Ratugolea signs on

A trio of young Cats have put pen to paper on new contracts with the club. Jack Henry, Quinton Narkle and Esava Ratugolea have all agreed to extend their tenure.

Henry has signed on until the end of 2020. After debuting in round two this season, Henry has gone on to hold down a critical role in defence. He has been ever present since his debut, playing 16 games straight. A local product, Henry was selected in the 2016 rookie draft and spent the 2017 season at VFL level.

Narkle has signed a two-year extension until 2020 after his AFL debut in round 15 against the Bulldogs. He has kicked four goals in his opening four games after overcoming a ruptured ACL suffered in 2017.

Ratugolea has committed to the Cats until the end of 2021 after running out for the first time in this season’s opening round against Melbourne. Ratugolea played eight games and kicked seven goals before suffering fractures to his fibula and tibia at the ankle in the Cats’ round 10 win over Carlton. His rehabilitation is progressing on schedule and Ratugolea could still play a further role this season.

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Rhys Stans Tall

Rhys Stanley – the Giant killer.

Geelong’s Rhys Stanley has produced one of the best performances of the season against Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn to propel the Cats to a critical late-season victory.

Stanley recorded the second-best hit-out differential of the year against the Demons’ colossus, stifling Melbourne’s production out of the middle in a crucial win for the Cats.

Brodie Grundy is the only man to have beaten Gawn in the hit-outs this year, with Stanley recording the next best result by winning 31 hitouts to Gawn’s 38 on Saturday night.

It’s a remarkable result for the Cats big, with Gawn dominating established ruckmen all season to drive the Demon engine room.

Gawn’s scalps this year include recording 39 more hitouts than Ben McEvoy, 35 more than Todd Goldstein and 28 more than Sam Jacobs.

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Tom Murphy’s contract extended

Four games is all it took for North Melbourne to make a decision to reinvest in rookie, Tom Murphy.

This week the club extended the young defender’s contract to secure his immediate future.

“To get offered a two-year contract I’m very overwhelmed and very appreciative, and can’t wait to stay with North,” Murphy told foxfooty.com.au’s Matt Balmer.

“Having a one-year contract, it’s a bit daunting as you don’t know what is going to happen for the next year, and it’s in the back of your mind.”

Murphy’s debut came in dramatic circumstances, when Jarrad Waite was a late, late withdrawal in Round 11 with a calf complaint.

“I wasn’t really sure I was going to debut like that,” Murphy recalled.

“It was a great experience and I think playing a few games after that you just appreciate how good AFL footy is and it just makes you want it that little bit more.

“It was a really good experience to be out there and I loved every moment. It was an overwhelming experience only having a couple of minutes to get ready and it’s not your usual preparation but it was great.”

Read more…Four games is all it took for North Melbourne to make a decision to reinvest in rookie, Tom Murphy.

This week the club extended the young defender’s contract to secure his immediate future.

“To get offered a two-year contract I’m very overwhelmed and very appreciative, and can’t wait to stay with North,” Murphy told foxfooty.com.au’s Matt Balmer.

“Having a one-year contract, it’s a bit daunting as you don’t know what is going to happen for the next year, and it’s in the back of your mind.”

Murphy’s debut came in dramatic circumstances, when Jarrad Waite was a late, late withdrawal in Round 11 with a calf complaint.

“I wasn’t really sure I was going to debut like that,” Murphy recalled.

“It was a great experience and I think playing a few games after that you just appreciate how good AFL footy is and it just makes you want it that little bit more.

“It was a really good experience to be out there and I loved every moment. It was an overwhelming experience only having a couple of minutes to get ready and it’s not your usual preparation but it was great.”

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Taylor-made: Why a Lion ‘couldn’t be happier’

BRISBANE livewire Lewy Taylor says coach Chris Fagan has given him a freedom to play with that has unlocked his best football.

Taylor will play his 100th game on Saturday against Carlton and says Fagan has had a huge influence on him since coming to the Lions at the end of 2016.

After winning the NAB Rising Star in 2014, Taylor’s form slowly degenerated over the following two seasons.

He was hesitant, inconsistent and seemed to complicate the game too much.

Then Fagan arrived.

“I had a really good pre-season and spoke with ‘Fages’ about where I could improve,” Taylor recalled.

“It just got back to what I could do best and that was to play some footy. It was great that he sat down one-on-one with every player.

“If you see an option, hit it, there’s no set structure with offence, just play footy and hit what you can and take the easy option.

“I felt like that was very helpful to me to just go out there and play.”

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I started in the Gold Coast Suns academy when I was about 13, but all the way through I was a crazy Geelong supporter.

As things started to ramp up with the academy when I was 15 or 16, though, my views started to change a bit. Geelong was my team, but I always wanted to play for the Suns at AFL level.

I’ve got a real connection with the club — I’ve been there for years and I want to see the club succeed. That connection made my debut game last weekend so much more special, finally getting the chance to run out for the club I dreamed of playing for.

I found out the news on Wednesday in a team meeting. We were going through a few things as usual, and then Stewy Dew said, ‘We’ve got someone debuting.’ It came up on the screen and the boys went nuts, which was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

I called my girlfriend Zali straight away, and she started crying as soon as I told her — I’ve been with her for four or five years, so she’s been on the journey the whole way with me.

The media team wanted me to keep it from my parents, and later that night they told mum and dad that I would be doing a normal interview with them. I asked them about family life and that sort of thing, then finished it up by asking them, ‘are you looking forward to coming to watch me play in Tassie this weekend?’

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If you were to take a trip through the Gippsland region of Traralgon during the most recent off-season, you were a chance to run into Geelong youngster Jordan Cunico going through his paces.

The young Cat had a troubled injury history during the early stages of his AFL career, registering one game in his first three seasons in the system after suffering knee and ankle issues.

Entering his fourth year at Geelong, Cunico decided things needed to change so he embarked on a mini pre-season when the majority of the football population were overseas for a well-earned rest.

Returning to his hometown during the summer months, the 22-year-old would regularly drag a mate to the Traralgon athletics track for some running and frequented his father’s gym to prepare himself for his biggest year yet.

“In previous years, I probably came back too unconditioned so it would take me a bit longer to get into the swing of things,” Cunico told AFLPlayers.com.au.

“But last year I came back fitter than when I left after following a running and weights program. I didn’t do much in the off-season this year in terms of going on any holidays or anything too fancy so I did as much training as I could by myself which has helped me since I came back.”

That’s not to say Cunico didn’t refresh over the summer period. The winger/half-forward just didn’t plan a massive overseas holiday.

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Tigers ruckman announces immediate retirement

SHAUN Hampson has retired from AFL Football.

The Richmond ruckman has been battling a chronic back condition for the past two seasons.

He announced his immediate retirement to his teammates on Tuesday morning.

The No.17 pick in the 2006 national draft, Hampson played 63 games for Carlton before adding another 35 games to his tally at the Tigers.

“Shaun worked bravely and tirelessly to give himself the best chance to overcome this painful injury,” Richmond football manager Neil Balme said.

“There is ultimately a point where Shaun must think of his long-term health, rather than just the immediate challenge of playing football. It was clear to Shaun and our medical staff that he had reached that point.”

Hampson has made headlines above and beyond his football career thanks to his high-profile relationship with supermodel Megan Gale.

“Shaun certainly loves his family and it was a very difficult decision for him to make,” Balme said.

“He is a very popular member of our squad and we thank him for his dedication to our football club.

“We wish Shaun, Megan and their children River and Rosie all the best for the future.”


Suns Academy mid to make debut against Hawks

GOLD Coast Academy graduate Jacob Dawson will make his debut for the Suns against Hawthorn on Saturday.

The 18-year-old, who has been in the club’s academy since he was 13, has had a strong NEAFL season, averaging 26 disposals and six tackles a game.

“It’s unreal, I still can’t believe it,” Dawson told the club’s website.

“I’ve just been playing my role in the NEAFL and trying to build some good form, but to get the news that I’ll be making my debut is just so humbling.”

Dawson was drafted as a category B rookie in the 2018 rookie draft and was upgraded from the rookie list last month as a replacement for the injured Pearce Hanley.

He follows in the footsteps of teammates Jesse Joyce, Lachie Weller, Jack Bowes, Brad Scheer, Max Spencer and Jacob Heron, who have also played in Suns colours after representing their academy.

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Dimma’s call brings tears for new Tiger

RICHMOND debutant Ryan Garthwaite was reduced to tears when he received the call from Damien Hardwick that he would be fulfilling a lifelong dream against Geelong at the MCG.

The second-year defender was thrown in the deep end on Sunday, sent to in-form forward Tom Hawkins after David Astbury failed to overcome an ankle injury.

Garthwaite said it was hard to keep his emotions in check when he was told of his selection just 24 hours before the match.

“He told me and I tried to keep my emotions together, when you get that it’s a dream come true and (I) shed a few tears,” Garthwaite told AFL.com.au.

“When he rang me, I was just sitting in my room, it was that surreal feeling.

“When you start Auskick at the age of six, it’s your dream to play AFL football. When that call finally comes, it’s like, ‘Hang on, it’s finally here’.

“The family weren’t originally coming down for the weekend but as soon as I told them, they jumped in the car and came straight down.”

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When Mum gave me away

My earliest memories are of living with my Nan in Geelong. I didn’t have much to do with Mum or Dad, to the point where when Nan said one day, ‘Your Dad’s coming to see you’, I was like, ‘My Dad? I have a Dad?’

I had no idea Dad was a white man, I just thought he’d be Aboriginal. I was pretty excited to meet him. We spent the day together and I haven’t seen him since.

One day out of the blue, my Mum came and got me from Nan’s and we went up to Broken Hill. I was born there, before Mum sent me and my older brother James down to live with Nan, while she stayed in NSW with our younger brother Thomas.

I ended up living with my uncle in Broken Hill after Mum just dropped me there and left. She did that a lot – just left us at random houses and disappeared for a couple of months. Eventually, Mum married our stepfather Vinnie, they had a couple of kids and we all moved to Red Cliffs near Mildura.

One day when I was about seven, the child protection department pulled up at the house and took me and James away. I remember thinking, ‘What’s going on here?’ I only found out not long ago that Mum had given us away.

They were always drinking and when they drank, there was a lot of fighting. I saw a lot of bad things as a young child that I’ve had to put behind me. No kid should see the things I’ve seen.

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Ronk inks extension

Sydney young gun Ben Ronke made quite the impression on the AFL world when he booted seven goals against Hawthorn earlier this season to earn a Rising Star nomination – and now a contract extension has again given Swans fans reason to rejoice.

The lively forward has signed a two-year contract extension and is set to remain in red and white until at least the end of 2020.

The 20-year-old grew up in Essendon in Melbourne’s north-west and as a kid lived and breathed the Bombers.

But after inking a new deal with Sydney, Ronke says life at the Swans couldn’t be better.

“It’s an honour to be able to sign on,” Ronke told SwansTV.

“Ever since I’ve been at this Club I’ve just wanted to stay. I’ve felt at home since I got here. The playing group make you feel like it’s where you want to be and I’m absolutely thrilled.”

The 2017 season was Ronke’s first in Sydney and in 2018 the Calder Cannons product has hit his straps.

He was thrown his first senior guernsey for Sydney’s clash with Geelong in Round 6 and made an instant impact, finishing with 15 touches, seven tackles and two goals.

Overlooked at the 2016 National Draft, Ronke bounced back to sign with Sydney at the Rookie Draft later in the month.

Although he didn’t land an AFL contract until his second shot, Ronke says all players are treated equally once inside Swans walls.

“It’s a place where you all come and everyone’s on the same playing field and you’ve got to earn your own respect,” Ronke said.

“Whether you’re the first draft pick or the last it doesn’t really matter.

“I’ve loved trying to win as much respect as I can and trying to work hard and it’s great to get recognised with a contract extension.”

Ronke made his first appearance for the Swans reserves side in Round 11, 2017 when he returned via the NEAFL from two broken ribs.

Almost 12 months later, Ronke is establishing himself in the senior side’s youthful forward set-up and says he has his experienced teammates to thank.

“It’s handy having Kieren Jack as my official mentor,” Ronke said.

“He plays a similar role to me in the side and if I have half the career he’s had I’ll know I’ve done all right.

“It’s great to have him around to soak up advice from and it’s also helpful sitting around players like Dane Rampe, Luke Parker and Lance Franklin, who you just want to soak up as much information off.

“My goal going forward is to just keep working hard and keep developing myself and try to cement my position in the side. I want to keep earning the respect of the senior players and keep playing my role.”

SOURCE: Sydney Swans Media

Cat arrives after long journey around the state

IF IT wasn’t for a spray Jamaine Jones received as a 16-year-old, he could well be lining up for Portland this weekend in the Hampden Football League.

The club’s Hanlon Reserve in Victoria’s south-west, just one stop in his whirlwind journey to Geelong, is a long way from GMHBA Stadium.

But the 281km separation seems only minor in the scheme of a life that has taken the Cats rookie to all corners of the state before an AFL debut against Carlton on Saturday night.

The livewire small forward spent his formative years in a group home in Mildura, waiting for someone to take him in after he was born in Broken Hill.

Lonely seeing kids come and go, Jones’ life changed as a 10-year-old when Geelong mother Sue Lovett adopted him into a family home with four kids of her own.

“From being in foster care, not knowing where I’ll be and for Sue Lovett adopting me, that’s hope,” Jones said on Thursday.

“I thank her for giving me a second chance, she got me here today, without her I wouldn’t be here.

“I hope there’s people out there that are looking to adopt and if you’re going to do it, I’d say do it because you can make a change to someone’s life.”

After several years in the region he now calls home, including an under-14 premiership with Belmont Lions, Jones was diagnosed with ADHD as the family moved to Heywood (near Portland).

Debuting as a 15-year-old for the local senior side, he won a premiership at 16 before catching the attention of North Ballarat TAC Cup talent scouts.

It was there that a shake-up from regional manager Phil Partington sharpened his focus to take his football to the next level.

“I didn’t make it (Rebels) in my first year because I didn’t take it too serious and I actually got a spraying from Phil Partington,” Jones said.

“He said ‘Why are you mucking around, you’ve got the x-factor’.

“I was shattered, but it made me stronger for the second year.

“I made it in under 18’s and that’s when it all came together for me and thought I can go somewhere with my football here.”

Jones knocked back the opportunity to move to Ballarat for boarding school, insisting it wasn’t for him.

Moving to Portland in the stronger Hampden competition at the same time as his Rebels commitments increased in 2016, one senior game was enough to earn a place in the interleague squad.

On the fringe of selection, coach Chris McLaren rolled the dice to select him alongside Brisbane midfielder Cedric Cox, the pair lining up with players almost double their age.

Jones turned heads with three goals to be named Hampden’s best player, quickly shifting Geelong recruiter Stephen Wells’ attention away from Cox watching live at the ground.

Taken with Geelong’s last pick in the Rookie Draft that year – a pick Chris Scott described on Thursday as “speculative as they come” – Jones spent all of 2017 in Geelong’s VFL team.

Lining up in this year’s JLT Community Series, Jones then started the VFL year in impressive touch, forcing his way in to Scott’s side after being named as an emergency the past fortnight.

“They called me into a room (on Tuesday) and they had three or four guys in there. They had one guy who was a payroll guy so I thought I was getting a payrise,” he said with a laugh.

“They said ‘you’ll play this weekend’, I was pretty excited and didn’t know what to say at that time.

“I said thank you, I’m pretty sure I said where are the cameras, (thinking) I was getting ‘punked’ or something.

“I’ve been dreaming of this day since I was 10, saying I can’t wait to get out there and I’m going to make it. It’s not just for me, it’s for my family as well.”

Jones’ family will be in attendance on Saturday night, the occasion made even more special as Geelong wears its Indigenous jumpers celebrating Djilang round (the indigenous name for Geelong).

And if he needed any more motivation, his little brother will be in the middle playing Auskick at half time.

But his eyes won’t just be on the new No.41, likened by some at Geelong to an ‘energizer bunny’.

“His biggest fan is Tommy Hawkins and not me.”

SOURCE: Mitch Cleary – www.afl.com.au

Ronke joins elite list

Among 1,413 players who have worn the colours of the Sydney Swans/South Melbourne through the club’s history of 122 years and 2,415 games, only 42 have kicked seven goals or more in a game. Or 2.97%.

At the other end of the scale, 423 (29.94%) never kicked a goal and 872 (61.71%) didn’t kick seven goals in their career.

The 2.97% who have kicked seven or more goals in a game are the truly elite. And heading this list is the elite of the elite. Bob Pratt, the club’s all-time leading goal-kicker, and Tony Lockett, the game’s all-time leading goal-kicker.

Pratt kicked seven or more goals for the Swans a club record 32 times in 158 games, or 21.77% of the club’s total of 147 games of seven-plus goals. Lockett did so 21 times in 98 games, or 14.29% of the total.

Between them the two mega champions are responsible for more than a third of the Swans total games of seven of more goals.

The newest and 42nd member of the ‘seven-plus’ club is a player who will quite probably be shaking his head in disbelief for a long time after kicking seven goals in just his third game of AFL football on Friday night. And in his first game at the MCG.

Ben Ronke, 20 years 144 days old, wrote his name into the club record books with a match-winning haul against Hawthorn.

He kicked the Swans first five goals through to the 6-minute mark of the second quarter, including four goals from four kicks in the first term, and added two goals in the last quarter, including the sealer in the closing seconds.

Playing 90% game time, the young man whose name is pronounced simply “Ronk” not “Ronky” as the spelling might suggest, finished with nine kicks, two marks, two handballs and 10 tackles.

A product of the 2017 Rookie Draft from the Calder Cannons in the TAC Cup and still listed as a Rookie in 2018, Ronke was the first player in AFL history since the League started recording tackles in 1990 to kick seven goals and have 10 tackles in the same game.

He was the first player to kick seven in his first game at the MCG since Scott Cummings kicked eight for Essendon there in 1994, and the first Swan since Barry Hall in 2002 to kick four goals in the opening quarter.

Interestingly, the young man in the #25 jumper worn previously by fellow “seven-plus” club members Laurie Nash, Peter Reville, Hayden McAuliffe and Barry Round, lived right up to the generous description of him written in the 2017 AFL Prospectus soon after he had been drafted.

It said of Ronke: “…an inside midfielder with elite speed who gets in and out of traffic well … his ability to hit the scoreboard is elite.”

In summary, and in tribute to Swans recruiting chief Kinnear Beatson, it said: “When the Swans rookie you, you’re every chance. Keep your eye on him”.

After his 7 goal performance against the Hawks, Ronke was then awarded the NAB Round 8 Rising Star Nomination.

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Ronke laps up ‘dream’ debut

Debutant Ben Ronke had dreamt of Saturday for “a long time” and it showed when he bagged his first AFL goal in Sydney’s win over Geelong.

The lively forward pounced on a Tom Papley kick sent cartwheeling into an open forward line, banged it through and punched the air in triumph midway through the opening term.

Every one of the other 17 Swans on the ground flocked to him like bees to a honey-filled hive and he said post-match his debut made for “an incredible feeling”.

“I’m still lost for words, I’m in awe,” Ronke said.

“I’ve been really pumped the last few days and the nerves crept in this morning. But as soon as I got out there it was all good.

“I just wanted to get that first kick out of the way and it was lucky enough to go through for a goal. I can’t describe it – it was amazing.

“We knew what we needed to do going into the game and getting it done as a team – there’s no better feeling.”

The 20-year-old was rewarded at the selection table for strong NEAFL form after he had averaged 21 disposals, nine tackles and a goal across the opening two rounds of the season.

He said in the lead-up to the Cats clash it was a “dream come true” to have been thrown his first senior jumper and the Calder Cannons product repaid the faith.

He grabbed a second goal midway through the final quarter to put Sydney within two points when he volleyed a Harry Cunningham handball in a congested goal square.

Ronke complemented his two-goal effort with 15 disposals and seven tackles and his pace and tackling pressure brought plenty to the Swans’ new-look forward line.

Lance Franklin (heel) joined fellow key forward Sam Reid (quad) on the sidelines as the likes of the smaller and speedier Ronke, Papley, Oliver Florent and Will Hayward came to the fore.

Ronke said the Swans were able to rediscover their signature attack at the contest.

“We came out in the first quarter and did exactly what we wanted to do – forced the scrap and played that Swans brand of footy,” Ronke said.

“We did go away from it a little bit in the second quarter which was a bit disappointing.

“But we regrouped at half-time and came out and went back to that high-pressure, high-intensity, aggressive style of footy that the Swans brand of footy is. We knew if we went back to that we could get it done and that’s what happened.”

Ronke’s teammates swamped him like snow after he kicked both goals but the newcomer said they weren’t the only ones who joined him on his special day.

“I had quite a few family members come down,” Ronke said.

“Mum, dad and all the extended family and a few mates came down as well.”

Source: Zachary Gates – www.sydneyswans.com.au

Dimma doing the hard yards

Though his new number is a famous one among brown and gold circles, Blake Hardwick hasn’t shied away from the newfound responsibility that comes with the No.15.

Left vacant by triple premiership captain Luke Hodge at the end of 2017, promising young defender Blake Hardwick was given the honour of donning his former skipper’s guernsey and locker number.

In 2018, he hasn’t missed a beat.

Known for his composure and clean hands in Hawthorn’s back end, the former No.37 has averaged 16 disposals, including four intercept possessions, at 81 per cent efficiency in the first six weeks of the season. His decision making is impressive, and you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d been in the AFL for a lot longer than he has when watching him go about his business.

Saturday night’s 35-point win over St Kilda saw Hardwick, affectionately known as ‘Dimma’, collect 23 touches – his highest disposal tally for the season and equal most across his short career.

“I thought last year my defensive game was pretty good, but I probably needed to get more of the ball,” Hardwick said on HawkTV after the match.

“That was something I worked on over the pre-season, and hopefully it starts to pay off.”

At 21 years old, and with 26 games under his belt, it looks like Blake Hardwick has laid the foundations for a long and exciting career in the brown and gold.