Didak takes his place up forward.

Gippsland’s midfield combination makes for arguably its strongest line, with Pendlebury at the heart of it alongside fellow premiership Magpie, Dale Thomas and Essendon captain, Dyson Heppell. Their presence pushes Brendon Goddard out to the wing, making for a versatile mix of engine room operators. The rebounding quality in defence is also prevalent, led by former Bulldogs skipper Robert Murphy and current Carlton co-captain Sam Docherty, while Jason Gram and David Wojcinski take up either pocket. Needless to say, the side is also made up of plenty of leadership material.


Picking out weaknesses in the Port Adelaide side is like splitting hairs, though one slight issue may emerge against even stronger sides. While quite capable as a premiership player, Scott Lycett is billed to carry the ruck duties largely alone, and would even be tested against the Power as Leigh Brown supports Nathan Vardy.

While Brown takes his spot deep in Gippsland’s forwardline, the Power’s lack of a couple more true key position players could be costly. The 191cm Sean Dempster and 194cm Mark Stevens slot in up either end, and are surrounded by plenty of class.


You simply cannot go past the Port Adelaide Magpies in this matchup, with their class across the board simply too much for the Power. The Magpies match, if not beat Gippsland’s greatest strengths, and will go deep in this tournament.

Which All-Star Team would you pick?
Port Adelaide Magpies
Gippsland Power
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Draft Central All-Star Teams: Gippsland Power

GIPPSLAND Power has a really solid All-Star team. With a nice mix of toughness and class, the Power have a lot of versatile options making it a dream for any coach. From a classy midfield to key position utilities and running half-backs, the Power have a team that could match it with most others in this series.


The team has a nice balance across the board in terms of smalls and talls, as well as some nice depth off the bench. The Power would be able to size up well against most oppositions and have no shortage of captain nominees with an array of AFL captains past and present in the team. In this scenario though, Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury will lead the team out after being voted the Power’s All-Star Player of the AFL Era via our Instagram polls.


The defence has a nice balance to it, with Sydney and St Kilda key defender Sean Dempster and North Melbourne big man Lachlan Hansen able to take the key position players. Tyson Goldsack provides some good height off the bench and could play tall or small. In the back pockets, a couple of underrated players in David Wojcinski and Jason Gram slot into the team, with Wojcinski no stranger to success with three flags to his name.

The real X-factor is off half-back where Sam Docherty and Robert Murphy provide some elite talent. They will bring the run out of the back 50, and with both Wojcinski and Gram able to also add rebounding prowess, the Power would be able to cover the slower key defenders in this instance. Docherty could also move into the midfield if needed, allowing Goldsack to add a third tall if the opposition side tried to stretch the defence. Xavier Ellis is another could come off the bench and play half-back, or push up to a wing.


Class with a capital ‘C’ is the best way to put it. Pendlebury is Mr Dependable having the most accolades of anyone in the side thanks to six All-Australians, five best and fairests, four All-Australian 40-squad nominations, a Norm Smith and 194 Brownlow votes. He is joined in the middle by two-time All-Australian and one-time best and fairest winner Brendon Goddard, with former Magpie turned Blue, Dale Thomas, and current Bomber Dyson Heppell rounding out a strong core. Goddard could also play defence or forward, which gives the Power great versatility in the line-up.

Greg Tivendale is the odd one out in the sense that his career ended when most of the other midfielders in this group were starting to hit their straps. Off the bench, the Power has a number of options from which to rotate, including Troy Makepeace, Luke Ablett, Jason Winderlich and Josh Dunkley. With limited ruck options, Nathan Vardy gets the nod after 68 games and 42 goals – second lowest only to Dunkley (66 and 36).


A tall forward line to be fair, with Jarryd Roughead the key centre piece and sole Coleman Medallist in the side. He also has success with four flags to his name and stands alongside fellow tall, Leigh Brown who could play anywhere on the field, but we have slotted him in the forward pocket. Mark Stevens at centre half-forward booted 123 goals in 122 games playing in a premiership with Adelaide to make it a three-prong tall attack.

Tim Membrey could be argued as even a fourth tall, but he adds a slightly different element to the others, and he makes the side off 169 goals in 92 games. The two smalls are Tom Papley and Jarryd Blair who would create some goals out of nothing, and Papley is one who could become something really special in the years to come. There might not be too many options coming off the bench from a forward perspective, but Dunkley could roll through here if need be.


With the talent at the Power’s disposal, the depth wains a little outside the top 25, but there are a number of players who were able to forge out 90-plus game careers such as Tomas Bugg (94), Andrew McQualter (94), Ben Robbins (92) and Koby Stevens (91), while Brent Macaffer won a premiership with the Magpies playing a strong role in 2010.

Q&A: Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

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

Lazzaro enters his top-age year on the back of an impressive under-age resume, having represented Vic Country at the Under 16 national carnival in 2018 and notched eight NAB League appearances in 2019. In those eight outings, the 178cm prospect showed his wares as a rugged inside midfielder, averaging 20 disposals, 4.1 tackles, and 4.1 clearances at either end of his school football campaign with Geelong College.

An impressive athlete to boot, Lazzaro lit up the pre-season testing day with a 3.10-second time in the 20m sprint, 7.79 in the agility, and a 21.5 score in the yo-yo test. The St Mary’s product is also looking to expand his game in a more forward-oriented role this year, all while maintaining his effort to be “a well-rounded person” with his studies and passion for psychology in tow. Hear more from the man himself in our Q&A special.

MA: How’s the day been for you?

CL: “It’s been really exciting, Mike. I definitely came here with a mindset to try and get some PBs (personal bests). Obviously it’s a big trip up the highway for all of us (Falcons) to come here this morning, but definitely with the intentions to get some PBs and help support my teammates along the way.”

How do you think you went?

“I ended up getting three PBs today so was really stoked with the outcome of how it all went.. “I’m glad that so far I’ve been able to do that.”

How’s the testing here and getting those PBs going to translate to your game heading into the season?

“Obviously I really pride my game on contested work. “Being only 180cm I think if I can burrow in on the inside and also use my pace and endurance on the outside to generate some ball along the way I think that really compliments the way I play.”

“Hopefully we can string a few more wins together this year, unlike last year unfortunately. “But I think it’ll hold my game in good stead for the future.”

The experience last year for your top-age group now would have been invaluable, do you agree?

“Yeah, definitely as a bottom-ager I think in the final game against Sandringham we ended up having 20 bottom-agers play. “So it really just goes to show that towards the back-end of the year how good some of the bottom-agers were putting games together, and I think if we come together collectively this year we’ll be a very strong side within the NAB League competition.”

You might have a bit on your plate with school footy, Geelong, and Vic Country – how do you balance that and what position do you see yourself playing?

“So I think at the Falcons last year I played a lot as an inside mid with Cooper Stephens going down, however I did spend a bit of time as a small forward and speaking to Leigh Brown and Daff (Luke Daffy) and my school coach, Luke Primus, I think it’d be a strong idea for me to add another string to my bow and play as a small forward.

“Also to give myself a bit more exposure in not exactly one position, but to have two as well. “I think going forward, definitely just developing forward craft, just doing the basics really well – I think all good footballers know how to do the basics really well and I’m just going to try and build my game around that.”

You’re going to be playing alongside a heap of talent in those teams, who are some of the guys you’re looking forward to playing alongside?

“I think definitely someone who has shot onto the equation recently would be Cam Fleeton. “I’m really excited to play with him, he’s been given the captain’s nod this year with Gennaro Bove as well to lead the Falcons and I’m really excited to play a bit of footy with Cam.

“Someone as well like Ollie Henry, Henry Walsh, Tanner Bruhn – all really good bottom-agers that have really showcased a lot of footy through the last couple of years. I’m really excited for the possible prospect of us all coming together and playing some really good footy.”

Are there any goals personally that you’re looking to tick off this year?

“I think just on top of footy I really do want to do well at school. I pride myself on being a well-rounded person, so a goal of mine this year would definitely be to get a decent ATAR, get through the school year, get through healthy – you can only play footy when you’re healthy. “So if I can stay healthy for as long as possible, hopefully that’ll hold me in good stead for the rest of the year.”

I know footy’s the ultimate goal, but what are you looking to do with your studies?

“I’m actually really passionate about psychology. “Going forward, if I do end up making a career out of footy that’d be great, however I do think I’d like to pursue studies in psychology. “That’s just a real passion of mine and I think it’s something I can take going forward and really look to impact other peoples’ lives and help shed a positive light around mental health and some of the other stigmas around those topics.”

As part of the Falcons’ culture, do they encourage you to have that life outside of football?

“Definitely. Mick’s (Mick Turner) been really big on that, and same as Daff throughout even last year, just saying that obviously at the end of the day if you do have a bad game or you are having a bad couple of weeks, or even if you are having a purple patch, it’s just a game of footy at the end of the day.

“We just really need to look at taking it day-by-day, week-by-week, trusting our process at the Falcons, trusting each-other and I think that’s really just the message that they’ve instilled in us over the last couple of years.”

Thankful Hollands sees positivity in knee injury

POTENTIAL top pick, Elijah Hollands has no intention of focusing on the negatives of his lengthy stint on the sidelines. The Murray Bushrangers and Vic Country star unfortunately suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in his knee at training prior to his first practice match of the year, which ruled him out for the entire 2020 season.

Having achieved the rare feat of playing every game for Vic Country as a bottom-ager, Hollands was regarded as a top five pick, and potential number one selection with his size, high-flying ability and class among his key standout attributes. Speaking to the 188cm forward/midfielder at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me, Hollands said he was optimistic about the road to recovery after a successful surgery just two days prior to the testing.

“It’s (the recovery) going really well,” he said. “I had the operation on Thursday, went into Epworth and got it done by Tim Whitehead and came out with no issues. “The surgery went really well, I was looked after really well by everyone there. “The long road starts now but I’ll be back, it’s just one of those things unfortunately with footy.”

He said prior to the knee injury, it had been a good pre-season and he was looking forward to attacking the matchplay. Though he will now not get a chance to run out in a competitive match, Hollands has remained positive that he can benefit from missing out.

“I was feeling pretty fit and strong,” Hollands said. “I had a pretty good pre-season with the Vic Country boys and the Bushies boys. “I was really looking forward to getting into things. “I was four days away from my first practice match, but I’ll be okay. “I’ll get the chance to come back even fitter and stronger now, so I look forward to that.”

His preseason also included having a run around with the reigning premiers, Richmond at training as part of the Vic Country Hub program. Joined by Murray teammate Zavier Maher, Hollands said it was an “awesome” experience and they felt like part of the team immediately.

“Zav Maher and I went down to Richmond in the first week of December,” he said. “The Richmond guys were sensational in the way they went about it, and included us straight away from the first session we were in so they were pretty awesome.”

It was somewhat fitting that Hollands landed at the Tigers, the club where his father, Ben played eight games in 1999. While it might have been a brief AFL stint, Hollands played more than 100 games at West Adelaide after spending time on Port Adelaide’s rookie list, and has the experience of being in an elite system – something he passed on to his son.

“It was funny (being chosen to train with Richmond),” Hollands said. “He played his only senior games at Richmond as well. “A few boys still remembered him, who have obviously been working there for a long time. “But he’s been great, he’s been really awesome with me as well. “Especially now with me, it proves his point that things change really quickly, so he was probably on the bad end of the business of the AFL, getting delisted a few times. “But he’s been really big on making sure that I enjoy the moments that I’m playing footy and I realise that slowly now.”

While many prospects fret when facing a long time out of the game in their top-age year, Hollands has been relieved that he has some runs on the board after a strong bottom-age season last year. It included representing Vic Country where he played all four games, recording 13.5 disposals, 2.3 marks, 5.5 tackles and 5.3 inside 50s. He continued that form with the Bushrangers, albeit for four games while juggling his school commitments, averaging 17.0 disposals, 5.5 marks, 3.8 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s and a goal a game.

“I was pretty happy with my season last year,” Hollands said. “I thought I started the NAB League season pretty well, mostly playing as a higher forward then. I was really happy with the opportunity in the Vic Country side and that was an awesome experience. “It’s like a family, I guess that’s what we’re known for and that’s what we try to be. “We’re like a family when we do all our Vic Country stuff whether it’s the hub or even during the national championships. I actually rang ‘Browny’ (Leigh Brown, Vic Country coach) the day I did my ACL just to thank him for picking me otherwise I might not have been maybe in this position now, so I was really thankful for the opportunity to play and be a part of that. “We had a pretty successful carnival as well.”

Hollands described the feeling of running out on AFL Grand Final Day as in the Under 17 Futures All Star game as “awesome” and “special”, something that he is unlikely to forget anytime soon.

“That was probably my highlight of the year, getting to run out on Grand Final Day, with some of the best boys my age as well that was awesome,” Hollands said. “To be able to hang around and watch the game afterwards that was pretty special.”

Hollands has made plenty of friends over the journey and got to know some of the best up-and-coming talents across the Vic Country and Murray Bushrangers programs. When asked about who he was looking forward to watch this year, Hollands pointed to an unlucky Country teammate, and a fellow hub member from Murray as ones to keep an eye on in 2020.

“It will be good to watch Tanner (Bruhn, Geelong Falcons) get back into things, he was sitting out most of the year last year,” he said. “I’m really keen for him to hopefully get a clean run of health. “He’s obviously got an immense amount of talent and it will be good to watch him go about things. “Another Bushies boy, Zav Maher he’s had his first full preseason, he just got that under his belt. “He’ll come out a lot fitter and a lot stronger this year. He’ll run the Murray midfield this year and do well.”

Being out for the year means the talented mid/forward will not be able to achieve his goals of becoming a more permanent midfielder and improving his strengths in there. But he already has an eye on the future and getting right for the 2020 off-season where it is expected he will be running around in different colours.

“That was probably the first goal on my list (to go into the midfield),” Hollands said. “I was sort of in that transition period last year moving into the midfield, I was hoping to boast a few more midfield minutes this year. “So that will be something I will try and work towards when I start my next pre-season and hopefully I’ll be able to achieve that.”

Next year’s stars to strut stuff on AFL Grand Final Day

NEXT year’s top draft prospects will once again get the chance to impress recruiters and stand out in front of AFL fans in a curtain raiser to the 2019 AFL Draft Final. Last year Oakleigh Chargers’ Matt Rowell was named best on ground in the Under-17 All Stars game and has emerged as the front runner for pick one in this year’s draft. The game pits the 48 highest rated available players against each other in mixed teams named after AFL stars, Nick Dal Santo and Jonathan Brown. Coached by fellow former AFL players, NAB AFL Academy Head Coach Luke Power (Team Brown) and Vic Country Under-18 coach Leigh Brown (Team Dal Santo), the players will get a taste of what their future could hold before the elite level’s most prestigious match of the season.

Among the names who have already shown promising signs throughout either the AFL Under-16 Championships or AFL Under-18 Championships over the past few years, are Oakleigh Chargers pair Will Phillips and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, West Adelaide’s Riley Thilthorpe and Glenelg’s Luke Edwards, Murray Bushrangers’ Elijah Hollands and Sydney Swans Academy’s Braeden Campbell who represent Team Brown. For Team Dal Santo, Central District’s Corey Durdin, North Launceston’s Jackson Callow, Geelong Falcons’ Tanner Bruhn, Sydney Swans Academy’s Errol Gulden, Perth’s Nathan O’Driscoll and Northern Territory’s Brodie Lake.

In terms of state-by-state representation, Victoria leads the way with 21 players – 11 for Vic Metro and 10 for Vic Country – ahead of South Australia and Western Australia (both nine). Queensland (four) has the most of the Allied states, with NSW/ACT (three) and Tasmania and Northern Territory (two each). Indidivdual clubs with multiple players are Geelong Falcons and Oakleigh Chargers (four each), while Brisbane Lions Academy, Woodville-West Torrens, Sandringham Dragons and Perth all have three representatives.

Team Brown:

Jake Bowey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans/NSW-ACT)
Taj Schofield (WWT Eagles/South Australia)
Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
Blake Coleman (Brisbane Lions/Queensland)
Will Phillips (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
Brandon Walker (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
Connor Downie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
Eddie Ford (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
Saxon Crozier (Brisbane Lions/Queensland)
Luke Edwards (Glenelg/South Australia)
Sam Collins (North Hobart/Tasmania)
Elijah Hollands (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
Blake Morris (Subiaco/Western Australia)
Joel Jeffrey (Wanderers/Northern Territory)
James Borlase (Sturt/South Australia)
Nick Stevens (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
Reef McInnes (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
Josh Treacy (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
Logan McDonald (Perth/Western Australia)
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country)
Riley Thilthorpe (West Adelaide/South Australia)
Shannon Neale (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
Zach Reid (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

Team Dal Santo:

Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans/NSW-ACT)
Joel Western (Claremont/Western Australia)
Corey Durdin (Central District/South Australia)
Wil Parker (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
Finlay Macrae (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
Tanner Bruhn (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
Zavier Maher (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth/Western Australia)
Zac Dumesny (South Adelaide/South Australia)
Archie Perkins (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
Jack Carroll (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
Lachlan Jones (WWT Eagles/South Australia)
Oliver Henry (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
Carter Michael (Brisbane Lions/Queensland)
Brodie Lake (Southern Districts/Northern Territory)
Alex Davies (Gold Coast SUNS/Queensland)
Heath Chapman (West Perth/Western Australia)
Jackson Callow (North Launceston/Tasmania)
Ollie Lord (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
Cody Brand (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
Nikolas Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
Henry Walsh (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
Henry Smith (WWT Eagles/South Australia)

AFL Under 18 National Championships preview: Vic Country

VIC Country heads into the first game of the National Under 18 Championships with plenty of question marks given it has been hit with a number of injuries which forces new coach Leigh Brown to shuffle the magnets around. In what will be a tough start to the campaign, they face cross-state rivals Vic Metro who are considered one of the teams to beat this year given the strength of the midfield. With limited talls available for Country, they will rely on their host of top-end talented defenders and medium forwards, while some players will be crucial in standing up and filling a void for the side in the absence of others.


Key players:

Lachlan Ash
Murray Bushrangers | General Defender
21/06/2001 | 186cm | 80kg

The rebounding defender is a dominant intercept force who has an elite, penetrating kick that can travel more than 50m, and also be used with 45-degree daggers inboard. One of the most eye-catching players in the Vic Country squad, Ash can also play further up the ground if required, pushing up to a wing or half-forward, but his best role is at half-back. Ash does not rely on handball receives like a lot of rebounding defenders, and similar to Hayden Young, is more of an intercept player who wins a lot of his possessions through marking.

Sam Flanders
Gippsland Power | Inside Midfielder/Forward
24/07/2001 | 182cm | 81kg

The inside midfielder/forward is a player who will have an impact anywhere he plays, and has a special nous for knowing where the goals are when forward. He often starts forward for Gippsland then after kicking an early goal spends the rest of the time in the midfield until late, using his quick hands and long kicking ability to effect. He is so clean at ground level and shovels the ball out quickly to teammates who are waiting on the outside. He will have an important role as one of the key inside midfielders for Vic Country given the loss of Cooper Stephens.

Brodie Kemp
Bendigo Pioneers | Tall Utility
01/05/2001 | 192cm | 82kg

Kemp can play just about anywhere from midfield to attack and in defence. This year he has played inside midfield in his few games for Bendigo Pioneers. Unlike the other midfielders at Country, Kemp has that bigger frame of 192cm and 82kg who can match it with the taller midfielders, and therefore will be crucial on the inside. Given the injuries to Country’s midfield, Kemp is one who can extract the ball out, and will often choose to kick long inside 50. However he was named in defence for the game against Metro, which might be a sign of where he will play when the opposition has taller forwards.

Caleb Serong
Gippsland Power | Small Midfielder/Forward
09/02/2001 | 178cm | 83kg

Despite his size, Serong will not take a backwards step and will apply pressure anywhere on the ground with his determination and willingness to hunt the football. He is deceptively strong overhead and uses the ball well going forward. He can play inside or outside, or as a pressure forward. Serong will likely mix between all those roles, and could be one who stands up when the chips are down because of his natural leadership. Already had experience at the championships, and will be even better this year.

Hayden Young
Dandenong Stingrays | General Defender
11/04/2001 | 188cm | 82kg

Another penetrating kick of the football, Young is a huge interceptor as he showed the last time he ran out on the MCG against Casey Demons. Young is great overhead, but is the most dominant when unleashing his long, penetrating kick, often marking at full pace and kicking long to a dangerous position. When his team is in control, Young often pushes up to half-forward, intercepts a quick kick out of defence and unloads from long range. He is a player capable of assisting in an inside role, but is most potent when at half-back and will combine well with Lachlan Ash in defence.



Elijah Hollands
Murray Bushrangers | General Forward
25/04/2002 | 188cm | 80kg

One of the top prospects for next year, Hollands is just so exciting whenever the ball goes in his general direction. He is equally adaptable to win the ball in the air or at ground level, and is especially damaging with ball in hand on the run with his sights on the goals. At 188cm, Hollands is tall enough to play a third tall role, something he might be called upon to do despite being a bottom-ager. He can open up a game in a quarter, so if he gets confidence up and on a roll, opposition defenders need to watch out.

Fraser Phillips
Gippsland Power | General Forward
15/05/2001 | 186cm | 71kg

Similar to Hollands but with a different way of winning the ball – often long searching leads or double-up leads deep inside 50, Phillips knows where the goals are and usually has plenty of opportunities. He has a long left foot kick and can often do the miraculous, but just needs to iron out his inconsistencies. He is capable of a 20-plus disposal and three-plus goal game playing as a high half-forward, and also sets up opportunities for teammates inside 50. The championships are a perfect time for him to shine in the bright lights which he has promised teammates to do.

Cody Weightman
Dandenong Stingrays | Small Forward
15/01/2001 | 177cm | 73kg

As one can see there is no shortage of exciting forwards for Vic Country, and Weightman is a third type of forward who once the ball hits the ground just has some magical traits. He might be small and has a few areas to work on, but he can pump the ball long and put it straight through the middle, or just get separation on his opponent and mark in space. He could be a candidate to play up the ground at times, but if he, Hollands and Phillips are all in the forward 50, Vic Country has some serious X-factor.


Big Improvers:

Jesse Clark
Geelong Falcons | Tall Defender
23/02/2001 | 188cm | 79kg

The rebounding defender is a player who will likely have to play tall in the Vic Country defence, with Dandenong Stingrays pair, Sam De Koning and Bigua Nyuon the other two keys. With Nyoun also likely to spend some time in the ruck, Clark may be opposed to a taller opponent. He is still solid one-on-one, but his forte is rebounding out of the back half with composure, and like a lot of the Vic Country defenders, is able to intercept a lot of ball coming inside 50. Clark has had a great start to the NAB League Boys season and will be keen to continue that form at the championships.

Jay Rantall
GWV Rebels | Balanced Midfielder
10/06/2001 | 184cm | 82kg

The biggest improver in the NAB League Boys competition would have to be Rantall. Representing Australia in basketball, Rantall has an elite endurance base which has allowed him to pick up 30-plus disposals time and time again in the NAB League Boys. He stepped up in the trial games for Country and has looked as solid there as in the Rebels’ midfield, and will play inside, but can spread to the outside and have an impact there. He can also find the goals when drifting forward, and it is just about building on his kicking efficiency to take him to the next level.


AFL U18s Fixture:

vs. Vic Metro – MCG, Saturday June 1.
vs. Allies – Launceston, Sunday June 9.
vs. South Australia – GMHBA Stadium, Friday, June 28
vs. Western Australia – Marvel Stadium, Wednesday, July 3



Vic Country will need everything to go right to stage a challenge in this year’s National Championships given the losses to its midfield through Cooper Stephens and Flynn Perez, while Darcy Chirgwin and Tanner Bruhn have also not played so far this season. Country has a lot of talented small-medium players up both ends, but will rely on some of them to play taller roles in this year’s National Under 18 Championships. Against teams with monster key forwards, a lot will be left to Sam De Koning in defence, while Brock Smith and Jesse Clark will likely have to match up on opponents outside their height and weight division, while Bigoa Nyuon saw time in defence in the Vic Country trial game and will likely play back there. Their mix of forward talent is very dangerous, and if they can get the ball inside 50, the amount of X-factor in there will worry opponents. Country will rely on speed and accurate disposal to win games given its shortage of talls, but with potential top 10 picks, Hayden Young and Lachlan Ash coming off half-back, you know there will be plenty of rebound out of the back 50 to keep opposition players on their toes.

TAC Cup Girls preview: Gippsland Power

TWO recent Collingwood draftees are paving the way for aspiring Gippsland Power female footballers, who have reportedly “stepped up” over the pre-season according to the Power’s female talent manager Chelsea Caple, as she looks ahead to season 2018.

“I think getting two drafted in the 2017 draft has lifted the professionalism for the girls,” Caple said. “(The girls) can see that reality, when maybe a few years before it was more of a dream, so we’ve seen the girls step it up in training, in professionalism on and off the field. “So many of them have the dream of AFLW which now they can see through (Collingwood’s) Holly Whitford and Darcy Guttridge it’s a reality, so I think that’s really exciting as well. “We’re seeing that through pre-season which has been different to previous years.”

There are plenty of changes at Gippsland this year, with both Caple and new coach Scott Armour scouring far and wide for girls to join the club’s program. Armour named former netballer and gymnast Leyla Berry, and multi-discipline Jazz Ferguson as among the ones to watch.

“She (Berry) has just been tearing it up on the training track, she’s just so athletic” Armour said. “Her yo-yo tests are through the roof, her speed is exceptional and she can get the ball and is really exciting. She is a bottom-ager so she is one to watch.”

Ferguson is a 19 year-old permit player and one to keep an eye on given she has only played school football previously. Armour said the coaching staff was buoyant about Ferguson’s prospects in the TAC Cup this year.

“She’s one of the best female athletes we’ve seen go through (our program),” he said. “She’s got speed, she’s got power, she’s got endurance, she’s got height, she’s a fierce competitor, she’s played state level netball, basketball and been an athletics champion, so she’s an athlete and she’s learning the game really quick.”

Without a doubt the one to watch for the Power this year is AFLW Academy member Tyla Hanks, who Armour described as a real “leader”. Caple said Hanks showed her dedication last season as a bottom-ager and her work behinds the scenes impressed many of her male counterparts at the Power.

“Tyla Hanks who is obviously one of our top draftables, trained with the under 18 boys after our season finished last year,” Caple said. “There was more than once the boys asked if she could be selected in their team at training – they have so much respect for the girls as well. “They know the gap, even between their abilities is closing, so that was pretty cool to hear they wanted to play with Tyla.”

The mixed pre-season training has continued over the summer, which is something both Caple and Armour are supportive of to create a close bond between the squads.

“In our pre-season the girls train twice a week,” Caple said. “They’ll train on a Tuesday night as a squad, and then on a Friday night they join in the under 16 and under 18 boys in five different satellite locations. “We’ve found that the girls integrating with the boys has lifted the intensity and also reinforced that message of professionalism. “When the boys get there on the Friday, it’s business whereas the girls sort of have to step in and just go with that, whereas they might have a catch up or have five minutes of chatter. “They are just straight into it, their skills are remarkable when they’re kicking to targets and also receiving from a really strong kick from the boys. “Some of our girls would spend the whole session with the boys and they wouldn’t look out of place.”

Armour said the mixed training sessions were due to the support of Gippsland Power talent manager Peter Francis and under 18 boys’ head coach Leigh Brown.

“They are at every training session, they are with me, so we have up to six coaches on the ground, possibly seven on the ground, so we can split into small groups, do a lot of skill development and that’s all because of the acceptance of the girls program from Leigh and Pete and they’re helping push it along with the boys program,” Armour said. “It’s been really, really good.”


With the season fast approaching, the Power opted to play two intra-club practice matches rather than testing themselves against opposition clubs; for a very good reason – to reduce pre-season injuries through controlling the conditions of matches.

“We decided we would do intra-clubs because we can control the environment,” Caple, who is also strength and conditioning coach, said. “We can control how hard our girls hit, we can stop the game, set up structures if we need to, whereas we found if we were to play practice matches, it’s essentially a tenth and eleventh game on top of their really long season. “We modified that, I think that’s why we’ve had two intra-clubs and the girls were able to get that game time in their legs without a competitive game per say. “So we’ve taken those different approaches so hopefully we see this season now, with zero injuries or as few injuries as possible.”

Armour said the intra-clubs were also like an extended training session for the girls, particularly helpful for those new to the game.

“I was out in the middle of the ground with them,” he said. “I was able to say to the girls, ‘no you need to stand there’ or they were able to come up to me and say ‘Scotty, I don’t understand, where should I be?’ so it was really that teaching experience, not just a full-on praccy. “They were playing and getting the match practise, but also getting taught during it, which you can’t do if you’re playing another opposition.”

Gippsland’s first match is on Sunday, March 4 with a home game at Moe, played as a curtain-raiser to the Collingwood-Western Bulldogs AFLW game, a match which could potentially see former Power player Holly Whitford return to her home region, this time in black and white stripes. Armour said the side would focus on playing to their main strength, which is leg speed.

“I think we are going to try and play to our strengths and I think with the list we’ve got, we’ve got some really athletic girls and some really quick girls, so we are just going to try and play to our strengths and where that takes us, who knows? “That is the focus at the moment and really using space and leg speed. “We’ve got a first year footballer (Ebony Jones) who is a state medallist in the 100-metre sprint. “She’s super quick and in the practice match, she just got it a couple of times and ran past everyone. “So it’s really exciting to see the athleticism that we’ve got and I think all the other clubs that get athletic girls, you look to capitalise on that, and that’s what a coach should do, is to capitalise on what your strengths are as a group.”