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.

Sun’s rapid Player Ratings rise no fluke

A BARGAIN recruit less than two years ago, Gold Coast onballer Jarryd Lyons has risen to be one of the competition’s top, and most underrated, midfielders.

On the back of a brilliant performance against Carlton last Saturday, Lyons became the first Sun other than Gary Ablett to enter the top-20 of the Schick AFL Player Ratings, at No.19.

Who needs Ablett anyway when Lyons is recording monster numbers as he did against the Blues, racking up 36 disposals, 26 contested possessions, 14 clearances, 10 inside-50s, a goal and a mammoth 919m gained.

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Hooray for Doedee

In just his second game, Adelaide defender Tom Doedee has received a NAB Rising Star nomination.

Doedee, who made his AFL debut in Round One, was strong defensively and also with ball in hand against Richmond on Thursday night.

The 21-year-old conceded only one goal to his direct opponents, and dropped off to help teammates.

He saved a certain goal in the second quarter when he launched and twisted mid-air to get a fist to a Reece Conca kick as it crossed the goal line.

Doedee finished the game with six marks, 11 intercept possessions and 25 disposals at a team-high 96 per cent efficiency.

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New Kanga embraces his licence to thrill

HE ADMITS at times to harbouring self-doubt, but North Melbourne recruit Billy Hartung is ready to use his licence for more aggression as he eyes a berth for round one.

On the eve of his fifth season, the 23-year-old believes a second chance under Brad Scott has him primed for a breakout season starting on Saturday against Gold Coast.

“He’s really given me the licence to take the game on, break the lines, link up and give that run and carry,” Hartung told AFL.com.au.

“I guess coming from Hawthorn there were times I wouldn’t back myself and take the game on.

“I think it’s being a bit more aggressive with the way I play footy (at the Roos).

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McCartin a bolter for early selection

SYDNEY could unleash 2017 draftee Tom McCartin within the opening month of the season, with teammate Jake Lloyd claiming the young key forward has “got the lot” to make it in the AFL.

McCartin, the brother of Saint Paddy McCartin, was the Swans’ second selection at last year’s national AFL draft after an impressive stint with the Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup.

While McCartin struggled to hit the scoreboard in 2017 — he kicked just nine goals from 17 games covered by Champion Data — his delivery inside 50 was outstanding, while his elite endurance was highlighted by a top 10 finish in the Yo-Yo test at the draft combine.

The 18-year-old caught the eye during the Swans’ AFLX campaign, with Brisbane great Jonathan Brown saying McCartin had “a great workrate about him for a key forward”.

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Skipper set for swingman role

Saturday’s 22-point JLT Community Series win over Hawthorn provided some early insight into how the Dogs might set up in front of goal this season, with star defender Easton Wood set to explore his versatility after training as a forward across the summer.

Stand-in coach Daniel Giansiracusa said the skipper’s ability to play a swingman role will provide the coaches with some added flexibility in game, while his athleticism and experience could make him a dangerous proposition for opposition defenders.

“Bevo likes swingmen in his team and we’ve probably been looking for one”, Giansiracusa said from Mars Stadium post-match.

‘’He’s the captain, so he’ll do everything right, he always does wherever he plays, but he’s a pretty powerful and quick player so he’s going to put defences on edge as well.

“He hasn’t played there much so he’s going to continue to learn, it’ll take time, it’s not an easy spot, but the things he’s learnt on the best forwards in the competition he’s now trying to put in place as a forward.’’

Wood was one of ten Bulldogs to hit the scoreboard for an overall return of 15 goals, from just 46 entries inside 50. Mitch Honeychurch chimed in for two, as did Bailey Dale and Jack Macrae, while Johannsion gave off three, to lead the Dogs.

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We adjusted really well: Lyons

Midfielder Jarryd Lyons led the way for Gold Coast as they held on for a seven-point victory in a scrappy game against the Brisbane Lions.

The attack on the ball was fierce from both sides and Lyons was heavily involved in plenty of contests.

With a game-high 33 disposals – including 17 contested possessions – and six clearances, he was one player who thrived in the conditions.

The heavy rain played a big part in how both teams approached the game, with Gold Coast adopting a very direct style of football.

“Obviously pretty scrappy conditions and we didn’t really get to play the way we wanted to play,” Lyons told SUNS TV post-match.

The 25-year-old was a big factor in driving the ball forward and typified the direct game plan, with ten inside 50s and four score involvements.

He was impressed with the team’s ability to adjust to the conditions and work hard at every contest.

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McNiece Breaks Through

Small defender Ben McNiece was restricted to just two senior games in his debut season last year, but an impressive JLT performance in Essendon’s win over Geelong has given him fresh confidence of a breakthrough season.

The 25-year-old played a crucial role in the comeback victory on Sunday, impressing with his pressure and repeat efforts – something he prides his game on.

“It’s something that I’ve tried to make my trademark, just that pressure on,” McNiece said.

“(I) don’t get as many touches (as some other players) and I’m really working on my rebound this year.

“In terms of defensive pressure, I’m trying to keep that as a maximum and trying to work on a few other aspects of my game as well to really help the team along.”

McNiece debuted on Anzac Day before playing just one more AFL match the following week in 2017 and said he was thrilled to be back into the senior team against the Cats.

“It’s been a while between drinks obviously playing Anzac Day and then one other after that, so it was really pleasing to get back out here.

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African-Australian players plead for unity

AFL PLAYERS of African descent have joined forces in a bid to stamp out anti-social behaviour by some members of the African-Australian community in Melbourne and to ask that the community not be stigmatised by these actions.

An open letter issued on Thursday by North Melbourne’s Majak Daw, Sydney’s Aliir Aliir, Richmond’s Mabior Chol, Hawthorn’s Changkuoth Jiath, West Coast’s Tony Olongo, Port Adelaide’s Emmanuel Irra and other prominent sportspeople of African heritage pleaded with the public not to attribute the actions of a few to the whole African-Australian community.

“As many of you are aware, there are current social and youth issues causing harm, conflict and division within Victoria,” the statement read.

“To be clear, we in no way, shape or form, stand for such behaviours, but we urge the broader community to not allow it to define everyone of African descent.

“We as role models and members of the African-Australian community have come together to promote and represent the majority of the African-Australian community that are contributing and valued members of this country.

“Within the African-Australian communities are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, keen university students, children and young people with dreams and aspirations to become the next Majak Daw, Thon Maker or Deng Adut; respected professionals in their own right. This is what should come to mind when assessing the general population of African-Australians.”

Aliir Aliir, Gach Nyuon, Jason Johannisen, Majak Daw, Reuben William and Mabior Chol in 2016.

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PLAYERS’ VOICE — JAKE BATCHELOR

I started off as a skinny, 18-year-old Frankston kid driving a 1994 Holden Commodore.

I left seven years later with a ton of skills and knowledge to help with my transition into non-AFL life, whilst driving a 2013 Holden Commodore.

Being in the AFL system is everything it’s cracked up to be. You build great relationships, you live a healthy lifestyle, you spend every day with 45 of your best mates and you get to play the greatest game on earth.

Having said that, it’s bloody hard. The constant physical and mental strain being put on the players, coaches, partners and families gets overseen because, from the outside, it’s all about results and nothing else.

My seven years were like most careers. Lots of ups and downs, injuries, form slumps and self doubt.
Self doubt ruins careers.

You bring a confident and free 18-year-old into the AFL system who is ready to take his career by the scruff of the neck, and unless you have AND utilise the correct resources around you, in the blink of an eye, your on-field personality can go.

You fear failure, you play safe and you’re scared to make mistakes because you think you need to be perfect. Unfortunately, I only realised this in my last season.

My seventh year, a year spent all in the VFL — besides one game — and the year of my delisting, was my most enjoyable year.

I built so many better relationships, on and off the field. I learnt more about myself and what makes me tick, and I managed to play my best year of consistent football.

Finishing off the year with a VFL premiership medallion would have been great, but the program was about the year as a whole, not the disappointing final two hours at the end of a very successful season.
What also came from a year in VFL was my silver lining. I found a huge passion for coaching, which if I played in the AFL team, I daresay I would not have found.

From that, I am now the defensive coach at the Frankston Dolphins who have rejoined the VFL. I’ll also be pulling on the boots.I get unbelievable satisfaction about helping other people achieve what they want, and with this role I feel I can contribute in helping others.

Although I no doubt would love to still be in the AFL system, I’m looking forward to my new life in Frankston, with family and friends.

Grand Final day was great, even thought I didn’t take part. I went through a whole host of emotions. Nervous, excited and disbelief come to mind, but the one that I can still feel to this day when I look back, is pure happiness.

No anger, no jealousy. Pure happiness.

I’m smiling as I write this while thinking about that remarkable day. People ask me what it was like to be there last year but not actually be part of it.

My response is that although 22 blokes played, 100+ people contributed to the club’s success, and that’s why I’m looking forward to watching another great year in 2018.

Go Tiges.

— ARTICLE CREDIT: www.aflplayers.com.au —

McCartin pens two-year extension


Emerging key forward Paddy McCartin has reaffirmed his commitment to the St Kilda Football Club, signing a two-year contract extension.

The 21-year-old put pen to paper to remain in red, white and black until at least the end of 2020.

Recruiting and List Manager Tony Elshaug said McCartin was an important signing as the club continued to develop its young talented list.

“It’s a great sign when one of your emerging players recommits to the club long term as Paddy has done,” Elshaug said.

“He has become a really popular member of our playing group and obviously sees a bright future at the Saints.

“Paddy has shown great character and resilience in the way he has confronted every challenge over the past three years.

“His work on the training track in the latter stages of last season and throughout the pre-season has been first rate and we’re excited by the player he can become in the coming years.”

McCartin said he was fully committed to helping St Kilda become a genuine contender.

“I love the club and I’m excited for what the future holds,” he said.

“The club has invested a lot in me and I look forward to repaying their faith.

“There is a great feeling among the group and we are really hungry to take the next step this season.”

McCartin returned to full training last week after suffering a minor foot sprain in early December.

He has played 22 games and kicked 22 goals since being drafted to the Saints with pick No. 1 in the 2014 AFL Draft.

Rising Ryan extends with Freo

Fremantle’s 2017 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee Luke Ryan has agreed terms to a two-year contract extension with Fremantle.

The deal will see the exciting young defender in Fremantle colours until at least the end of the 2020 season, with the extension on top of the one year remaining in the 21-year-old’s original contract.

Emerging as a part of a developing core of young players at Fremantle, Ryan said he was looking forward to seeing what he can achieve with the club.

“I feel very excited and very privileged to be a part of Fremantle for the next three years,” Ryan said.

“I’m looking forward to it. We’re all quite young and playing together so, hopefully, we’ll stick with each other for a few more years.

“I can’t wait to see how we go this year and in the years to come.”

Ryan went close to breaking an AFL record in his debut season, with his nine intercept marks against Gold Coast in round 20 one short of the AFL record.


Luke Ryan showing his marking ability against North Melbourne in round 16

He impressed during his 11 AFL appearances despite a hampered pre-season, dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries earlier in the year.

The half-back went on to feature for Peel in the WAFL finals series in September, winning the Simpson Medal as best on ground in the WAFL Grand Final against Subiaco.

“I’m feeling a lot better (compared to this time last year),” Ryan said.

“I had the shoulder injury, so I didn’t do much running and I wasn’t as fit as I am now.

“I feel a lot fitter and a lot stronger. I can’t wait to get out on the track and start playing some games.”

Ryan joins no.2 pick Andrew Brayshaw in signing a contract extension with the club this week, with the young midfielder extending his original two-year deal through to the end of the 2021 season.

General manager of list management Brad Lloyd said the excitement building around Fremantle’s young list made it easier for young players to make the call to extend their time at Freo. 

“Luke’s settled in really well. We’ve got really good facilities and a vibrant young group coming through at Freo,” Lloyd said.

“It’s a good lifestyle for the players. Luke didn’t hesitate to with the extension and we’re keen to see him develop.”

According to Lloyd, securing Ryan was crucial for a growing Freo defence.

“Luke has a key role in a young backline, he reads the ball well, he’s a smart player, he’s good overhead, he’s courageous and he uses the ball really well off half-back,” Lloyd said.

“He’s come back to the club in really good shape and he’s run well. He’s in the early stages of pre-season and we feel like he’s setting himself up well.” 

2017 PMG Draft Class

Phoenix welcomed a total of 10 new faces into the AFL via the National and Rookie Drafts this year. 6 of those coming from the National Draft and 4 coming from the Rookie Draft.

In addition to those picks, Billy Hartung was selected in the National Draft but North Melbourne after being de-listed by Hawthorn. Roarke Smith and Lewis Pierce were taken back by their respective clubs in the Rookie Draft.