Tag: sa

Scouting Notes: 2021 SANFL U18s – Grand Final

THE 2021 SANFL Under 18s season came to an end on Saturday afternoon, as Woodville-West Torrens defeated Glenelg to take home its third premiership in four seasons. In the latest SANFL Scouting Notes edition, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 17 and 19 representative squad members and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

>> Match Report

2021 SANFL UNDER 18 GRAND FINAL
GLENELG 10.9 (69) def. by WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS 13.8 (86)

GLENELG:

#2 Harry Tunkin

The diminutive small forward imposed himself on the contest early, laying a couple of very strong tackles in the opening minute of the game. Tunkin’s toughness and fearless attack on the ball would continue to be staples of his grand final performance. He showed good positioning up forward, working into dangerous spaces at the feet of the key forwards. He booted a goal mid-way through the second term, however the Prince Alfred College product would loved to have also converted a couple of his flying snaps on goal. Tunkin spent more time in the middle as the game wore on and showed some ability at the stoppages, providing spark and energy around the contest. In a solid outing, he gathered 19 disposals, three marks, five tackles, four clearances and 1.3 in front of goal.

#5 Hugh Stagg

The skipper set the tone early in the game with a terrific smother. Moments later he cut off an errant Eagles kick before delivering a beautifully weighted ball to key forward Jack Harding. Early in the second term, Stagg marked deep inside forward 50 but his kick from a difficult angle missed. With his side struggling to generate meaningful attack, Stagg took a strong mark and booted a captain’s goal midway through the second quarter which triggered a short-lived switch in momentum for the minor premiers. Stagg’s foot skills let him down at times, but his work around the contest was strong as it has been all season. Stagg finished with 20 disposals, five marks, four clearances and five inside 50s.

#20 Lewis Rayson

Despite his side being beaten on the day, Rayson was arguably the Tigers’ best performer. Dividing his time between half-back and a midfield role, Rayson showed a willingness to play on and take the game on at all costs. He complimented some meaningful dash with mostly clean and measured disposal by foot. He did the tough stuff well too, tackling hard and displaying good vision in-close. His positioning down back and ability to intercept mark proved valuable as well. Rayson capped off a strong season with another admirable showing in the grand final, amassing 27 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and three rebounds.

#32 Oscar Adams

Versatile key position player, Adams was given the job on Woodville-West Torrens forward Lukas Cooke for much of the day, restricting him to just one goal. He took a number of big pack marks to highlight his strong aerial ability and clean hands overhead. Adams was clean by hand and foot but will regret giving up a soft 25-metre penalty for an off-ball incident as the Eagles piled on the goals. He was sent into the ruck in the hopes of providing something extra around the ground in the final stages, but the writing was on the wall by that point. In a season which saw him earn state honours, Adams’ final club match of the season saw the athletic utility gather 16 disposals and six marks (four contested).

#38 Jakob Ryan

Bottom-ager, Ryan produced a fine showing for Glenelg. Operating across half-forward, he was caught for speed a couple of times early in the game but adjusted nicely and displayed nice composure with ball in hand. He did his best work in the air on the outer wing of Adelaide Oval, using his athleticism and height to take mark after mark. Arguably the goal of the game, in a match with several excellent efforts, was slotted by Ryan on the run from outside 50 to show everyone his high-end talent. Ryan’s overhead strength continued to stand out, along with his strong tackling and clean delivery inside 50. Ryan finished with 20 disposals, nine marks (five contested), five tackles and seven inside 50s.

#44 Jarrad Parish 

Full-back, Parish was given the daunting task of stopping Eagles captain Jordan Lukac, and kept the talented big-man goalless for three quarters. Although Lukac had a clear height and reach advantage over the Sacred Heart College defender, he wasn’t able to convert his opportunities early in the game. Parish never gave in, taking a number of hits for his side and continuing to fight it out. The Eagles’ midfield dominance would ultimately provide Lukac with a number of shots in the final term, which he duly converted, but Parish should be commended for his efforts. He provided solid rebound, with his ball use particularly impressive. He finished with 15 disposals, five marks (two contested) and six rebounds.

Others:

Harrison Kaesler was a standout for the Bays, with his run-and-carry from the defensive 50 a highlight. The Tigers’ leading ball-getter, Kaesler left his best performance of the season for last, finishing with 29 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s and seven rebounds. Cooper Beecken spent the game on the wing and finished with 21 disposals and five marks. Fellow outside midfielder Hunter Window worked hard and was also prolific, gathering 25 touches and three marks. Utility Darcy Gluyas ran hard all game to take six marks and gather 20 disposals. Key forward Jack Harding booted the first goal of the game and added two in the final term. Strong overhead and on the lead, he managed 10 disposals and six marks (four contested).

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS:

#2 Sam Nicholls

Nicholls has done some of his best work in the midfield this season, but his three first half goals up forward proved invaluable for the Eagles in their 17-point grand final win. His roving in and around the packs and intelligent positioning up forward allowed him to have a number of cracks at the goal in attack. Nicholls’ finishing was sublime and provided the Eagles with the fast start which alluded them in the previous two finals. He provided good pressure around the ball, finishing with 16 disposals, five tackles and three clearances.

#8 Brock Thomson

One of the premier small defenders in the SANFL Under 18 competition, Thomson again played an important role in the big dance. He spent some time on powerful Glenelg skipper Hugh Stagg early on and nullified a couple of one-on-one contests. Charged with the kick-in duties, Thomson’s foot skills stood out over a range of distances. He finished off a terrific season with 18 disposals, two tackles and nine rebounds in the decider.

#18 William Neumann

Neumann was in everything early in the game, with his fierce attack on the ball complimenting his handy run-and-carry through the midfield. A contested ball beast in the opening term, he moved to defence and continued to impact the game with his toughness and bash-and-crash style. He laid consecutive bone-crunching tackles in the second half to bring down two Tigers, who saw Neumann’s intense tackling first-hand. Rock solid down back, Neumann gathered 21 possessions, three marks, three tackles and three rebound 50s.

#21 Adam D’Aloia

If draft watchers hadn’t previously noted Eagles midfielder and SA Under 17 skipper D’Aloia, they certainly will now after the bottom-ager produced a dominant performance on the big stage. Having already spent some time at Reserves level this season, D’Aloia looked a class above the rest from the get-go. The inside midfielder was freakishly clean and quick with his hands in-tight. His ability to free his arms when being tackled and flick out a quick handball spoke of his high football IQ. D’Aloia was far and away the most dominant contested ball winner on the ground, using smarts at stoppages to amass clearance after clearance for the Eagles. In the second term, D’Aloia took a terrific mark on the 50m arc, then received a 25m penalty and slotted the set-shot goal to extend Woodville-West Torrens’ lead prior to half-time. D’Aloia’s stoppage brilliance continued after the main break, reading the tap-work of Zac Phillipsat centre clearances particularly well. A deserved winner of best on ground honours, D’Aloia gathered a game-high 30 disposals, four marks, eight clearances and nine inside 50s.

#26 Jordan Lukac

Lukac entered the grand final in hot form, following a match-winning five-goal effort in last weekend’s preliminary final win over West Adelaide. Although a couple of promising inside 50s just dropped short of Lukac’s leads early on, his attack on the ball and cleanliness at ground level were terrific. He had an early set-shot from long range which unluckily hit the post, then later sent a set shot out on the full. However, he used his body beautifully in the marking contest, edging direct opponent Jarrad Parish under the ball and marking well. Lukac continued to use his height and reach to advantage and looked dangerous whenever the ball was sent in his direction. Despite looking so threatening, he entered the three-quarter time huddle without a goal to his name. That quickly changed, as Lukac converted a couple of set shots to put the exclamation mark on the win. Lukac finished the game with 16 disposals, five marks (four contested), two tackles, seven hit-outs and 2.3.

Others:

Consistent midfielder Dustin Launer perhaps didn’t have his usual influence on the game by foot, but worked his way into it nicely to finish with 18 disposals and three marks on the wing. Mattaes Phillipou booted a terrific running goal to open the Eagles’ account. He flew high multiple times in attack and was clean with his hands in the midfield, collecting 17 possessions, three tackles and three inside-50s. 16-year-old Brody Mair played an important role, winning 13 disposals, applying three tackles, sending the ball inside 50 on five occasions and booting a goal.

The Eagles’ forwardline proved too tall for the Bays. Centre half-forward Lukas Cooke lead up well all game and brought the ball to ground well when he didn’t clunk it. Going head-to-head with Oscar Adams, he won 13 disposals, six marks (three contested), four tackles and a goal. Will Pearce was quiet early but turned it on after half-time. His damaging left foot sliced open the Glenelg defence and his presentation and strength in the air was excellent. Charlie Blair was exciting across half-forward, pushing up the ground to provide an option and doubling back to boot two goals.

Image Credit: Glenelg FC

Eagles soar above minor premiers to claim third Under 18 flag in four years

WOODVILLE-WEST Torrens has upset minor premier Glenelg by 17 points on Saturday afternoon to claim a third SANFL Under 18s flag in four years. The Eagles incited a remarkable 70-point turnaround from their semi-final loss to the Bays just a fortnight ago, even without the services of their best player on that day, Jase Burgoyne.

Bottom-age midfielder Adam D’Aloia was awarded the Alan Stewart Medal as best afield, proving a worthy recipient for his game-high 30 disposals, eight clearances and nine inside 50s. Winning skipper Jordan Lukac, who booted crucial consecutive goals at the start of term four, also marked his 19th birthday with the memorable victory which read 13.8 (86) to 10.9 (69).

The Eagles led at every break but Glenelg made arguably the better start, as Jack Harding opened the scoring in term one. After the Bays built a 10-point lead, Woodville-West Torrens clicked into gear with a run of three goals in five minutes to surge ahead by nine points at the first break, converting from a clinical spurt of six inside 50s.

Having built a block of momentum, the Eagles carried it into the second quarter as Sam Nicholls popped up with back-to-back majors to stretch his side’s unanswered run to five goals. Glenelg’s steadiers came via the reliable boots of Hugh Stagg and Harry Tunkin, before another frantic end to the term saw three goals added in as many minutes. Woodville-West Torrens had the last laugh, boosting its half time buffer to 13 points.

In what looked an ominous sign of things to come, the Eagles nabbed an important six-pointer within the first minute of the second half, but it lead to a tense 20-minute stalemate where the majors dried up. Eagles speedster Jay Watson eventually broke the deadlock and secured a then game-high 25-point lead, before Jakob Ryan hit back almost instantly to give Glenelg a sniff heading into the last break.

With quick goals a must for the Tigers, they could not quite convert in the clutch and Lukac made them pay by sending home two in the first five minutes. The Eagles began to wind the clock down with over 10 minutes left, before Glenelg added three late consolation goals to trim the losing margin to 17 points. It proved much too little, too late as the Eagles again saluted in the junior grade.

While D’Aloia’s midfield dominance proved a key factor, the Eagles were also served well by an almost impenetrable backline. Will Neumann (21 disposals) set the tone with his physicality, while Charlie Adams (18) provided plenty of drive as tall pair Liam Ueding and Jonte Hunter-Price chimed in aerially.

Charlie Blair booted two goals from 19 touches and Brock Thomson (nine rebound 50s) was another defensive standout, while Nicholls’ three goals broke the game open and Cormack O’Reilly was a sound outside outlet. Competition leading goal kicker Will Pearce also worked hard up the ground, with Lukac and Lukas Cooke fellow forward threats.

For Glenelg, Harrison Kaesler had the most ball with 29 disposals and seven marks, followed closely by Lewis Rayson (27 and seven). Hunter Window worked hard as usual on a wing with Cooper Beecken complimenting him on the other, while bottom-ager Ryan was impressive in his work up the ground, clunking nine marks (five contested).

Skipper Stagg and Tunkin both had their chances to convert inside 50, and Oscar Adams played a key role in defence before shifting into the ruck. Up forward, Harding was the main source of goals with a total of three to go with his usually strong marking. Two of his majors came in the last 10 minutes of the game.

South Australia’s brightest Under 19 prospects, including a bunch from either side of this contest, can now look forward to representing their state on AFL Grand Final day. The Croweaters take on Western Australia for a second time this season, jerking the curtain for this year’s top flight decider in Perth.

FINAL SCORE

GLENELG 3.0 | 6.2 | 7.6 | 10.9 (69)
EAGLES 4.3 | 8.3 | 10.5 | 13.8 (86)

GOALS:

Glenelg: J. Harding 3, C. Brougham, B. Ridgway, J. Ryan, H. Stagg, W. Trevena, H. Tunkin, W. Wiseman
Eagles: S. Nicholls 3, C. Blair 2, J. Lukac 2, J. Watson 2, L. Cooke, A. D’Aloia, B. Mair, M. Phillipou

DC BEST:

Glenelg: L. Rayson, J. Ryan, H. Kaesler, H. Window, C. Beecken, J. Harding
Eagles: A. D’Aloia, W. Neumann, C. Adams, B. Thomson, C. O’Reilly, S. Nicholls

Alan Stewart Medal: Adam D’Aloia (Woodville-West Torrens)

Featured Image: Eagles captain Jordan Lukac gets a kick away | Credit: Glenelg FC

Draft Central’s 2021 SANFL Under 18s Team of the Year

WITH only Saturday’s grand final left to play, now is the perfect time to look back at the SANFL Under 18s season that was in Draft Central‘s 2021 Team of the Year (TOTY). Finalists Glenelg and Woodville-West Torrens combined to contribute nine members of the 22-man squad, which is led by West Adelaide midfielder Cade Kennedy (captain) and highly touted South Adelaide prospect Arlo Draper (vice-captain).

Nine of the selected group represented South Australia in last month’s Under 19 National Championships bout against Western Australia, while a further two did so at Under 17 level this year. There were also plenty of talented South Australians who narrowly missed, either due to playing more football up the grades, in school competitions, or through the squad’s overall strength.

We take you through all 22 selections line-by-line, highlighting the strengths each squad member brings to the collective and exactly why they each feature.

DEFENCE

FB: Charlie Pridham (West Adelaide) – Dayne McGary (Glenelg) – Brock Thomson (Woodville-West Torrens)
HB:
Blayne O’Loughlin (North Adelaide) – Oscar Adams (Glenelg) – Lewis Rayson (Glenelg)

Clean foot skills and composure with ball in hand are prominent traits of the TOTY defence. Named in the back pocket, West Adelaide’s Charlie Pridham enjoyed a standout season for the Bloods, playing every game (including two finals), and finishing with the most disposals and kicks of anyone in the competition. A reliable contributor down back, Pridham remained calm under pressure and provided plenty of rebound and drive from the backline.

Glenelg’s Dayne McGary earned selection at full back following a strong season in the yellow and black, which saw him average 15 disposals and six marks per game. Often assigned the oppositions best tall forward, McGary’s strength and clean kicking were vital for the Bays’ success. Eagles defender Brock Thomson was an obvious selection down back following an ultra consistent year for the grand finalists, which saw him average 23 disposals, four marks and close to six rebound 50s.

North Adelaide gun Blayne O’Loughlin demanded a half-back spot after a terrific season at Prospect which saw him earn state Under 19 selection. As clean and composed as anyone under duress, O’Loughlin’s attacking instincts and dash from defence were hallmarks of the Roosters’ game plan. Oscar Adams joins fellow Tiger McGary in defence, slotting into the centre half-back role. Adams spent the year rotating between the ruck and a defensive role, with his height, reach and aerial prowess earning him state honours.

State Under 19 vice-captain Lewis Rayson slots in on the other half-back flank, having provided the Bays with plenty of trademark run-and-carry throughout the season. Also effective through the midfield, Rayson is a high metres gained type of player, whose dare and attack on the ball has proven valuable for SA and Glenelg alike.

MIDFIELD

C: Isaac Birt (South Adelaide) – Cade Kennedy (West Adelaide, captain) – Dustin Launer (Woodville-West Torrens)
FOL:
Will Verrall (South Adelaide) – Hugh Jackson (North Adelaide) – Arlo Draper (South Adelaide, vice-captain,)

South Adelaide’s Isaac Birt was a simple selection on the wing following a breakout season which saw him rise to become one of the state’s best outside midfielders. His combination of speed, endurance and crisp ball use cut apart games week-after-week, with his Round 10 effort against Norwood (31 disposals, two goals, 11 marks, five tackles and eight inside-50s) sure to have caught the attention of scouts.

Hard-working West Adelaide skipper Cade Kennedy is the starting centreman in the TOTY and has been named captain after displaying tremendous on-field leadership to inspire the Bloods’ rise from bottom last season to a preliminary final berth. He averaged 27 disposals, six marks, five tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s as one of the competition’s most well-rounded on-ballers. Hard at the contest but an effective run and carry option, Kennedy is well-deserving of a spot in the starting midfield.

Eagles utility Dustin Launer could have slotted into just about any position on the team, such is his versatility, but his efforts in a balanced midfield role see him selected on the wing. A classy ball user and hard runner, Launer collected 30 disposals in five games, including efforts of 42 and 37 (twice). Talented bottom-aged Panther Will Verrall narrowly edged out Centrals’ Saxon Evans and West’s Oscar Steene to win the number one ruck role. Verrall finished second in the competition for total hitouts, but was arguably more dominant when the ball hit the ground, with his ball-use and willingness to compete at ground level impressive for a player of his height.

North Adelaide’s Hugh Jackson was another obvious choice in the midfield rotation. He shot out of the blocks and finished with an average of 29 disposals, five marks, four clearances and five inside 50s. A smooth mover and good ball user on his left foot, Jackson was also clever by hand throughout the year. Despite spending time in the Reserves and League grades, South Adelaide’s Arlo Draper was too good at Under 18s level to leave out of the team of the year. Averaging 24 disposals, four marks, five tackles, six clearances and a goal per game, Draper was a class above the field in his nine matches. A classy mover who excels in traffic at stoppages, Draper also proved difficult to handle up forward and has been named vice-captain of the side.

FORWARD

HF: Hugh Stagg (Glenelg) – Will Pearce (Woodville-West Torrens) – Jesse Thackeray (West Adelaide)
FF:
Jack Delean (South Adelaide) – Corey Brougham (Glenelg) – Zyton Santillo (North Adelaide)

The half-forward line of the TOTY certainly packs a punch, led by Glenelg bull Hugh Stagg. Stagg’s power and strength was integral to the Bays’ engine room throughout the year, but he also proved his worth up forward by kicking 23 goals in 13 games for the minor premiers. At centre half-forward, competition leading goal kicker Will Pearce demanded selection after a dominant season with the Eagles which saw him bag 47 majors from 20 matches and lead the competition in contested marks. Loxton North product Jesse Thackeray produced a great season for the Bloods. Splitting his time between the midfield and half-forward, Thackeray’s work rate was always high and his defensive work wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by the West Adelaide coaching staff.

Despite not being draft eligible for another couple of years, brilliant small forward Jack Delean is thoroughly deserving of his forward pocket role. He booted 26 goals in eight Under 16 matches to help the Panthers to the flag earlier in the season, then took to the Under 18 competition like a duck to water, bagging 35 goals in 13 matches – including two hauls of five, never failing to hit the scoreboard. Electric at forward-50 stoppages, Delean wrecked havoc in the air and on the ground in a sensational season in the blue and white.

Glenelg’s Corey Brougham narrowly edged teammate Jack Harding to take out the all-important full forward position. A reliable set shot for goal, booting 38 goals in 14 matches, Brougham was unstoppable on the lead and his vice-like hands saw him mark just about everything which came his way. Zippy Rooster Zyton Santillo‘s defensive pressure and creative ball use through the midfield and in attack saw him earn a spot on the opposing pocket. Santillo produced a consistent season, finishing with an average of 23 disposals, five marks, five tackles, three clearances and three inside 50s per game.

INTERCHANGE

Matthew Dnistriansky (Norwood) – Jordan Lukac (Woodville-West Torrens) – Saxon Evans (Central District) – Harvey Harrison (North Adelaide)

The interchange bench was hotly contested, but Norwood’s Matthew Dnistriansky simply had to be picked to fill a role across the backline. Norwood’s most consistent player in what was a tricky year for the defending premiers, Dnistriansky’s measured ball use, sound vision and decision making were highlights of his year.

Following a dominant preliminary final showing, in which he booted five goals and lead his team to victory, Eagles captain Jordan Lukac was a late inclusion into the squad. Impressive up forward, the athletic big man also helped out in the ruck and got stronger as the season wore on. Bulldogs tall Saxon Evans finished the season with the most hit-outs of anyone and is arguably the best tap-ruckman in the state. Athletically gifted, Evans was perhaps unlucky not to be given a run in the state side against Western Australia.

Harvey Harrison is North Adelaide’s fourth selection in the team of the year. A midfielder with terrific running power and handy skills at top speed, Harrison is good in-tight but spreads as well as anyone in the competition. He finished the year averaging 25 disposals, six marks, four tackles, five clearances and three inside 50s.

Unlucky to miss: 

As is the case with all representative sides, there are a number of talented players who should consider themselves unlucky to have missed the cut. Glenelg had a number of fantastic contributors throughout the season, including medium defender Cooper Beecken, smart forward Harry Tunkin, classy midfielders Darcy Gluyas and Hunter Window, and strong-marking tall forward Jack Harding.

West Adelaide’s Kobe Ryan would have easily made the side but spent much of the year playing college football with Sacred Heart. His Bloods teammates Dylan White and Luke Young also narrowly missed out. Central District struggled at times, but Tahjin Krieg and Isaiah Dudley were standout performers. From South Adelaide, rebounding defender Lachlan Hayes and nimble midfielder Luke Mitton could also consider themselves unlucky to have narrowly missed the cut.

SANFL U18s Player Focus: Jordan Lukac (Woodville-West Torrens)

WOODVILLE-WEST Torrens Under 18 skipper Jordan Lukac was recently added to the extended AFL Draft Combine list, proving reward for the promising rate of improvement he has shown in 2021. The 196cm prospect turns 19 in September and represented his state at the level this season, with his athleticism and physical intent serving well.

On Saturday, he helped lead the Eagles to a fourth Under 18s decider in five years with a handful of goals as one of the dominant bigmen afield. We put Lukac’s preliminary final performance under the Player Focus microscope this week, breaking down his game quarter-by-quarter.

>> Scouting Notes: SANFL U18s Preliminary Final

POCKET PROFILE

Jordan Lukac
Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia

DOB: 18/09/2002
Height/Weight: 196cm/89kg
Position: Key Forward/Ruck

Strengths: Vertical leap, physicality, leadership

2021 Averages:

Under 18s: 14 games | 8.6 disposals | 2.6 marks | 1.9 tackles | 0.9 inside 50s | 2.4 goals (33 total)
Reserves: 3 games | 7.3 disposals | 2.0 marks | 5.7 tackles | 1.3 inside 50s | 0.3 goals (1 total)

2021 SANFL U18s Preliminary Final | Woodville-West Torrens 13.15 (93) def. West Adelaide 9.8 (62)

#26 Jordan Lukac (Woodville-West Torrens)

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1

Starting up forward with fellow tall Zac Phillips taking up the primary ruck duties, Lukac was presented with very limited opportunities to showcase his craft in the opening term. West Adelaide was well on top, restricting the Eagles to just one forward 50 entry across the first 15 minutes.

Lukac was eventually rotated into the ruck after 19 minutes but could not quite get his hands on the ball as Westies continued to surge ahead, ending up with a statless quarter – but not for a lack of effort from the skipper.

Q2

After the Bloods’ period of superiority, it was time for Woodville-West Torrens to hit back in term two. Lukac played a solid part in the scoring swing, notching a goal and two behinds from his sole three kicks for the quarter.

The bigman’s size and physicality drew extra attention from direct opponent, David Midwinter, who had the tough job of marking him one-out inside defensive 50. Lukac and the Eagles took toll.

He drew a holding free kick while leading to the top of the arc, which lead to Jase Burgoyne’s first goal as the Port Adelaide father-son prospect took the advantage into an open goal.

Protecting the drop zone well on long kicks in transition, Lukac snared his own score (a behind) from a 30m set shot, and later kicked his opening major after 17 minutes of play. He had the opportunity to add another from a similar spot but put the 45m set shot wide.

Q3

Contributing an identical scoring output of 1.2 in term three, Lukac continued to help the Eagles soar to a defining lead on the back of a greater wealth of opportunities. While he missed two gettable free kick conversions, Lukac produced one of the day’s highlights with his second goal.

Stationed behind the play outside attacking 50, Lukac marked and sensing a big moment, moved straight on with the ball. He carried it just past the arc and let fly with a booming shot on goal which carried through, with only about 90 seconds left in the term.

The captain’s goal cliché is, well, exactly that, but Lukac’s goal helped lift his side heading into the final term. Three of his four touches resulted in scores, with the remainder an errant bomb kick which ended up out of bounds on the wing.

Q4

Lukac’s finish to the game was indicative of his side’s efforts, as he added another three goals with surer conversion. The first came from a terrific juggled mark in deep a one-on-two contest, before Lukac turned and slammed the ball home with ease.

He found a bit more space for his next mark and goal, before again being infringed in a marking contest en route to snaring his fifth and final major score. Lukac also showcased some deft ruck craft in the second half, hitting nicely to his accelerating rovers for a few clean clearances breaks which caught the eye.

Closing thoughts…

While he started slowly with limited opportunities, Lukac ended up having a big say on the result with nine of his 10 kicks resulting in scores. He eventually straightened up but could have claimed an even bigger haul if not for inaccuracy, as he constantly drew free kicks with defenders struggling to combat his size and strength. The Eagles played to his strengths by stationing him one-out inside 50, where he only needs a few looks to do some damage. He got better and more effective with his ruck craft as the game wore on too, making for a well-rounded and impactful overall effort from the rising tall.

Image Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Scouting Notes: 2021 SANFL U18s – Preliminary Final

THE 2021 SANFL Under 18s season moved on into its second week of finals over the weekend, with the latest round of action producing plenty more excellent performances from budding AFL Draft prospects. In the latest SANFL Scouting Notes edition, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 17 and 19 representative squad members and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS 13.15 (93) def. WEST ADELAIDE 9.8 (62)

Woodville-West Torrens:

#4 Jase Burgoyne

The Port Adelaide father-son prospect had a busy start to the game and seemed to be one of the few Eagles midfielders who was able to get his hands on the ball in the first quarter. He showed flashes of class to weave his way in and out of traffic, then put the on afterburners a couple of times to stream away from the opposition. Burgoyne’s run-and-carry would continue to be an important factor for the Eagles as the game wore on. He ran into a vacant goalsquare to boot his side’s third goal of the game in the second term, after shifting from the middle to the forwardline. He had another couple of shots on goal from difficult angles which missed. Burgoyne wasn’t at his most productive against the Bloods, but his class and willingness to carry the ball was important, particularly when the Eagles were up against it early on. He finished with 20 disposals, two marks, four clearances and five rebounds.

#6 Dustin Launer

The consistent Eagle was again one of his side’s best in their hard-fought preliminary final win over the Bloods. One of the first Woodville-West Torrens players who looked to take the game on with run and skill after being comprehensively beaten early on, Launer’s outside work was important. A highly versatile player whose skillset has seen him spend time across half-back and on-ball throughout the year, Launer was stationed on the wing for the Eagles’ cut-throat final. He wasn’t overly dominant, but offered composure and calmness with ball in-hand. Launer concluded the game with 23 disposals and five marks.

#8 Brock Thomson

Thomson stood tall down back all day for the Eagles and played a critical role in his sides come-from-behind triumph. The Eagles defence was bombarded in the first term as the West Adelaide on-ballers dominated proceedings, but Thomson kept his cool when others succumbed to the early heat. The kick-in specialist was composed with the ball and made the right decisions for his team, rarely wasting a disposal. His intelligent kick into the centre from full back lead to a Jordan Lukac mark and goal to spark the Eagles. Thomson read the play well, taking a terrific intercept mark in front of the Bloods tall forwards in the third term. The small defender has produced a terrific season down back and he was again outstanding for the Eagles in the preliminary final, amassing 26 disposals, five marks, three inside 50s and six rebounds.

#11 Charlie Blair

Blair played an important hand in the Eagles’ win. Doing some of his best work in the air across half-forward, but also pushing into the midfield to lend a hand, Blair gave the Eagles the ideal start after quarter time by booting an early goal. He added another within a minute of the half time siren to further energise his side. Blair looked dangerous inside 50, taking a solid contested grab on the cusp of three-quarter time and nailing a team lifting-goal after the siren. He managed 20 disposals, three goals, six marks (four contested) and three inside 50s.

#16 Will Pearce

Pearce overcame a slow start to the match to play a major role in the second half. He crashed some packs and provided a strong contest, but remained almost unsighted in the game’s early stages. The Under 18s leading goalkicker snapped his first major at the 20-minute mark of the third term and started to get more opportunities in the attacking half of the ground. Pearce’s ball use on his left-foot was effective, however he was caught out when forced to use his non-dominant right on a couple of occasions. He booted a settling goal in the fourth term and will enter the grand final off the back of a resilient performance which saw him finish with 12 disposals, two goals, four marks (two contested), three tackles and six inside 50s.

#17 Mattaes Phillipou

Phillipou started the game up forward and was quiet early on, with the ball barely entering the Eagles forward half. However, when introduced into the midfield he had an immediate impact, winning a couple of quick clearances to get things rolling for his side. Phillipou’s natural smarts and intelligent positioning saw him finish with a game-high six clearances, with his clean hands in-tight a feature. Whilst he has shown match-winning capabilities up forward throughout the season to date, Phillipou’s strong work in the engine room against the Bloods will fill him with plenty of confidence ahead of the Grand Final next weekend. Phillipou ended the game with 20 disposals, three marks, six clearances and six inside 50s.

#20 Lukas Cooke

Tall forward, Cooke was the shining light for the Eagles in the first term, presenting well and marking everything above his head. Not dissimilar to Harry Lemmey at the other end, Cooke’s reach allowed him to gain separation on the lead then extend his long arms and take a couple of impressive marks down the line. An early set shot faded badly but landed in Charlie Blair’s lap, who should have converted. His work rate up and down the wings was admirable, despite Cooke fading out of the game as Jordan Lukac became the number one target in attack. Nevertheless, it was a good performance from Cooke, who finished with 16 touches, six marks (four contested) and four inside 50s.

#21 Adam D’Aloia

After playing in the Reserves last weekend, bottom-aged midfielder D’Aloia returned to the Eagles’ Under 18 side for the preliminary final. In the first quarter he had his legs taken out from under him and was certainly winded. To his credit, he bounced straight back up and got back to business. He had a couple of quick shots at goal inside 50 which fell just short, displaying good stoppage nous. D’Aloia’s quick hands in-tight were a highlight, with the midfielder’s decision making and vision on show. The SA Under 17 skipper managed 15 disposals, three marks and three tackles.

#26 Jordan Lukac

The Eagles skipper produced a standout second half to will his team over the line at Thebarton Oval. Lukac, like many of his teammates, struggled to get involved in the early part of the game, but a move into the ruck saw him pick up a couple of possessions. As the Eagles started to win the clearances and move the ball with speed and precision, Lukac’s raw athleticism and sheer size worried the Bloods backline. His hands were vice-like all day and his reach prompted the Bloods defenders to chop his arms, tug, hold and do just about anything in their power to take away Lukac’s aerial dominance. It was to no avail, with the SA Under 19 representative reaping the rewards of slick inside 50 ball use. Although he missed a couple of set shot kicks from gettable distances, Lukac’s routine was sound and his kicking solid. Along with 5.4 on the scoreboard, Lukac won 12 disposals, five marks and seven hit-outs.

Others: 

Ruckman Zac Phillips was forced to compete against a number of opponents on the day and battled hard. He took a couple of grabs around the ground, finishing with 13 disposals, five marks and 16 hit-outs. Will Neumann played a valuable role on the day and was particularly impressive with his defensive work, collecting 15 disposals, five marks, three tackles and four rebounds. Charlie Adams booted the Eagles’ second goal after spoiling inside 50. He finished with a team-high 26 disposals, three marks, five tackles, three clearances and five rebounds.

West Adelaide:

#3 Charlie Pridham

Although his side’s season drew to a close on Saturday afternoon, small defender Pridham capped off a terrific campaign with another serviceable performance for the Bloods. Typically busy across West Adelaide’s defensive lines, Pridham was involved early, using the ball with precision and assuredness. Always measured and in control, Pridham’s ability to provide relentless rebound, as he has done all season long, proved invaluable. He finished the game with 27 disposals, four marks and 10 rebounds.

#9 Kobe Ryan

Talented midfielder, Ryan produced a terrific display in what could be the final game of his bottom-aged season. Ryan started at the centre bounce, throwing himself at the contested ball despite his slim build. The running patterns of the Sacred Heart College and Plympton Football Club product were terrific, with Ryan always providing a short hit-up option. He used the ball well, rarely wasting a possession and making smart decisions. He worked hard up and down the ground throughout the match, with a couple of important possessions in the defensive 50 highlighting his willingness to run both ways. Westies’ best on-baller, and arguably the best midfielder on the ground, Ryan gathered a game-high 28 disposals, five marks, three tackles, three clearances and six inside 50s.

#10 Cade Kennedy

The West Adelaide skipper tried his heart out, setting the tone early with his strong attack on the ball and terrific spread from the contest. He had a shot for goal early in the second term which hit the post and would have given West a sizeable lead after a strong first quarter. Kennedy fought hard in congestion, but it was his run-and-carry through the middle which stood out. His core strength allowed him to shrug off a number of tacklers on the run. Kennedy could have lowered his eyes to hit up some shorter targets by foot on a couple of occasions, but his ball use was clean for the most part. The midfielder’s gut running was noticeable, even as the game wore on and others began to tire. Kennedy finished with 22 disposals, eight marks, four tackles and three inside 50s for the match.

#16 Dylan White

White was integral to the Bloods fast start and continued to play an important role despite West Adelaide loosing momentum as the match wore on. An early shot on goal failed to register a score, but White was rewarded moments later with a holding-the-ball free kick following a textbook tackle. His set shot, however, only managed a minor score. White’s work rate across half-forward provided the likes of Pridham, Kennedy and Ryan with an effective outlet option across the flanks. His ball-use was largely clean and his clean hands on the lead were important. Certainly one of the Bloods best, White finished with 26 disposals, 10 marks, four tackles and four inside 50s.

#33 Jesse Thackeray

Thackeray started the match with a bang, sending the Bloods inside 50 with back-to-back centre clearances – both leading to goals. His combative work in-tight would continue to be a feature of his game as the match wore on. Thackeray, who has had a terrific season across the midfield and half-forward lines, tackled well and should have added a goal to his name if he composed himself and converted a snap. In a modest, well-rounded display, Thackeray worked hard to finish with 22 disposals, eight marks, three tackles, four clearances and four inside 50s.

#36 Tyson Coe

Following a best-on-ground performance in last week’s elimination final victory over South Adelaide, Coe again stood up in the Bloods’ engine room. He brought some genuine physicality and intent to the contest, attacking the contest at pace, winning plenty of contested ball and relentlessly scrapping way at ground level. Coe’s vision and accuracy by hand was important in the clinches, as was his clearance-winning at stoppages. He finished the game with 23 disposals, five marks and a team-high five clearances.

#54 Harry Lemmey

The Bloods were well beaten in the end, despite coming out all-guns blazing, but centre half-forward Lemmey was dominant from start to finish. He got straight into the action, playing in front and capitalising on a quick centre bounce clearance to mark and boot the game’s first goal, giving the Bloods the dream start. His explosiveness on the lead was genuinely exciting to watch as the game wore on, with Lemmey easily gaining separation on his leads and extending his hands to make it virtually impossible for the Eagles’ defence to spoil. He timed his leads to perfection, and on the rare occasion he didn’t take the mark, Lemmey was freakishly clean at ground level and precise by hand. He had a number of set shots throughout the game, several coming from difficult angles beyond the 50m arc. Lemmey had no trouble making the distance either, with his smooth set shot routine easily clearing the goal line. He finished with 3.2, but Lemmey’s dominance went beyond the stats sheet, with his presence and impact on the game terrific for a 17-year-old key forward. He finished with 20 disposals, 12 marks and four inside 50s.

Others: 

Medium-forward Luke Young managed just nine disposals but finished with four goals to compliment Harry Barnett and Lemmey in attack. He presented well and was strong overhead. Key utility Barnett was impressive, with his skills, evasiveness and follow-up work notable for a player of his height. Fellow talls Tom Scully and Oscar Steene had their moments, particularly early on, rotating between full-forward and the ruck. Will Patton (13 disposals and three marks) was effective in defence, while wingman Jed Obst gathered 14 disposals, seven marks and five inside 50s.

Image Credit: Russell Millard/The Advertiser

PREVIEW | Finals fever hits SANFL as prospects crack senior grades

THE SENIOR SANFL grades roll into finals this weekend, with qualifying and elimination finals complementing a promising Under 18s preliminary matchup. There is a good scattering of junior talent looking to make an impact up the grades; from state Under 19 representatives, to AFL Draft Combine invitees, and bottom-agers on the rise.

With minor premier Glenelg getting the week off, Woodville-West Torrens (second) and Norwood (third) are the highest ranked sides in action during Sunday’s League fixtures. The Eagles, who defend their crown this finals series, have beaten the Redlegs twice in 2021 by a combined 83 points. Both sides should come in with a good deal of confidence though, having won in each of their last three outings.

State Under 19s representative Max Litster is in contention to keep his spot after debuting last week, named on the Eagles’ extended bench as skipper Luke Thompson and Daniel Menzel both return form injury. Small forward Henry Nelligan is a Norwood youngster to watch, along with rising defender Jack Heard. The Redlegs will also have their captain, Matthew Nunn, make a timely return.

North Adelaide and South Adelaide lock horns in the League elimination final, with both sides landing a game clear in the top five on the back of 10-win seasons. The two sides have met twice in 2021 for an even 1-1 ledger, though both are slightly out of form. The Panthers started hot but could only muster a 3-6 record in the back-end of the season, while the Roosters come in off two losses on the end of a six-game winning run.

All eyes will be on top draft pick contender Jason Horne-Francis after his magnificent performance last week, with the teenager primed to make a real impact on the big stage. Matthew Roberts has also been named on an extended interchange, as South brought in the likes of Matthew Broadbent. North has unfortunately lost a couple of players to injury, with former AFL-listed products Billy Hartung and Cameron Hewett sidelined.

A strong bunch of state Under 19 squad members are in line to hit the Reserves grade across both finals on Saturday, with Central Districts naming four for its elimination bout against West Adelaide. Speedy forwards Isaiah Dudley and Lachlan Grubb are in alongside tall midfielder Shay Linke and Luca Whitelum, who made a successful debut last week. Electric wingman Ronald Fejo Jnr also features for Westies after his combine inclusion.

In the qualifying final between Woodville-West Torrens and Sturt, state vice-captain Mani Liddy will look to continue his solid run of form. Defender Zac Becker will line up alongside him for the Double Blues, while Brayden Calvett and bottom-ager Adam D’Aloia are among both the two’s and Under 18s squads.

Speaking of the Under 18s, Woodville-West Torrens takes of West Adelaide for the chance to take on Glenelg in next week’s grand final. Both sides carry plenty of class across each line, fielding players across multiple age groups and a few each who will be in draft contention going forward.

Eagles skipper and recent combine addition Jordan Lukac lines up at full forward, looking to spearhead the attack with reliable goalkicker Lukas Cooke. The latter has been named at centre half-forward next to gun bottom-agers D’Aloia and Mattaes Phillipou, while Port Adelaide father-son candidate Jase Burgoyne starts out on the wing.

It’s land of the giants over at West Adelaide, with plenty of talls to choose from. Tom Scully and Oscar Steene take up the starting key forward posts, with Harry Barnett rotating from the ruck and Harry Lemmey another to choose from off the bench. 2005-born prospect Will Patton is one to watch up the other end, while bottom-agers Kobe Ryan and Tyson Coe compliment Cade Kennedy well in midfield.

Stay tuned to Draft Central over the next week, as we bring you Scouting Notes and Player Focus pieces on some of the weekend’s best performances, with the SANFL Under 18s Team of the Year also to be released mid-week.

Featured Image: West Adelaide tall Harry Lemmey in action at League level | Credit: Hannah Howard via SANFL

SANFL Player Focus: Max Litster (Woodville-West Torrens)

AFTER a solid season at Reserves level and a call up to the recent Under 19s championship match between Western Australia and South Australia, where he was one of SA’s best, Max Litster earned himself a late season League debut for the second placed Woodville-West Torrens. 

The 2002-born defender ended his maiden senior outing as one of the top handful of ball winners for his side in the resounding 104-point victory as Woodville-West Torrens built confidence heading into their finals campaign, which begins next week against Norwood. Litster impressed most with his defensive focus through the game, and impressive speed with ball in hand.

POCKET PROFILE

Max Litster
Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia

DOB: 6/07/2002 (19)
Height: 184cm
Weight:
83kg

Position: General Defender

2021 Averages:
SANFL Reserves (15 games)

 18.9 disposals | 13.3 kicks | 5.5 handballs | 4.7 marks | 1.4 tackles | 1.0 inside 50s | 4.8 rebound 50s

Source: SANFL

2021 SANFL League, Round 19 | Woodville-West Torrens 19.8 (122) def. Central Districts 2.6 (18)

#51 Max Litster (Woodville-West Torrens)

Stats: 23 disposals (14 kicks, 9 handballs), 7 marks, 1 tackle, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s

Q1

Like most senior debutants, Litster started the game on the bench, having to wait until the six-minute mark to get on field. His first involvement in play saw him used in the corridor of the defensive 50 as he led into a smart spot for his teammate who was stuck up against the boundary line. Litster’s follow-up kick was penetrating to a teammate on the wing, who was able to continue the ball movement quickly given Litster put it in front of him so he didn’t lose momentum. As the quarter drew on, Litster got more involved with play from the defensive 50 and pushed up the ground, and whilst at times his ball use was below par, he never dropped his head and continued to present and try to get involved.

What was impressive about Litster was his defensive focus in open play, and ability to quickly transition and find his opponent, sticking with them and spoiling the ball before they could hold it. Litster also showed an ability to gut run defensively, at one point sprinting into the goal square to take a mark just before the goal line and move the ball on well by foot.

Q2

Coming out in the second term looking to have gained confidence, Litster’s ball use improved dramatically as he looked to use his run and carry more aggressively out of defensive 50, starting handball chains that led to inside 50s with some creative ball use. Litster showed off his leap a couple of times in the second quarter, taking an intercept mark in the middle of a pack by jumping above everyone else then using the ball well with his switch kick, and another time getting caught behind his opponent but making up the distance with his closing speed and again leaping to spoil his opponent. 

Litster looked a lot more confident approaching contested situations or winning the ball under pressure in the second quarter, not being easily knocked around by opposition to get in good positions to win the ball. This was best demonstrated when there was a stoppage inside the Eagles defensive 50, Litster got the ball as it went over the top of the rovers, using his hips to block an opponent and quickly flicked it up to a teammate that was running past.

Q3

In a quieter quarter than his first two, Litster took some time to get involved in the game and have a meaningful impact, but came in strongly with a contested intercept mark just outside of forward 50, bombing long to create a contest for his forwards. Litster took a few marks around the ground with some smart positioning and his speed to beat opponents to the footy and hold it well. Unfortunately Litsters ball use dropped from where it was in the second quarter, missing teammates by foot when he was running straight at them, but looking good with his quick hands in close.

Litsters push up the ground was encouraging to see as he started to win more footy in the forward half and generally caused headaches for Central District as they tried to get the ball out of their defensive 50.

Q4

In a somewhat lacklustre end to the game, Litster didn’t get much of the ball, with the Eagles keeping the it in their forward half for the most of the quarter. When the opportunity was there for Litster to impact he took it with both hands, once again showing off his speed. One of his kicks was a nice highlight, chipping it over the top of a teammate so they could run onto the ball and then kick it long inside 50

Closing thoughts…

Overall it was a promising senior debut from Litster following on from his impressive championship game against Western Australia, slotting into the Eagles’ backline seamlessly and looking like on of their more accountable defenders, focusing more on his opponent and cutting off opposition plays than being around the contest in hopes of getting an extra touch. His leap and speed allowed him to impact contests that he looked like he wouldn’t get to. The one thing Litster can improve on from this performance is to find more consistency with his ball use.

Featured Image: Max Litster (far left) celebrates with his Eagles teammates | Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

Draft Central Power Rankings: September 2021

IT has been a long wait, but the Draft Central Power Rankings are back for another edition. The September update sees our list of top prospects stretched to 30 after a last-gasp National Championships fixture and some handy showings from rising stars amid the on-again, off-again nature of season 2021. While changes are scarce at the top-end, there are six fresh faces among the overall intake and a couple of notable risers who continue to garner attention.

Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion of each players’ current ability and potential, not taking into account the bidding system, or AFL clubs’ lists and needs.

>> 2021 AFL Draft Combine List: 90 prospects earn invites

#1 Nick Daicos (COL F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg

August Ranking: #1

Snapshot: Daicos has an unrivalled understanding of the game; able to bring his teammates into it and anticipate where his next possession will come from, leading to utter domination.

The Collingwood father-son prospect (son of Peter) has more than justified all the hype leading into 2021, solidifying his status as a bonafide number one contender. Daicos made his long-awaited NAB League debut in Round 1 and has gone on to dominate the competition, putting up ridiculous numbers through the engine room as the skipper of a talented Oakleigh Chargers group. Much like his brother, Josh, Daicos was only due to enter the Chargers’ program last year but was made to wait for his unveiling in Oakleigh colours. It was well worth it, though keen watchers already knew of his supreme ability having seen him hold his own in a Carey Grammar side featuring Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. The Magpies are in for a rare talent.

Last month:

In what was a quiet month for Victoria’s metropolitan prospects, Daicos still managed to dominate headlines. The father-son candidate officially nominated Collingwood as his destination of choice, committing two years on top of his original starting contract as he waits to join the senior squad in November. He looks a lock to be bid on with one of the first two picks.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

Nick Daicos on the ball for Oakleigh Chargers

#2 Jason Horne-Francis
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg

August Ranking: #2

Snapshot: A midfielder with next to no weaknesses whose power bodes well for tough ball winning and impressive aerial marking, as well as damaging scoreboard impact.

Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne-Francis retained his crown for our first two rankings updates. The South Adelaide talent impressed in his debut SANFL League outings as a bottom-ager, and has since transitioned into a more prominent midfield role with guidance from former Carlton and Adelaide champion, Bryce Gibbs. He has long been a standout among the South Australian crop, participating in back-to-back Under 16 carnivals and being crowned his state’s MVP in 2019 as captain. Only 18 in June, Horne-Francis boasts a well-balanced game with plenty of damaging strengths and very few weaknesses, with his exposure at senior level another factor which sees him well in contention for number one status.

Last month:

We got to see some of Horne-Francis’ blinding best during August, as two of his four SANFL League appearances yielded high level returns. He kicked off the month with 22 disposals and three goals against Central District, before bookending it with 24 disposals, five clearances, seven tackles, nine inside 50s and a goal against West Adelaide. In between those outings, he also skippered South Australia’s Under 19 squad. While down on his usual lofty standards, Horne-Francis spent plenty of time forward and made his presence felt – particularly during a productive final quarter.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

Jason Horne-Francis captaining South Australia | Credit: SANFL

#3 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #3

Snapshot: Callaghan is a classy mover with great agility for his size, and has shown a high level of development to prove his balance of outside and inside traits.

One who seems destined to crack the top five picks come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back has recently transitioned to an inside role, but continues to prove difficult to stop at full flight with his blend of straight-line power and swift agility. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his clean kicking, and seems to manufacture time on the ball in the clinches.

Last month:

While there ended up being no football for Victoria’s metropolitan regions, Callaghan was arguably set for a pretty steady August in any case. The smooth mover was due to return from a foot injury which kept him from representative honours in July, but can now rest up ahead of the combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

Finn Callaghan in Vic Metro colours

#4 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Utility
19/08/2003 | 204cm | 75kg

August Ranking: #4

Snapshot: Darcy is a fast-developing tall talent who can play in each key position post, is athletic, and marks the ball cleanly.

They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top three candidate on potential and the clear best tall in the draft, with his versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy initially impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck at NAB League level, but went on to consolidate his top-end credentials with outstanding performances up forward. Bulldogs fans, you have another key position jet on the radar.

Last month:

Another Vic Metro prospect who did not get on the park in August due to a lack of NAB League and APS football, Darcy remains in top three contention and like Daicos, will inevitably attract a very early bid.

Sam Darcy is the leading tall in this year’s crop

#5 Ben Hobbs
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #5

Snapshot: Hobbs is a hard-nosed, hard-working inside midfielder who loves to compete both defensively and in a ball winning sense.

The GWV Rebels ball winner had an interrupted start to his 2021 campaign due to injury, but has well and truly proved his top 10 credentials since getting back on the park. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety soon-to-be 18-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and has taken full toll with dominant numbers upon his return to action.

Last month:

Victoria’s Country regions briefly got back on the park in August, and Hobbs managed to sneak in a couple of outstanding performances for his GWV Rebels. Consistent as ever, he racked up 34 and 32 disposals across the two games while also finding the goals in each. Hobbs’ hard edge, ball winning ability, and reliability continue to be his key strengths, despite both of his August outings resulting in losses.

>> NAB League POTW: Round 9

Ben Hobbs kicks Vic Country forward

#6 Josh Gibcus
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender 
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg

August Ranking: #7

Snapshot: An intercept marking defender who reads the play well and has a sizeable leap, Gibcus’ eye-catching form has propelled him into top 10 calculations.

Once again, Gibcus is the second tall prospect on our list and has earned his spot with superb form this year. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender is an intercept type who uses his strengths to advantage; reading the play beautifully and timing his movements to float onto the scene, before rising with his springy vertical leap to take series of marks and force turnovers. While he is working on his ground level game, Gibcus is so clean in the air and usually a sound distributor across the last line, showing great composure on the ball. He was one of the many AFL Academy call-ups and truly held his own in that fixture, as he continues to improve at a great rate.

Last month:

Like Hobbs, Gibcus got on the park for a couple more appearances in GWV colours. He was also consistent in his output, managing 12 and 13 disposals in the respective losses, while also rising for three marks in both games. The tall talent may be quiet at times, but has terrific upside and some eye-catching strengths across the backline.

#7 Mac Andrew (MEL NGA)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg

August Ranking: #6

Snapshot: A raw tall prospect who has proven his worth in each key position post, Andrew’s vertical leap and fast-developing craft really catch the eye.

Another key position talent who rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew is well and truly out of reach for Melbourne as a Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate by now. He currently sits inside the top 20 group quite unanimously, boasting raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons NGA talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Last month:

While considered a Country region, much of Dandenong’s list lies within the Metro ring and thus, the Stingrays’ last game came on August 1. Andrew was afield for the loss to Eastern Ranges, notching 17 disposals, four marks and 16 hitouts. He looked quite raw and struggled for footing at times, but popped up with a couple of typically impressive overhead marks as he rotated forward from the ruck.

>> ‘Rays on the rise

#8 Josh Ward
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Midfielder
15/08/2003 | 181cm | 79kg

August Ranking: #8

Snapshot: A classy midfielder who is consistently capable of winning mountains of possessions, Ward proves a centre bounce mainstay with his clean skills and work rate.

Having started the year on the precipice, Ward has broken into and consolidated his spot well among the 2021 crop’s first round bracket. The Northern Knights midfielder is one who works hard both ways and gets stuck in at the contest, able to win his own ball and distribute with clean skills to the outer. He is also beginning to showcase his own traits on the outside and can impact while resting forward, but holds clear value as a reliable ball winner at the stoppages. A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Ward won the same honours this year as a rising draft eligible Under 19 talent.

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based counterparts, Ward did not see any action over the last month due to a lack of APS and NAB League competition.

Josh Ward captained Vic Metro this year

#9 Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder
2/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #9

Snapshot: Initially an exciting forward who has since transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching traits both aerially and at ground level.

Arguably Western Australia’s leading prospect, Erasmus has built on the promise he showed in last year’s WAFL Colts grand final which saw him come into 2021 as a first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 decider, showcasing clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this year, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with scoreboard impact remaining in his back pocket.

Last month:

Western Australia’s vice-captain returned emphatically via the state side at the end of July during trials, but did not get to take the field in last week’s National Championships bout. The Hale School skipper sustained a corked thigh in his August 14 PSA outing and played the next week despite it, but saw said injury flare up just before he was set for representative duties. Erasmus was brave in his school outings as he endured the knock, impacting as one of his side’s best players with more time up forward. He has not played in any WAFL grade since May, and may well have played his last game for the year – pending another state Under 19s clash.

>> WA U19s Player Focus: Neil Erasmus

#10 Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg

August Ranking: #10

Snapshot: A smooth-moving midfielder with terrific poise and class, Sonsie opens up the play with his clean disposal and ability to find the goals.

One of the most highly-touted Victorian prospects before a ball had been bounced in 2021, Sonsie’s absolute best is exceptionally good. The Eastern Ranges prospect was Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in 2019 and is one of the few 2003-born NAB Leaguers to have already experienced the Under 19 competition. He was part of his region’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, rolling forward off a wing. Now a draft eligible talent, Sonsie has moved more permanently into midfield and while he is developing his defensive running, has plenty of attacking traits to offer. His ability to exit stoppages with poise and make good decisions with ball in hand is top notch, with that exceptional skill level also translating to dual-sided finishing in front of goal.

Last month:

Sonsie has been on the sidelines since late-June due to injury, sustaining bone bruising in the second half of Eastern’s Round 9 loss to Sandringham. He was thus ruled out of Vic Metro duties in July, and did not manage to get on the park last month with metropolitan NAB League regions out of action.

>> VFL Player Focus
>> Head-to-Head: Sonsie vs. Daicos
>> NAB League POTW: Round 1

#11 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Defender/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #11

Snapshot: A line-breaking half-back who has shown promising development in midfield, Sinn’s greatest strengths are his speed and kick penetration.

Another established leader among the Victorian crop as one of Sandringham’s co-captains, Sinn’s best is as damaging as anyone in the overall draft pool. He is regarded as the most damaging technical kick in the Dragons’ program and is given the license to look for options others simply wouldn’t. His penetrative boot and line-breaking speed make him a meters gained machine, observed most significantly with his well-timed runs off half-back or on the wing. Sinn has also moved onto the inside to good effect, showing a handy balance of traits and utilising the size he added during last year’s lost season. His campaign has been interrupted by injury, but he looked close to regaining top form at times.

Last month:

Injured during the final term of July’s Victorian Challenge Match, Sinn was set to make his return in the back-end of the NAB League season. With that now scrapped for Metro regions, he can look forward to turning out at the Draft Combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

Josh Sinn carries the ball forward for Sandringham Dragons

#12 Josh Rachele
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg

August Ranking: #13

Snapshot: A mercurial forward who has drawn comparisons to GWS star Toby Greene, Rachele has unbelievable smarts, skills, and a keen eye for goal.

Rachele is rightly a standout among his draft class, having taken out the Under 16 Division 1 MVP award for Vic Country in 2019. He quickly went on to represent the Murray Bushrangers, averaging a tick under 18 disposals and two goals in four games as a 16-year-old. The exciting forward hails from an elite soccer background and has quick feet to show for it, as well as the smiling celebrations you’d expect on the end of well-finished goals. Rachele is lauded for his skills and smarts in the forward half, but has shown an aptitude for midfield work with his turn of speed and ability to find the ball at ground level. He’s capable of highlight-reel moments.

Last month:

The Murray Bushrangers only played once, at the very start of August but had the bye during the competition’s mid-month return. Rachele did not turn out in the aforementioned fixture, and his three-goal APS dig with Caulfield Grammar on July 31 was his last outing.

#13 Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg

August Ranking: #14

Snapshot: Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in tight spaces through the engine room, and brilliant marking ability to impact when stationed inside attacking 50.

One of the more intriguing and versatile prospects in the draft pool, Draper has garnered attention with his promising bottom-age form and continued success in all three SANFL grades this year. The smooth-moving midfielder has had no trouble getting his hands on the ball with more consistent time in midfield, before impacting in his resting stints up forward. He is yet another South Adelaide prospect in the mix, with his stylish form and clean hands making him easy on the eye to keen draft watchers. He is one who will feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.

Last month:

Draper returned from injury through the Reserves last month, with his 14 disposals and four clearances enough to earn a League debut the following week. He looked classy in possession while averaging 11 disposals and five marks in his two top flight appearances, before turning out for South Australia in the Under 19 championships fixture. The first round talent was a touch down on his usual output but did some nice things rotating through midfield from the forwardline. He then dropped back down to Under 18s level, producing 24 disposals, five marks and six clearances in a finals loss to West Adelaide.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus
>> Feature

#14 Jye Amiss
East Perth/Western Australia | Tall Forward
31/07/2003 | 195cm | 85kg 

August Ranking: #19

Snapshot:

You’ll hear plenty of puns regarding the key forward’s ironic surname but it’s true that Amiss is more hit than, well, miss. The East Perth spearhead has dominated the 2021 WAFL Colts season thus far, booting 51 goals in 13 games with a ridiculously good conversion rate of 78 per cent from his scoring shots. He proved undeniable for selection in a West Australian state squad stacked with key position talent, and doesn’t need a wealth of opportunities to make an impact. With sound overhead marking and an improving ground level game, Amiss is an irresistible threat inside attacking 50. He bolted into our rankings with a debut inside the top 20, and makes another move having excelled on the big stage.

Last month:

Amiss has skyrocketed into top 15 contention over the last two months, with his latest patch of form only consolidating said status. He started out with 18 disposals, 11 marks and six goals against the bottom WAFL Colts side after starring in state trials, before snaring two goals on each side of his National Championships outing. As WA’s spearhead, Amiss snared two goals and passed off some gettable opportunities in a terrific display where he constantly found separation on the lead, marked cleanly overhead, and kicked a highlight reel goal.

#15 Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 81kg

August Ranking: #12

Snapshot: Roberts is a hard-working and consistent midfielder with senior experience who racks up plenty of the ball, but can also rotate forward.

Another member of South Adelaide’s football factory, Roberts’ form over the last few seasons has seen him prove difficult to deny of first round contention. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 18-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.

Last month:

Like South Adelaide teammate Draper, Roberts returned from injury through the Reserves where his 18 disposals and five marks were enough to yield a League call-up. He had not trouble finding the ball with 20 disposals and seven inside 50s in his game back in the top flight, before kicking two goals from 13 touches on the other side of his National Championships appearance. Roberts found indifferent form in said fixture, putting in a shift during term two to keep SA in the contest, but proving a touch scrappy with his disposal at times. He found plenty, nonetheless and continues to put up strong numbers.

>> Q&A
>> Feature
>> SANFL League Player Focus

Matthew Roberts gets a kick away | Credit: Nick Hook Photography

#16 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Outside Midfielder/Defender
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

August Ranking: #16

Snapshot: A speedy and productive mover on the outside, Chesser breaks the lines from half-back or the wing but has also shown a good balance in his ball winning.

A third Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 20, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser had only just cracked Sandringham’s stacked midfield in a bid to showcase his balance, having lacked continuity while battling a knee injury earlier in his campaign.

Last month:

Another who was primed to impress in the back-end of the year, Chesser did not get the chance to prove his worth given the lack of APS and metropolitan NAB League football. He already missed a chunk of time earlier in the year having undergone knee surgery, but will be preparing for the Draft Combine.

#17 Josh Goater
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Midfielder/Defender
2/06/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

August Ranking: #17

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with explosive athletic traits and clean hands on the inside, Goater is a prospect with great potential and versatility.

Goater lays claim to one of the more impressive athletic profiles in the draft pool, particularly in a power sense. His explosive turn of speed and impressive vertical leap are traits which catch the eye at testing events and are transferred on-field, with the Calder Cannons product able to produce exciting passages of play. He has proven his worth in midfield with good ball winning strength and clean hands on the inside, but can also roll out to a wing, pinch-hit up forward, and has proven his class off half-back. He is another who stakes his claim on high upside.

Last month:

Goater technically made an appearance in August, albeit on the first day as his Calder Cannons beat the Murray Bushrangers. The talented utility continued to showcase his versatility, starring in defence with 28 disposals, 11 marks and eight rebound 50s before Metro regions again went into lockdown. His intercept marking ability and clean kicking skills proved weaponous.

#18 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera
Glenelg/South Australia | Wing
22/02/2003 | 188cm | 70kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A smooth-moving wingman with plenty of tricks, Wanganeen-Milera can carve up the opposition with his combination of agility and elite decision making by foot.

Wanganeen-Milera comes from good pedigree as the nephew of Gavin Wanganeen and son of Terry Milera, but is blazing his own trail en route to first round contention. Class is the word which often comes up when describing the flying Glenelg wingman, as he dances around opposition players and delivers pin-point passes by foot. The 18-year-old started out in the Bays’ Reserves team this year but has since made an impact at League level, and was a late call-up to the AFL Academy squad in April. He has proven one of the most exciting draft prospects to watch over the last two months, performing well against high levels of competition and holding his own. The scary thing is, he still has plenty of room to grow and improve.

Last month:

While he made his SANFL League debut in July, Wanganeen-Milera made arguably his biggest impact in August. He kicked a clutch goal in Glenelg’s dramatic win over Norwood, and booted another major from 13 disposals the next week before slotting into South Australia’s Under 19 state squad. He was a standout at that level, tearing up the wing and oozing class with each disposal to thrust his name into top 15 calculations. His last outing was back in the League grade, managing nine touches as Glenelg lost its first game for the season on the eve of finals.

>> SANFL Player Focus

#19 Matthew Johnson
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder
16/03/2003 | 193cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #15

Snapshot: With smooth agility and clean hands at the contest, Johnson is one of the premier tall midfielders in this year’s draft crop and has plenty of upside.

Hailed as the best tall midfielder in this year’s crop coming into the season, Johnson is one with a point of difference and a good amount of development left. The 193cm Subiaco prospect continues to put on size and can win the ball at the coalface, but stands out most with his smooth movement in traffic and clean skills around the ground. He suits an in-vogue modern day prototype and will inevitably yield comparisons to some of the currently dominant midfielders over 190cm. Johnson is already well versed in terms of representative duties and was part of Subiaco’s WAFL Colts premiership side in 2020. He also earned a senior debut this year and would have done so earlier if not for injury on the eve of season proper.

Last month:

Johnson turned out for back-to-back games in the WAFL Reserves grade to start the month, returning mixed results. While he was quiet with seven touches in his first dig, the tall midfielder backed it up with 22 disposals and 10 marks to showcase the range between his best and worst form. He had previously proven all class against his peers though, and that was no different as he represented WA in last week’s National Championships showcase. Running through midfield, Johnson’s kicking was outstanding and he proved a top level type with ball-in-hand.

#20 Darcy Wilmot
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Small Defender
31/12/2003 | 182cm | 70kg

August Ranking: #18

Snapshot: Wilmot is a tenacious and brave half-back whose most flashy weapons show on the attack, as he breaks the lines with great speed and ball use.

Wilmot has thrust his name into contention with increasingly impressive performances for the Northern Knights in 2021, as well as an impressive senior debut at local football level. The small-medium defender has all the typical class and running prowess you would expect on the rebound, but is also willing to compete above his size in aerial contests. The 17-year-old still has plenty of development left as a December 31 birth, meaning he only just makes the cut to be eligible for this year’s draft. His run-and-gun style is sure to catch many more eyes as the season continues, with Wilmot a prospect truly on the rise.

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based Victorian counterparts, Wilmot’s last game came on August 1. The speedy half-back was one of Northern’s best in a home loss to Bendigo, contributing 16 disposals, four rebound 50s, and plenty of run out of the back half. A vocal kind of leader, he also read the play well and got behind his teammates with great voice. There have, unfortunately, been no opportunities since.

Darcy Wilmot on the fly for Northern Knights

#21 Jack Williams
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Ruck
1/12/2003 | 195cm | 91kg

August Ranking: #20

Snapshot: Williams is a versatile tall prospect who thrives aerially and consistently kicks goals up forward, while also rotating through the ruck or even to defence.

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams has been in sensational form at WAFL Colts level. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 35 goals in 12 WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

Williams continues to prove an ominous type at WAFL Colts level, consistently kicking multiple goals and dominating in the air. He booted eight goals from a combined 29 disposals and 13 marks in his two games in the lead up to state Under 19 representation, before returning with another three majors from 17 touches and nine marks last week. In his National Championships outing, Williams showed promising signs up forward and found the big sticks, but could have ended up with more had he converted and stuck even more overhead marks inside 50.

#22 Sam Butler
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
10/02/2003 | 184cm | 73kg

August Ranking: #24

Snapshot: Butler has wonderfully clean hands and burning pace, traits which have translated well from an initial forward role, to a more recent midfield venture.

Another prospect with ties at the elite level, Butler is the brother of St Kilda forward, Dan. He is an exciting player in his own right though, with sharp skills by hand and a terrific turn of speed which serve him well in a creative sense. Having proved himself in the forward half, Butler went on to impress with his clean ball winning ability in midfield before injury struck. He missed out on representing Vic Country as an Under 19 having done so at Under 16s level, but is a player who catches the eye and would have been a lock for said honours if the opportunity presented once again.

Last month:

While Butler was steady with 10 disposals and 1.2 in his August 1 outing upon returning from injury, he built back to form in his next appearance. Turning out in a loss against Gippsland, the midfielder-forward racked up 27 disposals and four marks to be one of the Rebels’ better players on the day, before all Victorians were sent back into the current state of lockdown.

>> NAB League Player Focus

#23 Josh Fahey
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Medium Defender
11/11/2003 | 186cm | 76kg

August Ranking: #21

Snapshot: A run-and-gun rebounding defender who gives his all and boasts a raking left-foot kick, Fahey is arguably this year’s leading Northern Academy talent.

Our top-ranked Northern Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is clearly the best prospect out of the Allies crop and a real top 25 round contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in April’s AFL Academy showcase against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

The sole NSW-ACT representative on this list, Fahey has also been impacted by lockdown over the last month but managed to sneak in a senior game. He turned out for local, AFL Canberra First Grade outfit, Queanbeyan on August 7 and produced the goods. Fahey snared three goals and was among the Tigers’ best players in a 129-point win over Gungahlin. Opportunities continue to prove scarce though, unfortunately.

>> Feature

#24 Tom Brown
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Medium Defender
30/07/2003 | 186cm | 71kg

August Ranking: #22

Snapshot: A dashing half-back with terrific athleticism in the form of speed and a vertical leap, Brown is a bolting talent who you’ll likely miss if you blink.

While Geelong gained access to sister, Millie via father-daughter rules, Tom Brown is ineligible to be drafted by the Cats under the father-son category as his father Paul falls just short of the 100-game qualification. Nonetheless, the Murray Bushrangers prospect has plenty of eye-catching traits which will help him blaze his own trail. A Vic Country Under 16 and now Under 19 representative, Brown is capable of playing on each line but looks to have found a home across half-back, where his dashing style and overhead marking shine. An ankle injury kept him out for a large chunk of the season, but he since returned and looked raring to break into first round contention.

Last month:

As has proven a repeated tale for Victorians on this list, Brown only managed one NAB League outing in August. He was steady with 12 disposals, two marks and three tackles in Murray’s low-scoring loss to Calder at the start of the month, but has not had any further opportunities to impress with no APS competition, and the Bushranger’s bye on August 15.

#25 Zac Taylor
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Small Midfielder/Forward
31/01/2003 | 180cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A crafty small prospect with outstanding vision, skills and decision making, Taylor has no trouble finding the ball and makes things happen when in possession.

A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Taylor proved undeniable for repeat honours in the Under 19 grade this year given his outstanding NAB League form. The 180cm midfielder-forward combines toughness with high level smarts; not afraid to work hard to win his own ball, but most effective when able to accumulate and tear sides apart with his sharp skills. The 18-year-old has a great turn of speed and looks to be creative with each possession, breaking into space with his zip before hitting targets further afield. He is particularly reliable by foot and puts up ultra-consistent numbers each week, making him a deserved entrant to the top 25 up our September update.

Last month:

There has been no NAB League action for Metro prospects past August 1, but Taylor made than lone appearance count after impressing at representative level. He racked up a whopping 37 disposals, four marks and four inside 50s in a tight win against Murray on that day, having built into a ridiculous strong vein of form.

>> NAB League Round 15 POTW

Zac Taylor is a crafty user of the ball

#26 Blake Howes
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Wing

7/04/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: One of the best athletes available in this year’s draft, Howes boasts a terrific aerial game but also competes well at ground level and shows promising versatility.

While unranked last month, Howes is one who previously featured in our top 25 and is a player who should be well known to keen draft watchers. He was an All Australian at Under 16 level, plying his trade as a high-marking medium forward with wonderful athleticism and clean hands. While he started the year off in that usual forward post, Howes has since shown his versatility with a shift to the wing and is a classic high-ceiling type of prospect. He was included in this year’s initial AFL Academy intake and continues to back up that selection with form fitting of his potential as a mainstay in the Sandringham Dragons’ side.

Last month:

It was unlucky for a player like Howes that the latest lockdown came, given he had been building into some really promising form for Sandringham Dragons up on the wing. He notched 20 disposals and two goals against strong opposition in GWV on August 1, continuing to show his potential and genuine upside.

#27 Mitch Knevitt
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
8/01/2003 | 193cm | 81kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with great size and reach, Knevitt dominates at the coalface and impacts around the ground with his strong overhead marking, a feature also sighted up forward.

One who was marked by his teammates as one to watch during preseason, Knevitt has taken full advantage of finally getting the opportunity to impress with some outstanding form in 2021. The 193cm midfielder provides range and size which proves difficult to combat at the coalface, as he digs in to win contested ball and stands up in tackles while dishing it out. The Geelong Falcons product is also developing his outside game and is athletically sound, getting to more contests around the ground and making an impact with his contested marking. He fits the modern day midfielder-forward prototype given his built and ability, with the performances to match his potential now coming to the fore.

Last month:

Knevitt had been building ominous form before the latest Victorian hiatus, with his sole outing in August an absolute blinder. The big-bodied midfielder dominated with 36 disposals, 10 marks, eight inside 50s and a goal against the Bendigo Pioneers, steering Geelong to victory in his most complete performance yet. He had also put in a massive shift in late-July and was impressive at representative level, helping him climb into top 30 range.

>> NAB League Player Focus
>> NAB League Round 16 POTW

#28 Judson Clarke
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Small Forward/Midfielder
17/10/2003 | 179cm | 69kg

August Ranking: #25

Snapshot: Clarke is a zippy small forward/midfielder who can light up the game in a flash with his forward run, tricky agility, and eye for goal.

While his exploits were on full show earlier in the year, Clarke stamped his credentials with a breakout performance in the Under 19 Victorian trials, bagging five goals in a starring display. The crafty Dandenong Stingrays product represented Vic Country at Under 16 level and continues to show promising glimpses both in the NAB League and at school footy level. He is nimble in possession with a mix of speed and agility, and looks to make things happen in the front half with creative energy and smarts at the fall of the ball. Clarke often finishes his work with spearing left-foot kicks, making for an exciting package as far as small prospects go. While he can roll through midfield, the 17-year-old looks most damaging up forward and can cement his spot here with more eye-catching big game showings.

Last month:

The Yarra Valley Grammar student had his last outing on July 30, playing against Peninsula Grammar in the AGSV football competition. As a result, he missed out on Dandenong’s August 1 bout and was then impacted by Victoria’s restrictions on metropolitan areas.

#29 Jesse Motlop (FRE NGA)
South Fremantle/Western Australia | Small Forward/Midfielder
23/11/2003 | 176cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A highly skilled small forward with great goal sense, speed and smarts, Motlop comes from good pedigree and can make his presence known in a flash.

Another player with ties to the elite level, Motlop is the son of former Port Adelaide and North Melbourne forward Daniel, but is ineligible for father-son selection. He is part of Fremantle’s NGA, though it will be difficult for the Dockers to secure his services via bidding as Metro-based WA prospects can only be matched on with a bid after pick 40. To any club, Motlop offers an exciting mix of speed and skill as a small forward, able to find the goals regularly with clever finishes while also providing forward pressure. An Aquinas College student, he topped the PSA goalkicking charts last year as a bottom-ager and has cracked the WAFL League grade this season, spending more time in midfield against his peers.

Last month:

Motlop capped off a strong PSA football season with Aquinas College in August, spending more time in midfield after his forward feats in Year 11. He then turned out for Western Australia in last week’s National Championships fixture, snaring a classy small forward’s goal and showing flashes of his brilliance. Upon returning to the WAFL League grade, Motlop booted 2.2 from 13 disposals in a productive display as South Fremantle downed West Coast. He is well poised to now feature in the Bulldogs’ finals campaign.

#30 Jacob van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Defender
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands and a booming kick, but has also shown great potential as a swingman and even in midfield.

Having been earmarked as potentially Western Australia’s best tall prospect coming into the season, van Rooyen has overcome some adversity en route to recapturing his best form. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games as a bottom-ager. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in 2020’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis halted his progress a touch, but van Rooyen started out the season at League level and has shown he is physically a level above the Colts grade.

Last month:

van Rooyen was in serious form heading into last week’s National Championships showcase, booting 11.5 from a combined 44 disposals and 16 marks in two WAFL Colts appearances. Having starred in his usual forward post with all the physicality expected of him, van Rooyen translated that form to a defensive swing for WA’s Under 19 side. He was exceptional against South Australia, helping out on the last line and popping up as an aerial force to clunk multiple intercept marks. He was more steady with seven touches and two goals in his latest Colts dig, but has proven his swingman credentials.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

Jacob van Rooyen is a powerful prospect | Credit: Claremont Football Club

IN THE MIX:

West Australian midfielder Josh Browne is the only player who comes out of last month’s list of 25, but remains around the mark in an even bunch having returned to his ball winning best post-injury. East Fremantle teammate Corey Warner has produced an eye-catching season in the APS and at League level, while intercept marking machine Rhett Bazzo came into consideration after his outstanding National Championships performance for WA. Claremont ruck-forward Eric Benning has also put his hand up of late, but Fremantle fans will want to keep the athletic bigman’s potential on the down-low.

Fellow tall Toby Conway is arguably the best pure ruck of this year’s crop and has hardly put a foot wrong when given the chance. Sandringham Dragons and St Kilda NGA pair Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens have also risen into second round calculations on the back of their desirable traits, while midfielders Connor Macdonald and Jake Soligo are consistent performers who earned representative honours this year.

Over in South Australia, Cooper Murley remains unlucky having again been sidelined through injury (collarbone), but has serious talent. North Adelaide accumulator Hugh Jackson put up some extraordinary early-season numbers and made his Reserves debut last week, with Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne continues to perform and state Under 19 vice-captain Lewis Rayson was a member of our top 25 earlier in the year.

Scouting Notes: 2021 SANFL U18s – Semi Finals

THE 2021 SANFL Under 18s season moved into finals over the weekend, with the latest round of action producing plenty more excellent performances from budding AFL Draft prospects. In the next SANFL Scouting Notes edition, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 17 and 19 representative squad members and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

WEST ADELAIDE 12.11 (83) def. SOUTH ADELAIDE 11.6 (72)  

WEST ADELAIDE:

#9 Kobe Ryan

Ryan started the game by winning the opening clearance. The 17-year-old midfielder wasted no time in getting to work, putting his body on the line, winning some contested ball then using it well by foot. A smooth-mover, Ryan always looked balanced and level-headed despite doing much of his handy work on the inside, where his distribution by hand and often times freakish cleanliness shone through. A smart footballer, Ryan worked tirelessly up and down the ground and won a team-high seven clearances along with 22 disposals and three marks.

#10 Cade Kennedy

West Adelaide regained its skipper for the semi-finals after the Mitcham junior was called up to the state side last weekend. One of the competition’s premier ball winners, Kennedy set the tone with his attack on the ball and work rate away from the stoppages. His kicking was inconsistent, with a couple of clever kicks working nicely as others resulted in a couple of turnovers. However, his hard two-way running was evident as he gathered important possessions down back, in the centre of the ground, and in the forward 50, proving he is far from a pure stoppage midfielder. Kennedy tackled with intent and lead from the front for the Bloods. He finished with 22 disposals, four marks, eight tackles, three clearances and four inside 50s.

#36 Tyson Coe

Whilst the likes of Kennedy, Ryan and Jesse Thackeray have received plenty of attention for their efforts in the Bloods’ engine room this season, Coe produced a best-on-ground performance to will West over the line. Coe was fearless at the contest, hitting the ball at pace and scrapping hard at ground level. He looked to break open the game at the stoppages by bursting through and using his strength to discard tacklers. He was excellent defensively too, with a bone-crunching bump on schoolmate Angus Bradley sure to be talked about at recess throughout the week. The sloppy conditions at ACH Group Stadium clearly suited his bash-and-crash style, but Coe’s ball use on his left foot was terrific, with his kick to the leading Harry Lemmey particularly noteworthy. The bottom-ager finished the game with 24 disposals, seven marks, seven tackles, four clearances and five rebounds in a confidence building effort.

#45 Oscar Steene

After leading the South Australian ruck division in Perth last weekend, Steene started the semi-final at full forward as Tom Scully handled the ruck duties. He was quiet in the first half, but kicked into gear after the half time break, booting his first goal at the six-minute mark of the third term. Steene spent more time in the ruck after the break, competing well against South Adelaide star Will Verrall. Steene competed well once the ball hit the deck, tackling hard and winning a couple of clearances for his side. With the South Adelaide defence clearly bothered by his extra height, Steene crashed a couple of packs in the final term. He sealed the deal with two final term goals to finish with three majors, along with eight disposals, five tackles, 19 hit-outs and four clearances.

#54 Harry Lemmey

Lemmey returned to the Bloods’ Under 18 setup and performed well. Likened to fellow West Adelaide product and current-Crow Riley Thilthorpe for his height, running capacity and clean skills, Lemmey booted an early goal after being rewarded for a strong tackle with a holding-the-ball free kick. He snapped his second just a couple of minutes later, reaping the benefits of playing in front. Lemmey presented well all game, leading up at the ball-carrier and almost demanding the footy at stages. He booted a terrific goal from 45m to give West the fast start in the third term, and a lead that would ultimately prove insurmountable. The talented 17-year-old finished with nine disposals, five marks and four inside 50s.

Others:

Up forward, Luke Young combined well with the aforementioned Lemmey. His strength overhead was impressive, taking a couple of contested marks. He booted two goals from 10 disposals, five marks and five tackles. Dylan McCormick was important early for the Bloods, booting two first term goals as West Adelaide jumped out of the blocks. He was quiet after that, finishing with 10 touches, but still managed to win four clearances and lay four tackles. Dylan White’s defensive pressure was noticeable, particularly early. He gathered 19 disposals and nine marks but finished with 0.2 in front of goal. Jed Obst (19 disposals and six marks) and Jesse Thackeray (22 disposals, six marks, six tackles, four clearances and a goal) worked well in the midfield and up forward, while the ever-reliable Charlie Pridham (20 disposals, five tackles and three rebounds) was solid down back.

SOUTH ADELAIDE:

#4 Jack Delean

The in-form forward of the competition was held reasonably quiet for much of the game, but still managed to kick 3.2 for South in a testament to the 16-year-old’s prodigious talent. He gave South the ideal start by streaming in to kick the first of the match, but was relatively unsighted for the rest of the first term. West Adelaide clearly did its homework on Delean, and looked to block his run at forward 50 stoppages, where he has proven incredibly dangerous throughout the season to-date. He was flattened by a shirt-front hit by West’s David Midwinter but, to his credit, bounced back up and lated kicked his second after an errant kick landed in his welcoming hands. He flew for the ball in attack and was equally as dangerous at ground level. Along with his three majors, Delean finished with 12 disposals, two marks and a couple of clearances.

#5 Angus Bradley

Bradley was industrious in the Panthers’ engine room. He found plenty of the ball early and used it well by hand and foot, setting up Jack Delean for the game’s opening goal. In sluggish conditions, Bradley applied plenty of defensive pressure and ran hard into defence to provide an option for his under-siege teammates. He always looked to be near the footy and played a very well-rounded game to finish with 17 disposals, five marks, 10 tackles and three clearances.

#10 Isaac Birt

The wingman enjoyed a busy start to the game, with much of the match being played on his outer side wing. He faded out of the quarter, but still looked to use his terrific foot skills and line-breaking capabilities to break open the game on the outside. Although he didn’t hit every target, the Strathalbyn wingers kicking was always well-shaped and placed and looked good off the boot. However he struggled to impact the game on a consistent basis, winning just 11 disposals to go with four marks and three inside 50s.

#11 Jaiden Magor

With key forwards Koby Cockshell and Tom Schirmer struggling to impact the game and Jack Delean flashing in and out, Magor stood tall to provide a genuine goalkicking option in attack. After nearly 10 minutes of tough, contested football in the second term, he slotted his first to break the deadlock and trigger a flurry of goals from South Adelaide. On restricted midfield minutes, Magor made the best of his half-forward role to boot his second in the third quarter before adding another couple in the final term, including one after the siren. Magor kept South Adelaide in it at times, managing 11 disposals and four tackles.

#33 Arlo Draper

Potential top 10 pick, Draper returned to bolster the Panthers’ Under 18s side after spending time across both League and Reserves levels throughout the year. He didn’t disappoint either, providing class on the inside when others fumbled. Stationed in the middle for the majority of the match, his first noteworthy act was a goal-saving smother in the defensive 50, quick gather and side-step, before lowering his eyes and hitting the target with a short kick. He was one-touch at ground level and brilliant in traffic, using poise and acceleration to dance out of trouble. His vision and spatial awareness was excellent and he backed it up with precise skill execution and some handy contested marking too. Some of his movement in congestion screamed first round pick, and his foot skills, decision making and stoppage smarts were similarly impressive. In a well-rounded display, Draper finished with 24 disposals, five marks, six tackles, six clearances and three inside 50s.

#39 Will Verrall

Verrall well and truly announced himself as star of the future with a terrific display in the ruck for South Adelaide. His follow-up work at the stoppages was exciting and much-needed, as the Bloods on-ballers dominated the clearances for much of the game. As he’s shown all season long, Verrall was willing to get down low and compete to win his own ball, showing rare athleticism and good skills in general play. He had a clear advantage in the ruck, winning the majority of hit-outs against West’s duel-pronged ruck attack of Tom Scully and Oscar Steene. He was instrumental in South’s second quarter comeback, following a disappointing start to the game. Verrall concluded the game with 21 disposals, 28 hit-outs, a game-high 11 clearances and a staggering eight inside 50s to finish off a sensational 2021 season from the Christies Beach bottom-ager.

Others:

The Panthers simply did not have enough contributors for significant parts of the game, with 11 players registering below 10 touches. Lively forward Blake Rodrigues managed just six touches but slotted three goals in his lively spurts. Zippy midfielder Luke Mitton gathered 18 disposals and eight clearances, while Lachlan Hayes amassed 18 disposals and seven rebounds.

GLENELG 16.10 (106) def. WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS 8.6 (54)

GLENELG:

#2 Harry Tunkin

It was a classic small forward’s game from Prince Alfred College teenager Tunkin, whose football intelligence and natural ability shone through. He operated up forward for most of the game, albeit for a couple of shorter bursts through the midfield, and did exactly what head coach Darren Trevena would have asked for. He brought an intense and relentless tacking pressure and matched the hardness with polish in front of goal. His efficiency in attack to boot four goals, ensured the Bays’ midfield supremacy received just reward. He used his core strength to brush off a number of tacklers and ran into all the right spaces in a well-rounded showing, complimenting his four majors with 16 possessions and six tackles.

#3 Hunter Window

Window was in everything for Glenelg, playing an important role through the midfield. He won most of his possessions on the outside and ran relentlessly to seemingly always be available as an outlet option. A highlight was his dribble effort in the second term which trickled through for a major. Not all of his touches were particularly damaging, but they were important and often proved the starting point of a Glenelg attack. His clean skills by hand were particularly noteworthy, including his quick give to set up a Hugh Stagg goal. Window laid a bone-crunching tackle on Eagles half-back Mishai Wollogorang inside 50, however he wasn’t able to take his free kick after leaving the ground under the blood rule. Clearly a smart runner, Window finished the day with a game-high 29 disposals, four marks, three tackles, three inside 50s and three rebounds.

#5 Hugh Stagg

One of several state Under 19 representatives running around at ACH Group Stadium on Saturday, Stagg had his moments for the hosts. The Immanuel College product displayed the sort of grunt, power and explosiveness which earned him state honours, ripping the ball away from the stoppages on a couple of occasions. However, he did his best work in attack, snapping truly early in the first term before running in to boot his second later in the game. His big body and aggression proved important around the stoppages, with Stagg winning four clearances to go with his 22 disposals, three marks, four tackles and four inside 50s.

#11 Jacob Owens

Owens pieced together a solid showing to help the Bays book a place in the SANFL Under 18 grand final. His flying shot at goal missed but registered the game’s first score, however he would add a couple of goals to his name later on; kicking a settling goal in the third term from a tight angle before capping off the win with a classy right-foot snap with the outside of his boot. The wingman occasionally could have lowered his eyes with ball in hand, but was generally reliable with his disposal and clean with his hands. He accumulated 21 disposals and three marks.

#20 Lewis Rayson

Rayson’s adventurous running and long kicking was a highlight in Glenelg’s 52-point semi-final win over Woodville-West Torrens. He won an early holding-the-ball free kick, however his first couple of kicks missed their intended target and were turned over. Rayson worked his way into the game though and his ball use certainly improved. Rayson’s 50m kick from centre half-back to centre half-forward landed in the lap of Darcy Gluyas and was a textbook example of the high metres-gained style of game he plays. He dodged and weaved his way out of traffic well, sent the ball inside 50 on a game-high eight occasions and took a courageous mark under duress in the final term. The South Australian vice-captain gathered 24 possessions, four marks and three rebounds in the win.

#21 Cooper Beecken

Wiry utility Beecken was a standout for Glenelg. He lined up on the wing for much of the game, but demonstrated terrific work rate and football smarts to drop back into defence when required. Down back he took a couple of important intercept marks by floating in from the side. Importantly, he made the most of his possessions, often finding a target out wide to initiate the counter attacks. Particularly effective in the second half, Beecken nailed a couple of inside 50 kicks which would have caught the attention of the AFL scouts watching on. Beecken, who has had a consistent year in the black and yellow, collected 18 disposals, five marks and four rebounds.

#38 Jakob Ryan

Talented wingman, Ryan was among the Tigers’ best as the minor premiers cruised into the decider. After starting the game up forward, he was soon moved into the wing role he’s played so well in throughout the second half of the season. He got his game going by laying a textbook tackle, before showing good awareness and vision with a couple of possessions. Ryan, who claimed best afield honours in Sacred Heart’s All-Schools Cup triumph last month, connected with Harry Tunkin inside 50 after summing up the situation with composure and poise. The catalyst of many attacks, Ryan was everywhere in the third quarter, dominating his opponent on the outer wing. Although he had a couple of prior blemishes in front of goal, Ryan was rewarded for his efforts with a late major after taking an easy mark in the goalsquare. The SA Under 17 representative finished the day with 24 touches, seven marks (two contested) and six inside 50s.

Others:

Half-back Joel Virtanen impressed with his precise kicking in the defensive-half, gathering 21 possessions and five rebounds. Brodie Edwards (17 disposals, eight tackles and a goal) had a hot start to the game, showing some class in traffic and cleanliness with his disposal in a number of roles. Midfielders Darcy Gluyas (15 disposals and four marks), Darcy Porter (18 disposals, six marks and a goal) and Archie Lovelock (20 disposals and four clearances) also featured prominently for the home side.

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS:

#4 Jase Burgoyne

Burgoyne lined up at the centre bounces against fellow father-son prospect Brodie Edwards and spent virtually the entire game on-ball, despite showing his class across half-back for the SA Under 19s last weekend. Burgoyne was typically composed and assured with ball in hand. He didn’t win a lot of contested ball against a well versed and deep Glenelg midfield unit, but was clean on the outside when many others wasted the ball in tricky conditions. Burgoyne took a couple of strong contested grabs when drifting back into defence to remind everyone of his high-end talent. The Eagles’ leading possession winner, Burgoyne finished with 28 touches, four marks and six rebounds in a tough loss.

#6 Dustin Launer

Launer had patches of excellent play in an otherwise disappointing day for Woodville-West Torrens. He took a while to work into the game, but broke it open with a couple of trademark run-and-carry efforts through the centre of the ground. Launer, who has risen to become one of the competition’s most prolific ball winners, ran into an open goal to kick-start the Eagles in the second term. He certainly looked to carve up the Bays’ defensive structures with his terrific kicking, but wasn’t quite able to have the influence on the outside of the contest as he has had in recent weeks. However, he was strong in the trenches, winning a game-high seven clearances to go with 20 disposals and seven inside 50s, and finishing as one of the Eagles’ best.

#8 Brock Thomson

Clean-kicking defender, Thomson held up well despite Glenelg dominating possession of the ball from start to finish. Charged with the kick-in duties, his raking foot skills were effective and well complemented by composure and a touch of class. As others around him turned it over, Thomson’s kicking remained steady as he set things up nicely from the Eagles defensive 50. He finished the game with 23 disposals and six rebound 50s.

#18 Lukas Cooke

Key forward, Cooke fought hard and provided a marking option all day for the Eagles. Battling head-to-head with South Australia’s centre-half-back Oscar Adams early, the pair engaged in a competitive battle, with both players having their moments. Cooke presented nicely and was clean above his head. When the Eagles were able to move the ball with speed and precision, the Westminster College product was there to get on the end of it. However, he will rue passing off a gettable set shot instead of walking back and taking the honours himself after a solid lead-up mark. His long range set shot in the final term gave the Eagles a glimmer of hope, but it proved too little, too late. One of the Eagles’ best, the tall forward gathered 11 disposals, six marks (four contested) and booted one major in the loss.

#26 Jordan Lukac

Lukac alternated between full forward and the ruck and looked the most threatening key position player on the field for a large part of the contest. In the ruck, the Eagles skipper used his reach and leap to really propel himself at the contest and often looked to clear the area rather than palm it down with finesse. He finished with the most hit-outs of the four ruckman on the ground, in an effort which will impress recruiters after showcasing his raw athleticism in last weekend’s state match. In attack, he timed his leads well and made the most of his opportunities in front of goal by converting a couple of set shots. Lukac finished the day with 11 disposals, three marks, four tackles and 15 hit-outs.

Others:

Eagles midfielder Sam Nicholls fought hard in-and-under, had a couple of nice moments by foot, and laid a tough tackle on Glenelg wingman Jacob Owens to finish with 16 disposals and nine tackles. Henry Hawker was strong down back, gathering 19 possessions, five marks and four rebounds. Henley High School duo Jay Watson (11 disposals and a goal) and Brayden Calvett (14 disposals and a goal) used the ball well and injected some speed across the wing and half-forward. Mattaes Phillipou was quiet but still chipped in with 13 disposals, five inside 50s and a goal.

Featured Image: Glenelg’s Cooper Beecken stretches for a mark | Credit: Glenelg FC

Up the Grades: Which youngsters cracked senior footy?

WITH finals time finally upon us in state leagues around the nation, there are plenty of budding AFL Draft prospects who are stepping up on the big stage. In a look Up the Grades, we highlight some of the National Combine invitees, state squad members, and academy products who plied their trade at senior level this past weekend.

A talented quartet of South Australian Under 19 representatives plied their trade in the SANFL top flight this past weekend, headlined by pick one contender Jason Horne-Francis. After a relatively quiet National Championships dig by his lofty standards, the explosive midfielder-forward sent a reminder of his talents with 24 disposals, five clearances, nine inside 50s and a goal as the Panthers downed West Adelaide. Matthew Roberts also featured as South secured finals, snaring two goals from 13 disposals.

First round bolter Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera also returned to the League grade, though his Glenelg side lost its first game for the season right on the eve of finals. The 18-year-old wingman notched nine disposals and four marks for the Bays. Elsewhere, top-ager Max Litster was productive on debut with 23 touches and seven marks as Woodville-West Torrens trounced Central District. Raw Bulldogs defender and combine invitee Leek Alleer took two marks from eight disposals, while Tasmanian Oliver Davis (16 disposals) turned out for Adelaide’s last game of the season – a loss to Norwood.

There were a few more debuts in the Reserves, including North Adelaide midfield pair Hugh Jackson and Harvey Harrison. Both managed 11 disposals with the latter, an emergency for last week’s championships clash, also kicking a goal. Under 18s skipper and Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate Blayne O’Loughlin also featured for the Roosters, who beat Sturt.

The Double Blues were served well by state vice-captain Mani Liddy (26 disposals, eight clearances) who is in good touch, while Zac Becker also built on his representative form with 22 touches and a whopping 13 rebound 50s in the loss. Up the other end, it was a quieter day for fellow tall Morgan Ferres.

Woodville-West Torrens and Central Districts were the other two sides to field a bunch of Under 19 state squad members, as the Eagles got up by 15 points. Most of them turned out in Bulldogs colours, including debutant Luca Whitelum (21 disposals, nine marks) and Shay Linke (18 disposals, nine marks, eight tackles), who narrowly missed the starting squad.

Adelaide NGA small forward Isaiah Dudley was productive with 15 touches and a goal, while the speedy Lachlan Grubb had it 12 times. For the Eagles, bottom-ager Adam D’Aloia ran out at the level once more and laid six tackles to go with his 14 disposals. Northern Territory native Ronald Fejo was another to watch in the two’s, booting a goal from 24 disposals as West Adelaide downed South.

Over in Western Australia, a trio of state squad guns hit League level after helping the Black Ducks to last week’s Under 19 win. Peel Thunder utility Brady Hough was arguably the pick of the bunch, registering 22 disposals, nine marks, five inside 50s and a goal in his sparkling top flight debut.

Backman Jack Avery took five marks for Perth in a loss to West Perth, while Fremantle NGA prospect Jesse Motlop booted 2.2 from his 13 touches as South Fremantle beat West Coast. Classy Subiaco midfielder Matthew Johnson was also set to line up for the Reserves, but did not end up taking the field at any level.

Three seperate age groups were represented among the Tasmania Devils players to turn out in Sunday’s TSL preliminary final, which saw Launceston qualify for this week’s decider with a big win over Clarence. National Combine invitee Baker Smith was among the Roos’ best in the loss along with Darcy Gardner (one goal), as Noah Holmes again got stuck into his ruck duties.

Bottom-agers Tom McCallum and Bryce Alomes also lined up for Clarence, as did the 2002-born Lachlan Borsboom. In the navy blue of Launceston, Zach Morris continues to provide quality with his versatility, while top-agers Jayden Hinds and Bailey Gillow played their parts off the bench with a grand final appearance up for grabs.

The QAFL entered its second week of finals, leaving a couple more left to play, with a scattering of Brisbane and Gold Coast academy products hitting the senior grade. Suns Academy player of the year Bodhi Uwland turned out for Broadbeach, who secured a spot in the grand final by downing Labrador.

The exciting defender-midfielder was joined by Cody Harrington (one goal) and Ryan Pickering in the winning side. For Labrador, top-ager Bailey Reeves and Mackenzie Riddle were among the squad which will get a second chance at grand final qualification next week.

Maroochydore is the team the Tigers await, after the Roos defeated reigning premier Morningside in style on Saturday. Daniel Lanthois booted a goal for the victors, while big-bodied midfielder Toby Triffett was named the Panthers’ best, as fellow top-ager Saxon Crozier managed a goal and Max Nelson again played his part.

Featured Image: Brady Hough (left) earned a WAFL League debut this week | Credit: Shazza J Photography