14/04/2024

Jake Bowey keeps pulling in the accolades in his young career. (Photo: Melbourne FC)

Jake Bowey's seamless transition into the injured Christian Salem's role has once again shown the strength of the youth at Melbourne's disposal.

Not many reigning premiership sides also have the luxury of holding spades of ready-to-go young talent on their lists.

But Simon Goodwin’s inexperienced charges are leading the way at Melbourne. None more so than nine-gamer Jake Bowey.

The 19-year-old defender has one of the best resumes in the AFL currently: a premiership cup, two Rising Star nominations, and nine undefeated games straight since his debut at the end of 2021.

He received his second Rising Star nomination in last weekend’s win over Gold Coast. Bowey finished the game with 34 disposals at 79 per cent efficiency, 16 intercept possessions, nine marks, and seven rebound 50s.

It was a career-best night for the burgeoning defensive star. Though he has had his hands on the ball more than his fair share, Bowey is typically also tasked with a one on one role.

With defensive stalwart Christian Salem sidelined however, Goodwin has seen the potential for Bowey to take up a new role.

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“He brings a smile to my face Jake, he’s one of those lads that does everything right,” Goodwin told media on Tuesday.

“He’s got some really good training habits. He’s performed really strongly again on the weekend. It’s nine games into a career that’s been pretty special so far, and he’s only going to get better and better.

“The thing I loved about his game is that he was still really strong defensively… but he got his rewards offensively. He picked up the slack that Christian Salem has left behind in that space.

“We’re really comfortable with how the back six is playing.”

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But it’s not just Bowey that is continuing to impress the coach, teammates and fans alike.

Last year’s Rising Star winner Luke Jackson is taking his game to the next level week after week. On Saturday night, he had 21 disposals, 16 hit outs, seven clearances, four inside 50s, four tackles, and kicked two goals against the formidable duo of Jarrod Witts and Mabior Chol.

Amidst rampant speculation of contract offers from all across Australia, Goodwin continues to watch the young star grow before his eyes.

“He [Jackson] is a cracking person, and we see the talent we’ve got with the player there,” the coach said.

“We’ve had some really good discussions with Luke about his contract and his position at our club moving forward. One thing I know about Luke is that he loves his teammates and he loves his club.

“We’re really comfortable where it sits with him. He’ll get paid what he deserves over time, like any player does in our industry.”

Forward depth

With a strong and settled forward line at his disposal, there’s plenty knocking on the door to try and break through and shake the Dees’ 22 up for the clash against Essendon on Friday night.

But in current form, there’s few that look in danger of losing that spot. Alex Neal-Bullen has been in career-best nick, Kysaiah Pickett and Charlie Spargo continue to do great work at ground level, while Tom McDonald, Bailey Fritsch and Ben Brown are still a lethal aerial combo.

The VFL returned last weekend, and with it, the chance for players to make their case.

Between them, veteran Mitch Brown, and youngsters Jacob van Rooyen and Toby Bedford kicked 13 goals for the Casey Demons. Particularly noticeable was Brown’s haul of seven.

Goodwin believes that pressure for spots can only be a good thing.

“There’s enormous pressure coming from underneath in the VFL, and that’s putting a lot of pressure on the current team, which is a great position to be in,” he said.

“Mitch Brown has had a couple of outstanding weeks… Toby Bedford came in the other week and played some really strong footy and continued to do it at VFL level again.

“Jacob, in his first year, has kicked three goals in his first game of VFL footy… it’s putting enormous pressure on the AFL team. I’m sure those guys are going to get rewarded at the right time when the opportunity is presented.”

Melbourne goes head-to-head with Essendon on Friday night, having won four of their last fives encounters against it.

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