Having notched up two wins in our round robin against the Bulldogs and Giants, it’s time to take a look at the players we as fans were most excited to see on Saturday night. I speak of course of our latest batch of recruits, along with those who have been pressing on the fringe.
Saturday night afforded us the chance to get a look at our 2011 draftees in Jackson Paine, Peter Yagmoor, Marley Williams, Jarrod Witts, Michael Hartley and Caolan Mooney. After these first year players, we also got a look at second year players Alex Fasolo, Paul Seedsman and Jonathon Ceglar.
Rounding out this batch of fresh faces are those who have been at the club for a couple of years in Lachlan Keeffe, Tom Young, Ben Sinclair and Shae McNamara.
What follows is an individual assessment for each player.
Featured in both games on the night and if that wasn’t the original plan, then his performance in our first match against the Bulldogs ensured that he’d line up again to face the Giants. Yagmoor was comfortably our best performed youngster on the night, playing across half-back in a role he is already familiar with from his junior days.
We’ll be missing some creativity and class across half-back with the loss of Leon and whilst Yagmoor doesn’t appear to be in Leon’s league in the skill department, he exceeded expectations in the composure and output department. His left foot looks capable of being a genuine weapon and he was prepared to carry the ball when he had space ahead of him.
He’ll need to refine some of his decision making, but nonetheless he ticked all the boxes. He read the flight and drop of the ball well, enabling him to clean up the spoils with regularity whilst also keeping his feet in most contests. Even from the briefest of glimpses, I’m confident in saying that he’s good for a few senior games this year if we opt to rotate a few players in defence.
Our leading goal scorer against the Bulldogs, Williams took part in both matches and put in a more than solid showing. He collected respectable numbers for a first timer – particularly one off the rookie list – but for mine it was his work off the ball that was most pleasing.
Given the state of the game, Williams wasn’t really provided with a lot of space to showcase what pace or skill he might posses, but there is a ferocity about Marley that will serve him well. Whilst keeping within the rules of the game, he looks to put some hurt on the opposition whenever a legitimate opportunity presents itself. Far from picking players off, he attacks the ball first before locking onto any targets of opportunity.
In just his first game and with several senior players missing, Williams was a solid contributor and played a big hand in helping us get the win against the Bulldogs. With Macaffer being shifted to the long term injury list after the worst was confirmed, Williams stands a chance of earning elevation if he puts in a strong showing during the NAB Cup and early VFL season.
Like Yagmoor, he should definitely be persisted with for the remainder of the NAB Cup.
Our first live pick (not including Jamie Elliott) in last year’s draft was given a good idea of the step up in pace at this level, even during the preseason. Jackson struggled to get involved across both games, but there was no shame in being blanketed by a seasoned AFL player in Ryan Hargrave. After a quiet first game, Jackson got more involved against the Giants, finishing by kicking a memorable match winning goal, albeit unintentionally.
It’s a steep learning curve for a first year player to step up as a marking forward at this level. Even though Paine didn’t clunk any contested marks, his preparedness to back up the contest with desperate second and third efforts bodes well for the future. Outside of his miraculous goal in the dying stages, there was a passage shortly before where Paine collected a ground ball before standing up in a gang tackle, planting one of his tormentors with a strong fend off.
He’s already got some impressive size about him and we should use this novelty preseason competition to further his education on when and where to present. He seems a natural at holding up his end in the forward pressure stakes and once he becomes more accustomed to the tempo and structure, I’m sure we’ll see him get on the end of passages a bit more.
The loss of Macaffer may open up an opportunity for him as a third marking option who can play a defensive role up forward.
Quite possibly the most talked up recruit from the latter stages of last year and right throughout the preseason, Witts got a chance to strut his stuff as our primary ruckman against the Giants. He had a lively start to the game by following up his ruck work with intent, resulting in a free kick against after he poleaxed a much smaller Giant.
It was clear that Witts is very much a work in progress as a ruck, needing a lot of tutelage on positioning and how to make the most out of his significant size. He got lost a bit trying to lock up against his opponent at around the ground stoppages, where he would benefit more from just assuming front position as often as possible and focusing on the ball. This is to be expected at this stage though and he’ll undoubtedly learn a lot over the next 12 months from Jolly and Barnes.
In general play, he moved well and went back with the flight to influence the aerial contest on more than one occasion. He showed enough at the death of the VFL season last year and on Saturday night to leave us all satisfied that we’ve got a very promising canvas to work on.
Less spoken about, but just as good a bargain, Michael Hartley joined our list last year along with Witts from our scholarship scheme. As a fairly athletic 196cm key defender, Hartley is a much needed addition as we look to secure the depth of our key posts heading forward.
Without finding a lot of the ball on Saturday night, Hartley applied himself excellently to each contest that came his way. Matched up against Panos and teaming with Keeffe in the key defensive posts, Hartley prevented his opponent from having much of an impact and enabled our smaller defenders to clean up by ensuring the ball hit the deck.
At this stage we’ll be happy to keep things simple for Hartley, letting him hone his blanketing skills before we start developing his work going the other way.
Our latest Irish import was given a brief taste of the action against the Giants, coming on for roughly 10 minutes of game time where he was prevented from exhibiting his pace as the play never really broke open. He hit the contest hard and with purpose on a couple of occasions, showing that he’s not afraid of contact and is at the very least enthusiastic about getting involved.
Playing up forward, he was pinged for bouncing the ball while being tackled, a good lesson to get out of the way early. There has been ample talk about his athleticism and despite not torching any of the turf at Blacktown, he did show some pretty astounding spring heeled qualities during one aerial contest in particular, flying from three or so deep unaided to get above most in front of him.
He’s extremely raw as you would expect, but I’d be inclined to give him another taste during one of our remaining NAB Cup games. We’ll be able to see if he can get a little more involved over the course of four quarters, where the play is likely to open up more.
I have to admit, Fasolo feels a little out of place here. With all due respect to the youngsters – and even taking into account that it is only his second year – Fasolo is a lock for a senior spot come round one. It may just have been my perception, but ‘Solo looked trimmer and seemed to move a little swifter on Saturday night – perhaps the result of his first full preseason at the club.
Spending most of his time up forward, Fasolo was polished and created scoring opportunities with just about every touch. I would like to see him go back and settle when he marks anywhere within 50, as he can carry the journey and is more often than not a reliable finisher. At times he seems to be a little overzealous in loading up, when he should take a breath and call upon the Buddy Franklin arc from a set shot if need be.
He looks the goods to consolidate on his first season and has everything in place for him to stand up. After losing Macaffer for the year and the setbacks encountered by Didak and Krakouer, he’s more important than ever.
I hopped on the Seedy bandwagon towards the end of the VFL season last year and I was content with what he showed on Saturday night. He was most productive in the Bulldogs encounter, before being subbed out of the second game after minimal time on field.
Spending most of his time sweeping half-back, Seedsman picked up a few touches whilst sending us back into attack. His best piece was getting on the end of a transition in defence, before carrying the ball and hitting the best option 40 metres down field at half-forward. It’s the sort of play that should be expected – and under Buckley’s reign will be expected – but there are still plenty of senior players doing the rounds who would burn that kick.
I’d like to see him given a chance off a wing during the NAB Cup, as from what I saw last year he likes to chew up the space out wide. Was outshone by Yagmoor and Williams in the end, but is a player the club will be looking to debut this year after being named as an emergency in 2011.
He seemed a little timid during the early stages and went to ground contesting the ball a little too often, but continued to present and contest in the air. Playing predominantly as a key forward with stints in the ruck, for mine he seemed a little more composed during ruck contests than Witts and managed to get his hand on the ball more often as a result.
Ceglar showed last year that he can clunk a pack grab and the humidity and accompanying dew probably hindered him in the air. As a super tall forward/resting ruckman, he’s at his best when on the lead from the goal square. In a congested game there weren’t too many opportunities for him to present to a genuine ball carrier, something that will open up over four quarters.
Finished with a goal against the Giants after shrugging a tackle on the goal line and will be better for the exposure.
I have to admit that I expected a little more from Keeffe although he was reasonably solid early against the Bulldogs, only letting himself down in one instance when he lost touch against Liam Jones and ended up in no man’s land.
He is mobile for a man of 204cm, however he can be exposed for recovery speed once the ball hits the deck. His ball use and decision making is very sound, he just needs to speed up the decision making process at times to improve our chances of capitalising in transition.
I thought he was unlucky to be pinged for a hold against Giles of the Giants, but he’ll improve his chances of avoiding such calls if he can refrain from wrapping an arm around an opponent during body-on-body contests. He didn’t really impede his opponent and that sort of contest is often considered fair play, but he would probably be just as effective – if not more so – if he stepped off slightly and leaped into the spoil.
Was given a brief stint up forward without really seeing the ball. He still seems best suited as a key defender, but there’s no harm in rounding out his game and maybe giving him more time in the ruck and forward this year at VFL level.
He’s a player that we’ll be looking to rotate through the seniors this year and does have something to offer across half-back and even from a wing. His best period for the night came after being subbed on against the Giants, where he got heavily involved during perhaps our best passage of the night. He finished a nice piece of play by Fasolo by steadying and kicking truly, but let himself down shortly after from a set shot within gettable range.
He found a fair bit of the ball and looked to be the player who was going to steady us against the Giants, before a cerebral malfunction at half-back saw him undo a lot of his good work and put us at risk of defeat. A common criticism of Young at VFL level last year was that he often attempted to bite off more than he could chew, a tendency that reared its head on Saturday night.
At the same time, he can break open the play by getting the ball moving quickly or stepping around a player. He just needs to settle and improve his decision making in this area, because at times his methods appear best suited for the school yard and will be punished at senior level.
Young should get senior games this year and will be called upon to play a big hand in the fortunes of our VFL squad.
It was good to see Sinclair out there on Saturday night, as opposed to sidelined with some sort of niggle. Being played up forward, Sinclair was called upon to provide some zip and harassment to keep the opposition’s defenders on edge. Showed good composure against the Giants when he received from Fasolo and spotted up Luke Ball with an inboard pass, resulting in a goal.
We seem to have targeted small forwards during the national and rookie drafts in previous years and as such, Sinclair is going to confront a fair bit of competition for a senior spot. He doesn’t have the skill repertoire to conjure goals through individual efforts; but he does have the pace, tenacity and application to get to multiple contests with repeat efforts, creating scoring opportunities. It is a team game after all and his ethic would be respected by the coaches.
By the end of the night he fell short of staking a claim for a round one spot, but is likely to see more action in coming weeks. Needs to maintain his work rate, find more of the ball and aim to be a bit more constructive with it.
Was held over and played in our second game against the Giants, where he manned a key defensive post opposed to Israel Folau. In a single game he managed to rack up 9 disposals, which is most impressive for a 204cm import playing a position he wouldn’t have been accustomed to.
I admit to being a little surprised that we retained Shae and I have struggled to imagine scenarios where he would debut during the home and away season, but his performance on Saturday night has made me rethink my stance somewhat.
If he continues to apply himself as he always has, he could very well be brought in as a second ruck man who can cover the ground well and get involved in general play. I’m still conservative regarding his future prospects, but he was within our top 5 disposal winners against the Giants and deserves another look in against Melbourne or Adelaide.