Tag: Jaidyn Stephenson

Keeping Tabs – Season Review: Part 1

TO finish off what has been a huge year for first-year players, we take a look at some of the top performers from each AFL club now the season is done and dusted. In today’s piece we look at the first nine clubs, from Adelaide through to GWS GIANTS, with the remaining nine clubs to come next week.

Adelaide 

Darcy Fogarty

The Crows were thrilled, perhaps even surprised, when their boy from south-east SA was still available to the Crows at pick 12 of the 2017 National Draft. Debuting in round one, Fogarty’s first kick was a beautiful set-shot goal – a theme Crows fans would soon become accustom to. He averaged 8.4 disposals (5.7 kicks and 2.7 handballs at 68 per cent disposal efficiency), 3.2 marks and two tackles for the year, also managing nine goals (just three behinds) in his ten matches. Fogarty played predominately as the third Adelaide tall forward, alongside the well-established Josh Jenkins and Taylor Walker, laying out plenty of fierce bumps – not a common thing for a draftee. No doubt “Fog” will have learnt plenty in his first season at AFL level. His main focus for the pre-season will be to again improve his tank, allowing him to spend more time on ground. However his ferocious attack on the football, beautiful foot skills and brute strength should see Darcy become a focal point of the Crows forward line for the next 10 years.

Lachlan Murphy

One of the success stories in a lean year for the Crows was the birth of Lachie Murphy. Fans of the TAC Cup may remember him fronting up for the Northern Knights back in 2016. Not being picked up in the draft, Murphy moved to Adelaide to play with the clubs SANFL side and was rewarded for his strong form with a rookie selection. The energetic small forward brought with him manic pressure, speed and an eye for the goals in his 11 games, in which he managed 12 goals and an average of 3.7 tackles and 8.7 disposals. “Murph” will look to maintain his place in the competitive Adelaide side as they aim to bounce back in 2019.

 

Brisbane 

Cameron Rayner

The number one draft pick always has a certain level of expectation associated with them, however being up at Brisbane, away from the media bubble of Melbourne, would have no-doubt helped Cam Rayner settle into life in the AFL. Utilised as a medium forward with stints in the middle, he played all 22 games for the club, averaging 13.5 disposals (73 per cent disposal efficiency), 3.5 marks, 20 goals (14 behinds), 1.7 clearances, 2.4 tackles and 2.5 inside-50s. His ability to launch for pack grabs was exciting for Lions fans. Like many draftees, he will look to build up endurance in his second pre-season.

Zac Bailey

The skilful small forward/balanced midfielder fronted up for 12 senior games games, averaging 13.5 disposals (74 per cent disposal efficiency), three marks, 2.3 tackles. Next season, competition for selection will be as tough as it has been in a long time at the Gabba, particularly given the likely inclusions of Lachie Neale and Lincoln McCarthy. However rest assured Zac Bailey remains well within the clubs plans for the future as the look to return to the glistening heights of the early 2000s.

 

Carlton 

Paddy Dow

It was a tough year for the Blues, however the encouraging performances of prized draft pick Paddy Dow gave fans a glimpse into the future. Playing a solid amount of midfield minutes in his 20 games, Dow averaged 14.2 disposals (67 per cent efficiency), two marks, seven goals, 2.6 clearances, 3.2 tackles and 2.6 inside 50s. Perhaps most impressive was his smarts around the stoppages for such a young player. There’s no-doubt Carlton will look to form their midfield core around Dow, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Patrick Cripps and potentially number one pick Sam Walsh as the continue to rebuild.

Lochie O’Brien

The top 10 draft selection spent the year playing across half-back where he was able to show off his classy foot skills and speed. O’Brien was given plenty of opportunity, playing 18 matches, where he averaged 14 disposals (at 71 per cent efficiency), 222 metres gained, 4.4 marks and 2.1 rebounds. His best game came in the final round in what proved to be a hefty loss to Adelaide. Here, O’Brien accumulated 22 disposals, sent the ball inside-50 on six occasions and took four marks.

 

Collingwood

Jaidyn Stephenson

The deserved Rising Star winner, Jaidyn Stephenson played a full-forward-type role for the Grand Finalists, which often allowed him to get out the back, beat his opponent one-on-one and speed away using his rapid pace to advantage. “Stevo” kicked a super impressive 38 goals in his 26 games, including two in the first quarter of the Grand Final, to go with an average of 12.3 disposals, 3.9 marks and 5.2 score involvements in what was a remarkable season. May spend more time on the wing next season where his blistering speed and athleticism will once again be expected to excite ‘Pies fans.

Brody Mihocek

Mihocek’s story is one of the best of the year. Rookie drafted as a mature aged recruit from Port Melbourne in the VFL, Mihocek came in as one of the best tall defenders in the state leagues, but was moved forward to fill a need for the Magpies. He crucially provided a decoy for tall teammate Mason Cox, with his ability to get off the chain and take a stack of marks important. Averaged nearly 2 goals per game, 11.6 disposals (73 per cent efficiency), 4.9 marks (1.4 contested) and 5.6 score involvements. With the Pies in pursuit of some tall timber, it remains to be seen where Mihocek will be played in coming seasons.

 

Essendon

Matt Guelfi

Essendon’s mature-aged recruit from WAFL side Claremont, Matt Guelfi came into the Bombers lineup and filled a variety of roles, showing off his strong versatility in his 15 senior games. He held his own at the highest level of football, averaging 15.1 disposals, 3.3 marks, one clearance, 3.1 tackles and also kicking five goals. In the WAFL his stoppage nous and contested ball winning were strengths, so it will be interesting to see whether he is able to push for more midfield minutes in 2019.

 

Fremantle

Andrew Brayshaw

The high draft pick managed to play 17 games in his debut season in the west. He spent a large chunk of time in the midfield alongside stars Lachie Neale and Nat Fyfe, from whom he will have learnt plenty. Averaged an impressive 15.9 disposals (69 per cent efficiency), 2.9 marks, 1.5 clearances and 4.4 tackles with his ready-made frame and willing attitude ensuring a strong start to life at the highest level for the brother of Angus and Hamish. However his season came to an early end when he was unfortunately on the receiving end of the now infamous Andrew Gaff uppercut, perhaps stealing the limelight from what was a sturdy start to his career.

Adam Cerra

Adam Cerra, the second of Fremantle’s 2017 first round picks, showed moments of absolute class off half-back. After debuting in round two, Cerra went on to play all remaining games for an average of 13.7 disposals (71 per cent efficiency), 3.3 marks and 3.4 tackles. Despite his precise foot skills and polish, Cerra showed he was not afraid of cracking in hard. Could potentially spend more time in the middle given the impending departure of Lachie Neale. The former Eastern Ranges midfielder looks destined to become one of the leagues most damaging onballers.

 

Geelong

Tim Kelly

Tim Kelly produced one of the greatest debut seasons ever seen at AFL level. He slotted into the star-studded Geelong midfield with ease, complimenting the likes of Dangerfield and Ablett. A key aspect of his game was the ability to push forward and hit the scoreboard, allowing the coaching staff to play one of their star on-ballers up forward for stints. His work at the coal face was super impressive, extracting the ball and evading would-be tacklers with class. Playing ever game for his side, Kelly averaged 22.9 disposals, 368 metres gained, 3.3 marks, 4.2 clearances, 3.5 tackles and kicked 24 goals. Additionally, the former WAFL star sent the ball inside 50 on an average of four times per game. Could not as for much more.

Lachlan Fogarty

Lachie Fogarty, Geelong’s first selection in the 2017 National Draft, came over the Cats from the Western Jets regarded as one of the better midfielders in the draft. Yet due to the Cats strong onball brigade, he was limited to a forward line role where Fogarty’s renowned tackling created plenty of forward pressure. Averaged 13.3 disposals and 3.5 tackles, but will aim to sharpen up his kicking in-front of and around goals, with a scoring accuracy of just 24 per cent. However he will have been pleased to have played 15 games for the finalists.

 

Gold Coast

Charlie Ballard

The athletic South Australian utility came from the clouds to be drafted in the third round of last years National Draft. Given his light-frame, the former Sacred Heart College student will be rapt to have broken through for 11 games, debuting against the Bulldogs in Bendigo. He was never going to set the world on fire with his statistics, but showed plenty of promise, particularly in the air, taking 39 grabs for the season (average of 3.5 per game). Was utilised down back and up forward, although those who have seen him play at school and club level with Sturt know of the X-factor he provides on the wing. Gold Coast will be patient.

Brayden Crossley

The big ruckman certainly has some spunk about him with his slick hair and mustache. A member of the Gold Coast Suns Academy, Crossley played 10 senior games for the battling club, averaging six hit-outs and 9.4 disposals (at 69 per cent disposal efficiency). Isn’t one to shy away from the hard stuff, averaging more contested than uncontested possessions and laying 22 tackles on the whole. Will need time to learn but is developing nicely and already has a strong frame.

 

Greater Western Sydney

Aiden Bonar

Having played just the four games for the Dandenong Stingrays in 2017, due to an ACL injury, Bonar managed a further four games this season, albeit at senior level in a strong GWS side. His supreme athleticism, explosiveness and acceleration were evident, as was his tackling intensity. The tall midfielder/third tall forward averaged 10.5 touches at a neat 71 per cent efficiency, to go with three marks, 4.5 tackles and a total of five goals. He shapes as being a star of the game, with his size and strength making him hard to contain at the stoppages. Will only improve as he increases his endurance.

Sam Taylor

Taylor, a key component to the Western Australian under-18 Championships side last year, played eight games for Greater Western Sydney in what was yet another injury-riddled season. He averaged just the 8.9 disposals per game, however it was his clean ball use out of the defensive-50 which really caught the eye. Given his foot skills were regarded by some as an area in need of improvement, he and the Giants will be pleased with a disposal efficiency of 80 per cent. Looks set to be a key defensive prospect the club can rely upon.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Preliminary Finals

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

Liam Ryan

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

Jack Higgins

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

Jaidyn Stephenson

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

Charlie Spargo

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

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Finals Week Two

Six teams became four from the weekend, with a number of first-year players standing out in the two semi-finals.

Charlie Spargo

The small forward has managed 17 solid games in his first year at AFL level, occupying a role in the Demons forward line and kicking 14 majors. In his second final, Spargo managed 12 possessions (seven kicks and five handballs) at a strong disposal efficiency of 83 percent. Spending the vast majority of his 83 minutes on the ground in the Demons half of the MCG, Spargo was able to pressure the opposition ball carrier and lay three tackles. The Murray Bushranger alumni took three marks (two inside 50) and also had three goal assists. His ability to get off the chain will see him make the trip over to Perth to face West Coast.

Bayley Fritsch

Having seamlessly slotted into the Dees best 22, Bayley Fritsch again proved their is still plenty of AFL quality talent running around in the state leagues. In the famous victory over Hawthorn, the wingman/half-forward gathered 16 disposals (eight kicks and eight handballs) at a typical 81 percent disposal efficiency. A key component of his game this year has been Fritsch’s ability to roam up onto the wings and half-back areas, take a lead-up grab then pin-point a target with precision. This, combined with his aerial strength and defensive pressure, has made him a handful for opposition teams to match up on. He also took a further four marks and laid three tackles in another consistent performance last weekend for the Dees, helping his side book their tickets to Western Australia.

Brody Mihocek

Coming on late in the home and away season, Brody Mihocek has proven to be a valuable addition to the strong Collingwood outfit. Given the Magpies battles with injuries to key players, his presence up forward has been crucial at times, proving the perfect match-up with teammate Mason Cox. In the victory over the Giants, Mihocek managed nine disposals (seven kicks and two handballs at a 67 per cent disposal efficiency), three marks, two tackles and a goal. Interestingly, four of his disposals came at true centre half-forward, allowing Cox to utilise his superior height closer to goal. The Port Melbourne recruit could be a vital cog as the Pies look to take down the high-flying Richmond on Friday night.

Jaidyn Stephenson

The NAB Rising Star winner was again serviceable, however his night could have been better if he was able to convert in-front of goal and by foot. Stephenson, who operated across the wing and forward-line during the win over the Giants, managed 10 disposals (seven kicks and three handballs), but only went at a 30 per cent disposal efficiency. In-front of goal, he had a host of opportunities, but managed just three behinds. His speed and aggression saw Stephenson lay three tackles, while he was slightly below par in the air, taking just two marks. The future-star looms as a serious x-factor in the all-important upcoming clash against the Tigers.

David Mirra

Despite the Hawks loss, the mature-age player from Box Hill could hold his head high. It is never easy returning to a team in the midst of a finals campaign, but an injury to Ben Stratton saw Mirra earn his place back in the team. He amassed 19 disposals, 10 marks and laid two tackles, playing on the outside with a disposal efficiency of 79 per cent, and winning the ball in the back half of the ground. He finished the game with four rebounds and two inside 50s as well, along with two score involvements.

James Worpel

Known as a contested ball winner, Worpel had a quieter night, spending two thirds of his evening in the forward half. He had the nine touches and kicked a goal, while also laying five tackles. Much like a number Hawks later in the game, the impressive first-year player dropped away with just the one touch in the final term. While it was not his best game of the year, he can be proud of his first season in the AFL.

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

WITH sights set toward finals for teams fortunate enough to secure their spots, now is the time to honour our season’s best across all competitions. Our Under 18s make strong cases for first round selection, AFL’s debutantes get the recognition they deserve, and we get a glimpse of some finals football with Box Hill facing Port Melbourne in the VFL’s second Elimination Final.

Morrish Medal and TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest announced

Sandringham Dragons’ Liam Stocker has taken out 2018’s TAC Cup best and fairest, securing the Morrish Medal, joining Calder Cannons captain Madison Prespakis and Geelong Falcons’ Nina Morrison as the best players in their respective competitions. Stocker joins the likes of Hugh McCluggage, Clayton Oliver and Jack Higgins as a medal recipient despite only playing 12 games after suffering a broken jaw. The big-bodied midfielder recovered and rebounded to finish the year strong, similarly to Prespakis who secured seven votes in the last three rounds to tie with Morrison. The pair have both been named in the Women’s Under 18 All Australian side and are pegged as the first two picks in October’s National draft.

Tim Kelly named best first year player

The AFL Players’ Association have awarded the Best First Year Player Award to Geelong’s Tim Kelly. While the 24-year-old was ineligible for the NAB Rising Star due to his age, it seems to us all that he has well and truly risen. Speedy and powerful, Kelly averaged 23.1 disposals, four clearances, three tackles and three inside 50s across 22 games. He placed as Geelong’s fourth highest goalkicker behind Dangerfield, kicking 23 for the season. The South Fremantle star managed to slip into a midfield with the likes of Selwood, Ablett and Dangerfield – a trio with more personal accolades than some AFL teams – like he had been there for years. There was never any doubt.

Jaidyn Stephenson wins NAB Rising Star Award

It’s been a while since a debutante stepped into the AFL with the confidence and self-assurance of Jaidyn Stephenson. Taken at pick No. 6 in last year’s NAB AFL Draft, the Eastern Ranges’ icon secured the NAB Rising Star Award with 52 votes, edging out Adelaide’s Tom Doedee by 10 votes. Last year brought his AFL player career into question following news of a genetic heart condition, but Stephenson has more than squashed those worries, becoming one of the AFL’s biggest goal sneaks in his debut year. For goals, Stephenson finished ahead of the likes of Dustin Martin, Jarryd Roughead and Eddie Betts, placing 21st in the competition. Win or lose, September will give the youngster a taste of AFL’s next level, and given his confidence, I have no doubt we will see him take it on.

Box Hill Hawks triumph over Port Melbourne in extra time

In one for the ages, the Box Hill Hawks took home the win over Port Melbourne in the VFL’s second Elimination Final in extra time. With the first half of the game going the Hawks’ way, keeping Port Melbourne goalless in the second and holding a 30-point lead at halftime. It was a massive third quarter effort by Port Melbourne that saw them back in the fight, kicking five goals to Box Hill’s one. The Hawks’ effectiveness in front of goal dropped immensely, but in the end, it was two extra time goals kicked by James Cousins and  Chris Jones and a huge difference in behinds that knocked back a resilient Port Melbourne outfit.

The 2018 AFL Women’s Under 18 All Australian announced

Following the completion of the recent State of Origin match, the AFL Women’s U18 All Australian team was announced with more than one third being made up by bottom-agers. Victoria boasted the largest showing, with Queensland landing six to outdo Vic Metro and place second behind the seven picked out of Vic Country. The AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships’ Most Valuable Players, Madison Prespakis, Nina Morrison and Alyce Parker all received selections, along with South Australia’s MVP, Montana McKinnon and Queensland’s MVP, Natalie Grider. In October, many of these ladies are set line up for the AFLW National Draft and begin their careers at the highest level come next year.

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.