Tag: Trent Bianco

Comprehensive 2019 NAB League Grand Final Preview

FOLLOWING on from last year’s Grand Final preview, it is that time again where we try and analyse all facets of the NAB League Grand Final from the players to style and what one might expect from the match.

TEAMS

EASTERN RANGES v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

Grand Final – 21/09/2019
1:05pm
Ikon Park – Carlton

EASTERN RANGES

B: 10. C. Black, 39. J. Nathan, 40. J. Hourihan
HB: 4. J. Clarke, 21. J. Ross, 19. W. Parker
C: 20. C. Downie, 7. L. Stapleton, 30. T. Edwards
HF: 11. M. Mellis, 18. B. McCormack, 52. T. Sonsie
F: 9. J. Duffy, 13. J. Rossiter, 27. J. Jaworski
R: 49. R. Smith, 16. T. Garner, 23. Z. Pretty
Int: 6. M. Brown, 14. L. Gawel, 36. B. Hickleton, 26. C. Norris, 59. B. Tennant, 37. J. Weichard, 45. M. Zalac
23P: 44. H. Keeling

In: J. Weichard, M. Brown, B. Tennant

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

B: 15. K. Schreiber, 36. R. Valentine, 34. V. Zagari
HB: 5. T. Bianco, 52. N. Guiney, 49. H. Mastras
C: 39. R. McInnes, 6. J. Lucas, 9. W. Phillips
HF: 27. J. May, 25. J. Ugle-Hagan, 61. C. Stone
F: 29. F. Macrae, 73. C. Sharman, 77. N. Stathopoulos
R: 4. N. Bryan, 8. N. Anderson, 11. M. Rowell
Int: 58. Y. Dib, 18. F. Elliot, 22. T. Graham, 12. L. Jenkins, 30. S. Tucker, 17. G. Varagiannis, 1. L. Westwood
23P: 2. B. Laurie

In: L. Westwood, S. Tucker, Y. Dib

2019 SEASON REVIEW

1. Eastern Ranges – 12 wins, 3 losses, 148.1%, 48 points
3. Oakleigh Chargers – 11 wins, 4 losses, 114.8%, 44 points

HEAD TO HEAD

R1: Eastern Ranges 7.5 (47) defeated by Oakleigh Chargers 12.16 (88)
R14: Eastern Ranges 11.9 (75) defeated by Oakleigh Chargers 12.11 (83)

CHANGES SINCE ROUND 14 THRILLER

Eastern:
IN:
Mitchell Brown, Mitch Mellis, Jamieson Rossiter, Lachlan Gawel, Todd Garner, James Ross, Callum Norris, Ben Hickleton, Jayden Weichard, Joel Nathan, Harrison Keeling, Riley Smith

Oakleigh:
IN:
Nick Bryan, Noah Anderson, Matt Rowell, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Finlay Macrae, Reef McInnes, Harris Mastras, Nick Guiney, Connor Stone, Sam Tucker, Yoseph Dib

WHO HAS COMBINE INVITES?

National

Eastern Ranges [0]: Nil.
Oakleigh Chargers [6]: Noah Anderson, Trent Bianco, Nick Bryan, Matt Rowell, Cooper Sharman, Dylan Williams*.

State/Rookie Me:

Eastern Ranges [8]: Tyler Edwards, Lachlan Gawel, Billy McCormack, Mitch Mellis, Zak Pretty, Jamieson Rossiter, Riley Smith Lachlan Stapleton.
Oakleigh Chargers [3]: Lachlan Johnson*, Josh May, Kaden Schreiber.

*Unavailable due to injury

PLAYERS

EASTERN RANGES

#4 Josh CLARKE

Absolute lightning when he gets going. The bottom-age speedster is capable of breaking lines off half-back and along the wing and makes things happen. He is a player who catches the eye with his high risk-high reward style.

#6 Mitchell BROWN

Included in the extended squad for the grand final, Brown last played in Round 16 against Dandenong Stingrays. The 173cm utility had some good form earlier in the season, including six rebounds from 21 touches against Gippsland Power in Round 6.

#7 Lachlan STAPLETON

Consistent as they come and one of Eastern’s top draft hopefuls who not only wins the ball in the midfield, but hurts opposition teams going forward as well. In his third season with the Ranges, the now top-ager has lifted his numbers by five disposals a game, but his defensive pressure is what makes him stand out from the ground, averaging a massive seven tackles per game.

#9 Jonte DUFFY

The smallest player on the ground, but the tackling half-forward packs a punch. He averages more than five tackles a game and is not afraid to go in hard despite his 166cm, 69kg frame recorded at the start of the season.

#10 Chayce BLACK

The Fremantle father-son hopeful has shown some signs throughout the season and progressed into a defensive role after initially playing at half-forward and pinch-hitting through the midfield.

#11 Mitch MELLIS

Like Stapleton, one of Eastern’s top draft hopes and a dominant player throughout season 2019. A natural ball winner who covers the ground with ease, Mellis spent plenty of time forward this year, booting nine goals in 11 games compared to his three in his previous 20. He has also lifted his disposal numbers and despite being 173cm works hard around the clearances and is often the receiver of the ball who bursts off and gets it forward.

#13 Jamieson ROSSITER

Has been a much talked about prospect over the past couple of years but has struggled with injury, playing just two games in his bottom-age year – booting eight goals – after four as a 16-year-old. He has managed to get some continuity this year in between Vic Metro commitments, and booted 19 goals in 12 games, including six in the finals series. He is hitting form at the right time of year and at 190cm he is a touch small for a key position player at AFL level, but has the ability to go into the midfield and use his bigger frame there to have an impact.

#14 Lachlan GAWEL

Not a huge ball winner, but has a touch of class in the forward half using his vision and accuracy by foot to set up goal scoring opportunities. He has managed the eight games this season, but has booted six goals in that time, also averaging three tackles per game to provide some defensive pressure to the opposition.

#16 Todd GARNER

Brother of former Eastern captain and now Port Adelaide player Joel, Todd is a member of the Hawthorn Next Generation Academy. He has managed just the 15 games over the past two seasons, but has shown some signs playing out of defence. He averages three rebounds and almost four tackles per game and plays a role on a dangerous opposition forward.

#18 Billy McCORMACK

Has been a big improver this season after just the three games last season. McCormack is a smoky in the draft because of his ability to have an impact both in the ruck and forward which is something quite rare in this draft class. He averages more than 10 touches and 15 hitouts per game, while booting 10 majors in his 16 matches.

#19 Wil PARKER

A bottom-age player who got a taste of it as a 16-year-old last season and has progressed through to be a staple in the Eastern defence this year. He is one no doubt likely to move into the midfield in 2020, but has arguably been Eastern’s most consistent rebounding small defender throughout the year, working well with James Ross and Joel Nathan as the keys. Averages 17 disposals and four marks per game.

#20 Connor DOWNIE

The Ranges’ top prospect for next year, and another member of the Hawthorn Next Generation Academy. Has had consistency issues at times, but when he is up and going, Downie is all class. He knows how to use the footy and sums up situations with terrific vision and execution, while hitting the scoreboard playing from a wing and half-forward. Played on the MCG for Vic Metro which is rare for bottom-agers.

#21 James ROSS

The general in defence and captain of the side, Ross is one who represented Vic Metro on one occasion, put together a consistent season and was unlucky not to receive a combine invite. Considering his finals series to-date, Ross has no doubt done all he can to convince recruiters he is worth a shot, and while he is slightly undersized for a key position role, he reads the ball perfectly in the air and is strong overhead. Courageous and a great team leader.

#23 Zakery PRETTY

Eastern’s big improver this season after just the limited three games in 2018. Pretty is one of the taller Eastern midfielders despite standing at 183cm, but at 80kg is more built for that inside role. With more than 50 per cent of his possessions won in contested situations, and racking up a truckload of clearances – six per game – Pretty is one who has flown onto draft radars after a big year.

#26 Callum NORRIS

Returned after 12 months off, to grab a spot in the Ranges’ finals side against Sandringham and was better for the run after the first final, to be a key contributor last weekend on his way to 18 disposals, five marks and a goal. Not a typically high disposal winner, but has been around for the past three seasons but has been marred with injury.

#27 Jordan JAWORSKI

The goal sneak has booted 17 goals in 10 games this season, with seven of those coming in Eastern’s smashing of Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. He is a classic small forward who knows where the goals are and will often run hard to open space back to goal and be in the right spot to win the ball and apply scoreboard pressure for his side.

#30 Tyler EDWARDS

Playing through the midfield, Edwards has produced a solid season in his 10 games, averaging 18 touches and three clearances per game. He did enough to earn a place at the state combine, and is one who provides a role in multiple positions, but will likely play through the midfield and on a wing.

#36 Ben HICKLETON

Eastern’s leading goalkicker this season and a player who stepped up in his top-age year to average two goals a game and provide a target up forward. Hickleton rotated through the ruck with Riley Smith and Billy McCormack despite being just 192cm, often pinch-hitting to give those players a rest, averaging three hitouts per game. At 87kg, he is a strong player who is good one-on-one.

#37 Jayden WEICHARD

Just the three games this season and none since Round 11, but Weichard was included in the Ranges’ extended squad for the Grand Final, with his best game coming against Geelong Falcons in Round 9, amassing 15 disposals spending time on the inside.

#39 Joel NATHAN

A terrific lockdown defender who will beat his man more often than not, Nathan is the ultimate team player in defence. He still wins his own ball with 13 disposals and three marks per game, but has plenty of spoils and one percenters to his name. He and Ross are arguably the top cohesive defensive partnership and will not make it easy for the Chargers’ forwards.

#40 Jack HOURIHAN

His first season for the Ranges as a top-ager, Hourihan has managed every game this year and averaged 14 disposals, four marks, three rebounds and two tackles playing predominantly in defence. A latecomer to the program who has bought into the Ranges system and been a consistent player throughout the year playing his role.

#44 Harrison KEELING

A bottom-ager in his first season, Keeling is lightly built but has strung together six games in the back-end of the season, recalled for the first final and has held his spot. Not a huge disposal winner, but one who like many of his teammates last year, is gaining great experience for 12 months time.

#45 Mihaele ZALAC

Taller midfielder who operates between the arcs, often playing an outside role and rotating onball to have an impact. Has played every game in season 2019, averaging 14 disposals, three marks and three tackles per game, while having similar clearance, inside-50 and rebound numbers showing his ability to spread.

#49 Riley SMITH

The overage ruck took control of the ruck division when in the side this year, playing eight games and averaging more than 27 hitouts per game. He is readymade to play at senior level, earning a Rookie Me Combine invitation and is someone who could provide a presence at ruck stoppages.

#52 Tyler SONSIE

Four years ago Jaidyn Stephenson and Adam Cerra burst onto the scene as 16-year-olds, and for 2019, Tyler Sonsie is that player. He has played the last five games of the season and being a half-forward who can kick off either foot and hit the scoreboard consistently or set others up, Sonsie is a damaging player and with continued development, could be a top pick in the 2021 draft.

#57 Beau TENNANT

A tall target inside 50, Tennant played his best game in his first game this year, booting three goals from six marks and 15 touches against Oakleigh in Round 14. He was named in Eastern’s extended squad for the grand final.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

#1 Lucas WESTWOOD

An unfortunate pre-game injury before the preliminary final ruled him out but he has been named in the extended squad. The reliable defender has been a club favourite with him doing a role each and every week and would play a role on an opposition forward if fit and available.

#2 Bailey LAURIE

The exciting small forward has enjoyed a busy finals series, constantly popping up and helping set up scoring opportunities for his teammates. He teams up well at the feet of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with Nick Stathopoulos, and was instrumental in the qualifying final win over Gippsland Power with two goals from 16 touches and seven marks. A bottom-ager to look out for next season.

#4 Nick BRYAN

Had his best game since the start of the year last weekend when he took control of the ruck and was giving his midfielders first use. Might not have got to the expectations some placed on him at the start of the season, but showed just why people rated him so highly and it will be interesting to see if he can back it up against a strong combination of rucks in this game.

#5 Trent BIANCO

The co-captain is the Chargers’ most damaging player when up and about, and his lethal foot skills can punish opposition from turnovers. He has an array of ways to inflict pain on the opposition with his skills and vision, and leads from the front having no trouble finding the footy whether it be on the wing or half-back. One of the most important players in the grand final.

#6 Jeromy LUCAS

The GWS GIANTS Academy member has had no worries finding plenty of the pill this season, stepping up in the absence of Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, also representing the GIANTS during the Academy Series. Has managed the eight games so far this season, and after a quiet qualifying final – the only game this season with less than 20 touches – he was more prolific last week in the Chargers’ win over the Dragons.

#8 Noah ANDERSON

Hard not to know this name given the publicity around him. In six games this year he had just one game under 23 disposals, and three games with 26 or more, including a whopping 44 touches and 2.2 against the Calder Cannons in Round 2. So big and strong compared to many other midfielders, he goes forward and plays the role of leading targets, hitting the scoreboard with multiple goals in all bar one of his matches.

#9 Will PHILLIPS

Generally a handball-happy midfielder, Phillips can play inside or out and takes some of the burden off the top-age midfielders in that group. He took out Vic Metro’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the Under-16 Championships last year, and practically brings his own ball to every game. Seems to model a fair bit of his game around Matt Rowell with similar intensity at the ball carrier or at ground level and hates being beaten.

#11 Matt ROWELL

Unless you have been living under a rock the past 12 months, it is near-impossible not to recognise the name. The likely number one pick has won just about every award under the sun, including best on ground in both the NAB League Grand Final last year – in a losing team – and on the MCG in the Under-17 All Stars game prior to the AFL Grand Final. Since gathering “just” 21 touches in Round 1, his NAB League disposal hauls are 31, 29, 34, 29 and 32. Disposals are not everything, but when they are in this guy’s hands they certainly are. Just opens things up and not only that, but averages 8.5 tackles per game, including back-to-back weeks of a combined 29 in Rounds 2 and 3.

#12 Lochlan JENKINS

Excited to see what the bottom-ager is capable of producing on the big stage, with him able to play a more outside role at times given the return of Rowell and Anderson to the midfield group. He is not afraid to attack the contest, and was one of the Chargers’ best during the mid-part of the season. One of a number of Chargers who will shape next year’s side.

#15 Kaden SCHREIBER

A State Draft Combine invitee, Schreiber’s form has been building over the past couple of months, rotating between the midfield and defence. Generally handball-happy, he played a more kick-encouraging role in defence for the preliminary finals and had arguably his best game of the year. One who will want to put up a big performance to show recruiters he can be as influential as some of the names in his side.

#17 Giorgio VARAGIANNIS

Another bottom-ager who just keeps popping up, recalled for the preliminary final after having not played since the last time these sides met back in Round 14. With an 18-disposal game, the utility finds the ball and works hard between the arcs.

#18 Fraser ELLIOT

Came off sore with his hamstring iced early in the preliminary final and while it was clear he wanted to get back out there, with the game well and truly on Oakleigh’s terms, on went the tracksuit. An important bottom-age prospect who could develop rapidly in his top-age year next year given his 188cm frame. Can find the ball too when he has the inside role, picking up massive numbers once the school footballers went out and he took control of the midfield.

#22 Thomas GRAHAM

I am not the only one that questions the 190cm listed at the start of the season. He is the ultimate utility, seemingly able to play every role on the field including ruck. With Nick Bryan back in the side, Graham can have the relief role, and he plays a good foil up front with three majors last week while all defenders eyes were on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

#25 Jamarra UGLE-HAGAN

His name has been one on the lips of plenty of draft watchers over the past month with consistency finally creeping into his game. After a quiet start to the year, Ugle-Hagan returned to the team for a couple of weeks mid-season during the school holidays, ad then again from Round 17 onwards, booting a massive 23 goals in his past six games. He has gone from likely first round selection to probable top five pick. His speed off the mark and clean hands are terrific, and if he can clean up some of his set shot attempts, then he could be looking at six-goal hauls most weeks.

#27 Josh MAY

Earned a State Draft Combine invitation after a consistent year playing between a wing and half-back. Has a long kick that can be effective, and benefits from freedom when Oakleigh is at full strength. Not a massive ball winner, May still finds his fair share of the footy – usually in the mid-teens – and is best suited to a role winning the ball on the wing and pumping it inside 50 to dangerous positions.

#29 Finlay MACRAE

The brother of Jack still needs to find his consistency, with a bit of yo-yo form at times, but his best is up there with some of the top bottom-agers. We saw on the weekend just how damaging he can be, racking up 22 touches, nine marks and a goal, and he is a smooth mover in the midfield. While he did not play for Vic Metro, getting named for the side was a big bonus and showed just how highly they rate him in the pathway.

#30 Sam TUCKER

A key position player who still has another year in the system, Tucker was included in the extended squad for the Grand Final after not playing since Round 13. His best game came in Round 12 when he took seven marks from 11 touches and four rebounds playing in defence, and is able to play around the ground as well.

#34 Vincent ZAGARI

You can rely on Zagari to go out and do a role each and every week. He has a long, penetrating kick that clears the defensive 50, and often matches up on the opposition’s most dangerous small forward. With the crafty Jordan Jaworski potentially on the horizon in this game, Zagari will need to be aware of the goal sneak’s ability to double back and find space goal-side. Just a consistent player.

#36 Ryan VALENTINE

Can match up on a taller opposition forward, and at 192cm, might even get the job on Jamieson Rossiter this week. Not a high disposal winner, but the bottom-age prospect just does a job and aims to nullify his opponent in each contest to give his side the best chance of winning.

#39 Reef MCINNES

The fact Oakleigh’s midfield is so strong that this kid can chill out in the backline is just ridiculous. A beast of an inside midfielder who is going to be a top-end prospect next year after showing plenty mid-year in the absence of Rowell and Anderson, the Collingwood Next Generation Academy member is 191cm already and has a raking kick and knows how to find the footy. Can play anywhere on the ground and right now he is doing a role off half-back.

#49 Harris MASTRAS

Another strong role player who has contributed to Oakleigh’s success by limiting the effectiveness of an opposition forward. Had his second most touches of the season on the weekend with 12 disposals, so is not a massive ball winner, but just does his job and makes life difficult for the opposition.

#52 Nick GUINEY

Bottom-ager who tends to play his best footy in defence, Guiney is a medium height at 186cm and while not an accumulator, clears the danger in the back half, while showing he can play further up the ground when required and get the ball inside 50. Like Valentine and Mastras, expect Guiney to fill out the defence and play a role on an opposition forward.

#58 Youseph DIB

The 16-year-old Collingwood Next Generation Academy member earned All-Australian honours this year and stands at just 172cm. He attacks the ball hard and creates opportunities in the forward half of the ground. Dib has only played the one game this season, playing the Sandringham Dragons in Round 17 and having six touches and three marks. He was included in the extended squad for the Grand Final.

#61 Connor STONE

Similar to Guiney but up the opposite end of the ground, Stone is a bottom-age forward who does not mind a goal. He booted two of them on the weekend and just pops up, good for a goal most weeks. He burst onto the scene against Murray Bushrangers with a five-goal haul in Round 9 and had plenty of draft watchers looking up his name, and while he has not replicated the massive haul, he is just consistent inside 50.

#73 Cooper SHARMAN

A late bloomer to the NAB League system, Sharman has booted goals in all bar one of his games, including a season-high four majors against Eastern Ranges in Round 14. He is the most reliable set shot in the competition with some nice athletic traits, and being an over-ager included in the program late, the Balwyn product and former GWS GIANTS Academy member has come on so quickly in draft calculations he earned a National Draft Combine invitation.

#77 Nick STATHOPOULOS

The stereotypical small forward, Stathopoulos is just a handful inside 50. He can smell a goal from a mile away and was a match-winner against Gippsland Power in the qualifying final with four majors from 15 disposals and four marks. He booted five goals against the Bushrangers in Round 9 on debut – exactly the same as Stone – and has hit the scoreboard in all bar one of this games this year.

FATHER/SON AND ACADEMY PROSPECTS

Eastern:

Chayce Black (Fremantle father-son – 2019)
Todd Garner (Hawthorn NGA – 2019)
Connor Downie (Hawthorn NGA – 2020)

Oakleigh:

Lachlan Johnson (Brisbane father-son / Essendon NGA – 2019)
Reef McInnes (Collingwood NGA – 2020)
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Western Bulldogs NGA – 2020)

WHY CAN THEY WIN?

Eastern Ranges:

They have been the best side all year and are deserving of the coveted 2019 premiership. They have the most even team of the entire competition, with their bottom six the strongest of any side. After a down year last year in the bottom two, the Ranges have thrived in 2019, and looking back, a remarkable 14 of their 23 players from the team have been on the list since 2017 as 16-year-olds. We know they will put in a four-quarter performance and are so unrelenting as they have done it all season.

Oakleigh Chargers:

Eastern has had just three losses this year – once to Gippsland Power by 10 points – and twice to the Chargers. Both time Oakleigh has found the formula to success against the Ranges, although now with plenty of changes for both sides since Round 14, it will be interesting to see how it goes down. Also, Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson are the best two players in the draft crop, and chuck in Trent Bianco on the outside, and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Cooper Sharman up forward and there is some serious talent on the park for Oakleigh.

WHO DO THEY NEED TO STOP?

Eastern Ranges:

Trent Bianco and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. These two players are effectively Oakleigh’s barometer. It would be easy to say try and stop Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, but we know that is not realistically going to happen with even poor games from those guys being 20-plus disposals. You can limit their influence at the stoppages and make life difficult for them around the ground, but they are so hard to beat. For Bianco, it will be not allowing him the time and space to slice up your defence and win easy ball on the outside. He can win his own ball, so make him do that. Too often teams focus on controlling the inside of the contest and it allows Bianco to be waiting for the ball in space and then deliver an elite bullet inside 50 to the leading Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. The amount of times no-one got in front of Ugle-Hagan on the lead in the past few weeks is quite remarkable. Oakleigh opens up the forward 50 for him, and Eastern needs to make sure someone is standing in the hole or ready to block the lead. If the Chargers hit-up someone else it is a risk, but the Ranges can ill-afford Ugle-Hagan to get his confidence up and on a roll.

Oakleigh Chargers:

James Ross and Connor Downie. Similar to Rowell and Anderson, the likes of Lachlan Stapleton, Mitch Mellis and Zakery Pretty are hard to stop. They will win the ball regardless of anything you do, it is just forcing them to rush their disposal under pressure or handball rather than kick and keep the ball in the area. The one you do not want getting too much of the ball is Connor Downie. He is a player similar to Bianco in the sense that when he starts to get the ball in time and space, can do some damage going forward. Moreso, Downie hits the scoreboard himself and while his consistency can be up and down, when he is on, he is a super damaging player as Gippsland found out on the weekend. Oakleigh cannot allow him to get his confidence up and start using his vision and skills to pinpoint passes inside 50. As for Ross, he is the key to the defence and if he has 20-plus touches and eight-plus marks, Eastern win the game. His read of the ball in flight is superb and he just settles the team down in defence. He will have the task of chopping off leads and dropping courageously into the hole. For Oakleigh, you have to make him as accountable as possible, and use his direct opponent as an option inside 50, or make it a consideration to restrict the predictability going forward. Otherwise Ross will just pick the perfect moment to peel off his opponent and come across as the third-man to spoil or mark and help out a teammate in defence.

GRAND FINAL HISTORY

Both the Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers are well familiar with the final day of the TAC Cup/NAB League Boys season, having made six grand finals each. Of the 26 previous seasons, one of these sides has been in 11 of them. In 2015, these teams faced off in the decider, rising from fifth and sixth to make the grand final. With four country teams ahead of them, it gave credence to the metropolitan sides being stronger in finals with their school players back, and on that day the sides played out a thriller. Oakleigh won by 12 points with Kade Answerth being named best on ground, along with a host of future talent including Tom Phillips and Ben Crocker (Collingwood), Patrick Kerr (Carlton), Taylin Duman (Fremantle), Sam McLarty (Collingwood) and Alex Morgan (North Melbourne/Essendon) all running around for the winners. Eastern had a list containing a fair bit of super bottom-age talent as well as top-age stars, with Ryan Clarke (North Melbourne) and Dylan Clarke (Essendon), Jordan Gallucci (Adelaide), Blake Hardwick (Hawthorn), Callum Brown (Collingwood) and Jack Maibaum (Sydney) all strutting their stuff, but for draft watchers, a couple of players donning the #56 and #58 jumpers caught the eye most as 16-year-olds Jaidyn Stephenson (three goals) and Adam Cerra stole the show.

Eastern Ranges:

1995: lost to Northern Knights by 29 points
2000: lost to Geelong Falcons by 22 points
2002: defeated Calder Cannons by one point
2004: lost to Calder Cannons by 70 points
2013: defeated Dandenong Stingrays by 112 points
2015: lost to Oakleigh Chargers by 12 points

Oakleigh Chargers:

2006: defeated Calder Cannons by 27 points
2011: lost to Sandringham Dragons by eight points
2012: defeated Gippsland Power by one point
2014: defeated Calder Cannons by 47 points
2015: defeated Eastern Ranges by 12 points
2018: lost to Dandenong Stingrays by six points.

DRAFT CENTRAL TIPS

Peter Williams
Tip: Eastern Ranges
BOG: James Ross (Eastern)

Michael Alvaro
Tip: Oakleigh Chargers
BOG: Noah Anderson (Oakleigh)

Ed Pascoe
Tip: Oakleigh Chargers
BOG: Matt Rowell (Oakleigh)

Craig Byrnes
Tip: Eastern Ranges
BOG: Mitch Mellis (Eastern)

Matthew Cocks
Tip: Oakleigh Chargers
BOG: Trent Bianco (Oakleigh)

Top-end Chargers look to go one better

Tapering expectation is difficult when in the midst of a pathway renowned for both its production of top-end talent and subsequent team success. After falling six points short of ultimate footballing glory in last year’s grand final, the Oakleigh Chargers will be looking to go one better in this year’s NAB League decider.

Along with the likely first two picks in this year’s draft, Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell, 2019 co-captain Trent Bianco is one of a handful of Oakleigh top-agers set to feature in a second-straight grand final on Saturday. While last year’s loss “adds a little bit of extra motivation” for Bianco, he insists his Chargers are not lacking any as they look to rectify the 2018 result.

“(Last year’s loss) just starts that fire inside,” Bianco said at the NAB League grand final press conference.

“Losing by a kick, six points or whatever it was, it still hurts us to this day and we definitely don’t want that to happen again. “It’ll definitely be in the back of our minds but it won’t change too much. “It’s just another game, it sounds like a cliché but it’s just another game and we just want to attack it just like we normally do.”

Chargers coach Leigh Clarke is another who has been here before, remaining at the helm for another Oakleigh lunge for the flag. Speaking of expectations heading into the “final test” for his side, he says success on the big day will go towards the legacy of each player he leads.

“I guess it’s like any final, the expectations rise a little bit and Eastern will understand as well that equally as much as we do,” he said.

“The prize on the line is something we want the boys to share… we talk about it quite often and they get to share that for the rest of their lives – that they’ll never be forgotten at our club if they win a premiership.”

The high stakes that come with a grand final adds another element to how individuals react within a team. Despite boasting a high amount of top-end talent when compared to Eastern’s vast team spread, Clarke maintains selflessness is what will get his side over the line in the big moments.

“An interesting part of the week is you get to see the boys under high game expectation… and see how they react to it. “The boys (who) want to peruse the pathway into the AFL, they need to be able to understand rising to the occasion. “We talk often about it might not be your day but you can always have your moment, so we’ll be expecting our boys to, if it’s not their day, sacrifice to help someone else have their moment as well.”

The different dynamics between the two sides set to meet on Saturday is as interesting a juxtaposition as the NAB League has ever seen, with Oakleigh boasting almost a dozen Vic Metro squad members to Eastern’s handful, while also having six national combine invitees to the Ranges’ nil. While the Eastern line-up has undergone a raft of changes since their last meeting with the Chargers, Oakleigh’s experience of shuffling the deck each week has been a test.

“We’re obviously in a little bit of a different position to Eastern,” Bianco said.

“We’ve got a few more boys (going) in and out every week so it’s a bit hard to in the middle of the year just to stay consistent but I think we’ve done a good job towards the middle and back-end of the year.”

Bianco’s descriptor of a “good job” is somewhat of an understatement, with the Chargers coming in off a massive run of seven wins, as well as 11 in their past 12 outings. The skipper is just pleased to see his side’s consistency.

“We’ve been playing some consistent footy and obviously we played patches we’re not happy with but it’s just putting through that consistent four-quarter effort,” he said.

“We’re playing some good footy so it’s good that in the back-end of the year, this is when it all starts mattering more so we’re in the best situation.”

While the team focus remains at the forefront for Bianco, he conceded there are a few players in his side that may well grab all the attention, including 2018 grand final MVP, Rowell.

“We’ve obviously got some high-end talent but we like to think we’ve played pretty consistent players throughout the whole team.

“We’ve got Matty Rowell and Noah Anderson up the top there so they’re pretty handy players and we’ve got the likes of Nick Bryan, we’ve got a fair few bottom-agers like Jamarra (Ugle-Hagan), Reef McInnes, Will Phillips, who is someone to look out for next year… (they’re) putting in just as much as the top-agers this year so they’ve been really handy and hopefully they can bring it (for) one more game.”

One of those bottom-agers, Ugle-Hagan, has formed a formidable key forward partnership with over-ager Cooper Sharman in the back-end of the season, giving elite kicks like Bianco a target to kick at.

“It’s just good knowing they can make a bad kick look good sometimes so if you put it out into their space and to their advantage side they’re more than likely going to do something with it,” Bianco said.

“(But) it’s not just them, it’s the small forwards and the medium-type forwards that we have in our team as well that help us be successful.”

Oakleigh’s tilt at success begins at 1:05pm at Ikon Park on Saturday, with the game set to be broadcasted live on Fox Footy.

NLB GF 2019: How they got here – Oakleigh Chargers

HEADING into the year, the Oakleigh Chargers were one of the favourites to take out the 2019 premiership after going down by less than a kick in 2018 to the Dandenong Stingrays. With the likely top two picks at their disposal in Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, as well as highly rated talents Trent Bianco, Dylan Williams and Nick Bryan among others, the depth at the Chargers was phenomenal. They held the 2018 Under 16s Vic Metro Most Valuable Player (MVP) in Will Phillips, as well as securing exciting tall forward, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan from the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels following his decision to play closer to where he boards at Scotch College. We look back on the Chargers’ 2019 season to see how they made it to the final match of the season.

ROUND 1:

EASTERN RANGES 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.3 | 7.5 (47)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.3 | 6.9 | 10.13 | 12.16 (88)

In the second game of the double header at RAMS Arena, Eastern Ranges put up a fight before eventually going down to one of the premiership favourites in Oakleigh Chargers. The Ranges booted three goals in the opening term to lead by three points at the first break, before the Chargers hit back in the second term with four goals to one, albeit with inaccuracy plaguing them. They booted 6.9 in the first half, and then 6.7 in the second half, finishing the game strongly and holding the Ranges to just three goals in the last half. Noah Anderson was the clear best on ground with four goals from 26 disposals, while Lachlan Gawel booted two goals for the Ranges. Nick Guiney, Will Phillips and Nick Bryan were named among the best for the Chargers, while Lachlan Stapleton and Cody Hirst were impressive for the Ranges. While the loss would be disappointing, the fact Eastern was able to match it with one of the top teams will give them plenty of confidence going forward.

ROUND 2:

CALDER CANNONS 0.0 | 5.4 | 6.4 | 7.4 (46)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 4.4 | 4.4 | 6.6 | 10.9 (69)

The Rolls Royce stars of Oakleigh slowly clicked into gear on Sunday, helping the Chargers to a 23-point win over Calder. The Cannons were dismantled last week and responded well to going four goals down in the opening term this week, hitting back with five majors to nil in the second stanza to take a lead into the major break. With the ledger all but level going into the home straight, the likes of Dylan Williams and Noah Anderson stood up when it mattered to drag Oakleigh over the line. Williams was kept relatively quiet, but managed to snare three goals in the fourth quarter, while Noah Anderson (44 disposals, five tackles, five inside 50s, two goals) was near-on unstoppable. Matt Rowell also showed his class for 31 disposals, with bottom-ager Finlay Macrae (21 disposals, 1.2) dangerous up forward. Just as dangerous at the other end was Josh Kemp, who pulled Calder back into the game with two crucial goals in the second quarter and ended with three. Brodie Newman (21 disposals, five rebound 50s, four marks) was a calming influence in defensive 50, and Sam Ramsay was a good forward driver with 18 disposals and five rebounds. With plenty of improvement shown, Calder will face Western Jets at RAMS next week, with Oakleigh set to meet fellow premiership fancies, Sandringham in a ripping match-up.

ROUND 3:

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 2.3 | 5.5 | 7.9 | 9.11 (65)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.0 | 3.1 | 4.5 | 8.7 (55)

Hosts Sandringham got the better of the Round 3 top-of-the-table clash, downing the Oakleigh Chargers by 10 points to remain undefeated atop of the ladder. The Dragons were in control for most of the contest in perfect conditions to showcase the raft of draftable talent on display, and held on in the face of a late Oakleigh charge. Charlie Dean started strongly up forward, clunking big marks and putting two majors on the board to remain the competition’s leading goal scorer. Hugo Ralphsmith was the only other Dragon to slot two goals, and was dangerous in each of his forward forays – much like Oakleigh’s Noah Anderson, who booted two goals from 26 disposals. Along with Anderson’s efforts, Oakleigh’s midfield force was led by Matt Rowell (31 disposals, 11 tackles, seven marks) and co-captain Trent Bianco (26 disposals, five rebound 50s, four inside 50s), but was ultimately outdone by the Dragons’ depth. The centre bounce trio of Jack Mahony (25 disposals), Finn Maginness (24, six inside 50s, one goal), and Ryan Byrnes (21, six inside 50s) worked tirelessly to win a wealth of possessions and send Sandringham forward, with Josh Worrell a force off half-back. With the amount of talent on show, the game fully delivered on expectations with respects to getting a good glimpse of the game’s future stars, and the two sides would surely provide another corker should they meet in the post-season. Both teams now go on to face academies in Round 4, with Sandringham hosting Sydney, while Oakleigh travels to Brisbane to take on the Suns.

ROUND 4:

GOLD COAST ACADEMY 1.3 | 6.4 | 10.8 | 14.11 (95)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.4 | 3.6 (24)

Gold Coast SUNS Academy became the third non-Victorian side to pick up four points on the weekend, opening Sunday’s Queensland double-header with a 71-point win over Oakleigh. The Chargers came in heavily depleted like most of their fellow metro sides, but it didn’t show early as they battled well in an even first term. It was all Gold Coast from thereon though, as the Suns pulled away to a 26-point half time lead. With eight goals to one, it was more of the same in a dominant second half from the home side as they pushed to claim top spot at round’s end. Connor Budarick again had a day out, leading the Suns with 28 disposals, eight marks, eight tackles and a goal, while Corey Joyce and Ashton Crossley won the ball well with 22 possessions apiece. Josh Gore could have had a huge game, claiming 2.5 from his 20 disposals as one of four Suns multiple goal kickers, with Mark Steiner booting two of Oakleigh’s three goals for the match. Chargers over-ager and 2018 Vic Metro representative Joe Ayton-Delaney (26 disposals) was influential through midfield alongside Kaden Schreiber (24, seven marks, five clearances), but both were beaten to being named best by ruckman Jacob Woodfull who managed five clearances from 15 disposals. With two losses on the trot, Oakleigh will look to bounce back after the break against Dandenong, while Gold Coast is set to face another metro side in Eastern as its NAB League stint edges over the half-way mark.

ROUND 5:

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.2 | 10.4 | 12.8 | 19.10 (124)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.1 | 3.2 | 4.4 | 8.6 (54)

In their first three clashes, the Dandenong Stingrays have enjoyed absolute nail-biters, winning by a goal twice, and the drawing with Geelong Falcons in Round 3. While the opening term scores suggested this one would head down the same path, the action told a different story with the Stingrays on top, but not putt ing the scores on the board. That happened in the second term when they took full control of the game from Oakleigh Chargers, piling on eight goals to one with the breeze in a windy day at Shepley Oval. In front of a home crowd, the Stingrays put an understrength Oakleigh to the sword, extending the lead to 52 points by the final break, before running away with it in the last term as both sides managed to break through for goals. Eleven majors were kicked as Dandenong won that quarter seven goals to four, and enjoyed a massive 70-point win. In the absence of Hayden Young, Ned Cahill stood tall to be the standout player on the ground, while Luke Williams also contributed with his long-range goals a highlight. Jack Toner and Clayton Gay were solid throughout, as was Sam De Koning who took a multitude of intercept marks at centre half-back. For Oakleigh, Jacob Woodfull is hard to miss, rocking a mullet, but the ruck was sensational throughout the match, while Sam Seach and Ryan Valentine were also named among the best. AFL Academy members and co-captains Trent Bianco and Dylan Williams showed signs across the ground, but the Stingrays controlled the play for the most part in the impressive win.

ROUND 6:

TASMANIA DEVILS 3.0 | 5.2 | 6.5 | 8.7 (55)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.4 | 3.5 | 6.6 | 8.8 (56)

Oakleigh Chargers held on for a hard-fought win by the narrowest of margins over Tasmania at North Hobart Oval, helping them climb back into the NAB League top eight. After breaking to a slim quarter-time lead, the Chargers gave up a nine-point half time lead after going goalless in the second term. With their backs against the wall, Oakleigh stood up to reclaim the lead, and hold on until the final siren as both sides contributed 1.2 in the fourth quarter. Oakleigh’s Thomas Lovell was efficient in front of goal with half of his eight touches ending in six points, but it was co-captain Trent Bianco who was his side’s best with 42 disposals, five marks, seven clearances, nine tackles and eight inside 50s. Josh May was also instrumental with 28 disposals and five clearances, while ruckman Jacob Woodfull was handy with 16 disposals and 27 hitouts. Harrison Ireland was named the Devils’ best for his role as an undersized ruck, while Ollie Davis was their leading ball winner with 21 touches and five clearances. Fellow bottom-age star Sam Collins was not far behind, matching AFL Academy member Will Peppin‘s effort of 18 disposals, while Will Harper and Rhyan Mansell each booted two goals. While Oakleigh can enjoy a bye in Round 7, Tasmania faces a trip to Bendigo to face the Pioneers, who are also 2-3.

ROUND 7:

Bye.

ROUND 8:

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.2 | 2.4 | 4.6 | 5.10 (40)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.2 | 2.6 | 3.8 | 6.10 (46)

Oakleigh Chargers scraped home in a dour low-scoring affair, overcoming a three-quarter time deficit to beat the Northern Knights by six points. The match served as a curtain-raiser to the NAB League Girls finals at Shepley Oval, but both sides came out slowly on the big stage to play out a deadlocked 1.2 apiece first term. It proved much of the same in the following quarter, but Oakleigh managed to hold on to a two-point lead at half time after kicking the first goal of the term through Spiros Sklavenitis. The Knights hit back following the main break after Oakleigh’s Thomas ‘Love Machine’ Lovell again ensured the Chargers had the first goal of the quarter, with majors to Ryan Gardner and Joel Trudgeon putting them in a winning position heading into the last turn. It wasn’t to be though, with Dylan Williams‘ inspired move forward proving the difference as the Oakleigh co-captain booted two last quarter goals and assisted another to help his side sneak ahead and hold on. Bottom-aged Chargers Lochlan Jenkins (23 disposals, eight clearances) and Fraser Elliot (28 disposals, six clearances) were terrific in midfield, with the wing pairing of Josh May (24 disposals, six inside 50s) and Jeromy Lucas (23 disposals) also finding plenty of the ball. Thomas Graham joined Williams as the only other Oakleigh multiple goal-kicker, with no Knight achieving the same feat. Sam Philp (28 disposals, nine clearances) and Gardner (15 disposals, seven inside 50s) were named amongst Northern’s best and also found the goals, with Ryan Sturgess (19 disposals, 10 rebound 50s) resolute in defence and Lachie Potter (17 disposals) providing plenty of run. A second-consecutive narrow win sees Oakleigh sneak into the top eight, with Northern just outside on three wins as the competition heads into a development weekend.

ROUND 9:

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 1.2 | 2.6 | 4.7 | 9.11 (65)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.6 | 8.11 | 14.12 | 18.14 (122)

Oakleigh Chargers made it three wins on the trot as they comfortably accounted for the Murray Bushrangers by 57 points, consolidating their top eight standing. After scraping over the line by under a goal in each of their last two outings, the Chargers emphatically returned to form on the back of huge second and third quarters where they piled on 11 goals to three to establish dominance. Goals came in droves for the winners, with five of their six goal kickers claiming multiples – led by bottom-ager Connor Stone and Nicholas Staphopoulos, who each bagged five majors. Both were named amongst the best, with the bottom-aged midfield pairing of Fraser Elliot (26 disposals, six inside 50s) and Lochlan Jenkins (24 disposals, eight clearances) again right in the thick of it, and Vincent Zagari (17 disposals, seven rebounds) also solid. Jimmy Boyer was the clear best for Murray on a tough day, amassing an equal game-high 27 disposals and nine rebound 50s, with Vic Country squad member Cam Wild (20 disposals, 2.3) also good. Hudson Kaak joined Wild as the only other Murray multiple goal kicker (three), with over-ager Will Christie (12 disposals, nine tackles, 26 hitouts) working well around the ground. Murray’s search for a third win heads to Tasmania next week as they ready themselves to do battle with the Devils, while Oakleigh hosts and in-form Calder side with both teams looking to stretch their win streaks.

ROUND 10:

CALDER CANNONS 2.3 | 2.4 | 3.5 | 4.6 (30)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.1 | 6.6 | 11.6 | 15.9 (99)

Oakleigh continues its charge up the ladder an into form, accounting for the Calder Cannons by 69 points in the sides’ second meeting at RAMS Arena for 2019. While they won ugly in Rounds 6 and 8, the sixth place Chargers are now on par with the top four sides after wins by a combined 126 points in Rounds 9 and 10. While a 26-point half time buffer was more than handy, Oakleigh well and truly pulled away in the second half with nine goals to two in a more typical Chargers display. The inclusion of bottom-age stars Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Will Phillips on the back of school football breaks proved telling, with the former booting five goals and the latter leading the possession count. Fellow bottom-agers Lochlan Jenkins and Fraser Elliot were not far behind Phillips in those stakes to continue their good form, while GWS Academy member Jeromy Lucas played a good hand with two goals. For the Cannons, who had previously won four of their last five, Ben Overman was named best, with Ned Gentile again among the votes alongside the likes of Jeremy O’Sullivan (two goals) and Sam Ramsay. Unable to rectify their Round 2 loss to the Chargers on the same ground, the Cannons now slip below their weekend opponents to seventh with a bye on the horizon. Meanwhile, Oakleigh will look to continue its hot form and break into the top four with a win against Gippsland in Round 11.

ROUND 11:

GIPPSLAND POWER 4.4 | 5.6 | 10.10 | 13.13 (91)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.2 | 4.7 | 4.7 | 6.9 (45)

A Vic Country bye boded well for the Gippsland Power as they climbed into third with a strong win over the dangerous Oakleigh Chargers. After kicking out to a 20-point quarter time buffer, Oakleigh hit back to find themselves just five points down at the main break with 3.5 in the second term. The see-sawing continued though, as the Chargers were held goalless in the next stanza, and could only answer back with 2.2 in the final period to the home side’s powerful eight-goal second half. Four of Gippsland’s best half-dozen were Country representatives, with Fraser Phillips (20 disposals, 5.3) enjoying a day out to lead the lot and earn a Draft Central Player of the Week nomination. Leo Connolly narrowly missed out on that gig with his game-high 32 touches and lone goal, while skipper Brock Smith, Ryan Sparkes, and bottom-ager Sam Berry each had 26 disposals as Gippsland dominated possession. The likes of Tom Fitzpatrick (17 disposals, 2.1), Harrison Pepper (20 disposals, one goal) and Mason McGarrity (18 disposals, 1.4) were others on the verge of having big days. For Oakleigh, whose winning run has snapped, Vincent Zagari was named best for his team-high 22-disposals effort, with Lochlan Jenkins (18 disposals, 10 tackles) and Josh May (18 disposals) working hard in a weakened midfield. Over-aged debutant Cooper Sharman was one who impressed among the raft of Oakleigh changes, collecting 20 disposals and booting a goal. The Chargers will look to get back on the winners list as they clash with Sandringham next time out, while Gippsland faces a Geelong team desperate for form.

ROUND 12:

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 1.3 | 2.8 | 3.8 | 4.16 (40)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.4 | 1.5 | 7.8 | 8.10 (58)

A wasteful Sandringham Dragons squandered the opportunity to defeat a gallant Oakleigh Chargers, kicking 1.8 in the final term in a tight contest at Trevor Barker Beach Oval. Cold and blustery conditions meant skills and finishing were made trying, however Oakleigh willed themselves over the line with some strong tackling and defensive efforts led by Lachlan Johnson and Nicholas Stathopoulos. Oakleigh kicked away halfway through the third term, slamming home six goals and taking a commanding lead into the final break. An inspired Dragons outfit came out with vengeance in the last but their inaccuracy and inability to convert their chances cost them a victory. Failing to capitalise on ample supply from midfielders Hugo Ralphsmith and Jackson Voss (five inside 50s each), the Dragons eventually succumbed to Oakleigh’s superior class and polish in front of goal. Oakleigh power forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan slotted three goals and Stathopoulos two, with midfielders Reef McInnes (23 disposals) and Lochlan Jenkins (21 touches) working hard. For the Dragons, Ralphsmith (23 disposals) and rebounding defender Will Mackay (23 disposals, eight rebounds) were dominant forces in the misfiring Sandringham line-up. Oakleigh’s win places them as a strong contender for the finals, equalling Sandringham’;s seven wins for the year.

ROUND 13:

GEELONG FALCONS 2.3 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 6.6 (42)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 5.4 | 10.6 | 14.8 | 20.9 (129)

All of Oakleigh’s top-end guns fired as the Chargers easily accounted for a depleted Geelong Falcons side by 87 points to see out the round. Returning co-captains Dylan Williams (five goals) and Trent Bianco (24 disposals, two goals) were fantastic, with a raft of bottom and top-age talents helping Oakleigh to their big win. Bottom-agers Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (four goals) and Reef McInnes (29 disposals, two goals) did their best to live up to the standard set by Williams and Bianco, with over-ager Thomas Graham (24 disposals, 23 hitouts, one goal) monstrous in the ruck and Kaden Schreiber handball-happy with 25 among his 29 disposals. For Geelong, Charlie Sprague‘s three goals were a shining light, while bottom-agers Charlie Lazzaro (23 disposals, four rebound 50s), Noah Gribble (20 disposals, five marks), Cameron Fleeton (19 disposals, seven marks) and Henry Walsh (11 disposals, 26 hitouts) gave a glimpse of the future. Desperate for form, a meeting with GWV Rebels is next for Geelong, while Oakleigh will be red hot heading into its top four clash with table-toppers, Eastern.

ROUND 14:

EASTERN RANGES 4.2 | 6.2 | 9.5 | 11.9 (75)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 0.2 | 6.6 | 8.10 | 12.11 (83)

In the second game of the double header, it looked to be a blowout early in the match with Eastern Ranges piling on four goals to zero in the opening term and had six on the board to Oakleigh’s one midway through the second term. The Chargers then roared into action, piling on five consecutive goals to hit the front by the main break. In a see-sawing second half, both sides looked to have a stake in the win, but it was not until Dylan Williams booted a late goal in the final term – as he had done on the eve of half-time, for Oakleigh to be home. While Williams finished with two majors, Cooper Sharman was dominant with four straight goals and 18 touches, looking ever-dangerous. Trent Bianco had a day out with 34 touches and 10 rebounds, camping off half-back and keeping the ball moving forward, while Jeromy Lucas and Will Phillips were among the big ball winners for the Chargers. For Eastern, it was a rare loss for the top-of-the-table side, but Jordan Jaworksi finished with four goals – three in the first half, while Beau Tennant booted three. Lachlan Stapleton was the standout midfielder in the absence of partner-in-crime Mitch Mellis, while Wil Parker and Zak Pretty were also productive in the midfield.

ROUND 15:

Bye.

ROUND 16:

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.2 | 4.3 | 10.5 | 12.8 (80)
WESTERN JETS 1.2 | 5.3 | 5.3 | 9.4 (58)

A barnstorming second half saw Oakleigh get the better of Western and slot into the all-important third place, with all teams bar Tasmania having now played 14 games. The Chargers gave up a six-point half-time lead after heading into the first break with an identical margin to the good, but turned it on in typical Oakleigh fashion to boot six goals to Western’s nil in the third term. While Western managed to claw back a bit of the margin in an improved final quarter, it was to no avail as Oakleigh held firm despite missing both of its co-captains. Chargers midfielder Lochlan Jenkins was the standout with 35 disposals, 10 inside 50s and a goal, backed by fellow bottom-age ball finder Reef McInnes (28 disposals, seven marks, nine tackles). Over-ager Jeromy Lucas (26 disposals, six tackles) was another to stand up with some of the Chargers’ guns absent, while Nicholas Stathopoulos was efficient in front of goal to prize three goals from seven disposals and Cooper Sharman (10 disposals, 2.1) continues to excite. For the Jets, Archi Manton was just as economical with 5.1 from seven kicks to do most of the damage as his side’s only multiple goal kicker, but Josh Honey was named best for his 24-disposal effort. Over-ager Daly Andrews (23 disposals) keeps on finding the ball, with returning defensive duo Lucas Rocci and Josh Kellett doing the same and bottom-ager Billy Cootee booting a couple of handy goals. Both sides are set to play their final regular season games in the Avalon Airport Oval triple-header, with Western opening the show against Northern and Oakleigh closing it in a mouth-watering clash with Sandringham.

ROUND 17:

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 3.2 | 5.4 | 10.6 | 13.6 (84)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.3 | 6.6 | 8.7 | 14.7 (91)

Pure star power dragged the Oakleigh Chargers over the line and into third place with an incredible seven-point come-from-behind win over Sandringham Dragons in the thick of what was a finals-like atmosphere. After the Dragons looked to have sealed the game with three goals in the first five minutes of the final quarter, a Noah Anderson-inspired Oakleigh hit back in style with four majors in the following five minutes, and ended with the last six of the game altogether to snatch victory. Both sides enjoyed spurts of momentum throughout the game and looked like getting on top on numerous occasions, but Oakleigh’s final thrust came at the ideal time as they charged home to claim the remarkable win. Anderson’s game-winning 24 disposals and three goals were arguably matched for importance by the efforts of Matt Rowell (34 disposals, seven tackles) – who hardly put a foot wrong – and skipper Trent Bianco (28 disposals). The high-marking forward duo of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Cooper Sharman also shone, combining for six goals and a couple of highlight reel moments. For the Dragons, Finn Maginness did his level best to drag his side over the line with 17 disposals and three goals, with Darcy Chirgwin (30 disposals, seven tackles) doing the tough stuff through midfield and Angus Hanrahan influential on the outside (23 disposals, two goals). Bottom-ager Archie Perkins was another to impress with his three goals from 11 disposals, while Corey Watts put in a mammoth effort in defence with 12 disposals, six marks and seven rebound 50s. With an absolute raft of combine invitees and representative players taking the field, it was one of the highest quality Under 18 games in recent memory and truly lived up to the pre-game hype as a number of top-end stars stood up.

QUALIFYING FINAL:

GIPPSLAND POWER 2.2 | 9.2 | 11.3 | 12.3 (75)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 5.1 | 5.3 | 9.7 | 12.11 (83)

OAKLEIGH Chargers have advanced through to the 2019 NAB League Boys Preliminary Final after downing Gippsland Power in one of the finishes of the year. Both teams had momentum swings throughout the contest, with the Chargers on top early, the Power storming in front, only for the Chargers to come again with seven of the last 10 goals to run over the top and take home the chocolates.

The first quarter belonged to Oakleigh with four consecutive goals to open proceedings, and Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan looking dangerous against a defence missing their best interceptor in captain Brock Smith. Ugle-Hagan took four marks in the first term, converting two goals from set shots and setting up another one to Bailey Laurie with class tight on the boundary. Without hesitation he spun and delivered a neat centring pass into Laurie who did not let him down with the set shot. The first goal had come from Nick Stathopoulos who found himself free inside 50 and had no problems converting the set shot from straight in front. Facing a four-goal deficit and frustrated, Gippsland Power’s Caleb Serong gave away a downfield free for a late bump, only to suck the player he knocked over to put him on the turf and his appeal to the umpire was successful to win the ball back. It seemed to ignite Gippsland who to that point had been a rung below a switched on Oakleigh side. Trent Baldi booted back-to-back goals with a set shot and then getting free and doubling back to goal to kick one from point blank on the run. Having cut the deficit to a couple of goals, it was painful when Cooper Sharman somehow got his hands free in a congested stoppage inside 50 to flick the handball behind his head to the running Reef McInnes who slammed it home seconds before the siren for Oakleigh to head into the break 17 points ahead. Serong was on fire for the Power, picking up nine touches and taking a contested mark over the much taller Nick Bryan, while Oakleigh had plenty of ball winners with bottom-agers Will Phillips (nine), Finlay Macrae (seven) and Laurie (seven) leading the way. The ominous sign for the Chargers was that despite the lead, their two biggest names in Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson had combined for just 11 touches in the first term.

If the first quarter belonged to Serong, the second quarter belonged to Sam Flanders. The dynamic forward booted four consecutive goals to steal the show and open up a massive 23-point lead at half-time. The term started with Harvey Neocleous booted a goal from a quick snap in the opening minute after great work from Serong out of the middle, before a run-down tackle from Fraser Phillips aided a goal to Leo Connolly who Phillips handed it off to on the run. The long raking kick from Connolly outside 50 sailed through and the Power were up and about. Oakleigh had a rare chance through Laurie inside 50 but his set shot missed to the left, and the Power immediately made them pay. Flanders proceeded to put in one of the best individual quarter performances, piling on 12 touches and four goals over the next 15 minutes, all of which came from set shots. He was isolated one-on-one with an opponent and time and time used great body work to nudge his opponent off and apply more scoreboard pressure. After his fourth Flanders went into the middle and immediately went to work setting up the next major, bombing long inside 50 to Serong who rotated deep with his Vic Country teammate, and it came off hands for Phillips to run onto it perfectly and dribble it home. The siren sounded with Gippsland remarkably on top after booting nine of the past 10 goals.

After counter-opposite opening terms in the first half, the third quarter became an early shootout with both sides showing off their ability to hit the scoreboard. Stathopoulos quickly added Oakleigh’s first major since the last few seconds of the first term, running into the open goal for his second goal. It seemed to open the flood gates at both ends as Tom Fitzpatrick won a 50m penalty and converted from point blank. Both Phillips’ got on the board for their respective sides, with Will turning onto his right and snapping around his body for Oakleigh, before Fraser did the same from the next clearance off his left from a Serong clearance. Flanders had an ambitious shot from the pocket but sprayed it out on the full, then Laurie made it count with a successful shot from the other end. When Stathopoulos made the crowd believe it was Groundhog Day – running into the square and booting it from point blank range again – Oakleigh was back into single digits. Will Phillips and Ugle-Hagan both had chances to cut the deficit further but missed. At the final break, Flanders (23 disposals, six marks and four goals) and Serong (20 disposals, four marks and five inside 50s) were dominant, while Phillips (20 disposals, four inside 50s and one goal) and Trent Bianco (20 disposals, four inside 50s) were the top disposal winners for the Chargers.

As if the players needed a challenge in the last term, the heavens opened and the rain poured down and it became a slog. Not before Ugle-Hagan could slot his third and cut the deficit to within a kick. Riley Baldi quickly responded as the rain began to fall, running into an open goal and answering the call with a major, but from then on goals were hard to come by. Bianco seemed to defy that though when he unleashed a bomb from just inside 50 and it sailed through for a vital major either side of a Ugle-Hagan spray from 15m out. The behinds were enough to put Oakleigh up by a couple as Gippsland desperately tried to get the ball forward. But instead it was Oakleigh through Stathopoulos who somehow found a way deep in the pocket to kick an almost impossible goal and hand the Chargers an unlikely come-from-behind win.

Rowell finished the day with an influential second half and 30 disposals, two marks, five tackles and four rebounds, joined among the big ball winners in Will Phillips (28 touches, four tackles, six inside 50s and three rebounds) and Anderson (25 disposals, three inside 50s), while Stathopoulos and Ugle-Hagan combined for seven majors. For the Power, it was the duo of Flanders (28 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s, seven tackles and four majors) and Serong (24 disposals, four marks, six inside 50s and four tackles) who did the bulk of the damage, while Connolly (21 touches, 11 rebounds and a goal) and Tye Hourigan (16 disposals, four marks, nine rebounds and two tackles) were also consistent.

PRELIMINARY FINAL:

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.2 | 8.3 | 12.6 | 17.7 (109)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 2.3 | 3.5 | 4.9 | 4.10 (34)

OAKLEIGH Chargers earned a second crack at premiership glory in as many years, trumping metro rivals Sandringham by 75 points at Princes Park.

The Chargers got on top early with a 28-point half-time lead and never looked back, sealing the 17.7 (109) to 4.10 (34) result.

The signs were ominous early as Jamarra Ugle-Hagan produced a mark on the lead and set shot goal typical of his form, backed by a Thomas Graham goal on the run shortly after – all within the first three minutes. But as expected, Sandringham hit back as Finn Maginness got on top at the stoppages. The Dragons even snatched the lead for the only time of the game after some improved finishing, with Kyle Yorke’s set shot sailing through. The Chargers hit back swiftly with one of their better passages forward of centre, with Noah Anderson and Trent Bianco combining to set up Ugle-Hagan’s second for the term, sealing the five-point quarter time lead.

The game began to open up as the Chargers quickly got on the board again on the back of a classy Finlay Macrae finish, and he had a say in Oakleigh’s third goal of the term with a nice baulk in the lead up to Graham’s second major. The momentum was halted momentarily as Yorke again found the big sticks with a deft dribbler over the back, but it was business as usual as Cooper Sharman got on the board with a reply and Graham roosted a huge set shot goal late on to give the Chargers an ominous 28-point half time lead.

Oakleigh again started the better in the third and broke out to a game-high lead in the back-end of the term, sparked by a couple of great moments from bottom-age forward Connor Stone. A goal to Hugo Ralphsmith on the back of a spearing Miles Bergman ball was the only form of resistance from the Dragons, as they could only stand and watch as Oakleigh put through another three goals to end the term 45 points to the good and with one foot in the grand final. With the game all but dead and buried, the Chargers added another four goals to the Dragons’ nil to see out the win in a heated final term, with state combine invitee Kaden Schreiber going in the book late on.

Matt Rowell led all-comers with a typically consistent 32 disposals, followed by Schreiber’s 28 and skipper Bianco’s 27. Will Phillips enjoyed his time through midfield with 26 touches, while Anderson was impactful with three goals from 21 disposals in a statement performance. In a dour day for the Dragons, Ryan Byrnes racked up 27 disposals in a trying effort, while Darcy Chirgwin and Maginness combined well early and Louis Butler was solid down back with Harry Loughnan.

Scouting notes: NAB League Boys – Preliminary Finals

THE Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers advanced to the NAB League grand final after comprehensive preliminary final victories on Saturday at Princes Park. Before they do battle at the same venue a week later, we take a look at the standout combine invitees and under-agers players from all of the final four sides in our opinion-based scouting notes.

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Sandringham Dragons

Oakleigh Chargers:
By: Ed Pascoe

#4 Nick Bryan

Bryan had one of his better games for the year hitting 15 disposals in a game for the first time. Despite looking calm with the ball around the ground some of his kicks where rather laconic so there is certainly room for improvement there. His hitout work again was great, often giving his midfielders first use. Bryan finished the game with 15 disposals, five marks and 21 hitouts.

#5 Trent Bianco

The Oakleigh captain was again all class for four quarters, patrolling the wing and back flank, winning plenty of the ball and using it incredibly well. Bianco’s kicking especially on both feet is perhaps one of the best in the NAB League as he often picks the right option and weights his kicks perfectly – one kick he had inside 50 in the third quarter was particularly sublime. Bianco had a complete performance finishing the game with 27 disposals, six marks, five tackles and five inside 50s.

#8 Noah Anderson

Anderson was kept goalless for the first time this year in Oakleigh’s first final but he was back to his damaging best kicking three goals and making it look easy. Anderson was again solid through the midfield showing great composure with ball in hand and using the ball well by hand and foot. Anderson’s first goal was a solid set shot from 45m and second was an easy goal running into open goal but his third was the best showing confidence to go back and kick a huge set shot from 55m. Anderson finished the game with 23 disposals, four marks and three goals.

#9 Will Phillips

Phillips backed up his impressive game in the first final to once again make an impact in the preliminary final, showcasing his ability to find the ball and use it well, also showing great movement in traffic and composure with ball in hand. Phillips has been playing mostly on the wing where he does well but he looks most natural winning his own ball and exiting the stoppages with his acceleration out of traffic and ability to weave through congestion and hit a target by hand or foot. He can also impact the contest with his strong tackling which he also showcased against Sandringham, Phillips finished the game with 27 disposals and eight tackles.

#11 Matt Rowell

Rowell had a slow start but finished the game extremely strongly as usual with his work rate first class, ability to attack the contest all day and tackle hard as well. Rowell just continues to power through with his strength at the contests and willingness to win the ball and extract it for is teammates but he works equally as hard to cover the ground and help out. Rowell showed off his great acceleration getting away from his opponent but just missing a goal on the run, it was a tough kick and the effort to even get the kick away was eye catching. Rowell finished the game with 32 disposals, five marks, six tackles and five inside 50s

#15 Kaden Schreiber

Schreiber enhanced his draft stocks with an eye catching display on the wing winning plenty of the ball and showcasing his ability to hit targets with his trusty left foot. Schreiber started the game well getting involved willing to get his hands dirty and although his handballs at times lacked penetration he did well to get in positions to bring teammates into the game. Schreiber was a solid four-quarter player winning plenty of the ball and working well offensively and defensively showing good courage with an intercept mark in defensive 50. Schreiber finished the game with 24 disposals and eight marks.

#25 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Another dominant outing from the 2020 draft prospect who is tied to the Western Bulldogs’ NGA, the talented key forward was again the clear standout key forward with his speed off the lead and marking power too much for Sandringham to handle. Ugle-Hagan had a great start taking two great lead up marks an converting both set shots but his best goal came in the third quarter marking deep in the pocket and kicking a sensational goal right on the siren. His last goal came easy in the last quarter with a mark and quick kick in the goal square. Ugle-Hagan finished the game with 12 disposals, nine marks and kicked 4.2 with a few on the full as well.

#29 Finlay Macrae

It would seem a second Macrae is on the horizon in the AFL with 2020 prospect Finlay playing a fantastic game showing his class and composure. Macrae’s best bit of play came in the second quarter selling a bit of candy before kicking a perfect pass inside 50 to teammate Cooper Sharman, Macrae found it easy to find space around the ground and use the ball superbly by hand and foot. Macrae finished the game with 22 disposals, nine marks and six inside 50s.

#73 Cooper Sharman

Despite not having a huge game Sharman was able to showcase why he was invited to the national combine with some great bits of play and showing his solid set shot technique. His first goal came from a free kick in the second quarter converting an easy set shot from 30m and he kicked the last goal of the game from a great pass from teammate Will Phillips then converting the set shot from a slight angle. Sharman looked at his best early in the game presenting up the ground and showing some nice plays on the wings. Sharman finished the game with seven disposals and two goals.

Sandringham Dragons:
By: Craig Byrnes

#2 Darcy Chirgwin

The tall midfielder started at the first centre bounce and began the contest really well, gathering 11 disposals in the opening quarter. His hands were clean and he moved through traffic with ease at times, highlighted by a couple of stylish side steps. He made an awful error late in the first term, turning the ball over in the defensive 50, but there was certainly more good than bad. As Oakleigh took control in the second and third quarters, Chirgwin wasn’t sighted as often, but he finished the game off well to end with a respectable 22 disposals.

#4 Finn Maginness

It was an uncharacteristically quiet game from the Hawthorn father-son prospect, who struggled to get involved when Oakleigh was on top. When he did win the ball, he was able to get clear from the stoppage and get the ball long inside 50 on occasions. There were times when he lacked options though, which lead to him being chased down in the corridor during the third term. He would only finish the game with 13 disposals, but he has shown more than enough throughout the year for the Hawks to know they have a good one on their hands.

#5 Ryan Byrnes

On a dirty day for the Dragons, the prolific Byrnes still found a way to get involved and win plenty of the footy. He just knows how to get in ball winning positions and is often used as a dangerous conduit to enter the forward 50. He possesses underrated pace from congestion and uses the ball well on either side of his body. As we have become accustomed to, Byrnes finished the day as Sandy’s leading ball winner with 23.

#6 Miles Bergman

This guy is a really exciting talent. Starting forward, Bergman took a strong mark on the lead in the first term before launching a set shot goal from outside 50. It was an impressive start and while he didn’t win mountains of the ball, the eye catching AFL attributes continued to emerge as the day went on. Some smooth movement through traffic in the second term was not long followed by a lace out 55 metre pass inside 50 to set up a goal to Hugo Ralphsmith. During a play in the second half, he sold some candy and side stepped an opponent without fuss, before kicking long to advantage. You can add courage to his list of qualities too, as he threw himself with the flight of the ball to impact an aerial contest late in the day, despite his side being done and dusted. 14 touches and a goal doesn’t sound too exciting, but Bergman passes the eye test with flying colours.

#11 Hugo Ralphsmith

It was a tough day for a Sandringham forward to get involved, but Ralphsmith always looked a likely option whenever the ball entered his area. He attacked the aerial contests and got in dangerous scoring options when Sandy won the ball forward of centre. He took some nice overhead marks and could have easily finished with more than one goal, kicking three behinds of which a couple were very convertible set shots. His one goal was a stylish banana finish though, after being on the end of a superb Bergman hit.

#13 Louis Butler

The ball winning half-back did not start the game in great fashion, missing an easy target in the pocket which resulted in a goal for Oakleigh. From then on his ball use was much better, picking out safe options in the corridor and down the line. He spent more time in the midfield as time went on, winning a couple of excellent ground balls in the final term with his head over the ball. He finished the game with 19 disposals.

#14 Kyle Yorke

Yorke is a bit of an old school key position forward who can mark, kick and importantly has some goal sense. Playing in front, he took an easy overhead mark in the first quarter and converted the set shot from close range directly in front. In the second term he got involved again, collecting the ball in the left hand pocket and superbly executed a dribble kick from the angle for a second.

Eastern Ranges vs. Gippsland Power

Eastern Ranges:
By: Ed Pascoe

#7 Lachlan Stapleton

It was another typical game from Stapleton, showcasing his hard edge at the contest in winning the contested ball and tackling hard to once again be an important cog in the Eastern Ranges midfield. Stapleton was a strong four-quarter player, putting his body on the line all day and moving quickly to either win the ball at a stoppage or hit the opposition with a hard tackle. Stapleton finished the game with 22 disposals, eight tackles and four inside 50s in a great performance to keep enhancing his draft stocks.

#11 Mitch Mellis

Mellis was again a hard worker for Eastern Ranges, setting the standard with his two way running and willingness to take the game on and create. Mellis although not hitting the scoreboard as much as recruiters would like is doing great work to set up countless forward forays with his speed with ball in hand. Mellis finished the game with 21 disposals and four tackles.

#13 Jamieson Rossiter

Rossiter again was Eastern’s main target up forward and once again was able to hit the scoreboard and make an impact from his limited disposals. He came out with good intent with a strong tackle inside 50 to lock the ball in and soon after would take a nice lead up mark and slot the set shot from 25m with not much angle. He would set up a goal in the third quarter with a nice turn and handball to Jordan Jaworski running into open goal and he finished his game converting a set shot from a downfield free kick. Rossiter finished the game with nine disposals, four marks and two goals.

#19 Wil Parker

The young defender Parker was cool, calm and collected with his ball use a real feature coming out of defence. Often tasked with the kickouts, his ability to sum up his options and hit a target was superb. Not just a designated kicker and runner, he also showed he could take an intercept mark with a well read mark in the first quarter. Parker’s composure was sensational, often picking the right option instead of blazing away and his ball use from defence was a big reason for Eastern winning the game. The talented Parker finished the game with 23 disposals, six marks and eight rebounds.

#20 Connor Downie

The Hawthorn NGA prospect for the 2020 draft continued his fine form in this years 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 would show his class with a long goal on the run from 50m in the second quarter after receiving a handball from a teammate, and Downie glides across the ground well and looks to have great athleticism to go with his skill. Downie finished the game with 18 disposals, six inside 50s and a goal.

#52 Tyler Sonsie

The 16-year-old sensation would get a rude awakening getting matched up on dour defender and Gippsland captain Brock Smith, showing how dangerous Sonsie can be to get the quality defender to curb his influence. Smith ruffed up Sonsie early not giving him an inch and testing the young player, but Sonsie would show his class with a brilliant pick up and turned his opponent inside out to hit a nice kick out wide. Smith would sit out the rest of the game, which allowed Sonsie off the leash to quickly hit the scoreboard in the second term for only a behind, he would finally kick a goal in the last quarter with a nice snap, and Sonsie finished the game with 11 disposals while kicking 1.2.

Gippsland Power:
By: Craig Byrnes

#2 Caleb Serong

Serong started the game hot, collecting numerous inside possessions in the opening minutes and getting in ball winning positions. He used his body to advantage and got the ball forward when he could. He gave his side a sniff in the second term, running down an opponent inside 50 before converting the set shot to get Gippsland within a goal. As the Ranges took control, Serong’s influence lessened, but he hit the scoreboard again late to finish with a respectable 21 disposals and two goals. He has almost locked himself a top five position now and is a big chance to be playing senior footy early 2020.

#4 Sam Flanders

It was another bullocking performance by Flanders who has enhanced his reputation further with a massive finals series that may now have him in top five contention. He was explosive at the stoppages, at one point handballing to himself (I’m not sure whether deliberately or not to be honest) before collecting and kicking long inside 50. He’s become a genuine two-way midfielder now and has a natural feel on how to impact the contest offensively and defensively. Flanders has much improvement to come in an AFL environment too, he is going to be great fun to watch develop.

#6 Riley Baldi

The inside midfielder was solid at the contest again, but was arguably more influential on the spread as he won the ball on the flanks and made good decisions. He isn’t blessed with pace, but makes up for that with smarts and finds a way to get away from his opponents. He has courage in the air too, going back with the flight during the second quarter to impact a contest. He finished with 23 disposals to match his NAB League average and prove again how reliable he is.

#15 Ryan Sparkes

Sparkes has had some great games throughout 2019, but I feel Saturday’s effort was one of his best for the season. Starting on the wing, he ran hard up and down the ground to provide a target or impact any contest he could. He won a brilliant ground ball in the second term, before kicking long inside 50 to advantage in a rare Power attacking foray. When Brock Smith went down with a shoulder injury in the first half, Sparkes took it upon himself to help out in the back half. He seemed to intercept and rebound at will in the fourth term, impacting aerial contests and running offensively when the opportunity presented. One of Gippsland’s highlights on a disappointing day, finishing with 26 disposals.

#17 Charlie Comben

It certainly was not one of Comben’s better days, but he wasn’t alone. He took an excellent reaching contested mark in the first term, but that was about as good as it got for Comben. Riley Smith had the better of him in ruck, while he lacked supply inside the forward half. Despite that, I love what he offers and I doubt there are many more talls in the draft who have a higher ceiling. An AFL club could land themselves a bargain here.

#19 Fraser Phillips

The highly talented Phillips was in and out of the contest, but provided some eye catching moments as he always does. He took a nice lead up mark early and a long running kick inside 50 during the first term. He earned a 50m penalty and kicked a vital goal after the siren on three quarter time to keep Power alive, but couldn’t have an impact in the final term. Didn’t have the finals series he would have liked, but was one of the leading goal kickers in the NAB League with 28 majors and has the scope to develop rapidly once in that AFL environment. He has many admirers.

#37 Harrison Pepper

Another outstanding final by the thick set defender, who has come to life and given recruiters (particularly Hawthorn) a bit to ponder over the coming months. He got Gippsland on the board in the first term with a long running goal that lifted spirits after Eastern kicked the first two. He had long metres gained, highlighted taking an intercept mark in defensive 50 and playing on to run through the corridor and get the ball forward fast. His body positioning was excellent to win the ball or protect a teammate. He had genuine claims to be Gippsland’s best and carried the flag on a day when his side had minimal winners.

Five questions ahead of NAB League Grand Final

WITH the NAB League Boys Grand Final ahead on Saturday, we start the week pondering five questions that are keys to deciding who wins the 2019 premiership.

1 Can Eastern contain Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson in the midfield?

It is remarkable to think that one of the grand final sides holds the two top picks in this year’s draft, while the other (very unluckily in our opinion) did not receive a single player with a National Draft Combine invitation. While many midfields go head-to-head with the Oakleigh brigade, Eastern is likely to deploy a strong team attitude with the likes of Zak Pretty, Mitch Mellis and Lachlan Stapleton rotating off Rowell, with Anderson’s size being a bit more tricky to handle. Jamieson Rossiter has been doing wonders up forward, but can play through the midfield and he has the size and strength to potentially match Anderson in this regard.

2 Are James Ross and Joel Nathan the best cohesive defensive duo in the competition?

The Eastern Ranges captain and key defensive partner, Joel Nathan might not have the combine invitations that some other combinations have, but they would be up there with the best defensive duo in the NAB League. They work well together with Ross pushing up from half-back to intercept forward entries, and Nathan capable to not panic under pressure deep in defence. More than a few times the duo has saved the Ranges and stopped certain goals, along with the entire back six. Defence wins premierships as the saying goes, and these two are as consistent as they come, particularly in the air working in cohesion.

3 How does Eastern win this game?

Many might immediately think the key is trying to nullify Rowell and Anderson, but at the end of the day, they are the consistent players that are going to get your 25-plus touches. The key is making sure that the majority of those are rushed at stoppages or in less dangerous areas. The key to stopping Oakleigh is restricting its run, so making sure Trent Bianco is accountable is the number one priority. With his elite kicking skills and run-and-carry, if you let him do as he pleases on the outside, he will do all the damage. On the weekend, it was Bianco often putting in bullet passes to forwards and he would be the first player in the Oakleigh side to watch out for because of his hurt factor by foot and ability to carry the ball in transition.

4 How does Oakleigh win this game?

They have so may talented players and you would expect they will likely get close to double-figure players drafted by the end of this year. Their midfield is as heralded as it gets, with stars across the park. They need to ensure that Jamarra Ugle-Hagan gets a clean run at it because Ross is so good at dropping off his man and cutting across a leading forward to clunk a grab or spoil to safety. Ugle-Hagan was afforded far too much space in the preliminary final and he is so quick off the lead, he is hard to stop once he gets going. So Oakleigh would be no doubt aware of Ross’ capabilities and at times might need to lower the eyes and see if potentially Ross’ opponent is getting to dangerous areas and take a ‘horses for courses’ approach when it comes to going inside 50 and picking a target on its merits and not being too predictable.

How much does losing last year’s grand final have an impact on the Chargers?

For most of the players, quite a bit. Rowell won best on ground last year in a losing grand final and there was not much more he could have done as a bottom-ager. Fast forward 12 months and there would be a deep burning desire to make up for last year’s disappointment, so expect the number 11 to be fierce for four quarters. He along with Anderson, Bianco and co. will be keen to right last year’s wrongs and go out with a premiership to their names. Eastern know Oakleigh will bring the heat, it depends if weathering the storm and upping the ante as they have done all year will be enough to conquer the Chargers?

Oakleigh charge into second-straight grand final

OAKLEIGH Chargers earned a second crack at premiership glory in as many years, trumping metro rivals Sandringham by 75 points at Princes Park.

The Chargers got on top early with a 28-point half-time lead and never looked back, sealing the 17.7 (109) to 4.10 (34) result.

The signs were ominous early as Jamarra Ugle-Hagan produced a mark on the lead and set shot goal typical of his form, backed by a Thomas Graham goal on the run shortly after – all within the first three minutes. But as expected, Sandringham hit back as Finn Maginness got on top at the stoppages. The Dragons even snatched the lead for the only time of the game after some improved finishing, with Kyle Yorke’s set shot sailing through. The Chargers hit back swiftly with one of their better passages forward of centre, with Noah Anderson and Trent Bianco combining to set up Ugle-Hagan’s second for the term, sealing the five-point quarter time lead.

The game began to open up as the Chargers quickly got on the board again on the back of a classy Finlay Macrae finish, and he had a say in Oakleigh’s third goal of the term with a nice baulk in the lead up to Graham’s second major. The momentum was halted momentarily as Yorke again found the big sticks with a deft dribbler over the back, but it was business as usual as Cooper Sharman got on the board with a reply and Graham roosted a huge set shot goal late on to give the Chargers an ominous 28-point half time lead.

Oakleigh again started the better in the third and broke out to a game-high lead in the back-end of the term, sparked by a couple of great moments from bottom-age forward Connor Stone. A goal to Hugo Ralphsmith on the back of a spearing Miles Bergman ball was the only form of resistance from the Dragons, as they could only stand and watch as Oakleigh put through another three goals to end the term 45 points to the good and with one foot in the grand final. With the game all but dead and buried, the Chargers added another four goals to the Dragons’ nil to see out the win in a heated final term, with state combine invitee Kaden Schreiber going in the book late on.

Matt Rowell led all-comers with a typically consistent 32 disposals, followed by Schreiber’s 28 and skipper Bianco’s 27. Will Phillips enjoyed his time through midfield with 26 touches, while Anderson was impactful with three goals from 21 disposals in a statement performance. In a dour day for the Dragons, Ryan Byrnes racked up 27 disposals in a trying effort, while Darcy Chirgwin and Maginness combined well early and Louis Butler was solid down back with Harry Loughnan.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.2 | 8.3 | 12.6 | 17.7 (109)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 2.3 | 3.5 | 4.9 | 4.10 (34)

GOALS:

Oakleigh – J. Ugle-Hagan 4, T. Graham 3, N. Anderson 3, C. Stone 2, C. Sharman 2, F. Macrae, N. Stathopoulos
Sandringham – K. Yorke 2, H. Ralphsmith, M. Bergman

ADC BEST:

Oakleigh – J. Ugle-Hagan, T. Bianco, K. Schreiber, N. Anderson, F. Macrae, M. Rowell
Sandringham – R. Byrnes, J. Bowey, L. Butler, K. Yorke, M. Bergman, H. Ralphsmith

NAB League Boys 2019 Preliminary Final preview: Oakleigh Chargers vs. Sandringham Dragons

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS (3rd, 11-4) vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS (4th, 9-6)
Saturday September 14, 11:00am
Ikon Park, Carlton North

Match Preview:

The Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons meet for the fourth time this year with both sides looking to book their tickets to the NAB League Grand Final.

These sides have produced two of the highest quality Under-18 games in recent memory with both squads at full strength, with Sandringham prevailing by 10 points in Round 3, but going down in the Round 17 grudge match which saw the Chargers snatch third spot. The mid-year fixture between the sides should not be discounted either, as Oakleigh’s Round 12 win over the depleted Dragons produced the greatest margin of the three bouts (18 points).

While the Dragons have shown their capacity to do so, Oakleigh is typically the higher-scoring team and pose dynamic threats inside 50 in the form of athletic talls Cooper Sharman and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. Add Noah Anderson to that mix and you have a trio of game-winners, with Anderson’s top-two touted mate Matt Rowell an ever-consistent force through the midfield. But that is not to discount Sandringham’s star power around the ground, with the Dragons boasting a whopping 18 combine invitees and a chance to field at least 16 of them as Jack Mahony hurries back from injury. Should he be included, another dimension would be added to the all-important midfield battle which Oakleigh so resoundingly won late-on in the sides’ Round 17 meeting. Finn Maginness and Darcy Chirgwin have been the answers on the inside, with the likes of Hugo Ralphsmith and Miles Bergman able to impact the contest from the wing or half-forward. Their dynamism will also be key inside 50 with Charlie Dean one who could be forced to move back given their athletic capabilities.

Speaking of backlines, Oakleigh co-captain Trent Bianco will look to out-do Sandringham counterpart Louis Butler for damage and rebound off the flanks, while Corey Watts looms as an intercepting threat for the Dragons – a role he performed so well last time out against Oakleigh. Whichever side shuts down the space best is likely to get on top, with both teams possessing weapons going forward in the kicking department.

Going on recent form and the ledger between these two high-class teams in 2019, it is hard to look past the charging Oakleigh side. They found a way when down and out in Round 17, so that has to be a mental factor whichever way this game goes. The pair of Anderson and Rowell is also key, with no side able to truly match them. They may well again drag Oakleigh over the line, but discount the Dragons at your own peril.

Prediction: Oakleigh by 13 points

Key match-ups:

Cooper Sharman vs. Corey Watts

Keeping both Sharman and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan quiet will be no mean feat, but Watts tried his level best to do so in Round 17. He seldom found himself in one-on-one duels with the pair, but matched up on Sharman when deep inside 50 last time out and could find himself doing the same here. Watts’ reading of the ball in flight will be important as he is given the license to intercept, but that kind of game while manning the dynamic Sharman is a difficult balancing act. The Chargers have many avenues to goal and a bunch of X-factor type players, so nullifying at least one of them will be key for the Dragons.

Noah Anderson vs. Finn Maginness

This is nothing short of a dream match-up. Anderson and Maginness put their respective teams on their backs in Round 17 with three goals apiece among their midfield work, and their capacities to influence the game in each area of the ground makes them so important. Sandringham were beaten at the crunch moments that day and coach Josh Bourke has asked for them to respond, so watch for someone like Maginness to lead that cause on the inside. On the other hand, Anderson is rarely kept quiet and stands up when it counts, so will inevitably have his own say on the contest.

Head to Head:

2019:

Oakleigh Chargers – 2
Sandringham Dragons – 1

Overall:

Oakleigh Chargers – 24
Sandringham Dragons – 23

Teams:

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

B: 15. K. Schreiber, 36. R. Valentine, 34. V. Zagari
HB: 5. T. Bianco, 52. N. Guiney, 49. H. Mastras
C: 39. R. McInnes, 6. J. Lucas, 9. W. Phillips
HF: 27. J. May, 25. J. Ugle-Hagan, 61. C. Stone
F: 29. F. Macrae, 73. C. Sharman, 77. N. Stathopoulos
R: 4. N. Bryan, 8. N. Anderson, 11. M. Rowell
Int: 58. Y. Dib, 18. F. Elliot, 22. T. Graham, 12. L. Jenkins, 30. S. Tucker, 17. G. Varagiannis, 1. L. Westwood
23P: 2. B. Laurie

In: G. Varagiannis, S. Tucker, Y. Dib

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

B: 18. J. Lloyd, 33. C. Watts, 37. W. Mackay
HB: 13. L. Butler, 12. C. Dean, 7. J. Voss
C: 43. J. Bowey, 5. R. Byrnes, 15. A. Hanrahan
HF: 9. N. Burke, 26. J. Castan, 16. J. Mifsud
F: 36. O. Lewis, 6. M. Bergman, 11. H. Ralphsmith
R: 30. A. Courtney, 2. D. Chirgwin, 4. F. Maginness
Int: 3. G. Grey, 51. D. Hipwell, 10. J. Le Grice , 74. H. Loughnan, 17. T. Milne, 39. B. O’Leary, 14. K. Yorke
23P: 35. C. Chesser

In: T. Milne, D. Hipwell, K. Yorke, J. Le Grice
Out: O. Lord

Scouting notes: NAB League Boys – Week 1 Finals

NAB League Boys finals action got underway over the weekend and we took a look at those players who received draft combine invitations as well as some bottom-age and 16-year-old prospects who impressed on the big stage. All notes are opinion-based of the individual writer.

Northern Knights vs. Western Jets

By: Ed Pascoe

Northern:

#5 Josh D’Intinosante

D’Intinosante was a thorn in the side of the Western Jets with his forward craft proving a real handful. His efficiency was impressive considering the windy conditions and his most impressive goal came in the first quarter with a fantastic rove from a stoppage assisted by his teammates trying to lay blocks for the crafty forward. D’Intinosante had good company all day with Morrish Medalist Lucas Rocci manning him most of the game. D’Intinosante finished the game with 13 disposals and five goals with his last game a good reminder to club scouts of what he is capable of up forward.

#11 Ryan Sturgess

Sturgess impressed playing a range of roles where needed, with the versatile player being thrown forward at times when his team had the wind. Sturgess battled hard all day and was courageous to come back onto the ground after limping off late in the game. Sturgess looked best in his normal defensive role attacking the contests and showing good composure when in possession, finishing the game with 16 disposals and five tackles.

#13 Sam Philp

Philp was the standout midfielder for the game with his explosiveness and spread from stoppages really catching the eye. Philp earned a national combine invite with a strong year despite missing Vic Metro selection and he proved why he got that nomination with some eye-catching plays, running the ball out of stoppages and hitting targets by foot. He will not get a stat for it but laid a great block inside forward 50 for his dangerous teammate Josh D’Intinosante in the first quarter, showing that he is a team player and not just out to do the flashy plays. Philp finished the game with 21 disposals and eight tackles.

#23 Nikolas Cox

Cox looked dangerous early on playing as a key forward, making use of the wind and judging the ball in flight to take a nice contested mark, kicking a nice set shot goal in the first quarter. Both his goals came in the first quarter and was moved around the ground more as the game went on to finish the game on the wing. He started the game better than he finished it, showing good composure and movement in the first half but caught holding the ball on multiple occasions in the second half which could come down to biting off more than he could chew. Cox looks a good prospect for the 2020 draft as a taller player that can play a range of roles, finishing with 11 disposals, four marks and two goals.

Western:

#1 Lucas Failli

Although small in stature Failli had a big impact on the game with his work through the midfield really impressing. Usually a goal sneak forward, Failli played well in the midfield often winning the ball at ground level and quickly kicking the ball inside 50. He still managed to hit the scoreboard in the third quarter, bobbing up at exactly the right time to kick an easy goal in the square. His clean hands at ground level are often used to snag goals up forward and were used to good effect at stoppages instead. Failli has really shown in the last few weeks that he is more than just an opportunistic forward, finishing the game with 14 disposals, six inside 50s and a goal.

#18 Emerson Jeka

Jeka made the most of his time up forward when his side had the wind, kicking two goals in the second quarter with his bets coming from a nice mark close to goal. Jeka provided a good target for the Jets who had no shortage of talls to go to but Jeka was the one with the most height to potentially expose the Northern Knights’ defence. Jeka was good in the air but did not offer as much when the ball hit the ground, so could be an area to improve on ahead of next week’s big semi-final. Jeka finished the game with 13 disposals and two goals.

#20 Darcy Cassar

Cassar was not able to replicate his big game in defence last week, and although not many of his teammates won a high amount of ball it was still a quiet game by Cassar’s standards. Cassar is one of his team’s better ball users so it would have been good to see him moved up the ground after his quiet first half – hopefully this move can be done if he has another quiet half next week. Cassar finished the game with 11 disposals and four tackles.

Eastern Ranges vs. Sandringham Dragons

By: Ed Pascoe

Eastern:

#7 Lachlan Stapleton

Stapleton typified the brand of football Eastern wanted to play against Sandringham with his attack on both the ball and man setting the tone through the midfield. Stapleton’s brand of football isn’t fancy but it gets the job done, though that didn’t stop him from trying to show some attacking flair which he did with a nice goal on the run in the second quarter. Stapleton finished the game with 18 disposals, 10 tackles and a goal.

#11 Mitch Mellis

Mellis was one of the most important players in Eastern’s engine room, providing the speed and dare with ball in hand that he has made a staple of his game this year. His kicking was rather scrappy at times, but always tried to make up for any mistakes and was always willing to do the one percenters. Mellis showed a good mix winning his own ball but also providing that run on the outside, finishing the game with 21 disposals and three inside 50s.

#13 Jamieson Rossiter

Rossiter was the dominant big man on the ground and has picked a good time of the year to hit some strong form. His first goal was his team’s first, taking a lead up mark and converting the set shot from 45 metres out. His best play was a bone crunching tackle in the second quarter, showing he could influence without ball in hand. He was also strong in the second quarter taking a strong mark on the wing, flying over the pack. Rossiter finished the game with 10 disposals, four marks and four goals.

#20 Connor Downie

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 and he finished the game with 19 disposals and three marks.

#52 Tyler Sonsie

Sonsie did not get a lot of the ball but he bobbed up with goals just when his team needed them. His first goal was something special crumbing a pack 40 metres out on a pocket, running to goal and kicking the ball perfectly with the wind to guide the ball through. It was the best goal for the day and really showed why he is considered such a high talent for the 2021 draft. Earlier that quarter he showed terrific vision, kicking across ground to find a target that took real courage to hit. Sonsie finished the game with two goals from six disposals.

Sandringham:

#4 Finn Maginness

Not a lot went right for Hawthorn father-son Maginness, and he had a tough day at the office. Despite not having the impact he would have liked he really worked hard in the last quarter and looked desperate to try and get his team the win. Maginness had an average day unable to get his hands on the ball, and when he did find the footy he did not use it as well as he has shown he can. He got to a point in the last quarter where he just threw himself into contests and tackled hard, finishing the game with 14 disposals and 10 tackles.

#5 Ryan Byrnes

Byrnes was the clear standout through the midfield for Sandringham and as their captain led from the front to do everything he could to win the ball and drive it forward. Byrnes was a hard worker at stoppages, getting to the fall of the ball and bursting away from stoppages. His kicking has been an area to work on this year and it didn’t let him down as he often picked the right options. Byrnes finished the game with 28 disposals, 11 inside 50s and three tackles.

#6 Miles Bergman

Bergman was his team’s most dangerous forward, proving too strong overhead and too slick at ground level. His first goal came from a nice clunk mark before going back to slot the set shot close to goal on a slight angle. His best patch of play came with a quick lay on and kick into the middle of the ground, opening up the play which was something his teammates couldn’t quite pull off all day. His second goal came in the final quarter with a long bomb from past the 50 metre arc, finishing on a high with 13 disposals, seven marks and two goals.

#13 Louis Butler

Butler was the standout defender for his team, winning plenty of the ball and using it very well in the windy conditions. Many players throughout the day struggled with the wind but Butler kept confident with his kicking and kept many kicks low and straight. His rebound from defence was fantastic, though he could have used some more support from his teammates. Butler finished the game with 26 disposals and nine rebounds.

#29 Fischer McAsey

McAsey played more of a loose role down back, often floating around to impact contests with a strong mark or a big spoil. His marking wasn’t as strong as usual but the wind was playing tricks on plenty of players throughout the day. McAsey had a good knack of reading the play and he would have been dominant if it wasn’t for the conditions, which made it hard work for talls. He will look to improve his output next week as he will be incredibly important for Sandringham’s tilt at a flag. McAsey finished the game with 11 disposals and four marks.

Calder Cannons vs. Dandenong Stingrays

Calder:

By: Ed Pascoe

#1 Daniel Mott

Mott was one of Calder’s standouts through the midfield, winning the ball with ease on both the inside and outside. Mott was rewarded early when he shot up Mason Fletcher nicely inside 50 before being returned the favour further inside 50 where he went on to nail a classy set shot goal. His entries inside 50 were dangerous and he was especially dangerous inside 50 himself kicking a classy goal on the run in the last quarter. Mott finished the game with 23 disposals, seven marks, seven inside 50s and two goals in a complete performance through the midfield.

#8 Sam Ramsay

Ramsay continued his hot form with a big game through the midfield, showcasing his running power both with and without the ball. Ramsay was all class with ball in hand and would often use his long left foot kick to his advantage with some nice kicks inside 50. He kicked his only goal from a nice set shot in the third quarter and would continue to set up other scoring opportunities with his run and spread from the midfield. Ramsay has averaged 31 disposals from his last seven games and this was one of his biggest games with the midfielder finishing with 35 disposals, six marks, six inside 50s and a goal.

#12 Jeremy O’Sullivan

O’Sullivan was a great target up forward, able to get up the ground and take some great marks. O’Sullivan didn’t hit the scoreboard himself but he played a pivotal role up the ground with his marking a real feature, taking two big contested marks in the last quarter that really caught the eye. In general play he looked to move well, showing he had some tricks other than his leading and marking. O’Sullivan finished the game with 20 disposals and eight marks.

#21 Harrison Jones

Despite not hitting the scoreboard Jones still showed why he is one of Calder’s prime prospects for this year’s draft. You can see Jones’s talent when he gets the ball, showing slick and clean skills with ball in hand for a taller player. Jones showed he could also have an impact without the ball with a fantastic chase-down tackle in the last quarter and an occasional stint in the ruck where he would follow up well around the ground. Jones finished the game with 11 disposals, eight tackles and seven hit outs.

#23 Cody Brand

The Essendon NGA prospect in 2020 was recently selected to feature in the U17 Futures game before this year’s AFL Grand Final, and he showed why he was selected with a strong performance in defence playing on the dangerous Sam De Koning for most of the game. Brand was strong and assured in defence, marking and spoiling strongly and showing good composure with ball in hand. Brand even showed some foot candy in the last quarter to prove he is more than just a dour defender. Brand only finished with eight disposals and six rebound 50s but played his role perfectly to keep De Koning goalless.

Dandenong:

By: Craig Byrnes

#2 Hayden Young

The potential top five prospect was not as influential behind the ball as we’ve become accustomed to, but still provided those moments that prove why he is so highly rated. He used his body to perfection to win a well fought ground ball on the city wing before hitting a target with ease. Young finds targets in the corridor that others either wouldn’t see or dare to take on, and is rarely made to regret those risks. As Calder gained momentum as the game went on Young found it difficult to find the ball in positions to impact the contest, but still finished with a respectable 19 disposals.

#11 Ned Cahill

Cahill worked hard in the opening three quarters, but struggled to get his hands on the ball as Calder often got first possession through Mott or Ramsay. He often ran without reward offensively and defensively, highlighted by a 100 metre effort from inside 50 to the wing during the first term that was ultimately fruitless. He went to the opening centre bounce of the fourth term and immediately won a long clearance that he kicked inside 50, which sparked a busy period for him. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to change the momentum of the game and Cahill ended with 15 disposals.

#20 Sam De Koning

It was a tough day for the All Australian defender, who could not get into the game forward and fell victim to some average supply throughout. He fought when the ball was in his area, but it rarely fell his way. He made his way back to defence in the final term and looked more comfortable, but the damage was already done by then.

#24 Bigoa Nyuon

Nyuon had some good moments in the ruck and forward for the Stingrays. He didn’t dominate, but you couldn’t question his effort on a difficult day. He had a real crack at the stoppages against a much bigger body in Josh Hotchkin, winning his fair share of hit outs. He was able to expose his opponent once the ball hit the ground, spreading to space to create an option forward or get in intercepting positions. He nearly kicked an outstanding goal on the run in the first term and clunked an impressive intercept mark on the lead in the third. ‘Biggy’ gave away a couple of unnecessary free kicks competing in the ruck, but got on the end of a 50-metre penalty to kick a goal in the second quarter.

#32 Blake Kuipers

The athletic tall started the game well in defence, getting his hands on the ball and was unlucky not to be paid an outstanding contested intercept mark in the first term. But like many of his teammates, as Calder took control he became less of a factor. He certainly didn’t disgrace himself, but the excellent Calder entrances were difficult to counter. Kuipers finished the day in the ruck and collected nine disposals by the final siren.

#50 Lachlan Williams

One of Dandenong’s better performers for the day, Williams started on the wing and was involved from the outset. After a long snapped behind in the first term, he showed his strength in a big tackle, keeping his balance and releasing in a difficult position. He took the game on when the opportunity presented, running to receive the ‘one-two’ from half back before superbly hitting a target at half forward. He proved his speed and carry again later in the game, intercepting a handball and exploding from the contest. I still feel Williams is underrated overhead too, taking a brilliant contested intercept mark in the second term. He moved to defence in the fourth quarter and was serviceable when his team was down and out, finishing the game with 25 disposals.

Gippsland Power vs. Oakleigh Chargers

Gippsland:

By: Craig Byrnes

#2 Caleb Serong

A well rested Serong returned to the NAB League for just his third game of the season in the Power colours, after approximately a month off footy to be cherry ripe for finals. He was influential from the start, just missing a set shot in the opening minutes before taking two big contested intercept marks to showcase his aerial strengths. He was super aggressive, asserting his physicality toward Anderson and Rowell whenever the opportunity presented. He went a little far when giving away a free kick off the ball, but immediately got one back after getting in the face of his opponent and drawing a reaction. He was excellent around the stoppages, clean in congestion and used the ball well in space, highlighted by a well placed kick inside to Flanders while on his hot streak. Serong finished with 29 disposals and will be even better next week after the run.

#4 Sam Flanders

Flanders may have produced the best underage half of footy for the season to date, or at the very least the most dynamic 10 minutes of the year. From the eleventh to the twenty-second minute of the second quarter, Flanders completely took control of the game and at the time it did not look like anything was going to stop him. He kicked four goals during this period to give Gippsland a huge advantage going into half-time, highlighted by brilliant body work, positioning and quality kicking. He was excellent through the midfield too, constantly winning first possession and providing explosive clearances. He went into the main break with crazy numbers, 18 disposals and four goals. Unfortunately he was reported immediately after the break and wasn’t able to get near the heights of the first two quarters, which was not helped by the rain arriving when Gippsland were kicking home with the breeze. Still, it was a brilliant 27 possession performance despite Power not being able to take advantage of his earlier heroics.

#6 Riley Baldi

Baldi started the game at the opening centre bounce, but wasn’t his usual prolific self as he spent more time forward to finish with his lowest disposal tally (14) of the season. He still had an impact though, winning the heavy footy when required against the likes of Rowell and Anderson. Baldi’s stoppage nous is as good as any, protecting the ball with smart body positioning and getting in the drop areas first. He kicked a clutch goal in the final quarter just before the rain arrived which appeared to be an important moment at the time before Oakleigh’s bigger bodies took hold.

#10 Leo Connolly

Connolly is improving with every game he plays in 2019 and appears to be gaining confidence with every touch too. He is a genuine elite user of the pill and is becoming a vital cog at half back. The obvious highlight was his thumping goal from outside 50 in the second term that sparked the Gippsland goal flurry before half time. He had some excellent contested moments to balance out the carry and skills nicely, using smart body work to take a great intercept mark in the second term. He finished with 23 disposals and a match high 11 rebound 50s. Connolly is in form at the right time of the year and giving recruiters plenty to think about.

#15 Ryan Sparkes

Starting on the wing, it wasn’t Sparkes’ busiest day with the ball, but he still managed to find it on 15 occasions. The play often bypassed his area, but he put his body on the line when required. He had an awkward aerial ball to contest on the wing in the second term and despite being completely out of position, he went back with the flight and impacted the drop. Expect him to bounce back with big numbers next week.

#16 Josh Smith

Smith struggled to have an impact forward, but made his physical presence known in the ruck against Nick Bryan in the absence of Charlie Comben. He was the relief for Zach Reid, but threw his body around and made it tough for Bryan to have an impact at the stoppages. Smith helped out his defenders when he could too, getting back to take a well-read intercept in the third term before competing again shortly after in the defensive 50 to spoil a dangerous entry. Smith will benefit with the return of Comben next week.

#19 Fraser Phillips

Phillips was in and out of the game, but constantly created anxiety when the ball went in his area. A brilliantly read crumb in the second quarter saw him convert his first for the day during Power’s purple patch. His best goal would come in the third term when he competed for an aerial ball and kept his feet to gather the ground ball, before swinging onto that lovely left foot to kick an important goal. He has serious goal sense and naturally knows how to get in scoring positions. While he may take time, I am looking forward to seeing what he can produce at the elite level.

#37 Harrison Pepper

The Hawthorn NGA prospect had some excellent moments in defence and perhaps some others he would like to have back, but was solid overall. While there was the occasional fumble under pressure, he won some important ground balls and rebounded the ball out of dangerous positions on numerous occasions. His highlight came in the third term when he held Matt Rowell in a physical tackle to earn a holding the ball free kick, a feat only few can boast to have achieved. Pepper finished with 14 disposals and five rebounds from the defensive arc.

Oakleigh:

By: Ed Pascoe

#4 Nick Bryan

Bryan was expected to win the hit outs easily against bottom age key defender Zach Reid coming into the game and though he did so, the Gippsland midfielders did a good job of reading Bryan’s taps throughout the game. His tap work is great which makes it more dangerous when the opposition can also rove it. Bryan looked good around the ground with his use by hand just as good as most midfielders, finishing the game with 13 disposals and 30 hitouts.

#5 Trent Bianco

Bianco was all class down back, playing his usual role sweeping and causing damage by foot both on his left and right. Bianco was a consistent player down back providing good rebound and using the ball well as usual, the rain hit in the last quarter and Bianco got some time on the wing, making the most of his time up the ground. Kicked a classy goal on the run in the wet conditions showing his talent in any weather condition, finishing the game with 24 disposals and one goal.

#8 Noah Anderson

Anderson did not have his usual output, with the talented midfielder usually a dangerous threat going forward. The Gippsland side did a great job of nullifying Anderson’s influence to get forward and hit the scoreboard. Anderson was later moved forward to give Oakleigh the dynamic they needed in the third quarter but still could not quite hit the scoreboard. Anderson still looked good with ball in hand and looked composed and clean whenever he was around the ball, finishing the game with 29 disposals and four tackles.

#9 Will Phillips

Phillips was fantastic in Oakleigh’s strong start to the game, seeing the bottom age midfielder show some good clean hands in transition and getting involved in a number of plays going forward. Mostly playing on the wing he had no issues winning the ball with his smart running and willingness to also get in and win his own ball. Phillips kicked a nice goal in the third quarter showing some dash and getting back the handball to snap on the run. Phillips finished the game with 29 disposals, six inside 50s and a goal.

#11 Matt Rowell

The incredibly consistent Rowell was again a force that couldn’t be stopped through the midfield, and despite a slow start it was his desire and drive that really turned the game back in Oakleigh’s favour in the second half. Rowell was targeted by the opposition, copping some big tackles and blocks and made to earn a lot of his possessions through the midfield. When he did he would usually still get a handball out, proving he is as hard a worker on the outside as well as working into space to show off his great running power. Rowell finished the game with 29 disposals and eight tackles.

#25 Jamara Ugle-Hagan

Ugle-Hagan was the dominant key position player on the ground, proving a real handful with the clean ball movement of Oakleigh particularly early on. His lead up marking was superb with every one sticking and he kicked two nice goals and even passed another off unselfishly. He would show again he wasn’t just a lead up and mark player with a great chase down tackle in the last quarter, converting the set shot to reward his effort. The bottom age talent could have had an even bigger day if he had kicked straight, going on to collect 13 disposals, six marks and kicking 3.3 with a few kicks going out on the full as well.

#73 Cooper Sharman

Sharman had one of his quieter games for the year especially in front of goal but he still had some good moments. His best movement came with a quick thinking handball over the top of his head that lead to a goal in the first quarter. His most productive quarter was his final quarter in the wet weather, moved back in the last five minutes. He took some telling marks that showed he could have some versatility to play both forward and back. Sharman finished the game with 13 disposals and six marks.

Draft Central Power Rankings: September 2019

AFTER a massive 2018 which saw so many talented players realise their dreams, we turn our attention to the 2019 AFL Draft crop. In the fourth edition of our monthly Power Rankings which is posted on the first Monday of every month, we have compiled our top 30 players at this stage of the year. So much can change over the next few months, but the order is firming as combines around the country close near. Take note that the order is based purely on opinion and ability, not on any AFL club lists or needs.

We will be following up with ‘Ones to Watch’ in a separate piece later this week.

#1 Matt Rowell

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
01/07/2001 | 178cm | 75kg

Easily the most consistent player in the 2019 draft crop, having barely ever played a bad game. The inside midfielder is a tackling machine, averaging double-figure tackles at NAB League Boys level, while also racking up a massive 7.3 clearances per game. What is remarkable about Rowell is not only his ability to win the ball, but his ability to bring teammates into the game. Rowell is always looking to provide possession to a teammate in a better position, but when he needs to step up, Rowell is more than capable of finishing on his own. When at forward stoppages, Rowell has a nous of breaking away and snapping off his left as he did twice against Casey Demons on the MCG. There are plenty of candidates to the number one pick this year, but Rowell looks the 2019 equivalent of Sam Walsh – consistent across the board and just ticks all the boxes. He will spend the year playing school footy outside his National Under 18 Championships commitments before returning to the Chargers’ for their finals campaign.

August Ranking: #1

Last month: Returned to the NAB League Boys with a bang collecting a whopping 34 disposals, three marks, 10 clearances, six inside 50s and seven tackles in a huge effort for Oakleigh Chargers to get over the line against Sandringham Dragons in the final round of the season. Was tightly guarded in Oakleigh’s qualifying final win over Gippsland but was a key reason the Chargers got home , picking up 29 disposals, four rebounds and laying eight tackles.

#2 Noah Anderson

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder/Forward
17/02/2001 | 190cm | 87kg

In what was thought to be an anomaly last year with Henley High pairing Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine touted as potential pick one and two, Anderson and Rowell both attend Carey Grammar, making it a daunting combo for any other APS school. Anderson is different to Rowell in the sense he is taller, has the ability to break open a game in a quarter, and has a booming kick that easily travels greater than 50 metres. He has enjoyed a consistent start to the year and has not done too much wrong, with his field kicking an area he could improve on at times. When inside the forward half, Anderson is one of the most damaging prospects in the draft crop, and expect him to have an impact around goals at the National Under 18 Championships for Vic Metro. His game-breaking ability is as good as anyone’s in the draft crop.

August Ranking: #2

Last month: Anderson was one of the crucial match winners upon return to the NAB League Boys, booting 3.2 from 24 disposals, three marks, eight inside 50s and four clearances, taking control in the final term for the Chargers to overrun the Sandringham Dragons in the final round of the season. Finished the first final against Gippsland with 29 touches, four tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds in a strong effort despite not having his usual time and space.

#3 Caleb Serong

Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Small Forward/Midfielder
09/02/2001 | 178cm | 83kg

A tireless worker, Serong missed the opening game of the NAB League season and has been working his way back into the year finding plenty of the ball around the ground. For a smaller player, Serong never takes a backwards step and seems to find the ball in all three areas of the ground, having plenty of influence around the stoppages, particularly in the forward half. He is very strong overhead and brings his teammates into the game. Both he and close mate, Sam Flanders lead the Gippsland Power charge for draftees in what should be a big year for them. Will miss most of the NAB League season due to school and state commitments, but will be a welcome return come finals time.

August Ranking: #6

Last month: Rested for the final week of the NAB League Boys season after a hectic year that included school football, will attack finals fresh and be a key contributor for the Power in their bid for the flag. Got under the skin of some Oakleigh players in the Power’s narrow loss to the Chargers, putting together a strong 29-disposals, four-mark, five-tackle and seven-inside 50 performance.

#4 Hayden Young

Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | General Defender/Inside Midfielder
11/04/2001 | 188cm | 82kg

One of the prime movers last season and a player who has the potential to be a deadly half-back. He has elite kicking skills coming out of defence, aided by the fact he has a penetrating kick that can clear 50m with ease. He just gets to the right positions and pushes up the ground where he takes a number of intercept marks. He will contest any marking contest regardless of opponent, and is a composed user in defence. He was tried in the middle early in the season, but his greatest influence is in the back half. After an okay start to the year without being anything dazzling, Young reminded everyone of his talent on the MCG, starring alongside Rowell and Anderson, taking a number of crucial intercept marks and setting up scoring plays. A hard edge with terrific kicking skills, Young is one to certainly keep in mind for Pick 1.

August Ranking: #3

Last month: Put together a solid month with three 20-plus disposal games, and spending time forward against Geelong Falcons in between. Was crucial in Dandenong’s win over Murray in the Wildcard Round to advance through to the finals, picking up 24 touches, two marks, seven tackles, two inside 50s and two rebounds. Was okay without being outstanding in Dandenong’s elimination final loss to Calder, picking up 19 disposals, two marks and three tackles. Drops down only because the three close to him had huge games in do-or-die or finals matches.

#5 Lachlan Ash

Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | General Defender
21/06/2001 | 186cm | 80kg

Along with Young, Ash is the other standout Country prospect in defence. The Murray Bushrangers runner has few flaws to his game, owning the defensive 50 with a massive amount of intercept marks and rebounds, while slicing up opposition zones with his elite kicking ability. He is a player that just catches the eye, gets himself into the right positions, and can set up teammates around the ground or in attack. He has hardly put a foot wrong this season, and while his performance on the MCG had its ups and downs, his NAB League form is not to be questioned. The noticeable advantage with Ash compared to a lot of half-backs is he can win his own ball, and while he might only win a third of his possessions in a contest, he is comparably low with handball receives, almost winning more touches from marking than from handballs. If he and Young both play off half-back at the National Under 18 Championships, expect Country to have plenty of run and penetration.

August Ranking: #4

Last month: Finished his competitive season with a best-on performance for Murray in the Bushrangers’ loss to Dandenong in Wildcard Round. The co-captain was massive around the ground with his drive and elite skills and decision making. He took four marks, laid six tackles and got it down at both ends with six rebounds and five inside 50s. He now returns to play with Shepparton in his home club’s finals series.

#6 Sam Flanders

Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder/Forward
24/07/2001 | 182cm | 81kg

After playing as a damaging forward in 2018, Flanders has moved into the midfield this season and been one of the more prolific extractors. While it could be argued his greatest impact is around goals – where he seems to kick the impossible at times – he also has the nous in the midfield to find the ball at stoppages and kick long inside 50, or sweep the handball out to a running teammate. Gippsland has missed his influence and strength in attack, but he has added another dimension to a deep Power midfield. Flanders is a player who will divide draft watchers as he could be top five, or later first round depending on what you look at. He plays taller than his 182cm, and is strong overhead or at ground level. Another top-end Country prospect to watch this year.

August Ranking: #5

Last month: Had his lowest disposal game of the year with just 14 against the Pioneers in Round 17, but has been a mirror of consistency this season with all bar one previous game with more than 20 disposals, including 28 and a goal against the Devils in Round 14. Absolutely dominated the second quarter of the qualifying final against Oakleigh, racking up 12 touches and booting four goals on his way to 27 disposals, seven marks, seven tackles and four inside 50s.

#7 Tom Green

GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Inside Midfielder
23/01/2001 | 188cm | 85kg

The inside hard nut has drawn comparisons to Patrick Cripps in the way he excels at the contested ball, bullying his way to a truckload of possessions and clearances. He has clean and quick hands on the inside and a long kick, while having no issues whatsoever finding the pill. In the opening few NAB League games, Green racked up an average of 33 disposals and 10.25 clearances, still going at more than 60 per cent efficiency despite running at greater than 60 per cent contested. Across the board he is very consistent – similar to Cripps – in order to have an influence on the contest. He will be the top pure tall inside midfielder in the draft, with adding more scoreboard pressure the key between Green and the likes of Rowell and Anderson.

August Ranking: #7

Last month: Has missed the past month with a knee injury.

#8 Dylan Stephens

Norwood/South Australia | Balanced Midfielder
08/01/2001 | 182cm | 70kg

Stephens is another lightly built midfielder who despite being just 70kg has forced his way into the SANFL League side for Norwood already in season 2019. Given the Redlegs’ tendancy to restrict kids from being exposed at the top level – see Luke Valente last year – it is a credit to Stephens – and teammate Taheny, to already earn their stripes. He has held his own too, admitedly playing a very outside game, but with many bigger bodies at the Redlegs, Stephens has terrific skills and moves well in transition, able to win the ball in midfield, take off and kick perfectly inside 50. He still has to add bulk to his frame, but he showed when taking on his peers he is capable of playing an inside role as well. Expect him to be the prime mover for South Australia at the Under 18 Championships and raise his stocks with a big couple of months.

August Ranking: #9

Last month: Had held his spot in finalist Norwood’s League side and continues to be a solid contributor, averaging 18.1 touches, 4.5 marks, 4.7 tackles and 3.2 inside 50s per game. To end the regular season, Stephens recorded more than 20 disposals in three of his four matches. He then stepped up over the weekend for Norwood to keep their premiership dreams alive with a terrific goal to accompany his 14 touches, two marks, three tackles and two clearances.

#9 Brodie Kemp

Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country | Tall Utility
01/05/2001 | 192cm | 82kg

Kemp is a player that will be looked at as a long-term prospect, and one who could be moulded into nearly anything. At 192cm, he has played a hybrid role over the past few years, rotating between attack and midfield, and even some time in defence. He knows how to hit the scoreboard and has a long kick but could tidy it up when at full-speed. His ability to get to the outside and move in transition is a strength. He is a smooth mover who looks like an outside player, but wins the majority of his possessions at the coal face. Another player who will miss the majority of the NAB League season due to his school football commitments, but will be one to watch at the National Under 18 Championships.

August Ranking: #8

Last month: Unfortunately for Kemp, he went down with an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear in July school game and will miss the remainder of the season.

#10 Fischer McAsey

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Key Position Utility
11/04/2001 | 195cm | 86kg

McAsey is a key position defender who has played up the attacking end in previous years. He has found his place in the defence in 2019. and seems to be a settled player there not only doing well for Sandringham Dragons and at Caulfield Grammar, but stepping up for Vic Metro at the AFL Under 18 National Championships. He is considered one of the draft bolters this season, with not too many key position talls jumping up, McAsey is a player who is firmly putting his hand up as a top 10 prospect should his form continue, and he has plenty of traits to like. His intercept marking, athleticism and ball use by foot is very solid and does not have too many weaknesses across the board.

August Ranking: #10

Last month: Was quiet in Sandringham’s tight loss to Oakleigh failing to kick a goal, but backed up with a big 14 disposals, five marks and two goals in the Dragons’ massive 103-point thumping of Geelong Falcons in Wildcard Round. Had a quieter game playing down back against Eastern in the qualifying final. Glided through the air to take a number of intercept marks but also dropped a few, finishing with 11 touches, four marks and three tackles.

#11 Luke Jackson

East Fremantle/Western Australia | Ruck
29/09/2001 | 197cm | 93kg

The athletic West Australian ruck picked Australian Rules over basketball last year despite donning the green and gold on the court. Jackson plays like an extra midfielder when moving around the ground and has been plying his trade at Colts level in the WAFL given the strength of ruck stocks at East Fremantle. Jackson looms as a potential first round pick, even though rucks are traditionally taken later. He would be viewed as a long-term prospect, and certainly if his two National Under 18 Championships games from 2018 are anything to go by, he has plenty of talent at his disposal. Clubs will like the fact he is not out of the contest once the ball hits ground level, and was solid against Casey Demons’ bigger-bodied rucks on the MCG. The standout ruck in the 2019 draft crop in a crop that does not have as many top-end talls as last year.

July Ranking: #24

Last month: Continues to dominate the WAFL Colts, with three consecutive matches of 20-plus disposals and 27-plus hitouts, then went forward in the most recent game against Perth, booting two goals from 16 touches, four marks and 31 hitouts. Has risen back to where he was at the start of the year as others fall and his consistency remains the same.

#12 Will Gould

Glenelg/South Australia | Key Position Defender
14/01/2001 | 191cm | 98kg

The key defender is the player likely to be the big point of difference in the top-end of the rankings. At 191cm he is a tad undersized for a key position player, but he has the ability to play small or tall, and has been working on his tank to play midfield at times. He wins plenty of the ball at half-back and averages almost eight rebounds per game at League level for Glenelg – holding his own against bigger bodies and dropping into the hole with his game smarts reading the ball in flight well. He has leadership tendencies and captained the Australian Under 18s at the MCG against Casey Demons and will be a prime candidate for the South Australian job as well. Gould has put on seven kilograms since the championships last season, enabling him to take the more monster key forwards, and while he might still be undersized, he just competes and has a massive work rate which stands out each time he plays.

August Ranking: #12

Last month: Racked up a season-high 27 disposals in Glenelg’s loss to Sturt in Round 18 heading into finals, also having five marks and 10 rebounds and continuing to impress.

#13 Trent Rivers

East Fremantle/Western Australia | Balanced Midfielder
30/07/2001 | 189cm | 84kg

It is a good year for East Fremantle, with prospects basically growing on trees, and Rivers is another touted top 30 prospect along with Jeremy Sharp and Luke Jackson. Rivers is a natural-born leader who thrives on the contest and is as consistent as they come, racking up more than 20 disposals in most outings. He loves to tackle and put his body on the line, and is a crucial key to the midfield of Western Australia at the national championships. Unlike a lot of other top-end midfielders this year, Rivers has the size on him, standing at 189cm and 84kg, and readymade for senior football.

August Ranking: #16

Last month: Racked up a season-high 30 disposals in the final round of the regular season for the Colts, while laying seven tackles and booting 2.2 from six marks. Rivers has not dropped below 25 disposals in a remarkable display of consistency this season.

#14 Trent Bianco

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Outside Midfielder
20/01/2001 | 176cm | 70kg

Arguably quite underrated given his size and the ability of his highly touted Oakleigh teammates, Bianco is one of the best ball users in the draft crop this season. Like Lachlan Ash, Bianco rebounds off half-back and can go into the middle when required, a place he will no doubt spend a lot of time this season having wrapped up his Year 12 studies last year. The co-captain of the Oakleigh Chargers is an outside ball user, and finding more contested ball could be an area he looks to in season 2019, but his skills are good enough that he could easily play as that outside user, especially considering his size. A versatile player, expect Bianco to be one of the Morrish Medal contenders this season when he is not running around for Vic Metro. He had a massive game against Tasmania Devils, racking up 42 disposals, although he did have seven clangers on the day. Keeps rising and despite being smaller, just finds the ball and uses it well more often than not.

August Ranking: #14

Last month: Picked up 28 disposals, five marks and six rebounds in a match-winning effort for the Chargers against the Dragons in the final round of the season, and while he did not have his usual influence in the first final, stepped up to kick the match-winning goal in the pouring rain to win the Chargers the match against Gippsland. He still finished with 24 touches, two marks, three tackles, three inside 50s and three rebounds.

#15 Miles Bergman

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Midfielder/Forward
18/10/2001 | 188cm | 77kg

The underrated midfielder missed out on being included in the State Victorian Metro Academy, but has not let that get him down, performing strongly across the NAB League and school seasons, and working his way up the boards with some strong performances against the best players around the country. He has a nice sidestep that can get him out of trouble and wins a lot of the ball in close, with a few areas to iron out such as his kicking, but he has some great developing traits and plenty of future development. Most importantly, he can win the ball on the inside and extract it out, but can also play an outside role too.

August Ranking: #N/A

Last month: Has had the biggest month of just about anyone, dominating in the Herald Sun Shield to win best on ground for St Bede’s College in their narrow win over St Patrick’s, then continued that form in NAB League with a goal against the Chargers from 13 disposals, four marks and six tackles, then ran riot against the Falcons with four goals from 18 touches, eight marks and four tackles. Showed in Sandringham’s narrow loss to Eastern in the qualifying final that he does not need many touches to hurt the opposition, booting two goals from 13 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and three inside 50s.

#16 Liam Henry

Claremont/Western Australia | Outside Midfielder/Forward
28/08/2001 | 179cm | 67kg

A member of Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy, Henry is another lightly built midfielder who can go forward and impact a game inside 50. Henry has nice skills and slick athletic traits that help him work his way out of congestion while making good decisions with ball-in-hand. He does need to find a bit more of the football at times which is the next step, but he is a player who will rarely waste a possession and one who Fremantle fans would be excited to have on their list. Still has scope to develop further, and grow into his body at just 67kg and another sub-180cm midfielder. One who would be keen to finish off the year strongly – although perhaps Fremantle would prefer he kept it in check. A highly talented player.

July Ranking: #17

Last month: Unfortunately dislocated his knee in a school football match and has not returned since his impressive 26-disposal, six-mark, two-goal game in Round 14.

#17 Finn Maginness

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
23/02/2001 | 187cm | 80kg

The underrated midfielder missed out on being included in the State Victorian Metro Academy, but has not let that get him down, performing strongly across the NAB League and school seasons, and working his way up the boards with some strong performances against the best players around the country. He has a nice sidestep that can get him out of trouble and wins a lot of the ball in close, with a few areas to iron out such as his kicking, but he has some great developing traits and plenty of future development. Most importantly, he can win the ball on the inside and extract it out, but can also play an outside role too.

August Ranking: #23

Last month: Carried his AFL Under-18 Championships form into his NAB League back-end of the season, having an impact through the middle and up forward, booting five goals – including three in the tight loss over Oakleigh in the final round – and racking up a combined 50 disposals in the two other games with the majority of his time spent in the middle. Is averaging more than five clearances per game since returning to the competition and could be the first Dragon picked in a tight contest with McAsey and Bergman. Did have a quiet game in the first final against Eastern, picking up 14 touches, but laid the 10 tackles showing his strong work defensively.

#18 Mitch O'Neill

Tasmania Devils/Allies | Outside Midfielder
21/02/2001 | 178cm | 69kg

The top Tasmanian prospect was an All-Australian in his bottom-age year, and has a nice blend of inside and outside capabilities. Given his lightly built frame, expect O’Neill to stick to the outside during the National Under 18 Championships, but he can win his own ball at the same time. He reads the taps well and is able to spread to the outside, pumping the ball inside 50 to set up scoring chains. Having spent time in defence last year, O’Neill has moved into the midfield and found just as much of the ball, and is a crucial ball user on the outside. He will be the player most analysed by opposition sides when playing Tasmania Devils in the NAB League, and O’Neill will enjoy added freedom at the National Under 18 Championships for the Allies.

August Ranking: #11

Last month: Has missed the past month due to injury.

#19 Jackson Mead

WWT Eagles/South Australia | Balanced Midfielder
30/09/2001 | 183cm | 83kg

The son of Port Adelaide inaugural Best and Fairest winner, Darren has made a promising start to the 2019 SANFL season, starting in the Reserves and impressing, showing that a League debut would be in the not-too-distint future. Mead will team up with Stephens at the National Under 18 Championships to lead the side through his penetrating kick and good skills, spreading around and using the ball well forward of centre. Not as prolific a ball winner as some others, Mead has good smarts and does not waste too many disposals. Importantly, Mead hits the scoreboard as a midfielder, and can win his own ball on the inside when required. He might play more of an inside role at the National Championships, but South Australia will be keen to give him time and space to impact the contest best.

August Ranking: #13

Last month: Had a couple of okay weeks in the League side with 11 disposals per game average, before dropping back to the Reserves and starring with 27 touches, six marks, seven inside 50s and four clearances in Woodville-West Torrens’ huge win over North Adelaide in the final round of the season. Was a late withdrawal in the final round of the season

#20 Josh Worrell

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Key Position Utility
11/04/2001 | 193cm | 78kg

The Sandringham Dragons defender has had an impressive past few weeks after not having to do too much in the Dragons’ obliteration of Calder in the opening round of the NAB League season. On the MCG against Casey Demons, Worrell stood tall in defence, showing an ability to remain calm under pressure and use the ball well. At 193cm, Worrell will be a player that clubs look at differently, being that few cms smaller than the current trend for key position defenders, which is fine considering Worrell’s ability to provide run and carry out of defence. He is still lightly built, but he is strong overhead and has the potential to develop into a tall midfielder or one who roams off half-back and sets up attacking plays. A player who will spend the season at Haileybury College.

August Ranking: #19

Last month: His season is over after a shoulder injury sidelined him for the remainder of the 2019 season.

#21 Dylan Williams

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | General Utility
01/07/2001 | 185cm | 81kg

After having a terrific second half of the year playing as a medium forward, Williams has spent time mixed between attack and defence in season 2019. He is definitely more suited to attack where he has a high vertical leap and is dangerous around goals. He is as strong overhead as anyone and certainly impressive for a player of his size. Not a huge ball winner, Williams just needs to find four quarter consistency this season as he is the player that can boot four goals in a term and take the game away from the opposition. He also has terrific skills, and hits three out of his four targets despite finding half his possessions in a contest. When at stoppages, Williams is more than capable of winning clearances as he showed against Dandenong, bursting away and pumping the ball long. One area of improvement is his defensive work, which is why he has been played in defence at times to build that area of his game. In the wet at Craigieburn against Calder Cannons in Round 2, Williams had eight out of 12 disposals effective, running at a much higher efficiency than his teammates. Does not have APS school commitments so will play the full year at NAB League Boys level with the Chargers, co-captaining the side with Trent Bianco.

August Ranking: #15

Last month: Has not played in the past month with that back injury still troubling him.

#22 Cameron Taheny

Norwood/South Australia | General Forward
03/08/2001 | 184cm | 80kg

The medium forward is an excitement machine who lit up the National Under 16 Championships in 2017. He continued that form in his bottom-age year for Norwood, booting six goals in a game last year to show off his talents inside 50. Similar to Dylan Williams, Taheny has his ups and downs, but his best is as good as anyone else’s in the draft crop. A good season could propel him into the top half of the first round, and he is a player who could turn a match on its head which will be crucial for South Australia at the National Under 18 Championships. Has already broken into the League side for Norwood and booted three goals on debut. One to watch through the year as someone who could rise.

August Ranking: #18

Last month: After three goalless games in the SANFL League, Taheny dropped back to Norwood’s reserves where he had 11 touches and booted a goal, importantly laying five tackles in the Redlegs’ 23-point victory over West Adelaide in the final round.

#23 Will Day

West Adelaide/South Australia | General Defender
17/01/2001 | 187cm | 70kg

The underrated South Australian utility has been one of the big improvers this season, showing off some nice signs at school football and then South Australia at the AFL Under 18 National Championships. Like Weightman, Day has been on the periphery of our Power Rankings the past two months, and after some solid performances at the national carnival, makes the list for July. Day has shown signs similar to last year’s bolter, Jez McLennan who had a good carnival and emerged as a top 30 prospect with nice foot skills and composure. Day can kick on either side of his body and is a good size at 187cm despite still being very light at 70kg.

August Ranking: #26

Last month: With school football done and dusted, Day returned to the West Adelaide Reserves, picking up 26 disposals, eight marks, five inside 50s, three rebounds, three tackles and a goal in the Bloods’ loss to Norwood in the final round of the season. Picked up 20 touches, nine marks and seven rebounds in a strong performance off half-back for West Adelaide in the Under 18s first final, now playing off in a preliminary final next weekend.

#24 Connor Budarick

Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies | General Utility
06/04/2001 | 176cm | 70kg

The Gold Coast SUNS Academy player could draw comparisons to Ned McHenry in both his stature and defensive pressure. Budarick played as a forward last year, and has spent more time in the midfield in 2019, but will likely rotate between both at the National Under 18 Championships. Weighing in at about 70kg, Budarick is outside leaning when in the midfield and just has little bursts where he wins the football. In the exhibition match against Casey Demons, Budarick played in defence and held his own back there, but his best comes forward of centre where he lays an average of seven tackles per game, and forces turnovers close to goal. He runs hard between the arcs and will likely cost Gold Coast a top 30 pick based on his skills and work rate.

August Ranking: #21

Last month: The talented small had 12 disposals, two marks and four tackles in his final game for the year with the SUNS missing out on NEAFL action. The week before he had 13, with his best game of August coming against Brisbane Lions, racking up 18 touches, three marks, five tackles and booting a goal in the 25-point loss.

#25 Cooper Stephens

Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
17/01/2001 | 188cm | 83kg

Geelong Falcons midfielder unfortunately fractured his fibula in in Round 3. Stephens is a huge loss for Vic Country as Falcons Talent Manager Mick Turner said he would not take part in the National Under 18 Championships next month. Stephens is a neat user of the ball, recording 65 per cent by foot, and in the two games before his injury, Stephens averaged 26 disposals, 3.5 marks, 4.0 clearances and ran at more than 60 per cent contested possessions.

August Ranking: #25

Last month: It was confirmed recently that a return for Stephens is not worth the risk, which means the Falcons co-skipper will be on ice for the remainder of the year as he has been for the majority of it. He might have slipped down the order a bit, but he could end up a value pick given what he showed last season as as bottom-ager.

#26 Deven Robertson

Perth/Western Australia | Balanced Midfielder
30/06/2001 | 182cm | 80kg

The massive ball-winning midfielder from Western Australia was been a dominant force in the AFL Under 18 National Championships after injury last year, and has boosted his draft ranking after the carnival. He still has areas to tidy up such as kicking under pressure, but would stake a case of the most consistent player in the draft crop and you know exactly what you are going to get from him.

August ranking: #28

Last month: Robertson is done for the year, needing a shoulder reconstruction after dislocating his shoulder in the final championships game.

#27 Jeremy Sharp

East Fremantle/Western Australia | Outside Midfielder
13/08/2001 | 187cm | 79kg

One of a number of East Fremantle potential draftees, Sharp is a skilled midfielder who is capable of playing off half-back as well as along the wing. He is not a massive ball winner, but he is a terrific kick of the footy and is a run-and-carry player. Along with Jackson, Sharp is a potential top 10 player who is a good size at 187cm and has added some bulk to his frame over the off-season. He is one of just three players who earned All-Australian honours as a bottom-ager last season following a magnificent Under 18 Championships. Sharp is one of those players you want the ball in their hands going forward as he will likely pinpoint a target inside 50. One to watch if he can go to another level at his top-age championships.

August Ranking: #29

Last month: Finding his feet in the WAFL League competition, picking up 22 disposals and nine marks in the Round 19 clash against Perth as he showed he belongs in senior football.

#28 Cody Weightman

Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | General Forward
15/01/2001 | 177cm | 73kg

For the first two months of our Power Rankings, the electric small forward has been on the periphery of making it, and after a terrific national carnival – where he booted four goals in two of his three games – Weightman makes it into the Power Rankings in July. He has a high ceiling given he can create goals out of nothing and score from general play or set shots and has a powerful kicking action to boot. Just 177cm and 73kg, Weightman is another light prospect who has plenty of development left in him. Could be another player who lights up NAB League finals as he is a big game player.

August Ranking: #20

Last month: Very raw but talented, Weightman looked like he was going to tear the game against Murray Bushrangers apart in the Wildcard Round, but after a strong first half, was ruled out of the second half with concussion as the Stingrays got up in a tight one. He finished with one goal from 12 touches after being inaccurate the week before against the Falcons with three behinds from 16 touches playing mostly through the midfield. Did not play the first final due to the concussion sustained in the Wildcard Round.

#29 Cooper Sharman

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Forward
25/07/2000 | 190cm |

The Oakleigh Chargers product is the definition of a draft bolter, with clubs keeping him under wraps until he made his Chargers’ debut in the NAB League against Gippsland Power. He has since strung a few games together at the level and has plenty of exciting traits, both athletically and game-based. He knows where the goals are, is a reliable set shot and a great overhead mark. Looks damaging every time he goes near it. Is still raw and has areas to work on, but could certainly be the Sam Sturt of 2019.

August Ranking: #22

Last month: Had his first genuine test against a full-strength Sandringham Dragons’ outfit and held his own by booting two long-range goals from seven disposals and two marks, and is an X-factor heading into finals. The week before he booted two majors against the Jets from 10 touches and three marks, showing off his aerial ability against Emerson Jeka in one-on-one victories. Was quiet in the first final against Gippsland Power with his first time going goalless, while having the 13 touches, six marks and four inside 50s, but spent time in defence as well. His handball behind his head to set up a Reef McInnes goal right before quarter time was elite.

#30 Elijah Taylor

Perth/Western Australia | General Forward
01/05/2001 | 185cm | 75kg

Taylor has X-factor and plenty of scope for the future as a medium forward. He always looks damaging when in possession and a worry for opposition defenders when not in possession. He is still raw compared to other forwards, but his ceiling is quite high and no doubt clubs will keep him on their radar. He has been a talented player for some time, but he has started to string together impressive performances to put his name into top 30 calculations. A key player for Perth in the WAFL and stepped up during the AFL Under-18 National Championships.

August Ranking: #30

Last month: Booted two goals from 10 touches stepping up to the Reserves side at Perth over the weekend, backing up his two-goal effort from 16 touches at Colts level the week before.

2019 NAB League Boys Team of the Year announced

SANDRINGHAM Dragons have topped the nominees for the NAB League Boys Team of the Year, with four players receiving nods for their outstanding seasons. Top three sides Oakleigh and Gippsland each had three nominees along with 2018 premiers Dandenong, while 2019 minor premiers Eastern had two players make the team.

Of the 24 players selected, only two – Northern’s Sam Philp and Western’s Lucas Rocci – did not feature in the mid-year National Championships, with Philp receiving a National Combine invite on the back of his form. The squad features the likes of Vic Country MVP Sam De Koning at full back, as well as Country’s co-captains Caleb Serong and Lachlan Ash, while Vic Metro captain Noah Anderson slots in on the wing and their MVP Fischer McAsey comes in at centre half-back, where he earned All Australian selection. Mitch O’Neill is the sole Tasmanian representative, with the Devils competitive in their first full NAB League season.

De Koning and McAsey make up the spine of an exciting backline, with elite kicks Ash and Hayden Young familiarly poised on either flank, while the versatile Darcy Cassar fills a pocket alongside Brodie Newman. Jay Rantall is sandwiched by two Oakleigh stars in Anderson and Trent Bianco in the centre, with All Australian Charlie Comben rucking to Matt Rowell and Serong as followers. Up forward, swingmen Brodie Kemp and Josh Worrell fill key position spots in a dynamic six, with national carnival leading goalkicker Cody Weightman named in the forward pocket. Jack Mahony, Sam Flanders, and Mitch Mellis also feature having rotated through the midfield and forward half all year.

The team is headed by Coach of the Year, Eastern Ranges’ Darren Bewick.

Nominees per team:

BP = 1 – B. KEMP
CC = 1 – B. NEWMAN
DS = 3 – H. YOUNG, C. WEIGHTMAN, S. DE KONING
ER = 2 – M. MELLIS, L. STAPLETON
GF = 1 – J. CLARK
GP = 3 – S. FLANDERS, C. COMBEN, C. SERONG
GWV = 1 – J. RANTALL
MB = 1 – L. ASH
NK = 1 – S. PHILP
OC = 3 – N. ANDERSON, T. BIANCO, M. ROWELL
SD = 4 – J. WORRELL, J. MAHONY, F. MCASEY, R. BYRNES
TD = 1 – M. O’NEILL
WJ = 2 – D. CASSAR, L. ROCCI