Tag: Player focus

WAFL League Player Focus: Logan McDonald (Perth) vs. Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts)

IT was a highly anticipated matchup that did not disappoint. Both Logan McDonald and Denver Grainger-Barras are not only considered the best young players out of Western Australia, but loom as possible top five picks who have been mainstays in their respective League sides. They have both had some impressive performances, with McDonald second in the League for goals and Grainger-Barras closing in on the top 10 for marks in the competition.

In our latest Player Focus edition, we take a look at how the leading West Australian prospects fared as McDonald’s Perth took on Grainger-Barras’ Swan Districts in Round 8 of the WAFL League. The pair did not start on each other, as Nathan Ireland was tasked with manning McDonald early, but Swan Districts would give scouts what they wanted in the second half.

Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia

DOB: April 4, 2002
Height: 196cm
Weight: 85kg

Position: Key Position Forward

>> Draft Watch
>> Round 2 Player Focus

Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia

DOB: April 14, 2002
Height: 195cm
Weight: 78kg

Position: Key Position Defender

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Round 3 Player Focus

PLAYER FOCUS

STATS:
McDonald: 4 kicks | 2 handballs | 6 disposals | 3 marks | 1 tackle | 1 inside 50 | 3 goals
Grainger-Barras: 12 kicks | 4 handballs | 16 disposals | 8 marks | 3 tackles | 1 inside 50

Q1:

Even when McDonald and Grainger-Barras did not start on each other, a lot of their possessions in the first half where linked in some form. The first player to get involved was McDonald, who would almost take a strong grab on the wing. He dropped the mark at the last possible moment but quickly recovered, receiving a handball from good mate Nathan O’Driscoll and in-turn handballing to a teammate running past. Not too long after that, Grainger-Barras almost took an impressive mark in defence, which he began to stick eventually as he snapped up a nice intercept mark before kicking long to the wing. The ball would come back though, and making the most of it was that man McDonald. After taking a strong contested mark at the 50-metre arc, he would go back and slot a long bomb for his first goal of the game.

A few minutes later, McDonald almost took a strong contested mark inside 50, but again it spilled out on the way down. Grainger-Barras was the one to capitalise, sweeping on the loose ball, jumping over McDonald in the process, and handballing to a teammate. Grainger-Barras would have some more good moments soon after on the wing; first doing well in a one-on-one marking contest to nullify it, and a few moments later attacking the ball hard at ground level to gather and release a good handball. About a minute later, McDonald returned to the fray, using good bodywork to work his opponent under the ball. He would run onto the loose ball inside 50 but was well pressured from behind, and sent the dribble shot on a tight angle through for a behind.

A few minutes later both players would be linked again. Grainger-Barras gathered nicely in the middle but his kick out wide was poor, leading to a turnover. Not long after, he went to spoil the next aerial ball but did not kill the contest, which lead to McDonald kicking his second goal further down the ground from 15 metres out directly in front. Grainger-Barras wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, spoiling a marking contest well late in the quarter.

Q2:

The links between the two players continued into the second quarter, with Grainger-Barras attacking the loose ball hard from a defensive stoppage, but being met with a strong tackle. The ball would later be kicked to the leading McDonald, with Grainger-Barras working hard to come from the side to spoil but to no avail. It was a very strong lead and mark from McDonald, who would convert from the set shot nicely for his third and final goal.

At around the 17-minute mark it seemed the move had been made with Grainger-Barras going to McDonald. Grainger-Barras would earn a simple possession, being closest to an out-on-the-full kick deep in defence and booting the free kick long down the line. Late in the quarter, McDonald was very unlucky not to be paid a fantastic contested mark, contesting both Grainger-Barras and impressive ruckman Corey Gault on the wing.

Q3:

Everything form here on out was purely McDonald vs. Grainger-Barras, with Grainger-Barras hot on the heels of McDonald wherever he went. McDonald played centre half-forward which may have been a mistake in hindsight, for as hard as McDonald worked to give strong leads and provide a good outlet, the delivery to him was very poor and very rarely to his advantage. The first notable contest was on the wing where Grainger-Barras used good bodywork to work McDonald under the ball, gather nicely, and get a a scrappy left-foot kick forward. Not long after, Grainger-Barras took a nice intercept mark and this was the point where that side of his game would really start to shine, as he does it better than anyone else in his draft class.

Grainger-Barras is a competitor and despite his light frame, he is not afraid to go in hard not just to win his own ball, but to also tackle hard. He laid a strong tackle and a few minutes later he applied a great spoil on McDonald at half-forward – letting his opponent know about it and further adding to McDonalds growing frustration. Grainger-Barras is not afraid to stir the pot and get under his opponents’ skin, and at the earlier half time scuffle he made sure to get involved in some capacity.

The frustration wouldn’t go away for McDonald because not long after the aforementioned spoil, he again found himself outdone by Grainger-Barras, who took a very nice intercept mark going back with flight and following with a nice kick inboard. You couldn’t blame McDonald for the frustration, with plenty of kicks certainly not to his advantage, but credit also had to be given to Grainger-Barras to still show his strength as an interceptor while also manning up the most dangerous forward on the opposition.

Q4:

It did not take long for Grainger-Barras to get involved with a strong tackle on the wing that should have been rewarded, but he would get a free kick later on at McDonald’s expense. He would have to be considered lucky as their was not much in it, only further adding to McDonald’s frustrating second half. Not long after, Grainger-Barras again took a strong intercept mark on the wing and would kick long inside 50 to a one-on-one. McDonald did not drop his head and still competed hard, crashing one pack hard on the wing. A couple of minutes later, he would again compete hard in a marking contest inside 50 which would allow his smaller teammates to gather the crumbs. It won’t show on the stat sheet, but McDonald certainly worked hard to not only give an option on the lead, but also compete in the contest.

Grainger-Barras was in fine intercepting form for this quarter and he would take a brilliant intercept mark close to goal, before using the ball well with a long switch kick. Apart from his error early in the game, his kicking had been sensational, especially his longer kicks as he can really get under them. About a minute afterwards, McDonald would have another nice moment inside 50. Despite not getting a stat for it, he competed well inside 50 and a timely intercept from a handball would lead to his team gathering the loose ball and kicking a goal. McDonald really proved in the the last quarter that it’s his work inside 50 that’s most generous and advantageous for Perth and his final involvement, he would make a clean gather at ground level and handpass to a teammate close to goal. McDonald has proven this year that he is not only strong in the air but also nimble and clean at ground level for a taller player, and I expect he will hold more of his marks once he puts on some more size in the future. He was beaten by Grainger-Barras in the second half but you couldn’t have asked for more from him, and kicking three goals is certainly not a bad return.

Grainger-Barras wasn’t done yet though, as he had a really good two-minute patch not long after McDonald’s last involvement. He would take a lovely contested intercept mark flying in from the side in defensive 50, and again would release a long kick out from defensive 50 down the line. He competed really well on the wing where he took on a tackler and got a handball out in what was a great act of desperation, despite the game already being won. Not long after that he would put the exclamation point on his great game, taking an awesome intercept mark going back with flight and hurting himself in the process. That was certainly enough to give him a well earned rest anyway.

There was a fear going into the game that these two young guns wouldn’t line up on each other but not only did they line up on each other, they both managed to have very good games with Grainger-Barras perhaps having his best ever game at League level. He finished with 17 disposals and eight marks while McDonald again hit the scoreboard, kicking 3.1 as he firmly looks to finish among the top three in the WAFL goalkicking charts. Fellow draft fancy, O’Driscoll also had a great game backing up his brilliant outing last week, but this game was all about two young talents going head-to-head in McDonald and Grainger-Barras. They did not disappoint.

Power Rankings: September 2020 | July 2020 | August 2020
>> 2020 Western Australia Under 18s Squad Prediction

Featured Image: Leading WA draft prospects Denver Grainger-Barras, Logan McDonald, and Nathan O’Driscoll | Source: Michael Willson/AFL Media

WAFL League Player Focus: Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at another prospect who stood out recently in the West Australian Football League (WAFL). This week, in Round 7 of the League competition, we put Peel Thunder prospect Isiah Winder under the microscope, as he made his second top flight appearance for the Thunder in their 35-point loss to ladder leader, South Fremantle on Saturday.

PLAYER PAGE

Isiah Winder
Peel Thunder/Western Australia

DOB: May 16, 2002
Height: 179cm
Weight: 79kg

Position: Small forward/midfielder

>> AFL Draft Watch: Isiah Winder

PLAYER FOCUS

Stats: 6 kicks, 5 handballs, 11 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles

Winder earned himself a call-up to the League side after another strong performance in the Colts, where he has impressed with his midfield craft and class. While he did not get the opportunity to play midfield at League level, the 18-year-old gained some valuable time battling against the undefeated South Fremantle unit, utilised up either end of the ground down. Winder made his League debut in Round 3 and will be hoping to keep his spot in the young Peel side. He certainly showed some good signs, with his ball use easily up to the standard.

Q1:

Winder started the game down back, which is a position he has not played often at Colts level. He had a nice bit of play early, showing clean hands below his knees to take the ball and quickly execute a dinky left-foot pass which showed a lot of class. Shortly after, he was paired up with the dangerous Haiden Schloithe and would give away a holding free kick against him in a marking contest on the wing, but fared better on him in other contests later in the game. He had another awkward moment with Schloithe, this time after receiving a switch kick at half-back. Winder tried a quick dinky kick down the line, but it was intercepted by that man Schloithe, making for one of his rare errors with ball in hand. He also made some nice defensive efforts; getting back to rush a behind having nullified the contest inside defensive 50, despite getting caught behind an opponent on the lead. He followed up that effort, taking the kick-out with a nice pass to teammate Jack Sears.

Q2:

One eye-catching bit of play came in the second quarter where he gathered the crumbs deep in defence, then faked an opponent and executed a classy little handball to get his side out of trouble. His next disposal came from a mark at half-back, and he would quickly kick the ball long down the line to a leading player which looked nice off the boot, but was just a tad too high for his leading teammate. His last disposal for the quarter was another nice gather at half-back and a slick handball to follow, again showcasing his clean hands.

Q3:

Winder’s third term was his most prolific, starting with a clean handball on the wing. Not long after, he would have another nice play on the wing which came from his pressure on an opponent running to kick inside 50. Winder’s closing speed effected a poor kick, which saw him then quickly work up the field to receive the ball after his side won back possession. Winder followed up with a nice long handball to set up his side’s movement inside 50. It was a great passage from the youngster, showing he could defend and attack to a high standard, and again proving he can really hurt the opposition with his clean disposal. He had a good bit of play later in the quarter with a slick gather close to goal, doing well to sit in the dangerous spot and handball out to a teammate under pressure. The disposal was a little untidy, but a good effort nonetheless.

Q4:

Winder got to play as a forward in the last quarter, which is a position he played well in the Colts last year. Despite his familiarity in the role, Winder did not have any results on the scoreboard and it was his quietest period of the game. His only disposal in this quarter came very late, receiving a handball in the middle. He showed great vision to spot Sears with a snap kick that was perfectly placed, again showing his class with ball in hand. It was quick thinking to not only identify the target, but also identify the type of kick needed to execute the kick. Winder’s forward pressure late in the quarter was fairly good, but he could use a bit more consistency in his intensity to defend as a forward.

Closing thoughts…

Winder got a lot out of this game, playing roles he would not normally play at Colts level to show his potential versatility to recruiters. He had some big matchups, especially on Schloithe, and more than held his own against bigger and stronger opponents. Winder’s skill and class more than held up at the level and is something that sets him apart from his peers. As classy as he looked, I’d like to see some more intensity and consistency in his defensive game, and bringing that up to the level of his skills would go a long way to making a big impact at League level and catching the eyes of recruiters.

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020
>> 2020 Western Australia Under 18s Squad Prediction

Featured Image: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

WAFL League Player Focus: Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at a prospect who stood out recently in the West Australian Football League (WAFL). This week, in Round 7 of the League competition, we put Perth prospect Nathan O’Driscoll under the microscope, as he made his second top flight appearance for the Demons in their 26-point loss to reigning premier, Subiaco on Saturday.

PLAYER PAGE

Nathan O’Driscoll
Perth/Western Australia

DOB: May 17, 2002
Height: 187cm
Weight: 76kg

Position: Midfielder/Utility

>> AFL Draft Watch: Nathan O’Driscoll
>> Marquee Matchup: O’Driscoll vs. Hollands

PLAYER FOCUS

Stats: 6 kicks, 14 handballs, 20 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 3 inside 50s

O’Driscoll had to wait a little longer to earn his spot in Perth’s League side, but despite an interrupted pre-season, he made is League debut last week and kicked the sealer in the Demons’ impressive win over Claremont. Able to play in numerous positions, it was forward and through the midfield that he was used against Subiaco. It was promising to see the 18-year-old get an opportunity to play midfield at League level and while he may lack the strength of more mature bodies, he didn’t lack the endeavour to compete, which would have pleased his coaches.

Q1:

O’Driscoll started the game forward and didn’t take long to get involved, winning the ball at half-back, having a nice run, and handballing to a teammate inboard. His next bit of play came less than a minute later, gathering nicely at half-forward and then balking an opponent to kick inside 50. Although the kick was scrappy, it was nice to seem him back himself to get around the opponent. He would show great attack on the ball for the rest of the quarter and despite not getting many opportunities across that period, O’Driscoll would later win the ball at a centre stoppage with a nice gather and quick clean handball. That kind of play later proved to be a key feature of his game.

Q2:

He was far more involved in the second quarter, starting with another run through the middle and finishing with a nice long kick inside 50. A few minutes later, he would attack the loose ball with a great pick-up at the forward 50 arc, but lost his footing on the move. His ground balls were again a feature later in the term, as he made a great gather at half-back in a stoppage situation and fired out a quick little handball to a teammate. Soon after, O’Driscoll nailed a great tackle in defensive 50, saving a scoring opportunity and winning the free kick. He received a 50-metre penalty and then quickly kicked long inside 50. A few minutes later, he won another holding the ball free kick with a nice chase and tackle at half-forward, but saw his team take on the advantage rule. Very late in the quarter, he would keep the ball in play with a kick off the ground very close to the boundary to gain some more meterage.

Q3:

O’Driscoll continued his good form and efforts in the third quarter working, into the backline and forward line. I hadn’t touched on it before, but his work-rate around the ground was outstanding the whole day, running hard both ways. He showed great attack on the footy deep in the forward line, winning the ball with a second effort and flicking a little handball out to his teammate. The hard running I touched on was influential in the same passage of play which lead to his good mate Logan McDonald kicking a goal. As Perth moved the ball along the wing, O’Driscoll was right there, streaming forward to become an option and continuing to work down the ground. Eventually, he got to the fall of the ball 20-metres out from goal, sweeping on the ball and then quickly firing out a handball to McDonald. This bit of play really highlighted everything about his game that stood out with his work-rate and clean hands.

Later in the quarter, he would gather the ball on the wing from a stoppage, going for a little run and handpassing over the top to a teammate. The ball spilled but he quickly mopped up with a strong second effort. He had a few more possession late in the quarter with his trademark clean gathers at ground level and quick, clean handballs – with one showing good vision from a stoppage.

Q4:

O’Driscoll’s last quarter was also superb, again getting to start in the midfield were he had fully deserved to be at that point in the game. He started the quarter well with a strong tackle, leaping straight at the hips showing good technique. His tackling had been strong all day and has also been a staple of his game for years. His attack on the ball was again superb in the last quarter and his endeavour again great. He contributed some desperate efforts in defence during the middle parts of the quarter, winning the ball through sheer desperation. Perhaps his biggest highlight of the game came with a strong contested mark at the defensive 50 arc. With pressure coming from behind, O’Driscoll stuck the mark outstretched, a grab which many young players wouldn’t be able to hold.

His purple patch continued, attacking the ball hard at a stoppage. Despite fumbling once, he would still gather the ball and handpass it off. Soon after, he again swooped on the loose ball and fired a nice long handball to a teammate. The game was lost, but he still put in some great efforts, especially in the forward zone – working hard to cut off the ball and cause a spoil. He almost took a great mark inside 50 coming from the side, and it was great seeing him still trying to win the ball. One of the last contests of the day was a stoppage on the wing where he just hunted the ball in flight and nailed the opponent from the hit-out with a strong tackle. I cant wait to see what he can do with that endeavour when he puts on some muscle.

Closing thoughts…

It was an outstanding game from O’Driscoll, who was instrumental in ensuring the game wasn’t a complete blowout. His efforts over the four quarters and enthusiasm really lifted his side. O’Driscoll finished the game with an equal team-high 20 disposals and also laid six strong tackles in a well balanced midfield display. Named second-best on ground by the coaches, I cant see him coming out of this Perth side any time soon, and look forward to seeing him continue to build on this game, showcasing his attributes. The youngster has grown 5cm since last year and could still grow even more. He should become a genuine tall midfielder, which is in vogue throughout the AFL right now.

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020
>> 2020 Western Australia Under 18s Squad Prediction

Featured Image: (Retrieved from) @WAFLOfficial via Twitter

TSL Player focus: Jackson Callow (North Launceston)

NORTH Launceston’s Jackson Callow was a star for his side in the Tasmanian State League (TSL) competition on Wednesday night, but not in the way that many NAB League spectators who were unable to see the game might have expected. The key position forward is a contested marking beast – comfortably the best in the draft crop when it comes to his hands above his head – but what has been trialled in stints this season for the Bombers, became a full-time role for the 194cm, 96kg 18-year-old.

That role is a rebounding centre half-back that not only nullified his direct opponent – of which there were many on the night – but also provided some drive. Callow is not the most athletic of players as you might expect from a key forward, but what he showed under lights was his ability to read the ball in flight regardless of what end he was up. In the TSL season so far, Callow played predominantly forward in the first few games – including kicking three majors against the Blues in the team’s first encounter – whilst having stints further up the ground and even around the stoppage at times. In recent weeks, Callow has spent quarters here or there in defence, lining up at centre half-back and holding his own against some of the league’s top performers. On Wednesday night, that trial became a full-time job.

One of the knocks on Callow coming into the season compared to some key position players was the unknown versatility. As a key forward, he is too big and too strong, and he showed that against NAB League defenders last year on his way to 24 goals in 14 games – an average of 1.7 a match – often against multiple opponents. While it might be just the one full-time game – and several quarters here and there – Callow is proving that he has the versatility to play multiple roles at the elite level.

Here’s how we assessed his performance:

Q1:

Starting at centre half-back, Callow ironically won his first touch through a mark on the forward side of the wing and then managed to short kick and hit his target by foot. Back at half-back midway through the term, Callow spoiled the ball cleanly away from his opponent on the lead, but unfortunately it fell to a Launceston opponent who mopped up, kicked it forward and it led to a goal. In this case, there was no other logical option for Callow to take, and it was bad luck rather than poor decision making. He would push up on the wing and use quick hands to keep the ball moving whilst working hard defensively to provide a block for his teammate.

Q2:

Callow first featured with a free kick deep in defence, going up for a mark in a pack but was pushed out of it. He used the ball well by foot and then would again push up the ground and dispose of it by hand quickly. One aspect of Callow’s game was the fact that he played within his limitations, not going for massive runs, but doing enough to keep the ball moving quickly. His first of a number of highlights came in the 18th minute mark of the term where he charged out of deep defence to intercept a ball at full speed and open up the game on the counter attack. His pass which went long to the wing hitting a target caught Launceston at a disadvantage and led to a Tom Bennett mark inside 50 and set shot goal.

Q3:

There were plenty more of those highlights to come, with Callow’s contested marking ability unsurprisingly being a feature of his performance. He had a good effort early in the quarter but could not quite pull it down with so many players around him, but soon played the role of a smaller man by reading a tackled opponents handball off the deck, cutting it off and then kicking it long outside the defensive 50. He was too strong for his opponents in the air, taking a contested mark at half-back, and then had what was his best play of the game. Launceston had won the ball at half-back and with so many numbers camped in the Blues forward half, there was space galore down the field. Launceston launched off half-back to spot up a free player on the forward side of the centre, but then out of nowhere Callow had raced across, clunked the mark one-grab and then charged down the middle until he could steady and pump it back inside attacking 50.

Q4:

The fourth term also provided some highlights, but also some areas that the young key position player could work on. He was unluckily pinged for walking the ball out of bounds at half-back in the opening minute, but was fortunately not made to pay the price by the Blues. His marking spree continued through the final term with yet another intercept mark at half-back, reading the play perfectly and cutting off a forward’s marking avenue. He took a remarkable grab over a smaller opponent in a goalsquare pack, putting the arms up and clunking it one-grab with ease, and was able to hit a target in the back pocket. A couple of times he made mistakes by hand, such as at the 16-minute mark when being tackled he rushed a handball to no one in particular with Launceston having the outnumber and the Blues ran it down to kick a goal. His work at ground level as a whole was quite good though, opposed to Jared Dakin late in the term, he was able to keep the ball in front of him and not take possession until he had to, but again just coughed up the handball to an opponent facing him.

Summary:

If there was one aspect to take out of this game, it is the fact that Callow showed he can read the ball in flight at either end and comfortably play in the defensive 50. It is one thing to outmark your opponent in a one-on-one – no one would ever doubt Callow’s ability to do that – but another to make the choice to come off your opponent knowing he was not going to impact, and instead chop off a forward thrust. While he has set the bar high for himself with this performance, if Callow is able to continually provide that aerial presence and a bit of drive wherever he is on the ground, he may have found that point of difference as a swingman.

Picture: Solstice Digital & Photography

QAFL Seniors Player Focus: Rhys Nicholls (Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at a prospect who stood out recently in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Seniors. This week, we put Gold Coast SUNS Academy prospect Rhys Nicholls under the microscope, as he returned to senior action for the Labrador Tigers in their 50-point home loss to Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) on Saturday.

>> Scouting Notes: Academy Series – Round 1
>> Wrap: Academy Series – Round 2

PLAYER PAGE

Rhys Nicholls
Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies

DOB: September 30, 2002
Height: 187cm
Weight: 77kg

Position: Half-back/wing

PLAYER FOCUS

Q1:

Stationed on the wing he occupied for most of the game, Nicholls made a promising start to proceedings. While he began on the outside, the 17-year-old got involved at the contest as soon as each centre bounce went down, attacking every scrimmage on the move and reading the direction of play well. He had a couple of nice moments carving through traffic, as he used his clean hands and agility to weave out of trouble and dish out to runners.

While his first term was overall his best, Nicholls was found wanting in a couple of minor moments. The first was for pace against fellow SUNS Academy product Riley Buckland, who beat him to a loose ball and burned him off to pump the ball inside 50. The second instance came after a nice bit of composure to gather and dispose inside defensive 50, before receiving the ball back and delivering a daisy-cutter with his exit kick. Still, Nicholls was getting to good spots and having an impact on the game with his carry and class.

Q2:

Nicholls’ anticipation really came to the fore in the early stages of term two, as he continued to attack contests at speed. Running in from the wing once again, Nicholls bolted off the line and wasn’t afraid to throw his bodyweight around at the coalface. He became particularly adept at reading which direction the play was heading, and running to the right spots to either sweep up the ground ball, or receive on the move and generate some forward momentum.

The extra string to his bow came in the form of aerial impact, which he has been known for when patrolling the half-back line. Nicholls used his smarts to read where PBC would look to kick the ball next and hit the packs with courage to create spillages. He would follow up that work with ground ball gets as well, doubling his impact on the play.

Nicholls’ game seemed to go south in the latter stages of the second term though, as he went a little far with his physicality; driving his opponent into the ground for a free kick against, before seeming to rub in the contact to his downed adversary with a bit of forearm action, to put it nicely. After a short scuffle, he was sent to the bench for the remainder of the period.

Q3:

If he hadn’t already showed his lack of fear in competing against more mature bodies, Nicholls really did so after the main break. His work on the outer consisted of breaking to the open side when Labrador began to transition into attack, but it was Nicholls’ hardness at the contest which better summed up his third term. His strength and presence around the ball was obvious, laying solid bumps to force stoppages, and generally throwing his weight around. It did uncover a slight tendency though, as Nicholls would often seek to bump and hurt his opponent, rather than tackling.

His ability to track back and mop up ground balls in defence remained amid the chaos, with some good aerial efforts proving fruitless, but showing good determination and sound reading of the game. Nicholls may have been sucked in on a couple of occasions later in the term, as he twice caught 2018 Queensland Under 16 teammate, Liam O’Brien solidly and copped some attention from PBC opponents.

Q4:

After a promising start to the game, Nicholls’ final term was arguably his quietest. It may have hardly been his fault though, with a late move forward proving a touch untimely as PBC began to kick away up the other end. Still, Nicholls continued to roam the outer and proved strong over the ball when his number was called. He leapt for aerial balls until the end, but seemed a touch frustrated as he just missed out on a few marks to taller or better positioned opponents. Nicholls can be damaging with his combination of intercept marking and sharp kicking, but with the latter of those weapons put away for most of the match, his willingness at the contest and reading of the play were what stood out most.

>> MORE SUNS ACADEMY CONTENT

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020
>> 2020 Allies Under 18s Squad Prediction

Featured Image: RF Photography

SANFL Player Focus: Lachlan Jones (WWT Eagles) vs. Jason Horne (South Adelaide)

THERE was hope that Jason Horne and Lachlan Jones would line up against each other as South Adelaide and Woodville-West Torrens (WWT) met in Round 8 of the SANFL League competition. Unfortunately, they did not, but either way we still got to see them both show why they are such highly rated prospects. Port Adelaide NGA star Jones is a potential top 15 pick this year, and Horne a likely top five prospect in the 2021 draft. Here is what we saw from the two on Saturday, starting with tough Eagles defender, Jones.

PLAYER FOCUS

Lachlan Jones | General Defender
WWT Eagles/South Australia
9/04/2002 | 185cm | 89kg

Coming off one of his best games at League level, Jones seems to be getting better and better with every game. He has been given plenty of different roles, with his hardest task against giant full forward Liam McBean, where he gave up nearly 20cm. Part of what makes Jones such a highly rated prospect is his ability to play on talls and smalls with his impressive leap and competitiveness. He was again given a tough task in this outing, often taking on the dangerous talls in South Adelaide’s forward-line.

Jones didn’t take long to get amongst the action with a strong punch in the goalsquare only seconds into the game, and a few minutes later he got his first possession with a nice long kick along the boundary at half-back. Jones played a more negating role, so this was his only disposal for the first quarter.

Jones was more involved in the second quarter, taking a strong mark at half-back around the seven-minute mark and quickly passing off to a teammate running past, although within a minute he would give away a free kick in the middle of the ground. He would have some better defensive efforts though, with a good spoil on his opponent at around the 20-minute mark.

A few minutes later he added to that – cutting off an inside 50, while helping to mop up and lock down at ground level shortly after. He would later be trusted to take a few kick-outs, which he should perhaps do more often. He only further proved he has a big leg with some long kicks to a pack of players at half-back.

It was not an ideal start to the second half for Jones, getting beaten on the lead early which led to a goal, and shortly after giving away a high free kick that led to another goal. Not one to let those efforts get him down, he worked extremely hard for the rest of the quarter – earning a free kick with a strong tackle, although his kick on his opposite foot afterwards wasn’t his best. It would be his only disposal for the quarter.

He had two very nice defensive efforts late in the term, flying for a spoil deep in defence which he would miss, but quickly get back to rush the ball over for a behind. Close to the siren, he would lay another strong tackle at the top of the goalsquare.

Jones left his best quarter until last, where his confidence looked at its best for the whole game. At the 12-minute mark he would show good composure deep in defence and kick long from defensive 50. A few minutes later, he again showed great composure after getting the ball to ground on the wing, using great bodywork to then win possession and kick nicely down the line. Not long after that, he would also have a nice gather and handball on the run, again showing his composure in what was a tough and tight last quarter with the pressure on.

Jones has shown that he really does belong at the level with his athleticism, skills, toughness, and defensive versatility all at a high level, which should all hold him in good stead for when he inevitably debuts in the AFL. He is playing a mostly defensive role, but in time it would be nice to see him play a prominent attacking role where he can use his power and kicking to really break the lines and become an attacking threat from the back half.

>> AFL Draft Watch
>> Round 3 Player Focus

Jason Horne | Midfielder/Forward
South Adelaide/South Australia
21/06/2003 | 182cm | 75kg

The bottom-age talent has been in ripping form in the Under 18s where he has shown so many elite traits; namely his explosiveness from stoppages, strong tackling, overhead marking, and scoreboard impact. They all combine to make him such a dangerous player and almost a complete package as a midfielder. Horne earned his League debut last week and was able to keep his spot again, even getting some time in the midfield despite being so young.

Horne didn’t get involved until almost eight minutes into he first quarter, where he would win the ball at half-forward, handpassing to a teammate in the quarterback position. While he put his teammate under pressure, he would gather the loose ball again very cleanly and go for a small dash, ending with a kick inside 50 to a one-on-one contest.

He had a good couple of minutes at the stoppages not long after, competing hard and staying strong over the ball despite not being able to take clean possession. He would finally win his first clearance shortly after on the wing with a scrappy left-foot kick under pressure. A few minutes later, he won his second clearance on the opposite wing, and at that stage was leading the game for clearances – showing the impact he can have in such a small amount of time.

It wasn’t until late in the quarter that he would win another possession, gathering the ball well with clean hands and then following up with a well weighted kick in the middle of the ground. He would then run the whole length of the ground to almost snag a goal himself near the goalline, putting pressure on the opponent who rushed the ball over for a behind.

Horne had a couple of chances in the second quarter to kick his first League goal, with his first chance coming as he ran past Eamon Wilkinson going into open goal, who ignored him. What made it worse was that the shot on goal was missed anyway, especially at a time which would have helped swing the game in South Adelaide’s favour.

Horne would get his second chance with a much tougher kick after winning a free kick. He would have to have a shot on goal from 50-metres out, which he narrowly missed despite making the distance quite easily, mind you. Horne would not find another possession until later in the quarter, with a mark and short pass in defensive 50.

What became a theme for Horne in the second half was the amount of times he was tackled as soon as he got possession, learning that getting a touch at League level is a lot harder than it is in the Under 18s. The senior boys are bigger and hungrier, especially in a clash where the two teams were looking to win a close contest.

His attack on the ball was still fantastic for a younger player, especially his second efforts to go again and again. He had a mixed bit of play at the 17-minute mark, roving and gathering nicely from a marking contest, but his handball was poor to a teammate inside 50. He would have a better piece of play late in the quarter with another nice, clean gather at ground level, before going on to show a good turn of pace to evade his opponents and kick nicely inside 50 on his non-preferred left foot.

His tough attack on the footy was again a feature in the last quarter, and he would have another good gather at the six-minute mark. Horne almost weaved his way through but just got caught, yet was still able to stand up strongly in the tackle and get a handball out at least. He again got tackled every time he won possession for the rest of the game, so he wouldn’t win another disposal, but he did have a nice bit of play at the 19-minute mark with a smother and strong follow-up tackle.

Horne looks to be building and may not yet have the full confidence oof his teammates, but with more opportunities at League level that confidence in himself and from his teammates will grow. Hopefully then Horne will start to really blossom and show why he is such a highly rated midfielder for the 2021 draft. He might not have cemented his spot, but he will learn so much from his time playing League football and it should hold him in great stead going forward.

>> Get to know: Jason Horne

Academy Series Player Focus: Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans Academy)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at a prospect who stood out in the recently commenced Academy Series. A Sydney Derby kicked off the carnival, as the GWS GIANTS and Sydney Swans academies locked horns over the weekend. Leading Swans prospect Braeden Campbell is the player we put under the microscope, with his trying performance across a range of positions helping Sydney get up by 15 points in a low-scoring slog.

PLAYER PAGE

Braeden Campbell
Swans Academy/Allies

DOB: February 4, 2002
Height: 181cm
Weight: 72kg

Position: Balanced Midfielder/Forward

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>> Marquee Matchup

PLAYER FOCUS

After a scintillating performance in last year’s Under 17 Futures All Star showcase, Campbell is well known to all keen AFL Draft watchers. The Swans Academy jet is lightning quick, boasts a damaging left-foot kick, and provides great balance through midfield while also doubling as a flanker up either end. He can do it all, and Saturday’s game against the GIANTS was a true test of his skillset.

The soggy conditions were hardly conducive to Campbell’s typical run-and-carry, and forced many similar types to revert to different methods of driving the ball forward. Luckily for Campbell and the Swans, he can win his own ball, and his kicking is among the best in the 2020 draft pool. These factors allowed him to have a consistent impact on the attack.

Starting at the centre bounces, Campbell looked lively early, adjusting well to the step-up from representing Pennant Hills in the AFL Sydney Premier Division. He booted a couple of clearances into Sydney’s attacking 50, and looked dangerous on the break as he gained separation from his direct opponents. While the long bombs didn’t quite come off, Campbell would soon enough find a target with his lovely lateral ball to find an unmanned Pierce Roseby inside forward 50.

After a bright start through the middle, the 181cm prospect began to rotate through the lines and primarily off a wing. A rare turnover via foot came in the second quarter, perhaps for a lack of options forward of centre, and it seemed Campbell was receiving a good bit of opposition attention. A more reserved term and some biff on the half time siren would attest to that.

He returned to his usual self after the main break, and showed he doesn’t need to win a mountain of possessions to have an impact. His five-step burst of speed came in handy when wheeling away from the back of congestion, allowing enough room for Campbell to prop and deliver the ball via foot – both laterally and directly forward. Campbell’s lone goal of the game came in the third term, as his direct opponent failed to follow him to the fall of the ball inside 50, allowing for a relatively straightforward finish on the move. He’s deadly accurate within 50 metres.

Moving on into the final period, and Campbell would return to the centre bounces after some time across half-back and on the outer. He seemed a touch frustrated as he lost out in a couple of hard-fought one-on-ones in general play, but was still finding his way to the ball. His desire for the contest remained, hunting the ball amid heavy congestion and proving clean below his knees on the move.

He missed the chance to cap off his day with another major, spurning a hand-off from just outside the 50-metre arc with the result beyond any doubt. Overall, it was a well-rounded display from Campbell in conditions unsuited to good football. While his outside traits (speed, kick penetration) often catch the eye, this time it was his inside game, and the ability to adapt to that style which helped win the day for Sydney. It was by no means his best performance, but Campbell always seems a class above when on the ball and produced some clean plays amid the messy contest.

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020

>> 2020 Allies Under 18s Squad Prediction
>> Positional Analysis: Key Defenders

WAFL Player Focus: Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts)

IN continuing our extended weekly Player Focus series, we take a look at a West Australian Football League (WAFL) talent who has really stood out on the League stage. In Round 3 of the competition, our eyes were on Swan Districts key defender Denver Grainger-Barras, who was one of his side’s best players in a tough 39-point loss to reigning premier, Subiaco.

PLAYER PAGE

Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia

DOB: April 17, 2002
Height: 195cm
Weight: 78kg

Position: Key Position Defender

WAFL LEAGUE STATISTICS
Round 3 vs. Subiaco

8 kicks
2 handballs
10 disposals
4 marks
4 tackles
1 inside 50

PLAYER FOCUS:

With fellow draft hopeful Logan McDonald having the bye this week, it was time for Grainger-Barras to put his name in lights. He certainly did that, being named best on ground in Swan Districts’ loss to powerhouse club, Subiaco. It was an impressive aerial display, showing why he is so highly credentialed already.

On top of his League debut coming last year, Grainger-Barras was also awarded the AFL Life Members Scholarship which has been won by some of the greats of the game including Luke Hodge, Joel Selwood, and last years Rising Star winner Sam Walsh. It’s an award that’s been given to eight number one picks and numerous top 10 picks on top of that, including highly rated Docker Hayden Young. With Fremantle holding a top five pick currently, he might be right in the mix there.

Grainger-Barras started each quarter on the bench but whenever he came on he made an impact, and his first few touches of the game weren’t wasteful. He first received a switch kick and next darted a nice low pass down the line, later receiving a handball and quickly switching the kick long to show good, quick thinking.

His next few highlights though may have been his best of the day; with the first deep in the goalsquare where he attacked the loose ball at speed. showing incredible confidence, speed, and agility to also get separation from the opposition and then kick long out of the defensive 50. The next highlight just showed off his pure talent and leap, where he came over the top of two players to take a screamer. Arms outstretched, the footy stuck in is hands, but he would also quickly play on as if the mark was all in a day’s work.

There weren’t as many pure highlights in the second quarter but Grainger-Barras showed despite his light frame, that he could compete well at ground level with plenty of efforts and tackles deep in defence. He did some nice work up the ground as well, winning a free kick in the middle of the ground and naturally playing on as quickly as possible to kick long inside 50, albeit with a fraction too much on the kick for his leading teammate.

One of the better bits of play came when the ball hit ground level on the wing, where he attacked the line of the ball while also kicking over an oncoming opponent and still keeping his feet to gather the loose ball cleanly. He then gave off the quick little handball and in the same motion, laid a nice bump to protect the ball carrier. It was perhaps the best showcase of what coaches will love about him at AFL level as despite his light frame, he was able to compete with senior bodies while making it look effortless and just doing everything you could ask for – from his ability to keep possession and also block for his teammate, to embracing body contact which many young players try to avoid.

The third quarter was where Grainger-Barras really got to show off his elite intercepting ability and it was highlighted in two bits of play very close to each other. He was able to intercept a handball with a one-handed pluck easy as you like, and then banged the ball long out of defence. The kick came back in just as quickly but again, easy as you like, Grainger-Barras was able to take a nice intercept mark in the exact same spot where he intercepted the handball.

His smarts to intercept both times was certainly eye-catching, but instead of again getting sucked into kicking down the line again – which obviously didn’t work the first time – he made a point to think firstly on hitting that switch kick. It showed his smarts and ability to adapt to a situation and learn.

As the game wore on it would seem he had developed a knack of being in the right spot at the right time to foil Subiaco’s attempts at goal, and he would again get in the way with a fantastic intercept mark sitting in front of the only one-on-one contest inside 50. With eyes only on the ball, he was able to take the outstretched mark in the hole. As he had done all day long, Grainger-Barras quickly played on with a kick inboard, understanding the stakes of the game. It would lead to Swan Districts moving the ball end-to-end for a goal.

Unfortunately, he gave away a free kick just on the three quarter time siren which luckily only resulted in a behind, but there was a bit of a scuffle with himself and the opposition and he certainly wasn’t afraid to get involved and get lippy with his older and stronger opponents. Already he has shown he isn’t afraid of a bit of physicality despite his size, and with his ability to intercept at crucial stages, it only adds to his ability to get under the skin of the opposition.

His last quarter was his quietest as he failed to register a disposal. He had a bad moment at around the 16-minute mark where he gave away a push in the back free kick which lead to a goal, which was perhaps his only blemish in the game.

However, he wouldn’t let that get him down as later in the quarter he would spoil a marking contest, showing his impressive leap. Once the ball hit the ground he was quick to compete with multiple tackles and efforts and after that bit of play, it wasn’t hard to see why the coaches named him best on ground as he drove defensive standards all game which is impressive from such a young player.

A lot of attention out of Western Australia has gone to fellow young gun, McDonald but Grainger-Barras reminded everyone that he is very much a top five caliber talent, showing all of the traits that make him such a sought after prospect. The elite intercepting, competitiveness, clean hands and skills, athleticism, and especially the footy smarts were all on show. A game like this can only help him grow in confidence and although his disposal numbers are low, his impact is just so high and we may be looking at a future All-Australian centre half-back in the AFL.

Pic: AFL Media

WAFL Player Focus: Logan McDonald (Perth)

IN a first amid our return to the Player Focus series, we take a look at a West Australian Football League (WAFL) talent who has really stood out on the League stage. In Round 2 of the competition, our eyes were on Perth key forward Logan McDonald, who kicked four goals in the Demons’ 21-point win over East Perth on Saturday.

PLAYER PAGE:

Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia

DOB: April 4, 2002
Height: 196cm
Weight: 85kg

Position: Key Position Forward

WAFL LEAGUE ROUND 2 STATISTICS:

9 kicks
6 handballs
15 disposals
7 marks
2 inside 50s
4 goals

PLAYER FOCUS:

McDonald has been the talk out of the town, with the young key forward making his impressive debut last week. Having kicked three goals on that occasion, he backed it up again with an even better performance as he makes a seamless transition to WAFL League level. Not many expect young key forwards to make an impact against senior bodies, especially a player of McDonald’s build, but he certainly looked good enough in the contest to suggest he could really be a force up forward once his body matures in the years to come.

The Perth prospect impressed in the pre-season, even giving fellow high-end prospect Denver Grainger-Barras a run for his money in a scratch match against Swan Districts, slotting two goals. He then kicked three goals last week in his proper League debut, and this week he would kick the opening goal of the game in impressive fashion; holding out his opponent and taking a nice contested chest mark deep in the pocket, where he would then calmly slot a left foot snap. He also showed his impressive mobility at ground level soon after, showing great composure with the ball tight on the boundary, summing up his options well before handballing nicely to a teammate out the back.

It was overall a quiet first quarter despite the hot start, but McDonald started to get more involved in the second quarter and that started with a nice gather and sweeping handball. He then worked back inside 50 and was about to receive, but spent the ball before he earned it which ruined a certain scoring opportunity. Nonetheless, the whole bit of play showed good game sense and he would later make up for that mistake by leading at the ball in the pocket and showing his impressive leap to take a strong pack mark with sticky hands. He however unselfishly kicked inboard to a teammate who would miss the set shot, when he probably should have kicked it himself especially as he wouldn’t kick a behind all game.

His third quarter was also good and his first contest of the period foreshadowed how he would attempt a later mark with success, using his body on the wing to protect the drop of the ball. Although the first attempt was spoiled, it wouldn’t be spoiled the next time as McDonald used good bodywork to protect the space inside 50, before taking an impressive mark and then coolly slotting the set shot for his second goal of the game.

He would finish the quarter in impressive fashion, showing what he can do at ground level with a lovely, clean pickup at ground level to crumb a marking contest and then punt a quick kick on his left to gain meterage. He then followed up the kick to get front and square where he gathered nicely and handballed out wide to set up a scoring opportunity. It was a very slick bit of play that showed he is just as clean at ground level as he is overhead, adding to his overall package as a key forward.

It was the last quarter where McDonald really lifted and got his team over the line as East Perth started to make a surge. He couldn’t have started the quarter any better, clunking a strong contested mark where he used good bodywork to keep front position and take a lovely one-handed mark overhead. He would then snap the goal deep in pocket on his right foot this time for his third major. It was an incredible mark to take at League level, especially for a young key forward.

In the middle parts of the quarter, McDonald started to get up the ground on the wing, competing on the lead and working hard to contest the ball when it hit ground level. In one such situation, he would gather nicely and handball to a teammate, then run out to receive and brace for contact as he knew contact was coming. It was a very smart bit of play that you would expect a seasoned veteran to pull off.

A few minutes later he did well to break even at ground level after a marking contest on the wing. He attempted to hold the ball in to force a stoppage, and while the ball did spill out, he didn’t stop there as he went to gather the loose ball. From there, he showed clean hands at ground level to release a player in the corridor, which lead to a goal and perhaps the sealer which all came from his hard work and dedication to the contest at ground level.

If that goal was not the sealer, he made sure of the result by taking a great contested mark on the 50-metre arc and straight away put his hand up to let everyone know he was slowing the play down to take the set shot, which showed incredible game sense, confidence, and smarts – especially from a younger player. He didn’t even need to kick the goal for it to be an impressive bit of play but as easy as you like, he would then kick the set shot from 55-metres for his fourth goal which was also a game-high tally. It was a stellar way to end his game where his endurance and smarts really came to the fore in a last quarter tussle with plenty of heat in it.

That’s two games in a row now that McDonald has kicked a bag and also shown an ability to get up the ground, averaging 15 disposals in a shortened game to boot. He leads the WAFL for goals already and is quickly making a name for himself as a top-end prospect for the 2020 draft, with his ability to hit the scoreboard, take contested marks, and follow up at ground level. Perth have the bye this coming week but expect the opposition to start putting more time into this kid when they resume, as he has shown to be a damaging prospect, not just hitting the scoreboard but also setting up goals with his ground level play.

Picture: Perth Football Club

SANFL Player Focus: Lachlan Jones (WWT Eagles)

IN a return to our Player Focus piece, we take a look at a South Australian National Football League (SANFL) talent who has really stood out on the League stage. In Round 3 of the competition, our eyes were on Woodville-West Torrens (WWT) defender Lachlan Jones, who took part in the Eagles’ big win over Norwood.

PLAYER PAGE:

Lachlan Jones
WWT Eagles/South Australia

DOB: April 9, 2002
Height: 185cm
Weight: 89kg

Position: General Defender

SANFL LEAGUE ROUND 3 STATISTICS:

16 disposals
9 kicks
7 handballs
6 marks
1 tackle
2 inside 50s
2 rebound 50s

PLAYER FOCUS:

It has been no surprise to see Jones fit in so seamlessly at SANFL League level, and he enjoyed arguably his best outing to date this past weekend against Norwood. While you wouldn’t blame the defender for not getting too much involved as the Eagles kept their opponents to just four goals in the 65-point thumping, Jones still managed to stamp his mark on the contest with some strong passages of play.

The Port Adelaide Next Generation Academy prospect initially lined up down back directly opposed to fellow State Under 18 squad member, Henry Nelligan, who was making his League debut. It took a couple of goes at the ball for Jones to find his feet, fumbling at ground level early, but finding his touch with a couple of contributions forward of centre.

Shortly after booting a long ball into the forward pocket, Jones would be seen aggressively hitting up at a ground ball just inside the arc, picking it up cleanly on the half-volley at pace and bustling his way through traffic. His disposal by hand lacked on two attempts, but the intent was there. Jones’ remaining touches for the opening term came in more conventional defensive positions; punting a long rebound 50 to find a teammate, and later showing that trademark power through the contest in covering his lines across defensive 50.

Jones’ ability to attack from defensive positions began to form an asset for the Eagles as they went on to dominate proceedings, with the youngster positioning well at half-back to intercept – almost presenting like a Norwood forward should have been to cut off attacking forays with confidence. He also doubled as a defensive outlet as the play slowed, finding space to possess the ball uncontested in a chip-around game across the back 50. His short kicks across goal may have been either a touch short or overcooked at times, but it didn’t cost his side.

It was a case of more of the same for Jones after the main break, as he continued to fight fire with fire from his usual half-back post. His speed off the mark to incite a fast break was pleasing on the eye, getting the Eagles moving forward with positive running from a throw-in on defensive wing. Jones was not afraid to throw his 89kg frame around either, but it almost cost his side a goal as he remonstrated with a Redlegs opponent who had put Rhyan Mansell down after his kick, seeing the downfield penalty overturned.

That would not deter Jones by any stretch, as he continued to hit up at the ball hard. He did overrun one ground ball, but managed to lock the ball up to prevent a turnover in the back half. Another well read intercept mark on forward wing, followed by a deep inside 50 entry would be two of Jones’ final highlights on the ball, with his lone tackle for the day a crunching one inside defensive 50 to cap off his impressive performance.

Jones’ versatility in defence and ability to stand up against mature bodies at senior level have both been outstanding to this point, placing him firmly in first round contention at this early stage. He is an impressive athlete, and utilises his vertical leap, speed, and strength on-field to make for an impressive, readymade package. Having become a staple of the WWT League side, Jones will undoubtedly be a star for SA come national carnival time.