With many football leagues shutdown across Victoria, the Goulburn Valley League's elite under-18 talents have a unique opportunity to rocket into AFL Draft contention should they compile some eye-catching form in the coming months. The News will be keeping a look-out for these performances, starting with a scouting report of Murray Bushrangers, Bendigo Pioneers and some other notable talents that took to the field at the weekend.
Billy Barnes: One of a few players to jump from the Murray league to a GVL club in recent weeks, and he started time at Echuca with a goal against Shepparton. Has been picked in the Bendigo Pioneers’ NAB League squad this season. Played 16 seniors games for Echuca United last season, finding six goals in the process.
Jack Evans: Few in attendance at last season's qualifying final would have forgotten Evans’ heroic six-goal quarter to drag Echuca's under-18s to victory from a 25-point deficit against Seymour — that is this lad's upside. If he could reproduce that form at NAB League level, he will certainly deserve draft consideration. Pios’ co-captain this year.
Joe Guiney: In the Murray Bombers’ best first-up against Shepparton. Is back in the Pios’ squad after three games for them last season, but it was his work as a vital forward option in Echuca's under-18 flag that caught the eye. 24 goals in 17 games of under-18s last year.
Josh Treacy: The 193 cm emerging monster joined Echuca from Cohuna and immediately showed his immense ability, named among the best. Is an AFL Academy member, and had a big 2019 with 15 games and 14 goals for the Pios. Co-captain this season.
Mitch Wales: Runner-up in last season's Pattison Medal. Was somehow overlooked for Pioneers’ selection, but starred against the Bears and slotted a goal. Really impressive type.
Ben Bath: Was one of the Magpies’ best in the weekend's loss to Kyabram. A bottom-age Murray Bushranger, the 190 cm 17-year-old could make a big impact when the NAB League eventually returns. Victoria Country under-16 representative last season.
Lachie Hill: Once again, the mature Euroa midfielder has been overlooked by the Bushies’ selectors despite a commanding season of GVL seniors last year. 13 senior games, 11 goals and five appearances in the best were not enough to make this year's squad, but he started his under-18 campaign with a strong performance against Kyabram, high in his side's best.
Tom Panuccio: The crafty Bushies-listed talent began his top-age season much as he finished his last campaign — kicking goals and among Euroa's best players. Has 11 goals in 10 games for the Magpies’ seniors and his form carried over to the NAB League last season with four goals in five games. Genuine AFL draft chance.
Mackenzie Cowley: Booted four goals in his first outing for the Bombers after making the shift from Tongala. The Richmond Next Generation Academy member won the Murray league's under-17 best-and-fairest in 2018 as a 14-year-old. Still 16, but this short season could be his perfect chance to break out.
Harry Mahoney: Mahoney was the first name out of Mansfield coach Andrew Browne's mouth when asked pre-season about exciting youngsters at the club. Back at the under-18 level, he starred and kicked a goal for the Eagles first-up against Mooroopna. Played three senior games last year.
Mitch Cricelli: Little was known about Cricelli until he rocked up and kicked a lazy nine goals in his first game of under-18s at Rochester. If that form holds he will be one to follow.
Nathan Kay: An interesting Pioneer who only played two games for Rochester last season. Has recovered from a knee injury and was good in his first game this year and kicked a major.
Adam McPhee: One of the most exciting talents out of Rochester in recent years. Made his senior debut for the Tigers last year and also found two games for the Pios. Standing 170 cm and weighing in at 65 kg pre-season, it's fair to say he's a small.
Achoung Agog: Earned Bushies’ squad selection as a bottom-ager this season after a monster year for Shepparton Notre under-16s in 2019. Kicked four goals in the Bears’ grand final win, and will be an exciting prospect to follow at the under-18 level. Elite upside.
Ashtyn Atkinson: Let's keep an eye on Atkinson this season after he switched from Rumbalara to the Bears after the Murray league's cancellation. He's young, but was in the Murray Bushrangers’ under-16 squad this season.
Ethan Baxter: Solid start to the year for the Richmond NGA key position prospect, among the Bears’ best against Echuca. Had a quality year for the Bushies last campaign, but he will need to find another gear to firmly insert himself into draft discussion, but his ceiling is the roof.
Jayden Gagliardi: Big things are expected from Gagliardi at the under-18 level this season before Bushies games later in the year. Along with Orien Kerr, Gagliardi put his hand up as an elite talent with a huge year for the Bears’ seniors in 2019, and three goals against Echuca at the weekend show he might be poised to go large this year.
Diesel Batey: Immediately earned Bushies selection after consistently leading the Swans’ under-16s in the SDJFL last season, one of the team's best in its grand final loss. There have always been monumental raps on this 179 cm machine, and he was among the Swans’ best against Shepparton United in round one, slotting a goal.
Josh Rachele: The crown jewel of the region's emerging football talent. Just tore the sport to shreds last season with eight goals in four games for the Bushies as a 16-year-old. A local junior football insider believes Rachele is destined for consideration with the first pick of the 2021 Draft. Was a Victoria Country under-16 representative last year, and will still likely grow from his current height of 180 cm. Enjoy him at the GVL level while you can because that ain't lasting long.
Bowen Calogero: Just one of seven Demons in this season's Murray Bushrangers squad. Started his GVL season well with two majors. Third in last season's SDJFL best-and-fairest.
Kade Chalcraft: Hit the ground running with a three-goal, best-on-ground performance to lead his Demons to a 45-point win. Turned in a huge 2019 with 16 games for the Bushies and two for United's seniors, and another strong NAB League season should put him firmly in the frame for at least a VFL list next year.
Jhett Cooper: Has been splitting the big sticks for fun in recent years, including on senior debut for the Demons when he kicked four goals. Has 60 goals in his last 21 under-18 games, including one against the Swans at the weekend.
Zavier Maher: Possibly the region's best 2020 draft chance, it is vital AFL Academy member Maher seizes his opportunity and turns in some strong showings in the coming months. The Bushies’ squad member did that in round one, one of the best in a loaded Demons side.
Kaedyn Napier: A big unit at 189 cm, Napier joined the Demons from Mooroopna in the off-season and earned selection for the Bushrangers. Two goals against the Swans was a great start to his bottom-age campaign.
Josh O’Dwyer: Joined the Demons from Numurkah after the Murray league cancellation, and immediately showed his skills with two goals and was in United's best. Played 10 games for the Bushies last season.