Ones to Watch: 2022 Northern Academy prospects

WITH the likes of Harris Andrews (Brisbane Lions), Jack Bowes (Gold Coast SUNS), Tom Green (GWS GIANTS), and Isaac Heeney (Sydney Swans) among the many great Northern Academy products, there are always prospects of note coming out of each region in an AFL Draft sense. While there may not be as many featuring at the top end of this year’s crop, there are still a bunch to consider and plenty more for the future. In a special Ones to Watch edition, we take a look at some of the Northern Academy talents to keep an eye on ahead of next year’s intake.

BRISBANE LIONS

Jaspa Fletcher

Fletcher has somewhat a double-link to the club, being not only an academy member but also a father-son prospect, with his father Adrian playing 107 games for the Brisbane Bears/Lions. Fletcher looms as one of the top Northern State talents heading into 2022, with his speed and class by foot two standout attributes in his game. Fletcher is also extremely versatile, able to fill a role up either end, on a wing or right in the thick of things in the engine room, giving whichever team he plays for a lot of options.

Riley McMillan

A creative player in the forward half of the ground, McMillan has a lot of tricks to win the ball and get himself out of congestion, combining his speed and agility to get clear from opponents and then use the ball well by foot to get it to his teammates. When McMillan has run through the midfield, his positioning around stoppages has been consistently good, with his clean hands in close a crafty weapon.

Bailey Tome

A hard at it inside ball winner, Tome is the type of hard-working midfielder that makes life easier for the outside runners. With impressive movement that allows him to keep up with most opponents and be able to tackle as soon as they grab the ball, it is not uncommon to see Tome lay three or four tackles in a short period, as is his relentless approach.

Others:

Ravi Schofield is an exciting forward that can pinch hit in the midfield and use his athleticism as a weapon. Benjamin McCarthy plays as a reliable defender who can also fill a role forward. Liam McNeil and Thalayn Ryschka are two impressive ruck options for 2022. Will Ashcroft, whilst not an academy prospect, is tied to the club via father-son rules as the son of Marcus. He looks an early top five contender and is currently plying his trade for the Sandringham Dragons at NAB League level.

GOLD COAST SUNS

Jared Eckersley

A high-leaping running defender, Eckersley is another Broadbeach product that was able to impact at Under 19’s level in 2021. He was consistently a roadblock to opposition attacks, contesting well with his spoiling and rebounding effectively with his long kick to get his side back in its front half from defensive 50. 

Cody Harrington

Utilising his speed and smarts, Harrington is a constant danger in the forward half of the ground and can hurt the opposition in plenty of ways. Coming from talent factory Broadbeach, whilst Harrington is more than capable of playing a traditional small forward role, he’s an aerial and one-on-one marking threat, making him a difficult match up for one defender to deal with. To go with all this, Harrington is also a solid tackler, taking opponents down more often than not when he gets a hold. Harrington is a goal sneak as well, able to kick them from anywhere or set them up by hitting teammates with his deadly kick. 

Campbell Lake

Popping up all over the ground regardless of his starting position, Lake is a hard working midfielder with genuine will to run both ways and win the football. A Labrador product, Lake combines this work-rate with quality disposal, particularly when heading inside 50, often looking to hit up leading forwards or putting it where he wants them to go.

Others:

Levi Fyffe and Joshua Young are high leaping and exciting forwardline targets who have formed a dangerous duo when playing together, with the two often working up the ground as well to be link up options. Kye Reynoldson is a winger who can also play half-back that turns opponents inside out with his evasiveness, and possesses a penetrating kick. Taine Dawson rotates between the forward line and the ruck, with some impressive speed off the mark and a high leap that makes him a danger around the ground.

GWS GIANTS

Angus Curry

Currently boarding as Wesley College, Curry has had a few more chances to impress than a lot of other Northern Academy prospects for 2022; playing for Wesley, Oakleigh Chargers in the Under 17 series and the GWS Academy at different times. Curry doesn’t let his shorter stature hold him back, showing a lot of tenacity with his approach to contests and tackles, but also balancing that with quality ball use when he wins it.

Luke Lawrence

Looming as a dangerous midfielder that can rest forward in the future, Lawrence has made the most of his limited appearances in 2021 – including a three-goal haul in his only NAB League appearance. Mostly playing through the midfield through the academy series, Lawrence’s ability to get away from, or around, opponents with his speed and agility is eye catching, while his ability to find the right handball option in close most impressive.

Dayne Posthuma

Posthuma is a no fuss tall defender, remaining consistently accountable for his own opponent whilst drifting across and intercepting in front of contests to aid his teammates. The 197cm Queanbeyan product has a good leap and read of the ball, as well as a deceiving amount of speed, where he usually follows up with clean ball use.

Others:

Nick Madden is a strong bodied ruck who is already 203cm and is strong one-on-one, providing headaches for opposition as he positions down the line to take intercept marks. Harry Rowston is an in and under midfielder that can be damaging with his disposal, able to get through traffic and provide second efforts. Nathan Battaglia provides an athletic option up forward capable of getting high on opposition shoulders with plenty more to work with going into the future.

SYDNEY SWANS

Tye Gander

An athletic medium forward option, Gander is electric around the contest and even more exciting when leading up at the footy, getting on an opponents’ shoulders without putting a hand on them and sticking high marks or selling candy to open up more space, Gander is capable of it all. His leap is such a strength it is not uncommon to see him rotate through the ruck and win some contests, then follow up his own tap at ground level.

Billy King

A physically imposing but also athletic ruck and forward option, King wins most ruck contests he attends; able to out-body opponents well, but just as capable of leaping over them even when giving up a little bit of height. What makes King so dangerous is his strong marking when resting forward and good leading patterns, making him a danger when he gets on the move inside 50.

Joshua Nicholls

With a nice bit of speed to help him, Nicholls can fill in role up either end, on a wing or even through the midfield, applying the same level of intent to win the ball and use it. A jack of all trades type, Nicholls is good across the board with his skills and footy IQ, making him particularly dangerous when given the freedom to roam around the ground and impact where he sees fit.

Others:

William Sabolch is a solid defender that can run through the midfield, with his ball use particularly impressive out of the back half and resulting in a lot of attacking plays. Bililign Robertson plays mostly on a wing but is more than comfortable in congestion where he can find a backwards handball option, whilst Christian Webster is a taller option that can play up either end with a good mark. Indhi Kirk, the oldest child of Brett, is also in the academy and possesses some impressive tricks as a small forward, whilst fellow club legend Michael O’Loughlin has had his nephew TJ Speedy Coe recently switch across from rugby, bringing a lot of speed and excitement to the forwardline.

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