Opportunities Grabbed In NAB Challenge
Sunday, February 21 2016 @ 09:15 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Wesley Hull
With six games already played in this season’s NAB Challenge, plenty of debutants, rookies and peripheral list players from AFL clubs have had their first hit outs of the new season. Their hope would be to string together enough game time to impress selectors between now and Round 1.
Many of those players are the international contingent – players that have either come to the game from overseas, or were born overseas and adopted our game – the international and multicultural players by AFL definitions.
A quick look through the performances to date sees some heartening performances.
(Image - Rueben William (Brisbane Lions) and Mabior Chol (Richmond Tigers) pre-draft in Queensland colours - Courtesy AFLQ)
The opening match of the competition saw Hawthorn select young New Zealander, Kurt Heatherley. One of the Hawks vying for a regular defensive position since the retirement of Brian Lake, Kurt managed five possessions and a couple of decent tackles in his match time. His teammate, Shem Tatupu, also from New Zealand, was in the original squad of 29, but missed the final cut. He is sure to get a chance throughout the remainder of the pre-season series.
Carlton played two of their Irish talents in the experienced Zach Tuohy and Ciaran Byrne. Both were amongst the action with Tuohy solid again in the club’s revamped defence.
Saturday’s clash between Fremantle and Richmond might have been a ten goal stroll for the Dockers, but the Tigers came up with one huge winner. Sudanese rookie, Mabior Chol, impressed in his first senior game. His seemingly modest five possessions included three marks, one of which was a strong pack mark, and his goal showed skills that defied his height and showed his true athleticism. Tiger fans are already salivating at the thought of how good Chol might be. In another quirk on the Tiger’s list, young Oleg Markov, born in Belarus with an Olympian father, played his first game for the Tiges.
One of the highlights of the North Melbourne/St Kilda match was watching Jason Holmes (USA-St Kilda) contest the ruck duals with Majak Daw (Sudan – North Melbourne). Both were getting to ridiculous heights off the ground at ruck duals. Daw had more opportunities around the ground with nine possessions and 23 hitouts, but Holmes did not look out of place with a game high 26 hitouts.
Sydney Swan, Aliir Aliir (Sudan) missed the final cut for the game against Port Adelaide after being named in the original squad of 29. In a sign of things to come, however, Sydney are likely to give him a chance in their remaining games.
West Coast decided to give Irish rookie, Paddy Brophy, a chance in their clash against the Adelaide Crows. In a besieged defence, Brophy found things tough against a rampant Adelaide. But his four possessions suggested that he was making progress learning to tempo of the game.
The Brisbane Lions would be well pleased with the debut of young Rueben William (Sudan). After playing just a half of the game, William managed six possessions and a couple of telling tackles as he proved he might yet be a valuable pickup for the Lions.
Coming NAB Challenge matches over the next couple of weeks might yet see debuts or opportunities for other international/Multicultural players such as Mason Cox (USA – Collingwood), Padraigh Lucey (Ireland – Geelong), Gach Nyuon (Sudan – Essendon) and more already mentioned.
But the first few days of the competition has certainly been a great showcase of future international/multicultural talent, pointing the way for the future of AFL football.