Scouting Notes: 2022 NAB League Boys – Round 1
THE 2022 NAB League Boys season got underway on the weekend, with a bumper eight games allowing for talent around the nation to be showcased in the elite talent pathway. With a couple of games decided by under a goal and plenty of big moments to be had, there were a bunch of outstanding individual performances. We highlight them in this week’s Scouting Notes.
Note: All comments are opinion of the individual author.
By: Max Hughes
Andronaco was critical to his side’s victory, as he led Calder’s inside midfield brigade impressively. A small but physically powerful prospect, his contested work was excellent, as he tackled hard and cleared a path regardless of whether he had the ball. His goal was a nice addition to an already excellent game, and he looks like he will a reliable performer for Calder this season. His physicality set the tone early, and he was a key figure of the Cannon’s engine room with 24 disposals.
Looked classy when he got his hands on the ball, with some lovely running passages off the half-back flank. Was especially prominent in the first quarter when Calder was flying, as he repelled numerous GWS advances and used his dash to set up the Cannon’s ball movement. He faded out of the contest a touch, however, he is evidently a player who makes things happen and despite finishing with only 11 disposals, his influence was noticeable. Shapes to be a real weapon for the Cannons, particularly if he can get himself involved more consistently.
#6 Carlos Egan
It was an interesting game for Egan, who absolutely dominated the first term with two goals and several ferocious tackles. However, after being the clear standout early, he drifted right out of the contest after quarter time. Despite this, the spark he created during Calder’s four-goal to one start was spectacular and gave a glimpse of his talent and power. His explosiveness will worry teams all year, and both of his finishes were clinical. Will be exciting to see him have a four-quarter performance soon, but there was plenty to like about the way he opened things up.
#8 Rye Penny
Penny’s 11 marks stood out on his stat sheet, however the number itself doesn’t do his aerial game justice. The half-backman was an imposing presence in marking contests throughout, especially in the last quarter, when he rose up to take a variety of impressive contested intercepts. His final mark, in the dying seconds, was the best of them all – a towering pack grab that sealed his side’s victory. A super athlete who tested as the best leaper in this year’s class during preseason, Penny is an interesting prospect to watch. His kicking isn’t perfect, but his sheer leaping power and strong hands would excite recruiters immensely.
#18 Jack Newitt
Newitt was one of the best afield, notching up 28 disposals and two critical goals in a fantastic display. He has a great frame at 189cm and used that size well to mark around the ground and tackle. Seemed to accumulate the ball without standing out as much as some others, but he rarely made an error and won a lot of ball in the clinches, which often goes unnoticed. Played a great all-round game and took some pressure off Paul Pascu, who was being paid some attention by the Giants at stoppage.
#24 Declan Willmore
Wasn’t Calder’s most influential player, but like Foley, made things happen when he got the ball. A beautiful kick, Willmore looked a class above at times in the first half, showing deft touch and precision in a game that was generally scrappy. Calder would love to see the football in his hands, especially on the rebound, where he and Foley can slice up opposition defences. 15 disposals made for a solid outing, but his best games are yet to come.
#10 Ethan Grace
A classy operator, Grace had a nice game floating between the midfield and half-forward. Only lightly framed, he showed his composure on numerous occasions, using his lovely foot skills to get himself and his side out of trouble. Would like to have kicked a little straighter, but a goal and 25 disposals is a fantastic return. One to watch during this season, as his skill combined with his ball winning ability is an exciting blend.
#16 Harry Rowston
Rowston was probably the most impactful player on the ground, and his game will undoubtedly excite the GWS Academy. He finished with 20 disposals and eight tackles, but it was the way he played that was the most impressive. Rowston is a great athlete, and he showed this throughout the contest, taking some strong marks, as well as exploding from stoppages. One play, where he dove horizontally to trap a tumbling ball before springing to his feet and firing off a handball, stood out as an example of his explosive capacity. His kicking was also elite, as he lowered his eyes often and pulled passes at the last minute to find teammates. Rounding out his performance was an obvious desire to tackle and chase, something that earned him a few holding the ball free kicks and highlighted his commitment. May not have had the most possessions on the ground, but Rowston was the best player out there.
#18 Luke Lawrence
Lawrence contributed a polished performance for the Giants, one that improved significantly as the game wore on. His gut-running was a real feature, especially in the third quarter, when he was possessing the ball at will. Lawrence was often giving forward handballs before powering further afield to get back involved in the chain. These repeat efforts stood out, alongside his toughness around contests. His kicking wasn’t incisive, but he showed enough from his 29 disposals that it wouldn’t be considered a glaring weakness. One of the best players on the ground, and alongside Rowston, drove the GWS ascendancy in the second and third terms.
#24 Mackinley Miller
Miller played a pivotal role as a slightly undersized centre half-back, taking some nice intercept marks and providing rebound off the flanks. He took the game on consistently, dashing through traffic and using his tidy foot skills. There were a couple of times where his decision making could have been better, but his bravery to take risks was admirable, particularly as they mostly resulted in positive outcomes. May be a little undersized for the role he was playing, but Miller has the frame of a third tall in defence, someone who can assist key position defenders by floating across and picking off forward 50 entries. As someone who the Giants clearly look towards as they exit defensive 50, Miller will have plenty of opportunities to show his wares this season.
#29 Luke Fellows
Seemed to accumulate the ball with immense ease, and whilst he didn’t have the impact of Rowston or Lawrence, Fellows worked tirelessly all day to finish with 28 disposals. He was strong in the contest and spread well, getting involved by hand. He executed a huge dump tackle in the second quarter that was adjudged dangerous, but it was good to see him tackle with some serious intent. Clearly a polished footballer, Fellow’s looms as a beacon of consistency, something that recruiters will note if he is able to maintain this level of performance.
By: Michael Alvaro
#4 Harley Reid
It was an ‘almost’ kind of day for Reid, who displayed all the flair which has him poised as an exciting bottom-age prospect, but lacked the finish product at times. He started deep inside attacking 50 and was lively at the fall of the ball, wheeling around to get snaps on goal and converting one of two chances in the first term. He was injected into the midfield as Noah Long and Harvey Gallagher went down, proving clean by hand and impressing with his turn of speed out of congestion. A couple of poor set shot and snap misses were not ideal, but Reid’s athleticism and love for a fend-off were a couple of exciting traits. He’s one who seems to enjoy his footy, so making the improvements should be no trouble.
The AFL Academy member started his season strongly with a dominant display rotating forward from midfield, showing good signs but also a few things left to work on. His 190cm frame was noticeable at stoppage, where Gillbee found plenty of possessions and typically played the inside role. He was a little rushed at times and could not quite pump his legs to the outer, but was generally clean enough by hand to bring others into the play. Gillbee also hit the scoreboard when shifted forward and leapt confidently for his marks, clunking one in a pack during term two to finally snare a six-pointer. He launched his second goal in the following quarter from just inside 50, and ended up with a game-high 25 touches.
#14 Corbin Anderson
Anderson was a reliable figure across the backline for Bendigo, defying his light 176cm frame with plenty of gutsy plays. The top-ager was seen both diving and flying for intercept marks, clunking nine grabs overall and putting his body on the line when required. He was clean in those instances, and needed to be, before setting Bendigo on the rebound with a kick-first approach off the last line.
#17 Oscar Faulkhead
A classy operator, Faulkhead was another Pioneer who was made to stand up in midfield after a couple of key players went down. The over-ager is a smaller type but makes up for it with his agility, making good decisions in tight spots to absorb pressure and consistently dig a disposal out in tackles. Most of his 17 disposals were delivered by hand, and displayed a great combination of vision and composure. One of his five kicks was a tidy snap goal in the first term, though, and Faulkhead was one of the more stylish players in a hotly contested game.
Having almost exclusively played out on a wing as a top-ager last year, Ballantyne marked the start of his over-age season with a new role on the inside. At 183cm some of his early moments showed good strength at the contest, as Ballantyne shrugged off bigger opponents and looked to release others to the outside by hand. 14 of his 21 touches were handballs, and Ballantyne bookended his game strongly in a ball winning sense.
Another Rebels over-ager with decent stock in his return to the competition, Sinnott also featured in a relatively new midfield role. He showcased many more outside tendencies, playing the receiver role at stoppages and going on a few short runs with ball in hand. After a productive first term, the 186cm over-ager faded a touch but displayed neat skills by hand in the early stages, and the potential to thrive off the inside work of GWV’s physically stronger mids.
#5 Aaron Cadman
Cadman was a real feature up forward for GWV, proving the focal point inside 50 at 194cm, after impressing further afield last year. He ended up with four goals, kicked to one end of the ground, and was on fire in one-on-one situations. His overhead marking proved strong, and Cadman was smart enough to read when the ball would fly over the back, turning quicker than his direct opponent to latch onto it inside 50. His consecutive majors from the same pocket in term four were impressive, particularly given they were on the wrong side for a left-footer, and Cadman could have finished with a bigger haul if not for unselfishness and inaccuracy.
One who was highlighted by Rebels staff in preseason, Bond got some good midfield minutes under his belt and was able to display his strengths. The top-ager is strongly built at 184cm, and used his physical attributes to advantage when laying bone-crunching tackles. Though not always rewarded, his lunging efforts broke up a few Bendigo attacks and forced stoppages, and might have put a bit of doubt into his opponents’ minds. While much of his work was done on the inside, Bond made an ideal start to the game as he marked deep in the pocket and converted a tidy snap goal within the opening minute.
#23 James Van Es
Another well-built prospect, Van Es brought a real presence to the Rebels backline with his sheer size and solidity. The top-ager impressed most with his composure and reliability in tight spots, able to showcase a really handy step for is size and decent decision making across the defensive 50. He also clunked some nice intercept marks, taking the ball cleanly and reading it well in one-on-one situations. The only factor which let Van Es down at times was his kicking, though many others found that tough on Saturday.
By: Peter Williams
In slippery conditions, the talented ball-user was clean and precise with his touches. He often won the ball in space that he created and showed his footy IQ by being able to disguise taking the ball out of bounds on a number of occasions. He is good enough by foot to look to hit back into the corridor, and runs hard enough on the outside to be able to work both ways. Even when his kicks were not pinpoint, he made the right decision and was a player that teammates could get the ball in the hands of. Seven minutes in to the final term he seemed to cramp on the wing and had to come off after landing a touch awkwardly, but returned.
#2 Nate Caddy
An outstanding debut from the bottom-ager who slotted three goals and should have had more, there was little doubt that the nephew of Josh could play. Providing both a target on a lead and as a crumbing type, the 190cm Caddy has some eye-catching moves. His vision to hit Chubb with the outside of the boot early in the match was brilliant both from a vision and execution perspective. Caddy was a touch inconsistent with his field kicking depending on the distance, but when he lowered his eyes inside 50 her was clean to drill passes inside 50. He slammed home two of his three goals in the third term, with his first coming from a nice lead at centre half-forward and converting from 50m, then his second from the outside of the boot after receiving the handball. Caddy’s third major was a clever one from the pocket in what was his most eye-catching of the lot. He had a couple more chances in the final term but seemed to pull them in order to gain extra meterage, and just missed his shots. There was little to fault about his overall game though, and he is certainly one to keep an eye on both this season and next.
#3 Rohan McKenzie
A really dangerous small forward with perfect crumbing ability, McKenzie is the player that is the cream on top. He gets to the right spots, waits for the ball to spill then makes no mistake with the quick snap around his body. He did just this time and time again to finish with three goals. His first was from a set shot, but then a second chance came midway through the second term when his kick sailed through but was touched along the way. He crumbed a pack for a quick snap late in the third term, then produced a great spin, turn and snap in the fourth quarter to nail a third goal.
#4 Jack Chubb
Played a traditional key forward role and made the most of his chances which is all one can ask. The 194cm full-forward proved too strong for his opponents, and read the ball well in flight to mark within goal-scoring range. Chubb slotted his first from the lead in the opening term, then kicked his last two in the final quarter, with one soccered off the deck four minutes into the term, and then another from a long-range bomb into the win that never looked like missing.
The over-age midfielder put together a four-quarter performance and was arguably best on ground alongside Caddy. Dozzi was a high-volume ball-winner who amassed 26 disposals, and just had a crack on the inside and showed cleanliness by hand. When with time and space, Dozzi was effective by foot, and hurt the Swans on the scoreboard when he ran inside 50 and slotted a goal on the run five minutes into the third term. He was clean and made good decisions by foot, with only his accuracy by foot an area that could still improve. Despite being an inside midfielder, Dozzi still took 10 marks such was his high work rate and ability to spread to the outside. His defensive pressure was high and Dozzi showed great strength to be a real figurehead of the Knights in the win.
#9 Owen Mulady
The over-age captain was impressive in the win and showed nice composure in defence throughout the game. He played within his limits and ensured the defensive structures held up well, donning the long sleeves which was also appropriate for the conditions. His kicking was neat, he applied good pressure on opponents and released the ball by hand with effective timing. His two-metre kick to Edmends late in the game was an interesting choice over a handball, but it proved effective, and he was certainly solid throughout the game pushing up to help out his teammates in midfield.
Another Knights midfielder who found plenty of the ball and did well on the inside, Tomasiello shared the load with Dozzi in taking control from the stoppages. He stood up in tackles and his hands were particularly clean, able to handball whilst under pressure and also weighing each touch well across the board. He was lively throughout the four quarters and won a great clearance in the final term when he burst out of the middle and kicked to half-forward. As a whole he was amongst the best Knights and was certainly a first-possession ball winner at the coalface.
#14 Cooper Harvey
The North Melbourne father-son looked lively inside 50 for the Knights and certainly showcased the forward craft and goal sense that his famous father had. He worked hard up the ground and when one-on-one applied good body work to his opponent, then set up a goal to Caddy inside 50. That came in the third term, but he also kicked one himself, having lead well and got in front of his opponent to hold ground, juggle with two grabs and convert the set shot from 40m out on a 45-degree angle. He had a number of other shots, but a couple went out on the full, with a rushed shot on the run and a tight angle set shot both going wide. Though not completely consistent by foot, he showed promising signs with his contests both aerially and at ground level to suggest there is plenty to work with there.
#19 Charlie Naish
Bearing a striking resemblance in his gamestyle to his brother Patrick, Naish provided some slick ball use on the outside and a very handy left foot. A late inclusion for the game, the bottom-ager moved well down a wing and also provided some good spread, taking seven marks and putting the ball inside 50 six times from only 15 disposals. He had a set shot opportunity in the first term but missed to the right, but continued to present when resting forward, and then pushed up to impact through the middle of the ground, setting up a Caddy goal. He and Caddy combined on a number of occasions, which gave a Richmond flavour to the match.
#3 Felix Rogers
The over-age talent acquitted himself well playing forward and spending time further afield to win the ball in the middle. He was particularly lively in the first half when roaming through the midfield and he is clever at finding space and utilising his evasion and goal sense to full advantage. When forward, Rogers looked the most dangerous, kicking two of his side’s three goals which included a late dribbler in the fourth term. Most of his 16 disposals came in the first half, but he was certainly one of the more productive Swans in that half.
Putting together a four-quarter effort, the midfielder accumulated the ball with ease and had a nice balance of inside and outside capabilities. His hard running in transition was impressive and he showed clever vision and decision making throughout the first half. He has some high upside, and though later in the game he had to thump it long more due to the conditions, he was clearly amongst the best Swans on the ground. He racked up more disposals than anyone else on the field, and put forward his case as a potential over-age prospect for the Swans Academy this year.
#10 Indhi Kirk
The father-son Swans prospect certainly would have had Sydney fans excited with some very similar traits to his famous father Brett. Indhi cracked in all the time and thrived on the contested ball, winning his fair share of possessions around the ground. He was clean with his hands and very strong overhead despite his 179cm frame. Thought not an overly potent kick, he is clever and smart with his possessions and has enough footy smarts to make the right decisions with ball-in-hand more often than not. Thrived in the slippery conditions and was right up there with Giacometti as the Swans’ best, finishing with 20 disposals, four marks and six tackles, as well as a clever goal.
By: Declan Reeve
The AFL Academy member just seemed to do everything right for a big bodied midfielder. He kept his hands free in congestion and was lethal with his quick hands in close, often taking contact to really draw in opponents and then release out to a runner who had plenty of space to work with. Szybkowski showed off his speed when in space or to burst free from congestion, managing to burn opponents well and then deliver forward, generally by hand. At times, it felt like Szybkowski didn’t trust his kicking with how often he looked to move the ball by hand, even when clear in space, but he slowly grew into it to show off some neat kicks later in the piece.
#4 Jaxon Binns
Binns played mostly on the wing, where he used the space he had to show off his leg speed well as he drove the ball forward with his run and carry, then executing well placed kicks with really good penetration to teammates leading for him. Binns was one of the main men heading forward for Dandenong throughout the game, damaging the opposition with each kick as he seemed to lace every single one out for his teammates, or put it into dangerous spots around the goal square. Binns was later paid back for his efforts, taking an impressive contested mark in the goalsquare for a major.
#9 Ned Moodie
Very much the definition of taking your chances, Moodie led the game for goals, slotting five-straight from eight disposals. Showing off some impressive forward craft, Moodie didn’t necessarily burn opponents with speed on the lead, but outsmarted them to be in the right spot at the right time to receive the ball. He got a couple of his goals from earning free kicks around the 50, reacted well to rushed kicks to get marks for set shots for a couple of others, and held his space superbly out of a contest to receive a handball and slot his fifth.
#13 Finn Emile-Brennan
Playing out of the backline, Brennan provided plenty of spark with his aggressive ball use and confidence with ball in hand, taking on opponents and showing brilliant composure when under pressure. Emile-Brennan won some impressive ground level balls and spun out of tackles immediately, keeping his hands free to deliver to runners. The real highlight of Emile-Brennan’s game was some of his kicking, whilst some attempted long kicks went astray, his kicking at short-medium distances was superb, getting penetration on the ball to have it move quickly to his target, but having them delivered just softly enough so the kick wasn’t difficult to hold.
#16 Henry Hustwaite
As complete of a game as you can ask for from a tall defender, Hustwaite was simply faultless in his defensive craft. His positioning, marking and composure with the ball were superb through the game, taking a couple of intercept marks and using it well on the rebound. Hustwaite’s work at ground level was impressive, winning it like he was a smaller player and holding his composure through traffic while keeping his hands free to ensure he could fire off a handball, he was never rushed despite being in the thick of things at times.
#44 Jai Culley
A returning over-ager for the Stingrays, Culley immediately made it obvious that he’s enjoyed a lot of improvement over the break. Previously a player that looked far more comfortable on the outside, Culley imposed himself on the contest well, winning the contested ball and bursting away to deliver it well to teammates via hand or foot. It was impressive how well he managed to use it despite being in the thick of the contest so often. Culley managed to impact the scoreboard as well, taking his chances when he won it inside 50 to kick three goals straight in a complete performance.
#1 Kai Windsor
It’s almost unbelievable to see that Windsor won it 12 times given his impact on the contest, particularly early on where he was one of the main drivers for his side from the midfield. Windsor used his speed to his advantage to break free from congestion and deliver well forward. Windsor arguably looked his best when stationed inside 50 and acting as a link-up player, managing to get separation from opponents well using his speed, and then his agility to avoid tackles, managing to break a few that most players would’ve been taken to ground in.
#3 Joshua Bennetts
Stationed mostly as a half forward through the clash, Bennetts really damaged with his use by foot through the contest, managing to hit off some brilliant kicks even when not in a great position to do so. He was often under pressure when he won it, but always managed to get just enough time to balance himself and kick well, either straight to or in front of a teammate.
#5 Nick Watson
Despite being one for the 2023 draft, Watson played a game that we’ve come to expect of the bottom age star. Utilising all aspects of his athleticism, Watson caused headaches in the forward 50 with his forward craft and ability to get away from opposition, whether through a lead or simply evading them with ball in hand. Watson’s consistent efforts with leads and attempts to win the ball saw him rewarded with four goals, missing two gettable set shots as well, and have the most influence on the contest from an Eastern point of view. Watson pushed into the midfield in the final term and managed to continue impressing with his speed and agility allowing him to burn opponents, giving him time to steady before disposing of the ball.
#18 Lewis Hayes
With well developed positioning and a strong mark, it’s no surprise that Hayes was one that had a good game with his intercepting. Whilst lightly built currently, Hayes uses his body well to get in front of marking contests when one-on-one and catches the eye with how he drifts in front of others to take grabs. Hayes was solid with his ball use, letting out a few long bombs that easily travelled 50 meters, but also measuring his disposal well with some safe kicks when the time called for it.
#26 Matthew Aldous
Whilst not always rewarded for his leading efforts, Aldous consistently provided as an option out of the forward line for his teammates with hard and repeated leading efforts. Aldous has a good leap which aided him in a few marking contests, and agility which saw him pull off a couple of impressive candy sells heading inside 50. Aldous demonstrated that he’s a good shot for goal too, taking the most of his opportunities to convert, but often looking to pass it off when there were teammates in better positions.
By: Michael Alvaro
Having produced the most mercurial forward of last year’s draft, Murray may have another on its hands in George. The top-ager produced seven scoring shots from nine kicks and five marks, even as his side lost the inside 50 count by 20. He was forced to find the ball further afield as Gippsland dominated the early proceedings, before providing a spark in term two with back-to-back goals. He added three more in the second half by reading the play best inside 50, getting over the back or outdoing his opponents one-on-one. His ability to find goals that way, but also with productive leading play made him a real threat, and essentially a lone hand inside 50 with limited delivery to Murray’s talls.
Hollands’ day unfortunately ended early in term four as he came off the field frustrated, and iced a lower leg/foot injury. Beforehand, he went about his usual work in midfield with dominant accumulative play and plenty of clearance contribution. He consistently got his hands on the ball and stayed on the move, using his swift step to move laterally or straight-line burst to jet onto the outer. From there, Hollands’ end product could have done with some polish as he tended to bomb long, but his sheer output for just over three quarters was noticeable.
#6 Coby James
The bottom-aged small defender was somewhat of a surprise packet on the day, but impressed with his ability to drive Murray out of defensive 50. Tasked with the kick-in duties at times, James gathered a team-high 24 touches but also won his own ball by getting to good spots as Gippsland attacked, and competing well at ground level. On the rebound, James pumped his legs and looked to go long by foot, quickly shifting his side into transition when the pressure gauge was high.
#10 Jedd Longmire
Quite a pure inside type with good footballing pedigree, Longmire’s clean hands were a real feature of his game in Round 1. He was a consistent figure in the Bushrangers’ midfield mix, burrowing in at the contest and releasing teammates into space with drawing handballs. A couple of great examples of that came inside attacking 50, as Longmire opened up the play with handpasses which allowed his teammates to get off shots on goal. His second half was a touch less impactful, as he finished with 17 disposals and five tackles.
#16 Max Clohesy
Ending up as Murray’s most prolific midfielder, Clohesy was able to drive Murray out of stoppage with exciting bursts of play. He used his turn of speed to break forward and almost always looked to move the ball on quickly, finding a way through traffic to bring play to the outer. Clohesy’s highlight for the day was a sweetly struck running goal in the second term as Murray began to hit back, and he ended up with five inside 50s to have an attacking influence. Happy to run with the ball, Clohesy’s ability to draw and release at the last possible moment was also notable.
#21 Ryan Eyers
One of an array of Murray prospects around the 200cm mark, Eyers had plenty to do as he was utilised down back. While unable to do much in the opening stages, the over-ager had a really solid second half as strong intercept marking became the key feature of his game. Eyers read the flight of the ball well and clunked it cleanly overhead, but was also able to lean on his mobility to compete at ground level when necessary and distribute without fuss.
The Gippsland skipper turned in a powerful best afield performance, rotating forward from midfield to end up with three goals from 23 disposals. Humphrey’s clean hands and burst to the front of stoppage were traits showcased in full, as he bustled his way forward with strong inside form. When shifted into attack, the top-ager found ways to get into space and all four of his scoring shots came from either marks or free kicks. He could have had another in the final term, but thumped his 40-metre attempt into the man on the mark.
With Gippsland owning the early stages, Moschetti was one who showed his wares well with a balanced game in midfield. He displayed inside and outside traits, shifting between the centre bounces and wing to gain a good variety of possessions. At 177cm, Moschetti was able to compete in a contested sense, but arguably looked at his best when wheeling onto his left side on the outer and kicking the ball with class. He was a touch quieter after half time, but snared free kick goal in the final quarter.
Mixing his time between the forwardline and midfield, Konstanty was lively at his best but did not always hit those heights. He put work into the likes of Ollie Hollands at stoppages and had the smarts to win his own ball at ground level, though could have done with better finishing on the day. The 176cm top-ager snuck home a major in term one with a fend and checkside kick, producing several shots on goal despite only registering two more behinds for his efforts. His creativity in the front half should make him a handful this season.
#9 Zane Duursma
Another forward who fit the theme of making the most of each opportunity, Duursma was blanketed relatively well all afternoon but still managed to boot three goals from nine disposals. It was somewhat of an ‘almost’ day for the AFL Academy member, whose natural craft and smooth athleticism saw him fall short of pulling in some nice marks. His goals were finished nicely, converted from relatively straightforward set shots in the first half, and a freebie in the goalsquare during term four.
#41 Jenson Garnham
Somewhat of a surprise packet on the day, Garnham only registered nine touches and three marks, but got involved in many positive forward passages. The top-ager started with a bang, slotting a lovely snap in the opening term and crashing a huge contest off the centre clearance shortly after. That was his lone major, but Garnham got busy late in the piece with a set shot chance and a couple of marks deep in the pocket – one of which he handed over to Duursma for a goal assist.
#43 Harvey Howe
Against Murray’s array of bigmen, Howe was the dominant tall for Gippsland with his ruck work, winning a game-high 18 hitouts. His sheer size at 201cm was difficult to combat, but Howe also displayed good touch when involved in general play and stuck within his limits – except for his wobbly barrel from 60 metres after the three-quarter time siren. He opted to grab out of the ruck at times but only took one mark for the day, though his positioning behind the ball should allow for more of that throughout the season.
#45 Rhys Galvin
Spending plenty of time manning dangerous Murray forward Brayden George, Galvin was able to do the defensive stuff but also got his side going in transition with six rebound 50s from 15 disposals. The top-ager is solidly built and backed himself to commit to each contest, hitting them hard to spoil when he could not clunk a mark. Overall, it was a solid and important showing from Galvin which his teammates appreciated.
By: Michael Alvaro
#6 Matthew Payne
The speedy small forward was a pain for Lions defenders to deal with, as he made a menace of himself in the front half. Payne’s pace and agility saw him jet into goal during term one with an eye-catching finish from 40 metres, and his best work was done when quickly breaking back towards the attacking 50. The top-ager was difficult to stop in those instances and played a little like Carlton’s Corey Durdin in the sense that he could work up the ground to lead and mark, but also impact closer to goal with creativity. The only thing missing in that comparison is defensive acumen. Nonetheless, Payne had a few more chances on goal in a quieter second half and looked lively at his best early on.
#13 Jaelen Pavlidis
One of only two Jets to tick up over 20 touches, Pavlidis was prominent around the ball when it counted as Western jetted clear in the final term. His contested craft was solid and he found a good amount of ball at centre bounces, putting in repeat efforts and setting the tone in midfield. One of his best plays earned a high fend-off free kick, where Pavlidis stood tall to bring down a surging Jack Manly on the wing.
#14 Harry Miller
Western’s most effective forward on the day in a goalkicking sense, Miller just seemed to get into all the right spots inside 50 and finished with three majors from 10 touches. His keenness to get a chance at the big sticks showed as he marked in positions where set shots would have been straightforward, but immediately played on twice and finished the job. Miller was clean in that department, notching just one behind from his four scoring shots in a decent display.
Best afield for the Jets, D’Ambrosio picked up from where he left off last year with an important role in defence. The co-captain racked up a game-high 28 touches and did just about everything behind the ball – taking kick-ins, booting the ball long, defying his size when flying for marks. D’Ambrosio rolled up high and used his penetrative left foot to set Western into attack, taking the game on whenever he could. A terrific passage through the corridor saw him pull the trigger with a tight handball receive and baulk, before going long inside 50.
#2 Bailey Tome
Tome did all the tough stuff for Brisbane, cracking in at the contest and digging the ball out time and time again. He laid 10 tackles for the day, with one a terrific second effort in the second quarter after fumbling a ground ball. Tome also flicked out a few useful handballs, and arguably the best came in the midst of a tackle to assist Jack Manly for a forward 50 stoppage goal.
#10 Zac Young
An over-ager who had a greater impact than his numbers would suggest, Young came to particular prominence in the second half with a few big moments. He started the third quarter off well, snaring a goal in the sixth minute after taking a half-volley sweetly and converting the snap. His ground level play was sound, combined with a running game which allowed Brisbane to shift gears on the outside. Young had another chance to hit the scoreboard in term three, backing in for an overhead mark but hitting the post with his set shot.
#18 Jaspa Fletcher
The AFL Academy member is all class, and showed he was up for the challenge with a glorious first goal of the game. Fletcher booted two in almost identical fashion, but the first saw him take on the man on the mark and slot the ball home with a sweetly timed shot from 50 metres. His second major was reminiscent of Nick Daicos’ effort on Saturday night, channeling a bit of that father-son energy. Overall, Fletcher’s smooth movement and confidence to take the game on stood out, as he had a say at the centre bounces and got creative with chained disposals in general play.
#32 Liam Hude
One of Brisbane’s co-captains, Hude took the phrase leading from the front literally as he booted an equal game-high three goals from 13 touches and six marks. Opportunities were limited in the opening half, but he managed to take a mark going back with the flight in term one to get on the board. He went on to work further up the ground, but got busy again inside 50 and converted two holding free kicks in the third quarter.
By: Declan Reeve
One of the early-season pick one contenders and a Brisbane father-son candidate, Ashcroft came into the game with a lot of eyes on him and some high expectations. Early on, Ashcroft struggled to get into the game as Oakleigh’s midfield physically dominated the contest, but he adapted and started working into the game as it drew on. Renowned for his ball use, Ashcroft sometimes struggled with his kicking under pressure but had a few moments in space where he hit some good passes going forward, however his handballing was always on point regardless of the situation.
The over-ager looked improved from his 2021 output from the start. Not necessarily having a strength advantage over his opponents, Benton still managed to win a lot of the ball in tight and use it effectively to get the Dragons going forward. An aspect of Benton’s game that looks to have improved dramatically is his scoreboard impact, managing three goals while playing through the midfield.
Despite not kicking a major for the game, Hall-Kahan looked like Sandringham’s most dangerous forward for most of the contest, regularly able to get free on the lead or end up in the right spot, making it difficult for the Oakleigh defenders to keep him quiet. Whilst he played deep for a lot of the game, Hall-Kahan arguably looked most impressive when playing as high half-forward, able to win the ball up the ground and use it well by foot heading inside 50, setting up a goal in the second term with a well placed kick to the top of the goalsquare.
#9 Archie Roberts
One of a few bottom-agers to take to the field, Roberts was arguably the most impactful of the lot out of defensive 50, with his run and carry game creating plenty of drive for the Dragons. Sporting a playing style not too dissimilar from former Dragon Josh Sinn, and a look to match, Roberts led the game for rebounds and he worked tirelessly to assist his teammates in contests and get the ball out. Roberts was aggressive with his ball use, not afraid to hit targets centrally from the backline or go for a switch kick not many others would attempt.
#16 Harry Sheezel
The Academy member didn’t quite have the four quarter impact he would’ve liked, but Sheezel was undeniably exciting when up and about through the game. Like most of his teammates, early on Sheezel found it tough to get involved as Oakleigh had most of the play, but Sheezel showed solid workrate to get up the ground and start impacting in defensive 50 with pressure acts and managing to win the ball. Sheezel found a bit of his forward 50 groove in the last quarter, taking some nice marks by reading the ball better than opponents over the back of contests and earning a free kick right in front of goal, only converting for one major from three set shots.
#28 Ryley Sanders
The Tasmanian bottom-aged Academy member, boarding at Melbourne Grammar, was arguably the best performed midfielder from Sandringham for the day, making his impact felt through stoppages and showcasing high-level composure under pressure. Sanders’ cleanliness by hand and ability to draw opponents saw him release handballs to runners that had plenty of space to continue running into, and when runners weren’t there he showed off the same composure by foot. Sanders worked hard to get to the right spots all game, trying to be in a position to get hands out of a contest or be a switch option for his side.
#29 Max Ramsden
Up against quite a formidable Oakleigh Chargers ruck division, Ramsden may not have won all his ruck contests, but his follow up work at ground level and one grab pick ups in the wet impressed throughout the game. Ramsden had a few moments where he beat opposing midfielders in foot races for a ball, collected it and then kicked forward well to a leading teammate.
Starting the game on the wing, the pick one contender played his role well superbly with his ability to hold space and time his runs to receive handballs or sweep up on loose balls out of contests. This ability saw him used as a forward handball option a few times heading inside 50, where he was able to quickly assess his options ahead and kick well for his forwards to easily lead into and take on the chest. Tsatas also managed to impact centre stoppages despite starting on the wing, with one particular play where he bolted in at full speed, winning the ball as it spilled over the top of the contest, powering away and bombing long to the top of the goalsquare. It wasn’t all outside work for Tsatas though, taking his opportunities in the centre square to show his capabilities in winning contested footy, using it well under pressure and his athletic tricks which let him get away from congestion, or around opponents, almost too easily.
#2 Blake Drury
Traditionally playing almost full-time in midfield, Drury spent quite a bit of time up forward against the Dragons and did not disappoint when up there. Drury ended the day with three goals, but could’ve had plenty more had he held his composure a little better at times. Drury worked hard all game to win the ball in the thick of things, or to be in the right spots to get it out of a contest, constantly around the ball when in the midfield and constantly at the feet of packs up forward. Whilst Drury did well to get shots away inside 50, there were times where he would’ve been better served passing off to teammates in better spots, however the efforts were impressive regardless.
The Under 17’s Vic Country representative played an impressive game, splitting his time between the forward line and midfield. Not letting his shorter stature limit him in marking contests or in the thick of things, O’Sullivan used his evasiveness to his advantage more than a few times to keep the ball free in traffic and come out the other side to deliver the ball to a teammate. O’Sullivan was composed with the footy and solid with his delivery, even able to hit targets by foot when in the middle of a pack, his use going forward created a few opportunities for Oakleigh. O’Sullivan’s courage to go back with the flight of the ball also stood out, at one stage taking an intercept mark whilst an opponent jumped in to him trying to win the same ball.
Whilst the wet conditions meant it wasn’t best day to be a marking tall forward, Jefferson impressed with his work at ground level for a tall player, showing his cleanliness below his knees at speed and quick hands to set up a goal at one stage. Jefferson should good reaction time as well as he managed to intercept an attempted switch kick in his forward 50, spoiling the ball for a teammate to run onto and score. Despite the conditions, Jefferson still showed off some of his aerial talent, taking a contested mark right on the point line to slot a goal for his efforts.
With conditions being a contested players dream, it’s no surprise that Wardlaw took the opportunity to show off his traits and push his case as an early pick one favourite. Simply put, Wardlaw was unmatchable for the game as he did as he pleased through the midfield, even managing to impact up forward with the opening goal of the match. All the things that you want from an inside midfielder; quick and precise hands in close, courage, contested work, tackling, were what Wardlaw was showing through the game. If Wardlaw wasn’t winning the ball himself, he was working hard to shepherd for teammates or be an option for the handball, where he would follow up with good use by foot even under pressure. Wardlaw’s use by foot looked improved from last season, particularly when out in space where he was confident in hitting inside 45 kicks or going for switches.
#7 Angus Curry
Another of Oakleigh’s deep on-ball brigade, whilst Curry didn’t accumulate as much of the ball as many of his teammates, he still managed to catch the eye with some impressive bursts from congestion and attack on the ball. Where Curry stood out the most amongst his teammates was his defensive work in tight, laying some bone crunching tackles when opponents thought they were out clear of him and creating repeat stoppages.
The 2023 prospect played in the backline for the game, and whilst he didn’t win as much of the footy as some others, he was arguably the most impactful from back there when he did. With a high level athletics background, it’s unsurprising to see that Philactides backs his speed against any opponent, rarely getting chased down as he streamed out of the backline with the ball. He didn’t have the blinkers on all day though, assessing his options well and knowing when to use the balls safely when it was required, often looking for isolated teammates when disposing of it.
#18 Jed Rule
The over-ager, who is on Box Hill’s VFL list, picked up where he left off from 2021, demonstrating his read of the ball and clean ball use out of the back half, Rule led the game for marks as he managed to get free of his opponents and intercept with ease. Rule seemed to lead well from the back, often looked for by teammates to get the ball to so he could move out safely.
#33 Alwyn Davey Jnr.
Whilst the Essendon father-son prospect didn’t win a whole heap of the footy, he truly made every touch count with some superb ball use. Splitting his time between the forward line and midfield, Davey impacted mostly early on in the contest, using his speed and agility to break free from congestion when he won the ball, but never taking too long with it as he was able to make his decisions quickly and execute well even under pressure. Davey’s defensive efforts were also solid, laying some bumps that hurt opponents to secure the ball for himself or his teammates.
#38 Riley Voulanas
Voulanas demonstrated his natural forward craft well through the day, taking the opportunities he had to demonstrate his speed and agility through traffic, often collecting the ball cleanly at ground level even under pressure. Whilst he didn’t have an accurate day in front of goal, Voulanas did well to get the ball to dangerous spots even when in a position where he shouldn’t have been able to.
By: Michael Alvaro
#5 Jhye Clark
The Falcons skipper got to work straight away with some eye-catching early plays, but could not quite sustain his impact in what was a slog of a game at times. Clark’s balance of inside and outside traits was evident, as he sharked the ball off taps and sped away into space, but also did the contested and defensive things well. He made many of his touches count, going inside 50 six times from 14 disposals and using both feet to do so. Clark also displayed great game awareness in the dying stages, taking the game on at half-back and hitting a target to help Geelong generate a crucial goal.
#9 Ted Clohesy
The most prolific Falcons midfielder afield, Clohesy racked up a game-high 27 touches and laid 14 tackles in a well-rounded outing. He produced a few clean breaks from the centre bounces but also impressed with his blue-collar work. A great double effort in term two saw him courageously fly for a mark, land, and then compete to win the ground ball successfully. As a Geelong NGA candidate, he is one to monitor for Cats fans.
#11 Cooper Hayes
A hard runner who operated off half-back and the wing, Hayes stepped up for a huge final term which helped drag Geelong over the line. Donning the long-sleever, it took little time for Hayes to generate a bit of rebound from defence and he showed positive intent in possession. During the final term, he shifted further afield and even snuck inside 50 to mark and convert a big goal on the break. With 20 touches, seven marks, and a combined 11 breaches of the 50s, Hayes did everything to make his contributions count.
#47 Euriah Hollard
Returning for another year in the Falcons ranks, Hollard got busy in his usual small forward role. He snared the first goal of the game after competing well for a free kick at ground level, and added another in the second quarter. Hollard could have ended up with four or five majors with better conversion, hitting the post on one occasion and just lacking that finishing touch. Still, he was busy inside 50 and working up the ground, proving a reliable scoring source for Geelong.
#53 Olivier Northam
He may not spend much time in the ruck at 195cm should he crack the elite level, but Northam was outstanding in that role on Sunday. The competitive bigman dominated with 34 hitouts and clunked seven marks around the ground with great authority. He took each grab cleanly and showcased neat short kicking skills for a player his size, while also hitting the scoreboard with two goals. A real tone-setter, his presence lifted the Falcons and helped them claw back on top at the ideal time.
Usually a smooth mover on the attack, Harrington showcased a bit of that in patches, though the contested nature of the game did not always suit his own style. Stationed at half-forward, he worked up past the arc and looked to do damage with run and carry on the way back towards goal. He missed a set shot in term two but had some nice moments with his tricky evasiveness and speed, displaying glimpses of his overall class.
A bottom-aged small who contributed to key moments when it mattered, Rogers ended up being one of Gold Coast’s more productive players. He did the usual stuff with tackling pressure, nifty ground ball play and showings of speed, but saved his best until the last quarter. His big moment came as he marked and played on immediately at forward wing, sensing the state of the game with scores level and the Suns needing anything to level the scores. Gold Coast got the point, but could not quite hold on.
#29 Jed Foggo
Possessing a weaponous left foot, Foggo was certainly not afraid to use it and looked to go long with his kicks at every opportunity. He rotated through midfield from defence and brought a physical edge to both lines, delivering great urgency but sometimes requiring better decision making. He nabbed a goal in the first term as the Suns surged forward, hardly breaking stride as he marked at centre half-forward and slotted the ball home on the run. With a team-high 19 touches and nine rebound 50s, Foggo could make better use of his kicks by shifting the angle or lowering his eyes at times, but had a really solid day out.
#32 Jed Walter
The sole Sun to boot multiple goals on Sunday, Walter showed some of the potential which saw him picked for this year’s AFL Academy intake. Still a bottom-ager, he took some time to build into the contest but was forced to fly in big packs as the ball was often sent long into Gold Coast’s forward 50. He nabbed a major in term two by reading the ball well over the back of a pack, and got another in term three through similar thinking. When he gets a proper run and jump at the ball, Walter looks a likely type and can take stock in finding a way to impact even on a tough day for it.