Round 3 NAB League action makes for Good Friday

THREE NAB League games are set to grace Good Friday this year, as Round 3 of the elite talent pathway is stretched over four days. Another bumper eight-game set of fixtures sees both Queensland academies out of action, but the two Sydney-based regions compete in a double-header at Trevor Barker Beach Oval.

First up, the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants Academy faces a tough test against one of the competition’s benchmarks. While sitting on a 1-1 record, the Sandringham Dragons boast a stack of top-end talent and will be breathing fire on their home deck.

Like all four Northern Academies, the Giants are yet to pick up a NAB League win in 2022, falling a combined 11 points short against Victorian opposition. Meanwhile, the Dragons bounced back from a Round 1 loss to local rival Oakleigh, defeating the Calder Cannons by 43 points on Saturday.

The hosts face a slightly shorter turnaround given GWS played on Friday night in Round 2, but with plenty of players currently on school holidays there should be plenty of rested-up talent ready to give this game a real crack. Among them, albeit a 2021 high school graduate, is Dragons skipper Will Ashcroft.

The Brisbane Lions father-son candidate was at his best last week, claiming Player of the Week honours for his 38-disposal effort. He is not alone as a star in the Sandringham lineup, with fellow AFL Academy member Harry Sheezel also out to impress. The forward has been training with St Kilda this week. Mobile over-age tall Max Ramsden is another to watch, as he strives for mid-season draft contendership.

Ramsden will likely go head-to-head with behemoth Giants ruck Nicholas Madden, who booted a couple of goals last time out. The Giants are a solid bunch in midfield with the likes of Luke Lawrence and Harry Rowston, which will hold them in good stead against Sandringham’s formidable prime movers.

The second game in Friday’s Sandringham double-header sees the 2-0 Gippsland Power take on the 0-2 Sydney Swans Academy. After a tough year in 2021, the Power are bearing the fruits of invaluable bottom-age experience with a bunch of draft eligible talent beginning to blossom.

A tough midfield mix including the likes of skipper Bailey Humphrey, Coby Burgiel, and Paddy Cross is thriving under the ruckmanship of Harvey Howe, while class lies at either end of the ground in the form of forward Zane Duursma and running defender Jonti Schuback. There are plenty of other good watches too, including the Hamilton boys – Josh (bottom-age) and Tom (top-age).

The going has been tough for the Swans Academy, though some green shoots appeared in their 11-point loss to Tasmania. Bottom-ager Caiden Cleary was a standout in midfield alongside 19th-year players Jordan Endemann and Luke Giacometti, while Swans father-son candidate Indhi Kirk (son of Brett) is another to keep an eye on for those cheering on the red and white.

Speaking of Tasmania, the Devils round out the Good Friday action with their first home game of the season. They take on the Northern Knights, who were brought back down to earth by a dominant Oakleigh Chargers side in Round 2 after a breezy opening win against the Swans.

Lead by captain Lachlan Cowan, the Devils got going off a Round 1 bye to earn four points at the first time of asking. Cowan will again be a feature off half-back and potentially in midfield, though his rebounding partnership with Tom McCallum was an exciting facet of Tasmania’s game last week.

The latter, a dynamic mover at 193cm, may be forced into a more defensive mindset this time out given Northern’s depth of tall talent. Bottom-age gun Nate Caddy has run rampant in the opening two games, while the versatile Dane Harvey is one of six Knights over 195cm.

Elsewhere, another double-header takes place on Saturday at RAMS Arena, where we will be introduced to the Northern Territory Thunder Academy. There are plenty of promising prospects scattered across the country who hail from the NT, but the Thunder squad to take on Murray Bushrangers is yet to be formally announced.

That clash is the second game up in Craigieburn, with the Calder Cannons and Western Jets set to do battle in the morning. Arguably the game to watch will take place in Box Hill though, as the Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers lock horns.

Bookending the round will be two all-Country clashes. The first sees Greater Western Victoria (GWV) host the Geelong Falcons in Ballarat, while the Bendigo Pioneers will hope to rise again in 2022 when they face the Dandenong Stingrays at Queen Elizabeth Oval on Easter Sunday.

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