A change in venue didn’t seem to deter the hundreds of on-lookers down at Sandringham’s Trevor Barker Oval for the first game of the national championships between heavyweights Vic Country and Vic Metro. On a stellar 20-degree day, the beach oval was its usual windy self, but conditions were near on perfect to showcase 44 of Victoria’s finest to welcome the NAB 2014 Under 18 Championships.
Vic Country 14.5 (89) defeated Vic Metro 11.8 (74).
Vic Country: D.Tucker 21, C.Marchbank 20, D.Parish 19, J.Cunico 18, R.Mathieson 18
Vic Metro: A.Brayshaw 33, M.Goodyear 24, J.Laverde 22, Kyle Langford 21, T.Miller 20, D.McKenzie 19.
Vic Country: P.McCartin 3, H.Goddard, N.Drummond 2, T.Lamb 2, D.Parish, L.Webb, J.Dunkley, D.Butler, J.Lonie.
Vic Metro: R.Sheridan-Ferrie 4, P.Wright 2, D.Moore, M.Pittonet, C.Ellis, P.Ahern, E.Langdon.
Hugh Goddard (Geelong Falcons)
Stats: 11 disposals, four marks, two goals, four tackles, four inside 50s.
Hugh Goddard’s game started off somewhat slowly, but a freakish goal that was manufactured from sheer hard work and determination was quite simply the goal of the game, and the kick-starter to the rest of his afternoon. Goddard beat two defenders, instinctively bringing the ball to ground, and somehow managed to weave through his opponent, pick the ball up off the ground with one hand, and then somewhat arrogantly took off with a bounce and dribbled the ball through for goal on an angle. It not only showcased his athleticism and agility, but his work at ground level for a big man is something that will be highly favoured come November. He ended up with two goals, but it should’ve really been three. However, he worked the 50 well with his Geelong Falcons teammate Paddy McCartin.
Patrick McCartin (Geelong Falcons)
Stats: 10 disposals, four marks, three goals, three inside 50s.
Big Paddy McCartin really got into the game early on, getting off his direct opponent but it was by no means a dominate display, but there were serious noteworthy moments to take out of his game. Playing deep full forward, McCartin really presented well, and it should be noted that his leading patterns as a forward and his strong football brain meant that he timed his leads to perfection. In the process, he was able to drag his opponent out of the forward 50, allowing more space for the likes of Tom Lamb and Hugh Goddard to find room. At one point when Country dropped a spare man into defence, McCartin was smart enough to push up and mark that player, taking away his influence. There are just little things that McCartin does so well but the three goals he kicked, including two from hard up on the boundary, are something he really needs to be commended for.
Caleb Marchbank (Murray Bushrangers)
Stats: 20 disposals, five marks, three tackles, two inside 50s, seven rebound 50s.
The Murray Bushrangers star was arguably Country’s most impressive player throughout the afternoon. The versatile defender repelled from defence, taking a number of impressive intercept grabs, and roamed around on half back to play a vital attacking role for country, often propelling his side into attack from the rebound. His leadership was prolific, as he directed traffic and rallied his defensive unit, which had the job on curtailing Metro’s star forwards Peter Wright and Darcy Moore. I was particularly impressed with Marchbank’s ability to read the ball in flight, and cut off forward entries from Metro, several of which he left his direct opponent to take possession. There were also three impressive contested marks he took, but equally Marchbank played the percentages and was able to spoil the ball or apply enough direct pressure to his opponent to force an ineffective disposal.
Darcy Tucker (North Ballarat Rebels)
Stats: 21 disposals, five marks, three tackles, two inside 50s, seven rebound 50s.
The former basketballer and current level one AIS member, Tucker was an absolute stand out with the impact he had against a star-studded Vic Metro midfield. It’s hard to believe that Tucker is a bottom-age player, but he was so clean and efficient that his impact on the game was felt from the onset and throughout. Tucker just seemed to have so much time, and had a presence every time he went near the ball, and his teammates seemed to look to him because he had easily over 10 handball receives. Playing an outside midfield role and utilised on the wing, Tucker gathered 21 disposals and rarely ever wasted one, with a whopping left foot which gets not only good penetration but accuracy. I’d love to see his GPS figures, because he worked hard to cover a lot of territory. More specifically speaking he tracked back hard to defend, and had seven rebound 50s, showing off not only his endurance but his versatility to play a number of roles handed to him.
Jack Lonie (Dandenong Stingrays)
Stats: 11 disposals, one mark, four tackles, five inside 50s.
In the two seasons I’ve watched Jack Lonie run about for Dandenong, this was by far the most impressive I’ve seen him, purely for the way he burrowed in and won the contested ball. Last year, Lonie was a creative, opportunist small forward whose leg speed and goal kicking were factors. This year, he’s been used more up the ground, rotating through the midfield where he’s been averaging 20-odd disposals in his previous three games, and it looks to have served him well, because this was a game for the ages from Lonie. He only had 11 disposals, but every one of them was contested. He threw himself at the ball, attacked and hunted, all for the commitment of the cause. His ferocity and tenacity as small was mind-blowing, but another factor was his disposal efficiency. He made things happen, and he quite often found teammates going inside 50, and with all the hard work he’d done, he managed to get a bit of reward for effort and kick a very classy goal himself.
Darcy Parish (Geelong Falcons)
Stats: 19 disposals, five marks, two tackles, one clearance, four inside 50s, three inside 50s.
It came as no surprise to see the Geelong Falcon have an impact like this on the big stage. He quite literally does it all and is one of the more balanced midfielders of this year’s draft crop, with a perfect blend of inside and outside capabilities. But it’s not just his ball-winning skill that draws serious praise, it’s his ballistic speed and nous to back in his leg speed and break away from his opponent or a stoppage. He has a lot of hurt factor, and he showed that on numerous occasions where he was able to win the contested ball and broke away to find a teammate. However, as he does it with so much speed and perhaps tiredness, his kicking wasn’t overly neat. When marking around the ground, Parish is a fantastic kick. He puts the ball into space where he wants his teammates to lead to, and puts enough speed on the ball to confuse defenders. One thing he does need to work on however is his composure when he does take off from a stoppage. He needs to take one or two steps to compose himself before releasing the ball, as on a few circumstances he put too much on it, sending the ball flying above the heads of his forwards. His 19 disposals were fantastic, but given he’s an underage prospect, it’s exciting to watch his development.
Tom Lamb (Dandenong Stingrays)
Stats: 10 disposals, one mark, two goals, two tackles.
Defensively speaking, Tom Lamb’s game was left wanting in aspects. Still very much an offensive weapon, Lamb’s game was patchy but his deft touch and incredible disposal when he did take possession was to perfection. Lamb played more of a forward role, with bursts through the middle but you only have to revel at his side step, his fend offs and the uncanny way to always find an avenue to goal. When the game was in the balance in the final quarter, an encouraging spray from coach Mark Ellis seemed to be just what the doctor ordered, because Lamb’s final quarter was his best. He slotted two important goals in the last quarter, including the sealer that put the icing on the cake for Country.
Nathan Drummond (Murray Bushrangers)
Stats: 14 disposals, three marks, two goals, eight tackles.
After playing only three games last year due to injury, Drummond has returned mentally stronger and a more versatile after being overlooked last year, and is benefitting hugely as yet another 19 year old in the TAC Cup system. More of a utility type this year, rather than a defender – Drummond was one of Country’s best and was in fact their everywhere-man, playing roles off half back, half forward, on a wing and through the midfield – highlighting his improvement. His appetite to apply scoreboard pressure and offer a sublime disposal from ground level, Drummond continues to make in-roads and is one to really watch this season. His break-neck speed and line-breaking abilities, mixed with endurance and flexibility – he has a great workrate and gave the Country side plenty of spark in a dynamic forward line.
Ed Langdon (Sandringham Dragons)
Stats: 14 disposals, four marks, one goal, three tackles, one clearance, one inside 50, one rebound 50.
Despite a loss, it will not take off the shine of Eddie Langdon’s game. He might have surprised some, but his work rate and not to mention his cleanness with the ball were equally impressive. Langdon was just everywhere for Metro, whether that was rebounding from half back, breaking the lines on a wing, digging the ball out from the bottom of a pack, or drifting forward to set up goals or kick them himself, Langdon is an everywhere man. The younger brother of Collingwood’s Tom, he possesses the same qualities as his brother. Not fazed by pressure, Langdon finds a way through congestion and is elite by foot. His versatility is a key factor in his capability to stay in the game for four quarters.
Angus Brayshaw (Sandringham Dragons)
Stats: 33 disposals, six marks, four tackles, four clearances, nine Inside 50s.
It would not surprise me if Angus Brayshaw found himself in an AFL club’s leadership group within his first three years in the AFL when he’s drafted come November. Brayshaw is simply part of a rare ilk of players who are just in a league of their own. Finishing with just another lazy 33 disposals, Brayshaw’s tank ranks in the elite, as he had the ball on string, but his disposal was sometimes scrappy. Sandringham have a knack of delivering high-quality footballers, and Brayshaw is another in the pipeline. He used the ball off both feet, and on his non-preferred right foot he still managed to get good depth. Brashaw’s game saw him make an impact as an inside midfielder, but needs to tidy up his disposal a fraction on the outside where he could utilise his hurt factor.
Marc Pittonet (Oakleigh Charges)
Stats: 10 disposals, 31 hitouts, five marks, three tackles
Aggressive, combative, agile and athletic, Marc Pittonet is everything you want in a ruckman. The big man was just so influential as the best ruckman afield. Pittonet finished with 31 hitouts but, not to be pigeon-holed as just a ruckman, Pitonett showed versatility in his game winning the ball around the ground but also played a key role down back for periods, and also shifted forward at times. He has a lot of Brodie Grundy in the way he attacks the ball, he loves to tackle and really crack in to win his own ball, and he isn’t afraid to throw his massive frame around. One of my best on ground.
Darcy Moore (Oakleigh Charges)
Stats: Six disposals, one mark, one goal, two inside 50s.
It wasn’t the game Darcy Moore would have hoped to have had, as he wasn’t overly effective. Despite a strong mark and goal, Moore’s game was more about showing his versatility as a player than it was about having a huge say in how the game panned out, which is quite often the case when he plays for Oakleigh. Moore played the majority of his game at centre half forward, but in the second half, he found himself rucking, and in a surprise move, Moore was thrown into the midfield after the three quarter time break. He won the ball and pushed Metro forward, and in one circumstance, his freak agility caused the entire crowd to gasp in disbelief. After he leapt for a mark that spilled off the top of his fingers, he landed on both feet, and in a split second he burst off the mark, and although his opponent gave away a three or four-metre start, he came up from behind to take possession of the ball off the ground, weaved his way through to players and unselfishly hit up Rory Sheridan-Ferrie 15 metres out from goal. It’s a highlight that’ll surely be on his tape come the end of the year. However, he would be disappointed that his effort wasn’t consistent over four quarters.
Rory Sheridan-Ferrie (Eastern Ranges)
Stats: 11 disposals, three marks four goals, two inside 50s.
There were some on-lookers who continuously grabbed their records to keep checking back to see who number 24 with the ponytail was, and nodded with appreciation every time he went near the ball. Sheridan-Ferrie is a notorious offender when it comes to kicking bags, and playing for Eastern Ranges he showed he is more than capable of throwing his name out there in a draft rich in goal-kicking forwards. Although just 189 centimetres tall, the third tall just has so much x-factor and unpredictability in his game, which makes him awkward to match up on. He’s capable of doing things others can’t, and despite an awkward size, he knows where the goals are and importantly knows his leading patterns. He finished with four goals, but the other aspect of his game, was arguably more impressive – he places so much emphasis in defensive pressure, which on more than a few occasions caused turnovers, and at the very least it allowed Metro to lock the ball inside there 50.
Matthew Goodyear (Calder Cannons)
Stats: 24 disposals, seven marks, three tackles, five clearances, seven inside 50s, two rebound 50s.
Matthew Goodyear is, in fact, enjoying a good year. One player I am very bullish about, Goodyear is a driving force behind the Metro side and it comes as no surprise to see him be one of the best on ground. Part of the impressive midfield brigade, Goodyear displayed a fine blend of speed and agility mixed with a long raking kick that penetrates the opposition defence. Goodyear came into the National Championships with extraordinary form for Calder so far in the TAC Cup, and it carried through to the big stage where he finished with 24 disposals and sent the Metro side into attack on numerous occasions, penetrating their forward 50.
Dillion Viojo-Rainbow (Western Jets)
Stats: 12 disposals, seven marks, two clearances, three rebound 50s.
Great name, even better player. Dillion Viojo-Rainbow might be a mouthful to swallow, but playing across half back he was not only reliable but calm under pressure, and he continued to hit up targets both short and long. A popular play maker, Viojo-Rainbow is highly regarded in the TAC Cup competition as a polished link-up player who not only reads he ball well in the air, but excels in his decision making, making light work for his teammates further afield. You would be hard-pressed to find a more distinguished user of the ball, and Viojo-Rainbow just has so many features in his game that when he pulls the trigger on another rebound 50, you can put the house on it finding a target.
Touk Miller (Calder Cannons)
Stats: 20 disposals, one mark, four tackles, six clearances, four inside 50s.
Miller came to the bench late in the final term and legitimately could hardly walk. His legs were heavy, and it just screams character about the Vic Metro captain. I’ve been a fan of Touk Miller’s game for a while, and fittingly he led his charges at every point, and continued to crack in and offer leadership constantly throughout the game. The inside midfielder extracted the ball at each stoppage he was a part of and, if he wasn’t already, you could pencil him in as the TAC Cup’s best inside midfielder, who has enough balance in his game to use the ball on the outside. He often found targets by foot, but it was the way in which he propelled his team into attack and so constantly could be heard barking orders and offering direction to his teammates that it just speaks volumes about the Calder gun. He has a fantastic side step a really well-weighted kick, and has enough polish to match the grunt to make him a seriously hot prospect.