Scouting Notes: 2022 NAB League – Round 16
THE NAB League’s final regular season round for 2022 was headlined by a quartet of dramatic finishes, with four games decided by under a goal. As Wildcard Round fixtures were locked in and the top three sides sealed their spots, a bunch of highly touted AFL Draft prospects came to the fore. We highlighted some of the top performers in the latest edition of Scouting Notes.
All notes are the opinion of the individual author.
By: Declan Reeve
One that has provided consistently across all levels of football this season, Szybkowski did more of the same against the Power on Friday night, ending as the leading ball winner of the game with 30 disposals. Like usual, the bulk of Szybkowski’s work was done through the inside of the contest where he used his size to his advantage to out-body opponents easily, showing off some clean evasion and quick hands in higher pressure situations. Whilst he’s well known for his inside work, Szybkowski was a valuable contributor around the ground for the Stingrays, working hard to be a handball option when he wasn’t in the thick of it, and making the most of his marks and free kicks with safe kicks forward.
The bottom-ager was another midfielder that provided consistently through the night, and worked hard around the ground to be an option for his teammates and move the ball on quickly. It was Simpson’s work around stoppages that really caught the eye, playing more defensively than his teammates, Simpson was key to stopping a few promising ‘would be’ clearances from the Power. Simpson stood up in the big moment of the game, kicking the sealing goal for Dandenong.
#4 Jaxon Binns
Splitting his time between the forwardline and wing, Binns was once again a constant workhorse for the Stingrays as he worked his way up and down the ground to be constantly involved in the play. Binns play in the forward half was a bit of a headache for Gippsland at various stages through the contest, as he constantly found himself out in space with the opportunity to use his speed to move the ball forward quickly, happy to take a bounce despite the greasy conditions.
The strongly built bottom-ager was one of Dandenong’s cleaner players through the game, finding himself winning a lot of the ball in packs he impressively found handball options in space despite limited time to do so. Frangalas grew more and more important as the game went on and the intensity lifted, happy to throw his weight around when winning the ball and then following up with releasing handballs well, displaying some excellent vision in doing so.
#16 Henry Hustwaite
Another Stingray that grew into the game more as it drew on, a lot of Hustwaite’s involvements early on were strong tackles around stoppages that stemmed the flow of Gippsland’s early dominance well, but as the conditions got worse Hustwaite stood up with his usual class by hand and composure through the contest. There were a few times where Hustwaite produces some ‘wow’ moments with his ability to find targets under pressure, releasing some key kicks in the second half even when in the middle of a pack.
Despite registering his lowest return in terms of disposals for the season, Humphrey still managed to be one of Gippsland’s best, kicking four of their six goals for the game. Humphrey started the game well in the midfield, winning a few early clearances just by plucking the ball out of the air with one hand and powering through opponents, but wasn’t at his ball winning best. His switch to more permanent forward role in the second half worked wonders, making the most of his opportunities in front of goal, with a kick off the ground through traffic arguably the highlight. Humphrey played the conditions well by looking to drive the ball forward with long kicks whenever he won it, often getting it 50 meters up the field.
#9 Zane Duursma
Yet another performance to get fans excited for the 2023 draft, Duursma added a brilliant touch of class through the Gippsland midfield in the second half. Whilst the conditions weren’t great to say the least, Duursma played in a way that’d convince most people it was a dry game, able to collect the ball in the air and off the ground with one hand a few times, and using it beautifully to compliment it. What Duursma really impressed with was his stoppage craft, just showing how well he reads the play with a few runs that opponents didn’t watch, letting him essentially walk to ball out and move it forward.
#15 Coby Burgiel
Having impressed for Vic Country and Wesley College in recent months, it’s no surprise that Burgiel continued his strong form against the Stingrays with a complete performance. It seemed that there was nothing he could do wrong, able to collect the ball from stoppages and off the ground with one hand and work his way through traffic to deliver well forward, he was a force through the midfield all game. What caught the eye the most with Burgiel was his quick handballs around the ground, at times looking like he released the ball before he even had full control of it, he was a key creator for Gippsland’s quick ball movement forward whenever he won it.
#27 Cooper Vickery
Primarily a more defensively focused backman, Vickery was one of the playmakers from the backline for Gippsland through the game, positioning well behind the ball to be involved in most contests when Dandenong transitioned forward and showing some exceptional closing speed at times.
By: Peter Williams
#2 Nate Caddy
The Northern Knights talented bottom-ager had a ripping performance in the Knights’ win, playing primarily through the midfield and resting forward rather than the other way around. His metres gained were high as he went on his way to have 20 touches and three goals, two of which came on the run moving from the midfield inside 50. His third goal came after a free kick from being tackled, nailing his set shot from 45 metres in what was a crucial major against the breeze. He set up another couple of majors including a handball to Flynn Riley in the goalsquare.
#10 William Green
The bottom-age tall provided an aerial presence around the ground and was reasonably effective when it hit the deck. He kicked a goal in the second minute of the third term via a strong contested mark then snapping a goal against the breeze to get his team up and about. He continued to lead up and down and though he was not a huge accumulator, presented well.
#14 Cooper Harvey
The North Melbourne father-son prospect had a productive day, kicking a terrific goal in the third term with a great pickup under pressure and clean snap, to extend the lead out to 12 points with five minutes left in the third term. He continued to accumulate the ball through the midfield winning it in close and spreading to the wing, including being an option in transition down the ground to certainly catch the eye and be one of his side’s best.
The top-age small forward was lively and dangerous in the front half of the ground, finishing with two goals, both coming in the first half. Payne kicked his first off a clever kick on the run that bounced home in the opening term, then kicked his second late in the first half with a flying shot on goal sailing home. He took a good one-on-one mark at one stage but his set shot missed, and though at times he was put under pressure he disposed of it quickly. He was not as influential in the second half as the ball was mostly up the other end.
#23 Lucca Grego
The Under 16s talent caught the eye roaming through the middle, winning it at the centre bounce and giving off the quick handball, then would provide an option in transition. Though his kicking at times was hit and miss – including a flying shot on goal that went out on the full, Grego did nail a goal after a fantastic mark 20 metres out and was able to convert the set shot.
#33 Darcy Weeks
After starting in defence, Weeks was rolled into the midfield and was able to rack up the ball with ease. He went about his work unassumingly and ended up with more touches than any other player. He was trying to impact in transition against the flow in the second half, and had the first quick clearance out of the midfield in the final term. By the end of the game, Weeks had amassed 25 disposals, seven inside 50s and three rebound 50s.
By: Michael Alvaro
Though not one of his most prolific outings, Clarke still had a few important moments and was one of the only Sandringham players to have taken the game on in the early stages. Spending most of his time up forward, he booted both of the Dragons’ first quarter goals and eventually earned midfield minutes. His burst from the contest and intent proved troublesome there, albeit only for 13 touches in a competitive on-ball battle.
Oakleigh dominated the centre bounces in the first half, but Ashcroft was at the forefront as his Dragons began to turn things around. The skipper and top prospect simply willed himself to the ball, leaning on his much improved turn of speed and typical work rate to help drag the Dragons back into the game. He also captured the crowd’s attention with a few searing kicks inside 50, showing immeasurable class to drill passes to leading forwards through a sea of players. In a surprise to absolutely no one, he lead the disposal charts for Sandringham with 33.
Mackenzie was another high calibre Sandringham midfielder who worked into the contest, displaying a range of assets in the on-ball mix. His handling was clean both at the coalface and when it was his turn to fly for a mark, making for efficient work wherever the play took him. With his size and one-touch ability at stoppages, the Dragons’ final term comeback gained serious momentum.
#16 Harry Sheezel
If there was a player most likely to snatch an unlikely win for Sandringham, it was Sheezel. The crafty forward went to work inside 50 and was near-impossible to beat there, playing on pure and superior instinct to snare four goals from 22 touches. He had few looks in the first half, but was lively whenever the ball came his way, even providing a reliable leading target up the ground. Three of his majors came in a scintillating final quarter, where Sheezel’s creativity and elite finishing came to the fore.
#21 Olli Hotton
Waxing with Ashcroft and Mackenzie in midfield for much of the day, Hotton held his own with 26 disposals and a pair of important goals. More often than not, he opted to go by hand and brought runners into the game that way with slick work to exit stoppages. He also got to showcase his springy leap, and terrific goal sense with those two final term majors. Both were well-judged snaps from relatively long range, which helped keep Sandringham in the game.
#75 Levi Ashcroft
The younger of two Ashcroft boys afield, Levi displayed genuine big game ability with some of the efforts he produced. Enjoying a decent amount of midfield time, he attacked the ball hard and did just as much defensively with a couple of desperate rundown tackles. Though unrewarded on one, Ashcroft’s sure head in the thick of the action was impressive. He almost claimed a crucial goal in term four, and affected a big spoil on Elijah Tsatas in the same period as he rose to the occasion.
It was a heck of a return to NAB League action from Tsatas, who led all comers with 38 disposals and 13 inside 50s. He flat out dominated the first half, with his breakaway speed proving a menacing factor at the centre bounces. While the top-ager’s kicking at full tilt let him down at times, he was slick by hand when combining with his fellow midfielders, and gained good meterage with his run. When Tsatas got out the front of stoppages or over the back in general play, it spelt serious trouble for Sandringham.
Sandringham defender Nathan Scollo did a good job on Jefferson for much of the game, but you cannot keep a good player down for long. The rangy key forward initially struggled to impose his marking presence on the game, until he began to get off the leash after half time. He was gifted a couple of goals through a 50-metre penalty and downfield free kick, but notched another two through his own doing to finish with four from nine touches and four marks.
#7 Angus Curry
With a better finishing touch, Curry could have had quite the outing – though his 23 disposals and three behinds were nothing to scoff at. The Giants Academy product waxed nicely with Wesley College teammate Tsatas, as the pair released each other by hand to move from inside to the outer. Curry’s bullocking style, burst of speed and sound ground level game were important to Oakleigh’s first half midfield dominance, with a few sprayed shots on the run his only significant blemishes.
#9 Luke Teal
Making his return from injury, Teal slotted into a familiar role across half-back and looked to have hardly missed a beat. While his 20 touches were split evenly by hand and foot, Teal’s kicking was a feature of his game. He also competed hard as ever and got to ideal spots to do so, reading the play well from behind the ball. The final mark of the day also fell in Teal’s lap, though he was quickly called to play on which made for a nervy moment.
#21 Max Gruzewski
In the opening stages, it looked like Gruzewski’s forward shift would be a real difference-maker for Oakleigh. The 193cm swingman had done so at school football level, and took just five minutes to find the goals as he repeated the feat in Chargers colours. He also assisted Ben Woodfull‘s opening major, and displayed great dexterity to constantly wheel around from the pocket and look inboard. He eventually dropped back behind the ball in term four, taking an intercept mark atop the defensive 50.
Fresh off his maiden VFL outing in red and black, Davey enjoyed a consistent run through midfield and was one of Oakleigh’s prime movers through there. While the likes of Curry and Tsatas thrived at the coalface, Davey accumulated between the arcs and got to show spurts of speed as he surged the ball forward. He was rushed on a few occasions, but proved his nous in tight spots during term three with a great shimmy and step along the boundary.
#43 Josh Weddle
Another dynamic third tall type, Weddle’s numbers of 13 disposals and five marks don’t jump off the page, but he was super productive for the most part. He moves so well for a player of his 192cm standing, but still has an impact aerially. The former trait was a factor throughout the match, as Weddle took off whenever he possessed the ball at half-back, sparking transitional play with strong intent. Defensively, he spent time on Sheezel and brought his intercept game.
#44 Kynan Brown
Having sealed his spot in the side throughout the middle stages of the season, Brown held his own as a bunch of high calibre top-agers entered the fold. He was among Oakleigh’s most prolific ball winners with 24 disposals, displaying a clean set of hands at the contest to release others when he couldn’t burst away himself.
By: Michael Alvaro
Bennetts was one of the Ranges’ most productive players all game, racking up a slew of possessions in quick bursts throughout the day. He was particularly lively during the first half, plying his trade at half-forward and working over his opponent to make things happen going inside 50. With a good turn of speed and crafty skills, he looked to be creative in possession before shifting behind the ball.
#5 Nick Watson
He’s had bigger games, but Watson was sure to make a menace of himself against the Cannons. The bottom-aged star was typically ominous at ground level, able to drive low and draw free kicks as he hit the ball at speed. He missed some gettable snaps on goal, but slotted two majors by catching defenders off-guard and positioning beautifully at the fall of the ball. He was near his best up forward with limited midfield minutes, and was not afraid to let his opponents know when he got on top.
#9 Harry Flynn
Flynn has produced a quietly strong return from long-term injury in the back-end of the season, and ticked up over 20 touches for the third time in four games on Saturday. Utilised behind the ball, he got to ideal spots to mop up Calder’s forward-50 entries without fuss, before making composed decisions with ball in hand. He often opted to go by foot and on top of his kick-in duties, used the ball efficiently. As the game wore on, he began to produce some overlap run and moved the ball into more advanced positions.
#62 Josh Smillie
A blinder of a third quarter was the highlight of Smillie’s outing on Saturday, as he came to life to help Eastern stay ahead at the final break. He started up forward and snapped the game’s opening goal, before moving on-ball and having a real impact. Still just 16 years old, Smillie’s size was a factor and he looked confident when bustling through stoppages, taking on tacklers and dishing the ball to the outside. He added another goal during his big term three, and could have had a couple more if not for errant finishes.
#15 Kade Mueller
Fresh off his outing for Vic Metro’s Under 17 side, Mueller returned to Cannons colours and continues to be a consistent contributor. He played on both sides of midfield having started out on the wing, where he injected a bit of pace to Calder’s transitional play on the outside. His carry was capped off with generally neat disposal in the short-range, and Mueller even found the goals with a well executed snap in term four.
#17 Harry Rowston
It has been a big year for Rowston, who earned MVP honours for the Allies and helped Assumption College take out the AGSV school football title. Now, the Giants Academy member is back with Calder and was at his ball winning best. Two traits continue to stand out with Rowston; his work rate, and ability to clunk marks overhead. He’s a gutsy type who goes when he needs to, but can also work well with other mids to receive and clear.
#24 Declan Willmore
Willmore is a true utility and showed a bit more of that versatility on Saturday, having a greater impact than his 10 touches would suggest across multiple positions. Above all else, his attack on the aerial ball was impressive, as he either marked or brought smalls into the game while he operated up forward. Willmore’s finishing let him down on the day, as he finished with 1.1 and had one shot go out on the full. Otherwise, his role was an important one in the Cannons’ win.
#31 Isaac Kako
Proving difficult to contain for four quarters, Kako snared three of his four goals in the final term as Calder ran away with the result. Earlier, his clean hands and creativity gave Eastern a few headaches, as Kako took toll with great decisions at half-forward. He eventually found more ball inside 50, with two set shots and a perfect front-and-centre crumb helping him claim those major scores. He’ll be a real problem for defenders over the next two years.
By: Peter Williams
An absolute ball magnet on the weekend, Gallagher continued his red-hot form with another 37-disposal effort as he willed his team over the line against Murray. Gallagher started in his usual back pocket, but even saw time in midfield and up forward showing he can play across all three lines. Strangely enough, his first goal came while still playing as a defender. It is not so unusual for him though, and Gallagher finished with two majors including a clever crumb off the deck in the final term for his snap to bounce home. He used the ball well with some bullet passes and was generally influential throughout the game, though missed a set shot from 40 metres. He was still arguably best on ground in the breakthrough win.
#4 Harley Reid
It was a real up-and-down performance from Reid whose best was a highlight reel of plays, while the worst was getting caught or rushed snaps that gained no distance. Still, he was one of the best when everything was said and done, slotting the winning goal after the density free kick following the siren to send his team off the bottom of the latter. His kicking when on-song can be a delight and he gets into ball-winning positions and great space, as well as sets up his teammates. In the fourth quarter, Reid had a ridiculous pickup off the deck to give the hands off to Long for a goal and was everywhere in the final 25 minutes.
#5 Noah Long
Performing strongly alongside Gallagher and Reid, Long showed a strong desire on-ball often going head-to-head with Hollands. He won the ball in close and distributed it out of the coalface and though at times his execution was not always there, he was influential in the forward half of the ground. Long took a good mark on the wing and kicked into the middle with a nice pass and continued to accumulate more and more as the game went on, then finished off with a ripping goal, receiving the handball and slamming home a major from long-range to cut it to three points.
Coming off half-back, the Allies representative had a huge second term where he pushed up the ground and even had a couple of long kicks inside 50. He took plenty of intercept marks, including one inside forward 50, and was involved time and time again in transition from the defensive half of the ground. Gilbee had a brain fade in the third term where he played on from a mark, was pinged for holding the ball, then gave away a 50m penalty for not handing the ball back. He had a couple of brilliant kicks out of the back 50 long down the ground in the final term for an overall productive day.
The incredibly talented forward had a busy first half of the ground before sitting out the second half. George nailed a goal after a good lead inside 50 and remained dangerous throughout, producing a clever ground handball through traffic to a teammate in the second term and had a chance in that same quarter but his set shot missed.
#3 Toby Murray
It was a real mixed bag for Murray who rotated between the ruck and forward line, having huge first and fourth terms, while being quieter in the middle two quarters. He was dominating through the ruck in the opening term to win the majority of the stoppage hitouts, then won a free kick for being held at a boundary throw in to win a free kick and nail a set shot from 45 metres out. He took a number of good marks on the lead, but a couple more chances missed or fell short, though he kept cracking in throughout the four quarters.
Returning to NAB League after his commitments with Geelong Grammar in the APS, Hollands went head-to-head with his school football teammate Long, winning 27 disposals in the loss. Clearly a standout for the Bushrangers, Hollands did what many have expected from the natural leader, cracking in early and winning the ball well, timing his handballs and kicking clear when he had time and space. He provided plenty of physicality and tackling pressure in the game and showed composure with ball-in-hand, particularly when many around him were panicking in congestion late in the game.
#14 Joeve Cooper
The bottom-age talent was a real eye-catcher on the day and one of the Bushrangers’ best. After missing his first couple of kicks coming off a wing, he set up a goal to George with a bullet pass inside 50. Cooper continued to be clean, with a superb one-handed pickup on the wing at full speed, produced a great handball and was able to weight the pass perfectly to open up the game. He applied defensive pressure on Gallagher when required after the Pioneers over-ager pushed up the ground, then had a shot on goal inside 50 after shrugging off an opponent and snapping, which landed in the lap of a teammate. He looked good across the match and danced around his opponents showing himself as a really slippery customer.
By: Michael Alvaro
Sinnott has once again made the defence his home after cutting his teeth in midfield earlier this year, and produced another strong performance on Sunday. The over-ager was aggressive in much of what he did, holding firm in one-on-one tussles and maintaining his momentum to carry the ball forward. His rebound quality was aided by that intercept ability, and Sinnott stepped up in key moments for the Rebels.
#5 Aaron Cadman
It was tough going for Cadman in the first half, but he emphatically turned it around in the final term to spearhead GWV’s comeback victory. He was forced to search high up the ground and even took a turn in midfield during the first half, but proved his home is in attack with three goals during the fourth quarter. Skipper for the day, he planted himself one-out inside 50 and spurred his side with animal-like competitive both in the air and at ground level. He thrived on quick and long entries, reacting first and proving too mobile for a game direct opponent in Hamish Pierson.
#7 Hugh Bond
Cadman may have kicked the goals, but he could not have been the hero in that department without mega efforts from Bond in midfield. The Vic Country representative lead all comers with 25 disposals, as he cracked in at the contest and came away with super clean handling. His running capacity made him a factor around the ground, and Bond’s willingness to get the ball inside 50 quickly gave his forwards the best chance to make things happen as GWV turned the screws.
#13 Joel Freijah
Having turned out for Vic Country’s Under 17s, Freijah again took on the usual wing role he suits so well. At 189cm, the dynamic bottom-ager has sound overhead marking skills and that was a factor which helped him kick the winning goal – clunking a grab in the goalsquare before a straightforward conversion. It was his second goal in the final quarter, which complimented the work he had previously done between the arcs.
#23 James Van Es
The steadfast key defender proved exactly that for the Rebels, especially during a dominant second term where he took many of his six marks. His intercept game was reliable as ever, with Van Es positioning well to impact several aerial contests and gobble up much of what came his way. As far as best traits go, his one-on-one work and vice-like hands are incredibly strong.
#48 Sam Lalor
A star at Under 16s level for Vic Country, Lalor is looking increasingly comfortable at NAB League level and made a splash during the all-important fourth quarter. Spending a heap of time in midfield, his one-touch handling held up under pressure and Lalor’s ability to bring down bigger opponents in tackles proved impressive throughout the game. In the clutch moments, he popped up for a couple of terrific intercept marks before pumping the ball forward.
#4 Michael Rudd
Another of the Vic Country Under 17 representatives, Rudd again played above his 189cm standing as a lead-up forward with terrific aerial range. His overhead marking ability made him a reliable target on the lead, and Rudd swung around quickly to keep the play moving at half-forward. He also got a few looks closer to goal, converting two first term majors from set shots.
#9 Ted Clohesy
Skipper on the day, Clohesy had more disposals than any other Falcon (24) and brought his usual effort in a slightly altered role. He spent much of the day up forward where his pressure game and work rate provided the good, albeit for one goal and three behinds. His strength in contested situations also brought others into the play, and he was eventually thrown into the midfield as GWV began to challenge Geelong.
#10 Patrick Hughes
Taking on plenty of ball winning responsibility in a relatively new-look Geelong midfield, Hughes was excellent. His contested game stood up against some fierce opponents, and Hughes’ core strength ensured he came away with clean possessions from the contest. He combined with Clohesy as the pair notched first term goals, and went on to have a real say in the midfield battle with his ability to break through tacklers and get to the outside.
#56 Angus Hastie
A third bottom-ager among the four Falcons here, Hastie was a key piece down back. He balanced his game well, attacking the ball with intent aerially before setting off aggressively on the rebound. Hastie was particularly prominent in the first half and threw himself at the play, before producing a few important defensive acts under immense pressure in the final term.