A chilly and windy Victoria Park provided the stage for what was little more than a dead rubber between Gippsland and Murray on Sunday. With Calder’s loss on Saturday, all mathematical probability of Power missing finals footy had gone, and with Murray confirmed finalists already, there was little to play for besides determining the final ladder order. With Murray without key players Ben Paton and leading TAC Cup goal kicker Daniel Johnston, Gippsland had a slight advantage and kicking with the wind bolted out to a three goal lead at quarter time. Murray fired back in the second quarter with a flurry of goals in the last five minutes, and the game was poised perfectly at half time at 34-37. It was Power who took command, however, and yet again it was their two U16 stars Sam Flanders and Caleb Serong that proved the difference. Terrorising the Murray backline, they combined for four of Gippsland’s seven third quarter goals, and gave them a healthy cushion heading into the last quarter. Murray finished strongly, but Gippy held firm to close out a deserved 18 point victory.
Here are the key players from the game:
Callum Porter | Mid | 22-2-99 | 181cm | 73kg
A standout performance from a player that continues to fly under the radar. Porter’s consistent drive and determination at the contest was there as usual, but it was his attacking play that really impressed. On more than one occasion he took off at speed, running past Bushies players like they were witches hats, before hitting up team-mates inside 50. Quick, good in the air, great at ground level, solid inside and outside game – a lot to like.
Sam Flanders | Def/Fwd | 24-07-01 |182cm | 73kg
Flanders started the game in the back half and was largely quiet, although he demonstrated great composure and quick hands in a couple of contests early. It was his second half, when moved forward, that he really stood out though. Teaming up with fellow U16 player Caleb Serong, they dominated in a third quarter performance that effectively won Gippy the game. Flanders proved a real handful inside 50, demonstrating elite agility with ball in hand, and also providing a target on the lead – showing great soft hands. A questionable out-of-bounds call also denied him one of the goals of the season, after he turned his man inside out before slotting an incredible banana from the pocket. Flanders has recently been named in the Level One NAB AFL Academy, and is an exciting prospect to monitor over the next two seasons.
Caleb Serong | Wing/Fwd | 09-02-01 | 176cm | 69kg
Flanders’ partner in crime, and fellow Academy player, again marked himself well and truly as one to watch. Like Flanders, Serong was quiet early stationed out on the wing, but came to life in the third quarter after a move forward. His incredible leap was evident again, and while not sticking many of the marks that we’ve almost come to expect of him already, what he did do was consistently create a contest when the ball was pumped forward. He finished with two goals, including a nice set shot from the pocket, and played a part in a number of scoring chains with some neat work by hand. Not his biggest outing, but what he did showed that there is plenty of potential.
Xavier Duursma | Def | 07-07-00 | 184cm | 70kg
Xavier Duursma has had an impressive bottom age year for Power, but this was probably the best I’ve seen him. He spent the day on fellow bottom-ager Zane Barzen, and both players demonstrated exceptional promise in an entertaining battle. Duursma’s speed and agility have always been a big draw card, but it was his defensive attributes that shone on Sunday. His intercept and rebound work really stood out, as did his willingness to follow up with second and third efforts. Along with his opponent on the day, he’ll feature highly next year.
Changkuoth Jiath | Mid | 13-06-99 | 185cm | 74kg
Jiath again proved what an exciting prospect he is in terms of potential, with an eyecatching outing – in particular, the first quarter where he seemed to have the ball on a string. Jiath has X-factor in spades, and his sheer athleticism was great to watch, dazzling with some great work in traffic. The main area for improvement is his final product, and while his kicking itself was sound on Sunday, his decisions and accuracy let him down at times. Still, a lot to like though.
Nick Hogan | Mid | 02-07-99 | 175cm | 78kg
While Jiath offered the flair, Nick Hogan was once again the heartbeat at the centre of Gippsland’s midfield, and he grew as the game went on. Superb in tight, Hogan looks incredibly at ease in congestion and has the knack of creating space for himself even when under extreme pressure. Calm, composed and a good user of the footy, he finished with 18 contested possessions, eight clearances and 11 inside 50s. His biggest knock is his size, but if he continues in his current vein of form, he could well play himself onto an AFL list.
Zane Barzen | Fwd | 29-10-00 | 191cm | 76kg
Zane Barzen again gave the impression that he will be very popular in the lead up to next year’s draft. The tall forward had an entertaining tussle with Xavier Duursma, and while only hitting the scoreboard twice, showed his full range of AFL attributes. Barzen is quick and agile for his size, and has a great leap, making him a very dangerous player inside 50. He provided one the highlights of the game with a magnificent speccy in the third quarter, and also slotted a beauty of a set shot around the body from the pocket. Still 16, a big one to watch for 2018.
Will Donaghey | Def | 22-10-99 | 191cm | 77kg
After a slow start to the year, Will Donaghey is starting to find a bit of form when it counts, and Sunday’s game against Gippsland showed what he is capable. Operating off half-back, Donaghey has some really nice traits could transition to the AFL. He’s a smooth mover, has a decent turn of foot, good hands and distributes well out of defence; and on Sunday was key to the Bushies second half efforts, picking up 19 second half possessions. Definitely looks more of an outside player, but plenty to work with.
Alex Paech | Fwd | 17-06-99 | 196cm | 95kg
On first glance, Paech looks like a typical big bodied key player that uses his size to his advantage at this level, however, that would do him a massive disservice. Despite his size, he is incredibly mobile, and demonstrated this perfectly when he burst from the contest to slot a left foot banana early in the second quarter. He showed great ability below his knees with a ground ball get at speed, and demonstrated great awareness when hitting up a teammate in the goalsquare with a pin-point ball inside 50. He’s got a state combine invite, and definitely looks like he could be an interesting prospect come November.
Laitham Vandermeer | Mid | 03-02-99 | 180cm | 73kg
Vandermeer was one of the Bushies most consistent performers in the engine room, finishing with a team high 15 contested possessions and seven clearances. Clean with his ball use, he fed the ball out to teammates, predominantly by hand, and showed really good acceleration to create separation when bursting from packs. He’s been invited to the State combine, proving there is interest there, and will get a chance to impress during the Bushies final campaign