A month after Vic Metro claimed the Division One championships, eligible draftees are starting to come into the spotlight as clubs determine who will be the next big star. With clubs having the ability to trade future draft picks, Matthew Grundy casts his eye over 20 of the top talent to watch out for next year from the Division One states.
Balanced Midfielder/Small Forward (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
19/03/1999 | 176cm | 73kg
Jack Higgins is one of the better midfielders for the 2017 draft. Winning the Kevin Sheehan Medal for the best player in Division One of the Under 16 carnival, Higgins is one to keep an eye on. At both TAC Cup level and school football level, Higgins has shown glimpses of what he can do as an inside midfielder. A good endurance base helps Higgins cover the ground well, with one of his better games at TAC Cup level being his 33 disposal and three goal performance against Gippsland Power. Overhead Higgins is solid for a player sub 180cm and took eight marks against Northern Knights earlier in the season. Higgins’ kicking however does need some work, as it can be loopy when hitting up a target. Rather than taking the game forward, Higgins often chips the ball laterally rather than going forward for his team. His defensive running needs work, often not running back hard enough leaving his team with one less player defensively- which may put clubs off. Overall, Higgins is a solid midfielder who will likely be talked about as one of the early Vic Metro players picked in 2017.
Utility (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
21/05/1999 | 184cm | 78kg
Silky is a word that is synonymous with Joel Garner. No we’re not talking about West Indian fast bowling legend Garner- but the silky smooth midfielder from Eastern Ranges. The ex-Boomeranges captain Garner has put together a nice run of form in 2016 and has shown his ability to play in multiple positions. Garner has played at all ends of the ground, even pushing through the midfield with his best asset being his composure with the ball in hand. Garner isn’t a massive ball winner, but has good penetration off his left boot. If Garner can solidify a position that best suits him in the second half of the TAC Cup season, he will be an important figure for the Ranges come finals time. An improvement on his ball winning capabilities will only increase his potential to jump up the draft order.
Medium Forward/Outside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
15/01/1999 | 188cm | 76kg
Stephenson is one of those rare players who can just create something out of nothing up forward. Stephenson arrived in the spotlight last year after some eye-catching performances in the TAC Cup finals playing inside 50. Stephenson kicked 10 goals (including three in the Grand Final) as a 16 year-old for Eastern in five games after a strong Vic Metro Under 16 carnival some months earlier. A school trip overseas limited him to a singular Under 18 championships appearance, where he had five disposals against Vic Country. Stephenson moves well and has the ability to push up the ground, showing off his strong overhead mark. A good burst of speed helps him leave his opponent behind, making him hard to match up on. The question mark I have on him is whether he will be able to move up onto a wing in the future or will remain as a permanent third tall. Stephenson has plenty of great characteristics and will his ability to mark the ball at its highest point, the forward is one to certainly watch develop over the next 18 months.
Ruckman/Key Position Forward (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
09/06/1999 | 200cm | 90kg
A superb Under 18 Championships has seen Hayes capapult himself up the order of the 2017 draftees. Hayes turned himself into one of the better ruck/forwards with a carnival that saw him selected in the All-Australian team. Hayes covers the ground well and inside 50 has the ability to crash the pack when he flies for a mark. At TAC Cup level, Hayes is averaging over 20 hitouts a game and his tap work has been very good for the Ranges. Despite not being renound for playing forward, Hayes made a name for himself booting five goals in the Under 18 carnival showing presence inside 50. With a strength being his overhead marking, expect Hayes to spend more time closer to the goals in the near future. If Hayes can fix the penetration on his kicking which can often go higher than longer, he should be able to become a strong ruck/forward option in the future.
Outside Midfielder (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
15/01/1999 | 180cm | 67kg
Patrick Naish is the son of 161 game player Chris who played at both Richmond and Port Adelaide. Although Chris played for both clubs, Patrick only eligible for Richmond under the father-son rule. This year with high expectations on his shoulders, he has lived up to some of the hype from Tigers fans. Naish has played across half-back for most of the season for the Northern Knights, averaging 17 disposals. He is lively around the ball and provides a spark for his team going forward. At school football level, Naish has spent most of his time inside 50 using his speed and agility to get around his opponent. Naish has also worked on his contested ball winning, when rotating onto the ball. He is lightly framed and can at stages be pushed around in the contest, but his best positions appears likely to be on the outside. Richmond fans should be excited by what Naish brings and will be one that Tiger fans will watch carefully in the 2017 Under 18 Championships.
Inside Midfielder (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
01/04/1999 | 179cm | 73kg
Lachlan Fogarty has been a name to watch, since winning Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in the Under 16 Championships in 2015. In his three games for Western Jets, he has averaged 20 disposals and has shown some good signs at school football level for St Kevin’s College. Fogarty has missed a few games through injury and is a part of the Level One AFL Academy. His good early season form saw him selected in the initial Vic Metro Under 18 squad, but wasn’t selected to play. Fogarty works hard on the inside, winning his own football before streaming forward and kicking the ball long.
— #TACCup (@TACCup) July 10, 2015
Fogarty is a hardworker on in the inside and lays plenty of tackles to win the ball back with strong second and third efforts. Fogarty does need to clean his kicking up at stages, where he can occasional blast the ball forward without looking for an option. You could argue that he is the wrong side of 180cm, but the hard nosed approach that Fogarty gives week in week out, shouldn’t put off clubs due to his size. Expect the hard working midfielder to be a hotly talked about player in 2017.
Small Defender (Claremont/Western Australia)
29/01/1999 | 180cm | 72kg
The only West Australian in the AFL Academy has plenty of talent. Jake Patmore is a special player and has provided some great performances at both Under 16 & Under 18 level for Western Australia. In the Under 16 Championships, Patmore was used predominantly on the wing and across half-back, using his run and speed to evade players and rebound the ball forward. At Under 18 level as a bottom-ager, Patmore was used as a lockdown small defender. Patmore shut his opponents down well, also rebounding the ball from defence. His best attribute is his electric speed, which can see him take the game on with his speed out of the back half. Despite being a good kick, Patmore’s decision making at stages can be questionable and he can try and over complicate situations. With more experience, I do however expect this to improve. With plenty of tricks about him, I think Patmore has the ability to be one of the best rebounders of this draft pool.
Small Forward/Balanced Midfielder (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
27/04/1999 | 175cm | 75kg
Tyrone Hayes hasn’t put too many steps wrong on the footy field in the last 12 months. The small forward has plenty of X-Factor and was the Boomerangs MVP in 2015. Hayes’ best position is inside 50, where he was one of the AFL Academy’s best booting four goals against New Zealand. Hayes did however show versatility when he played on South Australia’s dangerous Tyson Stengle, blanketing him in the second half at Etihad Stadium.
— Matt Balmer (@MattBalmer7) June 24, 2016
Hayes’ skills are good, hitting targets relatively at ease. His hands in the contest are also strong when he gets further up the ground. His speed and agility makes him a tough opponent for the opposition and Hayes knows where the goals are. You could question whether Hayes will become a full-time midfielder, but clubs in the past have deemed it worthy to draft a small forward with an early pick should their needs dictate it. Hayes is a player you would pay to watch play football, as the machine can sell some candy, dodge a tackle and finish with a brilliant goal in a matter of moments to change a game.
Outside Midfielder/Medium Defender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
18/09/1999 | 184cm | 74kg
Lochie O’Brien is an outside midfielder with an elite burst of speed. O’Brien begun the season strongly for the Pioneers before an injury in the Vic Country trial game saw him miss a few weeks. Despite being a bottom-ager, O’Brien made it into the Vic Country team through the Under 18 championships giving plenty of drive from half back. O’Brien takes the game on and can burn past opponents. This was evident when playing for the Pioneers earlier in the season, where O’Brien burnt off Gippsland Power speedy forward Jai Rout leading to a Riley Saunders goal. O’Brien does however need to work on his contested ball winning capabilites, as he will often sit on the outside of the pack waiting for the ball to come to him. If he can learn to win his own football, his numbers will increase and add another string to his bow. The wingman has certainly caught the eye of clubs with his speed in the play.
Small Defender/Outside Midfielder (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
17/03/1999 | 180cm | 72kg
If you need an elite kicking half back, then Kane Farrell is your man. Farrell is a half-back flanker who can push onto a wing at stages. This year at TAC Cup level he has shown how damaging he can be, where he has had kick out duties for the Pioneers. Farrell is in red hot form across half-back rebounding the ball with his superb kick. Farrell has a nice kick not too similar to Port Adelaide’s 2015 draftee Riley Bonner – Farrell can collect the ball and kick it forward 60 metres on his left boot. Farrell seems to know where to run and has the ability to find the football, as well as dropping in front of the opposition forwards to intercept the play. A weakness of Farrell is majority of his possessions are uncontested and will wait for the ball to be passed to him before he kicks it long. The smooth moving half back should become a real solid AFL player with the right development.
Inside Midfielder (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
24/01/1999 | 185cm | 82kg
The Geelong Falcons footy factory has produced once againwith this lad. James Worpel is a fierce midfielder who has played some great football for Geelong Falcons and Vic Country. This year Worpel has shown the AFL Academy selectors wrong by playing great football at TAC Cup level. For Geelong he was arguably there best midfielder in the games he played and this lead to him being selected for the Vic Country Under 18 team. At the Under 18 Championships he played mostly in the midfield and was impressive in every game he played. In fact, he was so good he played in every game for the Country side. Worpel’s defining attribute is his clearance work which is great for his age. He always bodies up in the right spots and gets his hands on the ball first for his team. He won the most clearances of any bottom age midfielder per game. Combine his clearance work with his aggression at the contest then you have a player who has potential to become a high level midfielder. Worpels weakness may lie with his disposal which can shaky at times but this may be due to him playing contested all the time. Worpel is a midfielder you can build a team around and has all the qualities to make it to the big time.
Key Position Defender (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
22/05/1999 | 194cm | 80kg
One of the talls tipped to be selected early for the 2017 draft is Oscar Clavarino. He has locked down on some of the better forwards and zoned off for his team. But it’s at Vic Country level he has impressed the most. Playing as a Key Defender he held some of the best forwards at the carnival and made smart decisions with the football in hand. This carnival made him a potential candidate for the Under 18 All-Australian team, with some believing he was stiff not to be selected. What Clavarino does best is his zoning off work which is excellent. He knows exactly where to be to stop opposition ploys and then take those dangerous intercept possessions. Clavarino also reads the play very well for a key defender. He is a smart player and knows where the ball is going, often adjusting so that he gets prime position. Although Clavarino is a smart footballer, his offensive game as a defender is still developing. In the Vic Country trial game, Clavarino spent some time inside forward 50 and it will be likely he may play through there at stages in the next 18 months. Clavarino overall is likely to be taken early next year and should be primed for a massive run at the 2017 draft.
Inside Midfielder (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
08/06/1999 | 187cm | 86kg
Luke Davies-Uniacke is a special player that is an unknown quantity in next year’s draft. This year Davies-Uniacke hasn’t played a whole lot of football at rep level as he has been cruelled by injury and school commitments. Although he has missed lots of footy, the games he has played this year have been great. He has been a strong contributor in the Dandenong Stingrays midfield despite lacking TAC Cup match fitness. In his only Vic Country game, he gathered 16 disposals, took four marks and sent the ball inside 50 four times to be one of the better midfielders for Country. The best thing about Luke is his size. He is already a big midfielder and with more growth to come he’s likely to become an inside midfielder in the mould of David Mundy or Patrick Cripps. He has great skills, footy smarts and a body size which is unique for a player of his class making his ceiling as high as any player in this draft. Luke Davies-Uniacke doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses in his game but his injury history may be of concern. However, in a similar mould to his Haileybury College teammate Jack Scrimshaw – If he can get through his injury issues, I expect him to feature very highly in 2017.
Medium Defender/Balanced Midfielder (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
26/03/1999 | 186cm | 79kg
The Under 16 Vic Country MVP is a special talent to say the least. Hunter Clark is a half-back flanker who also has the ability to push further up the ground. Clark this year has split his time playing TAC Cup football for Dandenong Stingrays and Under 18 state football with Vic Country. At TAC Cup level Hunter is playing a quarterback role which is very common at AFL level and has impressed. For Vic Country he played more a lock-down role which is different to how he usually plays but he adapted to the situation. But it’s his hardness at the contest that has caught my eye. Hunter will v-line the football and either take the ball at full speed or kill the contest. As well as that Hunter is also dual-sided and can get a boot on the ball regardless of what side of the body he’s on. Despite the ability to kick on both feet, Clark does need to sharpen up his kicking skills. I would like to see Clark move up the ground and play a bigger role in the midfield where he can hopefully continue the good form he has started since the Under 16 carnival.
Balanced Midfielder (Glenelg/South Australia)
11/10/1999 | 184cm | 72kg
The son of former Adelaide football club legend Tyson Edwards is one classy unit. Jackson Edwards this year has been a catalyst for Glenelg’s great season so far. Edwards has this year for Glenelg split his time between the Reserves and Under 18’s. For the Under 18’s he’s been the number one midfielder and named in the best six out of his eight games. For the reserves he’s looked at home against the big bodies and is regularly in the top disposal winners. One thing Edwards takes out of his Dads’ book is his composure in traffic. Edwards always knows where to run to avoid the tacklers and create space. Jackson always places himself in the most dangerous places so he can kick team lifting goals for his team. This could allow him down the track to play as a high half forward. Edwards main problem in my eyes is his size. Edwards is currently very skinny and can be outmuscled by some midfielders. Despite this, Edwards is likely to become one of Adelaide’s first father sons and he sure does look like a beauty.
Medium Forward (Sturt/South Australia)
19/02/1999 | 185cm | 73kg
This South Australian high flyer is one to watch for next year’s draft. Jordan Houlahan is a medium forward with a bag full of tricks up forward. This season he has played some great footy as a mobile forward in the SANFL Under 18’s and in the Under 18 Championships. At SANFL Under 18 level he has shown his worth as a prolific goal kicker for the Double Blues and at the time of writing is sitting third on the goal kicking. He has also performed in his only game for South Australia by kicking two goals, gathering ten disposals and taking three marks in a good performance. Houlahan’s best trait as a forward is definitely his marking. Houlahan is a stunning mark for his size and is known to take a screamer or two up forward (shown below). Houlahan is also very consistent with his output. He has kicked a goal in every game he has played this year and has made an impact up forward no matter what level he’s playing at. One thing Houlahan could improve on is his ability to find the football. He struggles to get over 15 possessions a game and I feel that’s something he could add to his repertoire. Jordan Houlahan is a forward who just makes things happen and is a valuable asset up forward.
Medium Defender/Outside Midfielder (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)
20/06/1999 | 184cm | 71kg
One of the real surprise packets to come out of South Australia this year is this lad. Andrew McPherson is a dashing half-back who has the ability to play on the wing at times. This year Andrew has played a key role for the SANFL Under 18’s and reserves as well as playing a few games for the Under 18 state side. At Under 18 and reserve level he has shown his prowess with his work rate and skills unmatched by any half back in the SANFL Under 18s and reserves. At the Under 18 championships he was also prolific off a half back. He provided lots of rebound and strong ball use for the South Australian side. McPherson’s best talent is his ability to gain meterage and take the game forward. He is a player who loves to run, take a few bounces and then deliver the football perfectly you his teammates up the field. At top speed, McPherson can evade his opponent and run the ball forward. Andrew has a rare ability to without changing speed sidestep opponents and leave them in his wake. One thing I would like to see McPherson work on his defensiveness as a player. McPherson often runs only one way and it can leave his team handicapped.
Key Position Defender (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)
05/03/1999 | 191cm | 80kg
Schumsch isn’t the flashiest player but he just gets the job done. This year Schmusch has played a handful of games at SANFL Under 18 level and for South Australia in the Under 18 Championships. At both SANFL Under 18 and state level, Schmusch has worked on his craft as a key defender who wins one-on-ones as well as killing aerial attacks coming from the opposition. This ability to kill the contest is something that is unique for next years’ draft. Schmusch attacks the contest at full pace and often either wins or neutralise the one-on-ones with his man. Schmusch is also an excellent stopper. He keeps his man quite every game and has a very smart defensive IQ when caught out. One of the issues Schmusch will need to fix however is his ability to rebound. Schmusch on the offensive end doesn’t offer too much in rebounding and you will rarely see him take the game on like a player like Richmond’s Alex Rance would. Schmusch is a key defender who will win his match up every week and give you some aerial presence in defence.
Key Position Forward (Glenelg/South Australia)
05/09/1999 | 190cm | 86kg
Probably the standout key forward for the 2017 draft. Darcy Fogarty from Glenelg is a key forward who has shown some strong signs at the Under 18 championships and SANFL Under 18’s. This year he has shown recruiters that he’s a really smart forward who marks well above his head and runs extremely well but its leading patterns which make him special. Fogarty has a massive forward IQ and often loses his opponents using smart leads to create space. This has allowed him to kick bags this year for both Glenelg and South Australia. Another strength is his really good set shot technique. Fogarty is a dead eye in front of goal and with the amount of ball he’s delivered, he’s unlikely to not capitalise. One this that will hold him back is his height, he’s very small for a key forward. At 190 cm, taller defenders will have an advantage in the air making it unlikely for him to hold down the Number one forward spot. On the plus side we could see Fogarty create match-up problems as a second or third tall and potentially see him pinch in the midfield with his athletic profile. Fogarty is a solid bet up forward and looks likely to be a solid contributor at AFL level.
Ruckman/Key Position Forward (Sturt/South Australia)
13/06/1999 | 199cm | 98kg
Callum Coleman-Jones is probably the best ruckman for next year’s draft and is a big bodied player who can move forward at times. This year Coleman-Jones has been an important player in the SANFL Under 18’s and played very well as a key forward for the state side. At SANFL Under 18 level he’s been playing as the number one ruckman and has impressed with his ability to work around the ground and win the taps. At the Under 18 championships however he played as a tall forward and often provided a strong aerial presence for his team. One thing that Coleman-Jones does that sets him apart from other ruckman is his mobility. He covers the ground like a midfielder and gets to almost every contest when he’s in the ruck. Coleman-Jones is also an extremely strong tap ruckman. Coleman-Jones is strong around the ground and at the centre bounce. However, Coleman-Jones’ big issue is his kicking. His kicking at the best of times is average and his kick is woeful at his worst times. This can be fixed but it will take time.