Smithy's VFL Off-Season Update: Geelong Cats, Gold Coast SUNS, GWS GIANTS (2023)

Part four of the Smithy's VFL off-season update reviews all changes across the Geelong Cats, Gold Coast SUNS and GWS GIANTS.

Geelong had the longest-serving VFL coach in Shane O’Bree, but when he was promoted onto the AFL assistant coaching staff after seven years in the job, the Cats didn’t want just anyone to replace him. So they went straight to the top and poached Casey Demons premiership coach Mark Corrigan on a three-year deal. It is a homecoming for Corrigan, who played in the Cats’ 2012 VFL premiership team and won their best and fairest in 2013.

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Geelong co-captains Jackson McLachlan and Matt Ling have both departed the Cattery, heading to WAFL club Swan Districts and SANFL outfit Norwood respectively. McLachlan, 24, played all 18 matches last year for a total of 56. Former Swan Ling, 23, also played every game for a total of 41. The pair finished joint runner-up in the Vic Fuller Medal.

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The Cats will be without experienced ruckman/defender Lachie Waddell after he retired from VFL footy for a second time. Waddell, 27, played eight matches for the Cats last year after 59 at Port Melbourne from 2014-19, but has decided to play for Eastern league club Doncaster East this year.

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Young Corowa-Rutherglen and Murray Bushrangers key defender Ryan Eyers will continue his chase for an AFL list spot by joining Geelong’s VFL team. The 19-year-old moved from attack to defence for the Bushrangers last year, averaging 16.9 disposals, 7.2 marks and 3.5 rebounds in 13 NAB League games. He is the son of dual Ovens and Murray premiership ruckman and Kangaroos club great Brendan Eyers.

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Two former Geelong players will be teammates again this year with departing duo Luke Dahlhaus and Paul Tsapatolis joining Western Region club Point Cook. Dahlhaus played seven VFL games for a total of 13. He played 225 AFL matches for Western Bulldogs and the Cats and was a member of the Bulldogs' 2016 premiership team. Tsapatolis, 20, was a project ruckman, lining up 12 times last year and averaging 9.8 hitouts.

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(Video) Match Highlights: Gold Coast v Geelong | AAMI Community Series | 2022 | AFL

Geelong has a host of young AFL Barwon hopefuls at training in search of VFL list spots, according to the Geelong Advertiser. They include Bell Park pair Jack Sarcevic and Zac Mirkovic, Geelong West’s Tanner Lewis, Modewarre’s Morgan Fenton, North Shore’s Kyle Skene, Ocean Grove’s Kye Annand and St Josephs’ Lewis Antonac.

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Geelong Falcons star Euriah Hollard is also training with the Cats, the Geelong Advertiser reports. Hollard played 11 games for the Falcons in 2022, averaging 14.8 disposals and kicking 20 goals, including one after the siren to draw with the Bendigo Pioneers. Originally from Lavington, NSW, he also managed two VFL appearances for the GWS GIANTS.

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There are reports of three key signings at GMHBA Stadium, with delisted Essendon midfielder Brayden Ham, Northern Bullants forward Tynan Smith and Port Melbourne youngster Oscar Morrison linked to the Cats. Ham played 45 AFL and 24 VFL games for the Bombers. He averaged 21.4 touches and 5.7 marks in 10 VFL matches last year. Smith kicked 15 goals in 14 matches for the Bullants last year for totals of 37 and 29 across three seasons (the first at Essendon). Morrison, 19, debuted for the Borough last year and played four times, averaging 7.3 touches. Ham and Morrison are both from Geelong.

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A quintet of crucial players have recommitted to GMHBA Stadium. Vic Fuller medallist Jye Chalcraft, best first-year player Ben Lloyd, the experienced Oliver Tate, Dan Capiron and Angus Byrne.

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Mid-season draftee Zane Williams has returned home to Woodville-West Torrens after just six months at the Cats. Williams, 21, played nine VFL matches for Geelong, averaging 10 disposals.

The remarkable rise of young coach Jackson Kornberg has continued with the SUNS promoting him to take charge of their Academy High Performance Program. Kornberg, 29, led Sandringham Dragons to 8-1 and top spot in the cancelled 2021 NAB League season before being appointed as Gold Coast’s VFL coach last year and guiding the Suns to their first State league preliminary final. He will be a development coach working with the VFL forwards, in addition to his Academy role. Former Brisbane Lions player Josh Drummond has been named as the new VFL coach. Drummond played 94 AFL games for the Lions from 2005-12 and moves from being an assistant coach of the AFL defence.

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Western Sydney local Jake Stein lost his spot on the GIANTS’ list at the end of last year, but his AFL dream is alive after being taken by Gold Coast in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft. Stein, 28, played 60 NEAFL/VFL games for the GIANTS, including nine last year for career-best averages of 19.4 disposals, 6.4 marks and 8.3 rebounds.

(Video) GWS Giants v Gold Coast Suns Highlights | Round 3, 2022 | AFL

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NT Thunder Academy member Lloyd Johnston, 19, made his presence felt in two VFL games for the SUNS last year – enough to be added to the AFL list as a Category B rookie – a promotion that will see him play a lot more VFL footy this year as he continues his development.

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Southport Sharks star Boyd Woodcock is training at Gold Coast in a bid to earn a second AFL chance. Woodcock, 22, joined Southport last year after being delisted by Port Adelaide and set the VFL alight, playing 20 matches, averaging 28 disposals, while kicking 22 goals to finish equal-second in the J.J. Liston Trophy. Frankston’s leading goal kicker Brodie McLaughlin, who booted 24 goals in 12 games last year, is training for the same position.

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Southport has done it again, landing key defender Matt Conroy and SUNS Academy graduat Jed Foggo from the SUNS. 22-year-old Conroy played 20 VFL games for Gold Coast last year for a total of 25. 19-year-old Foggo, who is a Palm Beach-Currumbin product, played 11 of his 12 games for the Suns last season.

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Delisted Gold Coast player Patrick Murtagh has turned his attention to American football, earning a spot in the NFL Academy, according to Code Sports. Murtagh, 21, played 18 VFL games for the Suns last year but couldn’t break through for an AFL debut.

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SUNS Academy Player of the Year Brinn Little, 19, who played five VFL games last year, has joined SANFL club Central District. Little was trialling for a Suns’ Supplementary Selection Period promotion alongside Woodcock and McLaughlin but has now headed south.

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VFL captain Jez McLennan has returned home to South Australia and Central District after being delisted by the SUNS. McLennan played all 21 VFL matches for Gold Coast last year for a total of 44, averaging 18.1 possessions and 4.7 marks. He played five SANFL games for the Bulldogs before being drafted.

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(Video) Gold Coast Suns v North Melbourne Highlights | Round 12, 2022 | AFL

SUNS Academy graduate Rhys Nicholls will ply his trade with West Adelaide in the SANFL after being delisted. The 20-year-old played 18 VFL matches last year, averaging 13.4 touches, for a total of 23 matches. He will be joined by Ned Stevens, 19, who played five times as a VFL-listed player for Gold Coast.

GWS will have a third VFL coach in three seasons after Damian Truslove resigned at the end of the season. Truslove spent five years at the Showground as development coach, AFLW assistant and finally VFL boss last year. He was later announced as the new VFL coach of crosstown rival Sydney.

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GWS has beefed up its AFL coaching staff with the appointments of not one but two VFL coaches – and both wore red and white. Sydney coach Jeremy Laidler has headed west after five seasons in the Swans’ role, while dual Adelaide premiership player and AFL Hall of Famer Ben Hart swapped the Big Ant for the Big G, crossing from Northern Bullants where he served as head coach in 2022.

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A VFL best-and-fairest award wasn’t enough for Jarrod Brander to retain his spot on the GWS GIANTS list. Selected by the West Coast Eagles with pick 13 in the 2017 AFL Draft, the former GIANTS Academy member won his club’s top VFL award in 2022 despite playing only 11 games. His surprise delisting has led to him returning home to Wentworth in the Sunraysia league.

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Sandringham Dragons’ NAB League premiership coach Wayne Cripps has made the step up into senior footy after being announced as the new VFL coach of GWS. The Dragons finished fourth in the home-and-away season last year with a 9-6 record before winning the flag with a dominant 43-point victory over Dandenong Stingrays in the Grand Final.

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(Video) Gold Coast Suns v West Coast Eagles | Last Two Minutes | Round 20, 2022 | AFL

Talented mid-forward Harry Grintell has signed with Werribee. Grintell, 20, from the country NSW town of Narrandera, played 17 VFL matches last year and booted 11.4. He joins the Tigers with 21 games and 13 goals under his belt at VFL level.

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Western Sydney local Jake Stein lost his spot on the GIANTS' list at the end of last year, but his AFL dream is alive after being taken by Gold Coast in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft. Stein, 28, played 60 NEAFL/VFL games for the Giants, including nine last year for career-best averages of 19.4 disposals, 6.4 marks and 8.3 rebounds.

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Tom Green may have become a crucial AFL player for GWS and while his brother Josh Green has done the same at VFL level, the Giants haven’t been able to hold him. The younger Green, 20, played 14 games last year for 19.6 disposals and 4.6 clearances and takes 26 State league games’ experience to Port Melbourne.

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Two Sandringham Dragons are following Wayne Cripps north after signing with the Giants, according to Code Sports’ Paul Amy. Defender Jakob Andersonplayed seven games for the Dragons in 2022, while James Creightonaveraged 12.6 disposals in 17 matches and kicked 10 goals.

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GWS has lost Academy graduates Sam Frost, Leyton Chisholm and Mackinley Miller, as well as Swans Academy alumni Noah Casalini, to the SANFL. Queanbeyan midfielder-defender Frost played all 18 games in season 2022. Tall midfielder Chisholm, from Ainslie, has crossed to Central District, while Belconnen defender Miller will play for Glenelg.

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Key forward Zach Sproule departed the GIANTS at the end of last year and has surfaced at SANFL club South Adelaide. Sproule, 24, played five VFL matches in 2022 for a total of 64 at State league level, averaging 14 disposals, 4.8 marks and kicking eight goals.

Twitter: @BRhodesVFL

Part 1, January 19: Box Hill Hawks, Brisbane Lions, Carlton
Part 2, January 20: Casey Demons, Coburg, Collingwood
Part 3, January 23: Essendon, Footscray Bulldogs, Frankston
Part 4, January 24: Geelong Cats, Gold Coast SUNS, GWS GIANTS
Part 5, January 25: North Melbourne, Northern Bullants, Port Melbourne
Part 6, January 26: Richmond, Sandringham, Southport
Part 7, January 27: Sydney, Werribee, Williamstown

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