IN a see-sawing game, Western Australia ran out the stronger of the two sides in the game against the Allies, who booted three of the first four goals before the Sandgropers piled on seven consecutive majors to take home their second win from three games. Peter Williams checked out the game and his opinion-based notes on some of the standouts are below.
#3 Connor Budarick
So composed with ball in hand, Budarick showed a terrific burst out of the middle early in the game to kick inside 50 to a dangerous spot. He applied defensive pressure throughout laying a massive number of tackles, and rose high to clunk a big contested grab on the wing. Budarick had a shot on goal in the third term after being the quickest to react to a Noah Cumberland mark, but his shot missed. Had another chance in the final term from a tight angle and tried to set it up to a teammate, but the Western Australia defence saw it coming and spoiled it over the line.
#4 Malcolm Rosas Jr
The highlights package, and almost-highlights from this game was unbelievable. Time and time again, Rosas Jr looked like he was about to tear the game open, whether it be through his blistering runs, his terrific side steps, or his high-flying grabs. He pulled out all the tricks in an eye-catching performance. Rosas kicked an early goal in the first term after contesting a ball in midfield and running forward, then set Josh Gore up for another after selling candy and dancing around a couple of players to kick perfectly into space. A couple of other chances in the first half were either marked or hit the post, but he looked ever dangerous. In the third term, Rosas Jr took a five-bounce run from half-forward deep into attack but took one too many bounces and lost control. He followed up with a couple of tackles, but the run was terrific. He did it again in the final term, taking a number of bounces of half-back, burning an opponent then side-stepping another and giving it off. Flew high in his final act of the game, could not quite take it then laid a big tackle.
#5 Braeden Campbell
Just a really clever player and one who looks dangerous in the forward half. He can hurt opposition players in the air or at ground level, and does not need much time and space to create something. He reads the taps and attempts to spin out of trouble, quickly putting boot to ball. Had a chance to do so in the second term for a major but it was touched on the way through, then had another chance in the third term through a snap but hit the post. Finished with a couple of behinds, but looked dangerous.
#9 Mitch O’Neill
A standout four-quarter performance from the Tasmanian who brings others into the game with his elite kicking and decision making. O’Neill is so composed under pressure and clean at ground level or in the air, and takes the risky kick that can backfire, but with his skill often puts pressure on the opposition defence. An example was his spearing pass straight down the guts to Noah Cumberland who took a huge mark. Often O’Neill dictates to his teammates down the field where to lead or when to fly for marks by his kicks. Made very few mistakes in a really outstanding performance.
#22 Tom Green
Played his usual role with some time in defence as well, mostly using his big frame to outmuscle the West Australian midfielders. He won a number of important clearances and dumped the ball forward, winning a lot of possessions around the ground. His work rate is terrific and showed off his versatility by playing in defence in the final term. He does not take a backwards step and has terrific hands in close, continually working hard.
#31 Hamish Ellem
Continually battled hard in the forward 50, spending time in the ruck and more so after Sam Gaden went off early in the third term. He had a number of opportunities but again could not capitalise, kicking a few behinds. He did set Josh Gore up for a goal in the final term, putting the ball nicely in front of him to convert the chance. He held his own in the ruck contests when he did and had a heavy workload at times against the highly rated Luke Jackson.
#37 Josh Gore
A talented forward, Gore is not a huge possession winner, but he makes the most of his opportunities. He slotted a great goal in the opening term, then broke the drought early in the fourth with a terrific goal. He was tight against the boundary line, used strength at the hips to shrug off an opponent and snap around his body to put it through the middle. He had another set shot in the second term after dispossessing West Australian captain Deven Robertson, but missed to the right.
#44 Nicholas Brewer
Held his own against the dangerous Elijah Taylor, even though Taylor did get off the chain more late in the game. He produced the top defensive effort of the match by running down the electric Taylor, continuing to chase 40m even after the forward had eluded him once, and his work rate saw him drag him down as he kicked to save a goal.
#51 Sam Gaden
Came off the ground early in the third term after what had been a really impressive performance against Luke Jackson in the ruck. While he knew Jackson had the athleticism, Gaden had the body strength and used it to his advantage at stoppages, working hard particularly at boundary throw-ins to outmuscle his opponent and give the midfielders first touch. He used the ball pretty well around the ground and was able to have a couple of inside 50s to dangerous positions. It was no surprise Western Australia got on top once he came off and Jackson had a lot more free reign at the stoppages.
#3 Tyrone Thorne
There is not much of the lightweight forward, but his ability to hook the ball around the goal when having set shots from tight angles on his left was almost “Bend it like Beckham” style. He finished the game with three goals from four set shots, and while he was not a huge possession winner, played the role of permanent small forward perfectly.
#4 Riley Garcia
An accumulator by hand, Garcia wins a lot of his touches with deft handballs in close. He did his best work running hard on the outside and trying to take the game on, moving nicely around the stoppages. He almost sold himself into trouble at one stage in the third term, but remained composed and gave off the handball to a running teammate whilst Garcia was being hemmed in by three opponents. He hit up a teammate inside 50 in the final term and kicked it long down the wing well.
#5 Liam Henry
Another player in the game who looked always dangerous whenever the ball was in his area, the Fremantle Next Generation Academy Player had some really impressive touches at both ground level and in the air. He dropped an early mark and was turned over, but the next chance he got he learnt from the first error and clunked it at the highest point. He later roved a ball well off a pack and kicked it to a teammates’ advantage whilst Henry was under pressure. A quick thinker, Henry used the ball well, setting up a Tyrone Thorne goal in the second term and a Callum Jamieson goal in the fourth term with perfect kicks to their advantage. He only needs a second to dispose of the ball, and has lightning quick hands. At one stage he thought a bit too quickly in the first term, overrunning the ball or “spending it before he had it” but did back up with a defensive effort. He had a shot on goal in the final term but the shot went across the face in the dying seconds. A prospect who has a lot of upside.
#6 Cameron Anderson
Really stepped up into the game in the second term, working between the arcs with some impressive runs. He sold some candy and got past an opponent running inside 50 but his shot was touches on the line. He showed neat skills across half-back and then spent time up forward to lead out and take a good mark. He set up the leading Logan McDonald with a nice pass in the third term, then began a scoring chain in the fourth quarter with the nous to take on the man on the mark to draw an opponent and handball away to give the outnumber up the field.
#10 Deven Robertson
A work horse who put in a four-quarter performance once again. His strengths include his hands around the stoppages and his no-fear attitude towards the contest. He has game smarts and class to know his surroundings, and a high level of spacial awareness which was exemplified by his ability to wheel around in the final term and hit-up Tristan Hobley in space. There are still areas to develop, with Robertson dispossessed on a number of occasions, and the kicking under pressure was scratchy at times. What was impressive about Robertson’s game was he was able to take the game on from half-back and kept trying to gain metres for his side going forward. He was solid with the ball when having time and space. Has very quick hands and was important at the clearances.
#17 Jeremy Sharp
Had a mixed bag performance on the day, with some terrific vision and slicing 45-degree passes, and then some strange out-on-the-full kicks. His vision and delivery when given time and space is very impressive, and is clean at ground level. It is his kicking under pressure when forced to rush in congestion, or when at full speed being hunted down by opposition players that could be tightened up. He worked hard throughout and found the ball plenty in the first three quarters, roaming in all thirds of the ground. Set up a number of scoring chains and had lightning hands to give to a teammate with the disguised handball in close, before finishing the game off with a long-range goal from outside 50 in the dying seconds of the third term.
#19 Elijah Taylor
An exciting forward who was always looking like kicking a bag, and while he was well contained in the first half by Nicholas Brewer, got off the chain in the second half. His first goal did come in the first term from kicking across his body after missing a set shot 40m out when it hit the behind post. He had a chance for a second by leading into space 30m out on a 45-degree angle but his kicked just missed to the right. After half-time his influence on the game blew up, selling candy for a terrific goal. He took a mark, looked to play-on to his right, waited for his opponent to commit, then swung back to his left and never looked liked missing with a terrific kick. He booted his third in the dying minutes with a snap around the body. He dropped a potential mark, but followed up with a clean one-grab off the ground and snap off his left around the body. Taylor knows how to use the ball well under pressure.
#25 Logan McDonald
A talented bottom-age key forward, McDonald showed some great signs inside 50. He lead out at the right times and looked sure with his hands. He did kick out on the full from a snap early in the game, but worked into the match with a goal from a set shot 35m out on a tight angle. He had another chance on the opposite side but pulled it to the far left. He worked hard up the ground to take a couple of nice marks leading out along the wing and half-forward.
#32/#37 Luke Jackson
Had a jumper change midway through the game, and ended up coming from the field after an unlucky clash in the dying minutes deep in attack. Early on he had an intense battle with Sam Gaden, outmuscled at times at the stoppage, but was doing well around the ground with some good tackles and nice work at ground level to fire away quick handballs. He stamped his authority on the game in the second half once Gaden was off the ground, too athletic and nimble for Hamish Ellem and Liam Delahunty who were forced to play a more part-time shared role through the ruck rather than pinch-hit as they had before.
#35 Trent Rivers
Uses the ball well and had a solid game, with a big first quarter and a quieter second term, before working hard throughout the third and fourth quarters to win the footy. He has great vision and game awareness to set up scoring plays, and is able to use his slick skills to hit-up teammates leading out up forward. He won a vital one-on-one contest against Hewago Paul Oea on the wing, which would have been dangerous for the West Australians if he lost with a paddock in front of Oea. Rivers bumped his opponent off the ball and then with pressure coming, he had the composure to handball to a teammate and keep it moving. Remains composed with ball-in-hand and makes the right decisions.
#36 Denver Grainger-Barras
Another bottom-age tall who will hold the West Australian side in good stead for next year, he has some neat defensive and offensive attributes. He killed a contest at half-back with a great spoil across the line, and proceeded to be an intercepting defender throughout the game, saving a number of dangerous forward entries by dropping into the hole. Most importantly, he remained composed under pressure and looks like a promising prospect for next year, pushing up the ground to kick inside 50 at one stage late in the game.