Tag: nick bryan

2019 AFL Draft Preview: Collingwood Magpies

COLLINGWOOD heads into the 2019 AFL National Draft with a less than inspiring draft hand which means the 2018 Grand Finalists and 2019 Preliminary Finalists will need to get creative with their picks. Luckily for the Magpies, they have been two kicks away from a flag and a second Grand Final, so the strength in the list is there, with just depth needed across the board. They need to address a lack of key position players, with both form and injuries taking a toll, particularly a lack of key position forwards, and perhaps another ruck – though they acquired Darcy Cameron in the off-season. Otherwise some speed and skill around the ground to replace the recently retired or ageing stars most of whom possessed pace with enough elite inside midfielders at the Magpies’ disposal.

CURRENT PICKS: 35, 62, 74

NOMINATED ACADEMY/FATHER-SONS: Nil

LIST NEEDS:

Key position depth – forward first priority
Ruck depth
Fast and skilful half-back or half-forward

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

At Pick 35, the Magpies will either need to hope there is a slider or perhaps pluck out a surprise player at the selection. West Australian Mitch Georgiades could well slide into that range, which would be a risk given he missed all of his top-age year, but his athleticism and high flying marks would certainly provide the Magpies with something different from a tall. However he is not the traditional key forward height, so if Harrison Jones is available he might be the first choice, while Jake Riccardi might be considered here, though they could hope he slides to their next selection. A couple of left field choices could be Fraser Phillips or Karl Finlay, with the former providing some X-factor and skill inside 50, while the latter provides the rebounding key position depth in defence.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

The Magpies need to do something as they seem to be stuck in the AFL Draft’s version of no-man’s land. They are just beyond the picks likely to secure a key position player they need, and ahead of the next batch which might be 10-20 picks below. This means Collingwood will need to either trade up – perhaps looking at Brisbane’s Pick 21 for a second rounder in 2020 along with their Pick 35, or one of North Melbourne’s Pick 26 or 27 to try and secure one of their key targets. Or perhaps the Magpies will trade down, offering up Pick 35 to perhaps Brisbane again who might want another pick before they need to match their Academy picks, which Picks 48, 52 and 55 are there, or more likely perhaps a Hawthorn with Pick 42 or 54.

REMAINING CROP:

With what the Magpies have left, they could hope Riccardi slides to Pick 62, or perhaps snatch up another available tall such as Charlie Comben, Nick Bryan or Callum Jamieson, or Cooper Sharman if the tall forward is on the board. Dyson Hilder down back could be a consideration if around, or Jake Pasini. If they go smaller, perhaps the Magpies pluck out a school footballer again with a Derek Hine special – picking up a Louis Butler or Kaden Schreiber. One player to keep an eye on is Angus Baker with the Canberra Demons’ half-back a terrific user of the ball and one that the Magpies would be keen to snap up as he fills an immediate role in the side. While their picks are not great, the Magpies can look to mature-agers and plug holes where required.

AFL Draft Preview: Adelaide Crows

ADELAIDE CROWS’ draft hand will be one which unlocks much of the first and second rounds, with picks four and 23 key to how the following selections will pan out. The Crows made headlines in their live trading last year, which could have an indifferent effect on how they approach this year’s proceedings. Either way, a regeneration is on the cards after a trade period clean-out with speed, class and energy all priorities.

CURRENT PICKS: 4, 23, 28, 37, 45, 49

NOMINATED ACADEMY/FATHER-SONS: Nil

LIST NEEDS:

Midfield speed
Key position depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

The Crows are at a key pivot point at the top end, with theirs and Melbourne’s selections at picks three and four respectively likely to dictate how the following ten picks unfold. After cleaning house, the Crows could look towards players who can add a certain freshness and excitement to what has become a stale list, and may find just that with the fourth pick this year. Sam Flanders and Lachlan Ash are two around the mark, with Flanders a powerhouse inside midfielder/forward who can win games off his own boot, while Ash is a daring half-back with rare speed and a damaging left foot. Both can inject great energy and flair into the squad, and are types who can slot in come Round 1. Add to that their enormous upside and scope to play in multiple roles, and they can cover multiple bases with class. Hayden Young will be around the mark but is heavily linked with Melbourne’s pick three, and Norwood’s Dylan Stephens would be a safe local pick with a good inside/outside balance, perhaps better valued later in the top 10. Caleb Serong and Deven Robertson could be considered, but the Crows have more than enough inside types in midfield.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

Last year’s ‘Stocker trade’ was a prime example of the gamble live trading brings to the fore, with the ‘winner’ of that deal fruitlessly debated even 12 months after the fact. While some Crows fans would be deterred by the outcome of that trade, others could be keen to see more. Pick four looks like being untouchable, unless the Crows could get back a pick just after the mark and one near the 20s to even the ledger. That would allow them to nab someone of the Ash, Flanders or Stephens ilk while also bringing in another fresh face just after the first round. Their stocks around the 20-mark are strong though, so picks 23 and 28 could even be packaged for a single selection in the teens if they fancy the likes of Will Day or Will Gould. But in such an even draft and with little to worry about in terms of father-son or academy selections this year, don’t be surprised to see Adelaide go in content with its hand as it stands.

REMAINING CROP:

Having two picks in the 20s could offer great value for the Crows, with a mix of local boys and key position players likely to come into consideration. The aforementioned Gould looks destined to be taken around the 23 mark and is as naturally talented as any player in the 2019 pool. With Eddie Betts out the door, dynamic forwards in the form of Kysaiah Pickett, Dylan Williams and Cameron Taheny could be in the mix, with Pickett a traditional small and the latter two lead-up medium prospects with sticky hands and nous around goal. Each would add a spark Adelaide desperately needs, and some higher-end class that the current group of medium-small forwards lack. If the Crows look towards key-position depth, All-Australian Sam De Koning looms as a versatile and athletic tall option who could develop into a special player in time, with Harrison Jones another tall who could be snapped up before Adelaide’s pick 37. Value in talls may also come via picks 45 and 49 with North Adelaide defensive duo Karl Finlay and Dyson Hilder around the mark to fill the Alex Keath void, while Charlie Comben and Nick Bryan are options to cover losses in the ruck and key forward slots. Adelaide SANFL players Jy Farrar and Tom Hutchesson are mature-aged state combine invitees who could also come into consideration.

Draft Central Power Rankings: November 2019 – 60-41

AS the 2019 AFL National Draft is just around the corner, we work up to the November 27-28 event with a three-part Power Rankings series, counting down our top 60 players heading into the AFL Draft. We have not taken into account any draft selections or club needs, it is purely our opinion. Furthermore, given the evenness of the draft, there were plenty of unlucky players on the cusp of making it into the top 60. This edition looks at those players we have ranked 60-41.

#60 Lachlan Stapleton
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
14/04/2001 | 179cm | 73kg

The only State Draft Combine player in our Power Rankings, the Eastern Ranges ball magnet has been one of the more consistent players this year. One of the few unlucky not to get a National Draft Combine invite, Stapleton has plenty of tricks despite his size, and can win the ball inside or out. In season 2019, Stapleton averaged 22.3 disposals, 2.5 marks, 5.2 clearances, 4.5 inside 50s and 7.1 tackles from 13 games, predominantly playing an inside role. His hands in close were very good, with athletic traits that are handy but could still improve such as his in-game acceleration – clocking a sub-three second 20m sprint at the State Combine, and his kicking consistency. A rough chance still, but should have done enough to find a place on an AFL list.

#59 Ryan Byrnes
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
03/05/2001 | 182cm | 84kg

Mr Consistent, Sandringham’s fearless captain has been as reliable as just about anyone in the NAB League this season. Byrnes can play inside or out, wins the ball out of a stoppage and has a trademark five-step burst to create separation from his opponent and send the ball inside 50 to leading teammates. His kicking could certainly sharpen up, but he can use either foot which makes him more of an asset, and while he is shorter compared to some inside midfielders, he has the readymade frame to compete at senior level. Almost missed out on a bottom-age year at Sandringham and has been a workhorse to put himself in a position where he could be drafted. Just a no-fuss footballer who leads by actions and will be a popular player at a club should he be selected.

#58 Emerson Jeka
Western Jets/Vic Metro | Key Forward/Defender
18/09/2001 | 198cm | 90kg

On upside, Jeka is a lot higher, but it is just piecing all of his traits together for some consistency. He is an elite contested mark, is virtually an eight-second flat agility test and near three seconds 20m sprint candidate. This athleticism is something rare in players of his size, but the inconsistencies of the past few years, as well as finding his best position – between forward and back – means he is still a raw prospect who has to develop. Given his traits, if he can be put to work and learn off a more aggressive mentor at an AFL club, then he will add more to his game. He has the physicality to really worry opposition defenders when leading out, it is just showing it on a more consistent basis. His best is winning a game off his own boot, but it just happens in seldom, so the best is yet to come from the Western Jets tall.

#57 Louis Butler
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Defender
25/04/2001 | 185cm | 74kg

An interesting prospect, Butler at his best can be a damaging half-back who floats through the middle and wins plenty of the ball. When it comes to off-field testing, Butler’s numbers do not jump off a page. But when it comes to in-game work, he moves well and has the smarts to evade opponents with ball-in-hand and open up space for his teammates. He seems a confidence player, because when he starts hitting targets, he can hardly miss, but when he sprays the odd kick early, he can be a bit more error prone throughout the game. Showed plenty throughout his school footballing, and finished the NAB League season averaging 23 disposals and three rebounds a game.

#56 Josh Shute
Sturt/South Australia | Outside Midfielder
28/03/2001 | 187cm | 74kg

A lightly built, but talented outside midfielder with some good size, Shute is the stereotypical winger who likes to run and create from the back half going forward. Shute has nice foot skills with a touch of class, as well as a high work rate that sees him push up and down the ground. His endurance could still improve, as could his impact per possession, and while standing at 73kg, Shute could add size to his frame. Overall though, Shute has a nice outside game from which clubs can work with, and is one of the more prominent wingers available in the AFL Draft crop. He could go higher than this based on his ball use and outside run, but is still a developing talent.

#55 Flynn Perez
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country | Outside Midfielder
25/08/2001 | 188cm | 81kg

One of the players hardest to rate this year, Perez has missed his entire top-age season after injuring his knee late last year at a Vic Country camp. From what he showed as a bottom-ager, Perez has some neat outside traits, and class when in close. He moves well and is a creator for his team, it is just about getting some consistency in both his disposal and game. At 188cm, Perez is a nice height for a midfielder, and when adding in his athleticism, the Bendigo Pioneers’ midfielder is unlikely to be forgotten by an AFL club come November.

#54 Nick Bryan
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Ruck
22/10/2001 | 202cm | 87kg

Considered a potential first rounder at the start of the year, Bryan has slipped down the order after an inconsistent year. He had a good finals series, particularly in the last couple of games which gave recruiters another glimpse at the highly athletic ruck. While he is far from the finished product, it is hard to imagine he will be overlooked based on his sub three-second 20m sprint and his size at 202cm makes him a valuable commodity. While he might not have the consistency of some of the other talls higher on the list, he has plenty of upside and a club could certainly find a need for Bryan should they be on the lookout for another ruck.

#53 Josh Honey
Western Jets/Vic Metro | Mid/Forward
17/10/2001 | 185cm | 82kg

Another player with great upside, Honey has the versatility to rotate between midfield and forward, and is an athlete to-boot. Honey was one of the more impressive performers at the National Draft Combine, clocking up times of 2.97 seconds (20m sprint) and 8.10 seconds (agility test). His consistency can be a worry at times, particularly when it comes to influence throughout long periods in games, with his accumulation lower than most other comparable players – 16.1 disposals per game. But when on his game, Honey has that hurt factor about him, with his clean hands and defensive pressure – 4.6 tackles per game – a feature, as well as his ability to hit the scoreboard regularly, contributing 12 goals in 14 games at NAB League level, and two from two at the Under-18 National Championships.

#52 Jake Pasini
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Defender
06/02/2001 | 193cm | 82kg

A really consistent and reliable defender, Pasini is a player who could step up and play from early on in his career. At 193cm, Pasini is a little undersized to match up against the bigger-bodied key forwards, so will likely fill out as a running defender who takes a third tall, or could play on smaller players if need be. He has the skill level to be that offensive running back, and he reads the ball in flight really well. Averaging 18.3 disposals and 4.1 marks at WAFL Colts level from seven games, Pasini also got a call-up to both the Reserves and League sides for Swan Districts where he did not look out of place in two and one games respectively. After playing for Western Australia at the Under-18 Championships as a bottom-ager, Pasini returned as a top-ager and again was able to provide a steadying influence, picking up his rebound numbers to average two per game.

#51 Mitch Georgiades
Subiaco/Western Australia | Tall Forward
28/09/2001 | 192cm | 87kg

Similar to Perez, Georgiades is one who is hard to read where he goes. On talent, he could be a top 30 pick, but the fact a quad injury has kept him out of action throughout his entire top-age year would be a concern. He is too talented and has too much upside to not be looked at, and with his vertical leap (85cm running) and acceleration (2.925 seconds 20m sprint), Georgiades is a headache for any defender. Once the air space is clear and there is a body in front of him, expect the high-flying forward to sit on their head and bring the ball down. While he has not been able to show any improvements this year due to injury, he could also improve his defensive attributes, with few tackles despite his obvious athletic talent. In terms of what he offers offensively however, Georgiades can be a dominant goal kicker both in the air and at ground level and be that X-factor that sets him aside from other tall forwards in this draft.

#50 Charlie Comben
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Forward/Ruck
20/07/2001 | 199cm | 84kg

A versatile player who could well end up as a key forward and second ruck, Comben is capable of playing either role to a high standard. His ruck craft itself is good, and his second efforts at ground level such as laying a follow-up tackle or providing a block or shepherd is impressive. He can float forward and lead out of the goalsquare with sticky hands and an ability to crash a pack if needed. He has had his fair share of injuries over the journey so is arguably a tad behind on his development. But the fact he has come such a long way in his top-age year means Comben has plenty of upside for the future and is one who clubs can look to for the long term if they are after a bigger body up forward who can play that second ruck role to a t. Could be the second ruck picked in the AFL Draft, depending on how clubs view his progress against Bryan’s and what they are looking for, but we have him here due to his versatility and greater consistency over the season, as well as impact at the Under-18 National Championships for Vic Country.

#49 Liam Delahunty
GWS GIANTS/Allies | Forward/Defender
13/02/2001 | 192cm | 91kg

A member of the GWS GIANTS Academy, where Delahunty ends up on draft night will be interesting considering the GIANTS’ picks in this year’s draft. With Pick 6 likely to be Tom Green, Delahunty could be matched with one of the later picks, potentially 59 or 60. If the GIANTS choose to trade up to grab a second elite talent to avoid using Pick 6 on Green, then matching Green with their few picks, they might struggle to match a bid. Either way, Delahunty has shown enough to suggest a club could use a player of his services, with his kicking ability and reliability up forward – or in defence at times. He is a strong mark and covers the ground well, and while he is undersized, he could develop into a midfielder with time if required, and given his smarts could be very handy there. He could improve his accumulation numbers from ground level with the majority of his touches coming from marks. Once he develops that area of his game, he can have an equal impact at ground level as he can in the air.

#48 Karl Finlay
North Adelaide/South Australia | Tall Defender
14/07/2001 | 193m | 90kg

The Under 16s Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner from the championships two years ago, Finlay has remained consistent across all areas. While his ground balls and decision making at times could improve, his work without the ball is top notch, able to intercept at will across half-back. He will likely play as that third tall defender, and has superb agility for a player of his size, and captained his school, Prince Alfred College (PAC) during the season. He reads the play well and is a dominant one-on-one player who could play from early on in his career if given the chance, but still has those areas to work on and will undoubtedly do so. A potent defensive weapon, Finlay might be the awkward size at 192cm, but he is a two-way player, nullifying an opponent and creating drive from half-back.

#47 Noah Cumberland
Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies | Forward
15/03/2001 | 183cm | 79kg

A player we at Draft Central are a fan of, Cumberland has some seriously great athletic traits. In particular his break-neck speed coming off a flank or charging down the ground, recording a 2.931-second 20m sprint and 8.208-second agility test at the National Draft Combine. Tied to the Lions’ Academy, Cumberland could well be the first Lion bid on in the AFL Draft, and his versatility and high upside would be something attractive to the club and other clubs. He is a great pressure player as well, with his aggression at both the ball and opponent, and with ball-in-hand or without. He averaged almost five tackles a game at the championships, and while he will want to lift his accumulation and kicking consistency – he averaged just the 11 touches per game – he has some great traits from which a club can develop.

#46 Brock Smith
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Defender
13/03/2001 | 189cm | 82kg

As reliable and competitive as they come, Smith is a defender who can play both offensive and defensive roles, and almost always achieve the team requirement of him by the end of the game. Rarely having a game where he does not in some part contribute, Smith will attack contests without fear for his own safety, and also provide rebound out of the back half. He ticks a lot of boxes across the board, and while he could improve his speed, and add more dimensions to his game up the ground, his flexibility to play against taller or smaller opponents is a bonus. His one-on-one strength helps him take on the stronger players, while his competitive nature helps him challenge those with greater athletic traits. His rebounding and intercept marking, as well as his penetrating kick are other features of his game, and he is a player who will be loved by teammates, but bemoaned by opposition players.

#45 Dyson Hilder
North Adelaide/South Australia | Key Defender
31/03/2001 | 196cm | 91kg

There are not too many readymade key defenders in this AFL Draft, which makes Hilder a unique prospect for clubs. If an AFL club is contending and needs a key position player who is more prepared to tackle senior footy earlier in his career, then Hilder looms as a value mid-draft option. While he is not as agile as some others, and could work on his ground ball craft, Hilder is strong in the air, and composed with ball-in-hand in defence. Much like his North Adelaide teammate Finlay, Hilder has experienced all three levels of SANFL football this year, with eight games at Reserves level his predominant grade. He was as reliable as they came for South Australia at the national carnival, and is a nullifying defender who can take an opposition forward out of the game, averaging almost five marks from 12.5 disposals per game at the championships.

#44 Cooper Sharman
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Forward
25/07/2000 | 192cm | 79kg

Another player who is difficult to rate and could go anywhere from 30 to 60 is Sharman, who had plenty of highlights this year since joining the Oakleigh Chargers program. Having made the move from New South Wales to Victoria and playing out at Balwyn, Sharman burst onto the scene with a few hauls of goals, including four against Eastern Ranges in a tight game. His goal kicking accuracy and marking is quite impressive, and while he has to build his endurance and other areas of his game to be more of a complete package, Sharman has that upside which clubs will hope to harness. For a player of his size with his smarts and X-factor, Sharman could play that third tall role inside 50 and with his athleticism, he is able to play as a leading forward out of the square.

#43 Jack Mahony
Sandringham Dragons | Small Midfielder/Forward
12/11/2001 | 178cm | 72kg

A smart player who knows how to find the ball and use it delicately to hit targets over short distances like very few can, Mahony is a bit of a unique option as a small utility. Predominantly used in the forward half, Mahony is still light, but can compete with players in contested situations, and with his footy IQ and creativity, Mahony rarely makes too many mistakes by hand or foot. In saying that, his size will always come into question as a sub-180cm player, with Mahony lacking that explosiveness that others have playing a similar role. He will likely become that half-forward who can rotate through the middle, mainly because of his ability to pinpoint players inside 50 with sharp 45-degree kicks in between a host of opponents. Importantly, Mahony does not try and go for too much outside his limitations and therefore is highly influential with the game he employs.

#42 Trey Ruscoe
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Defender
03/11/2001 | 192cm | 87kg

A bit undersized to be a key defender at the elite level, Trey Ruscoe has proven to be a player who can easily play that role in the WAFL Colts, and while that is against lighter bodies, he will be challenged to do so against bigger-bodied forwards. In saying that, Ruscoe has great strength and the skills to also play as a running half-back. He has spent time in the midfield which is an area he can further develop and potentially become a readymade inside midfielder who can have an influence around the stoppages. Ruscoe is ultra-competitive and positions himself well in the defensive 50, but could play a midfield-defence hybrid role with his running capacity and versatility to play either position.

#41 Darcy Chirgwin
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
25/07/2001 | 191cm | 80kg

A good sized inside midfielder who might be somewhat underrated compared to his peers due to injury issues that ruled him out of early season games then was injured in the opening quarter of his Under-18 Championships match. What he offers to a club is a big body with an appetite for winning the ball in the contest. His disposal (24.7), clearance (5.2) and tackling (7.9) numbers are right up there with the best, and his defensive approach to the game will certainly win him over at AFL level. His outside game and athleticism could do with some work, as could his ability to hit the scoreboard, but lock him in to be a inside midfielder who can provide a presence around the stoppages, especially once he has added more size to his frame in the coming years.

NAB League Boys team review: Oakleigh Chargers

AS the NAB League has come to a close, we take a look at the two remaining sides; checking out their draft prospects, Best and Fairest (BnF) chances, 2020 Draft Crop and a final word on their season. The final side is the 2019 NAB League premiers – Oakleigh Chargers.

Position: 3rd
Wins: 11
Losses: 4
Draws: 0

Points For: 1099 (Ranked #3)
Points Against: 957 (Ranked eq. #5)
Percentage: 114.8
Points: 44

Top draft prospects:

Matt Rowell

What a talent. The most talked about prospect for this year’s draft crop and the clear standout number one pick selection. He was best on ground in nearly all of his games this year, topped it off with a ridiculous 44 disposals and two goals in the grand final, there is not much he cannot do. Similar to Sam Walsh last year, Rowell is just one you know will deliver at an AFL club from day dot, and should enjoy the sunny weather on the Gold Coast.

Noah Anderson

All the expectations and talk are that he will follow Rowell up north with pick two and it is easy to see why. He can win games off his own boot, has that modern-day size for a midfielder, and hits the scoreboard which is crucial for AFL sides. Knows how to find the footy and is so damaging forward of centre. A remarkable season and will be a terrific AFL player going forward.

Trent Bianco

The talented co-captain will feature somewhere in the top 30 depending on where a club rates him, but he has that elite kicking ability and the versatility to play from defence to midfield and can hit the scoreboard. He sets up plays and is one who teammates will be hoping wins a lot of the ball given his effective use and great footy IQ, highlighting his upside.

Dylan Williams

His year was wrecked by injury, but there is no doubting Williams’ talent. The Chargers’ co-captain is arguably the most damaging forward in this year’s draft with his ability to win games off his own boot exactly like Anderson. He can win the ball in the air or at ground level and if he can develop to his potential going forward, is a really special player who could end up as one of the best out of this draft.

Others in the mix:

Oakleigh do not have a shortage on players who have attracted the interest of AFL clubs through draft combine invitations. Nick Bryan and Cooper Sharman are the next two in line above the quartet of stars above, receiving National Draft Combine invites, while Josh May and Kaden Schreiber were invited to the State Draft Combine, and potential Brisbane father-son and Essendon Next Generation Academy (NGA) member Lachlan Johnson, was handed a Rookie Me Combine invite – despite doing his knee mid-season.

BnF chances:

Oakleigh’s BnF was completed on Wednesday, with Rowell remarkably winning it despite playing just seven games. It showed just how dominant he was in that limited period of time, with bottom-ager Lochlan Jenkins finishing second.

2020 Draft Crop:

Oakleigh will have a ridiculous list of talent once again next year and you could start anywhere, but the most talked about player is Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with the high-flying tall forward a Western Bulldogs NGA member. Reef McInnes is a Collingwood NGA and will be thereabouts as well, while you could throw in Under-16 Vic Metro Most Valuable Player (MVP) Will Phillips as one who will go very high. Finlay Macrae – brother of Jackson – is another who is developing nicely, and it is madness that the likes of talented duo of Jenkins and Fraser Elliot could well be the fifth and sixth drafted considering the way they played this season. Still a long way to go, but Oakleigh will be right up there in terms of contending for back-to-back flags.

Final word:

When you win a premiership, there is nothing else to say other than the season was an overwhelming success. The Chargers bounced back from grand final heartache in 2018, and went the step further and claimed the ultimate glory. With a core group of top-end talents for 2020, the Chargers will be thereabouts again next year and will be one of the most exciting teams to watch.

In Pictures – 2019 NAB League Boys Grand Final

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS won their fourth NAB League premiership in eight years on Saturday after trumping minor premier Eastern Ranges by 53 points at Princes Park. As is always the case with premiership teams, there are series of stories to tell and this very special team is no different. Here is the story of Oakleigh’s 2019 grand final win, in pictures.

I can only imagine that one of the more rewarding things about coaching kids in the elite talent pathway is when they show everyone else the talent you have seen in them all year. Nick Bryan really came into his own during finals and started the decider on fire with 10 disposals. This was just one of his high flies in the opening term.

Speaking of high flies, there are very few players who do it better than Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. What a rare talent; the leap, sticky hands, authority in his walk after a big mark, and fluent set shot routine. It wasn’t quite his day, but he looked like tearing the game to shreds early on.

Speaking of authority, enter Noah Anderson. He marked just inside the arc and on a ridiculous angle here. You wouldn’t back many to make the kick, but you just felt there was always a chance he could bomb it through. While it wasn’t to be, his top 3 draft hopes are sure to come to fruition.

Joel Nathan, a rock in defence. He had just been crunched by Ugle-Hagan here and soon went off for a concussion test, but came back on and was as brave as any of the Ranges players for the rest of the match. Huge effort.

A famous B. Lawry could always be heard saying “it’s all happening”. Bailey Laurie‘s name is spelt a little differently, but you get the idea. That’s how he plays, all action and a game winner with his line breaking ability. We’ll get to see it all again next year, too.

This was the essence of Oakleigh’s game. Glamour and Hollywood plays aside, the Charger’s forward pressure is what helped fold Eastern in the third term. They just couldn’t keep up.

It might look a touch awkward but this was a terrific goal from Joshua Clarke, it looked a real team-lifter. He has made a habit of slotting goals from deep on his left side, but is more typically a rebounding force from defence. Great pace and dare.

Arguably Eastern’s best draft prospect, Lachlan Stapleton was right with Clarke in his second term exploits. He’s such a hard worker and enjoyed an ultra-consistent year from midfield.

This kid is a ripper. The skipper, Trent Bianco. He took the reigns in the back end of the year with co-captain Dylan Williams out injured and led his Chargers to the flag. Eastern put everything into stopping him, they beat him pillar to post and had Mihaele Zalac – who he turned in this bit of play – paying him close attention. He still managed to get off the leash and rip up the outside.

Write the name Wil Parker in your notes for next year, he and Clarke will be an enjoyable half-back duo to watch. He had a couple of daisy trimmers, but was otherwise sound on the ball and went back to take some important intercept marks.

We might talk about his 60-metre goal on his non-preferred side after the fact, but this image is more typical of Matt Rowell. Not the whole getting tackled part, but how he is always at the bottom of the packs, ball in hand, and attracting a raft of opponents. Gun, and the obvious number one.

I’m not sure what Lochlan Jenkins said here, but fair play to Will Phillips for keeping the peace.

Get around Jeromy Lucas! A game changer in the premiership quarter.
Just ask coach Leigh Clarke; “Full credit to him, he came out and kicked three goals in that quarter and started to turn the game for us. “That was exciting and credit to the coaches in the box, that was a discussion that was brought up in the box, we back the boys in the box and pulled the trigger on that and I think it was a key moment.”

“The true modesty of Matt, we encouraged him over the past month to really celebrate a goal, he said at best he’d give us a thumbs up.” – Leigh Clarke

I know, another photo of Rowell. This, just before he booted that 60-metre goal on his left foot.
His secret? Practice, and a bit of luck.
“It came off sweetly, I didn’t think it was going to go that far but it just ended up sailing through,” he said.

Doesn’t seem that Thomas Graham needs any invitation to celebrate a goal. Scenes.

This kid’s journey to the big dance was a bit… testy. Lucas ‘Testy Westy’ Westwood, a late out in the preliminary final due to a ruptured testicle. Ouch, wasn’t going to stop him here though.

Bitta Selwood about this. Fraser Elliot wore the crimson mask and came out on top.

The best on ground an unprecedented second time. This is the moment Rowell asked “can I do the handshakes first?” when being dragged away for media duties. Shades of Xavier Duursma with TAC Cup Radio last year.

Yeah, get used to it young fella.

Captain and coach. They were happy, trust me.

Often forgotten, the hurt. What a leader James Ross is, had an outstanding year, but unfortunately someone had to lose.

Dermie’s son Devlin played for the Ranges a couple of years ago, he offered some words to Ross post-match.

Moments after Anderson slipped down the podium stairs, probably one of the few mistakes he made on a football ground this year.

“The top three” according to Harris Mastras.

Premiers.

Caught the Eye: NAB League Boys Grand Final

OAKLEIGH Chargers comprehensively earned its fourth NAB League premiership in eight years on Saturday with a 53-point grand final win over Eastern Ranges at Princes Park. There were plenty of players who shone amongst the array of stars on show in the year’s showpiece game, so we will be highlighting 10 outstanding players in this week’s edition of Caught the Eye. For extended profiles on each player, click their names highlighted in red, and for our full scouting notes on the game, click here.

Bailey Laurie
Oakleigh Chargers | Half-Forward
24/03/2002 | 178cm | 76kg

Stats: 17 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 goals

Our scouts said:Has his moments where he can break a game open, kicking a couple of goals either side of half-time and really making his presence felt. The bottom-age forward is a metres-gained player… ” – Peter Williams

Verdict: Like many in the Oakleigh squad, has really impressed during a dominant finals series. Loves to break the lines going forward and can make things happen with his bursts of speed, agility, and clever use. Could well move up the field in his top-age year, but has enough nous around goal to suggest he can maintain his position as a lively half-forward.

Nick Bryan
Oakleigh Chargers | Ruck
22/10/2001 | 202cm | 87kg

Stats: 20 disposals (14 kicks), 4 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 26 hitouts

Our scouts said:Had a huge opening term where he collected a game-high 10 touches and eight hitouts to really stamp his authority on the match. He was strong around the ground with a big contested mark in the second term…” – Peter Williams

Verdict: Has gone from strength to strength after some quieter games throughout the year, finally breaking through to truly show his potential. His attack on the high balls was impressive throughout this outing and if he can clunk a few more marks, watch out. The ruck craft is already there to go with his athletic traits, so expect Bryan to impress at the national combine and further push his daft case.

Trent Bianco
Oakleigh Chargers | Wing
20/01/2001 | 176cm | 70kg

Stats: 29 disposals (21 kicks), 10 marks, 3 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s

Our scouts said:After being tightly watched by Mihaele Zalac, he started to get off the chain from the midway point of the second quarter, hitting up targets and having a real influence on the contest.” – Peter Williams

Verdict: The Oakleigh skipper is a ripper and showed his ability to ward off some heavy opposition attention at the ideal time. Undeterred by a few late hits, Bianco was aggressive with both his attack on the ball and use by foot, making him arguably the most damaging player afield. His versatility on the outside makes him desirable to clubs in a number of roles, with his size one of the few things really keeping him from cementing spot right among the first round calculations at this stage.

Noah Anderson
Oakleigh Chargers | Midfielder
17/02/2001 | 190cm | 87kg

Stats: 26 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 1 inside 50

Our scouts said:Working well with Rowell in the middle, was just a presence… tightly guarded at stoppages and often set upon once he won the pill, so did well to still find plenty of the ball and help his side on the inside. ” – Peter Williams

Verdict: It’s certainly not the first time Anderson has caught our eye – he does it every time he steps on the field and is an absolute lock to be a top three pick. He has it all; using his frame to prize the ball away on the inside, showing great agility to seldom find himself tackled and hitting the scoreboard at will. He garnered heavy attention in this outing so didn’t quite pull off the latter, but always manages to have an impact. So good to watch and is AFL-ready.

Will Phillips
Oakleigh Chargers | Wing/Midfielder
22/05/2002 | 179cm | 78kg

Stats: 16 disposals, 1 marks, 2 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 2 goals

Our scouts said:The bottom-ager showed why he will be a highly touted prospect next year with a competitive effort through midfield. Just attacks the ball with vigour…” – Peter Williams

Verdict: Looks a leading candidate for next year’s draft crop and continues to show glimpses of an all-round midfield game. While his work on the outside has been terrific for most of the year, Phillips has thrived of late at the centre bounces with his clean hands and turn of speed. Don’t be fooled by his stylishness though, Phillips is tough as nails and holds his own at the stoppages. Found the goals too in this game which is a welcome string to his bow.

Matt Rowell
Oakleigh Chargers | Midfielder
1/07/2001 | 178cm | 75kg

Stats: 44 disposals, 8 marks, 9 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 2 goals

Our scouts said:Despite being the standout player in the draft crop, continues to surprise us. If you think he has reached the top, he smashes the ceiling and goes a bit more… He reminded us he was human with a couple of missed set shots, but outside of that was just a complete beast…” – Peter Williams

Verdict: The purpose of this piece is to highlight the players who are rising in stocks, so it’s a bit hard to have a player marked as number one improve his position. Rowell finds a way to do what others simply cannot, so we’re not putting anything beyond him at this point. Looks destined to adjust to AFL level in a similar way to Sam Walsh, never playing a bad game and proving a game-winner from midfield.

Finlay Macrae
Oakleigh Chargers | Forward/Midfielder
13/03/2002 | 184cm | 73kg

Stats: 20 disposals (14 kicks), 7 marks, 1 tackle, 3 inside 50s, 2 behinds

Our scouts said:The midfielder had some exciting moments throughout… His run and carry and decision making is a highlight… (he) showed why the Chargers will be tough to beat again next year.” – Peter Williams

Verdict: Looks a little more forward-oriented than his Bulldog brother at this stage, but still has the work rate and uncanny ball-winning ability that his pedigree would suggest. Macrae’s run, agility, and use by foot have all been top notch of late, making him a key part of Oakleigh’s forward drives and a lively prospect for next year.

Joshua Clarke
Eastern Ranges | Half-Back
5/03/2002 | 181cm | 65kg

Stats: 22 disposals (15 kicks), 7 rebound 50s, 1 goal

Our scouts said:In what turned out to be a dirty day for Eastern a shining light was the game from young dashing defender Joshua Clarke who did everything he could to get his team over the line with his dash and dare from the back half.” – Ed Pascoe

Verdict: Clarke had some sort of second term, showing off all of his best traits and trying his best to break the game open with his run. The Ranges defence was under seige, and he was one of the few players with the dare to take on Oakleigh’s defensive pressure. He is making a habit of slotting goals from range on his left side too, and will be one of the leading attacking half-backs for next year.

Lachlan Stapleton
Eastern Ranges | Midfielder
14/04/2001 | 177cm | 72kg

Stats: 20 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50

Our scouts said:Eastern’s Mr. Consistent couldn’t have done more this year to impress recruiters and despite his team coming up short, Stapleton did his draft chances no harm with a strong display through the midfield – showing his trademark tough play and team first attitude.” – Ed Pascoe

Verdict: As our scouts would suggest, there’s not much more that Stapleton could have done more this year in an ultra-consistent season. A good state combine could get him over the line in terms of draft hope, but clubs will undoubtedly already admire his production, two-way tenacity, and attraction to the big moments. Will be one of Eastern’s leading candidates come November.

Wil Parker
Eastern Ranges | Defender
29/05/2002 | 180cm | 76kg

Stats: 27 disposals, (19 kicks), 5 marks, 2 tackles, 11 rebound 50s

Our scouts said:Parker has had a fantastic finals series and he has certainly enhanced his draft stocks for the 2020 draft, again showing great composure and skill in defence.” – Ed Pascoe

Verdict: The Parker-Clarke combination in defence will be a formidable one in 2020, with Parker’s mix of aerial prowess and sureness by foot making him a productive member of the back six going both ways. His finals series was superb, but he showed glimpses of the same form in a number of games throughout the year, able to find a good amount of the ball and use it well. There’s a long way to go, but Parker is rising in stocks already.

Scouting notes: NAB League Boys Grand Final

OAKLEIGH Chargers triumphed in this year’s NAB League grand final, with a wealth of draftable talent – including the best two prospects of this year’s crop – helping the Chargers to victory. There was also a number of bottom-agers who stood up on both sides along with the usual suspects who earned combine invites. Please note, each note is the individual opinion of our scouts.

Oakleigh Chargers:

By: Peter Williams

#2 Bailey Laurie

Has his moments where he can break a game open, kicking a couple of goals either side of half-time and really making his presence felt. The bottom-age forward is a metres-gained player and while he missed a couple of opportunities with two behinds, he still amassed 17 disposals, five marks, four tackles and crucially had six inside 50s, constantly applying pressure on the Ranges.

#4 Nick Bryan

Had a huge opening term where he collected a game-high 10 touches and eight hitouts to really stamp his authority on the match. He was strong around the ground with a big contested mark in the second term on the wing and then laying good tackles at ground level after following up in the ruck. He had a quieter second term, but finished off big to end the game with 20 disposals, four marks and three inside 50s.

#5 Trent Bianco

After being tightly watched by Mihaele Zalac, he started to get off the chain from the midway point of the second quarter, hitting up targets and having a real influence on the contest. He had a solid second half and ended the game as a premiership captain, racking up 29 disposals, 10 marks and six inside 50s, pushing up to a wing and getting the ball inside attacking 50.

#8 Noah Anderson

Working well with Rowell in the middle, was just a presence to have 12 disposals at half-time and 26 by the final siren. He was so strong through the centre and while he has had bigger impacts on the game before – not hitting the scoreboard on this occasion – he still laid five tackles and teamed up well with Rowell in the middle. Was tightly guarded at stoppages and often set upon once he won the pill, so did well to still find plenty of the ball and help his side on the inside.

#9 Will Phillips

The bottom-ager showed why he will be a highly touted prospect next year with a competitive effort through midfield. Just attacks the ball with vigour not to dissimilar to Rowell, and while he can be handball happy at times, had an even spread of kicks and handballs on his way to 16 touches, also hitting the scoreboard with two majors.

#11 Matt Rowell

Despite being the standout player in the draft crop, continues to surprise us. If you think he has reached the top, he smashes the ceiling and goes a bit more. With 44 disposals in a grand final you are always going to enhance your draft prospects, but it’s a bit hard to go from pick one to pick one. Rowell just finds the footy and simply found it at will. Kicked a crucial goal late in the third term to extend the margin out to 20 points. He reminded us he was human with a couple of missed set shots, but outside of that was just a complete beast with 11 clearances, eight marks, nine tackles and six inside 50s.

#25 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Worked hard throughout the game on his way to three behinds from 10 disposals and eight marks and worked up the ground to present and produce six inside 50s as well. Full credit to Joel Nathan who restricted his chances and matched him in the air. The midfield also did not have as much time and space as previous weeks and the kicks were less pinpoint, and the Ranges’ defence was able to read the play well. But Ugle-Hagan still took a towering mark early and gave spectators a reason to see why he is so highly rated for next year.

#29 Finlay Macrae

The midfielder had some exciting moments throughout the Grand Final on his way to 20 touches and seven marks, only missing a couple of opportunities and finishing with two behinds on the scoreboard. His run and carry and decision making is a highlight and like a number of Oakleigh midfielders, showed why the Chargers will be tough to beat again next year.

#73 Cooper Sharman

Looked busy in the first term with a couple of chances, but uncharacteristically missed a couple of set shots before converting a sitter from the top of the square. Was not his best game, but still worked hard to provide a target and go on searching leads to drag a defender along with him. Had the nine touches and five marks from 1.2 to cap off a big rise up draft boards in the second half of the season.

Eastern Ranges:

By: Ed Pascoe

#4 Joshua Clarke

In what turned out to be a dirty day for Eastern, a shining light was the game from young dashing defender Joshua Clarke who did everything he could to get his team over the line with his dash and dare from the back half. Clarke had some eye catching moments, using his speed to take the game on and get away from any would-be tacklers. He had a huge second quarter highlighted by a fantastic goal on the run on a hard angle and distance while also under pressure. Clarke’s second half wasn’t as strong as his first which was the same for most of his teammates but he had put his name in lights for next year’s draft as he looks one to look out for. Clarke finished the game with 22 disposals, seven rebounds and a goal.

#7 Lachlan Stapleton

Eastern’s Mr. Consistent could not have done more this year to impress recruiters and despite his team coming up short, Stapleton did his draft chances no harm with a strong display through the midfield – showing his trademark tough play and team first attitude. Stapleton showed a lot of aggression and class, picking up balls at ground level with ease and working back to help the defenders. Stapleton has not been a massive ball winner this year but he is incredibly consistent in winning enough of the ball and he was awarded Eastern Ranges’ Best & Fairest which was well deserved for the young midfielder. Stapleton finished the game with 20 disposals, six tackles and five inside 50s.

#11 Mitch Mellis

The small and creative Mellis had another solid outing showing his dash and eagerness to get the ball moving quickly any chance he gets. Mellis was important in the first half helping out the defenders in the first quarter and then offering attacking flair in the second, kicking a classy goal on the run. He would have another shot at goal in the third quarter but would narrowly miss. Despite that he had a solid game, winning 18 disposals to go with four tackles, four inside 50s and a goal and was also rewarded for Eastern, winning their runner-up Best & Fairest.

#19 Wil Parker

Parker has had a fantastic finals series and he has certainly enhanced his draft stocks for the 2020 draft, again showing great composure and skill in defence. Parker had a couple of hiccups which have been rare but considering the amount of inside 50s from Oakleigh there was a lot of pressure and certainly more than usual, but Parker stuck the course and finished the game strongly. Parker didn’t just show his good ball use but also his courage to sit in the hole and take some courageous marks. Parker finished the game with 27 disposals, five marks and 11 rebound 50s and couldn’t have done any more to help his team.

#20 Connor Downie

Downie had a quieter outing playing on the wing and struggling to get into the game. It was a shame as he is one of Eastern’s more dangerous players with ball in hand and it is no wonder they could not get their attacking game going without him kicking long inside 50 with his trusty left foot. He still had some nice movements with his composure and ball use by hand and foot but he will now turn his attention to the Under-17 futures game before the AFL Grand Final. The Hawthorn 2020 NGA prospect finished with 10 disposals and four inside 50s.

#23 Zac Pretty

Pretty had a strong game through the midfield with his clearance work and attack on the ball again a feature. Pretty won most improved for Eastern having come into the year relatively unknown to scouts and was rewarded with a state combine invite so his draft chances are still alive. Pretty was a hard worker through the midfield and although he was mostly digging handballs out, he was doing his best to bring his teammates into the game. Pretty finished the game with 20 disposals and four tackles and topped the NAB League for disposals this year.

Rowell masterclass leads Oakleigh to a dominant premiership

IT was the 10 minutes that won Oakleigh Chargers the premiership that eluded them last year.

Seven goals from the 15-minute mark of the third term to the final break broke the hearts of Eastern Ranges supporters, and elevated almost certain pick one, Matt Rowell into another stratosphere with an absolute masterclass performance. While it was a terrific team effort by the Chargers to outwork the Ranges, there was no stopping Rowell who won the Best on Ground Medal with 44 disposals – the second most disposals by any player in a TAC Cup/NAB League Grand Final behind Mitch Wallis’ 47.

Rowell and Noah Anderson were busy from the opening bounce, combining well at stoppages, while Trent Bianco was receiving close attention and gave away a free kick for retaliating from Mihaele Zalac. Both Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Cooper Sharman had chances early but missed, with Will Phillips opening the account for the Chargers early in the game with a terrific goal on the run from 40m to entice a huge roar from the crowd. Oakleigh continued to pepper the Lygon Street end, booting four consecutive behinds. The causalities were beginning to piled on for the Ranges as Joel Nathan and Tyler Sonsie were helped off the field within a minute of each other. Connor Stone took advantage of the extra forward and found Sharman all alone in the square with the reliable goalkicker making no mistake from 10m out.

Everything was going right for the Chargers in the first term. Stone appealed for a soccer off the ground in the goalsquare but it looked to be a fresh airy. The normally composed Eastern defence looked under siege as Sharman ran down an opponent deep in defence, but his set shot too tight to the boundary but missed. Similarly, Bailey Laurie had a great chance with a running shot that bounced through but was deemed touched off the boot and brought the Chargers to 2.7 for the first term. Then the first massive highlight for Eastern came with a much-needed goal from Harrison Keeling in the pocket with 17 seconds left on the clock. It was the last kick of the quarter as the Ranges breathed a sigh of relief knowing for all of Oakleigh’s dominance, they were 13 points down and in the contest.

Nick Bryan was dominant around the ground for the Chargers, picking up 10 disposals, two marks and eight hitouts in the first term, while Jeromy Lucas (eight) and Phillips (seven and a goal) were also prolific. For the Ranges’ Wil Parker was steady in defence with nine disposals and three rebounds, while James Ross (six touches, two marks) was also busy back there. With 17 inside 50s to five, the Chargers were dominating play, but the Ranges defence was doing enough to limit the score in what could have been a lot uglier for them.

Both sides’ pressure was high as neither team had much time and space to move on, if they found space they had to move it on quickly as opponents closed them down quickly. Just as either side needed a deadlock breaker in the second, it came in the form of Mitch Mellis who burst forward, took a bounce and then launched from 45m for it to bounce home and all of a sudden, the Ranges were back within a kick. The Chargers almost scored a goal from a turnover up the other end, with Thomas Graham winning a loose ball after a spill and snapped around his body only for it to hit the woodwork. Up the other end, Zalac was running into 50 when he unsuspectingly got mowed down by Vincent Zagari. Both sides were finding more open space with end-to-end plays, but a couple of attempts under pressure on goal resulted in behinds for both sides.

Eastern’s defence was desperate and managed to keep a one-on-one ball close to the line in play but the kick landed in the waiting arms of Rowell who showed he can find the footy even when he is not looking for it. His set shot was un-Rowell like though and it was a shank short. Then Eastern seized on the miss as Josh Clarke ran inside 50 dropped it onto his left, negotiated the breeze perfectly and slammed it home to the roar of the eastern faithful and the scores were level again. Oakleigh’s midfield was getting stuck into Zalac to try and let Bianco off the leash, and Bianco’s extra freedom with his slicing kicks was starting to have a real impact on the contest. Both sides were still making uncharacteristic errors going forward, but it was a terrific contest. With a few minutes remaining, Finlay Macrae found some space inside 50 and his set shot from 40m looked good until a late drift that went through for a behind. With the siren imminent and the Chargers leading by three points, Laurie snuck out the side of a forward stoppage, put it on the outside of the boot and it sailed home to give Oakleigh breathing space heading into the main break.

Clarke was a massive player in the second term, picking up 13 touches to head into the break with 18, the most of any Ranges player, while Rowell had one better with 19, as well as three marks and three tackles. Bryan and Lucas both had 13 touches for the Chargers, while Parker (13) and Mellis (12) were the other two who had an influence for the Ranges.

If Rowell needed to convince anyone else how likely it was that he would potentially edge closer to a second best on ground in an Under 18s Grand Final, he found space in the middle and put out a perfect kick to Ugle-Hagan on the lead in the early moments of the game. He missed his set shot, but Oakleigh continued to press forward of centre. Despite holding the momentum, it was Eastern’s second forward 50 entry in the term that saw Jonte Duffy snap off his left and put the margin back to just four points to remind the crowd it was game on. Not long after, Jamieson Rossiter proceed to be the facilitator with a perfectly weighted kick to Jordan Jaworski. His tight set shot also missed, but the heat was well and truly in the game.

Then came the 10 minutes that won Oakleigh the premiership. The exciting Laurie then converted his second goal, sidestepping an opponent on a run towards goal and launching from 50 to add a bit of spice to the margin. Moments later forward pressure saw the Chargers run down Ross in the back 50, then a ruck stoppage from Sharman resulted in the ball landing in the arms of Lucas who snapped and goaled off the right and the margin was 14. When Rowell stepped up to win a 50m penalty and deliver to make it 20 points, it looked like it was going to be tough for Eastern to get back. After Lucas booted another two in two minutes, Rowell booted his second with a long-range bouncing kick that never looked like missing. He could do anything and so could the Chargers, as Thomas Graham capitalised on another Eastern error and snapped around his body and the game was well and truly done and dusted.

The heat was out of the game after that 10-minute blitz, and Nick Stathopoulos added his name to the goalkickers and it was party time for the Chargers in the final 25 minutes. Rowell had to remind onlookers her was human with another set shot miss. It was not long before he was in the thick of it again with a goal assist to Phillips who delivered on the run. Rowell again marked inside 50 but again missed his set shot. Ben Hickleton kicked a consolation goal late in the match as Rowell passed 40 touches. Ugle-Hagan had one last shot after the siren, but it hit the woodwork and the final margin was 53.

Rowell ended the game with 44 touches, eight marks, eight tackles, six tackles, two rebounds and 2.2, while Bianco (30 disposals, 11 marks, three tackles and six inside 50s), Anderson (26 disposals, four marks and four tackles) and Schreiber (26 disposals, 11 marks and two tackles). Bryan built on his form from last week with a dominant performance in the ruck with 20 disposals and 26 hitouts, while Lucas booted three goals and was dominant during that third quarter blitz. For Eastern, Parker had 27 touches, five marks and 11 rebounds to be the Ranges’ best as a bottom-ager, along with fellow bottom-ager Clarke who amassed 23 touches and seven rebounds. The midfield trio of Stapleton (19 touches), Pretty (19) and Mellis (18 and a goal) were consistent as usual, while Nathan did his best on Ugle-Hagan to keep him goalless and tack ip 16 touches and five rebounds.

EASTERN 1.0 | 3.3 | 4.5 | 5.6 (36)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.7 | 3.12 | 10.13 | 12.17 (89)

GOALS:

Eastern: H. Keeling, M. Mellis, J. Clarke, J. Duffy.
Oakleigh: J. Lucas 3, B. Laurie 2, M. Rowell 2, W. Phillips 2, C. Sharman, T. Graham, N. Stathopoulos.

ADC BEST:

Eastern: W. Parker, J. Clarke, L. Stapleton, M. Mellis, J. Nathan, Z. Pretty
Oakleigh: M. Rowell, K. Schreiber, J. Lucas, N. Bryan, F. Macrae, T. Bianco.

Comprehensive 2019 NAB League Grand Final Preview

FOLLOWING on from last year’s Grand Final preview, it is that time again where we try and analyse all facets of the NAB League Grand Final from the players to style and what one might expect from the match.

TEAMS

EASTERN RANGES v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

Grand Final – 21/09/2019
1:05pm
Ikon Park – Carlton

EASTERN RANGES

B: 10. C. Black, 39. J. Nathan, 40. J. Hourihan
HB: 4. J. Clarke, 21. J. Ross, 19. W. Parker
C: 20. C. Downie, 7. L. Stapleton, 30. T. Edwards
HF: 11. M. Mellis, 18. B. McCormack, 52. T. Sonsie
F: 9. J. Duffy, 13. J. Rossiter, 27. J. Jaworski
R: 49. R. Smith, 16. T. Garner, 23. Z. Pretty
Int: 6. M. Brown, 14. L. Gawel, 36. B. Hickleton, 26. C. Norris, 59. B. Tennant, 37. J. Weichard, 45. M. Zalac
23P: 44. H. Keeling

In: J. Weichard, M. Brown, B. Tennant

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

B: 15. K. Schreiber, 36. R. Valentine, 34. V. Zagari
HB: 5. T. Bianco, 52. N. Guiney, 49. H. Mastras
C: 39. R. McInnes, 6. J. Lucas, 9. W. Phillips
HF: 27. J. May, 25. J. Ugle-Hagan, 61. C. Stone
F: 29. F. Macrae, 73. C. Sharman, 77. N. Stathopoulos
R: 4. N. Bryan, 8. N. Anderson, 11. M. Rowell
Int: 58. Y. Dib, 18. F. Elliot, 22. T. Graham, 12. L. Jenkins, 30. S. Tucker, 17. G. Varagiannis, 1. L. Westwood
23P: 2. B. Laurie

In: L. Westwood, S. Tucker, Y. Dib

2019 SEASON REVIEW

1. Eastern Ranges – 12 wins, 3 losses, 148.1%, 48 points
3. Oakleigh Chargers – 11 wins, 4 losses, 114.8%, 44 points

HEAD TO HEAD

R1: Eastern Ranges 7.5 (47) defeated by Oakleigh Chargers 12.16 (88)
R14: Eastern Ranges 11.9 (75) defeated by Oakleigh Chargers 12.11 (83)

CHANGES SINCE ROUND 14 THRILLER

Eastern:
IN:
Mitchell Brown, Mitch Mellis, Jamieson Rossiter, Lachlan Gawel, Todd Garner, James Ross, Callum Norris, Ben Hickleton, Jayden Weichard, Joel Nathan, Harrison Keeling, Riley Smith

Oakleigh:
IN:
Nick Bryan, Noah Anderson, Matt Rowell, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Finlay Macrae, Reef McInnes, Harris Mastras, Nick Guiney, Connor Stone, Sam Tucker, Yoseph Dib

WHO HAS COMBINE INVITES?

National

Eastern Ranges [0]: Nil.
Oakleigh Chargers [6]: Noah Anderson, Trent Bianco, Nick Bryan, Matt Rowell, Cooper Sharman, Dylan Williams*.

State/Rookie Me:

Eastern Ranges [8]: Tyler Edwards, Lachlan Gawel, Billy McCormack, Mitch Mellis, Zak Pretty, Jamieson Rossiter, Riley Smith Lachlan Stapleton.
Oakleigh Chargers [3]: Lachlan Johnson*, Josh May, Kaden Schreiber.

*Unavailable due to injury

PLAYERS

EASTERN RANGES

#4 Josh CLARKE

Absolute lightning when he gets going. The bottom-age speedster is capable of breaking lines off half-back and along the wing and makes things happen. He is a player who catches the eye with his high risk-high reward style.

#6 Mitchell BROWN

Included in the extended squad for the grand final, Brown last played in Round 16 against Dandenong Stingrays. The 173cm utility had some good form earlier in the season, including six rebounds from 21 touches against Gippsland Power in Round 6.

#7 Lachlan STAPLETON

Consistent as they come and one of Eastern’s top draft hopefuls who not only wins the ball in the midfield, but hurts opposition teams going forward as well. In his third season with the Ranges, the now top-ager has lifted his numbers by five disposals a game, but his defensive pressure is what makes him stand out from the ground, averaging a massive seven tackles per game.

#9 Jonte DUFFY

The smallest player on the ground, but the tackling half-forward packs a punch. He averages more than five tackles a game and is not afraid to go in hard despite his 166cm, 69kg frame recorded at the start of the season.

#10 Chayce BLACK

The Fremantle father-son hopeful has shown some signs throughout the season and progressed into a defensive role after initially playing at half-forward and pinch-hitting through the midfield.

#11 Mitch MELLIS

Like Stapleton, one of Eastern’s top draft hopes and a dominant player throughout season 2019. A natural ball winner who covers the ground with ease, Mellis spent plenty of time forward this year, booting nine goals in 11 games compared to his three in his previous 20. He has also lifted his disposal numbers and despite being 173cm works hard around the clearances and is often the receiver of the ball who bursts off and gets it forward.

#13 Jamieson ROSSITER

Has been a much talked about prospect over the past couple of years but has struggled with injury, playing just two games in his bottom-age year – booting eight goals – after four as a 16-year-old. He has managed to get some continuity this year in between Vic Metro commitments, and booted 19 goals in 12 games, including six in the finals series. He is hitting form at the right time of year and at 190cm he is a touch small for a key position player at AFL level, but has the ability to go into the midfield and use his bigger frame there to have an impact.

#14 Lachlan GAWEL

Not a huge ball winner, but has a touch of class in the forward half using his vision and accuracy by foot to set up goal scoring opportunities. He has managed the eight games this season, but has booted six goals in that time, also averaging three tackles per game to provide some defensive pressure to the opposition.

#16 Todd GARNER

Brother of former Eastern captain and now Port Adelaide player Joel, Todd is a member of the Hawthorn Next Generation Academy. He has managed just the 15 games over the past two seasons, but has shown some signs playing out of defence. He averages three rebounds and almost four tackles per game and plays a role on a dangerous opposition forward.

#18 Billy McCORMACK

Has been a big improver this season after just the three games last season. McCormack is a smoky in the draft because of his ability to have an impact both in the ruck and forward which is something quite rare in this draft class. He averages more than 10 touches and 15 hitouts per game, while booting 10 majors in his 16 matches.

#19 Wil PARKER

A bottom-age player who got a taste of it as a 16-year-old last season and has progressed through to be a staple in the Eastern defence this year. He is one no doubt likely to move into the midfield in 2020, but has arguably been Eastern’s most consistent rebounding small defender throughout the year, working well with James Ross and Joel Nathan as the keys. Averages 17 disposals and four marks per game.

#20 Connor DOWNIE

The Ranges’ top prospect for next year, and another member of the Hawthorn Next Generation Academy. Has had consistency issues at times, but when he is up and going, Downie is all class. He knows how to use the footy and sums up situations with terrific vision and execution, while hitting the scoreboard playing from a wing and half-forward. Played on the MCG for Vic Metro which is rare for bottom-agers.

#21 James ROSS

The general in defence and captain of the side, Ross is one who represented Vic Metro on one occasion, put together a consistent season and was unlucky not to receive a combine invite. Considering his finals series to-date, Ross has no doubt done all he can to convince recruiters he is worth a shot, and while he is slightly undersized for a key position role, he reads the ball perfectly in the air and is strong overhead. Courageous and a great team leader.

#23 Zakery PRETTY

Eastern’s big improver this season after just the limited three games in 2018. Pretty is one of the taller Eastern midfielders despite standing at 183cm, but at 80kg is more built for that inside role. With more than 50 per cent of his possessions won in contested situations, and racking up a truckload of clearances – six per game – Pretty is one who has flown onto draft radars after a big year.

#26 Callum NORRIS

Returned after 12 months off, to grab a spot in the Ranges’ finals side against Sandringham and was better for the run after the first final, to be a key contributor last weekend on his way to 18 disposals, five marks and a goal. Not a typically high disposal winner, but has been around for the past three seasons but has been marred with injury.

#27 Jordan JAWORSKI

The goal sneak has booted 17 goals in 10 games this season, with seven of those coming in Eastern’s smashing of Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. He is a classic small forward who knows where the goals are and will often run hard to open space back to goal and be in the right spot to win the ball and apply scoreboard pressure for his side.

#30 Tyler EDWARDS

Playing through the midfield, Edwards has produced a solid season in his 10 games, averaging 18 touches and three clearances per game. He did enough to earn a place at the state combine, and is one who provides a role in multiple positions, but will likely play through the midfield and on a wing.

#36 Ben HICKLETON

Eastern’s leading goalkicker this season and a player who stepped up in his top-age year to average two goals a game and provide a target up forward. Hickleton rotated through the ruck with Riley Smith and Billy McCormack despite being just 192cm, often pinch-hitting to give those players a rest, averaging three hitouts per game. At 87kg, he is a strong player who is good one-on-one.

#37 Jayden WEICHARD

Just the three games this season and none since Round 11, but Weichard was included in the Ranges’ extended squad for the Grand Final, with his best game coming against Geelong Falcons in Round 9, amassing 15 disposals spending time on the inside.

#39 Joel NATHAN

A terrific lockdown defender who will beat his man more often than not, Nathan is the ultimate team player in defence. He still wins his own ball with 13 disposals and three marks per game, but has plenty of spoils and one percenters to his name. He and Ross are arguably the top cohesive defensive partnership and will not make it easy for the Chargers’ forwards.

#40 Jack HOURIHAN

His first season for the Ranges as a top-ager, Hourihan has managed every game this year and averaged 14 disposals, four marks, three rebounds and two tackles playing predominantly in defence. A latecomer to the program who has bought into the Ranges system and been a consistent player throughout the year playing his role.

#44 Harrison KEELING

A bottom-ager in his first season, Keeling is lightly built but has strung together six games in the back-end of the season, recalled for the first final and has held his spot. Not a huge disposal winner, but one who like many of his teammates last year, is gaining great experience for 12 months time.

#45 Mihaele ZALAC

Taller midfielder who operates between the arcs, often playing an outside role and rotating onball to have an impact. Has played every game in season 2019, averaging 14 disposals, three marks and three tackles per game, while having similar clearance, inside-50 and rebound numbers showing his ability to spread.

#49 Riley SMITH

The overage ruck took control of the ruck division when in the side this year, playing eight games and averaging more than 27 hitouts per game. He is readymade to play at senior level, earning a Rookie Me Combine invitation and is someone who could provide a presence at ruck stoppages.

#52 Tyler SONSIE

Four years ago Jaidyn Stephenson and Adam Cerra burst onto the scene as 16-year-olds, and for 2019, Tyler Sonsie is that player. He has played the last five games of the season and being a half-forward who can kick off either foot and hit the scoreboard consistently or set others up, Sonsie is a damaging player and with continued development, could be a top pick in the 2021 draft.

#57 Beau TENNANT

A tall target inside 50, Tennant played his best game in his first game this year, booting three goals from six marks and 15 touches against Oakleigh in Round 14. He was named in Eastern’s extended squad for the grand final.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

#1 Lucas WESTWOOD

An unfortunate pre-game injury before the preliminary final ruled him out but he has been named in the extended squad. The reliable defender has been a club favourite with him doing a role each and every week and would play a role on an opposition forward if fit and available.

#2 Bailey LAURIE

The exciting small forward has enjoyed a busy finals series, constantly popping up and helping set up scoring opportunities for his teammates. He teams up well at the feet of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with Nick Stathopoulos, and was instrumental in the qualifying final win over Gippsland Power with two goals from 16 touches and seven marks. A bottom-ager to look out for next season.

#4 Nick BRYAN

Had his best game since the start of the year last weekend when he took control of the ruck and was giving his midfielders first use. Might not have got to the expectations some placed on him at the start of the season, but showed just why people rated him so highly and it will be interesting to see if he can back it up against a strong combination of rucks in this game.

#5 Trent BIANCO

The co-captain is the Chargers’ most damaging player when up and about, and his lethal foot skills can punish opposition from turnovers. He has an array of ways to inflict pain on the opposition with his skills and vision, and leads from the front having no trouble finding the footy whether it be on the wing or half-back. One of the most important players in the grand final.

#6 Jeromy LUCAS

The GWS GIANTS Academy member has had no worries finding plenty of the pill this season, stepping up in the absence of Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, also representing the GIANTS during the Academy Series. Has managed the eight games so far this season, and after a quiet qualifying final – the only game this season with less than 20 touches – he was more prolific last week in the Chargers’ win over the Dragons.

#8 Noah ANDERSON

Hard not to know this name given the publicity around him. In six games this year he had just one game under 23 disposals, and three games with 26 or more, including a whopping 44 touches and 2.2 against the Calder Cannons in Round 2. So big and strong compared to many other midfielders, he goes forward and plays the role of leading targets, hitting the scoreboard with multiple goals in all bar one of his matches.

#9 Will PHILLIPS

Generally a handball-happy midfielder, Phillips can play inside or out and takes some of the burden off the top-age midfielders in that group. He took out Vic Metro’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the Under-16 Championships last year, and practically brings his own ball to every game. Seems to model a fair bit of his game around Matt Rowell with similar intensity at the ball carrier or at ground level and hates being beaten.

#11 Matt ROWELL

Unless you have been living under a rock the past 12 months, it is near-impossible not to recognise the name. The likely number one pick has won just about every award under the sun, including best on ground in both the NAB League Grand Final last year – in a losing team – and on the MCG in the Under-17 All Stars game prior to the AFL Grand Final. Since gathering “just” 21 touches in Round 1, his NAB League disposal hauls are 31, 29, 34, 29 and 32. Disposals are not everything, but when they are in this guy’s hands they certainly are. Just opens things up and not only that, but averages 8.5 tackles per game, including back-to-back weeks of a combined 29 in Rounds 2 and 3.

#12 Lochlan JENKINS

Excited to see what the bottom-ager is capable of producing on the big stage, with him able to play a more outside role at times given the return of Rowell and Anderson to the midfield group. He is not afraid to attack the contest, and was one of the Chargers’ best during the mid-part of the season. One of a number of Chargers who will shape next year’s side.

#15 Kaden SCHREIBER

A State Draft Combine invitee, Schreiber’s form has been building over the past couple of months, rotating between the midfield and defence. Generally handball-happy, he played a more kick-encouraging role in defence for the preliminary finals and had arguably his best game of the year. One who will want to put up a big performance to show recruiters he can be as influential as some of the names in his side.

#17 Giorgio VARAGIANNIS

Another bottom-ager who just keeps popping up, recalled for the preliminary final after having not played since the last time these sides met back in Round 14. With an 18-disposal game, the utility finds the ball and works hard between the arcs.

#18 Fraser ELLIOT

Came off sore with his hamstring iced early in the preliminary final and while it was clear he wanted to get back out there, with the game well and truly on Oakleigh’s terms, on went the tracksuit. An important bottom-age prospect who could develop rapidly in his top-age year next year given his 188cm frame. Can find the ball too when he has the inside role, picking up massive numbers once the school footballers went out and he took control of the midfield.

#22 Thomas GRAHAM

I am not the only one that questions the 190cm listed at the start of the season. He is the ultimate utility, seemingly able to play every role on the field including ruck. With Nick Bryan back in the side, Graham can have the relief role, and he plays a good foil up front with three majors last week while all defenders eyes were on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

#25 Jamarra UGLE-HAGAN

His name has been one on the lips of plenty of draft watchers over the past month with consistency finally creeping into his game. After a quiet start to the year, Ugle-Hagan returned to the team for a couple of weeks mid-season during the school holidays, ad then again from Round 17 onwards, booting a massive 23 goals in his past six games. He has gone from likely first round selection to probable top five pick. His speed off the mark and clean hands are terrific, and if he can clean up some of his set shot attempts, then he could be looking at six-goal hauls most weeks.

#27 Josh MAY

Earned a State Draft Combine invitation after a consistent year playing between a wing and half-back. Has a long kick that can be effective, and benefits from freedom when Oakleigh is at full strength. Not a massive ball winner, May still finds his fair share of the footy – usually in the mid-teens – and is best suited to a role winning the ball on the wing and pumping it inside 50 to dangerous positions.

#29 Finlay MACRAE

The brother of Jack still needs to find his consistency, with a bit of yo-yo form at times, but his best is up there with some of the top bottom-agers. We saw on the weekend just how damaging he can be, racking up 22 touches, nine marks and a goal, and he is a smooth mover in the midfield. While he did not play for Vic Metro, getting named for the side was a big bonus and showed just how highly they rate him in the pathway.

#30 Sam TUCKER

A key position player who still has another year in the system, Tucker was included in the extended squad for the Grand Final after not playing since Round 13. His best game came in Round 12 when he took seven marks from 11 touches and four rebounds playing in defence, and is able to play around the ground as well.

#34 Vincent ZAGARI

You can rely on Zagari to go out and do a role each and every week. He has a long, penetrating kick that clears the defensive 50, and often matches up on the opposition’s most dangerous small forward. With the crafty Jordan Jaworski potentially on the horizon in this game, Zagari will need to be aware of the goal sneak’s ability to double back and find space goal-side. Just a consistent player.

#36 Ryan VALENTINE

Can match up on a taller opposition forward, and at 192cm, might even get the job on Jamieson Rossiter this week. Not a high disposal winner, but the bottom-age prospect just does a job and aims to nullify his opponent in each contest to give his side the best chance of winning.

#39 Reef MCINNES

The fact Oakleigh’s midfield is so strong that this kid can chill out in the backline is just ridiculous. A beast of an inside midfielder who is going to be a top-end prospect next year after showing plenty mid-year in the absence of Rowell and Anderson, the Collingwood Next Generation Academy member is 191cm already and has a raking kick and knows how to find the footy. Can play anywhere on the ground and right now he is doing a role off half-back.

#49 Harris MASTRAS

Another strong role player who has contributed to Oakleigh’s success by limiting the effectiveness of an opposition forward. Had his second most touches of the season on the weekend with 12 disposals, so is not a massive ball winner, but just does his job and makes life difficult for the opposition.

#52 Nick GUINEY

Bottom-ager who tends to play his best footy in defence, Guiney is a medium height at 186cm and while not an accumulator, clears the danger in the back half, while showing he can play further up the ground when required and get the ball inside 50. Like Valentine and Mastras, expect Guiney to fill out the defence and play a role on an opposition forward.

#58 Youseph DIB

The 16-year-old Collingwood Next Generation Academy member earned All-Australian honours this year and stands at just 172cm. He attacks the ball hard and creates opportunities in the forward half of the ground. Dib has only played the one game this season, playing the Sandringham Dragons in Round 17 and having six touches and three marks. He was included in the extended squad for the Grand Final.

#61 Connor STONE

Similar to Guiney but up the opposite end of the ground, Stone is a bottom-age forward who does not mind a goal. He booted two of them on the weekend and just pops up, good for a goal most weeks. He burst onto the scene against Murray Bushrangers with a five-goal haul in Round 9 and had plenty of draft watchers looking up his name, and while he has not replicated the massive haul, he is just consistent inside 50.

#73 Cooper SHARMAN

A late bloomer to the NAB League system, Sharman has booted goals in all bar one of his games, including a season-high four majors against Eastern Ranges in Round 14. He is the most reliable set shot in the competition with some nice athletic traits, and being an over-ager included in the program late, the Balwyn product and former GWS GIANTS Academy member has come on so quickly in draft calculations he earned a National Draft Combine invitation.

#77 Nick STATHOPOULOS

The stereotypical small forward, Stathopoulos is just a handful inside 50. He can smell a goal from a mile away and was a match-winner against Gippsland Power in the qualifying final with four majors from 15 disposals and four marks. He booted five goals against the Bushrangers in Round 9 on debut – exactly the same as Stone – and has hit the scoreboard in all bar one of this games this year.

FATHER/SON AND ACADEMY PROSPECTS

Eastern:

Chayce Black (Fremantle father-son – 2019)
Todd Garner (Hawthorn NGA – 2019)
Connor Downie (Hawthorn NGA – 2020)

Oakleigh:

Lachlan Johnson (Brisbane father-son / Essendon NGA – 2019)
Reef McInnes (Collingwood NGA – 2020)
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Western Bulldogs NGA – 2020)

WHY CAN THEY WIN?

Eastern Ranges:

They have been the best side all year and are deserving of the coveted 2019 premiership. They have the most even team of the entire competition, with their bottom six the strongest of any side. After a down year last year in the bottom two, the Ranges have thrived in 2019, and looking back, a remarkable 14 of their 23 players from the team have been on the list since 2017 as 16-year-olds. We know they will put in a four-quarter performance and are so unrelenting as they have done it all season.

Oakleigh Chargers:

Eastern has had just three losses this year – once to Gippsland Power by 10 points – and twice to the Chargers. Both time Oakleigh has found the formula to success against the Ranges, although now with plenty of changes for both sides since Round 14, it will be interesting to see how it goes down. Also, Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson are the best two players in the draft crop, and chuck in Trent Bianco on the outside, and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Cooper Sharman up forward and there is some serious talent on the park for Oakleigh.

WHO DO THEY NEED TO STOP?

Eastern Ranges:

Trent Bianco and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. These two players are effectively Oakleigh’s barometer. It would be easy to say try and stop Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, but we know that is not realistically going to happen with even poor games from those guys being 20-plus disposals. You can limit their influence at the stoppages and make life difficult for them around the ground, but they are so hard to beat. For Bianco, it will be not allowing him the time and space to slice up your defence and win easy ball on the outside. He can win his own ball, so make him do that. Too often teams focus on controlling the inside of the contest and it allows Bianco to be waiting for the ball in space and then deliver an elite bullet inside 50 to the leading Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. The amount of times no-one got in front of Ugle-Hagan on the lead in the past few weeks is quite remarkable. Oakleigh opens up the forward 50 for him, and Eastern needs to make sure someone is standing in the hole or ready to block the lead. If the Chargers hit-up someone else it is a risk, but the Ranges can ill-afford Ugle-Hagan to get his confidence up and on a roll.

Oakleigh Chargers:

James Ross and Connor Downie. Similar to Rowell and Anderson, the likes of Lachlan Stapleton, Mitch Mellis and Zakery Pretty are hard to stop. They will win the ball regardless of anything you do, it is just forcing them to rush their disposal under pressure or handball rather than kick and keep the ball in the area. The one you do not want getting too much of the ball is Connor Downie. He is a player similar to Bianco in the sense that when he starts to get the ball in time and space, can do some damage going forward. Moreso, Downie hits the scoreboard himself and while his consistency can be up and down, when he is on, he is a super damaging player as Gippsland found out on the weekend. Oakleigh cannot allow him to get his confidence up and start using his vision and skills to pinpoint passes inside 50. As for Ross, he is the key to the defence and if he has 20-plus touches and eight-plus marks, Eastern win the game. His read of the ball in flight is superb and he just settles the team down in defence. He will have the task of chopping off leads and dropping courageously into the hole. For Oakleigh, you have to make him as accountable as possible, and use his direct opponent as an option inside 50, or make it a consideration to restrict the predictability going forward. Otherwise Ross will just pick the perfect moment to peel off his opponent and come across as the third-man to spoil or mark and help out a teammate in defence.

GRAND FINAL HISTORY

Both the Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers are well familiar with the final day of the TAC Cup/NAB League Boys season, having made six grand finals each. Of the 26 previous seasons, one of these sides has been in 11 of them. In 2015, these teams faced off in the decider, rising from fifth and sixth to make the grand final. With four country teams ahead of them, it gave credence to the metropolitan sides being stronger in finals with their school players back, and on that day the sides played out a thriller. Oakleigh won by 12 points with Kade Answerth being named best on ground, along with a host of future talent including Tom Phillips and Ben Crocker (Collingwood), Patrick Kerr (Carlton), Taylin Duman (Fremantle), Sam McLarty (Collingwood) and Alex Morgan (North Melbourne/Essendon) all running around for the winners. Eastern had a list containing a fair bit of super bottom-age talent as well as top-age stars, with Ryan Clarke (North Melbourne) and Dylan Clarke (Essendon), Jordan Gallucci (Adelaide), Blake Hardwick (Hawthorn), Callum Brown (Collingwood) and Jack Maibaum (Sydney) all strutting their stuff, but for draft watchers, a couple of players donning the #56 and #58 jumpers caught the eye most as 16-year-olds Jaidyn Stephenson (three goals) and Adam Cerra stole the show.

Eastern Ranges:

1995: lost to Northern Knights by 29 points
2000: lost to Geelong Falcons by 22 points
2002: defeated Calder Cannons by one point
2004: lost to Calder Cannons by 70 points
2013: defeated Dandenong Stingrays by 112 points
2015: lost to Oakleigh Chargers by 12 points

Oakleigh Chargers:

2006: defeated Calder Cannons by 27 points
2011: lost to Sandringham Dragons by eight points
2012: defeated Gippsland Power by one point
2014: defeated Calder Cannons by 47 points
2015: defeated Eastern Ranges by 12 points
2018: lost to Dandenong Stingrays by six points.

DRAFT CENTRAL TIPS

Peter Williams
Tip: Eastern Ranges
BOG: James Ross (Eastern)

Michael Alvaro
Tip: Oakleigh Chargers
BOG: Noah Anderson (Oakleigh)

Ed Pascoe
Tip: Oakleigh Chargers
BOG: Matt Rowell (Oakleigh)

Craig Byrnes
Tip: Eastern Ranges
BOG: Mitch Mellis (Eastern)

Matthew Cocks
Tip: Oakleigh Chargers
BOG: Trent Bianco (Oakleigh)

Top-end Chargers look to go one better

Tapering expectation is difficult when in the midst of a pathway renowned for both its production of top-end talent and subsequent team success. After falling six points short of ultimate footballing glory in last year’s grand final, the Oakleigh Chargers will be looking to go one better in this year’s NAB League decider.

Along with the likely first two picks in this year’s draft, Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell, 2019 co-captain Trent Bianco is one of a handful of Oakleigh top-agers set to feature in a second-straight grand final on Saturday. While last year’s loss “adds a little bit of extra motivation” for Bianco, he insists his Chargers are not lacking any as they look to rectify the 2018 result.

“(Last year’s loss) just starts that fire inside,” Bianco said at the NAB League grand final press conference.

“Losing by a kick, six points or whatever it was, it still hurts us to this day and we definitely don’t want that to happen again. “It’ll definitely be in the back of our minds but it won’t change too much. “It’s just another game, it sounds like a cliché but it’s just another game and we just want to attack it just like we normally do.”

Chargers coach Leigh Clarke is another who has been here before, remaining at the helm for another Oakleigh lunge for the flag. Speaking of expectations heading into the “final test” for his side, he says success on the big day will go towards the legacy of each player he leads.

“I guess it’s like any final, the expectations rise a little bit and Eastern will understand as well that equally as much as we do,” he said.

“The prize on the line is something we want the boys to share… we talk about it quite often and they get to share that for the rest of their lives – that they’ll never be forgotten at our club if they win a premiership.”

The high stakes that come with a grand final adds another element to how individuals react within a team. Despite boasting a high amount of top-end talent when compared to Eastern’s vast team spread, Clarke maintains selflessness is what will get his side over the line in the big moments.

“An interesting part of the week is you get to see the boys under high game expectation… and see how they react to it. “The boys (who) want to peruse the pathway into the AFL, they need to be able to understand rising to the occasion. “We talk often about it might not be your day but you can always have your moment, so we’ll be expecting our boys to, if it’s not their day, sacrifice to help someone else have their moment as well.”

The different dynamics between the two sides set to meet on Saturday is as interesting a juxtaposition as the NAB League has ever seen, with Oakleigh boasting almost a dozen Vic Metro squad members to Eastern’s handful, while also having six national combine invitees to the Ranges’ nil. While the Eastern line-up has undergone a raft of changes since their last meeting with the Chargers, Oakleigh’s experience of shuffling the deck each week has been a test.

“We’re obviously in a little bit of a different position to Eastern,” Bianco said.

“We’ve got a few more boys (going) in and out every week so it’s a bit hard to in the middle of the year just to stay consistent but I think we’ve done a good job towards the middle and back-end of the year.”

Bianco’s descriptor of a “good job” is somewhat of an understatement, with the Chargers coming in off a massive run of seven wins, as well as 11 in their past 12 outings. The skipper is just pleased to see his side’s consistency.

“We’ve been playing some consistent footy and obviously we played patches we’re not happy with but it’s just putting through that consistent four-quarter effort,” he said.

“We’re playing some good footy so it’s good that in the back-end of the year, this is when it all starts mattering more so we’re in the best situation.”

While the team focus remains at the forefront for Bianco, he conceded there are a few players in his side that may well grab all the attention, including 2018 grand final MVP, Rowell.

“We’ve obviously got some high-end talent but we like to think we’ve played pretty consistent players throughout the whole team.

“We’ve got Matty Rowell and Noah Anderson up the top there so they’re pretty handy players and we’ve got the likes of Nick Bryan, we’ve got a fair few bottom-agers like Jamarra (Ugle-Hagan), Reef McInnes, Will Phillips, who is someone to look out for next year… (they’re) putting in just as much as the top-agers this year so they’ve been really handy and hopefully they can bring it (for) one more game.”

One of those bottom-agers, Ugle-Hagan, has formed a formidable key forward partnership with over-ager Cooper Sharman in the back-end of the season, giving elite kicks like Bianco a target to kick at.

“It’s just good knowing they can make a bad kick look good sometimes so if you put it out into their space and to their advantage side they’re more than likely going to do something with it,” Bianco said.

“(But) it’s not just them, it’s the small forwards and the medium-type forwards that we have in our team as well that help us be successful.”

Oakleigh’s tilt at success begins at 1:05pm at Ikon Park on Saturday, with the game set to be broadcasted live on Fox Footy.