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AFL 2016 NAB Challenge - Sydney v GWS Giants

Dean Towers congratulates Jordan Dawson after his supergoal on Friday night


Jackson Nelson (West Coast)
Nelson showed plenty of encouraging signs in his first season at West Coast, playing 11 matches in 2015. He might have taken a step towards establishing himself in the Eagles' first-choice 22 with a very polished display against the Suns. The mid-sized defender is very unassuming but he hardly made a mistake on Thursday, collecting 15 disposals and operating at 93 per cent efficiency off half-back. Nelson showed good composure in a game that was hotly contested. 

Peter Wright (Gold Coast)
The 203cm key forward is a work in progress but he showed some great signs against the Eagles, particularly in the first half. Wright took five marks, including three inside 50, and kicked 2.2 in tough conditions for key forwards. The most impressive aspect of his play was his willingness to continue to present and compete, bringing the ball to ground in a number of contests where the kick did not go to his advantage. It was a promising showing as he continues to bid for a spot in the Suns' round one side. - Alex Malcolm


Nathan Wilson (Greater Western Sydney)
Wilson could be set to finally entrench himself in the Giants backline in 2016. The West Australian has played just 32 games entering his fifth season and despite some promising form at various stages, has struggled to keep his spot in Leon Cameron's best 22. Possessing blistering speed and a penetrating kick, Wilson has been a standout in the Giants' two NAB Challenge matches and, just like teammates Heath Shaw and Zac Williams, his attacking style starts many of the Giants' forward thrusts from the half-back line. 

Jordan Dawson (Sydney Swans)
The Swans headed to last year's draft hunting quality kicks, and Dawson has already showed he's got that area well and truly covered. The 18-year-old hasn't seen much of the footy in his two NAB Challenge matches but has shown when he has the ball anywhere in the Swans forward half he's a scoring threat. Dawson kicked a super goal against the Giants on Friday night off about three steps, has an effortless left-footer's action, and is one to keep an eye on this season. - Adam Curley


Tom Ruggles (Geelong)
The apparently serious knee injury to Jackson Thurlow may open the door for rookie-listed Ruggles to earn an opportunity in Geelong's defence. The 23-year-old was among the Cats' best in their 87-point thumping of Essendon. The coaching staff are big fans of his fierceness at the man and the way he puts his head over the ball in traffic. Ruggles, who won the Cats' VFL best and fairest award last season, could step straight into the team if a position opens up throughout 2016.

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (Essendon)
Known as 'Walla' to his teammates, McDonald-Tipungwuti was one of Essendon's best in a devastating loss to Geelong in Shepparton on Sunday. His physicality and desperate defensive efforts certainly caught the eye of coach John Worsfold after the game. "Some of his never-give-up efforts were outstanding," the coach said. 'Walla' appears in the box seat to be upgraded to the senior list (the club can promote two rookies) as part of the Bombers' AFL concessions for their 12 suspended players. He, along with Mark Baguley, add a hard edge to Essendon's back six, which is something the club desperately needs. - Ben Guthrie

McDonald-Tipungwuti was a positive on a tough day for the Dons. Picture: AFL Media


Corey Gault (Collingwood)
While Collingwood's big-name recruits have attracted most of the limelight this summer, rookie-listed forward Corey Gault has snuck under the radar to be a round one smoky. The 200cm big man has been booting goals every time he's taken the park and in Wagga Wagga against North Melbourne he returned three more majors – highlighted by a goal from a courageous mark running back with the flight in the third quarter. Gault also slotted three goals against Geelong, following a bag of five in an intraclub, to arguably be ahead in the race with Mason Cox and Josh Smith to be elevated to the senior list.

Aaron Mullett (North Melbourne)
Mullett enters the season with plenty to prove after being ravaged by shoulder issues in 2015, and the 24-year-old took an important step forward against the Pies. Mullett banged through a supergoal on the run and also kicked a regular six-pointer while looking assured in possession from 12 disposals. Mullett feels he's rediscovered his pace after completing a full pre-season and he helped break the lines on a scorching day in Wagga Wagga. Alastair Clarkson says squads win premierships and Mullett will certainly add to the Roos' depth. - Travis King


Josh Dunkley (Western Bulldogs)
The slightly built defender made a good fist of his first game against senior opposition. He intercepted the ball well and in blustery conditions showed his class at times by setting up attacking forays from defence. The Bulldogs picked him up at selection No.25 in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft after the Sydney Swans failed to match the bid for the son of former Sydney Swans full-back Andrew Dunkley. He took three marks and 10 of his 16 possessions were contested. He needs to build his frame but he has talent. 

Tomas Bugg (Melbourne)
After 65 games with Greater Western Sydney, Bugg was traded to Melbourne in a complicated deal that included the swapping of high draft picks. Already he has shown that is toughness and ball winning ability across half-back will be invaluable for the developing team. Bugg had 22 disposals and launched the ball inside 50 three times. Both busy and competitive, he plays with a team-first attitude that will endear him to Melbourne fans. - Peter Ryan

Bugg has added a harder edge to Melbourne's defence. Picture: AFL Media