Tag: Jaidyn Stephenson

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 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 16

A HOST of first round picks from last year shone in Round 16, as the top Rising Star favourites cement a place in their respective team’s 22s.

Tim Kelly

The mature-aged Geelong midfielder was once again brilliant in his sides win over the Swans at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Having displayed his class, cleanness and smooth movement through traffic already this season, Kelly showcased an ability to impact the scoreboard when inside-50, finishing with two majors. Additionally, the Western Australian collected 21 disposals (nine kicks and 12 handballs), four marks and five tackles. His disposals were well spread out across the ground, however Kelly will be hoping to be a touch more effective with his ball use after ending the night with a disposal efficiency of 57 per cent. Continues to fit into and compliment a ‘stacked’ Geelong midfield.

Lachlan Fogarty

The small utility impressed against the Swans with his defensive pressure particularly crucial. Fogarty spent time up forward, looking to pounce on the crumbs left by the tall forwards but was also utilised in a role as an outside midfielder, which allowed him to find six of his 12 disposals across the wing. The former Western Jets product managed to snag a goal, to go with his seven kicks, five handballs, two marks and five tackles – four of which were recorded inside the Cats forward 50.

Jack Higgins

The energetic excitement-machine has already lit up the AFL with his upbeat post-match interviews, but against the Crows it was his on-field performance that did the talking. Higgins spent large periods of the game on-ball, as opposed to the small forward role he has played so well for the premiers so far. With a renowned ability to have the ball on a string, Higgins collected 25 disposals (10 kicks and 15 handballs), five marks, three clearances, two tackles and five score involvements. Also impressive was his 68 per cent disposal efficiency. Higgins has slotted into a premiership side and is thriving from the winning culture that has been constructed at Punt Road.

Lochie O’Brien

In Carlton’s hefty and utterly disappointing loss to Brisbane, the performance of wingman Lochie O’Brien would have been encouraging to even the most frustrated of Blues fans. O’Brien – selected with pick ten of the most recent national draft – played almost exclusively on the wing and presented himself as an option on a number of occasions. His tally of seven marks perhaps best displays his hard work to get into the right spaces. O’Brien also managed 16 disposals, two tackles, three inside 50s, 282 metres gained and a goal. His disposal efficiency of 56 per cent was uncharacteristically low for a young, future-star with such clean skills.

Ed Richards

In what was a poor second half performance from the Bulldogs, youngster Ed Richards was again flashy and exciting with ball in hand. Filling a role across the half-forward line and wing, the former Oakleigh Charger amassed 15 touches (eight kicks and seven handballs) at a super-impressive 87 per cent disposal efficiency. Richards speed, run and carry combined with his damaging foot skills make him a high impact per possession player. Whenever he’s around the ball, you feel as if he will make an impact. The Doggies youngster has shown some seriously promising signs and has the potential to become a cult-figure at the Whitten Oval.

Adam Cerra 

Despite his Fyfe-deprived side losing to the Demons by 54 points at Darwin’s TIO Stadium, Adam Cerra was one of his sides best performers. Playing in a role across the half-back line, the clean-kicking high draft pick found plenty of the ball and showed some trademark composure and poise when looking transition from defense into attack. Cerra concluded the Northern Territory visit with 23 touches (16 kicks and seven handballs at 65 percent disposal efficiency), 6 intercept possessions, seven marks, 358 metres gained, three clearances and five rebound 50’s. His ability to read the play, calmness and class make Cerra a suitable fit for the backline, however expect him to move into the midfield within a couple of years, where his unique skill set can be put to even more damaging use.

Andrew Bradshaw

Cerra’s teammate and fellow first-round draftee Andrew Brayshaw pieced together a nice game. His ferocious attack on the ball, toughness and tackling strength were particularly noticeable in the clash against his older brother Angus. Brayshaw collected 16 disposals (eight kicks and eight handballs at 69 per cent disposal efficiency), with 82 percent of his disposals coming from the defensive half of TIO Stadium. He also managed three marks, 244 metres gained, eight tackles, three rebound-50s and two clearences in what was a typically well-rounded display from the 18 year-old onballer.

Jaidyn Stephenson

The Rising Star favourite has become a regular fixture in the ‘Keeping Tabs’ articles due to his consistent performances for the Magpies throughout his first season in the system. Playing in the forward line role he has become accustom to over the past 15 weeks, Stephenson collected 15 disposals (ten kicks and five handballs), eight marks (including three grabs inside-50), 287 metres gained, one goal and three inside-50’s. His speed, ability to regularly hit the scoreboard and aerial prowess make him a genuine x-factor up forward for the high-flying Magpies. However Stephenson’s foot skills will be an area of further improvement with his disposal efficiency at a low 83 percent. Perhaps only Crow Tom Doedee is in with a chance of coming close to snatching the rising star award away from the former Eastern Ranger.

Brayden Ainsworth

The fourth gamer went hard at the ball all game, finishing with 14 disposals, five marks, three tackles, five inside 50s and a goal from his role as an outside midfielder. He showed some great traits for a first-year player and looked powerful when on the ball. Ainsworth’s kicking action, however, appears awkward and his disposal efficiency of 71 per cent. Although it may appear sound, it didn’t reflect some of the errors he made by foot. Having said that, it was a good game from the baby-faced, WA-born Ainsworth.

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.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 14

PADDY Dow earned the Rising Star nomination, while names that have featured in this column a number of times, again stood out for their respective teams in Round 14 of the AFL.

Matt Guelfi

The Essendon utility has been one of the most consistent of the recent draftees, having again contributed nicely in his sides upset triumph on the road over West Coast. Guelfi chipped in with 13 disposals, six of which were contested, at a solid 62 per cent disposal efficiency. He slotted a major and maintained his impressive forward pressure, laying six tackles. The Western Australian has proven to be a nice late-draft pickup for the Bombers pushing up from the half-forward line and playing on the wing. 

Bayley Fritsch

Bayley Fritsch showcased some of his most valuable assets in the Melbourne’s close loss to Port Adelaide last Friday night. His terrific, clean hands overhead and elite leap allowed him to clunk another haul of five marks, to go with five tackles and 13 disposals at a terrific disposal efficiency of 85 per cent. Although he wasn’t able to hit the scoreboard, it was impressive to see Fritsch still make an impact on the game through his neat foot skills, relentless presentation, along with his tackling pressure. The dynamic medium-tall also had two clearances and gained 358 metres.

Aaron Naughton

After debuting in round one and playing the first eight games of the season, the top 10 draft pick was moved to the forward line on Saturday night  where he kicked his first two goals at AFL level. Naughton, who had missed the previous four weeks with an ankle complaint, collected 81 per cent of his ten possessions in the Bulldogs forward 50. Not only did he take a couple of big contested grabs, he also followed up nicely at ground level, which will have no-doubt impressed coach Luke Beveridge. Having shown great potential at both ends of the ground, it will be interesting to see where he plays his football once the Bulldogs regain a number of players.

Ed Richards

Following up on his terrific three-goal performance in wet conditions against the Power, Richards again showed some exciting signs. He amassed 13 disposals, two marks, two tackles and a goal, but also  collected nine contested possessions on the weekend. Richards dash, foot skills, and ability to play on the wing across half-back or forward, are traits that will generate a bit of excitement at Whitten Oval. It certainly looks as if the Dogs have a winner in Ed Richards.

Jaidyn Stephenson

The current favourite for the NAB Rising Star award, Jaidyn Stephenson further enhanced his case with another three majors in Collingwood’s 20-point win over Carlton. Winning 87 per cent of his touches up forward through his role as a third-tall option, Stephenson had just the eight disposals, but maximised the impact of each touch by finishing with a disposal efficiency of 88 per cent. His aerial prowess was again evident, taking five marks and having six score involvements. Having now booted 21 goals in 13 games, Stephenson has already exceeded the first-year expectations of many draft watchers.

Paddy Dow

The top five pick has been building form for some time and finally earned the recognition through a Rising Star nomination. The classy midfielder had 20 disposals, two marks, four tackles, four clearances and three inside 50s, with nine of his possessions won in a contest. He played a balanced role and negotiated his way through traffic well, and showed off his trademark acceleration and top vision under pressure. Expect plenty more to come from Dow as the season progresses.

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

FROM Under 16s to AFL stars, there were plenty of memorable moments from the weekend.

Future AFLW talent on show

The 2020 AFL Women’s draft crop gave spectators a glimpse of their potential on the weekend, when Vic Metro and Vic Country had respective wins over South Australia and NSW/ACT in the National AFLW Under 16 Championships. Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Renee Saulitis were named their respective games’ best on grounds, while Abbie Ballard and Natalie Sligar were the Most Valuable Players (MVPs) for South Australia and NSW/ACT respectively.

Performance fit for a King

In the absence of brother Max who will miss the season with an ACL injury, Ben King was the star of the show for Vic Metro in their victory over Western Australia in Round 1 of the National Under 18 Championships. King booted five goals and was a dominant force up forward, reminding draft watchers of what he is capable of. There’s no doubt many cannot wait for Vic Metro to face South Australia with King up one end and Jack Lukosius up the other. Both are genuine number one contenders and King could well find himself leap frogging quite a few names come November.

Allies’ early win

Bringing together six different teams to form one is always difficult when it comes to team cohesion, but the Allies got on the board early with a victory over Vic Country. The visitors were two players down by half-time with injuries to inside midfielder Jye Caldwell and Mitch Riordan, as the likes of Chayce Jones took control and helped the home team to an opening round victory. It will get tougher from here on, but they have the top-end talent of other sides, and will enjoy the return of key forward Nick Blakey.

Hot Pies/Freeze MND

Collingwood fans have not had a great deal to smile about the last few years, but if their 2018 form so far is anything to go by, they will have plenty of reasons this season. They still have a long way to go, but they tore in-form Melbourne to shreds on Queens Birthday in front of a huge crowd. The Freeze MND cause is fantastic, and the pre-game ‘Big Freeze’ with the 18 AFL coaches was a great stance of solidarity. On the field, the American Pie Mason Cox, and the gun-and-run youngster Jaidyn Stephenson were terrific up forward in a new-look Magpies outfit in 2018.

Under 16s start their National Championships

The Division 2 National Championships kicked off on the weekend, with Tasmania and NSW/ACT getting victories over Queensland and Northern Territory respectively. There were plenty of highlights across the two games, with the three-game series run similar to the old-style Under 18s National Championships – with NSW/ACT and Queensland in lieu of the four academies. No doubt the academies staff will be keeping a close eye on proceedings to see how their players perform against the country’s best.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 12

THE 2017 draft crop are playing some impressive football in the middle of the season, as Rising Star favourite Jaidyn Stephenson continues his great form, as does a number of mature-age stars and high draft picks.

Jaidyn Stephenson

In Collingwood’s terrific Queens Birthday victory over the Demons, top 10 draft pick Jaidyn Stephenson again showed extremely impressive signs. Spending the entire day almost isolated in the Magpie forward line (93 percent time in the forward half), the former Eastern Rangers product kicked another bag of goals, this time ending the day with four. His speed off the mark has always been one of Jaidyn’s biggest strengths and it was again on show on the big stage of the Big Freeze match. He took five marks for the game, including four inside 50, gained 271 metres and was involved in nine Collingwood scores. His defensive pressure was also impressive, which saw him lay six tackles (four tackles inside 50) and show great endurance (playing 103 of a possible 122 minutes on-field). Although his kicking will need to be worked on, having recorded a disposal efficiency of 50 percent from his 12 disposals and kicking three behinds. However, Stephenson has endured a super start to his AFL career, with his impact per possession high.

Charlie Spargo

Spargo’s game got off to a slow start against the Pies, as he looked to find his feet, playing in front of easily the biggest crowd of his career. He failed to record a disposal until after quarter time, but a prolific second term saw him finish the game with a major-statistic line which read – 12 disposals (five kicks and seven handballs), four marks, seven tackles (three inside 50) and a behind. Deployed in his natural role as a small forward, Spargo applied a heap of defensive pressure (also finished with 23 pressure acts) and worried the opposition with his speed. Spargo continues to build on his numbers each week, despite playing in a potentially difficult role for a draftee.

Bayley Fritsch

Bayley Fritsch once again proved himself at the home of football, producing a solid performance in a loosing side. Strength overhead is a real feature of Fritsch’s game, along with his tackling intensity. In the air, Fritsch was extremely strong, considering his light frame, tallying nine marks (two inside 50 and one contested). His speed, run and carry was important in linking up play from the wing into the forward 50, gaining 454 metres for the match. The former Casey forward was also typically sound with his skills, registering a disposal efficiency of 84 per cent. 

Stefan Giro

In just his second game in the purple and white of Fremantle, South Australian boy Stefan Giro had a couple of great moments which would have impressed the Dockers coaching staff. Playing across the midfield in an outside-leaning role, Giro’s effectiveness by hand was a prominent feature in his game. He was reasonably clean at ground level and did not miss a target with his handballs. Giro spent only 66 per cent of the game on-ground, but ran hard when he got his chances, expanding out to all areas of Optus Stadium to collect his possessions. Giro concluded the successful outing with 18 disposals (seven kicks and eleven handballs at a superb 89 percent disposal efficiency), two marks and two tackles. As the Dockers continue to blood their youth, expect the long haired Stefan Giro to combine with fellow 2017 draftees Bailey Banfield, Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw in the midfield for the remainder of the season and beyond.

Adam Cerra

In a performance that could potentially see him collect a few Brownlow votes, Adam Cerra proved why he was regarded so highly coming into the 2017 National Draft. In what was no doubt his best showing at AFL level to date in the Docker’s three-point win against the Crows, Cerra was deployed in the midfield and across half-back, where he was able to set up play with his silky foot skills. Last year’s fifth overall pick amassed a career-high 30 disposals (at 70 per cent disposal efficiency), eight intercept possessions, six marks (including two contested), eight inside 50s and four tackles. He showed terrific versatility, vision, composure and class, proving to be instrumental in the Dockers dismantling the Crows at Optus Stadium. Since debuting in round two, Cerra has looked right at home at the level, slotting into a relatively inexperienced Dockers side and immediately providing them with a Rolls Royce type future star.

Tim Kelly

Kelly is fast becoming one of Geelong’s most dependable players, having so far contributed more than what was expected of him as a supporting act to the trio of Dangerfield, Selwood and Ablett. This weekend, in the win over North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium, Kelly managed 19 disposals (11 of which were contested at an impressive 79 per cent disposal efficiency), five marks, four tackles and a goal in his role as an inside ball winner. Kelly was typically dynamic around the stoppages, finishing with five clearances, proving instrumental in getting the ball moving in Geelong’s direction. Another draft masterstroke by the Geelong recruiting staff, Kelly must surely be considered one of the best mature-aged pickups in recent drafts.

Charlie Ballard

Despite his side getting trounced by the Giants, Gold Coast’s South Australian draftee Charlie Ballard showed some positive signs, playing in a role across the wing which saw him also spend plenty of time in the backlines. Ballard’s nine contested possessions were a highlight, given his slim build and the fact he spent most of his under-age career as an outside type. Perhaps the Suns officials see him as more of a big-bodied, balanced midfielder once he further develops. His 10 intercept possessions were also good to see, with his overhead marking and ability to read the play standing out. Look for Ballard to be played in a wide variety of positions, such is his versatility.

Matt Guelfi

Essendon’s Matt Guelfi continued his solid start to life in the big league with a 17-disposal, two-mark, three-tackle and one-goal showing in the win over Brisbane. Guelfi found 67 per cent of his possessions in the defensive half of the Gabba, contributing to multiple Bomber attacks off the half-back line (three rebound-50’s and two intercept possessions), whilst amassing nine disposals on either wing. Guelfi was effective by foot, finishing with a 71 per cent disposal efficiency – an area of his game which he has clearly spent time working on back at Essendon’s Windy Hill base. The Western Australian’s 22 pressure acts, three tackles, eight contested possessions and six score involvements were also worth noting.

Keeping Tabs: Standout draftees from Round 9

We are approaching the bye rounds now as a number of first-year draftees continue to impress on the big stage. Both top-age and mature age recruits are fitting in seamlessly to AFL life and are becoming mainstays in their respective club’s 22s.

Jaidyn Stephenson

Collingwood supporters should revel in the news that they have snagged Jaidyn Stephenson for another two years, after securing the Club’s number six pick. The fan favourite continues to exceed expectations in yet another classy performance against St. Kilda. Booting two goals after half-time, Stephenson assisted greatly in Collingwood’s 28-point victory over St Kilda, and continues to demonstrate a fluency in the forward line. The young Magpie finished with 18 disposals, four contested, 72 per cent disposal efficiency and eight score involvements. Stephenson’s uncanny footy sense has served him well, exhibited both through his careful decisions and ideal timing with ball-in-hand.

Hunter Clark

For the first time in his AFL career, St. Kilda’s number seven pick was made to start on the ground, earning a spot in the Club’s starting 18 against the Pies. Clark rose to the challenge off half-back, showing off some of the less observed aspects of his game. With a strong 21 disposals, seven contested and a 71 per cent disposal efficiency, Clark took on his role well, involving himself in linkups and going hard in the contest. His chase down in front of goals almost prevented a score, but the ball spilled out and the rest was out of his hands. Furthermore, going back with the flight of the ball, Clark copped a heavy hit in a pack mark and reeled in pain. Clark’s commitment to the contest is becoming more obvious and we hope to see this attitude continue in the coming rounds.

Bailey Fritsch

The quality of this year’s debutantes has shone through fittingly in Bayley Fritsch. With yet another impressive performance, the young Demon continues to exceed expectations with his dominance in the forward line. Fritsch finished up with 17 disposals, five contested, two goals, six score involvements, four intercept possessions, four tackles and three inside 50s.  The young Dee displayed great footy sense going forward, picked his spots well and hits his man with great precision. He is developing well under Melbourne’s guide and could bag a neat stack of goals by the end of the season.

Cam Rayner

With his first win in his AFL career, Rayner should be satisfied with the performance he contributed. A powerhouse for his age, the number one draft pick finished the match with 11 disposals, seven contested and an 82 per cent disposal efficiency. The young forward also kicked two goals, had four score involvements, three tackles and three clearances. He has adjusted well to the pace and has polished his work, beating his average disposal efficiency by 10 per cent.

Paddy Dow

On the wrong end of a huge margin, Dow stayed resilient against punishment and fought hard against a dominating Melbourne. Dow’s work on the hard ball was evident in his 10 contested possessions, and while low on his efficiency, still managed to make an impact. In all, Dow closed up with five intercept possessions, four tackles, 25 pressure acts and three score involvements. An impressive stat sheet for a player on a losing side, the young Blue refused to quit despite the odds.

Adam Cerra

With another demonstration of poise and class from Fremantle’s stellar first-year line-up, Cerra led with more trademark efficiency and impact. The No. 5 pick from the Dockers finished with 15 disposals, nine contested, an a 80 per cent disposal efficiency, 19 pressure acts and three clearances in their 69-point loss against the Swans. Cerra left his mark on the game despite a shutout victory by the home side. He’s an adaptable player who thrives in the contest and remains consistent in varying conditions.  

Nick Coffield

Coffield’s football is characterised best through his disposal efficiency. In St Kilda’s hard fought battle against Collingwood, Coffield kept his kicking clean and ball movement effective. He kept his work rate up despite a barrage of goals from his opposition and plenty of forward pressure. At an 88 per cent disposal efficiency for the season, Coffield continued prime form with  a 92 per cent disposal efficiency. The youngster finished the game against the Pies with 12 disposals, three one percenters and two rebound 50s. 

Charlie Spargo

The ferocity of this small forward is immense, complimented well by Melbourne’s fierce attack on Carlton. Spargo played high pressure football, working Carlton’s backman well as they tried to rebound. He laid three big tackles, 19 pressure acts, had four inside 50s and four score involvements. He wasn’t good enough in front of goal, missing two of his shots. However, his contribution to Melbourne’s win is evident in the range of offensive and defensive acts. In total, he racked up 12 disposals, six contested with a 75 per cent disposal efficiency.

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

IT was an exciting weekend of football with plenty of firsts in women’s footy, a couple of defied expectations in the AFL, and Tarryn Thomas‘ Tasmanian side remaining the team to beat in the Under 18 Academy Series.

VFLW season kicks off

After a major overhaul of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s at the end of last season, the competition started on the weekend with some exciting games. Friends became foes, with the likes of Jess Duffin and Jasmine Garner switching the black and white stripes for blue and gold. Five of the six winners were AFL-aligned clubs, with Northern Territory Thunder getting the job done over reigning premiers Darebin Falcons in the other match. The competition might not have a lot of the traditional clubs – Melbourne University and Darebin remain with their prior titles – but it added an extra element of interest from AFLW supporters as many had a team to cheer on across the weekend.

Geelong books grand final spot

It was a winner-takes-all match between the Geelong Falcons and Northern Knights for a spot in the TAC Cup Girls Grand Final. While the result was arguably less important in the scheme of the season – the loser would have to completely fall off a cliff in the final round – it would still be nice to have the bragging rights. In a battle of the best offence versus the best defence, it was the defence that prevailed as the Falcons locked in a grand final spot – likely to face the Knights a fortnight later. Northern will look to regroup and try and topple the Falcons in the rematch.

North continues to surprise

It is hard not to get excited for North Melbourne, who continue to raise eyebrows with some strong performances. Many expected a lean season from the rebuilding club, but the Kangaroos surprised spectators once again, toppling Sydney in Sydney, and while they face the biggest challenge of all in season 2018 this round – Richmond – they have shown they can match it with some of the top sides.

Tasmania remain unbeaten in Academy series

Tasmania has taken out the Under 18 Academy Series after defeating Sydney Swans Academy in a match between the unbeaten sides. Tarryn Thomas got the points over Nick Blakey in the battle for the best Academy prospect – although both North Melbourne and Sydney fans will be excited to see the pair at the next level in 2019. Thomas’ Tasmanian side has been a dominant force in the series, while the Swans have also been impressive, so expect a number of representatives from both teams forming the Allies side.

Lions/Pies play out “traditional” thriller

When two bottom 10 teams face off, it is unlikely to create too many expectations. But when the tenth placed Pies faced off against the cellar dwelling Lions, every supporter got the biggest bang for their buck all season. Played as a twilight match on a Sunday night, the two sides had a good old fashioned shootout, and even neutral supporters could not help but admire the pace at which the game was played, almost as a throwback to a bygone era. In the end, a relieved Collingwood outfit got the job done in enemy territory despite former Pie and premiership player Dayne Beams levelling the scores with two minutes to play. In the last few seconds it was young gun Jaidyn Stephenson – a former Lions supporter himself – who stuck the stake in the heart of Chris Fagan and his supporter base, however Brisbane fans should be excited about how their team is developing.

Keeping Tabs: Standout draftees from Round 5

ROUND FIVE was huge for the first year players, with plenty stepping up to earn a spot on this weekly list. Most of the names here have been seen before, but we give credit when it is due. We’re hoping to see some fresh faces in the coming rounds and for the players below to ramp up their game more and more with every passing round. There are still plenty of rounds left so there’s no telling what could come next.

Tim Kelly

Kelly played some outstanding football against the Power over the weekend. In all he picked up 20 disposals, of which half were contested with an 80 per cent efficiency. He displayed 27 pressure acts, laid five tackles, kicked a goal, had four clearances and three score involvements. Kelly is a well-rounded player and has demonstrated countless times that he can do plenty to help his side. He has also kicked at least one goal a game since the start of the season showing his reliability and consistency thus far.

Adam Cerra

Cerra is well on his way to becoming a fan favourite at Optus Stadium. He has shown some incredible promise on game day, with the Bulldogs clash being no different. Cerra snagged himself 15 disposals (four contested) at an 87 percent efficiency. He also went on to kick two goals with eight total score involvements. Cerra is smooth around the football with incredible composure at the elite level. He works hard around the contests, illustrated through his impressive 24 pressure acts and four tackles (two inside 50s). This medium forward is being developed by the right team it seems with impressive first years all throughout the side.

Jaidyn Stephenson

His efficiency could use some work, but he is getting his opportunities and making most of them count. Capping off his game with 15 disposals, four contested and two goals, Stephenson went hard in the ANZAC match. He picks his spots and moments well, and capitalises well off errors. He had 19 disposals and four tackles for the game in all. He is continuing to make his mark as a forward for Collingwood and is doing so with an intense attack on the game.

Mitch Crowden

Fremantle’s first years have been dominating the competition so far. Along with his fellow draftees, Crowden is playing very efficient football. With 17 disposals at an 88 per cent efficiency, Crowden is continuing to perform at a high standard. His presence throughout the ground is clear, laying five tackles, 21 pressure acts and having nine score involvements. Developing alongside the likes of Cerra and Brayshaw, Crowden is likely to become part of the next biggest elite midfield for the AFL.

Nick Coffield

Once again, Coffield showed off his patented smooth, clean football. With excellent composure on and around the ball, Coffield is providing some much-needed efficiency around the midfield. In total, he finished with 18 disposals at an 83 per cent efficiency, with five score involvements. He is working hard to earn his spot within the side and it shows on the field. Hopefully his efforts remain at this level for a long time.

Andrew Brayshaw

A fair game for Brayshaw with 17 disposals, four contested at a 71 percent efficiency. The number two pick in the 2017 National AFL Draft is slowly evolving to suit the elite level. He performed well off and on the ball, laying five tackles, 17 pressure acts with three score involvements. Brayshaw needs to polish up his footy in some areas as shown through his five turnovers. However, if he continues to work, he is well on his way to one day dominating the game.

Lachie Fogarty

Geelong’s new recruits are hard to separate from the rest of their side due to their elite performances. In their match against Port, Fogarty had an excellent run of it. While 17 disposals with nine contested is a decent stat, it’s Fogarty’s ten tackles that really caught my eye, all of which were completed without giving away a free. He also slotted away a goal and had five score involvements. Fogarty is developing well with Geelong and should be watched closely in the coming years.

Matt Guelfi

After a stellar debut in round four, Guelfi managed earn a spot in the side for the Anzac Day match in just his second game. A surprise prospect for Essendon, Guelfi has shown no issue adapting to the elite level. A 15-disposal game at 87 per cent efficiency made him a highlight for a struggling Bombers. He had an impressive four intercept possessions as well as 20 pressure acts. With a better Essendon side, it is likely his performance will only improve.

Paddy Dow

Dow attacked the football hard over the weekend, racking up 15 disposals (11 contested) with an 80 per cent efficiency. He is a highlight for Carlton, and it is good to see his efforts still high despite a slow start to the season. Dow is fierce around the contests, with an impressive seven clearances on the weekend, only second to Patrick Cripps (eight). He laid three tackles and had five score involvements. Dow is a confident footballer who knows how to back himself. Hopefully we continue to see his level of football continue to rise in the coming years.

Lochie O’Brien

O’Brien showed some great promise in his second game in the navy blue. The number 10 draft pick played some efficient football, running at 73 per cent efficiency  from his 15 disposals (six contested). He had a few good midfield clearances, laid three tackles and earned plenty of the ball off Carlton’s flanks. With his athletic background, O’Brien should be fine to earn more of the football in the coming games.

Cam Rayner

Despite his efficiency in goal kicking, the number one pick again showed great attack on the ball in the forward half. Kicking one goal and two behinds, Rayner earned a handful of opportunities to score big, but continues to fail on the execution. He is a standout for the Lions and is slowly developing a unique brand of football. He is hungry around the ball as demonstrated through six contested possessions out of a total of 11. He needs to improve his efficiency further, but it can be explained through his high number of contested possesions.