Up the Grades: Mid-season hopefuls press final case

ALL that’s left to do is hear their names called out. At least that is what a few gun mid-season draft candidates will hope is in store for them, after pressing one last claim for a call-up to the AFL ranks. With some shining on debut and others continuing to find their feet at state league level, there were plenty of youngsters in action up the grades this past weekend.

Arguably the two most impressive performances came in the VFL, as over-agers in line for mid-season selection made strong maiden appearances. Bendigo Pioneers product Oskar Faulkhead put his hand up on debut for Geelong, booting a goal from 17 touches and five marks while also laying six tackles in the Cats’ 13-point win over Northern Bullants.

In his second outing for Richmond, Western Jets co-captain Massimo D’Ambrosio did all he could to impress with 25 disposals and four marks in a 33-point win against Essendon, playing against good mate Billy Cootee. Only Richmond-listed utility Hugo Ralphsmith had more touches on the day, with D’Ambrosio showing up plenty of top flight talent.

Another mid-season chance, Ethan Grace also turned out in his second state league game for the year. The Greater Western Sydney Academy graduate snared a goal from his seven touches as the Giants were beaten to the tune of 53 points by Werribee.

Sticking with the theme of Northern Academy members, Gold Coast unveiled two more in a 25-point win over the Footscray Bulldogs. Utility Jared Eckersley and midfielder Marlin Corbett made their debuts, joining Jye Lockett and Riley Stone at the level. The latter impressed with 13 touches and a couple of marks in what was his second cap.

Elsewhere, Williamstown was another side to call upon NAB League talent, debuting Calder Cannons product Michael Ktona and handing Greater Western Victoria’s Charlie Molan his fourth game. The former got up to speed with 10 disposals and three tackles, while the latter had it six times to go with his own trio of tackles as the Seagulls lost a thriller to Brisbane.

Other 19th-year prospects to climb the grades this week included Bendigo’s Harvey Gallagher, who turned out for the first time in Carlton colours, while Sydney Swans Academy member Angus Anderson came up against Coburg’s Alex Lukic (two goals) as the Swannies took home a 29-point victory at Piranha Park.

The weekend’s AFL Academy fixture meant there was few more junior draft prospects showing their wares at senior level around the nation, aside from a couple in South and Western Australia. Kobe Ryan continued his promising start to life at SANFL League level, collecting 17 disposals and six clearances as West Adelaide downed Port’s reserves.

In the same game, mature-aged Blood Josh Carmichael racked up 26 touches, five marks and a goal as he edges closer to an AFL chance. It was a similar story in the WAFL, with Steely Green (11 disposals, four tackles) again impressing for South Fremantle, as Jake Florenca went nuts with 41 disposals and two goals in the Bulldogs’ 26-point dub over Peel Thunder.

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