Luke Davies-Uniacke is well placed to set the competition alight in 2023 after a stellar first game under new coach Alastair Clarkson.
In the Kangaroos’ first game of the season against the Eagles, Davies-Uniacke showed exactly why he has been one of the most exciting prospects in the AFL over the past five seasons.
Finishing with an electric 32 disposals and 11 clearances, the man they affectionately call LDU was one of the best players on the ground and a key factor in getting Clarkson his first win at North Melbourne.
With the game tightly contested in the early stages, Davies-Uniacke put his head down and tore through the Eagles midfield with brutality, displaying the exact form that had Roos’ fans salivating in the back end of the 2022 season.
Davies-Uniacke averaged over 31 disposals in the last eight games of 2022 as the Roos went 1-7, providing a shining light in what was otherwise an extremely disappointing season.
While his games last year showed how far Davies-Uniacke had come, it has been a long waiting period for the former number 4 pick. He was only able to manage 30 games across his first three seasons, with injuries hampering his development.
2021 saw him finally able to consistently get on the park, playing 20 games and showing flashes of what was to come, including a 38 disposal effort against the reigning premiers at the time in the Richmond Tigers.
Playing another full season in 2022 has meant the 23-year old is now fulfilling the potential that was shown of him before his AFL career, with round one showcasing that he isn’t looking to slow down anytime soon.
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His trademark poise around the contests was on show throughout the match as he used his explosive speed to burn his opposition counterparts and win the ball for his side.
Clarkson praised Davies-Uniacke’s performance in the win, saying post-game, “He’s a contested ball bull.”
“He continues to take his game to another level. He was really really strong for us today, clever with the ball. [He’s] so strong between his hips and his knees and very very hard to tackle.
“Those guys are worth their weight in gold because they draw two tacklers to them so often because of their capacity to hold their body in strong tackles. [Ben] Cunnington is a little bit like that too.
“He wasn’t as good as LDU in that space today but they’re both really really valuable midfielders for us.”
Davies-Uniacke’s second quarter was a particular highlight on Saturday, as he drove the Kangaroos out to a 21 point lead seemingly on his own.
When the Eagles managed to claw their way back into the contest he remained steady and solid in the midfield, refusing to be tackled and bursting through contested situations. 17 of Davies-Uniacke’s 32 possessions were contested, while also amounting five tackles and six inside 50’s.
Roos fans were treated at the end of last year with Davies-Uniacke signing a two year contract extension that will see him contracted to the Roos until the end of 2025.
Davies-Uniacke was well supported by debutant Harry Sheezel, who was spectacular playing off a relatively unfamiliar half-back.
He had 34 disposals and nine marks in his first AFL game, impressing his new coach and over 21,000 fans at Marvel Stadium.
“He’s a pretty special talent for us.
“We’re not really sure where he’s going to settle long-term for us but we just really lacked some polish in our back half…He did give us a little bit of that class.
“We didn’t have that against the Dogs a couple of weeks ago and then we put him there in the last quarter.
“Where he actually settles I’m not too sure but I reckon he might be starting at half-back next week.”
Sheezel earned the first rising star nomination for the year for his efforts, with the third pick in the 2022 draft already becoming a fan favourite.
Davies-Uniacke and Sheezel are now threatening to become one of the most exciting young duos in the league, combining for 66 disposals and being the two best players on the ground along with Nick Larkey, who kicked six goals.
This young Kangaroos outfit ran rampant on the Eagles veterans, particularly in the first half, with the likes of Andrew Gaff and Dom Sheed struggling to impact the contest against their more hungry opposition.
Luke Shuey tried hard to drag the Eagles back into the match, finishing with 27 disposals, while Liam Ryan popped up with three goals in crucial stages.
The first up win for Davies-Uniacke and the Kangaroos means that they will be filled with plenty of confidence ahead of their round 2 matchup against the second Perth team in the Dockers, who suffered a defeat at the hands of the Saints.
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