Tag: nikolas cox

Squad predictions: 2020 Vic Metro Under 18s

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

RULES:

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

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

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

DEFENCE

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

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

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

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

MIDFIELD

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

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

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

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

FORWARD

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

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

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

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

INTERCHANGE

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

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

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

TOP-AGE DEPTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BOTTOM-AGERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EMG
– Luke Cleary, Nick Daicos, Josh Eyre

Marquee Matchups: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan vs. Nikolas Cox

DESPITE remaining in the unknown of football’s temporary absence, Draft Central is set to ramp up its draft analysis with another new prospect-focussed series, Marquee Matchups. We take a look at some of the high-end head-to-head battles which look likely to take place should the class of 2020 take the field, comparing pairs of draft hopefuls to help preview who may come out on top.

The series’ first edition features two of the most promising key position players available in NAB Leaguers Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Nikolas Cox. A Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, Oakleigh’s Ugle-Hagan originally hails from Warrnambool, but boards at Scotch College in the Chargers’ region. While he has been utilised in defence while playing school football, the 18-year-old is more prominently known for his work as a high-marking key forward.

His potential foe, Cox is one of two Northern Knights products in this year’s Vic Metro Hub, and takes on the co-captaincy responsibility for his region in 2020. The 199cm utility has already won plaudits for his remarkable athletic traits and clean hands at all levels, with versatility another key string to his bow. Having played on a wing and as a key forward at times last year, Cox will look to secure a spot a centre half-back in his top-age season.

The pair’s similarly brilliant athleticism, aerial threat, and versatility make them an ideal match-up should they meet during the NAB League, national carnival, or beyond, while their raw talents more than account for the question of marquee status. With the contest teased as the respective talents went toe-to-toe in a preseason practice match, take a look at how the two compare statistically, athletically, and otherwise in our breakdown of their junior careers to date.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country), Key Forward
vs.
Nikolas Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro) Centre half-back/Utility

ATHLETIC PROFILES: 

Ugle-Hagan shone at the 2020 NAB League preseason testing day, returning elite numbers across every test to only elevate his claim as frontrunner to be taken first off the draft board. While it may seem like Cox lags in comparison, his jumping numbers were outstanding and endurance figures elite for a player who almost tips 200cm.

HEIGHT/WEIGHT:

Ugle-Hagan – 194.3cm/83.9kg
Cox – 199cm/82.1kg

SPEED (20m):

Ugle-Hagan – 2.95 seconds
Cox – 3.15 seconds

AGILITY:

Ugle-Hagan – 8.28 seconds
Cox – 8.78 seconds

ENDURANCE (Yo-yo):

Ugle-Hagan – 21.3
Cox – 21.1

VERTICAL JUMP:

Ugle-Hagan – 68cm
Cox – 52cm

RUNNING VERTICAL JUMP (R/L):

Ugle-Hagan – 84cm/93cm
Cox – 80cm/76cm

ON-FIELD PROFILES:

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATISTICS:

Ugle-Hagan – 9 games | 10 disposals (50 per cent contested) | 5.2 marks | 1.4 tackles | 1.7 inside 50s | 24 goals
Cox – 10 games | 12.5 disposals | 4.9 marks | 2 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 1 rebound 50 | 9 goals

BEST GAME:

Ugle-Hagan – Prelim. Final vs. Sandringham; 12 disposals (11 kicks) | 9 marks | 4.2
Cox – Rd 15 vs. Bendigo; 12 disposals (10 kicks) | 6 marks | 2 inside 50s | 4.1

The differences in either player’s game come through in the key base statistics, with Ugle-Hagan’s dominance inside 50 shining through, and Cox’s ability to impact around the ground also evident. During Oakleigh’s premiership-winning campaign, Ugle-Hagan was delivered silver service from a stacked midfield, and often proved too quick on the lead for his direct opponent. The spearheads’s clean hands and set shot routine would do the rest, hence the terrific marks and goals-per-game ratios.

On the other hand, Cox edged his opponent in the disposal stakes, while also earning a tick for his versatility in averaging at least one breach of either arc per game. That is a product of Cox playing on each line throughout the year, with his season-high haul of four goals a highlight in his time up forward. Just as capable in the air, Cox’s average of almost five marks is also handy, showcasing his own ability to dominate the airways around the ground.

STRENGTHS:

Ugle-Hagan – Athleticism, overhead marking, acceleration on lead, game-breaker
Cox – Athleticism, versatility, vertical leap, high ceiling

The pair’s strengths line up well, with athleticism being the pillar of their games. That aside, Ugle-Hagan’s weapons lie in his forward craft; finding separation on the lead with his pace, and clunking strong marks hitting up at the ball. His high-marking ability makes him a constant threat inside 50, with the potential to break games open in elite patches of form.

Cox’s versatility is a strong asset, able to play virtually anywhere credit to his freakish skills on either side of his body, one-touch abilities in the air and below his knees, and again, that athleticism at 199cm. With all those features combined, it means Cox could be anything at the next level, with his potential as vast as anyone in the draft pool. Cox’s attitude and leadership also make for solid additions to his resume.

IMPROVEMENTS:

Ugle-Hagan – Field kicking
Cox – Raw, strength

One of Ugle-Hagan’s main areas for improvement, and the only one listed here is his field kicking. While he often has little trouble finding the goals, he can be wayward at times and it only becomes more evident when he gathers the ball further afield.

A prime example would be in his Under-17 Futures All Star performance, where he leapt beautifully at the ball and intercepted well at half-back, but would often have a hard time finding targets up the ground. If he can refine that area, versatility could become another strength with ball retention important for playing in defence.

Cox’s areas for improvement largely come in his overall development, with his raw talent set to be honed in more specific areas this season. While being an everyman is always helpful to coaches, building the strength to become a true key position prospect will be key to finding a spot at the next level.

KEY SCOUTING NOTES:

Ugle-Hagan – 2018 Under 16 National Championships vs. South Australia

By: Michael Alvaro

“Ugle-Hagan was one who didn’t do a whole lot throughout the course of the game, but always caught the eye when he was in possession. A few twists, turns, strong contested marks and clean pick ups were enough to suggest we may see a few more highlights from him in the future.”

Cox – 2019 NAB League Round 13 vs. Gippsland

By: Craig Byrnes

“This kid has some exciting attributes. “It was no surprise to see the 197cm bottom-ager play for Vic Metro at the Championships, the talent is there for all to see. “He is almost freakishly clean for his size at ground and possesses a left foot that any 180cm footballer would be proud of… he moves with a bit style and is a player that everyone should be keeping tabs on over the next 18 months.”

ACCOLADES:

Ugle-Hagan – 2018 Vic Country Under 16 representative, 2019 Australian Under 17 representative, 2019 NAB League premiership player, 2019 Under 17 All Stars selection
Cox – 2019 Australian Under 17 representative, 2019 Vic Metro representative, 2020 Northern Knights co-captain

For more on these two budding stars, including words from the men themselves, follow the links below.

Ugle-Hagan – Draft Watch
Cox – Draft Watch | Q&A

AFL Draft Watch: Nikolas Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

IN the build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central  takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state at Under 17 or Under 18s level in 2019. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at the NAB League Preseason Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is Northern Knights utility Nikolas Cox, who possesses rare athleticism for a player of his size. The 199cm prospect featured in multiple positions during his bottom-age season, comfortable at the bookends or even on a wing. In 2020, Cox will be looking to own a centre half-back role for the Knights and Vic Metro as he builds his strength while continuing to use his clean hands and skills on either side.

As one of just two Northern products in the Vic Metro hub, Cox will also prove to be one of the more valuable leaders among his region having been voted in as co-captain of the Knights for 2020. His experience in the Vic Metro squad last year is sure to put the draft candidate in good stead, with selection for the Under-17 Futures All Star showcase another highlight in Cox’s young career.

NAB LEAGUE PRESEASON TESTING HIGHLIGHTS:

Running Vertical Jump: Above Average (#28)
Endurance: Above Average (#52)

NIKOLAS COX’S Q&A FEATURE

Talent manager Rhy Gieschen on Cox:

“Nik Cox is really professional in the way he goes about things, he’s obviously a really exciting talent – 199cm and he just ran a 6.05 on his 2km time trial which puts him in the absolute elite category of anyone who’s ever come through these programs with his endurance.

“He kicks the ball really well on both feet and makes good decisions, we’ll likely play him centre half-back and we’re really keen to see how he continues to develop because he’s certainly got a lot of weapons at his disposal.”

PLAYER PAGE:

Nikolas Cox

Height: 199cm
Weight: 82.1kg
Position: Centre half-back/utility

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATS: 10 games | 12.5 disposals | 4.9 marks | 2 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 1 rebound 50 | 9 goals

Strengths: Athleticism, versatility, vertical leap, high ceiling
Improvements: Raw, strength

2019 SCOUTING NOTES:

NAB League Elimination Final vs. Western

By: Ed Pascoe

“Cox looked dangerous early on playing as a key forward, making use of the wind and judging the ball in flight to take a nice contested mark… he looks a good prospect for the 2020 draft as a taller player that can play a range of roles.”

Round 17 vs. Western

By: Michael Alvaro

“Cox is such an exciting prospect on athleticism and versatility alone, doing some nice work up either end as more of a key position option. “Cox’s leap and clean hands on both levels were exceptional, making him a threat no matter what kind of delivery he was given.”

Round 15 vs. Bendigo

By: Michael Alvaro

“The bottom-ager has proven a marvel at ground level considering his size, but used all of his height in a more forward-oriented role in this outing. “It was a shrewd move, with Cox a nightmare matchup as he marked the ball at its highest point and got good separation on the lead from full forward.”

Round 13 vs. Gippsland

By: Craig Byrnes

“This kid has some exciting attributes. “It was no surprise to see the 197cm bottom-ager play for Vic Metro at the Championships, the talent is there for all to see. “He is almost freakishly clean for his size at ground and possesses a left foot that any 180cm footballer would be proud of… he moves with a bit style and is a player that everyone should be keeping tabs on over the next 18 months.”

Q&A: Nikolas Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

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

The 199cm utility showed a wealth of promise in his bottom-age year, playing on the wing and as a key position outlet up either end of the ground. Like many of his Knights teammates, the modern-day footballing prototype is a terrific runner and uses it to play into his versatility. Having already turned out for Vic Metro and been selected in last year’s Under 17 Future Stars showcase game, Cox enters his top-age year looking to cement a spot across centre half-back while shouldering the Northern co-captaincy alongside Ewan Macpherson.

MA: How’s the day been for you?

NC: “It’s been good. Obviously it’s a pretty long day, lots of stuff happens but it’s a good day to have every single region come in (and) spend some time together. “It’s good to see everyone, it’s been a bit challenging but good.”

You’re lauded for your athleticism as a taller athlete, have you been able to show that in these tests?

“Yeah I think so, for sure. Things like the vertical jump, off both feet I think that’s one of my strengths. “But I’m looking forward to the yo-yo, hopefully I can do well in that with endurance probably being one of my biggest strengths. So yeah, hopefully I do well in that.”

You’ve played on a wing and up either end, are you looking to nail down just one position this year?

“Obviously you love to have some versatility, you want to be able to play different roles for the team or whatever’s necessary. But I think I’ll be playing a lot of back this year, trying to get some continuity in a certain spot, really nail that position and get all that craft good. So hopefully I’ll nail down some back and then if I need I’ll push up to the wing or go down forward and I still want to keep that skillset, to have that available.”

It must’ve been great to be around the Metro squad last year and even this year, how’s that been for you?

“Yeah it’s good, you learn so much in that environment. I mean, some real superstars like Matt Rowell, I spent a lot of time with Fischer McAsey down back and doing a lot of craft with him. Even this year we’ve got a really humble group at Metro and I think we can do some exciting things, hopefully I can stay in that group. But yeah, I’ve learned so much – most of my craft work, lots of little things – it’s been really good, really beneficial for me.”

What are some of those things you’re still looking to develop at the moment?

“A lot of body positioning work. “Obviously I need to work on my strength, so just trying to work around ways that I can build that up and just little techniques that can help me get an advantage on stronger opposition.”

Are there any goals for the year or landmarks you want to hit?

“I just want to get deeper into finals with this team (Northern). “Obviously cut short last year against Western which was devastating so hopefully we can get a better run and get deeper into finals, get some real form at the end of the year.”

Do you think that with a few of the top-age boys that you’ll be able to push for that?

“Yeah for sure. “We’ve got really strong bottom-agers coming through too, a really good running group – 2km time trials showed with boys nearly breaking six minutes – so I think we’re going to have a pretty strong group going forward this year. “A good contribution from 19 (year-olds), top-agers, and bottom-agers so really looking forward to it.”

Classic Contests: Jets survive elimination thriller

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 3 clashes in the NAB League this year between Northern Knights and Western Jets. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019 when the sides faced off in the do-or-die elimination final at a blustery MARS Stadium.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 6.1 | 6.3 | 10.3 | 11.3 (69)
WESTERN JETS 0.1 | 6.3 | 9.4 | 12.5 (77)

Elimination Final | Saturday, August 31 2019
MARS Stadium, 11.30am

Coming into the do-or-die final, both sides were following on from wins in Wildcard Round as the Knights had accounted for Bendigo Pioneers fairly comfortably at home, while the Jets were too strong for Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. We relive the match report from the game:

WESTERN Jets have come back from conceding the first six goals of the game to run over the top of a wounded but brave Northern Knights side by eight points in a thrilling wind-affected game at Mars Stadium, Ballarat. The Jets took control after quarter time, jumped by the breeze in favour of the Knights, before settling in and reducing the scoring output of their opponent in the second half to just get home, 12.5 (77) to 11.3 (69). The spearheads were in fine form with competition leading goalkicker Archi Manton booting four goals in the win, while Josh D’Intinosante booted five majors. Full credit to the Jets side who negotiated the breeze better, as the tiring Knights were without Adam Carafa later in the game, suited up on the boundary line, while both Jackson Davies and Ryan Sturgess picked up knocks in the second half.

Northern Knights took advantage of a huge breeze blowing towards the scoreboard end to pile on six goals to zero and open up a 36-point lead at quarter time. Nikolas Cox was simply too tall for his opponent, booting two first quarter majors including the first of the game from a well positioned Davies kick. He then made it two with the Knights fourth from the square. In between the Knights produced goals from Jack Boyd who won a free kick in the goal square, and the very next clearance Jackson Bowne added his name to the goal kickers list with a nice launch from just inside 50. Some great blocking at the forward stoppage resulted in a free pass for D’Intinosante to run onto it and kick the Knights’ fifth despite the clear frustrations of the Jets’ defence. With the clock running down, the Knights were not done just yet as Nathan Howard received a free kick and converted after the siren in what had been all one-way traffic. At quarter time, it was a Sam Philp-led midfield that had dominated its way to 16 inside 50s to five and took complete advantage of the five to six goal breeze. Eddie Ford provided a rare highlight for the Jets in that opening term with a high-flying mark, while Jets’ captain Lucas Rocci stood up best he could in an under-siege defence.

It was all Western in the second quarter as Emerson Jeka got into the game with two majors, and the seventh placed side piled on six goals to zero themselves to draw level with 90 seconds remaining. Nash Reynolds was the first to capitalise in front of goal, taking full advantage of an opponent slipping over and kicking truly from just inside 50. The next was a great mark to Jeka who converted from 25m out straight in front. Philp tried his best to get something happening from the middle with a terrific burst away clearance and bomb forward to Cox, but he could not quite direct the bouncing shot on goal through the big sticks. Later in the term Cox was switched into defence on Jeka after Sturgess came off a bit sore. Meanwhile the Jets kept piling on goals as Manton got out the back one-on-one and kicked a goal midair in the goal square, while Mace Cousins did the same cleanly grabbing it 10m out as the deepest player and putting it through. Then Josh Honey joined the party with a great sliding mark outside 50 and a long shot which carried in the wind and sailed through, before Jeka levelled the scores after backing back against his opponent, holding position and while he did not bring it down, kept his feet and booted it off the deck. So after 50 minutes, the teams were as they started, level on points with a half to come.

The Western Jets put on a big show in the third term, booting three goals against the breeze to restrict the Knights’ lead to just five points by the final break. Despite D’Intinosante’s best efforts for Northern – the exciting and dangerous small forward booted three goals in the term – it was the Jets who managed to add majors down an end that was basically impossible to score down in the first half. They all came from traditional football entries in challenging conditions, with Lucas Failli running onto a loose ball, Manton showing off his strength one-on-one to keep his balance and kick his second, and Aaron Clarke winning a free kick from a tackle and converting the set shot. In between, D’Intinosante wrecked havoc with his three majors, booting one off a great kick inside 50 from Sturgess, then winning a free kick from a contest with Rocci sliding low and converting the set shot, and finally capitalising with a third from a spoiled mark to boot a low bullet through the middle. Bowne was the other one to kick his second goal of the term with a great kick from inside 50 earlier in the term, but it was the Jets who controlled play and just made the most of the rare chances going forward to be in the box seat heading into the final term.

When Davies came off worse for wear early in the final term from a high tackle it was not a great start for the Knights, especially when a third goal from Manton off a step put the Jets in front for the first time during the day. D’Intinosante pushed into the midfield but still found space forward, though his set shot from 50m went well out on the full. Sturgess limped off the ground midway through the term as neither side could make inroads into their scoring, before Manton all but put it beyond doubt with his fourth after an errant high tackle and subsequent set shot goal. Just when the game looked over, the Knights went end-to-end and it was D’Intinosante who put his hand up once again with a ripping goal from 50m to sail it home and cut the deficit to just one point. When Reynolds got on the end of a bomb inside 50 and it escaped the foot race of Jeka and Davies to bounce though, the margin was seven with 30 seconds on the scoreboard clock. But the benches called out two minutes and both sides knew there was still time. While the Knights had a last roll of the dice, it was Western that held firm to book its spot in the semi-finals.

In a low possession game, Daly Andrews lead the way for Western with 19 touches, six tackles and three inside 50s, while Failli (14 disposals, six inside 50s and a goal), Rocci (14 disposals, five rebounds) and Will Kennedy (14 disposals,, seven tackles and 24 hitouts) were the other major ball winners for the Jets, as Manton’s 4.2 came from 10 touches and two marks. For Northern, D’Intinosante was superb with five majors from 13 touches, two marks and three tackles, while Philp (19 touches, four inside 50s, six tackles) and Davies (23 disposals, five marks and six rebounds) were the busiest in the loss. Boyd also persevered in the ruck with 22 touches, 12 hitouts, four inside 50s, two rebounds and a goal.

As history would have it, Western went on to the semi-finals, only to go down to a strong Gippsland Power outfit, in what would be the last competitive game played, while for the Knights, this elimination final loss is the most recent contest.

2020 NAB League Boys team preview: Northern Knights

WHILE the preseason has been been eventful for all NAB League staff and players alike, Northern Knights Talent Manager Rhy Gieschen has had plenty on his plate. After the feel-good story of the draft saw Sam Philp bolt into the first round despite being overlooked for Vic Metro selection, Gieschen had two more 2019 graduates in the mix for late AFL call-ups.

Ryan Sturgess, a hard-working utility who played every game during the national championships, was one of four players vying for Carlton’s final list spot. He missed out to Callum Moore, five years his senior for that supplementary position, but the Knights had one more ace up their sleeve – rather, an Ayce. Adelaide surprised many by taking 19-year-old Ayce Taylor – who was initially cut from a stacked Oakleigh Chargers squad – in the last embers of the preseason supplementary selection period (SPP), especially given they had just drafted two high-end key defenders in November. But to Gieschen, recognition from the elite level to both players was credit to their willingness to leave no stone unturned.

“(Adelaide) got two high quality key defenders, but then showed that they rated his talent pretty highly because they had another opportunity to pick and they took him,” Gieschen told Draft Central. “I think they had spoken to him about staying ready to go and getting into a VFL program, to work really hard and if an opportunity arises you’re in our mind. “So it was great by them to stick with him and give him another chance, his ability to head to North Melbourne (VFL), keep training and stay really fit and ready was great.”

“Ryan’s shown unbelievable resilience and I guess the ability to just keep going. “Missing out on the draft, then doing the rehab to get his ankle right and then taking his opportunity with Carlton – I think he put his best foot forward there and gave it every chance that he possibly could but just got pipped at the post by probably a more seasoned played who had been on a list. “But certainly left no stone unturned, the good thing is he signed at the Northern Blues and like everyone else he’ll just keep working hard and be ready to go when given an opportunity. “Just to stay under the eyes of the recruiting staff and list managers and the coaches is probably the best thing for him to make sure if a spot pops up, he’s putting his best foot forward.”

“We can’t control the draft, what we can control is the individual development of the player and them buying in to our program and the culture that’s created. “It just shows us, them, (and) everyone in this environment that it is difficult to get drafted and you’ve just got to keep working at it and if it doesn’t happen in your top-age year then you just keep striving and keep playing the game… like what happened with Ayce and Ryan.”

The same resilience shown by Taylor and Sturgess is something Gieschen and his troops are trying to replicate amid present uncertainty created by the COVID-19 outbreak, with the NAB League season postponed until late-May. Having garnered some decent momentum heading into what would have been Round 1, Gieschen says keeping the squad ready will be key to their success, but some stumbling blocks may appear with the group potentially unable to train together.

“We preach the ability for the boys to be really resilient regardless of what cards you’re dealt or what setbacks come your way, just to constantly stay resilient and stay positive about what’s happening,” he said. “I think that’s what sets good players and good athletes apart from the great ones – just their ability to change to different situations and disappointments and setbacks and move forward. “We were lucky enough that we actually had the group in when we got the news so we were able to break it to them in-person and speak about what it means. “To their credit they were really positive and a few of the senior players stood up and spoke about staying ready and staying hungry, being really ready to go so I think they’ve formed some pretty strong bonds and the culture was really positive going into Round 1… the players will be training pretty strongly individually and making sure that when the time comes they’re ready to go straight back into it.”

A well-focused preseason has payed dividends for some of the team’s prime movers, with the Knights’ two Vic Metro Hub prospects – Nikolas Cox and Liam McMahon – and potential Western Bulldogs father-son Ewan Macpherson returning positive athletic testing results. Cox and Macpherson particularly impressed Gieschen with their 2km time trial results, setting the tone for a team which boasts some strong runners.

“One thing that we really will pride ourselves on this year is our running ability,” Gieschen said. “All the fitness test indicators identify the fact that our core group are really, really strong runners – our 2km times were exceptional.”

“Nik Cox is really professional in the way he goes about things, he’s obviously a really exciting talent – 199cm and he just ran a 6.05 on his 2km time trial which puts him in the absolute elite category of anyone who’s ever come through these programs with his endurance,” he said. “He kicks the ball really well on both feet and makes good decisions, we’ll likely play him centre half-back and we’re really keen to see how he continues to develop because he’s certainly got a lot of weapons at his disposal.

“Ewan’s had a really strong preseason. “He’s taken his 2km time from seven minutes last year down to 6.30 which was a huge effort from him and testament to how hard he worked over the break.”

While the three mentioned are all “different” prospects, McMahon is one who Gieschen was keen to get a gauge on, with the key forward able to generate plenty of excitement but looking to find greater consistency.

“Again he’s an exciting athlete, he’s 193cm but one of his strengths is his agility and his ability to move and get up the ground and he marks the ball at its highest point,” he said. “He has some really good tools in his game with his marking and he’s got beautiful disposal, kicks the ball well and he makes good decisions in the forward half.”

Along with a talented crop of top-agers comes a strong core of bottom-agers who will look to impress, while a shake-up in the Knights’ approach to 19-year-old listings also looks set to pay off as they juggle VFL and NAB League duties.

“We’re pretty positive about our bottom-age group, we think they’ve really come on and I think there’s some players there that’ll be pretty good performance-wise throughout the year,” Gieschen said. “Ned Long, Josh Ward, Darcy Wilmot, Pat Dozzi, Joel Fitzgerald, James Nadalin are all working well with us. “We want to make sure that we’re investing really heavily in the top-agers, but we think there’s a pretty good core group of bottom-agers coming through as well that will catch the eye throughout the year.”

“We’ve set all our (19-year-olds) up at their VFL programs full-time. “Ryan Gardner, Lachie Potter, and Jack Boyd have all trained full-time at the Northern Blues, so whilst we’ve put them on our list as 19-year-olds, we thought it was really important for them to get an new experience and train at a VFL club with seasoned, senior-bodied footballers.”

“We’ve taken Liam Delahunty from GWS, he’s returning from a dislocated knee so he’s doing all of his rehab at North Melbourne VFL. “Lachie Gawel we’ve only acquired recently from Eastern Ranges, but he’s been training with the Northern Blues full-time as well, and Nathan Howard‘s coming back from his surgery. “So we think it’s really important for them to keep challenging themselves and stay engaged in the VFL program and then if they’re missing out on a game at VFL level, they’ve got the option of coming to showcase their talent in the NAB League program.”

Another less-heralded name to keep an eye on will be Liam Kolar, who Gieschen says the Knights “rate the talents of” having transitioned from a multi-sport background. Kolar is one of many across an even spread of prospects who is poised to accelerate his development.

“He’s a unique athlete, he’s 194-195cm and ran his 2km (time trial) in 6.09 – he’s come from an athletics/soccer background,” Gieschen said. “But he’s already shown his ability to transition into footy, played a really strong practice game against the Western Jets and then backed it up with two goals on the weekend against the (Oakleigh) Chargers – one sort of showcased all of his attributes, took two or three bounces, took the defender on and kicked the goal from 50 – so he has all the athletic attributes that all the recruiters like and we just want to see him improve his football.”

A practice match win over Oakleigh and leadership group announcement have the group in good spirits despite the waiting game each club is currently undertaking, with the Knights raring to go once given the all-clear to return to the field.

NAB League Boys team review: Northern Knights

AS the NAB League season finals approach, we take a look at the sides that are no longer in contention for the title, checking out their draft prospects, Best and Fairest (BnF) chances, 2020 Draft Crop and a final word on their season. The next side we look at is the Northern Knights.

Position: 6th
Wins: 8
Losses: 7
Draws: 0

Points For: 1008 (Ranked #7)
Points Against: 952 (Ranked #4)
Percentage: 105.9
Points: 32

Top draft prospects:

Sam Philp

An inside midfielder with great speed, Philp has transformed his game to develop more hurt factor as the season went on, becoming a premier midfielder in the NAB League while many of his contemporaries were off with Metro or Country duties. When they returned he matched it with the best of them and could be one of the feel-good stories of the draft given he missed out on Metro selection. Just bullocks his way through stoppages and is hard to stop around the ground. His strong season was rewarded with a National Draft Combine invitation, meaning at least four clubs like what they saw in 2019.

Ryan Sturgess

As versatile as they come, Sturgess started as a defender, has played forward and also through the midfield when required to be one of the more flexible players in the draft crop. He managed all four games with Metro, often playing in an under siege defence but holding up firm. While he made some mistakes at times, he is one of the hardest workers and puts out a four quarter performance regularly. Not only did he become a reliable defender, but he went forward at times to finish the year with nine goals to his name, a great reward for effort.

Other in the mix:

While the Knights just had the two National Draft Combine draft invitations, there was a host of State Draft Combine invitations, indicating at least a couple of clubs were interested in additional players who had performed strongly this season. Inside midfielder Adam Carafa, outside runners Ryan Gardner and Lachlan Potter, club leading goal kicker Josh D’Intinosante, captain and key defender Jackson Davies, and overage defender Ayce Taylor all received combine invitations.

BnF chances:

A three-horse race one would think with D’Intinosante, Davies and Philp the three clear standouts across the entire season. None of the trio made Vic Metro which allowed them to consistently perform at the NAB League Boys level, and were arguably some of the stiffer players to miss out on Metro selection. They play in each of different third of the ground and were certainly the standouts in their region, while James Lucente, Ewan Macpherson and Liam McMahon all played plenty of games as well.

2020 Draft Crop:

Last year’s Vic Metro Under 16 captain Macpherson and key forward McMahon are both Knights who have impressed in their bottom-age seasons, but the leading 2020 draft candidate is Nikolas Cox at this stage. The raw and rangy utility’s athleticism is outstanding for someone of his size, allowing him to make an impact both in the air and at ground level in almost any position. Cooper Barbera played a heap of games and is set to do so again next year, while midfielder Josh Watson caught the eye toward the back end of the year and Jackson Bowne provided some spark. Joel Trudgeon, Ben Major, Jaden Collins, and Rhys Seakins are others to have joined Macpherson in last year’s Metro squad, so should also play major roles.

Final word:

Northern Knights unfortunately bowed out at Mars Stadium against Western Jets in the elimination final on the weekend, but provided plenty of highlights through the season. They seemed to improve by years-end, and a lot of their draft prospects are in the later end of the draft, but you cannot fault their year. They were able to match it with most teams throughout the year, and while they missed out on moving through to a semi-final, had a lot of sore boys from the elimination final which made it tough. Next year the Knights will look to consolidate their spot in the finals with their bottom-agers coming on.

Scouting notes: NAB League Boys – Week 1 Finals

NAB League Boys finals action got underway over the weekend and we took a look at those players who received draft combine invitations as well as some bottom-age and 16-year-old prospects who impressed on the big stage. All notes are opinion-based of the individual writer.

Northern Knights vs. Western Jets

By: Ed Pascoe

Northern:

#5 Josh D’Intinosante

D’Intinosante was a thorn in the side of the Western Jets with his forward craft proving a real handful. His efficiency was impressive considering the windy conditions and his most impressive goal came in the first quarter with a fantastic rove from a stoppage assisted by his teammates trying to lay blocks for the crafty forward. D’Intinosante had good company all day with Morrish Medalist Lucas Rocci manning him most of the game. D’Intinosante finished the game with 13 disposals and five goals with his last game a good reminder to club scouts of what he is capable of up forward.

#11 Ryan Sturgess

Sturgess impressed playing a range of roles where needed, with the versatile player being thrown forward at times when his team had the wind. Sturgess battled hard all day and was courageous to come back onto the ground after limping off late in the game. Sturgess looked best in his normal defensive role attacking the contests and showing good composure when in possession, finishing the game with 16 disposals and five tackles.

#13 Sam Philp

Philp was the standout midfielder for the game with his explosiveness and spread from stoppages really catching the eye. Philp earned a national combine invite with a strong year despite missing Vic Metro selection and he proved why he got that nomination with some eye-catching plays, running the ball out of stoppages and hitting targets by foot. He will not get a stat for it but laid a great block inside forward 50 for his dangerous teammate Josh D’Intinosante in the first quarter, showing that he is a team player and not just out to do the flashy plays. Philp finished the game with 21 disposals and eight tackles.

#23 Nikolas Cox

Cox looked dangerous early on playing as a key forward, making use of the wind and judging the ball in flight to take a nice contested mark, kicking a nice set shot goal in the first quarter. Both his goals came in the first quarter and was moved around the ground more as the game went on to finish the game on the wing. He started the game better than he finished it, showing good composure and movement in the first half but caught holding the ball on multiple occasions in the second half which could come down to biting off more than he could chew. Cox looks a good prospect for the 2020 draft as a taller player that can play a range of roles, finishing with 11 disposals, four marks and two goals.

Western:

#1 Lucas Failli

Although small in stature Failli had a big impact on the game with his work through the midfield really impressing. Usually a goal sneak forward, Failli played well in the midfield often winning the ball at ground level and quickly kicking the ball inside 50. He still managed to hit the scoreboard in the third quarter, bobbing up at exactly the right time to kick an easy goal in the square. His clean hands at ground level are often used to snag goals up forward and were used to good effect at stoppages instead. Failli has really shown in the last few weeks that he is more than just an opportunistic forward, finishing the game with 14 disposals, six inside 50s and a goal.

#18 Emerson Jeka

Jeka made the most of his time up forward when his side had the wind, kicking two goals in the second quarter with his bets coming from a nice mark close to goal. Jeka provided a good target for the Jets who had no shortage of talls to go to but Jeka was the one with the most height to potentially expose the Northern Knights’ defence. Jeka was good in the air but did not offer as much when the ball hit the ground, so could be an area to improve on ahead of next week’s big semi-final. Jeka finished the game with 13 disposals and two goals.

#20 Darcy Cassar

Cassar was not able to replicate his big game in defence last week, and although not many of his teammates won a high amount of ball it was still a quiet game by Cassar’s standards. Cassar is one of his team’s better ball users so it would have been good to see him moved up the ground after his quiet first half – hopefully this move can be done if he has another quiet half next week. Cassar finished the game with 11 disposals and four tackles.

Eastern Ranges vs. Sandringham Dragons

By: Ed Pascoe

Eastern:

#7 Lachlan Stapleton

Stapleton typified the brand of football Eastern wanted to play against Sandringham with his attack on both the ball and man setting the tone through the midfield. Stapleton’s brand of football isn’t fancy but it gets the job done, though that didn’t stop him from trying to show some attacking flair which he did with a nice goal on the run in the second quarter. Stapleton finished the game with 18 disposals, 10 tackles and a goal.

#11 Mitch Mellis

Mellis was one of the most important players in Eastern’s engine room, providing the speed and dare with ball in hand that he has made a staple of his game this year. His kicking was rather scrappy at times, but always tried to make up for any mistakes and was always willing to do the one percenters. Mellis showed a good mix winning his own ball but also providing that run on the outside, finishing the game with 21 disposals and three inside 50s.

#13 Jamieson Rossiter

Rossiter was the dominant big man on the ground and has picked a good time of the year to hit some strong form. His first goal was his team’s first, taking a lead up mark and converting the set shot from 45 metres out. His best play was a bone crunching tackle in the second quarter, showing he could influence without ball in hand. He was also strong in the second quarter taking a strong mark on the wing, flying over the pack. Rossiter finished the game with 10 disposals, four marks and four goals.

#20 Connor Downie

Downie is not eligible to be drafted until next year but he has already made a name for himself this year and had another strong performance showcasing his run and dash and willingness to drive the ball forward. Downie showed great composure and intent throughout the game and worked hard up and down the ground. His left foot can really be a weapon when given time and space and he finished the game with 19 disposals and three marks.

#52 Tyler Sonsie

Sonsie did not get a lot of the ball but he bobbed up with goals just when his team needed them. His first goal was something special crumbing a pack 40 metres out on a pocket, running to goal and kicking the ball perfectly with the wind to guide the ball through. It was the best goal for the day and really showed why he is considered such a high talent for the 2021 draft. Earlier that quarter he showed terrific vision, kicking across ground to find a target that took real courage to hit. Sonsie finished the game with two goals from six disposals.

Sandringham:

#4 Finn Maginness

Not a lot went right for Hawthorn father-son Maginness, and he had a tough day at the office. Despite not having the impact he would have liked he really worked hard in the last quarter and looked desperate to try and get his team the win. Maginness had an average day unable to get his hands on the ball, and when he did find the footy he did not use it as well as he has shown he can. He got to a point in the last quarter where he just threw himself into contests and tackled hard, finishing the game with 14 disposals and 10 tackles.

#5 Ryan Byrnes

Byrnes was the clear standout through the midfield for Sandringham and as their captain led from the front to do everything he could to win the ball and drive it forward. Byrnes was a hard worker at stoppages, getting to the fall of the ball and bursting away from stoppages. His kicking has been an area to work on this year and it didn’t let him down as he often picked the right options. Byrnes finished the game with 28 disposals, 11 inside 50s and three tackles.

#6 Miles Bergman

Bergman was his team’s most dangerous forward, proving too strong overhead and too slick at ground level. His first goal came from a nice clunk mark before going back to slot the set shot close to goal on a slight angle. His best patch of play came with a quick lay on and kick into the middle of the ground, opening up the play which was something his teammates couldn’t quite pull off all day. His second goal came in the final quarter with a long bomb from past the 50 metre arc, finishing on a high with 13 disposals, seven marks and two goals.

#13 Louis Butler

Butler was the standout defender for his team, winning plenty of the ball and using it very well in the windy conditions. Many players throughout the day struggled with the wind but Butler kept confident with his kicking and kept many kicks low and straight. His rebound from defence was fantastic, though he could have used some more support from his teammates. Butler finished the game with 26 disposals and nine rebounds.

#29 Fischer McAsey

McAsey played more of a loose role down back, often floating around to impact contests with a strong mark or a big spoil. His marking wasn’t as strong as usual but the wind was playing tricks on plenty of players throughout the day. McAsey had a good knack of reading the play and he would have been dominant if it wasn’t for the conditions, which made it hard work for talls. He will look to improve his output next week as he will be incredibly important for Sandringham’s tilt at a flag. McAsey finished the game with 11 disposals and four marks.

Calder Cannons vs. Dandenong Stingrays

Calder:

By: Ed Pascoe

#1 Daniel Mott

Mott was one of Calder’s standouts through the midfield, winning the ball with ease on both the inside and outside. Mott was rewarded early when he shot up Mason Fletcher nicely inside 50 before being returned the favour further inside 50 where he went on to nail a classy set shot goal. His entries inside 50 were dangerous and he was especially dangerous inside 50 himself kicking a classy goal on the run in the last quarter. Mott finished the game with 23 disposals, seven marks, seven inside 50s and two goals in a complete performance through the midfield.

#8 Sam Ramsay

Ramsay continued his hot form with a big game through the midfield, showcasing his running power both with and without the ball. Ramsay was all class with ball in hand and would often use his long left foot kick to his advantage with some nice kicks inside 50. He kicked his only goal from a nice set shot in the third quarter and would continue to set up other scoring opportunities with his run and spread from the midfield. Ramsay has averaged 31 disposals from his last seven games and this was one of his biggest games with the midfielder finishing with 35 disposals, six marks, six inside 50s and a goal.

#12 Jeremy O’Sullivan

O’Sullivan was a great target up forward, able to get up the ground and take some great marks. O’Sullivan didn’t hit the scoreboard himself but he played a pivotal role up the ground with his marking a real feature, taking two big contested marks in the last quarter that really caught the eye. In general play he looked to move well, showing he had some tricks other than his leading and marking. O’Sullivan finished the game with 20 disposals and eight marks.

#21 Harrison Jones

Despite not hitting the scoreboard Jones still showed why he is one of Calder’s prime prospects for this year’s draft. You can see Jones’s talent when he gets the ball, showing slick and clean skills with ball in hand for a taller player. Jones showed he could also have an impact without the ball with a fantastic chase-down tackle in the last quarter and an occasional stint in the ruck where he would follow up well around the ground. Jones finished the game with 11 disposals, eight tackles and seven hit outs.

#23 Cody Brand

The Essendon NGA prospect in 2020 was recently selected to feature in the U17 Futures game before this year’s AFL Grand Final, and he showed why he was selected with a strong performance in defence playing on the dangerous Sam De Koning for most of the game. Brand was strong and assured in defence, marking and spoiling strongly and showing good composure with ball in hand. Brand even showed some foot candy in the last quarter to prove he is more than just a dour defender. Brand only finished with eight disposals and six rebound 50s but played his role perfectly to keep De Koning goalless.

Dandenong:

By: Craig Byrnes

#2 Hayden Young

The potential top five prospect was not as influential behind the ball as we’ve become accustomed to, but still provided those moments that prove why he is so highly rated. He used his body to perfection to win a well fought ground ball on the city wing before hitting a target with ease. Young finds targets in the corridor that others either wouldn’t see or dare to take on, and is rarely made to regret those risks. As Calder gained momentum as the game went on Young found it difficult to find the ball in positions to impact the contest, but still finished with a respectable 19 disposals.

#11 Ned Cahill

Cahill worked hard in the opening three quarters, but struggled to get his hands on the ball as Calder often got first possession through Mott or Ramsay. He often ran without reward offensively and defensively, highlighted by a 100 metre effort from inside 50 to the wing during the first term that was ultimately fruitless. He went to the opening centre bounce of the fourth term and immediately won a long clearance that he kicked inside 50, which sparked a busy period for him. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to change the momentum of the game and Cahill ended with 15 disposals.

#20 Sam De Koning

It was a tough day for the All Australian defender, who could not get into the game forward and fell victim to some average supply throughout. He fought when the ball was in his area, but it rarely fell his way. He made his way back to defence in the final term and looked more comfortable, but the damage was already done by then.

#24 Bigoa Nyuon

Nyuon had some good moments in the ruck and forward for the Stingrays. He didn’t dominate, but you couldn’t question his effort on a difficult day. He had a real crack at the stoppages against a much bigger body in Josh Hotchkin, winning his fair share of hit outs. He was able to expose his opponent once the ball hit the ground, spreading to space to create an option forward or get in intercepting positions. He nearly kicked an outstanding goal on the run in the first term and clunked an impressive intercept mark on the lead in the third. ‘Biggy’ gave away a couple of unnecessary free kicks competing in the ruck, but got on the end of a 50-metre penalty to kick a goal in the second quarter.

#32 Blake Kuipers

The athletic tall started the game well in defence, getting his hands on the ball and was unlucky not to be paid an outstanding contested intercept mark in the first term. But like many of his teammates, as Calder took control he became less of a factor. He certainly didn’t disgrace himself, but the excellent Calder entrances were difficult to counter. Kuipers finished the day in the ruck and collected nine disposals by the final siren.

#50 Lachlan Williams

One of Dandenong’s better performers for the day, Williams started on the wing and was involved from the outset. After a long snapped behind in the first term, he showed his strength in a big tackle, keeping his balance and releasing in a difficult position. He took the game on when the opportunity presented, running to receive the ‘one-two’ from half back before superbly hitting a target at half forward. He proved his speed and carry again later in the game, intercepting a handball and exploding from the contest. I still feel Williams is underrated overhead too, taking a brilliant contested intercept mark in the second term. He moved to defence in the fourth quarter and was serviceable when his team was down and out, finishing the game with 25 disposals.

Gippsland Power vs. Oakleigh Chargers

Gippsland:

By: Craig Byrnes

#2 Caleb Serong

A well rested Serong returned to the NAB League for just his third game of the season in the Power colours, after approximately a month off footy to be cherry ripe for finals. He was influential from the start, just missing a set shot in the opening minutes before taking two big contested intercept marks to showcase his aerial strengths. He was super aggressive, asserting his physicality toward Anderson and Rowell whenever the opportunity presented. He went a little far when giving away a free kick off the ball, but immediately got one back after getting in the face of his opponent and drawing a reaction. He was excellent around the stoppages, clean in congestion and used the ball well in space, highlighted by a well placed kick inside to Flanders while on his hot streak. Serong finished with 29 disposals and will be even better next week after the run.

#4 Sam Flanders

Flanders may have produced the best underage half of footy for the season to date, or at the very least the most dynamic 10 minutes of the year. From the eleventh to the twenty-second minute of the second quarter, Flanders completely took control of the game and at the time it did not look like anything was going to stop him. He kicked four goals during this period to give Gippsland a huge advantage going into half-time, highlighted by brilliant body work, positioning and quality kicking. He was excellent through the midfield too, constantly winning first possession and providing explosive clearances. He went into the main break with crazy numbers, 18 disposals and four goals. Unfortunately he was reported immediately after the break and wasn’t able to get near the heights of the first two quarters, which was not helped by the rain arriving when Gippsland were kicking home with the breeze. Still, it was a brilliant 27 possession performance despite Power not being able to take advantage of his earlier heroics.

#6 Riley Baldi

Baldi started the game at the opening centre bounce, but wasn’t his usual prolific self as he spent more time forward to finish with his lowest disposal tally (14) of the season. He still had an impact though, winning the heavy footy when required against the likes of Rowell and Anderson. Baldi’s stoppage nous is as good as any, protecting the ball with smart body positioning and getting in the drop areas first. He kicked a clutch goal in the final quarter just before the rain arrived which appeared to be an important moment at the time before Oakleigh’s bigger bodies took hold.

#10 Leo Connolly

Connolly is improving with every game he plays in 2019 and appears to be gaining confidence with every touch too. He is a genuine elite user of the pill and is becoming a vital cog at half back. The obvious highlight was his thumping goal from outside 50 in the second term that sparked the Gippsland goal flurry before half time. He had some excellent contested moments to balance out the carry and skills nicely, using smart body work to take a great intercept mark in the second term. He finished with 23 disposals and a match high 11 rebound 50s. Connolly is in form at the right time of the year and giving recruiters plenty to think about.

#15 Ryan Sparkes

Starting on the wing, it wasn’t Sparkes’ busiest day with the ball, but he still managed to find it on 15 occasions. The play often bypassed his area, but he put his body on the line when required. He had an awkward aerial ball to contest on the wing in the second term and despite being completely out of position, he went back with the flight and impacted the drop. Expect him to bounce back with big numbers next week.

#16 Josh Smith

Smith struggled to have an impact forward, but made his physical presence known in the ruck against Nick Bryan in the absence of Charlie Comben. He was the relief for Zach Reid, but threw his body around and made it tough for Bryan to have an impact at the stoppages. Smith helped out his defenders when he could too, getting back to take a well-read intercept in the third term before competing again shortly after in the defensive 50 to spoil a dangerous entry. Smith will benefit with the return of Comben next week.

#19 Fraser Phillips

Phillips was in and out of the game, but constantly created anxiety when the ball went in his area. A brilliantly read crumb in the second quarter saw him convert his first for the day during Power’s purple patch. His best goal would come in the third term when he competed for an aerial ball and kept his feet to gather the ground ball, before swinging onto that lovely left foot to kick an important goal. He has serious goal sense and naturally knows how to get in scoring positions. While he may take time, I am looking forward to seeing what he can produce at the elite level.

#37 Harrison Pepper

The Hawthorn NGA prospect had some excellent moments in defence and perhaps some others he would like to have back, but was solid overall. While there was the occasional fumble under pressure, he won some important ground balls and rebounded the ball out of dangerous positions on numerous occasions. His highlight came in the third term when he held Matt Rowell in a physical tackle to earn a holding the ball free kick, a feat only few can boast to have achieved. Pepper finished with 14 disposals and five rebounds from the defensive arc.

Oakleigh:

By: Ed Pascoe

#4 Nick Bryan

Bryan was expected to win the hit outs easily against bottom age key defender Zach Reid coming into the game and though he did so, the Gippsland midfielders did a good job of reading Bryan’s taps throughout the game. His tap work is great which makes it more dangerous when the opposition can also rove it. Bryan looked good around the ground with his use by hand just as good as most midfielders, finishing the game with 13 disposals and 30 hitouts.

#5 Trent Bianco

Bianco was all class down back, playing his usual role sweeping and causing damage by foot both on his left and right. Bianco was a consistent player down back providing good rebound and using the ball well as usual, the rain hit in the last quarter and Bianco got some time on the wing, making the most of his time up the ground. Kicked a classy goal on the run in the wet conditions showing his talent in any weather condition, finishing the game with 24 disposals and one goal.

#8 Noah Anderson

Anderson did not have his usual output, with the talented midfielder usually a dangerous threat going forward. The Gippsland side did a great job of nullifying Anderson’s influence to get forward and hit the scoreboard. Anderson was later moved forward to give Oakleigh the dynamic they needed in the third quarter but still could not quite hit the scoreboard. Anderson still looked good with ball in hand and looked composed and clean whenever he was around the ball, finishing the game with 29 disposals and four tackles.

#9 Will Phillips

Phillips was fantastic in Oakleigh’s strong start to the game, seeing the bottom age midfielder show some good clean hands in transition and getting involved in a number of plays going forward. Mostly playing on the wing he had no issues winning the ball with his smart running and willingness to also get in and win his own ball. Phillips kicked a nice goal in the third quarter showing some dash and getting back the handball to snap on the run. Phillips finished the game with 29 disposals, six inside 50s and a goal.

#11 Matt Rowell

The incredibly consistent Rowell was again a force that couldn’t be stopped through the midfield, and despite a slow start it was his desire and drive that really turned the game back in Oakleigh’s favour in the second half. Rowell was targeted by the opposition, copping some big tackles and blocks and made to earn a lot of his possessions through the midfield. When he did he would usually still get a handball out, proving he is as hard a worker on the outside as well as working into space to show off his great running power. Rowell finished the game with 29 disposals and eight tackles.

#25 Jamara Ugle-Hagan

Ugle-Hagan was the dominant key position player on the ground, proving a real handful with the clean ball movement of Oakleigh particularly early on. His lead up marking was superb with every one sticking and he kicked two nice goals and even passed another off unselfishly. He would show again he wasn’t just a lead up and mark player with a great chase down tackle in the last quarter, converting the set shot to reward his effort. The bottom age talent could have had an even bigger day if he had kicked straight, going on to collect 13 disposals, six marks and kicking 3.3 with a few kicks going out on the full as well.

#73 Cooper Sharman

Sharman had one of his quieter games for the year especially in front of goal but he still had some good moments. His best movement came with a quick thinking handball over the top of his head that lead to a goal in the first quarter. His most productive quarter was his final quarter in the wet weather, moved back in the last five minutes. He took some telling marks that showed he could have some versatility to play both forward and back. Sharman finished the game with 13 disposals and six marks.

Jets soar over Knights after quarter time in windy conditions

WESTERN Jets have come back from conceding the first six goals of the game to run over the top of a wounded but brave Northern Knights side by eight points in a thrilling wind-affected game at Mars Stadium, Ballarat. The Jets took control after quarter time, jumped by the breeze in favour of the Knights, before settling in and reducing the scoring output of their opponent in the second half to just get home, 12.5 (77) to 11.3 (69). The two leading goal kickers were in fine form with competition leading goalkicker Archi Manton booting four goals in the win, while Josh D’Intinosante booted five majors. Full credit to the Jets side who negotiated the breeze better, as the tiring Knights were without Adam Carafa later in the game, suited up on the boundary line, while both Jackson Davies and Ryan Sturgess picked up knocks in the second half.

Northern Knights took advantage of a huge breeze blowing towards the scoreboard end to pile on six goals to zero and open up a 36-point lead at quarter time. Nikolas Cox was simply too tall for his opponent, booting two first quarter majors including the first of the game from a well positioned Davies kick. He then made it two with the Knights fourth from the square. In between the Knights produced goals from Jack Boyd who won a free kick in the goal square, and the very next clearance Jackson Bowne added his name to the goal kickers list with a nice launch from just inside 50. Some great blocking at the forward stoppage resulted in a free pass for D’Intinosante to run onto it and kick the Knights’ fifth despite the clear frustrations of the Jets’ defence. With the clock running down, the Knights were not done just yet as Nathan Howard received a free kick and converted after the siren in what had been all one-way traffic. At quarter time, it was a Sam Philp-led midfield that had dominated its way to 16 inside 50s to five and took complete advantage of the five to six goal breeze. Eddie Ford provided a rare highlight for the Jets in that opening term with a high-flying mark, while Jets’ captain Lucas Rocci stood up best he could in an under-siege defence.

It was all Western in the second quarter as Emerson Jeka got into the game with two majors, and the seventh placed side piled on six goals to zero themselves to draw level with 90 seconds remaining. Nash Reynolds was the first to capitalise in front of goal, taking full advantage of an opponent slipping over and kicking truly from just inside 50. The next was a great mark to Jeka who converted from 25m out straight in front. Philp tried his best to get something happening from the middle with a terrific burst away clearance and bomb forward to Cox, but he could not quite direct the bouncing shot on goal through the big sticks. Later in the term Cox was switched into defence on Jeka after Sturgess came off a bit sore. Meanwhile the Jets kept piling on goals as Manton got out the back one-on-one and kicked a goal midair in the goal square, while Mace Cousins did the same cleanly grabbing it 10m out as the deepest player and putting it through. Then Josh Honey joined the party with a great sliding mark outside 50 and a long shot which carried in the wind and sailed through, before Jeka levelled the scores after backing back against his opponent, holding position and while he did not bring it down, kept his feet and booted it off the deck. So after 50 minutes, the teams were as they started, level on points with a half to come.

The Western Jets put on a big show in the third term, booting three goals against the breeze to restrict the Knights’ lead to just five points by the final break. Despite D’Intinosante’s best efforts for Northern – the exciting and dangerous small forward booted three goals in the term – it was the Jets who managed to add majors down an end that was basically impossible to score down in the first half. They all came from traditional football entries in challenging conditions, with Lucas Failli running onto a loose ball, Manton showing off his strength one-on-one to keep his balance and kick his second, and Aaron Clarke winning a free kick from a tackle and converting the set shot. In between, D’Intinosante wrecked havoc with his three majors, booting one off a great kick inside 50 from Sturgess, then winning a free kick from a contest with Rocci sliding low and converting the set shot, and finally capitalising with a third from a spoiled mark to boot a low bullet through the middle. Bowne was the other one to kick his second goal of the term with a great kick from inside 50 earlier in the term, but it was the Jets who controlled play and just made the most of the rare chances going forward to be in the box seat heading into the final term.

When Davies came off worse for wear early in the final term from a high tackle it was not a great start for the Knights, especially when a third goal from Manton off a step put the Jets in front for the first time during the day. D’Intinosante pushed into the midfield but still found space forward, though his set shot from 50m went well out on the full. Sturgess limped off the ground midway through the term as neither side could make inroads into their scoring, before Manton all but put it beyond doubt with his fourth after an errant high tackle and subsequent set shot goal. Just when the game looked over, the Knights went end-to-end and it was D’Intinosante who put his hand up once again with a ripping goal from 50m to sail it home and cut the deficit to just one point. When Reynolds got on the end of a bomb inside 50 and it escaped the foot race of Jeka and Davies to bounce though, the margin was seven with 30 seconds on the scoreboard clock. But the benches called out two minutes and both sides knew there was still time. While the Knights had a last roll of the dice, it was Western that held firm to book its spot in next week’s semi-finals.

In a low possession game, Daly Andrews lead the way for Western with 19 touches, six tackles and three inside 50s, while Failli (14 disposals, six inside 50s and a goal), Rocci (14 disposals, five rebounds) and Will Kennedy (14 disposals,, seven tackles and 24 hitouts) were the other major ball winners for the Jets, as Manton’s 4.2 came from 10 touches and two marks. For Northern, D’Intinosante was superb with five majors from 13 touches, two marks and three tackles, while Philp (19 touches, four inside 50s, six tackles) and Davies (23 disposals, five marks and six rebounds) were the busiest in the loss. Jack Boyd also persevered in the ruck with 22 touches, 12 hitouts, four inside 50s, two rebounds and a goal.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 6.1 | 6.3 | 10.3 | 11.3 (69)
WESTERN JETS 0.1 | 6.3 | 9.4 | 12.5 (77)

GOALS:

Northern: J. D’Intinosante 5, N. Cox 2, J. Bowne 2, J. Boyd, N. Howard.
Western: A. Manton 4, E. Jeka 2, N. Reynolds 2, M. Cousins, J. Honey, L. Failli, A. Clarke

ADC BEST:

Northern: J. D’Intinosante, S. Philp, J. Davies, J. Boyd, R. Sturgess, J. Watson
Western: L. Failli, D. Andrews, A. Manton, L. Rocco, J. Kellett, E. Jeka

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

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

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

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

Team Brown:

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

Team Dal Santo:

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