AFTER a one-week hiatus due to the TAC Cup’s first development weekend of the season, the TAC Cup returned with some big individual bags of goals from the key forwards and a nail-biting draw between Gippsland Power and Northern Knights.
We had scouts watching four of the games this weekend, with a narrowed focus on the players selected in the initial Victorian representative squads for the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships.
Geelong Falcons vs. Eastern Ranges (Matt Balmer)
#20 Brayden Ham – The lively left footer booted three goals for the contest and certainly stood out. He has a great burst of speed and mixed with his agility around the forward 50, makes him a very tough opponent for any defender. His hands in close are pretty strong and he has the vision to be able to switch the ball when needed. He has an outstanding piece of play, with a pinpoint pass to Sam Conway inside 50 in the second quarter. A clean pick up, bounce and then goal in the opening quarter was one of his many highlights, which included a little left foot ‘na na’ that would have impressed Brian Taylor.
#22 Sam Walsh – Walsh is an absolute machine and there’s no doubt at this stage that he is by far the best midfielder in the TAC Cup. Despite not spending a lot of time in at the centre bounces, he floated around the outside collecting 39 disposals. His tackling was important during the day, including a strong tackle in the opening minute of the match. He spreads well and has a decent burst of speed when he needs to use it. Snapped a good goal in the third term and simply was everywhere throughout the match. If I had to nitpick – the right footer had a few occasions where he should’ve gone onto his left foot, but at this stage he prefers to use his more comfortable right boot.
#30 Oscar Brownless – The possible Geelong father-son selection had a good game in the midfield, mostly starting in as an inside midfielder. His hands in close are quick and effective and he was able to begin the chain of handballs that got the Falcons moving forward. He worked hard both ways, but his best passage of play during the match came in the second quarter when he ran towards goal and nailed the shot at speed from 55m out.
#39 Connor Idun – The Falcons mobile tall played predominantly up forward, booting two goals. His tackling was good, as was his pressure when he was around the ball. He has strong hands overhead and he showed this at one stage in the second quarter, before going back and nailing the set shot goal. Unlike some other talls, he is clean at ground level and picked the ball up on multiple times off the ‘half-volley’ with ease.
#24 Kye Quirk – Was undoubtably in the Ranges’ best playing all over the ground. He found 25 disposals during the contest and had some good kicks inside 50. He still has a lot of filling out to do body size wise, but his agility and clearance work around the ground were impressive. He was willing to run hard and create a target up forward, but equally did the hard yards running back when required. He marked a ball inside 50 and then booted an impressive goal right up against the fence from 45m out.
#31 James Blanck – The agile tall did not have a lot of the football, but his first quarter was mighty impressive and hopefully is a sign of what is to come throughout the season. He took multiple overhead marks, intercepting in front of the Geelong forwards – while he hit the targets off his right foot. He is good below the knees and his offensive work was really good in the opening quarter.
Gippsland Power vs. Northern Knights (Peter Williams)
#9 Irving Mosquito – Looked dangerous throughout the first half, winning an early touch and dishing off to a teammate running by with a quick handball. Took a good mark early and centred the kick to the danger zone and was rewarded late in the term with a free kick and goal from set shot. Quieter in the second term, but had a crowd follow him when he accelerated away in the forward pocket to chase after the ball and handball to a teammate. One of the most exciting players out there, he got even better in the second half, kicking a couple of goals including one in the last 10 seconds. Just always looked dangerous and unpredictable. Great first few steps out of the contest.
#12 Brock Smith – Played good aggressive football off half-back, playing in front of his opponent and frustrating them. Laid a great tackle late in the first term on Patrik Della Rocca, continually harassing him before winning a free kick. In the second term he jumped high, won the possession in mid-air and handpassed it on to keep the ball moving. Good spread throughout. His second half was even better, playing midfield and laying some strong tackles and just busting into packs. He copped a fierce knock and handed one out to Braedyn Gillard in a tackle, then laid a fierce tackle on the wing on Gillard to get the ball across the line. Just annoyed the opposition players all game.
#18 Matthew McGannon – Was put under careful guard very early in the peace but started to get away from the mid-way point of the first term. Very good clean touch and rarely wastes a disposal. Went in hard on a couple of occasions and pushed up the ground but was typically the quarterback in defence. He had a piecing kick late in the first term when he managed to hit-up a teammate inside the centre square between a couple of Knights players. Worked hard to spread down the wing and often kicked long down the middle. Good defensive work with tough tackles. Moved into the midfield in the second half and immediately had an impact. Won a free kick up forward and kicked truly from a tight angle. His one blemish was a kick off the side of the boot to Nicholas Mayne which almost cost a goal. Other than that, he was reliable by foot and showed a willingness to take the game on with a dash last in the match and kicked forward. Did not rack up as much touches as he has over the past few weeks, but does not waste too much.
#22 Rylan Henkel – Showed good aggression in the ruck, even though it did cost him a couple of free kicks. Positions himself well and works his opponents under the ball. He also spread well for a ruck, winning some touches on the wing and laid some fierce tackles. Went forward in the third term and then back into the ruck and wasn’t as influential, but still solid around the ground.
#25 Kyle Reid – Very consistent in defence, always looking to keep the ball moving and switching play. Reid showed good defensive pressure when his opponent had the ball in his hand and harassed opponents at ground level. He took a good mark going back with the flight in the second term and is a good kick at full speed. Just a consistent four quarter effort, read the play well and provided good offensive drive and defensive pressure. A composed performance from the defender.
#3 Braedyn Gillard – A typical consistent game from the reliable inside midfielder. Kicking lets him down at times but he just barrels into every contest and wins plenty of one-on-ones. Earned himself some free kicks and also gave some away, but could never question his work ethic. Likewise his ability to cover the ground is a highlight, winning the ball in each third of the ground, which at times was crucial to be able to drop back and help the Knights defenders. Kicked a goal in the first term after picking the ball off the deck and snapping truly. Just stands up when needed and shovels out handballs to teammates in space. Won an important clearance in the final term but was hurt in a Brock Smith tackle and had to come off two minutes in. Returned to the field and went in hard and continued to spread well. Probably the Knights’ best player on the day.
#7 Harrison Grace – A classy mover through traffic, he is lightly built and does not win a tonne of it, but uses it well. He has quick hands under pressure and is often used in transition across the ground. He won the first clearance of the second term and bombed long, and showed good pace and agility out of the congestion, thinking his way through his disposals. He is impressive with ball-in-hand moving around the midfield. Seems to have that trademark handball and sprint forward to receive it back. Had a good piece of play in the third term where he wore a bump knowing it was coming, holding onto the ball long enough to successfully draw an opponent and handball to a teammate. He won the ball and had a long kick out of a stoppage to the advantage of a teammate and provided good pressure to a marking contest in the fourth quarter to stop a Gippsland mark on the forward 50 for the Power late.
#16 Thomas Hallebone – Was outmuscled by Henkel through the first half, but also spent time at full-forward. When against undersized rucks he used his good vertical leap to advantage and had a few solid passages of play at the stoppages around the ground. His second half was much better as he won the ruck battle against Josh Smith and produced several taps to advantage. He was spreading well to the wing and took a strong mark with a good vertical leap in the third quarter. He seemed fiercer at stoppages and got more involved and even won some crucial taps once Henkel returned back to the ruck.
Dandenong Stingrays vs, Western Jets (Ed Pascoe)
#9 Zac Foot – Foot showed some real skill throughout the day taking the game on with his blistering speed and follow up running which lead to one his three goals. It came right before half-time when he won the ball on the wing, had a run and passed it off and eventually won the ball again in the forward 50 and kicked a quality running goal. Foot was very clean at ground level and overhead, while his skills by hand and foot could not be faulted.
#13 Riley Bowman – Bowman started the game extremely well with an excellent tap, follow-up and then a crunching tackle. He looked switched on very early and continued to impress as the game went on. Bowman finished the game with three goals, including two bananas and one snap which came from a bit of composure and great movement especially of a player his size. Bowman took some great marks around the ground and his ball use was exceptional for someone of his stature. Bowman is an AFL Academy member and his improvement this year holds him in good stead in the lead up to the National Under 18 Championships.
#29 Bailey Williams – Williams was the most dominant player on the ground proving to be a handful up forward, he finished with seven goals and could have been even more with a few missed shots on goal. Williams was unstoppable one-on-one with his strength, height and leap too much for any of the Jets defenders. Williams did not just do great work in the air, although he did take a lovely hangar in the third quarter, his hands at ground level were very clean which was apparent in the last quarter when he went up for a marking contest – the ball then went over the contest and he quickly recovered, picking the ball up at speed and ran into goal. Williams dominated in the ruck last year and has added another string to his bow up forward.
#58 William Hamill – Hamill was all class at half-back with his ball use first rate and his decision making better still. Hamill was clean with his pickups and by hand and foot, he did not miss many targets and even if he did they where mostly to the advantage of his teammates. His link-up run was important for Dandenong and his good run and precise left foot cut the Jets up. It was impossible to fault his game and he will hopefully keep building form in the lead up to the National Under 18 Championships.
#11 Zak Butters – Butters had a tough day at the office much like all his teammates, he got battered and bruised and was made to earn every one of his possessions. Butters attacked every contest hard and at pace but it did come at a cost a few times with his smaller frame running into some of the bigger bodies of the Dandenong players. He did not get a great deal of the ball but he made all his possessions count and didn’t fumble at all during the game, Butters will always have more impact when he can be released on the outside where he can use his speed and good skills.
#17 Daly Andrews – Andrews worked hard on the wing all day and he continued to run and take the game on even late in the game when the Jets where getting bombarded by a stellar Dandenong team. Andrews again tried to do too much at times but every time he gets caught he shows his trademark agility and speed and you can’t help but see his talent. Despite his light size, he took some great marks with one contested mark in the first quarter catching the eye. Andrews showed plenty of attack and was clean with his hands and despite not being able to show his trademark dash as often as normal, he still had a crack in the contest which showed he was not a one-dimensional wingman.
#33 Xavier O’Halloran – O’Halloran was the clear standout for the Jets with his attack on the ball in the contest and his willingness to keep on pushing forward obvious despite the one-sided game. O’Halloran played his normal game with his trademark roves from clearances on the run with his best of those coming in the third quarter when he attacked the clearance, got the ball, had a run and kicking a long running goal. His kicking early was shaky at best but as the game went on his kicking was not only better, but it was long and penetrating with one long switch kick in the last quarter a real highlight showing if he has time his kicking can be sensational. O’Halloran has so many likeable traits which he showed again today with his attack, speed and tackling but if he can start making kicks like the one he did in the last quarter it will go along way to him finding his way onto an AFL list at the end of the year.
#38 Buku Khamis – It was an interesting game for Khamis. He started on Williams early and was obviously worried about the height and size difference, but once Khamis was released to intercept he looked a lot more comfortable. He took some nice marks during the game and his kicking was long and accurate. Khamis was moved forward late to give a good lead-up option for the Jets which he did so pretty well taking some nice marks on the lead. He missed a shot at goal which was a shame since I thought he deserved reward for his lead up work.
GWV Rebels vs. Calder Cannons (Cameron Ross)
#3 Scott Carlin – Carlin is a star and racks up possessions comfortably. Played in all three thirds of the field today, however was most damaging in the middle third. Carlin’s ability to make the correct decision quickly sets him apart from others. If he has three men to give the ball to, he will make the right choice within a split second.
#13 Thomas Berry – Another solid game from Berry, who seems to be still working himself back from that horrific collision with the point post against Bendigo. Berry was the Rebels best midfielder at stoppages today, winning clearances around the ground and in the middle. Berry was also good when he went forward today, showing his versatility with a knowledge of forward craft and leading patterns. Kicked back-to-back goals in the third quarter and could have had three goals in the third quarter, hitting the post after a set shot.
#14 Jed Hill – For Hill, it is not how much of it he gets, but what he does with it. He was outstanding today. He kicked 3.4, which could have been 6.1 if not for marginally pulling a couple of set shots. A key part of being a forward is the ability to “halve” a contest and bring the ball to ground and if Hill was not marking it, he was halving the contest. Had 3-4 opponents, mainly Sholl, and none of them could stop him. If he is not in the argument for the top five most-skilled forwards in the TAC Cup, I would like to have a word.
#20 Tylar Watts – Starting ruck today and was back to his best after a couple of quiet games. Had a big first quarter, but as he was splitting time with Glanford in the ruck, was not as dominant in the other three quarters. Would love to see him given the opportunity to ruck out the majority of the game as he is a very good tap ruckman and has fantastic ability for his size to win the ball below his knees.
#5 Curtis Taylor – Split time between midfield and forward and was damaging in both. Kicked two goals including the sealer finishing off a superb piece of link up play from West and Bytel, with a drop punt on the run from 40 out. Hurt the Rebels with an ability to extricate the ball in traffic and set up his team mates for numerous scoring opportunities.
#8 Lachlan Sholl – Many would say his game was quiet for his standards, but I think he played quite well, especially when matched up on Hill. Was asked the question by his coach at three-quarter time, and responded, intercepting a kick-in and nailing a big goal. However, I really liked him as a defender and I believe he has buckets of potential.
#16 Jack Bytel – Was outstanding in the middle and was pivotal in his sides huge last quarter. Not only a ball magnet but extremely damaging player who was able to kick the ball long inside 50 and put the Rebels defence under extreme pressure. Looked a class above the rest in the middle and I understand the plaudits coming from those who believe he will be a high draft pick.