It certainly wasn’t the most pleasant day to be heading down to Ikon Park on Sunday, with the howling wind and rain making conditions uncomfortable on and off the field. The weather really levelled out the individual performances too, which at times made it difficult to identify standouts and for the players themselves to showcase their true attributes.
In saying that, there were certainly eye catching moments and note worthy efforts that deserve recognition as the Country lads took away two wins against their Metropolitan rivals.
Trial Game No.1: Vic Country
HUDSON GARONI, 195CM, 91KG, FWD
He started the game in outstanding fashion with two impressive set shot goals, one a banana from an impossible angle at the eastern end of the ground. He has a presence up forward, but was surprisingly influential when he went to the stoppages throughout the day too. He was calm in traffic and clean at ground level with the wet ball, despite his 195cm frame.
CALEB SERONG, 178CM, 82KG, MID/FWD (Bottom Age)
The Level 1 Academy bottom ager showed his class with moments in the difficult conditions that the other players couldn’t replicate. A sticky overhead contested mark with the wet ball, some well weighted kicks inside 50 and a brilliant one on one ground win on the wing against Jack Mahony before hitting a target in an awkward position were match highlights. He floated up and down ground, getting his teammates involved when he could. His 18 disposals were clean and influential.
MITCH RIORDAN, 186CM, 79KG, MID
He did a majority of his work at the stoppages to win 19 disposals and four clearances. He looks at his best in tight, possessing a happy knack of spinning out of congestion and getting the ball forward. He is more athletic than he looks on first glance when on the outside, but thrives when doing the basics and taking on the grunt work.
CONNOR IDUN, 190CM, 89KG, DEF
He had some impressive moments in the back half, providing a nice balance of offensive and defensive football when the situation presented. He has a thick frame and is extremely difficult to move off the ball, but is smart with his positioning at the same time. Idun is equally capable in the air and on the ground.
BOADIE MOTTON, 178CM, 73KG, MID
I’ve talked about Boadie Motton already this year, but he keeps winning quality possessions without much notice. You have to watch so closely to truly appreciate his cleanliness and creative hands. He floated around the packs and consistently won good touches, but because he isn’t overly flashy or eye catching, disappointingly there is every chance he misses Vic Country selection. Someone get him in.
MARK MARRIOTT, 202CM, 89KG, RUCK/FWD
The big Murray Bushranger’s ruckman got first hand on the ball more often than not and gave good effort at the stoppages. More importantly he hit the scoreboard when he went forward, kicking three goals on a day that plain and simply didn’t suit 200cm+ kids. He isn’t a tall you are going spend a high draft pick on, but clubs eyeing a development ruck will be keeping watch throughout the year.
FINLAY BAYNE, 177CM, 68KG, MID
Not one who had really been on my radar, but the lighted framed midfielder kept winning the ball. He would end up Vic Country’s top disposal winner for the game with 22, mostly receiving the handball on the outside. He held his own at the stoppages with three clearances and is one to have a closer look at throughout the year.
Trial Game No.1: Vic Metro
ALASTAIR RICHARDS, 187CM, 78KG, DEF/MID
Richards was a rare player who consistently caught the eye throughout the match, especially when thrown into the midfield after starting in defence. He is a good size and has some athletic attributes of note, showcasing his agility and pace on numerous occasions. He is capable of creating dangerous space and has good skills at top speed. He kicked two goals, highlighted by a right foot snap in the final term. His 23 disposals were the most on the ground and he is one to watch come Champs time.
MATT ROWELL, 180CM, 73KG, MID (Bottom Age)
Another extremely talented bottom age kid who looked a class above. He is a brilliantly rounded midfielder, possessing many potentially elite skill sets. He can play inside or out, is clean in tight and makes fast decisions in difficult situations. Rowell ended with match highs for contested possessions (14), tackles (7) and clearances (6), but still operated at a disposal efficiency of 77% despite the congested nature of his touches. He is a player you love more every time you see him play and will be highly sought after next year.
ZAK BUTTERS, 181CM, 70KG, MID
Butters is a player I’ve been keen to see develop this year after showing promising signs as a bottom age player at the Jets in 2017. He catches the eye with his want to run and carry, but he also has the touch of class in congestion that suggests he is a bit more than just a burst player. He needs to add some size still, but the talent is there.
RILEY COLLIER-DAWKINS, 193CM, 88KG, MID
The first time I’ve seen Collier-Dawkins live this year and you can immediately notice the growth spurt. 193cm is getting towards Patrick Cripps levels and while I hate direct player comparisons, he probably plays a bit more like Sam Menegola. He puts his head over the ball and often extracts by lifting his arms high to release. Certainly didn’t dominate on the day, but you can see why there is excitement.
MARK BAKER, 196CM, 83KG, DEF/FWD (19 Year Old)
Baker started back and wasn’t one I had taken much notice of until the fourth quarter when he provided arguably the highlight of the day, a huge contested pack mark forward. He nailed the set shot too, which provided some self belief and he was a presence for the rest of the quarter. There is potential here, so hopefully it is a real turning point.
Trial Game No.2: Vic Country
SAM FLANDERS, 183CM, 81KG, FWD/MID (Bottom Age)
Another Level 1 Academy kid who just oozes so much talent. He didn’t win mountains of ball playing mostly forward, but when he did, something generally came of it. He has elite footy smarts and positioning, strong hands and goal sense. He is brilliant defensively too, as shown with a chase down in the second term before hitting a target inside 50. Will become a midfielder, but there is so much to love in the front half.
ZAC FOOT, 180CM, 71KG, MID
A creative midfielder who loves to get in offensive positions and produce some spark. He is a lovely player to watch, possessing tricks inside and outside, as proven with a brilliant sidestep and escape in traffic during the second quarter. He has been putting together some consistent form with the Stingrays and could be a surprise packet at the Champs.
ZANE KEIGHRAN, 182CM, 79KG, MID
Was at the first centre bounce and won some quality contested ball around the stoppages throughout the day. Although it was a couple of aerial contests that really made me take note. He was unlucky not to be paid an excellent overhead effort in the first term, before sticking his next chance inside 50 in the second. One I want to have another look at.
CHARLIE SPRAGUE, 187CM, 79KG, MID
The most prolific ball winner on the day with 26 disposals, 12 contested possessions and 6 clearances, Sprague was constantly in the action. He is a great size at 187cm and moves nicely, ticking plenty of modern midfield attributes. He showed good skills on the outside too, highlighted by a brilliant hit up inside 50 in the second quarter.
JED HILL, 179CM, 68KG, FWD/MID
Another I hadn’t seen much of prior to Sunday, but he certainly made his mark on the outside. He looked to take the game on with run and carry when given the opportunity. When forward he led high from the pocket to create an option further up the ground and was rewarded by being on the end of a goal in the third term. Lots to like, one I want to see more of.
OSCAR BROWNLESS, 186CM, 76KG, MID
The Geelong father/son prospect (son of Billy) rotated between half forward and the midfield, getting his hands on the ball throughout the morning. Despite spending time up the ground, he often found himself with the ball on the flanks and entering the forward 50. While difficult conditions definitely contributed, his kicking needs improvement, but he is far more competent by hand.
BROCK SMITH, 188CM, 78KG, FWD/DEF (Bottom Age)
I’ve seen close to 10 games of Brock Smith over the past 12 months in the U16s and in defence for Gippsland this year, but saw a different side of the talented bottom age prospect on Sunday. He was used as a target forward and became a genuine aerial threat. He presented, competed in the air and pulled down a memorable pack mark in the second term. His three contested marks were the most individually over the two games. He has the flexibility to develop in any position and has genuine AFL attributes.
Trial Game No.2: Vic Metro
LIAM STOCKER, 183CM, 83KG, MID
Stocker has been a bit of a buzz player in recent weeks and it is easy to see why. He made an immediate impact at the first centre bounce, winning the clearance before laying a heavy tackle only seconds later. He has a presence in congestion and is explosive from a stoppage. Went in and out of the game, but has the tools.
ANGUS HANRAHAN, 182CM, 68KG, UTILITY
A really lightly framed player who provided a bit of class in the heavy conditions. A lovely right foot snap in the second term had the recruiters talking before he spent time in the defensive half and rebounded with excellent decisions. I hadn’t seen much of him before today, but left wanting more and wondering where he’ll develop.
LACHLAN SHOLL, 185CM, 77KG, UTILITY
Lachlan Sholl is another who impressed last year that I really want to look closely at in 2018. He is an attacking type who will take the game on and get the ball moving quickly. He is strong overhead, a solid user by foot and is capable of playing multiple positions. The son of Carlton’s Brett went quiet when the rain arrived again, although enough was provided early.
XAVIER FRY, 183CM, 68KG, MID
Another small midfielder who really put his body on the line at the stoppages, especially when the conditions were heavy late in the day. He went in hard, but was smart in congestion and used the ball well. His highlight came later when he showed some great pace in the wet through the middle of the ground and to kick long inside 50. Nice player.
JAMES ROWBOTTOM, 185CM, 78KG, MID
Rowbottom was Vic Metro’s biggest ball winner in the second game with 19 disposals and especially left his presence known on the inside with 13 contested possessions and six clearances. While the weather certainly didn’t help, his kicking more often than not let him down, but you couldn’t fault his effort at the contest. I’m looking forward to seeing him in more favourable conditions.
MASON FLETCHER, 199CM, 77KG, KPD
The son of Dustin truly is a chip off the old block. His skinny, long limbs find a way to spoil the ball in sometimes awkward positions. He is more of a ball killer than interceptor, but he certainly isn’t a mug overhead. I’d like to see him play further up the ground as the year goes on.