COME the end of a year like no other, there is likely to be a greater amount of hard luck stories and near misses than ever before, especially after the recent cuts to AFL list sizes. But for all that doom and gloom, the 2020 AFL Draft intake is also poised to provide some of the best stories of positivity as elite level hopefuls rise from the adversity this year has put forward.
In Draft Central’s newest series, we take a look at some of the draft prospects who remain in contention to fulfil their draft dreams despite missing out on invites to their respective states’ draft combines. These combine lists are often the best indicators of clubs’ interest in players, with at least four nominations required for those who were not selected in the two national Under -17 showcase games last year. Outsider talent from the Vic Country regions are next to go under the microscope, and there are plenty around the mark despite missing a full year of football.
Below are pocket profiles of some players to watch, which will also feature in our upcoming annual AFL Draft Guide.
Sam Conforti | Midfielder/Small Forward
15/03/2002 | 174cm/72kg
The diminutive mover quickly established himself as a mainstay in Bendigo’s lineup last year, going on to average 17.3 disposals across 16 games. He played mostly on the wing but was looking to develop as a hard-running, creative small forward.
Aaron Gundry | Ruck
17/02/2001 | 200cm/84kg
A player who could have benefitted greatly from another year in the NAB League system, Gundry is a mobile ruckman who has also enjoyed stints up forward. The 19-year-old’s clean hands and upside are his strengths, but he has some filling out to do.
Jack Tillig | Half-Back
07/03/2002 | 186cm/84kg
Tillig could have been one to surprise this year with a full NAB League season, set to return to the Pioneers after representing GWV while boarding at St Patrick’s Ballarat for school. He is a solid rebounder who also intercepts well at half-back.
Henry Berenger | Key Defender
31/01/2002 | 193cm/86kg
One who contributed a solid bottom-age campaign consisting of 15 games, Berenger showed he was capable of playing a key defensive role. His athletic profile does not jump off the page, but the 18-year-old is a readymade and versatile rebounder.
Blake Kuipers | Key Defender/Ruck
25/07/2001 | 197cm/82kg
A former high-level volleyballer, Kuipers is a player with plenty of upside who featured at last year’s Under 18 National Championships. He is quite raw, but very athletic and can fill key position posts at either end or in the ruck. Was poised for a big 2020.
Deakyn Smith | Outside Midfielder/Forward
22/08/2002 | 179cm/68kg
Part of Melbourne’s Next Generation Academy, Smith is a lightly-framed outside midfielder who can also rotate forward. He has good speed and plenty of raw talent, but is working on adding polish and consistency to his overall game.
Bayleigh Welsh | Midfielder/Forward
19/01/2002 | 180cm/82kg
Dandenong players and staff alike rate Welsh as a talent who was poised to make a real impact in 2020. He averaged a tick under 12 disposals across 14 NAB League games last year and was set for a more permanent midfield role.
Gennaro Bove | Midfielder/Small Forward
14/01/2002 | 177cm/78kg
One of two Geelong Falcons co-captains for 2020, Bove is a clean and agile small midfielder who can also get his hands dirty on the defensive end. His size and smarts bode well for development as a small forward in future.
Darcy Chrigwin | Inside Midfielder
25/07/2001 | 191cm/89kg
Another player who was poised to shift back to his native region in 2020, Chirgwin was also unlucky not to be picked up last year. The 19-year-old has grown to 89kg and would be a readymade choice as far as inside midfielders go.
Jay Dahlhaus | Small Forward
21/05/2001 | 172cm/71kg
Currently plying his trade with Southern Districts in the NTFL, Dahlhaus is an exciting small forward who brings terrific creative energy and defensive pressure to the forward half. Injury curtailed his top-age season last year and he was set to impact as a 19-year-old in 2020.
Jai Newcombe | Inside Midfielder
02/08/2001 | 184cm/85kg
Was poised to stake his claim as one of 2020’s feel-good stories, having finally made the cut at Gippsland after being overlooked in multiple preseasons. He is an inside bull who proved hard to tackle at this year’s trials and the Power were certainly high on his potential as an over-ager.
Isaac Wareham | Outside Midfielder
24/12/2001 | 186cm/77kg
Another who was unlucky to be overlooked last year, Wareham looked set to put injuries behind him and build on a top-age season which saw him represent Vic Country. He has plenty of development left as a December birth and makes things happen with ball in hand, playing into his overall upside.
Ethan Baxter | Key Defender
31/01/2002 | 193cm/82kg
A Richmond Next Generation Academy member, Baxter was an Under 16 All Australian in 2018 and had some development left to make in 2020. He is a strong key defender who can hold his own in the back 50, especially in one-on-one and aerial contests.
Kade Chalcraft | Outside Midfielder
28/03/2002 | 182cm/79kg
Chalcraft was touted for some more time on the inside this year having already showed his worth as a creative outlet on the outer. He is an evasive small-medium type who played 16 games as a bottom-ager.
Sam Durham | Balanced Midfielder
09/07/2001 | 185cm/77kg
One of last year’s state combine invitees, Durham missed out on being drafted as a top-ager but garnered interest with his speedy adjustment to the code as a multi-sport athlete. He moves well and has good skills, but would be working on his game sense and consistency.