Player focus: Noah Balta

THE Calder Cannons have begun the season without a win from their opening four games, coming off a 80-point thumping at the hands of the Greater Western Victoria Rebels on Sunday.

Matt Balmer looks in depth at one of their likely draftees.

Noah Balta is one of the most athletic players in the 2017 draft pool.

His finish to the season in 2016 was outstanding and was factor in him being a late addition to the NAB AFL Academy’s Level Two intake.

On the field – it’s his athletic traits that catch the eye with the 194cm tall moving like a midfielder around the ground and at the ruck duals. His vertical leap ranks in the top dozen of the 2017 TAC Cup players, while his running jump off either leg is also impressive.

His speed too is elite – with only Sandringham Dragons bottom-age twins Max and Ben King faster than Balta’s time of 2.983 seconds for a player over 193cm in the 20 metre sprint.  His agility is ranked in the top five percentile, while his beep of 13.4 leaves an area of small improvement despite him being better than 60 per cent of the competition.

Balta’s testing does little justice to prove how well athletically he is for a player of 194cm, with the athletic traits easily able to be seen by those in attendance.

So far in 2017, Balta has been deployed as a ruckman and key forward for the Calder Cannons – while his AFL Academy games saw him at times play in defence, a role that no doubt some clubs will feel he could play and he may feature there at stages for Vic Metro in the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships.

Quarter by quarter: 

In the opening quarter, Balta recordered just three disposals spending most of the time in the ruck where he attended 14 ruck contests – including the opening centre bounce of the game winning the hitout against Lloyd Meek.

It was the second quarter that made you sit up and notice Balta – taking multiple contested marks playing predominantly inside 50. He took a mark outside 50, before kicking it to Mohammed Moustafa who goaled from 15 metres out. He was able to beat his opponent using his good leap to pluck the ball before they could get a hand in and affect the contest.

The third quarter saw Balta pick the ball up from ground level and snap from a contest – narrowly missing hitting the post. He worked up the ground more while playing in the ruck, where he collected a few disposals on the wing. He also cleaned up Callan Wellings in an attempt to mark the ball on the half-forward flank in front of the benches.

The last quarter saw him have a very quiet quarter, not coming into the game until late in the quarter. What was pleasing was that he was willing to block and shepherd opponents to help out his team mates who had the ball in hand. He attended a centre bounce in the 17th minute mark, before registering three disposals late with two of these coming inside defensive 50 after attending stoppages in the back half, in a quarter that saw the Rebels kick nine goals to two.

For most of the day Balta patrolled the centre corridor and when the ball was on the flanks, he would often be stationed in the centre of the ground to provide a target for a switch OR as a player to stop the oppositions switch. If the stoppage occurred he would find himself sprinting over to the contest in order to contest.

Noah Balta’s disposals plotted out. (KL = Kick Long, KS = Kick Short, MRK = Mark, HB = Handball)

Centre bounce attendances:

Quarter 1: three
Quarter 2: two
Quarter 3: four
Quarter 4: one

Total ruck contests attended:

Quarter 1: fourteen
Quarter 2: three
Quarter 3: eight
Quarter 4: five

Balta begun the first and third quarter at the first centre bounce for the quarter, while he started inside 50 in the second and fourth quarter spending most of those quarters up forward. It took until the 17th minute mark of the final term for Balta to attend a ruck contest. The first quarter largely saw him compete in the ruck, with nearly half of his total ruck contests that he attended for the day coming in this quarter. Whether this was a ploy or not – but it seemed from the outset that Balta was a ruckman first in quarters one and three, before playing as a forward in the second and fourth. Whether Balta ran out of puff – or the Cannons used their other options, they suitable lost the centre bounces when he wasn’t there. When he was at the centre bounce, he won six of the ruck contests he competed in against Lloyd Meek and Tylar Watts.

Final stats:

17 disposals (9 contested)
13 kicks
4 handballs
7 marks (5 contested)
12 hit outs (6 centre bounce hit outs)
4 score assists

WITH one of the biggest upsides of the draft pool and an untapped athletic ability at times – Balta at this stage is pencilled in to be drafted in the front half of the draft. With his ability in the ruck to leap over the opposition ruckman, it makes him standout over some of the bigger bodied rucks in the draft pool. Where Vic Metro play him will be another question – with the possibility of Balta spending time in defence as he has at times for the AFL Academy. Balta is developing into a good prospect and he will continue to be one of the Cannons’ most important players throughout 2017.

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