Scouting Notes: 2023 Talent League – Round 4
A FULL set of fixtures meant there were plenty of notable performances in Round 4 of the 2023 Coates Talent League season. We highlighted some of the top performers and prospects across all nine games in the latest edition of Scouting Notes.
By: Declan Reeve
In the absence of AFL Academy midfielder Ryley Sanders, there was a clear opportunity for another of Sandringham’s talented onballers to step up and increase their accumulation against GWS, and Ashcroft was the one to do so. Ashcroft picked up a game-high 35 disposals and managed two goals in what was a complete performance. He was everywhere, winning a lot of it at the coal face but also using his smarts on the outside to get in to get positions to receive it at speed, as well as reacting quickly to intercept opposition disposals in close. One of Ashcroft’s goals was very impressive, winning the ball at ground level through traffic, and snapping it from about 40 out off one step.
#4 Will Brown
As has become typical of the Sandringham skipper early in the season, Brown used his 194cm frame to his advantage around the ground, throwing himself at the footy in the contest and rarely coming off second best. It really is impressive just how good Brown is below his knees considering his height, regularly scooping them up cleanly at speed, dishing off well to teammates when under pressure, using his strong frame to stand up in tackles and give himself extra time to assess his options.
#11 Calsher Dear
The Hawthorn father-son prospect has been steadily building over the first few weeks of the season and played arguably his best game to date against GWS. Dear was impressive in the air all game, even leaping in front of packs inside 50 to reel in marks, including a one-handed grab early on. Dear managed to get good separation on his leads which meant he held most of his marks comfortably. Dear acted as Sandringham’s rotation ruck, and whilst he didn’t dominate in the contests, he did win his fair share and impressed with his follow up work at ground level.
#13 Joshua Docking
The St Kilda NGA prospect had a quiet first half, stationed on the far wing which wasn’t favoured by the breeze. Whilst he still did some good things, it was his second half that really impressed when he was switched onto the wind favoured wing, winning significantly more ball and making the most of every disposal he had. Docking showed impressive composure through traffic, and a good comfortably in the contest despite being a more outside leaning player. His kicking was a treat to watch all game, weighting them well for teammates to run onto without changing speed.
#23 Charlie Harrop
A consistent goal kicker to start the season, Harrop returned two goals and 18 disposals in an impressive performance. Harrop’s leading patterns and repeat efforts were an essential part of his game, simply losing opponents over consecutive leads, and whilst not always holding the mark, generally coming out of each contest with the ball. His ball use by foot was particularly noteworthy, hitting targets after turning on a dime.
A breakout game for the small defender, McGee Galimberti positioned himself high up the ground when it was in Sandringham’s forward 50, impacting rebound attempts from the GIANTS and sending it back in well. Along with his high positioning, he was aggressive with his run out of the backline, even impacting from centre stoppages as he ran into good spots to get a handball receive on the outside.
#26 Miles Enders
A bit of an indifferent day for the usually heavily involved forward, Enders was consistent in his application and continued to present on the lead but couldn’t manage to use it as well as he typically does. To his credit however, he got himself into the contest more in the final quarter, holding a few more marks and using it better, ending the day with three goals, two from outside 50.
#29 Harvey Johnston
One steadily rising up a lot of draft boards, Johnston may not have accumulated as much as some of his teammates, but Johnston is truly one that impacts with each possession. His general athleticism shines through each time he’s involved in the play, with his evasiveness and speed real assets in his game style. Johnston was difficult for opponents to get a hold of with this evasion skill and quick decision making letting him move the ball on almost as soon as he got hold of it.
#37 Taj Hotton
The bottom-ager, and younger brother of St Kilda’s Olli, showed some remarkable athleticism through the contest with his speed and leap, while also impressing with his cleanliness below his knees at speed. Hotton held his balance incredibly well, keeping in line with the ball when running onto it even when copping heavy bumps from opposition. Hotton used it incredibly well by hand, finding the right options under pressure.
#58 Murphy Reid
The bottom-aged forward kicked the opening goal of the game and ended as the tied leading goal-kicker for the contest. Showing off some remarkable forward craft Reid was just at every forward 50 contest, leading into good spots and swooping on the ball at ground level from marking contests. He was clean with his disposal, handing off to teammates in good spots and displaying a good goal sense.
#3 Josaia Delana
The athletic and evasive small showed off some good agility in the contest, side-stepping opponents well, and competing surprisingly good in the air despite being only 174cm tall. The bottom-ager plays like he has a rugby background with his hunger for the contest, fearlessly running into packs to try and win it in the thick of things, and attempt to power out with his speed.
#41 Charlie McCormack
Whilst he only had five disposals, McCormack made them count as he converted three goals. He didn’t have much involvement in the earlier stages, but worked into the game well as he started to lead into better spots when his team were moving it forward, showing off an impressive leap and speed allowing him to get separation on his opponents and take most of his marks pretty much uncontested.
By: Michael Alvaro
#2 Ollie Badr
Getting to work behind the ball, Badr was at his usual rebounding best with 25 disposals and seven marks. The top-ager looked most effective when utilising a more compact method, running a full measure before darting short passes forward by foot. As the game wore on, he began to take on lower-percentage plays and tended to run himself into a bit of trouble, but his speed and constant forward motion allowed Oakleigh to surge into attacking transitions with style.
A player with very few weaknesses, even as a bottom-ager, O’Sullivan was again outstanding through midfield. He has a deceptive amount of burst speed and can weave in and out of traffic with sharp steps, but also does the tough stuff. He laid five tackles and made each one stick, while also proving gutsy in his overhead marking attempts. With 29 disposals, nine marks and six inside 50s, the only thing O’Sullivan couldn’t quite help himself to was a goal.
#7 Jagga Smith
Another bottom-age standout for the Chargers, there’s a little bit of Nick Daicos in how Smith goes about it. He’s such a consistent accumulator and can run all day, looking slick with every possession and waxing well with teammates. He seemed to be everywhere at times and was able to manipulate the pace of the game with his smarts, racking up a game-high 37 disposals, nine marks and nine inside 50s. He also hit the scoreboard with two goals in an effort which very nearly yielded player of the week honours.
#9 Tom Gross
Not to be forgotten behind O’Sullivan and Smith in Oakleigh’s star bottom-age midfield trio, Gross returned another fine performance in the engine room. He was particularly effective when breaking out the front of stoppage, pumping the ball long with nine inside 50s among his 34 disposals. He showcased his power to find the goals late in term three, bursting away for a couple of bounces before slotting the ball home. Internally, he draws comparisons to 2022 draftee George Wardlaw.
#11 Indhi Kirk
Kirk has been an absolute standout for the Swans Academy in his over-age campaign, perhaps putting his hand up to be promoted to Sydney’s senior side as a father-son coup. Alongside Joe Harrison, he topped the Swans’ disposal count with 28 and worked hard to lay 11 tackles in hopes of quelling a potent Oakleigh on-ball ground. He produced some offence of his own too, notching an equal game-high nine inside 50s. Fighting to the end on Saturday, Kirk showcased more of the grit that has sometimes been outshone by his class in 2023.
#25 James Lugsdin
With Sydney’s pair of AFL Academy members out on national duty, Lugsdin was one who enjoyed increased responsibility in the form of a permanent move to midfield. The 177cm top-ager was not far behind Kirk and Harrison in a ball winning sense, claiming 23 disposals and seven inside 50s, but did some nice work to spark the Swans’ attacking phases through the corridor with his run and long kicking.
#36 Caleb May
May was the dominant bigman afield, backing up from his strong showing in Round 2 to win 36 hitouts and clunk six marks. He owned the ruck battle against an opponent far closer to his size, but also controlled the airways alongside fellow 200-plus tall Harrison Podmore-Taylor. He took front position and was used as a long option from several kick-ins, offering great presence around the ground and playing within his limits well with ball in hand.
By: Michael Alvaro
#1 Liam Ling
In what was somewhat of a breakout game for the bottom-age Ling, he looked lively for 24 disposals, eight marks, seven inside 50s and a goal rotating between the wing and forward line. He got his hands on the ball early with a lead-up mark off the very first clearance, and went on to chain his possessions throughout the match with terrific running. While quite lightly built at 171cm, Ling played to his strengths and slotted a great goal on the fly in term three as reward for his work rate.
#8 James Leake
Playing in somewhat of a similar style to what 2022 skipper Lachlan Cowan did, Leake contributed a bit of everything from behind the ball. The 188cm top-ager rose to intercept and showcased his sharp long-range kicking in transition, going by foot with 15 of his 16 disposals. Leake also nabbed a goal just before quarter time, sneaking inside attacking 50 and squeezing home the gilt-edged chance amid a sea of players.
In the absence of frontline midfielder Colby McKercher, Beaumont took charge of the Tasmanian engine room and truly led from the front. The skipper won a game-high 29 disposals, offering physicality around the ball and looking to generate some drive on the attack. He is capable of delivering flat and penetrative passes on his favoured left foot, but was not always pinpoint in the shorter range as he clocked up five inside 50s. Still, he was one of the stronger Devils in defeat and snared a nice snap goal in the final quarter.
Utilised in his usual role on the wing, Windsor has begun to find a bit of a groove lately. He was Eastern’s most prolific player through the middle of the ground with 24 disposals, working into either arc and generating spurts of speed. The top-ager’s athleticism is always a feature and while his radar was a touch off at times, he snapped home a great goal in the first quarter.
Despite his status as a bottom-ager, Anderson offers plenty of power and that was again evident on Saturday. The midfielder sent a series of long, flat and penetrative kicks into attack to register seven inside 50s, looking to supply the Ranges’ forwards with quick and frequent delivery. Though typically hard defensively, he was not credited with a single tackle and did most of his best work moving forward, ending up with 22 touches and a goal.
#8 Cam Nyko
Nyko is one of the many Eastern prospects with handy athletic traits, a long boot and the ability to rack up plenty of possessions. Having cut his teeth off half-back and the wing, he brought those traits to the midfield battle this week and notched 16 disposals – his only effort below 23 for the year. Nonetheless, Nyko refused to be tackled and looked to bustle his way to the front of stoppage, providing spurts of his usual run. The top-ager’s best moment was undoubtedly his running goal in term two, a booming 50-metre finish on the left.
#13 Riley Weatherill
Taking on a lead hand as Eastern’s key forward centrepiece, Weatherill booted four goals from six scoring shots in a productive outing. A good mover at 195cm, he got on the end of frequent delivery and clunked the ball cleanly before converting with similar aplomb. All four of his majors were kicked over the mark, adding to the top-ager’s growing haul of scores for the season.
#28 Clay Tucker
Having pressed his midseason draft claims heavily last week, Tucker backed up with another handy showing in the ruck. He dominated the hitouts with 29 as Tasmania only managed eight for the game, leaning on his advantage at 204cm. The over-ager rose well at the centre bounces and fought into front position around the ground, while also following up nicely and not looking too out of place with ball in hand, notching 12 disposals.
By: Michael Alvaro
#3 Lucca Grego
Grego is a bottom-ager who is already well equipped at Talent League level, entrusted with plenty of midfield minutes for the Jets. He reprised that on-ball role on Saturday and got stuck in as usual with 19 disposals and eight tackles. His early defensive efforts at stoppages were noticeable, and he began to have more of a say away from the contest as the game wore on. The best example of that was his nicely finished goal in the third quarter.
#5 Jake Smith
Western’s frontline big-bodied midfielder, Smith was his side’s most prolific on-baller on Saturday with 20 touches and a goal. As is usually the case, he looked to generate a bit of forward momentum and proved influential going both ways at the contest, using his big frame to either rip the ball free or apply himself defensively with nine tackles. His goal came from a forward 50 stoppage in term three, extending the margin beyond five goals before the final break.
#24 Logan Morris
Morris was back to his goalkicking best in Round 4, booting 5.2 and not purely relying on his imposing marking game to do so. While he has improved his running capacity and ability to work up the ground, the top-ager looks most dangerous deep inside 50 and proved as much on Saturday. Whether via a series of snaps, set shots, or off the deck, Morris’ radar was on with the wet ball as he put up his strongest performance since a four-goal effort in Round 1.
#12 Sam Marshall
Marshall has been far and away the Lions Academy’s most prolific and consistent accumulator through three games, and that was no different in Round 4. The 185cm midfielder ticked his disposal average up over 30 with a haul of 32 against Western, working typically hard at stoppage to break clear and send Brisbane into attack. He operates mostly in the short-range, running hard and darting kicks to leaders.
#14 Elijah Glass
Alongside Marshall and 16-year-old Daniel Annable, Glass was a prominent figure around the contest with his strong appetite for contested ball. At 185cm, he displayed a good bit of power and desperation to crack the packs open and force a way out, notching a season-high 19 disposals for his efforts in another tough loss for the Lions.
By: Peter Williams
#1 Oliver Poole
Poole produced a solid performance with his best work coming early. He found his fair share of the ball rotating between the wing and then going forward, with some neat kicks from the defensive half of the ground. Looking a bit gassed after a hard running first term, Poole did not have as much influence after that, but did get a chance with a snap after a nice sidestep in the fourth term but went well wide for a behind.
One of Bendigo’s best throughout the match, Travaglia was particularly influential in the first half. He tended to bomb the ball a bit getting it inside 50 but it put pressure on the opposition defence. He was neat by hand working into defence, then when forward kicked a nice goal from a set shot late in the opening half. An earlier attempt saw a snap go out on the full, and then had another chance in the third term for a behind, collecting the set. Overall he was still lively and had his moments in a busy performance.
#8 Malik Gordan
Gordan had a mixed day out, finishing with two goals, both from effectively the goalline, but the first was a nice passage of play keeping the ball alive close to the line allowing him to run in and score. He worked up the ground and rotated between forward and midfield, and while he won his fair share of free kicks and his technique looked good, he turned over a number of kicks. He had a highlight worthy play with a one-handed grab close to the three quarter time siren but unfortunately his set shot went to the right.
#11 Oskar Smartt
An eye-catching performance from the top-ager who showcased all his athletic gifts en route to a 16-disposal, three-goal performance. He was one of the most consistent four-quarter performers, and kicked a ripping goal from 50m out in the first term. He almost had a third early in the second term but his snap from the pocket hit the post. His chances on goal were not far away from going in and Smartt could have ended the day with a a big goal haul, but still stood out, including some aerial highlights.
#17 Jobe Shanahan
Just the 12 disposals, but Shanahan’s work rate is what stood out. In a memorable passage of play, Shanahan won the ball in defence and dished off by foot to half-back. Watching him cove the ground, Shanahan took an uncontested mark inside 50 off the same passage of play. Unfortunately all that running must have tired him, with a poor set shot missing. He did finish with two goals though, a nice dribble goal following a free kick early in the match, and then running into an open goal midway through the third term.
Lindsay quietly went about his business just playing his role and racking up an unassuming 27 disposals in the process. He found space well and was mostly used as the outlet to run and kick down. the ground, taking eight marks and having three inside 50s and four rebound 50s. Lindsay also showed some smarts by being able to tap the ball to a teammate instead of marking, allowing his teammates to run off while the Power bottom-ager was under pressure.
#11 Tom Hanily
The standout Gippsland player on the day, Hanily bullocked his way to 32 disposals, six marks, four tackles, four inside 50s, two rebound 50s and a goal. The tough top-ager knows where to run and when and can make his own space across the ground. He could have been cleaner at ground level and a little more polished with his execution, but he showed strength when tackled and was still able to get the handball away. In the third term he launched a set shot goal from outside 50 which sailed home.
#27 Asher Eastham
Similar to Shanahan, Eastham did not have the amount of disposals some of his teammates had, but the bottom-ager did some nice things. His delivery inside 50 looked to create scoring opportunities and got on the end of a goal himself in the final term with a nice snap around his body. He liked to create space with a spin here or there, and while he missed a couple of chances on goal, his eight marks and five inside 50s from though 16 disposals show how he won his ball in space at that high half-forward or deeper position.
Northern Territory Academy
By: Michael Alvaro
#2 Isaac Kako
It was an ideal day to be a Calder forward and Kako took full toll, booting an equal game-high seven goals. It wasn’t like he didn’t try to give a few off either, constantly looking to bring others into the game with crafty short passes which yielded several assists. The lively bottom-ager missed a couple of chances but was generally deadly when given a view on goal, and that happened all too frequently during what was easily his best and most prolific game of the season to date.
#8 Rye Penny
While Penny struggled in the first couple of games to put together a consistent disposal output, he has taken strides in the last fortnight and that culminated in a 31-touch outing on Sunday. The over-ager was encouraged to drive his legs and showcased his athleticism with smooth pick-ups off the deck at speed, before waltzing into attack as he pleased. Penny also teased his springy leap around the ground and was productive going forward, albeit if he missed out on hitting the scoreboard himself.
#11 Ryan Eyre
Having proven to be one of the biggest surprise packets of the season in a role across half-back, Eyre was super impressive upon being shifted into midfield. The smooth moving top-ager darted in and out of traffic with a sharp turn of speed, generating serious drive through the corridor – albeit with little pressure on the ball carrier. He racked up 28 disposals and could have had a huge day with better accuracy in front of goal, registering three behinds.
#13 Amin Naim
The other Cannon to have booted seven goals on the day, Naim was a true beneficiary of his side’s dominance further afield. Although, he still had to finish off Calder’s good work and did so with aplomb, booting 7.1 from 15 disposals and eight marks in an assured display inside 50. He was typically clean overhead and having struggled to get his radar right in the first two weeks, has straightened up nicely of late.
#16 Mahmoud Taha
It has been a huge couple of weeks for Taha, who again led all comers with 36 disposals, seven inside 50s and two goals on Sunday. The top-ager is usually a hard worker who is prepared to roll his sleeves up in midfield, but enjoyed many more uncontested possessions and was much tidier with his entry kicks as a result. Getting out the front of stoppage as all of Calder’s ball winners did, Taha also joined the scoring procession to place an exclamation point on his performance.
#17 Nash King
King was another of Calder’s midfielders who made use of the room he was afforded through the corridor, often surging his side forward or releasing others to do so with little pressure out the front of stoppages. His slick side-step and turn of speed were again on show, with the bottom-ager also snaring two goals having rotated forward. He ended up with 24 disposals and six marks in another fine outing.
#41 Jordan Croft
Forwards of every shape and size dined out on Sunday, and Croft was Calder’s dominant tall in attack. The Western Bulldogs father-son prospect got on the board straight away with a lead-up mark and set shot conversion, setting the tone for his five-goal performance. At 200cm, he troubled the NT aerially but also proved his mobility across the ground, showcasing excellent skills below his knees and even having the confidence to carry the ball. Most of his majors were kicked in open play, highlighting Croft’s dexterity.
NORTHERN TERRITORY ACADEMY:
#5 Waylon Davey-Motlop
Having started in midfield, Davey-Motlop pulled up sore in an early contest and shifted forward where he looked more effective in any case. Hailing from strong footballing families on both sides, the bottom-ager showed his class when working high up the ground. There, he looked to wheel the NT back towards goal with intent, going long by foot and proving powerful with ball in hand. He even snagged two goals, including the NT’s first of the game, as one of his side’s shining lights on a tough day.
#29 Edwin Nyembo
Nyembo is a talented athlete who has fared well in the junior grades up north, and he showed glimpses of what he can do at both ends of the ground. He started in defence and showed a good knack for marking overhead, while also offering productive overlap run. Once moved forward, he hit up nicely beyond the attacking arc and while raw, has some exciting traits to work with.
By: Peter Williams
#5 Oscar Ryan
A ball-winning machine out of defence, Ryan racked up 24 disposals and rolled through the middle, not afraid to put his body on the line. At one point he produced a big hip and shoulder to the bigger Rudd and ended up better off from the hit. He can pierce low kicks or spin and handball out of trouble, and while at times his execution can be a little hit or miss, he brings the defensive intensity and courage the coaches love to see.
#6 Coby James
Arguably Murray’s best in terms of his impact, James had a lower disposal count than his first three weeks, but was able to impact the game with his defensive pressure and work in transition. He had a couple of chances on goal himself that did not quite go to plan, and while under pressure he could sometimes rush the kick, he consistently got into ball-winning positions and tried hard to get his team back in the game.
#13 Phoenix Gothard
Had some eye-catching moments that were not far off being a big game for the top-ager, kicking 1.2 from 16 disposals. Gothard kicked his goal via bursting from a stoppage, burning off his opponent and kicking the major with the outside of the boot. He should have rewarded himself with another goal after taking two good marks inside 50 – including a contested pack mark – in the third term, but missed the two set shots. Ran all day and brought the heat, laying nine tackles.
#17 Rory Parnell
Brings his own ball with him at times, winning a lot of possessions in the defensive 50 as he totalled up 22 in the match. It can be a little rinse and repeat for Parnell who often receives by hand or is the outlet kick from full back or a switch, but he creates run from the defensive 50 and usually looks to drive the ball forward in transition. Only small at 179cm and is that outside receiver, but Parnell is fantastic at just getting into the right positions to win the ball and take off. He even had a set shot from 40m midway through the third term which hit the post.
#22 Zac Harding
Liked his game from a big man’s perspective in what was clearly his best of the season. After picking up 20 disposals and four marks across his first three games, Harding accumulated 16 and five in the loss to. theFalcons, and even got on the end of a goal. Standing at 197cm, the bottom-ager – who only makes it in by one day having been born on January 1 – was able to move well in transition. He used the ball well and competed in the air, and was one of the better ball uses. Kicked his goal from 45m out which was a nice set shot.
#44 Oliver Warburton
The bottom-ager played his best game for the year with 22 disposals, often working off a wing. He was quite often under pressure and forced to handball – hence his discrepancy of eight kicks for 14 handballs – but ran with the ball in transition to draw an opponent. Warburton tended to win multiple possessions in a chain, and then got forward to have a couple of shots on goal. One went far wide and out of bounds in the third term, while his fourth quarter set shot – following a terrific mark – missed to the right.
#50 Tom Forrest
The bottom-ager was on debut and showed some impressive defensive traits on his way to 14 disposals. He had good closing speed, moved well and applied strong defensive pressure, with his one mark being a great intercept one in the first term. Forrest has a booming kick that easily cleared the defensive 50 from that play, and did a number of things outside the traditional statistics. Only the 191cm so more of a third tall, but can be a rebounding type.
Anastasopoulos just seems to have an impact regardless of how much ball he wins, with his influence on the game far outweighing his 11 disposals on the stat sheet. His unrewarded running is among the best going around, and he finished the game strongly where he was able to find the ball. in space and run from defence into attack. He kicked a couple of goals in the game, one via hard running into the goalsquare in the second term, and another from a 45m set shot in the fourth. He uses it well and has a big tank. Impressive again.
#10 Patrick Hughes
Never too far from the contest, Hughes just cracks in and has a go, being that extractor to bomb the ball forward. Though his execution can be rushed at times, Hughes is able to do it off either side, with his ambidexterity allowing him to exit the stoppage with greater security he can clear it down the ground. He finished with 20 disposals, five tackles and five inside 50s, trying hard all game in that midfield.
#19 Angus Hastie
Once again the top-age defender was consistent across the board, accumulating 23 disposals and seven marks, providing composure in the back half of the ground. Hastie can read the play well off half-back and get into the right spots, intercepting the ball or being the player to exit from defensive 50. He has good strength in a tackle to still get the ball away, and can shrug off an opponent in the process. The Bushrangers inside 50s helped him thrive, and he was again just reliable.
#25 Michael Rudd
Started the game like a house on fire and looked to be in for a big match after a goal from a clean snap off the left. Unfortunately things did not go to play for his attempts on goal after that, with a set shot spraying out of bounds, an attempted mark that bounced off his chest in the third term, and a dribble goal attempt late in the fourth that was saved on the line by a defender. All in all though, Rudd was able to work hard outside the forward 50 and provide a marking target and presence to kick to. He did set up a couple of goals with his play at half-forward and it was his best goal since his three-goal haul against the Stingrays in Round 1.
#27 Archie Sinnott
The best-on for mine in the sense that he just always seemed to be involved in the play from defence, and covered the ground incredibly well to even kick a goal late in the first term. His snap off his left went straight through the big sticks, and while that was a forward foray, he was mostly found in the defensive half of the ground or pushing up. He had another flying shot late in the first half, but did his best work mopping up in defence, spreading well and generally able to use the ball effectively, or at the least, clear the danger zone, in what was his best game for the season.
#55 Zac McInnes
McInnes got on the end of a few playing an impressive key forward role, with a major in each of the first, second and third terms. They were all within 25m of goal so the set shots themselves were not so much the impressive aspect, but the fact McInnes clunked the good marks and lead to the right spots. A 196cm bottom-ager, McInnes did not skip a beat after missing last week and was a strong presence inside 50.
#65 Joe Pike
Kicked a nice goal in the fourth term and had his fair share of success throughout the ruck as the top-age 203cm tall finished with 10 disposals and three marks. His off the ball work and contest presence are areas that can still develop, with the natural talent evidently there in his ruck craft and then resting forward. At one stage he got sucked in to pushing over an antagonising opponent right in front of the umpire and gave away a free kick, in a game which was a mixed bag for the talented tall.
By: Michael Alvaro
Having established himself as a crafty goalkicker with at least four scoring shots in each of his first three games, Dattoli had none on Sunday as he shifted to a higher role and into the on-ball brigade. He started out working up to the wing and linking the Knights into attack, getting involved between the arcs without those usual forward 50 looks. Once on-ball, Dattoli ticked up to a season-high 22 touches with 15 of them coming by hand as he used his smarts around the contest.
#11 Lucas McInerney
Another bottom-ager in the mix for Northern, except at the other end of the ground, McInerney also racked up season-high numbers with 26 disposals, eight marks and four rebound 50s. The conditions were not always conducive to McInerney’s classy rebounding style, but the slick kicker looked to go long before chaining his possessions with more fluency as the game wore on.
#16 Flynn Riley
In the absence of National Academy talent and co-captain Will Green, Riley helped himself to over half of the game’s total hitouts with 37, dominating the ruck battle. At 206cm, he brought the presence he sometimes lacks around the ground, notching 21 disposals and impacting on the follow-up at stoppage. He kept things relatively simple and even jagged a set shot goal right on half time.
#19 Charlie Naish
Naish is a player who has hit the ground running in 2023 and with another strong showing on Sunday, continues to push for representative recognition. The Richmond father-son candidate kicked two goals from 23 disposals and nine marks, leaning on his running capacity to present as an effective high half-forward. He helped set the Knights up in transition and made good decisions with the ball – the best example being when he lowered his eyes to hit up Jack Chubb inside 50 after multiple running bounces, instead of blazing away towards goal.
#26 Zak Johnson
Capable of some classy things, Johnson went to work in the midfield-forward rotation and helped himself to 24 touches and five inside 50s. He looked polished in possession amid the greasy conditions and got amongst the action between the arcs. Johnson’s best moment came early in the piece though, when he marked just inside the boundary before going back and slotting an excellent checkside goal – the game’s first.
#8 Leo Lombard
On another tough day for the Suns Academy and with three frontline prospects out on national duty, Lombard stepped up in a big way. He led all comers in midfield with 30 disposals, including six marks and four breaches of either arc. The bottom-ager wasn’t afforded as much room to move, but managed to prize a few centre clearances out the front. He also applied himself going the other way to lay six tackles, including one which caught Northern bull Kristian Ferronato holding-the-ball in the first quarter.
#21 Will Graham
Another member of the Suns’ midfield group, Graham’s size and strong frame saw him offer a bit of presence at the contest. The conditions would have suited him in theory, and Graham played into that factor with 12 of his 17 disposals being handballs, amid the tough inside slog. At 186cm, he has good power going both ways and worked well in tandem with both Lombard and Jared Eckersley.
By: Peter Williams
#1 Ziggy Toledo
The over-ager always had the tricks and talent, but was overlooked due to his size and consistency. At the very least, he has started to make headway with the latter, adding another three goals to his six-goal haul the week before. At 192cm it is tough to make it as a key forward, but leading out, Toledo took some impressive grabs, showing his footy smarts to lead into the right spots. He even pulled out a party trick in the second term with a mid-air kick as he was being held in the goalsquare. When the Rebels started to gain some ascendancy in the fourth, Toledo was thrown down back but then the Stingrays got back on top and the over-ager did not see much of it. Overall an impactful first three quarters to maintain his Midseason Draft hopes.
#10 Kade De La Rue
A class above in terms of his ball use all day, De La Rue was a standout for the winners and had the ball on a string from start to finish. Though he played that outside receiver role, De La Rue did it to perfection, winning the ball in transition and always looking to run. He used the ball well, was clean by hand or footy and nailed a goal in the third term. Though he was outside, De La Rue still had some strong defensive aspects, laying six tackles and saving a goal on the defensive goalline late in the first term. Played to his strengths and accumulated 32 disposals, nine marks and nine rebound 50s for his troubles.
#11 Billy Wilson
After starting his day with a mind blank missed short kick following indecision, Wilson did not do much wrong, running out one of the Stingrays’ best in the game. His speed straight down the middle was a standout, and he even kicked a brilliant running goal in the third term. Wilson had the chance from an almost identical situation but could not finish again, though overall was attacking hard to the final siren. He showed great composure late in the game to step between two opponents and feed a handball off to a running teammate, and would finish with 25 disposals and show some outstanding traits.
#16 Harry De Mattia
Crashed and bashed his way to 23 disposals and 10 tackles, on the inside and won a truckload of contested ball, or hard ball gets in a hard-working four-quarter effort. When having time and space, De Mattia was able to use the ball effectively, but the left-footer at times sprayed his kicks when under pressure from the stoppage on on the run looking to goal in the third term. The inside midfielder was certainly strong at extracting the ball from the stoppage and getting it forward, with just that final polish needed to improve that area of his game.
#17 Harvey Langford
Similar to De Mattia but the outside version, Langford found his fair share of the ball across the ground and provided a marking target. He took eight marks to go with his 25 disposals and had a flying shot early in the game that started to curl back from 40m but hit the post. Another left-footer at the Stingrays, Langford’s execution was a little hit and miss, but he constantly got the ball inside 50 to put pressure on the Rebels defence.
#40 Cooper Hynes
Two goals from 26 disposals indicates a good day out, and the bottom-age Hynes certainly enjoyed his best game of the season. He worked through the middle of the ground and was able to win the ball in each third, but got on the end of a couple of goals at either end of the game. No doubt not winning a fan of the person behind the goals when he booted the ball onto the road from the goalsquare, Hynes was also the one to seal the game midway through the final term with a nice goal on the run. He just popped up consistently and did some nice things.
#4 Sam Lalor
The bottom-ager finished with an equal team-high 26 disposals, and though he kicked six less goals than Freijah, he still worked hard across the ground. Starting in the middle, Lalor was able to push forward and have some chances in the front half of the ground, but got his hands dirty at the clinches. Strong above his head, Lalor took a number of good marks, and then applied a truckload of pressure, laying some incredible tackles. He should have finished off an attempt on goal late in the third term but sprayed the set shot. Overall still an impressive performer for the Rebels.
#6 Luamon Lual
When Lual puts together four quarters of football, watch out. He is an outstanding talent with enormous upside and brings the offensive and defensive traits together. Playing off half-back, Lual can find the ball, bring the heat or do the defensive things right with his spoiling capabilities. Opponents are aware of the danger he possesses and he can cop some extra knocks after disposing of it or pushed out of it early, but Lual keeps going his thing. He was particularly noticeable in the first half, and provided good run out of defence. Was quieter as the game went on, but finished with the 16 disposals and still caught the eye each time he went near it.
#7 Joel Freijah
It was a day out for the winger whose draft stocks had already risen in the first few weeks, but exploded after a six-goal, 26-disposal performance. Earning the Rookie Me Central Player of the Week for his efforts, Freijah put in a jaw-dropping performance with his work rate forward and being able to sniff out a goal. While his side struggled to kick a winning score, Freijah showed how it was done, running well and hitting targets with ease, then when forward snapping around his body or nailing foals on the run for fun. It was as close to a perfect winger’s game as you could hope and he has not put too much of a foot wrong this year.
#10 Rhys Unwin
Perhaps not the same influence as the three above, but Unwin was worth highlighting as one of the more consistent Rebels players across the course of the game. He needed a couple of moments of composure with his shots on goal that missed, but set up scoring opportunities for his teammates. He had a purple patch in the third term where he won multiple possessions within a few minutes and seemed to be everywhere. Though only 177cm, Unwin is still a bottom-ager and was not far away from kicking a couple of majors to go with his 18 touches.