VFL Player Focus: Ethan Read (Gold Coast Suns)
PLENTY of pathway prospects have earned berths at senior level this year, and Gold Coast Suns Academy member Ethan Read was the latest to be unleashed in the VFL. The 202cm ruck played with and against AFL-listed players as the Suns beat Sydney by 68 points on Saturday, and we put his performance under the Player Focus microscope.
SEASON SO FAR
Having coming into his top-age season as a National Academy member with recognised upside, Read has delivered on the promise to produce a fantastic campaign to date. He built nicely into the Academy Series and was awarded the Hunter Harrison Medal, as well as Gold Coast’s most professional player for his efforts with the Suns.
Read also made a seamless step-up to the representative stage. There, he earned All Australian honours as the title-winning Allies’ primary ruck, averaging 22 disposals, eight marks and 13 hitouts across four games. The next natural progression was to senior level with the Suns’ VFL side, another landmark ticked off by Read in what has been a terrific year.
2023 VFL Round 21
Sydney Swans 8.6 (54) def. Gold Coast Suns 19.8 (122)
#59 Ethan Read (Gold Coast Suns)
Stats: 12 disposals (10 kicks, 2 handballs), 5 marks, 1 tackle, 5 hitouts, 4 behinds
Read started with a bang in the opening term, putting together his best quarter despite only really being sighted after around 14 minutes. He had three shots on goal for two behinds and pouched three marks inside 50 to give AFL-listed opponent Harry Arnold a serious headache.
With his height, reach and movement, Read troubled Arnold when the pair were camped one-out deep inside 50, as the junior prospect read the ball better and made use of his side’s quick entries – albeit without a major score.
Two of Read’s shots went wide from 15 metres out, with his third punched over on the quarter time siren. He also got a run in the ruck, giving Ned Moyle a chop-out and coming up against Peter Ladhams at a single centre bounce.
The second quarter was a touch less fruitful for Read, who couldn’t quite add to his tallies. His movement and reactions continued to be positive, but there wasn’t as much opportunity for Read to showcase his ruck craft or ability to provide aerial presence up the ground.
After a well-deserved break, Read worked back into the game during term three. As he had in the first half, he started forward and nearly impacted the scoreboard before getting a quick rotation into the ruck.
The improvement areas in Read’s game began to show, as he was pushed off the ball by Lewis Melican and found himself caught in possession when attempting to spin out of a tackle. Still, he managed to showcase his dexterity in both instances and was spreading well from the ruck contest.
In the way of potential scores, Read was unlucky not to prize his maiden goal as a soccer attempt was deemed touch, before another angled set shot sailed off target. The latter opportunity was earned via a terrific mark inside 50, where Read parted the pack with a free run and jump at the ball.
The fourth quarter saw Read get his first extended run in the ruck, attending four centre bounces in a 10-minute patch. While there are improvements to be made in his ruck craft, timing, and strength he competed well and continued to leap at AFL-level opponents.
Read did well to at least split a few of the hitout duels and when stationed up forward, continued to peel off out the back to become a dangerous outlet. He had one more shot on goal for the game after flying courageously for a high ball, but again put it wide.
With a better goal kicking radar, Read could well have ended up with multiple goals and should take great confidence from having registered a half-dozen shots at goal in his VFL debut. Though he has some filling out to do, he hardly looked out of place and proved he could trouble AFL-listed opponents with his dynamism.
Long stints up forward, even among a stacked group of Suns tall forwards, would have done Read a world of good as he continues to explore and expand his versatility. He remains the top ruck prospect this year and will be considered heavily among the top 10 players in this year’s draft. With such high upside, he could well end up being a top fiver when it’s all said and done.