Jay Kennedy-Harris (Oakleigh Chargers)
Player comparison: Lewis Jetta (slightly slower but stronger)
Style: Brett Deledio (primarily outside but can win inside ball)
Strengths: Skill, speed, core strength and leadership
Weaknesses: Endurance, size and consistency over four quarters
The Oakleigh Chargers have been up and down this season, but one shining light has been co-captain and midfield dynamo Jay Kennedy-Harris. He has been compared to Sydney’s Lewis Jetta for his ability to run in short bursts and catch opponents when running defensively. He’s a dual midfielder that drifts forward late in games and can be dangerous around goals. With improvements on his endurance, he could become a very important player for an AFL club.
Listed at only 173 cm and 68 kgs, Kennedy-Harris immediately gets placed into that short midfield-forward group. It would be ignorant to write of Kennedy-Harris because of this fact as his talent far exceeds the gaping doubt over his size. While Kennedy-Harris won’t be able to put on that much more weight, he is already unbelievably strong in the core. Ideally over a few preseasons he could end up being close to 80 kgs, but that may damage his running ability.
Kennedy-Harris is extremely quick and runs both ways. During a crucial point towards the end of the game against the Western Jets, Kennedy-Harris made up a 20 metre deficit and ran down his opponent who was just about to pump the ball into the forward 50. This immense defensive effort was the highlight of the entire game and encapsulated what kind of player Kennedy-Harris is. The sort of on-field leader who lifts his team mates with his own actions, as well as providing plenty of constructive criticism and vocal support. When coming off for a spell midway through the third quarter, Kennedy-Harris was praising a team mate whilst simultaneously giving some feedback over an error the team mate had committed. Kennedy-Harris is a leader beyond his years and clearly relishes the role he shares with fellow midfielder Will Maginness.
Foot skills and pace are the two most impressive parts of Kennedy-Harris’s game. As well as his defensive running, Kennedy-Harris bursts up on the forward flank and provides a valuable outside option as he can break away from defenders and delivers silkily to leading forwards. This trait was developed last year as he was used predominately as a half forward, but with his ability to win inside and outside ball, he has progressed to a skilful midfielder.
For a small man, Kennedy-Harris has incredible core strength. He can break tackles easily and also evades them with his agility and speed. He may initially get bullied around packs in the AFL, but he will over time be able to translate the strength he has into the higher level. He’s certainly not a one dimensional outside midfielder.
The biggest concern that has arisen over the first couple of rounds is whether he can sustain his impact on the game across four quarters. It’s typical for him to completely dominate the first half then go missing for 20 minutes. That unfortunately can be attributed to his lack of endurance; however that can easily be worked on. He may start out as an ideal sub candidate in the AFL, as his work in bursts is sublime.
Many have under rated Kennedy-Harris, seeing him as slipping past pick 30, but he should be this year’s Nathan Hrovat rather than 2011’s Shane Nelson. Talent wise- Kennedy-Harris is so far in the top 20, but the knocks on his game could see him slip to mid 20’s or even 30’s.
In terms of clubs, Kennedy-Harris would be a great fit for a number of clubs seeking a skilful midfielder who can play both inside and out, with the Bulldogs identified as the best candidate. With a pick likely to be in the early 20’s, they could secure Kennedy-Harris to add to their already impressive midfield. Captain Matthew Boyd and the ever-consistent Daniel Cross don’t have too many more years left, but with Jake Stringer, Jackson Macrae, Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis already looking the goods, a recruitment of Kennedy-Harris would see them with a midfield that would be the envy of the competition in five years time.
While Jay Kennedy-Harris may have a few knocks on his height and his endurance, his skills and inside ball winning ability should be enough to raise interest from enough clubs who need a player of his quality running through their midfield.