PREVIEW | 2024 Coates Talent League: Round 1

THE 2024 Coates Talent League season gets underway this weekend, with six games set to showcase the next generation of pathway talent. It all kicks off with a clash between Northern Knights and Western Jets, and we preview each fixture with a look at the players to watch.

  • Team
  • Northern Knights
  • Western Jets

Saturday March 23, 10:30am @ Trevor Barker Beach Oval


Two Metro regions go head-to-head in the season-opener. Northern snuck into finals last year but was soundly beaten by eventual premier, Sandringham, who dispatched Western in Wildcard Round the previous week. There are three Vic Metro Hub members between the sides, all of whom are set to play on Saturday.


Northern boasts a dangerous forward line on paper, with potential emerging talents like Thomas Sims, Liam Farrar, and Gabriel Stumpf set to rule the airways. Jesse Dattoli has match-winning potential at their feet, while Zak Johnson is the main man in midfield.

Western’s sole representative star at this stage is tough midfielder Lucca Grego. He co-captains the side along with Keighton Matofai-Forbes. Others to watch include nifty midfielder Massimo Raso, spring-heeled forward Daniel Snell, and bottom-aged Collingwood father-son Thomas McGuane.


This should be a close and competitive game. Both sides will want to move the ball quickly and have prospects who may emerge from under the radar. Northern arguably benefits more from being at full strength in the first month – Knights by 15.

>> Season Previews: Northern | Western

  • Team
  • Murray Bushrangers
  • Tasmania Devils

Saturday March 23, 12:40pm @ Highgate Recreation Reserve


Murray hosts Tasmania on neutral ground, with the latter riding high on the back of the state’s AFL team launch. The Bushies finished bottom in 2023 but produced four first round draftees and have plenty of talent left over. Meanwhile, Tasmania had arguably its best ever draft crop and made a second-straight preliminary final.


Twin talls Jack and Matt Whitlock are among Murray’s top prospects this year, along with powerful forward Joshua Murphy. Oliver Warburton will be the workhorse in midfield under imposing ruck Zac Harding, with bottom-age guns Ryder Corrigan and Riley Onley chances to feature there too.

Tasmania saw three players head to the Allies preseason camp this year, headlined by National Academy ruck Oliver Dean. The speedy Lenny Douglas also attended alongside Marty Brereton, while prolific defender Lucas Wootton is one to watch in the bottom-age category.


While this is hardly a competition which revolves around win-loss records, Murray’s top talents are keen to convert their potential into results. Tasmania has showcased its togetherness over the last few seasons and should be no different now, but the Devils may be pipped for top-end players. Bushrangers by 10.

  • Team
  • Sandringham Dragons
  • Calder Cannons

Saturday March 23, 1:30pm @ RSEA Park


Back-to-back premier Sandringham begins its quest for a three-peat against Metro foes, Calder, who were comprehensively beaten in Wildcard Round last year. The Dragons boast an embarrassment of riches when it comes to top-end talent, though the Cannons cannot be counted out under their new coach.


The list of draftable talent is nearly endless for Sandringham. Levi Ashcroft leads the way as co-captain and will likely feature in midfield alongside fellow Brisbane Lions-aligned star Sam Marshall. Watch for the athletic Taj Hotton and classy Murphy Reid to roll through there too.

Tasmanian Nathaniel Sulzberger is primed to explode and has plenty of desirable traits, while tall defender Luke Trainor looms as a hot commodity. Elsewhere, Harrison Oliver has been described as the team’s heartbeat and uncapped tall forward Harry Armstrong is an exciting goalkicker.

Calder will be without one of its most important players in Nash King, leaving skipper Damon Hollow to head up the engine room. Swingman Harry O’Farrell looks like starting out in defence, while livewire small forward Isaac Kako is sure to excite up the ground and close to goal.


It is nearly impossible to tip against Sandringham at full strength, as has been the case throughout its current premiership reign. The Dragons’ squad depth is the envy of the competition and should be too much for just about any team. Calder will surprise a few, though. Dragons by 25.

>> Season Previews: Sandringham | Calder

  • Team
  • Oakleigh Chargers
  • Eastern Ranges

Sunday March 24, 11:00am @ Trevor Barker Beach Oval


In a rematch of last year’s enthralling elimination final, Oakleigh and Eastern lock horns at a neutral venue. The Ranges went all the way to the grand final and have retained a good amount of talent, with more to come through. Oakleigh has a terrific crop of this year and heads into the season a much more settled side relative to 2023.


Oakleigh could well lay claim to the nation’s top two draft prospects in unanimous frontrunner Finn O’Sullivan and agile accumulator Jagga Smith. The latter will start out as a forward, with the likes of Tom Gross and elite runner Patrick Retschko likely to feature on the centre line.

The Chargers have a bunch of club-tied players and emerging talents. Watch for Charlie Richardson – the grandson of Kevin Bartlett – to spearhead the attack, while half-back Blake Leidler and midfielder Zane Cochrane have garnered interest in the preseason.

Much like Oakleigh, Eastern has a couple of outstanding prospects in big-bodied ball winner Josh Smillie and hard-runner Christian Moraes. Over-ager Illiro Smit will ruck to them, while bottom-age aces Lachy Dovaston and Oliver Greeves are poised to feature at either end of the ground.


Eastern has been a force under coach Lauren Morecroft, but Oakleigh is also now headed by one of the pathway’s best mentors in Ash Close. The clash of top draft talent promises to be a belter and in terms of depth, Oakleigh may have the edge. In arguably the game of the round, Chargers by 5.

>> Season Previews: Oakleigh | Eastern

  • Team
  • GWV Rebels
  • Bendigo Pioneers

Sunday March 24, 1:00pm @ Learmonth Reserve


The round’s first true all-Country clash sees Greater Western Victoria (GWV) host Bendigo at Learmonth Reserve. The Rebels have been labelled as the team to beat by other Country regions, while the Pioneers are fresh off the whirlwind that was Harley Reid‘s draft year. Both teams were felled by Geelong at the pointy end of last season.


GWV looks set to be without a host of stars through injury – namely Sam Lalor, Jonty Faull, and Flynn Penry. That leaves lively small forward Rhys Unwin as the side’s sole top-age Vic Country hub representative, though plenty of others could yet garner call-ups.

Bottom-ager Harley Hicks has some raw talent, while a number of draft age players have been tagged as likely types. Among them are Harry Charleson, the brother of Port Adelaide draftee Lachie, Oliver Hannaford, Floyd Burmeister, Archie Caldow and Jack Ough.

Bendigo will be fronted by some serious top-end talent in Archer Day-Wicks and Jobe Shanahan. Both are likely to start up forward but have different strings to their bows. Tobie Travaglia is one to watch off half-back, and the region is high on newcomer Archie Watt, from Oakleigh.


This is a tough one to pick. At full strength, GWV would get the nod but there is some genuine class absent from the Round 1 squad. The Rebels’ depth should just about hold up against an equal parts competitive and promising Pios group. Rebels by 12.

>> Season Previews: GWV Rebels | Bendigo

  • Team
  • Geelong Falcons
  • Dandenong Stingrays

Sunday March 24, 1:00pm @ Deakin University


Geelong and Dandenong close out the round with another battle between Country programs. The Falcons are notoriously well drilled and battled to last year’s preliminary finals before being knocked off by Sandringham, while Dandenong perhaps played below the sum of its parts in a Wildcard Round exit.


Keen draft watchers would have been looking forward to a matchup between Geelong forward Zac McInnes and Dandenong back Noah Mraz, but that looks set to be scrapped after the latter was placed under concussion protocols late in preseason.

The Stingrays will be led by a pair of similarly statured midfielder-forwards in Harvey Langford and Cooper Hynes, while St Kilda father-son chance Elwood Peckett is also part of the leadership group. From a bottom-aged perspective, Noah Hibbins-Hargreaves is certainly one to watch.

Along with fellow vice-captain McInnes, midfielder-forward Xavier Ivisic was included in the Vic Country hub and has plenty of class. Falcons co-captains Brady Hall and Lachie Jaques are also said to be in for big seasons down the highway.


Dandenong is missing a key piece but is well represented across the age groups with difference-makers. Meanwhile, Geelong is quite even across the board and usually stands a chance against any side. That will be tested here, Stingrays by 7.

>> Season Previews: Geelong | Dandenong

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