By: Daniel Kelly (@UKurrie)

Another week, another debutante, as the Bullants rewarded Brodie Tonkin with his first match after
strong form with the Old Melburnians in the VAFA. The Ants also welcomed back Kobe Brown, Harrison Kennedy, and Baxter Knight. William (Billy) Murphy celebrated 50 VFL games and has rarely been in better form since reinventing himself as an inside midfielder. The additions were not enough as the Bullants fell to the yet to be defeated Casey Demons 18.17 (125) to 5.4 (34) at Casey Fields during Round 19 of the 2022 VFL Premiership season. Adding to the already injured Mutaz El Nour, Jackson Barling, and Tim Jones (not forgetting long absences from other senior players), captain Tom Wilson, ruckman Liam Podhajski, midfielder Will Mitchell, and defender Peter Gentile succumbed this week to injuries. That Tonkin, who was by no means out of his depth, was the 17 th debutante tells you a lot about the luck the Bullants have had with their list, in addition to a deliberate focus on youth in 2022. Liam Mackie captained in Wilson’s absence, but it would have taken one of the best Bullant performances in their 140 year history to compete with a Demons side which showcased 15 AFL listed players. “A lot of moments,” coach Ben Hart said afterwards about why the game was lost, lamenting fumbles and lack of composure at critical times. “They’re a good side and they took their moments. We’re not at that level to take ours.” Hart still saw positive individual performances in a day where the team was outclassed. “I thought Brodie Tonkin, as a young guy coming in for his first game against some strong AFL
footballers, did a very good job. Ethan Penrith (too), Andrew Courtney did a very good job in the ruck. (Jean-Luc Velissaris was) good when he got thrown in the midfield. Benny Nikolovski looked like he had a bit of energy, Billy Murphy (too).” Hart had special mention for Murphy on a milestone day. “A fantastic effort to get to 50 senior VFL games and, they way he is playing – being thrust in the midfield – he could go on to play a few more. It’s a fantastic effort.” Tonkin found out Thursday that he was stepping in to replace Bullants captain Wilson. Whilst that news would be daunting for a seasoned replacement, Tonkin’s level head saw him well prepared to attend many centre bounces and leave with an admirable 14 disposals, four tackles and
three clearances. “I tried not to think about (the debut) too much,” he said post-match. “I just tried to take it like another
game (and) focus on the basics.” And he’s keen for more experience at the VFL level. “There’s some pretty seasoned footballers out there. It was a good experience and I learned heaps.” Luke Dunstan, in the Demons midfield, was imperious with 42 disposals and 12 clearances. He also kicked two goals early when the game was in dispute. His ability to drift and find space was evident all
day. Jacob van Rooyen kicked five goals, although most came later in the game when the result was clear. Toby Bedford and Mitch Brown added three, and Kade Chandler two, showing their forward prowess which sees the Demons having three goal kickers with 20 plus goals this year. As a team, Casey dominated key statistical categories contested possession (+22), uncontested possession (an eye-watering +131), and inside-50s (+35). Despite having more of the ball, the Demons almost laid as many tackles as the Preston side, showing how under pressure the Ants were. Velissaris was strong when he moved into a midfield role in the second quarter and finished with 28 disposals; Murphy had 24 and goal; King 19; and Mackie and Penrith collected 23 and 16 each respectively as part of their defensive duties. Jack Boyd, Nathan Honey, Liam Kolar, Murphy and Nikolovski all added goals for the Ants. Courtney performed admirably, stepping up to take on almost sole ruck duties and battled the Demons to an almost even hit-out total. Casey kicked with the breeze in the first quarter and took full advantage – the ball lived in the Demons attacking half with the home side having 22 inside 50’s to the Ants two. The Ants could only muster a
behind to the Demons 6.3 (39). Unsurprisingly, backmen Ethan Penrith and Ben De Bolfo were high amongst ball winners for the
Bullants, as they tried to bail out the Preston side time and time again. The Ants responded almost instantly in the second quarter with Honey adding to his resume of opportunistic goals after Brown’s tackle forced a loose ball in front of goal. Velissaris squared smartly for Boyd, who goaled from distance to produce a bright start for the Preston side. Liam Kolar took full advantage of a fifty-metre penalty after his mark with another long goal, and later Nikolovski thread the eye of the needle with a snap from the boundary as he was running out of space. These goals were interspersed with goals from the Demons, but the Ants had gained a foothold in the game after a four goal to two quarter and trailed 8.7 (55) to 4.3 (27) at the long break. The Demons played a clever third quarter, using the wind with the ball, and bottling the Bullants on the outer wing without the ball. The Ants were often left with the undesirable choices of long kicks into fifty (often held up in the breeze) or picking their way through a disciplined Demons defense. The result was a scoreless quarter for the Bullants whilst the Demons fast rebounding produced six goals, five behinds, resulting in a 14.12 (96) to 4.3 (27) to the home side. Murphy hit the scoreboard in his milestone match early in the final quarter after a crunching hit from Tynan Smith forced a ball loose in front of goal. But this proved to be the last highlight of the match for the Preston side. The Bullants final home game comes against Richmond on Sunday 7 th August at 2.05pm, where the club will hold a Ladies Day Lunch from 12pm.

Best: Velissaris, Murphy, Courtney, Penrith, Mackie
Goals: Boyd, Honey, Kolar, Murphy, Nikolovski