Tag: matthew johnson

PODCAST EXPLAINER | The Midfielder’s Draft

THE Final Siren Podcast team returned this week for another pocket podcast edition, this time breaking down why the upcoming AFL intake has been deemed a midfielder’s draft. Chief Editor Peter Williams again took over the host chair to grill Draft Editor Michael Alvaro on some of the prime midfielders available, and why they are likely to feature at the pointy end.

Among the group of likely first-rounders, the team broke prospects into three different categories to get a better understanding of how each of them play, and perhaps help fans narrow in on the exact type of ball winner they want their club to pursue. In this week’s explainer, we delve into said categories and the players which suit them respectively.

Podcast link: Click here!

PODCAST AGENDA

FIRST ROUND PROSPECTS

The top two

It is no secret that Nick Daicos and Jason Horne-Francis are regarded by many as the top two prospects in this year’s draft, and they just so happen to both be midfielders. While clear of the competition, they are very different types and have varying weapons which they lean on.

Daicos is an accumulator who offers an outrageously consistent output with his work-rate, unrivalled smarts, and team-oriented play. While he brings class and grace, Horne-Francis is more of a bull at the coalface with his explosiveness and noted aggression at both ball and carrier. He can open games up with penetrating kicks and high marks, bring his impact per possession to a high level.

The safe/reliable picks

Reliability is a major factor in what clubs look for in their potential draftees, and there are a selection of midfielders which can certainly offer as much among the 2021 crop. For much of the pathway, Ben Hobbs has been one who looks ready to go with his mature frame and strength in contested situations now complimented by hard running and consistent disposal outputs.

Fellow Victorian Josh Ward has added inside elements to his game this season to rise into top 10 contention, complimenting his running ability and wonderfully clean skills with some real grunt in midfield. Over in Western Australia, Neil Erasmus has put up exceptional numbers at PSA and WAFL Colts level, while Matthew Roberts has taken well to senior football in the SANFL.

While Hobbs, Erasmus and Roberts have all battled injury this year around their runs of form, all four players here are the types who will perform each week and look safe bets as 200-game players for the future. They are reliable, tough, and hard-working, so should provide great value in the first round.

The classy types

Many clubs will value midfielders who can not only win the ball at a good rate, but also use it well. This year, there are a few who fit this category with enviable class on the ball and elite decision making which really puts them above many others in the draft class.

Arguably atop the list, and one who could fit a range of categories is Finn Callaghan. The Sandringham Dragons powerhouse has been a big improver this year, developing from a half-back and wingman to become an outstanding centre bounce operator. At 189cm, he has the build of a modern day midfielder but moves so gracefully in traffic, never rushed and always able to manufacture a bit of space before delivering effective disposals.

Tyler Sonsie is a prospect who fits this mould perfectly, and was considered a top five candidate coming into the year. Injury has interrupted his campaign, but the Eastern Ranges midfielder is as poised as they come in possession with top level vision and skills coming out of congestion. His ability to roll forward and find the goals is another string to his bow, and an important point of difference.

Another couple of dynamic types with plenty of class are Matthew Johnson and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera. While one has slid a touch as the other has risen this year, there is no denying that both players use the ball beautifully by foot and are two of the more elite kicks going around. At 193cm, Johnson features more at the centre bounces and moves well in traffic, while Wanganeen-Milera has tricks on the outside and can carve up the opposition in space.

The versatile/hybrid types

Hybrid is a bit of an in-vogue word at the moment, but in this sense we’re talking about the players who are versatile and can impact in other areas of the ground before eventually becoming more permanent midfielders, or pinch-hitting there.

There is a good handful of first round talent which suits this mould, starting with South Australian Arlo Draper. He fares well at stoppages and can certainly get his hands on the ball there, but adds a point of difference with his ability to take marks and kick goals up forward. He has been more of a midfielder-forward at Under 18s level, but has spent more time among the front half in senior grades.

Prominent Sandringham Dragons pair Josh Sinn and Campbell Chesser are players who have notable outside traits, including their speed, line-breaking ability, and kicking skills. Both have developed across half-back and the wing, but can just as capably play on the inside and are true metres-gained assets in all roles.

Along with the above pair, Josh Rachele has been a standout throughout the pathways and while he has more often been used as a half-forward for Murray and Vic Country, can certainly impact with his speed and skill in midfield. From small to tall, Josh Goater is a big-bodied type on the inside who can essentially play anywhere. He has clean hands and unreal athleticism, which boded well for his most recent move to half-back with plenty of run and intercept marking.

DEPTH – OTHERS TO CONSIDER

It’s not just a midfielder’s draft in the first round, with many top ball winners rising into contention or remaining around the mark. There is a healthy scattering of players from different regions, offering a diverse range of skills and mostly being available in the open draft.

Zac Taylor and Mitch Knevitt offer very different styles, but both were in sensational form before the latest Victorian lockdown. Dandenong Stingrays pair Judson Clarke and Connor Macdonald are smaller types with terrific craft, while Jake Soligo is another in that mould. Elsewhere, St Kilda fans with have their eyes on exciting NGA pair Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens, while Northern’s Ned Long is one to keep an eye on.

Western Australia’s engine room has proven very strong in representative hitouts, with a good mix of hardened inside types and accumulating outside runners. Josh Browne is as consistent as they come, while Corey Warner offers some forward drive on the outer, and Taj Woewodin is a Melbourne father-son candidate with nice traits. On the inside, Kade Dittmar and Angus Sheldrick are absolute bulls, with Dittmar’s East Perth teammate James Tunstill another to consider.

Port Adelaide has its own father-son prospect in Jase Burgoyne, who is a really classy type. He is quite light-on though, and may have to lean on his versatility to play off half-back before entering the midfield fray. Elsewhere, Hugh Jackson had an outstanding first half of the season to put his name in the spotlight, and Cooper Murley arguably possesses top 25 talent, but has been struck down by injury for much of the year.

2021 WAFL Colts MOTR: Finals Week 1 – Claremont vs. East Perth

CLAREMONT will face off against WAFL Colts minor premier Swan Districts for the second time in three weeks, after downing East Perth by 41 points in week one of the 2021 finals series. The Tigers were inaccurate early on but found their groove and snared crucial goals at the end of the first two terms to restore leads. A five-goal third quarter then helped Claremont break the contest open, before running out comfortable victors with another four majors in the final stanza.

We highlight a few of the top performers from either side in our Scouting Notes with a particular focus on state representatives, before taking a look around the grounds and up the grades.

>> Player Focus: Angus Sheldrick (Claremont)

SCOUTING NOTES

Claremont 13.9 (87) def. East Perth 6.10 (46)

Claremont:

#17 Hugh Davies

His final stats of seven disposals and two marks hardly do justice to the role Davies played in defence, with the bottom-ager making several important plays on the last line. He looked composed in a series of crises, able to work things out across defensive 50 and apply ample pressure on East Perth’s forwards when the ball hit the deck. In the air, he rose for some timely spoils and was desperate enough to keep the play alive with little margin for error.

#22 Sam Gilbey

Another bottom-aged defender who hardly garnered massive stats (six disposals, two marks, one goal), Gilbey still managed to show glimpses of his massively promising skillset on Saturday. Both of his marks were lovely intercepts up the ground, which he used to move the ball on quickly heading inside attacking 50. On the first occasion, Gilbey showed off his impressive left-foot kick with a booming goal just before quarter time, seeing Claremont regain the lead. He competed well to turn the ball over and pressed a high line, before being used further afield in the final term and even shaving the post with another shot on goal.

#27 Angus Sheldrick

Arguably the best player afield, Sheldrick got to work early and put in an absolute shift out of Claremont’s engine room. While able to win the contested ball with his strength and grit, Sheldrick also displayed a phenomenal work-rate to get his legs pumping with some green ball and find possessions around the ground. He helped drive the Tigers forward and despite lacking a finishing touch at times, put the ball into dangerous spots. He was in the wars during term three with a head knock and big hit from Jye Amiss, but got back to work to finish with a game-high 24 disposals, 12 tackles, and five inside 50s to go with a first term goal.

#29 Jahmal Stretch

The crafty small forward is one who has the ability to light up any passage of play, and certainly did that with his 10 disposals, three marks and two goals. An early rush of blood saw him burn a teammate over the top when running into an open goal, but Stretch built into his best work by hitting the ball at speed and springing up for marks inside 50. His first goal came shortly after a set shot fell short, and he added another in term four with a quick snap which showcased his high level goal sense. With terrific pressure acts and sparks of individual brilliance, Stretch continues to be an eye-catching goalsneak.

#32 Jacob van Rooyen

He doesn’t need too many chances to make a real impact, and that is exactly what van Rooyen did during a three-goal third quarter. The strong-bodied key forward helped Claremont kick away with majors at the beginning, middle and end of term three after a relatively quiet first half. His fundamental strengths were solid throughout without much opportunity, but came to the fore during said period with a couple of strong pack marks and set shot conversions. While only earning a modest seven disposals, he made them count with four marks and those three majors to go with some imposing pressure acts.

#35 Luke Brown

Another bottom-ager who managed to show glimpses of potential, Brown finished up with a couple of really handy goals from his five touches. The 199cm ruck-forward first got his hands on the ball through sheer reach in the ruck, before booting those two majors in the second half. The first was a terrific bit of improvisation, as the bigman volleyed the ball home off a deep spillage. His second goal was also manufactured off a pack, as Brown gathered and quickly snapped the ball through to show great skill for a player of his size.

Others:

Claremont had a bunch of solid contributors on each line, starting with the likes of Talon Delacey (19 disposals, five inside 50s) and Kendyll Blurton (15 disposals, five tackles) in midfield. Arthur Jones was again productive on the wing with 17 touches and five inside 50s, while Campbell Rogers played a key hand down back. Speaking of, Sean Williams’ effort to keep leading goalkicker Jye Amiss scoreless was outstanding, as was Peter Coles’ three-goal haul at the other end. In the way of state squad members, Under 17 prospects Edward Allan (wing) and Will Bailey (forward/wing) had their moments, and top-age tall Eric Benning missed with a calf complaint.

East Perth:

#4 Ethan Regan

The West Coast NGA candidate started in midfield, with the East Perth coaches perhaps looking for him to make an early statement with his size and explosiveness. That did not quite eventuate, but Regan built into the game well from his usual high half-forward post. His kick penetration lead directly to goals on two occasions, as Regan linked East Perth from beyond the attacking arc into more dangerous positions.

#7 Jye Amiss

Having built a remarkable streak of kicking multiple goals in all of his previous WAFL Colts and state Under 19 outings, Amiss was finally shut-out on Saturday. The West Australian spearhead was hardly given an inch inside attacking 50 and did not always receive the best delivery in any case. Most of his work was done further afield, where he ventured on searching leads and showed some really nice moments of poise to hit targets on the way back to goal. He later showed signs of a confidence dip with a couple of dropped marks, perhaps the product of perceived pressure having been under the pump all game.

#9 Kade Dittmar

A strong figure in the East Perth midfield, Dittmar offered plenty of his usual power and contested ball winning prowess on Saturday. His physicality on the inside was evident, as he looked to bustle through tackles and apply some punishing ones of his own. While Dittmar gained a good amount of distance on his clearances, with eight of his 15 disposals sent inside 50, he tended to dump kick at times and couldn’t quite hit the target with a couple of attempts on goal. Still, his intent matched the finals atmosphere.

#11 James Tunstill

Tunstill was one who started the game brightly, producing some eye-catching moments in midfield and rotating forward to snare a first term goal. He was prominent at ground level, collecting the ball cleanly and finding ways to slip or spin to the outer where he could gain a bit more meterage. His goal came from a set shot after marking well overhead, converting the chance well from 40m. Tunstill finished up with 14 disposals and three inside 50s, marking a solid return after his promising opening.

#26 Kaden Harbour

Another who was productive in spurts, Harbour brought good intent and effort to the finals contest. He chased up loose balls and worked up the ground for his side, with one play seeing him break at pace with two running bounces before kicking inside 50. The small forward produced another great inside 50 foray in term three which was not finished off, and his closest attempt on goal hit the post with a snap from the pocket.

#34 Jedd Busslinger

Hardly overawed by the finals occasion as a bottom-ager, Busslinger saved his side’s blushes several times on the last line of defence. The 195cm prospect proved difficult to beat both aerially and at ground level, showing great composure to mop up under pressure and move the ball on cleanly. He was never rushed despite the heavy pressure at times, and proved his commitment with a goal-saving mark which saw him thud into the goal post. Busslinger was swung forward in term four, and finished with four marks from his nine disposals.

Others:

No East Perth player notched over 20 touches on Saturday, but speedy midfielder Jayden Peak was the closest with 18. His run-and-carry proved productive, as did the skills of wingman Oscar Armstrong (13 disposals), who kicked a fantastic long-range goal in term three. Kalani Brooks was another to step up in midfield with 16 disposals and five tackles, while state Under 17 squad member Jordyn Baker showed a bit with nine disposals up on the wing.

AROUND THE GROUNDS:

In the other colts final, East Fremantle advanced in Sunday’s knockout bout against West Perth, downing the Falcons by 29 points after trailing narrowly at the first break. The Sharks, bolstered by an array of quality state squad members, soon clicked into gear and manufactured nearly double the Falcons’ scoring shots (20-11).

It was unsurprising to see Josh Browne top the disposal charts once again, racking up a game-high 32 to go with six inside 50s and a goal. Fellow draft combine invitee Corey Warner and bottom-ager Jed Hagan supported him well, while Melbourne father-son candidate Taj Woewodin also found plenty of the ball. In-form tall Josh Cripps kicked a goal from 19 touches, and Jackson McManus – the nephew of Shaun – snagged a game-high three majors.

A pair of promising bottom-agers fared well for the Falcons, as Kane Bevan notched 31 disposals and six marks, while defender Griff Julian clunked eight grabs among his 23 touches. Luke Michael matched the latter’s marking feats, and Lochlan Paton got his hands dirty with 12 tackles to go with 18 disposals.

There was not as much action to speak of in a draft sense up the grades, but classy midfielder Matthew Johnson caught the eye with a team-high 23 disposals, nine marks and one goal in Subiaco’s finals win over West Perth. At League level, Jesse Motlop bagged a goal from 11 touches as South Fremantle held on in a one-point thriller against Claremont.

Featured Image: The 2021 WA Under 19s squad huddles before facing SA | Credit: WAFL via Twitter

PODCAST EXPLAINER | September Power Rankings update

THE Final Siren Podcast returned this week with another special edition Power Rankings breakdown, fielding your questions following Draft Central’s September update. With the list extended out to 30 names and including six previously unranked prospects, there was plenty to discuss this time around.

Chief Editor Peter Williams took over the host chair to grill Draft Editor Michael Alvaro about the current state of things, before passing on the queries sent through by you, via Instagram. In the latest podcast explainer, we run through the key points of the episode to provide some depth and context to your listen.

Podcast Link: Click here!

PODCAST AGENDA:

Extending the list to 30 players

As is the case towards the end of each year, this month we added five extra spots to fill and with such an even crop, it arguably made things even more difficult. Past the top 10 or so prospects, the rankings have been difficult to consolidate given the wealth of players vying for spots from around the 15-35 mark. With the final five selections, previously unranked players snuck in but there are plenty more who could easily have slotted in instead.

Six fresh faces

Four completely new prospects entered the rankings in September, lead by South Australian wingman Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera. The classy ball user is a terrific decision maker and given his level of play against SANFL League and Under 19 championship competition, he simply had to enter the top 20.

While they lacked any real action in August, Victorians Zac Taylor and Mitch Knevitt were deserving of spots between the 25-30 mark, having produced outstanding levels of output before the NAB League’s latest hiatus. Fremantle NGA candidate Jesse Motlop (29) is the other new name, coming in with WAFL League experience and plenty of tricks as a small forward.

Among those returning to the rankings are Blake Howes (26) and Jacob van Rooyen (30), who featured among our top 25 earlier in the year. The former was beginning to find his feet as an athletic wingman in the NAB League, while the latter proved his worth as a key position swingman in representative colours and looks physically ready for senior football.

Risers and sliders

Along with the previously unranked Wanganeen-Milera catapulting into 18th, West Australian spearhead Jye Amiss proved his top 15 credentials with another outstanding month. The East Perth forward now boasts 51.14 in his 13 WAFL Colts games and kicked a couple in WA colours to stamp his mark as a top tall talent.

Going the other way are the likes of Matthew Roberts (15) and Matthew Johnson (19), who have previously been regarded as top 10 prospects. Both have tasted senior football and Roberts remains a safe and reliable midfield option, but a knock on his disposal under pressure and ability to play inside at senior level remains. For Johnson, others are simply rising around him and his output up the grades has been a touch inconsistent, despite his obvious class.

Other factors – National Championships, scrapped Victorian season, injuries

With South Australia and Western Australia facing off last month in an Under 19 clash, the risk of recency bias comes into play given those in the remaining states and territories have been afforded less opportunities to impress. While there are some clear risers, weighing up prospects against one-another is difficult when half of them aren’t currently playing. Injuries have also impacted the crop this year, with some unable to gain the continuity needed prove their top potential.

In the mix

West Australian accumulator Josh Browne was one of the unlucky ones to miss out this month, having featured among August’s allotment. East Fremantle teammate Corey Warner has also been pressing his case on the back of big performances at PSA, Colts, and League level, while intercept marking machine Rhett Bazzo came close after his outstanding championships performance.

Over in South Australia, Norwood midfielder-forward has been dreadfully unlucky with injury this year but has brilliant potential, while North Adelaide ball magnet Hugh Jackson looked primed for a top 25 push before a slight dip in form.

204cm Geelong Falcons prospect Toby Conway looks poised to be considered the best pure ruck in the pool, so should also be thereabouts. Meanwhile, the rise of St Kilda NGA and Sandringham Dragons pair Mitch Owens and Marcus Windhager has not gone unnoticed. Saints fans and recruiters will be sweating, but they should be safe for now.

Instagram Q&A

Your questions answered!

Draft Central Power Rankings: September 2021

IT has been a long wait, but the Draft Central Power Rankings are back for another edition. The September update sees our list of top prospects stretched to 30 after a last-gasp National Championships fixture and some handy showings from rising stars amid the on-again, off-again nature of season 2021. While changes are scarce at the top-end, there are six fresh faces among the overall intake and a couple of notable risers who continue to garner attention.

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

>> 2021 AFL Draft Combine List: 90 prospects earn invites

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

August Ranking: #1

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

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

Last month:

In what was a quiet month for Victoria’s metropolitan prospects, Daicos still managed to dominate headlines. The father-son candidate officially nominated Collingwood as his destination of choice, committing two years on top of his original starting contract as he waits to join the senior squad in November. He looks a lock to be bid on with one of the first two picks.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

Nick Daicos on the ball for Oakleigh Chargers

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

August Ranking: #2

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

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

Last month:

We got to see some of Horne-Francis’ blinding best during August, as two of his four SANFL League appearances yielded high level returns. He kicked off the month with 22 disposals and three goals against Central District, before bookending it with 24 disposals, five clearances, seven tackles, nine inside 50s and a goal against West Adelaide. In between those outings, he also skippered South Australia’s Under 19 squad. While down on his usual lofty standards, Horne-Francis spent plenty of time forward and made his presence felt – particularly during a productive final quarter.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

Jason Horne-Francis captaining South Australia | Credit: SANFL

#3 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #3

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

One who seems destined to crack the top five picks come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back has recently transitioned to an inside role, but continues to prove difficult to stop at full flight with his blend of straight-line power and swift agility. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his clean kicking, and seems to manufacture time on the ball in the clinches.

Last month:

While there ended up being no football for Victoria’s metropolitan regions, Callaghan was arguably set for a pretty steady August in any case. The smooth mover was due to return from a foot injury which kept him from representative honours in July, but can now rest up ahead of the combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

Finn Callaghan in Vic Metro colours

#4 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Utility
19/08/2003 | 204cm | 75kg

August Ranking: #4

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

They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top three candidate on potential and the clear best tall in the draft, with his versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy initially impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck at NAB League level, but went on to consolidate his top-end credentials with outstanding performances up forward. Bulldogs fans, you have another key position jet on the radar.

Last month:

Another Vic Metro prospect who did not get on the park in August due to a lack of NAB League and APS football, Darcy remains in top three contention and like Daicos, will inevitably attract a very early bid.

Sam Darcy is the leading tall in this year’s crop

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

August Ranking: #5

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

The GWV Rebels ball winner had an interrupted start to his 2021 campaign due to injury, but has well and truly proved his top 10 credentials since getting back on the park. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety soon-to-be 18-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and has taken full toll with dominant numbers upon his return to action.

Last month:

Victoria’s Country regions briefly got back on the park in August, and Hobbs managed to sneak in a couple of outstanding performances for his GWV Rebels. Consistent as ever, he racked up 34 and 32 disposals across the two games while also finding the goals in each. Hobbs’ hard edge, ball winning ability, and reliability continue to be his key strengths, despite both of his August outings resulting in losses.

>> NAB League POTW: Round 9

Ben Hobbs kicks Vic Country forward

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

August Ranking: #7

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

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

Last month:

Like Hobbs, Gibcus got on the park for a couple more appearances in GWV colours. He was also consistent in his output, managing 12 and 13 disposals in the respective losses, while also rising for three marks in both games. The tall talent may be quiet at times, but has terrific upside and some eye-catching strengths across the backline.

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

August Ranking: #6

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

Another key position talent who rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew is well and truly out of reach for Melbourne as a Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate by now. He currently sits inside the top 20 group quite unanimously, boasting raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons NGA talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Last month:

While considered a Country region, much of Dandenong’s list lies within the Metro ring and thus, the Stingrays’ last game came on August 1. Andrew was afield for the loss to Eastern Ranges, notching 17 disposals, four marks and 16 hitouts. He looked quite raw and struggled for footing at times, but popped up with a couple of typically impressive overhead marks as he rotated forward from the ruck.

>> ‘Rays on the rise

#8 Josh Ward
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Midfielder
15/08/2003 | 181cm | 79kg

August Ranking: #8

Snapshot: A classy midfielder who is consistently capable of winning mountains of possessions, Ward proves a centre bounce mainstay with his clean skills and work rate.

Having started the year on the precipice, Ward has broken into and consolidated his spot well among the 2021 crop’s first round bracket. The Northern Knights midfielder is one who works hard both ways and gets stuck in at the contest, able to win his own ball and distribute with clean skills to the outer. He is also beginning to showcase his own traits on the outside and can impact while resting forward, but holds clear value as a reliable ball winner at the stoppages. A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Ward won the same honours this year as a rising draft eligible Under 19 talent.

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based counterparts, Ward did not see any action over the last month due to a lack of APS and NAB League competition.

Josh Ward captained Vic Metro this year

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

August Ranking: #9

Snapshot: Initially an exciting forward who has since transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching traits both aerially and at ground level.

Arguably Western Australia’s leading prospect, Erasmus has built on the promise he showed in last year’s WAFL Colts grand final which saw him come into 2021 as a first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 decider, showcasing clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this year, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with scoreboard impact remaining in his back pocket.

Last month:

Western Australia’s vice-captain returned emphatically via the state side at the end of July during trials, but did not get to take the field in last week’s National Championships bout. The Hale School skipper sustained a corked thigh in his August 14 PSA outing and played the next week despite it, but saw said injury flare up just before he was set for representative duties. Erasmus was brave in his school outings as he endured the knock, impacting as one of his side’s best players with more time up forward. He has not played in any WAFL grade since May, and may well have played his last game for the year – pending another state Under 19s clash.

>> WA U19s Player Focus: Neil Erasmus

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

August Ranking: #10

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

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

Last month:

Sonsie has been on the sidelines since late-June due to injury, sustaining bone bruising in the second half of Eastern’s Round 9 loss to Sandringham. He was thus ruled out of Vic Metro duties in July, and did not manage to get on the park last month with metropolitan NAB League regions out of action.

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

#11 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Defender/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #11

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

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

Last month:

Injured during the final term of July’s Victorian Challenge Match, Sinn was set to make his return in the back-end of the NAB League season. With that now scrapped for Metro regions, he can look forward to turning out at the Draft Combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

Josh Sinn carries the ball forward for Sandringham Dragons

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

August Ranking: #13

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

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

Last month:

The Murray Bushrangers only played once, at the very start of August but had the bye during the competition’s mid-month return. Rachele did not turn out in the aforementioned fixture, and his three-goal APS dig with Caulfield Grammar on July 31 was his last outing.

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

August Ranking: #14

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

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

Last month:

Draper returned from injury through the Reserves last month, with his 14 disposals and four clearances enough to earn a League debut the following week. He looked classy in possession while averaging 11 disposals and five marks in his two top flight appearances, before turning out for South Australia in the Under 19 championships fixture. The first round talent was a touch down on his usual output but did some nice things rotating through midfield from the forwardline. He then dropped back down to Under 18s level, producing 24 disposals, five marks and six clearances in a finals loss to West Adelaide.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus
>> Feature

#14 Jye Amiss
East Perth/Western Australia | Tall Forward
31/07/2003 | 195cm | 85kg 

August Ranking: #19

Snapshot:

You’ll hear plenty of puns regarding the key forward’s ironic surname but it’s true that Amiss is more hit than, well, miss. The East Perth spearhead has dominated the 2021 WAFL Colts season thus far, booting 51 goals in 13 games with a ridiculously good conversion rate of 78 per cent from his scoring shots. He proved undeniable for selection in a West Australian state squad stacked with key position talent, and doesn’t need a wealth of opportunities to make an impact. With sound overhead marking and an improving ground level game, Amiss is an irresistible threat inside attacking 50. He bolted into our rankings with a debut inside the top 20, and makes another move having excelled on the big stage.

Last month:

Amiss has skyrocketed into top 15 contention over the last two months, with his latest patch of form only consolidating said status. He started out with 18 disposals, 11 marks and six goals against the bottom WAFL Colts side after starring in state trials, before snaring two goals on each side of his National Championships outing. As WA’s spearhead, Amiss snared two goals and passed off some gettable opportunities in a terrific display where he constantly found separation on the lead, marked cleanly overhead, and kicked a highlight reel goal.

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

August Ranking: #12

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

Another member of South Adelaide’s football factory, Roberts’ form over the last few seasons has seen him prove difficult to deny of first round contention. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 18-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.

Last month:

Like South Adelaide teammate Draper, Roberts returned from injury through the Reserves where his 18 disposals and five marks were enough to yield a League call-up. He had not trouble finding the ball with 20 disposals and seven inside 50s in his game back in the top flight, before kicking two goals from 13 touches on the other side of his National Championships appearance. Roberts found indifferent form in said fixture, putting in a shift during term two to keep SA in the contest, but proving a touch scrappy with his disposal at times. He found plenty, nonetheless and continues to put up strong numbers.

>> Q&A
>> Feature
>> SANFL League Player Focus

Matthew Roberts gets a kick away | Credit: Nick Hook Photography

#16 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Outside Midfielder/Defender
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

August Ranking: #16

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

A third Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 20, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser had only just cracked Sandringham’s stacked midfield in a bid to showcase his balance, having lacked continuity while battling a knee injury earlier in his campaign.

Last month:

Another who was primed to impress in the back-end of the year, Chesser did not get the chance to prove his worth given the lack of APS and metropolitan NAB League football. He already missed a chunk of time earlier in the year having undergone knee surgery, but will be preparing for the Draft Combine.

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

August Ranking: #17

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with explosive athletic traits and clean hands on the inside, Goater is a prospect with great potential and versatility.

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

Last month:

Goater technically made an appearance in August, albeit on the first day as his Calder Cannons beat the Murray Bushrangers. The talented utility continued to showcase his versatility, starring in defence with 28 disposals, 11 marks and eight rebound 50s before Metro regions again went into lockdown. His intercept marking ability and clean kicking skills proved weaponous.

#18 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera
Glenelg/South Australia | Wing
22/02/2003 | 188cm | 70kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A smooth-moving wingman with plenty of tricks, Wanganeen-Milera can carve up the opposition with his combination of agility and elite decision making by foot.

Wanganeen-Milera comes from good pedigree as the nephew of Gavin Wanganeen and son of Terry Milera, but is blazing his own trail en route to first round contention. Class is the word which often comes up when describing the flying Glenelg wingman, as he dances around opposition players and delivers pin-point passes by foot. The 18-year-old started out in the Bays’ Reserves team this year but has since made an impact at League level, and was a late call-up to the AFL Academy squad in April. He has proven one of the most exciting draft prospects to watch over the last two months, performing well against high levels of competition and holding his own. The scary thing is, he still has plenty of room to grow and improve.

Last month:

While he made his SANFL League debut in July, Wanganeen-Milera made arguably his biggest impact in August. He kicked a clutch goal in Glenelg’s dramatic win over Norwood, and booted another major from 13 disposals the next week before slotting into South Australia’s Under 19 state squad. He was a standout at that level, tearing up the wing and oozing class with each disposal to thrust his name into top 15 calculations. His last outing was back in the League grade, managing nine touches as Glenelg lost its first game for the season on the eve of finals.

>> SANFL Player Focus

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

August Ranking: #15

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

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

Last month:

Johnson turned out for back-to-back games in the WAFL Reserves grade to start the month, returning mixed results. While he was quiet with seven touches in his first dig, the tall midfielder backed it up with 22 disposals and 10 marks to showcase the range between his best and worst form. He had previously proven all class against his peers though, and that was no different as he represented WA in last week’s National Championships showcase. Running through midfield, Johnson’s kicking was outstanding and he proved a top level type with ball-in-hand.

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

August Ranking: #18

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

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

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based Victorian counterparts, Wilmot’s last game came on August 1. The speedy half-back was one of Northern’s best in a home loss to Bendigo, contributing 16 disposals, four rebound 50s, and plenty of run out of the back half. A vocal kind of leader, he also read the play well and got behind his teammates with great voice. There have, unfortunately, been no opportunities since.

Darcy Wilmot on the fly for Northern Knights

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

August Ranking: #20

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

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams has been in sensational form at WAFL Colts level. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 35 goals in 12 WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

Williams continues to prove an ominous type at WAFL Colts level, consistently kicking multiple goals and dominating in the air. He booted eight goals from a combined 29 disposals and 13 marks in his two games in the lead up to state Under 19 representation, before returning with another three majors from 17 touches and nine marks last week. In his National Championships outing, Williams showed promising signs up forward and found the big sticks, but could have ended up with more had he converted and stuck even more overhead marks inside 50.

#22 Sam Butler
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
10/02/2003 | 184cm | 73kg

August Ranking: #24

Snapshot: Butler has wonderfully clean hands and burning pace, traits which have translated well from an initial forward role, to a more recent midfield venture.

Another prospect with ties at the elite level, Butler is the brother of St Kilda forward, Dan. He is an exciting player in his own right though, with sharp skills by hand and a terrific turn of speed which serve him well in a creative sense. Having proved himself in the forward half, Butler went on to impress with his clean ball winning ability in midfield before injury struck. He missed out on representing Vic Country as an Under 19 having done so at Under 16s level, but is a player who catches the eye and would have been a lock for said honours if the opportunity presented once again.

Last month:

While Butler was steady with 10 disposals and 1.2 in his August 1 outing upon returning from injury, he built back to form in his next appearance. Turning out in a loss against Gippsland, the midfielder-forward racked up 27 disposals and four marks to be one of the Rebels’ better players on the day, before all Victorians were sent back into the current state of lockdown.

>> NAB League Player Focus

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

August Ranking: #21

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

Our top-ranked Northern Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is clearly the best prospect out of the Allies crop and a real top 25 round contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in April’s AFL Academy showcase against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

The sole NSW-ACT representative on this list, Fahey has also been impacted by lockdown over the last month but managed to sneak in a senior game. He turned out for local, AFL Canberra First Grade outfit, Queanbeyan on August 7 and produced the goods. Fahey snared three goals and was among the Tigers’ best players in a 129-point win over Gungahlin. Opportunities continue to prove scarce though, unfortunately.

>> Feature

#24 Tom Brown
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Medium Defender
30/07/2003 | 186cm | 71kg

August Ranking: #22

Snapshot: A dashing half-back with terrific athleticism in the form of speed and a vertical leap, Brown is a bolting talent who you’ll likely miss if you blink.

While Geelong gained access to sister, Millie via father-daughter rules, Tom Brown is ineligible to be drafted by the Cats under the father-son category as his father Paul falls just short of the 100-game qualification. Nonetheless, the Murray Bushrangers prospect has plenty of eye-catching traits which will help him blaze his own trail. A Vic Country Under 16 and now Under 19 representative, Brown is capable of playing on each line but looks to have found a home across half-back, where his dashing style and overhead marking shine. An ankle injury kept him out for a large chunk of the season, but he since returned and looked raring to break into first round contention.

Last month:

As has proven a repeated tale for Victorians on this list, Brown only managed one NAB League outing in August. He was steady with 12 disposals, two marks and three tackles in Murray’s low-scoring loss to Calder at the start of the month, but has not had any further opportunities to impress with no APS competition, and the Bushranger’s bye on August 15.

#25 Zac Taylor
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Small Midfielder/Forward
31/01/2003 | 180cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A crafty small prospect with outstanding vision, skills and decision making, Taylor has no trouble finding the ball and makes things happen when in possession.

A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Taylor proved undeniable for repeat honours in the Under 19 grade this year given his outstanding NAB League form. The 180cm midfielder-forward combines toughness with high level smarts; not afraid to work hard to win his own ball, but most effective when able to accumulate and tear sides apart with his sharp skills. The 18-year-old has a great turn of speed and looks to be creative with each possession, breaking into space with his zip before hitting targets further afield. He is particularly reliable by foot and puts up ultra-consistent numbers each week, making him a deserved entrant to the top 25 up our September update.

Last month:

There has been no NAB League action for Metro prospects past August 1, but Taylor made than lone appearance count after impressing at representative level. He racked up a whopping 37 disposals, four marks and four inside 50s in a tight win against Murray on that day, having built into a ridiculous strong vein of form.

>> NAB League Round 15 POTW

Zac Taylor is a crafty user of the ball

#26 Blake Howes
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Wing

7/04/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: One of the best athletes available in this year’s draft, Howes boasts a terrific aerial game but also competes well at ground level and shows promising versatility.

While unranked last month, Howes is one who previously featured in our top 25 and is a player who should be well known to keen draft watchers. He was an All Australian at Under 16 level, plying his trade as a high-marking medium forward with wonderful athleticism and clean hands. While he started the year off in that usual forward post, Howes has since shown his versatility with a shift to the wing and is a classic high-ceiling type of prospect. He was included in this year’s initial AFL Academy intake and continues to back up that selection with form fitting of his potential as a mainstay in the Sandringham Dragons’ side.

Last month:

It was unlucky for a player like Howes that the latest lockdown came, given he had been building into some really promising form for Sandringham Dragons up on the wing. He notched 20 disposals and two goals against strong opposition in GWV on August 1, continuing to show his potential and genuine upside.

#27 Mitch Knevitt
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
8/01/2003 | 193cm | 81kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with great size and reach, Knevitt dominates at the coalface and impacts around the ground with his strong overhead marking, a feature also sighted up forward.

One who was marked by his teammates as one to watch during preseason, Knevitt has taken full advantage of finally getting the opportunity to impress with some outstanding form in 2021. The 193cm midfielder provides range and size which proves difficult to combat at the coalface, as he digs in to win contested ball and stands up in tackles while dishing it out. The Geelong Falcons product is also developing his outside game and is athletically sound, getting to more contests around the ground and making an impact with his contested marking. He fits the modern day midfielder-forward prototype given his built and ability, with the performances to match his potential now coming to the fore.

Last month:

Knevitt had been building ominous form before the latest Victorian hiatus, with his sole outing in August an absolute blinder. The big-bodied midfielder dominated with 36 disposals, 10 marks, eight inside 50s and a goal against the Bendigo Pioneers, steering Geelong to victory in his most complete performance yet. He had also put in a massive shift in late-July and was impressive at representative level, helping him climb into top 30 range.

>> NAB League Player Focus
>> NAB League Round 16 POTW

#28 Judson Clarke
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Small Forward/Midfielder
17/10/2003 | 179cm | 69kg

August Ranking: #25

Snapshot: Clarke is a zippy small forward/midfielder who can light up the game in a flash with his forward run, tricky agility, and eye for goal.

While his exploits were on full show earlier in the year, Clarke stamped his credentials with a breakout performance in the Under 19 Victorian trials, bagging five goals in a starring display. The crafty Dandenong Stingrays product represented Vic Country at Under 16 level and continues to show promising glimpses both in the NAB League and at school footy level. He is nimble in possession with a mix of speed and agility, and looks to make things happen in the front half with creative energy and smarts at the fall of the ball. Clarke often finishes his work with spearing left-foot kicks, making for an exciting package as far as small prospects go. While he can roll through midfield, the 17-year-old looks most damaging up forward and can cement his spot here with more eye-catching big game showings.

Last month:

The Yarra Valley Grammar student had his last outing on July 30, playing against Peninsula Grammar in the AGSV football competition. As a result, he missed out on Dandenong’s August 1 bout and was then impacted by Victoria’s restrictions on metropolitan areas.

#29 Jesse Motlop (FRE NGA)
South Fremantle/Western Australia | Small Forward/Midfielder
23/11/2003 | 176cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A highly skilled small forward with great goal sense, speed and smarts, Motlop comes from good pedigree and can make his presence known in a flash.

Another player with ties to the elite level, Motlop is the son of former Port Adelaide and North Melbourne forward Daniel, but is ineligible for father-son selection. He is part of Fremantle’s NGA, though it will be difficult for the Dockers to secure his services via bidding as Metro-based WA prospects can only be matched on with a bid after pick 40. To any club, Motlop offers an exciting mix of speed and skill as a small forward, able to find the goals regularly with clever finishes while also providing forward pressure. An Aquinas College student, he topped the PSA goalkicking charts last year as a bottom-ager and has cracked the WAFL League grade this season, spending more time in midfield against his peers.

Last month:

Motlop capped off a strong PSA football season with Aquinas College in August, spending more time in midfield after his forward feats in Year 11. He then turned out for Western Australia in last week’s National Championships fixture, snaring a classy small forward’s goal and showing flashes of his brilliance. Upon returning to the WAFL League grade, Motlop booted 2.2 from 13 disposals in a productive display as South Fremantle downed West Coast. He is well poised to now feature in the Bulldogs’ finals campaign.

#30 Jacob van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Defender
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands and a booming kick, but has also shown great potential as a swingman and even in midfield.

Having been earmarked as potentially Western Australia’s best tall prospect coming into the season, van Rooyen has overcome some adversity en route to recapturing his best form. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games as a bottom-ager. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in 2020’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis halted his progress a touch, but van Rooyen started out the season at League level and has shown he is physically a level above the Colts grade.

Last month:

van Rooyen was in serious form heading into last week’s National Championships showcase, booting 11.5 from a combined 44 disposals and 16 marks in two WAFL Colts appearances. Having starred in his usual forward post with all the physicality expected of him, van Rooyen translated that form to a defensive swing for WA’s Under 19 side. He was exceptional against South Australia, helping out on the last line and popping up as an aerial force to clunk multiple intercept marks. He was more steady with seven touches and two goals in his latest Colts dig, but has proven his swingman credentials.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

Jacob van Rooyen is a powerful prospect | Credit: Claremont Football Club

IN THE MIX:

West Australian midfielder Josh Browne is the only player who comes out of last month’s list of 25, but remains around the mark in an even bunch having returned to his ball winning best post-injury. East Fremantle teammate Corey Warner has produced an eye-catching season in the APS and at League level, while intercept marking machine Rhett Bazzo came into consideration after his outstanding National Championships performance for WA. Claremont ruck-forward Eric Benning has also put his hand up of late, but Fremantle fans will want to keep the athletic bigman’s potential on the down-low.

Fellow tall Toby Conway is arguably the best pure ruck of this year’s crop and has hardly put a foot wrong when given the chance. Sandringham Dragons and St Kilda NGA pair Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens have also risen into second round calculations on the back of their desirable traits, while midfielders Connor Macdonald and Jake Soligo are consistent performers who earned representative honours this year.

Over in South Australia, Cooper Murley remains unlucky having again been sidelined through injury (collarbone), but has serious talent. North Adelaide accumulator Hugh Jackson put up some extraordinary early-season numbers and made his Reserves debut last week, with Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne continues to perform and state Under 19 vice-captain Lewis Rayson was a member of our top 25 earlier in the year.

Up the Grades: Which youngsters cracked senior footy?

WITH finals time finally upon us in state leagues around the nation, there are plenty of budding AFL Draft prospects who are stepping up on the big stage. In a look Up the Grades, we highlight some of the National Combine invitees, state squad members, and academy products who plied their trade at senior level this past weekend.

A talented quartet of South Australian Under 19 representatives plied their trade in the SANFL top flight this past weekend, headlined by pick one contender Jason Horne-Francis. After a relatively quiet National Championships dig by his lofty standards, the explosive midfielder-forward sent a reminder of his talents with 24 disposals, five clearances, nine inside 50s and a goal as the Panthers downed West Adelaide. Matthew Roberts also featured as South secured finals, snaring two goals from 13 disposals.

First round bolter Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera also returned to the League grade, though his Glenelg side lost its first game for the season right on the eve of finals. The 18-year-old wingman notched nine disposals and four marks for the Bays. Elsewhere, top-ager Max Litster was productive on debut with 23 touches and seven marks as Woodville-West Torrens trounced Central District. Raw Bulldogs defender and combine invitee Leek Alleer took two marks from eight disposals, while Tasmanian Oliver Davis (16 disposals) turned out for Adelaide’s last game of the season – a loss to Norwood.

There were a few more debuts in the Reserves, including North Adelaide midfield pair Hugh Jackson and Harvey Harrison. Both managed 11 disposals with the latter, an emergency for last week’s championships clash, also kicking a goal. Under 18s skipper and Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate Blayne O’Loughlin also featured for the Roosters, who beat Sturt.

The Double Blues were served well by state vice-captain Mani Liddy (26 disposals, eight clearances) who is in good touch, while Zac Becker also built on his representative form with 22 touches and a whopping 13 rebound 50s in the loss. Up the other end, it was a quieter day for fellow tall Morgan Ferres.

Woodville-West Torrens and Central Districts were the other two sides to field a bunch of Under 19 state squad members, as the Eagles got up by 15 points. Most of them turned out in Bulldogs colours, including debutant Luca Whitelum (21 disposals, nine marks) and Shay Linke (18 disposals, nine marks, eight tackles), who narrowly missed the starting squad.

Adelaide NGA small forward Isaiah Dudley was productive with 15 touches and a goal, while the speedy Lachlan Grubb had it 12 times. For the Eagles, bottom-ager Adam D’Aloia ran out at the level once more and laid six tackles to go with his 14 disposals. Northern Territory native Ronald Fejo was another to watch in the two’s, booting a goal from 24 disposals as West Adelaide downed South.

Over in Western Australia, a trio of state squad guns hit League level after helping the Black Ducks to last week’s Under 19 win. Peel Thunder utility Brady Hough was arguably the pick of the bunch, registering 22 disposals, nine marks, five inside 50s and a goal in his sparkling top flight debut.

Backman Jack Avery took five marks for Perth in a loss to West Perth, while Fremantle NGA prospect Jesse Motlop booted 2.2 from his 13 touches as South Fremantle beat West Coast. Classy Subiaco midfielder Matthew Johnson was also set to line up for the Reserves, but did not end up taking the field at any level.

Three seperate age groups were represented among the Tasmania Devils players to turn out in Sunday’s TSL preliminary final, which saw Launceston qualify for this week’s decider with a big win over Clarence. National Combine invitee Baker Smith was among the Roos’ best in the loss along with Darcy Gardner (one goal), as Noah Holmes again got stuck into his ruck duties.

Bottom-agers Tom McCallum and Bryce Alomes also lined up for Clarence, as did the 2002-born Lachlan Borsboom. In the navy blue of Launceston, Zach Morris continues to provide quality with his versatility, while top-agers Jayden Hinds and Bailey Gillow played their parts off the bench with a grand final appearance up for grabs.

The QAFL entered its second week of finals, leaving a couple more left to play, with a scattering of Brisbane and Gold Coast academy products hitting the senior grade. Suns Academy player of the year Bodhi Uwland turned out for Broadbeach, who secured a spot in the grand final by downing Labrador.

The exciting defender-midfielder was joined by Cody Harrington (one goal) and Ryan Pickering in the winning side. For Labrador, top-ager Bailey Reeves and Mackenzie Riddle were among the squad which will get a second chance at grand final qualification next week.

Maroochydore is the team the Tigers await, after the Roos defeated reigning premier Morningside in style on Saturday. Daniel Lanthois booted a goal for the victors, while big-bodied midfielder Toby Triffett was named the Panthers’ best, as fellow top-ager Saxon Crozier managed a goal and Max Nelson again played his part.

Featured Image: Brady Hough (left) earned a WAFL League debut this week | Credit: Shazza J Photography

PODCAST EXPLAINER | Western Australia vs. South Australia AFL U19s recap

THE Final Siren podcast team came together for a special pocket podcast edition this week, recapping all the action and fallout from Saturday’s AFL Under 19 National Championships clash between Western Australia and South Australia. Host Peter Williams and analyst Michael Alvaro dissected some of the key topics out of the one-off showcase, detailed in the agenda below.

Podcast Link: Click here!

>> Match Report: WA claims big win in champs opener

KEY PODCAST POINTS:

Themes of the game – where it was won + standout players

While much was made of South Australia’s top-end, consisting of first round candidates Jason Horne-Francis, Matthew Roberts, and Arlo Draper rolling through midfield, Western Australia’s arguably less-heralded mix of Matthew Johnson, Kade Dittmar, Josh Browne, James Tunstill, and Angus Sheldrick proved dominant at times – even without vice-captain Neil Erasmus.

Combine the engine room ascendancy with the aerial feats of their talls at either end, and the Black Ducks’ spine worked wonders. Up forward, Jye Amiss put his hand up for top 15 status as he waxed with Jack Williams, while Rhett Bazzo showed his intercept-marking class in defence alongside newfound swingman Jacob van Rooyen, and Jack Avery.

WA’s strength and depth across the ground was noticeable, and they clearly benefitted from experiencing multiple trial games together. SA had a few showcase their outside class, with wingman Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera a particular standout, while Jase Burgoyne, Cooper Beecken, Lewis Rayson, and Max Litster all worked hard to drive the ball forward.

>> Scouting Notes: Every player covered

– Potential Power Ranking risers

There were a few clear standouts from a draft sense in this game, five of which were highlighted in our earlier Rising Stocks piece. From a South Australian sense, Wanganeen-Milera was one who truly consolidated his status in the first round having shown plenty of class on the ball. He has a few athletic tricks which buy time and uses the ball wonderfully well, carving up the opposition by foot.

Joining him in the top 15 discussion was Amiss, who has been an undeniable talent this year. Having amassed an incredible goalkicking record of 49.12 in the WAFL Colts, the East Perth forward spearheaded WA’s attack with a number of leading forays and most importantly, two goals.

Amiss’ feats and form saw van Rooyen thrown into defence after snaring 11.5 in his last two Colts outings, and the move worked wonders. The physical Claremont prospect was dominant in the air and with his bodywork, waxing beautifully with fellow swingman Bazzo to serve a reminder of their second round credentials.

– Which team would win the championships?

Saturday’s national carnival taster certainly quenched a thirst for the format, but still leaves the lingering question of which region would have taken out this year’s championships if we were treated to a full competition.

Having shown ominous form on Saturday, Western Australia have to be considered in the top bracket – above South Australia despite either state boasting 18 Draft Combine invitees each. Vic Metro is the other team to be considered a contender, as they thumped Vic Country by 59 points in July’s challenge match.

The midfield battle between WA and Vic Metro is a mouthwatering proposition, with some of Saturday’s dominant Black Ducks poised against the likes of Nick Daicos, Finn Callaghan, and Josh Ward. South Australia and Vic Country would also prove an even battle, while the Allies are somewhat of an unknown quantity having not yet played together in 2021, but laying claim to some class.

Scouting Notes: 2021 AFLU19s – Western Australia vs. South Australia

THE 2021 AFL Under 19 National Championships got underway on Saturday in a last-minute clash between Western Australia and South Australia at Lathlain Park, with the hosts getting up 9.13 (67) to 5.8 (38). In a bumper edition of Scouting Notes, we take a look at the performances of every player afield, including some defining showings from top draft prospects. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

>> Match Report: WA claims big win in champs opener

WESTERN AUSTRALIA #1-19:

By: Ed Pascoe

#1 Jesse Motlop (South Fremantle)

The Fremantle NGA member didn’t have that four-quarter performance he would have been after, but still managed to show his eye-catching traits – starting in the first quarter with a trademark rove and snap goal, showing his forward craft. Motlop provided great pressure and second efforts in the second quarter, but was very quiet in the third quarter before moving into the midfield in the last and winning plenty of the ball, while also taking a few marks around the ground.

#2 Jed Hagan (East Fremantle)

The only 2022 draft prospect to take the field, Hagan looked as comfortable as anyone out on the ground and showed plenty of composure and competitiveness down back. Hagan provided some meaningful drive of half-back, often using the ball well by hand and foot, but it was his competitiveness for his size that really impressed. In one instance he won a contest against SA tall forward Morgan Ferres, who had been beating most taller opponents all day in marking contests. A consistent four-quarter performer, Hagan looks a great prospect for the 2022 draft.

#4 Judd McVee (East Fremantle)

The speedy half-back didn’t do a lot wrong, playing a new position this year after showing signs as a midfielder at Under 16s state level. McVee was smooth in most things he did with ball in hand, using it by hand and foot and looking stylish in the way he carried the ball from defence. Although his production wasn’t as high as other teammates in defence, his slick ball use and role was still very important.

#7 Angus Sheldrick (Claremont)

It was a typical game from Sheldrick with the strong bodied midfielder showing his contested prowess around the ball, and equally strong drive and attacking mindset. Sheldrick’s kicking wasn’t at his best standard and he could have kicked a nice goal on the run which ended up hitting the post, and that kicking will be something he continues to work on. His attack on the ball, however, is just about the best amongst this year’s draft crop – winning some free kicks from some courageous plays. His third quarter was his best highlighted by a one-handed intercept mark and another play brushing off an opponent with ease to kick long inside 50.

#9 Max Chipper (Swan Districts)

Chipper was a late in for the injured Neil Erasmus and he made the most of his call-up to be among his side’s major ball winners playing on the wing. Chipper did well to work into defence to be an outlet for a switch and his ball use from the defensive half was solid. Although not the quickest with ball in hand, his work-rate around the ground helped him take plenty of marks and contribute well in transition for WA.

#12 Lochlan Paton (West Perth)

One of the pressure forwards for WA, Paton played his role well despite his low production and he was rewarded late in the game with a nice intercept mark and snap goal. Paton’s pressure and ability to get some timely smothers in set up plenty of scoring opportunities for his teammates and despite a few unlucky free kicks given away, he kept up his pressure for all four quarters. A midfielder for the last few years, Paton has fared well in this forward role of late.

#13 Bryce Watson (Swan Districts)

The athletic small defender didn’t lose too many contests as his leap and speed gave the SA forwards a lot of trouble, with some nice spoils and an ability to close down his opponents on the lead. Watson’s kicking wasn’t to a great standard at times but his work by hand was often clean and creative, and he showed a solid mix of defending and attacking. His strong contested intercept mark in the third quarter was a real highlight.

#14 Taj Woewodin (East Fremantle)

The Melbourne father-son prospect had a solid game playing on the wing and across half-back, showing safe decision making with ball in hand and good skills by hand and foot. His knack of taking intercept marks showed his ability to read the play well and he almost kicked a nice goal from long range in the second quarter, but just missed. It’s been a solid year for Woewodin, with that consistency on show in his game against SA in an as-expected sort of performance from him.

#15 Finn Gorringe (East Fremantle)

The captain of WA was a steady head in defence, often using the ball well by foot and barely losing a one-on-one contest. It was no surprise to see him favour his kicking over handballing, with some very nice kicks well weighted to his teammates. Although this game wasn’t his most productive, he still managed to show why he was made captain of the side.

#18 Josh Browne (East Fremantle)

Although it took until the second half for Browne to really get going, it turned out a rather typical performance form the East Fremantle ball magnet with his ability to win the ball on the inside and outside. Browne’s consistency by foot was just about his only blemish with some great kicks inside 50 but a few poor kicks as well, which where uncharacteristic. Where he excelled was his ability to win the contested ball and feed out nicely by hand, and while usually winning plenty of the ball in the middle, he also managed to win his fair share while playing at half-forward – taking a few marks and being a great outlet. He would finish as one of WA’s most productive players for the day.

#19 Kade Dittmar (East Perth)

A typical performance from the inside midfielder who won his fair share of his disposals at the coal face, using his big frame to his advantage. His ability to break tackles was on show, as was his ability to stick the hard ones, which earned him a free kick in the second quarter where he would slot his only goal for the game. Although his kicking at times was poor, his ability to win clearances cleanly and not just with his strong frame was very promising.

WA's Jesse Motlop (left) and Jack Williams celebrate a goal | Credit: SANFL

WESTERN AUSTRALIA #20-43

By: Declan Reeve

#20 James Tunstill (East Perth)

Having produced a good season to date at WAFL Colts level, Tunstill took the opportunity against South Australia to put his name in the mind of recruiters with a strong display, particularly in the first half. Early on it felt like Tunstill was involved in every bit of WA play, winning the ball from stoppages or receiving a releasing handball to move the ball forward quickly. He timed his runs well and positioned smartly around contests to be in the best spot to win it. In the thick of it, Tunstill did well to keep the ball away from opponents, then fire out sharp handballs to teammates in space. What was arguably most impressive about Tunstill’s game was how he tracked the ball on the ground and refused to be knocked off balance, winning the ball against opponents and flicking it up to teammates before he could be brought to ground.

#22 Jack Avery (Perth)

Having experienced the intensity of WAFL League level, Avery looked mostly composed in the defensive 50, using his strength and size to take intercept marks or throw a fist in to impact an opponent’s attempt when required. Later, he would also followed up with safe ball use to keep WA in possession. In the moments that Avery did push up the ground, he wasn’t afraid to take on opponents and try to hit the most aggressive option.

#23 Matthew Johnson (Subiaco)

The highly touted WA midfielder showed exactly why he is in first round consideration with a skilful display. Whilst Johnson isn’t the fastest player going around, his decision making and evasion in traffic gives him more than enough tools to appear quicker than most opponents, able to spot out a target in the thick of things and execute the skill well. Johnson’s work-rate meant that he was always a chance to impact the play, going in to win it himself or working hard forward of the ball to provide an option, then following up with clean ball use to keep WA going forward. That same work-rate saw Johnson impact inside his defensive 50 more than most other midfielders and worked it out well. When Johnson had the ball he more often than not looked to move it into the corridor to open up the forward 50 for his side. 

#25 Ethan Regan (East Perth)

A game of almosts for Regan saw him show off his best athletic traits in patches, just lacking consistent impact across the game. Regan did well to win the ball below his knees on the move for a taller player, consistently picking the ball up off on half-volleys and turning his opponent around quickly, before moving the ball on by foot. His kicking inside 50 was superb, setting up multiple scoring opportunities by hitting up leading targets rather than bombing long, although he did kick a great goal from outside 50. Regan also utilised his leap to take the ball in the air uncontested, with his intercept of a chip kick in the midfield the best example of this.

#29 Jacob van Rooyen (Claremont)

After making a name for himself as a tall forward option over the past couple of years, van Rooyen has been playing in defence at state level recently, continuing his development in the role with an impressive display. van Rooyen was rarely beaten through the contest, able to spoil the ball when caught behind his opponent, but more often bodying his opponent to protect the drop zone and take the mark. van Rooyen’s disposal was good throughout the game, looking to use it safely out of the defensive 50 but aggressively when going into the forward half. His defensive work-rate stopped a few promising SA plays, working hard to impact the ball on the goal line early on in the game, and then building more confidence to leave his opponent and take marks in front of packs, or fill the hole in defence to take marks from rushed kicks further up the ground. 

#30 Jye Amiss (East Perth)

Amiss had an outstanding display, with his two-goal first half particularly impressive. His opening major was the first of the game, where he was held without the ball in a pack inside 50, earning a free kick and kicking well from straight in front. His second was arguably the highlight of the day, collecting a half-volley along the boundary line inside 50, where he took a couple of steps to balance and slotted the goal from about 40 out. Apart from two goals, Amiss showed off his danger on the lead, where he managed to get separation from his opponents easily and held the ball out in front, more often than not looking to pass it off to a teammate leading towards him or hand it off to a runner if he was further up the ground. In keeping teammates involved, he ultimately sacrificed what could’ve been a four or five goal game. It was promising to see Amiss actively look to push up the ground and take marks on the wings, keeping the SA defence guessing and allowing other teammates to be the main target inside 50 at times.

#31 Eric Benning (Claremont)

Although Benning wouldn’t have put up massive numbers compared to some of his other tall teammates, the Fremantle NGA hopeful’s athleticism caught the eye with his leap and agility particularly impressive for his size. This was highlighted best with a few marking contests where Benning was caught behind but still managed to take a mark over the top of his opponent, or took a clean one grab pick up below his knees and weaved through traffic. 

#34 Corey Warner (East Fremantle)

Playing in his usual wing role, Warner had a few key moments especially early on in the game. Pushing to be an option in the corridor when the ball was on the other wing, but also showed his willingness to win the inside ball and work through traffic with his evasiveness, or at times, sheer strength when pushing opponents away. It was encouraging to see Warner lose opponents by turning them inside out and then getting the ball to a teammate with his quick hands or inside 45 kicks.

#36 Rhett Bazzo (Swan Districts)

This was somewhat a breakout performance for Bazzo, showing off his reading of the game by taking plenty of intercept marks, but also able to drift across the front of packs and take marks out in front, quickly playing on with the ball. Bazzo more often than not looked to switch the ball across the 50 when he won it, putting it in front of his teammates so they could keep running after they had taken the mark. Bazzo was also confident when pushing up the ground, providing as an option in the corridor, even earning himself a free kick and 25m penalty, unfortunately unable to convert the goal from 50 out, although this was one of very few blemishes on his long kicking with his kick ins from SA behinds often getting distance and kick starting offensive plays. What was arguably most impressive from Bazzo was his two way running, where he’d push back hard when SA won the ball to impact contests inside 50, even spoiling a ball right on the goal line.

#38 Brady Hough (Peel Thunder)

The only other multiple goal kicker apart from Amiss, Hough enjoyed a solid display where he showed off some smart leading patterns in the forward half, able to get separation with ease, getting used more often as the game went on and he started to stamp his authority on the contest. The first of his two goals came from a free kick inside 50 where he went for a ground ball and had his legs taken out from under him, kicking it from right in front with ease. The second was more challenging, where he had a set shot pressed into the deep pocket and put it through.

#40 Jake South (Subiaco)

South took advantage of a relatively weaker SA ruck division and flexed his muscle to win most hitouts by outbodying his opponents in the ruck, initiating contact and knocking them off balance to control the stoppages. South grew in confidence as the game went on, starting to take the ball out of the ruck and taking on opponents himself. South also positioned well behind the play, taking intercept marks and looking solid below his knees.

#43 Jack Williams (East Fremantle)

Struggling in front of goal for the day, Williams still looked a dangerous option in the forward 50 where his strength was too much for the SA defenders to handle at times, taking contested marks without really looking challenged. That same strength gave him an advantage when he took ruck contests inside 50, pushing opponents out of the way and taking the ball himself or tapping it straight down in front of a teammate. Williams’ work-rate in the forward half can’t be overstated, consistently providing repeat leads and drawing an opponent to free up space for a teammate to lead into. He did get himself on the scoreboard to reward his efforts, pushing an opponent under the ball and taking it over his head, slotting a goal from right in front about 35 out.

WA skipper Finn Gorringe addresses his side | Credit: WAFL

SOUTH AUSTRALIA #1-18:

By: Tom Wyman

#1 Isaiah Dudley (Central District)

The Adelaide NGA prospect had a quiet start to the game, as South Australia struggled to get the ball past the halfway mark in the early stages. With the Western Australia midfield controlling the game, the small forward was starved of opportunity to impact the game. However Dudley had his moments as the game wore on, particularly when moved into the midfield for the final term. His speed and run and carry was evident in patches, as was his clever football smarts, however the nature of the game denied the Central Districts teenager of an opportunity to assert himself.

#2 Blayne O’Loughlin (North Adelaide)

It was a tough day for North Adelaide defender Blayne O’Loughlin, who wasn’t able to assert his usual calmness upon the contest. Given a close-checking role on dangerous WA forward Jesse Motlopfor much of the game, O’Loughlin struggled defensively as the son of Kangaroos and Power star Daniel gained separation and booted a regulation goal early in the piece. Although he looked more composed down back as the game wore on, nailing a couple of kicks in the defensive-50, he wasn’t able to impact with his usual offensive flair. An uncharacteristic turnover by foot in the final term gifted the home side with the easiest of goals.

#5 Jase Burgoyne (Woodville-West Torrens)

Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne was one of the croweaters best on a difficult day. Stationed across half-back, his work rate and two-way running was admirable. He was involved in much of South Australia’s offensive play, with a couple of nice passages of run and carry along the wing reinforced by some clean ball-use. However he was also quick to run back and offer support when the visitors were under siege down back. The talented utility, who made his SANFL league debut with Port Adelaide earlier in the year, was efficient by foot but his disposals lacked damage. Overall, it was a solid if unremarkable display from Burgoyne, who appears likely to join the Power come draft night.

#6 Lachlan Grubb (Central District)

The speedy 19-year-old small forward struggled to impact the game, but he certainly wasn’t alone. Grubb had a couple of ‘nearly’ moments, including a smart rove and quick snap at goal which ultimately fell short but, like Dudley, wasn’t favoured by the nature of the contest.

#8 Lewis Rayson (Glenelg)

The South Australian vice-captain was one of the visitors best performers in their 29-point defeat. Despite being stationed across half-back in the first couple of quarters, the Glenelg product strolled forward and registered the first genuine shot on goal for SA, a long-range attempt which was touched on the line. Under immense pressure, with the WA midfield sending it inside-50 regularly, Rayson was one of few South Australian’s to exhibit calmness and composure with the ball. Rayson’s run out of defence was important and his quick hands were noticeable. His kicking was largely clean, albeit for a costly turnover in the final term. He pushed up into the midfield at-times as the SA coaching staff looked to shuffle the magnets, but looked at home at half-back, where he read the play well and was able to take a couple of strong intercept marks.

#9 Hugh Jackson (North Adelaide)

Hugh Jackson managed to get his hands on the ball often, but didn’t have the impact on the contest he would’ve liked. Starting on the wing before given a stint on-ball, the skilful Rooster was clean by hand in the clinches, but got caught trying to do too much a couple of times on the broadcast wing. He had a snap on goal after a nice bit of roving, but had an inconsistent day by foot, with some kicks finding their targets and others missing. Nevertheless, he demonstrated a natural ability to find the footy around the ground.

#10 Isaac Birt (South Adelaide)

South Adelaide’s Isaac Birt ran hard up and down the wing all day, working relentlessly to consistently provide an outlet option on his side of the ground. He was able to use his precise left-foot on a couple of occasions and was largely clean with his ball-use. A draft bolter who has risen to become one of the SANFL Under-18s best players this season, Birt showed some run and dash and produced an admirable performance for South Australia.

#12 Cade Kennedy (West Adelaide)

The West Adelaide skipper started the game in the midfield. He got his hands on the ball early but was lacked some cleanness with his first touch. He tackled hard and spread well across the ground to provide an option between the arcs. He found key forward Lukas Cooke inside-50 with a nice kick against the flow of play in the first term, then later released defender Lewis Rayson with a clever gather and intelligent handball. Although he faded out of the game, Kennedy had a couple of nice moments in difficult circumstances.

#13 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (Glenelg)

Wanganeen-Milera was clearly South Australia’s best player in the tough loss. One of few to show poise and execute under pressure, the Glenelg teenager looked up to the level immediately. The wingman used the ball intelligently and his work under pressure was outstanding. Whilst many of his teammates appeared rushed and fumbly as WA brought the heat, Wanganeen-Milera read the game well, moved like a Rolls Royce, made the correct decisions and showed off a couple of nice tricks under duress. He was crunched by WA star Jye Amiss in the final term when going back with the flight of the ball, and was forced to leave the field, but later returned to bravely run out the match. Perhaps one of the only South Australian’s whose draft stocks will have risen after his performance, Wanganeen-Milera appears likely to feature in first round calculations on draft night after a classy display.

#14 Jacob Owens (Glenelg)

Jacob Owens spent the game rotating from the half-forward flank to the wing. A ball-magnet for the Tigers in the SANFL Under-18 competition, Owens ran into some good spaces but lacked composure with his first couple of touches, throwing it on the boot and lofting it forwards instead of lowering his eyes. Appearing rushed at-times, Owens, like many of his teammates, struggled to adapt to the pace of the game at-times, despite finding a bit of the ball and working his way into some good spaces.

#17 Hugh Stagg (Glenelg)

Fresh off a four-goal performance against West Adelaide last weekend, Hugh Stagg spent the game at half-forward for South Australia. His kicking was poor early, contributing to a couple of turnovers, however he slotted the first goal of the game for SA after benefitting from a 50-metre penalty. The powerful flanker missed a shot on goal later in the game, and could have benefitted from a stint on the ball to gain some confidence.

#18 Arlo Draper (South Adelaide)

Top ten pick candidate Arlo Draper showed patches of class and was among South Australia’s best players at Lathlain Park. Draper split his time between the half-forward line and the midfield, as he has done all season. He was a marking target in attack and moved well in-traffic in the midfield. He was classy with his disposal by hand and foot and demonstrating some stoppage smarts to win a couple of clearances. In the final term, Draper expertly outbodied his opponent and took an easy mark before booting the first goal of the final quarter. He could have added a second with a set-shot after winning a high free-kick, then later passed off another gettable attempt to teammate Lukas Cooke in the pocket. He didn’t accumulate high numbers, but used it well and had an impact on the game.

Jason Horne-Francis captaining South Australia | Credit: SANFL

SOUTH AUSTRALIA #20-35:

By: Michael Alvaro

#20 Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide)

It was a hit-and-miss kind of day for Roberts, who featured prominently in South Australia’s midfield. At his best, he found plenty of the ball and helped drag the Croweaters back into the game through sheer work-rate. The South Adelaide talent was particularly prolific in the second term and looked most productive in possession during said period, capping it off with a well hit 45m set shot goal. He made some good double efforts at ground level and was moved forward for longer stints in term four, but found himself rushed and a touch scratchy when disposing by foot at times.

#21 Jason Horne-Francis (South Adelaide)

There were plenty of eyes fixed of Horne-Francis, who skippered the South Australian side in his typical midfield-forward role. He didn’t quite have the impact he would have liked on-ball and just couldn’t get his hands on it, but showed some of his power with lunging pressure acts. His pure class in possession shone through though, as he used the ball well on the move and hardly looked rushed. One of his best kicks was a spearing ball across the top of the 50, hitting Hugh Stagg to prove his short game can be as effective as his long-range penetration. Horne-Francis ended up spending plenty of time forward in term four, converting a free kick and unselfishly handing off to Zac Becker for an assist.

#22 Mani Liddy (Sturt)

Another of the South Australian leaders and one of his side’s most prominent ball winners, Liddy proved an important four-quarter performer. The Sturt top-ager was typically strong around the ball, tackling hard and looking to bustle through congestion to release his outside runners. Liddy sometimes hacked his clearances forward but got good distance, and even found a bit of green ball around the ground through sheer work-rate. He put in a massive shift during the first half when WA was well on top, standing up in tough circumstances.

#23 Cooper Beecken (Glenelg)

Stationed among an under-siege defence, Beecken did a little bit of everything in an overall promising performance. The Glenelg backman was forced to play above his size in competing against the likes of Jack Williams at times, but fared well when running off his opponent on the rebound. Beecken timed his forward forays well to get on the end of handballs and deliver by foot, showing crisp skills and making good choices with his trust left boot.

#25 Max Litster (Woodville-West Torrens)

Another member of the backline who contributed aerially and across the ground, Litster proved his value as one of SA’s 2002-born prospects. The Woodville-West Torrens product has gained great experience at SANFL Reserves level this season and transferred his reliability to this outing. Litster made double efforts at the ball and wasn’t afraid to get in a contest, rising for spoils and chasing up ground balls. He was arguably among his side’s best handful of players overall, especially given he had plenty of work to do.

#27 Morgan Ferres (Sturt)

Ferres just about played a lone hand as SA’s most feasible forward target, presenting up the ground to good effect in what was a terrific first half performance. The Sturt tall worked his direct opponent over time and time again, easily getting separation on the lead and cleanly sticking his marks beyond the forward arc. Ferres was an important link for the Croweaters, but they could probably have done with another of him to make things happen inside 50. He wasn’t quite able to hit the scoreboard, and was moved to defence in term four.

#31 Lukas Cooke (Woodville-West Torrens)

Part of South Australia’s front six, Cooke usually does his best work as a marking option inside 50 but was made to work a little further afield on this occasion. The Woodville-West Torrens tall had a couple of difficult opportunities to kick goals in the first and fourth terms, but put one set shot out on the full while the other shaved the post. He had some nice moments in between when the going was tough, using his reach in the air and presenting on the lead.

#32 Zac Becker (Sturt)

Plenty of play went through Becker in defence, as he took on the task of manning Jye Amiss and mopped up plenty across defensive 50. He was tasked with the early kick-ins and went for distance with his massive boot, though saw plenty balls come straight back his way. Defensively, he got in good positions to make contests and intercept, including a couple of important marks and spoils. He was eventually shifted forward in term four and snared a goal for his efforts.

#33 Oscar Adams (Glenelg)

The tallest timber in South Australia’s starting back six, Adams had to be on his game against WA’s range of key forward options. The 198cm Glenelg prospect stood up strongly, attacking aerial contests and doing well to follow up once the ball had spilt off hands. He didn’t look to do too much with ball in hand, often taking the first and most effective option as SA shifted onto the rebound, using the ball cleanly for a player of his size.

#34 Jordan Lukac (Woodville-West Torrens)

Lukac’s physicality suited the intensity of the game, as the Woodville-West Torrens bigman looked to crash and bash his way into the contest. He played his usual ruck/forward role, rotating between both posts and faring well in the air. While he had a little more trouble gathering cleanly at ground level, Lukac worked hard for his side and added some strength around the ball.

#35 Oscar Steene (West Adelaide)

South Australia’s starting ruck, Steene showed promising potential as a 199cm prospect, but is still a touch raw. While he arrived at plenty of contests and got hands to the ball at most of them with his pure height and reach, Steene was made to battle hard to compete physically in the ruck and marking departments. Still, the West Adelaide tall has an aerial game he can build on.

Featured Image: Player’s fly in Saturday’s AFL U19 National Championships clash between WA and SA | Credit: SANFL via Twitter

Western Australia claims big win over South Australia in champs opener

WESTERN Australia has opened its 2021 AFL Under 19 Championships title defence with a commanding 29-point win over South Australia. Playing in front of a home crowd, the Sandgropers took control in the opening three quarters to blow the lead out to 43 points at the final break – though it should have been more with an 8.12 scoreline – before the visitors hit back with three goals to one in the fourth term, cutting the final margin back, 9.13 (67) to 5.8 (38).

Western Australia started strongly, denying South Australia any easy movement down the ground, and then found open space and runners when they had the chance. Within 12 minutes the home side had three goals on the board, and whilst not always perfect going inside 50, luck proved a fortune and the work rate was overwhelming.

After an early behind, Jye Amiss became the first goalkicker in the 2021 AFL Under 19 Championships, winning a free kick straight in front of goal and making no mistake. Less than 90 seconds later small forward Jesse Motlop pounced at ground level to extend the lead. Not a few minutes had passed and Brady Hough was legged as he went to pick up the ball inside 50, winning the free kick and nailing the set shot.

It took a while for South Australia to mount a threat going forward, with the best passage of play coming in the 16th minute mark of the term. It ended with Lucas Cooke who had a tight shot from the boundary line, but sprayed it out on the full. Jack Williams had a chance up the other end after a juggling contested mark inside 50, but also missed. A couple more chances went awry for South Australia with number one pick potential Jason Horne-Francis having some nice passages inside 50 with strong marks after a quiet start, but the likes of Jacob Van Rooyen stopped them in their tracks to help Western Australia to an 18-point lead.

Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and Mani Liddy were among the most lively for the visitors in the opening term, with Matthew Johnson, Angus Sheldrick and James Tunstill all among the better players for the Sandgropers.

The second term was more even with some end-to-end plays occurring early. East Perth’s Ethan Regan found his teammate in Amiss leading out with speed, and whilst the forward would miss this opportunity, he would convert a ripper later in the term. Instead 50m penalties would start to creep in with encroachments as Rhett Bazzo was the beneficiary first, but his set shot went to the left. Though the turnovers from South Australia out of defence were hurting, and eventually the home team drew a free kick inside 50 to Kade Dittmar who kicked their fourth consecutive goal to start the match.

It took another 50m penalty for South Australia to get on the board, this time off the boot of Glenelg’s Hugh Stagg who slotted through the visitor’s first about 10 minutes into the second term. South Australia had a lot more time in its forward half for the second term, but the likes of Bazzo and Van Rooyen were denying them time and time again with intercept marks or rushed behinds, saving certain goals. Matty Roberts was having a huge quarter, and in the end, another 50m penalty after a delayed tackle following a mark saw the South Adelaide teenager moved within range, and kicking a goal from just inside the arc.

The home team was far from done, with Amiss keeping up his undefeated streak of multiple goals in every game he has played this year, producing easily the goal of the day from the boundary home to slot the Sandgropers’ fifth of the contest. Whilst South Australia had a couple of inside 50s late, they could not find a target nor stop the fist of Bazzo on the line, leaving West Australia in front, 5.6 (36) to 2.5 (17) at half-time. Morgan Ferres and Max Litster were others who had impressed through the first half for the visitors, though to no avail with the West Australian midfield on top.

The third term was all Western Australia despite a slow start, and realistically should have capitalised even further than their three goals on the board. Ruck Jack South continued his solid first half with a prominent few touches in the opening few minutes, leading the way for the Sandgropers to get some early inside 50s. The armwrestle ensued with the visitors kicking out of defence again questionable. It was Hough who won a free kick courtesy of a downfield late bump, and he nailed a beautiful set shot from close to the boundary seven minutes in.

A rare forward foray showed off Horne-Francis’ class with a pinpoint bullet past three opponents into the leading Stagg’s arms, but Stagg could not finish it off. It would be the South Australia’s only real shot on goal as the term belonged to the home team. Not making them pay, Western Australia’s Judd McVee, Corey Warner and Williams had gettable chances whilst it would be Regan who from 50m launched and put it home for his side’s second 16 minutes into the quarter. He almost gave off a goal assist a minute later with clean hands to Hough for his third, but the Peel Thunder forward rushed in front of goal.

When Williams nudged his opponent under the ball in the final 30 seconds, the key forward was keen to atone for his straight in front shank minutes earlier. This time he was further out and kicking through the ball, he never looked like missing, sinking the shot after the siren to hand his team a 43-point lead at the final break.

South Australia started South Adelaide midfielders Horne-Francis and Arlo Draper forward, and it was the latter who took a strong mark and slotted a goal 90 seconds in to kick the Croweaters’ first since the second term. Meanwhile in the middle, Liddy was finding plenty of it going in hard. The West Australians maintaining the pressure forward, working hard and had a flying shot from Amiss who missed.

Both teams were playing possession football and the likes of Jase Burgoyne and Lewis Rayson were trying to create some movement going forward, while Horne-Francis attempted mark of the year flying above a couple of opponents but misjudging the flight. Luckily for the visitors the kick out of defence was poor and subsequent tackle on Draper resulted in another set shot for the South midfielder, though this time he missed. Moments later though Horne-Francis was held going for the mark and he slotted a goal in the 14th minute.

Western Australia finally got on the score 16 minutes into the term with a long kick in from Bazzo landing with Hough at ground level who quickly dribbled towards goal but hit the post. At the other end, Draper was again lively in the forward pocket, instead of taking the set shot chipped in to Cooke who tried to snap from the behind post but just missed. Soon the visitors would kick a third consolation goal as Zac Becker ran into an open goal to cut the deficit to four goals.

Liddy almost joined that consolation party with a flying shot from 50m but just missed. Western Australia went end-to-end and while the South Australian defence managed to win it back, a poor kick in the back pocket proved fatal. This time it was Lochlan Paton who intercepted and kicked it straight over the umpire’s head. That would prove to be the final goal of the day, with Western Australia getting up by 29 points, 9.13 (67) to 5.8 (38).

Bazzo was outstanding for Western Australia in defence, teaming up well with Van Rooyen in both intercepting and providing offensive dash, whilst the midfield took control against its higher-fancied opposition, with Johnson, Tunstill and Sheldrick all busy. Up forward, the potency of Williams, Hough and Amiss proved too much for the South Australian defence, with Wanganeen-Milera a rare highlight back there with slick skills amongst some errant disposal. Liddy and Roberts also pushed hard through midfield, whilst Ferres constantly provided an option leading out of the forward 50.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 3.2 | 5.6 | 8.12 | 9.13 (67)
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 0.2 | 2.5 | 2.5 | 5.8 (38)

GOALS:

WA: J. Amiss 2, B. Hough 2, J Motlop, K. Dittmar, E. Regan, J. Williams, L. Paton.
SA: H. Stagg, M. Roberts, A. Draper, J. Horne-Francis, Z. Becker.

DC BEST:

WA: R. Bazzo, J. Van Rooyen, M. Johnson, J. Tunstill, J. Amiss, B. Hough
SA: N. Wanganeen-Milera, M. Liddy, M. Roberts, M. Ferres, M. Litser, J. Burgoyne

Picture credit: SANFL Twitter

TEAMS | 2021 AFLU19s – Western Australia vs. South Australia

THE 2021 AFL Under 19 National Championships have finally arrived, with Western Australia set to take on South Australia at Lathlain Park on Saturday afternoon. The highly anticipated clash was initially delayed in its original Sunday slot, but is back on after eased border restrictions. The Croweaters will thus travel West, led by pick one contender Jason Horne-Francis, who lines up in midfield alongside deputy Mani Liddy and South Adelaide teammate Matthew Roberts.

Western Australia will be skippered by East Fremantle top-ager Finn Gorringe, who takes his place in defence while vice-captain Josh Browne prepares for an epic engine room battle. Fellow deputy Neil Erasmus will miss due to a bad corky, replaced by running machine Max Chipper. There are few real surprises across either line-up, though the hosts’ tall forward riches sees Jacob van Rooyen starting in defence. The Black Ducks are stacked in midfield too, with first round prospect Matthew Johnson squeezed out to a forward flank.

The South Australians boast a good mix of speed and class, with the likes of Port Adelaide father-son prospect Jase Burgoyne, Glenelg wingman Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, and top 10 candidate Arlo Draper among those to watch in the tricolours. Central District League representative Shay Linke was unlucky to miss the SA interchange, while electric Claremont small Jahmal Stretch would have narrowly missed the cut for WA. Both have been named as emergencies.

The action begins at 1:00pm local time, with both sides inevitably itching to get a proper taste of representative action. All 2021 National Championship fixtures are set to be broadcasted. Stay tuned to Draft Central over the next few days, as we’ll have a wrap of the game and Scouting Notes on every player to come on Monday.

>> PREVIEW: Where it’s won – WA vs. SA U19s

2021 AFL U19 National Championships

Western Australia vs. South Australia
Saturday August 28, 1:00pm AWST
Lathlain Park

FINAL SQUADS

Western Australia:

B: F. Gorringe, J. Avery, B. Watson
HB: R. Bazzo, J. van Rooyen, J. Hagan
C: C. Warner, G. Sheldrick, T. Woewodin
HF: M. Johnson, J. Williams, L. Paton
F: E. Benning, J. Amiss, J. Motlop
R: J. South, J. Tunstill, K. Dittmar

Int: J. Browne, B. Hough, J. McVee, E. Regan, M. Chipper
Emg: J. Busslinger, M. Chipper, K. Harbour, J. Stretch

South Australia:

B: M. Litster, Z. Becker, B. O’Loughlin
HB: C. Beecken, O. Adams, J. Burgoyne
C: I. Birt, M. Roberts, N. Wanganeen-Milera
HF: A. Draper, M. Ferres, L. Grubb
F: H. Stagg, J. Lukac, I. Dudley
R: O. Steene, J. Horne-Francis, M. Liddy

Int: L. Cooke, H. Jackson, C. Kennedy, J. Owens, L. Rayson
Emg: H. Harrison, S. Linke, L. Whitelum

Featured Image: (Left to right) West Australian leaders Josh Browne, Finn Gorringe, and Neil Erasmus | Credit: WAFL via Twitter

Where it’s won: Western Australia vs. South Australia Under 19s

THE 2021 AFL Under 19 National Championships are poised to go ahead in some form on Saturday afternoon, as Western Australia hosts South Australia at Mineral Resources Oval. While the clash, originally scheduled for Sunday, was postponed in the wake of state border closures, eased restrictions will allow the South Australian squad to travel without the need to quarantine.

With extended squads already announced for both states and plenty of stars among them, keen draft watchers will already have a good idea of who to watch in the highly-anticipated fixture. With those players in mind, we take a look at where the game will likely be won, and a few of the marquee match-ups poised to light up the big stage. Stay tuned, as both sides will be revealed tomorrow.

>> Squad Previews: South Australia | Western Australia

WHERE IT’S WON

The Midfield Battle

Both engine rooms match up quite well, with some of the premier players from either side set to feature at the centre bounces. All eyes will be on pick one candidate Jason Horne-Francis, who skippers the South Australian squad and will likely anchor the Croweaters’ midfield alongside top-age deputy, Mani Liddy. Add Matthew Roberts into the starting mix, and SA has a strong, reliable mix of ball winners.

That trio is matched well by WA’s likely lot, set to feature Subiaco pair Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson along with East Perth battering ram, Kade Dittmar. The trio has some serious size about it, measuring up at an average of 188cm compared to the 183cm stature of SA’s group. That may be levelled out by the physicality of Horne-Francis and Liddy, with Roberts and Johnson the types who will respectively look to thrive off that inside battle.

In terms of depth, both teams bat pretty deep. SA will look to rotate recent League debutant and top 10 prospect Arlo Draper from the front six, along with Glenelg bull Hugh Stagg. Classy Port Adelaide father-son candidate Jase Burgoyne is another viable option from half-back, along with the likes of Hugh Jackson, Cade Kennedy, and Shay Linke off the bench. On the outside are a couple of pure wingmen in Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and Isaac Birt, who provide some class and running power to further the team’s balance.

Western Australia’s depth is equally formidable. Corey Warner, the brother of Sydney’s Chad, and East Fremantle teammate Josh Browne would fancy starting spots, with the former also a capable wingman. The strong-bodied Angus Sheldrick has proved his worth as a mid-forward rotation piece, while James Tunstill is another East Perth ball winner who may feature, and Melbourne father-son hopeful Taj Woewodin can chip in from half-back. On the outer, Max Chipper is a running machine, while Brady Hough and Lochlan Paton have the versatility to contribute in multiple roles.

With a handy balance of inside grunt, class, and outside run, both midfields will be quite obviously central to their sides’ fortunes. WA’s representatives have already gotten a taste of how they may work together in a number of trial games, and while the SA squad will share plenty of familiarity, they may have some catching up to do. Having two leaders at the source certainly helps, though.

The Talls

Plenty has been made about Western Australia’s array of tall forward options, with the Black Ducks boasting a true embarrassment of riches in said department. Leading WAFL Colts goalkicker Jye Amiss is an absolute deadeye and doesn’t need too many opportunities to impact with multiple goals, while versatile East Fremantle tall Jack Williams thrives aerially and looks a likely centre half-forward/ruck candidate.

Having been thrown into defence during WA’s trial games, Jacob van Rooyen booted 11.5 in his last two Colts outings, while Claremont teammate Eric Benning has also shown his developing forward craft of late and could pinch-hit from the ruck. The Black Ducks are not as strong at the other end of the ground, but Swan Districts standout Rhett Bazzo is a classy intercept-marker who should organise the fort well and Jack Avery can play above his 190cm standing. 195cm bottom-ager Jedd Busslinger may also feature.

South Australia’s starting key defenders, Zac Becker and Oscar Adams will certainly have their hands full. The former reads the play well and is built nicely at 92kg, but the latter will have plenty to do aerially at 198cm, while Cooper Beecken (191cm) may have to play slightly above his size. The Croweaters have some height and power of their own at the other end, with Jordan Lukac and Morgan Ferres strong starting pair supported by Lukas Cooke and Luca Whitelum off the bench.

We may well see some big bags of goals kicked given how well both sides stack up in attack compared to defence, at least in the tall department. With 2021 looming as largely a midfielder’s draft at the top end, opportunity awaits for the talls who can step up on the big stage and potentially shoot into top 15 contention.

The Smalls

With so many bigmen taking the field, the smalls will be equally important in helping capitalise on contest spills in attack or mopping up down back. South Australia will gain a good mix of speed and smarts from Central District pair Lachlan Grubb and Isaiah Dudley up forward, while the likes of Blayne O’Loughlin and Lewis Rayson are serious rebounders in defence. Rayson may also roll up to a wing, while O’Loughlin can play forward or impact in midfield at 171cm.

WA has some dangerous small forwards to watch, headlined by Fremantle NGA prospect Jesse Motlop. Along with Claremont’s Jahmal Stretch and East Fremantle’s Kaden Harbour, there is some serious skill, speed and smarts at the feet of WA’s talls. Down back, Swan Districts defender Bryce Watson has impressed of late, while Finn Gorringe would provide some physicality to go with the class of fellow Sharks, Jed Hagan and Judd McVee.

Whichever set of smalls can better capitalise on the work of their talls will contribute greatly to opening the game up and releasing a bit of pressure off the bigmen. With such a focus on the talls and midfielders, these are the types who may pop up in important moments or have an impact after flying under the radar.

Featured Image: Western Australia’s Matthew Johnson (left) and South Australia’s Jason Horne-Francis in AFL Academy colours | Credit: Michael Klein/Herald Sun