Not all clubs are busy with the NAB Challenge this weekend. Essendon and Melbourne had another intra-club hitout on Friday. Again, we’ve edited a few match reports for you from various sources (provided, of course). How did your SC smokeys and rookies perform?
ESSENDON (originally appeared in The Age)
Essendon’s choice to recruit Ryan Crowley was ridiculed in some quarters, but if his performance in Friday morning’s intra-club match is anything to go by, it will prove an inspired call. Crowley was close to best afield as the makeshift Dons took the track at Tullamarine in front of a small smattering of fans. Largely playing as a lead-up forward, and stood by James Gwilt, the former Docker Crowley slotted two goals and was generally busy. Despite having not played an AFL game in more than a year, his fitness did not appear to be an issue. Crowley wasn’t the only top-up player to impress, with former Hawthorn forward Sam Grimley moving well to be the leading goalkicker on the ground with three.
Of the Bombers’ nine confirmed replacements, all bar Mark Jamar and Nathan Grima took part in the match, which consisted of three thirty minute quarters, before a ten-minute last stanza. Geelong premiership pair James Kelly and Mathew Stokes were solid, with the latter slotting a pair of goals. Ex-Brisbane Lions midfielder James Polkinghorne looked serviceable, as did delisted Hawthorn onballer Jonathan Simpkin.
Vying to secure the tenth and final top-up position, one-time Lions rookie Sam Michael worked his way into the game, kicking two goals on Mitch Brown. Former VFL-listed speedster Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti excited the Bombers fans on hand with his game through the midfield. Zach Merrett, Joe Daniher (two goals) and Shaun Edwards also caught the eye with their showings, while early draftees Darcy Parish and Aaron Francis showed positive signs.
The only injury concern was rookie big man Gach Nyuon, who had to be assisted from the ground by trainers after appearing to injure his right knee. The Bombers’ first NAB Challenge game is against Carlton at Ikon Park on Sunday week.
MELBOURNE (originally appeared on Fox Sports)
IF the Demons want to hit the scoreboard more often in 2016, they’d best get the ball in the hands of Christian Salem. The small defender was a shining light in Melbourne’s intra-club match at Casey Fields on Friday morning. Salem, 20, was one of the only Demons to master the slippery conditions and his neat left foot consistently set up forward thrusts. He was restricted to 10 games last season due to a hamstring injury, but will be a key player for the club in his third AFL season. “He’s (Salem) always been terrific but he’s probably struggled consistently with his body. He’s had a few niggles … but he’s had a really good pre-season and he showed today that he’s ready to have a good season,” midfielder Jack Viney said.
Coach-in-waiting Simon Goodwin has preached offence this summer in order to lift the club’s average points scored beyond the measly 71.5 of last season. But just three goals were kicked in the first half, with key forward Jesse Hogan voicing his frustration at how his Blue team moved the ball. Jesse Hogan wanted more out of his team’s ball movement in Melbourne’s intra-club match.
The contest opened up in the second half when Hogan kicking four goals in a tough battle with Lynden Dunn. “It was a good first hit out. It was a bit scrappy early. Everyone was keen to get their hands on the footy. But as the game wore on we were able to move the footy and there was some good passages of play,” Viney said. “Jesse had a really good day, especially in the second half when we started moving the ball a bit better and he got better delivery. “He started to find the footy a bit more and kick some goals. He looks like he’s in good nick and like Salo (Salem) he’s had a good pre-season. “I think if we can get the ball moving the right way, it’s going to make his job a whole lot easier and then who knows? He could be anything.”
Coach Paul Roos was happy with how both the White and Blue sides fought back after a sloppy start and was encouraged by several coast-to-coast plays. However, he was critical with how the ball entered forward 50, telling the players they needed to be more patient in this area. “I think it was simply guys being excited for their first hit out. Guys were running around like headless chooks for the first quarter and a half, but after that everyone started to settle down and calm their minds, thinking through things and moving the ball better,” Viney said.
Draftees Sam Weideman and Clayton Oliver showed some good signs across the four 20-minute quarters. Melbourne draftee Clayton Oliver looked strong during the Demons’ intra-club match. Oliver was particularly strong in close and looks certain to play at some point during the NAB Challenge. “I think Clayton has had a terrific pre-season. He’s been eased into things, but today we got to see some really good clips of him. He’s super clean, big body and deceptively quick and agile,” Viney said. ‘No doubt he’ll be playing a few games throughout the year.”
After a terrible kicking error, which was characteristic of the early part of the match, Jack Watts was one of the better players on the ground. Roaming across half forward, he was an effective outlet option and used the ball with poise.
Former Magpie Ben Kennedy and Jayden Hunt showed plenty of spark, while Jack Viney and Aaron Vandenberg were combative. Rookie Josh Wagner got his hands on the ball in defence and former captain Jack Grimes moved through the midfield with confidence. The only injury concern was to ruckman Jake Spencer, who limped off with an ankle injury and didn’t return.
A dozen senior Demons didn’t take part in the match, including Bernie Vince and Nathan Jones who were both rested. The experienced duo are expected to take part in Melbourne’s first NAB Challenge match against Port Adelaide next Saturday.
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