THE NSW/ACT Rams won out against traditional rivals, Queensland in their annual Under-17 Futures fixture in heavy rain at Southport. Michael Alvaro was on hand to take his opinion-based notes of the outstanding players.
#3 Ethan Hunt (Gold Coast Suns)
The diminutive ball winner embraced the conditions and was hard at it all day, starting well with a brave mark against two opponents off a clearance. Hunt went on to win the ball well on the precipice of stoppages around the ground with good intent, digging in and under to accumulate his 17 possessions and move the ball forward. His pressure on the ball carrier was also important in the conditions, laying six tackles.
#5 Tahj Abberley (Brisbane Lions)
There’s not much of Abberley, but the Lions Academy product looked unfazed by having to get stuck in. Playing through the midfield and off half-back, Abberley was clean at ground level and smart with his hands out of congestion. His four clearances bode well for more midfield minutes, but Abberley also worked well around the ground to penetrate both arcs.
#7 James Smith (Gold Coast Suns)
The no-frills defender was terrific with his work off the muddy deck, sweeping up ground balls on the move. Smith racked up 16 disposals across the defensive half, opting to kick more often than not – much like his fellow smaller defenders. His decision making and composure by foot was great, but Smith’s two pick-ups off at pace in the third term caught the eye most.
#9 Blake Coleman (Brisbane Lions)
Coleman’s major point of difference was his cleanliness in the conditions and while others did well to make one-touch plays at ground level, Coleman also did it in the air. He scooped up a number of his possessions on the move and with opponents in tow, while taking a couple of juggled marks hitting up to at the ball at half-forward. Coleman was productive forward of centre, looking like creating something with ball in hand – shown by his crafty assist for Saxon Crozier in the second term and constant wheeling around to go inside 50. Did not find the goals on this occasion, seeing a set shot fall short just before his goal assist.
#13 Darcy Prest (Brisbane Lions)
Another effective mover in the back half, Prest provided a bit of zip out of defence and was constantly looking to get the ball moving. He met the ball at pace when it landed in his area to aid that kind of play, gathering cleanly and rebounding well. His ability to clear his lines saw him penetrate both arcs, having three inside 50s and four rebounds, with his best bit of play a one-on-one win on defensive wing in the third term – made by good body positioning and a nice pick-up to get moving.
#17 Rhys Nicholls (Gold Coast Suns)
Another of the small-medium defensive brigade, Nicholls looked a good mover off half-back. His red boots made him hard to miss, but it was Nicholls’ neat kicking early on that set the tone for his game. He went on to struggle a little in getting the same penetration when it was truly wet under foot, but buzzed around the back half all the same to collect 16 disposals.
#24 Saxon Crozier (Brisbane Lions)
The Lions Academy standout was one of Queensland’s more productive players on the day, winning an equal team-high 20 disposals in all areas on the ground. While he initially produced his usual running game on the outside with long kicks into attacking 50, Crozier swapped that game for greater influence around the contest when the rain came down. Although he was rushed in possession at times, Crozier’s meters-gained attitude with ball in hand cleared congestion and set his side on the attack – going inside 50 on five occasions. He also managed to find his usual space in the second term and slam home an important goal for the Maroons, which is exactly what we are used to seeing from him.
#26 Alex Davies (Gold Coast Suns)
Davies’ game suited the conditions, with the big-bodied midfielder bustling around packs and forcing his way through at stoppages. His approach was pretty simple, slamming the ball on the boot in traffic and gaining territory for his team – often kicking off one or two steps. He did the hard stuff as well with six tackles and a spoil to kill the ball from a front-half kick-in.
#1 Jackson Tikkeros (Sydney Swans)
The diminutive forward had a purple patch in the third term, coming alive and helping to lift the Rams when it mattered. He took a nice sliding mark on the forward 50 arc but fellow short with his kick, only to charge on to the drop of the ball and snap a goal through heavy congestion in the goalsquare. Only had the eight touches, but his forward pressure was also of note with four tackles.
#8 Oscar Davis (Sydney Swans)
Davis was able to find the ball in all areas of the ground, clearing the ball three times and breaching both arcs (three inside 50s, two rebounds) in his 14-disposal effort. He first caught the eye with a terrific overhead intercept mark going back with the flight in the second term, and went on to rack up the ball well across the day with particular influence in clearing his lines down back in the second half.
#9 Taine Wright (Sydney Swans)
The Swans Academy product was relevant both with the ball and without it, winning 13 disposals and laying seven tackles. His first good bit of play was a flashy gather and spin in the first term, and he continued to stay calm around would-be tacklers by keeping his hands up. Wright had the chance to hit the scoreboard in the third term after intercepting a kick-in, but missed the resultant shot.
#10 Matthew Hamblin (GWS Giants)
Hamlin was an influential contributor in the forward half, having an impact around goal despite not finding them. He looked a neat player when wheeling around and delivering short kicks early on, and found a couple of goal opportunities by being in the right place at the right time. Hamblin marked a quick Marco Rossman snap inside 50 but missed the set shot, he missed another in the third term, before unluckily having an on-target shot stopped in the goalsquare during the final term. Could have been a big day otherwise.
#13 Pierce Roseby (Sydney Swans)
The sub-180cm midfielder was a constant at the centre bounces, digging in for an equal game-high 21 disposals to go with his 13 tackles, four clearances and sole goal. He went about his business with no-fuss accumulation early on, before enjoying a good patch of form in the third term which would result in his goal. Roseby initially had a snap on goal touched, but followed it up with a cool set shot conversion and loved the celebration. A solid outing, and played an important role in the conditions.
#26 Marco Rossman (Sydney Swans)
Arguably best afield with his influence from midfield, Rossman moved forward particularly well with seven inside 50s from his 21 disposals. Not only did he have a lot of touches, but Rossman also had important ones including two shots on goal in the opening term – of which, one sailed through the big sticks. It set the tone for his game, winning the ball at will and proving one of the few who could win it in the air as well with five marks. His positioning was great, and he almost capped off his day with another goal, but saw his soccered attempt touched over.
#27 Coopa Steele (GWS Giants)
Was a bit of a sporadic influence on the game with his 12 disposals, and almost made an ideal start as he read the ball well front and centre inside 50 but missed the snap. He would go on to correct that shot with an important goal in the first minute of the final term, banging the ball home from long range as he positioned in front to win the cleared ball and put the game beyond doubt.
#34 Sebastian Quirk (GWS Giants)
One of the better ball winners on the day, Quirk had an influence you had to watch closely – with seven clearances from his 18 disposals and a lot of inside work. The GWS Academy member was the beneficiary of a 50-metre penalty in the second term when putting through a goal, but had more say around the congestion. Quirk also took a nice overhead mark on defensive wing to show some strength, and did well to push the ball in and out of either arc.
#35 Fraser Kelly (GWS Giants)
Kelly played the conditions well with his approach, tackling aggressively and pushing his side forward. He caught the eye with a really clean pick up amid the worst of the downpour in the second term, and would go on to win 12 disposals, three clearances, and three inside 50s in a solid outing.
#39 Marc Sheather (Sydney Swans)
Has played in all sorts of positions for the Rams and looked comfortable down back as an intercepting type. Sheather plays above his 185cm height given his strong frame, and has really clean hands overhead. While he didn’t always get to show that, he was an efficient figure in the back 50 and hardly made a mistake. Was the main repellant for NSW/ACT, rebounding seven times from his 17 disposals and doing most of his work by foot.