Tag: Tim Kelly

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Finals Week 1

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

Jack Higgins

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

James Worpel

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

Bayley Fritsch

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

Tim Kelly

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

Brody Mihocek

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

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 players from Round 23

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

Tim Kelly

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

Zac Bailey

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

Aaron Naughton

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

Liam Ryan

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

James Worpel

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

Jack Higgins

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

Ben Paton

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

Lochie O’Brien

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

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 22

ANOTHER impressive debutant joined the list of first year players who adapted to the level, while a mature-aged star just continues to exceed expectations.

Tim Kelly

Every week this guy turns up and proceeds to tear it up. Can you honestly believe it is his first year in the AFL system? In the Cats demolition of a hapless Fremantle outfit, Kelly’s stat line once again left us all mesmerised. He collected 26 disposals (14 kicks and 12 handballs at 73 per cent disposal efficiency), three marks, three goals, five clearances, six tackles, seven inside 50s and 515 metres gained. Yet again, his stoppage work and ability to seriously hit the scoreboard when going forward, was brilliant. The Western Australian’s impact this year has been right up there with Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett.

James Worpel

After watching the Hawks/Saints clash expecting somewhat of a snooze-fest, the performance of James Worpel really caught my attention. A premiership captain with TAC Cup club Geelong Falcons, Worpel has transitioned beautifully into the midfield of another successful club. The blonde-haired ‘Worpedo’ impressed with his aggression and attack on the footy. After one tackle, the umpire even asked him to calm it down – not a normal conversation to be had with a first-year player. Worpel finished with 27 disposals (15 kicks and 12 handballs at 52 per cent disposal efficiency), three marks, one goal, 481 metres gained, five clearances, three tackles, six inside 50s and a number of seriously powerful stiff-arms. The Hawks have unearthed yet another talent.

Cam Rayner

Rayner is quickly becoming a fan favourite up at the Gabba and is showing strong signs why he is rated so highly among regular underage football viewers and scouts alike. While he does not collect as much of the ball as some of his fellow draftees, Rayner generally does something positive whenever he does have possession. Once again, his leap allowed him to impact almost every marking contest he was involved in during the weekends Q-clash. The future star collated 14 touches (eight of which were contested), three marks, one goal (two behinds), three stoppage clearances and four inside 50s. He certainly looks to have added a bit of excitement and X-factor to a Lions side on a steep incline.

Lochie O’Brien

The top 10 draft pick from the 2017 National Draft has fronted up 17 games this season, with his best game of his career coming against the Dogs on Sunday afternoon. O’Brien, who was utilised in an outside-leaning role across the half-back line by senior coach Brendan Bolton, impressed with his cleanness, composure, decision making and precise ball use with his penetrating left-foot. The 19 year-old recruited from the Bendigo Pioneers collected 20 disposals (at a positive 85 per cent disposal efficiency) to go with six marks and a couple of tackles. Carlton will be hoping O’Brien can build on what has been a solid, steady start to what projects to be a long and successful career. Potentially adding some more size to his frame, we could see the athletic O’Brien spend more time in the midfield rotation.

Tom De Koning

It’s never easy for young key position players to make an immediate impact, however Tom De Koning showed some seriously impressive signs on debut during Sunday’s loss to the Dogs. De Koning, or ‘TDK’ as he is commonly referred to, managed 11 disposals (eight of which were contested), five marks (including two contested grabs and two inside-50 marks), three tackles and a goal on the weekend. He had some presence about him around the ground, and held his own when playing in the ruck for a couple of contests. After an impressive start to his infant career, the forward-line partnership between De Koning, Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay will prove absolutely critical for the Blues’ as they look to improve.

Aaron Naughton

Just the nine disposals for Naughton in his sides victory over the lowly Blues’, the youngster used the ball terrifically well, recording a disposal efficiency of 89 percent. His kicking action is unusual to say the least, however so far it has proven to work well enough. Naughton, a first round draft pick in 2017, showcased his aerial prowess against an inexperienced, but talented Carlton key forward line featuring Curnow, McKay and De Koning, clunking six marks with two of which were contested.  Having also been utilised in attack by senior coach Luke Beveridge at-times during his rookie year, the WA-products flexibility is a real asset. 

Keeping Tabs: Standout performers from Round 21

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

Jaidyn Stephenson

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

James Worpel

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

Jack Higgins

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

Ed Richards

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

Tim Kelly

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

Paddy Dow

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

Tom McCartin

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

Aiden Bonar

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

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 20

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

Hunter Clark

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

Will Walker

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

Kane Farrell

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

Cameron Rayner

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

Jack Higgins

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

Bayley Fritsch

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

Tim Kelly

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

Keeping Tabs: Standout 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 17

IT IS not often that we have such a large list of defensive performers in the list, but after this round, we could be looking at the future All-Australian backline. It seems the debutants have embraced extra responsibilities with teams experimenting with positions. The bar has been raised, but the players just keep on coming. The race to the Rising Star award is close and will be hard to call at the end of the season.

Cam Rayner

The wait is finally over – this is Cam Rayner. The last three rounds, with a confident Lions, has redefined our expectations of the number one pick as he lifts to a new level with each round. Blessed with a stronger team than what we saw at the beginning of the season, Rayner is getting his chance to run free. His 19 possessions at a 74 per cent disposal efficiency alone could have been enough to earn him a spot here, but Rayner decided he’d top his game off with three goals and 11 score involvements as well. Rayner played a huge impact, finishing with two rebound 50s, two inside 50s, two clearances, two tackles and two one percenters. He gained 462 metres for the game, and only fell short by two points to Eric Hipwood on the goal front. Anywhere and everywhere, this kid dominates and could be aiming for his Rising Star award as we close out the season.

Sam Taylor

Earning a Rising Star nomination for his performance out the backline, Taylor showed off a football sense well beyond his years. With quite possibly the defensive equivalent of a bag of goals, Taylor finished the match with eight intercept possessions, five tackles, eight one percenters, all while minimising his turnovers. Despite only 13 touches, Taylor managed to take seven in a contest with each having a considerable impact. He also had three rebound 50’s, three score involvements and one clearance. While a lot of debutantes had stellar defensive performances this weekend, Taylor’s stood out due to his mistake minimisation, percentage of important possessions and work off the ball. Quite often the success of players is measured through a player’s offensive presence. People love goals, but when a player steps up and bares a responsibly Taylor had against the Tigers, it needs to be recognised and rewarded. We could be seeing a future All-Australian backman in the making.

Matt Guelfi

The hungry, high-pressure player frightened across the ground, making his opponents earn every inch of the football.  With 17 disposals, eight contested with an 82 per cent disposal efficiency, Guelfi may have been unlucky not to earn a Rising Star nomination. Though his performance didn’t end there, collecting six interceptions, seven score involvements, two clearances, six one percenters and two goals. His efforts were especially useful down back. He snagged five tackles, 16 pressure acts, two rebound 50’s and five marks. Guelfi is steadily developing into a talented, pressure midfielder and could receive a nomination soon if he continues to star like this. Pretty good for pick 76.

Charlie Spargo

Melbourne returned to their goal-front domination this round with Spargo sharing in the fun. Kicking two goals, with eight score involvements and one goal assist, the young Dee was immense in their victory of the Dogs. A careful read on the high ball and an uncanny crumbing ability, turned his opponents inside out as he kicked and affected goals. Melbourne have recruited two amazing forward players in Spargo and Fritsch, and while different footballers in front of goal, complement each other all the same. Spargo also laid an impressive seven tackles for the day with 21 pressure acts. A glimpse at the next best small forward in the competition it might seem.

Bailey Banfield

Like Taylor, Banfield was a pivotal defensive presence for the Dockers, yet to be recognised. Though low on the goal front despite playing up forward, Banfield’s pressure has been nothing short of astonishing. For the game, he recorded 41 pressure acts – the highest across the round, and laid nine tackles. He recorded 12 contested possessions with his 18 touches, six clearances, two inside 50s, two rebound 50s, five score involvements and three intercept possessions. Though messy with the ball at times (56 per cent disposal efficiency), Banfield played a unique role for his side with a commanding presence around the ball. With some tidier skill work, Banfield should easily earn himself a Rising Star nomination.

Lachlan Murphy

Despite his low disposal efficiency of 55 per cent, Murphy put on a stellar performance for his side. Noting his 23 pressure acts and clear presence up forward, it is no surprise Murphy kicked three goals for the game. He laid three tackles (two inside 50) and had a hand in five of Adelaide’s scores. A solid contender with seven contested possessions, a contested mark and three tackles. Murphy is eager to leave his mark on the game and has done just that in Round 17.

Tim Kelly

Though unable to win the Rising Star award due to his age, talks have begun as to whether Kelly will make All-Australian selection. The Western Australian sensation loves to decorate his stat sheet and his performance against the Crows was no different. With 29 disposals and 15 contested possessions, Kelly dominated around the bounce having seven clearances. He kicked his fourteenth goal for the season, had five score involvements with one goal assist and three inside 50s. I think All-Australian talks are completely justified at this point in the season. Kelly not only dominates the game, but does it on a team with Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Ablett and Joel Selwood, blending in with the future hall of famers like he is one.

Aaron Naughton

If we are acknowledging standout defensive performances, I would be amiss if I glossed over Naughton’s performance against the Dees. With 94 per cent disposal efficiency off his game spent cleaning up messes in the backline, Naughton brought clean hands and careful positioning to the ball, collecting nine intercept possessions and ten one percenters. His game finished with 18 possessions with six contested, four marks and four rebounds. When you’re up against the best attacking side in the competition, it is no easy task defending, especially in your first year, but Naughton had a fair crack. If it wasn’t for five turnovers, lower efficiency, and less spread across his stats, Naughton could have taken home a nomination.

Colin O’Riordan

Despite North’s heavy hitters in Majak Daw, Ben Brown and Jack Ziebell, O’Riordan’s 10 intercept possessions, eight marks and 17 pressure acts kept Sydney’s walls from crashing down. He had plenty of defensive efforts with five tackles and five rebounds. His disposal efficiency rested at 79 per cent,  with 19 disposals staying clean and composed despite an aggressive offensive. All his time spent resting in the Swan’s back half, O’Riordan showed he can take the big responsibilities and stood up for the Swans

Bayley Fritsch

Though only kicking two behinds, Fritsch’s disposal efficiency of 78 was a standout with his 18 possessions. Entering unfamiliar territory, Fritsch played most of his football in Melbourne’s defensive half, collecting eight intercept possessions, three tackles and three one percenters. His impressive hands were on display with his six marks (one contested), chopping off the Bulldog’s transition with his impressive overhead ability. Consistently clean, he also had three inside 50s, five score involvements and one goal assist. Fritsch added to an already impressive resume with this performance, showing that his goals don’t define his football.

Luke Davies-Uniacke

After a lengthy stay in the VFL, Luke Davies-Uniacke (LDU) got the call up for the Kangaroos, starting his game in the centre. Initially playing on Josh Kennedy, LDU showed a composure unlike anything we’d seen in previous rounds despite the obvious mismatch. The open field offered up after the Sydney skipper was forced from the ground might have done wonders for the Dandenong boy’s game. With an 88 percent disposal efficiency, seven contested and 11 uncontested possessions, he starred around the stoppages with three clearances and one out of the centre. He often grabbed first hands to the loose ball and switched well to break Sydney’s lines. He laid five tackles with 14 pressure acts, bringing more hunger later in the game after an effective first half. While not overly impressive in his VFL performances, LDU stood up for the big stage with three inside 50s, five score involvements and one goal assist. He brought his mental game with him and cleaned up where he was lacking early in the season.


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.