The Unsung – Round 7: Jake Buckley and Harry Edwards

Round 7 provided a little bit of everything with some unexpected results and exciting games of football. Umpires’ decisions and dominating wins making the headlines, with younger players having strong games. In this column, I would like to introduce Jake Buckley and Harry Edwards.


Jake Buckley (Greater Western Sydney)


Over the past 18 months, Greater Western Sydney has gone through a semi rebuild and has been forced to play younger players, with Jake Buckley being a noticeable addition. Buckley is the son of North Melbourne chairman Ben Buckley and is a local product of New South Wales, playing his junior football for Maroubra Saints. He was also a part of the Sydney academy but, at 15 years old, quit after finding it far too intense. In 2017, he played football for UNSW-ES Bulldogs before being listed as a category B rookie by GWS after filling in for the Giants NEAFL team. He developed his game into a utility which helped him win the 2020 NEAFL developmental award, playing in all the AFL games so far this season after making his debut last year.


Buckley has played in the backline throughout this season and has shown that he is developing well. Against Adelaide, he showed an ability to win the one-on-one contests with his direct opponent, placing himself goal side to maintain a solid defensive structure. For someone who was initially drafted as a forward, he understands basic defensive tendencies like maintaining a good position, showing a good football IQ. This good football IQ allows Buckley to help intercept the ball when coming into the fifty. He has good speed to either chase defensively or rebound, making quick and efficient decisions either by hand or foot to limit his turnovers. Buckley gathered 17 disposals, with nine being intercept possessions, going at an efficient 88 per cent. At times throughout quarters, Buckley appears to not keep up with the fast pace of the modern game. With more time to play games at this level will exponentially improve his ability to play a consistent quarter. So far, Buckley has made the most of his opportunity in this 2021 season, playing his role well and, with more time, will grow into a strong, consistent backman.


Harry Edwards (West Coast Eagles)


2021 has been a year of injuries to key players for the Eagles; these injuries have provided opportunities for young players to step up into the team. Harry Edwards benefited from getting a call up to the seniors. Edwards, who played his football for Mazenod Junior Football Club in Western Australia, spent most of his career as a midfielder. He had a growth spurt before the 2018 draft to 197cm, where he was pick 18 in the rookie draft as a key forward. Edwards took a couple of years to make his debut, which he did in 2020 against Geelong. Unfortunately, he got concussed early in the match, forcing him out and ending his debut prematurely.


Showing enough development in 2020 to elevate him to the senior list, Edwards had the chance to place in his first game of 2021 in the Derby against Fremantle. Edwards played in a key back position, spending most of his time on forward Matt Taberner. Taberner was in control in the first half, exposing his inexperience, kicking three goals, and dominating most marking contests. Edwards bounced back well in the second half, with Oscar Allen and Edwards rotating on Taberner to help keep him quiet by not letting him get another goal. Edwards showed good composure in one-on-one situations, reading the ball well when coming into the defensive 50.


He also showed remarkable resilience to bounce back from a tough first half. It was unusual to observe such solid mental toughness in challenging circumstances, where many young players would crumble, held his nerve, and played well. Edwards was very clean throughout most of the game by foot or hand, not overthinking situations playing to his instinct. He gathered 14 disposals going at 93 per cent efficiency, eight marks and having zero turnovers. At times in the first half, Edwards did put himself out of position, costing some marks inside 50 in damaging positions for Fremantle, but with more time to grow into the role, he will learn how to limit easy leads from his direct opponent. With McGovern, Hurn and Barrass going to be out, Edwards will get chances to prove his value to showcase his skills at the AFL level.


I also want to give a shoutout to Riley Collier-Dawkins from Richmond, who made his debut in a Friday night game against the undefeated Western Bulldogs. Playing in a forward midfield role, he gathered 14 disposals and played his part in maintaining Richmond’s high-pressure game style, playing in a big win. Another mention goes to Caleb Poulter from Collingwood, who also made his debut. Although it was an awful team performance from Collingwood, Poulter got to experience the AFL game and what it takes to make it at the highest level.


Round 7 across the entire weekend was highly entertaining from being able to watch good quality games. With lots of youngsters getting to showcase their skills, we can expect another exciting weekend of football in Round 8.



To read more of The Unsung by Chris Mangos click HERE






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  1. Spot on about Harry Edwards. I reckon he will be at least the equivalent of Tom Barrass in a couple of years. Most young players are overwhelmed by the speed and pressure of AFL until they have played at least a dozen games. Edwards looks remarkably calm. Has great hands and more such a tall man is very coordinated with good skills.
    He and Allen give the Eagles good bookends for the next 10 years with the rebuild that is inevitably coming. I thought only one of Taberner’s first half goals came from defender error. The others would have been kicked on Barrass or McGovern.
    Great observations Chris.

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