Dante Visentini: The attractive 201cm prospect attracting AFL interest
'Dragons Tales' is a series of indepth feature stories on some of our top prospects in 2021, exploring their junior careers, their upbringing, the ups and downs of the dealing with COVID complications and more, written by Jonty Ralphsmith. This week we will be focusing on key position player Dante Visentini.
Former Sandringham Dragons coach Josh Bourke remembers Dante Visentini in a preseason game at the beginning of last season.
More specifically, Bourke remembers Visentini's attitude and hunger to impart his physicality on the game, even as a 17-year-old in a preseason hitout.
“You could see that he was getting antsy that he wasn’t getting into the game and the next thing you see, he basically stalked down one of the opposition kids outside the stoppage on half-back, just to get involved,” Bourke recalled.
“He jumps up and nailed someone off the back of the stoppage, which is reflective of his character in a way - he’ll find a way to be involved in the game physically, regardless of what’s going on.”
Everyone has a story about Visentini’s aggression on the footy field. Even at training, he brings that unflinching attack.
Forwards coach Danny Byrne remembers several sessions where he was “almost punching on in the goal square” with teammate Ben Andrews during match simulation.
“When he’s challenged physically, he gets in that mode and is really hard to stop,” Byrne said.
His hard edge, even weighing just 88 kilograms, elevates his game, and, when he brings it, he excels.
“Keep going hard at it – that’s my focus,” Visentini said mid-season.
It’s a simple mantra, but it paid dividends for Visentini’s footy.
The pack crashing, tackling, wrestling in marking contests and follow up at ground level are all features of his game.
Against GWV in his last match of the season, he grabbed the ball out of the ruck and snapped a goal after having worked on forward ruck craft at training that week with key position coach Mark Cooke, the coach that Edwards, in particular, gives great credit for his growth.
“We talked about taking possession and maybe taking a shot and how he’d position himself for that. To get a goal in a game was a credit to him,” Cooke said.
Having that pair at the club was beneficial for Visentini: “I didn’t have too many direct discussions with them about ruck work, it was more watching how they go about it, in training, in games that was good to learn from.”
The trio would also get to training early to do extra ruckwork and key position craft with Cooke.
“Dante’s quite strong and got that power to compete with guys that are strong as well and he’s got a nice leap so he’s quite a good balance to play as a ruck,” Cooke said.
But he arguably played his best footy when he could be the go-to man in their absence.
Against the Western Jets, he was the primary ruckman in the second half, against Geelong Category B rookie Paul Tsapatolis, and competed manfully against the bigger body.
“I was just focussing on doing everything I could to compete and create a play for my other teammates pretty well,” he said, following the game.
“I hadn’t gone into the game expecting to play much ruck and then playing against an AFL listed player was pretty cool and held my own against him so it was a good confidence builder.
“Even if I’m not marking it, I’ve got to be going to a spot where people know where I’m going to be.”
Playing for Vic Metro in the challenge game, he once again proved to others that his competitiveness as a ruck/forward stacks up against the best.
“I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder after not the best trial match… but I was pretty pleased, I held my own and had some good things on the table for the team.
“It was nice to impact the game at points. I was happy to be along for the ride but it was nice to be able to showcase a bit of what I could do at the highest level."
A six-goal masterclass earlier in the season for Old Xavierians was the popcorn match.
Coach Dan Rush said he fitted in seamlessly as the dominant key position player and noted that many of the goals came as St. Bernards made a charge.
“When he was kicking those goals, he had the forward 50 to himself,” Rush said.
“On the lead, he had that really good burst and great hands but when the ball was coming inside 50 slowly, it is a lot harder to take a mark but he took three contested marks where you’re not expecting anyone to take the grab and just timed the jump at the ball perfectly.
“All sorts of people trying to stop him but still took it and has a really good kick for goal."
He brought his trademark aggression, but reading the flight of the ball well was a pleasing element to come out of that game for Visentini, as it was something he was working on with Cooke. He translated that into the higher NAB League level a couple of weeks later.
“I want to be a presence in the air, hopefully,” he said mid-season, prior to this match.
“There’s been a few times where I’ve been able to show my ability to mark. I’ve done that at times so far, but there’s been other times where I’ve mistimed my jump so I want to get more consistent with my aerial stuff.
He played three games for Old Xavs with more time in attack than the ruck, and felt less pressure, allowing him to play to his strengths while enjoying time with his school mates.
“For a guy with what could be on the horizon for him, you wouldn’t have suspected it just by way of him wanting to do the team things and fit into the winning culture we’re trying to build,” Rush said.
“He’s a polite, stand-up kid. If a club gets him, they won’t be disappointed with his character.”
His versatility adds to his lure as a draft prospect, having experienced all three key position posts throughout his young career as Sandy coach Jackson Kornberg points out.
As a forward, his ability to predictably lead to the right areas is a pleasing attribute, while in defence his ability to read the ball is viewed positively. His follow up work and willingness to tackle and use the ball creatively complements his ruck work.
“I think that’s rare having someone who can impact in all three areas of the ground, as opposed to just being able to play in those areas," Kornberg said.
“He’s starting to show his strength, when he’s up and going, is his marking and competitiveness and he’s physical.”
In tomorrow's edition of Dragons Tales, we'll hear from one of Dante's junior coaches, and learn about his upbringing in an close knit, footy-focused, Italian family.