AFL U18s Player Focus: Reuben Ginbey (Western Australia)
ONE of the frontrunners for Western Australia’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award this year is Reuben Ginbey, a physically combative inside midfielder who has helped keep the winless Black Ducks competitive. Across three games, the East Perth product has boosted his draft stocks significantly against stiff opposition.
Having taken out Wesley College’s best and fairest last year, Ginbey was named captain of the school side in 2022 and started out his top-age campaign at WAFL League level. His exploits as a big bodied ball winner translated well to a more defensive role in Royal Blue, but his best form has come while donning state colours.
We put Ginbey’s latest performance, against Vic Country, under the Player Focus microscope.
SEASON SO FAR
Touted as a potential bolter in preseason, Ginbey earned a League berth for East Perth to kick off his season. Playing in two wins at the top level, he looked solid across the defensive half before returning to the side in Round 8. Ginbey averaged eight disposals and over two tackles per his three outings – steady returns in relatively consistent efforts.
Come the Under 18 National Championships, he hit the ground running. Ginbey was a key figure on the inside in game one against Vic Metro with 18 disposals and four clearances, before notching a personal best of 23 against the Allies, and finally a team-high 22 in his most recent effort.
2022 AFL Under 18 National Championships
Vic Country 12.11 (83) def. Western Australia 6.4 (40)
Having proven himself as one of WA’s most important ball winners, Ginbey started on-ball and attended four of five centre bounces in term one. Though, with a handful of touches in the opening 25 minutes, he found more success away from the contest in what was a scrappy start.
His first clean possession came at half-back on a handball receive, where Ginbey ate up a few metres before kicking a flat punt to the wing. He would later position beautifully front and centre at a contest to win the ground ball, and tried putting his head over the ball after that, but was adjudged to have fallen into the legs of a Country player.
It was clear that Ginbey’s kicking would continue to be an improvement area with another scrappy effort coming out of defensive 50, but much of that scuppered disposal had to do with the immense pressure that Country was applying. A solid start, but Country’s mids were well on top.
Ginbey resumed his on-ball role with attendances at all six centre bounces, but Western Australia’s midfield continued to be beaten to the ball by a hungry Vic Country core. Proving no different, Ginbey slowly began to impose himself on the midfield battle but had better moments around the ground.
Sweeping back behind the ball, Ginbey tried to crash packs in defensive 50 but could not quite reel in an intercept mark, instead finding success with a strong hit-up chest mark at half-back. He used the ball much neater by foot on that occasion, but a later clearing kick was delivered with less composure.
Nonetheless, Ginbey’s effort could hardly be questioned in term two, as he looked to dig in and showcase his power in possession. He finished the term well, seen competing on all fours and getting in the line of fire. Overall though, Country remained clear in the ascendancy for much of the half.
Having gotten his hands on the ball a half-dozen times in the first half, Ginbey was rotated forward as Western Australia trialled the likes of Koltyn Tholstrup on-ball. He attended zero of five centre bounces, but still looked to work hard as that high half-forward.
As had been the case throughout the match, Ginbey’s long kicking lacked the polish or direction to be damaging, but his short-range efforts under less pressure were neat enough. He continued to be a wrecking ball in the air too, willing himself to contests even if he could not stick a mark.
To his credit, he had been smashed all day but rode each hit with aplomb to get straight back up and continue working. Ginbey’s third term was his quietest in terms of production, though his positional change was a key factor in that. In a team sense, WA began to get on top in midfield and reigned back the margin significantly.
It was back to usual programming for GInbey in the fourth quarter, as he returned to the midfield mix and attended every centre bounce. This was arguably his best quarter in terms of production and impact, with the 17-year-old showcasing his explosive athleticism and more class on the ball.
Ginbey proved ultra strong at the contest, standing up in tackles as he had done for most of the day and keeping the play moving by getting his arms free. That core strength and willing attitude will be key facets of his midfield game going forward.
Speaking of forward, he also hit the scoreboard with a lovely snap on his favoured left foot, which proved reward for effort across a tough day. While it was difficult for Ginbey to execute by foot under Country’s hold, he was more than up for the contest and perhaps on a drier day, could have displayed more of his marking power. He’s an absolute unit at junior level, and will look to finish a great carnival on the right note come Sunday.