Fantasy, Firrito and future flyers

The boys identify some future stars of their respective competitions.

JONTY: Anzac Round, how good; one of the most momentous occasions on the footy calendar. Dave, you had some action on Anzac Day and Marcus, I know there were three huge games of footy in the Outer East so I’ll start off with you – what was the best action from the weekend?

MARCUS: My best action goes to a match-up between Mitch Thomas and Michael ‘Spud’ Firrito. Mitch Thomas is a young defender on the rise at Emerald; he won their best-and-fairest in a flag year last year and came up against a seasoned veteran this week, where two moments set the game up. In the first couple of minutes, ‘Spud’ had the ball with his back to goal and was looking for a teammate to handball to, and Thomas ran him down from behind. A few minutes later, Spud returned favour. Thomas had the ball at halfback and was looking for a teammate when Spud wrapped him up in a big bear-hug, front-on tackle.

DAVE: A Mumford-like tackle?

MARCUS: Yeah, it set the tone for the rest of the day. ‘Spud’ ended up kicking the sealer so he gets the chocolates but Thomas held his own.

DAVE: My best action is off the field. Sam Sollberger played the bugle for the first time up on the balcony in Pakenham with hundreds of people on the ground, hundreds around the ground, massive pressure on him. He’s got the microphone there and he did a magnificent job of playing the ‘last post’. Jordan Stewart tried his best to channel his inner Jamie Elliott on Saturday, a Pakenham defender, their best defender Marcus?

MARCUS: Mr Fix It, really.

DAVE: He went for a big speccy and got his hands to the footy. The umpire paid an unrealistic attempt, which I don’t understand when a player gets their hands on the footy. You heard the ooohs and ahhs from the crowd; it was a great effort. And Courtney Stephens from the Pakenham Women’s team, she won the league best and fairest two years ago and is a really good player that occasionally freezes in front of the big sticks. In the first quarter, she slotted a goal and the celebrations were crazy. She got the monkey off the back.

JONTY: Great to hear! I was at Endeavour Hills and East Malvern, with both teams undefeated to start the season but the gentle fixture Endeavour Hills had in the lead-in to this one really showed. They had no key defender to go with Isaac Morrisby who kicked eight goals. One player who kept the Falcons in it during the second quarter was Alex Cann, who took three contested marks deep inside 50 and kicked three crucial goals in that term alone. It had them within touching distance at halftime before they did fade. They had most of the second quarter on their terms but without Cann, they would not have been able to convert any of that on the scoreboard. It’s good to see he has adapted to the step up to Division 2 footy after playing a key role in their flag last year.

DAVE: Where will East Malvern finish, Jonty?

JONTY: They’re definitely heavily in the mix for the top two.

DAVE: So it’s not too bad from Endeavour Hills then?

JONTY: They went okay in the first half.


JONTY: I watched on Saturday Jake Fraser-McGurk score 84 off 37 balls in the Indian Premier League, he seems to be doing something every time he bats at the moment. Obviously, he made his international debut earlier this year. He’s gone from someone not many have heard of and, if they had, it was as the kid who hadn’t yet delivered, to someone who has taken the cricketing world by storm in about six months.

MARCUS: He’s really rising in your rankings isn’t he?

JONTY: He’s almost above Glenn Maxwell now.

DAVE: Could he be another Dave Warner and progress to test match cricket?

JONTY: His defence remains questionable. My question for you off the back of that is who have been the players who have risen quickly in the local scene, Dave?

DAVE: When you do scoreboards, you see these names in the fourths and the thirds that are kicking a lot of goals and all of a sudden, they’re playing senior footy. There’s a young kid who doesn’t have much size about him from Tooradin-Dalmore called Panos Papas. He’s full of energy, pace and determination. He kicked a couple of goals for Tooradin on Anzac Day, I think he’s a bit of a rising star. And I have got a bit of a women’s flavour in the Let’s Talk Sport this week. Abbey McKenzie played juniors for Pakenham and has come up to senior footy. She played midfield in juniors and now she’s on a halfback flank and she’s absolutely smashing it. Almost been the best on ground for the first three weeks. She’s as tiny as they come but a gun running off half-back.

MARCUS: Very good. I think Noah Van Haren is one at Emerald. He is a youngster who offers real creative flair for the Bombers in their forward half. He kicked an impressive goal from the pocket when his team needed one on Saturday and he is held in very high regard at the club. When David Johnson won his best on ground in the grand final, he put his medal around Noah because he injured his collarbone the week before. He’s only 19 or 20-years-old and has some tricks. Ben Schulze at Gembrook Cockatoo is still quite young and holding down a key-position role just because they don’t have a lot of height. He kept David Johnson quiet and ‘Spud’ is very impressed by what he has brought to the team.

JONTY: From my end, there are two pretty clear ones. Ryan Koo has been added to the Devon Meadows leadership group this year and is coming in a rush. He’s getting a lot of midfield minutes for them following a season listed at Casey VFL and that’s off the back off some hard work. And Andy Green is another one. I profiled him 10-12 weeks ago. He came to Victoria in 2022 having never previously played outside the NT and after a season with Cranbourne, he not only made Casey’s list but was selected at the first available opportunity. He’s Cranbourne’s go-to man coming out of their defence.


JONTY: Speaking of go-to men coming out of defence, they’re the sort of players that often score well in fantasy football games. If there was a local fantasy football, who would be your first forward, midfielder and defender selected? I’ll start with you, Marcus.

MARCUS: One of your favourites, Jonty, Riley Hillman. He’s under a lot of pressure in the Berwick Springs backline, takes intercept marks and is a good user by foot so that is going to get him a lot of points. In the midfield, I’m going with Narre Warren’s Tom Toner because I know what I’m going to get from him: big numbers and goals, he’s a real match-winner and a pivotal piece in the Narre Warren midfield and with more responsibility this year. Up forward, he’s shaping as one of the more important ins this year in Outer East, Jake Gains. He can play all over the ground, he’s mobile and ‘Charlesy’ has raved about him every time he has had the chance. He’s come back from Noble Park this year.

DAVE: Jake’s a good player, I remember him coming through the ranks at Berwick. I’ve got two star full forwards to pick from: Dermott Yawney and Nathan Gardiner. Yawney kicked 10 against Bunyip last week and Gardiner said ‘up yours, Yawns, I’ll kick 11 against them this week!’ They’ve got a beautiful running battle going but I am going to go for a player from Phillip Island called Billy Taylor. He gets right up the ground, plays like a halfback, gets back and helps and then burns his defender on the way back to goals. He gets lots of one-twos which would be good for his fantasy score. He can also kick goals in a hurry. Trent Armour from Nar Nar Goon is widely regarded as the best midfielder in the comp, even with Jimmy Munro now in the competition. He’s only 23-24 and the only thing stopping him from going higher is that he’s happy to play with his mates. And what would LTS be without the Dusties? Travis Ogden is a classy left footer, plays off halfback, gets stacks of the ball and would constantly rack up the points.

JONTY: Well summed up. I’d have Luke Peters from Endeavour Hills. He has a really important presence in the air and a good distributor from back half; a star on the rise. In the midfield I would have Jayden Weichard from Hampton Park; he’s a natural ball winner and has contributed well to a strong start to the season. Would have had about 40 on the weekend I’m told and that’s becoming customary. In the forward line, I’d have Patrick Ryder – he kicks goals, takes marks and sets them up. Almost all of his touches seem to be score involvements so he would score well and consistently for a big forward.

DAVE: Is he playing purely forward?

JONTY: Yeah, they have a good young ruck that plays there.


JONTY: Who is a player who has taken a big step forward to start the season? I’ll start with you, Marcus.

MARCUS: Joel Firrito is a mobile forward; the second season in the premier division is holding him in really good stead. He’s a weapon in the forward line now whereas last year he was more in the role-player category. Mitch Tonna at Narre Warren, his coach Steve Kidd had an incredible line about him the other day: “It’s the one percenters I guess and his determination to see the team hold its position in the pecking order; he’s so determined to make that happen.” He’s taken a step forward. Dave, I might be beating you to this one, Rhys Brooks. He’s someone who wasn’t a senior player at Pakenham last year and three games in; he seems entrenched in the senior side.

DAVE: At the end of last season, he was 125kgs and only stands about six foot tall. He’s always had the skills and good hands and decision making but his fitness let him down. He jumped on the scales on the weekend and they’re reading double figures so it is a massive effort to drop more than 25 kilograms. He was named in the best again on Saturday. Well done to Brooksy; you’re inspiring people mate.

JONTY: An inspiring journey similar to Liam Bertrand.

DAVE: Exactly, my shout-out goes to Eamon Trigg. He was one of the best rucks in the league and went down with a lower leg injury early last year which opened the opportunity to Nate Pipicelli to come in as a 17-year-old. He surprised everyone with how good he was. This year Nate hasn’t been there, and ‘Triggy’ has come back. It’s funny how Nate was desperately required because Eamon went down and now Eamon is desperately required because of Nate’s absence. Taking a big step forward is a stretch because he’s already a gun but having him back is a big step forward for Nar Nar Goon. There’s a bloke who goes under the radar from Cora Lynn, his name is Luke Hartley. He starts forward and goes into the mid for a percentage of the game. He plays an important role for Cora Lynn and I think he should be noted by opposition coaches more. He gives them a fair bit of structure and whenever the ball goes forward he’s always fighting for the ball.

JONTY: Good to hear him get a shout-out. Kayla Dalgleish from the Dandenong Stingrays and Officer has gone from being a highly-regarded bottom-ager to this year showing what she could do firstly at the pre-season testing. She tested the best of anyone around the country, so showed her athleticism, and then played in the midfield for the first couple of weeks to show her fierceness and tenacity. On the weekend she played forward and kicked 5.2 to show that athleticism and marking. It showed her well-rounded game and versatility to boot. And Joel Hillis is well-known in local circles but has taken his footy to the next level after playing a season in the NTFL. His fitness and touch is outstanding at the moment for Devon Meadows. That’ll do us for another week…we’ll see you at the footy!