Tag: Sean Toohey

Anderson rides the wave of a long footballing journey

THERE are few junior footballers who have experienced a journey quite like that of Angus Anderson. The Sydney Swans Academy captain hails from Sawtell, a coastal town in northern New South Wales, but has ticked off a plethora of other destinations en route to earning a National Draft Combine invite this month.

The six-hour drive to Sydney initially made it difficult for the 18-year-old to regularly participate with the Swans Academy, but he put his name in lights this year after spending a preseason with the Southport Sharks VFL side, and earning a spot on their supplementary list.

“I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be the skipper for the Swans Academy,” Anderson said. “It’s a great honour really, especially since I’m not down there every weekend, so it just shows that the coaching staff and the team have had faith in me.”

Anderson travelled three hours up to the Gold Coast to train with Southport, ticking off a third state on his list of destinations. The second was Victoria, where he lived with his aunty and uncle while linking with the Eastern Ranges’ Under 16 NAB League program. In Melbourne, he also spent a term at Box Hill Secondary College and is currently completing his Year 12 studies back home in lockdown.

With a diverse range of experiences, Anderson has also been able to lean on a bunch of highly renowned coaches and staff. Among them are former AFL players, along with current and former NAB League coaches; including Jared Crouch and Chris Smith (Swans Academy), Leigh Clarke (Box Hill Secondary), Sean Toohey (Eastern Ranges), and Jarrod Field (Southport).

Also on that list of mentors is Anderson’s Victorian father, who coached him locally “all the way through” to senior level at the Sawtell-Toormina Saints, making him “a big influence” over his footballing career.

From enjoying the surf in the “laid back” town of Sawtell to “maturing as a person” while living with his aunty and uncle in Melbourne, Anderson has learned plenty over the last few years and gained a ravenous work-ethic. That trait translates to his football, where the big-bodied midfielder showcases a great appetite for contested ball.

“I feel like my contested ball is my strength,” Anderson said. “I’m a big-bodied mid who can win the ball and I’m slowly developing my outside game. “I can run out games well for a big-bodied mid, I like the physical aspect of AFL so I can tackle, and my hands around the ball and my ability to use both sides (are strengths).”

While leading the Swans Academy in a three-game NAB League stint this year, Anderson averaged 24 disposals, 3.5 tackles and a goal per game, as one of his side’s standout performers. Having already gotten a taste of senior football, he went on to represent the Swans at VFL level, and earned selection in the Under 19 Allies squad. Still, there is plenty the youngster is working on.

“I have heaps of areas I’m focusing on,” he said. “I feel like since I’m a bigger-bodied mid, I’ll be paired up with a couple of smaller mids occasionally. I’ve been working on my pack marking and I get to drift down forward I’ve been working on my goalkicking as well.”

Swans star Luke Parker is a player Anderson looks to mould his game on, while also noting the likes of Christian Petracca, Dustin Martin, Patrick Cripps, and Marcus Bontempelli as some of his favourite players. As one of just five NSW-ACT natives to earn a combine invite thus far, he is one step closer to joining them in the big leagues.

“Especially if I look back at myself at the beginning of the year, these achievements have been so big and I’ve been so proud of myself that I’ve made it this far,” he said. “It’s a huge honour to be a part of the initial 90 for the combine. “From a little kid coming from northern New South Wales, a little coastal town. “Barely anyone has been this far so it’s a huge honour.”

For now, Anderson is enjoying some of the extra down time he gets to relax in between school, going out for a surf every day and itching to get back on the park should the opportunity await.

He sought to thank all of his mentors and coaches along the way, Southport and the Sydney Swans for the opportunities they presented, and AFL North Coast for their support over the years.

AFL Draft Watch: Connor Downie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

IN the build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central  takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state at Under-17 or Under 18s level in 2019. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at the NAB League Preseason Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is classy Eastern Ranges captain Connor Downie, who was one of the few bottom-agers to crack last year’s stacked Vic Metro line-up. Utilised mostly as an outside midfielder and half-back during his bottom-age year, Downie became a key member of the Eastern side which took out the NAB League minor premiership. The well-built Hawthorn NGA prospect looks primed for more inside midfield minutes in 2020 though, with his class on the ball and ability to find it both transferrable assets.

NAB LEAGUE PRESEASON TESTING HIGHLIGHTS:

Vertical Jump: Average (#52)
Running Vertical Jump: Average (#47)

CONNOR DOWNIE’S Q&A FEATURE

Talent manager Sean Toohey on Downie:

“Connor is flying at the moment, we had our camp on the weekend and was voted in as our 2020 captain so I don’t think that will be any real surprise. “He’s in really good shape.”

PLAYER PAGE:

Connor Downie

Height: 184.9cm
Weight: 83.4kg
Position: Half-back/outside midfielder

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATS: 14 games | 16.4 disposals | 2.6 marks | 1.4 tackles | 1.6 inside 50s |  3.8 rebound 50s | 9 goals

Strengths: Versatility, leadership, kick penetration, efficiency
Improvements: Inside craft

2019 SCOUTING NOTES:

Under 17 Futures All Stars Match

By: Michael Alvaro

Gave a glimpse into his role for next year with a mix of time between his usual outside position and in the midfield. Downie’s willingness to get on his bike at every opportunity and move the ball forward was a feature, fitting the metres-gained role well on the outside. He would often dish off on the move and continue his run to get it back, ending his move with a long kick forward on his customary left side.

NAB League Preliminary Final vs. Gippsland Power

By: Ed Pascoe

The Hawthorn NGA prospect continued his fine form in this year’s finals series with another stellar game on the wing; showcasing his ability to get around the ground and cause havoc with his silky left boot and marking ability across the ground… Downie glides across the ground well and looks to have great athleticism to go with his skill.

Qualifying Final vs. Sandringham Dragons

By: Ed Pascoe

Downie is not eligible to be drafted until next year but he has already made a name for himself this year and had another strong performance, showcasing his run and dash and willingness to drive the ball forward. Downie showed great composure and intent throughout the game and worked hard up and down the ground. His left foot can really be a weapon when given time and space.

Round 17 vs. Calder Cannons

By: Michael Alvaro

The hero of the day… his moment in the sun came on the back of staying with the play and laying a strong tackle to force the spillage and deciding free kick, converting cooly after the siren to win Eastern a thrilling contest.

Round 10 vs. GWV Rebels

By: Sophie Taylor

Found some good space to clear the ball early, made a solid kick inside 50 to player on the move, and showed good run and carry with the flow of the game. Took a great intercept mark in the second for an attempt at goal, slotting one of his three majors. Put his hand up for Metro selection once again after coming out of the side for this week.

2020 NAB League Boys team preview: Eastern Ranges

EASTERN Ranges will have a very different look to their NAB League Boys side in 2020 coming off a grand final last year. The Ranges had a top-age heavy group that had come through the program together over the past few years and now a number of fresh faces have joined the club to begin the next year of competition. Eastern Ranges Talent Manager, Sean Toohey said there was an “exciting” element about the unknown.

“We’ve had a different pre-season this year with a lot of newcomers into the program, given we were a very strong top age group last year and probably didn’t have much depth in our bottom age,” he said. “In a way that’s exciting there’s a bit more unknown about that.”

The Ranges have been able to face Gippsland Power in a couple of practice matches over the summer and finalised the list ahead of last Saturday’s NAB League Fitness Testing Day. Toohey said whilst Eastern did not have a draftee in the AFL National or Rookie drafts, the majority of the minor premiers’ side will be running around in the Victorian Football League (VFL) this season. He also said that he believed that those unlucky to miss out could find their way onto AFL lists in the future.

I mean we’ve got an element of bias here but we thought that definitely a couple of boys were very stiff and talking with clubs I know they were very very close and things just didn’t go their way with some trading of picks and availability of other players, you know recycled players and the rookie draft,” Toohey said. “We were a bit unlucky there but we’ve probably got about 14 or 15 of those boys now on VFL lists spread around we’ve got about eight or so at Box Hill our affiliated VFL club. “So really excited about that, great feedback from clubs on how they’re all going and I genuinely believe that some of them, although they will go about it on a different pathway will end up on AFL lists and get an opportunity at some stage.”

One of those unlucky to miss out has come back as a 19-year-old prospect in Jamieson Rossiter who has battled with unfortunate injuries over the past couple of seasons. Toohey said he hoped Rossiter could continue to show the form he did at the back-end of last season such as a dominant performance over Sandringham Dragons in the qualifying final where he kicked four goals in a low-scoring contest to propel his side into the preliminary finals.

Jamieson Rossiter is probably the most high-profile one from previous years,” he said. He hasn’t had any luck with his body at all, really any continuity in his footy for the last two and a half years and again after last years grand final he played with a tear in his shoulder that required a reconstruction. He’s come out of the backend of rehabbing that after the operation last year. He’s starting to return to contact this week and excited to see what he can do between us and maybe even some games with Box Hill.”

“He really is a natural forward,” Toohey said of Rossiter’s position for 2020. “I think he plays his best footy forward which we saw in our first final against Sandringham last year. “He was significant in winning our game, we nearly don’t win our game without him. “We think if he gets his conditioning up to scratch he can have an impact in the midfield as well as a bigger bodied midfielder, inside mid. “I think predominantly you will see him as a forward and do what he does well there but it wouldn’t surprise me that if he gets some continuity over the next couple of months that he might in the middle part of the year get into the midfield if that opportunity arises. “

Looking at the top-agers for 2020, the Ranges have another couple in the Vic Metro Academy Hub with some great storylines this year. Connor Downie is a Hawthorn Next Generation Academy (NGA) member and showed through his representation at the MCG for Vic Metro as a bottom-ager last season that he has the talent to make it at the next level. Wil Parker is juggling his football commitments whilst representing Victoria in the cricket with a big decision weighing on him come year’s end. Along with the duo, Toohey also raised another couple of names in speedster Josh Clarke and tall, Jack Diedrich.

“You know he (Parker) is really committed to his studies and Year 12 as well so he’s got a lot on his plate and probably a decision to make at some stage later this year,” Toohey said. “But we are supportive of him and what he is doing, he is coping really well. “Connor is flying at the moment, we had our camp on the weekend and was voted in as our 2020 captain so I don’t think that will be any real surprises. “He’s in really good shape. “Then you’ve got a couple of others, Josh Clarke played every game for us last year, was in the Vic Metro squad as well wingman half-back flanker, got a lot of speed, can hit the scoreboard and takes the game on he’s very exciting. “Then you’ve got Jack Diedrich who’s a developing tall 200cm tall ruckman, in the metro hub. He’s had a good summer so we’re excited to see what Jack can do. “He played a few games last year, as you know those kind of guys sort of develop quite late, he’s quite mobile for his size. “He’s an exciting prospect.”

At the next level, the Ranges have a number of already high-end talents that impressed through the AFL National Under-16 Championships for Vic Metro and then at the back-end of the year for the Ranges in 2019. Toohey said they would be ones to watch going forward this year and next.

“There’s quite a few of them that are quite exciting, the obvious one being Tyler Sonsie who was Vic Metro MVP in Under 16s last year, All-Australian,” he said. “He’s a bottom ager in the Vic Metro Academy, played in our grand final. “Probably done everything he can do as a footballer up to this age. “He’s ticking along okay, he’s had a bit of a back niggle recently so we will ease him into the season probably tracking to Round 1 or 2, no real concern at all its just conditioning and now getting him back up to speed but he’s super exciting.

Jake Soligo is probably unlucky not to be All-Australian with Tyler, he has probably been a standout in pre-season for us. “He’s a really complete package and for a bottom-ager he’s really pushing to start in midfield and that’s a real credit to him, so we are excited to see what he can do.

“The other one is Tyreece Leiu who is a really big-bodied mid who will probably progress to a Paddy Cripps type size because now he is about 194 and 90 kilos. “He had a back stress fracture pre Christmas and he’s back running now, coming up to speed and now targeting probably around late April from a playing perspective, he’s progressing well. “Those three are probably the standout bottom-agers to this stage and then really it’s up to the rest of the crop to put their hand up which is exciting again.”

Toohey said this year would be really exciting for the Ranges because the squad had a different look to last year, with more top-end prospects but less depth at this stage, but of course that can easily change in a season. Last year there was only 12 bottom-agers in the squad and even across the board, whereas this year has a different feel to it.

“There’s probably more standout draft prospects at the top end but the depth probably isn’t as great as last year,” Toohey said. “So it’s probably a bit of a different group for the next two years. “But generally there’s always a  couple of guys who jump out of the shadows and surprise you a bit and that’s what’s really exciting. “We really knew what we were going to get last year because we had followed them through for so long but there’s a lot of unknowns going into this year and next year probably and our 16s I think are tracking along alright too. “The next few years are quite exciting from that perspective.”

Looking ahead to the season start in less than two weeks, Toohey said the coaching staff and playing group wanted to build on the culture set in place by last year’s group throughout the season.

I think we really became known as a team that did play for each other and were quite selfless and would play their roles and that’s something we would really love to replicate with this team,” he said. “I know they will get the most enjoyment out of their footy if they do that as the boys did last year but also those that really need to elevate themselves will be able to do that. “There’s something in it for everyone with their NAB League experience with the Eastern Ranges and that’s important for the broader group not just the top-end.”

NAB League season preview: Eastern Ranges

EASTERN Ranges Talent Manager Sean Toohey is looking forward to his second season in the role, with a number of top-agers this year filling key roles in their bottom-age year in 2018. Toohey came on board a month out from the start of the TAC Cup season, and while the year itself was not one of the Ranges’ finest seasons, Toohey is confident the experience from 2018 will hold the side in a strong position this year.

“I came into the role in late February so it was a bit of a baptism of fire but it was a great learning year from a personal perspective,” Toohey said. “But from an Eastern Ranges perspective obviously (it was) pretty difficult with only the two wins and no draftees which is what we are here to do. “We managed to get a few boys onto VFL lists and what we did do was we were pretty bottom-age heavy and we managed to get a lot of game time into our bottom agers, so that should hold us in pretty good stead this year, who are now top-agers, so looking forward to it.”

Toohey said the training over the off-season had been promising with higher fitness levels than the previous year, and seemingly more prepared with the extra year in the system. While injuries have struck the club, Toohey said the practice matches in the lead-up to Round 1 had given the Ranges plenty to work with and are looking forward to the challenge against one of the strong NAB League sides, in Oakleigh Chargers.

“We’ve had a really good summer, we’ve probably had the longer term injuries like most clubs would have, we’ve got a handful of them,” he said. “But generally we’ve been pretty healthy, the boys I think are a lot fitter this year and dare I say, a lot stronger as well so there’s been a lot of focus on education in relation to their conditioning and the boys have embraced it. “Then from a football perspective we’ve had our practice matches now. “Obviously round 1 this week and I think we we’ve probably acquitted ourselves against Gippsland and Calder, and are obviously just excited for round 1 to come around and see where we are at against Oakleigh Chargers who on all accounts are a pretty good team. “

Some talented Ranges are already showing signs of a promising year after strong practice match performances.

“Yeah I think Billy McCormick, he’s a key forward, had a really big summer, hasn’t missed a session and that’s transferred into his early games that we’ve played and match sim internally,” Toohey said. “His work rate has been huge and is giving himself every chance to perform this year and is starting to clunk a few big marks. So if he can just finish off his work in front of goal he sets himself up for a really big year. “Lachlan Stapleton is another one that has had a big summer, he played really well in practice matches and he probably would’ve had close to 30 touches and three goals in the midfield on the weekend. “He is also very gifted technically, a relentless tackler and is probably one of the most professional players we have on our list. “He should have a good season all going well. “

 

Toohey said the Ranges’ top prospect, Jamieson Rossiter did not play against Calder Cannons, but said he was impressive in the game against Gippsland Power, and will spend some time in the midfield as well as his natural position up forward. An over-ager to keep an eye on is Cody Hirst who had a “rotten run” with injuries in his top-age year and has returned to the Ranges and will rotate between wing and high half-forward.Toohey said Hirst is “electrifying when he gets the ball with his pace and the angles he cuts and can hit the scoreboard and provides really good defensive pressure”.

 

Add in developing key defender James Blanck, and 2018 best and fairest winner, Mitch Mellis and the Ranges have a good core to rely upon in season 2019.

 

“There are a couple more I’d throw into that category as well, Mitch Mellis, he won our best and fairest as a bottom-ager last year,” Toohey said. “He will probably transition more into a small forward role this year, probably won our best and fairest playing on a wing. “He’s 174cm so we probably want to expose him at the next level, he could play a small forward role, however he will still get up the ground on a wing because he’s also our best runner. “James Blanck, he was very close to getting drafted last year in his first year in the system, it was a big learning curve for him. “He’s added a little bit of bulk to his frame, he’ll still play key defence for us, his strengths are his intercept marking and his athleticism and backing himself to repel the football, so he will look to continue on with that and hopefully we see another progressive season from him.”

 

While the top-age group will make up the bulk of the side after becoming established players last season, there are still a number of bottom-agers to watch. Toohey said the 2002-born crop have some slick ball users with high smarts that will set them apart throughout the next 18 months.

 

Josh Clarke is quite slight but he’s played across half-back and on a wing, and if he gets the ball and tucks it under his arm and runs and takes the game on he uses it quite well by foot. “So Josh will play some footy for us this year and will acquit himself quite well. “Connor Downie is another one who’s probably a half-back flanker that is a good size, 184(cm) and probably 78, 79 kilos. “Beautiful left foot kick, played Vic Metro Under 16s last year. “He’s a Hawthorn NGA so he has set himself up for a big year as well, diligent as a trainer that we’ve got. “Then there’s Sal Feagaimalii another bottom ager, he’s also a Hawthorn NGA. “He’s been in our starting midfield as a bottom-ager this year so far and he’s done very well, he’s a big body, he’s a beautiful left and right kick, has good hands, good vision, reads it well off stoppages and off hands. “He’s another one we are looking to develop through the midfield this year and see how that goes as a bottom-ager.”

 

In 2019, Eastern is looking to improve on its two-win season from 2018, but the focus remains squarely on development and getting more players drafted into the AFL after a barren year last year following the bonanza that was 2017 with 11 players selected. This year, the playing group has determined how they want to be renowned on the field, settling on a competitive and never-say-die attitude, win, lose or draw.

 

Yeah probably something that the players themselves came up with is that they want to strive to be “relentless” in the way they go about their footy,” Toohey said. “It’s a very difficult thing to maintain at all times but at least if they think they are striving for it then they are going to get the best out of themselves and each other and hold each other to those standards that they’re setting for themselves so they’re a really mature group, they’re led well, they’re a united group.”

 

Eastern Ranges begin their season on Sunday when they tackle Oakleigh Chargers at RSEA Park, Moorabbin.

Toohey enjoys fresh Eastern challenge

ON a scorching afternoon in Beaconsfield, new talent manager Sean Toohey — a former homicide squad detective and Sergeant with Victoria Police — witnessed his first game as part of the Eastern Ranges TAC Cup program; a win for the girls’ squad in the first round of the season against the Greater Western Victoria Rebels.

The vibe around the ground, and in the rooms after the match, was buoyant. Despite the Rebels challenging, the match always felt in the Ranges’ control. It is an attitude born of confidence, of knowing things are done the right way to ensure their players will be at their best, week in week out.

It is an environment that Toohey knows well, having come through the Eastern Ranges under-15s and 16s program; but coming back in a difference capacity has still provided a decent learning curve.

“I’m just getting used to a new environment, new people, new structures and just different ways of doing things. Which I find really exciting, and a good challenge,” Toohey said. “I’m a people person, and there’s so many good people working within our club and within our region — so that’s really exciting for me.”

Even though the 2018 season has yet to officially begin for the boys’ program, there are already whispers about players to look out for this year.

Inside midfielder Ben Cardamone, Defender/Midfielder Kye Quirk as well as forward Cody Hirst and midfielder Adrian Kalcovski are early front-runners to attract attention from AFL recruiters. This level of interest, at such an early point in the season, is nothing new for the Ranges, and Toohey’s role in keeping the players level-headed is vital.

“I’ll just try and continue that really good work of Len (Len Villani, former Eastern Ranges talent manager),” Toohey said. “I’ll aim to keep the players balanced, and help them understand what they’re striving for, and keep them focused on doing that. “I’m not here to reinvent the wheel, hopefully I can value-add to the programs with my different experiences. We do have a great record in this region for producing talent, and people, so I’ll really just try and continue on with the great work that Len has done over the last few years.”

In the last 10 years, the Eastern Ranges have consistently produced a decent sized crop of AFL quality players. This recent crop includes All-Australian calibre players Kade Simpson and Rory Sloane, as well as young guns Jonathon Patton, Tom Boyd and Christian Petracca.

The 2017 draft was no different, with a total of 10 Ranges players ending up on an AFL list. This production line of talent has not come about because of sheer luck, or some sort of geographical oddity that makes the eastern suburbs of Melbourne a breeding ground for young talent. It is because of a commitment from the club to helping young footballers become the best they can be.

“We obviously have people that identify talent very well, and get them into our programs, and once they’re in our programs our coaches and our high performance staff, our welfare staff, trainers, medical staff, all play their role and really just surround these young people with a great environment for producing talent,” Toohey said. “The players know that they can just come and concentrate on either; if they’re injured, getting their bodies right; or concentrating on what their individual program says they need to work on. “They have the confidence to be able to do that, and from what I’ve seen so far, it’s as good a program as you’ll find for this age group.”

Toohey hopes to impart some of his professional knowledge from the SANFL and Victoria Police into his work with the Eastern Ranges.

“I’ve had a pretty diverse range of life experience, due to the fact that I did work in Victoria Police,” he said. “I was seeing things that people in every day life don’t see…I suppose it’s really just trying to help guide our young athletes in the right direction, and steer them into making good choices. “Hopefully I’ll help them a little bit to influence their good decision making. We don’t want to just produce the best footballers that we can…we’re really about producing good people as well.”

Eastern Ranges will open their TAC Cup 2018 season against the Oakleigh Chargers on Saturday, March 24 at Ikon Park from 11am.