Tag: vic country

Stat Leaders: 2021 NAB League Girls – Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls finals roared on over the weekend, with the grand finalists confirmed in a Saturday double-header at Werribee. There were a number of outstanding individual performances among the preliminary finals action, as players rose to the occasion. We take a look at this week’s stat leaders, as well as the season tallies to this point.

>> RESULTS: NAB League weekend wrap

Finals MVP contenders were among those to top the stats sheet across two entertaining preliminary finals, with a good spread across all four teams in action. Geelong Falcons midfielder Tess Craven showed just why she is her side’s prime mover, notching a round-high 24 disposals to help lead her region into this week’s decider. Among those 24 touches, 20 were delivered by foot – another high for the weekend.

Craven shared top disposal honours with gun Eastern Ranges bottom-ager Mia Busch, who also registered seven marks. A rebound machine, Busch proved difficult to pass in the Ranges’ defence, before shifting into the midfield in an attempt to provide some much-needed drive. Busch’s exploits this season have her pegged as an exciting prospect for next year’s draft.

Among the other stat leaders, Oakleigh Chargers midfielder Jasmine Fleming dished out 11 handballs in her side’s win over Eastern, while Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels pair Tahlia Meier (five inside 50s) and Molly Walton (six rebound 50s) were able to penetrate the arcs more than anyone else at respective ends of the ground. Teammate Kalani Scoullar also dominated the ruck, winning a monster 37 hitouts to also top the season charts. It was no surprise to see Ash Van Loon lay the most tackles too, with another 11 this time out.

A quartet of goalkickers were able to come away with multiples, in Oakleigh’s Eliza James and Stella Reid, GWV’s Paige Scott, and Geelong’s Renee Tierney. While Scott and Tierney are powerful types who can win games off their own boot, James and Reid have become increasingly accustomed to forward roles of late, but can also roll further afield. Tierney needs five goals in the grand final to tie Alyssia Pisano atop the overall goalkicking count.

Find the full list of elimination finals, and 2021 season stat leaders below.

PRELIMINARY FINALS STAT LEADERS:

Disposals:
Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges) – 24
Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons) – 24

Kicks:
Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons) – 20

Handballs:
Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers) – 11

Marks:
Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges) – 7

Tackles:
Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons) – 11

Inside 50s:
Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels) – 5

Rebound 50s:
Molly Walton (GWV Rebels) – 6

Hitouts:
Kalani Scoullar (GWV Rebels) – 37

Goals:
Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers) – 2
Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers) – 2
Paige Scott (GWV Rebels) – 2
Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons) – 2

2021 SEASON STAT LEADERS:

Disposals:
Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels) – 214 total / 21.4 average

Kicks:
Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels) – 173 / 17.3

Handballs:
Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons) – 100 / 11.1

Marks:
Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers) – 47 / 4.7

Tackles:
Perri King (Tasmania Devils) – 85 / 9.4

Inside 50s:
Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets) – 46 / 5.8

Rebound 50s:
Molly Walton (GWV Rebels) – 44 / 4.4

Hitouts:
Kalani Scoullar (GWV Rebels) – 204 / 22.7

Goals:
Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges) – 19 / 1.9

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls grand finalists were decided on Saturday, via an enthralling double-header at Avalon Airport Oval. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 6.10 (46) def. EASTERN RANGES 1.9 (15)

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Starting each quarter up forward as she has done for the past few games, Rowbottom continues to be a commanding presence wherever she lines up on field. She lead well in the forwardline, and whilst not always holding the mark she would generally knock it to the advantage of teammates to run onto. When she got a clean opportunity inside forward 50, she was far more keen to pass it off to other teammates than take shots herself. She showed off her power around stoppages and on the inside with some good burst to run onto and win the contested ball, even delivering a few fend-offs in the third quarter. She came out comfortably on top over any player that tried to run with her through the midfield, able to cover the ground and work hard to get back and help in defence better than her opponents.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Looked dangerous in the forward 50, with her past two games having been good performances, just missing the finishing touch at times. James looks really good with her leap, and whilst not dragging in every mark, she managed to get a touch on more often than not, tapping it to players on the ground. She is no slouch with her own work at ground level either, having a few clean one-grab pick ups in the forward 50.

#33 Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers)

It is unbelievable to think that this was just her second appearance at this level. Looking comfortably one of Oakleigh’s best players and biggest ball winner for the game, Fleming was a force through the midfield. Her work around stoppages was particularly good, winning the first of the day with a good burst of speed straight through the pack, before continuing that throughout the game. She had one of the plays of the day where she won the ball on the wing, took a bounce whilst burning an opponent and kicked it to the top of the 50, then ran past to receive the handball and then delivered it well to Charlie Rowbottom, who unfortunately missed the goal. That precision kicking and hard running for handball receives was a constant through the game, making all of her disposals damaging.

#16 Erin Woodford (Oakleigh Chargers)

After an impressive showing last week against a taller Calder forwardline, Woodford followed up, playing a crucial part in the backline. She positioned well behind the play, taking a few intercept marks without much issue before looking to kick long forward to numbers. Woodford also positioned well in contests to get front position, meaning she could run onto the ball if it was spoiled by opponents.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Having moved up forward for gradually longer stints over the season, it appears Reid is fully comfortable as a mainstay in the Chargers’ forwardline now, becoming a regular and reliable goal kicker, and target in the forward 50. Her leading patterns are impressive, particularly given she does not need much time or space to make things happen, reacting quicker than her opponents to get to good spots without much pressure, while also working them over. She was also good at looking for teammates inside 50 rather than blazing away.

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Busch has been a highlight for Eastern over the season and continued to live up to that against the Chargers, once again showing exceptional positioning behind the ball. She constantly moved towards it to get an intercept possession higher up the ground, taking it at speed and then kicking forward, looking to put it in front of leading teammates. The bottom-ager moved into the midfield in the final quarter and looked more than comfortable, suggesting a positional switch for season 2022.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Whilst she struggled to have the impact around the ground she has become renowned for, Campbell took advantage of her superior athleticism in the ruck to win almost every ruck contest she was involved in, with a game high 27 hitouts being her biggest return for the year. Even though she did not win a whole heap of ball around the ground, her follow up work around stoppages was impressive, getting low a few times and firing out handballs to teammates running past.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

A few factors have set Sherar out as a prospect for this season, with her burst of speed and ability to find the ball two of them. She managed to show those off once again in her last NAB League game for the season. What was also impressive from Sherar was the fact she was an aerial threat around the ground, showing off an impressive leap when required. While she seems to favour kicking, her hands in close are really impressive, with the ability to spot teammates through traffic and find a way to get it to them.

OTHERS:

Alexandra McCulloch was impressive in defence for the Chargers, almost playing as an extra midfielder at times with how high she got up the ground. Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers, whilst not as prolific as usual, were still influential for Oakleigh in the win, as was Charlotte Van der Vlies. For the Ranges, Bridget Deed was a strong winner on the inside for the day, offering assistance in defence as well. Matilda Hardy had arguably her best performance for the season on the wing, having some moments where she showed off her pace.

GEELONG FALCONS 5.6 (36) def. GWV REBELS 3.4 (22)

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV)

Had a difficult day looking for ways to get in it, being thrown about from the forwardline, to the wing, to the backline on multiple occasions. Although she struggled to get much of the ball or show off her usual high-level marking, Friend still commanded a player constantly on her and used the ball well when she did find it.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)

Starting the game in her usual backline role, Dojiok tried her best to intercept and impact the ball to different levels of success early on. She nabbed one particularly memorable intercept possession in the second quarter along the wing, where she went for a run and bombed it deep inside forward 50 to give GWV a chance to score. She moved into the midfield for a short period in the second half which worked wonders for her, and the Rebels, winning the contested ball with ease as a taller player through the engine room. She even got herself a goal for her troubles. That move looked to have given her confidence, as she returned the backline and looked far more assured and confident in her attack on the ball.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

It may have been her final game of the year at NAB League level, but fans and recruiters alike should be excited that we get one more year of Scott with the Rebels. After an impressive showing in the Country representative games, she came back to the NAB League in hot form, kicking five goals prior to the match with Geelong. She started the game in the midfield, winning the first clearance with ease and setting the tone for a really strong display. She continued to show her strengths, taking some contested grabs as a forward and looking dangerous on the lead. What was most impressive about this game was her increased work-rate and intensity, where her second and third efforts got her a second goal. In that instance, she dropped a mark but followed up with a tackle, knocking the ball loose and then putting it through the middle. She looked strong as a contested ball winner, running in and bursting out of the pack, then kicking long to get space.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Would have to be the form player of the competition currently, and is timing her run superbly as she helped book the Falcons spot in the grand final next week. Craven showed off immense stoppage craft all game, as one who regularly timed her runs to hit the ball with speed when it left the rucks’ hands, taking advantage of knowing where the ball was going each time. Once she started, she looked near impossible to stop. It has been noted previously that she is good at hitting those shorter kicks rather than bombing long, and she continued doing that this game, looking for and finding those kicks that would’ve been no more than 15 or 20 meters. They put the Falcons in a better spots to move forward. Craven showed she knows when to handball or kick as well, balancing well between them and not being overly reliant on either skill.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

A really consistent ball winner and strong inside player for the game, Simpson’s strength and ability to stand strong in tackles was extremely impressive. She would also get her arms free in those situations, where she was able to handball off to a teammate in space, or throw it on the boot to keep the Falcons moving forward. She was sound defensively around stoppages as well, regularly wrapping up Rebels players that broke free with the ball.

#2 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Meier is one of those zippy small players that just excites with her speed, agility and work-rate around the ground, especially the forward 50. That work-rate was highlighted constantly, as she kept going for second, third, and fourth efforts when around the ball, and it led to some almost moments in the forward half, where she almost broke away and got a goal at times, but the Falcons’ defensive setup kept her from snaring a major score.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Leonard has been one of the most consistent performers for GWV this season, and she stood up through the midfield for them against the Falcons in what will be her last game for the Rebels. Leonard positioned well throughout the game, sweeping up or marking uncontested hack kicks forward from the Falcons, but also attending stoppages to be a handball receive option before delivering well measured kicks forward.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Schaap struggled to get into the game early, held well by the bottom-aged Rebel Molly Walton in the first quarter, not something she has had to deal with of late. It did not last long though, as Schaap started to work more and more up the ground to get involved outside the forward 50, impacting every contest she was near – either winning the ball herself or laying a tackle to get it to spill for a teammate. Once again she looked good using the footy, with her quick hands to teammates in space particularly impressive.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Lee continued on from her good home-and-away season form. As arguably the biggest aerial threat afield, she punished the Rebels early on when they attempted to kick inside 50 without penetration behind their kicks. As usual, she used the ball effectively by foot as well, being another one that looked to move the ball into more central spots to open up the ground going forward.

OTHERS:

Molly Walton and Lilli Condon were two more that stood up at times through the contest for GWV, with Walton continuing to be an essential part of the Rebels’ defence and Condon showing off her speed and inside ball winning. For the Falcons, there were plenty of others that contributed well. Kara Stacey and Ash Van Loon were two that went through the midfield at times and provided a bit of spark. Renee Tierney was opportunistic in the forwardline, rewarding well placed kicks from midfielders and hitting the scoreboard.

2021 NAB League Girls: Preliminary Finals wrap – Chargers, Falcons reach decider

THE Oakleigh Chargers and Geelong Falcons progressed to the 2021 NAB League Girls grand final with respective wins in the weekend’s preliminary finals bouts. In a double-header at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday, the Chargers lived up to their minor premier tag to advance in dominant fashion over Eastern, while the Falcons were impressive in their ability to hold off a plucky Greater Western Victoria (GWV) outfit. We recap both games from what was a super Saturday of elite talent pathways action.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.3 | 2.6 | 4.9 | 6.10 (46)
EASTERN RANGES 1.4 | 1.5 | 1.7 | 1.9 (15)

Oakleigh Chargers became the first side to qualify for this year’s NAB League Girls grand final, via a convincing 31-point victory over Eastern Ranges. The minor premiers found themselves behind at the first break, but began to flex their muscle thereafter by keeping the Ranges goalless across three terms, while pouring on scoreboard pressure with 12 more scoring shots of their own. Ultimately, the 6.10 (46) to 1.9 (15) result only officially confirmed Oakleigh’s status as the top team in this year’s Metro pool, with eyes now on the top gong overall in next week’s decider.

Winning skipper Charlie Rowbottom lead her side superbly, rotating through the midfield from up forward to finish with 18 disposals, seven tackles, and three marks in a bullocking display. Fellow midfielder-forwards Eliza James (15 disposals, two goals) and Stella Reid (13 and two) were also impactful throughout Oakleigh’s charge, while second-gamer Jasmine Fleming topped her side’s disposal count with 22, including four inside 50s. Down back, Alexandra McCulloch and Erin Woodford were resolute, helping restrict the Ranges to just one major. Bottom-age jet Jemma Rigoni may be a bad luck story on the injury front, having ended the game on crutches.

Eastern was served well by a bunch of reliable figures, including Keeley Sherar in midfield. She found the ball 14 times but won it in important areas and looked to make each touch count. Mia Busch was kept busy in an under-siege defence, leading all comers with 24 disposals and seven marks in what was an exciting sighter for next year from the rebounding ace. Grace Walsh also played an important hand in a tough role down back, while the likes of Tilly Hardy (15 disposals) and Bridget Deed (18) worked hard, as did athletic ruck prospect, Georgia Campbell for 27 hitouts.

Oakleigh’s near-unblemished season rolls on to the big dance, with Geelong awaiting. The Falcons are the only side to beat the Chargers in 2021, so redemption may well prove a theme in Oakleigh’s effort. On the other hand, Eastern’s year comes to an end but the Ranges can be proud of a campaign where it seemed the squad extracted the best out of itself, finishing as the second-ranked Metro side.

GOALS:

Oakleigh: E. James 2, S. Reid 2, T. Morton, S. Morley
Eastern: G. Wilson

DC BEST:

Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom, E. James, J. Fleming, E. Woodford, S. Reid, A. McCulloch
Eastern: K. Sherar, M. Busch, G. Campbell, M. Hardy, G. Walsh, B. Deed

Eastern's Georgia Campbell competes with Oakleigh's Kalarni Kearns in the ruck

GEELONG FALCONS 1.1 | 3.6 | 5.6 | 5.6 (36)
GWV REBELS 1.0 | 1.1 | 3.1 | 3.4 (22)

Geelong Falcons held off a gallant GWV Rebels side on Saturday to earn top honours in the Country pool and advance to this year’s NAB League Girls grand final. The Falcons rode out tense moments and spurts of momentum belonging to the Rebels, making better of their own opportunities to come away 14-point victors. That theme was most evident during term three, where GWV looked like breaking back into the game, and potentially ahead, but could not quite overcome Geelong’s mix of class and solidity. A goalless final quarter saw the result finish 5.6 (36) to 3.4 (22) in favour of Geelong, with neither team losing any admirers for their efforts.

Falcons midfielder Tess Craven may well be the finals MVP at this point after another outstanding outing, leading all comers with 24 disposals and five marks, as well as three behinds. Aiding her in the engine room, Charlotte Simpson also ticked over 20 touches and Ash Van Loon got her hands dirty with 11 tackles in a typically strong display. Annie Lee (17 disposals, five marks) proved resolute as ever down back, as the forward combination of Renee Tierney (two goals) and Poppy Schaap (18 disposals, seven tackles, 1.2) caused plenty of headaches for the opposition.

GWV had an even spread of contributors, with leaders like Chloe Leonard (14 disposals, eight tackles) and Lilli Condon (12 and five) stepping up to the plate. Nyakoat Dojiok also ran through midfield and managed to kick a rare goal to give her side a momentary lift. Tahlia Meier proved dangerous forward of centre, as did dual goalkicker Paige Scott who got even busier once shifted to the forwardline. Down back, the presence of Molly Walton (13 kicks, six rebound 50s) was also important in helping repel some of Geelong’s attacks, while Kalani Scoullar commanded the ruck with 37 hitouts.

Geelong’s second grand final appearance in four seasons will pose a difficult task against Oakleigh, though the Falcons have already knocked off their future opponents in 2021. Having peaked at an ideal time, the Falcons are a good chance to go all the way. GWV’s incredible finals run comes to an end, having toppled Tasmania in week one and given the Falcons a red hot run in their final appearance.

GOALS:

Geelong: R. Tierney 2, P. Schaap, C. Adams, Z. Garth
GWV: P. Scott 2, N. Dojiok

DC BEST:

Geelong: T. Craven, C. Simpson, A. Lee, P. Schaap, R. Tierney, A. Van Loon
GWV: P. Scott, T. Meier, C. Leonard, N. Dojiok, K. Scoullar, M. Walton

Geelong midfielder Tess Craven fires off a handball

Scouting Notes: 2021 Victorian Under 23 Young Guns

THE Victorian Under 23 Young Guns showcase returned on Saturday, with the Country and Metro squads locking horns at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee. Metro ran out convincing 61-point victors, as players staked their claims for mid-season draft selection. The teams, which featured 48 NAB League products and no player over the age of 20, were essentially hand-picked by recruiters and provide an insight into just who may be on the draft radar. We take you through the top performers in our Scouting Notes, which are the opinion of the individual.

>> SCROLL for final scores and goalkickers

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Michael Alvaro

#1 Sam Conforti (Bendigo Pioneers)
15/03/2002 | 173cm | 74kg

One who looks to have gained a great deal of confidence through recent VFL exposure with Essendon, Conforti had the ball on a string during the early stages. Part of a relatively small Country midfield, the Bendigo Pioneers product was as busy as anyone around the ball and went about accumulating plenty of disposals during the first half. He proved difficult to catch as a slippery kind of mover who was constantly in motion, using his work rate to zip up and down the ground and get involved in chains of possession. Conforti nearly troubled the scorers with a flying shot from long range during term three, and having that kind of impact with his many uses of the ball will be another step in his development. He was also co-captain on the day, and has held multiple leadership roles though the pathways.

#2 Charlie Ham (Geelong Falcons)
11/11/2002 | 180cm | 74kg

Ham was part of Country’s under-siege defensive unit during the first half, but arguably did his best work when rotating into midfield after the main break. He looked to generate a bit of run on the rebound from half-back, but was met with heavy pressure which only cramped his style. When thrown into the centre bounces, Ham was able to compete at ground level and mopped up well with his clean hands. On one occasion, he dropped a mark in the back half but remained composed enough to sweep up quickly before dishing off to a runner. He made up for the previous missed mark in term four when the ball was wet, juggling an overhead attempt nicely.

#3 Kobi George (Dandenong Stingrays)
19/04/2002 | 182cm | 74kg

Having been overlooked as a Melbourne Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect last year, George has been able to showcase glimpses of his best traits in 2021. They all came to the fore in this outing, as the Dandenong Stingrays speedster provided great spark with his run-and-gun style. Even in precarious positions, George constantly looked to take the game and his opponents on with exciting dash from the back half, gaining good meterage before delivering by foot. Some of his disposals came off a touch wobbly at full tilt, though the 19-year-old was able to correct as the conditions got tougher. He is not always a huge accumulator of possessions, but had enough on this occasion to make a real impact and catch the eye. Unfortunately, George was helped off the ground in the final term, appearing quite proppy.

#5 Patrick Parnell (Murray Bushrangers)
4/03/2002 | 178cm | 60kg

There may not be much of the diminutive Murray Bushrangers defender, but it hardly mattered as Parnell went about his business with typical assuredness from defence. His turn of speed and willingness to move the ball on quickly from defensive 50 was an early feature, capped by terrific decision making. With most things happening at speed, Parnell was able to execute his skills with aplomb, including one particularly memorable inboard kick across his body to hit a target at half-back during term one. The 19-year-old is a very neat kind of player who is reliable in tough situations and seems to understand the game well. He impressed with his spurts of possession, but has plenty of size to put on.

#7 Will Bravo (Dandenong Stingrays)
6/05/2002 | 181cm | 77kg

The worsened conditions after half time suited a player of Bravo’s style more than most, as he worked to compete for ground level possession and drive the ball forward in strong bursts. As one of Country’s starting midfielders, Bravo was up against it given Metro’s size and strength in the engine room, though he was not afraid to get stuck in at the coalface and got first hands to the ball a few times. He also showed a bit when afforded more space, using his pace to generate momentum moving forward and chaining possessions in those thrusts. The 19-year-old also applied solid defensive pressure and got his hands dirty in a tackling sense, but can look to add polish with his disposal.

#11 Will Papley (Gippsland Power)
26/11/2002 | 178cm | 78kg

Constantly compared to his elder brother, Tom given their uncanny resemblance in style and mannerisms, Papley remains an exciting player in his own right. Starting in his familiar forward post, the 178cm prospect presented nicely on the lead and showed handy forward craft when looking to work his opponents under the ball. He had three set shots on goal during the first half but could not quite make up the 40-plus metre distance from relatively tough angles. On two occasions, those attempts led to scoring shots nonetheless. The 18-year-old would later transfer his defensive pressure to the midfield as he was shifted after half time, but arguably looked most at home inside forward 50. With good smarts and the competitiveness his pedigree would suggest, Papley can certainly make things happen.

#12 Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons)
8/07/2002 | 180cm | 79kg

The Country co-captain accumulated possessions in a manner which we have now come to expect, working hard both ways from his usual wing position. On a deck which he would be familiar with having trained with Werribee’s VFL side, Gribble read the flow of play nicely and got on his bike to get to position wherever the ball was about to be. He was also a viable option off the centre bounces, able to receive just outside the contest and attempt to continue the chain for his side. The Geelong Falcons top-ager also found the goals in term two thanks to a very generous Caleb Ernst handball, finishing easily from about 25 metres out. Gribble would continue to rack up possessions and while he could be more damaging in his disposal or neater under pressure, he showed nice composure in one instance to weave and hit a short kick at half-back in the final quarter.

#22 Caleb Ernst (Bendigo Pioneers)
12/10/2002 | 194cm | 91kg

Ernst consistently looked like the most dangerous key position player for Country, presenting beautifully up forward and finishing as his side’s sole multiple goalkicker. He took advantage of the dry ball early on with a couple of terrific overhead marks; one coming from the back of a two-on-two contest on the wing, and the other a strong pack grab in the goalsquare, which resulted his first goal. Ernst would continue to present nicely and gained good separation with his combination of strength and athleticism. His finishing was the only issue at times, and a hand-off to Noah Gribble in the second term may have highlighted his wavering confidence in that area. Nonetheless, the Bendigo Pioneers tall went on to showcase his versatility by pinch-hitting in the ruck and even attending centre bounces during term four, in which he added his second major from close to the big sticks.

#23 Mutaz El Nour (Northern Bullants VFL)
14/08/2001 | 192cm | 83kg

Somewhat a surprise packet on the day, El Nour was ultra impressive in Country’s backline. The Western Bulldogs NGA graduate proved as consistent and reliable as anyone afield in his role, constantly getting into good positions to intercept before using the ball with wonderful composure on the rebound. His short kicking game was sound, as was his decision making by hand when working out of tight spots. The VFL-listed talent also made smart runs to receive and relieve others of pressure, working the percentages well as his side became increasingly besieged. El Nour was also able to use his height to compete aerially when needed, mostly bring the ball to ground or spoiling, but also taking a couple of nice intercept marks. Overall, he could well have been the player who looked most comfortable at the level, putting his name on the radar from seemingly nowhere.

Others:

Richmond VFL-listed prospect Sam Durham had his moments for Country, building nicely into the game from the wing. Dandenong Stingrays tall Bryce Milford started in defence but was later swung up forward, competing well at both ends. Murray’s Daniel Turner also played a key role down back with some super work and decision making under immense pressure. Jai Neal was another to show signs up forward, as did Aaron Gundry rotating there from the ruck. The likes of Jack Hickman and Charlie Byrne got their opportunities through midfield, as did Isaac Wareham having started in defence, but the going was tough for all.

VIC METRO:

By: Declan Reeve

#6 Corey Preston (Eastern Ranges)
18/12/2002 | 181cm | 77kg

Usually stationed as a small forward, Preston got to show his capabilities as a winger for essentially the entire contest. He took his time to work into the game as he was on the opposite side of the play or just couldn’t get a clean possession. When he started getting into it, it felt like he was impacting every time he was near it; causing turn overs with his pressure work, pushing down into defence to win it and get it forward, or handballing to central teammates. He did all he could to get the Metro side moving dangerously. 

#7 Darby Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)
15/08/2002 | 182cm | 82kg

One of the few who was consistent across the four quarters having run through midfield all game, Hipwell looked comfortable throughout even with the constant physicality – looking to have gained confidence from his games at VFL level with Sandringham Zebras. He was regularly the first possession winner around stoppages, where he’d so often look to handball out the back to a player in space, copping contact when required and standing strong in the tackles. He was a real lead by example sort, often looking for targets in the corridor and weighting his disposals well by foot.

#9 Joel Trudgeon (Northern Knights)
13/08/2002 | 186cm | 86kg

Spent the first half working into the game, spending time in the forwardline where his hard work at ground level and aggression on opponents got him opportunities to set up goals, where he’d put the ball in the right spot for a teammate to run onto. It was the second half when he was given more midfield time that he came to life and showed his skill at ground level. Even with oncoming pressure, he’d hold his composure and win the contested ball, following up with a handball to a teammate and then running hard to get it back or apply a shepherd to allow them to run through without pressure. 

#10 Charlie McKay (Sandringham Dragons)
9/08/2002 | 186cm | 83kg

The Carlton father-son prospect spent the first half of the game as a defender, where he positioned well in marking contests to take quite a few intercept marks, either waiting for the ball out the back of a contest or even taking contested grabs further up the ground. The second half saw him move to the midfield for an extended period, where he looked extremely comfortable in and under the contest, and his prowess as a clearance winner came to the fore.

#15 Sam Clohesy (Calder Cannons)
12/12/2002 | 189cm | 72kg

Got more and more of the ball as the game went on, seemingly building in confidence with each successful disposal. Played well when he was in the high half-forward sort of role, providing an option as a link up player in transition where his long and penetrating kick would open up the Metro forward 50 and result in a shot on goal. Showed some good pace at times as well, mixed with a little bit of agility to get around opponents and then release the ball.

#17 Luke Cleary (Sandringham Dragons)
5/03/2002 | 189cm | 80kg

Far from the best day to be showing off your skillset as a defender for Metro, Cleary still managed to pop up and have his nice moments throughout the game. Positioned well behind the play in a similar fashion to the other Metro defenders, Cleary was not afraid to push up the ground when the ball was inside his teams’s forward 50 to jump on any long rebounding kick. This positioning got him a few intercept marks, one in particular impressed in the third quarter, where he ran back with the flight of the ball and took it on the chest in front of a pack in the goal square. He took some riskier kicks in the defensive 50, most of which paid off, where he’d look to move it out quickly straight through the corridor.

#19 Marc Massarotti (Eastern Ranges)
29/09/2002 | 191cm | 91kg

Despite being an undersized target up forward, Massarotti managed to impact all around the ground as he worked hard to win the ball or provide an option in the forward half. Had a really good moment early in the first quarter where he ran onto the ball that had been kicked over his head, cleanly picked it up, took a bounce and slotted Metro’s second goal, all while out-running three opponents. He also showed that despite his height he has some classic small forward traits, able to rove and crumb balls well in the second half in particular, to end the day with two goals.

#20 Cody Raak (Western Jets)
8/10/2002 | 192cm | 80kg

Coming into the game as one a well known name, the Western Bulldogs NGA prospect looked to be one of the more confident and comfortable players throughout the game. Started in his usual role in the defensive half as a safe pair of hands to chop off incoming Country bombs, where more often than not he’d look to switch the play or hit a central option after marking in an effort to get Metro moving in transition quickly. When Metro started to comfortably get on top in the second quarter, Raak pushed up to ground to do the same sorts of things, giving the Country defence no rest. Not content with a solid defensive display, Raak moved forward in the second half, where the aforementioned marking skill came out again, paired with some really good leading patterns that resulted in him finishing with two goals for the day

#21 Dominic Akuei (Northern Knights)
12/05/2002 | 192cm | 78kg

The Carlton NGA prospect was impressive in his first game not being a number one ruck. With Smith in the side, Akuei was given the freedom to ply his trade down in defence, where his elite leap and marking ability led to two particularly memorable moments. Both times, he got up on the shoulders of opponents to take the ball above his head. Perhaps seen as risky given he was in defensive 50 for both of these, it was an eye-catching display of confidence and skill. He moved the footy well by foot, delivering darting kicks to inside 45 options every time the opportunity presented itself. He then played mostly on a wing in the second half, where he looked comfortable with his positioning and ability to hold space, again utilising that marking a few times to hand Metro possession and move quickly. 

#22 Samuel Paea (Calder Cannons)
14/07/2002 | 194cm | 94kg

Whilst not prolific in a ball winning sense, the tall forward impressed with his leap, burst of speed and leading patterns throughout the game. As Metro’s main target up forward, he constantly provided as an option and worked hard up the ground in an effort to work over his opponents. There was one particular mark inside 50 in the second quarter, where he wasn’t expecting his teammate to pass it off, but he reacted to the kick splendidly, hitting top speed after only a few steps and then leaping to take the ball at the highest point he could. Ended the day with two goals despite the second half providing poor conditions for a tall marking player.

#25 Riley Smith (Eastern Ranges)
31/07/2000 | 200cm | 104kg

The captain of the Metro side, and convincingly one of the better players of the game, Smith added his hat into the ring as another ruck option for the upcoming mid-season draft. In the absence of Ned Moyle (Collingwood VFL), Liam Podjashki (Preston Bullants VFL), Jacob Edwards and Max Heath (not selected), Smith took the opportunity as the main ruck to prove that he is one of the most physically ready rucks in Victoria outside of the AFL. He used his strength to get front position in the ruck contest, pushing his opponent aside as he tapped the ball well for his midfielders. Also showed some neat skills in the game, with one particular kick, where he moved it from the wing to the middle of the forward 50 mark, evading an opponent in the process, proving this well. 

Others:

Small forwards Eren Soylemez and Harrison White were good at ground level all game, showing some nice bits of speed and agility on their way to two goals each. Lachlan Riley was particularly prolific early on in the midfield, before moving into the backline and looking solid the few times it came down to him. Logan Young wasn’t necessarily a major ball winner, but was clean with his hands and foot skills when called upon and looked comfortable playing in defence.

FINAL SCORES:

COUNTRY 2.0 | 3.3 | 3.3 | 5.6 (36)
METRO 4.1 | 10.4 | 13.9 | 14.13 (97)

GOALS:

Country: C. Ernst 2, X. Mitchell, N. Gribble, I. Wareham
Metro: E. Soylemez 2, M. Massarotti 2, H. White 2, S. Paea 2, C. Raak 2, J. Arundell, L. Riley, R. Smith, D. Hipwell

DC BEST:

Country: D. Hipwell, R. Smith, S. Clohesy, C. McKay, C. Preston
Metro: C. Ernst, M. El Nour, K. George, W. Papley, N. Gribble

2021 NAB League Girls preview: Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls premiership contenders have been whittled down to four after an enthralling opening week of finals, with the knockout bouts setting up this week’s preliminary final stage. As the postseason draw remains split into Country and Metro pools, Saturday’s double-header at Avalon Airport Oval will decide which regions are left standing to play off for ultimate glory.

In the day’s opening game, minor premier Oakleigh will look to flex its muscle against the Eastern Ranges, after both regions progressed through the elimination round in style. The Chargers remain the team to beat having dropped just one game this season, but Eastern cannot be counted out after knocking off the reigning premiers.

Looking at the Country equation, the third and fourth ranked regular season sides mixed it up last week to create an intriguing matchup this time around. The Geelong Falcons and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels are those teams in question, both with some terrific top-end talents to be showcased at midday.

We preview both fixtures with a look at form and the key matchups.

METRO POOL

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Eastern Ranges
Saturday May 8, 10:00am
Avalon Airport Oval

Top seed, Oakleigh Chargers will lock horns with Eastern Ranges to decide which side will represent the Metro regions in this year’s NAB League grand final. The Chargers have set the benchmark in 2021 having only lost once during the regular season, but have not yet been able to test themselves against the Ranges. Eastern finished as Metro’s second-ranked team with its 6-2 record, with either loss coming to fellow finals contenders. Both teams are on win streaks, with the Ranges riding high on four-straight victories, while Oakleigh returned from the break well to get up twice in the last fortnight.

Oakleigh’s squad dynamism will be a feature to watch in this clash, with many of their top-end talents able to shift and impact across multiple lines. Skipper Charlie Rowbottom is often at the heart of their cause, starting at full forward in recent weeks before bullocking her way into the game through midfield. Stella Reid is also among the starting forwards and has added a goalkicking string to her bow this season alongside Eliza James. Another in that midfield-forward rotation could be Amanda Ling, who is so tough and consistent at ground level. Further afield, ‘Chook’ Brooke Vickers and Charlotte Van Der Vlies run the wings, as Charlotte Taylor forms the centrepiece of a sturdy defence.

If there is one Metro region which can compete with Oakleigh for inside midfield strength, it may be Eastern. The one-two punch of Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar has been wonderful to watch, with the likes of Jorja Livingstone benefitting on the outer. Isabelle Khoury has also entered the centre bounce mix, which is capped off by athletic ruck Georgia Campbell. Tilly Hardy and El Chaston, who have both gained VFLW experience this year, are forward threats, along with competition leading goalkicker Alyssia Pisano. The 15-year-old talent has proven she is not afraid of the big stage and can kick a bag if afforded too much leeway.

The minor premiers should rightly enter as the favoured side in this match, but will be given a good shake by Eastern’s competitiveness and even spread across the ground. It all starts with the midfield battle, which should prove a tight one, as both teams like to make an impact at the contest. Whichever side can get on top at the coalface and provide greater opportunities for the match-winners in the front half, will go a long way to being crowned this year’s top Metro region.

COUNTRY POOL

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Saturday May 8, 12:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

The Geelong Falcons and GWV Rebels battle it out at midday on Saturday to decide which team will not only be crowned the top Country region in 2021, but also progress to this year’s NAB League grand final. Both teams took out higher ranked opposition in last week’s elimination final round, with Geelong powering past Dandenong while the Rebels caused a momentous upset over top seed, Tasmania. The Falcons got the better of their weekend rivals all the way back in Round 1, winning by 10 points on home turf in what was a competitive hitout throughout. Plenty has change since then though, and there will be plenty of confidence bouncing around both squads given their recent exploits.

Geelong was pegged as one of the teams to beat during preseason and have not disappointed, boasting high-level talent on each line. Starting in defence, the Falcons are rock-solid with the likes of Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling among those who repel nicely across half-back, impacting aerially and with their disposal. Up the other end, Renee Tierney is the spearhead with dynamite athlete Gabbi Featherston ahead of her as another marking target. At ground level, Poppy Schaap has rolled forward a lot more in recent weeks and Zoe Garth is impartial to a goal. Delivering the ball to them often times is Tess Craven out of the middle, who will once again be supported by bottom-agers Charlotte Simpson and Ash Van Loon at the centre bounces.

GWV lays claim to a head of top end prospects, with arguably none more exciting that its two AFLW Academy members Ella Friend and Nyakoat Dojiok. The pair are capable of bookending this lineup with aerial dominance, but Friend is wonderfully versatile and could well end up waxing with Dojiok in defence. Last week’s match winner, Paige Scott is capable of tearing the game apart at any moment, named in midfield but likely to head forward where Tahlia Meier is also a threat. In the middle, Kalani Scoullar makes for an imposing ruck figure, while Lilli Condon is as hard-working as they come with her run and ball winning ability at ground level. Add the experience of Chloe Leonard to that midfield rotation, and GWV are ultra competitive.

If their Round 1 meeting is anything to go by, this clash should be an absolute belter. Geelong is a side which seems to be peaking at the right time, with their form built on a wall-like defence and reliable figures where it matters most, complemented by forwards who consistently convert. The Rebels have the potential to be equally as damaging on their day and will look to control possession, but should be tested well in their usually strong aerial department. This is a clash where you cannot rule either side out, and both should bring a true finals intensity to the fore.

Full squads: 2021 Victorian Young Guns showcase

THE ANNUAL Victorian Young Guns showcase is back in 2021, with Metro and Country squads set to battle it out as prospects look to stake their claims for mid-season draft (June 2) selection. Bouncing down at 2:30pm tomorrow at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee, the fixture will see a selection of Victoria’s brightest Under 23 talent fielded all at once.

Though the parameters have been set at the 23-year-old limit, no player selected is older than 20, with 48 of the nominated prospects coming from the NAB League – including the entire Metro team – and just four out of the Victorian Football League (VFL). With players essentially hand-picked by AFL recruiters, the match promises to provide a useful insight into who is on the draft radar at this point.

>> SCROLL to see the full squads

SQUAD SNAPSHOTS:

Metro

Among the Metro standouts are a couple of talls who come in fresh off some VFL exposure. Oakleigh Chargers bigman Ned Moyle is one of them, and he looms as a favourable mid-season draft option having also turned out for the AFL Academy recently. The other is Calder Cannons ruck-forward Liam Podhajski, a fast-developing type who has proven his upside this year. The pair respectively played for Collingwood and Northern Bullants at state league level.

Some promising Next Generation Academy (NGA) graduates are also in the mix, with Cody Raak (Western Bulldogs) among them. The marking defender has been a level above the NAB League and recently earned a VFL berth with the Bulldogs. The raw athleticism of Carlton-tied prospect Dominic Akuei should also catch the eye, he can rotate up either end of the field while pinch-hitting in the ruck with a huge leap.

Bulldogs and Blues fans should also be on the lookout for a pair of father-sons in NAB League top-agers Ewan Macpherson and Charlie McKay. Both were overlooked last year but have returned in fine form, boasting good size as inside midfielders who win plenty of ball at the coalface, but can also rotate back to defence. Macpherson was also seen kicking a bag of five goals for local side, Diamond Creek a fortnight ago.

Elsewhere, skilled small forward Corey Preston remains on the radar after fighting for a preseason supplementary selection spot at the Western Bulldogs. The likes of Darby Hipwell (midfielder, Sandringham), Dylan Thomas (forward, Collingwood), Sam Paea (key forward, Essendon) have all gained VFL experience this year, while Logan Young is a West Australian native who crossed to play with Sandringham Dragons this year. He is a tall midfielder who has also rotated forward.

Country

Country will field the only four non-NAB League listed players on Saturday, including one of just two selected 20-year-olds in Aaron Gundry. The 201cm Bendigo Pioneers product is a developing ruck who currently plies his trade for Carlton’s reserves. Isaac Wareham (Geelong VFL) and Sam Durham (Richmond VFL) are familiar names with plenty of their own upside, while 2019 Bulldogs NGA graduate Mutaz El Nour (Northern Bullants) rounds out the state league selection.

Dandenong Stingrays speedster Kobi George is Country’s sole current NGA prospect, tied to Melbourne, but the likes of Will Bravo and Charlie Byrne have experienced the rigours of AFL-level training having fought for preseason supplementary selection spots at Hawthorn and Essendon respectively, before rolling back into the NAB League system come season proper.

Among those with VFL exposure this year are nippy Bendigo Pioneers smalls Sam Conforti and Jack Hickman. Both have turned out twice for Essendon’s reserves side and showed plenty – particularly in last week’s outing against Carlton. Expect them to rotate forward through midfield, or station on the outer. Geelong VFL-listed pair Charlie Ham and Marcus Herbert will also play, having turned out against the AFL Academy last month.

Ham, the brother of Essendon’s Brayden will be joined by another brother-of in the squad. Will Papley, who has similar forward craft to his elder sibling Tom, also earned a berth in the side and will likely start inside attacking 50 with the potential to roll into midfield. Elsewhere, watch for the work-rate of wingman Noah Gribble, who has impressed in the NAB League after tearing his ACL last year.

FULL SQUADS:

Metro

1. Jake Arundell, 18, 169cm, 65kg, Eastern Ranges
2. Harrison White, 19, 175cm, 70kg, Western Jets
3. Eren Soylemez, 19, 179cm, 82kg, Sandringham Dragons
4. Ewan Macpherson, 19, 179cm, 82kg, Northern Knights
5. Tom Blamires, 18, 180cm, 76kg, Sandringham Dragons
6. Corey Preston, 18, 181cm, 77kg, Eastern Ranges
7. Darby Hipwell, 18, 182cm, 82kg, Sandringham Dragons
8. Harrison Keeling, 19, 183cm, 68kg, Eastern Ranges
9. Joel Trudgeon, 18, 185cm, 90kg, Northern Knights
10. Charlie McKay, 18, 186cm, 83kg, Sandringham Dragons
11. Lachlan Riley, 19, 186cm, 85kg, Sandringham Dragons
12. Dylan Thomas, 18, 187cm, 77kg, Oakleigh Chargers
13. Liam Conway, 19, 188cm, 87kg, Western Jets
14. Ben De Bolfo, 18, 188cm, 79kg, Northern Knights
15. Sam Clohesy, 18, 189cm, 72kg, Calder Cannons
16. Fraser Elliot, 18, 189cm, 88kg, Oakleigh Chargers
17. Luke Cleary, 19, 189cm, 80kg, Sandringham Dragons
18. Logan Young, 19, 190cm, 84kg, Sandringham Dragons
19. Marc Massarotti, 18, 191cm, 91kg, Eastern Ranges
20. Cody Raak, 18, 192cm, 80kg, Western Jets
21. Dominic Akuei, 18, 192cm, 76kg, Northern Knights
22. Samuel Paea, 18, 194cm, 94kg, Calder Cannons
23. Flynn Maguire, 19, 195cm, 82kg, Oakleigh Chargers
24. Riley Smith, 20, 200cm, 104kg, Eastern Ranges
25. Felix Flockart, 19, 202cm, 80kg, Sandringham Dragons
26. Liam Podhajski, 18, 202cm, 99kg, Calder Cannons
27. Ned Moyle, 19, 205cm, 87kg, Oakleigh Chargers

Country

1. Sam Conforti, 19, 173cm, 74kg, Bendigo Pioneers
2. Charlie Ham, 18, 180cm, 74kg, Geelong Falcons
3. Kobi George, 19, 182cm, 74kg, Dandenong Stingrays
4. Jack Hickman, 19, 177cm, 71kg, Bendigo Pioneers
5. Patrick Parnell, 19, 178cm, 60kg, Murray Bushrangers
6. Clayton Gay, 19, 183cm, 77kg, Dandenong Stingrays
7. Will Bravo, 19, 181cm, 77kg, Dandenong Stingrays
8. Marcus Herbert, 18, 181cm, 81kg, GWV Rebels
9. Flynn Young, 19, 181cm, 69kg, Geelong Falcons
10. Isaac Wareham, 19, 183cm, 81kg, Geelong VFL
11. Will Papley, 18, 178cm, 78kg, Gippsland Power
12. Noah Gribble, 18, 180cm, 79kg, Geelong Falcons
14. Charlie Byrne, 18, 184cm, 79kg, Murray Bushrangers
15. Sam Durham, 19, 190cm, 82kg, Richmond VFL
16. Cobi Maxted, 18, 188cm, 88kg, Bendigo Pioneers
17. Bryce Milford, 18, 195cm, 82kg, Dandenong Stingrays
18. Xavier Mitchell, 18, 191cm, 78kg, Bendigo Pioneers
19. Daniel Turner, 19, 191cm, 79kg, Murray Bushrangers
20. Ryan O’Keefe, 19, 192cm, 69kg, Bendigo Pioneers
22. Caleb Ernst, 18, 194cm, 91kg, Bendigo Pioneers
23. Mutaz El Nour, 19, 192cm, 83kg, Northern Bullants VFL
24. Cameron McLeod, 18, 192cm, 78kg, Murray Bushrangers
25. Jai Neal, 18, 192cm, 88kg, Dandenong Stingrays
27. Mason Hawkins, 19, 198cm, 82kg, Gippsland Power
28. Aaron Gundry, 20, 201cm, 91kg, Carlton VFL

The game is set to be streamed live via the official AFL app and website. Stay tuned to Draft Central for scouting notes on the outstanding players from both sides.

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Elimination Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition rolled on into finals action over the weekend, with three games played on Saturday and one on Sunday. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve 

AFLW Academy:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Unsurprisingly Prespakis lead all comers for disposals for the day. She often sharked first possession off the rucks’ hands and then followed up with her classic long kicks forward, or the drew in opponents to handball it off to a teammate she just relieved of pressure. The real highlight of her game was how well she competed on the inside against one of the strongest midfield groups in the competition, racking up a game high 12 tackles and showing she wasn’t letting the Chargers mids walk it out of stoppages easily. Spectators were fortunate enough to see her and fellow AFLW Academy star Charlie Rowbottom go head-to-head at times, with each of them getting a few bragging rights moments through the contest.

 #18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Started the day as the deepest Calder forward, with the coaching staff looking to take advantage of the Chargers’ lack of height in defensive 50. She competed well when the ball entered attacking 50 and interestingly, despite being 190 cm, she looked at her best when the ball hit the ground as she followed up extremely well to get quick hands up to teammates. Unfortunately she dropped a few marks she would’ve usually held, perhaps due to the increased pace and pressure of finals. 

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Finding herself split between the midfield and forwardline evenly across the contest, Rowbottom’s influence on the game, particularly through the midfield, can’t be overstated, with her burst of speed being difficult for Calder to deal with. She looked to move the ball by hand a lot as opposed to blindly kicking the ball which led to some nice passages of play for Oakleigh. However, you could say she was too team centric at times, looking to pass off inside 50 most of the time she got it which kept Oakleigh off the scoreboard more than they could’ve been. A real point of difference is her overhead marking which she got to display a couple of times, taking one particular pack mark that, despite getting tackled by Georgie Prespakis, resulted in a dangerous inside 50.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Consistently found ways to show off her burst of speed and agility, weaving through packs and getting away well weighted kicks forward, or handballing to teammates under less pressure. The hard working midfielder provided plenty of spark around stoppages. She found her way around the ground as well, with a defensive focus to her game, getting down back to help out her team under siege, where she even managed an impressive intercept mark which led to a dangerous piece of transitional play that almost resulted in a goal.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

Has possibly flown under the radar this season with Prespakis and Yassir arguably flashier, but Friswell’s contribution to the strong midfield trio has been monumental throughout 2021 and the game against Oakleigh was no different. She returned a rounded game where she did everything well; unselfish with her ball use, looking to find teammates in space to spread Oakleigh’s defence, and switching the ball across the forward 50 often to create a bit of chaos. Similar to other teammates, her hybrid style of play in the midfield made Calder dangerous, able to crack in and win the contested ball and clearances, but also just as capable at holding her space and receiving a handball out the back or when running past.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

Putting in arguably her best performance for the year, Lennox had a game to be proud of as a key defender. Usually playing on Oakleigh’s resting midfielders like Charlie Rowbottom or Amanda Ling, she adjusted to each opponent promptly and looked assured throughout the contest, not conceding a goal at any point. Taking the kick-ins for the day, she’d always run the ball out 15-20 meters and then kick a long bomb well out of the defensive 50 in an attempt to get Calder moving quickly in transition.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Getting her highest disposal count for the season in the contest, McLeod chose the right game to show her proficiency as a winger. Often the target of the kick-ins for Calder, or playing on the ‘dead wing’, McLeod was always an option, putting herself in the right spots all day to receive the ball on the outside and holding her space well. She also used the ball well by foot, looking to spot up targets in more central parts of the ground or inside 50.

#39 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Playing in all thirds of the ground, McDonald showed that she’s got the scope to play anywhere going forward, and at a high level. She’s proven throughout the season that she understands how to play her role, and works well within the Calder structure to adjust what she does to suit her teammates. When she gets the ball, she just uses it so well, never asking too much of her teammates with well weighted kicks or handballs put just in front for them to run onto. As a 2004 birth, she’s one that looms as a major part, in any area of the ground, of the Cannons’ 2022 campaign.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Ling had a performance to remember. Whilst not winning as much of the ball as she usually does, the moments she had with and around it were extremely influential. What was perhaps most impressive was her lateral movement, even under pressure, able to maintain top speed even when evading opponents. It wasn’t uncommon to see her run straight towards opponents and then take a side step, with the opponent unable to do anything about it. She used the ball well to follow up on those side steps too, hitting a few kicks to the top of the goalsquare to give her teammates the best opportunity to score.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing forward for what felt like the entire game, Reid didn’t let that hurt her disposal numbers. Pushing up the ground to act as a high-half forward link up player, she was involved in everything in the front half of the ground; taking marks, winning loose balls and setting up teammates. She was also one of two multiple goalkickers, with the opportunity to get two or three more on the board as well, but she chose to move the ball on to better positioned teammates showing a sense for teamwork – a common theme amongst the Oakleigh squad that played a big part in the win.

#31 Sarah Morley (Oakleigh Chargers)

Putting in her best shift for the year, Morley was one of the benefactors from the team focus that the Oakleigh squad played with, getting involved in some chain bits of play that led to either her getting on the scoreboard or her team getting a scoring opportunity. Morley threw herself at everything, not letting the Cannons defenders have anything easy, while also taking a couple of nice marks that led to her setting up teammates for shots on goal. 

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps most impactful in the final quarter where she got an extended run through the midfield, James’ burst of speed, agility and toughness at the footy were real sparks to keep Oakleigh going forward consistently through the middle of the ground. She did well to win first possession off of the ruck taps and then quickly handball off to teammates under less pressure. If she got it in space herself, she measured her kicks well, looking to get them more central. 

#37 Charlotte Van der Vlies (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing in her usual wing role, Van der Vlies was able to impact contests on her side of the ground well, generally winning the contest by getting the ball herself, or putting in a bump/shepherd that allowed a teammate to get it out and keep going forward. She proved a nuisance for the Cannons defence, often at the fall of the ball when they rushed a kick out of the Chargers’ forward 50, using the ball well by foot to get it central or back inside 50.

#23 Caitlin Matthews (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing an underrated role in the defensive 50 for the Chargers, Matthews was impressive in her defensive craft; winning one-on-ones with a spoil, or drifting across and impacting contests to get the ball loose and then follow up at ground level. From there, she picked it up cleanly off the ground and then got distance behind her kicks outside of defensive 50. She was also confident to push off her opponent and just sit behind contests to quickly pick up spilled balls.

OTHERS:

For the victors, the influence of defender Erin Woodford can’t be overstated, winning multiple two-on-ones in the final quarter to stop Calder scoring, and doing well to nullify Gillard throughout the contest. Lily Hart was again a big part of the midfield for the Chargers, as Mia Clift and Charlotte Taylor were impressive as rebounding defensive options. For the Cannons, Trilby Sheppard did well in defensive 50, whilst Reese Sutton was also lively through the game, having some good moments in the forward half.

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Put in a solid performance in what will be her last NAB League appearance. Chaplin’s strength on the inside and around stoppages is one of her standout traits, being able to win contested possession without much issue even with opposition hanging off her. This goes hand in hand with her composure and smooth moving through traffic to make her a really damaging ball winner, where she’ll win it, get free and kick well forward. When playing a role in the defensive 50, she has natural defensive nous, with just little things like standing goal side of her opponent or having an arm across them giving her the advantage when the ball comes in.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

It has become glaringly evident that Jordan is a seriously good ball winner through the midfield, and she’s only going to get better. Despite being shorter than most, she’s got such a hunger to win the footy that leads to her being involved in everything. She manages to get the ball in contested situations and work her way out to give it off to a teammate under less pressure. What’s most impressive is her tendency to move the ball on by hand, it’s not uncommon for the highest ball winners in NAB League to look to bomb long, so that composure and maturity at such a young age is an extremely good trait. 

#23 Lulu Beatty (Northern Knights)

Had a difficult job through the game with the ball constantly around the Northern defensive 50, but Beatty held up under the pressure to be arguably the best defender on ground. She positioned well in contests to be at an advantage almost every time, giving her the best opportunity to use the ball well going forward and start a dangerous counter attack. Pushed up the ground as well to help lock the ball inside the Northern forward 50, setting up just outside to create a contest with Eastern players waiting for a rebound. 

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Continued her goalkicking ways from the home-and-away season, booting three on the way to a brilliant victory. Two of her goals came at vital moments; when the game was still there to be won by Northern, it was Pisano that would step up and put the nail in the coffin after having missed a few easier shots earlier on. It wasn’t just the goals that impressed and impacted from Pisano, she was able to push up the ground and win possession as far as the defensive 50 mark, following up with her trademark penetrating left-foot kick, usually a good 35-40 meters down the line. Her work through traffic was also eye-catching, able to side step her way around opponents to get separation.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

The super athletic ruck had a day out for Eastern, playing a big part in their ability to get first hands on the ball and clear it forward to keep pressure on the Northern defence. She has developed and improved her ruck craft throughout the season. Having the athletic advantage more often than not, she’s worked on her tap work to be one of the premiere rucks in the league in that regard, putting it right in front of her teammates every time.

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Has improved game on game, and it has led to her being one of the standout defenders in the competition, with her ability to run both ways and offer plenty in both offensive and defensive play making her a consistent part of the Ranges’ transitional passages. Her ball use around the ground is exceptional, composing herself before getting the ball to a teammate, usually further up the ground. She was involved in one particular bit of play, where she won a one-on-two at the top of the defensive 50, swept up the loose ball and delivered long to a teammate, who then kicked it onto Alyssia Pisano for her third goal of the day. 

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

The major ball winner for the contest, Deed was constantly involved in play around the ground. However, what was most noticeable was her work rate to get down and assist in the backline, with her positioning in particular being the key reason to her good performance, even getting herself some quick uncontested intercept marks during the latter stages in the game. She was strong on the inside as a ball winner that fed out to other midfielders or kicked long forward into dangerous spots.

#5 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Playing arguably her best game of the season in her standard wing role, it was Livingstone’s endurance running and ability to work both ways that stood out and put her name in contention for best on ground. She held her space really well throughout the game, being a much needed outlet for the Ranges as seemingly everyone else on the ground wanted to get into the contested scraps.

OTHERS:

Keeley Sherar, Ruby O’Dwyer and Isabelle Khoury were all big parts in the Ranges’ win, bringing spark around the midfield. El Chaston was a dangerous forward target, setting up a few of the goals, whilst Grace Walsh was consistent down back. For the Knights, Phoebe Nelson, Riley Wilcox and Teleah Smart all had good moments in the midfield and around the ground, all bringing positive run to Northern’s side.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Since returning from the Under 19 Championships matches, Schaap has played extended stints forward to great success, again getting on the scoreboard against Dandenong, but playing a much more team orientated game, looking to pass off essentially every time she got the ball rather than take the shot herself. She found a good balance between pushing up the ground acting as an extra midfielder, and staying down forward as a crumber which played a big part in the Falcons’ dominance, with her natural ball winning and quick hands in-close opening the game up often and leading to scoring shots for Geelong.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

A game to put on the resume, Craven showed that she has the ability to impact the scoreboard heavily when allowed a little more freedom to move forward. Her first of the day came just 30 seconds into the match from about 40 meters out, after getting the clearance, handing it off and getting it back straight away. Her ball use was at its usual high standard, being one of the few to look to use the width of the ground rather than always moving straight forward, finding unopposed teammates that allowed them to get a clearer path forward. She looked to be a handy outlet option for her teammates as well, getting into the short inside 45 spots and often being used, then hitting teammates up to keep the chain going.

#9 Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons)

Played as the most permanent part of Geelong’s midfield for the game, with her positioning around the ground, especially stoppages, being the highlight for her. She’d manage to win the first possession off the rucks’ hands and then flick it off by hand to a teammate that was already close to top speed, giving the Falcons quick ball movement entering the forward half of the ground. Used it well by foot as well to hit some good targets, even when under pressure.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Featherston benefitted from the quick ball movement coming forward at times, making her a dangerous figure. As a player that possesses great speed and athleticism in general, she was able to react quickly and leap to try and take the ball high or quickly turn and run onto a ball over the top, beating her opponent in the foot race. She used the ball well, hitting targets in better spots than her if she wasn’t in a good position to go for goal, but also comfortable to back herself in and take some shots herself. Acted as the relieving ruck for the game as well, with the previously mentioned athleticism coming out.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

The 2022 Geelong and St Kilda father-daughter prospect is the embodiment of an inside bull, utilising her strength and relentless hunt on the footy to win the contested ball and get it going forward by foot. She also looked good with her marking, providing contests with her bodywork really solid in those marking jostles, nudging players off balance to get the advantage as the ball flew in. 

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Fresh off her VFLW debut with the Southern Saints, Radford returned to Dandenong looking more confident and happy to take the game on. As she has so often done this year, Radford was thrown about into all areas of the ground as Dandenong tried to plug the holes as they popped up. Looked good with her positioning all day, making herself a genuine option wherever she was, then using the ball well when she got it – proving well balanced between kicking and handballing. Looked most impressive in defence where she made plenty of contests to stop certain Geelong goals, and rebounded well. Radford also got herself on the scoreboard for her hard work. 

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked the most aerially dangerous in Dandenong’s defence and moved the ball out of defensive 50 with speed, looking to take the game on with her run-and-carry at times, then delivering a long kick forward into space for the forwards to run onto. Hill was defensively sound throughout, making opposition forwards work hard with their leading and work at ground level to win the ball.

#44 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked solid as a rock for Dandenong in defence, being one of the few defenders that were happy to push up out of the defensive 50 and impact further up the ground, which led to her taking some impressive runs on the wing and delivering inside 50 with her well weighted kicks, even getting herself on the scoreboard as a reward for effort. She used the ball well coming out of defence too, looking to spot up targets rather than bomb down the line, in an attempt to stop Geelong’s constant stream of inside 50s.

OTHERS:

Zoe Garth and Ingrid Houtsma were also good for Geelong Falcons, with Garth getting a goal playing predominantly as a high half-forward and Houtsma playing the wing role well before going off in the fourth quarter, after a rough tackle. Annie Lee looked assured in defence when it came down, often pushing out to impact play on the wing. For Dandenong, bottom-agers Felicity Crank and Olivia Robinson looked solid and worked hard all day, playing a variety of roles but still popping up everywhere. Ashleigh Richards also had some good moments playing mostly forward. 2023-draft eligible tall Bianca Lyne was the standout in the ruck all day, leading the game for hitouts and regularly jumping higher than her opponents.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

Had another strong performance throughout the four quarters by winning her fair share of the ball in-close and extracting it out of the stoppage to try and get it forward. Once again it was her tackling pressure that really shone in the match, and whilst she might have rushed some of her earlier kicks, she put in a good kick to Amy Prokopiec in the second term, and worked hard moments later to slide in and mark the ball 35 metres out straight in front. Whilst the set shot fell short, she continued to push hard throughout the game and had one of the last inside 50s of the game.

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Rotating between forward and the wing – and even dropping back into defence to provide an aerial presence at centre half-back, Friend was one of the more prominent players in the game. A couple of times both she and Paige Scott led to the same spot which saw the ball knocked to ground, but Friend was incredibly lively up the ground, setting up Scott and her teammates inside 50 with scoring chances thanks to her booming left boot. Continually looking to thump it deep, Friend kept winning the ball through the midfield.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Providing good run out of defence and positioning herself well in the back 50 to gobble up any high balls, Dojiok was a difficult player to stop in transition. Her bombing down the field was hit and miss in terms of accuracy, but her ability to just get in the right spots to intercept and then drive it forward as she has all season was uncanny. She ran all game long and became a real problem for the opposition forwards who had to try and stop her in the air to try and contain her, which they focused on doing later in the game.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Brooke Barwick (Tasmania Devils)

The pocket rocket 15-year-old looked experienced beyond her years, having some eye-catching plays throughout the match. In particular, during a couple of back-to-back plays in the third term where she won the ball on the wing and drove it forward on multiple occasions. For a smaller player she has a fierce attack on the contest and is not afraid to get stuck in, making for plenty of upside in her game.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Was particularly busy early, winning plenty of the ball. She provided hard running and fierce defensive pressure, taking a couple of good marks and spreading into space to move the ball in transition. She showed good strength at one stage to fend off an opponent and handball inside 50, as well as taking a good mark late in the game at the top of the forward 50. Had a fair impact on the contest as a whole.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

The classy midfielder used her clean hands through the middle and composure under pressure to be one of the best Tasmanians on the day once again. Her ability to have the footy smarts whilst being tackled on the ground in the goalsquare to firstly keep the ball in, and then give it off to the moving Prokopiec to kick a goal from point blank was terrific. Ransom herself kicked a clever early goal to get the Devils on the board, and then had a flying shot in the fourth term which just bounced into the post. As a whole her attacking plays were impactful from the get-go. She did get caught once holding the ball which is very rare, but otherwise had another impressive performance.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

Covered the ground really well, winning the ball in the midfield, attack and in defence. She showed off her deep long kick going inside 50, and then worked hard on the outside to receive the handball and keep running. In the fourth term, Maurer won a free kick at half-forward but her kick was smothered, though she kept pushing and finished the game with a well-balanced array of touches all over the field, as well as high-level defensive pressure.

#23 Charlotte Dennis (Tasmania Devils)

Played a rock solid role in defence, especially when the Rebels had the ascendancy, standing up under pressure and taking a number of strong marks, then moving the ball out of the danger zone in transition. Perhaps her best moment was a courageous grab with contact coming in the third term, backing herself to win the ball and save a potential goalscoring chance for the opposition.

#24 Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils)

Was a really lively forward and could have had a huge day out, finishing with 2.3 for her troubles from eight touches. Forgetting the stats, her impact on the game was certainly high, working hard to lead to spots and then doubling back to try and worry the opposition on the last line. She kicked a goal from the square thanks to a handball from Ransom, then kicked a second with a set shot 30 metres out straight in front, a quarter later. Taking a couple of strong grabs in the second half, Prokopiec uncharacteristically missed a couple of chances, including one late in the contest, but could be proud with the work rate she produced.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

Good players stand up when the game is on the line, and while Scott booted the four goals to put them in front, Condon’s last term – in particular the last 10 minutes – was absolutely outstanding. She had a flying shot on the goal herself which missed, but her ability to keep running hard throughout the entire match, including when many were tiring was unbelievable. She seemed to find space with ease and brought as much defensive pressure as she did offensive work. Showing clean hands on the inside, Condon had the ball on a string and was really influential throughout the match, but was particularly noticeable when every touch mattered late in the game.

#2 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Stepped up with another strong performance after a good one in Round 9. The talented midfielder had a powerful kick early in the game from half-back to the wing and then pushed deeper back to smother a set shot on goal which forced a ball-in. Her intensity at the contest earned her a number of free kicks, and she teamed up well with Condon by extracting the ball from in-close to get it outside. A huge tackle on Ransom when very few can catch her was impressive, and she finished with a solid four-quarter effort with some nice plays in each term.

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

The match-winner and like she did for Vic Country, showed just what she is capable of when on-song. Kicking the team’s four goals, Scott could have had an even bigger day out with three behinds as well. She played a lot deeper than she has in other outings, often utilised as the player to isolate one-on-one deep, and she took advantage of her strength and footy IQ to create separation from her opponent – be it one-on-one, on the lead, or getting to the right place for an uncontested grab. After three goals in the space of five minutes during the second term, she capped off her day with a fourth from 25 metres out in the third term, narrowly missing one after a tough mark shortly after.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Consistent as they come, Leonard was again easily one of the Rebels’ best, laying some fierce tackles and just bullocking her way on the inside to win the ball and get it out to teammates. She provided good run when on the outside and covered the ground well by winning the ball in all thirds of the ground. She stood up in tackles and won free kicks for her attack on the contest, and just did what she had to do in crunch moments to be a leader amongst the group and really impact the contest.

OTHERS:

From Tasmania’s standpoint, Jemma Webster, Priscilla Odwogo, Aprille Crooks and Candice Belbin all had some impressive moments throughout the match, while Charlie Vandenberg worked well around the ground early. For the Rebels, Stella Bridgewater, Jorja Jones and Ally Trigg had some nice moments throughout the game, Kalani Scoullar took control at the ruck stoppages, and Molly Walton was reliable when needed in defence.

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 3

VICTORIA’S hottest AFL Draft prospects returned for Round 3 of the 2021 NAB League season on the weekend, with plenty of top end talent scattered across the six fixtures. Our scouts were on hand to take note and run you through the top performers from each game, in their opinion-based Scouting Notes. Check out some of the top performers from the 12 talent regions in action.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Hamish Spence

TASMANIA:

#1 Baynen Lowe

Lowe provided a spark whenever he was near the ball, with the 17-year-old splitting his time up forward and in the midfield. He’s a point of difference in the middle with his bursts of speed around stoppages and he looks dangerous anytime he’s inside 50. His leading patterns and strong forward craft saw him take six marks and kick 2.2, while also gathering 20 disposals. He looms as one of Tasmania’s more exciting prospects heading into this year’s draft.

#3 Oliver Davis

Tasmania’s main conduit around the contest, Davis played his usual role as a powerful inside midfielder. He started strongly in the first half, to the point that Eastern started accounting for him more around stoppages in the second half. He starred in the clearances and contested game, finishing with 23 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s. After unluckily going undrafted last year, Davis has strung two impressive performances together to kick off the season.

#4 Samuel Foley

Foley anchored a stout performance from Tasmania’s back six, who restricted the Ranges to just one goal in the first half. He wasn’t afraid to play aggressively and go for the ball, while still being accountable to his direct opponent at centre half-back. In a nice turnaround from last week, he also won several key one-on-one contests, after giving way to Jackson Cardillo against Calder in Round 2. Foley and Tyler McGinniss (his fellow key defender) read the ball well, creating a contest and bringing the ball to ground if they couldn’t mark it. He finished with 18 disposals, six marks, and seven inside 50s in an impressive defensive performance.

#5 Oliver Sanders

Sanders was the most prolific midfielder on Saturday, finishing with an equal game-high 29 disposals, five marks and four inside 50s. He possesses a natural ball-winning ability and knows how to create space around stoppages, often helping the Devils with their attacks going forward. He had a nice moment in the third quarter when he went back with the flight and took a strong mark on the right-hand wing.

#6 Sam Banks

The Devils’ captain led from the front, starring in a best on ground performance off half-back. Banks got the ball rolling with the first goal of the game and was a constant force all match, finishing with 29 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s and four rebound 50s. His ball movement out of the backline often set Tasmania up and he remained level-headed when the team was put under pressure in the second half. Unfortunately, he suffered a suspected broken wrist in the final quarter, which could keep him out for several weeks.

#21 Jacob Young

Young was the most dangerous key forward on Saturday because of the way he presented and marked the ball. He has a safe pair of mitts when he hits full flight and he looked likely all game. He started strongly in the first quarter and didn’t let up, flying for every contest and crashing packs throughout the match. He kicked 2.1, while gathering 11 disposals and clunking six marks. After the Devils’ tall forward set-up struggled to fire last week, the way Young, Noah Holmes and Will Splann worked together and gave each other space was encouraging to see.

EASTERN:

#1 Tyler Sonsie

Sonsie shone through in what was a tough day for most of his teammates, leaving as Eastern’s best player. He was good all game, but had a noticeable impact in the third quarter when there was a hint of a Ranges comeback. He was a threat around stoppages and provided the x-factor that his side needed by kicking two of their four goals for the term, including a neat checkside on the run. He also had 21 disposals in a performance that reinforced his status as one of the top prospects heading into this year’s draft.

#5 Jake Soligo

While he didn’t gather the footy as much as some other players, it was Soligo’s unrelenting pressure and competitiveness that made him stand out. After the Ranges were left shellshocked by the Devils’ dominance in the first term, he was one of the players who immediately lifted his standards, exactly what you’d expect from your co-captain. Eastern was ambushed and tackled 19 times in the first quarter, but it went on to win the tackle count, with Soligo contributing a game-high eight of them. He also had 16 disposals and five inside 50s, and his ball use was often effective despite most of his possessions being contested.

#9 Mitchell Sruk

Sruk was put under constant pressure due to Tasmania’s repeat inside 50 entries, but the half-back flanker didn’t lower his colours and stood up consistently. He led his team in disposals with 22 and the game in rebound 50s with nine. He got plenty of touches because the ball lived at his end of the ground for large portions of the game, but it was his clean decision-making and the way he intercepted the Devils’ attacks that made him one of Eastern’s better players.

#21 Corey Preston

Preston was key to getting his side going in the third quarter, with the Ranges’ coaching staff utilising him in a unique way. He would start at the top of forward 50 during every centre bounce, before running onto the back of the contest and playing as a midfielder from then on. His blistering speed meant this added a new element to Eastern’s game at centre clearances and his work at the contest around the ground was strong. This meant he didn’t spend as much time up forward as in previous weeks though. He finished with 18 disposals, five tackles, four inside 50s and two behinds, with his impact in the second half lifting the team around him.

#29 Harrison Keeling

Keeling had a workman’s like game, running all over the ground and covering an enormous amount of territory. He played his role as a wingman, being an outlet on the outside and supporting his teammates. His hard work saw him rack up 20 disposals, five tackles, four inside 50s and kick one goal. He continued the form that has seen him among the Ranges’ best to start the year.

#30 Jack Diedrich

Diedrich was easily the best ruckman on the ground, finishing with a game-high 32 hit outs (the next best was 10 from Noah Holmes). His dominance didn’t translate at times during the match, with Tasmania winning the midfield battle in the first half. But when Eastern started to get on top in the third term, there was no way to stem his influence. He didn’t make the biggest impact around the ground with just eight disposals, but he still had some key moments. He put himself in the right spots to compete in marking contests and there were a couple of times where he kept a cool head when he was involved in general chains of play.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

GIPPSLAND:

#4 Nathan Noblett

Had a solid game across the board, but was particularly noticeable late in the game, taking a number of strong intercept marks. Showing good hands and an ability to get to the right spots, he tried hard in the defensive 50. One of the better ones in the air in defence.

#5 Chance Doultree

Won plenty of the ball in close, Doultree was able to amass more touches than anyone else on his team. He worked hard to push around the ground against the momentum and even kicked a goal in the last minute to bring the margin back to under 12 goals.

#6 Mitchell Moschetti

Arguably the most noticeable Power player across the four quarters, Moschetti just kept having a crack and then took it upon himself to hit the scoreboard. His work rate in particular, spreading from the contest and winning in space was strong, and he kicked his first goal off the outside of the boot running into goal in the second term. His second major came early in the fourth, and he working hard right to the final siren as one of the prime midfield movers.

#23 Jai Serong

After a quieter first term, Serong began building into the game, and used his size around the ground to spread and take some important marks. He was used in transition from the back half to the forward 50, and whilst it was a tough day for the Power, he generally used it well and was able to have more of an impact as the game went on.

NORTHERN:

#2 Ned Long

A really exciting talent because of his size and versatility. He kicked three goals for the game, with his first a clever snap, then handed off another chance to a free teammate to set him up. He kicked his second major in the goalsquare with a quick boot to ball, then took a good mark and spun well in the fourth term to kick his third. In between his bursts of goals, Long went into the middle and found plenty of the football, using his bigger body to advantage and having an influence around the stoppages.

#3 Josh Ward

Had the ball on a string throughout the match, and whilst he was one of hte few Knights that did not end up hitting the scoreboard, he kept plugging away in close and getting the ball out. A consistent four-quarter performer, Ward did his fair share of defensive acts, and drove the ball forward to end up with the most touches on the field with 33.

#7 Ewan Macpherson

It was an even team performance, but Macpherson might have been the best on the lot. Kicked a couple of goals including a couple of tricky long-range set shots from around 45m out with the blustery wind, then would go into the midfield and create an option. He racked the ball up and did not take a backwards step, laying tackle after tackle and putting his body on the line. He was consistent throughout the four quarters and moved well in the forward half, to utilise his run in transition, and his hardness at the contest.

#9 Darcy Wilmot

Was a rock in defence early, intercepting anything that came his way and opting to switch and try and create more run from the back 50 to the forward 50. As the Knights began to control forward half possession, he did not have a great deal to do, but still pushed up and aided where possible. Used the ball well by foot and was composed under pressure, and was one of the best on in the opening term when the game was alive.

#19 Joel Trudgeon

Another standout performer from the Knights, Trudgeon was hard to stop inside 50, slotting three goals from 29 disposals in a remarkable performance. He missed an early set shot after a great mark, then dropped a rare chance, before seemingly having sticky hands throughout the game. He marked on the line to grab a cheapie one metre out, but worked hard with a couple more great goals, including one from the pocket after a great run. Strong hands and good work rate inside 50, also pushing up the ground to be a leading target.

#22 Jack Rossimel

Showed some promising signs throughout the match, able to kick a couple of goals, though the second was from the goalsquare following a 50m penalty for a late push in the marking contest. His first major was a snap around his body in the second term, ad then a set shot drifted to the right midway through the third. He presented well, and whilst he did not win as much of it as others, took some strong marks and led hard at the footy inside 50.

#26 Dom Akuei

As eye-catching as they get when it comes to athleticism, Akuei has a ridiculous leap, but also has remarkable footy IQ both in the air and at ground level. Time and time again he would leap up and palm off to a midfielder as part of a set play, but when he battled against a couple of opponents on the ground, quickly tapped it out to the extra number on his team rather than take possession. He won a free kick and sidestepped his opponent to gain a few extra metres and kick forward, and was relied upon to be a link in the chain and provide an option around the ground as he did.

#28 Joel Fitzgerald

Another player who just found the ball at will, Fitzgerald worked hard for his touches and finished with the second most on the ground with 30. He would accumulate them and quickly give off or look to get it forward, but also worked defensively when needed to help out the defence. Just a solid four-quarter performance across the board.

#33 Mackenzie Hogg

Could well have been best-on had it not been for an injury early in the third term. His eight disposals, three marks and 2.2 might not look like much, but factoring in that it was effectively from a half of footy, really showed what he could do. The majority of it was also in the second term where he kicked well off his left running in with the breeze to put one through, then nailed his set shot from a tighter angle after marking close to goal. He had another couple of early snaps in the third term for two behinds, then by the third minute was helped off.

#39 Emilio Rinaudo

Showed some great toe around the ground and ended up getting on the end of a couple of goals. His athleticism – which helped him quick a goal thanks to a quick-thinking sidestep in the second term – was a standout of his on the day. He ran down an opponent with his pace in the fourth term, whilst his hard running was rewarded early prior to the previously mentioned goal with a clever snap from the pocket after picking it up cleanly in challenging conditions.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Michael Alvaro

SANDRINGHAM:

#4 Josh Sinn

It was somewhat of a hit-and-miss kind of day for Sinn, who found a good amount of ball but took a few attempts to settle and use it as well as he can. Having been utilised on the inside earlier than expected, Sinn again showed his value there after being granted starting status at the first centre bounce. His size and explosive traits proved a handful around the contest, but it was in situations where Sinn broke on the outer which were arguably more eye-catching. He pumped forward 10 inside 50s and while plenty of his early attempts were turned over or scuffed, Sinn was able to gain confidence by hitting his targets at a greater rate thereafter. Having copped a knock to his calf in the final term, he was put on ice ahead of the AFL Academy game this week.

#11 Jack Peris

This was far and away Peris’ best competitive outing in Sandringham colours, with the St Kilda NGA prospect showcasing his rare athletic traits and causing headaches with his forward movement from the wing. He notched 17 disposals and looked to take the game on with each, backing his speed to burn opponents and showing flashy agility to weave out of sticky situations. Peris is still quite light, so was caught on a few occasions, but was able to produce a game more indicative of his potential this time out. He capped his day with crafty goals in the first and final quarters.

#17 Finn Callaghan

Callaghan is a prospect who built a decent reputation during preseason, but has more than delivered on that early promise three rounds into the NAB League season. The flying wingman was recently added to the AFL Academy squad and richly deserves it on the back of Saturday’s effort, in which he showcased all his best traits. Callaghan was a relentless force on the outer, proving difficult to stop with his size, speed and agility on the move. He constantly looked to break lines with aggression, putting Sandringham on the front foot and driving his side forward superbly. He kicked cleanly and made good decisions, including in the fourth term when he baulked the man on the mark at half-forward before unleashing a terrific long goal from 50 metres out. Watch his rise.

#18 Darby Hipwell

The Sandringham co-captain is one who has actively recognised and worked on his deficiencies to produce some really solid form early this season. He racked up the equal-most disposals on Saturday with 27, working hard to not only win his usual possessions on the inside, but to also make his mark in all areas of the ground. Hipwell led with intent, using good strength at the contest and proving difficult to beat at ground level – as is expected of the 19th-year prospect. He brought a greater accumulation factor this time around and was able to penetrate both arcs too, making for a well-rounded midfield game. He could be one to now move in to the VFL system given his top-age status.

#42 Luke Cleary

One who showed enough potential to earn a National Combine invite last year, Cleary has built up a good head of steam in 2021 having been overlooked at the draft table. Stationed in his familiar defensive post, the 189cm prospect had his most prolific outing to date on the stat sheet with 21 disposals, eight marks and four rebound 50s. His numbers were indicative of his game, able to read the play and set in perfect position to intercept – whether that be aerially or at ground level. From there, Cleary used the ball typically well with shrewd decisions in tight spots, showing his cool head in a crisis. He’s just a reliable figure back there and knows his role well.

#70 Jacob Edwards

Edwards has been touted for mid-season draft selection and it is not hard to see why, with the agile big man again impressive for the Dragons in a big win. He started up forward where his marking has been a real feature, before rotating into the ruck and further showcasing his leap. Edwards’ mobility and work around the ground is also noticeable, though he cuts a raw figure and has some work to do before becoming a physical, contested marking force at senior level. The fast-rising tall again found the goals with two majors at the same end, snagged in the second and fourth quarters. As far as 200cm players go, his consistent output has been outstanding.

DANDENONG:

#6 Connor Macdonald

Having set the scene alight last week with an absolute blinder, Macdonald was arguably Dandenong’s most productive player once more. He was the sole Stingray to tick over 20 touches, finishing with 25 to go with six marks and three tackles. His work rate and accumulative factor again came to the fore, as the 184cm talent penetrated either arc and was able to find the ball in all areas of the ground. He was up against it given Sandringham’s midfield strength, but was a near-permanent fixture there for Dandenong and showed nice speed away from the contest. Macdonald capped his day with a goal, thanks to being awarded a 50-metre penalty just outside his side’s attacking arc.

#10 Clayton Gay

All 15 of Gay’s disposals on Saturday were kicks, which you could have guess given the attack-minded style he adopted. Starting out on the wing before being trialled on the inside, Gay was able to launch the Stingrays forward with his penetrative boot and did so in style on many occasions. His punchy action made for eye-catching spear kicks into the corridor, which were indicative of Dandenong’s intent with ball in hand. As the pressure gauge lifted, those kicks would more often be sent long down the line, but still carried good meterage. Gay has proven his versatility and natural footballing skills, which could set him up for some VFL action in 2021 seeing as he is a top-ager.

#14 Will Bravo

Bravo was a real driver of the ball for Dandenong with his speed and intensity through midfield. That intensity could be observed in both an attacking and defensive sense, as he looked to run with ball in hand and burst away from congestion, while also working back to apply a game-high 10 tackles. Dandenong may not have had the size of some of Sandringham’s midfielders, but Bravo was once who looked to bridge the difference with hard work and some good presence around the ball. Having started on the inside, the top-ager was moved to a variety of roles as the Stingrays shuffled the magnets throughout.

#22 Mac Andrew

The 200cm ruck continues to show great potential and was duly added to the AFL Academy squad. His raw ability and versatility as a tall are exciting, with Andrew spending a good amount of time up forward and contributing strong work around the ground. He finished with four marks for the day but showcased some really nice traits in that area, able to utilise his reach to easily beat smaller opponents while also marking strongly in contested situations. The Melbourne NGA prospect also converted a goal in the second term and may make Demons’ list managers sweat with his top 25 potential, especially in such a strong draft for midfielders.

#46 Justin Davies

Again playing an unheralded role against some dangerous forwards, Davies stood up well and was able to bring forward some of his own best traits on Saturday. He is a pretty good mover for his size and competes well aerially, meaning he can cover all sorts of key forwards. Davies was also able to swing forward and show some nous there, booting a goal in the final term and again looking promising with his work in the air.

WESTERN JETS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Eli Duxson

WESTERN:

#26 Cody Raak

Raak was the General for the Jets defence having a say in most contests and rebounds inside defensive 50. The still weather allowed him to display his aerial prowess where he made good decisions to either mark or spoil the ball, being very effective at both. He read the flight of the ball terrifically, as well as the play where he opted to zone off from his opponent and intercept mark. After one particular intercept he earnt himself a free kick for holding the ball, highlighting his defensive ability both in the air and on the ground. Offensively, he kicked much more than he handballed, but that was partly because his teammates often looked for him to clear play. He was trusted with most of the kick outs and was efficient with his field kicking all game. Raak finished the game with 33 disposals (25 kicks), seven marks, and 10 rebound 50’s.

#33 Billy Cootee

The Jets skipper was valiant all game putting in big efforts deep into the game when the result was beyond doubt. He showed a good mix of inside and outside efforts utilising his speed as he was clean in tight through hands but managed to find space often and be a target. He took 11 marks for the game and displayed a penetrating kick when he was found. A set shot for goal made the distance quite comfortably off just a few momentum-gaining steps as the man on the mark was on the 50-metre arc. Cootee finished with 24 disposals and five inside 50’s.

#35 Liam Conway

The big-bodied midfielder was strong from the outset showing composure and cleanliness in congestion. He had a knack of getting first hands on the ball at stoppages when it was in his vicinity either through relentless bustling or good use of his body. However, his eagerness did result in five conceded free kicks. His first few steps are powerful and allows him to build momentum quickly so he can get into space to dispose of the ball, or break through tackles. Once the ball was cleared, he covered the ground well to find possession or zone off defensively. Conway managed 26 disposals and five tackles for the game.

#50 Paul Tsapatolis

Tsapatolis had a tough battle with Chargers ruckman Ned Moyle where he narrowly lost the hit out count but managed to make an impact forward kicking two goals. He was clean below his knees for his size but often got flustered and rushed with possession. He at times got caught out with his defensive positioning and running but showed good endurance to get to most stoppages as the Jets primary ruckman. He had 10 disposals and 15 hit outs to go with his 2 goals.

OAKLEIGH:

#1 Youseph Dib

The speedy small was seen all over the ground at times but spent most of the game playing half-back and around the middle of the ground. He was utilised in an Adelaide Crows Charlie Cameron-type role streaming off half-back into the centre bounce and actually gaining possession and breaking the line on one occasion. His acceleration and strides were impressively quick which he used to apply immense pressure, laying six tackles for the game. He was reliable with his disposal and when he did miss a handball, his follow up work allowed him to win possession again or help a teammate. He took a terrific intercept mark in the third quarter and was stringent defensively. Dib finished with 20 disposals and six inside 50’s in his best game this season.

#3 Nick Daicos

A class above and clearly the best-on-ground again as he amassed 40 disposals to go with two goals, nine marks, and 11 inside 50’s. He could not stay away from the ball it seemed as he patrolled the middle of the ground and snuck forward to rest. His first goal came from a free quick and his second out the back in the goal square, although he did manage a further four shots that would miss. Two of them were in the final term where he had options to pass, but instead had a shot from 50 metres and another tight against the boundary. Both minor blemishes in a game where the result was out of question and the sting was out of the game though. He looked like he had so much time when he had possession and very few of his 40 disposals would have been ineffective. His set up at stoppages varied and was clearly making to the hit zones, but he then worked hard to spread from stoppages, sometimes at the detriment of his defensive running. He also did a good job of directing teammates and being constructive in structural set ups. Will be interesting to see whether he remains at NAB League level and boosts his draft stock or opts to develop in the VFL.

#8 Fraser Elliot

Backed up a good performance in Round three where he had 18 disposals and 11 tackles, but his defensive ability was not required as much in their comfortable win. Rotating through the middle and forward, the big-bodied midfielder was strong in tight and showed good hip and core strength to remain upright through contact. Often the extractor, he handballed more than he kicked and was clean and level under pressure. Although his tackle count was low, his defensive work rate highlighted his endurance as he often made his way to defensive 50 stoppages or linked up in rebounding forays. Elliot also managed a goal to go with his 19 disposals.

#14 Sam Darcy

The lumbering defender found himself in the ruck where he was serviceable, but his intercept marking and kicking efficiency in defence put him as probably the second best-on behind Daicos. Darcy finished the game with nine marks and most of them would have been interceptions or contested grabs. He read the flight of the ball much better than his opponent and was clean in his one-grab overhead marks. His kicking long and short was consistent and he even showed confidence in his opposite boot late in the game. He had 21 disposals (16 kicks) to go with his nine marks as well as seven hit outs.

#27 Karl Worner

Playing predominantly off half-back and between the arcs either on ball or on the wing, Worner also enjoyed his best game of the season. He found space often enough to accumulate possession with his 10 marks, one notably going back with the flight to mark courageously. He looked calm with ball in hand with a great mark and hit up inside 50 in the first quarter a feature. 22 disposals was his final tally with 13 kicks and nine handballs indicative of his inside/outside mix.

#64 Ned Moyle

The Oakleigh ruckman had his toughest matchup to date in Tsapatolis but managed a minor victory. It was a relatively even ruck contest all game, but he edged out his opponent by three hit outs with better positioning often a factor. Rucks a bit like Oscar McInerney in the sense he is not overtly athletically gifted with his leaping ability like a Nic Naitanui, but he times his jump well and is mobile and fit enough to cover good territory. He often outworked Tsapatolis in that regard as he was able to push back defensively and get in the way of Western’s forward movement. He worked hard the other way too as he pushed forward at times when Darcy gave him a break. Moyle managed a goal early in the second term with a nice mark and set shot. He looked comfortable with ball in hand and found the ball 11 times to go with his 18 hit outs.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Michael Alvaro

BENDIGO:

#1 Sam Conforti

The 19th-year prospect was as productive as any Pioneer on Sunday, ending as their most prolific ball winner with 23 touches. Rotating through the engine room from attacking 50, Conforti was his busy self at ground level and attended a high amount of stoppages. He exited traffic on a few occasions with good agility, using his nous to find a way forward or dish out quickly to bring others into the game. His best moment of the day came in the second term, as he showed great composure to baulk an opponent before letting fly from 50 metres for a terrific long goal.

#4 Jack Hickman

The nippy midfielder-forward again swapped his time between both positions and popped up with some eye-catching work away from the contest. His turn of speed made for some really nice exits from congestion, able to nip away from would-be tacklers and wheel onto his favoured side. A clever kind of player, Hickman won a holding-the-ball free kick in term two after pinning his opponent’s arm, and later hit some nice targets going forward. In the same period of play, he ran onto a loose ball over the top and slotted home his lone goal of the game.

#5 Cooper Hamilton

Part of the AFL Academy squad set to take on Geelong VFL on Saturday, Hamilton got through his final NAB League test unscathed and continues to produce good moments. Playing mostly through midfield, he started well with a bustling clearance and showed his trademark strength at the contest, even under tackling pressure. He found the goals in the second term after stealing an errand Geelong handball and converting in a flash from close range. Hamilton would then kick a steadier in the fourth quarter, finishing with composure from a swift handball receive. Though not overly prolific, 16 disposals and two goals made for a solid contribution.

#11 Cobi Maxted

Maxted has put together a promising couple of weeks, this time performing as a valuable swingman for the Pioneers. Having impressed as somewhat of a marking defender last time out, he continued said form early in this outing before shifting forward and duly hitting the scoreboard. His first major came in the third term, as he latched onto a nice chain of Bendigo handballs to snap home well, while his second goal was a set shot conversion in the following quarter. Overall, Maxted was able to again show some nice traits and get busy in key areas of the ground.

#13 Jack Evans

One who found plenty of the ball in the first half, the Pioneers leader proved a reliable figure across half-back during said period. He often looked to go by foot on the rebound, with 16 kicks and six rebound 50s coming among his total 19 disposals. Evans was able to gain good meterage from the back half, reading the play well to move into the correct areas to either mop up or receive on the outer once Bendigo had forced the turnover. While he faded out of the contest a touch, Evans helped absorb early pressure before Bendigo gained a greater hold on proceedings.

GEELONG:

#12 Noah Gribble

One of the hardest workers in the competition, it is hard to believe Gribble did not come away with more disposals, but 24 still proved a great return. The wingman was employed in his usual post, running hard both ways to accumulate possessions and help generate some forward momentum on the outer for Geelong. He constantly tried to make things happen and was competitive both in the air and at ground level, but looked to fare much better in open spaces where he could cover ground and deliver with more assuredness. Gribble’s hard running earned him a goal in the third term, as he snuck forward to mark uncontested before converting the set shot.

#16 Charlie Ham

Having earned a National Combine invite last year, Ham’s performance on Sunday was perhaps most indicative of what recruiters saw in him back then. The defender did a lot of work to sweep up across Geelong’s back 50 and also distributed from the kick-ins, seeing him finish as the highest ball winner afield with 29 disposals (20 kicks) and six rebound 50s. A beautifully timed overhead mark in the first term set the tone for Ham’s game, as he would go on to take some similarly graceful grabs coming from the side or rear of packs, really utilising his athleticism. He bottled the confidence gained from those acts to provide some dash, but tended to show a little too much of his kicks to the opposition at times, putting pressure on the receiver. Still, there are plenty of positive traits to work with for Ham.

#25 Josh Sorgiovanni

Sorgiovanni was a solid worker for Geelong through midfield, able to provide some much-needed drive through the corridor. He would often win or receive the first possession out of congestion, before looking to run his measure and pump the Falcons forward. He produced a clutch moment after the half time siren, dropping well to earn a high free kick before slotting home a set shot goal to get his side back to within a goal at the main break. As expected, his teammates got around him and he enjoyed some more good patches thereafter.

#28 Mitch Knevitt

The day’s most prolific midfield ball winner, Knevitt amassed 27 disposals and did some solid work on the inside upon his return to the lineup. Hard to miss with his flowing hair, the 18-year-old accumulated well throughout the game and was often able to put first hands on the ball at stoppages. He had a couple of nice moments outside the contest too, streaming forward well on one occasion and also backing back to clunk a courageous mark on the stretch in front of Falcons bigman, Toby Conway. It is easy to see why Knevitt was so highly touted by his teammates in preseason.

#60 Toby Conway

The subject of our Player Focus this week, the AFL Academy inclusion continued his good start to the season as Geelong’s primary ruck. He was simply too big and strong at most contests, able to use his reach or work into prime position to direct helpful hitouts down to his midfielders. Instead of rotating heavily as he did last week, Conway was also able to showcase his improving forward craft as he rested forward, kicking a goal in the second quarter. He also set up behind the ball to provide an outlet or lock it into Geelong’s front half, another aspect he is improving on.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Ed Pascoe

MURRAY:

#2 Charlie Byrne

Likely to feature in the Essendon VFL going forward Byrne has added another strong to his bow as the rebound defender of previous years has made a strong transition into the midfield for Murray this year. Although not his most prolific game he made his disposals count with some strong clearances using his stronger frame to his advantage with some nice bursts and long kicking inside 50 with his trusty long left boot. Also drifting forward he managed to kick a lovely snap goal on the run in the first quarter and almost did the same later in the game with a long goal from 50m but unfortunately a teammate gave away a free kick to take away what would have been a lovely goal. Byrne finished the game with 15 disposals, 4 inside 50s and kicked 1.1 and has set himself up well for a likely debut for Essendon VFL this year.

#3 Toby Murray

Murray started the game in hot form and proved a handful in the first quarter kicking two goals and although he wouldn’t add to his tally he would still go on to have a good game. Murray would kicks his first goal from a nice tackle which was rewarded inside 50 and the 2nd goal was kicked from a nice a lead up mark in the pocket, he would slot both goals with the set shot and looked steady with his approach. The 198cm Murray would also go into the ruck on occasion winning some nice hit outs and following up his work well with some good tackles and great dexterity and clean hands at ground level. Murray finished the game with 11 disposals, 14 hit outs and 2 goals as he puts together a strong start to the season.

#5 Patrick Parnell

The speedy mid-season draft prospect has put together a strong start to the NAB League season and he was again one of Murrays best providing great rebound at half back and was a solid 4 quarter performer. Although a smaller and skinnier defender he did well to take some nice intercept marks and even a contested mark against the highly touted forward Kai Lohmann in the first quarter, Parnell impressed with his quick ball movement and desperate defending showing a good mix down back and its no surprise to see him taking kickouts with his speed and kicking. Along with some nice spoils and 1% plays Parnell finished the game with 24 disposals, 5 marks and 6 rebound 50s.

#9 Kade Chalcraft

The tough inside midfielder adept at winning clearances did so with ease against the Rebels with his strong frame and appetite for the contest really impressing. A no thrills midfielder he won the hard ball and tackled hard all day and didn’t let up in his attack on the contest and with ball in hand sending the ball inside 50 multiple times and always wanting to keep the ball moving. Chalcraft finished the game with 25 disposals, 5 inside 50s and 6 tackles with the mid-season draft prospect continuing to impress.

#10 Daniel Turner

A wall in defence for Murray Bushrangers Turner took plenty of intercept marks throughout the game and despite his 191cm frame he played above his height. Turner has been one of Murrays most consistent players proving to be a big obstacle for the opposition with his courage to sit in the hole or infront of key forwards to stay strong and take big intercept marks. Turner finished the game with 18 disposals and 8 marks with plenty of those being intercepts as the mid-season draft prospect stakes his claim as one of the better defenders in the NAB League.

#13 Tom Brown

After a quiet first round Brown has started to find his feet playing half back for Murray Bushrangers with the super athletic prospect put in a strong performance. Brown is a great athlete and used his athletic traits to his advantage offering plenty of drive from alf back with his endurance and speed across the ground and his leap was handy in taking plenty of good intercept marks including a strong contested mark in the last quarter. Getting better every week the break isnt timely for Brown but should take great confidence out of his recent form, with 22 disposals, 6 mark and 5 rebound 50s it was a great return for Brown.

GWV:

#1 Sam Butler

Usually a crafty forward and starting in that role Butler helped turn the game with his addition to the Rebels midfield in the 2nd half using his speed and class at stoppages to help gets his side over the line. Butler was quiet forward in the first half but had some great forward pressure and he would bring that enthusiasm into the midfield winning some good clearances and he had some strong tackles aswell, his pace and strength over the ball was influential in combating the stronger but slower Murray midfield and with 20 disposals, 5 marks and 4 tackles it was a strong game from Butler despite not kicking a major.

#3 Charlie Molan

Although not prolific it would have been his efforts without the ball that impressed his teammates and coaches the most with Molan playing an outstanding defensive game. The smooth moving defender set the seen for his game with a desperate goal saving tackle in the 2nd quarter and would follow that effort up in the last quarter with a desperate chase down tackle that should have been rewarded and then followed up again with a crunching tackle but gave away the free kick which was dissipating for Molan who showed great determination and really should have been rewarded. Molan started back but was moved to the wing in the 2nd half using his desperate defence all over the ground finishing with 13 disposals and 4 marks.

#8 Josh Gibcus

It’s been an outstanding season so far for the athletic key defender Gibcus who has proved why he has been called up to represent the AFL Academy in their game against Geelong VFL with another fantastic performance down back taking intercept marks with ease.Just about every one of his 9 marks for the day where intercepts, a lot of them took the eye but non more-so than a contested intercept mark in the 3rd quarter and although he turned the ball over after the mark was no less impressive showing of his great leap and timing to mark overhead. Gibcus was just as adept at ground level shaping great composure and agility on multiple occasions deep in defence able to sell a bit of candy which is impressive for a 195cm prospect. Gibcus finished the game with 17 disposals, 9 marks and 5 rebound 50s to further enhance his draft stocks.

#10 Blake Scott

The bulldogs NGA prospect has started the year in fine form and the speedy forward again caused havoc for opposition defenders with an exciting display. Despite a quiet start to the game Scott just got better as the game went on and really hit his straps in the second half as he seemed to be everywhere inside 50 popping up to hit the scoreboard but he wouldn’t kick a goal until the last quarter with a nice set shot goal from the pocket. Scott also did well to set up a goal using his trademark dash to escape his opponents and handball of to a teammate over the top running into open goal, Scott finished the game with 20 disposals, 5 marks, 6 inside 50s and kicked 1.3 in another strong game.

#14 Jamieson Ballantyne

Improving with every game the elusive wingman made that position his own proving pretty of run and creativity using his eye catching agility to get around opponents with ease and dispose of the ball well. Ballantyne did well to push back into defence to help his teammates highlighted with a good spoil going back with the flight showing he had a good defensive side to his attacking style of play with the ball. An elusive and composed player on the wing Ballantyne finished the game with 22 disposals, 8 marks and 6 inside 50s playing the wing role very well.

#16 Kai Lohmann

The exciting forward put together his most complete performance so far this year showing of his athleticism and skills consistently over the 4 quarters highlighting his impressive speed and leap. His best bit of play came in the 2nd quarter with an awesome run from half back starting inside defensive 50 where he took on multiple players while also taking multiple bounces aswell to finally kick inside 50 in a great show of athleticism and what he is capable of. The last quarter highlighted all of his best traits with a leap from the back of the pack and some nice plays deep in the forwardline in one instance going back with the flight and creating a contest and then quickly put on forward pressure. Lohmann finished the game with 19 disposals, 5 marks and 6 tackles and although he didn’t kick any goals himself with 3 behinds he helped set up he helped create so many opportunities

NAB League Player Focus: Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons)

GEELONG Falcons ruck, Toby Conway is a prospect on the rise having recently been added to the AFL Academy squad ahead of their clash with Geelong VFL. The 204cm bigman has returned a promising start to the season, averaging a tick under 16 disposals and 28 hitouts across three NAB League outings, making him one of the leading ruck options in this year’s draft pool.

After injury threatened to derail his 2020 campaign, before the pandemic eventually did so, Conway is enjoying being back out on the park and has some key improvements in his sights. During preseason, he outlined ground coverage, forward craft, and marking as areas of growth – all of which were observed in his latest outing, against Bendigo Pioneers.

Conway is the prospect under our Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 3 showing.

PLAYER PAGE

Toby Conway
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

DOB: April 24, 2003
Height: 204cm
Position: Ruck

2021 averages*: 15.7 disposals | 6.7 kicks | 9.0 handballs | 3.3 marks | 2.7 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 1.7 rebound 50s | 27.7 hitouts | 0.3 goals

* – from first three games.

PLAYER FOCUS

2021 NAB League, Round 3
Bendigo Pioneers 9.10 (64) def. Geelong Falcons 7.8 (50)

Stats: 17 disposals | 8 kicks | 9 handballs | 3 marks | 4 tackles | 2 inside 50s | 3 rebound 50s | 29 hitouts | 1 goal

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

In his usual post as Geelong’s primary ruck, Conway started brightly. He was poised against quite a raw tall in Bendigo’s Jed Brereton, who he would compete with throughout the contest. Some of Conway’s first acts saw him dropping back into the defensive half to help relieve pressure, while also setting up shrewdly behind the ball to intercept aerially – both were early ticks for his improving fitness and ground coverage. He also proved too big and strong in stoppage situations, using strength and bodywork to move into prime position and win a good amount of hitouts. From there, he directed the ball down well with a few double-handed taps and his pure height/reach advantage loomed as a worrying factor for the Bendigo engine room. Later in the opening term, Conway was sighted taking a mark on the lead up forward.

Q2:

Speaking of the forwardline, Conway seemed to spend more time resting inside attacking 50 than in previous weeks, where he would instead be heavily rotated to the bench out of the ruck. He managed to take toll during the second term as he found space to mark uncontested, before duly converting a set shot goal from about 35 metres out. It was the first goal of the quarter and extended the Falcons’ lead to nine points at the 10-minute mark. While his height and reach were again troublesome for the undersized Bendigo defenders, Conway would revert back to his ruck duties and showcase even more craft in that area. His directional taps at the centre bounces meant midfielders like Mitch Knevitt could get first use of the ball where it mattered.

Q3:

Picking up from where he left off, Conway was dominant in the ruck stakes to start the third period of play. He also looked to be gaining confidence at the contest, imposing himself by following up his aerial work and actively looking to take the ball out of the ruck more often. One solid bit of ground level play saw Conway lay a smother to help his side turn the ball over, before kicking the Falcons back inside attacking 50 on the run. While not overly aggressive, the bigman was able to stay involved at the coalface and even won some of his own ball to register those clearance and inside 50 stats. His seeming lift in urgency matched Geelong’s need for any form of momentum as the Pioneers began to hit back, and eventually snuck ahead.

Q4:

Conway looked a little worse for wear after contesting the first centre bounce, but got back up and lumbered on. He is not always the most continually active ruck, but was able to work when called upon after taking some moments to recoup. His knack of taking the ball out of the ruck continued and while some of his hand-offs were to midfielders under immediate pressure, the idea and intent were good. The Falcons tall again rested forward and even got a go against some of Bendigo’s second-string rucks late in the piece. He showed some more ruck craft with directional taps, not just thumping the ball forward or hitting with his momentum on the rise. Overall, it was a solid outing for Conway despite his side going down, finishing as the dominant ruckman afield.

Final thoughts…

On a pure squad-needs basis, it was no great surprise to see Conway added to the AFL Academy mix alongside fellow tall Ned Moyle. While he has shown some active improvement in his areas of growth, the Geelong Falcons prospect can still strive for betterment throughout 2021. Conway’s work around the ground and ability to impact up forward will be key to his development, as his ruck craft is already quite sound. Given his ability to do so in the ruck, utilising his size and building on that strength will help translate to some solid contested marking. Endurance also comes into the fold there, and Conway will inevitably spend less time with hands on head or hip with better match fitness throughout the year. In terms of his own strengths though, Conway delivers and has done so across three promising games this this season.

Scouting Notes: 2021 Vic Metro vs. Vic Country Under 17 trials

WITH the NAB League Under 17 carnival done and dusted, the best performers from each region came together on Friday to compete in two trial games. The pair of scratch matches, held at Trevor Barker Oval, will help determine the final Vic Country and Vic Metro Under 17 squads set to compete at this year’s National Championships.

Vic Country snared wins in both games, though the focus will be on which individuals made claims for representative honours. That is also the case in our Scouting Notes, which are the opinion of each individual author.

GAME ONE:

Vic Country 12.7 (79) def. Vic Country 8.15 (63)

By: Declan Reeve

Vic Country:

#3 Will Baker (Geelong Falcons)

Was a consistent workhorse in the forward half for Country, looking to get into good areas to be a marking option, where he was spoiled a few times by his opponent but comprehensively beat them with the follow up work at ground level, beforegetting it forward with his boot. The workrate translated to his tackling as well, able to bring down bigger opponents or hold them up to cause a stoppage. Finished the day with two goals, with one of those being an impressive effort, as he sold some candy to his opponent before kicking it well straight through the big sticks.

#4 Zane Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Another brother of an AFL-listed player, this time being Port Adelaide’s Xavier Duursma, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re the same player, with Zane also a hard-working runner with clean disposal. He genuinely did not miss a target for the game, with his kicking the standout on field, looking to utilise the width of the ground with switch kicks, but also happy to take those riskier inside 45 kicks and always having them pay off. Being a 2023 draft eligible prospect, you’d expect that his size would be a hindrance against the bigger bodies, but when moved from the wing to the inside role, Duursma took it in his stride, winning a couple of clearances with well timed runs and following up with perfect delivery.

#5 Oliver Hollands (Murray Bushrangers)

The brother of recently-drafted Gold Coast player, Elijah Hollands, Oliver showed that he possesses perhaps equally impressive athletic traits and midfield craft than his older brother. He won the very first clearance of the game, where he got away from his direct opponent, and then outran the other two Metro mids to kick well inside 50 and set up Country’s first goal. That sort of burst and skill continued to be on display throughout the contest. His work rate was immense, with some particularly good defensive work in-close where he intercepted a few handballs from Metro, that were only going from a player 2 meters away from their intended target, and then pumped the ball long forward before he could be wrapped up and brought to ground. Also like his brother, he is impactful forward of centre, taking some good grabs in the forward half and getting himself a goal in the first quarter.

#6 Noah Long (Bendigo Pioneers)

Earning comparisons to AFL Rising Star Winner Caleb Serong from onlookers, it’s not hard to see why Long recieved such high praise. Despite being shorter than most of the opposing midfielders, Long was consistently harder at it on the inside and came off best most times when the ball was contested. Something that really stuck, was he seemed to want to run through packs rather than just run in and win the ball, with his ferociousness meaning he often succeeded and then disposed of it quickly by hand to the outside. Unsurprisingly, this was all paired with possibly the highest defensive workrate on the ground, running both ways and often seen deep in defence to help out his team, with his strong tackling and physicality troubling Metro.

#12 Bailey Humphrey (Gippsland Power)

Really came into the game in the second half where he was a strong defensive presence in the midfield, putting himself in good spots to tackle opponents that thought they had gotten clear out of a stoppage or contest, really driving them into the ground. Also showed some strong aerial strength, where he took some crucial marks, including one particularly impressive contested grab over a pack of four or five other players.

#19 Ashtyn Atkinson (Murray Bushrangers)

A real natural and crafty forward, Ashtyn finished the day with three goals from smart leads and positioning, but could have easily had 5 or 6 had his conversion from set shots been a little higher. The sheer amount of marks inside 50 he got was impressive, and highlighted his ability to lead to the right spots and get separation on those leads, with a quick first three-to-four steps being a big part of that.

#22 Ned Moodie (Dandenong Stingrays)

Despite being on the end of the Hollands’ clearance at the very start of the game, then passing it off to a teammate who kicked the opening goal, he was relatively quiet in the first half of the game where he spent most of his time up forward. It was in the second half when he be moved into the midfield where Moodie showed his potential as a big bodied inside ball winner. He won a few clearances and showed quick, clean hands on the run, as well as a high level work rate, often being involved multiple times in the same chain of play leading forward.

#25 Nate Pipicelli (Gippsland Power)

Played at both ends, kicking the first goal of the match but then going quiet for quite some time, before bobbing up to be one of the better players in the second half as the Country full back. It was there where he took some good intercept grabs in front of packs, but also knew not to get sucked into forming packs, holding out the back to take some easy grabs because everyone was caught too far in front. 

#26 Aaron Cadman (GWV Rebels)

Similar to Atkinson, Cadman just seemed to understand what was required of him as a forward, getting to the right spots to mark, or being in the right place at the right time to receive a handball to get himself a goal, ending the game with three.

#30 Jess McManus (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played in all thirds of the ground, starting as a defender where he took some good grabs working in front of his opponents, or spoiled strongly when stuck behind. Then moved into the ruck where he fought hard for front position in every battle, and followed up much better at ground level than his opponent, even getting himself some free kicks when tackling opponents who tried to get past him. Then moved into the forwardline where he showed a real prowess for leading into good spots with purpose.

Vic Metro:

#2 Nick Watson (Eastern Ranges)

It’s incredible that a player who is a year younger than those he’s playing against, and standing at only 168 cm, can have such a high level performance, arguably best afield for the match across both teams. Watson just consistently had a crack throughout the game, showing enormous bravery with his hunt for the ball, and going back with the flight to take strong marks multiple times – even having a few moments where his speed let him run a good 20-25 meters to take an intercept mark just outside of Metro’s forward 50, against opponents 20cm taller than him. He has blistering speed which allows him to get separation that not many others can, while also seeing him dash away from packs before anyone else has realised what’s happened. He was rewarded for such a well rounded performance with a goal in the third quarter, after setting up four or five himself.

#4 Reuben Rode (Calder Cannons)

The Essendon NGA prospect played up both ends and utilised his scintillating speed and agility to, at times, embarrass opponents with how well he managed to weave through traffic or take them on. His speed was his main weapon though, running head-on to spilled balls around the defensive 50 to then deliver kicks out to the wing, in an attempt to keep his disposals safe. When the ball was inside forward 50 he set up well on the outer, taking some uncontested intercept marks to deliver straight back inside.

#5 Blake Drury (Oakleigh Chargers)

Skipper for Metro in this game, Drury worked his way into the contest as it went on, where he eventually got his move into the midfield and decided he didn’t like other players winning clearances. There was a passage in the fourth quarter in particular, where it felt like he won six or seven clearances in a row, just reading the ball off the ruck tap exceptionally well, taking a few really quick steps to get space and momentum, before delivering long inside 50 to create pressure for the Country defence. Country rotated different players on him, but he just kept on doing it. Presented well as an option around the ground as well, using his kicking skill to move the ball more centrally going forward. 

#6 Alwyn Davey Jnr (Oakleigh Chargers)

Whilst not racking up the most ball of the day, he had some absolute moments of brilliance where you could see the excitement he’ll bring to the game in a few years. Clean below his knees, Davey took the ball with one grab consistently, showing amazing speed that he maintained even when turning 180 degrees. He took on opponents consistently with a few bounces and weaved here and there. Got a brilliant goal assist in the second quarter where he crumbed the ball perfectly from the pack and fired of a handball to a loose teammate who capitalised.

#8 Cooper Harvey (Northern Knights)

A game that was truly made up of two halves for Harvey. In the first half he played his usual role as a smaller forward target, capable of making smart and well timed leads, while linking up well with Nick Watson to get onto the end of some genuine bullet kicks – looking more than comfortable taking them out in front and on the chest. He didn’t always convert to goal, with a couple shots falling short but ending up in the right areas. The one attempt he did slot came from right in front after again leading well. In the second half, he moved into the rover role almost permanently, where that same marking prowess was dangerous and heavily utilised by Metro when looking to slow down the play. He’d look for options most others wouldn’t. In a game where long bombs were common, he lowered the eyes to hit leading targets or switch kick options which made him standout amongst the midfield group. 

#10 Darcy Edmends (Northern Knights)

The word ‘class’ gets thrown about a lot these days, but this kid genuinely demonstrates it in its truest form. Starting the game on the wing, Edmends used his composure well, timing his runs perfectly and holding space as to allow his teammates to break out if they could. If not, he would remain close enough to get the hands on the outside, where his kicking forward or across the ground was a treat to watch. Just had moments where he looked a class above anyone else in his area, with many plays where he was being closed in on by multiple opponents, but weaved through them like they were frozen in place. He was also the standout for drawing opponents in to give more space to teammates to run into, holding the ball until the very last second he could and then releasing, copping contact if needed. Moved into the backline in the second half, where he positioned well for uncontested chest marks.

#11 George Wardlaw (Oakleigh Chargers)

The standout inside midfielder for the game, Wardlaw is a commanding physical presence around stoppages, able to get to top speed with only a few steps. If he gets a clean run at the ball, you can chalk it in for a clearance, and if he doesn’t, you can guarantee that he’ll run through whoever is in the way to get it. What was most impressive was how clean and quick his hands were in-close, just knowing where his teammates were when he had the ball and firing out sharp and accurate handballs. While his kicking was rushed at times, he still got good distance and penetration to quickly move forward. Had a great show of courage in the third quarter, where he was playing as a defender, and went back with the flight of the ball in an attempt to mark it overhead, but collided heavily with a Country player. Not allowing this to stop his hunt for the ball, he then dived across to pick it up and handball to a teammate in the corridor, before going off for the rest of the game icing his calf.

#24 Matthew Jefferson (Oakleigh Chargers)

Does this kid have sticky hands or what? Seemed to mark any ball that was in the air within 10 meters of him, seriously challenging the Country defence as they rotated players constantly in an effort to disturb his aerial impact. Two of his three goals came directly from contested marks, and what would’ve been five or so scoring opportunities created from kicks he earned from marks. His ball use was good as well, putting it in front of teammates to run onto easily and take it on the chest. His three goals obviously suggest his set shots are reliable when he’s in range.

GAME TWO:

Vic Country 13.11 (89) def. Vic Country 8.10 (58)

By: Ed Pascoe

Vic Country:

#1 Jacob Konstanty (Gippsland Power)

The exciting small forward from Gippsland looked dangerous early, kicking his only two goals in the first quarter to get Country off to a great start. The 176cm pocket rocket showed he could make an impact overhead and at ground level, with his first goal coming from a nice lead up mark before the converted set shot from 40 metres, while a great snap goal in the pocket on his opposite foot highlighted his class. He wouldn’t add to his goal tally and was a bit quieter as the game went on, but he still showed great skill and forward pressure and could be a handful for Vic Country at the Under 17 championships.

#9 Jai McGough (Geelong Falcons)

The speedy small defender with the long sleeves had plenty of the ball, being trusted with kick-outs early in the game and showing great creativity and vision by foot. The 178cm McGough offered plenty of drive from half-back and wasn’t hard to miss with his speed. He would later bring those traits to the wing in the second half and would still win plenty of the ball and help drive it forward for Country, even having a running shot at goal despite missing. The Geelong Falcons prospect looks very exciting and one to keep an eye on with his dash.

#14 Jonti Schuback (Gippsland Power)

Usually a smooth moving midfielder for Gippsland Power, Schuback was used at half-back early on, offering plenty of skill and composure in the back half. Schuback started to look more damaging on a wing, kicking a behind from a long shot from 50, while a 50-metre penalty would give him his first goal which he slotted calmly. The 185cm prospect played a similar type of game to that of Josh Browne who is a 2021 prospect out of East Fremantle, and Schuback should be an important cog in Vic Country’s midfield depth during the Under 17 championships.

#17 Ted Clohesy (Geelong Falcons)

With a no-fuss haircut, the 182cm Geelong Falcons midfielder proved tough and damaging, playing a contested and efficient game through the midfield while also looking dynamic forward of centre, where he would kick two very nice goals. Despite a light frame, Clohesy wasn’t afraid of winning the hard ball and to balance out his contested side, he would use the ball well on the outside and really move it forward well. Clohesy did his chances of playing for Country at this year’s Under 17 carnival no harm.

#20 Brayden George (Murray Bushrangers)

Game 1 had a Murray Bushrangers forward at 185cm in Ashtyn Atkinson causing havoc, and Game 2 had his teammate in George do just that. The powerful medium forward kicked two goals in an impressive display. showing plenty of class. The first came from some intelligent work in open play; instead of rushing a snap, he quickly summed up is options and then straitened up to kick a nice drop punt goal. His second was also classy, kicking a great snap goal from a set shot, repeating what many AFL forwards seem to be doing this year. Murray Bushrangers will be a hard team to stop with both he and Atkinson providing plenty of excitement.

#25 Felix Fogarty (GWV Rebels)

The GWV Rebels key forward provided a great target for his midfielders leading up at the ball well and nailing his marks. Fogarty showed plenty of skill for a taller player as well, with the 197cm prospect really hitting his straps in the second quarter to show good agility to get around a man on the mark and kick a lovely set shot goal from 50 metres, which was his only major of the day. Fogarty will look to have a great forward partnership with fellow Rebel Aaron Cadman, not only for the Rebels but perhaps also for Vic Country at the Under 17 championships.

Vic Metro:

#9 Will Ashcroft (Sandringham Dragons)

The Sandringham prospect and son of gun former-Brisbane player Marcus Ashcroft was one of Metro’s best players, winning plenty of clearances and breaking away from congestion. Ashcroft is a talented midfielder much like his father was, and at 183cm looks a top prospect for the 2022 draft. He was able to kick his only goal in the first quarter with a free kick, but converted the set shot from 50 metres out, showing his great kicking skills. Ashcroft has a great mix of skill and burst from stoppages, which is a highly regarded trait. Ashcroft had a few shots at goal stopped on the line and he could have had a much bigger day, but he certainly looks like a player to watch at the upcoming Under 17 championships.

#10 Harry Sheezel (Sandringham Dragons)

Arguably the best small forward for Vic Metro over the two games, the 183cm Sandringham prospect looked dangerous whenever he was around the ball, showing clean hands and agility when in possession and finding the ball in dangerous situations. Sheezel showed great courage early, going the back with the flight to take a nice mark inside 50 and although he didn’t convert the set shot, he would kick his only two goals in the same quarter. One came from a free kick and another a nice shot on the run. Sheezel was quieter in the second half but he was able to show why he would be a player to watch for Vic Metro in the Under 17 championships.

#11 Luke Teal (Oakleigh Chargers)

The dynamic Oakleigh Charger started the game well at half-back, taking some nice intercept marks and playing on at every opportunity. Teal showed great movement in traffic and he would then use those traits in the midfield when he was moved into there in the second half, winning plenty of the ball and escaping congestion well, while also using his clean hands to his advantage. Teal looks like a player to watch for Vic Metro at the championships and he could play a variety of roles at 184cm.

#12 Zac Greeves (Eastern Ranges)

The Eastern Ranges prospect isn’t too dissimilar to Luke Teal in size and style and like Teal, showed some good form in all areas of the ground. A strong player at 185cm, Greeves showed a great willingness to take the game on and he moved well in traffic and looked a very composed player under pressure, willing to stay strong and brace for impact. Before the Under 17 championships start he will certainly be one to watch for Caulfield Grammar in the APS.

#21 Will Elliott (Oakleigh Chargers) 

The athletic young ruckman from Oakleigh Chargers had some real eye-catching moments both in the ruck and up forward. He had plenty of good moments on every line, with a strong contested intercept mark on the last line in defence during the third quarter and a nice bit of play in the last quarter showing good agility under pressure, along with good composure to then handpass to a teammate to set up a goal. Elliot might not be a starting ruck for Metro at the championships but he was able to show plenty of traits behind the play and up forward to make him a potentially versatile prospect at 200cm.