A look ahead: The 21 top prospects for 2021

WHILE we are only a day removed from the 2020 AFL National Draft, Draft Central is already looking forward to the next crop of elite level hopefuls. This year’s AFL Draft Guide featured 21 of the best top-age prospects eligible to be drafted in 2021, providing pocket profiles and an insight into what to expect from a upcoming bumper crop. Clubs have already been jostling for position among next year’s order, as plenty of players do the same at the top end with their on-field efforts. We have already identified an early frontrunner, with a familiar father-son name not far off and plenty of variety in terms of representatives from each state and territory.

21 in 2021

The top contender:

Jason Horne (South Adelaide/South Australia)
21/06/2003 | 182cm/75kg
Inside Midfielder/Forward

Horne is the current frontrunner among next year’s crop after returning a sensational season of football. Having already established himself among South Adelaide’s Under 18 setup, he quickly came to dominate this year’s proceedings and earned a call-up to the senior side. He adapted well to the speed of the game playing mostly as a forward, soaring for high marks and backing his speed across the ground. The 2019 SA Under 16 MVP has very few weaknesses, but plenty of weapons at his disposal.

Braden Andrews (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
21/02/2003 | 189cm/83kg
Midfielder/Utility

Somewhat a jack of all trades, Andrews plugged gaps on each line for Vic Metro at last year’s Under 16 championships; showing clean hands, a cool head, and match-winning abilities. Rates highly for upside.

Samuel Banks (Clarence/Tasmania)
2/04/2003 | 186cm/72kg
Midfielder/Half-Back

Arguably Tasmania’s leading 2021 prospect, Banks was the Under 16 Division 2 MVP last year and has already turned out for the Tasmania Devils Under 18 side. The balanced midfielder/half-back has also played senior football for Clarence, showing plenty of class while disposing by foot.

Rhett Bazzo (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
17/10/2003 | 194cm/74kg
Tall Defender

One of Western Australia’s top talents heading into 2021, Bazzo is a versatile defender renowned for his intercept marking ability. He could well blaze a trail similar to that of fellow Swan Districts product, Denver Grainger-Barras having established himself among the Colts side and in the PSA competition this year.

Cooper Beecken (Glenelg/South Australia)
24/02/2003 | 188cm/72kg
Defender

A tall and rangy defender, Beecken staked his claim as a potential high-end prospect for 2021 with a promising showing in this year’s Under 18 All-Stars game. It capped off a solid season overall for the 17-year-old, who holds similarities to Will Day with his stature, marking and kicking abilities.

Lachlan Brooks (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
1/02/2003 | 179cm/75kg
Inside Midfielder

Brooks earned Under 16 All Australian honours after an outstanding carnival for Vic Metro where he showcased great grit and ball winning ability at the contest. He was looking to make his way into Sandringham’s side as a small defender this year, while also playing midfield for Brighton Grammar.

Campbell Chesser (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country)
27/04/2003 | 185cm/79kg
Half-Back/Wing

Hailing from Murray’s region, Chesser boards at Melbourne Grammar and is set to represent Sandringham during his NAB League stints. He is a rebounding half-back who can also provide dash off the wing, boasting great speed and a wicked boot on the outer.

Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
01/03/2003 | 183cm/72kg
Balanced Midfielder

He has only just entered the Oakleigh Chargers system, but Daicos is already well-known not only for his exploits with Carey Grammar in the APS competition, but also for his ties to Collingwood as a father-son prospect. He has terrific skills and ironically supports Carlton. Already a top five chance.

Arlo Draper (South Adelaide/South Australia)
30/01/2003 | 185cm/71kg
Midfielder/Forward

A smooth-moving type with plenty of upside, Draper returned a fantastic bottom-age season with South Adelaide to prove on of South Australia’s brightest 2021 candidates. He wins a good amount of contested ball while also providing marking and goal threats up forward.

Joshua Fahey (Gold Coast Academy/NSW/ACT)
11/11/2003 | 186cm/76kg
Half-Back/Outside Midfielder

While formerly tied to the GWS Academy, Fahey represented that of the Gold Coast Suns this year and showed fine form. He is a damaging rebound defender who gains plenty of meterage with his daring dash and raking left boot.

Ben Hobbs (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
15/09/2003 | 182cm/76kg
Inside Midfielder

There are few others who show quite the appetite Hobbs does for the contest, and soggy conditions at last year’s Under 16 championships saw him thrive. Having since made his NAB League debut, Hobbs continues to pump the ball forward and tackle hard at the coalface.

Matthew Johnson (Subiaco/Western Australia)
16/03/2003 | 192cm/80kg
Inside Midfielder

Subiaco Colts premiership player, Johnson developed well in 2020 to become one of his state’s leading midfielders. He has a terrific balance of aggression and class, able to win his own ball and carve ways around his opponents on the exit. Has great upside as a raw, tall ball winner.

Alex Lukic (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
7/01/2003 | 195cm/86kg
Key Forward

Lukic is an athletic tall forward who fares particularly well close to goal. After leading the Under 16 Division 1 goalkicking with nine majors, he made his NAB League debut in a stacked Oakleigh side and showed plenty of promise. Has good speed and can compete at ground level.

Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
23/01/2003 | 186cm/78kg
Midfielder/Utility

A hard-working midfielder who can play a role on each line, Molan brings a true team-first attitude. He made his NAB League debut last year and has some good upside given his size and versatility. One who you can rely on to compete.

Cooper Murley (Norwood/South Australia)
20/06/2003 | 177cm/66kg
Small Midfielder/Forward

Part of Norwood’s Under 18 premiership side, Murley already looks a class above the grade. His speed out of congestion, repeat forward running, and excellent skills made for scintillating viewing in 2020, making him a prime prospect for next year. Still has some filling out to do.

Joshua Rachele (Murray Bushranger/Vic Country)
11/04/2003 | 179cm/77kg
Small Midfielder/Forward

Rachele rightly took out the Division 1 and Vic Country MVP awards at last year’s Under 16 carnival, putting him firmly in the pick one race. He went on to average two goals per his four NAB League games, bringing plenty of x-factor up forward and spark through midfield.

Lewis Rayson (Glenelg/South Australia)
14/01/2003 | 181cm/64kg
Half-Back

A small defender who impacts in a big way, Rayson provides plenty of drive from half-back. His ability to read the play and break forward quickly in transition is a real asset, capped off by damaging use by foot.

Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide/South Australia)
31/07/2003 | 183cm/76kg
Midfielder/Forward

Roberts is a standout wherever he plays and dominated both the school football and SANFL Under 18 scenes at times in 2020. He is capable of racking up huge numbers through sheer work-rate and competitiveness, while also posing a scoring threat when resting up forward.

Josh Sinn (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
28/01/03 | 186cm/72kg
Half-Back/Midfielder

Was captain of Vic Metro’s carnival-winning Under 16 side in 2019 and adapted well between multiple roles. Originally employed as a half-back for his run and damaging use by foot, Sinn also thrived in midfield and somewhat of a wildcard. Has plenty of desirable traits and potential.

Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
27/01/2003 | 181cm/74kg
Midfielder/Forward

Another who has plenty of runs on the board already, Sonsie is silky smooth on the ball through midfield and dangerous around goal. He made his NAB League debut for minor premiers, Eastern Ranges after winning Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP award.

Jacob Van Rooyen (Claremont/Western Australia)
16/04/2003 | 194cm/88kg
Key Forward

A dominant key forward with terrific aerial presence, Van Rooyen is one of the leading prospects in his position for 2021. He booted 19 goals in 10 WAFL Colts games this season, finding the big sticks at least once in each outing.

In the mix:

In such a promising crop, there are plenty of names who could have easily squeezed into the initial list. From a Victorian perspective, the likes of Lachlan Rankin and Youseph Dib are two exciting talents from the Oakleigh Chargers who featured strongly in the Metro Under 16 squad. Dib is tied to Collingwood as an NGA and plies his trade both inside, on the wing, or up forward, while Rankin is a classy user off half-back. Blake Howes was another standout on the Metro end and has great upside as a high-marking, athletic forward.

South Australians have benefitted greatly from a full state league season, albeit improvised. Morgan Ferres is a tall forward with terrific athleticism and the ability to dominate at centre half-forward. Nasiah Wanganeen and Jase Burgoyne were others to show plenty in the SANFL Under 18s this year, with the latter the son of Peter Burgoyne and thus tied to Port Adelaide as a father-son. Isaiah Dudley, the cousin of Kysaiah Pickett also has links to a club already in Adelaide. He is small, but has plenty of talent and should not be forgotten after an injury-riddled year.

West Australian prospects also benefitted from a season of football, with the likes of Lochlan Paton and Judd McVee both getting some Under 18 midfield minutes. Paton is a solid mover who can roam forward, while McVee is an explosive stoppage player who can also move on the outer. Joshua Browne is another name right up there after his efforts for East Fremantle in 2020, with Max Chipper another to keep in mind as a clean outside user.

Featured Image: Jason Horne is our top pick for 2021 | Credit: Deb Curtis/SANFL

6 comments

  1. Apart from a select few Melbourne boys (who no doubt a similar article was written about this time last year) that got drafted this year, you seem to have forgotten about a large crop of boys who never got a chance this year. How disappointing you jump straight to the next crop of “elite” 18 yr olds for 2021. Perhaps don’t forget it’s an u19s comp now for a reason thanks to Covid. These boys deserve respect too, or do they actually not have a chance?

    1. Hi David,

      Valid comment, of course. With the new Under 19s format, top-agers who missed out this year will inevitably get a whole new round of coverage from Draft Central in 2021 through scouting notes, draft profiles, and more content of the like as the season kicks into gear. They have not been forgotten, a similar article pertaining the top 2002-births to watch will also be published closer to the season – keep an eye out!

  2. I think you forgot a stellar footballer nominated for next year’s draft. His name is Lachlan McCormick and whilst I am slightly biased, due to the fact that I am his father. He is a gun. Currently he is training with the Lions elite 19’s program and is doing his presenting with the Ashley hornets vfl club and training with Wilson grange in the QAFL

  3. There’s little backline playing down at North Adelaide by the name of Blayne O’loughlin. In his under 16’s season played a lot of midfield and was very impressive then last year he played down back and his positioning and skills were elite and saw him rack up lots of the ball. To finish off the year he played in the under 18’s game and finished with 18 disposals playing limited minutes down back.

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