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2020 AFL Draft recap: Collingwood Magpies

AFTER a trade period which was nothing short of disastrous, Collingwood gained some sort of redemption by coming away from the draft table as arguably the biggest winner. It is easy to forget after all the madness of the last two months that the Magpies won a final in 2020, but messy losses of key personnel and plundering confidence from fans has seen many question the side’s top eight credentials heading into next season. Still, with six quality picks in the National Draft – the most of any club – and a couple of rookies to boot, the mood around Collingwood has again lifted substantially.

COLLINGWOOD

National Draft:
#17 Oliver Henry (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#19 Finlay Macrae (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#23 Reef McInnes (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#30 Caleb Poulter (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)
#31 Liam McMahon (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#44 Beau McCreery (South Adelaide/South Australia)

Rookies:
Jack Ginnivan (Bendigo Pioneers), Isaac Chugg (Launceston)

Much of Collingwood’s success in this year’s draft hinged on where a bid for Next Generation Academy (NGA) member Reef McInnes would come. Essendon was one which flirted with the idea within the top 10, while Adelaide was another club with interest just outside of that range. In the end, the Magpies achieved an ideal result by obtaining two talents before that bid arrived, eventually matching for their man at Pick 23 – a bargain.

The two ‘brothers of’ in Oliver Henry and Finlay Macrae were great value selections at 17 and 19, both adding another dimension to the squad. Henry is a 187cm swingman who thrives aerially and will most likely slip into the role of Jaidyn Stephenson, while Macrae adds class and sound decision making to a midfield which has sometimes lacked as much going forward. McInnes is somewhat of a wildcard in the mix, with his athleticism at 192cm making him an ultra impressive inside type. He is also quite versatile having been squeezed out of Oakleigh’s premiership midfield in 2019 and spending time on the flanks at either end.

Potentially the best and most forward-thinking move of the night saw Collingwood trade out its future first round pick – which would likely have been wiped by a bid for father-son gun Nick Daicos in 2021 – to secure consecutive second round picks. Caleb Poulter was the first addition at Pick 30, a dynamic and balanced midfielder with plenty of weapons. At 192cm, he is a hybrid type who will put bums on seats. Liam McMahon then came immediately after, filling the need for a key forward. He is perhaps a long-term prospect, but has a great deal of athleticism and skill to go with his steep rate of development.

Rounding out the National Draft haul was Beau McCreery, a 19-year-old who impressed during this year’s SANFL season. He suits the Magpies’ need for a genuine small forward and with his tackling pressure and goal sense, could find his way into the side early on. Jack Ginnivan was another steal having slid all the way through to the Rookie Draft and could also fill that small forward void, while speedy Tasmanian Isaac Chugg was a more prospective selection with nice athletic traits and aggressive forward thinking. Overall, the Pies ticked a lot of boxes, continued their love affair with the Oakleigh Chargers, and might have nabbed a draft haul we all look back on in years to come as club-defining.

Featured Image: The Magpies’ quartet of Victorian draftees | Credit: Collingwood FC

2020 AFL Draft Fallout: Bolters and Sliders

THE DUST has settled on another AFL Draft after the rookie intake was completed this morning; leaving keen watchers, fans, and analysts to pick up the pieces and make something of what was a rollercoaster event which seemed to drag on for an eternity. Like any other intake, the 2020 version was littered with sliders and bolters, so we take a look at some of the names which perhaps ended up with surprising numbers left next to them by night’s end.

Full draft profiles on each prospect mentioned below can be found in our AFL Draft Guide.

THE BOLTERS:

While already pegged as a top five selection, Will Phillips somewhat bolted into North Melbourne’s considerations at pick three, throwing as spanner in the works among the top 10. But arguably the biggest first round bolters were selected right after that mark, with Adelaide pouncing on Luke Pedlar at pick 11. The explosive midfielder has battled injuries over the last two seasons but showed great quality on-field when given the opportunity, proving a key cog for Glenelg and Prince Alfred College, the latter of which he captained.

GWS snapped up a couple of Victorians they were keen on in Conor Stone (pick 15) and Ryan Angwin (18), with Collingwood also said to be in the market for Stone. The Oakleigh Chargers product is a medium forward with great goal sense who can also run off the wing with elite running capacity. Angwin, who has drawn comparisons to Xavier Duursma is a different type of wingman with plenty of raw potential. He has filled out nicely and attacks the ball with vigour despite his light frame, while also boasting nice athletic traits.

Geelong traded up twice to snap up Max Holmes at pick 20, who proved one of the biggest late bolters among round one. Holmes’ running capacity appealed to many clubs around the mark, with the Cats pouncing before the likes of Melbourne and St Kilda. At pick 24, Collingwood snuck in a Blake Coleman bid, which was threatened even earlier before trading out for Adelaide to select Brayden Cook, who came from nowhere to be considered a massive first round chance this year. Rounding out the early surprises, Matt Allison was snapped up by St Kilda at number 26, with some other clubs lurking for a dynamic tall around that mark.

The second round was headlined by a few neat risers, including Seamus Mitchell at pick 29 to Hawthorn. He is a pacy small forward with good x-factor, similar to West Australian Tyler Brockman who landed at the Hawks in the following round. Collingwood secured a need in Liam McMahon, who could develop into the long-term key forward option fans have been crying out for. Shannon Neale was off the board at 33, shipped off to Geelong as a prospect who could follow a path similar to Mark Blicavs. Richmond pulled a cheeky bid on Essendon NGA Josh Eyre before taking Samson Ryan from nowhere at pick 40, a developing ruck who is a couple of years on from his top-aged peers.

Looking at the Rookie Draft, Jack Saunders was one of the big surprises as Hawthorn snapped him up with the fourth selection. The South Australian is a hard outside runner who provides long-term cover in that role for the Hawks, who are bringing in some good youth. Isaac Chugg was another choice to attract some attention as Collingwood pounced on the athletic Tasmanian. He looms as a developable half-back or wingman with raw pace.

THE SLIDERS:

A couple of slight sliders emerged early, with the dominoes falling after North Melbourne opted to snare Phillips with pick three. Elijah Hollands, who was widely predicted to be taken there, fell to Gold Coast at number seven and was the Suns’ sole National Draft selection. Tanner Bruhn was one pegged for top 10 status but ended up just escaping that range. It hardly took long for GWS to snap up the classy midfielder at pick 12, before the Giants opted to secure a couple of sliders almost immediately after.

Oliver Henry was another linked with one of Essendon’s three top 10 picks, but the dynamic swingman slid to Collingwood’s pick 17. He looms as a terrific replacement for Jaidyn Stephenson in the Pies’ forwardline. Collingwood NGA Reef McInnes was one who would have tempted clubs in the 8-12 range, but the Magpies were able to maximise their hand after he dropped late into the first round. At pick 23, he was a quickly matched bid for Collingwood, who will likely give him some early exposure around the ground before being thrust into midfield.

Outside of the early proceedings, Jack Carroll proved one of the steals of the draft as Carlton took little time in taking him off the board with pick 41. The classy West Australian was said to have first round suitors, but adds some terrific late value for the Blues as a balanced kind of midfielder who uses the ball excellently and has promising athleticism. Similarly, Eddie Ford was a steal for North Melbourne all the way down at pick 56. He is one who cut his teeth as a high-flying medium forward but has eye on long-term midfield development and brings good variety to the Roos’ overall draft haul. Fremantle would also be laughing with its two NGA products in Brandon Walker and Joel Western only attracting bids in the 50s. Both looked a class above at Colts level this year and have some seriously impressive athletic attributes across the board.

Inside midfielder Zane Trew was a surprise slider into the rookie draft but was given his chance by local side, West Coast, while Jack Ginnivan found his way to Collingwood as yet another shrewd Victorian pick for the Pies. Plenty of talls missed out altogether, with key forwards Kaine Baldwin and Jackson Callow among the most unlucky, while Zavier Maher and Liam Kolar were a couple of potential bolters who did not find a suitor.

Featured Image: Collingwood’s Victorian 2020 AFL Draft haul | Credit: Collingwood FC

2020 AFL Draft: Club by club

IF you are waking up to try and scroll through and find who your club’s newest players are, look no further as we piece together last night’s National Draft club by club. To check out the player profiles of each player selected, click below:

Adelaide:

#2 Riley Thilthorpe (West Adelaide/South Australia)
#11 Luke Pedlar (Glenelg/South Australia)
#25 Brayden Cook (South Adelaide/South Australia)
#28 Sam Berry (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#38 James Rowe (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

Brisbane:

#24 Blake Coleman (Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies)
#43 Harry Sharp (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#48 Henry Smith (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

Carlton:

#37 Corey Durdin (Central District/South Australia)
#41 Jack Carroll (East Fremantle/Western Australia)

Collingwood:

#17 Oliver Henry (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#19 Finlay Macrae (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#23 Reef McInnes (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#30 Caleb Poulter (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)
#31 Liam McMahon (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#44 Beau McCreery (South Adelaide/South Australia)

Essendon:

#8 Nik Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#9 Archie Perkins (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#10 Zach Reid (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#39 Josh Eyre (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
#53 Cody Brand (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Fremantle:

#14 Heath Chapman (West Perth/Western Australia)
#27 Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth/Western Australia)
#50 Brandon Walker (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
#54 Joel Western (Claremont/Western Australia)

Geelong:

#20 Max Holmes (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#33 Shannon Neale (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
#47 Nick Stevens (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

Gold Coast:

#7 Elijah Hollands (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

GWS:

#12 Tanner Bruhn (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#15 Conor Stone (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#18 Ryan Angwin (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#58 Cameron Fleeton (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#59  Jacob Wehr (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

Hawthorn:

#6 Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#29 Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
#35 Connor Downie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#46 Tyler Brockman (Subiaco/Western Australia)

Melbourne:

#21 Jake Bowey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#22 Bailey Laurie (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#34 Fraser Rosman (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

North Melbourne:

#3 Will Phillips (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#13 Tom Powell (Sturt/South Australia)
#36 Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#42 Phoenix Spicer (South Adelaide/South Australia)
#56 Eddie Ford (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

Port Adelaide:

#16 Lachlan Jones (Woodville West-Torrens/South Australia)
#49 Ollie Lord (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

Richmond:

#40 Samson Ryan (Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies)
#51 Maurice Rioli Jnr (Oakleigh Chargers/NT Thunder/Allies)

St Kilda:

#26 Matt Allison (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
#45 Tom Highmore (South Adelaide/South Australia)

Sydney:

#4 Logan McDonald (Perth/Western Australia)
#5 Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)
#32 Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)

West Coast:

#52 Luke Edwards (Glenelg/South Australia)
#57 Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

Western Bulldogs:

#1 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country)
#55 Dominic Bedendo (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

2020 AFL Draft: Pick by pick

AFTER an unconventional season of football, the 2020 AFL National Draft has come to a close with a number of young and exciting players finding their way to new homes for the 2021 season. Here is the full run down of picks, with the highly touted Jamarra Ugle-Hagan making his way to the Western Bulldogs at Pick 1.

Round 1

1 Western Bulldogs – Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

2 Adelaide Crows – Riley Thilthorpe (West Adelaide/South Australia)

3 North Melbourne – Will Phillips (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

4 Sydney Swans – Logan McDonald (Perth/Western Australia)

5 Sydney Swans – Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)

6 Hawthorn – Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts/Western Australia)

7 Gold Coast Suns –  Elijah Hollands (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

8 Essendon –  Nik Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

9 Essendon – Archie Perkins (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

10 Essendon – Zach Reid (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

11 Adelaide Crows – Luke Pedlar (Glenelg/South Australia)

12 GWS GIANTS – Tanner Bruhn (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

13 North Melbourne – Tom Powell (Sturt/South Australia)

14 Fremantle – Heath Chapman (West Perth/Western Australia)

15 GWS GIANTS – Conor Stone (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

16 Port Adelaide – Lachlan Jones (Woodville West-Torrens/South Australia)

17 Collingwood – Oliver Henry (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

18 GWS GIANTS – Ryan Angwin (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

19 Collingwood – Finlay Macrae (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

20 Geelong –  Max Holmes (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

21 Melbourne Demons – Jake Bowey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

22 Melbourne Demons – Bailey Laurie (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

23 Collingwood – Reef McInnes (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

24 Brisbane Lions – Blake Coleman (Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies)

25 Adelaide Crows – Brayden Cook (South Adelaide/South Australia)

26 St Kilda – Matt Allison (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Round 2

27 Fremantle – Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth/Western Australia)

28 Adelaide- Sam Berry (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

29 Hawthorn – Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo Pioneers)

30 Collingwood – Caleb Poulter (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

31Collingwood – Liam McMahon (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

32 Sydney Swans – Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)

33 Geelong – Shannon Neale (South Fremantle/Western Australia)

34 Melbourne – Fraser Rosman (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

35 Hawthorn – Connor Downie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

36 North Melbourne – Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong Falcons)

37 Carlton – Corey Durdin (Central District/South Australia)

38 Adelaide – James Rowe (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

39 Essendon – Josh Eyre (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

40 Richmond – Samson Ryan (Brisbane Lions Academy)

41Carlton – Jack Carroll (East Fremantle/Western Australia)

42 North Melbourne – Phoenix Spicer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

Round 3

43 Brisbane Lions – Harry Sharp (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

44 Collingwood – Beau McCreery (South Adelaide/South Australia)

45 St Kilda – Tom Highmore (South Adelaide/South Australia)

46 Hawthorn – Tyler Brockman (Subiaco/Western Australia)

47 Geelong – Nicholas Stevens (GWV Rebels)

48 Brisbane Lions – Henry Smith (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

49 Port Adelaide – Ollie Lord (Sandringham Dragons)

50 Fremantle – Brandon Walker (East Fremantle/Western Australia)

51 Richmond – Maurice Rioli Jnr (Oakleigh Chargers/NT Thunder/Allies)

52 West Coast – Luke Edwards (Glenelg/South Australia)

53 Essendon – Cody Brand (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

54 Fremantle – Joel Western (Claremont/Western Australia)

55 Western Bulldogs – Dominic Bedendo (Murray Bushrangers)

56 North Melbourne – Eddie Ford (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

57 West Coast Eagles – Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

58 GWS GIANTS – Cameron Fleeton (Geelong Falcons)

59 GWS GIANTS – Jacob Wehr (Woodville-West Torrens)

High stakes training: Vic prospects take the field ahead of draft day

VICTORIAN AFL Draft prospects hit the track one last time before draft day, strutting their stuff at Highgate Reserve in a one-off training session on Wednesday. The meet served as a final chance for recruiters to survey the talent available in this year’s pool, just a week out from draft day on December 9.

Players who earned Draft Combine invites in September were split into two major groups, initially separating those from country and metropolitan regions, before being divided even further into small drill groups of five to seven participants. Among those on display were potential number one picks Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Elijah Hollands, the latter of which participated in a running program amid his recovery from a preseason ACL tear.

Draft Central analyst Ed Pascoe was on hand in Craigieburn to recap all the action and give an insight into how things panned out.

>> Download our FREE AFL Draft Guide

RECAP:

By: Ed Pascoe

A sense of irony came over me walking into Highgate Reserve, the same ground I last got to watch a lot of these young players back on March 15, right before Covid derailed the Victorian football season. It was a Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers trial game on that day and the ground was bustling with keen onlookers, many the same faces I would see today and it was great to see the development of some of these players. One of the big matchups in March was Nikolas Cox vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan which looked to be a clash we would see if the National Championships went ahead. Fast forward a few months and both players have bulked up, looking as sharp as ever in the lead up to the most important time of their lives.

To start the day it was the Vic Metro based players who were split into four training groups with the following participants:

Group A

Ewan Macpherson
Reef McInnes
Bailey Laurie
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips
Conor Stone

Group B

Cody Brand
Nikolas Cox
Josh Eyre
Liam Kolar
Ollie Lord

Group C

Jake Bowey
Josh Clarke
Connor Downie
Max Holmes
Finlay Macrae
Corey Preston

Group D

Matthew Allison
Lachlan Carrigan
Luke Cleary
Eddie Ford
Liam McMahon
Fraser Rosman

Injured Group

Max Heath
Campbell Edwardes

Vic Country players would later take the field and were split into three main groups:

Group A

Cameron Fleeton
Zach Reid
Josh Treacy
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Henry Walsh

Group B

Ryan Angwin
Will Bravo
Jack Ginnivan
Charlie Lazzaro
Zavier Maher
Blake Reid
Harry Sharp

Group C

Dominic Bedendo
Sam Berry
Tanner Bruhn
Clayton Gay
Oliver Henry
Seamus Mitchell
Nick Stevens

Injured Group (Laps)

Elijah Hollands
Charlie Ham
Noah Gribble

There were four main drills conducted after a warm-up; with ground balls, marking, kicking, and handballing the respective focus areas. The ground ball drill involved taking half volleys, running towards the loose ball coming from behind them, taking on the bump bag and finally working in pairs to pick the ball up cleanly under pressure from a teammate.

The marking drill was changed slightly as the day went on but the main focuses were receiving a high ball before getting called to a certain colour cone to run to, turn, and then meet at the drop zone of the ball. Contested marking was the final focus, with two players coming from either the back or front to contest a mark. This drill was certainly the most competitive and one of the drills players had the most fun in, with plenty wanting just ‘one more go’.

The kicking and handballing drills were fairly standard with a three-man weave, and a short to long stationary handball among the handball drills. The kicking drills consisted of kicking to a stationary target often 45 degrees to another player, and finally a drill which involved kicking to a leading player which really separated the better kickers on the day – especially in the notoriously windy conditions at Highgate Reserve.

Overall, it was a great day for the players to get a run while bonding with some former teammates and potentially future teammates. It was also a nice little refresher for scouts and recruiters as well, who got to see how some of these players have progressed both in their football and in their body. It is hard to gauge who would be considered the ‘standouts’ from this training session but most players put in the effort required and it was also good to see some really get involved with coaches and looking for advice in certain drills, showing their commitment to getting the best out of themselves.

Top 10s: 2020 National Draft Combine – Running & Standing Vertical Jumps

AFL DRAFT combines have wrapped up around the nation, giving an insight into how each elite level hopeful stacks up athletically. For most prospects, it was a chance to showcase just how much they had improved since preseason, especially after a full season of football – albeit compromised. For the Victorians in action, they finally got to show their wares after a substantial amount of time away from the field, with a number of them registering results indicative of remarkably hard work in the meantime.

Having already looked at the 20-metre sprint times and agility test results, we now shift our focus to the standing and running vertical jumps. These tests are essentially self explanatory, designed to measure how high athletes can jump; firstly off a standing start, and then by leaping off either foot on the run. The results are measured by scaling each athletes’ absolute score with their respective heights, as to prevent taller players from dominating and to gain a greater reading of true vertical ability.

>> SCROLL for all the top 10s

It is worth noting, the standing vertical jump test was only conducted at the NSW/ACT, South Australian, and West Australian combines, though the running vertical jumps were measured at each event.

Three players registered top 10 leaps across all three tests; namely Godfrey Okerenyang, Chris Walker, and Kellen Johnson. Okerenyang, a GWS Academy member, hails from a high-level athletics background and dominated the power-based tests across the board. His 84cm standing jump was the best effort nationwide, as was his running vertical jump off the right side (92cm). Walker is a Fremantle NGA prospect out of East Fremantle, and the twin brother of top 30 hopeful Brandon Walker, who did not participate in the event. West Perth’s Johnson came back onto the radar having made a late-season return from injury, and served a handy reminder of his athleticism as a key defender.

Another two players already tied to clubs also managed to achieve top 10 results in the running jumps off both feet. The first was Josh Eyre, a Calder Cannons graduate who is part of Essendon’s NGA program. He is quite a raw key forward, but clearly has the athleticism to also run out as a utility. The other player to do so was Aiden Fyfe, one of the standout Gold Coast Academy members. He is a classy outside type who played senior QAFL football this year. Both loom as late draft chances.

After Okerenyang took out two events, he was resigned to second spot in the running vertical jump (left) as Murray forward Dominic Bedendo put in the highest jump overall, powering 99cm vertically. In terms of top-end draft prospects around the mark, Denver Grainger-Barras notched an 87cm running jump off his right side, while first round hopefuls such as Jack Carroll and Archie Perkins also showed off their aerial aptitude in the same test. Perkins, along with Bedendo and Jack Briskey, also featured in preseason top 10s in the jumping categories. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Joel Western, and Brandon Walker are familiar names to have also snuck onto those lists, but the latter two did not test this time around.

THE TOP 10s

Standing Vertical Jump:

1. Godfrey Okerenyang (GWS Academy) – 84cm
=2. Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder) – 76cm
=2. Pierce Roseby (Sydney Academy) – 76cm
=4. Jack Carroll (East Fremantle) – 74cm
=4. Chris Walker (East Fremantle) – 74cm
=6. Kellen Johnson (West Perth) – 73cm
=6. Shannon Neale (South Fremantle) – 73cm
8. Harry Grant (GWS Academy) – 70cm
=9. Jaiden Hunter (Perth) – 69cm
=9. Sam Frost (GWS Academy) – 69cm

Running Vertical Jump (R):

=1. Godfrey Okerenyang (GWS Academy) – 92cm
=1. Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder) – 92cm
=3. Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo) – 91cm
=3. Archie Perkins (Sandringham) – 91cm
5. Chris Walker (East Fremantle) – 90cm
=6. Josh Eyre (Calder) – 87cm
=6. Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts) – 87cm
=8. Liam McMahon (Northern) – 86cm
=8. Shannon Neale (South Fremantle) – 86cm
=10. 4x players (Isaac Chugg, Aiden Fyfe, Jack Carroll, Kellen Johnson)

Running Vertical Jump (L):

1. Dominic Bedendo (Murray) – 99cm
=2. Godfrey Okerenyang (GWS Academy) – 95cm
=2. Aiden Fyfe (Gold Coast Academy) – 95cm
=4. Kellen Johnson (West Perth) – 94cm
=4. Sam Berry (Gippsland) – 94cm
=4. Brodie Lake (NT/Central District) – 94cm
=4. Jack Briskey (Brisbane Academy) – 94cm
=4. Eddie Ford (Western) – 94cm
=9. Chris Walker (East Fremantle) – 93cm
=9. Josh Eyre (Calder) – 93cm

Stay tuned for top 10 results from each of the remaining tests.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

Preseason testing:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

Featured Image: Josh Eyre testing at the Vic Country Draft Combine | Credit: AFL Photos

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 14 – Chargers, Power cut gap to Ranges

A SATURDAY double-header at Box Hill City Oval held massive finals ramifications in last year’s NAB League competition, kicking off Round 14 in style. Gippsland Power had Oakleigh to thank as the Chargers knocked off ladder leader, Eastern, seeing the two sides close within a game of top spot. Elsewhere, Sandringham kept pace with the leading pack after a thrilling win over Dandenong, while Northern and Calder got the better of their Country opponents, and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) knocked off Geelong. Western Jets enjoyed the bye.

Gippsland and the Tasmania Devils were first to take the field for the weekend, doing battle on neutral territory on Saturday morning. Having fallen just behind at the first break and jolted two goals ahead heading into the last, the second-placed Power found a spark when it mattered to leave Tasmania in their wake. A six-goal final term saw the Victorians coast to a 51-point victory, not indicative of the overall contest, but a sign of their irresistible form in full flight.

Twin talls Josh Smith and Charlie Comben contributed three goals each to the win, with skipper Brock Smith also booting a rare couple of majors from defence to go with 26 touches. Sam Flanders was the leading disposal getter on the day with 28, while fellow draftee Leo Connolly managed 23. Rhyan Mansell and Oliver Davis found the most ball for Tasmania en route to 18 disposals apiece, as the likes of Matt McGuinness (16 disposals, one goal) and Sam Collins (15, one) also fared well.

In the day’s later game, Oakleigh pegged back Eastern’s first quarter jump to get over the line by eight points in what would prove a Grand Final preview. The Chargers took toll in the two terms they held a wind advantage, booting 10 of their 12 goals in the second and fourth quarters to secure a massive result. While they regained the lead with under 20 minutes to play, the Ranges simply could not stop Oakleigh’s onslaught.

A forward from either side put four goals on the board, with Oakleigh 19-year-old Cooper Sharman, and Eastern’s Jordan Jaworski playing their parts. Port draftee Dylan Williams again proved a hero up forward with two important goals from eight touches in his final game for the year, with his co-captain Trent Bianco (34 disposals) the leading ball winner. Cricketing ace Wil Parker was Eastern’s best with 26 touches, while Oakleigh bottom-agers Lochlan Jenkins and Will Phillips also found plenty of the ball with 22 disposals each.

Fast forward to Sunday morning, and Sandringham was made to work for a seven-point win over Dandenong on home turf. After setting up an early lead and holding the ascendancy for the entire match, it seemed the Dragons would coast home to victory at 29 points to the good come the final break. But the Stingrays would not take the loss lying down, piling on five goals in the final 10 minutes to give the scoreless Sandringham an almighty scare.

Future Adelaide top 10 pick Fischer McAsey proved his swingman value in returning a three-goal effort, also dominating the airways with 10 marks. Ashton Williamson booted three majors for Dandenong, as Hayden Young managed two from his team-high 25 disposals. Angus Hanrahan led all comers with 35 disposals and a goal, while the likes of Ryan Byrnes (22 disposals) and Sam De Koning (16) stood strong against good opposition on either side.

Calder’s Bendigo road trip proved a fruitful one, as the Cannons raided the Pioneers’ territory to snatch all four premiership points. Bendigo held a slight advantage early, but could not quite do enough to match Calder’s constant scoreboard pressure. A four-goal to one second term in favour of Calder proved the defining period of play, with Bendigo matching their opponent otherwise in the 20-point defeat.

Diminutive Calder forward Jake Sutton booted a game-high three goals, while teammate and leading ball winner Harrison Minton-Connell notched two from his 34 touches in a day out, and Essendon draftee Harrison Jones also found the goals twice. Bottom-ager Jack Ginnivan repeated the feat for Bendigo alongside Will Wallace, while Ben Worme and Noah Walsh also hit the scoreboard from their team-high 20 disposals each. Carlton draftee Sam Ramsay (28 disposals, one goal) continued his hot form, and Sydney recruit Brady Rowles was kept to 12 touches.

Another Metro team to make the most of its road trip was Northern, who travelled to Shepparton to take on Murray. All of the damage was done in a 10-goal to three opening half from the Knights, as the home side struggled to claw its way back into the contest. The final margin sat at 27 points having gotten out to 44 in the third term, as Northern picked up its seventh victory.

A massive outing from small forward Josh D’Intinosante saw him bag six majors from 18 disposals in a sharp display inside forward 50, with leading target Liam McMahon booting three of his own. Skipper Justin Davies saw the most ball for Northern with 26 disposals alongside Sunny Brazier, with Carlton draftee Sam Philp managing 25. Murray’s co-captains stood up too, with Dylan Clarke (28 disposals) leading all comers, while number four pick Lachlan Ash kicked two goals from his 24. 16-year-old Josh Rachele also showcased his talent with two majors.

The GWV Rebels ensured they would continue the trend of away sides picking up wins, as they comfortably accounted for Geelong to the tune of 35 points. Like many of the Round 14 winners, GWV got off to an ideal start at Kardinia Park on the back of four goals to nil in the opening term. An inaccurate Falcons outfit spurned chances to get back into the match with 2.7 in the third term, as GWV kicked away with another four majors in the last to cruise to victory.

Collingwood slider Jay Rantall was among a quartet of Rebels to claim multiple goals, booting two alongside Glenelg recruit Mitch Martin, while Nick Caris managed a game-high four. 19-year-old Charlie Sprague added another three majors to his season tally for Geelong, while bottom-ager Noah Gribble had 28 disposals to lead all comers, and skipper Jesse Clark managed 25 in the losing effort.

2020 AFL Draft Positional Analysis: Key Forwards

FOLLOWING a draft class somewhat short on pure key position forward options comes a cohort which has already shown promise in that exact area. Though they may not currently have the opportunity to show their worth on the field, exposed form and long preseasons for most allow for a window into how the current stocks stack up.

In ramping up our 2020 AFL Draft analysis, Draft Central begins its line-by-line positional breakdowns, starting with the big men. The following list features pocket profiles of top-age (2002-born) prospects who are part of their respective AFL Academy hubs, while also touching on some names who missed out last year, or may feature on another list.

Without further ado, get to know some of the premier key forwards who are eligible to be drafted in 2020.

Note: The list is ordered alphabetically, not by any form of ranking.

Kaine Baldwin (Glenelg/South Australia)
193cm | 91kg

A rare case in that he may well find his way into draft contention despite not playing any football for two seasons. Baldwin had cracked the SANFL Reserves level for Glenelg after an outstanding Under 16 national carnival, but unfortunately went down with an untimely ACL injury in 2019. A year of recovery has him ready to go though, and a 20.8 yo-yo test score in preseason suggests he is building back the running ability that sets him apart. Baldwin’s contested marking is also eye-catching, utilising his strong frame to split packs. He comes in lightly below true key position height, so is also working on moving further afield.

>> DRAFT WATCH: Kaine Baldwin


Jackson Callow (Tasmania/Allies)

193cm | 95kg

A traditional, hulking key forward who thrives on the physical aspect of the game. Callow was a standout for Tasmania at Under 16 level, and more recently in the NAB League having booted 24 goals from 14 games for the Devils in 2019. At 95kg, he is well built and hardly beaten one-on-one, but also has the clean hands and speed to mark strongly at full tilt. Callow has garnered heavy opposition attention thus far as Tasmania’s spearhead, but does not hold back on the aggression to shake it off. He can work on sometimes reigning that aspect of his game in, while also sharpening his consistency in front of goal.

>> MARQUEE MATCHUP: Callow vs. Fleeton


Josh Eyre (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

197cm | 85kg

Eyre is an Essendon Next Generation Academy (NGA) member who is still quite raw, but has some terrific attributes. Having endured his share of injuries across the last two seasons, Eyre has grown to a more traditional key position height and is filling out nicely. Those extra centimetres and an added five kilograms since the start of last year point towards Eyre featuring as a centre half-forward in 2020, though he is able to play up either end or even on a wing. An exciting one for Bombers fans, who have some worthy academy talents coming through the ranks.

>> Q&A: Josh Eyre


Ollie Lord (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

195cm | 83kg

The Sandringham product came on strongly last season, featuring across five games for Sandringham in between his Geelong Grammar commitments, while also running out for Vic Metro’s Under 17 side. Lord is an athletic tall who sits at the precipice of true key position size, with his leap and high marking the most prominent features of his game. Still very much a developing type, the 18-year-old did well to crack into Sandringham’s side last year given its plethora of tall options. Trained at Melbourne during the off-season, and should make up part of Vic Metro’s spine in 2020.

>> Q&A: Ollie Lord


Logan McDonald (Perth/Western Australia)

195cm | 85kg

Another standout from the 2018 Under 16 carnival, McDonald has since shown plenty of the same potential having represented the Black Ducks at Under 18 level in 2019 as a bottom-ager. The Perth product has grown to key position size over the past year, and is one of the leading candidates in his role on the back of his ability to cover the ground well, clunk strong marks on the lead, and most importantly, find the goals. Has great endurance for a player of his size, notching a score of 21.3 on the preseason yo-yo test.

>> DRAFT WATCH: Logan McDonald


Liam McMahon (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

193cm | 80kg

A developing forward who shot into calculations for representative honours, McMahon is perhaps a prospect who finds himself measuring up at an in-between size. While he certainly plays like a key forward with his terrific leap and sticky hands on the lead, McMahon does not have the height or weight of some of the other forwards on this list – perhaps suiting more of a third tall option at the elite level. Still, he averaged almost a goal per game over 15 NAB League outings in 2019 and should be another to feature in Vic Metro’s starting side.

>> FEATURE: Liam McMahon


Riley Thilthorpe (West Adelaide/South Australia)

200cm | 98kg

One of the most exciting draft prospects and a candidate to be taken first off the board is West Adelaide’s Thilthorpe, who mixes his time between the ruck and centre half-forward. The South Australian already has experience at SANFL League level and at 200cm and 98kg, is a readymade key position player. Thilthorpe’s running capacity is elite for a player of his size, with his aerial presence and impact around the ground also desirable assets. He could develop into a modern day ruck who plays like a fourth midfielder, or become a swingman given his high ceiling.

>> GET TO KNOW: West Adelaide U18s


Josh Treacy (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

193cm | 95kg

Another more traditional key forward is Treacy, one of Bendigo’s leading prospects. The well built centre half-forward is not afraid to throw his weight around and is aggressive both in his leading and ground-level presence. While that aggression can sometimes land him in trouble, the 193cm Pioneer has shown there is more to his game. Speaking of, Treacy was spotted at a few centre bounces last year, so may even be poised for a move up the ground given he lacks the height of others in this category.

>> FEATURE: Josh Treacy


Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country)

194cm | 83kg

Arguably the most talked about draft prospect to this point has been Ugle-Hagan, a candidate to join the exclusive number one pick list, and a Western Bulldogs NGA product. The Warrnambool native formerly represented the Greater Western Victoria region, but has since relocated to Oakleigh’s zone given he boards at Scotch College. Ugle-Hagan is remarkably athletic, testing well across all areas during pre-season and proving just why he is near-unbeatable at full flight. His breakaway speed on the lead and high marking are outstanding, though Ugle-Hagan will be working on his field kicking and consistency in front of goal. Has also played in defence at times, but looks most comfortable up forward.

>> DRAFT WATCH: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan


OTHERS TO CONSIDER

Among the others to consider are a good number of prospects who missed out on being drafted last year as top-agers, and 2020-eligible players who may well find their way onto other lists – position-wise.

Sandringham over-ager Felix Flockart is a mobile 200cm bolter who can play forward or through the ruck, and will be one to watch when/if football returns having impressed during pre-season.

Another in that category is Northern’s Liam Kolar, who has transferred some elite traits from an athletics and soccer background. The 194cm Knight has a high-level mix of speed and endurance, and looks promising with his lead-up work from the forward 50.

The likes of West Australian Shannon Neale, South Australia’s Zac Phillips, Ned Carey, and Henry Smith, and Victorian Jack Diedrich also came into consideration, but should feature on the list of rucks to later be analysed.

Dynamic NT Thunder Academy jet Joel Jeffrey can fulfil the high marking forward role, but is a touch undersized to be considered key position at this stage, while James Borlase and Sam Tucker are tall utilities who may feature more as defenders.

In terms of other 19-year-olds, Kobe Tozer is a likely type whose development has been restricted by injury, while 2019 Allies representative Liam Delahunty may look to stake his claim having crossed to Victoria from the GWS GIANTS Academy.

NAB Leaguers Jamieson Rossiter and Kyle Yorke are others who may get a second look as over-agers, while Charlie Dean is another who was poised to return in between VFL duties – though he may be utilised up the other end.

Squad predictions: 2020 Vic Metro Under 18s

THE annual Under 18 National Championships may be the only chance we get to catch a glimpse of the class of 2020 before draft day, with a decision on the recommencement of competition pushed back to at least September. In the meantime, Draft Central takes a look at how each regional squad may line up should the carnival come around, but with a few stipulations in place.

RULES:

  • Top-agers (2002-born) have been prioritised due to the limited season and exposure
  • Of those, AFL Academy Hub members also gain priority for the starting squad
  • Bottom-agers (2003-born) in the hub, and top-agers outside it are named for depth
  • 19-year-old prospects miss out, having already staked their claims in previous years

A lot may change between now and when the squad will be announced, but all players look likely to be available. Of course, the sides may vary greatly as players look to shift and develop in different positions, but each member has been selected based on the roles they have previously played. Given only previous form, preseason testing and scratch matches are what we have to go off, bolters are also difficult to gauge at this point.

But without further ado, let’s get stuck into the first stipulated squad, with Vic Metro’s talent broken down line-by-line. An alternate squad with no limitations will also be provided below.

DEFENCE

FB – Cody Raak (Western), Cody Brand (Calder), Wil Parker (Eastern)
HB – Joshua Clarke (Eastern), Nikolas Cox (Northern), Connor Downie (Eastern)

There’s a real Eastern Ranges flavour to the back six, with regional skipper and Hawthorn NGA prospect Connor Downie a potential leadership candidate. Athletic Northern utility Nikolas Cox is another NAB League captain in line for those honours, and the two are joined across half-back by Josh Clarke.

The forward penetration Clarke and Downie provide makes for an exciting proposition, though Downie may well find his way up onto a wing or into the midfield in the final squad. The third Eastern product of the defence, Wil Parker can also add value on the rebound, but joins Bulldogs NGA candidate Cody Raak as a capable intercept marker inside defensive 50.

Essendon-aligned hopeful Cody Brand looks set to lock down a role at full back, making for a fairly sturdy last line. The combination of aerial threat and attacking ball use among the six bodes well for Metro, and should set the side up nicely.

MIDFIELD

C – Jake Bowey (Sandringham), Reef McInnes (Oakleigh), Lochlan Jenkins (Oakleigh)
FOL – Max Heath (Sandringham), Will Phillips (Oakleigh), Finlay Macrae (Oakleigh)

If there was an Eastern feel to the defence, then the midfield is all-Oakleigh. Following on with the NGA theme too is Collingwood academy member Reef McInnes, who takes up a spot in the centre with eyes on fulfilling a more midfield-oriented role in 2020.

The familiar faces of Will Phillips and Finlay Macrae look set to join him at the centre bounces, as smaller outlets who can find plenty of the ball. On the outer, we’ve opted for a small combination with the 174cm Jake Bowey on one side, and 177cm Lochlan Jenkins on the opposite.

Should the Metro coaches opt for more grunt through the middle, the likes of Downie and explosive Sandringham product Archie Perkins could add some extra power, though the chosen core should have little trouble finding the ball. Max Heath is the chosen ruck, one of the few pure talls among the ranks at the moment.

FORWARD

HF – Archie Perkins (Sandringham), Liam McMahon (Northern), Bailey Laurie (Oakleigh)
FF – Jackson Cardillo (Calder), Ollie Lord (Sandringham), Eddie Ford (Western)

Akin to last year’s squad, the forwardline is one of the weaker areas of the squad – not for a lack of talent, but due to the lack of a pure small forward. The likes of Perkins, Bailey Laurie, Jackson Cardillo, and Eddie Ford all pack dynamism, speed, and smarts, but fall into the category of midfielder/forwards.

This forward bunch should also have no troubles in competing aerially, with the high-marking prowess of Perkins and Ford aided by vertically apt key position prospects Liam McMahon and Ollie Lord. Though at 193cm and 195cm respectively, the pair falls a touch short of traditional key position height, so may prove less impactful against some of the bulkier defenders one-on-one.

Within the starting lineup, Cox is also able to swing forward if needed, while Heath may well earn a rest up there in between his ruck duties. In terms of mid-sizers, Macrae and McInnes spent plenty of time forward for Oakleigh in 2019, while Downie is another who can find the goals.

INTERCHANGE

INT – Jack Diedrich (Eastern), Conor Stone (Oakleigh), Luke Cleary (Sandringham), Josh Eyre (Calder)

The interchange bench sees two remaining top-age Academy Hub members named, incidentally also providing good depth down the spine. Eastern’s Jack Diedrich and Calder’s Josh Eyre can play in key position posts, with Diedrich adding ruck depth and Eyre a more dynamic option around the ground.

Conor Stone could fill the traditional medium-forward void given his promising form in Oakleigh’s 2019 premiership side, while Sandringham defender Luke Cleary is one of the few non-Academy choices, though his Under 17 experience and squad balance earns him a look-in.

TOP-AGE DEPTH

There are plenty of top-agers who will fancy their chances of cracking into the final squad, but there will always be the unlucky few who don’t. The beauty of having a carnival with multiple games means there is always room for rotation, so plenty of prospects should get their opportunity.

Under 16 representative Darby Hipwell was stiff to miss the Academy cut-off, and provide some great midfield depth. Oakleigh’s Fraser Elliot is a big-bodied mid who could also sneak in, but that midfield is hard to crack.

In terms of smaller options at either end, Lucas Failli could be the small forward Metro is searching for, with the agile 170cm Western product already boasting Under 16 and 17 representative honours.

Northern co-captain Ewan Macpherson skippered the Under 16 Metro side in 2018, and may be another small option. The potential Bulldogs father-son choice would fit in as a defender after his work for the Knights in 2019, though he is set on more midfield minutes in 2020. His Knights teammates Josh Watson, and fellow Under 16 rep Jaden Collins are others who are thereabouts.

Speaking of father-sons, Carlton may want to get a look at Charlie McKay (son of Andy, 244 games), who has impressed during preseason and provides a big body on each line.

Dragons pair Fraser Rosman and Lachlan Carrigan are others who may fly under the radar and into the side, along with raw Calder duo Jack Keeping and Matthew Allison. There are of course two more Academy members – Campbell Edwardes, and Sam Tucker – who could enter the fray, but are unlucky to miss our sides.

THE BOTTOM-AGERS

Having taken out the 2019 Under 16 National Championships, Metro has the luxury being able to top up its squad with a raft of capable bottom-age talents. MVP Tyler Sonsie is arguably the best of the lot, and could well find his way into the starting 18 on a wing or up forward.

Sonsie’s Eastern teammate Jake Soligo is another who may rise the ranks alongside him, while Vic Metro Under 16 squad member Lachlan Rankin is another handy outside type in the mix.

Sandringham dasher Josh Sinn is another who is capable of settling into the starting side, perhaps at half-back despite his midfield prowess. Potentially filling out the flanks is Nick Daicos, whose selection in the Academy Hub in his first year through the pathways speaking volume of his talent.

Twin talls Dante Visentini and Alex Lukic would provide key position depth up either end under normal circumstances, with Lukic the Under 16 All Australian centre half-forward. Others to gain that honour and Academy selection were Blake Howes, Youseph Dib, Lachlan Brooks, and Braden Andrews, who could all fill roles around the ground.

There are a number of others outside of the current representative and academy bubbles who could also break through in their own top-ager seasons, but it simply remains to be seen.

With these additional top and bottom-age prospects in mind, below is our potential Vic Metro squad, without any provisions.

FB – Cody Raak, Cody Brand, Wil Parker
HB – Joshua Clarke, Nikolas Cox, Josh Sinn
C – Jake Bowey, Connor Downie, Finlay Macrae
HF – Archie Perkins, Liam McMahon, Bailey Laurie
FF – Tyler Sonsie, Ollie Lord, Eddie Ford
FOL – Max Heath, Will Phillips, Reef McInnes
INT – Felix Flockart, Lochlan Jenkins, Conor Stone, Jackson Cardillo

EMG
– Luke Cleary, Nick Daicos, Josh Eyre

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.