Tag: Jack Higgins

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Preliminary Finals

WITH each passing week we lose more teams, and with them, more 2018 debutants. Though the ones who made it this far have continued to prove why they deserve their spots. This weekend, we will have at least one debutant given a Premiership Medal and experience very few players have.

Liam Ryan

The high-flying West Coast sensation has secured himself a spot in this week’s Grand Final against the Magpies. He, with the Eagles, made quick work of the travelling Demons, racking up 18 possessions (10 contested) at a 72 per cent disposal efficiency. He had 14 kicks, nine score involvements, one goal assist and four marks (one contested and two inside 50). Ryan also hit the board himself in West Coast’s domination, kicking one goal and a behind. This year he has added much needed depth and class to his team’s forward line and it continues to show on the stat sheet. His on-ball skins were utilised, picking up three clearances, three rebounds and two inside 50s, as well as gaining 448 metres with the ball. Ryan also laid two tackles and gained four free kicks, marking the end of excellent performance in one of the League’s most important games.

Jack Higgins

Though obviously not the result he wanted, Higgins put up some solid work against a formidable Collingwood unit. The 2017 Morrish Medal kicked two goals, and finished the second highest goalkicker for the Tigers. He tallied 14 possessions (nine contested) at a 79 percent disposal efficiency, which was impressive enough given the circumstances. The last time Higgins faced the Magpies, he kicked the goal that would go on to earn him Goal of the Year honours. This time he was just as pivotal on the goal front, having six score involvements and two marks (one inside 50). He would be right to use this as a learning experience, now being part of a small group of 2017 crop to play finals. Despite a heavy loss, he has a leg up on his peers now. With Richmond’s recent dominance, it should serve him well in 2019. An excellent season nonetheless.

Jaidyn Stephenson

In the last 30 years, no Collingwood player has kicked 34 goals in their debut season. The last such effort came from Graham Wright (38) in 1988. There is no doubt that Stephenson is well on his way to stardom, getting to play in his first ever AFL Grand Final this weekend. To get there, the young man put up a solid effort against Richmond – collecting 14 possessions (four contested) at a 93 per cent disposal efficiency. The youngster was dominant over head, taking five marks (one contested) and kicked a goal with three score involvements. Last week, Stephenson was playing much unlike himself. This week, as with Collingwood, he was determined to make a statement. The 2018 Rising Star winner laid two tackles (one inside 50) and had three inside 50s. The young Magpie is on his way to having one of the best debut seasons in a long while, and could add a premiership to it on Saturday.

Charlie Spargo

The finals dream is over for Melbourne and Charlie Spargo at the hands of the Eagles. For the day, he took 10 possessions (two contested) at a rather poor disposal efficiency (40 per cent efficiency). This sparks no surprise given the weight of the Eagles onslaught, plus the very few Demons who had good performances. He kicked a behind and had four turnovers, but also took four marks (one inside 50). It was one of his quieter performances but it’s still an important lesson.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Finals Week 1

JUST eight teams remained last week with finals commencing, but it did not stop a number of first-year players standing out on the big stage of AFL Finals.

Jack Higgins

The talented ball winner was at it again on Thursday night, gathering another 20 disposals (14 kicks, six handballs) at 70 per cent efficiency in the reigning premiers Qualifying Final triumph over Hawthorn. Higgins managed 10 contested possessions, four marks, one goal and one behind, eight score involvements, six inside 50s and three tackles, playing predominantly as a small forward with limited bursts through the midfield. The 2017 first round draftee has looked at home all year and will continue to be an integral part of the forward and midfield rotations for the potential premiers.

James Worpel

Having endured a terrific start to his AFL career in the latter parts of season 2018, “The Worpedo” is now a fan favourite at Hawthorn. In his first final, the midfielder looked a bit shaky early on, as would be expected, with some of his possessions missing their targets. However he cracked in hard as he always does, winning 17 disposals (59 per cent disposal efficiency) and applying 33 pressure acts to go with four tackles and three inside 50s. He played a more outside role, finding most of his possessions across the wings of the packed Melbourne Cricket Ground. It will be interesting to see how the former Geelong Falcon handles the pressure on Friday night against an up-and-about Demon outfit.

Bayley Fritsch

The athletic winger/half-forward didn’t impact the scoreboard and had just the 12 disposals, however Frtisch was still able to influence the game with his pin-point ball use by foot. Finishing with a disposal efficiency of no less than 100%, the 21-year-old recruit from VFL side Casey also impressively laid five tackles, showcasing the defensive side to his game. Bayley was able to use his strong aerobic capacity to push down into defence, where he produced three rebound-50’s. Interestingly, 92 per cent of his touches came in the defensive half of the ground.

Tim Kelly

On a bad night for the Geelong Football Club, Tim Kelly hit the scoreboard yet again and was one of his sides best. A hefty loss was a poor way to end what has been an incredible debut season for the mature-aged Tim Kelly, who has produced one of the best first seasons in modern memory. Kelly amassed 18 disposals in what was one of his lowest totals for the year – an amazing statistic considering his AFL level immaturity. Whether or not he stays in Geelong or returns to his native Western Australia remains to be seen, however the quality he has been able to produce this season will fill many mature-agers in the state leagues with confidence.

Brody Mihocek

With Mason Cox struggling to assert any dominance up forward, Collingwood’s mature-aged recruit Brody Mihocek stood up when it mattered, bagging two goals and at-times keeping his side in it. His aerial prowess and strong overhead marking ability was integral when the Pies looked for a target across half-forward, with the former Port Melbourne VFL star constantly presenting himself up to the ball carrier. At-times, particularly in the first quarter, Brody looked the most dangerous player on the ground. He finished the game with 13 disposals (69 per cent efficiency), six marks (including two contested and three inside-50 grabs), 414 metres gained and five inside 50s. However he will likely rue his three behinds, considering the close final margin.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 23

For some, it’s the last game of footy they’ll play until 2019. For others, they’ll be playing the most important games of footy they’ve ever faced. In our last Keeping Tabs, we look back on a few familiar faces, where they sit for the season, and pay our usual respects to this round’s top performers.

Tim Kelly

Though ineligible to win the NAB Rising Star Award, Kelly without a doubt was 2018’s best first year player. Averaging 23.1 disposals, four clearances, three tackles and three inside 50s across 22 games, Geelong’s newest recruit tallied up 23 goals, placing as the Cat’s fourth highest goal kicker for the season (one behind Patrick Dangerfield). In Round 23, Kelly maintained his class. His power showed out of stoppages, as he collected three clearances and an exciting goal around the body. He finished with two more goals (100 per cent efficiency) and nine score involvements for the afternoon, plus 23 possessions (seven contested) at a disposal efficiency of 74 per cent. Kelly was able to beat his stat sheet on the weekend, taking eight marks (two inside 50s), boasted 24 pressure acts and four inside 50s. Give him one more season, and Kelly could be named in the 40-man All-Australian squad. Though you could argue he was stiff not to get a nod this season, if the Cats claw their way to the end of September, a Norm Smith conversation might not be off the cards either.

Zac Bailey

Bailey injected real class into the Brisbane Lions’ line-up this year, Bailey put on another show for onlookers against the Eagles. Clean with ball in hand, Bailey finished with 20 possessions (six contested) and a list-high 85 per cent disposal efficiency. His first quarter started well, kicking a goal on the run from 30 metres out, and later adding his second in the third quarter (six score involvements). He was able to showcase his strong marking ability, with four marks on the weekend. Bailey topped off an already impressive performance with two tackles, three inside 50s, 364 metres gained, and earned three free kicks. The Lions know what they’re doing with their crop. With Cam Rayner, Hugh McCluggage, Eric Hipwood, Alex Witherden and Bailey, the future’s looking strong for Brisbane.

Aaron Naughton

Though having a few stints up forward this season, it seems Naughton’s continued reliability in the backline was again too much to pass up. Earning himself the final NAB Rising Star nomination for the year, the dependable defender played his role well in minimising Richmond’s forward onslaught. He collected 18 disposals (12 contested) at a 78 per cent disposal efficiency. Naughton took nine marks (five contested) and 12 intercept possessions with only one turnover. He sits atop the Bulldogs list for intercept possessions at 112, but only 54th in the competition. If the Bulldogs remained more consistent with Naughton’s role, perhaps he would have placed higher and received the Rising Star nomination earlier. Nevertheless, his impact is unmistakable, sustaining good football across 23 rounds.

Liam Ryan

Ryan’s game has much to be admired. He’s proven himself as a talented goal kicker (17 goals in 10 games), a slick mover with the ball, and generally just adds a lot of flavour to the plays he produces. Unsurprisingly, this game was no different. The 21-year-old kicked three goals for the game (six score involvements) and collected nine of his 12 possessions out of a contest. His disposal efficiency was a little poor at 58 per cent, but his goal sense and one-on-one work put him above, taking four marks (two contested) and laying four tackles. West Coast are going into the finals with a confident and talented forward line, with Ryan and Willie Rioli adding unfathomable amounts of finesse and agility. Their inclusion this season has made the Eagles a much more dynamic side than the one we saw in 2017.

James Worpel

Taking up the role of Hawthorn’s resident hothead in James Sicily’s absence, Worpel continued to play his footy with great intensity. His work through the midfield proved damaging, collecting 23 possessions (nine contested) at a solid 78 per cent disposal efficiency. He kicked an easy goal from a dropped mark off a Sydney kick-in, had seven score involvements and one goal assist. He worked well going forward with three clearances, four inside 50s and two marks in front of goal. He also had two tackles, 13 pressure acts, five intercept possessions, and two rebound 50s. His work rate was up for four quarters, positioning and using his body well in the contest. 

Jack Higgins

It seems Richmond’s wins at the MCG are getting slimmer with each round heading into September. Higgins expressed his frustrations early on, but found his head and maintained a strong presence in assisting Richmond’s win. The personable youngster collected 18 possessions (nine contested) at 61 per cent disposal efficiency, as well as seven score involvements and two goal assists. His clever tap-down to Jason Castagna inside 50 created an important goal in the third, making up part of his five one per centers for the game. Richmond envisioned a small-forward/midfield role in 2017 for this prospect and showed great interest in his game-average five tackles. This year, the Tigers were able to get what they wanted as Higgins topped his game with 28 pressure acts, and five tackles (three inside 50). With his speed, instincts, pressure and goal sense, Higgins should be well on his way to stardom.

Ben Paton

Paton gave St Kilda something to look at come selection next season with a stellar third-game performance. He gathered 16 disposals (seven contested) and peaked his kicking efficiency at 88.9 per cent with nine kicks. He earned himself a goal (five score involvements and one goal assist), took three marks, laid two tackles and had 19 pressure acts. In such a chaotic game of football, it’s impressive to see a young player hold their nerve and keep their efficiency at such an elevated level. 

Lochie O’Brien

This weekend O’Brien got himself to a lot of the footy even with Carlton’s inability to do much with it. Collecting 22 disposals (four contested) at 58 per cent disposal efficiency, the young Blue maintained a strong presence around the ground, finishing third behind Marc Murphy and Patrick Cripps in possessions. The No.10 pick finished with four marks, three clearances, six inside 50s and four rebound 50s. It probably wasn’t the most ideal way to close out an already poor season, but O’Brien may take solace in now having 18 games under his belt come 2019. If the Blues can strengthen their list, they’ll have a better chance of strengthening their draft crop.

Keeping Tabs: Standout performers from Round 21

WITH the race to the Rising Star award reaching the home stretch, the Keeping Tabs’ favourites continue to make their appearances. At the beginning of the year, I would have predicted Stephenson easily, however there’s still plenty of standouts who want their name in this conversation.                   

Jaidyn Stephenson

Spreading his class throughout the ground against a resilient Brisbane Lions, Stephenson returned to his Rising Star form. Pivotal in their victory, Magpie’s debutante finished with 19 kicks, six handballs, eight marks and 524 metres gained. This year, Stephenson proved himself up forward with countless goals to show for it. He showed his versatility last weekend, proving himself dominant by foot through the midfield and going forward. He closed out the game against the Lions with five inside 50s, one rebound 50, 10 score involvements, two one percenters and most impressively, two goals. It seems in the conversation of Rayner v Stephenson, it’s safe to say the Magpie won this round.

James Worpel

All eyes were on the young Hawk this weekend in yet another close finish against the Cats. Worpel came out with wings fully stretched, laying eight tackles (two inside 50s) and 17 pressure acts. When facing Geelong skipper Joel Selwood, in one of the game’s desperate moments, Worpel snatched the pill off the deck, spinning out of danger and assisting the ball forward for an important goal. The simple, yet courageous act may have saved the game. For the day he had 12 kicks, 11 handballs and five marks. His work was solid around the stoppages, with four clearances, four inside 50s and two rebounds. This week’s Rising Star nominee loved attacking the football and seems to be developing well under the great, Alastair Clarkson. The youngster could see himself in a premiership side this year if Hawks continue their strong form.

Jack Higgins

Richmond’s favourite personality had yet another stellar performance. His consistency has been his most impressive feat this year, flowing well with the chaotic Tigers and injecting some of his own unfamiliar flavour. Higgins collected most of his 16 disposals across the wings, at an 81 per cent efficiency with six contested possessions last weekend. The most impressive of his stats came from his two goal assists, seven score involvements and two contested marks. The unselfish footballer impacts the scoreboard through clever and timely passing. Despite not kicking a big number this year, Higgins doesn’t sit on his hands in the forward line, creating goals through great instincts and great agility. Furthermore, he had 18 pressure acts and a clearance to show for his day.

Ed Richards

Ed ‘Red’ Richards has quickly become a famous name for Bulldog supporters. This debutante stood up in the back half of this season, adding plenty of class up forward at times, and sensational run out of the backline when needed. The latter was prominent in this week’s match. Richards had 17 possessions at 77 per cent disposal efficiency, cleaning up the footy comprehensively in the Bulldogs’ defensive half. He had an impressive run along the wing, bringing the ball inside 50 with a few bounces, creating a goal. For the day, he had two inside 50s, one rebound, 14 pressure acts, four intercept possessions and two marks. It is outstanding how much of the spotlight the debutantes have stolen this year, and Richards is definitely a fan favourite.

Tim Kelly

Though not at his usual form, Kelly still performed well enough to have his spot on this list. He had 11 kicks and six handballs with a 65 per cent disposal efficiency. His most impressive feat came from his 385 metres gained and five one percenters. It’s fair to say if this was a Tim Kelly best performance list, this one wouldn’t make it, but Kelly still had his fair share of an impact. His accuracy in front of goal was dismal at 33 percent, kicking one out of three. Though like usual his stats were well spread, finishing with four clearances, four inside 50s, two tackles and 13 pressure acts. Hopefully we can see Geelong’s heavy hitter lift this week and play some of the footy we saw against the Tigers.

Paddy Dow

Dow is slowly establishing his trademark with his strong running across the wing. First using it to score a Goal of the Week nomination, Dow used his second run to setup a teammate and secure an easier score. Finding his zone in recent times, it seems the nerves of elite football are things of the past. Carlton’s young ball carrier secured 10 kicks and five handballs at a 60 percent disposal efficiency and nine contested possessions. His impact was spread across forward and back, with seven score involvements and 11 pressure acts. He proved strong in the clearance yet again, securing four, and showed his dominance delivering the ball with five inside 50s. With the way these last few weeks are going, I can see 2019 being the year of Dow, and I sure can’t wait to see it.

Tom McCartin

Though only having 10 possessions, McCartin managed to make them all count at a 100 per cent disposal efficiency. He split his disposals perfectly with five contested and five uncontested possessions, as well as spreading them 50-50 across the defensive and forward halves. He also collected six score involvements, one goal assist and a goal for himself. He took an impressive six marks (two contested), laid three tackles, had four inside 50s and four one percenters. McCartin is holding up as a reliable footballer, making his possessions count and not getting caught with the footy. He has adapted well to Sydney’s neat brand of football and will bring in the next generation of champions quite nicely.

Aiden Bonar

The former Dandenong Stingrays forward was at his exciting best, booting 2.2 in the GIANTS’ win over Adelaide in what was a season-defining game. Bonar had just the nine touches, but had five marks (one contested and three inside 50), four tackles and an inside 50. Most importantly, he laid two of his four tackles inside 50, providing that vital forward pressure. He has exciting speed and X-factor in the forward half and will be one that continues to develop at a rapid rate which a huge ceiling.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 20

A NUMBER of new faces were among the first-year players who impressed in their games on the weekend, continuing the season trend of readymade draftees from last year’s AFL National Draft.

Hunter Clark

Hunter Clark was typically calm and composed across the St.Kilda half-back line in their defeat to the Western Bulldogs. The 19 year-old collected 20 disposals and recorded three rebounds but crucially, managed a disposal efficiency of 90 per cent, hitting 18 out of 20 targets by hand and foot and helping his side maintain possession of the Sherrin. The long-haired Hunter, who is versatile but looks perhaps best suited to a role in defence, has performed well enough this season to suggest he will live up to the hype as a future star of the competition.

Will Walker

Second-gamer Will Walker bagged the first two goals of his young career at the Gabba on Saturday afternoon. Viewed by some as a surprise selection when he was taken as early as pick 23 by the ‘Roos last year, Walker collected the majority of his possessions across the half-forward and wing areas, where his long leg and speed make him an exciting prospect for North. In addition to his two smart goals, Walker collected 11 disposals (seven kicks and four handballs at 64 per cent disposal efficiency), two clearances, one tackle and five score involvements. With the likes of Shaun Higgins and Ben Jacobs looking to make their returns to the side, Walker will have his work cut-out to keep his position. However he will undoubtedly have learned greatly from exposure in his first year.

Kane Farrell

In what was his second game and first Showdown, Kane Farrell was impressive, netting three goals. Opposed to Crows 199-game veteran David Mackay for much of the contest, Farrell was damaging out the back of the contests, hitting the scoreboard to help Port crawl back into the game after Adelaide got off to a flyer. Despite his side enduring a heartbreaking loss, the Victorian fitted in nicely, gaining 384 metres, moving the ball inside-50 five times and taking two strong contested marks. He looks to have made the small forward role his own, for the time being at-least.

Cameron Rayner

It was a performance which he will remember for crucially missed a chance to snatch the game late, however the number one draft pick was strong across the board. Rayner presented well up the spine of the ground as a medium forward, collecting six of his 14 disposals in the true centre-half-forward region. In addition to his six marks and two goals, also impressive was Cam’s time on-ground percentage which, at 82 per cent, suggests the has really worked hard to improve his endurance over the course of the year, given this was arguably the Western Jet’s lone flaw as a draftee. Rayner’s field kicking was terrific, ending with a disposal efficiency of 86 per cent however he will rue his final kick of the match.

Jack Higgins

In the absence of Premiership on-baller Dion Prestia, first-year small Jack Higgins stepped up the the plate, relishing his chance of added midfield minutes. A high draft pick from 2017, Higgins tallied 18 disposals (11 kicks and seven handballs), took two marks, laid a couple of tackles and kicked 1.2 in-front of goal. The former Oakleigh Charger showed off his stoppage smarts with four clearances and was an important piece in getting the ball moving for the Tigers. Although his role saw Higgins focus on winning and extracting the contested ball from inside, his disposal efficiency of 44 per cent will be an area for improvement moving forward.

Bayley Fritsch

In the Demons rout of the struggling Gold Coast, Bayley Fritsch once again more-than justified his second-round selection in the 2017 National Draft. His ability to cover the ground, pushing up across the wings and into the defensive half is becoming a trademark, as is his aerial prowess which saw him take another nine marks (including five intercept possessions). Recruited from the Dees’ VFL affiliate side Casey, notched up 21 touches (15 kicks and six handballs at 67 per cent efficiency) to go with 332 metres gained, three inside-50’s and two rebound-50’s. Fritsch is now not only an established best-22 player, but fast becoming an important link-up player for the Demons as they head into a draught-breaking finals series.

Tim Kelly

The incredible story of Tim Kelly rolls on, this time with the Western Australian collecting 36 touches (19 kicks, 17 handballs), three tackles, three marks, four clearances, 669 metres gained and one goal in the nail-biting loss at the hands of Richmond. Kelly was typically cool and composed under pressure in a game where many players struggled to get clean possessions away, highlighting his immense talent. I feel as if Kelly’s disposal efficiency (53 per cent) does not quite justify how good he was. Whenever the smooth-mover was in possession of the ball, you feel as if something good will come from the disposal. Kelly continues to star in just his first year in the competition, ignoring the media attention regarding his future at Kardinia Park to perfection.

Keeping Tabs: Standout performances from Round 19

AS the end of the season draws near and the Rising Star conversation heats up, some familiar races return to the Keeping Tabs list after standout performances.

Jack Higgins

It’s not often a first-year player that kicks arguably the greatest goal ever, but Higgins may have done just that. How a first-year player can earn a spot in the reigning premier’s starting 22 baffles me. Richmond plays a chaotic, but clever brand of football that has seen many of the competition’s great sides break beneath it. On paper, they are the best defensive side in the competition, and second behind Melbourne in attack. At pick 17 in last year’s draft, Higgins has more than stepped up to the challenge. Unselfish with the footy, and instinctive around goal, the young tiger supplied onlookers with yet another standout performance. He finished with 14 contested possessions, recording the highest contested possession rate (70 per cent),  as well as tying first in ground ball gets (12) with Collingwood’s Taylor Adams. Though usually a great assist up forward, Higgins was able to finish with two for the match. Driven by pure instincts, the Tigers have secured a future star in Higgins for both his gifts with a microphone and hunger on the pitch. Despite his lengthier period on the bench, Higgins still managed to tie second in pressure acts (22) with skipper Trent Cotchin. The rest of his stat sheet is just as impressive at five clearances, five intercept possessions without a turnover. Surely a game to remember, for the record 19 wins at the MCG and possibly the most replayed goal we are ever going to see.

Paddy Dow

The footy gods offered young Dow an opportunity to hit his strides this weekend, giving Carlton a rare showing of dominance over the Gold Coast Suns. With one of his two goals nominated for goal of week, the pacy midfielder proved too good on the board despite spending 86 per cent of his time in Carlton’s defensive half. Rip out the stat sheet and Dow’s impact becomes even more evident. Recording 18 disposals and 11 contested possessions at a 78 per cent disposal efficiency, Dow remained vital around stoppages with three clearances and four tackles. His pressure acts topped off at 17 and he gained 314 metres for the day. Though unlikely to be in Rising Star conversations, Dow is showing steady growth despite Carlton’s poor season. Hopefully 2019 will allow the young midfielder more room to perform with a better built Carlton side. 

Andrew Brayshaw

Coming off a groin injury sustained against Melbourne, Brayshaw’s comeback brought one of his best performances for the season. Despite the poor result, Fremantle’s young stars stepped up to challenge, with the Dockers’ number two pick leading the charge. Brayshaw finished with 25 disposals and nine contested possessions. Despite an average disposal efficiency of 64 percent, Brayshaw made his impact obvious finishing with four tackles, two clearances, two rebound 50s, 19 pressure acts and three free kicks. Finding himself on the scoreboard, the number two pick finished with a goal and six score involvements, having a hand in many of Fremantle’s link ups.  It’s evident Fremantle are doing well with their debutantes, bringing in the next generation’s champions. These boys could be highly decorated players in a few years if developed right, and could make history with Fremantle’s first premiership. The sky’s the limit.

Aaron Naughton

Though intended to play up forward, it seems Naughton’s work in the backline was too good to pass up. Recording 20 disposals and 13 contested possessions, Naughton suffered a beating from Port’s persistent forward line. Despite the onslaught, the youngster managed an outstanding 15 intercept possessions and two contested marks. He won all three of his defensive one on ones and recorded a contested possession rate of 68.4 per cent. He recorded high intercept numbers, Naughton still turned the ball over six times. Unfortunately for the youngster, it seemed he was fighting a losing battle from the second quarter, but he would not let this stop him. He kept his stat sheet more than impressive, recording four tackles, three inside 50s, four rebound 50s, three free kicks and four one percenters. With the Bulldogs at full strength, we hope to see Naughton cement himself in a position and properly improve on his development.

Bailey Banfield

Fremantle’s resident tagger, Banfield was given the greatest challenge of his career in having to minimise the impact of Hawthorn’s, Tom Mitchell. A success? Not quite. Mitchell went on to deliver a 42-disposal game with two goals, but Banfield had an impact of his own despite the challenging task. Stepping up around the stoppage, Banfield picked up five clearances. His superb pressure continued with six tackles and 25 pressure acts, with 19 disposals and eight contested.  A disposal efficiency of 58 per cent let him down at times, but considering his tagging role, Banfield saw a decent amount of the footy. At 20 years-old, Banfield has already been entrusted with one of the biggest individual responsibilities in tagging the opposition’s best. Considering his experience, he is doing okay. 

Sam Taylor

Taylor had yet another solid game in GWS’s backline against St. Kilda. The Saints played some strong footy up until the final quarter, so Taylor had his works cut out for him. He collected 10 disposals and five contested with a 90 per cent disposal efficiency. He brought clean hands to everything, picking up five intercept possessions (zero turnovers) and three marks. He laid five tackles, recorded one rebound 50, 10 pressure acts and five spoils. He has no problem attacking the football and makes the most of his possessions. His presence around the contest is evident enough from his stats, playing close to his man and applying intense pressure. Taylor is developing nicely in the GWS backline in his seven games. We could be looking at a future All-Australian backman in the making.

Nick Coffield

Coffield found his way back into St. Kilda’s side in their match against the Giants. Though lower than usual for the clean defender, Coffield still managed a 71 per cent disposal efficiency from his 14 disposals. He picked up four intercept possessions and won both his contested defensive one on ones. He is undoubtedly one of the cleanest first-year players, and determined not to turn it over. He recorded three rebound 50s, eight pressure acts and four marks (one contested). Coffield also saw his way up the ground where he recorded two inside 50s and two score involvements. He also impressively turned GWS great, Josh Kelly, inside out after thwarting his tackle on Saint’s defensive 50. Coffield is too clean to be played anywhere else for the Saints. His effectiveness with the footy is invaluable and hopefully will be utilised more in the future.

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

FROM amazing goals and individual hauls, to giant battles and impressive performances, there were plenty of memorable moments from last weekend’s football action.

Jack Higgins’ goal

It is probably the most controversially talked about ‘snag’ in recent history, but sometimes you just have to sit back and admire the football smarts from a first year player with that kind of goal sense. Whether it was officially a throw or not is all academic, because once he had kicked the goal, the review could not overrule a non-call from a field umpire. The goal stood and it is a highlight that will be replayed over and over again, much to the delight of the Tiger faithful and the rest of the football community. Well done, Jack Higgins.

Depth gets it done for Dragons

Sandringham Dragons cope with most of their best 22 missing throughout the year due to school football, relying on a lot of bottom-agers to come up and play roles in the team. It makes it difficult to get consistency in their performances, and with the finals approaching, every week is crucial. Last weekend, the Dragons defeated Bendigo Pioneers by eight points in a low-scoring affair, and while it was not pretty, the Dragons remain in contention for a top four spot with three rounds to go, and only one round without their key players.

Victorian giants do battle

Regardless of club allegiances, the top four clash between Richmond and Collingwood – the two sides with the largest membership base – saw an absolute thriller for three quarters, until Richmond did what it does best and put separation on its opponent in the final half an hour. The Tigers looked every bit the premiership contender as they have all season, while the Pies faithful would have walked away thinking that with a bit more luck and a few less injuries, they are just about there. If these two face off in a final, expect Melbourne to be rocking.

Salisbury grab third

Their form over the past fortnight in particular has been as good as anyone, and now Salisbury is in a great position heading into the South Australian Women’s Football League (SAWFL) finals. They drew with minor premiers Morphettville Park last week, unlucky not to get the four points, and then knocked over Christies Beach to snatch third spot and remain in the hunt for second. While Salisbury is expected to win its final game, so is second placed Adelaide University, meaning Salisbury will likely face Christies Beach in a sudden death semi-final. But at least they will have the home ground advantage.

Kira Phillips’ form

There’s consistency, and then there’s Kira Phillips. The goal-scoring machine has been an enigma for the premiership favourites Peel Thunderbirds in the Western Australian Women’s Football League (WAWFL). On the weekend against the lowly Perth Angels, she booted 10 majors, but remarkably it was not the first time she had done it. Earlier in the season she had booted 10 against East Fremantle, as well as bags of nine (South Fremantle), eight (Perth Angels) and two bags of six (South Fremantle and West Perth). If her 11 goals from four games to start the season looked solid, then her 76 goals from 15 matches has been massive. That means she has kicked 65 goals from her past 11 games – practically six goals a game. Wow.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 18

SOME lower order draftees stood tall in Round 18 of the AFL, while other top-end picks continued their incredible season for this week’s Keeping Tabs.

Jack Higgins

Higgins once again provided the Richmond forward line with even more energy, which was highlighted by his four tackles (two inside-50 tackles) and 16 pressure acts. Incredibly prolific as a junior, Higgins’ ball winning ability has transferred over to the biggest stage with 18 disposals (seven kicks and 11 handballs), 10 of which were won in contested situations, four clearances and a goal. Look for Higgins to spend more stints on-ball in future games where his ability to find an abundance of the ball, apply a stack of pressure and win the clearances. The Premiers have found another star small forward.

Hunter Clark

Whilst St Kilda’s miserable season continues to roll on with the loss to Richmond, Hunter Clark played one of the best matches of his young 13 game career. The former Dandenong Stingray found more of the ball than in previous weeks and once again looked composed and clean with ball in hand from his role along the Saints backline. Clark found 20 disposals (12 kicks and eight handballs at a sound 70 per cent disposal efficiency), took six marks and rebounded from the half-back line on three occasions. The 2017 first round draftee will be aiming to finish off the season strongly, with four of his sides next five games coming at Etihad Stadium.

Jaidyn Stephenson

Now the clear Rising Star favourite, Jaidyn Stephenson just keeps on playing his role in the Magpies lineup, once again having a significant impact on the scoreboard booting three majors in the win over North Melbourne on Saturday afternoon. Stephenson collected 11 possessions (eight kicks and three handballs) at an improved 82 percent disposal efficiency, three marks and a pair of strong tackles. His speed and leap make Stephenson a nightmare match-up for his direct opponent and a valuable asset in the Pies forward line.

Bailey Banfield

Bailey Banfield has played a prominent role in the Dockers on-ball brigade so far this season. In the 29 point defeat at the hands of the Bombers, the Claremont boy was able to get his hands on the ball 22 times with 14 kicks and eight handballs playing an inside/outside balanced role through the middle. Banfield, an imposing figure at 189cm and 86kg, was dominant particularly around the stoppages and in the contest, collecting six clearances and eight contested possessions. Banfield’s 398 metres gained was also a strong aspect of his performance.

Cameron Rayner

The number one draft pick flew and took a massive hanger close to goal from four deep, then converted the set-shot in what was one of the highlights of the night up at the Gabba. Rayner has impressive strength through his legs which allowed him to launch into packs often. It is only a matter of time before he starts to clunk these grabs more consistently. The highly touted forward/midfielder seems to have created a bit of a presence for himself when the balls in his area, a terrific sign for an 18 year-old. Rayner, who has featured in every game for the Lions in his rookie year, managed 14 disposals, seven kicks and seven handballs at an 86 per cent disposal efficiency. He spent considerably more time on-ball last weekend, matching up on All-Australian Crow Matt Crouch at the stoppages on occasions.

Tim Kelly

Tim Kelly must now be recognised by most as an A-grader of the competition despite it being just his first year in the big league. The silky Western Australian midfielder has brushed off speculation regarding a potential return to his home state, and is beautifully complimenting established stars in Selwood and Dangerfield. Kelly ended the game with  32 disposals, 18 kicks and 11 handballs at a 59 per cent disposal efficiency, six marks, five clearances, a goal and 506 metres gained. Kelly’s stoppages and evasiveness on the run are particularity noticeable. His efforts in the Cats incredible fourth quarter comeback went a long way to getting his side over the line.

James Worpel

The blonde-haired onballer played the best game of his career in the smooth-sailing victory over Carlton. Worpel collected the majority of his career-high 32 disposals (12 kicks and 20 handballs) across the wing area. Worpel managed to balance his game out nicely, winning 14 contested possessions and three clearances, but also send the ball inside-50 five times and collect a handful of intercept possessions. Also impressive was his disposal efficiency at 88 per cent, is a significant improvement on some of the numbers Worpel put up last season in the TAC Cup. The Geelong Falcon graduate will no-doubt gain plenty of confidence and belief from this encouraging performance as he and the Hawks look to launch themselves into another finals series.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 15

NAMING the best first-years for Round 15 proved much harder than I expected, with several boys starring for their team, and a handful kicking a neat bag of goals. It seems the players are on the rise as we approach September, etching their spot in their respective teams marching towards the finals.

Cam Rayner

It is fair to say that a first-year player may only perform as good as the team they are in. Hence why players like Kelly, Fritsch and Stephenson continue to find success individually and with their team. This weekend we were able to witness Rayner perform in a confident and dominate Brisbane Lions, with a strong first half at Optus Stadium. Jumping between the midfield and the forward line, Rayner collected eight uncontested and 11 contested possessions at a 63 per cent disposal efficiency. He kicked two goals for the game, along with taking a strong contested mark on the goal line to secure an easy one. He wanted a piece of everything with his four inside 50s and six score involvements. His tackling was strong and pressure ever present, laying five with 18 pressure acts. It was a brilliant showing by the Lions, Rayner showing us all why he is the player most deserving of his number one pick.

Ed Richards 

It seems Richards’ days in the backline are behind him, again impressing in the Bulldogs’ forward half, putting away three goals in a tight victory against the Cats. For the day, Richards spent 83 per cent in the forward half of the ground, continuing to display a remarkable football sense around goal and against the opposing ball carrier. The youngster laid a strong tackle on Dangerfield after the Brownlow medallist attempted a fake. Richards won the free and with a total of five tackles for the game. In all, he had eight contested and five uncontested possessions for the game at a 69 percent disposal efficiency. Instrumental in the Doggy’s high score, Richards contributed to six score involvements, one goal assist and applied  himself to all facets of the game, collecting three clearances out of stoppages, two one percenters, 21 pressure acts, and three intercept possessions. He is on the way up, finding his zone as an attacking utility for the comeback Bulldogs.

Jaidyn Stephenson

When I watch Collingwood’s games, I sometimes forget that Stephenson is playing his first year at the elite level. His willingness to take on the game gave Collingwood a player on a sharp incline to greatness.  It does not even shock anyone that Stephenson kicked three goals against Gold Coast, putting him on 24 for the season. That makes him fifteenth overall in the competition, tied with Robbie Gray and above players like Jarryd Roughead, Taylor Walker and Tom Lynch. There is no doubting Stephenson’s impact for Collingwood and how well he fits into Collingwood’s unselfish style of attacking football. For the day, Stephenson had eight score involvements, five inside 50s, two tackles and 18 pressure acts. He finished with six contested and seven uncontested possessions at a 69 percent disposal efficiency. The young Magpie putting on an amazing one-on-one contest against Steven May in front of goals, edging the big man under the ball to take it off a bounce and kick a goal. It is a great summary of the player Stephenson is becoming in that he is not afraid of a challenge and backs himself to the very end.

Bayley Fritsch

Fritsch was a pillar of excellence in Melbourne’s high scoring loss against St. Kilda. The first year player led hard and kicked true, finishing with four goals for the game, seven score involvements and two goal assists. Almost coming from thin air, Fritsch has a knack for finding space inside 50 and pouncing on the loose ball to convert. The 21 year-old has fit nicely in this high scoring side, leading the scoring for Demons despite the poor result against the Saints. He reads the offensive play well and places himself well under the ball. He is on his way to becoming a dominant goal kicker for our competition someday.

Jack Higgins

It is no easy feat being deemed good enough to earn a place in Richmond’s dominate line-up, but Higgins has done just that 10 times this season. After a hilarious pep talk at the half-time break, Higgins went on to finish his game with eight contested and 12 uncontested possessions at a solid 75 per cent efficiency. While goalless for the game, the small forward still had seven score involvements with two goal assists and two inside 50s. He proved most dangerous off the crumb, collecting the loose ball in front of goal and hitting the better option to put away goals. He plays instinctive football and has great sense while under pressure. It seems Richmond chose well with pick 17, adding a clean and unselfish utility in to their already dangerous forward line.

Tim Kelly 

Kelly has had such a good start to his season, at times making it hard to living up to his own hype. The WA boy has already left his mark on the game, dominating the contested work for Geelong and blending nicely with a star cast of players. Kelly topped the game for disposals, finishing with 12 contested and 22 uncontested possessions. He proved poor with the ball with his disposal efficiency at 56 per cent with 10 turnovers, so this was far from his best performance. Despite that, Kelly finished the game with five clearances, four tackles, five inside 50s and two rebounds. It was a high-pressure game, but Kelly managed to make an impact, still good enough to put through a goal with six score involvements.

Stefan Giro

Giro displayed some excellent composure for the Dockers despite their poor showing at Optus Stadium. The young man finished the game with five contested and ten uncontested possessions at a 73 per cent disposal efficiency, and a goal to his name. He applied important forward pressure, laying five tackles with 20 pressure acts. Developing nicely alongside, Brayshaw and Cerra, Giro showed fans that he won’t bend beneath the pressure, remaining composed and minimising his errors.

Hunter Clark

One of the Saints’ poster boys for the year, Clark continues to put in significant effort on the pitch. Leaning off his pressure elements against Melbourne, Clarke’s presence was a little less resounding. Despite this, Clark put through his third goal for the season and took home a decent nine uncontested and five contested possessions at a 79 per cent disposal efficiency. He picked up two clearances, roaming mostly in the back half of the ground, but still managing to lay two tackles inside 50. He kept a hand in a lot of the plays, having seven score involvements and two inside 50s. The young Saint is a favourite within the Club and seems to be developing well within their walls.

Paddy Dow 

Dow may not be hitting high numbers like some of the others on this list, but he’s keeping his head well above water and showing some real glimpse of what’s soon to come. Dow had a solid performance, breaking even with seven contested and seven uncontested possessions with a 79 per cent disposal efficiency. Doing it all with his three clearances, two tackles, 26 pressure acts, four score involvements and one goal. With the way he’s travelling, Dow is well on his way to becoming a damaging, pacey midfielder for the Blues.

Andrew Brayshaw

Despite the Lions onslaught, Brayshaw stood tall. Getting involved everywhere, the number two pick had three clearances, four tackles, two inside 50s, 22 pressure acts and three intercept possessions. Despite this, he was messy with his disposals including seven turnovers and a 61 per cent disposal efficiency. Though beneath Brisbane’s stranglehold, the youngster was still able to collect six contested possessions and 12 uncontested, breaking even with his time on either end of the ground. A strong showing by the young man in a struggling side.

South Australia weekly wrap: Under 18 squad trimmed

IT WAS a busy weekend for all of South Australia’s young talent with selection in the final squad up for grabs and those vying for their spot being put through their paces. The SA squad took on Glenelg Reserves, with some of the SA squad members lining up for the Tigers.

SA Under 18 Trial Game

With 28 Players (26 for SA and two playing for Glenelg Reserves) in the match at Glenelg on Saturday, it meant that another 14 returned to their SANFL Clubs to play either League, Reserves, U18s with a few also returning to College football. 

South Australia U18 15.7 (97) defeated Glenelg Reserves 13.13 (91)

Best:
South Australia U18: W. Gould. J. McLennan. L. Valente. T. Lewis.
Glenelg Reserves: T. Cox. F Betterman

Goals:
South Australia U18: B. Jarvis 3. J. Tarca 2. J. Colwell 2. D. Carmody 2. J. Mead, B. Woodcock, J. Collins, K. Chandler, L. Valente, C. Taheny.

The better players for SA included underager Will Gould, Jez McLennan, Luke Valente, and Tom LewisTobin Cox and Finn Betterman were both good for Glenelg.

Scouting Notes from the game:

Jez McLennan – playing across half-back, McLennan was fantastic with his aerial contests and when not smashing the contests, was taking marks including some contested gems. A strong body, McLennan also used the ball well by foot to generate the rebound for SA.

Luke Valente – playing on the ball, Valente had his hands on a lot of footy in close and rode many a tackle to give a better team disposal for SA. His smooth skills on either side also impressed. 

Tom Lewis – another strong midfield bull , Lewis was hard at it through the clearances and also provided a lot of attack through handballs, especially in the third quarter with a creative over the shoulder handball that led to a goal.  He is always in the thick of the contest at the feet of the ruckman.

Tobin Cox – the overager returning from a run of injuries last year was effective in a number of roles for Glenelg. His hard running work and by foot allowed him to break the lines really well and sparked his teams revival when it looked like SA was about to run away with the game.

Jacob Collins – playing as a rebounding defender/winger, Collins was really noticeable with his dash off half back and on the wing and led the game with running bounces. At 189cm, Collins backs himself to take on the opposition with his pace and just needs to tidy up that final disposal to progress to the next level.

Draft watchers should note that a number of squad members did not play in this trial including Jack Lukosius, Jackson Hately, Izak Rankine, Hugo Munn, Conor Rozee, Mihail Lochowiak, Hayden Sampson and Tom Sparrow.

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SANFL League

SA squad talent Jackson Hately suited up for Centrals against Sturt and although he was down on possessions, he applied plenty of defensive pressure finishing with five tackles after playing up forward and in the midfield. Sturt talent Hugo Munn was again strong overhead and slotted a goal. Eagle Jack Lukosius had a goal in his teams loss to Norwood, while Conor Rozee was solid in a North’s loss to the Panthers. Izak Rankine was prominent in the Bloods’ victory over Port Magpies finishing with two goals,

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SANFL Reserves

Only a handful of U18 players filled spots in their SANFL clubs Reserves sides with Mihail Lochowiak one of Sturt’s best with 19 possessions, two goals and seven tackles in a good all round performance. Hayden Sampson showed signs of quality again in a 14-disposal, five-tackle effort for the Panthers in their win over North.

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SANFL Under 18s

The U18s competition kicked back in this weekend, and although a host of players were trialling with SA squad, there was a host of other solid performances across the games with some players continuing to show their abilities.

In West Adelaide’s first win of the season ball magnet William Gutsche was best with 19 contested possessions from his 29 disposals and eight inside 50s for one goal. Glenelg would have been disappointed to lose this game, but youngster and 2019 prospect Brady Searle was best for the Tigers with a monster 34-possession game.

The Eagles dismantled an undermanned Norwood by 67 points, and Jarrod Miller continued his good form for the Eagles  finishing with four goals from the midfield. Jed Spence was Norwood’s best with a good inside/outside game of 24 disposals, seven tackles and seven clearances.

Standout player of the round and Most Valuable Player (MVP) round nominee Bailey Coleman-Oakes was dominant with a huge 43-possession and 12-clearance game in the Roosters win over South. Panthers prospect Reece Milsom was best in the losing side

Centrals just got over the line by 10 points against Sturt, and it was consistent Bulldog performances by Aaron Nietschke in the middle, and Malachai Ahmatt-Lovett up forward with three goals along with Llwellyn Milera who booted three as well. The stocks for father son prospect Casey Voss continue to rise as he again was Sturt’s best with eight tackles and six clearances.

College Football

Sacred Heart (SHC) recorded their first win of the season with a 22-goal win over St Michaels. SHC had let their first two games slip but Glenelg key forward Darcy LeCornu continues to shine, booting seven goals in the victory and also having 17 goals to date. Hearts face an important game this week against Immanuel College and no doubt the prospect of relegation under the new College system will bring out their best.

Rostrevor continued their winning ways and accounted for Immanuel by 82 points, and ex-SANFL League coach Ron Fuller has the Red and Blacks playing some good footy.

Although Prince Alfred College (PAC) accounted for St Peters by 68 points it was still a tough competitive game. PAC lead by Jack Heard at CHB and Captain Tom ‘Jack’ Sparrow defeated Saints at PAC. With hard running and some silky skill execution PAC were too good. The Saints, through youngsters Henry Nelligan and James Higgins, showed some impressive clearance work in the first half in particular and will be a real threat in the Premier League this year.

This weeks rounds of matches will pit the two undefeated sides of PAC and Rostervor against each other at PAC in a huge clash and the SHC and Immanuel game will be an important one too.