NAB League Player Focus: Olli Hotton (Sandringham Dragons)
SANDRINGHAM Dragons midfielder Olli Hotton was among those dealing the damage as his side shot to NAB League premiership glory on Friday evening. The 18-year-old has risen into first round draft contention on the back of a promising season at NAB League, APS Football, and representative levels.
In what shapes as his final appearance for the Dragons, Hotton showcased the exciting athletic traits and clean stoppage craft he has built his name on, en route to collecting 25 disposals. We put his performance under the Player Focus microscope.
SEASON SO FAR
NAB League averages: 8 games | 17.4 disposals | 7.6 kicks | 9.8 handballs | 3.5 marks | 1.6 tackles | 3.0 inside 50s | 0.6 goals (5 total)
Last five: 21.6 disposals | 3.2 marks | 1.6 tackles | 2.6 inside 50s | 1.2 rebound 50s | 0.6 goals (3 total)
The last half of Hotton’s NAB League numbers are perhaps the best indicator of his talent, with averages of 21.6 disposals and a goal every other game making for solid reading. He managed around half that output in his first three games for Sandringham, before finding his groove at Haileybury College and taking advantage of a Vic Metro call-up. In the Big V, he stood out with a three-goal game against South Australia, before carrying that form into the back-end of his NAB League campaign with three games over 25 touches.
2022 NAB League Grand Final
Dandenong Stingrays 7.9 (51) def. Sandringham Dragons 14.10 (94)
#21 Olli Hotton (Sandringham Dragons)
Stats: 25 disposals (8 kicks, 17 handballs), 1 mark, 2 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 1 goal
Missing only the final of six centre bounces in term one, Hotton got his hands on the ball a handful of times as Sandringham broke to a decisive early lead. The crafty on-baller was particularly prominent at stoppage, where he won a couple of clearances and brought others into the play.
As usual, it was Hotton’s use by hand which stood out most. While rushed on his first two possessions, he showed great poise to weight several forward handballs perfectly as the Dragons broke away on the outside.
He had less say around the ground in general play, but attempted a brave intercept going back with the flight at half-forward, and got going where it mattered most. Sandringham was dominating the midfield battle, with Hotton a constant factor there.
Hotton continued to be a mainstay in midfield come term two, proving productive with his turn of speed and ability to wax with teammates. He was typically clean and composed by hand in the early stages, before coming to life towards the back-end.
Using his pace as a weapon, Hotton was impossible to catch in his first five steps, and began to extend his runs to manufacture one-two passages on the way forward. A couple of line-breaking plays compounded Sandringham’s attacking dominance, and put a dagger in Dandenong’s hopes.
Poor old Taj Campbell-Farrell may have nightmares about the Dragons’ number 21; copping a fend-off on one instance, and then dropping a mark on the wing which Hotton mopped up before slamming home a goal just before half time. Bigtime kind of plays.
With the sting largely taken out of the game, the third quarter was much steadier for Hotton. He still won the first centre clearance, driving his legs and launching inside 50, before adding another centre break with that patented speed.
The space he found in the first half was less available amid the armwrestle that ensued across the first 15 minutes. Still, Hotton produced one nice passage coming away from a stoppage at half-back, linking by hand in-close before releasing Cameron Mackenzie into space.
It was more of the same for Hotton in the final quarter, only with slightly less proficiency as Sandringham cantered to premiership glory. He got his hands on the ball at a couple of defensive half stoppages and manufactured clean exits; either with his acceleration or handball distribution.
Hotton’s performances on the big stage have proven his potential as a top 25 prospect. While he started the year slowly with Sandringham, his form with Haileybury College and Vic Metro before a return to the Dragons was more exemplary of his talent.
With slick stoppage craft, damaging athletic traits, and the ability to play as a genuine mid-forward, the 18-year-old’s points of difference suit the modern game.