Tag: mature age

2020 AFL Draft recap: St Kilda Saints

ST KILDA is a side looking to crack the top four and after climbing all the way to sixth at the end of this year’s home-and-away fixtures, the Saints are truly ascending. Having recently targeted established, mature-age talent to accelerate their development, St Kilda has hardly been the most active club come draft time over the last few years. That theme continued in 2020, but handy key position depth at either end sees the Saints’ squad filling out quite nicely in anticipation of a top four tilt.

ST KILDA

National Draft:
#26 Matthew Allison (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
#45 Tom Highmore (South Adelaide/South Australia)

Rookies:
Nil.

St Kilda entered this year’s National Draft at the end of round one, selecting Calder Cannons graduate Matthew Allison with Pick 26. The 194cm utility is somewhat of a prospective selection having only shown glimpses of top-end potential across his 10 NAB League outings as a bottom-ager. But some strong marking displays during the 2020 preseason put Allison’s name on the map, pegging him as a potential bolter after earning a National Draft Combine invite. He blends aerial prowess with strong running capacity and looks like developing into a key forward, but can also roll further afield onto the wing.

Tom Highmore was the only other new Saint selected across both the National and Rookie drafts, making for a shrewd choice at Pick 45. The 22-year-old defender was overlooked as a GWS Academy product in his draft year, but has since put plenty of runs on the board in the senior NEAFL and SANFL competitions. His move to South Adelaide this year proved fruitful, as the 192cm interceptor quickly established himself as a premier player in the league. He is a strong marker who proves just as capable with ball in hand and promises to add great long-term depth to St Kilda’s backline. He should push for selection in 2021 and is a pick which suits St Kilda’s upward trend.

VIDEO RECAP:

Featured Image: Saints draftee Matthew Allison dons his new colours | Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

2020 AFL Draft recap: Adelaide Crows

ADELAIDE went into the 2020 AFL Draft holding all the power with pick one and knowing it would need to absolutely nail each pick or movement as its rebuild continues. Armed with the greatest draft points total of any side coming in, the Crows were able to bolster their midfield stocks, fulfil the pressing need for a genuine small forward, and obtain one of the best tall prospects available to form their list regeneration around. With all bar one of Adelaide’s picks originally hailing from South Australia, there was a real local feel to this draft haul.

ADELAIDE

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

Pre-Season Draft: Jackson Hately (Greater Western Sydney)

Rookies: Bryce Gibbs (Adelaide), James Borlase (NGA), Tariek Newchurch (NGA)

Adelaide had no problem relinquishing its pick one status in using it to place a bid on Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) member Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, which was inevitably matched. Having subsequently slid back to the second selection, the Crows were delighted to snare local bigman Riley Thilthorpe, a genuine key forward who can also rotate through the ruck. National recruiting manager Hamish Ogilvie shared the view that Thilthorpe had long been the best player for his age group in the State, helping confirm the feel-good local choice. Out of West Adelaide, the 201cm talent should prove a pillar of Adelaide’s rebuild and with senior experience under his belt, will likely be given early opportunities if fit.

The Crows then pulled one of the shocks of the first round by pouncing on Luke Pedlar with pick 11, an explosive inside midfielder who may begin his career up forward. The Glenelg product was also captain of this year’s Prince Alfred College side and while injury cut his season short, Pedlar showed enormous quality at each opportunity. The Crows obviously rated him highly and were happy to act at such a high cost with the likes of GWS and Fremantle lurking within the next few picks. The lone Victorian of the group, Sam Berry is another hard-working midfielder who will add to Adelaide’s ball winning stocks, likely to provide great value at pick 28. Speed is his main knock, but his effort and endurance are high-level.

From one bolter in Pedlar to another in Brayden Cook, the Crows obviously did their homework on the vast array of SANFL products this year. The South Adelaide wingman/forward came from seemingly nowhere to enter draft contention this year with 26 goals in 13 Under 18 games. He has grown nicely and shown an equally steep rate of development; with overhead marking, goal sense, and creative nous his main weapons. Mature-age small forward James Rowe rounded out the Crows’ National Draft intake at pick 38, right after Carlton nabbed Corey Durdin. The Woodville-West Torrens goalsneak booted 38 majors this year to top the SANFL charts, showcasing impressing natural smarts and ability inside 50 to suggest he could slot into the Crows’ starting side immediately.

Adelaide also got their man in Jackson Hately, who returns home after quitting GWS at the end of this season. The tall midfielder fits the Crows’ need for midfield depth and is an absolute steal at effectively no cost in the preseason draft. A sense of deja vu came over fans as Bryce Gibbs was called out with pick one, only this time in the Rookie Draft and purely for administrative reasons. He will be moved onto the inactive list and remain retired in 2021. The Crows also managed to land their two NGA products in James Borlase and Tariek Newchurch through Category B listings, a terrific result given their levels of talent and potential to develop.

Featured Image: Riley Thilthorpe dons Adelaide’s tricolours | Credit: Getty Images

In Contention | AFL Draft smokies to consider: 19-year-olds

COME the end of a year like no other, there is likely to be a greater amount of hard luck stories and near misses than ever before, especially after the recent cuts to AFL list sizes. But for all that doom and gloom, the 2020 AFL Draft intake is also poised to provide some of the best stories of positivity as elite level hopefuls rise from the adversity this year has put forward.

In Draft Central’s newest series, we take a look at some of the draft prospects who remain in contention to fulfil their draft dreams despite missing out on invites to their respective states’ draft combines, or being overlooked as top-agers. 19-year-old talents are next to go under the microscope, and there are plenty of prospects around the mark having come on strongly after initially being overlooked. Of course, those from Victoria were unable to add to their resumes in 2020, but some have put strong runs on the board already.

Profiles for many of the players mentioned below can be found in our free to download AFL Draft Guide.

>> 2020 AFL Draft Pool
>> AFL Draft Whispers: 2020 Edition
>> Power Rankings: November Update

One over-age prospect has already realised his AFL Draft dream, with Gold Coast Academy graduate Hewago Paul Oea recently placed onto the Suns’ Category B Rookie List. ‘Ace’, as he is better known, is a Papua New Guinea native and earned an International Scholarship before his promotion. Last year, he remained one of the many Northern Academy products who were unlucky to be overlooked at the draft table. Former teammate Josh Gore was another, a small forward who has an uncanny knack of finding the goals. After a terrific senior QAFL campaign with Broadbeach, he could well remain in contention.

Sydney also has access to some fine over-age talent, of whom stood up during this year’s Academy Series. Sam Gaden put together a strong top-age campaign in 2019 before injury hit, but the strong and versatile bigman served a reminder of his talents this year. Likewise, Jackson Barling booted three majors in Game 1 of the Academy Series to put his hand up, while Sam Thorne‘s impact at ground level was evident as he shone in midfield. Both are solid operators, with Barling arguably the more flexible of the two, while Thorne is a reliable small with less expansive upside.

Still in NSW/ACT, the GWS Academy continues to produce some strong talent, albeit not quite in the same ballpark as Tom Green last year. Diminutive ball winner Harry Grant was impressive in his outings for the Giants Academy this year, as well as at his state’s draft combine come season’s end. The 173cm midfielder is tough and deceptively strong over the ball considering his size. Liam Delahunty is one who was widely considered unlucky last year, with his athleticism, marking ability, and versatility at over 190cm all desirable traits. He was set for a switch to the Northern Knights and North Melbourne VFL side before COVID intervened.

Continuing the Allies theme, Tasmania had a couple of 19-year-olds on the cusp after promising 2019 seasons. Jared Dakin attracted some interest after a couple of strong showings towards the end of last year, and his more recent TSL form saw him earn a late call-up for his second combine appearance in as many years. He is a tough inside type with terrific defensive attributes and a solid athletic base. Tall utility Jake Steele was another late inclusion to this year’s combine and has showed his wares on every line thus far. His competitiveness and versatility are key pillars of his overall game.

Of the other states in action this year, Western Australia has one of the deepest over-age pools and many of the prospects in this category boosted their standings in 2020. Max Spyvee is at the pointy end of that list, having burst onto the League scene and earned best afield honours in game two of the WA Under 18 All-Stars fixtures. Fellow Claremont product Kalin Lane, a 204cm ruckman, showed a similarly impressive rate of improvement and looms as a developable ruck option. Nick Martin was another tall to stake his claim having led Subiaco’s League goalkicking charts, while the likes of Conor McPartland and Callum Johnson found mountains of the ball at Colts level before earning promotions. Johnson’s West Perth teammate Brady Alvaro also showed handy balance through midfield, rotating in off the wing.

South Australia’s stocks have also proven to be quite strong, with plenty of mature-agers also entering the draft radar. In terms of 2001-births, Glenelg pair Callum Park and Luke Parks were outstanding after being overlooked in 2019, slotting straight into the reigning premiers’ League side and providing great intercept/rebound value from defence. Parks is also a former Swans Academy member. South Adelaide’s Beau McCreery was another to impress with his goal sense and defensive pressure, while Lachlan McNeil was a key part of Woodville-West Torrens’ premiership midfield, and Nic Couroupis earned an All-Stars call-up for his form across multiple levels. North Adelaide defensive pair Dyson Hilder and Karl Finlay also rotated through the senior squads having been key members of the SA Under 18 squad as top-agers.

Last, but certainly not least are the Victorians, who typically make up over 50 per cent of the overall draft pool. There were a bunch of over-agers set to prove doubters wrong with another strong NAB League campaign but alas, that was not to be. Darcy Chirgwin would be near the top of that list, and the tall inside midfielder has not given up on his AFL pursuit having added nearly 10kg to his frame. He was set to rejoin the Geelong Falcons after a stint with Sandringham as he boarded at private school. Jay Dahlhaus, the cousin of Luke was also set to go around with the Falcons again, keen to impress after injury scuppered his top-age season. He earned a NTFL Rising Star nomination recently for Southern Districts, bringing his forward creativity and pressure to the Top-End.

A December-birth, Isaac Wareham also had his top-age run foiled by untimely injuries and could have developed quickly this year. Gippsland’s Jai Newcombe could have been a feel-good story having missed the cut in multiple preseasons prior to his selection in 2020, and the Power are high on his talents as a big-bodied inside mid. Another fast developer is former volleyballer Blake Kuipers, who represented Vic Country last year and has great potential as an athletic key position utility. On the Metro scene, Felix Flockart was set for a big year after impressing in the 2019 APS competition, but is still very much a raw prospect. Would-be Sandringham teammate Oscar Lewis has similar upside, but as a running outside midfielder with good height. Lachlan Gawel, who would have switched from Eastern to Northern, is forward with high class, but like many on this list, was looking to prove his value with a consistent season.

Featured Image: Max Spyvee was best afield in game two of WA’s Under 18 All-Star fixtures | Credit: @WAFLOfficial via Twitter

In Contention | Outsider AFL Draft prospects to consider: South Australia

COME the end of a year like no other, there is likely to be a greater amount of hard luck stories and near misses than ever before, especially after the recent cuts to AFL list sizes. But for all that doom and gloom, the 2020 AFL Draft intake is also poised to provide some of the best stories of positivity as elite level hopefuls rise from the adversity this year has put forward.

In Draft Central’s newest series, we take a look at some of the draft prospects who remain in contention to fulfil their draft dreams despite missing out on invites to their respective states’ draft combines. These combine lists are often the best indicators of clubs’ interest in players, with at least four nominations required for those who were not selected in the two national Under 17 showcase games last year. South Australian talents on the precipice are the first to go under the microscope, and there are plenty around the mark after an entertaining year of SANFL football.

Below are pocket profiles of each player, which will also feature in our upcoming annual AFL Draft guide.

>> 2020 AFL Draft Pool
>> Power Rankings: November Update

KEY FORWARDS/RUCKS:

Ned Carey | Norwood
13/06/2002 | 198cm | 89kg

Carey has spent most of 2020 on the sidelines due to nasty injury niggles, but was a tall prospect of interest coming into the year having been included in the SA state academy hub. He can play in the ruck or at either end of the ground, is mobile for his size, and capable of taking big contested grabs.

Daniel Fahey-Sparks | Sturt
7/01/1998 | 196cm | 92kg

As somewhat of an undersized ruck, Fahey-Sparks covers the ground well and doubles as a forward threat. The 22-year-old’s strong athletic base and added League experience saw him really come into his own during 2020, proving dominant in the air and confident around the ground.

Riley Holder | Glenelg
18/12/2002 | 190cm | 84kg

The shortest and most forward-oriented player of this lot, Holder proved to be a reliable target for Glenelg and Sacred Heart in 2020. He is below true key position height at 190cm but has a strong frame and covers good ground, ensuring he is difficult to halt on the lead and in contested marking situations. Was included in this year’s state academy hub.

Zac Phillips | WWT Eagles
15/08/2002 | 200cm | 80kg

The rangy Eagles bigman made the move down to Henley High this year and performed well there while also juggling his SANFL Under 18 duties. He was his side’s primary ruck option and fared well at the centre bounces with his directional work, but is still improving on his strength, forward craft, and ability to have a greater impact around the ground.

SMALL FORWARDS/MIDFIELDERS:

Lachlan Grubb | Central District
7/12/2002 | 173cm | 69kg

Some may remember him taking out the 2019 SANFL Grand Final sprint, but Grubb is much more than merely a sprinter. His pace certainly helps when breaking lines and taking the game on, while also making for some punishing closing speed in the attacking half. As a December-birth, Grubb still has plenty of upside and development left but has already featured at League level.

Cooper Horsnell | Glenelg
19/04/2002 | 174cm | 68kg

Another who falls into the forward/wing category, Horsnell played out a full season among Glenelg’s Reserves setup in 2020 and also showed his wares by hitting the scoreboard during the Under 18 All-Stars fixture. He is a creative user on the fly who works hard up and down the ground, while also posing a threat close to goal. Had early interest as a state academy hub member.

Henry Nelligan | Norwood
7/03/2002 | 170cm | 69kg

Nelligan proved plenty of doubters wrong with his performances after missing out on a draft combine invite. The hard-working midfielder played a key role in Norwood’s SANFL Under 18s premiership and also gained senior experience earlier in the year. He is not overly quick, but is a natural ball winner who thrives at ground level and is not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Beau McCreery | South Adelaide
19/4/2001 | 184cm | 84kg

A 19-year-old prospect who has garnered attention on the back of a super SANFL League campaign which saw him boot 19 goals in 15 games. He was selected in the Under 18 All-Stars fixture come season’s end where he spent time rotating between the midfield and forwardline. McCreery gets stuck in on the defensive end and can often provide a spark just when his side needs it.

James Rowe | WWT Eagles
19/09/1999 | 173cm | 73kg

One of the most talked about mature-age hopefuls in this year’s crop, Rowe is a natural footballer who knows where the goals are. He was the equal-leading SANFL League goalkicker this year after earning a state combine invite in 2019 and played a vital role in Woodville-West Torrens’ premiership triumph. The 21-year-old looks ready as ever and would appeal to clubs crying out for a small forward.

DEFENDERS:

Dyson Hilder | North Adelaide
31/03/2001 | 196cm | 91kg

A key defender with great poise, Hilder has worked hard since missing out on draft honours last year. He again rotated between the Roosters’ League and Reserves sides after gaining some experience in 2019, showcasing some of his best attributes at senior level; namely a strong marking ability and reading of the play from behind the ball.

Rhyan Mansell | WWT Eagles
4/06/2000 | 182cm | 75kg

A small-medium defender who has come on leaps and bounds this year, Mansell allayed late injury concerns to help Woodville-West Torrens take out the premiership flag. The Tasmanian native was a key rebounder out of the back half and showed good skills with ball in hand, while also bringing a hard edge to the side. It could be his year after being overlooked twice.

Callum Park | Glenelg
19/01/2001 | 190cm | 74kg

An outside-leaning utility who can carve up the opposition by foot on he wing or across half-back, Park served a reminder of his talents in 2020 after being overlooked in last year’s draft. He is still quite lean but measures up at a good height and has great upside, with his rebounding ability particularly effective for the Bays. His versatility will also appeal to recruiters.

Luke Parks | Glenelg
18/04/2001 | 189cm | 83kg

Another who was unlucky to be overlooked at last year’s draft, Parks has taken to senior SANFL football with aplomb since making the move to Glenelg in 2020. The Sydney Swans Academy graduate impressed this year with his athleticism and courageous intercept marking in the back half, and has a good frame to keep up with the rigours of League football.

Jacob Wehr | WWT Eagles
184cm | 71kg

The stylish half-back finally broke through to the League grade in 2020 and became a hit among Woodville-West Torrens highly touted team. Kicking is his greatest asset, with the left-footer able to hit targets both short and long to act as a key playmaker in the back half. Interest has grown in the 22-year-old this year having come from a fair way back.

MIDFIELDERS:

Daly Andrews | South Adelaide
22/02/2000 | 184cm | 81kg

Andrews has made improvements after missing out on draft honours for two years running, credit to his work-rate and willingness to succeed. The Victorian moved to South Adelaide in 2020 after NAB League experience with the Western Jets and added superb midfield balance to the Panthers’ side. He is now a readymade size and has built great consistency, with speed and kick penetration highlights of Andrews’ game.

Bailey Chamberlain | West Adelaide
26/06/2002 | 179cm | 70kg

A balanced ball winner with break-neck acceleration, Chamberlain was a clear standout among West Adelaide’s struggling Under 18s side. After proving a class above for much of the season and racking up plenty of possessions, he moved up to the Reserves grade and was eventually rewarded with a League debut. He is still quite light and can improve his kicking on the run.

Nicholas Kraemer | South Adelaide
3/04/2002 | 185cm | 82kg

A strong inside midfielder who thrives in contested situations, Kraemer overcame injury troubles to make an impact in the back-end of the season. He is a leader among the Panthers’ group who bases his game on Josh Kennedy and prides himself on his defensive acumen – so much so, that he even succeeded in a move to defence. He has been working hard his speed and overall running capacity as a midfielder.

Mani Liddy | Sturt
20/02/2002 | 181cm | 79kg

A tough inside type who can also rotate forward, Liddy loves to compete and wins plenty of the ball at stoppages. He formed a near-unstoppable combination with first round prospect Tom Powell in 2020 and was consistently among Sturt’s best players at Under 18s level. His ability to stand up in tackles, shrug off opponents, and release slick handballs are all key features of his game.

Lachlan McNeil | WWT Eagles
9/02/2001 | 182cm | 80kg

McNeil is another who proved plenty of doubters wrong in 2020 after being overlooked as a top-age draft prospect last year. Since, he slotted straight into Woodville-West Torrens’ League side and became one of the competition’s best young players, adding terrific balance in his play from midfield. He is a handy ball winner who usually contributes neat disposals and can play inside or out.

Jamison Murphy | North Adelaide
9/12/2002 | 180cm | 85kg

A talented junior cricketer made of leadership material, Murphy opted to chase another type of red ball in 2020 as he committed to football. He is a solidly built inside midfielder who also plies his trade in defence, entrusted with kick-in duties on account of his composure and clean disposal. He also proved to be an apt decision maker, showing good awareness in the back half despite not being the most athletic type.

Featured Image: Nicholas Kraemer gets a kick away | Credit: Mark Brake/AFL Photos

Scouting Notes: 2020 SANFL Grand Finals

GRAND Final week in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) brings along with it another edition of our scouting notes, focusing on the top draft-relevant performers from around the competition this weekend. In this instalment, we widen our scope to cover the prospects running around across all three grades, with a particular focus on State Academy based talentNational Combine invitees, and others who may push for selection along the line.

Please consider that each set of notes showcase the opinions of our scouts individually, and there are only so many players we can keep an eye on each week.

>> Power Rankings: October Edition

LEAGUE/RESERVES

WWT Eagles vs. North Adelaide

By: Tom Wyman

WWT Eagles:

#9 Rhyan Mansell (League)

The young defender again played an integral role down back for the premiers. The Tasmanian combined well with Lachlan Jones and veteran Patrick Giuffreda in the back half, finishing with three rebounds. Mansell used the ball with precision and orchestrated a number of successful attacks. He showcased his sound vision, composure, and decision making and positioned himself well to take a number of intercept marks. Mansell finished the game with 19 disposals, eight marks and five tackles.

#16 James Rowe (League)

As has been the case all season, the excitement machine looked threatening whenever he was near the footy. He demanded attention all day and capitalised on his opportunities, as all good small forwards do. North’s Mitch Clisby was given the big job on Rowe and kept him quiet early on as the Roosters started strongly. However, when the Eagles were well on top, he nailed a goal in the dying minutes of the first half. The son of former-Crow Stephen, Rowe kicked a fantastic goal from 40 metres out after his Eagles teammates forced a turnover in the third term. Whenever he wasn’t lurking around the forward line, Rowe was getting under the skin of his Roosters opponents. He used the ball to terrific effect in general play and finished the day with 15 disposals and four inside 50s to go with his two goals. After a dominant season, Rowe is becoming increasingly difficult to overlook for a spot at the elite level.

#28 Jacob Wehr (League)

The 22-year-old from Balaklava in South Australia’s mid-north was excellent for the Eagles. Wehr was able to get the ball in some time and space, allowing him to cut up North’s defence with his pin-point foot skills. The wingman worked hard both ways between the arcs and continuously provided an outlet for Woodville-West Torrens. He finished the contest with 19 disposals, six marks, five tackles, two inside 50s and three rebound 50s. Wehr has been a revelation for the Eagles this season and is one of several mature-aged prospects who could attract some AFL attention over the coming months.

#34 Lachlan Jones (League)

The bull-like defender produced another sensational performance on the big stage and once again showed class beyond his years. As he has shown time and time again throughout the year, Jones refused to be beaten one-on-one. He was deployed as the loose defender for much of the day and read the play exceptionally well. He positioned himself like a seasoned veteran, taking a number of important intercept marks. He showed great composure and poise both with and without the ball, using it efficiently by hand and foot. He produced a number of terrific defensive actions which didn’t show up on the stats sheet, but will have impressed coach Jade Sheedy. Jones finished with 18 disposals, five marks, four tackles and three rebound 50s. A premiership medal is a fitting way to end a wonderful season for Jones, who appears likely to be a first round selection come draft night.

#51 Lachlan McNeil (League)

In a game where all the Eagles youngsters contributed well, McNeil was the best of the bunch. He provided relentless run along the wing and used the ball as well as anyone. McNeil’s high work rate allowed him to take a host of marks on the outer side. He used the ball well and his teammates clearly looked for him to hit a target going inside 50. But the clear highlight of his game was a terrific running goal in the second quarter, which featured two bounces and a beautiful finish. He concluded the match with 23 disposals, nine marks, two tackles, three clearances and six inside 50s. The Clare product missed out on being drafted as an 18-year-old last year, but after a great performance on Grand Final day and a consistent season at senior level with the Eagles, McNeil could find himself a home at AFL level at the second time of asking.

>> MORE WWT EAGLES CONTENT

North Adelaide:

#37 Karl Finlay (League)

It was a difficult day for the Roosters, who struggled to get anything going after quarter time as Finlay and his fellow backmen had their backs against the wall all day. However Finlay was one of North’s best, particularly in the air. He spent some time on dangerous Eagle forward Jack Hayes and also rolled onto Jake Von Bertouch at times. Given the duo’s ability to clunk big contested marks, Finlay held his own. He was thrown up forward by coach Jacob Surjan for a brief stint when the Eagles were in full control and took one of his three contested marks. Finlay tackled hard at ground level and also provided some rebound. He finished with 13 disposals, three marks, five tackles and two inside 50s.

#38 Dyson Hilder (Reserves)

Much like Finlay in the League game, fellow teenaged defender Hilder was similarly strong in the air for the Roosters’ Reserves. He took a couple of strong contested marks and finished the game with seven grabs overall. Hilder, who played a couple of senior games with North Adelaide earlier in the season, provided some clear rebound by foot and was among his side’s best players, despite the loss. He also gave number one ruckman James Craig a break by rotating through the ruck and winning seven hitouts. He finished with 16 disposals and four rebound 50s.

>> MORE NORTH ADELAIDE CONTENT

UNDER 18s

Norwood vs. Sturt

By: Michael Alvaro

Norwood:

#1 Cooper Murley

With Norwood at full strength and solid top-age operators roaming through the engine room, Murley has been squeezed out a touch in this finals series after an outstanding regular season. Nonetheless, the speedy bottom-ager managed to have an impact with bursts of pace and some crafty plays forward of centre. His instinctive attacking runs allowed him to find space inside 50 from the get-go, sinking one of two first term set shots. His kicks were a touch rushed on the outside under the heat of battle, but most of his running game came in that kind of fashion. He missed a few more chances to hit the scoreboard, albeit from tough positions and distances, with a two-bounce dash through the corridor during the final term ending in a flying shot which just did not have the legs. It was more a game of glimpses for Murley compared to his previous form, but he looms as a first round prospect for next year’s draft.

#4 Henry Nelligan

Nelligan is the kind of player you want on your side during a big game, with his consistency and work rate up there with the best of players. Starting in midfield and rotating forward, the diminutive ball winner ended with a game-high 28 disposals to go with six inside 50s and 1.3 in an inspired display. Not only did Nelligan showcase his clean hands and quick skills at ground level, but he was also able to accumulate around the ground and provide a reliable outlet in all areas. A lot of his clearances were booted over his shoulder, but still gained good meterage in the high-stakes contest. While stationed forward, Nelligan stayed busy and used his smarts to position beautifully upon Norwood’s inside 50 entries. His lone goal came in the first term from a strong mark close to goal, and he put two other chances just wide with another touched before bouncing through the big sticks. After some massive performances for the Redlegs, he remains an outside chance to be drafted as a natural footballer with great smarts.

#5 Ethan Schwerdt

Donning the knee brace once again, Schwerdt was a very handy part of Norwood’s midfield-forward rotation. His first big contribution came inside attacking 50, as he put a quick snap wide, but followed up with a shrewd crumb and dribble goal in the opening term. Schwerdt’s skills were neat in the short range and his little bursts of speed away from congestion proved key in setting Norwood on the front foot. His second goal, which came in the final term, was undoubtedly his highlight of the day. Schwerdt bravely marked between two opponents, moved on immediately to burn both of them, and slotted home a long-range bomb on the run.

#11 Xavier Tranfa

Another of Norwood’s prolific midfielders who also impacted in the front half, Tranfa’s two third term goals truly broke the game open. His first came via a strong mark directly from the centre clearance against a couple of opponents, with the set shot converted emphatically from around the 50-metre arc. Shortly after, he found himself on the end of another forward chain, wheeling on his favoured left side and sinking a powerful shot through the big sticks. That kind of impact was complimented by some strong work at the contest, as Tranfa attacked both the ball and carrier with intent. He was clean at ground level and while not overly quick, he would get his legs pumping or buy enough time to eventually send Norwood into attack. 19 disposals, six tackles, four clearances, and a couple of goals made for a terrific all-round game.

#15 Harlee Chandler

Chandler has proven somewhat of a finals wildcard for Norwood, slotting into the midfield with aplomb and providing great balance at the contest. He began proceedings with a sharp run through the middle and goal assisting pass inside 50, with that kind of run and movement through the corridor a sign of things to come. He was able to fend off opponents and break free, with much of his work as clean as and impactful as anyone else afield. A rush of blood saw Chandler miss his final term attempt on goal after a terrific play to win the ball, but it hardly took away from what was an eye-catching performance from the youngster. He finished with 19 disposals, six tackles, and three clearances.

#27 Nathan Hearing

The 2020 Alan Stewart Medal winner was best afield, Hearing was his usual heroic self through the ruck. Hardly a one-dimensional bigman, the 195cm prospect won a game-high 11 clearances, one more than his 10 hitouts throughout the day. His 21 disposals all-up came in various positions and fashions, but the majority of his work was done at the fall of the ball at stoppages to release his runners at ground level. Hearing’s imposing figure was also sighted down back where he took a couple of relieving marks close to goal, using his reach and timing to stand tall amid forming packs. He may have been beaten vertically at times at the centre bounces, but fared well around the ground and even took balls directly out of the ruck to send the Redlegs forward.

Others:

As is often the case for Norwood, an even team spread saw many contributors stand up across the day. Mitchell Trepka stood up early from defence, with Billy Haebich providing some dash and Sam Duke proving an important aerial figure on the same line. Daniel Fairbrother, who gained senior experience this year was also part of Norwood’s sturdy defence. Marcus Roberts fared well up forward with a couple of goals while big Finn Heard spearheaded the attack, and Michael Cavallaro provided a classy outlet on the wing.

>> MORE NORWOOD CONTENT

Sturt:

#9 Malachy Carruthers

Usually one of the more attacking defenders who is capable of impacting through the corridor, Carruthers’ rebounding efforts mostly came from inside own defensive 50. While his long-range kicking was as sound as ever amid the breeze and Norwood’s pressure, Carruthers seldom had reliable targets to kick to as the ball would often eventually find its way back to his area. He was one of Sturt’s only consistently cool heads down back, but was too often forced too far away from positions in which he would normally attack. Carruthers seemed to lift in the third term as the Double Blues’ hopes began to fade, with his intercept marking, urgent running, and weighted kicks all coming to the fore. It would end up being an effort in vein, but the potential draft bolter finished with a very handy 21 disposals, nine marks, and nine rebound 50s as one of Sturt’s best.

#17 Mani Liddy

Arguably Sturt’s most impactful midfielder in the first half, Liddy was particularly prolific at the centre bounces. His core strength and clean hands gave the Double Blues numerous opportunities to attack first, though some grubber kicks out of congestion on Liddy’s end did his side few favours in that sense. His disposal on the move was a touch untidy in those opening stages despite finding the ball at will, apart from his obvious proficiency via hand. Not shy of a bit of niggle, Liddy’s lone goal for the game came in the second term after being crunched inside 50, with his set shot conversion proving sound. He attempted to force some forward momentum in the latter stages, finishing with 18 disposals, seven clearances, and a goal.

#18 Tom Powell

Powell may have seen the most ball for Sturt with 25 disposals and six marks, but had a touch less than his usual impact around the stoppages. His ability to extract and quickly release via hand was still on show, with numerous drawing handballs and well-timed distributive touches showcasing his best assets. It also lent to his high-level vision and decision making, especially amid the contested Grand Final chaos. Powell’s clean hands were also shown as he gathered well below his knees and snapped home a sharp goal in the second term, something he is increasingly bringing to the fore. With a couple of goal assists to cap off his outing, that attacking prowess is something which will be important in shaking that one-dimensional accumulator tag. He lived up to his billing for the most part, but could not quite help Sturt get over the line.

#25 James Borlase

Borlase was in the thick of the action as tensions boiled over in the third term, not afraid to throw his large frame around and get involved in the biff. He was hardly the only one, but got very heated and seemed to be a prime target for Norwood as ill discipline crept into Sturt’s game. Outside of that, Borlase once again proved a class above many of his Under 18 competitors with terrific reading of the play down back and strong intercept marking. His ball use was often sound and allowed Sturt to retain possession, without being overly damaging. He had a purple patch in the second term with a string of aerial marks, while also bringing his kick penetration into play. He was thrown into the centre bounces during the final quarter in hopes of turning the midfield battle with his physicality, but would have little impact there and revert back to his defensive duties in open play. The Crows Academy prospect finished with 22 disposals and eight marks (three contested) as arguably Sturt’s best player afield.

#32 Morgan Ferres

Ferres finished his bottom-age season strongly, providing a much-needed target leading up from the forward half. It proved a tough gig as Sturt struggled to transition the ball, with Ferres forced to search all the way up to defensive wing at times to find the ball. Half of his six marks were contested, and he was also able to make an impact closer to goal with some touches inside 50. Ferres ended the game with 1.1, sinking a set shot in the final term after seeing multiple attempts either go wide, fall short, or end up out of bounds. If he can tidy up that conversion, Ferres may well prove to be a force in next year’s competition.

Others:

Will Spain‘s efforts to win the ball and tackle at ground level were noted by his coaches, while fellow bottom-ager Brad Jefferies also gave it his all while rotating forward through midfield. Blake Higgins provided his usual run on the outside, while skipper Ned Walter was valiant in defence. Declan Hortle‘s 33 hitouts in the ruck also proved a big effort against the player judged best afield.

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Featured Image: Norwood’s Under 18s celebrate their 2020 SANFL premiership | Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

Young gun focus: 2020 SANFL preliminary finals wrap

TWO of three South Australian National Football League (SANFL) minor premiers booked Grand Final tickets in their respective grades, while Central District’s Reserves bowed out in straight sets. With young guns impressing at state league level around the nation, we again narrow our focus for this week’s SANFL wrap to the performances of youth throughout the competitions. There is plenty to unpack in our next altered edition, with Under 18 prospects scattered across the two senior levels, and a bunch of youngsters impressing in the junior grade during the second week of finals. In make-or-break situations, the cream of South Australia’s finest crop rose to the top.

League:

WWT EAGLES | 3.8 | 7.12 | 14.14 | 16.15 (111)
STH ADELAIDE | 5.2 | 8.5 | 9.6 | 10.8 (68)

GOALS:

Eagles: J. Rowe 5, S. Lowson 2, J. Foote 2, M. Goldsworthy 2, A. Poole, L. McNeil, N. Hayes, J. Lonergan, J. Firns
Panthers: E. Wilkinson 3, S. Overall 2, B. McCreery, N. Schwarz, J. Horne, L. Bogle, A. Cailotto

BEST:

Eagles: J. Rowe, J. Tsitas, J. Sinor, J. Wehr, J. Redden, M. Goldsworthy
Panthers: M. Broadbent, E. Wilkinson, M. Karpany, J. Summerton

Minor premier, Woodville-West Torrens (WWT) earned passage to the 2020 League decider after bolting home 43-point winners over South Adelaide. Electric small forward James Rowe turned it on when it mattered, booting five goals for the Eagles to only enhance his stocks as a mature-age AFL Draft candidate this year. Rowe’s scoreboard impact helped the Eagles overcome a half-time deficit, as they piled on nine goals to South’s two in a romping second half display.

Fresh off four majors in the Reserves, Sam Lowson made the most of his senior return with two goals in this outing, while 19-year-old midfielder Lachlan McNeil also found the big sticks. Defender Jacob Wehr, who is also attracting some elite level interest, managed 14 disposals (12 kicks) and six rebound 50s, while Port Adelaide NGA prospect Lachlan Jones contributed 13 touches and five marks. Tasmanian Rhyan Mansell proved his fitness in making a return, while Ben Jungfer was another to earn a call-up via the Reserves.

There were a few Panthers who stood tall as their season came to an end, with Eamon Wilkinson among them. The 20-year-old forward snared three goals to take his season tally to 25. 17-year-old gun Jason Horne capped off a fine maiden run of senior football by hitting the scoreboard, with boom Victorian recruit Daly Andrews managing 16 touches and six clearances in a balanced effort. National Combine invitee, Tom Highmore (nine disposals, five rebound 50s) did not quite have his usual impact, but has enjoyed a stellar debut SANFL season.

The Eagles will go on to face North Adelaide in the SANFL League Grand Final, just a fortnight after going down by 15 points to the Roosters in an entertaining semi final bout.

Reserves:

CENTRAL DISTRICT | 0.3 | 1.4 | 4.4 | 6.9 (45)
NORTH ADELAIDE | 3.2 | 7.6 | 8.11 | 10.14 (74)

GOALS:

Bulldogs: B. Kennedy 2, C. Dahms 2, T. Graham, L. Grubb
Roosters: S. Davis 2, T. Rigney, C. Dowling, D. Nixon, C. Barns, J. Neade, J. Langley, J. Byrne, M. Neagle

BEST:

Bulldogs: J. Brown, N. Madden, S. Burton, T. Graham, D. Haydon, E. East
Roosters: M. Slee, S. Parsons, D. Nixon, P. Davies, H. Magor, M. Neagle

Reserves minor premier, Central District has been knocked out of the finals in straight sets after falling short for a second-straight week, this time at the hands of North Adelaide. A seven-goal to one first half saw the Roosters crow to a 38-point lead at the main break, which they comfortably managed to hold onto despite the Bulldogs’ best efforts. 29 points was the final margin of victory, seeing Centrals bow out after losing just once during the home-and-away rounds. North goes on to meet Woodville-West Torrens in the decider, with the ledger sitting at one win apiece between the two sides in 2020.

20-year-old Mackenzie Slee was recognised as best afield for the victors, returning eight marks and six rebound 50s from his 15 disposals in the back half. Meanwhile, Harrison Magor notched a team-high 23 touches to go with nine clearances, seven inside 50s, and five tackles, forming a formidable midfield partnership alongside Dakota Nixon, who managed 20 disposals, seven clearances, and a goal. Charlie Dowling was another to find the big sticks for North.

In a losing effort, Joey Brown was named the Bulldogs’ best for his 23 disposals and nine marks, while Steve Burton led all comers with 28 touches to go with nine tackles and six clearances. Nicholas Madden racked up nine rebound 50s from defence, with Thomas Graham providing solid cover on the same line. Among those to kick goals were Cooper Dahms and Brett Kennedy (both two), while Lachlan Grubb also got in on the act with one major.

Under 18s:

STURT | 2.6 | 4.11 | 8.14 | 12.22 (94)
WWT EAGLES | 3.0 | 8.3 | 10.4 | 10.4 (64)

GOALS:

Blues: J. Opperman 2, O. Britten-Jones 2, M. Ferres 2, M. Liddy, M. Carruthers, T. Powell, J. Ferrari, Z. Parker-Boers, B. Jefferies
Eagles: B. Calvett 2, M. Litster 2, J. Burgoyne, Z. Scott, J. Godden, J. Hunter-Price, J. Kasianowicz, J. Watson

BEST:

Blues: M. Carruthers, M. Liddy, J. Opperman, W. Spain, B. Higgins, M. Ferres
Eagles: R. Williams, Z. Buck, J. Burgoyne, L. Ueding, C. Poulter, D. Branford

Sturt leant on its finals double chance, bringing an end to the Eagles’ premiership defence while punching its own Under 18s Grand Final ticket in one fell swoop. The Double Blues found themselves trailing at the second and third breaks, but found an extra gear when it mattered. In a remarkable turnaround, Sturt slammed home a total of 4.8 (32) while keeping the Eagles scoreless in a one-sided final term, which saw the ball locked in the victors’ front half. A 30-point final margin was the result, with Norwood awaiting the Blues for what will be a semi final rematch.

AFL Draft bolter and National Combine invitee Malachy Carruthers was again outstanding for Sturt, showcasing all of his class with 21 disposals, six marks, and a goal. Mani Liddy accumulated a team-high 29 touches, which included eight clearances and a booming final term goal, while Tom Powell also managed 29 disposals, 10 marks, seven clearances, and a classy major of his own. Bottom-age forward Morgan Ferres snared two goals from 17 disposals and nine marks, while Will Spain laid 10 tackles, and Crows NGA hopeful James Borlase returned to the level with five marks.

Caleb Poulter was arguably the Eagles’ best in a losing cause, doing his draft chances no harm with 22 disposals and seven marks. Ryan Williams was also recognised for his efforts, while 2021 Port father-son prospect Jase Burgoyne capped off a brilliant year with 21 touches and a goal, with Brock Thomson (31 disposals, 10 rebound 50s) leading all comers from defence.

Featured Image: Eagles forward Sam Lowson celebrates a goal | Credit: SANFL

Josh Glenn: An interesting path

Josh Glenn Central Districts

When Gold Coast called out Josh Glenn with selection seven in last year’s rookie draft, to most he was just another name and one of many mature age players drafted to the AFL. But the path Glenn took to get to there is very different. In his junior season, he fell out with the Central Districts under-18s coach and moved to play local football for division four amateur club Elizabeth. Upon excelling, his teammates suggested he give it another crack so he did a pre-season at Centrals in 2013 and was noticed. He was promptly selected in the SANFL league side, Glenn impressed everyone off half back with his hardness, smooth skills and defensive discipline. He was the best 19 year-old in the SANFL and won the league’s Star Search award for the year.

But that is when everything started changing for Glenn. He had gone from your every day footballer who had a kick on the weekend with some mates to a name on many people’s lips. He was labelled a sure fire bet to be drafted. When, due to the interest of many AFL clubs, he received an invitation to the draft combine, Glenn declined. He didn’t feel he was ready to make the next step up having come from division four amateur football not 12 months before. It was too much of a jump.

Although there was plenty of speculation about the reasons, Glenn maintains that he just was not ready and wanted another season in the SANFL to ease the transition. In 2012, Centrals had another smooth kicking half back with a hard edge called Paul Marschall. Marschall was arguably an even better prospect than Glenn was and had also won the Star Search award for the league. Coincidentally, he wore the same number as Glenn. Marschall too chose not to nominate for the draft, instead wishing to focus on his family’s landscaping business. He didn’t return to Centrals in 2013. Given the similarities – similar ages, same club, same number, same position and role in the side (Glenn was essentially the replacement for Marschall in 2013) people began to speculate that there was a curse at Centrals and that Glenn was its newest victim.

The speculation and interest in Glenn and his similarities with Marschall led him to change numbers in season 2014. It motivated him to push forward and prove himself, and he proceeded to have a career best season in the SANFL, playing more midfield minutes. This culminated in another combine invite which he promptly accepted, feeling ready to make the transition. Surprisingly, Glenn was overlooked in the National Draft before being selected by Gold Coast in the Rookie Draft.

Since being drafted, Glenn has impressed on the track and in the pre-season. Starting the year in the NEAFL, Glenn has averaged 25 touches and five marks a game, culminating in his AFL selection this weekend. As a player, Glenn is a hard edged half back/balanced midfielder with solid inside and outside games. He tackles hard and runs even harder, with his endurance being a particular highlight. His kick is penetrating and effective with his decision making and vision exciting. The only knock on Glenn is his speed, he’s just not that quick.

We don’t know whether Glenn’s decision to decline a nomination led to him sliding on draft day; there would certainly have been a case for clubs to fear homesickness and immaturity, but since draft day Glenn has silenced the doubters and earned his debut.