What we learnt from the NAB Cup week one
WHO LOOKED GOOD?
West Coast: The Eagles looked the sharpest of all nine sides, dominating Essendon for much of their first match and then dominating the Dockers even more emphatically. They looked a few steps ahead in both matches and would be pleased with not only the physical condition of their senior players, with Dean Cox and Shannon Hurn prominent, but the signs shown by Tom Swift, Koby Stevens and third-year forward Garrick Weedon, whose tackling and shooting for goal stood out. Brad Sheppard looked good running from defence while Josh Hill, traded from the Bulldogs in October, played higher up the ground than he has before and seemed to enjoy the space.
Buddy: Lance Franklin had 11 possessions, four inside-50s and kicked a goal during Hawthorn's 25-point win over North Melbourne. He did it playing through the midfield, which seemed simultaneously exciting and scary. It's where we can expect to spot him more often this year, if only from time to time. ''It just shows that Buddy doesn't need to be the key target in our forward line for us to kick a winning score. And he's such a beautiful kick, so he's going to be able to set up some things through the middle of the ground from time-to-time,'' said coach Alastair Clarkson. ''But we'll just see how it all plays out through the year. He's a very, very talented forward for us, so it's not like we're going to take him away from that area of the ground too often.''
Hawthorn's Lance Franklin sets off with Aaron Mullett of the Kangaroos in hot pursuit on the opening night of the NAB Cup tournament. Photo: Getty Images
The Giants: Three things here: they threw themselves at ball and body, they won their share of the footy and they spread at great pace, looking organised and well-drilled. If anything, they even looked a little quicker in the second game, when they sat most of their senior players out. A long, long season looms and the Giants will get tired, but they certainly have something to work with. Dom Tyson, Devon Smith, Jeremy Cameron, Rhys Cooyou, Tom Bugg, Stephen Coniglio, Curtly Hampton, Adam Tomlinson, Liam Sumner … in fact, most of their youngsters did at least one eye-catching thing.
The Collingwood kids: Collingwood took a young squad to Blacktown too, particularly for game two against the Giants, and coach Nathan Buckley liked what he saw. Peter Yagmoor, who played across half-back, Marley Williams, who kicked a couple of goals, ruckmen Jon Ceglar and Jarrod Witts were those he singled out, as well as Jackson Paine, whose constant competitiveness was rewarded with the match-winning goal from the boundary line against GWS. ''I was trying to square it up and do the team thing, but in the end it looked selfish,'' the teenager, pick No. 50 in last year's draft, told the Magpies' website after the game. ''In the end I got the goal and it was pretty exciting. I hope my celebration wasn't too 'wankery'.''
The comeback kids: Courtenay Dempsey and Ryan Hargrave missed plenty of football last year. Dempsey had a knee reconstruction and Hargrave a foot injury that ruined his season. They were out there for Essendon and the Bulldogs again on the weekend and both seemed to slot back in easily. Another Dogs defender, Tom Williams, also looked ready to go after shoulder and foot surgery at the end of last season. ''We need to get four or five games into him just to get that confidence back,'' said Bombers coach James Hird of Dempsey, who racked up seven touches against West Coast, ''but I thought he was pretty good.'' The news wasn't so good, clearly, for Collingwood forward Brent Macaffer, trying to reclaim a spot in the senior side after enduring a horrible 2011. He needs his left knee reconstructed.
WHO HAS SOME TIDYING UP TO DO:
The Bulldogs and Essendon: Both the Bombers and Bulldogs looked scratchy in both games, winning plenty of the ball - the Bulldogs in particular - but kicking erratically at times. Had Giants defender Tim Mohr not given away a free kick, and goal, for thumping a ball away in frustration, the Dogs might have lost to the new side. ''I think we've got a bit of work to do with ball in hand, with maximising our opportunities,'' said Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney, who liked how his side competed all night despite not being at its best. ''We now get two weeks off to provide some solutions for the players and come up with some training drills that put them in that situation and help them.'' The good news? It's still the middle of February. Teams are in different training phases. They have time to get things right.
Israel Folau: It's going to be a while before we can realistically, or fairly, assess Izzy's potential to make it as an AFL player. But his first night out was a quiet one. He started deep forward, struggled to work his body into positions to mark the long, high kicks his teammates tended to send his way, and racked up just a few handballs for the evening. His coach, Kevin Sheedy, wasn't too worried. ''The thing I liked about what he did early in the game is he actually went hunting, and that was good,'' he said. ''Now he needs to build up that aerobic capacity in the midfield to keep the ball in if he doesn't mark it … we'll just keep playing him until he understands and learns the game.''
THE NEW KIDS
Lachie Neale (Frem): Quick, creative and clever.
Cory Dell'Olio (Essendon): See above. A bit cheeky, too. Was robbed of a goal-square goal that came off his shin, not his knee, and wasn't sent for review.
Fraser McInnes (WC): Did some quick-thinking, nimble-footed things. Kicked a nice goal.
Brandon Ellis (Rich): Has a ready-to-go body, a nice kick, and goes after the football as if he wants to eat it.
Peter Yagmoor (Coll): Showed some really strong instincts swooping through the half-back line.
Poll: When should AFL players serve suspensions for offences committed during the NAB Cup?
- They should miss premiership matches
- They should only miss NAB Cup games
- A combination of both
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