18/04/2024

Dandenong's Kobe Shipp has already shown glimpses as an intercepting defender in the Talent League. (Credit: JAZZ BENNETT MEDIA)

With the boys’ Coates Talent League season to kick off this weekend, below are some of the names and scouting notes from each full-time club putting themselves on the maps with strong preseasons and practice match performances.

Vic Metro

Western Jets

Head coach: Trent Dennis Lane

Logan Morris looks ready for a massive season. A marking forward, he’s improved his fitness base over the summer which will prime him to get up the ground more, appealing to AFL recruiters. Seemed to mark everything he got his hands on in a practice match against Calder. Morris might also be seen at the other end of the ground at stages.

Massimo Raso will play as a deep powerful small forward who has good goal sense, is creative, and can take a mark overhead. Showed just about all of those tricks in the practice match, against Eastern.

Taaj Assafiri looks ready to show his ability one on one as a small defender. He spent some time in the practice match on Nick Watson and would’ve learned plenty from the experience. Likewise, Diesel Maloney, whose year will be an interesting watch after he represented Vic Metro in the under-17s match at Highgate Recreation Reserve last year.

An inside midfielder that those within the club are bullish on is Jake Smith. Smith looked comfortable in that practice match against Calder and will be hoping to use his size and stoppage craft to his advantage. Looked to have taken another step and used his strength and power to drive forward in the succeeding practice match two weeks later against Eastern. Darcy Weeks is another midfielder whose progress the Jets are happy with.

The big performer for Western in the practice match against Eastern was Lachie McArthur. McArthur comes from a cricketing background and has been working hard on his fitness in the preseason. It’s the top-ager’s first year on a Talent League list and he shows he certainly has talent. He can jump, impact the contest aerially, and is athletic on the ground. He strikes you as the sort of player who could kick a goal of the year.

Joel Freeman has done some things that suggest he’ll be competitive at the level; Huss Kaddour’s drive out of the back half could see him come into the side at some stage this season and catch the eye; Daniel Snell tested very well and showed promise as a bottom-ager; Lucca Greggo is another bottom-ager who goes when he gets the ball and Alex Tsia is also among the midfield mix.

Sandringham Dragons

Coach: Rob Harding

Expect Will Brown to be a protagonist in the Dragons’ midfield. He has gained size and is a clear group leader that saw him voted captain. Brown has grown to 194cm and will hope to prove he can play the role of the prototype big-bodied mid after playing a couple of different roles in 2022 including perhaps leading the best-on-ground medal at quarter time of last year’s Talent League grand final.

Harvey Johnston has been the talk of the preseason at Sandringham. He can kick off both feet and has the skills of a player with a basketball background: moves through traffic well, slipping tackles then backing his foot skills. Is good in tight and always has composure with ball in hand and is capable of kicking a goal.

Vigo Visentini has had a frustrating preseason with nose surgery being delayed and thus setting him back for longer than he’d like, and later a concussion keeping him out of the big practice match against Oakleigh. Visentini Is one that recruiters will have their eyes on this season. Leading the ruck as a bottom-ager in a premiership lineup is no mean feat and he’s naturally gained size and remains athletic enough to have an impact around the ground. He uses it well and has good ball handling for a player of his size.

Archie Roberts and Ryley Sanders both had opportunities to train at AFL clubs over the break. Sanders looks physically ready to establish himself in the top echelon while Roberts has a solid foundation to build off from last year when he was a brave and efficient rebounding half-back. Bottom-ager Levi Ashcroft is equally touted, and on Brisbane Lions VFL development list and is ready to build on an excellent finish to 2022.

EJ Williams looks in good nick and will hope to play higher up the ground at times in 2022. He checks his defender well and has a good left foot coming out of defence while his footy IQ adds another dimension to his game.

Tarkyn O’Leary runs a sub-six minute two-kilometre time trial but it’s one thing to run well, it’s another to have the footy smarts to use it effectively. O’Leary, voted into the leadership group and lauded for his work ethic, showed his nous in the practice game against Oakleigh. There were several times when O’Leary knew where the space was, used it to his advantage, and hits his targets well.

Taj Hotton was the major name who put himself on the map in the practice game on Friday night against Oakleigh. He can leap, weave, find space, kick, and follow up in the play with multiple involvements. Hotton is a good option forward of centre and took a very nice mark in front of all the recruiters sitting in the Danny Frawley stand. Dropped away a touch in the second half of that game, but the bottom-aged brother of St Kilda’s Olli has a basketball background which everyone loves. Will be intriguing if he can piece that high level together consistently.

Charlie Harrop is versatile but is an excellent overall package; Miles Enders and the springy Calsher Dear both offer a lot to get excited about inside 50, big-bodied midfielder. Will Nish looks in good shape and Josh Docking has done some impressive things.

Calder Cannons

Coach: Andrew Sturgess

There’s a lot of hype around the bottom agers at Calder and Isaac Kako leads that charge. His running and some of his off-ball work often gets lost in how much excitement he generates when the ball comes near him. He’s dangerous front-and-centre, has a good step, and can get you overhead as much with his leap as with his forward craft.

Kako Kicked two in three periods against Western Jets which could quite easily have been five. He is a low-possession, high-impact type. Noah Scott is another bottom-ager who will look to impress early and may be given an opportunity in the midfield, while Nash King may progress there. Jayden Nguyen remains one who suits a wing position.

Mahmoud Taha is a Bachar Houli academy prospect and was one of the standouts in that practice match. Taha has put on a little bit of size which clearly gave him the confidence to drive through the front of stoppage and win effective clearances and get into space. He looks to be developing into a powerful midfielder with a high ceiling.

Amin Naim was one of the most impressive in the Calder v Western Jets practice game a couple of weeks ago and shapes as one who could push into the Vic Metro team. Naim provides presence and opportunism inside 50, has multiple avenues to goal, and a favourable skillset.

Hugo Garcia really jumped out of the box in that same practice match. Reached a top speed in the game of 32 kilometres per hour – better than any of his teammates – and runs a 6.10 two-kilometre time trial. Garcia played as a high forward and had four shots on goal, a couple of which showed off his clean and long penetrating left foot. Looks like a good overlap runner who can get you in the air and weaves past opponents at will.

Harry O’Farrell was another who impressed the coaching staff. He’s an athletic winger whose running and spread were noticeable, as was his size at 190 centimetres. Despite a good pre-season, O’Farrell will want to show his aerial ability which complements that skillset nicely, in the early part of the season.

Rye Penny came close to a position with Collingwood this season as a Category B rookie. The former volleyballer’s aptitude off halfback are well known so he’s tipped to be shown in the midfield to show a different dynamic to his footy. A speedy powerful type who could push into Midseason Draft calculations.

Jordan Croft: the ruck still has plenty of growth left in him but has shown excellent signs in the preseason. His ability to get up and down the ground and impact the game which was notable across the practice matches.

Eastern Ranges

Coach: LJ Moorecorft

Ry Cantwell has emerged as one to watch. Been noticed by people externally who are talking about him, as is the club. Impressed in one Talent League match last year with his run and jump at the ball as a half-forward and showed it in a practice match in the preseason against Northern. Showed some other tricks a couple of weeks later against Western and he’s one who could push up into Vic Metro.

Beyond Cantwell, the Eastern forward line is stacked. The AFL academy small forward Nick Watson had a minor ankle setback that prevented him from testing, but his practice against Western has him primed. They also have key target Riley Weatherill and co-captain Brayden La Planche, who is around the Vic Metro mark, too, up there.

Cody Anderson was the major performer who emerged from the match against Western. He showed a bit in 2022, and then some more in a practice match at Parade a couple of weeks prior, but the performance for Eastern on his junior turf at Healesville was outstanding. The bottom-ager stuffed the stats sheet and looks at home as a tough in-and-under midfielder who is clean and knows how to find the footy.

Cam Nyko and Caleb Windsor – the brother of 2022 prospect, Kai – are hard-running wingers who’ll play their roles well and are already in the Vic Metro mix. Expect their work rate to shine through, along with Jak Ryan, the son of talent lead Danny.

A bottom-ager who could push into the Ranges side is Will Verrell – the brother of 2022 Vic Metro rebounding defender Callum. Runs and finds the footy well and still has a while left in the system, yet already looks to have something about him.

One who’s very strong, both physically and in output is bottom-ager Josh Smillie. Doesn’t shirk the physicality and moves through traffic well, his class illustrated by winning Vic Metro’s under 16s MVP last year.

Oakleigh Chargers

*The Chargers will start the season without a senior coach after incumbent Jason Davenport joined GWS as head of footy development in late February.

Boston Dowling, who represented Murray last season, has moved down to Melbourne for personal reasons so will play for Oakleigh in 2023. KPP

Billy Hicks is a public schooler who will play plenty of Talent League this season. The medium forward who can get goals in different ways is a name that could push into Vic Metro with a decent start. Has been compared when he’s up and about to Jake Stringer so has pizzazz, power, and x-factor.

Luke Teal and Will Elliott will both start the season at the Chargers. The over-agers started last season as highly-regarded and in strong contention for the AFL national draft before injury set them back. Elliott is a key forward who will push his Midseason Draft case for Box Hill after the early rounds while intercepting defender Teal is signed at Richmond VFL.

Nathan Philactides is the most exciting prospect out of the Warawee Park footy factory. While he doesn’t quite have the hype of Elijah Tsatas and George Wardlaw last season, he’s not far off it and will certainly excite with his skillset in 2023. The rebounding defender and skipper already has a full season of Talent League under his belt and looks primed to build on that as a line-breaking runner and penetrating kick. One watcher of Oakleigh’s intra-club a couple of weeks ago guesstimated Philactides, who has finished school this season, had 1000 metres gained.

Ollie Badr and Will Lorenz were a couple of other names who impressed in that practice match. Badr was close to representing Vic Metro as a bottom-ager last season and showed strong form for Scotch College and Lorenz’s kicking and evasiveness are top-tier. He’ll provide rebound off half-back like Badr and Philactides and showed his aptitude when rotated into the midfield against Sandy in a practice match.

Oakleigh will run with a young midfield this season and there were positive signs that will work in the practice match against Oakleigh, even if it was soundly beaten. Smart and speedy Jagga Smith and Tom Gross are two top 2024 prospects who’ll lead the midfield with Melbourne father-son prospect Kynan Brown.

Northern Knights

Coach: Anthony Rocca

Nate Caddy is going to be the talk of the town at Northern this season but will have a delayed start to the season due to a fractured fibula so don’t expect to see him until after the first break. The key forward has sticky mitts and already has a season of Talent League behind him, kicking 18 goals and averaging more than 14.5 disposals. He’s a clear-cut above and will be their barometer inside 50. Showed his talent in an intra-club match in February at Victoria Park, kicking four goals.

Will Green is Northern’s other Vic Metro representative and he looked accomplished in the intra-club, contributing around the ground as a ruck. His next step will be improving his forward craft to show positional versatility, and his coach will no doubt be a good resource for him in that space.

Jack Chubb is a lead-up forward to watch. Across the intra-club and practice match against Eastern, he took a series of strong marks, either contested or one-on-one, and has shown there’s a bit to work with.

Thomas Sims played on Caddy in that intra-club game and while his direct opponent dominated, Northern was pleased enough with what it saw from him. They’re bullish on his upside as a key defender who reads the flight of the ball well and is one who works hard and has good closing speed.

Adam Galgano looked impressive in both the practice match and Northern’s intra-club against Eastern. It was his thirst for the contest which caught the eye in the intra-club until a head knock saw him ruled out for the rest of the day. Against the Ranges, he had a couple of moments where he showcased his pace and ball use. Expect him to play inside mid.

A series of other Knights have caught the eye: Charlie Opie’s work rate to get from contest to contest; Christian Mardini has looked good in defence from a small sample size having been recast after an ACL injury ruled him out of 2022; Levi McCormack plays with confidence and flair.

Vic Country

Bendigo Pioneers

Coach: Danny O’Bree

Michael Kiraly had a significant jump on Bendigo’s Best and Fairest early last year before an injury set him back. He returns as a 19-year-old and will attract some interest with a consistent run of form. Played his best footy off halfback last year as an athletic interceptor but could push higher up the ground and has also been showcased inside 50.

Mitch Doddal is another 19-year-old who is generating talk internally. Untested at the level, he was a late addition to the Pioneers program last season and injury prevented him from getting on the park. The 196-centimetre Kyabram boy has played senior country footy and has played a lot forward but might be seen off halfback at Talent League level.

Malik Gordon is Bendigo’s ‘other’ explosive midfielder. He’s one that recruiters may have to be patient with. He’s the Pioneers’ most exciting prospect behind Harley Reid but had a difficult preseason so is one who will look to build in. May start forward.

What’s left to say about Harley Reid? The early favourite for the number one pick looks like he’ll piece together a Will Ashcroft type of bottom-age year – albeit a very different player. Will make something happen wherever you put him with running his current focus.

Allies eligible Charlie Hillier played a strong practice match against Murray at the Hangar before injuring his ankle in the last minute which is expected to keep him out for the first batch of games. Once he returns, he’ll be a watch.

Jobe Shanahan is a versatile prospect who has played his junior footy and local senior footy up forward, where his forward craft enables him to win some impressive one on ones. He can also push off half-back or a wing.

Tobie Travaglia is one who will look to take the play on, is full of beans and not short on confidence. He’s versatile, has favourable athletic traits and is the sort that could play as a high-pressure forward or even on a wing. Even as a bottom-ager, expect him to shine for the Pioneers in 2023.

Oskar Smartt has a lot of really likeable traits and was the standout top-ager in the practice match against Murray. He’s competitive, reads the play well, uses his booming kick as needed, and breaks the lines. Looks primed to take another step on last year’s Talent League form when he played in defence.

Tom Evans, Xavier Carter, and Deighton Euroa are some other names to keep an eye out for. Zaydyn Lockwood is still raw and took some marks. Glen Gillbee – brother of GWS’ Jason – is still a light-bodied outside player and has to play a role.

Dandenong Stingrays

Coach: Nick Cox

Gun Cooper Simpson only knows one way, training at high intensity for Dandenong despite being limited at times in the preseason, returning from glandular fever. He will lead the midfield as co-captain with Harry DeMattia and has the talent to burn. Polished, good foot skills, good at the contest, strong and stands up in big moments.

Harry DeMattia, a dual sporting prospect who was a waterboy for day one of the Boxing Day Test and is highly regarded at the Melbourne Cricket Club, will streamline his focus on footy for his top-age year. Played a bit everywhere in 2022 and versatility is a clear strength – expect him to start across half-back and the wing. 

Jordan Doherty and Joziah Nannup are different types of players with a high ceiling. Doherty’s a raw key position prospect while Nannup has athletic traits and is new to the program in 2023 as a 19-year-old, likely to be used in the forward half.

The De La Rue name is known at Dandenong with Ben having skippered the side a generation ago but this season, it’s his son’s turn to unleash. Kade is part of Vic Country and plays as a forward/midfielder with a tidy skillset in 2023 after playing a more forward role last season. His cousin, Tahj, is another name to listen for who might work his way into the team.

Jack Wilson has shown enough promise to attract mild external talk. Showed glimpses as a small forward last year; will look to build into the year after a preseason foot setback and will be looking for a body of work in 2023.

Sam Frangalas is a big-bodied midfielder ready to take the next step. He’s always had a striking physical presence and is tough in and under player; if he can match that with some neat foot skills on the outside and potentially the ability to go forward and impact, watch out.

Intercepting defender Kobe Shipp showed plenty of promise last season, including in the under-17s all-stars game on AFL Grand Final day. He will likely continue to set the Stingrays up with his overhead presence and foot skills rebounding but could be seen on a wing.

Murray Bushrangers

Coach: Mark Brown

Darcy Wilson is one of the region’s most hyped prospects, he is a smooth mover with pace and clean hands above his head and pouncing on the loose ball. Already has plenty of Talent League games to his name for the Bushrangers and showed he’s ready for a big 2023 with a strong showing in a practice match against the GWS Academy which included a couple of goals.

Phoenix Gothard is one who’s not in the Vic Country camp currently and is one from left field that it is hoped could start the season strongly. He’s a small forward/midfielder from Albury who backs himself to run and carry out of traffic. Has played senior footy.

Connor O’Sullivan is another one who looked good in the practice match against GWS, he’s a key position player who can go into the midfield and use his vision, smarts, and cleanliness effectively. Another one we can expect to hear a fair bit about this season.

Oscar Ryan will be a key cog for the Bushrangers this season. He’s shown he’s good off half-back and will hope to show his power and aptitude in the contest as well as ball use in 2023.

Connor Willis is another who gives rebounds off half-back and Harrison Hewitt is in a similar boat in that his game will go to the next level if he can show power and speed after recovering from a hamstring injury.

The practice match against Bendigo at the Hangar was Coby James’ first back from a shoulder reconstruction and he got through unscathed. Also tested well at the combine, and those athletic traits coupled with his read of the play make him tantalising.

Toby Cossar is a 19-year-old former basketball prodigy with a big frame whose ruck-work and physicality have impressed since coming in. Nick Newton is clean below his knees; Lavington’s Jesse Hart is comfortable in the contest and has a strong frame; while Mitch Way’s leadership and work ethic has been noteworthy.

Tasmania Devils

Coach: Jeromey Webberley

Arie Schoenmaker is a tall athletic left-footer who tested well to cap an excellent preseason, he’s one of several Devils to keep an eye on in 2023. A rebounding high defender with elite kicking penetration, he’ll play a similar role to Lachie Cowan this season.

Jack Callinan and Colby McKercher have both led from the front in the preseason. Both represent the Allies with McKercher having significant Talent League experience as a speedy left-footer in the midfield and Callinan not far behind him in terms of hype and experience.

Oscar Van Dam is one from just outside that upper echelon. He’s another that is said to have performed exceptionally well in the preseason, highlighted by a 6.10 two-kilometre time trial result.

The Devils have also got a few players to keep an eye on who performed at the under-16s championships last year and may play early as bottom-agers.

Oliver Cubank won the division two best player award at the champs and his agility and stoppage craft makes him hard to tackle. Max Roney showed last season he was a good runner and has put on size and Blake Harper was another who impressed at that carnival.

Geelong Falcons

Coach: Paul Corrigan

Archie Sinnot is a Geelong College boy who has trained with Werribee in the preseason. The left-footer can play either half-back or on a wing and is a Falcon to watch early.

Bottom-ager Liam Kershaw is a rangy tall who’s good overhead. Expect to see him cruising the wing in 2023.

It will be interesting to see how Tom Bartlett goes on some of the competition’s best forwards. He has good closing speed and is clever overhead making him good one-on-one.

All the usual suspects are primed for a big season: ruck Joe Pike, forward Michael Rudd, and midfielder Patrick Hughes have all had a strong preseason and have a strong base to build upon from 2022.

Gippsland Power

Coach: Rhett McLennan

-A few rucks who will be well mentored by former AFL-listed ruckman Trent Knobel will be looking to show glimpses for the Power. Lachlan Smith and Wil Dawson headline that crop with both already highly regarded internally from limited exposure.

Guns Zane Duursma and Archer Reid have had excellent preseasons and look primed to build on their 2022 form. Reid is the brother of Essendon’s Zach and a promising key-position prospect, while Duursma hit the scoreboard a lot last season and will rotate into the midfield in 2023 to show his versatility.

Sebi Amaroso is one with the potential to push into the Vic Country squad. Showed really promising signs as a small forward last season and will get a run through the midfield in 2023 where he’ll hope to bring his pressure and skills. Amaroso will also be going to captain this season while Lane Ward is another to watch

GWV Rebels

Coach: Dave Loader

George Stevens has long been viewed as one of the most talented in his class but hasn’t played a full season since 2019 because of the pandemic, and then an ACL injury. He will likely play in the midfield this season if all goes to plan. Got through his return match, a practice match against Geelong at North Shore, unscathed so has had a run around prior to round one.

Joel Freijah and Luamon Lual’s talent has shone through in the preseason. Freijah is a hard-running winger who is reasonable overhead and Lual is in the Vic Country squad and showed what he could do in defence last season but don’t expect him to live there in 2023.

Felix Fogaty, Deng Lual, and Brody Wright are the three 19-year-olds returning in 2023. Fogaty will play at centre-half-back, initially having played as a ruck-forward last season, while Lual will play as a light outside midfielder having previously been in a key position role. Wright has trained with the Geelong VFL team and provides a third tall option inside 50.

Ned Renfree leads a host of bottom-agers that excite the Rebels. He’s a strongly built power player with a good vertical leap.

Harry Charleson, Jonty Faull, Mitch Lloyd, and Ollie Hannaford are some others ready to show glimpses.

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