THE ANNUAL Victorian Young Guns showcase is back in 2021, with Metro and Country squads set to battle it out as prospects look to stake their claims for mid-season draft (June 2) selection. Bouncing down at 2:30pm tomorrow at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee, the fixture will see a selection of Victoria’s brightest Under 23 talent fielded all at once.
Though the parameters have been set at the 23-year-old limit, no player selected is older than 20, with 48 of the nominated prospects coming from the NAB League – including the entire Metro team – and just four out of the Victorian Football League (VFL). With players essentially hand-picked by AFL recruiters, the match promises to provide a useful insight into who is on the draft radar at this point.
>> SCROLL to see the full squads
Among the Metro standouts are a couple of talls who come in fresh off some VFL exposure. Oakleigh Chargers bigman Ned Moyle is one of them, and he looms as a favourable mid-season draft option having also turned out for the AFL Academy recently. The other is Calder Cannons ruck-forward Liam Podhajski, a fast-developing type who has proven his upside this year. The pair respectively played for Collingwood and Northern Bullants at state league level.
Some promising Next Generation Academy (NGA) graduates are also in the mix, with Cody Raak (Western Bulldogs) among them. The marking defender has been a level above the NAB League and recently earned a VFL berth with the Bulldogs. The raw athleticism of Carlton-tied prospect Dominic Akuei should also catch the eye, he can rotate up either end of the field while pinch-hitting in the ruck with a huge leap.
Bulldogs and Blues fans should also be on the lookout for a pair of father-sons in NAB League top-agers Ewan Macpherson and Charlie McKay. Both were overlooked last year but have returned in fine form, boasting good size as inside midfielders who win plenty of ball at the coalface, but can also rotate back to defence. Macpherson was also seen kicking a bag of five goals for local side, Diamond Creek a fortnight ago.
Elsewhere, skilled small forward Corey Preston remains on the radar after fighting for a preseason supplementary selection spot at the Western Bulldogs. The likes of Darby Hipwell (midfielder, Sandringham), Dylan Thomas (forward, Collingwood), Sam Paea (key forward, Essendon) have all gained VFL experience this year, while Logan Young is a West Australian native who crossed to play with Sandringham Dragons this year. He is a tall midfielder who has also rotated forward.
Country will field the only four non-NAB League listed players on Saturday, including one of just two selected 20-year-olds in Aaron Gundry. The 201cm Bendigo Pioneers product is a developing ruck who currently plies his trade for Carlton’s reserves. Isaac Wareham (Geelong VFL) and Sam Durham (Richmond VFL) are familiar names with plenty of their own upside, while 2019 Bulldogs NGA graduate Mutaz El Nour (Northern Bullants) rounds out the state league selection.
Dandenong Stingrays speedster Kobi George is Country’s sole current NGA prospect, tied to Melbourne, but the likes of Will Bravo and Charlie Byrne have experienced the rigours of AFL-level training having fought for preseason supplementary selection spots at Hawthorn and Essendon respectively, before rolling back into the NAB League system come season proper.
Among those with VFL exposure this year are nippy Bendigo Pioneers smalls Sam Conforti and Jack Hickman. Both have turned out twice for Essendon’s reserves side and showed plenty – particularly in last week’s outing against Carlton. Expect them to rotate forward through midfield, or station on the outer. Geelong VFL-listed pair Charlie Ham and Marcus Herbert will also play, having turned out against the AFL Academy last month.
Ham, the brother of Essendon’s Brayden will be joined by another brother-of in the squad. Will Papley, who has similar forward craft to his elder sibling Tom, also earned a berth in the side and will likely start inside attacking 50 with the potential to roll into midfield. Elsewhere, watch for the work-rate of wingman Noah Gribble, who has impressed in the NAB League after tearing his ACL last year.
1. Jake Arundell, 18, 169cm, 65kg, Eastern Ranges
2. Harrison White, 19, 175cm, 70kg, Western Jets
3. Eren Soylemez, 19, 179cm, 82kg, Sandringham Dragons
4. Ewan Macpherson, 19, 179cm, 82kg, Northern Knights
5. Tom Blamires, 18, 180cm, 76kg, Sandringham Dragons
6. Corey Preston, 18, 181cm, 77kg, Eastern Ranges
7. Darby Hipwell, 18, 182cm, 82kg, Sandringham Dragons
8. Harrison Keeling, 19, 183cm, 68kg, Eastern Ranges
9. Joel Trudgeon, 18, 185cm, 90kg, Northern Knights
10. Charlie McKay, 18, 186cm, 83kg, Sandringham Dragons
11. Lachlan Riley, 19, 186cm, 85kg, Sandringham Dragons
12. Dylan Thomas, 18, 187cm, 77kg, Oakleigh Chargers
13. Liam Conway, 19, 188cm, 87kg, Western Jets
14. Ben De Bolfo, 18, 188cm, 79kg, Northern Knights
15. Sam Clohesy, 18, 189cm, 72kg, Calder Cannons
16. Fraser Elliot, 18, 189cm, 88kg, Oakleigh Chargers
17. Luke Cleary, 19, 189cm, 80kg, Sandringham Dragons
18. Logan Young, 19, 190cm, 84kg, Sandringham Dragons
19. Marc Massarotti, 18, 191cm, 91kg, Eastern Ranges
20. Cody Raak, 18, 192cm, 80kg, Western Jets
21. Dominic Akuei, 18, 192cm, 76kg, Northern Knights
22. Samuel Paea, 18, 194cm, 94kg, Calder Cannons
23. Flynn Maguire, 19, 195cm, 82kg, Oakleigh Chargers
24. Riley Smith, 20, 200cm, 104kg, Eastern Ranges
25. Felix Flockart, 19, 202cm, 80kg, Sandringham Dragons
26. Liam Podhajski, 18, 202cm, 99kg, Calder Cannons
27. Ned Moyle, 19, 205cm, 87kg, Oakleigh Chargers
1. Sam Conforti, 19, 173cm, 74kg, Bendigo Pioneers
2. Charlie Ham, 18, 180cm, 74kg, Geelong Falcons
3. Kobi George, 19, 182cm, 74kg, Dandenong Stingrays
4. Jack Hickman, 19, 177cm, 71kg, Bendigo Pioneers
5. Patrick Parnell, 19, 178cm, 60kg, Murray Bushrangers
6. Clayton Gay, 19, 183cm, 77kg, Dandenong Stingrays
7. Will Bravo, 19, 181cm, 77kg, Dandenong Stingrays
8. Marcus Herbert, 18, 181cm, 81kg, GWV Rebels
9. Flynn Young, 19, 181cm, 69kg, Geelong Falcons
10. Isaac Wareham, 19, 183cm, 81kg, Geelong VFL
11. Will Papley, 18, 178cm, 78kg, Gippsland Power
12. Noah Gribble, 18, 180cm, 79kg, Geelong Falcons
14. Charlie Byrne, 18, 184cm, 79kg, Murray Bushrangers
15. Sam Durham, 19, 190cm, 82kg, Richmond VFL
16. Cobi Maxted, 18, 188cm, 88kg, Bendigo Pioneers
17. Bryce Milford, 18, 195cm, 82kg, Dandenong Stingrays
18. Xavier Mitchell, 18, 191cm, 78kg, Bendigo Pioneers
19. Daniel Turner, 19, 191cm, 79kg, Murray Bushrangers
20. Ryan O’Keefe, 19, 192cm, 69kg, Bendigo Pioneers
22. Caleb Ernst, 18, 194cm, 91kg, Bendigo Pioneers
23. Mutaz El Nour, 19, 192cm, 83kg, Northern Bullants VFL
24. Cameron McLeod, 18, 192cm, 78kg, Murray Bushrangers
25. Jai Neal, 18, 192cm, 88kg, Dandenong Stingrays
27. Mason Hawkins, 19, 198cm, 82kg, Gippsland Power
28. Aaron Gundry, 20, 201cm, 91kg, Carlton VFL
The game is set to be streamed live via the official AFL app and website. Stay tuned to Draft Central for scouting notes on the outstanding players from both sides.