Tag: Player focus

Compare the Pair: Finn Callaghan / Josh Sinn (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

THE Sandringham Dragons have produced a great number of high-end prospects over the years, whether it be those who are touted from a long way out, or players who bolt into contention with undeniable form in their draft seasons. 2021 is no different, with line-breaking movers Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan fitting perfectly into said categories. The pair showed high-level ability across the first three NAB League rounds, and share plenty of similar traits which have put them in good stead to this point.

Sinn is a co-captain of the Dragons side and has been pegged as a top five draft candidate since captaining Vic Metro’s title-winning Under 16 side in 2019. His speed off half-back and the wing is undeniable, often complemented by penetrative kicks which send his side forward in quick time. The 18-year-old graduated from Xavier College last year and was expected to turn out for Sandringham Zebras in the VFL over the current break, but is recovering from a hamstring strain sustained while training with the AFL Academy. He will be available for Sandringham Dragons once the NAB League resumes.

Callaghan is a prospect who has risen steeply in 2021, catching the eye during preseason and building nicely into his NAB League campaign. He is another line-breaker with good size who shows a tricky turn of speed with ball-in-hand, making him a difficult player to stop at full flight. He is currently completing his studies at St Bede’s College, but will also be available essentially full-time for the Dragons. As a late call up for the AFL Academy, he fittingly proved a capable replacement for Sinn with his work on the outer.

We compare the pair by taking a look at their form to this point, physical profiles, which positions suit them best, what style of play they provide, and their potential areas of improvement.

Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

DOB: January 7, 2003
Height/Weight: 186cm/82kg
Position: Half-Back/Midfielder

2021 averages*:

20.0 disposals | 14.3 kicks | 5.7 handballs | 4 marks | 2.3 tackles | 5.0 inside 50s | 3.7 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (1)

* – from three NAB League games.

Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

DOB: April 26, 2003
Height/Weight: 189cm/82kg
Position: Half-Back/Wing

2021 averages*:

18.6 disposals | 9.3 kicks | 9.3 handballs | 4.3 marks | 1.6 tackles | 3.3 inside 50s | 1.3 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (1)

* – from three NAB League games.

2021 FORM

Josh Sinn
2021 NAB League

Round 1 vs. Oakleigh Chargers | 20 disposals (12 kicks, 8 handballs), 4 marks, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s, 1 goal

Round 2 vs. Northern Knights | 20 disposals (15 kicks, 5 handballs), 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 6 rebound 50s

Round 3 vs. Dandenong Stingrays | 20 disposals (16 kicks, 4 handballs), 5 marks, 5 tackles, 10 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50

Finn Callaghan
2021 NAB League

Round 1 vs. Oakleigh Chargers | 19 disposals (8 kicks, 11 handballs), 3 marks, 3 tackles, 2 inside 50s

Round 2 vs. Northern Knights | 13 disposals (7 kicks, 6 handballs), 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50

Round 3 vs. Dandenong Stingrays | 24 disposals (13 kicks, 11 handballs), 7 marks, 5 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 1 goal

Both players have met at a similar point in terms of form after three NAB League rounds, having come into the season with vastly different expectations. Sinn, pegged as a potential top five candidate and one of his side’s co-captains, warmed to the blockbuster Round 1 clash with Oakleigh well, becoming prominent at crucial stages to help lift his side over the line. The Dragons coaching staff pulled the trigger on his midfield move early, sending him into the guts late in that game to good effect.

Sinn carried that form into his second outing, against Northern, again rotating between the middle and half-back in soggy conditions at Preston City Oval. His game against Dandenong in Round 3 shed light on how Sinn would fare as a permanent midfielder, but his line-breaking ability again came to the fore. The 18-year-old notched his third game of 20 disposals, providing good drive and improving in his disposal as the game wore on. While his best is arguably yet to come, Sinn and Sandringham can be pleased with the form shown across the first three rounds.

Callaghan came into the 2021 season with a touch less fanfare, but had displayed plenty of promise during the Dragons’ preseason intraclub scraps. He proved that rise in attention was warranted in his Round 1 debut, showcasing good speed on the outer and his potential to generate some serious forward momentum. After a steady start in a highly pressurised contest, Callaghan was kept a little quieter amid the tough conditions in Round 2 against Northern, but put forward his best game to date in Round 3.

Stationed on his usual wing, the rising prospect was able to penetrate both arcs and looked to have gained a good deal of confidence from those first two appearances. Encouraged to be more damaging in his disposal, Callaghan was better able to match his impact with ball-in-hand to his use by foot. While his previous form and desirable athletic profile went a long way to justifying his AFL Academy selection, this game was equally important in solidifying that honour. In the Academy showcase against Geelong VFL, Callaghan warmed to the contest in time operating on the wing and then off half-back.

PHYSICAL / ATHLETIC PROFILES

This exercise is clearly one more of comparing, rather than contrasting, as both players are quite similar in a range of qualities they offer. Looking at their physical make-ups, they meet similar ranges in that 185-190cm height bracket and with some good size. Callaghan’s latest listing of 82kg is indicative of his size on the eye, while it has been reported that Sinn put on 13kg over last year’s break, bringing his latest measurement up to 82kg as well.

They size-up virtually identically, and both boast the same kind of athletic superpowers. As line-breaking types, both possess electric speed but tend to use their athleticism in different ways. Sinn, who has a handy sprinting pedigree, is lightning quick in straight lines and can snatch serious meterage in a flash when released into space. With his size, Callaghan is also difficult to stop with a full head of steam and while he backs his speed to burn opponents akin to Sinn, is often seen side-stepping his way out of trouble with great agility and poise.

Both players have that explosive quality which allows for really productive outside run and eye-catching flashes of brilliance. Any passage which sees these two get ball-in-hand often results in a breach of either arc, or good territorial gain at the least. Having built their bodies since entering as tall and rangy types most suited to the outside, they both have the size now to win their own ball confidently and are able to operate on the inside as well.

POSITION / STYLES OF PLAY

At their cores, Sinn and Callaghan have both come to prominence through roles off half-back and the wing. Sinn’s starting position has often been in defence and that was the case before his midfield move this season, while Callaghan has spent most of his time on the wing for Sandringham with the potential to roll back – as he did in the AFL Academy showcase.

Sinn’s developing point of difference is his midfield craft, which has proven to already be at a decent level with good room to grow given his burst and physical make-up. He also rests forward while playing midfield and has a nice balance of inside and outside traits. Callaghan has also been exposed to midfield minutes through his time with St Bede’s College in the ACC school football competition.

Both players have also been served well defensively by the time they spend across-half back. Sinn has been shown to have his head on a swivel when setting up in the back half, showing good leadership to bark instructions to others and get touch at the stoppages. During his time on the wing, Callaghan tracks back well and is often seen mopping up in the defensive 50 arc. Both are also capable of impacting aerially, with Sinn positioning aggressively to intercept while Callaghan has the size and athleticism to compete.

In terms of their styles, they provide a bunch of the same traits; they run-and-carry with speed and can shift angles, with the ability to win their own ball, while possessing terrific left-foot kicks. The consensus is that Sinn can be more damaging with his disposal, while Callaghan is perhaps more impactful with his run. This is evident in their kick-to-handball ratios, with Sinn more willing to back his disposal by foot and take on seemingly low-percentage options which can break the play open.

While Callaghan sits at a perfect 1:1 ratio with his kicks and handballs, averaging 9.3 apiece per game, Sinn is up around 2.5 kicks to every handball per his three NAB League outings this year. Sinn’s kicking consistency has arguably been below his usually high standards in 2021, but that wavering efficiency is indicative of his license to take on riskier kicks. Callaghan is often a good decision maker by foot but bites off a touch less, while his use by hand is also quite efficient.

DISPOSAL / DECISION MAKING

As mentioned above, Sinn tends to back his kicking ability and looks to further break open the play on the end of his runs, which can lead to varying efficiency at times. His Round 3 game against Dandenong serves a perfect example of this. In the first half, Sinn would stream away from congestion or be released beautifully, but lacked the finished product. Undeterred, he continued to show confidence in his ability and managed to execute some fantastic passes to his forwards. He ended with 10 inside 50s, with some of them scuppered, but others perfectly hitting targets and resulting in scoring opportunities.

He is said to be the best and most technically sound kick at Sandringham, and has watched plenty of tape on another penetrating left-footer in Hayden Young. At his best, Sinn can certainly reach those levels and his decision making is solid, but it is just a matter of levelling out his consistency. To ensure he is having the maximum effect, Sinn is being encouraged to lower his eyes a touch more when booting forward on the fly. Speaking of decision making, Sinn’s ability to time runs and make repeat efforts in that sense suits the half-back role really well, showing high-level smarts and game awareness.

Callaghan is one who also uses the ball well by foot and can gain similar penetration to Sinn, showing great improvement in that area. He is being encouraged to be a touch more damaging in this sense though, to bite off a bit more and take the risks that others might. On the flip-side, his poise in tight spots is great as he is more inclined to dish off by hand rather than bombing forward under pressure. In tight spots, he uses his turn of speed to get into space before executing a disposal. While he sometimes distributes to teammates under immediate pressure, the ability to show spacial awareness and find different avenues out of traffic are handy traits to have.

Image Credit: AFL Photos

2021 VFL Player Focus: Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges/Box Hill Hawks)

TOP five AFL Draft prospect Tyler Sonsie became one of the few 18-year-old NAB Leaguers to break through for a Victorian Football League (VFL) berth on Saturday, debuting for the Box Hill Hawks in their 37-point loss to Werribee. The Eastern Ranges talent is a silky midfielder with clean skills and an eye for goal, traits which have put him in good stead during his three NAB League outings so far in 2021. He also turned out for the AFL Academy last month and while he was quieter than usual, was afforded full-time midfield minutes.

Sonsie has long been on the draft radar, bursting onto the scene in 2019 to take out Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP award, before becoming a member of Eastern’s minor premiership winning side which contested the NAB League grand final. With the elite Victorian Under 19 competition in the midst of a month-long hiatus, Sonsie and Box Hill took the opportunity to test his worth at senior level. It is fair to say he took it with aplomb.

Sonsie is the prospect under our VFL Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 4 showing.

>> HEAD-TO-HEAD: Tyler Sonsie vs. Nick Daicos

Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro/Box Hill Hawks

DOB: January 27, 2003
Height/Weight: 181cm/76kg
Position: Midfielder

2021 averages*: 25.3 disposals | 15.6 kicks | 9.6 handballs | 3.0 marks | 1.3 tackles | 4.3 inside 50s | 1.6 rebound 50s | 1.3 goals (4)

* – from three NAB League games.

2021 VFL, Round 4

Box Hill Hawks 8.5 (53) def. by Werribee 13.12 (90)

Stats: 24 disposals | 15 kicks | 9 handballs | 1 mark | 5 tackles | 5 inside 50s | 4 rebound 50s | 2 goals

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

Easing into his first taste of state league football, Sonsie rotated into the game and was first sighted at just over five minutes into the first term. His opening act was a lock-up tackle to hold the ball in a force a stoppage, having followed the play well from off the bench. Off that ball up, the 18-year-old received on the periphery of the contest and booted a clearance forward which fell to space and was turned over. Sonsie looked up for the contest in these early stages, winning a holding the ball free kick for good blanket pressure near the boundary line, and kicking long down the line.

Before long, we got to see how Sonsie would fare at stoppage situations. Stationed on the attacking side of a forward wing throw-in, he reacted first as the rucks both fresh-aired their hits to swoop on the ground ball and flick out to a teammate, who then kicked long inside 50. Sonsie tended to sag off at stoppages and was rarely manned with touch, allowing him to follow the flow of play and look to be an attacking threat in those situations. It meant he afforded time and space to opponents who gained first or second possession, but seemed to have been given that license to roam free and play his own game first.

While he was pushed off the ball at times and rushed a little under pressure, Sonsie showed some of his trademark silk when baulking an opponent at half-back, before his left-foot kick to the wing was unlucky to be picked off. Having rotated forward, he had the last say in term one having presented inside 50 for a nice mark on the lead, as Box Hill broke quickly. With a cool head, the debutant went back and slotted his first senior goal with a post-siren set shot from about 45 metres. He finished the term with four kicks and one handball, including that major score, his lone mark for the game, and a stoppage clearance. His repeat early pressure acts were also solid.

Q2:

Starting at the opening centre bounce, it was evident the Box Hill coaching staff and midfield group rated Sonsie’s talents highly, as he was the go-to option on multiple occasions. For the most part, he set up in an anchor position behind the ruck and was not always manned. Even when an opponent shifted to his side of the stoppage, they would seldom engage in a wrestle as either player tended to allow each other to make their own ball-winning movements.

Sonsie made a few uncharacteristic skill errors in this term, perhaps feeling the pinch of Werribee’s superiority at that stage. If not the direct tap option, Sonsie again lurked on the outer and looked to receive from congestion, where he would normally send a damaging disposal forward. It meant that while he was not always defensively accountable, he remained active and looked to have a positive say at each contest.

While he moved to good positions and again showed nice composure to shift through traffic on one instance, Sonsie just lacked the finishing touch to find a teammate up ahead. To be fair, he had a severe lack of options at times, so those quick kicks forward were snapped up easily by the well-structured Werribee defenders. The tendency to react to heat with rushed disposals proved the main source of his inefficiency, which is not usually how he plays at Under 18s level. There, he uses his turn of speed and class to exit traffic with poise. In a sign of his smarts, Sonsie looked to correct that by coming away by hand and was much better in this sense after half time.

In a term where he essentially played permanently through midfield, Sonsie registered four kicks and two handballs, with a couple of those disposals counting as clearances and inside 50s. It brought his tally up to 11 disposals at the main break, split with eight kicks to three handballs. Having dipped his feet in senior football, it was time for Sonsie to dive in.

Q3:

Akin to the first term, Sonsie started the third from the pine but came on after about five minutes and resumed his follower role. In what was arguably his best period of play for the game, the youngster attended plenty of centre bounces and began to really look lively as Box Hill broke back into the contest. His first possession saw him play for a high free kick on the move at half-forward, but he was forced to pop a left-foot kick to the hot spot when the umpire saw through his trick.

Sonsie began to get the ball in those dangerous areas though, able to send it inside 50 and get some run going in the process. The final 10 minutes of the term is when he came to life, starting with his highlight of the day. Sonsie latched onto a handball as he streamed through the corridor, before steadying nicely and effortlessly booting a goal from 50 metres to give Box Hill a big lift. At that point, the Hawks had kicked three-straight majors and were drawing to within striking distance. Scoreboard impact; tick.

Still relatively free at the stoppages, Sonsie showcased his high footy IQ by continuing to read the flow of play nicely – both in an attacking and defensive sense. At one stoppage, he would time his run perfectly to receive or latch onto a tap, before coming off his line hard to tackle at the next contest. His clean hands were also evident, making one-grab plays and on one occasion, hitting a ball at pace on defensive wing to gather off the deck and flick out a quick handball all in one motion.

Sonsie ended another quarter of midfield play with consistent figures once more; four kicks and two handballs. His goal served as a potentially key moment in the match and will certainly end up in his highlight reel, but there were a few more isolated efforts which stuck in the memory and highlighted the 18-year-old’s elite-level potential.

Q4:

Following on from the confidence gained in term three, Sonsie produced another terrific quarter of play and looked much more settled. He remained quite casual in his work on the spread, but got to good positions again and showed the right intensity when called upon. His usual composure at stoppages began to unveil, with his cleanliness a real feature as he chained together some nice passages by hand and allowed teammates to clear in space with releasing passes.

Speaking of confidence, Sonsie even showed a bit of cheek after dragging an opponent over the boundary line with a great tackle, earning a free kick for his trouble. On the other hand, he could not quite stick a tackle inside defensive 50 and was made to pay as Werribee slotted a goal, which was essentially the dagger in Box Hill’s hopes of a comeback. His efforts were still an improvement on previous work, with his offensive work in possession becoming a highlight and making up for any misses going the other way.

He capped off his day with another three kicks and four handballs, making for his most prolific quarter stats-wise. His production throughout the game was consistent though, staying around the same mark throughout and becoming more influential with his disposals as time wore on. Overall, a top effort in his first game.

Final thoughts…

It was great to see one of this year’s true top five talents be afforded the license to play his own game and showcase his strengths, even as he climbs the grades with points on the line. While his work in defensive transition remains an area of improvement, Sonsie was still able to show why he is one of the more damaging midfielders available with his class on the ball and knack for kicking goals. He took some time to find his feet and adjust to the speed of the game, but brought a hunger and came away with some terrific moments. His numbers were very good too, particularly in a losing side on debut, with this state league stint potentially being a long one if such form continues.

Image Credit: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos

SANFL League Player Focus: Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide/South Australia)

SOUTH Adelaide midfielder Matthew Roberts broke through for his maiden SANFL League outing on Saturday, joining fellow top 10 AFL Draft candidate Jason Horne in the Panthers’ seven-point win over Woodville-West Torrens (WWT). The hard-working youngster earned his call-up though sheer domination in the Under 18s, where he averaged 32 disposals, 6.3 clearances, and almost two goals a game across his three outings this season. Roberts also turned out for the AFL Academy last month, playing exclusively up forward in the side’s heavy loss to Geelong VFL.

The 18-year-old has long been one of South Australia’s most promising prospects, having represented his state twice at Under 16s level and dominated the SANFL Under 18s competition as a bottom-ager. He also captains the St Peter’s College First XVIII and looms as a key figure in SA’s Under 19 carnival side this year. Roberts’ running capacity, decision making, and ability to hit the scoreboard while resting forward are just some of the desirable traits which have him pegged towards the pointy end of this year’s draft crop.

He is the prospect under our SANFL Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 6 showing.

Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia

DOB: July 31, 2003
Height/Weight: 183cm/81kg
Position: Midfielder/Forward

2021 averages*: 32.0 disposals | 23.0 kicks | 9.0 handballs | 8.3 marks | 7.7 tackles | 6.3 clearances | 7.7 inside 50s | 4.0 rebound 50s | 1.7 goals (5)

* – from three Under 18 games.

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

2021 SANFL League, Round 6

Woodville West Torrens 13.13 (91) def. by South Adelaide 15.9 (99)

Stats: 14 disposals | 5 kicks | 9 handballs | 2 tackles | 3 inside 50s | 1 goal

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

Roberts started and stayed at half-forward in the greasy conditions, but set the tone for himself early as the wet ball did not affect his cleanliness. An early gather around a pack with a slick handball under pressure was a sign of things to come as all his work was done below his knees for the day. Although he was a little passive at some stoppages around forward 50, he was still trying to work into his first League game and understand where to position best. Despite this, he did manage to get first hands off a ruck tap but was unable to find a teammate before the ball was knocked from him. Roberts pushed in at centre bounces when starting high and managed to wrangle in a hacked kick to space and find a teammate with a beautifully weighted kick inside 50. Pushing up the ground when the ball was stuck in his defensive 50, he did a good job of positioning himself to be able to hit the contest from a clearing kick at pace, and when presented the chance to crumb, he did so very well on one occasion, opting to find a teammate with a sweeping handball which opened up the attacking fore.

Q2:

The second quarter was one of Roberts’ quieter ones although it did highlight his good acceleration to apply defensive pressure, which he did all day. Two tackles are not earth-shattering but in his first League game, he adjusted to the pace well and would have registered plenty more pressure acts without a tackle. Once he settles in, you can expect that tackle count to rise. A hack kick off the ground also assisted with the surge forward as he applied a defensive effort to follow up after an Eagles defender swept up at ground level.

Q3:

His output picked up again this quarter as he continued his good timing to rove around packs and do it with one grab, brilliantly composed. He showed good strength to bump off a tackler on one occasion, showing he is physically up to the League level, accentuated by his stability over the ball in congestion having rarely hit the deck. Pushing down from his high positioning after a deep forward entry from the centre bounce saw him gather cleanly after the ball spilled out, before snapping around on his trusty left boot to put through his first League goal – a tidy and clean finish in-tight. Although a pair of fumbles came later in the quarter off some hot, tumbling balls, he showed he was getting to good positions to win his own ball. Roberts then made up for them with a perfect pass to Jake Tarca inside 50 for a goal. He had a couple of missed handballs on the far wing, but also showed solid positioning after contests and packs to either fill gaps, get dangerous, or prevent exits for the opposition.

Q4:

Although it was not a busy quarter like the previous for Roberts, he did some important things as the tight contest intensified. More clean pickups and quick hands from below the knees allowed the Panthers to maintain possession on several occasions. He also started to find his feet with his positioning in forward half stoppages, often leaving the contest to ready his run into forward 50 should his side clear it forward.

Final thoughts…

Coming off a dominant Under 18 performance, Roberts repaid the faith from head coach Jarrad Wright for bypassing a typical Reserves induction game. A serviceable outing playing a role should warrant another selection as he seemed comfortable in the contest to gather cleanly so often. 14 disposals with no marks indicates his ground ball nous and barring a few missed handballs, his disposal was reliable all game. The half-forward role is a difficult one to make a massive impact on the game, but Roberts did well to maintain his space and get to the front of contests to keep driving the ball forward. He was able to do this by not always flying for contests and positioning himself well, while working hard to get dangerous when the opportunity presented itself. Overall, a solid first League game with a goal for Roberts.

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

QAFLW Player Focus: Smith’s star quality evident ahead of Coorparoo clash

YOU couldn’t watch Maroochydore’s Round 7 QAFL Women’s match against Aspley and not be amazed by Bella Smith.

From the very first bounce, the hard running midfielder was in everything. From a brutal don’t argue, to a goal saving tackle, the first quarter belonged to Smith, and she didn’t slow down from there. Her spread from a stoppage was excellent as she worked to provide an option for teammates whenever she didn’t have the ball in her hands (which wasn’t too often). She displayed a quality that catches the eye; the ability to grab a game by the collar and make it her own. It’s a talent not seen too often, and one that is likely worrying her Coorparoo opponents ahead of this weekend’s matchup.

Smith is simply a midfielder who does it all. She hunts the footy, she tackles, she runs hard and most importantly, she plays to her strengths. Not a noted goalkicker, Smith often puts in the hard yards getting the ball into the hands of the forwards, allowing them to take the shots. A memorable moment from the first quarter saw Smith spread from the stoppage, receive the ball, then proceed to conjure a Dustin Martin-like fend off that put her opponent the ground. It was a moment that drew a collective gasp from the crowd, as Smith then dished the ball inside 50 to set up a shot on goal for her teammates. It was reflective of her entire day, strength, hard work and a little bit of magic.

She will be a hard player for Coorparoo to contain, simply due to how hard she works from contest to contest. Her coverage of the ground was unmatched by any other midfielder in the Round 7 contest. She works remarkably hard to receive the ball, and when she gets it, her strength and smarts make her quite difficult to tackle. She shrugged off opponents on plenty of occasions, and she always keeps her arms free.

By the time the second quarter rolled around, Aspley midfielders were very cautious of Smith’s ability to impact the stoppage, resulting in Smith having a shot on goal after a holding free went her way. While the attempt unluckily hit the inside of the post, it was a testament to Smith’s ability to make other players worry too much about her and not enough about the ball.

The only visible flaw in her came was her own aerobic undoing, as she looked tired at times, but this was only due to the fact that she had worked so hard previously. Still, when the ball was in dispute, she found another gear and was able to work hard and get to the contest to provide another number for her side. If she continues to put in performances such as the one she displayed in Round 7, it will continue to prove difficult for opposing players to minimise her impact on the game. Not only does she find plenty of the ball, she also damages the other team when she uses it. In the third quarter, she found the ball on the wing and then broke the game open with an excellent inboard kick that found a teammate on the run.

Maroochydore have a star on their hands here with Smith. In Round 7, she affected the contest more than any other player on the ground and was clearly best on ground. This looked like the emergence of a star, and if she can do it again against Coorparoo, she will have established herself as one of the premier midfielders of the competition.

Picture credit: Sunshine Coast Daily

SANFL Under 18s Player Focus: Arlo Draper (South Adelaide/South Australia)

SOUTH Adelaide’s Arlo Draper is a prospect who has garnered a fair bit of intrigue this year. The dynamic midfielder-forward is rated highly by most keen draft watchers, but proved a glaring omission from the AFL Academy squad which was recently dismantled by Geelong VFL. While 24 of the nation’s best and brightest talents looked to prove their worth in that game, Draper continued with his SANFL Under 18s commitments, helping the Panthers edge home against Central District by three points on Saturday morning.

In four games this season, the 18-year-old picked up where he left off in 2020 with some impactful performances for South. Draper has notched over 20 disposals and booted two goals in three of his outings thus far, showcasing the damage he can do when rotating forward from midfield. His versatility, and turn of speed to create space in tight areas are key pillars of his game, as well as a handy knack for taking overhead marks and hitting the scoreboard.

Draper is the prospect under our SANFL Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 4 showing.

PLAYER PAGE

Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia

DOB: January 20, 2003
Height: 185cm
Position: Midfielder/Forward

2021 averages*: 21.8 disposals | 12.8 kicks | 9.0 handballs | 4.3 marks | 4.3 tackles | 6.0 clearances | 3.5 inside 50s | 0.3 rebound 50s | 2.0 goals (8)

* – from first four games.

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

PLAYER FOCUS

2021 SANFL U18s, Round 4
South Adelaide 10.11 (71) def. Central District 10.8 (68)

Stats: 24 disposals | 14 kicks | 10 handballs | 4 marks | 3 tackles | 6 clearances | 5 inside 50s | 1 rebound 50 | 3 goals

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

Stationed at the opening centre bounce, Draper started brightly as one of South’s midfield staples. He showcased his usual poise in traffic to flick out clean handballs and work his way into better positions with good agility. He also set up a kick behind the play when the Panthers were inside attacking 50, where he would be able to read the play and act as his side’s wall. At the centre bounces and stoppages, he set up unmanned in the anchor role and tracked the ball well, even when those movements went unrewarded in the way of possessions. Defensively, he seemed to conserve energy a touch and could be seen walking or jogging between contests, not spreading as hard as others. Given he mostly remained between the arcs when the ball was in either 50-metre zone, that may have been a product of instruction or positioning. Draper rotated into attack at around the 14-minute mark, where he popped up to clunk a terrific overhead mark and convert South’s second goal of the day. It proved a rare kick among his many effective handballs and clean gathers in term one.

Q2:

Starting once again as the unmanned anchor, Draper made another eye-catching start to the quarter – this time by running straight through the opening centre bounce to mop up the spillage and boot a clearance inside 50 to give Bailey Pilmore an immediate chance on goal. He again lacked a touch of intent going the other way at stoppages when Centrals prized first possession, while also allowing his direct opponent to take front position at the contest. But as he did during the opening period of play, Draper impacted once he swung forward with a nice grab deep inside 50. The kick was weighted to his advantage, he read it well to stretch and clunk the mark before converting once again. It proved an important goal, restoring South’s buffer to seven points. Having moved back into midfield, Draper showed his burst in patches and was able to get into positions to receive and deliver forward by foot.

Q3:

The third term was arguably Draper’s quietest on face value, despite taking up many of the same positions and roles. He was given the usual centre bounce and stoppage orders while in midfield, before rotating forward at the 14-minute mark but not adding a goal to his tally. Draper tended to sag off and wait to receive on the outer at stoppages, rather than being sucked in or extracting the ball himself, which worked out well for him in the second term. He did not see as much of the ball this time around, but followed the flow of the play and was able to deliver some more clean disposals around the ground.

Q4:

Having faded a touch, Draper ensured he would make an impact when it mattered with an improved final term. He now found himself manned at the stoppages in that position behind the ruck, still giving up front position but staying with the play to earn an early centre clearance. With a spark needed for South as Centrals closed, Draper looked to better utilise his turn of speed and burn opponents on the outer, while also providing a couple of tackling efforts. As he had done in the first half, Draper made his move into attack count with yet another overhead mark close to goal, using his athleticism and smarts to pluck the ball from the back and then put through his third goal. While he was uncharacteristically fumbly over the ball in the latter stages, that goal provided the Panthers with some breathing space at a clutch moment. He really proved a difference maker with those efforts up forward, ensuring the move was less of a rest and more of a weapon for South.

Final thoughts…

Having missed out on representative honours many had pegged him for, Draper served a reminder of his class and unique talent. His ability to rotate forward and consistently hit the scoreboard is a threat any team would love to have in its back pocket, and three goals in those four short forward stints proved crucial in Saturday’s result. While he exceeded his goal to notch a yo-yo test score of 21 during preseason testing, Draper could arguably utilise that running capacity better on the spread and in defensive aspects, ensuring his speed-endurance mix really comes to the fore. At stoppages, wrestling to front position could see him win more contested ball, though Draper’s tendency to sag off and receive second possession in this game allowed for his class and cleanliness to shine through. Going forward, Draper is also looking to sharpen his opposite foot kicking and put on size to play more permanently through midfield. He certainly has the tools to star in that position, with an innate ability to manufacture time and space, and the all-important versatility to also impact up forward.

>> WATCH: Arlo Draper’s Round 4 highlights

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

VFLW Player focus: Elizabeth Snell (Essendon)

IT might not have ended in the result the Bombers might have liked, but Essendon teenager Elizabeth Snell was again busy in her debut season at the state league level. Sharing her duties between Bendigo Pioneers and the VFL Women’s competition, Snell opted to continue her stay at the state league level rather than play the final NAB League Girls round, having proven all she could at that level. Snell has also already run out for Vic Country twice at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, and with her state set to play Queensland next month, could represent the ‘Big V’ again.

History:

Like many country players, Snell began her elite junior pathway in the V/Line Cup for the Pioneers, and made her way up through the NAB League competition, representing Vic Country at Under 16s level, and then being an extended squad member of the Under 18s team in 2019 before missing out. She made the Vic Country Under 19s squad this year, and impressed through the midfield and rotating forward for the team during their two wins over Vic Country and South Australia. Like all Victorian players last year, Snell missed out on getting back on the park, and opted to rejoin the Pioneers as a 19-year-old prospect, while sharing time with Essendon VFL Women’s side.

Elizabeth Snell representing Vic Country against Vic Metro at the AFLW U19s Championships last month.

VFL Women’s season:

Snell made her debut against Hawthorn back in Round 3, using her running capacity and ability to win the ball in close and extract it from the contest to win 15 disposals, four marks and lay eight tackles. Her defensive pressure, combined with her elite agility to often get out of trouble is what makes her a dangerous player for opponents. Returning to the Pioneers and then having Vic Country duties, Snell played her second VFL Women’s game last week in Round 7, as the Bombers celebrated a good win over Williamstown. In that match, Snell had the same amount of tackles as she did touches – 10 – and provided the hard edge she has shown over her junior career.

Player profile:

Snell is a talent with some elite traits and some other areas that are still a work in progress. Her agility, and first few steps out of a contest are what catch the eye the most, while she has clean hands on the inside, able to spot teammates and generally weight the handballs in tight out in order for them to run on. When she wins the ball herself and opts to go, she can often rush her kicks not realising she has more time than she actually does. Her ability to spread around the ground, and have an eye for goals when inside 50 provides her with plenty to work with at the next level, as she continues to develop her kicking and decision making under pressure.

Round 8 vs. Collingwood

Snell started on the bench in the opening term and after an opposition kick went over her head inside defensive 50, she kept pushing hard and won a contested ball close to the pocket and kicked to the danger zone of the square. Whilst her teammate could not quite drag down the mark, Snell kept buzzing around the contest for the rest of the quarter. She laid a couple of good tackles and ton a free kick for a tackle at half-back. From that free kick, Snell hit a direct kick straight down the middle to set up a scoring opportunities, then when the ball was back deep in defence, Snell had a couple of quick handballs in traffic.

Q1 Stats: 2 kicks, 2 handballs, 4 disposals, 2 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 1 free for

In the second term, Snell laid a good tackle to force a spill at half-forward and then won the ball cleanly up the other end to quickly give off a handball before being tackled and then apply a shepherd for her teammate. Not only did Snell use her work rate around the ground to accumulate the ball, but she showed a great one-percenter to go back with the flight in a marking contest, spoil the ball and then lay a tackle shortly after at ground level.

She had a rest midway through the term and then came on and made an impact immediately, winning the ball off a handball receive, though the kick was turned over. Snell pushed hard to apply a shepherd once again, then courageously put pressure on a mark inside forward 50 to make her opposition defender earn it. After Essendon won a free kick, Snell quickly spread to just outside the forward 50, then put in a kick towards a one-on-one but it was spoiled out of bounds. She had her fourth touch of the term through a clean handball from in close to the outside at half-forward, and laid another strong tackle late in the term.

Q2 Stats: 2 kicks, 2 handballs, 4 disposals, 1 mark, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50

The third term Snell started right in the middle, though her first interaction with the ball was a free kick against for an overzealous tackle on the wing. She continued to work hard throughout the term, offering as an option in defence, but the ball went over her head, though she backed up quickly and laid a strong tackle close to the line.

She came off for a rest since she had started on the ground, and returned to have a nice pickup and kick from half-back, which was her most damaging kick of the day. Winning it at half-back, she produced a long well-weighted kick to a teammate, but unfortunately the mark was just dropped, though the intent was perfect. After play stopped for a second time due to injury to Aliesha Newman, Snell won the first mark, spreading well on the wing and then kicking forward. She laid a good tackle at half-back after being dispossessed when she was not able to cleanly handball, then got caught holding the ball on the defensive side of the wing. Shortly after she came off the ground.

Q3 Stats: 2 kicks, 0 handballs, 2 disposals, 1 mark, 3 tackles, 2 frees against

The intensity lifted in the last term, and Snell matched that intensity, going in fierce with her tackling across the ground. She started on the bench, but came on after a few minutes, and won the ball at ground level, fended off an opponent and quickly kicked. Once again the kick was a little dangerous, crossing the defensive 50 to make it a task for Courtney Ugle, which was spoiled. Luckily the Bombers mopped it up. Snell kept working hard laying a strong tackle at half-back to lock it in, then her next touch was a scrubber kick along the ground, not able to take possession and then was bumped off it. Snell laid another strong tackle in the middle after a restart from a Pies goal to lock it in, then yet another tackle at half-back, albeit with too much momentum landing in her opponents’ back.

Snell came off for a rest, then came on not long after following another Pies goal as Collingwood were well in control. She won her final kick in congestion through the middle, but her kick went to space where only Matilda Zander was lurking on a wing. She won another touch in close in defence with a handball, then tackled her opponent to back it up.

Q4 Stats: 3 kicks, 1 handball, 4 disposals, 4 tackles, 1 free against

Elizabeth Snell’s disposal map during Round 8.

TOTAL STATS: 9 kicks, 5 handballs, 14 disposals, 2 marks, 11 tackles, 1 inside 50, 1 rebound 50, 1 free for, 3 frees against

Note: Some discrepancies in the official statistics include where a tackle will not be counted due to being second across or a free given away.

Overall game:

Snell was one of the more productive Bombers on the day, and whilst some of her kicks might not have been as accurate as she would have liked, she was clean in close, and had a number of impactful touches. Most importantly, her defensive pressure – as expected – was incredibly high, and she would have been one of the most prolific tacklers on the ground. She did give away a few free kicks through tackles, but her intent was right, and she was well supported by her teammates.

NAB League Player Focus: Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons)

GEELONG Falcons ruck, Toby Conway is a prospect on the rise having recently been added to the AFL Academy squad ahead of their clash with Geelong VFL. The 204cm bigman has returned a promising start to the season, averaging a tick under 16 disposals and 28 hitouts across three NAB League outings, making him one of the leading ruck options in this year’s draft pool.

After injury threatened to derail his 2020 campaign, before the pandemic eventually did so, Conway is enjoying being back out on the park and has some key improvements in his sights. During preseason, he outlined ground coverage, forward craft, and marking as areas of growth – all of which were observed in his latest outing, against Bendigo Pioneers.

Conway is the prospect under our Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 3 showing.

PLAYER PAGE

Toby Conway
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

DOB: April 24, 2003
Height: 204cm
Position: Ruck

2021 averages*: 15.7 disposals | 6.7 kicks | 9.0 handballs | 3.3 marks | 2.7 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 1.7 rebound 50s | 27.7 hitouts | 0.3 goals

* – from first three games.

PLAYER FOCUS

2021 NAB League, Round 3
Bendigo Pioneers 9.10 (64) def. Geelong Falcons 7.8 (50)

Stats: 17 disposals | 8 kicks | 9 handballs | 3 marks | 4 tackles | 2 inside 50s | 3 rebound 50s | 29 hitouts | 1 goal

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

In his usual post as Geelong’s primary ruck, Conway started brightly. He was poised against quite a raw tall in Bendigo’s Jed Brereton, who he would compete with throughout the contest. Some of Conway’s first acts saw him dropping back into the defensive half to help relieve pressure, while also setting up shrewdly behind the ball to intercept aerially – both were early ticks for his improving fitness and ground coverage. He also proved too big and strong in stoppage situations, using strength and bodywork to move into prime position and win a good amount of hitouts. From there, he directed the ball down well with a few double-handed taps and his pure height/reach advantage loomed as a worrying factor for the Bendigo engine room. Later in the opening term, Conway was sighted taking a mark on the lead up forward.

Q2:

Speaking of the forwardline, Conway seemed to spend more time resting inside attacking 50 than in previous weeks, where he would instead be heavily rotated to the bench out of the ruck. He managed to take toll during the second term as he found space to mark uncontested, before duly converting a set shot goal from about 35 metres out. It was the first goal of the quarter and extended the Falcons’ lead to nine points at the 10-minute mark. While his height and reach were again troublesome for the undersized Bendigo defenders, Conway would revert back to his ruck duties and showcase even more craft in that area. His directional taps at the centre bounces meant midfielders like Mitch Knevitt could get first use of the ball where it mattered.

Q3:

Picking up from where he left off, Conway was dominant in the ruck stakes to start the third period of play. He also looked to be gaining confidence at the contest, imposing himself by following up his aerial work and actively looking to take the ball out of the ruck more often. One solid bit of ground level play saw Conway lay a smother to help his side turn the ball over, before kicking the Falcons back inside attacking 50 on the run. While not overly aggressive, the bigman was able to stay involved at the coalface and even won some of his own ball to register those clearance and inside 50 stats. His seeming lift in urgency matched Geelong’s need for any form of momentum as the Pioneers began to hit back, and eventually snuck ahead.

Q4:

Conway looked a little worse for wear after contesting the first centre bounce, but got back up and lumbered on. He is not always the most continually active ruck, but was able to work when called upon after taking some moments to recoup. His knack of taking the ball out of the ruck continued and while some of his hand-offs were to midfielders under immediate pressure, the idea and intent were good. The Falcons tall again rested forward and even got a go against some of Bendigo’s second-string rucks late in the piece. He showed some more ruck craft with directional taps, not just thumping the ball forward or hitting with his momentum on the rise. Overall, it was a solid outing for Conway despite his side going down, finishing as the dominant ruckman afield.

Final thoughts…

On a pure squad-needs basis, it was no great surprise to see Conway added to the AFL Academy mix alongside fellow tall Ned Moyle. While he has shown some active improvement in his areas of growth, the Geelong Falcons prospect can still strive for betterment throughout 2021. Conway’s work around the ground and ability to impact up forward will be key to his development, as his ruck craft is already quite sound. Given his ability to do so in the ruck, utilising his size and building on that strength will help translate to some solid contested marking. Endurance also comes into the fold there, and Conway will inevitably spend less time with hands on head or hip with better match fitness throughout the year. In terms of his own strengths though, Conway delivers and has done so across three promising games this this season.

SANFL Player Focus: No first round blues for Sturt’s Morgan Ferres

ATHLETIC Sturt youngster Morgan Ferres is a member of the 2021 State Talent Hub, and one of the most highly-rated South Australian forwards in this year’s draft class. His season commenced on Friday at Unley Oval when Sturt came up against Woodville-West Torrens, and he started the year in blistering form. With six goals, ten marks (two contested), 17 disposals and two inside 50s, it was a day out against reasonable opposition. With four behinds and multiple unselfish goal assists during the contest, it is fair to say that he could have kicked nine or ten. Regardless, he leads the SANFL Under 18 goalkicking tally after Round 1 and has set himself up for a strong season.

Ferres started the match by taking a nice mark on the lead, but sprayed his first shot on goal. He quickly redeemed his miss by juggling a mark, playing on and snapping the Double Blues’ second major in the opening six minutes. This was the first of many instances where Ferres read the flight of the ball far better than the Eagles defenders and got himself into ideal positions. Later in the first term, Ferres pushed up to half-forward to create a higher option for teammates streaming off half-back. He showed that he has quick hands when his handball released a teammate into space and led to a goal from Kai Tucker. Ferres should have kicked his second from the next centre bounce, but he missed an open shot from 35 metres out. Soon after, he worked hard to get open, marked and quickly delivered to Henry Read inside 50, who kicked Sturt’s fourth goal of the day. Ferres’ score involvement numbers were very high on Friday, and he regularly attempted to give the ball to teammates who were in better positions to kick at goal. Another example of this occurred late in the first term when, after earning a free for a hold on the 50-metre arc, Ferres looked like he was going to have a shot but instead passed it off. This unselfish play led to a goal by Cormac Dwyer.

Ferres linked up well with wingman Tucker throughout the match, who used his accurate foot skills to find the leading Ferres on numerous occasions. In the second term, after Ferres got on the end of a pass from Tucker, he was tight on the boundary and attempted to pass it off, but the kick fell short of his target. Ferres is naturally unselfish and passing was the right option on this occasion, it was just the execution that missed the mark. Four minutes in, Ferres completed a beautiful fat-side lead to earn an uncontested mark and he drilled his set shot from 35 metres out. His marking appears to have gone to another level this year, as demonstrated when he took a tough contested grab after a long kick down the line from Brad Jefferies. Ferres immediately looked inside and found Jordan Hein in the corridor, thus opening up the other side of the 50 for Sturt forwards to lead into. At the 22-minute mark, as the deepest forward, Ferres outbodied his opponent, marked and strolled into an open goal for his third. Sturt went into half time with a two-point lead, thanks in large part to Ferres’ three majors and numerous score involvements to that point.

The Eagles got well on top at the start of the third, so the ball did not enter the Blues’ forwardline much during that period. With Sturt ten points down, Ferres claimed a mark but was penalised for a push in the back. It was not until the 23-minute mark that Ferres got another opportunity to make an impact, and he did not waste it as he took a chest mark on the lead and booted through his fourth. He had another chance to goal from the next centre bounce after picking up the ball cleanly and turning sharply around his opponent, but his snap went through for a behind. Sturt reclaimed the lead just before three-quarter time and looked to have the momentum at the break.

Early in the last quarter, Ferres led into the pocket to took a strong overhead mark. With his impressive vertical leaping ability and long reach, it is difficult for his opponents to get a spoil in without chopping his arms. These traits will assist him as he rises up the grades, and this is why coaches will encourage him to take more marks overhead or out in front as he continues his development. After his grab, Ferres went back and kicked a beautiful snap around the body for his fifth. Ferres said in his preseason interview that he has been working on his goalkicking during the offseason, and this hard work clearly paid off in this instance. Ferres is very good at letting his man play in front and calling for the kick over the top into space, thus allowing him to take comfortable uncontested marks. He did this again at the 12-minute mark, which led to his sixth and final goal of the day from approximately 35 metres out. Soon after, Ferres crumbed a contest in the forward pocket, sidestepped an Eagles defender and attempted to dribble through a goal, but he just missed to the near side. As the siren sounded, Sturt ran out winners by 40 points. Ferres would have been happy with the result and his performance, as he proved that he is already a class above Under 18 level.

The scoreboard flattered Sturt in the end, as it kicked the final nine goals of the match to come away with the points. Ferres was certainly their most prominent contributor throughout, and the side required his contributions to be able to score consistently. Although Ferres will also be playing school football at St Peter’s College for much of 2021, he could earn an opportunity to play at SANFL League level depending on how Sturt’s senior side fares. Playing against bigger bodies would be a fascinating challenge for Ferres, and he will seek to compete and shine at the Under 19 National Championships in September and October. It will be interesting to see how Ferres’ game develops throughout the year as he attempts to impress AFL scouts en route to the 2021 AFL Draft.

Image Credit: Mel Faull/Get Snapt

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
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