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Opinion

Where is the best football factory in Victoria? Part 1

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Roar Rookie
18th November, 2019
4

With the 2019 AFL draft fast approaching, local clubs and young talents become the faces of the code across the country.

Academies, representative squads and development programs have been essential drivers for the careers of many AFL footballers and should continue to be in the future.

The NAB League has been main source of development for young footballers in Victoria. This includes stars and veterans we see in the game today. Such clubs deserve recognition for the role they played in many careers, which is the inspiration behind this experiment.

For each Victorian club in the 2019 NAB League, I will be compiling a hypothetical team of 22 consisting of current AFL players who represented those clubs as teenagers. These squads will indicate which precise regions of Victoria have a bounty of young footballers for the future.

Selecting 22 players for each program turned out to be a rigorous – and in some cases impossible – task. So the selection regulations are not tough. There is no minimum amount of games that a player had to have played for their NAB League/TAC Cup club. Players can be selected even if they haven’t played a game in the AFL.

Also, players can be selected even if they currently have an injury. However, the squads must still consider recent form. Each player must currently be on an AFL list – no delisted players are eligible.

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So what are these representative squads looking like? In this part we look at four metro clubs: Northern Knights, Eastern Ranges, Dandenong and Sandringham.

Northern Knights
B: Heath Shaw (GWS), Dylan Grimes (Richmond), Nick Vlastuin (Richmond)
HB: Aidan Corr (GWS), Michael Hurley (Essendon), Jayden Short (Richmond)
C: Brayden Fiorini (Gold Coast), Brayden Sier (Collingwood), Josh Caddy (Richmond)
HF: Kane Lambert (Richmond), Patrick Lipinski (Western Bulldogs), Jade Gresham (St Kilda)
F: Jack Petruccelle (West Coast), Kyle Langford (Essendon), Jason Castagna (Richmond)
Foll: Matthew Kreuzer (Carlton), Trent Cotchin (Richmond), Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)
INT: Darcy Macpherson (Gold Coast), Lachlan Murphy (Adelaide), Jack Newnes (Carlton), David Zaharakis (Essendon)

The Bont meets his people

(AAP Image/Scott Barbour)

Compared to the other squads, the Knights have a good list of talent, seven of which recently won a premiership. The one obvious flaw is in the tall forward department. At 191 centimetres, Kyle Langford takes that spot. In reality, if it becomes a mess, Marcus Bontempelli can move forward and the midfield slot can be adequately filled. Overall, the Northen Knights contain a solid recent history of players.

Eastern Ranges
B: Blake Hardwick (Hawthorn), Paul Seedsman (Adelaide), Ryley Stoddart (Sydney)
HB: Hayden Crozier (Western Bulldogs), Daniel McStay (Brisbane), Kade Simpson (Carlton)
C: Liam Shiels (Hawthorn), Adam Cerra (Fremantle), Ryan Clarke (Sydney)
HF: Jordan Gallucci (Adelaide), Sam Weideman (Melbourne), Christian Petracca (Melbourne)
F: Jaidyn Stephenson (Collingwood), Jonathon Patton (Hawthorn), Callum Brown (Collingwood)
Foll: Sam Hayes (Port Adelaide), Rory Sloane (Adelaide), Dylan Clarke (Essendon)
INT: Jack Maibaum (Sydney), Josh Begley (Essendon), Jackson Ross (Hawthorn), Dylan Moore (Hawthorn)

This team is very different to the team I drew up this time last year. Several new faces needed to be added to make up 22 players. Even so, there are solid players that appear out of position. On the other hand, the youth on display means that this squad could be looked at much differently in a few years.

Dandenong Stingrays
B: Shane Savage (St Kilda), Jacob Weitering (Carlton), Hunter Clark (St Kilda)
HB: Lachie Whitfield (GWS), Nick Haynes (GWS), Zak Jones (St Kilda)
C: Luke Davies-Uniacke (North Melbourne), Tom Scully (Hawthorn), Josh Battle (St Kilda)
HF: Bailey Dale (Western Bulldogs), Levi Casboult (Carlton), Jack Lonie (St Kilda)
F: Aiden Bonar (North Melbourne), Tom Lynch (Richmond), Taylor Garner (North Melbourne)
Foll: Tom De Koning (Carlton), Luke Parker (Sydney), James Harmes (Melbourne)
INT: Ryan Bastinac (Brisbane), Dylan Roberton (St Kilda), Bailey Williams (Western Bulldogs), Matthew Buntine (GWS)

Tom Lynch

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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This list is obviously flooded with St Kilda players. Again, not many players remain in contention beyond this 22. But this list is also quite solid. While there is no part of the ground that is dominant overall, there are stars throughout such as Lynch and Whitfield. This list has to be given a pass mark.

Sandringham Dragons
B: Matt Suckling (Western Bulldogs), Sam Frost (Melbourne), Christian Salem (Melbourne)
HB: Brayden Maynard (Collingwood), Jack Scrimshaw (Hawthorn), Andrew McGrath (Essendon)
C: Zach Merrett (Essendon), Josh Kennedy (Sydney), Josh Kelly (GWS)
HF: Tom Lynch (Adelaide), Jack Gunston (Hawthorn), Jayden Hunt (Melbourne)
F: Karl Amon (Port Adelaide), Tom Hawkins (Geelong), Oliver Florent (Sydney)
Foll: Max Gawn (Melbourne), Jarryd Lyons (Brisbane), Tim Taranto (GWS)
INT: Ed Langdon (Melbourne), Angus Brayshaw (Melbourne), Jack Watts (Port Adelaide), Ben King (Gold Coast)

What do we find in this team? Plenty of Melbourne players for a start. Also, plenty of names beginning in ‘J’. Most importantly though, there is plenty of talent. This even extends to players from the team that finished 17th in the AFL last season. The nature of these teams makes it a shock that Angus Brayshaw and Ben King have to be left on the pine. The one criticism is that there are plenty of good midfielders either in unfamiliar positions or left out. But that is a good problem to have.