Who’s in the lead?

Draft prospect Hayden Young is having a stellar season for the Dandenong Stingrays. 195934 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

With just one round left to play in the 2019 NAB League home and away season, TYLER LEWIS has taken a look at the contenders from the Dandenong Stingrays and Gippsland Power across the season in his best and fairest form guide…

Based on the NAB League website throughout the season, the Stingrays and Power have entered their best players each round, with notable names featured every single week – giving the perfect indication of who has excelled this season.

With both sides featuring heavily in the Vic Country and National Combine selections, it is no surprise the stars are performing well on limited opportunity at NAB League level, while some of the bottom agers who have played more games have relished in the opening.

Dandenong’s Clayton Gay is a prime example. The left-footer has been trialled at both ends of the ground and his form has been recognised by the coaching group – but with the calibre of stars Dandenong has, the players who have missed games have returned in style.

Dandenong Stingrays Talent Manager Darren Flanigan wasn’t surprised by any of the players who have been regularly in the best for the Rays and has been pleased by each of their individual seasons.

“Bailey (Schmidt) had a slow start to the year but since he has come back from VFL football he has gotten himself a bit fitter and finished the back half of the year well,” he said.

“Lachie (Williams) started as a defender, had some good games back there and we pushed him up on a wing – (he) played Nationals on the wing and since he has come back he has been really serviceable, (and) had a good year.

“Jack has been a bit stiff to miss opportunity at a higher level, he has had a consistent year, probably leading our stats count – he just keeps getting the footy, (and) has the advantage of our best and fairest of not missing many games.

“Clayton (Gay) has had a really good year as a bottom-ager, I have been really happy with how he has played – he was picked in the Vic Country under 17s that played on the weekend and has equipped himself at that level as well. Clayton has had a good year, he has been quite versatile.

“Every game Hayden (Young) has played for us he has been really good, he missed a bit of footy getting a million kicks in the Nationals – he is just a constant professional.

“(He) plays a really high standard, presents a really high standard – I am sure he will figure prominently in the awards because every game he has played he has been in the best, he will go close.

“From what I have seen about Hayden he has been highly touted all year and his form at our level and national level, he is now playing higher up the ground – wing, inside mid, forward to compliment the fact he is an All-Australian half-back.

“His body of work this year has been really strong.”

Gippsland Power coach Rhett McLennan also isn’t surprised by the players who have featured in the best and fairest guide, and is thrilled with all their seasons as individuals.

“Ryan’s (Sparkes) year has been fantastic, (he has) been really consistent,” he said.

“(He) Started his bottom age year as a defender, (and) played some really good footy as a 16-year-old – played in a senior premiership at Inverloch.

“(He) Graduated up the ground into a wing position because we found his ball finding skills would be able to be displayed better to recruiters and he hasn’t looked back – he has very rarely played a bad game in two years.

“Fraser’s (Phillips) has been really good; he has had some dynamic games.

“His work ethic never changes, but he plays in a really difficult position being that half-forward spot – he can actually have some really has some high work ethic games and not have the output.

“His effort can’t be questioned, week in week out. He could turn into anything as his body matures further.

“Tye Hourigan hasn’t played a bad game in two years – absolutely sensational.

“(He) probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves outside of the group.

“We would like recruiters to show more interest in Tye because he is a talent that plays the percentages well and it may not look spectacular but it is extremely reliable – as a coach his name is the first that goes on the board every week.

“Sam (Flanders) is a really special athlete, really powerful.

“(We’re) Really proud of the way he has turned some good quarters and games as a 17-year-old into consistent week in week out football.

“If he gets on an AFL list, percentages say he will and if he continues that consistency he is going to have a really good AFL career.

“Brock (Smith) has been super, we had a chat to him earlier in the year because his best role is as a lockdown defender – he can get the toughest forward in the opposition side but what he has a great knack of doing is silencing them and getting a lot of the football himself.

“(As an) exceptional intercept mark, (he’s) extremely powerful and quick – it gives him the ability to play tall and small.

“A lot of clubs out there have a lot of love for him – as in AFL clubs – and we are really confident he will make his way to an AFL list and we are sure he will be well respected once he gets there.”

Here are the top-five for both Dandenong and Gippsland:


Hayden Young (27 votes)

Clayton Gay (25)

Jack Toner (25)

Lachlan Williams (19)

Bailey Schmidt (16)


Brock Smith (29 votes)

Sam Flanders (28)

Tye Hourigan (27)

Fraser Phillips (23)

Ryan Sparkes (19)

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