Northern Knights talent manager Rhy Gieschen chatted to NFL.org.au’s Mick Mattingly about the progress of the NFL’s TAC Cup representatives.
Five of the Northern Football League’s most promising prospects have been named to compete in the NAB Under-18 National Championships for Victoria Metro in the coming weeks.
Eltham’s Nick Coffield, Epping’s Jack Petruccelle, South Morang’s Joel Grace and West Preston-Lakeside speedster Ethan Penrith were all named in the official squad, with Marcus Lentini from Diamond Creek named as an emergency.
Following standout seasons for the Northern Knights in the TAC Cup, the boys will get their chance to impress on the biggest stage in underage football.
Metro will kick off its carnival this Sunday against Western Australia at Domain Stadium. Petrucelle, Penrith and Knights’ skipper Coffield have all been named for the Round 1 clash.
Coffield in particular has enjoyed a break out year for the Knights and has been touted as a possible first-round draft pick.
The 190cm utility is the prototype modern day midfielder and Northern Knights talent manager Rhy Gieschen dedicated his rise to his adaptability to different roles.
“Nick has probably increased his versatility this year by playing in the midfield,” Gieschen said.
“He has played across half back most of his career and he’s even been able to swing forward at times for us and have an impact.”
Coffield leads the Knights in effective kicks and Gieschen said his composure through congested situations is what helps the Eltham product stand out.
“His footwork in traffic is of real high quality and his decision making with ball in hand is his main asset.”
Jack Petruccelle’s story has been well documented in recent weeks and his rise to one of the competition’s most exciting players has continued.
A talented basketballer as a junior, Petruccelle missed three years of football due to round ball commitments and only came back to the game midway through last year.
Gieschen said the athletic attributes from Petruccelle’s basketball background transfer directly into his football, with his pace out of stoppages catching the eye in the early TAC Cup rounds.
“He’s tested the quickest 20 metre sprint out of all the players in the TAC. He has really exciting electric speed and is just an athlete in general,” Gieschen said.
“He’s become a lot more consistent and something that has pleased us a lot is his want to chase and tackle and do the team things to go with his exceptional offensive traits.”
Coffield and Petrucelle were both named in the top 25 prospects to watch in the upcoming National Championships on AFL.com.au and are expected to play through the midfield for Metro.
West Preston-Lakeside’s Ethan Penrith has been named in the back pocket for Metro this weekend and Gieschen said his selection is reward for his tough defensive efforts so far this season.
“He’s another who has explosive speed. We rate him as probably the best tackler in the TAC Cup,” he said.
“He’s starting now to really take the game on and use that pace to hurt the opposition both defensively and offensively.”
South Morang ruckman Joel Grace missed selection for Round 1 of the Championships and will be a handy inclusion for the Knights in their clash against the Oakleigh Chargers this weekend.
Grace has had more disposals than his opposing ruckman in eight of his nine matches so far this season.
Gieschen said this ability to follow up his tap work and have influence at stoppages, as well as around the ground, is what makes him an effective ruck option.
“Last year Joel was probably a little bit inconsistent as a bottom-age ruck coming up against older guys, but this year he has really improved his game,” he said.
“His competitiveness has been a real factor. He’s been really physical in the ruck and his follow up work has been fantastic, he kicks the ball quite well for a big man too.”
Diamond Creek’s Marcus Lentini started the TAC Cup year with a bang, averaging over 25 disposals in his first three matches.
The smart ball using midfielder was struck down by a quad injury after impressing in the first Vic Metro trial game, forcing him to sit seven weeks on the sideline.
Lentini didn’t take long to get back to top form, gathering 28 disposals on his way to being named the Knights best player in his first match back last week against the Calder Cannons.
He has been named across half-back for Northern this week.
The Knights sit mid table of the TAC Cup ladder nine rounds in and Gieschen said the side has its eyes on finals football this year.
“I guess while the aim of the competition is individual improvement we have made it a real aim of ours to play finals this year,” he said.
“We think we have the quality of players not just at our top end, but we have some real depth.”
The Knights push for the top 8 would be their first finals campaign since 2013 – a side that contained Northern Football League products and eventual first-round draft picks Marcus Bontempelli (Eltham) and Ben Lennon (Macleod).
The Knights match this weekend against the Oakleigh Chargers will be held on Saturday at Preston City Oval.