Tag: rising stars

Weekend That Was – Round 10

A COMBINED 78 disposals, 16 marks, 12 clearances, 16 inside 50s and two goals to Geelong Falcons pair James Worpel and Cassidy Parish sunk the Bendigo Pioneers to bounce back from the Falcons’ only loss of the season.

The Falcons proved too good for the Pioneers, who were missing a number of key players due to representative duties through the Allies and school football. They battled hard but ultimately could not match the ladder leading Falcons, going down 11.21 (87) to 3.9 (27).

Worpel finished with a season high 43 disposals (but kicked at just 38 per cent efficiency), eight marks, seven clearances, seven tackles, 12 inside 50s and two goals, while Parish won 35 disposals, took eight marks, had five clearances, four inside 50s, three rebounds and three tackles. Others to find plenty of the ball was Bayley Cockerill (28 disposals, 10 marks, seven inside 50s) and Adam Garner (16 disposals, 11 hitouts and three goals).

For the Pioneers, regular ball winner Darby Henderson racked up 28 disposals, five marks and four clearances, while Laine Fitzgerald and Angus Schumacher both finished with 27 disposals.

Up at RAMS Arena, Sandringham Dragons got the job done against Calder Cannons, kicking 6.7 to 0.1 in the third term to be the difference between the sides in a 35-point win. The Dragons won 13.13 (91) to 8.8 (56), led by Lucas Barrett who racked up 32 disposals, seven marks, 10 clearances and three inside 50s.

Other Dragons that stood out were Quintin Montanaro who had 33 disposals, seven marks and three clearances, Geordie Nagle with 29 disposals, eight marks and seven clearances, and Will Walker who went at an impressive 86 per cent efficiency for his 22 disposals, as well as six marks, four clearances and two goals.

For the Cannons, Brad Bernacki continued his big month with another 30 disposal game at 87 per cent efficiency, while Lucas Cavallaro had 21 disposals and eight marks and Ben Caluzzi finished with 23 disposals (74 per cent efficiency), five marks, eight inside 50s and a goal.

Dandenong survived an almighty scare against Murray to post an important two-point win. The Stingrays led by 27 points at the final break, but a five goals to one term saw the Bushrangers storm home, only to fall short 14.9 (93) to 14.7 (91).

Bailey Morrish was impressive around the ground with 20 disposals (80 per cent efficiency), five marks, six inside 50s, four rebounds, four tackles and a goal. Other Stingrays that stood out were Riley D’Arcy who booted six goals from 16 disposals and five marks, and midfield pair Tom Murphy and Mitch Cotter who had 23 disposals each and racked up a combined 18 tackles, eight clearances, seven inside 50s and four rebounds.

For Murray, Kyle Clarke had 19 disposals, three marks and thre tackles and Angus Hicks finished with 23 disposals, seven clearances and 11 tackles. Mark Marriott had 32 hitouts to go with 15 disposals, nine tackles, four clearances and two goals.

Western Jets moved a win closer to the top eight with a 33-point victory over Eastern Ranges. The Jets had a strong start to lead by five goals at half-time and while the Ranges hit back in the third term, the Jets steadied in the fourth quarter to win 11.15 (81) to 6.12 (48).

Xavier O’Halloran had 27 disposals, three marks, eight clearances, six inside 50s and 12 tackles for the winners, while Nicholas Stuhldreier racked up 29 disposals, nine clearances, four inside 50s and five rebounds. Connor Thar was also productive with three goals from 25 disposals, nine inside 50s and 10 marks.

For Eastern, Thomas North continued his leather poisoning for season 2017 with 37 disposals, seven marks, six clearances and six inside 50s, while partner in crime Jordan Lynch had 20 disposals, five marks, 10 tackles and booted a goal. Cody Hirst laid 11 tackles to go with his 20 disposals and five marks.

Over at Casey Fields, Callum Porter backed up his huge effort in the last round to have another best on ground performance against the Greater Western Victoria Rebels. Porter had 31 disposals, six marks, 11 clearances, nine inside 50s, eight tackles and two goals to lead from the front for the Gippsland Power who knocked off the Rebels by 27 points. Trailing by a point at the final break, the Power booted six goals to two in the final quarter to run over the top of the Rebels, having finished with eight of the last 10 goals to win 15.14 (104) to 12.5 (77).

Acting captain Will Stephenson stood up at clutch moments, having 20 disposals (75 per cent efficiency, five marks, five clearances, four inside 50s and four goals, while Kim Drew had 20 disposals, six marks, five tackles, four inside 50s and four rebounds. Up forward, Kyle Reid was a target, booting four goals from seven shots and his game included 18 disposals and six marks.

For the Rebels, Aiden Domic was the clear standout with 26 disposals, five marks and a goal, while Naish McRoberts (23 disposals) and Trent Reed (20 disposals and eight clearances) worked hard around the stoppages. Lloyd Meek was prominent in the ruck with 28 hitouts and 15 disposals.

TAC Cup Scouting Notes: Round 10

In the other game of the round, Oakleigh Chargers got the points against Northern Knights in a thumping 83-point victory. The Chargers never looked like losing and played a consistent four quarters in the 16.13 (109) to 4.2 (26) victory.

Lachlan Bugeja had 24 disposals, seven clearances, six tackles, five inside 50s and two rebounds, while James Troani was busy in the forward half with 21 disposals, 12 marks, four inside 50s and a goal. Matthew Day was also prominent with 24 disposals, three marks, two goals and eight tackles, while Daniel Stanford had seven marks (three contested) and booted four goals from 16 disposals.

For the Knights, Marcus Lentini had 34 disposals and six marks, while Mitchell Andrews racked up another 30 touches, seven marks and six rebounds. Jamison Shea (23 disposals, eight marks and a goal), and Lane Sinclair (21 disposals, four marks and four rebounds) were also among the bigger ball winners.

After 10 rounds, Geelong Falcons sits four points clear on top ahead of Oakleigh Chargers and Murray Bushrangers. Sandringham Dragons and Dandenong Stingrays sit four points behind with Northern Knights (20 points) outright sixth ahead of Gippsland Power and Eastern Ranges in seventh and eighth. Greater Western Victoria Rebels, Western Jets and Bendigo Pioneers are ready to pounce outside the eight on 12 points, while Calder Cannons are holding up the ladder with eight points.

Weekend That Was – Round 10

2106 Cedric Cox Rebels debut

LAST weekend was a challenging one for TAC Cup clubs as they relied on the next tier of players to stand up with many omissions due to Under 18s Championships.

On a wild and windy day, Geelong Falcons reasserted themselves against a reborn North Ballarat Rebels.

The Falcons were top-of-the-table taking on a Rebels side fresh off six straight wins in what was clearly match of the round.

From the start the Falcons always looked to be a class better and while they butchered opportunities in front of goal when the game was on the line, North Ballarat was not much better.

A host of lesser known players stood up for both sides as Mitch Diamond (Falcons) and Callan Wellings (Rebels) were among those to impress.

In the end it was the Falcons getting up by 23 points despite the Rebels booting two late goals to give themselves half a chance.

Across at Warrawee Park, Western Jets made the most of an under strength Oakleigh to record a vital 33-point victory.

It was the second win against the Chargers for the Jets, who knocked them off at full-strength in round one.

Judah Dundon starred with 24 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and two goals, while for the Chargers, Lachlan Walker and Campbell Lane again found plenty of the ball.

A full-strength Gippsland Power showed what lower teams are capable of if they meet a severely under strength premiership contender, when they matched it with Dandenong Stingrays.

The Stingrays were missing up to 14 of its best 22 according to number one ticketholder Jarrod Potter and the Power took advantage, leading for stints in the match and were level at the last break.

They ultimately fell short with the Stingrays gritting out an eight-point victory, but Gippsland lost no respect with the performance.

Calder Cannons caused a boil over in their match with Eastern Ranges, running away 32-point winners.

Leading for the entire day, Jackson McDonald was phenomenal for the Cannons, collecting 34 disposals to go with his five marks, 10 tackles and a goal.

For the Ranges, Thomas North and Josh Begley were impressive once again.

The Sandringham Dragons also continued their strong form in the top four this season, recording a four-goal win over Northern Knights.

A low scoring contest for three quarters, the Dragons trailed by two points at three quarter time, before piling on seven goals to three in the final term to run away with the contest.

Over-ager Goy Lok found plenty of the football with 28 disposals, four marks and four tackles to his name.

In the final match of the round, Murray Bushrangers were far too strong for Bendigo Pioneers, as Esava Ratugolea booted eight and Lachlan Tiziani finished with five in a complete performance.

Read more on Esava Ratugolea here:

The Bushrangers won by 72 points despite the best efforts of Joe Atley (26 disposals, 10 tackles, one goal) and Darby Henderson (38 disposals, eight marks, four tackles).

It was a tough pill to swallow for the Pioneers as they watched Western and Calder both win their respective matches – teams that ill afford to win for the Pioneers to book a finals berth.

2015 Draft Profile: Jack Silvagni

Jack Silvagni (Oakleigh Chargers)

Height: 191cm
Weight: 83kg
Position: Utility
Player comparison: Jack Gunston
Strengths: Versatility, goal kicking technique, defensive positioning, overhead marking
Weaknesses: Lack of height to be key position, raw, yet to develop physically
First year impact: Long term prospect

Kicking: Average
Marking: Above average
Endurance: Average
Speed: Average

Jack Silvagni will be off to Carlton in the 2015 draft thanks to his strong father-son connection to the Blues. Jack will be a third generation Silvagni to play for Carlton, after father Stephen (312 games) and grandfather Sergio (239) pulled on he navy blue jumper.

Silvagni’s name was pushed into the spotlight when he kicked six goals for Vic Metro against Western Australia in the under 18 championships this year. Silvagni converted his shots well inside 50 due to his great set shot technique, kicking 6.1 on the day, helping Vic Metro to a comfortable 74-point win.

Silvagni is considered a utility with his ability to play at both ends of the ground. He reads the play well, giving him the ability to position himself better when playing in defence, a role he has played on occasions this year. He also marks the ball well overhead, averaging 4.2 marks at the TAC Cup and 3.4 marks at the under 18 championships. At his school Xavier College, Silvagni has also played on-ball, showing his versatility to move around the ground in multiple positions.

However, through a shoulder injury and school football commitments, Silvagni only played four games for Oakleigh Chargers in 2015. Silvagni kicked six goals, often playing in defence for half of a game. A question mark on Silvagni will be how he adapts to an AFL environment, with 2015 being his only year in the system. Silvagni is still raw and will only turn 18 in December. He showed glimpses in the championships and will likely spend a few seasons developing in the VFL before he can make the grade in the AFL.

Silvagni stands at 191 centimetres and is unlikely to be able to transition into a key position player. At his height it is likely he will turn into a third forward/defender in a similar mould to Hawthorn’s Jack Gunston. This would allow Silvagni to move up the ground using his great footy smarts to develop into an important player for Carlton in the future.

Carlton will be expecting to receive a bid for Silvagni in the later rounds of the draft, likely after pick 50.

Rippon for the picking

It is 6:30 am.

It is cold.

The city of Ballarat is quiet in preparation of the day ahead, while the clouds above have promised to hold off a little longer before their ritual interruption begins.

Athletes are not supposed to be up at this time. For them, this is a time of rest from the exhaustive, excruciating and lonely hours of physical repetition they put themselves through to hone their skills.

And if they are up at this time, it is to do that very thing – train.

But 21-year-old Nick Rippon is no ordinary athlete. He does not have that luxury.

A second year apprentice plumber and a prominent VFL footballer with the North Ballarat Roosters, Rippon is required to fulfil a similar number of hours training and in recovery as many of the AFL players he competes against, yet with the added task of squeezing them in during a 45-hour work week.

‘It was a bit different my first year. Full-time working and playing football was a bit draining at times, but I think you sort of get used to it after a while,’ Rippon said.

His apprenticeship has been “a bit of a learning curve” but is enjoying it.

“It keeps me out of trouble,” he said with a laugh.

Standing at 176 centimetres tall, Rippon has nonetheless been able to become one of the VFL’s leading midfielders, through his ability to extract the ball and give to teammates from the inside of contests, and his capacity to use the ball equally well while in space. In 2014, Rippon had a breakout season, finishing third in the Roosters’ best and fairest, and being named in the VFL team of the year.

This year he improved again, adding the Liston Trophy for the VFL’s best and fairest to his list of achievements.

Yet he continues to be ignored.

Rippon first caught the attention of North Ballarat Rebels senior coach David Loader and talent manager Phil Partington while playing local junior football as a 15 year-old.

Once offered a chance to be part of the Rebels TAC Cup squad, Rippon was quick to take it with both hands.

“I reckon people misjudged Nick a little bit early on, that he wasn’t going to be tall enough, he wasn’t going to be able to do this and that, but his ability to play was just so real,” Loader said.

Rippon featured in 13 Rebels games as an underage player in his first season. Playing as a small defender, locking down opponents and providing run from his team’s back 50, he was named among the best players a total of eight times.

Not one to grow complacent, Rippon soon backed up his strong first year at the Rebels with an even more impressive draft year as a midfielder.

Partington believes Rippon’s core strength and ability over his head for his size, allowed him to become a prominent inside midfielder who thrived at the contest.

“That year he was probably one of the premier onballers of the TAC Cup,” Partington says.

Loader remembers him similarly.

“He was so competitive,” he said. “He had genuine speed, he had a great vertical leap, he had real strength and power and he was an elite kick of the ball. Even though he wasn’t a tall guy he was an extremely good player.’

One game in particularly remains etched in Loader’s mind that symbolises Nick’s ability as a footballer.

The Rebels played an away game against the Calder Cannons. With that year’s eventual number two draft pick Jonathon O’Rourke, the Cannons were supposed to prove too strong, too fast and too talented for the Rebels.

Rippon was given the task of going head to head with O’Rourke.

Rippon won the ball regularly, kicked two goals, finished second best on ground and managed to keep O’Rourke quiet. The Rebels won comfortably.

‘It was just a real testament to how good Nick actually was,’ Loader said.

It is difficult to neglect Rippon’s draft year achievements, as he finished the season as the Rebels’ best and fairest, was awarded a spot in the TAC Cup team of the year, and achieved second place in the Morrish medal for the league’s best-and-fairest, narrowly missing out on top spot by one vote to now Carlton player Nick Graham.

Despite his prolific year, Rippon was nonetheless overlooked at the 2012 national and rookie drafts.

AFL Victoria’s VFL academy coach, Darren Flanigan, who had watched Rippon from afar during 2012, said Rippon was a victim of circumstance.

“It’s a needs basis with AFL clubs. If they want some midfielders who can play as a small defender they would look at him but if they’ve already got those players on their list, then they won’t look at him,” Flanigan said.

As the league is seeing the benefits of bigger-bodied, taller midfielders with the success of Essendon’s Jobe Watson and Fremantle’s Nathan Fyfe, Flanigan believes it is becoming important for midfielders 185 centimetres or below to possess a standout trait to get drafted.

TAC Cup and AFL.com.au draft reporter Callum Twomey remembered Rippon as in many ways being unfortunate not to get drafted.

“It was a tough year for him to probably get drafted because it was a pretty good draft that year and every year there’s a few unlucky types,” Twomey said.

But Twomey does not believe that Rippon’s height was what necessarily held him back.

“I think speaking to AFL recruiters – not specifically about Nick but just overall – they always look for guys with a trick, maybe an AFL quality that sort of separates them from the pack,” he said.

“But that’s not to say you cannot develop that.”

The day after the draft, Rippon found himself in a difficult situation. For most graduating year 12 students, their Valedictory dinner is an exciting prospect. It represents a chance to be seen – hopefully for the first time – as a peer by one’s teachers. A chance, depending on the school they are from, for a student to maybe even have a beer with a teacher they got along with. In more extreme cases, it may even be an opportunity for a student to finally tell that teacher of theirs where to go.

But for Rippon, valedictory dinner was something very different.

Graduating from St Patrick’s College, a notoriously strong football school, meant that as Rippon was meeting a sizeable roadblock in his path toward his dream.

Fellow students Martin Gleeson, Jake Neade, Dom Barry, Michael Close and Tanner Smith were being directed through to theirs, having been drafted the day before.

‘It was a good occasion to finish your Year 12 year off, but it was pretty hard on me, everyone was congratulating those guys and commiserating with myself, and it was pretty hard to deal with at the time,’ Rippon said.

True to his personality though, he credits the experience as being pivotal to helping him become the person he is now.

“That was probably a point when I become a bit of a stronger sort of person and player in that sense as well,” Rippon said.

It showed.

Rather than wallow in self-pity, Rippon signed with North Ballarat’s VFL side in 2013, managing to fight his way through to the senior team and finish the year as a strong contributor for the Roosters. Having been one of the TAC Cup’s standout players, Rippon was also invited to join AFL Victoria’s 18-man VFL academy, an initiative started in 2012 to help improve the draft chances of a select group of VFL prospects.

Roosters midfield coach Paul Jennings says Rippon’s willingness to learn has helped him continually improve.

“Nick’s a really driven person, he definitely likes to get the best out of himself,” Jennings said.

Flanigan agrees, and believes Rippon will only continue to develop.

‘He’s definitely developed as a player across his whole career,’ Flanigan said.

“He’s gone from a back flank to a midfield [spot] at the TAC Cup level, he’s gone from a small defender outside to an inside mid at VFL level, and just continued to progress exponentially every year.”

Flanigan says there are plenty of examples of players initially ignored who went on to have successful careers, such as Sam Mitchell, who was overlooked for the 2000 draft, before going on to become a premiership captain at Hawthorn.

He believes Rippon could become yet another example.

“It’s just a matter of someone falling in love with him and giving him a go and I think he’ll be okay,” Flanigan said.

With the coming national and rookie drafts this week, Rippon may just finally get a chance to prove Flanigan right.

But until then, Rippon will continue to get up at 6:30 am, an AFL-ready footballer, in a VFL footballer’s world.

2015 Draft Profile: Ben Crocker


Ben Crocker (Oakleigh Chargers)

Height: 185 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Position: Medium forward
Player comparison: Tom Bell
Strengths: Contested marking, goal kicking, leadership
Weaknesses: Endurance, questions over midfield development
First year impact: Low

Contested marking is a trait admired in players and put at a premium for anyone below 190 centimetres.

Oakleigh’s Ben Crocker is one of the best contested marks for his height and his vertical leap is also impressive.

While Crocker was unable to impact the TAC Cup grand final as he would have hoped, he showed throughout the finals series and indeed the home and away season, that he can stand up in big moments when required.

Crocker’s greatest asset of contested marking is also assisted by his reliability when kicking for goal.

The question surrounding his goal kicking is nothing to do with him personally, but whether or not he can be too unselfish at times.

Crocker can occasionally have a ‘team-first’ mentality and when within goal scoring range, can pass off to teammates he believes are in better positions.

While this can pay off, sometimes the opposition are wary of it and the ball is spoiled and cleared out of defence, or the player misses the set shot, something Crocker would have likely have nailed even from a tighter angle or longer distance.

Another trait that will hold Crocker in good stead is his leadership. He captained Oakleigh this season and led the team well on-field and off and most importantly, continued to work hard even when the chips were down.

In terms of areas for improvement, Crocker needs to improve his endurance and develop a game that allows him to play up the ground. As it stands, he is not a midfielder, but has the body that could impact in the middle among contests.

He has shown he is not afraid to go in or shy away from a contest, but does not have the tank to run through the middle on a consistent basis.

While Crocker is not quick, he is not overly slow either, and he has a good turning circle when chasing a ground ball. His bigger body allows him to break tackles from smaller players and he can often outsmart taller ones, which is what makes him a player that is so hard to match.

It is his endurance and questions over whether he could develop into a pinch-hitting midfielder that holds him back from being a top-line player.

No one would question his intensity, work ethic, leadership or forward pressure, which is paramount in the modern era as a medium forward.

In terms of draft range, Crocker is a second to third round selection, depending on where clubs rate him. He has a point of difference with his contested marking and reliable goal kicking, but whether clubs feel he can develop further into the midfield will be a sticking point.

Crocker lacks the class that former Oakleigh small forward and top five pick Jack Billings had, but he makes up for it with grunt and determination.

He could definitely fit in to a club like Carlton or Brisbane who need that medium tall forward who can take a grab and be relied upon to nail the important goals.

In many ways, Ben Crocker could be similar to a number of players, with the body similar to Tom Bell – a big frame for a medium player.

On draft night, it is likely Ben Crocker will find a club because he does offer something different to clubs who are looking for a forward, but he is more likely to spend some time in the reserves, particularly in his first season, for the club to assess how he develops.

He might even take a similar path to Brent Macaffer at Collingwood who was a small forward with a strong overhead grab, who then worked hard on his endurance to become a tagger who could hurt opposition midfielders when he ran offensively.

Overall, Crocker could become an important, dangerous and reliable forward, but if he could improve his midfield game, then his ceiling would increase astronomically.

2015 Draft Profile: Daniel Rioli

Daniel Rioli (North Ballarat Rebels)

Height: 180 cm
Weight: 69 kg
Position: Small forward
Player comparison: Jeff Garlett
Strengths: Goal sense, x-factor, agility, speed
Weaknesses: Defensive work, consistency
First year impact: Very low

Whenever the surname Rioli is brought up, there is unrivalled excitement.

Like Cyril before him and Maurice and Michael before Cyril, Daniel Rioli is sure to become a cult hero at an AFL club.

Everyone would get sick of comparing one Rioli with another, but Daniel does bring back memories of Cyril as a teenager.

He is a human highlight reel that can win a game off his own boot in one quarter, but he can also not be sighted for 90 per cent of the game.

Much like Cyril, consistency is the biggest question mark over Daniel, but like Cyril, he is a high reward for a club that can untap his potential.

In the national championships at Etihad Stadium playing for Northern Territory, Rioli showed his talent by kicking a miraculous goal in the middle of a pack from an impossible angle.

To best describe the goal, it was Rioli-esque and from that moment, the crowd knew he was capable of the impossible.

Daniel is super quick, has great agility, a nous for the impossible and a good judge of the ball in flight and the bounce of the ball.

He will need to improve his consistency as well as bulk up a little and continue to work on his defensive game.

In the modern game, there are very few pigeon-holed small forwards. Eddie Betts is the prime example of a crumbing forward, but he is elite and there are very few in the same company.

Cyril used to be a classic small forward, but he is now a bonafide midfielder/forward after working on his tank and his defensive pressure.

Daniel Rioli, like Cyril, is undoubtedly likely to light up the MCG, running down a wing, dodging and weaving a few players and kicking a goal from the boundary line.

His highlights will be bordering from the unbelievable to the impossible and everything in between.

However, can he develop to become that midfielder/forward who is renowned for his defensive pressure as much as his highlights?

Rioli has a light frame and while he will need to bulk up a little, it is unlikely he will put on much to hamper his speed and agility.

He is a player that cannot be left alone or be given a metre at a stoppage, because he will turn it into a mile.

In the qualifying final, Daniel Rioli kicked four second half goals after barely being sighted in the first half.

Coming back from a large deficit against the Geelong Falcons, Rioli singlehandedly turned the game around and in the blink of an eye, it went from a near-certain Falcons victory, to an impressive comeback and the Rebels advanced to the preliminary finals.

If he becomes a four quarter player, Rioli could be anything. The fact he can play a quarter and still put his hand up for best on ground speaks volumes of his ability.

Of all the players in the draft, Rioli will have the most interest over where he is selected. Could his ability to drift in and out of games have an impact, or will his ability to turn a game on its head and be a match-winner sway the recruiters?

In all likelihood, Rioli is a second round pick. On form, he is probably a third round pick; on potential, he is easily a first round pick.

Balancing the two factors, a second round pick seems about right, but with the right guidance and development, Rioli could become an exceptional player.

In his first year, Rioli will bide his time in the reserves, with his highlights having fans drooling on the sidelines demanding he be promoted to the seniors.

However, if developed right, Rioli would be worth the wait and a four-quarter Rioli is better than a one to two-quarter Rioli.

One thing is for sure, regardless of where he ends up, Daniel Rioli will be a player every fan watches with interest.

2015 Draft Profile: Tom Cole

Tom Cole (Bendigo Pioneers)

Height: 186 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Position: Utility
Player comparison: Matthew Boyd
Strengths: Versatility, inside work, leadership
Weaknesses: Speed, outside game
First year impact: Low to medium

Bendigo’s Tom Cole is your footballer’s footballer.

There is nothing too flashy about the inside midfielder, but there is nothing wrong with him either.

Some players are described as “bangers and mash”, or simple and effective. This is Cole to a tee.

If you are looking for a player that can hit a target lace-out 50 metres on the run, or take a huge specky, then do not consider Cole. If you are looking for a player that is ultra-consistent and can plug holes just about anywhere, then Cole is your man.

Cole is very similar to Matthew Boyd in the way he goes about it – a strong leader, uncompromising footballer and is not afraid to do the team things ahead of personal gain.

He can play in the midfield, up forward or down back and just has that dogged determination to win the football. When he does have the football, he has the aura that dares an opposition player to take it off him.

His greatest asset is by far his flexibility and ability to win a contest.

Not particularly athletically gifted or a skillful player, Cole is a reliable kick, with solid endurance, who can drift forward, kick a few goals, drift back and settle the defence, or be thrown into the middle to win important clearances.

In short, if you need the ultimate role player, Cole is that player.

That is not to say Cole does not have a future at AFL level, but unlike your Darcy Parish’s and Jacob Weitering’s, he’s unlikely to become that A-grade star that club’s can build lists around. But as fans know, you cannot have 44 stars on your list; you need honest toilers who can be relied upon to just get the job done week-in, week-out.

In terms of areas for improvement, the biggest area Cole could develop is his outside game. Particularly up forward, Cole could become more offensive and kick those two-to-three goals a game as a high half forward.

Right now, he would be a very reliable defensive forward, possibly even develop into a tagger down the track if they will exist in the future. Unlike a lot of young players trying to impress recruiters, Cole does not wow scouts with his offensive attributes, but his defensive attributes instead.

As many know, it is easier for clubs to teach players to back themselves offensively than to work harder defensively, because to slip back into past routines, means tackling and defensive pressure could go out the window, something unlikely to occur with Cole.

Much like Boyd, Cole could become a future captain and while he might not win a game off his own boot, he is likely to be that leader who his supporter base recognises, but opposition fans question why he is out there.

If Cole does develop a strong offensive game, then he could certainly become a very valuable asset to any football club.

In this year’s draft, Cole is likely to be drafted somewhere in that mid-second to third round draft range because he does not offer anything spectacular, but he is remarkably consistent. In an era when the pressure on young players is at a premium, it is unlikely to faze a player like Tom Cole, who will take it all in his stride.

A strong leader and defensive-minded general would come in handy for any club needing a big-bodied utility who can support any position on the field.

There are question marks over whether Cole’s lack of any particular offensive attribute will hinder his career, but he is the type of player who would be willing to work hard on that side of his game and would benefit from an AFL environment.

For some clubs who cannot afford a Lamborghini, sometimes going back to basics and settling for a mid-90s Holden or Ford still has value and just gets the job done.

If a club backs Cole in, they should not have to worry about what they will receive in return.

2015 Draft Profile: Kieran Collins


Kieran Collins (Dandenong Stingrays)

Height: 194 cm
Weight: 100 kg
Position: Key defender
Player comparison: Daniel Talia
Strengths: One-on-ones, strength, decision making
Weaknesses: Offensive impact, speed
First year impact: High

Kieran Collins is best known as the other tall defender next to number one pick Jacob Weitering, but he is so much more than that.

Ironically, when all is said and done about Weitering and his ability to play up either end and become a dangerous weapon both one-on-one or setting up attacks, not much is spoken of Collins’ ability to do the same.

While granted Collins does not have the precise long boot of Weitering or as much ability to back himself to take on opponents and go for a run, one-on-one he is superb and even showed he has the nous to play as a key forward when required.

Collins’ best trait is his no-nonsense defending, which he does so well because unlike some ‘spoil first’ or ‘mark first’ defenders, Collins reads the situation well and responds accordingly. In other words, if he feels he won’t be able to take it cleanly, he will spoil. If he thinks he will pluck the mark, he will back himself in.

While playing most of the season as a dour defender, shutting down the league’s best forwards, including Josh Schache, he did produce a bit of freedom in the finals series, when he was thrown forward early and took a couple of strong marks and kicked a goal, which would have impressed recruiters.

He also began backing himself a bit more to take the extra few metres and hit up a target long rather than bomb it out of defence, or handball under pressure.

Collins is your typical clubman. He might not win many awards, but he will become a fan favourite because of his determination and consistency to just get the job done.

Collins is likely to become that defender who will strike fear into opposition forwards, possibly even more than his highly fancied teammate Weitering. For everything that Weitering has going for him, Collins seems to be the player you tell “take this player out of the game” and it just happens.

Perhaps that is because of Weitering’s danger and creativity as a loose man or running half-back, but it is certainly because of Collins consistency of getting the job done.

Skill-wise, Collins is reliable for a key defender, without having an elite kick. He also has a big tank for a key defender, but again, was shadowed by the once-in-a-generation key defender in Weitering.

Not overly quick, Collins relies on his ability to read the play and get to contests before his opponents, timing the spoil perfectly. Another trait Collins has is to position himself in front of his opponent to ensure a faster forward cannot get a few metres on him.

At AFL level, Collins is likely to play on the monster forwards and would be suited to a Travis Cloke or Jarryd Roughead, however someone like a Jeremy Cameron could cause him some problems.

While he is unlikely to develop as a forward at AFL level, Collins showed enough, albeit in a quarter of football, that he has enough football smarts to play at full forward.

Most experts have rated Collins around the first round, which is about right, but given Weitering will put on navy blue next season, do not be surprised if a club takes him earlier than expected with only Aaron Francis the other early key defender selection.

A perfect fit for Collins would be someone like a Hawthorn, who are keen to snare another key defender, and Collins is pretty much readymade to go from round one.

While he will likely bide his time in the reserves for a little while, he is the kind of person likely to get a call-up early in his first year because of his dedication and consistency.

If he can continue to work on his offensive game, Collins could become a very solid player and a dour defender who can be relied upon week-in week-out to do a job on the opposition’s best forward.

2015 Draft Profile: Darcy Tucker

Darcy Tucker (North Ballarat Rebels)

Height: 183 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Position: Outside midfielder/half back
Player comparison: Sam Docherty
Strengths: Skills, footy smarts, leadership
Weaknesses: Consistency, inside game
First year impact: Some, but likely to be a second year player

In every draft there are bolters and sliders that rise up or drop down the order because of a variety of reasons, including injury or form. For Darcy Tucker, it is the latter.

At the end of last season, Tucker was considered one of the top 10 prospects, with a good season potentially propelling him higher. Unfortunately after a strong start to the TAC Cup season, Tucker was unable to impress at the under 18 championships and then continued his form slump when he returned to the Rebels later in the year.

A final month purple patch saw Tucker’s doubters start to go quiet, but another disappointing run of games, this time in the two finals, had them out in force. So how do you judge Tucker?

Tucker is not your typical huge accumulator to begin with. He can gather around the mid 20s in disposals on a good day, and while he has notched up in Dane Swan territory before, he is unlikely to have many 35-40 disposal games.

Luckily, Tucker does not need to find the football much to have an impact. He has silky skills and his disposal off half-back can be first class, but he can occasionally get flustered under pressure. A strike and subsequent yellow card against Stephen Tahana earlier in the year in the under 18 championships was a shock to many in the industry.

When in the midfield, Tucker is a very outside player. He uses his pace to jet away from the contest and hit a target up forward. However he has at times struggled to find the ball on the inside, a the key reason why he has played primarily on a back flank.

In comparing Tucker with top prospect Darcy Parish, both have great skills and good pace, but Parish is able to win the ball on the inside as well as out and can influence at both ends of the ground.

Tucker is a very solid defender, but he is yet to prove himself up forward on a consistent basis. It is these question marks that will linger in recruiters minds.

At his best, Tucker would be in the lower end of the top 10 players in this draft class, on his inconsistent form, Tucker is a mid-second rounder. It is likely he’ll go in between these picks, somewhere between 15-22.

Often Tucker’s underlying pace can be underrated because has enough time at half-back to dispose of the ball cleanly. He does have a fair bit of zip about him and can hit targets when at full tilt, which very few can do.

At the start of the season, Tucker and teammate Jacob Hopper complemented each other perfectly as the outside and inside combination the North Ballarat Rebels midfield needed. But towards the end of the season, Tucker had been drifting in and out of games and playing on the back flank using his foot skills to advantage.

One aspect recruiters will like about Tucker is his preference to back his kicking skills over handballing (three more kicks per game). He is also a solid tackler for an outside player, averaging more than four tackles per game in the TAC Cup from 12 matches.

Another strong characteristic about Tucker is ability to show leadership even when things aren’t going his way. He has led the Rebels well despite his own personal set backs and the way about his goes his training and professionalism is nothing short of first class. He is a hard worker and desperate to work on his deficiencies which he, the coaching staff and recruiters have identified.

To become a successful AFL player, Tucker will need to work on finding the ball, adapting to a tag and most importantly, working on his inside game. In all likelihood, Tucker will become a reliable half-back who can pinch hit in the midfield, preferably on a wing.

The 10 draft prospects you shouldn’t be sleeping on


1. Sam Weideman
Weideman is perhaps the second most established key forward in this draft. He has missed much of the year with an injury and he may not be ready to test at his peak for the combine either. When you are not playing, people almost seem to forget about you. Weideman is clearly one of the best marks in this draft class. He is strong and smart on the lead and in packs. His kicking for goal is an issue, but we haven’t been able to see his progress in that area.

2. Harley Balic
There’s a strange mindset that goes through draft watchers heads when someone excels as a bottom-ager. If they look to be a standout prospect at 17, you continually try to nitpick them as an 18 year-old. Balic certainly is no exception, which is why he is not getting talked about as much as his exposed form indicates he should. He showed as a bottom-ager that he could excel as a high half forward with class, like Sam Mayes. Then this year he moved into the midfield and showed that he could do it on the inside and outside. Watchers then began brandishing him as an almost “vanilla” prospect, when he may in fact have more tools than most midfielders in this class.

3. Darcy Tucker
Tucker sits in the same boat as Balic, in terms of being terrific 17-year olds with a lot of expectation. Indeed, Tucker has not had the year he would have liked, but he’s still the classy half back that we assumed he would be. He has had games where he’s found the ball over 40 times and then there’s been down games. Recruiters will have a tough time splitting Tucker, Ryley Bonner, Wayne Milera and Callum Ah Chee when looking to bring in class, but there’s no doubt Tucker still sits in that 10-15 range.

4. Kieran Collins
The last time we saw a key defender with the same skill set and size at this draft range was Daniel Talia. Collins is the victim of not being the ‘sexy pick’. He’s not that far off Jacob Weitering in terms of one on one defending. Collins is also a pretty decent intercept mark, but he will always get the number one forward in a shutdown role, so you don’t get to see that versatility. He has looked ‘passable’ as a forward in limited minutes, and he’s also growing as a rebounding defender.

5. Riley Bonner
A 191 cm rebounding defender with excellent footskills and great decision making ability almost always goes in the top 15 picks. As the 10-20 range of players is so even, it looks like someone has to make way. I do not think Bonner will go past that 16 – 18 range, as he could fit in at any club seamlessly in that Grant Birchall mould. He is a great complimentary player.

6. Luke Partington
After the year he has had, it has been his strength in the face of adversity that would impress recruiters the most. Partington has a bit of speed, and he’s usually a pretty good ball user. He does not excel in any particular area, but his ability to play in four or five different roles makes him arguably more valuable than a specialist type, depending on which recruiter is looking at him.

7. Nick O’Kearney
O’Kearney is the type of player where you know exactly what you’re going to get. He’s a terrific endurance runner and he’ll find the ball at any level of football. He’s not a ‘sexy’ pick as he does not have elite footskills and he does not hit the scoreboard often or take screamers. But Dan Hannebery was a very similar type player at the same stage of development. O’Kearney is one of the only players in this draft class where you are certain that if injuries don’t take a hold of him, he’ll play 150 AFL games.

8. James Parsons
Players who don’t have a ‘definite position’ often slip down draft boards. It is a difficult issue, as recruiters want to see versatility, but at the same time, they want to know exactly what a player is. Parsons has played on a wing, as a high half forward and an intercepting half back. It’s clear he’s got very nice foot skills, and he can hit the scoreboard when involved in general play. What has also emerged towards the end of the year is his ability to read the play and take intercept marks. His physicality also seemed like an issue early on, but he will back into a pack and just watch the ball. He doesn’t find enough of the ball to be a first round prospect, but aside from that, he is ticking all the boxes.that.

9. Kieran Lovell
As always, there’s a sub 180cm player that will just get disregarded again and again. Lewis Taylor, Touk Miller, Caleb Daniel and even Jade Gresham this year to an extent. Kieran Lovell is perhaps receiving the least love of any of these players, particularly as he is a Division 2 prospect. He wins his own footy, he has got terrific vision and he works harder than anyone else on the field. We saw towards the end of the championships that he could win games off his own boot. Lovell is sure to be one of the best value picks in this draft.

10. David Cunningham
Cunningham hasn’t had the year he would have liked. He has had some injury issues, and he’s had a few down games too. But he showed in the semi-finals that he has got some real talent. He is really quick, and a pretty good user of the ball too. More than anything, it’s his acceleration out of a stoppage that makes him lethal. That first two or three steps are really explosive. He will be one of the standouts at the combine, that is for sure.