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Walker Shines as Hopper Makes Successful Return in NEAFL

Ryan Miller  July 31, 2017 12:39 PM

Matthew Walker has kicked 13 goals in his last three games for the GIANTS Reserves.

Matthew Walker has kicked 13 goals in his last three games for the GIANTS Reserves.

A five-goal haul from 17-year-old GIANTS Academy member Matthew Walker and strong performances by Daniel Lloyd and Brett Deledio were not enough to help the GIANTS Reserves as they lost to Gold Coast by 31 points at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night. 

In just his fourth NEAFL match, Walker kicked his third consecutive haul of four goals or more in the 15.13 (103) to 10.12 (72) loss. 

GIANTS NEAFL coach Brad Miller said the youngster from Riverina club Coreen-Daysdale Hopefield-Buraja United was impressive in a side that featured 10 listed GIANTS. 

“He’s was fantastic for us as a focal point, with Zach Sproule playing up the ground at centre half forward,” Miller said.

“For him to be able to finish with another bag of goals at NEAFL level – he’s still only 17 – is great for the kid.

“He rarely misses and he knows how to sniff out a goal whether it’s leading up at the ball and taking marks or reading the playing and getting it out the back, he’s really crafty.”

The GIANTS Reserves led the Suns briefly in the second quarter before the home side established an eight-goal lead towards the end of the third term.

A spirited fightback sparked led by Lloyd, and Harry Himmelberg’s move into the midfield, saw the GIANTS peg the final margin back to 31 points. 

“Our last quarter was pleasing to finish the way we did but our second and third quarters just weren’t at the right level,” Miller said.

“In the last quarter, they missed six shots and if they had have kicked those it would have been a different story.

“I thought we were off on the night and our defence wasn’t good enough so they were able to punish us on the outside.”

Miller praised Lloyd’s 32-disposal, eight-tackle effort in the midfield, calling it his best game in nearly a month. 

“We though he was doing the job down back he was hard and tough, and competed all night then we moved him into the midfield where he won his own footy and really got going in the last quarter,” Miller said. 

“I thought it was his best game in a month even though he’s not been in bad form at all.”

Himmelberg stood out in just his second game back from a finger injury with the 21-year-old putting in a workman-like performance across half back and in the midfield. 

“He started down back then through necessity we moved him into the midfield,” Miller said.

“He was solid down back without starring but when he went on-ball he was able to get us moving. 

“His movement at the stoppage was good and he was able to win his own footy, he was really creative and clean with his hands under pressure.”

Miller also spoke highly of his former Richmond teammate Brett Deledio who racked up 25 touches in the midfield and across half-back.

“Nothing that I saw suggest that he’s not ready to play,” he said.

“He started in the midfield this week and covered a lot of ground and chewed up a lot more kilometres than we liked such was his work rate in getting from contest to contest.

“With Brett on limited game time, we ended up having to move him back to keep him on the ground a bit longer. He looks like he’s right to go to me.”

The GIANTS will also be buoyed by the return of the return of exciting young midfielder Jacob Hopper who collected 22 disposals in three quarters of football.

Miller said he was impressed by the 20-year-old’s first game back from an ankle injury. 

“He’s fantastic around the stoppage and the contest, he chased and he tackled, it was a really positive first game back,” he said.

“Having a look at the GPS after the game he was working really hard and we had to pull him off at three quarter time so he didn’t get to see out the full four quarters, but he did lay some solid tackles around the contest.”

The GIANTS Reserves play the Canberra Demons at Wagga Wagga’s Robertson Oval on Saturday, August 5 at 12pm.