THE first year boys are keeping up their standards as the season deepens. These players should give fans a decent insight for what the future of their clubs may look like as they continue to develop. They are all natural AFL players and continue to make the 22 for good reason.
Here are some of the first-year players who starred in Round 7:
It seems the kid from Swan Hill has Carlton’s full confidence as of Round 7 having not missed a single game for the season. The hard-running midfielder continues to leave it all out on the pitch despite Carlton’s unfortunate start this year. Dow closed his game with 15 possessions, five tackles, five clearances and his first goal in Carlton’s 55-point loss to Adelaide at Adelaide Oval. He positioned himself carefully around the contests and floated well around the ground.
It is fair to say that expectations have been quiet for Brisbane’s number one National Draft pick. That’s a lot of pressure for a first-year player, but thankfully Rayner has risen to the challenge. With a usual efficiency of 70 per cent, Rayner kicked things into next gear with a 94 per cent kicking efficiency against the Pies last weekend. While still quiet on the goal front, the young Lion finished with six score involvements, 18 disposals, seven contested, three clearances and four inside 50’s. Rayner stepped up during the close fight, feeling right home in the intense contest.
Tasked as Brisbane’s centre, Bailey rose to the occasion. With 17 disposals, an 88 per cent kicking efficiency, four tackles, four score involvements, as well as a goal for himself which helped close the gap significantly in the third. It was a taste of some real AFL intensity for many of the first years in this close clash. With the stakes high, Bailey proved himself worthy of donning the Lions guernsey.
Kept outside of the side in Round 6, Clark worked hard to prove his worth against the Dees. The Dandenong kid topped off his game with a career best 20 disposals, with a 75 per cent kicking efficiency. He also had three score involvements and four inside 50s, giving the Saints a reason to want him remaining in the side. To take his game to the next level, Clark should look at showing more presence around the contest.
Coffield finished his 21-possession game with an elite 91 per cent kicking efficiency. The composed Saint picked his spots well and put in the work against a resilient Melbourne. Coffield picked up an outstanding eight intercept possessions, presenting himself well around the ground. With a further three score involvements and four rebound 50’s, the Eltham boy is fitting in well this year for St. Kilda.
In only his second game, Petruccelle picked up his first and second goal. Still relatively new to the game, the former basketballer has shown that he can get the job done on the board. With an overall of four score involvements, one goal assist and two intercept possessions, the boy from Epping has proved himself as a decent utility for the West Coast Eagles.
The number two draft pick went hard in the contest against arguably the toughest team the Dockers have faced yet. Despite the tough affair, Brayshaw finished his game with 14 disposals, five contested, two clearances, and an impressive six tackles. He did not crumble under a dominant Richmond even managing to snag his second goal for the season last weekend.
Another Docker boy who went hard on the weekend, Cerra kept his head high and put plenty of pressure around the contest. With a clear read on the game, the Norwood boy took home 18 possessions, eight contested with an impressive 72 per cent kicking efficiency given the circumstances. He proved important at getting the ball forward with five inside 50s, and as much as the Dockers got it, Cerra showed no hesitation to give it back, laying six strong tackles.
In only two games, Spargo has already began making a solid mark for the Dees. Impactful going forward, the young Demon had seven score involvements and kicked another goal himself. In all, he had 15 disposals, eight contested with an 87 per cent kicking efficiency. His footy sense seems almost unnatural for someone his age. He is a great decision maker around the ground and knows how to play to his strengths.
Fritsch proved that he’s a man that can take it to his opponent. The young Dee put in the work this weekend finishing with six tackles (two inside 50), three inside 50’s, six score involvements and four intercept possessions. Overall, the youngster finished with 18 disposals, with seven contested. Though unusually quiet on the board, Fritsch continued to show his impact for Melbourne in his pressure and contest work.
For weeks Stephenson has proved himself to be an important attacking utility for the Pies. The 19-year-old bagged himself two goals for the game, including the final nail in the coffin against a retaliating Lions. In total he had eight score involvements and 21 disposals, with five contested. He is a line-breaking runner who shows his strength in his movement with ball in hand. This classy forward is surely a contender for the Rising Star award come the end of the season.
Despite not being able to finish all three of his attempts, Higgins was well engaged with eight score involvements and two direct goal assists. The Richmond small forward fits in well with the best attacking side in the competition. In the Tigers 80-point victory against the Dockers last weekend, he finished with 13 disposals, eight of which were contested. A tough unit around the forward line for sure.
With back to back drops in efficiency, Kelly’s ability to finish the job has hit a decline. Despite this, in a thumping to final favourites (the Giants), Kelly picked up 30 disposals with 14 contested. Determined to get his own ball and crash the contests, the WA boy continues to prove his dominance for the cats, standing out of an already star-studded midfield. Kelly will be a household name for Geelong fans by the end of the season. He could most likely be the candidate to fill Selwood and Ablett’s spot and may depart the Club in the near future.