AFTER a massive 2018 which saw so many talented players realise their dreams, we turn our attention to the 2019 AFL Draft crop. In the first edition of our monthly Power Rankings which is posted on the first Monday of the month, we have compiled our top 20 players at this stage of the year. So much changes over the next 12 months, with only bottom-age form and the first couple of months of the seasons to go by so far. Take note that the order is based purely on opinion and ability, not on any AFL club lists or needs.
#1 Matthew Rowell
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
01/07/2001 | 178cm | 75kg
Easily the most consistent player in the 2019 draft crop, having barely ever played a bad game. The inside midfielder is a tackling machine, averaging double-figure tackles at NAB League Boys level, while also racking up a massive 7.3 clearances per game. What is remarkable about Rowell is not only his ability to win the ball, but his ability to bring teammates into the game. Rowell is always looking to provide possession to a teammate in a better position, but when he needs to step up, Rowell is more than capable of finishing on his own. When at forward stoppages, Rowell has a nous of breaking away and snapping off his left as he did twice against Casey Demons on the MCG. There are plenty of candidates to the number one pick this year, but Rowell looks the 2019 equivalent of Sam Walsh – consistent across the board and just ticks all the boxes. He will spend the year playing school footy outside his National Under 18 Championships commitments before returning to the Chargers’ for their finals campaign.
#2 Noah Anderson
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder/Forward
17/02/2001 | 190cm | 87kg
In what was thought to be an anomaly last year with Henley High pairing Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine touted as potential pick one and two, Anderson and Rowell both attend Carey Grammar, making it a daunting combo for any other APS school. Anderson is different to Rowell in the sense he is taller, has the ability to break open a game in a quarter, and has a booming kick that easily travels greater than 50 metres. He has enjoyed a consistent start to the year and has not done too much wrong, with his field kicking an area he could improve on at times. When inside the forward half, Anderson is one of the most damaging prospects in the draft crop, and expect him to have an impact around goals at the National Under 18 Championships for Vic Metro. His game-breaking ability is as good as anyone’s in the draft crop.
#3 Hayden Young
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | General Defender/Inside Midfielder
11/04/2001 | 188cm | 82kg
One of the prime movers last season and a player who has the potential to be a deadly half-back. He has elite kicking skills coming out of defence, aided by the fact he has a penetrating kick that can clear 50m with ease. He just gets to the right positions and pushes up the ground where he take a number of intercept marks. He will contest any marking contest regardless of opponent, and is a composed user in defence. He was tried in the middle early in the season, but his greatest influence is in the back half. After an okay start to the year without being anything dazzling, Young reminded everyone of his talent on the MCG, starring alongside Rowell and Anderson, taking a number of crucial intercept marks and setting up scoring plays. A hard edge with terrific kicking skills, Young is one to certainly keep in mind for Pick 1.
#4 Tom Green
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Inside Midfielder
23/01/2001 | 188cm | 85kg
The inside hard nut has drawn comparisons to Patrick Cripps in the way he excels at the contested ball, bullying his way to a truckload of possessions and clearances. He has clean and quick hands on the inside and a long kick, while having no issues whatsoever finding the pill. In the opening few games, Green racked up an average of 33 disposals and 10.25 clearances, still going at more than 60 per cent efficiency despite running at greater than 60 per cent contested. Across the board he is very consistent – similar to Cripps – in order to have an influence on the contest. He will be the top pure tall inside midfielder in the draft, with adding more scoreboard pressure the key between Green and the likes of Rowell and Anderson.
#5 Lachlan Ash
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | General Defender
21/06/2001 | 186cm | 80kg
Along with Young, Ash is the other standout Country prospect in defence. The Murray Bushrangers runner has few flaws to his game, owning the defensive 50 with a massive amount of intercept marks and rebounds, while slicing up opposition zones with his elite kicking ability. He is a player that just catches the eye, gets himself into the right positions, and can set up teammates around the ground or in attack. He has hardly put a foot wrong this season, and while his performance on the MCG had its ups and downs, his NAB League form is not to be questioned. He will be a massive chance for the Morrish Medal if he stays fit, and is a crucial part of the Murray Bushrangers outfit. The noticeable advantage with Ash compared to a lot of half-backs is he can win his own ball, and while he might only win a third of his possessions in a contest, he is comparably low with handball receives, almost winning more touches from marking than from handballs. If he and Young both play off half-back at the National Under 18 Championships, expect Country to have plenty of run and penetration.
#6 Will Gould
Glenelg/South Australia | Key Position Defender
14/01/2001 | 191cm | 98kg
The key defender is the player likely to be the big point of difference in the top-end of the rankings, but I rate him as the standout tall in the draft. At 191cm he is a tad undersized for a key position player, but he has the ability to play small or tall, and has been working on his tank to play midfield at times. He wins plenty of the ball at half-back and averages almost eight rebounds per game at League level for Glenelg – holding his own against bigger bodies and dropping into the hole with his game smarts reading the ball in flight well. He has leadership tendancies and captained the Australian Under 18s at the MCG against Casey Demons and will be a prime candidate for the South Australian job as well. Gould has put on seven kilograms since the championships last season, enabling him to take the more monster key defenders, and while he might still be undersized, he just competes and has a massive work rate which stands out each time he plays.
#7 Sam Flanders
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder/Forward
24/07/2001 | 182cm | 81kg
After playing as a damaging forward in 2018, Flanders has moved into the midfield this season and been one of the more prolific extractors. While it could be argued his greatest impact is around goals – where he seems to kick the impossible at times – he also has the nous in the midfield to find the ball at stoppages and kick long inside 50, or sweep the handball out to a running teammate. Gippsland has missed his influence and strength in attack, but he has added another dimension to a deep Power midfield. Flanders is a player who will divide draft watchers as he could be top five, or later first round depending on what you look at. He plays taller than his 182cm, and is strong overhead or at ground level. Another top-end Country prospect to watch this year.
#8 Mitch O’Neill
Tasmania Devils/Allies | Balanced Midfielder
21/02/2001 | 178cm | 69kg
The top Tasmanian prospect was an All-Australian in his bottom-age year, and has a nice blend of inside and outside capabilities. Given his lightly built frame, expect O’Neill to stick to the outside during the National Under 18 Championships, but he can win his own ball at the same time. He reads the taps well and is able to spread to the outside, pumping the ball inside 50 to set up scoring chains. Having spent time in defence last year, O’Neill has moved into the midfield and found just as much of the ball, and is a crucial ball user on the outside. He will be the player most analysed by opposition sides when playing Tasmania Devils in the NAB League, and O’Neill will enjoy the freedom more at the National Under 18 Championships for the Allies. Unfortunately for Tasmania, O’Neill has missed the past couple of games with a troubling ankle injury and but should return to the Devils in the next couple of weeks.
#9 Trent Bianco
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Outside Midfielder
20/01/2001 | 176cm | 70kg
Arguably quite underrated given his size and the ability of his highly touted Oakleigh teammates, Bianco is one of the best ball users in the draft crop this season. Like Lachlan Ash, Bianco rebounds off half-back and can go into the middle when required, a place he will no doubt spend a lot of time this season having wrapped up his Year 12 studies last year. The co-captain of the Oakleigh Chargers is an outside ball user, and finding more contested ball could be an area he looks to in season 2019, but his skills are good enough that he could easily play as that outside user, especially considering his size. A versatile player, expect Bianco to be one of the Morrish Medal contenders this season when he is not running around for Vic Metro. He had a massive game over the weekend against Tasmania Devils, racking up 42 disposals, although he did have seven clangers on the day. Keeps rising and despite being smaller, just finds the ball and uses it well more often than not.
#10 Dylan Williams
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | General Utility
01/07/2001 | 185cm | 81kg
After having a terrific second half of the year playing as a medium forward, Williams has spent time mixed between attack and defence in season 2019. He is definitely more suited to attack where he has a high vertical leap and is dangerous around goals. He is as strong overhead as anyone and certainly impressive for a player of his size. Not a huge ball winner, Williams just needs to find four quarter consistency this season as he is the player that can boot four goals in a term and take the game away from the opposition. He also has terrific skills, and hits three out of his four targets despite finding half his possessions in a contest. When at stoppages, Williams is more than capable of winning clearances as he showed against Dandenong, bursting away and pumping the ball long. One area of improvement is his defensive work, which is why he has been played in defence at times to build that area of his game. In the wet at Craigieburn against Calder Cannons in Round 2, Williams had eight out of 12 disposals effective, running at a much higher efficiency than his teammates. Does not have APS school commitments so will play the full year at NAB League Boys level with the Chargers, co-captaining the side with Trent Bianco.
#11 Cameron Taheny
Norwood/South Australia | General Forward
03/08/2001 | 184cm | 80kg
The medium forward is an excitment machine who lit up the National Under 16 Championships in 2017. He continued that form in his bottom-age year for Norwood, booting six goals in a game last year to show off his talents inside 50. Similar to Dylan Williams, Taheny has his ups and downs, but his best is as good as anyone else’s in the draft crop. A good season could propel him into the top half of the first round, and he is a player who could turn a match on its head which will be crucial for South Australia at the National Under 18 Championships. Has already broken into the League side for Norwood and booted three goals on debut. One to watch through the year as someone who could rise.
#12 Dylan Stephens
Norwood/South Australia | Balanced Midfielder
08/01/2001 | 182cm | 70kg
Stephens is another lightly built midfielder who despite being just 70kg has forced his way into the SANFL League side for Norwood already in season 2019. Given the Redlegs’ tendancy to restrict kids from being exposed at the top level – see Luke Valente last year – it is a credit to Stephens – and teammate Taheny, to already earn their stripes. He has held his own too, admitedly playing a very outside game, but with many bigger bodies at the Redlegs, Stephens has terrific skills and moves well in transition, able to win the ball in midfield, take off and kick perfectly inside 50. He still has to add bulk to his frame, but he showed when taking on his peers he is capable of playing an inside role as well. Expect him to be the prime mover for South Australia at the Under 18 Championships and raise his stocks with a big couple of months.
#13 Caleb Serong
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Small Forward/Midfielder
09/02/2001 | 178cm | 83kg
A tireless worker, Serong missed the opening game of the NAB League season and has been working his way back into the year finding plenty of the ball around the ground. For a smaller player, Serong never takes a backwards step and seems to find the ball in all three areas of the ground, having plenty of influence around the stoppages, particularly in the forward half. He is very strong overhead and brings his teammates into the game. Both he and mate, Sam Flanders lead the Gippsland Power charge for draftees in what should be a big year for them. Will miss most of the NAB League season due to school and state commitments, but will be a welcome return come finals time.
#14 Jackson Mead
WWT Eagles/South Australia | Outside Midfielder
30/09/2001 | 183cm | 83kg
The son of Port Adelaide inaugural Best and Fairest winner, Darren has made a promising start to the 2019 SANFL season, starting in the Reserves and impressing, showing that a League debut would be in the not-too-distint future. Mead will team up with Stephens at the National Under 18 Championships to lead the side through his penetrating kick and good skills, spreading around and using the ball well forward of centre. Not as prolific a ball winner as some others, Mead has good smarts and does not waste too many disposals. Importantly, Mead hits the scoreboard as a midfielder, and can win his own ball on the inside when required. He might play more of an inside role at the National Championships, but South Australia will be keen to give him time and space to impact the contest best.
#15 Josh Worrell
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Key Position Defender
11/04/2001 | 193cm | 78kg
The Sandringham Dragons defender has had an impressive past few weeks after not having to do too much in the Dragons’ obliteration of Calder in the opening round of the NAB League season. On the MCG against Casey Demons, Worrell stood tall in defence, showing an ability to remain calm under pressure and use the ball well. At 193cm, Worrell will be a player that clubs look at differently, being that few cms smaller than the current trend for key position defenders, which is fine considering Worrell’s ability to provide run and carry out of defence. He is still lightly built, but he is strong overhead and has the potential to develop into a tall midfielder or one who roams off half-back and sets up attacking plays. A player who will spend the season at Haileybury College and Vic Metro before returning to the Dragons for the finals series.
#16 Brodie Kemp
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country | Tall Utility
01/05/2001 | 192cm | 82kg
Kemp is a player that will be looked at as a long-term prospect, and one who could be moulded into nearly anything. At 192cm, he has played a hybrid role over the past few years, rotating between attack and midfield, and even some time in defence. He knows how to hit the scoreboard and has a long kick but could tidy it up when at full-speed. His ability to get to the outside and move in transition is a strength. He is a smooth mover who looks like an outside player, but wins the majority of his possessions at the coal face. Another player who will miss the majority of the NAB League season due to his school football commitments, but will be one to watch at the National Under 18 Championships.
#17 Jeremy Sharp
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Outside Midfielder
13/08/2001 | 187cm | 79kg
One of a number of East Fremantle potential draftees, Sharp is a skilled midfielder who is capable of playing off half-back as well as along the wing. He is not a massive ball winner, but he is a terrific kick of the footy and is a run-and-carry player. Along with Jackson, Sharp is a potential top 10 player who is a good size at 187cm and has added some bulk to his frame over the off-season. He is one of just three players who earned All-Australian honours as a bottom-ager last season following a magnificent Under 18 Championships. Sharp is one of those players you want the ball in their hands going forward as he will likely pinpoint a target inside 50. One to watch if he can go to another level at his top-age championships.
#18 Cooper Stephens
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
17/01/2001 | 188cm | 83kg
The Geelong Falcons midfielder unfortunately fractured his fibula in in Round 3 and will miss a few months, hoping to return in time for a big second half of the year. Stephens is a huge loss for Vic Country as Talent Manager Mick Turner said he would not take part in the National Under 18 Championships next month. Stephens is a neat user of the ball, recording 65 per cent by foot, and in the two games before his injury, Stephens averaged 26 disposals, 3.5 marks, 4.0 clearances and ran at more than 60 per cent contested possessions. The question mark will be how he returns from his injury, but with the injury not being season-ending, expect him to come back and be a crucial player in the final couple of months for the Falcons.
#19 Luke Jackson
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Ruck
29/09/2001 | 197cm | 93kg
The athletic West Australian ruck picked Australian Rules over basketball last year despite donning the green and gold on the court. Jackson plays like an extra midfielder when moving around the ground and has been plying his trade at Colts level in the WAFL given the strength of ruck stocks at East Fremantle. Jackson looms as a potential first round pick, even though rucks are traditionally taken later. He would be viewed as a long-term prospect, and certainly if his two National Under 18 Championships games from 2018 are anything to go by, he has plenty of talent at his disposal. Clubs will like the fact he is not out of the contest once the ball hits ground level, and was solid against Casey Demons’ bigger-bodied rucks on the MCG. The standout ruck in the 2019 draft crop in a crop that does not have as many top-end talls as last year.
#20 Connor Budarick
Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies | General Utility
06/04/2001 | 176cm | 70kg
The Gold Coast SUNS Academy player could draw comparisons to Ned McHenry in both his stature and defensive pressure. Budarick played as a forward last year, and has spent more time in the midfield in 2019, but will likely rotate between both at the National Under 18 Championships. Weighing in at about 70kg, Budarick is outside leaning when in the midfield and just has little bursts where he wins the football. In the exhibition match against Casey Demons, Budarick played in defence and held his own back there, but his best comes forward of centre where he lays an average of seven tackles per game, and forces turnovers close to goal. He runs hard between the arcs and will likely cost Gold Coast a top 30 pick based on his skills and work rate.
Names to watch:
Charlie Dean (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
The key position forward made a promising start to his year at the Dragons, and could have been a potential leading goalkicker this season had it not been for APS football commitments with Wesley College. Works hard up the ground.
Trent Rivers (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
A consistent ball winner and yet another East Fremantle prospect who could work his way into the top 20.
Josh Morris (Woodville-West Torren Eagles/South Australia)
The medium forward has had a ridiculous start to the season, booting at least five goals in each of his six games to lead the SANFL Under 18s goal kicking with 28 majors.
Cody Weightman (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
Has some really nice traits with a penetrating kick and ability to impact forward of centre.
Will Day (West Adelaide/South Adelaide)
Talented half-back returning from a hamstring injury to play school footy with Sacred Heart. Able to use both sides of his body well.
Fraser Phillips (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
A raw talent with some huge upside. Overcame injury late last year and played his best game of the year on the weekend with three goals. Hybrid forward who works up the ground and can do some spectacular things, just needs to work on his ocnsistency.