Draft Central Power Rankings: June 2021

POWER Rankings are back. Draft Central’s first edition for 2021 features 25 of the nation’s best AFL Draft prospects, with plenty of football already played and the best yet to come. This year’s crop already shapes as being much different to that of 2020, as many more midfielders dominate the pointy end and a far more open pool sees only four of our selected group already tied to clubs. The race for number one honours is also heating up, currently down to two very worthy contenders. Find out who takes out the top gong and which prospects are on the rise in our June Power Rankings.

Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion and each players’ ability, not taking into account any AFL clubs’ lists or needs.

#1 Jason Horne
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg

Snapshot: A midfielder with next to no weaknesses whose power bodes well for tough ball winning and impressive aerial marking, as well as consistent scoreboard impact.

Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne retains his crown midway through the year. The South Adelaide talent impressed in his debut SANFL League outings as a bottom-ager, and has since transitioned into a more prominent midfield role with guidance from former Carlton and Adelaide champion, Bryce Gibbs. He has long been a standout among the South Australian crop, participating in back-to-back Under 16 carnivals and being crowned his state’s MVP in 2019 as captain. Still yet to turn 18, Horne boasts a well-balanced game with plenty of damaging strengths and very few weaknesses, with his exposure at senior level another factor which sees him awarded with number one status in our eyes.

Season so far:

Horne has hardly missed a beat at SANFL League level for South Adelaide, turning in a consistent level of performance across his seven outings thus far. With added time spent at the centre bounces, he is finding more of the ball and averages a tick over 15 touches per game, including 2.9 clearances and 3.7 inside 50s. Horne has also found the goals in four of those appearances, making the most of his time inside attacking 50 as well. The 17-year-old’s form was good enough to warrant selection in the initial South Australian state squad, though he did not quite make the final cut. He also featured for the AFL Academy against Geelong VFL, proving a key figure in midfield with his attacking intent and maturity on the ball.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus

#2 Nick Daicos (COL F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg

Snapshot: Daicos has an unrivalled understanding of the game; able to bring his teammates into it and anticipate where his next possession will come from, leading to dominant displays.

The Collingwood father-son prospect (son of Peter) has more than justified all the hype leading into 2021, solidifying his status as a bonafide number one contender. Daicos made his long-awaited NAB League debut in Round 1 and has gone on to dominate the competition, putting up ridiculous numbers through the engine room as the skipper of a deeply talented Oakleigh Chargers group. Much like his brother, Josh, Daicos was only due to enter the Chargers’ program last year but was made to wait for his unveiling in Oakleigh colours. It was well worth it, though keen watchers already knew of his supreme ability having seen him hold his own in a Carey Grammar side featuring Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. Daicos is banging down Horne’s door and may well break through as he continues to put runs on the board, in dominant fashion.

Season so far:

Daicos’ figures so far in 2021 are nothing short of remarkable. He leads the NAB League for disposals (average 35.5), kicks (22.3) and goals (nine total) having arguably been the best player afield in all four of his outings to this point. The 18-year-old has increased his disposal output with each passing game as a mainstay in Oakleigh’s midfield, though he has also rested forward at times and is capable of accumulating off half-back. Some of that forward time is down to management, as Daicos suffered a corked thigh in Round 1 and was held back from a VFL debut during the NAB League hiatus. He did turn out for the AFL Academy though, skippering the side and again proving the best among his peers.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3

#3 Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg

Snapshot: A smooth-moving midfielder with terrific poise and class, Sonsie opens up the play with his clean disposal and ability to kick goals.

One of the most highly-touted Victorian prospects before a ball had been bounced in 2021, Sonsie’s best has been exceptional thus far. The Eastern Ranges prospect was Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in 2019 and is one of the few 2003-born NAB Leaguers to have already experienced the Under 19 competition. He was part of his region’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, rolling forward off a wing. Now a draft eligible talent, Sonsie has moved more permanently into midfield and while he is developing his defensive running, has plenty of attacking traits to offer. His ability to exit stoppages with poise and make good decisions with ball in hand is top notch, with that exceptional skill level also translating to dual-sided finishing in front of goal.

Season so far:

Sonsie made a hot start to the season as Draft Central’s Round 1 NAB League Player of the Week. He hit the ground running with 34 disposals and two goals, proving damaging when on top. Across four NAB League outings this year, the 18-year-old has snared five goals from an average of 25 disposals and while he has not always been the best player afield, his class shone through in promising patches. Sonsie also represented Box Hill in the VFL, showing good signs in his state league debut with 24 touches and two well-finished goals, warming to the level steadily. His best has been great to watch, hence his current ranking, but sustaining that impact and doing it both ways is the next step.

>> VFL Player Focus
>> Head-to-Head: Sonsie vs. Daicos
>> NAB League POTW: Round 1

#4 Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 81kg

Snapshot: Roberts is a hard-working and consistent midfielder with senior experience who racks up plenty of the ball, but can also rotate forward.

A second South Adelaide midfielder within the top five of our count, Roberts’ form has seen him prove difficult to deny of such honours. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 17-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, Roberts is also a sound user of the ball and looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a sound model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches the said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.

Season so far:

Starting in the SANFL Under 18s, Roberts put up outstanding numbers across his first three outings. As a key fixture in midfield, he averaged 32 disposals, 6.3 clearances, 7.7 inside 50s, and a tick under two goals per game to earn a richly deserved League call-up. He made a steady start to life in the top flight, ushered in via the front six for two games, averaging 9.5 disposals. School football then came calling, with Roberts captaining the St Peter’s First XVIII and proving one of the more productive campaigners of that competition.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus

#5 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Half-Back/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

Snapshot: A line-breaking half-back who has shown promising development in midfield, Sinn’s greatest strengths are his speed and kick penetration.

Another established leader among the Victorian crop as one of Sandringham’s co-captains, Sinn’s best is as damaging as anyone in the overall draft pool. He is regarded as the best technical kick in the Dragons’ program and is given the license to look for options others simply wouldn’t. His penetrative boot and line-breaking speed make him a meters gained machine, observed most significantly with his well-timed runs off half-back or on the wing. Sinn has also moved onto the inside of late to good effect, showing a handy balance of traits and utilising the size he added during last year’s lost season. His campaign has been interrupted by injury, but he looks poised to return soon and play out a full season in the NAB League.

Season so far:

Sinn’s figures read as consistently as anyone across three NAB League appearances, with the 18-year-old gathering 20 touches in each. A kick-first type, he goes at around three-to-one in terms of ratio and has constantly looked to open games up via that method. While his efficiency has been hit and miss at times, Sinn’s intent and endeavour has been apparent in 2021. A steady start in Round 1 was capped off by a clutch goal late in the piece as Sandringham got up over Oakleigh, with the Dragons coaching staff pulling the trigger early on his midfield release. In Round 3, he was utilised there permanently and registered a whopping 10 inside 50s. He copped a stud to the calf and sat out the late stages of that game, but has been sidelined to this point with a hamstring strain sustained while training with the AFL Academy. The current Victorian lockdown may be a blessing in disguise for Sinn, who should return once the competition recommences.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

#6 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Wing
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

Snapshot: A speedy and productive mover on the outside, Chesser breaks the lines from half-back or the wing but has also shown a good balance in his ball winning.

A second Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 10, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser has the potential to crack Sandringham’s stacked midfield and showcase his balance, though he will be seen moreso in the APS Football competition towards the middle and back-end of the year.

Season so far:

Chesser has featured in just two NAB League games for Sandringham thus far, with a knee complaint seeing him miss the Dragons’ Round 4 clash with Dandenong as well as the AFL Academy showcase against Geelong VFL. He started slowly in his first hitout, but ended up playing a key role in the clutch moments to help lift his side to victory against Oakleigh, winning 23 disposals and five inside 50s. He was less prolific the following week in soggy conditions against Northern, booting a goal from 13 touches on the wing. While he hangs back well for handball receives on the outer, Chesser also showed he can dig in to win his own ball in those fixtures.

#7 Matthew Johnson
Subiaco/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
16/03/2003 | 193cm | 80kg

Snapshot: With smooth agility and clean hands at the contest, Johnson is the premier tall midfielder in this year’s draft crop and has plenty of upside.

Hailed as the best tall midfielder in this year’s crop, Johnson is one with a point of difference and a good amount of development left. The 193cm Subiaco prospect continues to put on size and can win the ball at the coalface, but stands out most with his smooth movement in traffic and clean hands around the ground. He suits an in-vogue modern day prototype and will inevitably yield comparisons to some of the currently dominant midfielders over 190cm. Johnson is already well versed in terms of representative duties and was part of Subiaco’s WAFL Colts premiership side in 2020. He also earned a senior debut this year and would have done so earlier if not for injury on the eve of season proper.

Season so far:

Having been pegged for a League berth in Round 1, Johnson shook off injury to start his season through the Colts in Round 2. His output proved steady, averaging 17.5 touches and a goal per those outings before a promising display for the AFL Academy saw him finally crack the senior level upon his return to Subiaco. He only averaged 6.7 touches in his first three top flight outings, before regaining some ball winning form with 21 and nine tackles back at Colts level. His best has been shown in patches thus far, but his ceiling remains quite high. Dominating in midfield with higher numbers and translating his form to senior grades will be the next step.

#8 Josh Rachele
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg

Snapshot: A lively forward who has drawn comparisons to GWS star Toby Greene, Rachele has unbelievable smarts, skills, and a keen eye for goal.

Rachele is rightly a standout among his draft class, having taken out the Under 16 Division 1 MVP award for Vic Country in 2019. He quickly went on to represent the Murray Bushrangers, averaging a tick under 18 disposals and two goals in four games as a 16-year-old. The exciting forward hails from an elite soccer background and has quick feet to show for it, as well as the smiling celebrations on the end of well-finished goals. Rachele is lauded for his skills and smarts in the forward half, but has shown an aptitude for midfield work with his turn of speed and ability to find the ball at ground level. He’s capable of highlight-reel moments.

Season so far:

In two games so far for the Murray Bushrangers, Rachele was able to show his blend on midfield and forward craft. Against Bendigo in Round 2, he spent more time in the engine room and snared 1.3 from 19 disposals, before coming to life as a more permanent forward in the next game against Geelong Falcons. Rachele’s special finishing ability was on full show as he snared four majors in the Bushies’ big win, running amok inside attacking 50. He copped a head knock in that game and was rested the next week after spending time training with Carlton.

#9 Jack Williams
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Ruck
1/12/2003 | 195cm | 91kg

Snapshot: Williams is an athletic and versatile tall prospect who thrives aerially and consistently kicks goals while rotating through the ruck, or even to defence.

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams is the first genuine tall to appear on our list. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 19 goals in six WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Season so far:

Williams has found the big sticks in each of his six WAFL Colts games this season, booting multiple majors in five of them with two bags of four and one five-goal haul the standout performances. He is yet to drop below 13 disposals and has stayed relevant in each game with his impact up the ground, proving a viable marking target with an average of six clunks per outing. While that marking prowess was tested against senior bodies in the Academy game, Williams’ rate of development is calling for a senior berth some time in the future.

#10 Josh Gibcus
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender 
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg

Snapshot: An intercept marking defender who reads the play well and has a sizeable leap, Gibcus’ eye-catching form has propelled him into top 10 contention.

From one terrific marking player to the next, Gibcus is the second tall prospect on our list and has earned his spot with superb form this year. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender is an intercept type who uses his strengths to advantage; reading the play beautifully and timing his movements to float onto the scene, before rising with his springy vertical leap to take series of marks and force turnovers. While he is working on his ground level game, Gibcus is so clean in the air and usually a sound distributor across the last line, showing great composure on the ball. He was one of the many AFL Academy call-ups and truly held his own in that fixture.

Season so far:

Gibcus has performed exceptionally well across four NAB League outings in 2021, maintaining a high standard and consistently bringing his superpowers to the fore. He has averaged 15.3 disposals, 6.3 marks, and five rebound 50s as a permanent defender for the Rebels, sometimes acting as the floating player back there and even moving onto dangerous marking targets. The 18-year-old looked well up to scratch in his appearance for the AFL Academy, taking on the kick-in duties at times and showing glimpses of his usual best.

#11 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Wing/Half-Back
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

Snapshot: Callaghan is a classy mover with great agility for his size, and has shown a high level of development to prove his balance of outside and inside traits.

One who seems destined to end up in the top 10, and potentially top five come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back is difficult to stop at full flight, with his blend of straight line power and swift agility proving difficult to combat. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his long boot, but recently showcased his potential on the inside as the Dragons shifted their magnets.

Season so far:

Starting as a half-back who would roll up to the wing, Callaghan built on the promise he showed during preseason and at training in years gone by with a terrific NAB League debut. He gathered 19 disposals against Oakleigh and looked ominous, with his Round 4 and 5 performances cementing his top 10 potential. Callaghan booted a goal from 24 disposals against Dandenong, before shifting to the inside against Western to rack up a high of 31 touches. While he has played in midfield at school football level, that confirmation of his inside/outside balance rose his ceiling even further. He also built into the AFL Academy game, showing some dash on the outside.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

#12 Josh Fahey
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Medium Defender
11/11/2003 | 186cm | 76kg

Snapshot: A run-and-gun rebounding defender who gives his all and boasts a raking left-foot kick, Fahey is arguably this year’s leading academy talent.

Our top-ranked Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is quite clearly the best prospect out of the Northern Academies and a real first round contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in the AFL Academy showcase.

Season so far:

Fahey confirmed his potential with a terrific showing for the AFL Academy against Geelong VFL in April, collecting 23 disposals and booting forward nine rebound 50s to take out the Presidents Medal. He was a vocal member of the defence in that game and showcased his leadership qualities, as one of the junior prospects who looked most invested in the contest. Fahey has also turned out for the GIANTS’ VFL side, making a steady debut with nine touches in Round 1 before managing 24 in Round 5 against Richmond. As expected, 16 of them were kicks and he clunked six marks in a showing of his ability to be a safe outlet and intercept threat in defence.

#13 Jacob Van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

Snapshot: Van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands overhead and a booming kick, but has also shown potential to move further afield.

Pegged as Western Australia’s best draft prospect and potentially the leading tall coming into the year, Van Rooyen continues to impress in 2021. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in last year’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis has halted his progress a touch, but Van Rooyen started out the season at League level and is pressing for a return after great form in the WAFL Colts.

Season so far:

Van Rooyen started his senior career in style, booting two goals from 12 disposals and four marks, before being held goalless in a couple of quieter outings. He was rested upon his glandular fever diagnosis, and eased back into action through the Colts grade. There, he regained his goalkicking form with three majors in managed gametime, before returning his best performance to date with 24 disposals, six marks and another three goals in Round 8 against East Perth. The 194cm prospect also got a run through midfield late in that game, having shown nice mobility in his movement up the ground and back towards goal.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

#14 Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder/Forward
2/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg

Snapshot: An exciting forward who has transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching athletic traits and plenty of upside.

Another prospect out of Subiaco who played in last year’s WAFL Colts premiership, Erasmus has built on his potential this year having come in as a potential first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 Grand Final, showcasing great speed and clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this season, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with that scoreboard impact also in his back pocket.

Season so far:

Mixing his time between the WAFL Colts and PSA competitions in Western Australia, Erasmus has been a standout through midfield. He averages bang on 28 disposals for the Lions across four games so far, incredibly with a high of 29 and low of 27. He has also taken almost eight marks per game and has been able to sustain his impact, while having the potential to burst to life at any given moment. Erasmus was also terrific for the AFL Academy as a medium forward, serving a reminder of his aerial skills and looking to have improved his disposal by foot – a growth area – as the game wore on.

#15 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Defender/Forward/Ruck
19/08/2003 | 197cm | 73kg

Snapshot: Darcy is a fast-developing, but raw tall talent who can play in each key position post, is athletic, and marks the ball well.

The apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top 15 pick made on potential, with that versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy has impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck in the NAB League, but has also had an eye-catching forward foray at school football level. Bulldogs fans, you have another on the radar.

Season so far:

Darcy made his NAB League debut in Round 3 against Eastern Ranges, immediately exceeding expectations in tricky conditions for a tall. He looked impressive with his leap in the ruck and down back, earning a steady 13 disposals and seven hitouts for the day. His stocks continued to rise in Round 4, as that marking prowess came into play against the Western Jets. Darcy clunked nine grabs and had 21 disposals, again as a key defender who pinch-hit in the ruck. He then ventured into the school football realm with Scotch College, translating his form to a forward role where he picked up a bag of five goals in one game, and continued to stand out as a dominant key position talent.

#16 Rhett Bazzo
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Tall Defender/Forward
17/10/2003 | 195cm | 81kg

Snapshot: A key defender who has adjusted to a forward role in 2021, Bazzo is fantastic in his aerial judgement and clean with ball in hand.

One of Western Australia’s many promising key position prospects, Bazzo made his name as a defender but has since shifted forward. As he did in the AFL Academy showcase, the Swan Districts product may well revert back to that defence post during state representative duties, but looks just as suited to playing an attacking role with his sound marking and use of the ball. He is another who claimed Under 16 All Australian honours in 2019, making him a well known quantity and one with plenty of class. Bazzo has shown just that in three WAFL Colts games to this point, while also turning out Guildford Grammar in the PSA Football competition.

Season so far:

Bazzo has proven his swingman potential in 2021 by finding the goals in bunches at each level he has played. He snared four majors during a preseason hitout and went on to boot two in each of his opening two WAFL Colts games, before finding similar form for Guilford Grammar at school football level. He was kept quiet in his most recent Colts outing, having just eight touches and being held goalless, but was a solid figure down back for the AFL Academy. His judgement of the ball in flight and intercept marking quality was clear in that game, as always, but Bazzo continues to add strings to his bow.

#17 Ben Hobbs
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg

Snapshot: Hobbs is a hard-nosed, hard-working inside midfielder who loves to compete both defensively, and in a ball-winning sense.

The GWV Rebels ball winner has not been able to fully show his wares in 2021 due to injury, but is one who could break back into top 10 contention with a clean run at it. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety 17-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and will be itching to get back onto the field.

Season so far:

Hobbs’s sole full appearance for the NAB League season came in his side’s opening fixture, against the Geelong Falcons. He was a constant in midfield and proved his ball winning ability, notching 22 touches and five inside 50s while also laying eight tackles. His Round 4 return game against the Murray Bushrangers was cut short, but Hobbs again started in midfield, as he will likely do all year.

#18 Cooper Murley
Norwood/South Australia | Midfielder
20/06/2003 | 178cm | 70kg

Snapshot: A stylish forward runner, Murley holds his own on both sides of the contest and loves to break into attack with speed and slick ball use on the fly.

Murley is an exciting player in full flight, able to break forward quickly with gut running and terrific speed from midfield. He dominated the SANFL Under 18s competition last year and was part of Norwood’s premiership-winning team, showcasing his undeniable talent and upside. In 2021, his progress has been halted by injury, though the 17-year-old has already earned a Reserves berth and remains one of South Australia’s brightest prospects. Having made his return last week, he could well be one to rise up the board with a consistent run of form.

Season so far:

Starting out at Reserves level, Murley adjusted to the more mature bodies steadily with 13 disposals across his first two outings. He is one who will likely use his clean skills and forward run on the outer at senior level, or even as a high half-forward given his knack for finding the goals. Injury meant he could only partially participate in AFL Academy training before missing out on the showcase game against Geelong VFL, but Murley made his return to the SANFL Reserves with 10 disposals in a heavy loss. Watch for his progress as the season wares on.

#19 Josh Goater
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Midfielder
2/06/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with speed, agility and the ability to fly high, Goater is a prospect with great potential.

Goater lays claim to one of the more impressive athletic profiles in the draft pool, particularly in a power sense. His explosive turn of speed and impressive vertical leap are traits which catch the eye at testing events and are transferred on-field, with the Calder Cannons product able to produce exciting passages of play. He has proven his worth in midfield with good ball winning strength and clean hands on the inside, but can also roll out to a wing or pinch-hit up forward. He is another who stakes his claim on upside, and shares similar traits with Essendon draftee Archie Perkins.

Season so far:

Featuring in midfield for Calder straight off the bat, Goater returned a promising first-up performance with 22 disposals against Western in the season opener. He showcased his ability to hit the scoreboard in the next two NAB League games, while bringing a touch of composure to his midfield craft by shifting his focus to be more of a distributor by hand. He did so again after the break against Bendigo, again starting in the middle before switching out to the wing. Goater also got a taste of VFL action in May, turning out for Essendon in Round 5 and booting a goal among his seven touches.

#20 Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg

Snapshot: Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in the engine room, and brilliant marking ability to impact inside attacking 50.

One of the more intriguing and versatile prospects in the draft pool, Draper has garnered attention with his promising bottom-age form and continued success in the SANFL Under 18s this year. The smooth-moving midfielder has had no trouble getting his hands on the ball with more consistent time in midfield, before impacting in his resting stints up forward. He is yet another South Adelaide prospect in the mix, with his stylish form and clean hands making him easy on the eye to keen draft watchers. He is one who may feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.

Seasons so far:

Draper has been super consistent across his seven SANFL Under 18 appearances, averaging 23 disposals and over six clearances per game. He has only dropped below 20 touches once with a high of 27, while finding the goals in all bar two of his outings for the Panthers. He has proven an apt receiver at the stoppages, able to burst away for clearances while also using his leap and smarts around goal to impact the scoreboard. Like Horne and Roberts, he could be one to climb the grades if he continues to post such numbers.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus

#21 Mac Andrew (MEL NGA)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg

Snapshot: A raw tall prospect who has proven his worth in each post, Andrew’s vertical leap and fast-developing craft really catch the eye.

Another key position type who has rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew will have Melbourne recruiters a little nervous with his performances to date. He sits just outside our current top 20 but has that kind of potential, with raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever-improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons Next Generation Academy (NGA) talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Season so far:

Eyes quickly turned to Andrew after he collected 22 disposals, three marks and 11 hitouts on his NAB League debut, before going on to prove it was no fluke by impressing across another three outings. He found himself spending more time forward against the Sandringham Dragons in Round 4 and kicked a goal, but has some development left in his decision making and disposal by foot at times. He boasts clean hands and was better aerially than his averages of three marks and 14.5 hitouts suggest. The same could be said about his game for the AFL Academy, where Andrew was tried up either end before excelling in the ruck during term four, throwing his 200cm frame into each centre bounce with a phenomenal vertical leap.

#22 Ned Long
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
5/02/2003 | 192cm | 88kg

Snapshot: Long is a tall midfielder who navigates the contest with great agility for his size, and can also find the goals when resting forward.

A midfielder in that desired 190cm-plus mould, Long moves well through congestion and often has no trouble getting his hands on the ball. He featured in the 2019 Vic Metro Under 16 squad and was already a good size back then, seeing him play two games for Northern as a 16-year-old. The 18-year-old is one of the many Knights with solid running capacity, which bodes well for extended midfield time despite being able to hit the scoreboard while resting forward or drop back to impact aerially. He will swap his time between the NAB League and APS Football competitions, also representing Melbourne Grammar.

Season so far:

Long made a terrific start to his 2021 campaign, managing 26 disposals, nine marks and three goals against the Western Jets. That dominant display was backed up by 15 touches and a goal against stiff opposition in Sandringham, though his effort to lay nine tackles suited the wet conditions at Preston City Oval. Long’s final NAB League appearance before the break saw him return to his best, impacting both around the ball and close to goal with 25 disposals and another haul of three goals against Gippsland Power. He has since moved on into the APS competition, with promise of a late-season return to NAB League action.

#23 Joshua Browne
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 185cm | 77kg

Snapshot: An ultra-consistent midfielder who runs hard and finds plenty of the ball, Browne is one of the most in-form midfielders nationwide.

Browne is a player whose form has made him hard to deny for a spot in the top 25, with his ability to win big numbers at a remarkable rate making him one of the most consistent performers in the draft pool at the moment. He has built on a promising bottom-age campaign with East Fremantle to hit new heights in the WAFL Colts competition, competing with grunt at the contest and running hard to accumulate around the ground in relentless fashion. He is also quite solid defensively on the inside and is the type of player you want on your side, especially among the centre bounce mix.

Season so far:

While his season as a whole has been outstanding, Browne has hit a purple patch over his last three outings with an average of 36.7 disposals in that time. He hit his season high of 38 touches in Round 8, distributing well by hand on the inside and looking to drive his side forward from where it matters most. Overall, he has averaged 32.5 disposals across six Colts games in 2021, while also showing similar form in his state’s Under 19 trial game. He could well be in for a promotion and should be one of Western Australia’s most prominent figures at the national carnival.

#24 Lewis Rayson
Glenelg/South Australia | Half-Back/Midfielder
14/01/2003 | 181cm | 74kg

Snapshot: Rayson is a lightly-built small defender who sparks attacks on the rebound, with his accumulative factor boding well for more time in midfield.

A dashing half-back who loves to take the game on and can open it up by foot, Rayson has made a terrific start to his 2021 campaign. The 18-year-old is slowly filling out his light frame but is not afraid to win his own ball and compete aerially, making him more than your average running defender. He missed out on AFL Academy honours but was a lock for his state’s academy hub and will likely be a key feature for the Croweaters come National Championships time. Rayson is also being trialled in midfield, where his ball winning ways have continued.

Season so far:

Rayson has been a mainstay in Glenelg’s Under 18s setup, playing six games so far with averages of 30.2 disposals, 7.2 marks, and a combined 7.6 breaches of either arc. Typically a rebounder accustomed to working in space, Rayson has been able to win just as much of the ball on the inside and still looks to be an attacking threat out of the middle. He is still quite light though and is improving his contested game, adding a handy string to his bow which already features some desirable traits.

#25 Darcy Wilmot
Northern Knights | Small Defender
31/12/2003 | 182cm/70kg

Snapshot: A tenacious and brave half-back whose most flashy weapons show on the attack, as he breaks the lines with great speed.

Wilmot has thrust his name into contention with increasingly impressive performances for the Northern Knights in 2021, as well as an impressive senior debut at local football level. The small-medium defender has all the typical class and running prowess you would expect on the rebound, but is also willing to compete above his size in aerial contests. The 17-year-old still has plenty of development left as a December 31 birth, meaning he only just makes the cut to be eligible for this year’s draft. His run-and-gun style is sure to catch many more eyes as the season continues, with Wilmot a prospect truly on the rise.

Season so far:

Wilmot’s numbers so far this NAB League season have been wonderfully consistent, twice registering 15 touches, and twice having it 16 times. His rebounding power is evident with an average of over four per game, and his running bounce total would also be a handy stat to look at given how often he has taken the game on running out of the back half. Wilmot has also shown pretty clean disposal despite the speed at which he operates, proving more than just a one-trick pony across half-back.

IN THE MIX:

There are plenty of prospects vying for position across a very even group past the 20-mark, with near-on another 20 capable of filling those five spots out to number 25. Dandenong Stingrays pair Connor Macdonald and Miller Bergman are among them, with the former a medium midfielder who has started the year well, and the latter a true utility who can use his clean kicking and marking ability off half-back, or up forward.

Almost inevitably, Sandringham also has another couple of prospects around the mark, with 190cm marking forward/wingman Blake Howes a player with plenty of upside, and rising half-forward Luke Nankervis also proving his worth as a genuine prospect this season. Both are developing types who suit a range of roles, and are really excelling with their versatility.

Other NAB Leaguers in the mix include Lachlan Rankin (Oakleigh Chargers) and Josh Ward (Northern Knights), who both have wonderful skills and are clean with ball in hand. Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels) is a half-back who has recently been moved up to the wing, impressing with his kicking and competitiveness. Speaking of, Collingwood NGA prospect Youseph Dib has proven up to the rigours of senior football, turning out in the VFL and cracking in across multiple roles with his mature body. Sam Banks is the Tasmanian to watch, a smooth and classy half-back who is currently out with a broken wrist.

A strong South Australian crop is fronted by the likes of Nasiah Wanganeen and Jase Burgoyne. The latter is a Port Adelaide father-son who has made his League debut, but both have strong family ties to the elite level. Adelaide NGA prospect Isaiah Dudley is another in that boat, with the diminutive midfielder-forward showing his terrific skills upon returning this season. Sturt key forward Morgan Ferres could be another to monitor, having also earned a senior berth in 2021.

Of course, the form of North Adelaide midfielder Hugh Jackson is hard to ignore, with his clean skills and ball winning ability catching the eye. In a similar vein, the exploits of hard running Swan Districts midfielder Max Chipper have also been noted, along with Jackson’s Roosters teammate Blayne O’Loughlin. The latter is also an Adelaide NGA prospect and an AFL Academy representative.

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