Tag: tom green

PREVIEW | The top 2021 AFL mid-season draft candidates

THE 2021 AFL mid-season draft finally arrives on Wednesday night, with around 15 players expected to find homes at the elite level after weeks of speculation and on-field auditions. A spill of overlooked talents from last year’s draft pool have staked their claims as worthy candidates through the elite talent pathways and state leagues, while mature-agers are also inevitably in the mix. We run you through the most likely draftees across both groups, with an insight into how they play and where they may end up.

THE NAB LEAGUERS

It is well known that Sandringham Dragons ruck-forward Jacob Edwards is likely to be snapped up by North Melbourne with pick one, having burst onto the scene this year. The Mentone Grammar student was pegged as a long-term prospect last year and quickly rose to prominence during pre-season in 2021, showing great signs during the Dragons’ intraclub match.

At 202cm, he is a terrific athlete who not only marks well, but is also quite mobile and offers the dual threat of forward and ruck craft. Edwards averaged 12 disposals, 14 hitouts, and booted five goals across three NAB League appearances this season. He turns 19 in December, so has plenty of development left and could well have been considered a first round chance for the National Draft.

There are plenty of other talls in the mix, with a bunch of clubs scrambling to bolster their ruck and key forward stocks. Oakleigh Chargers ruck Ned Moyle is another who has come on strongly in 2021, improving out of sight to also earn a VFL berth with Collingwood. There, he tussled with AFL-level rucks and showed he was not afraid to compete hard, before transferring his ruck craft learnings back to the NAB League in one final audition before Wednesday. With pick two, Hawthorn could be into Moyle, while Collingwood would also be a fitting home, and Gold Coast is desperate for ruck cover at pick five.

Max Heath, a teammate of Edwards at Sandringham who is also completing his Year 12 studies, will likely also attract a Victorian suitor. He has been linked with St Kilda, a team which potentially has plenty of spots to fill given its growing injury woes. The 204cm ruckman was deemed a chance to go in last year’s National Draft after imposing pre-season performances, but was eventually overlooked and made to prove his worth through the NAB League this year. His aggression and physicality are key strengths at the contest.

A region which could produce multiple mid-season draftees is Murray, with key forward Cameron McLeod, defender Patrick Parnell, and midfielder Zavier Maher all attracting interest. Carlton are said to be into McLeod and Maher, with the latter tied to the Blues’ VFL side having trained there during pre-season. Parnell is a dashing small defender who is being monitored by clubs like GWS, where he turned out for a single VFL outing this year. McLeod has impressed of late with his mobility as a leading target, booting a bag of four goals in his latest NAB League outing. Maher made his return in that same game, winning 30 disposals as an explosive midfielder who just needs to polish his disposal coming away from the contest.

Another top-ager on the Blues’ radar is Noah Gribble, a hard-running wingman who has been ultra consistent upon returning from an ACL tear in 2021. The Geelong Falcons product is one of many in this group to have turned out in the Victorian Young Guns game, and has little trouble finding the ball. His knocks have been speed and disposal in the past, but he is hard to deny as a genuine prospect.

Elsewhere, Cody Raak has been one of the better performed top-agers in the NAB League this season, even making the step up to VFL level for Footscray. He is also a Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) graduate, but his home side does not currently have a selection available. Raak, and Eastern Ranges forward-midfielder Corey Preston trained at Whitten Oval during pre-season, and while both missed out on a spot then, they could come into consideration for other clubs now.

Like Raak, Luke Cleary is a reliable intercept defender who sweeps across half-back with work both in the air and on the ground. He is likely to have impressed a number of clubs with his ability to set up play from the defence, and also earned a National Combine invite last year before being overlooked.

Also in the mix are Aiden Begg and Liam Podhajski, a couple of fast-developing rucks who can also play at either end of the ground. Begg, of the Eastern Ranges may be considered despite being injured during NAB League duties this year, and may suit a need at either end of the ground. Podhajski has turned out for Calder Cannons and the Northern Bullants, rotating forward through the ruck as a mobile type who can also impact with his marking.

GWS and Richmond could be among the clubs looking at Giants Academy product Tom Green, who recently turned out in charcoal and orange in the NAB League. The brother of Tom also has family ties to Richmond, and is a versatile type who can play as a tall midfielder, or marking forward target. He racked up 25 touches and a goal against the Swans Academy on Sunday.

STATE LEAGUERS

Among the younger crop of state league players in the mix, Tasmanian pair Oliver Davis and Jackson Callow have created plenty of buzz. The former is a ball winning midfielder who returned to his state’s NAB League program in 2021, before jetting off to Adelaide to join the Crows’ reserves side. He could be looked at by either South Australian team, while Callow would be a great fit for Collingwood. The contested marking beast tore apart AFL opposition for Norwood in the SANFL recently, and is a readymade key forward.

Jai Newcombe is one who, after being robbed of an over-age NAB League season last year, has been excellent for Box Hill in the VFL. He is a combative inside midfielder who Gippsland Power staff were very high on, and he has come on well once again to be in the box seat to be taken under special terms by Hawthorn.

Richmond VFL utility Sam Durham is another in the mix, potentially for the Tigers having shown steady development but terrific upside. He featured in the recent Young Guns showcase and built into the contest nicely. The former Murray Bushranger can play on a wing or off half-back, with potential to even run through the engine room as he fills out.

Of the state leaguers who haven’t yet experienced the top flight, Carlton VFL ruck Alex Mirkov is one poised to do so soon. While he has not gained much in the way of on-field exposure, the 210cm ex-volleyballer showcased his potential in two outings for the Blues this season. He could be in for a Navy Blue promotion, but Gold Coast is lurking with a pick beforehand and his upside is clear for others to pounce on.

In a similar vein, Essendon VFL gun Angus Baker could finally earn his own call-up having continued to return terrific state league form. The 2019 NEAFL Rising Star was in contention for a spot at the Bombers during pre-season and continues to knock on the door having been overlooked there. Essendon has covered the running half-back role well, but has a readymade prospect in Baker waiting in the wings.

The likes of Ash Johnson (Sturt, SANFL) and Tyrone Thorne (Peel Thunder, WAFL) are other exciting state leaguers to have thrown their hats in the ring. Johnson is a high-marking forward who hails from the prosperous Halls Creek region and has good ties to the elite level through his pedigree. While small in stature, Thorne has stood out as a zippy midfielder who has the potential to impact as a small forward at AFL level.

Of those who have already been drafted to the AFL level, Wylie Buzza seems destined for another shot. He has been linked with Gold Coast’s pick after Michael Knoll failed a medical at the Suns, with Carlton another potential suitor given the two clubs’ competing interests coming into the intake. Tyson Stengle could land at Richmond once again, with Collingwood also potentially in for the talented small forward.

Another former Crow, Riley Knight has been in terrific SANFL form and has St Kilda taking a look, while former Saint Nathan Freeman is becoming increasingly difficult to deny given his dominant VFL feats. Geelong NGA graduate Blake Schlensog is said to have matured greatly during his time in Western Australia, while Jarrod Garlett has nominated in hopes of finding a home – though neither West Coast or Fremantle have opened up a list spot as of yet.

NEED TO KNOWS

The mid-season draft order will be structured like the National Draft, following the reverse ladder order set at the conclusion of Round 11. 602 players nominated for the draft, with 18 rookie list spots currently available. Clubs have until 5:00pm on Tuesday June 1 to make any changes to their lists, as the draft is set to commence at 7:00pm the following evening in a virtual event.

Below are the current availabilities per the AFL, again, subject to change until 5:00pm on Tuesday June 1.

Adelaide: 1 selection
Brisbane Lions: 0 selections
Carlton: 2 selections
Collingwood: 2 selections
Essendon: 1 Selection
Fremantle: 0 selections
Geelong: 0 selections
Gold Coast: 2 selections
GWS: 1 selection
Hawthorn: 1 selection
Melbourne: 2 selections
North Melbourne: 2 selections
Port Adelaide: 1 selection
Richmond: 1 selection
St Kilda: 1 selection
Sydney: 1 selection
West Coast: 0 selections
Western Bulldogs: 0 selections

Image Credit: Solstice Digital

2021 VFL Round 1 review: Queensland teams make their mark

A NEW era and a new competition full of surprises saw a number of clubs from New South Wales and Queensland join the still rather oddly-named Victorian Football League (VFL), and the majority came away with the points. The four AFL-aligned clubs in the two northern states on the east coast joined the competition, with standalone teams, Aspley Hornets and Southport Sharks also joining the fold, as did the Northern Bullants who returned to the competition. With 11 games played every weekend in the new 22-team competition, the competitiveness to finish inside the top eight has never been greater.

The match of the round was easily Southport’s come-from-behind win over Carlton at Ikon Park on Saturday. The Blues raced out of the blocks to pile on six goals to two in the opening term and lead by 26 points at quarter time. The Sharks began to claw their way back in the second, kicking five goals to four to draw to within 19 points at the main break, but the Blues seemed to keep them at arms-length. Carlton kicked 4.6 to 4.0 in the premiership quarter to again extend out to 25 points with a quarter to play, but the visitors were not done with just yet. Connor Nutting kicked two goals in the opening six minutes, and by the time Jacob Dawson had converted a major, the deficit was back in the single digits midway through the term, Lukas Webb brought it back to two points a few minutes later, and after Dawson levelled the score with a behind in the 20th minute, many thought it could be the competition’s first draw.

AFL-listed youngster Lochie O’Brien had other ideas, converting a goal in the 25th minute, and when Matt Shannon kicked a major at 26:38 on the clock, it appeared the Sharks had fought gallantly, but would not be able to comeback from a 12-point deficit, The last eight minutes of the term saw the Sharks relentlessly attacking, and forcing a rushed behind, which would prove ultimately important in the end result. Fraser Thurlow kicked a major in red time, and then it was just five points in it. The former AFL-contingent at the Queensland club had stepped up throughout the game, and indeed it would be Webb who would be the man of the moment, kicking a match-winning major in the last minute to seal the game. At one point, the deficit had got out to as much as 31 points, but the visitors had kept believing, and stunned the home side, 17.7 (109) to 16.12 (108).

Whilst he might not have kicked one in the final term, ex-Bulldog Billy Gowers had a day out with five goals from seven scoring shots, 15 disposals and six marks. Thurlow absolutely dominated the ruck for the Sharks, notching up 49 hitouts, but then going forward to slot three goals and take eight marks from 12 touches. Nutting, a former Gold Coast Academy talent kicked the three goals from 11 touches, while Webb’s two goals in the final term added to his 24 touches, five marks and four tackles. Andrew Boston (27 disposals, 11 tackles), Dawson (26 disposals, seven tackles and one goal), Jesse Joyce (23 disposals, four marks, three tackles and a goal) and Michael Manteit (21 disposals, five marks, two tackles and a goal) were among the other top ball winners.

Despite the loss, Liam Stocker practically kicked down the door for AFL selection with a whopping 38-disposal and 13-mark game, as David Cuningham (28 disposals, four marks, four tackles and a goal), Sam Ramsay (22 disposals, seven marks and five tackles) and O’Brien (21 disposals, six marks and a goal) also found plenty of the footy. Matthew Owies kicked a straight four goals from 12 touches, six marks and four tackles, while ex-Pie and Crow Ben Crocker slotted 2.3 from 11 touches and five marks up forward. Another ex-AFL listed talent in Toby Wooller returned to Victoria from Queensland to kick 1.2 from 16 disposals, six marks, eight tackles and have six hitouts tor the Blues.

Fellow standalone Queensland side Aspley Hornets also sent a message to the rest of the competition with an absolute belting of one of Victoria’s proudest clubs Port Melbourne. The Hornets blew the Borough away in the opening term with a 10 goal to two first quarter, and whilst the visitors managed to get back to within 43 points at the final break with six goals to two over the next two quarters, the damage was done and the Hornets booted six last quarter goals to win 20.13 (133) to 12.8 (80). Ryan Bastinac was ridiculous with 39 touches, four marks, six tackles and three goals, with Matthew Payne (28 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and two goals), Corey Lyons (27 disposals, five marks and one goal) and Matthew Hammelmann (11 disposals, eight marks and 4.4) among the dominant players for the Hornets. Harvey Hooper (27 disposals, four marks and two tackles) tried hard for the Borough, while Anthony Anastasio and Matthew Signorello both slotted three goals apiece.

Also in the Sunshine State, Brisbane Lions reserves knocked off Essendon’s reserves in a 66-point belting at Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex. Rhys Mathieson did his chances of a recall no harm thanks to a lazy 34 touches, eight marks and two goals, while Connor Ballenden (31 disposals, 15 marks and one goal) and Keidean Coleman (29 disposals, nine marks, three tackles and two goals) were also up there with the best for the Lions. First-year player Carter Michael showed he has the capacity to match it at senior level, amassing an impressive 25 touches on debut. Ex-Lion Tom Cutler had a team-high 29 disposals and 10 marks for the Bombers, while Nick Bryan racked up 34 hitouts, five marks and three tackles to show off his around-the-ground work with 27 touches.

The only Queensland team to suffer defeat in the opening round of the VFL was Gold Coast Suns, going down by 67 points to a red-hot Western Bulldogs outfit. The Bulldogs kicked 10 goals to three in the opening half to set up the win, restricting the Suns to just 12 scoring shots as the home team won, 16.13 (109) to 6.6 (42). The potent tall forward combination of Josh Schache (19 disposals, 12 marks and 5.4) and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (12 disposals, 2.1) was the issue for the Suns, though father-son talent Ryley West was one of nine individual scorers, picking up 22 disposals, five marks and four disposals in the process. Will Hayes (29 disposals, 11 marks), Riley Garcia (24 disposals, three marks and nine tackles), Lin Jong (24 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and a goal) and Buku Khamis (21 disposals, 11 marks) were other AFL-listed Dogs impressing. For the Suns, Brayden Fiorini (31 disposals, 11 marks and six tackles) and Will Brodie (30 disposals, 10 marks and six tackles) had days out, while talented AFL Academy member Austin Harris kicked two goals from six touches, two marks and three tackles.

In the all-New South Wales battle, Sydney Swans emerged victorious of the GWS GIANTS, booting 12 goals to seven after quarter time to record a 15.6 (96) to 10.10 (70) victory. Colin O’Riordan had 32 disposals and 14 marks, as other Swans-listed talents in Lewis Taylor (32 disposals, eight marks and one goal) and Ryan Clarke (31 disposals, eight marks and four tackles) both racked up the ball with ease. Hayden McLean and Harry Morrison slotted three majors apiece, whilst Paddy McCartin returned to the field to have 19 disposals and nine marks in a promising return. Teenage talents, Sam Thorne (13 disposals, six marks and a goal) and Marc Sheather (10 disposals, three tackles and a goal) also gained some important experience. For the GIANTS, Alex Smout racked up 33 disposals, as Tanner Bruhn showed his AFL debut cannot be too far away with 27 touches and two goals. Josh Green, brother of GIANTS’ Tom stepped up to have 21 touches, as AFL Academy member Josh Fahey had the nine disposals, three marks and three tackles in the loss.

In a couple of the more memorable matches for the VFL, two all-standalone Victorian clashes saw Frankston Dolphins and Williamstown Seagulls win easily against Coburg Lions and Northern Bullants respectively. The Dolphins, led by ex-Bomber Josh Begley (six goals), and ex-Pie and Saint Nathan Freeman (40 disposals), proved too strong for the Lions. Coburg’s Marcus Lentini suffered leather poisoning himself, matching Freeman with a whopping 40 disposals and slotting a goal. Josh D’Intinosante and Mitch Podhajski both slotted three goals in defeat. For the Seagulls, they booted seven goals to one in the first half to set up the victory against the Bullants, as Jake Greiser (29 disposals, eight marks and one goals), Mitch Hibberd (29 disposals, five marks and one goal) and Liam Hunt (29 disposals, one goal) ran rampant. Joel Ottavi slotted four goals from eight scoring shots, while ex-Crow Jordan Gallucci slammed home three goals from 21 touches and six marks. For the Bullants, Tom Wilson had the most touches with 25 and six marks, while ex-GIANT and Roo Paul Ahern had 23 disposals, four marks, four tackles and kicked a goal.

Pies fans had something to smile about over the weekend, with a hard-fought seven-point win over Werribee, 10.9 (69) to 9.8 (62). Second year talent Jay Rantall put his hand up to return to an injury-depleted AFL lineup with 28 disposals, five marks and six tackles, while Tyler Brown (22 disposals), Caleb Poulter (18 disposals, seven marks and a goal) and Ollie Henry (11 disposals, seven marks and two goals) were among the young Pies to make an impact. Ex-Cat Wylie Buzza slotted four goals from 10 touches and four marks, as Tom Gribble (30 disposals, nine marks and five tackles) and Matthew Hanson (28 disposals, four marks and three tackles) did their thing. It was a much more one-sided contest for Richmond’s 40-point win over Sandringham Zebras, as the Tigers piled on 10 goals to three in the first three quarters to lead by 47 points at the final break, before the Zebras cut the deficit back rallying in the final term. Samson Ryan kicked three goals up forward, as Callum Coleman-Jones (22 disposals, six marks, 13 hitouts, four tackles and two goals) found plenty of the football. Jack Ross (34 disposals), Pat Naish (33) and Riley Collier-Dawkins (31) all easily dominated proceedings, whilst for the Zebras, Shaun McKernan was outstanding with 23 disposals, 10 marks, 11 hitouts, four goals and four tackles, while Ryan Byrnes (22 disposals, eight marks and a goal) and Oscar Clavarino (20 disposals, 14 marks) were among the St Kilda-listed talents to impress.

The two Sunday clashes between AFL-aligned clubs resulted in the Casey Demons getting a comfortable 41-point victory over Hawthorn at Box Hill, while Geelong posted a whopping 79-point thrashing over North Melbourne to sit at the top of the VFL ladder. Kade Chandler (25 disposals, 10 marks and a goal), Neville Jetta (25 disposals, 10 marks) and Aaron Vandenberg (25 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and a goal) were busy around the ground, whilst Ben Brown‘s debut in the red and blue (18 disposals, six marks and three goals) was overshadowed by a monstrous performance from Sam Weideman (16 disposals, seven marks and 7.2). Developing Hawk tall Emerson Jeka was one of three in the brown and gold to slot three majors in the loss, while Lachlan Bramble (20 disposals, eight tackles) and Michael Hartley (20 disposals) were among the Hawthorn-listed players to impress. For the Cats, Zach Guthrie had a day out with 27 disposals and 11 marks, as Charlie Constable (26 touches) and Oscar Brownless (24) pressed their cases for a call-up. Josh Jenkins and Ben Jarvis both slotted four goals apiece in the massive win, as two of eight individual goalkickers. Former Bushranger and Hawk’ Mat Walker had three goals from six scoring shots, as well as 16 touches and 10 marks in a dirty day for the Roos, while Dom Tyson (29 touches), Harry Jones (23) and Will Walker (20) tried hard.

VFL ROUND 1 RESULTS:

Richmond 13.17 (95) defeated Sandringham 7.13 (55)
Frankston 20.6 (126) defeated Coburg 14.12 (96)
Western Bulldogs 16.13 (109) defeated Gold Coast Suns 6.6 (42)
Brisbane Lions 15.14 (104) defeated Essendon 5.8 (38)
Sydney Swans 15.6 (96) defeated GWS GIANTS 10.10 (70)
Aspley 20.13 (133) defeated Port Melbourne 12.8 (80)
Carlton 16.12 (108) lost to Southport 17.7 (109)
Werribee 9.8 (62) lost to Collingwood 10.9 (69)
Hawthorn 10.7 (67) lost to Casey Demons 17.16 (118)
Geelong 18.15 (123) defeated North Melbourne 6.8 (44)
Northern Bullants 6.11 (47) lost to Williamstown 14.15 (99)

Picture credit: Southport Sharks Twitter

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: The best AFL Draft hands

OVER the past few weeks, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, Chief Editor Peter Williams again sat down with AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro, this time to discuss which clubs hold the best hands heading into the 2020 AFL Draft.

While the indicative draft order is set to undergo a raft of changes in the build up to draft day (December 9), the discussion highlighted three teams which were head and shoulders above the rest of the competition in terms of their pick hauls as of the end of trade period. Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney (GWS), and Essendon were the sides in question, though the positions of all 18 teams also came under the microscope; touching on pure draft value index points, flexibility and potential to trade, and likely academy or father-son selections.

To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

Below is a recap of what makes the three aforementioned clubs’ draft hands so strong:
(All picks are as of November 18)

Adelaide
Picks: 1, 9, 22, 23, 40, 56, 66, 80

Having finished bottom, the Crows have all the power with pick one for the first in their history and will likely use it to gain one of Logan McDonald or Riley Thilthorpe. Afterwards is where it gets interesting, as Adelaide could opt to split pick nine or use it to get into next year’s top 10 as the 2021 crop looks a strong one. The Crows also have three prospects already tied to them in Tariek Newchurch (NGA), James Borlase (NGA), and Luke Edwards (father-son). As it stands, Newchurch is likely to attract the first bid and one for Borlase will hopefully come after their current pick 40. The Crows could be left with a tricky decision as to whether they match for Edwards, who is also flirting with nominating for the open draft. Either way, Adelaide must nail this intake and lay a strong marker for its rebuild.

GWS
Picks: 10, 13, 15, 20, 29, 52, 74, 88

An exodus of sorts sees the Giants hold five picks within the top 30, four of which land among the first round. While the loss of Jeremy Cameron will be felt immediately, GWS has the opportunity to stock up with high-quality long-term options and avoid another steep drop off after finishing 10th in 2020. Alternatively, the Giants could use their picks in the teens to try and enter next year’s first round, or even sneak further into this year’s top 10 should a likely suitor wish to split their picks. Josh Green, the brother of Tom looks set to be the Giants’ sole academy selection this year but holds a value which will be relatively straightforward to match with one of their late picks, if necessary. GWS could be one of the busier clubs in the lead up to draft day and has plenty of potential to extract from its current hand.

Essendon
Picks: 6, 7, 8, 44, 77, 85, 87

The third of three clubs to currently hold a total points value of over 5000, Essendon may also become the first club since the expansion era to take three top 10 picks into the draft. What the Bombers decide to do with those picks is anyone’s guess given the flexibility afforded to them, and that there looms a few long-term list needs which require attendance. It seems as if they will opt to part ways with at least one of their top 10 selections, again either keen on next year’s crop or to expand their options in the first round. Another interesting scenario would be to package a couple of those picks to move into the top five, with Logan McDonald a prospect of particular interest. The Bombers also look set to bring in a couple of promising NGA talls in Cody Brand and Josh Eyre, with the latter potentially attracting a bid before the their current round three selection. There is likely enough cover for Eyre later on, though Essendon may also opt to bolster that late hand for any advanced bids.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

Past Episodes:

Best readymade prospects
Best players under 175cm
Best midfielders over 190cm
Logan McDonald vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Best academy and father-son hauls
Brayden Cook vs. Conor Stone
Key defenders kicking comparison
Offence from defence
Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Heath Chapman
The top non-aligned midfielders

2019 AFL Draft Focus – Round 17: Green stars, Rivers comes up clutch as Demons stay alive

THE NUMBER of recruits from the 2019 AFL Draft to run out for their respective teams on the weekend spilled back into double digits, despite a few youngsters being squeezed out of senior selection. There was plenty to take out of Round 16 for the class of 2019, with a bunch of up-and-comers continuing to stamp their mark on the competition. We take a look at how the best handful of them performed.

STAR OF THE ROUND: Tom Green (GWS)
STATS: 30 disposals (22 handballs), 2 marks, 3 tackles, 4 clearances, 2 inside 50s, 6 score involvements, 1 goal assist

It is hard to believe that Green has only managed five AFL outings in his debut season, but he again made the most of some movement among the GWS midfield. Last year’s number 10 pick racked up a game-high 30 disposals, dominating at the coalface with 21 contested possessions and four clearances. His extraction work in-close was on point, and Green looks as comfortable as any first year inside midfielder in recent memory. His 191cm/89kg frame aids that, but the GIANTS Academy graduate proved he is more than just a brute with his game on the weekend.

Noah Anderson (Gold Coast)
20 disposals, 2 marks, 4 tackles, 4 clearances, 7 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 481 metres gained, 2 score involvements

Another high-end draft pick, Anderson continues to thrive despite somewhat of a taper in Gold Coast’s form late in season 2020. Having cut his teeth on the outside, the Oakleigh Chargers product has transitioned well to a more inside-oriented role in the back half of his debut campaign. It is a position where Anderson’s penetrative kick and forward thinking comes to the fore, as he sets his side on the front foot from midfield. Anderson also got his hands on the ball plenty of times once again, just reaching the 20-disposal mark and allowing the SUNS to enter dangerous areas.

Kysaiah Pickett (Melbourne)
15 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 1 clearance, 1 inside 50, 1 rebound 50, 7 score involvements, 1 goal, 3 behinds

Pickett has been ultra impressive in his maiden senior campaign, and again proved a thorn in the opposition’s side in Round 17. The Demons sought a small forward with their selection of Pickett, but have received much more than tackling pressure and goal nous, as the South Australian also continues to prove his class with ball in hand further afield. He is often as creative and productive forward of centre as any player afield, but his radar was a touch off in front of the big sticks as he managed 1.3. The all-action prospect will undoubtedly put bums on seats in future.

Trent Rivers (Melbourne)
16 disposals (75% efficiency), 2 marks, 3 tackles, 2 clearances, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 3 score involvements, 2 goals

The hero of an astonishing Melbourne triumph, Rivers is beginning to flourish in more advanced roles among the Dees’ set-up. A slider in last year’s draft, the West Australian is proving those who overlooked him wrong as one of the more seamless draftees to make the AFL transition. His ability to run, gun, and penetrate from behind the ball is already a known quantity, but add some scoreboard impact and midfield minutes from his latest outing, and you have a player with serious upside. His clutch goal late in the piece sealed Melbourne’s win, keeping its finals hopes alive with one round remaining.

Harry Schoenberg (Adelaide)
21 disposals (76% efficiency), 4 marks, 5 tackles, 3 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 2 score involvements

Adelaide pulled off a third-consecutive win over the weekend, booting Carlton out of finals contention and sending off Bryce Gibbs in style against his old side. The rebuild has proven long and strenuous throughout 2020, but the green shoots are beginning to appear, with the likes of Schoenberg reaping the benefits of added exposure at AFL level. Accustomed to contesting against mature bodies, the South Australian was productive both on the inside and outside of midfield. His clean hands and disposal, combined with solid defensive output at the contest make for a well rounded midfield package, which he again proved to be in his seventh senior game.

Others in action:

Brad Close (Geelong)
Keidean Coleman (Brisbane)
Will Day (Hawthorn)
Michael Frederick (Fremantle)
Mitch Hibberd (Essendon)
Finn Maginness (Hawthorn)
Flynn Perez (North Melbourne)
Caleb Serong (Fremantle)

Featured image: Melbourne’s Trent Rivers celebrates | Michael Klein/News Corp

Northern Academy Series preview: Round 2

GOLD Coast Suns and Sydney Swans Academies will be keen to double-up with victories over their respective cross-state rivals, Brisbane Lions and GWS GIANTS Academies when the Northern Academy series continues this weekend. Originally scheduled to face off against Academies from opposing states, the border restrictions between Queensland and New South Wales have made life difficult, but luckily for the two state’s most talented AFL Draft hopefuls, they will still get to run around.

In a similar structure to last week, the NSW teams will do battle on Saturday at North Dalton Park, Wollongong in conditions that will hopefully be better than the slog fest that greeted the players last week. On Sunday, the Queensland sides will battle it out at Labrador in a change of venue from the first round, which the Lions will be hoping can change their fortunes in the Round 2 clash. All of the teams will have players to watch when talking about both the 2020 and 2021 AFL Drafts, which makes it entertaining viewing.

For Sydney, Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden are the players that Swans fans know plenty about given their role with the Allies last season. The pair use the ball well and can be damaging in the forward half of the ground, with Campbell touted as a top 10 pick and Gulden as a highly rated prospect. But outside the duo, the Swans have a number of others to watch that make them quite a damaging unit, with Marco Rossman up forward likely to build on a quieter first-up appearance, while over-agers Jackson Barling and Sam Thorne are consistent performers for the red and white. Sam Gaden was hitting his straps at the Under 18 Championships last year before injury cut his short, and is worth a look when it comes to key position talents.

Their opponents the GIANTS might not have the standout prospect they had last year in Tom Green, but they do have a number of talents that will excite GIANTS fans, as shown by their capability to push the Swans in the wet last weekend. Josh Green – Tom’s brother – is one of their top talents, with the taller more key position option a player that could follow his brother into the elite program. One of the more unlucky players not to end up on a list is over-ager Liam Delahunty who has plenty of tricks playing as that third-tall utility who can play just about anywhere on the ground. He is one who would love to stake his case, and while he was set to represent Northern Knights in NAB League, the Academy prospect will be thrilled he has a second chance at playing here. Bottom-age talent Kai Watts, and top-age inclusion for Round 2, Charlie Byrne are others to watch, with the latter having some incredible skill coming off half-back that he showed for the Murray Bushrangers last year.

Turning the attention to the Q-Clash, and the Lions will be keen to turnaround their fortunes after a slow start saw them 37 points down before they put a score on the board. The Suns jumped them and utilised the breeze well, but it is easy to see why Lions fans are excited about this year’s crop of Academy talents. Carter Michael and Tahj Abberley are two players who have speed and skill to use coming off half-back, not afraid to take the game on or provide a contest in the air or at ground level. Along with fellow AFL Academy members Saxon Crozier – who often plays off a wing – and Blake Coleman – who worries opposition defenders every time he is in the vicinity of the goals – the Lions have a number of players who really stand out. Shatna Cashen-Harris and Kuot Thok both showed glimpses in the Round 1 loss, while Daniel Lanthois was strong in midfield. Jack Briskey is a key defender who has shown promising signs for Brisbane as well.

The Suns will look to have a similar first quarter start when they take on the Lions at Labrador after their Round 1 blitz basically ended the game in an impressive opening stanza. Bottom-ager Josh Fahey was the top player on the ground in the win while Max Pescud and Josh Gore showed plenty of signs in the forward half of the ground, causing issues for opponents in the air or at ground level. Aiden Fyfe impressed off a wing, while captain Jack Johnston was a rock in defence as he showed last season. The Suns have plenty to like about their side, because the Academy is quite even, shown by the inclusion of over-age forward, Nathan Colenso who kicked a couple of goals. Most of the players have run around in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) this season, with a number of them – such as Colenso and Coleman – transforming from teammates to opponents, or in the case of Michael and Abberley for example – opponents to teammates.

Saturday, August 15

Sydney Swans vs GWS GIANTS, North Dalton Park Wollongong

Sunday 16 August

Brisbane Lions vs Gold Coast Suns, Labrador Park

From Canberra to Adelaide, Squire aspires for the big leagues

THROUGH unprecedented and uncertain times, finding a positive is often key to a good mindset. West Adelaide recruit Lachlan Squire is doing just that, and having faced his fair share of setbacks, hopes a path less travelled by leads to his ultimate goal of playing AFL football.

A Queanbeyan junior, Squire joined the GWS GIANTS Academy as an Under 13 and had been there ever since. A rare joint condition saw him sidelined for 13 months as he entered his 14th year, and a broken ankle right after his Under 15 national carnival with the ACT impacted his Under 16s preseason.

Squire missed out on selection for the NSW/ACT Rams over the next two years, but in his own words, played his best footy as a top-ager. While he was third or fourth in line among the GIANTS Academy midfield, the 19-year-old thrived at NEAFL level and even earned a league Rising Star nomination late in the season.

He was all set to return to NAB League duties with the GIANTS Academy as an over-ager, or otherwise continue to make a splash in the NEAFL across 2020. But with both competitions put on the back-burner due to the current pandemic, Squire was forced to find another way to stake his claim as a draftable talent.

Enter the West Adelaide Football Club, based nearly 12-hundred kilometres away from his hometown in Canberra. Like many mature-age AFL draft hopefuls, Squire has made the move interstate to get some football under his belt and show recruiters what he is made of.

After a two-week quarantine period, the well-built inside midfielder entered the Bloods’ Reserves side and is pushing for a League berth with just five games in the bank. Under the mentorship of housemate and vice-captain Logan Hill, and fellow Queanbeyan native Kaine Stevens, Squire looks poised for a crack at the top grade.

We sat down for a chat with him during the week, touching base on his footballing journey, how he came to the decision to move to South Australia, what he hopes to bring to the Westies side, and his future aspirations. Below are quotes from the man himself on a range of topics.

THE JOURNEY THUS FAR

JUNIOR FOOTY:

“I started playing footy at Queanbeyan Tigers when I was about four, just through AusKick and that. When I was younger, I always used to play up and I’ve always wanted to make the AFL, that’s been my goal ever since I was really young. I used to just play footy and cricket, that was pretty much how it was. I had a few bad injuries when I was about 14 and 16, so I had to choose between footy and cricket. Ever since then it’s been footy.”

INJURIES:

“They always had these carnivals in Albury which was the best out of the Swans and the GIANTS (academies), but I could never go… I had surgery on both of my knees when I was 13 or 14, it was a rare thing (osteochondritis dissecans). I had to have surgery and I couldn’t run for 13 months.

“Coming back from that, I was alright and played Under 15s nationals for ACT, then a week after that I broke my ankle and that put me out for most of the 16s preseason. When I played in the Under 16s Academy Series, I’d only been back training a few weeks beforehand, so that was not ideal. It taught me a fair bit about how you’ve got to look after yourself and coming back from injuries. It’s not easy but I reckon it’s mentally made me understand how to come back from setbacks.

“You get used to it with niggles and stuff like that but ever since then, I’ve made sure I’m really good with my gym work and rehab to try and make sure that I’m putting my body in the best state it can be to not get injured, and to physically be as good as I can.” Obviously that’s what you can control.”

THE GIANTS ACADEMY:

“I played for the NSW Under 12s because that was through school and then in Under 13s we started with the GIANTS Academy. I was with them ever since then… They’ve got good resources there, good coaches and people who will help you. As long as you put in the effort… I’ve sort of been a bit of a late developer with my football, mainly due to my injuries and that sort of stuff. I probably played my best footy in my 18th year, Under 16s I didn’t make Rams, 17s I didn’t make Rams either, so that’s sort of how it went.”

TOP-AGE SEASON (2019):

“At the beginning (2019) I was playing NAB League. I didn’t play badly, I played solidly the whole carnival but I didn’t stand out as much as I wanted to. I had probably one good game where I was able to get a bit more of the footy but I was playing that third or fourth mid behind Tom Green, Jeromy Lucas, and James Peatling. So I was sort of that next mid, I was playing well but just couldn’t get my numbers up.

“Then I played 13 games of NEAFL and probably played better there. I was getting better numbers than I was in the NAB League. It suited me a bit better I reckon, with more structure and I have a pretty mature body so I could play midfield pretty much every game which was good.

“Playing with blokes like Jackson Hately and Jye Caldwell was a really good experience. I think that back-end of the year was where I started playing my best footy, I got a NEAFL Rising Star nomination and had a few other games where I felt I played really well. That helped me, and (the GIANTS Academy) wanted me to come back as an over-ager. I was planning on being one of the hit-to players in the middle, which would have been good. And then to play NEAFL for the rest of the year but it didn’t work out so I’m over here (in Adelaide) now.”

MAKING THE MOVE

INITIAL THOUGHTS:

“It all happened pretty quickly. I guess there was nothing we could really do about it and the whole time we had hopes that things would be able to start up again. I just tried to control what I could control and that was just trying to keep doing my training, to keep trying to be as fit as I can and focus on stuff that I could keep improving on. Trying to find a positive out of it.

“I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do because obviously I wanted to still play with the GIANTS but I spoke with my managers and they thought it would be a good opportunity to come over and play in the SANFL considering it’s one of the only things going at the moment.”

“If things didn’t work out for me this year how I wanted to, I was looking at going interstate anyway to try and play state league footy at a higher level than the NEAFL. It was a good opportunity, but it’s definitely been challenging. I had to quarantine for two weeks and all that sort of stuff, coming to a new place without family and friends. I literally came in, had one week of training and played Round 2 without knowing any of the boys. So it’s been hard but I feel like I’ve played some good footy so far.”

COMMITTING TO THE MOVE:

“Each week it would change. One week I would be like ‘yeah I’m going’ and the next it would be like ‘nah I’m not going’. I didn’t really want to have to quarantine for two weeks because I had a few niggles after probably training a bit too hard in the break. I had a bit of soreness and quarantine wasn’t going to be ideal for that.

“I needed to keep my load up so I was a bit unsure, I didn’t want to come over here and take ages to get going, then have stuff start up back home and miss that so it was a bit hard.

“When they decided the GIANTS weren’t going to be playing in the NAB League, and there was so much uncertainty around when any GIANTS Academy games would start up, I though I might as well come over and give it a crack and just see how it goes.”

QUARANTINE AND KEEPING FIT:

“When we found out about all the gyms closing, I quickly called up our coach at my local club, Queanbeyan and took a heap of gym gear from the club, just stuff I would need. So I set up a gym in my backyard… We got sent programs and stuff to do from the GIANTS so I would go and do that with one of my mates and we trained pretty hard.

“I like writing programs for myself, you’ve got to figure out a way to keep motivated with weekly targets and challenges to keep yourself motivated. I enjoy doing preseason stuff because you get better. As much as it sucks, at the same time you get better and it’s good when you see improvements. I was able to find positives out of it and (understand) there’s probably people who don’t have the facilities right now that I do or the mindset just to work hard.”

“West Adelaide got some gym stuff for me as well, so we set that up in the backyard I was staying at. I made sure I got a treadmill so I could do some running. So I just did that and learned how to cook a bit and that’s pretty much it. I played playstation, there wasn’t much else to do.

“It went pretty quickly, you’ve just got to keep yourself busy throughout the day. I still did my gym sessions and my running sessions. The first week coming out (of quarantine) I felt a bit rusty, just with ball skills and I was pretty sore after the first few sessions, but it didn’t take me long to get back to feeling how I did. I’d only played one game since the end of August last year – I only played one practice match and then went straight into a pretty high quality game.”

THE WEST ADELAIDE ACCOMODATION:

“I’m staying with Logan Hill, who’s the vice-captain of West Adelaide. He’s got his own place so I’ve just got a room there, it’s pretty good. He’s pretty good to learn off and I just cook for myself and that sort of stuff.

“(West Adelaide) have been unreal. Just the support I’ve gotten from them has been second to none. From all the coaches, general managers and football directors. During my quarantine they would all call me up and see how i’m going, if there was anything I needed, they’d get for me and all the boys have been really welcoming.

“It’s a really good culture at the club, we haven’t had a great start to the year performance wise, but internally things are going well. We’ve got a good culture and that sort of stuff so I think we’re in a good spot. It couldn’t have really been much of a better transition for me, especially with my circumstances.”

SEASON 2020:

EARLY FORM:

“I have had a few good games and am starting to get into some good form… I had a quieter game on the weekend but next week I’ll just focus again on winning hard balls and good tackling.”

“But that’s how you learn, each week I’m learning what works for me and I’m trying to showcase how I can get into the League side and some different things. I think the best way forward is just to stick to my strengths and that’s what I’ve done so far this year. I’ve played five games now, my first one was a bit rusty but after that I’ve been playing some pretty good footy.”

STRENGTHS AND IMPROVEMENTS:

“I’m not naturally really quick or anything, I’m just solid all-round. I’m trying to figure out what a weapon of mine is and I’ve been able to (identify) that with my contested work and tackling. But I do have the capability to take pack marks, kick goals.

“I think it’s just more that my inside game’s really good and my contested stuff but that outside work, racking up numbers… that’s what I’ve been working on this year, just accumulating because the more times you get the ball, the more times you’re going to be able to show what you can do.”

GOALS:

“I want to obviously make my League debut, I’m close. I was an emergency last week so hopefully can get an opportunity soon, I’ve just got to keep playing consistent footy. Obviously the (end) goal is to get drafted, whether that’s this year or next year, who knows.

“I’m just going to keep doing everything I can to put myself in the best position, keep trying to play good footy and I think the SANFL’S a good spot at the moment to try and get in and show what I can do. Hopefully I can play some League games towards the back-end of this year and put my name up there with some solid performances.”

MENTORS AND TEAMMATES:

“I knew Kaine (Stevens), because he’s come from my old club so I’ve known him for a while. I like watching his game and he’s pretty good at accumulating the footy. He’s probably a different sort of player to me where I’m probably a bit more on the inside and tackling, whereas he’s able to find the ball a bit more on the outside and he’s really good at receiving the ball at stoppages. I watch his game for his running patterns, he runs smartly and gets himself in good spots and that’s been something that I’m trying to work on, not just running for the sake of running.”

“Ever since I’ve come over I’ve been close with (Hamish Ellem) because we have a similar connection, him and Kyle Martin who also came from the Swans Academy. So I’ve been hanging out with them a fair bit and doing some stuff before training, working on our game.”

LIFE OUTSIDE OF FOOTY

FAMILY:

“I’ve got great support from my parents, they encouraged me to come across. They know what my aspirations are so they knew that this would be a good opportunity for me and they message me throughout the week and watch the games on Digital Pass. My grandparents watch the games on Digital Pass too and also my girlfriend back home, she’s been really supportive about it as well.”

“It is tough. It’s a weird circumstance because usually they’d be able to come up and visit. They were planning on coming up and visiting a couple of weeks ago but because the borders shut, or didn’t open, they haven’t been able to. So I guess that’s hard, because I’m not really probably going to see them until the end of the season, which overall will be about four and a bit months which is a fair while when you’re so young. But that’s just how it is.”

DOWNTIME:

“I just go to the beach for a bit and do recovery, or go out for a coffee with the boys. But I’m pretty focussed on footy at the moment and I’m studying now as well so I’m a bit busy with that too.

“I’m working at the Westies club, behind the bar so that’s pretty chill. We train a fair bit, we train three times a week and then play so you do your gym sessions on top of that as well. You’re spending a fair bit of your time at the club and then in my spare time just exploring Adelaide a bit because I don’t really know much about it. Just going out an checking out the beaches, going out to different restaurants.”

With the SANFL teams named tonight, Squire will hope to breakthrough and make his SANFL League debut against Woodville-West Torrens on Saturday.

>> MORE WEST ADELAIDE CONTENT

2019 AFL Draft Focus – Round 5: Pick one down, but draftees fly high

11 RECRUITS from the 2019 AFL National Draft ran out for their respective teams on the weekend, and we take a look at how the best handful of them performed. Top pick Matt Rowell may have been rubbed out early with a dislocated shoulder, but there was plenty to take out of Round 5 for the class of 2019 as plenty of talented youngsters retained their spots at the elite level. For the first time this year, none of the weekend’s debutants came from the most recent draft, but there promises to be plenty to come.

STAR OF THE ROUND: Hayden Young (Fremantle)

STATS: 15 disposals (10 kicks), 6 marks, 2 rebound 50s, 73% disposal efficiency

The stats may not overly flatter him, but Young is building nicely into is AFL career having returned another strong performance in Fremantle’s first win for 2020. Stationed in his usual defensive post, Young delivered 12 of his 15 disposals from the back half and did so with accuracy. His intercept marking ability is also coming to the fore as he gains in confidence, able to read the ball well in flight and have a crack backing into traffic. At four games into his elite level venture, the Dandenong Stingrays graduate is beginning to bring his best traits forward and has cemented his spot in the Dockers’ side.

Noah Anderson (Gold Coast SUNS)

18 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50, 2 score involvements

As good mate, Rowell went down, Anderson stepped up to deliver one of his better performances across his first five career games. Continuing in his role on the wing, Anderson got involved in the contest and managed to find the ball in important areas while also fulfilling his defensive duties with 11 pressure acts. The former Oakleigh Charger may have turned the ball over six times amid the heat of the contest, but has impactful touches and has the potential to have a big say once all the factors in his game click.

Lachlan Ash (GWS GIANTS)

15 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 2 score involvements

Ash is another who is beginning to click into gear having been granted ample opportunity upon his AFL berth, and he was among the GIANTS’ top 10 disposal winners in their win against Hawthorn on Sunday. Moving along the line from defence to the wing, Ash was able to penetrate the forward 50 in transition to show a glimpse of his attacking quality, while also providing a safe outlet in the back half. He won half of his possessions in contested situations too, displaying a good appetite for the contest and the rigours of the elite level.

Tom Green (GWS GIANTS)

14 disposals, 2 marks, 5 tackles, 2 clearances, 3 score involvements

Right behind Ash in terms of disposals was GIANTS Academy graduate, Green with 14. After a breakout game in Round 4 saw him earn a Rising Star nomination, the big-bodied midfielder continued on his ball winning ways to contribute some solid numbers to GWS’ Sunday salute. The GIANTS’ coaching staff has shown great faith in Green in allowing him to run through midfield, attending centre bounces where he thrives on the contested side of the game. He’s another who looks to be locking down a spot, and is providing ample cover some some absent GWS stars.

Caleb Serong (Fremantle)

10 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 2 clearances, 1 inside 50, 1 rebound 50, 2 score involvements, 1 goal assist

Following the example set by former Vic Country teammate, Young is Serong, who also played his part in Fremantle’s opening win for season 2020. The diminutive Gippsland Power product is another who has been thrust right into the engine room action at times, holding his own against big-bodied opposition and remaining relevant going both ways. He is proving more comfortable with ball in hand as time goes on, and it is positive that he manages to find it in the first place.

Others in action:

Connor Budarick (Gold Coast)
Jack Mahony (North Melbourne)
Sam Philp (Carlton)
Kysaiah Pickett (Melbourne)
Trent Rivers (Melbourne)
Matt Rowell (Gold Coast)

2019 AFL Draft Focus – Round 4: Green shoots appear for GWS gun

13 RECRUITS from the 2019 AFL National Draft ran out for their respective teams on the weekend, and we take a look at how the best handful of them performed. From a Gold Coast trio who continue to flourish, to a number of other high picks who earned their spots, the draft class of 2019 is already showing promising signs for the future. There were a total of four debutants from last year’s cohort in Round 4, with others either holding their spots or returning to the line-up.

STAR OF THE ROUND: Tom Green (GWS GIANTS)

STATS: 18 disposals, 12 contested possessions, 72% disposal efficiency, 2 marks, 7 clearances, 1 inside 50, 2 rebound 50s, 6 score involvements, 1 goal

In a low-disposal game, Green was among the GIANTS’ top five ball winners as they snuck home to a thrilling win over Collingwood on home turf. Thrust straight back into the midfield fold, the GWS Academy graduate looked at home in his second AFL outing, getting stuck straight in with the tough stuff to notch 12 contested possessions and seven clearances. Last year’s number 10 draft pick was also able to boot his first goal at the elite level, and an important one at that given the final score.

Louis Butler (Western Bulldogs)

14 disposals (11 kicks), 2 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 4 score involvements

A Thursday night debut saw Butler collect 14 disposals in his usual defensive role, slotting in well across half-back and generating some decent forward momentum. While he kicked well below his usual rate at 21 per cent efficiency, the Sandringham Dragons product put the ball in dangerous areas, breaching either arc five times and having a hand in four score involvements as the Bulldogs downed Sydney.

Kysaiah Pickett (Melbourne)

10 disposals, 9 contested possessions, 3 tackles, 3 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 4 score involvements

After serving an avoidable suspension, Pickett returned to the Demons’ fold and was one of his side’s more lively forward 50 options. He was often Melbourne’s most dangerous outlet at the fall of the ball, wreaking havoc with his ability to hit the contest at full pace and extract, while also doing all the right things defensively. He may have hit five turnovers and could not quite find the goals, but you knew something was about to happen when Pickett neared the ball, and he brings a different dimension to the Melbourne team.

Matt Rowell (Gold Coast SUNS)

20 disposals, 1 mark, 5 tackles, 7 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 6 score involvements, 2 goals

Rowell may finally have been knocked off his ‘Star of the Round‘ perch, but still put in a performance worthy of the honour in his fourth AFL appearance. The Oakleigh Chargers graduate clicked over the 20 disposal mark once again and added another two goals to his haul, while proving a key cog in the SUNS’ engine room operations. Not many draftees have been able to match the grunt work of Rowell, who continues to put up fantastic tackle and clearance numbers to prove his two-way relevance.

Hayden Young (Fremantle)

15 disposals (12 kicks), 6 marks, 4 tackles, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 7 rebound 50s, 1 goal assist

Having kept his spot in the 0-4 Fremantle side, Young repaid the faith this week with arguably his best performance in three games at the elite level. Stationed in his usual half-back post, the 19-year-old provided a great glimpse of his damaging left-foot kick with a spearing goal assist pass as he cut through the corridor, while also contributing seven rebound 50s. As he adjusts to the pace and pressure of the AFL, Young has been able to better showcase his offensive game and join in the play going both ways.

Others in action:

Lachlan Ash (GWS GIANTS)
Noah Anderson (Gold Coast SUNS)
Connor Budarick (Gold Coast SUNS)
Caleb Serong (Fremantle)
Sam Philp (Carlton)
Fischer McAsey (Adelaide)
Trent Rivers (Melbourne)
Jack Mahony (North Melbourne)

AFL Round 1 rewind: The dozen debutants

THE AFL is a week away from kicking off against after a long couple of months. For a dozen players who made their unusual, but highly memorable debuts in Round 1 of the AFL Premiership season, we look back at how each of them performed in their respectively games with some impressive efforts.

Note: One asterisk indicates a second-year AFL player, two asterisks indicates third-year AFL player

TOP PICK: Sam Sturt (Fremantle)*

Stats: 10 disposals, 3 marks, 3 goals, 2 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 100 SuperCoach

The Round 1 Rising Star was sensational in Fremantle narrow six-point loss against Essendon. The Dockers were unlucky not to get the win as they booted four goals to one in the final term only to fall short on the road against the unpredictable Bombers. With plenty of fresh faces, Sturt was the surprise packet with the 2018 National Draft bolter booting three goals from 10 disposals and notching up a SuperCoach century on debut. He ran at 90 per cent efficiency and had seven score involvements, so was just as capable of sharing it around as others.

RUNNER-UP: Mitch Georgiades (Port Adelaide)

Stats: 11 disposals, 3 marks, 2 goals, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 clangers, 78 SuperCoach

There must be something about raw but talented forwards, because Mitch Georgiades’ performance on debut was sublime for the high-flying forward. He missed the entire 2019 season with a quad injury and was a bolter in the 2019 AFL National Draft, but very few would have predicted a Round 1 debut. But that is exactly what happened and he showed he was far from making up the numbers with the West Australian booting two goals from 11 disposals, three marks and three inside 50s, and running at an efficiency of 73 per cent.

Podium: Matt Rowell (Gold Coast)

Stats: 19 disposals, 1 mark, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 4 clearances, 3 clangers, 2 rebounds, 80 SuperCoach

From a couple of surprise packets to a player no one would be remotely surprised with the numbers he picked up, as the number one pick seamlessly slotted into the AFL’s bottom side. He racked up 19 disposals – the most of any debutant in Round 1 – and had the equal third most of any Suns player. Despite running at a tough 57.9 per cent contested rate, Rowell still finished with 74 per cent disposal efficiency, and had four clearances and three intercept possessions.

Others:

Fischer McAsey (Adelaide)
Stats: 5 disposals, 1 mark, 1 inside 50, 1 clearance, 16 SuperCoach

The Adelaide key position player was able to slot into the team in Round 1 as the Crows had to restructure their key talls in the absence of Alex Keath. He showed some promising signs, and while still made the odd mistake, was able to play a difficult role in a tight game.

Deven Robertson (Brisbane)
Stats: 7 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 clanger, 47 SuperCoach

Unlike the other players on this list, Robertson was a late call-up to make his debut, coming in for Grant Birchall. He still played 72 minutes and showed the fierce intent he did at Under 18s level to lay three tackles and win seven disposals.

Tyler Brown (Collingwood)**
Stats: 15 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 goal assist, 1 clearance, 1 inside 50, 2 clanger, 64 SuperCoach

A starring role early for the Magpies that even saw the debutant hand off a goal to his brother Callum in Collingwood’s first half onslaught against the Western Bulldogs. While he slowed in the second half, he still had the 15 disposals and 64 SuperCoach points and showed the silky smooth moves that he did at Under 18s level, three years into his AFL career.

Noah Anderson (Gold Coast)
Stats: 12 disposals, 2 marks, 1 inside 50, 2 clangers, 2 rebounds, 42 SuperCoach

The second pick in the 2019 National Draft held his own in a disappointing loss to Port Adelaide. He predominantly played off half-back and roamed up the ground on occasions, winning some touches on the wing. He finished with a debutant-high 246 metres gained in Round 1 which was the most impressive aspect of his debut.

Connor Budarick (Gold Coast)
Stats: 8 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 inside 50, 3 rebounds, 44 SuperCoach

The slick ball user ran at 75 per cent efficiency, and while it was always going to be interesting to see where Stuart Dew utilised him, Budarick played 100 per cent of his footy in the defensive half. He was able to finish with four intercept possessions and three rebounds on debut, an impressive performance from the utility.

Tom Green (GWS)
Stats: 6 disposals, 1 mark, 2 tackles, 1 goal assist, 2 clearances, 1 clanger, 41 SuperCoach

Tasting victory on debut against the Cats, Green was not afraid to force his way in and win the contested ball. He only had the six tackles, but the bulk of his time on-field was in the centre, and he had 83 per cent disposal efficiency, as well as a couple of clearances against an experienced midfield.

Toby Bedford (Melbourne)*
Stats: 8 disposals, 1 mark, 2 tackles, 1 goal assist, 2 inside 50s, 2 clangers, 39 SuperCoach

The former Dandenong Stingrays player earned a spot in the team after a year in the VFL, and he finished with 75 per cent efficiency off eight touches. He also laid two tackles, two inside 50s and set up a goal to end the match with a solid debut effort despite Melbourne’s loss to the Eagles.

Kysaiah Pickett (Melbourne)
Stats: 11 disposals, 1 mark, 2 goals, 2 behinds, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 1 clearance, 4 clangers, 57 SuperCoach

He always had the X-factor and talent down pat, and he showed some exciting glimpses on the big stage in the west against the 2018 premiers. He had 11 disposals and a debutant second-high 228 metres gained, showing he was not afraid to take the game on. He made a few mistakes with four clangers, but considering what he offered and the benefits he brought, it is better to see him taking those risks.

Ben Cavarra (Western Bulldogs)*
Stats: 3 disposals, 1 mark, 1 goal, 1 behind, 1 tackle, 1 inside 50, 1 clearance, 1 rebound, 32 SuperCoach

When it came to feel-good stories, very few could top Ben Cavarra who joined the first-kick, first-goal club when he was awarded a free kick inside 50, and kicked truly at the 20-minute mark of the second term to give the Dogs back-to-back goals for the first time. He might not have won much of it, but with one of the lowest inside 50 counts of all-time, even All-Australian forwards would have struggled inside 50 on that night.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 6 – Academies bow out, Stingrays go top

FANS, recruiters, and pundits alike were treated to another eight games in Round 6 of the 2019 NAB League, with the early-May weekend serving as the last for each of the five Northern Academies’ cameos. Reigning premier Dandenong broke clear as the sole undefeated side left, while Gold Coast was crowned the Academy Series victor via percentage after Sydney lost its only game for the season. A thrilling finals preview also went down as Gippsland and Eastern battled it out, with the Power getting the better of the eventual premiers on home turf.

The round kicked off in North Hobart, with Tasmania playing host to the heavily-depleted Oakleigh Chargers on Saturday morning. It was the visitors who managed to scrape home in a nail-biting, low-scoring slog by the slimmest of margins, overcoming a half-time deficit to keep the Devils at bay. Winning skipper Trent Bianco, the only national draftee afield dominated with 42 disposals as he stepped-up in the absence of some key personnel.

Fellow top-ager Josh May was also influential with 28 touches, while bottom-aged midfielder Fraser Elliot had it 23 times, and Thomas Lovell put in his best shift for the season with four majors. For the Devils, Harrison Ireland was named best for his work as an undersized ruck, with bottom-age gun Oliver Davis getting to work at ground level with a team-high 21 touches, and fellow Allies Hub member Sam Collins not far behind on 18.

The GWS Academy and Murray Bushrangers went to battle on the New South Wales-Victorian border at midday, with the GIANTS coming away with their second win from five attempts. It was a well drawn out win for the ‘away’ side in its home state, leading at every break but being made to earn the 11-point victory. In another game headlined by the dominance of a future draftee, Tom Green amassed 37 touches for the GIANTS in a mammoth performance.

Over-agers Jeromy Lucas (33 disposals) and Ed Perryman (31) were not far behind, while Harry Grant put in a big shift for 3.2 from his 23 touches, and 2020 19-year-old hopefuls Matt McGrory and Liam Delahunty also got busy. Green’s current GIANTS teammate Lachlan Ash collected 27 touches and booted a goal as Murray’s skipper, aided by Dylan Clarke and Cam Wild who matched his ball-winning output. Jimmy Boyer also impressed with three goals from over 20 disposals, while former GWS Academy member Charlie Byrne had 20 touches exactly.

Saturday’s final fixture took the competition back down to Victoria, as Calder and Bendigo met at Highgate Reserve. It was the Cannons’ day in another low-scoring affair, leading relatively comfortably at every break to eek out a 16-point win over the Pioneers on home turf. The leading Calder draft candidate to that point, Daniel Mott led the way with 36 disposals and a goal in a game which featured just two eventual draftees.

Jacob Martin enjoyed a breakout performance, racking up 36 touches of his own alongside Mott, while skipper Brodie Newman had 21 from defence and Carlton recruit Sam Ramsay had 16 on the same line. James Schischka was Bendigo’s leading ball winner with 20 disposals, with Sydney draftee Brady Rowles collecting his season-high haul of 17 in tricky conditions.

Heading up north to South Pine in the Sunshine State, Gold Coast took out the overall Academy Series with a well-earned 14-point victory over the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. The visitors pushed the talented academy prospects all the way despite trailing for the game’s entirety, with captain and SUNS AFL rookie Connor Budarick capping off a stellar month with another terrific performance.

His 23 disposals led all comers, with the exciting Hewago Paul Oea managing 19 and two goals, while Ashton Crossley provided good fold in midfield with 19 touches. Bottom-ager Max Pescud booted a game-high four majors, matched by Rebels’ Nick Caris in his second consecutive four-goal game. 2020 over-age hopeful Isaac Wareham notched two goals of his own, with fellow Vic Country representative Mitch Martin also impressing, but Jay Rantall kept quiet at just 14 disposals.

Completing the South Pine double-header were the Brisbane Lions Academy and Dandenong Stingrays, with the visitors claiming a resounding 71-point win on their travels up north. After a low-scoring first half, the Stingrays clicked into gear after the main break with 10 goals to one to comfortably ensure they would remain undefeated and atop the NAB League ladder.

Brisbane skipper Will Martyn stood tall in the defeat with a typically professional 32-disposal performance, with fellow Richmond draftee Noah Cumberland (26 disposals) also returning a good shift. 19-year-old Tom Matthews matched Cumberland’s effort, with bottom-agers Will Tasker and Tahj Abberley also impressing. For Dandenong, new Bulldog Cody Weightman bagged three goals, while fellow draftees Hayden Young (28 disposals), Sam De Koning (17, seven marks) Ned Cahill (21, 1 goal) strutted their stuff. Bottom-ager Clayton Gay was another to catch the eye, booting two goals from 21 touches.

A touch earlier and back in Victoria, the Geelong Falcons proved too good for the previously undefeated Sydney Swans Academy in their clash on neutral territory, upsetting the northern hopefuls with a 31-point win. The home side’s four-goal to one fourth term sealed the final margin, with the contest a touch tighter to that point.

It was the bottom-ager who stole the show in this clash, as Ollie Henry booted four goals for the Falcons alongside Charlie Brauer‘s two, while Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden both managed 22 disposals and a goal each. Geelong captain Jesse Clark was the leading ball winner on the ground with 25 touches, followed closely by Sydney top-ager Sam Thorne (24).

Not much may have been expected of the Gippsland-Eastern clash coming into the season, but it proved to be a belting finals preview as the Power took out the four points in Morwell. The game was tight the whole way through, with the high-quality contest ending in a 10-point triumph to the home side.

As had been the case in previous fixtures, the cream rose to the top as Sam Flanders (25 disposals, two goals), Brock Smith (27 disposals), and Fraser Phillips (20 disposals, three goals) all enjoyed fantastic outings for the winners. The midfield trio of Zak Pretty (28 disposals), Lachlan Stapleton (28), and Mitch Mellis (21) was just as handy for Eastern, while forwards Bailey White and Ben Hickleton notched three goals apiece.

The final game of the round saw a seventh venue used in Ikon Park, as the Northern Knights held off a fast-finishing Northern Territory Thunder Academy. A six-goal third term saw the Knights double their goal tally, and it set up a match-defining margin as they went on to salute to the tune of 38 points. The NT’s campaign would finish winless, but not for a lack of trying and talent.

Josh D’Intinosante and Jackson Davies both had a good amount of ball while also booting two goals each for the winners, while 2020 Vic Metro Hub member Liam McMahon also managed two goals from his 15 disposals and eight marks. Ben Jungfer was the Thunder’s leading ball winner with 22 touches, but it was Malcolm Rosas Jnr who shone with 21 and two goals, while Joel Jeffrey found the ball 21 times, Beau O’Connell 19, and Brodie Lake 16.