Queenslanders in the AFL – Round 17

Ex-Aspley tearaway Oskar Baker has ridden the highs and the lows of the AFL in the past month, but has peaked on a big ‘high’ this week, signing a two-year contract extension with the Western Bulldogs.

The 25-year-old redhead, dropped from the Dogs side for the first time in Round 16, committed to the club on Tuesday until the end of 2025 despite sitting out the last two games.

It was another ‘up’ for Baker, who had been thrown a career lifeline by the Bulldogs as a free agent in December after being de-listed by Melbourne last October.

Son of ex-Windsor-Zillmere star Leigh Baker and originally a member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, Baker was originally drafted by Melbourne with pick #48 in the 2017 AFL National Draft.

Having debuted midway through his second season at the Demons, he played 15 games from 2019-21 but could not break into the top side in 2022.

It looked for all money like his AFL career was over until the Dogs, having lost Josh Dunkley to Brisbane and Lachie Hunter to Melbourne, threw him a lifeline during the supplementary selection period.

He played the Dogs’ first 14 games of the season to almost double his career games tally, and had shown some positive signs, highlighted by 22 possessions against Geelong in Round 12 and three other games of 20-plus.

He was the sub in Round 13, and despite picking up 14 possessions in a Round 14 win over North Melbourne lost his spot and watched as the Dogs beat Fremantle by 29 points at Docklands in Round 16 and lost by 12 points to Collingwood at Docklands last weekend.

“It’s funny how in nine months things can change, but I’m stoked .. I’ve really enjoyed the year here so far,” said Baker. “I think (the fresh start) has done wonders for me and my football. I’ve loved every minute of my time here so far. It was a massive positive for me to play the first 14 games. I took a lot out of that and will do what I can outside of the team to look forward to trying to get back into the team when they need me.”

Sam Power, Bulldogs’ General Manager of List Management and Recruiting, said the contract extension was great reward for the 25-year-old. “Oskar’s ability to play an important role on the wing and use his speed has been a hallmark of his first six months at the Bulldogs,” Power said. “He has built strong relationships within the player group and having played less than 30 games; we see a lot of growth and upside in Oskar’s game.”

It was a big week on the field for Queenslanders in the AFL, too, headlined by standout performance by Brisbane’s Harris Andrews and Port Adelaide’s Aliir Aliir, who oddly enough will be in the same conversation around All-Australian selection.

Andrews, relishing the co-captaincy, was best afield in the Lions’ 81-point obliteration of West Coast at the Gabba with 19 possessions (12 intercept possessions), 13 marks (three contested marks) and 13 one-percenters. He played 100% game time and had a staggering 10 score involvements from fullback to earn maximum 10 votes in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award.

In the same game Will Ashcroft had 28 possessions (11 contested possessions), a team-high seven tackles and seven clearances in another outstanding showing rewarded with two votes from the coaches.

Eric Hipwood had 11 possessions and two goals, with six marks inside the forward 50m zone and 10 score involvements, Jack Payne did a superb job to keep the dangerous Oscar Allen to one goal,  Dayne Zorko returned from injury with 17 possessions from 59% game time, Keidean Coleman had 16 possessions and Jaspa Fletcher 10 possessions and a goal.

Aliir was similarly dominant in Port’s 33-point win over the Gold Coast Suns at Adelaide Oval. He earned coaches votes, behind best afield teammate Connor Rozee, for 12 possessions (eight intercept possessions), five contested marks and 11 one-percenters.

Critical to the Power’s finals prospects, Aliir helped teammate Charlie Dixon celebrate his 200th game in style. Dixon had 16 possessions, a goal, six hit-outs and five clearances.

Jack Bowes enjoyed his best game for Geelong, posting 25 possessions and a goal in their 62-point win over North Melbourne. It was his third 20-possession game for the Cats and a season-high, which earned him his first coaches vote.

In the same game Bailey Scott, like Bowes a product of the Gold Coast Academy, had 24 possessions and was among North’s best.

Ben Keays had 20 possessions and kicked two goals in Adelaide’s loss to Essendon, and GWS’ Lachie Keeffe suffered an untimely hamstring injury in the Giants’ win over Hawthorn.

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