Queenslanders in the AFL – Round 12

By Peter Blucher.

Cairns State High School claims some big personalities among their alumni, including NBA giant Aaron Baynes, Cairns mayor Bob Manning, AFL star Charlie Dixon, MLB pitcher Cam Cairncross and Miss World Australia turned cricket commentator Erin Holland.

Plus, according to the CSHS Wikipedia website, there’s Thai/Australian singer-model-actor-TV presenter Matthew Dean and Australian rock singer/songwriter Dan Sultan.

But this week there could be an early push for another addition to the list after Alex Davies completed the best week of his AFL career with the Gold Coast Suns.

Or at least recognition that Davies, tipped for several years to become a top-flight AFL player, is looking more and more like he will live up to the lofty expectations.

And if in time the now 21-year-old Suns midfielder, raised in Cairns by his Japanese mother and Tasmanian-born father, becomes the player he and the Suns are hoping for then the past fortnight will be one to treasure.

Davies played his 22nd and 23rd AFL games in Darwin in Rounds 11-12 and was an important contributor as the Suns got their 2023 finals campaign back on track with excellent wins over two fellow finals aspirants.

Having headed to Darwin 13th on the AFL ladder with a 4-6 win/loss record, they beat the sixth-placed Western Bulldogs by seven points on 27 May, and on Saturday night came from 20 points down midway through the third quarter to beat the seventh-placed Adelaide Crows by 25 points.

It’s a rare thing for the Suns … back-to-back wins over top eight sides … and gives Davies 4-0 record in matches in the NT ‘capital’.

And while the Suns have climbed only two spots on the AFL ladder to 11th, they are now only percentage outside the top eight and are just one win and percentage behind fifth-placed St.Kilda.

If, as most football pundits are saying and the ladder suggests, Collingwood, Port Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane are assured of a finals berth at the half-way mark of the season, the Suns are among seven and possibly eight teams chasing the last four spots.

And if they are going to make the finals for the first time it is the second and third-tier players like Davies who will need to produce consistently well in the run to September.

It seems at eternity since, 12 months out from the 2020 AFL draft, Davies was tipped to go as high as the top 10 in a draft that was ultimately headed by the Bulldogs’ Jamara Ugle-Hagen at #1, followed by Adelaide’s Riley Thilthorpe at #2, North Melbourne’s Will Phillips at #3, Sydney’s Logan McDonald and Braeden Campbell at #4 and #5, Hawthorn’s Denver Granger-Barras at #6 and Gold Coast’s Elija Hollands at #7.

It was to be the big final step in a journey to the AFL that in 2018 had seen Davies named in an All-Australian Under 16 side that included Thilthorpe, Phillips, McDonald, Campbell, Granger-Barras and Hollands, plus current Suns teammate Malcolm Rosas and future AFL players Errol Gulden (Sydney), Tanner Bruhn (Geelong), Corey Durdin (Carlton), Nathan O’Driscoll and Brandon Walker (Fremantle), Zane Trew and Luke Edwards (West Coast) and Kaine Baldwin (Essendon).

In 2019 he’d starred in an Under 17 AFL Future Stars game at the MCG on AFL Grand Final Day, playing in a team coached by Nick Dal Santo that was beaten by a side coached by Luke Power.

Repeat injuries in a 2020 season decimated by Covid denied him a chance to elevate his standing with the recruiters but the Suns were undaunted, signing him as a pre-draft Academy selection to deny the football world a chance to see where he might have ranked in an open draft.

Regardless, he arrived at the Suns with Hollands, fellow Academy choice Joel Jeffrey, Category B rookie Hewago Oea, free agent Rory Atkins, trade-in Oleg Markov and rookie pick-up Rhys Nicholls.

Two and a half years on Markov is now at Collingwood, Nicholls has been delisted and of the ‘survivors’ Davies has played 21 games to head Jeffery (15), Hollands (9) and Oea (8). Only a recently rejuvenated Atkins (23) has played more games.

Davies, joined in the Suns side last weekend by sub Bodhi Uwland, had 17 possessions against the Crows, two short of his career-best against West Coast in Round 9. This included 12 contested possessions and came in just 65% game time.

In other Queensland news from Round 12, Oskar Baker had a career-best 22 possessions for the Western Bulldogs in their 22-point loss to Geelong at Marvel Stadium, Aliir Aliir’s excellent season continued in Port Adelaide’s club record eighth consecutive win over Hawthorn at Adelaide Oval, and Samson Ryan iced a performance of 11 possessions, a goal and 17 hit-outs for Richmond against GWS in Sydney with a couple of timely involvements in their six-point win.

And Lions pair Harris Andrews and Charlie Cameron and ex-Hawthorn player Brendan Whitecross enjoyed a trip down memory lane all the way back to their school days when they were among 25 inaugural inductees to the Hall of Fame of the Associated Independent Colleges, celebrating 25 years after being founded in 1998 as an athletic association for male secondary athletes.

Andrews was recognised for his exploits at Padua College in Kedron, and Cameron likewise for his time at Marist College Ashgrove.

Andrews finished at Padua in 2014, having represented the school in the Independent Schools Cup in football and been a member of their premiership-winning First V basketball team.

Cameron was a boarder at Marist, graduating in 2011 after playing in the original independent schools competition.

Whitecross, who played 111 AFL games in an injury-plagued career at Hawthorn, was recognised for his all-sports exploits at at St.Patrick’s College, Shorncliffe.

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