Squad predictions: 2020 Western Australia Under 18s

THE annual Under 18 National Championships may be the only chance we get to catch a glimpse of the class of 2020 before draft day, with carnival likely to take place in October. In the meantime, Draft Central takes a look at how each regional squad may line up should the championships come around, but with a few stipulations in place. We began with our Vic Metro, Vic Country, and South Australian squad predictions, and today we take a look at Western Australia’s (WA) potential line-up.

GUIDELINES:

  • Top-agers (2002-born) have been prioritised due to the limited season and exposure
  • Of those, AFL Academy Hub members also gain priority for the starting squad
  • The inclusion of bottom-agers (2003-born) in the hub, and top-agers outside it is limited to three spots in the starting 18
  • 19-year-old inclusions are also limited, having already staked their claims in previous years

A lot may change between now and when the squad will be announced, and it should be noted that players with known long-term injuries will not be picked here. Of course, the sides may vary greatly as players look to shift and develop in different positions, but each member has been selected based on the roles they have previously played. Given only previous form, preseason testing and scratch matches are what we have to go off, bolters are also difficult to gauge at this point.

Players named as depth outside of the initial squad below are inevitably options who will rotate through the side, and it is impossible to fit all the options within a list of 22. But without further ado, let’s get stuck into the fourth squad prediction, with WA’s talent broken down line-by-line.

* – denotes bottom-aged
** – denotes 19-yo

DEFENCE

FB – Blake Morris (Subiaco), Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts), Rhett Bazzo* (Swan Districts)
HB – Brandon Walker (East Fremantle), Heath Chapman (West Perth), Ty Sears (Swan Districts)

The West Australian spine is one of the few to boast genuine talls in most key position posts, starting with Denver Grainger-Barras and Heath Chapman in defence. Both are terrific in the air and provide good versatility as talls, able to shut down opponents, impact the play aerially, and use the ball soundly out of defensive 50.

Fremantle Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect Brandon Walker‘s name will quickly be placed on the team sheet, with Ty Sears an agile outside mover who takes up the opposite half-back flank in our side. Making it three Swan Districts products in the back six is Rhett Bazzo, joined by WA’s 2019 Under 16 MVP, Blake Morris on the last line.

Both are good competitors in the air; with Bazzo a potential key position prospect at 194cm as a bottom-ager, while Morris is a late bloomer who can intercept with his high marking and shrewd reading of the play. The defence has a bit of everything, and should compete well on all levels with Grainger-Barras the centrepiece and leading draft prospect.


MIDFIELD

C – Jack Carroll (East Fremantle), Zane Trew (Swan Districts), Judd McVee* (East Fremantle)
FOL – Kalin Lane** (Claremont), Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth), Finn Gorringe (East Fremantle)

A trio of tough, big-bodied ball winners look likely to attend the centre bounces for WA, with Nathan O’Driscoll (187cm), Zane Trew (186cm), and Finn Gorringe (183cm) all inside types who can crack in and win the hard ball. O’Driscoll is a thumping left-foot kick and capable marker who may also feature across half-back, while Trew is perhaps an even better disposer by foot who also earned Under 16 All Australian honours in 2018.

Palming down to them could well be a true bolter in Kalin Lane, who featured in the 2020 AFL Academy intake despite only playing one WAFL Colts game for Claremont. The 202cm big-man is also the sole 19-year-old to feature in the side, and should be aided well by a couple of other talls in terms of ruck duties.

On the outside, Jack Carroll adds to the high-level kicking abilities to make it three East Fremantle prospects among the midfield group. He displayed his class in last year’s Under 17 All Stars showcase, and is joined on the opposite wing by Judd McVee, a bottom-aged small who has that classic burst out of the stoppages and may feature on the inside.


FORWARD

HF – Joel Western (Claremont), Shannon Neale (South Fremantle), Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder)
FF – Owen Dann (East Fremantle), Logan McDonald (Perth), Ira Jetta (South Fremantle)

There is plenty of versatility among the proposed West Australian forward group, with two genuine talls again slotting into key position spots, while each of the smaller options can also rotate through different roles. Among them, Joel Western is an exciting prospect who is part of Fremantle’s NGA and can rotate through the midfield, credit to his freakish skills and evasiveness.

Ira Jetta is another small who can also double as a midfielder at the Under 18 level, but has terrific goal sense and fills a spot up forward here. Owen Dann takes up the other pocket but can be thrown into defence, while Peel Thunder’s Isiah Winder slots in at half-forward – a player who catches the eye, and yet another sub-180cm mover who can shuffle further afield.

Logan McDonald is one of the leading key position prospects in the national talent pool and is simply a lock at full forward, having already represented the Black Ducks at Under 18 level in 2019. His athleticism, clean hands, and contested marking will put WA in good stead and he has grown to true key position height at 195cm. Shannon Neale, another late bloomer will rotate between the ruck and forwardline, able to compete in the air while also possessing good athletic traits at 200cm.

The flexibility of the side as a whole is stamped with that of the forward six here, with each player both versatile in their respective positions while being able to double in separate roles. With a couple of solid talls to help the smalls crumb, this group could also produce a handy highlight reel.


INTERCHANGE

INT – Luke Polson* (Peel Thunder), Kade Dittmar* (East Perth), Kellen Johnson (West Perth), Tyler Nesbitt (Peel Thunder)

A pair of bottom-agers head our interchange, which was a typically difficult one to whittle down. Luke Polson is a 195cm ruck/forward who can provide depth on either line, while Kade Dittmar is a hard-working and physical midfielder with a booming kick and the ability to play elsewhere if required. Polson’s Peel Thunder teammate Tyler Nesbitt rounds out the 22 alongside fellow top-age academy member Kellen Johnson, both medium-sized prospects who may feature at either end of the ground.


SQUAD DEPTH

There is a good amount of bottom-age depth in the West Australian ranks, and some top-agers outside of the AFL Academy bubble who could push their case for selection. Jack Hindle is the only top-age academy member to miss out on our 22, but will likely rotate through the side. Chris Walker, the twin brother of Brandon is another who may be thereabouts, while Jamison Ugle is a speedy type who could garner attention along with Subiaco’s Tyler Brockman as forward options. Talented 199cm ruck/forward Michael Mallard had a decent Under 16 campaign for WA, and is already a known quantity if selectors are looking for even more key position depth.

In terms of those eligible for the 2021 draft who feature in the academy hub, Max Chipper is a classy midfielder from the stacked Swan Districts squad. Matthew Johnson is a tall but raw prospect who can also play forward, and Mitchell Brown is another midfield option who may put his hand up. Rounding out the crop is Claremont’s Jacob van Rooyen and Richard Bartlett, both of whom featured for the Black Ducks in last year’s Under 16 national carnival.

Picture: Michael Farnell – Sports Imagery Australia

>> READ UP ON THE 2020 WA U18s:
>> 2019 WAFL Colts Content

AFL Draft Watch:

Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll

Marquee Matchups:

Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Kaine Baldwin

Positional Analysis:

Key Forwards