Tag: Jaidyn Stephenson

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.

Keeping Tabs: Standout draftees from Round 4

ROUND four provided many young prospects with the opportunity to build on their starts. Many have been backed in by their respective clubs and look likely to feature in most games throughout the year. This week we looked at the best performing players draftees and which of your players you should keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

Jaidyn Stephenson

Stephenson starred for the Pies in their upset victory over the Crows in a performance which resulted in the round four Rising Star nomination. In wet and windy conditions, last year’s fifth overall pick kicked a game-high five goals, collected, 13 disposals at 92 per cent efficiency and took four marks, helping the Magpies to a seemingly unlikely victory. Stephenson has featured in all four rounds in his debut season, showcasing his blistering speed and strong aerial ability. He will continue to add plenty of excitement to the Collingwood side.

Cameron Rayner

Despite the hefty loss to the reigning premiers, last year’s number one draft pick produced the best performance of his young career so far. Spending the majority of the game across half-forward Rayner collected 22 touches (12 contested possessions), took four marks (including three contested), laid three tackles, launched the ball inside 50 on six occasions and kicked a goal in his first game on the MCG for premiership points. After showing glimpses of his undoubted potential in the first three games, this was Rayner’s most complete performance to date.

Mitch Crowden

Fremantle’s Mitch Crowden has made an immediate impact at AFL level, having made his debut in round two after heading west as a rookie selection. The South Australian’s ball-winning ability and toughness was on show throughout the National Under 18 Championships last year, and the inside midfielder has been able to display these traits early in his AFL career. In the loss to GWS, he amassed 15 disposals, five marks, seven tackles and had 22 pressure acts playing across half-forward and the midfield. Having set a strong foundation and cemented his spot in the Dockers side for the time being, with Crowden to now focus on improving his disposal efficiency.

Bailey Banfield

Banfield has fitted into the ‘Freo’ lineup terrifically well in 2018, having been recruited from WAFL club Claremont. His AFL-ready body allowed Banfield to spend considerable time in the midfield from the get-go, alongside the likes of Lachie Neale and Nat Fyfe. Having been used as a tagger in previous rounds, Banfield played a predominately outside role against the Giants, finishing the game with 17 disposals (15 uncontested at 88 per cent efficiency), five marks (all uncontested), three marks and a goal. Banfield has proven his ability on both the inside and outside and will be given every opportunity to fully establish himself in the Dockers on-ball brigade.

Aaron Naughton

The key defender continues to improve in his first season at AFL level. The Bulldogs have a couple of promising key defenders on their hands in Marcus Adams and Lewis Young but last seasons ninth overall pick could be the best on the lot. Having featured in all four games so far, Naughton would have taken enormous confidence from last weekends game, where he was able to restrict the influence of Joe Daniher. This week, he again showcased his toughness,  ability to read the play and drift in to take intercept marks. With more and more games under his belt, Naughton will firm as a leader in the Bulldogs defence soon enough. Made a couple of errors, but has progressed very well for a young key position player.

Nick Coffield

After being introduced to AFL football last weekend against the Crows at Etihad Stadium, a trip down to Geelong was always going to be difficult. However the first round draftee once again showed class and composure well beyond his years. Coffield racked up 17 disposals at 82 per cent efficiency (including eight contested possessions), seven intercept possessions, four marks, five tackles and five rebounds. He was deployed across half-back where his foot skills and decision making stood out. He looks to be justifying his early selection already.

Lachlan Fogarty

The hard working, small midfielder/forward showed off his ability to find the football in just his fourth game of senior football for the cats, amassing 18 disposals – 11 of which were contested. Used across half-forward for much of the day, Fogarty also laid three tackles and propelled the ball inside 50 on six occasions. He looks to have locked down a spot in the Cats side, along with fellow 2016 draftee Tim Kelly, however Fogarty will be looking to improve upon his ball use, recording an efficiency of just 56 per cent against the Saints.

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

A DEVELOPMENT weekend saw the regular football viewing for Under 18s divided, with the Victorian Under 18 trials, AFLW Academy practice matches, and the Northern Academy Series taking place.

Victorian Under 18 Trials

Spectators who dared to venture to Ikon Park on Sunday in wet and blustery conditions were able to catch an early glimpse of the Victorian Under 18 sides in action ahead of the National Under 18 Championships in June. Vic Country and Vic Metro clashed in two shortened practice matches, with plenty to take out of the contest despite the conditions. Both squads left out their Level Two Academy members from the matches, as the depth in each side was put to the test. Country won both games, although it matters little with the sides cutting down their lists between now and their opening round clashes.

AFLW Academy practice matches

Under lights in an AFL-standard venue, the brightest AFLW prospects got to take on Geelong’s VFLW side in front of plenty of family and friends. They easily accounted for the Cats by eight goals, with the likes of Madison Prespakis and Tyla Hanks leading the way through the midfield. They AFLW Academy had other warm ups including against Darebin Falcons, where the Level One Academy players got to taste the action against senior bodies. With the weekend off TAC Cup Girls, they no doubt learnt a lot and will be excited to bring that back to their clubs when the action returns next weekend.

Hi-five for Stephenson

Eastern Ranges had a massive draft haul last season and one of the most talked about players was Jaidyn Stephenson. He excited crowds and had natural football ability, with some people believing he was the brightest talent in the 2017 AFL National Draft. Stephenson slipped to number six on the draft board where the Pies snaffled him up and have not regretted it since. After a couple of solid showings in the opening few rounds, Stephenson had a breakout performance in just his fourth game, booting five goals and proving an excitement machine up forward. Having sliced the Crows defence up, he was a key reason the Pies won at Adelaide Oval for the first time.

Northern Academies clash in Blacktown

Prior to the National Under 18 Championships, the Division 2 series takes place with the four Northern Academies – GWS GIANTS, Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns – and Northern Territory and Tasmania clashing in a series to help selectors decide on an Allies squad to take to the Division 1 championships. In the opening round it was the NSW/ACT sides that got the job done, with the GIANTS and Swans getting home, as did Tasmania.

Port Melbourne coach wins in milestone game

Gary Ayres has been a mainstay in Australian Rules football for as long as many fans can remember. His most recent accolade was the 2017 Victorian Football League (VFL) premiership, when the Boroughs knocked off Richmond in the grand final. This week marked his 700th game as player or coach, in a career spanning four decades. Remarkably he does not look like slowing down anytime soon, winning in his milestone game as the Borough bounced back from a round one loss to knock off Collingwood in a tight thriller in trying conditions at Olympic Park.

Keeping tabs: Standout draftees from Round 1

ROUND one of the AFL kicked-off and with it came some familiar faces making the step up from the TAC Cup and National Under 18 Championships up into the big time. Fans got the opportunity to see how some of the new boys picked up during the off season fit in with their beloved clubs. There were some outstanding performances by the debutantes. These players adjusted well to the elite level and we got the chance to see how they might fair for the rest of the season. In what will become a weekly feature, Keeping tabs will track the progress of draftees and name the top performers from the weekend.

Bayley Fritsch

Fritsch opened Melbourne’s scoring with his first goal. It started the Demons off toward a fierce forward attack, and in the end, they came close to taking the win. The 21 year-old did not have much of the football after Geelong got tighter on the ball but he laid five important tackles and earned himself four contested possessions. His efficiency was a little under par but with some time he should see some improvements and develop some consistency.

Cam Rayner
The number one pick for the 2017 National Draft pulled on the boots for Brisbane on Saturday as they took on St Kilda at Etihad Stadium. He spent most of his time in the forward line, earning himself four contested possessions and a brilliantly crumbed goal. Running around in Jonathan Brown’s old jumper, Rayner did not shy away from the ball and attacked every play with ruthless intensity. He crashed the packs and demonstrated his potential as a key forward player. With some adjusting, Rayner should only become more damaging as a player as the season progresses.

Jaidyn Stephenson
Stephenson played some outstanding footy against Hawthorn on Saturday night. Looking comfortable at the elite level, Stephenson finished the game with 16 disposals and five contested possessions. His passing was clean and he did not shy away from taking on his man. He laid an impressive tackle along his forward 50 and smothered the ball off the kick after it spilled out. He was a highlight for Collingwood and was unfortunate not to top it off with a win.

Hunter Clark
Clark marched out with the Saints to take on the Lions in his first ever AFL match. He began the game a little shy around the ball, but was smooth enough with it when it found his hands. He positioned himself well around plays and demonstrated a few effective hand-passes to get the Saints out of congestion. With sharp kicking, Hunter was consistent in hitting his man, and even picked himself up his first goal for his career. He had a total of 12 disposals with a 75 percent efficiency. In time, Clark could see himself developing his slick brand of footy with the Saints and cement his spot in their best 22.

Darcy Fogarty
Fogarty came out the gate galloping with Crows in his first three appearances. He kicked one goal in his first JLT game against the Dockers, and three in his second against Port. He kept this intensity alive going into Round One against Essendon, kicking two goals in his first  AFL match. With only the six disposals, Fogarty managed to inflict some damage on the Bombers. He went hard at the ball and put pressure on his opposition. Fogarty is a forward in the making, and if he keeps up this level of football, could see himself take home the serious awards during his AFL career.

Lachie Fogarty
Fogarty’s effort may have been a bit overshadowed by the return of Gary Ablett, but Geelong’s young guns produced some enormous efforts. Fogarty capped his game off with 20 disposals and 10 contested possessions. He had a 70 per cent disposal efficiency, four intercept possessions and kicked a goal. At pick 22 in the 2017 AFL National Draft, Fogarty played a far more damaging role for his side than other clubs may have anticipated. He was a decent utility throughout the game for Geelong and has the potential to go far in his career if he uses the Cats’ current midfield group as the standard he needs to reach.

Tim Kelly
Another first gamer for Geelong, Kelly smashed expectations with his first game. The South Australian applied some good pressure, hit his man, kicked his first goal and ended the game with a brilliant 27 disposals. He was a star for Geelong as seen through his 70 per cent efficiency. He adapted well to match their elite level of football and earned himself an outstanding 13 contested possessions, only second to Melbourne’s Clayton Oliver. This young man was outstanding overall, and played like a seasoned AFL player.

Andrew Brayshaw
The number two draft selection had a solid outing in his debut game, racking up 12 disposals for Fremantle in the Dockers’ heavy loss to Port Adelaide. Brayshaw had four kicks and eight handballs, along with two clearances, running at 75 per cent disposal efficiency. Throw in three marks and two tackles from 66 per cent time on ground, Brayshaw made the most of his time on the big stage.

Young stars Rising up to AFL challenge

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

Jack Graham

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

Paddy Dow

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

Jaidyn Stephenson

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

Oliver Florent

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

Luke Davies-Uniacke

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

Cam Rayner

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

Alex Witherden

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

Andrew Brayshaw

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

TAC Cup preview: Eastern Ranges

EASTERN Ranges may not have had the on-field success last year in terms of wins, but they were clearly the most successful off the field with a staggering 10 players drafted, in the form of Adam Cerra (pick five), Jaidyn Stephenson (six), Sam Hayes (47), Tyler Brown (50), Ryley Stoddart (53), Joel Garner (60), Tom North (65), Dylan Moore (67), Jackson Ross (71) and Trent Mynott (Rookie) all finding new homes.

They took it up to Dandenong in the first final showing once again that they will always be a threat when it comes to finals football, they even did the same the year before, losing narrowly to eventual 2016 premiers Sandringham in one of the better TAC Cup games you will see.

Eastern will not be expecting 10 players to be drafted like last year but there are still plenty of players making a good early impression. Eastern had a number of bottom age players have an impact last year with Adrian Kalcovski and Joel Burleigh (12 games), Xavier Fry and Ben Cardamone (nine) all players to keep an eye on. Eastern have a very even spread of players this time around so it will be hard to find the pick of the bunch, Cody Hirst showed a lot of class last year playing as a small forward and should be getting more time up the ground to showcase his great composure and skill. Blake Tahlambouris is a crafty medium forward who can have an impact both overhead and at ground level, he will be a tough match-up for the opposition this year and does his best work deep forward. Kye Quirk looked very comfortable last year playing in defence he showed a great ability to both attack and defend. He is a smart reader of the play who should be set for more midfield time this year, and is also the grandson of Carlton premiership player Bryan Quirk.

An unexpected arrival as a 19 year-old playing for Eastern this year is none other than Devlin Brereton, son of Hawthorn champion Dermott Brereton. The lively small forward has come over from Sandringham Dragons after narrowly missing out on getting drafted last year; he faces a big year to prove himself. Eastern will be going in with a smaller and younger squad compared to last year so expect to see bottom agers like Jamieson Rossiter, Jonte Duffy, Mitch Mellis, James Ross and Todd Garner (brother of 2017 draftee Joel Garner) all push to make an impact, making them the key to Eastern challenging for a finals spot again in 2018.

2017 Stats:

2017 Summary:

Eastern had an up and down year but managed to finish 6th. School football meant that the bulk of their star players weren’t available for selection and that was made even worse at the National Championships when they would also lose their gun players who didn’t have school commitments like Stephenson and Hayes. In the later part of the year Eastern really started to find their groove with the natural progression of their up and coming bottom agers and the return of their star players from school football culminating in a 5-game run of wins in the lead up to the finals. Although they lost their last 2 rounds to high quality finals teams in Oakleigh and Geelong, they gave Dandenong a massive scare in the first final where they lead by 50 points at half time. Eastern went out fighting which they have done so very often in recent years.

2018 Snapshot:

Eastern start the year with a big game down at Skybus Stadium in Frankston against a strong Oakleigh Chargers team. Eastern only get to play the four games at their fortress in Box Hill and incredibly will play at 11 different grounds not including their home ground which they have to wait until round seven to play on. Once again Eastern will play a night game at RAMS arena in round two on a Thursday night.

2018 Fixture: