THE NAB League is celebrating its 30-year anniversary in 2022 and has produced hundreds of AFL and state league players over the journey, including some of the modern-day greats of the game.
No less than 33 players have collected the under-18 competition’s highest individual honour since the league, known previously as the Victorian State Football League and TAC Cup, took over from the AFL Under-19s in 1992.
The list is headed by two dual winners in former AFL player and now goal umpire David Rodan and Calder Cannons product Fort Caruso, while there was also the famous four-way tie in 2013 and three split results in 2008 (including Jarryd Blair), 2010 (featuring now Essendon captain Dyson Heppell) and 2021.
St Kilda great Lenny Hayes and No.1 pick Matthew Kreuzer are also on the list alongside Nathan Brown, Gary Moorcroft, Matthew Bate and Derek Murray, while more recent winners include Clayton Oliver, Hugh McCluggage, Jack Higgins, Liam Stocker and Nick Graham.
But what are all those Morrish medallists up to these days?
AFL.com.au tried to track them all down.
1992 – BRAD SMITH (NORTHERN KNIGHTS)
The inaugural winner of the Morrish Medal was overlooked in the 1992 National Draft, despite his best and fairest win. Played reserves football with Carlton and was a top-up player for Melbourne and Collingwood but never went on to play an AFL game. Was a star in the Northern Football League before moving to Echuca where he won two premierships in the Goulburn Valley Football League.
1993 – DEAN WATSON (SOUTHERN STINGRAYS)
The midfielder was a prolific ball winner for the Stingrays during the 1993 campaign and claimed the Morrish Medal with 25 votes. However, like Brad Smith before him, Watson was overlooked in the 1993 National Draft. Went on to join Box Hill in the VFL before playing in the Southern Football Netball League.
1994 – GARY MOORCROFT (NORTHERN KNIGHTS)
Taken at pick 45 in the 1994 National Draft, Moorcroft played 95 games and kicked 102 goals for Essendon from 1995-2002 and was a member of the 2000 premiership team. Is best known for taking one of the greatest marks of all time over Western Bulldogs legend Brad Johnson in 2001. He added three games for Melbourne in 2003 and played VFL for Bendigo Bombers in 2004 before joining Silvan from 2005-08, Romsey (2009-10) and Bundoora from 2011 until his retirement in 2019. Moorcroft won two premierships and four best-and-fairests for Silvan, kicking a century of goals twice – including 163 in 2008. At Romsey he won both B&Fs and both goal kicking awards and at Bundoora he played in three flags (2011, 13, 17) – kicking the winning goal against Macleod in 2017. He lists his other highlights as playing with his son Beau at Bundoora and coaching the Bulls’ women’s team to the 2018 premiership – a team that included his daughter Chloe.
1995 – PAUL HOOD (GEELONG FALCONS)
After VFL stints at Geelong and North Ballarat, Hood had an excellent career for Geelong league powerhouse St Joseph’s, where he played 226 games from 1996-2007, winning two B&Fs but losing four Grand Finals as well as playing in two Country Championship titles for the GFL in 2003-04. But it is as a coach where he really made his name – after 10 years coaching the St Joseph’s school team, he led the Geelong Falcons in 2010 and was in the coaches box for Geelong’s AFL premiership in 2011 and VFL flag in 2012. He coached the Cats’ VFL in his own right in 2015-16, moved over to the new VFLW team in 2017-18, including the 2018 Grand Final loss to Hawthorn, and was Geelong’s inaugural AFLW coach from 2019-21. Is now back teaching PE at St Joseph’s, coaching the boys school team and being an assistant coach for Joeys in the GFL.
1996 – NATHAN BROWN (BENDIGO PIONEERS)
Was recruited by the Western Bulldogs with pick 10 in the 1996 National Draft and went on to become one of the AFL’s most dangerous forwards. Played 137 games for the Bulldogs before moving to Richmond at the conclusion of the 2003 season. Was in Brownlow Medal form in 2005 before sustaining a significant leg injury in the Round 10 loss against Melbourne. Finished his career with 219 games and 349 goals. Has since moved into the media, and can be seen as an analyst on Channel 9’s Sunday Footy Show and heard as a play-by-play caller on Triple M.
1997 – DEREK MURRAY (MURRAY BUSHRANGERS)
Murray won the Morrish Medal as a first-year player for the Bushrangers and represented the club again the following year. He was drafted by Port Adelaide and played 23 AFL games for the Power from 1999 to 2002. Went on to play community football for Rumbalara, Culcairn and Jindera and played his final game in 2019.
1998 – LENNY HAYES (NSW-ACT RAMS)
Hayes was the first player from a non-Victorian team to win the Morrish Medal. He was drafted by St Kilda with pick 11 in the 1998 National Draft and went on to become one of the club’s greatest players. Hayes won St Kilda’s best and fairest three times, was a three-time All-Australian and claimed the Norm Smith Medal in the drawn 2010 AFL Grand Final. The 297-gamer was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2020.
1999 – MATTHEW STOLARCZYK (GIPPSLAND POWER)
After being unlucky to miss out in the 1999 drafts, Stolarczyk played for Moe in 2000-01, including a losing Gippsland Latrobe league Grand Final in 2000, before joining Eastern league club Mitcham from 2002-04. Switched to the old Yarra Valley Mountain league in 2005, bouncing between Healesville (2005-06, 2011-12) and Woori Yallock (2007, 2009-10). Coached his home club Traralgon-Tyers United in the North Gippsland league in 2008, winning the B&F, and took the reins again in 2013-14 before handing over and playing out his career there until his 2019 retirement. Was assistant coach to Damian Monkhorst for Woori Yallock’s 2010 premiership and won a club B&F while finishing second in the YVMFL medal the same year. Now works as a builder at Virtue Homes in Traralgon and travels around watching players he previously coached at TTU.
2000-01 – DAVID RODAN (CALDER CANNONS)
Rodan made history as the first player to win the Morrish Medal multiple times. He was selected by Richmond with pick 33 in the 2001 National Draft and played 65 games for the Tigers across five seasons. The speedy midfielder moved to Port Adelaide and enjoyed a career-best season in his first year for the Power, helping to steer the club into the 2007 AFL Grand Final. Rodan played 111 games for Port Adelaide before finishing his career with Melbourne. Has since moved into umpiring and has been a member of the AFL’s goal umpiring panel since 2017.
2002 – LUKE SHACKLETON (TASSIE MARINERS)
Won the Morrish Medal in his third season with the Mariners before being drafted by Collingwood at the end of that year. His two years at the Magpies yielded one AFL game in 2004, but he was part of Williamstown’s 2003 VFL premiership team when the two clubs were aligned. Returned home to play for the Tassie Devils in the VFL from 2005-08 before going back to his home club, the Burnie Dockers, where he remained until 2014, playing in the Dockers’ 2012 Tasmanian State League premiership, the only such flag any team from Burnie has won. Came out of retirement in 2018 to co-captain the Dockers to the North West Football League premiership before hanging up the boots for good. Now works a construction supervisor with RT and NJ Constructions in Burnie and is assistant coach of a Burnie under-12s team featuring the youngest of his three children.
2003 – MUNGARA BROWN (NORTHERN KNIGHTS)
After missing out on selection to an AFL club, Brown linked up with Bendigo Bombers in the VFL in 2004. He played two games before aligning with the Northern Bullants. Brown was a star in the Northern Football Netball League, playing with Northcote Park before moving to the Fitzroy Stars in 2009. He was a member of the Stars’ grand final teams in 2013 and 2014.
2004 – MATTHEW BATE (EASTERN RANGES)
The first player from the Ranges to win the Morrish Medal, Bate was selected by Melbourne with pick 13 in the 2004 National Draft. Had to wait until Round 5, 2006 to make his AFL debut but quickly established himself in the senior side – culminating in a third-place finish in the Demons’ best and fairest in 2007. Bate played 102 AFL games before being delisted at the end of the 2012 season. He played the 2013 season with Essendon’s VFL team before spending three years with Norwood in the Eastern Football League.
2005-06 – FORT CARUSO (CALDER CANNONS)
The second player to win back-to-back Morrish Medals, Caruso played 33 matches for Calder Cannons before joining Coburg Tigers in the VFL in 2007-08, including playing in the 2007 Grand Final loss to Geelong. Crossed the border to the SANFL from 2009-12, playing 63 games for West Adelaide before returning to his home club Fawkner Park (now Northern Saints) in the Essendon District league in 2013, where he won the league best and fairest, played in a Division 1 premiership and earned the Saints promotion to Premier Division. When the Saints were relegated again after 2015, Caruso joined Greenvale to stay at the higher level, winning the club B&F in 2016 and finishing on the podium three years in a row. He is still playing for the Jets and working as an accountant at Brandy and Co Chartered Accountants.
2007 – MATTHEW KREUZER (NORTHERN KNIGHTS)
Kreuzer’s was a history-making Morrish Medal win. His Northern Knights teammate Trent Cotchin finished runner-up in the vote count – marking the first time players from the same team finished first and second for the award. Kreuzer played 189 AFL games from 2008 to 2020, with his best season coming in 2017 when he was third in the Blues’ best and fairest and featured in the 40-player All-Australian squad. Unfortunately, the gun ruckman’s career was plagued by knee, ankle and foot injuries. He recently signed up with Greensborough in the Northern Football Netball League.
2008 (joint) – FARRAN PRIEST (MURRAY BUSHRANGERS)
Shared the Morrish Medal with Jarryd Blair in his first year with the Bushrangers, going on to play 31 matches, before joining Werribee from 2010-12. Crossed to Echuca United in the Murray league to play with his brother Rowan, going on to win the Eagles’ best-and-fairest and play a key role in the 2013 premiership. Returned home to Benalla for the 2015-16 seasons, helping the Saints break a 44-year premiership drought with the Goulburn Valley league flag in 2015. Returned to Echuca United for 2017-20, where he has remained apart from a season with Bendigo league club Elmore in 2021, before undergoing a second knee reconstruction. Represented both the GVFL and the MFL in the Victorian Country Championships and also played two games for Victoria Country in the national titles. Appointed coach of the Eagles for this year and next, he is hoping to return to the field in 2023 but is presently prioritising the club’s youngsters as they rebuild their list. Away from footy, Priest is a social worker with Reconnect, working on breaking barriers to education for disadvantaged youth across the Campaspe, Central Goldfields and Loddon shires.
2008 (joint) – JARRYD BLAIR (GIPPSLAND POWER)
Blair was selected by Collingwood in the 2009 Rookie Draft and enjoyed a fairytale start to his AFL career, winning a premiership in just his 12th senior game. He also featured in Collingwood’s 2011 grand final team. Blair was a regular fixture in Collingwood’s team for close to a decade before falling out of favour in 2018, playing just two games and missing the club’s grand final appearance against the West Coast Eagles. After being delisted by the Magpies, Blair joined VFL outfit Port Melbourne for the 2019 season before returning to his junior club Wonthaggi for his final season in 2021.
2009 – ANTON WOODS (NORTHERN KNIGHTS)
Played 35 times for the Knights in 2008-09, but his medal win wasn’t enough to see him drafted. Joined the Northern Bullants in 2010, lining up in the losing VFL Grand Final against North Ballarat. Crossed to Williamstown the following year, spending four seasons with the Seagulls and winning the 2013 Development League premiership and the 2014 Foxtel Cup, but his time ended in the heartbreaking 2014 preliminary final loss to Box Hill Hawks. Joined his local Northern league club Eltham in 2015 and has remained there ever since, winning the club best and fairest in 2017 and captaining the team from 2018-21, including a shattering Grand Final loss on the siren to Lower Plenty in 2018. Woods represented Vic Metro against Vic Country in 2018, being named best-on-ground, and played several interleague matches for the NFNL. Has made the league’s team of the year multiple times and was named in the Fans Team of the Decade in 2019. He has run his own business, Anton Woods Carpentry, for the past eight years and is close to finishing his qualification to become a licensed builder while still playing for the Panthers.
2010 (joint) – DYSON HEPPELL (GIPPSLAND POWER)
Heppell joined Essendon with pick 8 in the 2010 National Draft and quickly established himself as a fan-favourite following a standout debut season that saw him claim the NAB AFL Rising Star. Heppell won his maiden club champion award in 2014 and was also named in the All-Australian team. He became captain of the Bombers in 2017 and continues to hold the mantle.
2010 (joint) – JACKSON SKETCHER (SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS)
After playing 31 games for the Dragons in 2009-10 and sharing the Morrish with Dyson Heppell, Sketcher is best known for his appearance in Foxtel series The Recruit in 2016, where he was one of the favourites before finishing an unlucky fourth to eventual Brisbane Lions cult hero Matt Eagles. He played in a Development league premiership for Box Hill Hawks in 2011 and also represented Frankston, Bendigo Gold and WAFL club Perth Demons. Played for his home club Noble Park in 2015 before having a second crack at the big time with the Dolphins in 2016 and doing a pre-season with Collingwood in 2017, but when he was overlooked in that pre-season draft he returned to the Bulls for good. Has finished second in the club B&F to best mate Kyle Martin four times and is Martin’s vice-captain as he chases an elusive senior premiership. Off the field, he sells forklifts for Adaptalift Group at Springvale.
2011 – ALEX BENBOW (DANDENONG STINGRAYS)
Benbow played 34 games for the Stingrays in 2010-11 and won the Morrish Medal in his second season with the club. Joined the Northern Blues for the 2012 season and played four VFL games and a further 12 games in the Development League. The following season Benbow joined South Belgrave in the Eastern league and guided the club to premiership glory in his first year at the club. He would go on to make 61 appearances, playing his final game in 2017.
2012 – NICK GRAHAM (GIPPSLAND POWER)
After 32 games for Gippsland Power including the 2012 Morrish, Graham was taken by Carlton with pick 54 in that year’s National Draft. He spent six years with the Blues, playing 48 AFL and 41 VFL matches, and can now laugh about being the most omitted player in AFL history, having lost his AFL spot 22 times at Princes Park. Played under former Carlton teammate Heath Scotland and with his brothers Brian and Chris at Ballarat league club Darley in 2019, but switched to Spotswood in the Western Region league in 2021, winning the league MVP and club best and fairest award and making the WRFL Team of the Year. Has headed home to Warragul in the Gippsland league this year and is working for Melbourne builder Johns Lyngs Group while launching a beer venture – Sippy Lager – with his best mate and former Gold Coast and Carlton player Dan Gorringe.
2013 (joint) – BEN CAVARRA (EASTERN RANGES)
Cavarra played 37 games for Eastern from 2011-13, being part of the historic four-way Morrish tie in 2013. He has become a genuine star of the VFL in the past nine years, playing 125 matches and kicking 170 goals for Frankston, Williamstown, Footscray and now Box Hill Hawks. Was picked up by the Western Bulldogs with pick 45 in the 2018 NAB AFL Draft after five outstanding VFL seasons that yielded the 2014 and 2015 B&Fs at Frankston Park, two leading goal kicker awards at Williamstown, four VFL Team of the Year nods in 2014-15-17-18 and selection in the VFL team that played the SANFL in Adelaide in 2016. His three years at Whitten Oval only yielded four AFL matches as a combination of injuries and the development of others in his small forward role conspired against him. Was lured to Box Hill City Oval by former Seagulls assistant coach and now Hawks boss Clint Proctor this year and has continued to star. Cavarra is a primary school teacher at St Peters Primary in Bentleigh East.
2013 (joint) – GEORGE CAMERON (GEELONG FALCONS)
Following his Morrish Medal triumph, Cameron joined Werribee – playing two VFL games for the Tigers in 2013 and six Development League game in 2014. Moved to VAFA powerhouse Uni Blues in 2015 and went on to play 63 senior games, the last of which came in 2019.
2013 (joint) – JACOB CHISARI (BENDIGO PIONEERS)
The joint 2013 Morrish medallist is not playing football at the moment after making the decision to prioritise his off-field career. After his three-year stint with the Pioneers, alongside one game for Bendigo Gold, Chisari played 17 matches for Williamstown from 2015-17, including the 2015 Development League premiership when the Seagulls did the double. He was lured to Bacchus Marsh in the Ballarat league by a good mate for 2018-19 while studying a Bachelor of Business with Bendigo Bank, which he completed in 2020. Now studying an accelerated Masters of Teaching course, which should have him in the classroom within the next few months.
2013 (joint) – JOSH SCOTT (GIPPSLAND POWER)
After 47 matches for the Power from 2011-13, which included two games for Casey Scorpions, Scott was lured across the border to the SANFL by his Gippsland coach Nick Stevens in 2014, where he became a decorated player for Glenelg. He played 90 senior matches for the Tigers from 2014-19, being named in the SANFL Team of the Year twice, winning the best-and-fairest in 2018 and overcoming the misfortune of severely breaking his arm twice to help the club break a 32-year premiership drought with a win over Port Adelaide in the 2019 Grand Final. Retired from State league footy after that flag, joining Jervois in the River Murray league, which is coached by former Essendon player Taite Silverlock. The Bluds have won the past two premierships and are well placed this year as they chase a threepeat. Scott works for Linemarking SA, marking lines on roads, in carparks and other similar jobs.
2014 – ALEX CARR (GIPPSLAND POWER)
Carr was a star for the Power from 2012-14, playing 39 games while also being called up for a VFL debut for Casey Scorpions in the VFL. After surprisingly missing out on the draft following his Morrish Medal win, he joined Williamstown in 2015, playing alongside Chisari in that year’s Development League premiership, won in golden point over Box Hill. After two years with the Seagulls that yielded six VFL matches, he added another two with Essendon in 2017 and three with Port Melbourne in 2018. He rejoined his brother Ed at home club Maffra in 2017, where he has played ever since. The brothers shared in the 2019 premiership victory over Leongatha. Carr works as for Jones Electrical in Sale.
2015 – CLAYTON OLIVER (MURRAY BUSHRANGERS)
Oliver was selected by Melbourne with pick 4 in the 2015 National Draft and is now widely recognised as one of the best players in the AFL. He played an integral part in steering Melbourne to its drought-breaking 2021 premiership – the club’s first since 1965. The star midfielder is a two-time club best and fairest winner and has also won selection in the All-Australian team on two occasions – all before turning 25 years of age.
2016 – HUGH McCLUGGAGE (NORTH BALLARAT REBELS)
The third selection in the 2016 National Draft, McCluggage has made a name for himself as one of the game’s most consistent players. He has missed just three games since making AFL debut in Round 3, 2017 and has already racked up 123 matches for the Lions. McCluggage has twice finished in the top-three of the club’s best and fairest voting and has twice been selected in the 40-player All-Australian squad.
2017 – JACK HIGGINS (OAKLEIGH CHARGERS)
Higgins made his way to Richmond with pick 17 in the 2017 National Draft and quickly established himself as a cult hero. The small forward played 20 games in his debut season, but had his 2019 campaign cut short due to a brain bleed. He recovered from two bouts of brain surgery to make his return to senior football in 2020, before being traded to St Kilda. The goalsneak has been a handy addition for the Saints, already booting 54 goals for the club.
2018 – LIAM STOCKER (SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS)
Stocker was selected by Carlton with pick 19 in the 2018 National Draft. His selection was historic, with the Blues producing the first live trade with Adelaide to secure the pick used to select Stocker. He showed great promise during the 2021 season when he played 17 matches, but has endured an injury-plagued campaign in 2022 and managed just four appearances in the senior team.
2019 – LUCAS ROCCI (WESTERN JETS)
So much has happened in life since Rocci claimed the 2019 Morrish Medal for the Western Jets that it seems like so much longer than just three years ago. Rocci played 32 matches for the Jets in 2018-19 before joining VFL club Werribee for the cancelled 2020 season. He played six games in the truncated 2021 competition and has so far managed another six in 2022 as he starts to lock down his spot at State league level. He is working as a third-year apprentice at Richstone Plumbing at Epping, a commercial firm fitting out high-rise apartment buildings.
2021 (joint) – FLYNN LAKEY (CALDER CANNONS)
The diminutive Calder Cannons midfielder polled in five of his nine matches, including three best-on-grounds, to share the 2021 Morrish Medal with GWV Rebels big man Josh Rentsch. Has remained with his local club Gisborne after being overlooked in last year’s drafts and is enjoying a dominant campaign in the Bendigo Football League, named in the best players in 10 of 15 matches.
2021 (joint) – JOSH RENTSCH (GWV REBELS)
The reigning joint Morrish medallist who lined up 14 times for the Rebels across two seasons, Rentsch opted to head west this year, joining Sturt in the SANFL, where he has several family members and has just been joined by his brother Sam. Struggled with a left ankle issue in pre-season that left him behind the eight-ball and he started the season in the reserves, but broke into the seniors after 12 goals in seven games and has remained there, booting nine majors in eight appearances at the higher level. The Double Blues helped him secure employment at a club sponsor and he is working for Lawsons Automotive in Dudley Park North.