Tag: AFL

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

WITH a new TAC Cup Girls premier and the future of the AFLW on show, it was a weekend to sit back and enjoy what looks to be an enjoyable few years as women’s football continues to go from strength to strength.

Geelong Falcons win inaugural Grand Final

Nothing is more memorable than a premiership and Geelong Falcons’ grand final win over a spirited Northern Knights side was one to remember. They had their work cut out for them, but a few positional changes and the belief within the group to fight back from a two-goal half-time deficit saw them etch their names into history. The likes of Denby Taylor, Olivia Purcell, Tarryn Love and Nina Morrison led the way, while captain Lucy McEvoy was everywhere.

AFLW future talent on show

Following on from the memorable moment of a premiership, it is impossible not to sit back and enjoy what will be the future of AFL Women’s in the next three years. Aside from the clear top-end talent to come out of this year’s draft at the end of the season, bottom agers Gabby Newton, Britney Gutknecht, Nell Morris-Dalton, Ciara FitzgeraldSarah Sansonetti, Lucy McEvoy, Abbey Chapman and Luka Lesosky Hay were all impressive. Throw in some of the best 15/16 year-olds in the competition in Ellie McKenzie, Alyssa Bannan, Abigail Bennett, Ashleigh Snow, Jess Fitzgerald, Laura Gardiner, Renee Tierney and Jerusha Devarakonda and the 2020 draft crop is already at an advanced level compared to their predecessors.

Brisbane Lions’ maiden win

It was a long time coming, but the Brisbane Lions cubs finally recorded their first win, coming from behind in the opening term to storm home and claim a memorable victory over Hawthorn. It was extra special for veteran Luke Hodge against his old side, while Matt Eagles and Charlie Cameron celebrated their first AFL and Brisbane Lions’ wins respectively. After a few lean years, the Lions are providing supporters with some serious hope going forward.

Big bags are back in fashion

There is nothing quite like a dominant key position forward in a game where athleticism and scoreboard pressure from smalls has been placed at a premium. On the weekend we saw not one, not two, but three key position forwards booting bags of goals. Murray Bushrangers’ Hudson Garoni continued his sensational form with seven majors, while Corey Ellison (Dandenong Stingrays) and Jordan Rossiter (Eastern Ranges) booted six each. Harry Bede who is no shrimp himself, booting four in the Sandringham Dragons’ win.

Teenagers step up to the big time

We are already seeing a number of talented TAC Cup Girls make the transition through to the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition. With a number of players suiting up for different VFL Women’s sides, and not having the National Under 18 Championships on the horizon, Oakleigh Chargers’ Isabella Gietzmann and Eastern Ranges’ Ashleigh Allsopp donned the Carlton and Southern Saints’ jumpers respectively.

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

In a weekend of big bags, late inclusions and fantastic matches, there was plenty to look back on, and forward to, with these five memorable moments from the weekend.

Flynn’s moment

It is hard to believe that Flynn Appleby‘s story has not been told more frequently. The Collingwood rookie made his debut in front of a huge crowd at the MCG against reigning premiers Richmond after a late call-up. The former GWV Rebels defender missed out on Vic Country selection and was even forgotten about to the point of not receiving a National or State Combine invitation. Luckily a late call-up (fitting considering his debut) to the Rookie Me Combine saw Appleby star across multiple athletic areas, adding to the strong form he had shown all season, including quelling some of the most dangerous forwards in Jarrod Brander and Gryan Miers, as well as the Pies’ own Kayle Kirby in Appleby’s sole VFL game. He more than held his own on the weekend providing some crucial defensive plays, and is a poster boy for never giving up despite missing state selection.

Britney Gutknecht’s bag of goals

Reported at different times as both six and seven goals, it is understandable to lose track when a player kicks that many goals in an hour-long match. Northern Knights’ Britney Gutknecht is in ripping form this season, particularly the past fortnight. She has been piling on the goals in the TAC Cup Girls competition, finishing the game with at least half a dozen majors in the Knights’ big win over Bendigo Pioneers. No doubt she will be closely watched by the Geelong defence this week, but the midfielder/forward has been damaging in front of the big sticks.

Even TAC Cup competition

Everyone loves to see a close competition, and with Oakleigh’s six-point win over Dandenong on the weekend, every side has suffered at least one defeat in the first five rounds of the TAC Cup. It leaves Oakleigh, Dandenong and Murray with just one loss thus far this season, while Gippsland are just two points behind in fourth. With other sides such as the Northern Knights and Geelong Falcons rising up after slow starts to the season, the competition is looking even across the board.

Unbeaten sides to clash

Okay, so this one is not something that happened on the weekend, but is happening next weekend. However, the events of the weekend and each other round, has set up this event. Of course the event is the Geelong Falcons taking on the Northern Knights in the TAC Cup Girls competition – both sides are undefeated and it is a case of best attack (Northern) facing the best defence (Geelong) in what should be an unbelievable clash. Ultimately the result will likely be for bragging rights, with both sides well clear of their nearest rivals and the loser needing to suffer an astonishing defeat in the final round to have any chance of dropping out of the top two, thus setting up a grand final preview.

VFLW ready to rumble

With all the practice matches done and dusted, it is exciting to see the new looking VFLW ready to kick-off next weekend. Many AFLW fans will head to suburban grounds as their AFL-aligned sides take on their first opponents for 2018. With many AFLW aligned players also spreading out across the likes of Darebin Falcons and Williamstown, expect the competition to still remain even, with the AFL sides not necessarily getting an easy leg-up on the competition.

Tasmania weekly wrap: Blowouts across TSL Round 2; AFL hits Blundstone Arena

This week in Tasmanian football saw a number of Tasmanian State League (TSL) clubs stamp their dominance while this Saturday sees Blundstone Arena host AFL action.

AFL hits Hobart:

This Saturday sees Tasmania host it’s first AFL match of the season when North Melbourne play Carlton at Blundstone Arena. The clash, which will be a homecoming for Carlton coach Brendan Bolton, kicks off from 7:25pm on Saturday night with North looking to register their second win of the year while the Blues will be aiming to open their account after three consecutive losses.

Key defender Robbie Tarrant returns for the Kangaroos after being a late withdrawal in their loss to Melbourne last week with Nathan Hrovat out injured. The Blues have brought in Cam O’Shea for the injured Caleb Marchbank (ankle) while Jack Silvagni has been recalled for Jed Lamb (omitted) and last year’s number ten draft pick in Lochie O’Brien will make his debut, replacing Cameron Polson (omitted).

We will have a wrap-up of all the action in next week’s weekly wrap.

TSL Round 2:

Round 2 of the BUPA Tasmanian State League (TSL) saw three of the competition’s strongest sides stamp their early season dominance.

Glenorchy 22.15 (147) def. Lauderdale 8.12 (60)

2016 premiers Glenorchy started life under new coach Paul Kennedy in winning fashion on Saturday with a resounding 81-point victory over last year’s grand finalists Lauderdale, who now sit 0-2 after their round one loss to Clarence. New recruit Mitch Walker starred for the Magpies, kicking five goals, while returning defender Daniel Joseph was name best afield by Kennedy.

“We just did the things I thought we were capable of,” Kennedy said post-match. “Throughout pre-season you get an expectation of your players and the team and mine is really high for this group because they’re a good bunch of blokes that work really hard, they pick things up quickly and they expect high standards of themselves.” For Lauderdale, Northern Territory recruit Tim Misquito was a shining light, kicking three majors.

Launceston 21.21 (147) def. North Hobart 2.4 (16)

Launceston responded in convincing fashion from their round one defeat to cross-town rivals North Launceston, beating the TSL’s youngest side by 131-points at Windsor Park. Former Hawthorn player Mitch Thorp booted seven goals for the winners while forward line partner Sonny Whitting nabbed four. It was a tough day for the Demons but coach Richard Robinson implored his young side to learn from the experience of playing such a good side.

North Launceston 13.14 (92) def. Tigers 4.6 (30)

Last year’s premiers North Launceston now sit 2-0 after they easily accounted for the Tigers at UTAS Stadium. Under new coach Taylor Whitford, the Bombers looked as dangerous as ever and proved why they, along with Launceston, have been touted as potential premiers in 2018. Former Brisbane Lions listed forward Bart McCulloch kicked three goals for the victors while for the Tigers, former Carlton defender Marcus Davies battled hard throughout the day.

Round 3 Fixture:

Lauderdale v Launceston at Lauderdale Oval – 2:00pm

North Launceston v Glenorchy at UTAS Stadium – 2:00pm

North Hobart v Clarence at North Hobart Oval – 2:30pm

Tigers – BYE

AFL ACADEMY:

Two of Tasmania’s best Under 18 talents ran out on the MCG last Saturday for the NAB AFL Academy against North Melbourne’s VFL team. Both Tarryn Thomas & Chayce Jones held their own, featuring in the best handful of players for the talented group of future draftees. 

Queensland weekly wrap: Lions win Youth Girls Academy Series

BRISBANE Lions Youth Girls Academy were the top performers at the weekend’s Northern Academy Series, while their AFL counterparts pushed Port Adelaide all the way in Adelaide, but the Gold Coast Suns went down to Fremantle in a “home” game at Optus Stadium.

Lions and Suns compete in Youth Girls Northern Academy Series

Brisbane Lions have triumphed in the Youth Girls Northern Academy Series with three victories over the GIANTS, Gold Coast Suns and Sydney Swans. The Lions defeated the GIANTS by one point in the opening game, before a 46-point victory over the Suns and 20-point victory over the Sydney Swans followed. The Suns won their two other matches with a 23-point victory over Sydney and a 42-point victory over the GIANTS, restricting both sides to a combined two behinds in their matches. A total of 60 players took part in the series from Queensland, with 28 representing Brisbane Lions and 32 representing the Gold Coast SUNS.

For more information on how the series went down, head to the AFL Queensland website.

AFL Round 3 

Brisbane Lions vs Port Adelaide Power

Port Adelaide survived a goalless last quarter to beat the incredibly brave and luckless Brisbane Lions by five points at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. Inspired by Stefan Martin, who had an amazing 30 disposals and 48 hit-outs, the Lions came back from 18 points down at three-quarter time and battled hard. The Power looked completely drained after a six-day break from a tough away encounter against the Sydney Swans. Port was expected to win – they have been touted by many to finish in the top four – but the Lions seemed to believe they were always a chance.

The Lions turned up in hot conditions ready to produce a highly respectful performance, going down fighting to the bitter end. Charlie Cameron started at full-forward and kicked three telling early goals on his old hunting ground, and for Brisbane to lead by 11 points at half-time was a huge wake-up call for the Power. When they did, they were back to their controlling best, but again not without needing to work hard for each possession. Port regrouped after half-time and found their cleaner flow, definitely with more vigour. They tested the resilience of the Lions, switching the play and forcing them into growing errors amidst the extended pressure.

For 43 of the first 75 minutes of match play the Lions led and looked like deserving winners. Of course, ultimately Port clawed their way back through tenacity and a rise in intensity, but for the Lions to hang in there for so long speaks volumes for the path coach Chris Fagan is taking them on. There were Brisbane’s hardy perennials like Luke Hodge who masterminded the defence, Dayne Zorko who was brilliant in the midfield, and Mitch Robinson who was inspirational with his attack on the ball, but it was Stefan Martin with some magnificent ruck work that really gave the Lions a big chance. Port kicked seven goals to the Lions’ five in the second half to escape with the game which went right down to the wire. Next Saturday afternoon the Lions face reigning premiers Richmond at the MCG.

Final Scores: Port Adelaide 14.13 (97) defeated Brisbane 14.8 (92)  

Gold Coast Suns vs. Fremantle Dockers

Gold Coast Suns’ undefeated run came to an end on the weekend at the hands of a Nat Fyfe-inspired Fremantle Dockers outfit at Optus Stadium. With the Commonwealth Games in full swing on the coast, the Suns sold their home game to the Dockers and it proved to be a winning factor in the game. While the crowd wasn’t nearly as strong as the previous numbers Perth’s new stadium has yielded, the Freo fans surely helped to will their side over the line. It took special performances from Michael Walters (23 disposals, six tackles, two goals) and Ed Langdon (27 disposals, five marks, five tackles), alongside their skipper, for Fremantle to break the half-time deadlock and come away with the four points.

While it was a fairly even contest for most of the game, the Dockers ended up dominating the key stats – winning the disposal count 387-324, clearances 37-29 and contested possessions 154-135 – and the margin could have been more had they kicked more accurately in front of goal with 31 scoring shots to 18. For the Suns, Jarryd Lyons continued his admirable early season form with a complete performance of 30 disposals, ten tackles, seven clearances and two goals. Jack Martin pitched in with 21 disposals, six marks and a goal alongside Kade Kolodjashnij (22 disposals, seven marks) and Touk Miller (19 disposals, six tackles, five clearances).

One of the more pleasing performances came from the injury riddled Sam Day, who booted three goals from his ten disposals and five marks with Tom Lynch kept quiet. Besides the loss, coach Stewart Dew will also face the concern of potentially losing star wingman Pearce Hanley to another shoulder injury after he suffered a dislocation in the first half. Overall, the result came from a mix of Fremantle’s brilliance and a somewhat disappointing Gold Coast effort. The Suns will again head to Optus Stadium to face West Coast in round four. Final Scores: Fremantle 13.18 (96) defeated Gold Coast 10.8 (68)

Queensland weekly wrap: Colts fixtures released; juniors embrace AFLX

IN the past week, Queensland football lovers have seen the release of the QAFL and QFA Colts 2018 fixtures released, as well as an AFLX trial at the Under 14 Cross-Conference Invitational.

QAFL and QFA Colts 2018 Fixtures Released

AFL Queensland has announced the finalised structure and fixtures for the Under 18 Colts competition ahead of the 2018 season. The updated structure includes six new teams that will participate in the Colts format in 2018; increasing the total number of clubs involved to 24 – four more than last year. The structure aims to align teams with their existing senior competitions, with the 24 teams grouped into three separate competitions.

The alignment aims to assist in the transition of players from the youth ranks to senior football. As a result, most matches in the fixture will commence at 9:30am, prior to each club’s respective senior fixtures. All three competitions feature a 19-round home and away season, before a finals series at its conclusion. Grand Finals will be held on September 15 (QFA Colts Maroon), September 16 (QFA Colts White) and September 22/23 (QAFL Colts) adding to the theatre of existing Grand Final days.

All Colts competition games commence on April 21.

AFLX takes centre stage at Under 14 Cross-Conference Invitational

AFLX made its first venture into Queensland youth football last weekend as 18 teams across the Wide Bay and South East Queensland regions competed in the Under 14 Youth Boys Cross-Conference Carnival Invitationals. Rules from the latest footballing initiative such as ten-point ‘zooper’ goals, kick-ins after all scores and play on form posts were all incorporated in the carnival, however games were still played on a traditional football oval.

Both Wynnum and the Sunshine Coast hosted one-day carnivals on March 25th for several Under 14 clubs as part of their preseason preparations. Ten teams from the Wide Bay, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast leagues participated at the Sunshine Coast event at North Shore AFC, whilst eight teams from the Brisbane and Gold Coast regions partook in the Wynnum carnival.

Feedback from clubs across the offseason as part of the Youth Male Strategy highlighted a desire for more variety in the games played and the opportunity for an alternative match day experience. As a result, AFL Queensland developed the initiative to provide South East Queensland junior AFL clubs with increased variety of opposition in the preseason as teams from different competitions and regions played against each other.

Each team across both carnivals played four games throughout the day with everyone receiving a participation medal for their contribution on the day.

AFL Round Two:  

Brisbane Lions vs. Melbourne Demons

Melbourne survived a huge scare, holding off a ferocious Brisbane comeback to win by 26 points at the Gabba on Saturday night. The clash marked the first home game of the season for the Lions and Luke Hodge’s first appearance at the Gabba in Lions’ colours.  For the second week in a row the Lions have given their opposition the start as the Demons kicked five goals to the Lions’ three behinds in the first term. This had Brisbane down by 31 points heading into the second term. Again, the Lions were to aggressive with ball in hand to the point of recklessness, blazing away when they needed to slow the game down. The result was a glut of turnovers, particularly entering attack, leaving them stranded as the ball rebounded the other way.

In the second term both sides were on level pegging, but for the majority of the second half the Lions were much more dominant. Between the seven-minute mark of the third quarter and the 17-minute mark of the last, the Demons didn’t kick a goal. The Lions drew level through Allen Christensen’s third major, and had the momentum to roll over the top of the visitors. But critical mistakes cost them, and the Demons rallied to pull away in the last 10 minutes.

Jesse Hogan and Jeff Garlett were particularly instrumental for the Demons. Hogan was dominant, setting up Melbourne’s victory with three goals from 14 possessions and seven marks in the first half, with two more final quarter goals sealing the win. Garlett as usual needed only a couple of half-chances to have an impact, kicking two and giving away another to Nathan Jones in the first half. Like Hogan, he kicked two more in the last when his side needed a spark.

There were bright spots for the Lions. On top of the courage shown to come all the way back to level the scores at one stage, Crows import Charlie Cameron was the Lions’ best player and barely wasted a touch. But Melbourne were a stronger unit, beating the Lions inside for contested ball. The Lions drop to 0-2 ahead of trips to play Port Adelaide and Richmond in the next fortnight.

Final Scores:

Brisbane 10.14 (74) defeated by Melbourne 14.16 (100)

Goals:

Brisbane: Cameron 3, Christensen 3, Bewick, Zorko, Hipwood, Cox.
Melbourne: Hogan 5, Garlett 4, Jones 2, Fritsch 2, Neal-Bullen.

Best:

Brisbane: Cameron, Christensen, Cox, Taylor, Zorko
Melbourne: Hogan, Garlett, Oliver, Jones, Petracca

Gold Coast Suns vs. Carlton Blues

In-demand power forward Tom Lynch booted eight goals to help Gold Coast Suns to a convincing 28-point win over Carlton, keeping their undefeated record intact. The Suns led from start to finish, bursting out of the blocks with five goals to one in the opening term to set up a handy buffer. Their relentless pressure ensured that the Blues could find no easy way back into the game, highlighting the new brand of football that coach Stuart Dew has swiftly enforced.

Pocket rockets Darcy Macpherson and Jarryd Lyons were in the thick of things with game-highs in tackles (10) and contested possessions (26) respectively. They were supported well by former Blue Nick Holman, who continued his impressive return to AFL football with 15 disposals and 10 tackles. Their collective impact made all the difference on the day, as the Blues won the disposal and inside 50 counts comfortably, but found themselves butchering the ball in important areas under the pressure of 93 Gold Coast tackles. 

The home side were up against it before the ball was even bounced, with their ever-reliable ruckman Matthew Kreuzer a late out, replaced by midfielder Cameron Polson. It proved to be telling, as Jarrod Witts took full advantage of the less-experienced rotation of Levi Casboult, Charlie Curnow and Cam O’Shea, who was on debut. While Curnow put in a solid shift with his two goals alongside his brother Ed, who was ever-present with his 38 disposals and 10 tackles, the Blues lacked a spark in the forward half and were swiftly found out for it.

For the second time in their history the Suns will go into round three with a perfect record, looking to improve to a 3-0 record with a win against Fremantle Dockers at home. Their early season form is a far-cry from what many expected out of the young Suns squad, and there is sure to be some excitement up on the Gold Coast with the Commonwealth Games due to commence this week.    

Final Scores:

Gold Coast 15.11 (101) defeated Carlton 9.13 (67)

Goals:

Carlton: Wright 2, C. Curnow 2, Cripps, Fisher, Weitering, Lamb, Murphy.
Gold Coast: Lynch 8, Martin 3, Macpherson, Lyons, Ainsworth, Young.

Best:

Carlton: Cripps, E. Curnow, C. Curnow, Simpson, Petrevski-Seton, Murphy
Gold Coast: Lynch, Witts, Swallow, Martin, Lyons, Hall, Thompson

Tasmania weekly wrap: AFL CEO visits state, outlines future direction

THIS week in Tasmanian football has seen the AFL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) visit the Apple Isle to address the current state of Tasmanian football while a number of Tasmanian AFL players have been named for the first round of the AFL season. Meanwhile Tarryn Thomas will have a chance to play for North Melbourne’s VFL side this season which starts next month.

AFL CEO visits Hobart

With just two days before the beginning of the 2018 AFL Premiership Season, AFL CEO Gillion McLachlan has visited Tasmania to address the state’s ongoing football issues.

McLachlan arrived in Hobart on Wednesday morning to meet with AFL Tasmania CEO Trisha Squires along with state Premier Will Hodgman and outlined the future direction for Tasmanian football in a press conference at North Hobart Oval.

Those were:

  • An immediate injection of $200,000 to help the talent pathway in the state;
  • Subsiding the levies of all Tasmanian junior players; and
  • The announcement of a steering committee to navigate the future of the state’s football consisting of McLachlan, Squires, Carlton coach Brendan Bolton, St. Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt, former AFL Tasmania CEO Rob Auld, and AFL state and international league manager Simon Laughton.

McLachlan admitted that there were still challenges facing the TSL and said splitting the state league into conferences was not out of the question.

Tasmanians in the AFL | Round One:

A number of Tasmania’s AFL-listed players are looking to start their seasons with a victory this weekend while four players featured in last night’s season opener.

Richmond 17.19 (121) def. Carlton 15.5 (95) – Thursday March 22 at MCG

In the opening game of the 2018 AFL Premiership Season, Richmond started their premiership defense with a hard-fought 26-point victory over an impressive Carlton outfit.

Premiership Tasmanian’s Jack Riewoldt and Toby Nankervis where both impressive for the reigning premiers with Riewoldt finishing with four majors, while Nankervis won the hit-out battle with Matthew Kreuzer 33-23.

Carlton’s Tasmanian duo of Liam Jones and Levi Casboult stood at each end of the ground with Jones playing the majority of the night on fellow Tasmanian, Riewoldt.

Jones, well-known for his ability to intercept and read the play, finished with a combined 16 one-per centers and intercept possessions.

Casboult was relativity well held by the game’s best defender in Alex Rance, with the marking forward held to just the one goal and four marks.

Essendon v Adelaide – Friday March 23 at Etihad Stadium

While last year was a breakout for basketballer-turned-Crow Hugh Greenwood, the big-bodied midfielder has only been named as an emergency for tonight’s contest as he battles to return to full fitness following achilles surgery in November.

Fellow Tasmanians Tom Bellchambers and Josh Green have both been named in a new look Essendon line-up following the retirements of Jobe Watson and James Kelly and the inclusions of Devon Smith, Jake Stringer and Adam Saad.

St. Kilda v Brisbane – Saturday March 24 at Etihad Stadium

Former Lauderdale and Glenorchy players Mitch Robinson and Jimmy Webster will again be opponents on Saturday when they face off in Melbourne.

Robinson returns after an injury-riddled 2016 campaign while Webster has been named off half-back and will look to use his elite foot-skills to provide the Saints with run from the back-50.

Gold Coast v North Melbourne – Saturday March 24 at Cazaly Stadium

After growing up in the chills of Tasmania, three homegrown talents will sweat it out in Cairns when Gold Coast host North Melbourne at Cazaly Stadium.

North’s tall timber Ben Brown will again be the main focus in attack for a rebuilding Roos while Kade Kolodjashnij will be looking to get back to his form of 2016 when he lines up with fellow Tasmanian and new Sun Lachie Weller in a new-look Gold Coast outfit in incoming coach Stuart Dew’s first game. 

Collingwood v Hawthorn – Saturday March 24 at MCG

Former Dodges Ferry and Hobart high-flyer Jeremy Howe will be the lone Tasmanian on the MCG on Saturday night when Collingwood host Hawthorn.

Howe has been named alongside forward-turned-defender Darcy Moore at half-back. 

Melbourne v Geelong – Sunday March 25 at MCG

In what shapes as one of the opening round’s most exciting games, the second-half of Tasmania’s AFL twins, Jake Kolodjashnij, will line-up for Geelong against the Dees at the MCG.

With fellow Tasmanian Cat’s Jackson Thurlow (injured) and Ryan Gardner (VFL) not named in the side’s 25-man squad, Kolodjashnij will be the lone Apple Isle product in the Geelong homecoming of superstar Gary Ablett.

Maverick Weller (St. Kilda), Mitch Hibberd (North Melbourne), Brody Mihocek (Collingwood) and Robbie Fox (Sydney) have all been named as emergencies for their respective sides.

Young stars Rising up to AFL challenge

EVERY club is excited with the young talent in their team and with round one approaching we have taken a look at which players could step up and progress from the under 18s – or their first season in the AFL – and be the standout young talent at the elite level. From an already premiership player to a few top five five draft picks, there is no shortage of contenders for the 2018 AFL Rising Star Award and here are a few to look out for this year.

Jack Graham

The Richmond young gun was picked at number 53 in the 2016 AFL National Draft and has already had one year of experience in the AFL, remarkably winning a premiership with the Tigers which will help him to thrive and play to his absolute best in the Richmond midfield. He was a standout in the Grand Final, kicking three goals, while keeping Adelaide star Rory Sloane quiet. Graham is one of the favourites to take out the 2018 AFL Rising Star award, and it would be surprising not to see him at least poll some votes from the judges at the end of the season.

Paddy Dow

Carlton’s prized number three draft pick in last years draft, Paddy Dow from the Bendigo Pioneers is another one of the favourites tipped to win the 2018 AFL Rising Star Award. The young blue has the full package in he is a powerful, classy midfielder who can impact the scoreboard. He is a huge accumulator of the ball and knows how perform on the big stage. He showcased some of what he has to offer during both AFLX and the JLT Community Series. Dow’s long repertoire of skills will be on display, and is primed to play and be a young leader in a young up-and-coming side.

Jaidyn Stephenson

Collingwood have found themselves a player that has some X-factor with pick six in last year’s draft. The former Eastern Ranges enigma is a great runner who is both quick and has the tank to run out four quarters of footy . He was a playmaker during the TAC Cup in 2017, averaging 5.2 inside 50s and 3.9 clearances, and was a danger every time he went up forward, something Collingwood is hoping he can do in 2018. His X-factor trait is the explosiveness in Stephenson game style, which will likely see him up in the top 10 of the AFL Rising Star Award.

Oliver Florent

Oliver Florent was picked by Sydney Swans in the 2016 AFL National Draft with pick 11. After only playing a handful of games in 2017, Florent is still eligible to win the Rising Star in 2018. The former Dragon is a lively half-forward who can make something out of nothing. At the 2016 AFL Draft Combine he recorded the equal highest beep test (15.1)  Florent will fit in nicely to a regenerating Swans side, and add another dimension to an already star forward line with Buddy Franklin and Isaac Heeney. 

Luke Davies-Uniacke

North Melbourne’s Luke Davies-Uniacke from the Dandenong Stingrays, was picked with the fourth pick in the 2017 AFL National Draft. He is a classy player with all the characteristics of an contested ball winning and game breaking midfielder. Davies-Uniacke wins the ball similar to Sydney’s Josh Kennedy and models his marking on Luke Parker. North Melbourne’s Recruiting Officer Ben Birthisel, said Davies-Uniacke is “really good at accumulating the footy around the ground and his ability to consistently stand-up in big games has really made him stand-out amongst this year’s group. His elimination final against Eastern Ranges was super, and he’s another who’s gone forward and hit the scoreboard and is strong overhead.”  Look to see him in the top three in the Rising Star award.

Cam Rayner

Brisbane’s prized number one draft pick, Cam Rayner from the Western Jets, is another who will see plenty of game time in the 2017. His game style is compared to Richmond star Dustin Martin. Andrew Hamilton from the Courier Mail compares Rayner to ‘Dusty’ “because of his explosiveness and brutal fend-off.”  Rayner had the nickname “Hollywood” at his Junior football club, Hillside, because of his “goalkicking flair”.  So with his ability to impress, expect him at seasons end to be in the top three vote-getters of the AFL Rising Star Award.

Alex Witherden

Lions young gun Alex Witherden was selected by Brisbane with pick number 23 in the 2016 AFL National Draft. Witherden played nine of the final ten games for the season, only missing Round 21 because of injury. He was a standout in his first season in defence at the Lions, and especially in his debut match against the GWS Giants in Round 14 “where he collected 20 disposals, 12 kicks and seven marks.” In his impressive debut season, Witherden “averaged 23.6 disposals, 15.9 kicks and 5.3 marks” and therefore he was 17th “on the 2017 Rising Star Nomination tally.”  In 2018, he is tipped to finish in the top two of the AFL Rising Star award. If Witherden plays the whole season and continues with his great form in defence from 2017, he will take out the AFL Rising Star Award or at least in the top five because he will be playing against other very young talented superstars.

Andrew Brayshaw

Sandringham Dragons’ Andrew Brayshaw was taken by Fremantle with pick two in last year’s National Draft. Brayshaw’s is renowned for being “a hard worker, neat user of the ball and a superb decision maker.” His kicking is top notch and in the TAC Cup he averaged nearly seven tackles a game. Brayshaw is a versatile player who can have a significant impact whichever position he plays in, as he can not only play in the midfield, but can play as a half-back flanker and move forward when required. He had a great AFL National Draft Combine, where he showcased a rare mix of speed and elite endurance capping off an outstanding 2017 season. Look to see Brayshaw in the top five of the AFL Rising Star award, due to his versatility as a player and his incredible footy IQ .

Haua making waves in the sunshine state

LAST year a dreadlocked Geelong star turned heads with a stunning seven-goal performance in the TAC Cup Grand Final, but five months earlier, a little known Queenslander recorded a baker’s dozen in central Queensland.

It was April 22, 2017, and 16 year-old Kane Haua walked off the ground having snagged 12 majors for his side Boyne Island Tannum Sands (BITS) Saints side against Rockhampton Kangaroos. The Gold Coast Suns Academy prospect was putting his best foot forward, and finished the season with 35 goals from 14 games. At the end of the year, he would relocate to the Gold Coast, studying full-time at Griffith University while balancing two part-time jobs and training with the Academy.

Haua has impressed Academy coach Andrew Raines as the top-age Queenslander sets his sights on achieving his AFL goal. In speaking with the Gladstone Observer’s sports editor Nick Kossatch, Raines spoke of Haua’s determination to make it at the highest level, and some of the traits he possesses ahead of next month’s Academy Series.

“The attributes he shows is his speed and his running ability,” Raines said.

“He’s got a high work rate too; he works really hard up the ground and he works hard to get back towards goal so we’re thinking about playing him forward in our upcoming Academy series.

“His pressure up forward is really good too, he tackles really well and he’s very aggressive and strong so that’s what we’re liking at the moment.”         

Andrew Raines, Gold Coast Academy coach

Raines said the teenager had some untapped talent and he would have to continue to develop in order to make the Allies squad for the National Under 18 Championships in June.

“He’s (Haua) got a long way to go in terms of the next step and the next level,” he said.

“Whether he can match it with other Academies around Australia and obviously there’s the best in Victoria and WA if he’s fortunate enough to get an opportunity in the division one [side] which is later in the year.”

For now, Haua is looking to make an impression through the Academy Series, which pits Gold Coast against the other three northern Academies in the Brisbane Lions, GWS Giants and Sydney Swans. Previously, the carnival was looked as as a Division 2 to the National Under 18 Championships, but was changed last year so the two Academies in each state could show off their own talent rather than a mixed team. Tasmania and Northern Territory remained in the carnival, with all six teams to be combined to form an Allies side for the division one championships.

Raines said Haua had been a member of the Gold Coast Suns Academy for a couple of years, and had shown signs of development, including representing Queensland in an under 17s match last year. The Gold Coast Academy coach said once the prospects finish school, they are invited to come down to the Gold Coast, relocating off their own back and chase their AFL dream, a dream Raines knows has no guarantees of coming to fruition.

“The young kids aren’t guaranteed a spot, it’s more for their own pathway, and they do various other things to, like go to uni, move to a bigger town anyway so that’s the whole process,” Raines said.

“He’s been down since November last year or December, and he’s relocated well, he’s living at Griffith University on campus, and doing university there full-time.

“He’s balancing working, he’s got two part-time jobs so that gets him busy, on top of his training, so that’s a bit of a brief background how he’s come into the program and how he’s relocated from central Queensland to down here.”

Raines said the new Labrador recruit could play for as many as four sides this season if he plays to his potential: his home club, the Gold Coast Academy, the Allies, and, later in the year, the Gold Coast Suns’ NEAFL side when they call-up Academy prospects.

The full interview with Andrew Raines can be heard here.

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

THERE was no TAC Cup or TAC Cup Girls football on the weekend, but the AFLW and JLT Community Series played out their penultimate and final rounds respectively. Here are five moments which made the weekend memorable.

Jack Watts’ six goals against Adelaide

There are few players in the AFL who have come under as much scrutiny as former number one draft pick, Jack Watts. After starting to show signs of finally reaching his potential over the last couple of years, Watts gave Port Adelaide fans a glimpse of what he could offer them in season 2018, bagging a career-high six straight goals. Yes, it was only the pre-season and there have been plenty of pre-season performers who have failed to go on to dominate – Jesse White booted five goals against Geelong in his first match in the black and white – but nonetheless, Watts was a player who needed a confidence boost in his new colours and his new fans could not be happier with his output.

GWS Women’s topping the Western Bulldogs to keep their GF chance alive

GWS did not have the season they would have liked last year with injuries galore and less homegrown talent growing organically in the state compared to football-centric hubs of Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia. That has all changed in 2018 with competitive efforts throughout the year, and now the Giants are in the thick of the action for a grand final berth. If they win the final game, they’ll will face either the Western Bulldogs (again) or Melbourne in the grand final. Their efforts against the ladder-leading Bulldogs were superb and there is plenty to like about the way the GWS Giants women go about it. That was obvious from their really strong showing against Melbourne at Casey Fields in round one.

Carlton’s youth coming through

While the Blues are one of a few teams opposition fans love to hate, it is hard not to get excited about the youth coming through the club. Coming into their 23rd season since winning the 1995 flag, Carlton fans are desperate to see improvement after a forgettable past 15 years. Now they can see the likes of Caleb Marchbank, Charlie Curnow, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Harry McKay, Paddy Dow, Lochie O’Brien and of course, Patrick Cripps all starting to create a really formidable young group who are bound to improve over the next few seasons. Sure, they might not be premiership contenders this season, but with Brendon Bolton at the helm, and a belief that seems to grow stronger each day, expect the Blues to be a team to watch over the coming years.

TAC Cup Testing Day

From the stars of today to the stars of tomorrow, the TAC Cup boys and girls all were tested on the weekend for the 2018 TAC Cup Testing Day at Maribyrnong College. More than 600 players were put through a series of tests conducted by Rookie Me, from the 20m sprint to the AFL Agility Test, the yo-yo test (boys) and the 2km time trial (girls) to the vertical leaps. In front of plenty of friends, family and AFL and AFLW recruiters, the potential next big things in the elite league got to show off their athletic ability in what was a successful day. In particular the athletes deserved massive applause with outdoor temperatures reaching up to 37 degrees (according to some weather apps) towards the end of the day.

Collingwood Women’s toppling the Lions with only pride on the line

Similar to last season, Collingwood’s best football has come when the ball game is done and dusted. But with a huge win over Melbourne, a competitive six-point loss over the Western Bulldogs and now a good win over Brisbane, the black and white women have shown they can match it with anyone on their day. Much like the AFL side, the AFLW side has not escaped scrutiny this season, but with some really talented youth prospects coming through and much better ball movement and willingness to create run, the Magpies have been as good as any side the last three weeks and reigning premiers Adelaide must be sweating a little coming into the final round.

All-Time Best 22: Bendigo Pioneers

IN a new feature series throughout the year, AFL Draft Central’s Brandon Hutchinson will look at a possible best 22 from each TAC Cup club. Starting with the Bendigo Pioneers and working through each of the 12 clubs, the series is likely to cause plenty of debate as to who should or should not make the side.

As you will see from the Pioneers’ best 22 that have been compiled, the midfield is stacked with guns and the defence is quite strong. With only three genuine key position players in the side, the Pioneers would aim to play a running game to trouble opponents. Due to the lack of height, Nathan Thompson has been thrown into the ruck, while the Tarrant brothers hold down the key position posts in the defence. Up forward, medium-talls who can fill-in for key position players, Andrew Walker and Jake Stringer are the focal points for the attack.

A midfield containing Dustin Martin, Joel Selwood and Ollie Wines is just about going to win every clearance, so the forward 50 entries are likely to be frequent. It will be a family affair for the Selwoods, with brothers Adam, Scott and Troy all making the team. No doubt in the future we will be adding names such as Paddy Dow, Lochie O’Brien and Jarrod Brander to the team should their careers progress as expected.

Bendigo Pioneers Best 22:

B: Brent Guerra – Robbie Tarrant – Dean Solomon
HB: Josh Hunt – Chris Tarrant – Jarryn Geary
C: Nick Dal Santo – Ollie Wines – Adam Selwood
HF: Daniel Harris – Andrew Walker – Scott Selwood
F:  Nathan Brown – Jake Stringer – Sam Kerridge
R: Nathan Thompson – Dustin Martin – Joel Selwood
INT: Michael Braun – Colin Sylvia – Troy Selwood – Rick Ladson

Backs:

Brent Guerra

Drafted as the twenty-eighth selection for Port Adelaide in 1999. During his time with Hawthorn he was developed into a strong-bodied half back flanker helping to add experience to their 2006 side.  He played in both Hawthorn’s 2008 and 2013 premiership side and received a Rising Star nomination in 2001. Guerra displayed a better consistency during his time with Hawthorn that he lacked when playing at Port Adelaide and St Kilda.

Robbie Tarrant

Initially being overlooked in the 2006 draft due to a shoulder injury, Tarrant was drafted the following year after having a standout year with the Pioneers. Tarrant was the fifteenth pick in the draft and was snagged up by North Melbourne. He did not play any AFL football in his first two years, but in 2016 was awarded North Melbourne’s Syd Barker Medal. He has a strong intercept mark and knows how to beat his opponent in a contest. He has played on some talented forwards as a backman and would make a good utility in defence.

Dean Solomon

Selected by Essendon as the twentieth pick in 1997. He went on to be a part of Essendon’s AFL Premiership side in 2000 and received a Rising Star nomination in 1999. He had a strong body and a good attack on the ball but was often let down by his lack of discipline during play. Despite that, Solomon was a part of Essendon 2000 side, arguably one of the greatest teams ever, losing only one game the whole season.

Half-Backs:

Josh Hunt

Hunt cemented himself as a dangerous backman for Geelong when he hit his breakout year in 2004. He earned himself two Premiership Medals in 2007 and 2011, but missed out on Geelong’s 2009 appearance due to an ACL injury. The stocky defender was relied on to kick in after an opposition behind due to a keen ability to get the ball moving into an attacking play with his long, precise kicking.

Chris Tarrant

Being Collingwood’s leading goalkicker from 2001-2005 is a feat that should not go unnoticed. Tarrant played as a key forward during his time with the Magpies and was known for his high marks, athleticism and leading to the ball. He won the AFL Anzac Medal in 2001, was selected for the All-Australian team in 2003 and took home mark of the year that same year. Tarrant also demonstrated his skill as a backman following his moved to Fremantle in 2006.

Jarryn Geary

The current St Kilda captain has transformed his career over the past couple of seasons from a fair contributor to one of the Saints’ crucial players. He finished second in the club best and fairest in 2016, and was named captain at the start of last season, taking over the reigns from Nick Riewoldt. At 29 years of age, Saints fans will be hoping he has a few years left in him.  

Centres:

Nick Dal Santo

Dal Santo was drafted to St Kilda in 2001 with the thirteenth selection and went on to play 18 games during his first year. He is a three-time All-Australian and played with incredible poise and skill. During his prime, Dal Santo played light on his feet and demonstrated an excellent ability as an outside midfield. His football smarts guided him nicely and he did well to keep up with other stars on St. Kilda such as Riewoldt, Hayes, Montagna and Goddard. In his final year for North Melbourne he averaged 24.8 disposals for a total of 545, topping the board in both categories. Kevin Sheedy has likened Dal Santo to triple Brownlow Medallist Ian Stewart for his bravery and skill.

Ollie Wines

Wines was picked up as the seventh selection during the 2012 National Draft for Port Adelaide in 2012, and since then has shown impeccably skilled football. The midfielder has been selected three times for 22 Under 22 team and is a three-time Gavin Wanganeen Medal recipient. He is young and improving. He has played primarily as an inside midfielder and manages to hold himself against more seasoned players.

Adam Selwood

Adam had a crack at two premierships with the Eagles in 2005 and 2006, and despite having some bad luck with injuries, has had an impressive career. Selwood received a Rising Star nomination in 2005, earned a spot in the Eagle’s starting 22 and defined himself well as a defensive midfielder. Adam also took home a premiership medallion in 2006 when the Eagles beat the Swans in their Grand Final rematch in which he played all 26 games for that season.

Half-Forwards:

Daniel Harris

One of North Melbourne’s hardest workers and onball toilers, Harris became known for his inside work and ability to shut down opposition players. He played 149 games and while he was eventually delisted at North Melbourne, found a home on the Gold Coast, playing for the Suns. He managed 11 more games to take his total to 160 and made history being a part of the inaugural Suns’ team. He retired later in the year after ongoing groin complaints.  

Andrew Walker

Walker was selected by Carlton with their priority draft pick, the second pick overall in 2003. His debut in 2004 against West Coast saw him rack up 26 disposals and three goal assists. That performance was rewarded one Brownlow vote and a Rising Star Award nomination. In 2011, Walker was also Carlton’s leading goalkicker and finish sixth in their best and fairest. During his 2006 season Walker had many successful games as a tagger and began to show consistency in his football.

Scott Selwood

Selwood’s career started off a little rocky but he slowly managed to find his feet. He played mostly as a tagger and an inside midfielder for West Coast from 2008-2015. In 2012, he was awarded the John Worsfold Medal, beating Shannon Hurn and Dean Cox. In 2016, Selwood moved to Geelong to join his brother but missed a few games due to injury. However, he did manage to play eleven games and returned as a dominant tagger for the Cats.

Forwards:

Nathan Brown

Drafted in 1996 by the Western Bulldogs at tenth overall, the Morrish Medal winner played a total of 219 games across 13 seasons. Brown was a dangerous medium forward who kicked 348 goals throughout his AFL career. He is a four-time International Rules Series player and a winner of the Jim Stynes Medal. Brown’s clever read and attack on the ball made him a damaging forward for the Western Bulldogs and eventually the Richmond Tigers.

Jake Stringer

Jake Stringer is a Western Bulldogs’ three-time leading goalkicker from 2015-2017. Drafted in 2012 as the fifth selection, it took Stringer only three years to develop into a strong forward for the Bulldogs, putting through 56 goals for the 2015 season. He was selected in the same year for the 22 Under 22 team and the All-Australian side. In his fourth year, Stringer became a premiership player and assisted his team in their win. He is a big-bodied forward who plays well in the air and has been known to do well through the midfield. He is damaging on the board and does not shy away from a contest.

Sam Kerridge

Drafted by Adelaide at selection 27 in the 2011 National Draft, Kerridge only played one game in his first season on AFL before running out in 11 the following year. He became a tagger for Adelaide and worked to lessen the damage of key opposition players. Kerridge was traded to Carlton to 2015 where he played all but one game and cemented himself nicely within the side. He can be a damaging forward when he needs to be but has shown plenty of promise as midfielder or tagger.

Onballers:

Nathan Thompson

Thompson is a strong forward and excellent goal scorer. In 2003 and 2004 he was the leading goalkicker for Hawthorn, and the year’s following at North Melbourne in 2005 and 2006, he led their goalkicking all the same. He was a strong overhead marker and was a dominant force in both forward lines. He was not known as a ruck, but for the purpose of this team, is the most likely to ruck, along with the Tarrant brothers.

Dustin Martin (Richmond)

Probably the biggest name in the AFL at the moment, it should come as no surprise to see Dustin Martin on this list. In 2017, Richmond’s powerhouse took home the Jack Dyer Medal, an All-Australian selection, the Leigh Mathews Trophy, the Champion Player of the Year Award, the Gary Ayres Award, the Brownlow Medal, the Norm Smith Medal and a win in the Grand Final. In 2009, Richmond used their first pick to snatch up Martin from the Bendigo Pioneers, selected third overall. He has come to be one of the most valuable midfield utilities in the league, and was the first player history to take home both the Brownlow Medal and Norm Smith Medal in the same year.  His accolades should come as no surprise once you see how damaging this man can be to any side.

Joel Selwood

Captain of Geelong since 2012 and a three-time Premiership Player, Joel Selwood has defined his football through his keen sense of leadership and his prowess throughout the midfield. Selwood is a six-time All-Australian, captaining the side in 2013, 2014 and 2016. He is a four-time winner of the AFLPA Robert Rose Most Courageous Player Award, and a three-time winner of the Carji Greeves Medal. For the 2006 National Draft, Selwood was the 7th pick and Geelong’s first choice. He went on to win the AFLPA Best First Year Player Award and the AFL Rising Star Award in his first year. Since then he has scored highly in many statistical groups and is still one of the most talented players in league after 11 seasons.

Interchange:                          

Michael Braun

Braun played with the West Coast Eagles from 1997-2008. He received two Rising Star nominations in 1997 and 1998 and won the Ross Glendinning Medal following the Western Derby match in 2007. Braun also played in West Coast’s grand final side in 2006 and took home a premiership medal. He was picked by West Coast as the fifty-third selection in the 1996. Braun proved to be a valuable asset for West Coast throughout the midfield.

Colin Sylvia 

Sylvia was picked with the third selection in 2003 by the Demons.  He received a Rising Star nomination in 2005 after coming back from a groin injury the previous year. He was seen as one of the most impressive young players at the time. He was a dominant force for the Demons as the years went on but his career was held back by injuries. After failing to meet fitness standards, Sylvia was relegated to the WAFL before retiring from the AFL.

Troy Selwood

Selwood’s endurance saw him take up the role of a tagger for the Brisbane Lions. He played 75 games for the club before being delisted at the end of 2010. In an attempt to get back into AFL football, Selwood joined the Geelong Cats VFL side of which he was appointed co-captain in 2011. He would later lead his team to a premiership in where they defeated Port Melbourne by 33 points.

Rick Ladson

Ladson played every game in 2008 and, as a result, was a part of Hawthorn’s premiership winning side. He was taken in 2001 at Pick 16 and developed into a pivotal part of Hawthorn’s side. He mostly played as a defender and an outside midfielder, but his career was limited due to injuries.