Ben Keays (Queensland/Redland)
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Position: Midfielder/medium forward
Strengths: Workrate, stoppage work, scoreboard impact, marking
Weaknesses: Point of difference, right foot
Player comparison: Luke Parker
First year impact: High
Kicking: Above average
Marking: Above average
Endurance: Above average
Queensland (TAC Cup): four games, 20.3 kicks, 13.3 handballs, 33.5 disposals, 11.3 handball receives, 66 per cent disposal efficiency, seven marks, 4.5 tackles, 0.5 goal
Queensland (under 18 championships): three games, 16.3 kicks, 12.3 handballs, 28.6 disposals, 81 per cent disposal efficiency, five marks, 2.3 tackles, 1 goal
Brisbane have a bargain in this kid. Ben Keays is a dominant inside ball winner who has shown on multiple occasions that he can go forward and create havoc. Keays is a member of the Brisbane academy who is an instant replacement for Jack Redden and James Aish.
Last year Keays was an unknown quantity. He came out of practically nowhere to dominate the under 18 championships as an bottom-ager. He averaged 23 disposals, five tackles, five marks and two goals a game in the under 18 championships. This statline was unprecedented in the Queensland side, which lead him to be selected into the under 18 All-Australian team and the Queensland MVP. This form he carried into the NEAFL and in the TAC Cup. Later in the year, he was selected into the AFL Academy level two after his dominant performances through last year.
This year he has made a statement this year with his performances with the AFL academy. In the first game against Werribee he had 21 disposals in a losing side against the bigger bodies. In the very next game he had 24 disposals against the Northern Blues and kicked a goal. These performances were important in order to lay the foundations for an important year ahead.
Keays then went on to impress at TAC Cup level in his first outing with a 43 disposals and 15 handball receives effort – his best for the season. He continued that form throughout his TAC Cup campaign to average 34 disposals, 11 handball receives, five tackles and seven marks.
Keays carried this strong form into the championships and impressed thoroughly. He was smart, clean, composed and lead by example, helping them collect the division two title. He played more midfield minutes this year compared to last year and it shone through on his statline. He averaged 29 disposals, five clearances, six inside 50s, five marks at an outstanding 81 per cent efficiency. This championships gave him a second under 18 All Australian guernsey, division two title and the Queensland MVP. An impressive CV if you consider he was not in the AFL Academy program before 2015.
Where Keays stands out is his workrate. He is the type of player who will make sure he can get the most out of himself on the field and make the extra effort most people won’t.
He has also shown glimpses of what he can do forward of centre. Keays has an innate ability to go one-on-one forward. He is strong in a one on one contest and can take a grab. This allows him to play deep and be a key target for a team or maybe a potential match winner Dustin Martin style. As a high half-forward he creates drive and can have moments where you think he could tear a game apart. This was on full display in his bottom-age year where he dominated the forward line for the Queensland side.
His marking is one of his best features and allows him to make an impact around the ground. With his contested marking excellent for his size.
Although the previously mentioned traits are important, his stoppage work is pivotal to his game – Keays is a extremely smart player. He does not bully players out of the contest like other contested ball winners, he uses his great agility and weaves through the stoppages taking the ball with him.
Keays at his best can win massive amounts of the ball by ripping it from the other players arms and racking up clearances. This was evident in the first game of the under 18 championships when he had 11 clearances and a game-high 16 contested possessions.
Even though Keays’ strengths are all good, he lacks an elite trait. He is not an elite ball winner, he is not particularly athletic and he does not have elite skills. He’s a jack-of-all trades in sense. This is not to knock on how good he is, but it is a reality check for those expecting a superstar.
Keays is also remarkably one sided kicked. Keays uses his left foot kicking extremely well but in situation where he could easily go onto his right instead tries to weave his way around opponents or use his left foot when there’s an opponent coming from the left. If Keays can start using his right foot, it would add another string in his bow as a player.
Keays as a whole is an exciting prospect who can play round one and make an impact. He’s a hard-working, goal-kicking, marking, stoppage specialist who is going to play a big role for the Lions in 2016.
Under the guidance of midfield coach and club legend Simon Black, we could see a 150 plus gamer who will be apart of the next phase of the Lions’ rebuild. Luke Parker is someone to compare Ben Keays to, as a solid midfielder who can impact stoppages, take marks, go forward and potentially be a match winner down the track. As much as the other 17 clubs would like, Keays will be a Brisbane Lion and become a key player in the future.
Jack Silvagni (Oakleigh Chargers)
Player comparison: Jack Gunston
Strengths: Versatility, goal kicking technique, defensive positioning, overhead marking
Weaknesses: Lack of height to be key position, raw, yet to develop physically
First year impact: Long term prospect
Marking: Above average
Jack Silvagni will be off to Carlton in the 2015 draft thanks to his strong father-son connection to the Blues. Jack will be a third generation Silvagni to play for Carlton, after father Stephen (312 games) and grandfather Sergio (239) pulled on he navy blue jumper.
Silvagni’s name was pushed into the spotlight when he kicked six goals for Vic Metro against Western Australia in the under 18 championships this year. Silvagni converted his shots well inside 50 due to his great set shot technique, kicking 6.1 on the day, helping Vic Metro to a comfortable 74-point win.
Silvagni is considered a utility with his ability to play at both ends of the ground. He reads the play well, giving him the ability to position himself better when playing in defence, a role he has played on occasions this year. He also marks the ball well overhead, averaging 4.2 marks at the TAC Cup and 3.4 marks at the under 18 championships. At his school Xavier College, Silvagni has also played on-ball, showing his versatility to move around the ground in multiple positions.
However, through a shoulder injury and school football commitments, Silvagni only played four games for Oakleigh Chargers in 2015. Silvagni kicked six goals, often playing in defence for half of a game. A question mark on Silvagni will be how he adapts to an AFL environment, with 2015 being his only year in the system. Silvagni is still raw and will only turn 18 in December. He showed glimpses in the championships and will likely spend a few seasons developing in the VFL before he can make the grade in the AFL.
Silvagni stands at 191 centimetres and is unlikely to be able to transition into a key position player. At his height it is likely he will turn into a third forward/defender in a similar mould to Hawthorn’s Jack Gunston. This would allow Silvagni to move up the ground using his great footy smarts to develop into an important player for Carlton in the future.
Carlton will be expecting to receive a bid for Silvagni in the later rounds of the draft, likely after pick 50.
Mitchell Hibberd (Tassie Mariners/Clarence)
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 85 kg
Position: Medium Defender/Midfielder
Strengths: Endurance, marking, foot skills, defensive acts, professionalism
Weaknesses: Contested ball-winning, Body size
Player comparison: Jack Crisp
First year impact: Near future
Speed: Above average
Tassie Mariners (TAC Cup): three games, 13.3 kicks, 10.3 handballs, 23.7 disposals, 56 per cent disposal efficiency, 2.7 marks, 5.3 tackles
Tasmania (under 18 championships): three games, 14.7 kicks, 9.3 handballs, 24 disposals, 71 per cent disposal efficiency, 6.3 marks, 1.7 tackles, four inside 50s, 4.7 rebound 50’s
If a club needs a smooth moving tall midfielder and defender look no further than Mitchell Hibberd. Hibberd is a player who has overcome great adversity to put himself into first round contention. Last year he battled through injury preparing himself for this year.
He started his year well by playing good footy for the Tasmanian TAC Cup side. He gave recruiters a glimpse of what he could do as a wingman and as a defender. His drive, run and carry and great foot skills are all traits that added something different to the Tasmanian team.
He also was selected to play for the Allies in the championships. He had some great passages of play and showed his dominance in the air taking multiple contested marks.
At the combine he shone with his beep test finishing only second to WA endurance machine Joshua Schoenfeld with a beep test score of 15.4. He also won the kicking test with a score 24/30 which tests uncontested kicking accuracy.
Hibberd is also the ultimate professional in the way he attacks training and rehab. His work ethic behind the scenes is highly rated by the Tasmanian coaching staff and they have been raving about the fact that he has recovered from an ACL in such a way. This recovery has prepared him mentally and physically for the rigors the life of an AFL player and the training expectations. His work on the training track is great and he has been doing the little things to help give him that edge on game day. This aspect is extremely appealing for recruiters and has put him in good stead coming into the system.
His kicking at its best hits targets lace out on his preferred foot. He also shows outstanding penetration on his kick, something that most players don’t have at this age. He also is a great judge of how to weight the kick allowing him to switch the play and create opportunities for their forwards. His kicking when a full speed can be a little shaky at times but that can improve.
One of the most underrated traits Hibberd has is his ability to take great marks. He is very courageous with how he attacks the football in the air and doesn’t mind throwing his body around to try and take a mark. This contested marking edge also suggests that Hibberd could maybe go forward on occasion and use his football IQ and marking snag a few up forward.
Hibberd has also proven himself as a great defensive prospect. His efforts when not in possession of the ball make him even better as a half back. We see on many occasions that he’s willing to make the extra smother, make a spoil or even run down an opposition player. This trait is quite rare for a player who could easily just focus on the rebounding part of his game. This accountability is a big tick in most recruiters books.
The other problem Hibberd has is his size. At the under 18 championships that didn’t affect him because most players are usually smaller than him but at AFL level he will get a big shock if he thinks he can use his body the same way. His body size also has affected the way he has played by not being able to get more of those contested possessions.
At the next level we could see a classy ball user who can play multiple positions on the ground, but clubs will have to be patient. His body will take time, but If he puts the work he could be anything. Jack Crisp is the player I think he could potentially become and aim to play like as that balanced utility who has a great kick. The bottom line is that any club drafting this lad is going to get a great ball user, a true professional, a hard worker and most importantly a player who is willing to do the team things.
Clayton Oliver (Murray Bushrangers)
Height: 187 cm
Weight: 85 kg
Position: Inside midfielder
Player comparison: Patrick Cripps
Strengths: Contested work, ball winning ability, overhead marking, scoreboard impact
Weaknesses: Running ability, body shape
First year impact: Rising star nominee
Kicking: Above average
Marking: Above average
The big bolter in the 2015 draft is Murray Bushranger midfielder Clayton Oliver. Despite missing the pre-season with an injury, Oliver was able to play 16 games in the TAC Cup enabling him to win the Morrish Medal for the best player in the competition.
Oliver is a contested ball hard nut and plays in a similar mould to Patrick Cripps. He plays as an inside midfielder for the Bushrangers, however he missed the final cut of the Vic Country under 18 squad. Despite this, he never gave up his dream of being drafted, applying his trade at Richmond’s VFL team where he was able to average 14.5 disposals in the two games he played.
Oliver is an aggressive midfielder who propels the ball forward with his long boot. He averaged 24 disposals (14 contested) at an efficiency of 70% in his 16 games this year. Oliver is strong at the stoppages, as evident by him averaging six clearances per game making him one of the stronger inside midfielders in the draft. Another strength is his handballing in stoppages which allows for him to clear the ball from the contest, helping his team to move forward. Oliver also averaged six tackles per game for Murray and is a fierce competitor in the centre of the ground. He can also go forward and hit the scoreboard, kicking 20 goals in the TAC Cup this season, and was equal first scoring a perfect 30 out of 30 in the goal kicking test at the combine.
However, Oliver’s aggressive approach can sometimes cost him, going in too hard and tackling opposition players high, resulting in some free kicks against. However his nine tackles in the semi final for Murray did nearly single handedly get them over the line against eventual premiers Oakleigh.
Question marks have also arisen over Oliver’s endurance and body size. He ran a 10:45 three-kilometre time trial at the combine, a score he will be looking to improve. He doesn’t have elite pace, but he moves well, evident from his 8.11 second agility test, ranked third at the national combine. However, Oliver’s lack of conditioning may be down to the fact he missed the preseason and played senior football for Mooroopna as a 16-year-old against mature bodies. If he can enter an AFL environment and complete a preseason, he’s body size and endurance will improve.
With Oliver’s rapid development, expect him to feature in the top 10 on draft night with Melbourne, Essendon and Carlton all keen to have his services in 2016.
Ben Crocker (Oakleigh Chargers)
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Position: Medium forward
Player comparison: Tom Bell
Strengths: Contested marking, goal kicking, leadership
Weaknesses: Endurance, questions over midfield development
First year impact: Low
Contested marking is a trait admired in players and put at a premium for anyone below 190 centimetres.
Oakleigh’s Ben Crocker is one of the best contested marks for his height and his vertical leap is also impressive.
While Crocker was unable to impact the TAC Cup grand final as he would have hoped, he showed throughout the finals series and indeed the home and away season, that he can stand up in big moments when required.
Crocker’s greatest asset of contested marking is also assisted by his reliability when kicking for goal.
The question surrounding his goal kicking is nothing to do with him personally, but whether or not he can be too unselfish at times.
Crocker can occasionally have a ‘team-first’ mentality and when within goal scoring range, can pass off to teammates he believes are in better positions.
While this can pay off, sometimes the opposition are wary of it and the ball is spoiled and cleared out of defence, or the player misses the set shot, something Crocker would have likely have nailed even from a tighter angle or longer distance.
Another trait that will hold Crocker in good stead is his leadership. He captained Oakleigh this season and led the team well on-field and off and most importantly, continued to work hard even when the chips were down.
In terms of areas for improvement, Crocker needs to improve his endurance and develop a game that allows him to play up the ground. As it stands, he is not a midfielder, but has the body that could impact in the middle among contests.
He has shown he is not afraid to go in or shy away from a contest, but does not have the tank to run through the middle on a consistent basis.
While Crocker is not quick, he is not overly slow either, and he has a good turning circle when chasing a ground ball. His bigger body allows him to break tackles from smaller players and he can often outsmart taller ones, which is what makes him a player that is so hard to match.
It is his endurance and questions over whether he could develop into a pinch-hitting midfielder that holds him back from being a top-line player.
No one would question his intensity, work ethic, leadership or forward pressure, which is paramount in the modern era as a medium forward.
In terms of draft range, Crocker is a second to third round selection, depending on where clubs rate him. He has a point of difference with his contested marking and reliable goal kicking, but whether clubs feel he can develop further into the midfield will be a sticking point.
Crocker lacks the class that former Oakleigh small forward and top five pick Jack Billings had, but he makes up for it with grunt and determination.
He could definitely fit in to a club like Carlton or Brisbane who need that medium tall forward who can take a grab and be relied upon to nail the important goals.
In many ways, Ben Crocker could be similar to a number of players, with the body similar to Tom Bell – a big frame for a medium player.
On draft night, it is likely Ben Crocker will find a club because he does offer something different to clubs who are looking for a forward, but he is more likely to spend some time in the reserves, particularly in his first season, for the club to assess how he develops.
He might even take a similar path to Brent Macaffer at Collingwood who was a small forward with a strong overhead grab, who then worked hard on his endurance to become a tagger who could hurt opposition midfielders when he ran offensively.
Overall, Crocker could become an important, dangerous and reliable forward, but if he could improve his midfield game, then his ceiling would increase astronomically.
Daniel Rioli (North Ballarat Rebels)
Height: 180 cm
Weight: 69 kg
Position: Small forward
Player comparison: Jeff Garlett
Strengths: Goal sense, x-factor, agility, speed
Weaknesses: Defensive work, consistency
First year impact: Very low
Whenever the surname Rioli is brought up, there is unrivalled excitement.
Like Cyril before him and Maurice and Michael before Cyril, Daniel Rioli is sure to become a cult hero at an AFL club.
Everyone would get sick of comparing one Rioli with another, but Daniel does bring back memories of Cyril as a teenager.
He is a human highlight reel that can win a game off his own boot in one quarter, but he can also not be sighted for 90 per cent of the game.
Much like Cyril, consistency is the biggest question mark over Daniel, but like Cyril, he is a high reward for a club that can untap his potential.
In the national championships at Etihad Stadium playing for Northern Territory, Rioli showed his talent by kicking a miraculous goal in the middle of a pack from an impossible angle.
To best describe the goal, it was Rioli-esque and from that moment, the crowd knew he was capable of the impossible.
Daniel is super quick, has great agility, a nous for the impossible and a good judge of the ball in flight and the bounce of the ball.
He will need to improve his consistency as well as bulk up a little and continue to work on his defensive game.
In the modern game, there are very few pigeon-holed small forwards. Eddie Betts is the prime example of a crumbing forward, but he is elite and there are very few in the same company.
Cyril used to be a classic small forward, but he is now a bonafide midfielder/forward after working on his tank and his defensive pressure.
Daniel Rioli, like Cyril, is undoubtedly likely to light up the MCG, running down a wing, dodging and weaving a few players and kicking a goal from the boundary line.
His highlights will be bordering from the unbelievable to the impossible and everything in between.
However, can he develop to become that midfielder/forward who is renowned for his defensive pressure as much as his highlights?
Rioli has a light frame and while he will need to bulk up a little, it is unlikely he will put on much to hamper his speed and agility.
He is a player that cannot be left alone or be given a metre at a stoppage, because he will turn it into a mile.
In the qualifying final, Daniel Rioli kicked four second half goals after barely being sighted in the first half.
Coming back from a large deficit against the Geelong Falcons, Rioli singlehandedly turned the game around and in the blink of an eye, it went from a near-certain Falcons victory, to an impressive comeback and the Rebels advanced to the preliminary finals.
If he becomes a four quarter player, Rioli could be anything. The fact he can play a quarter and still put his hand up for best on ground speaks volumes of his ability.
Of all the players in the draft, Rioli will have the most interest over where he is selected. Could his ability to drift in and out of games have an impact, or will his ability to turn a game on its head and be a match-winner sway the recruiters?
In all likelihood, Rioli is a second round pick. On form, he is probably a third round pick; on potential, he is easily a first round pick.
Balancing the two factors, a second round pick seems about right, but with the right guidance and development, Rioli could become an exceptional player.
In his first year, Rioli will bide his time in the reserves, with his highlights having fans drooling on the sidelines demanding he be promoted to the seniors.
However, if developed right, Rioli would be worth the wait and a four-quarter Rioli is better than a one to two-quarter Rioli.
One thing is for sure, regardless of where he ends up, Daniel Rioli will be a player every fan watches with interest.
Tom Cole (Bendigo Pioneers)
Height: 186 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Player comparison: Matthew Boyd
Strengths: Versatility, inside work, leadership
Weaknesses: Speed, outside game
First year impact: Low to medium
Bendigo’s Tom Cole is your footballer’s footballer.
There is nothing too flashy about the inside midfielder, but there is nothing wrong with him either.
Some players are described as “bangers and mash”, or simple and effective. This is Cole to a tee.
If you are looking for a player that can hit a target lace-out 50 metres on the run, or take a huge specky, then do not consider Cole. If you are looking for a player that is ultra-consistent and can plug holes just about anywhere, then Cole is your man.
Cole is very similar to Matthew Boyd in the way he goes about it – a strong leader, uncompromising footballer and is not afraid to do the team things ahead of personal gain.
He can play in the midfield, up forward or down back and just has that dogged determination to win the football. When he does have the football, he has the aura that dares an opposition player to take it off him.
His greatest asset is by far his flexibility and ability to win a contest.
Not particularly athletically gifted or a skillful player, Cole is a reliable kick, with solid endurance, who can drift forward, kick a few goals, drift back and settle the defence, or be thrown into the middle to win important clearances.
In short, if you need the ultimate role player, Cole is that player.
That is not to say Cole does not have a future at AFL level, but unlike your Darcy Parish’s and Jacob Weitering’s, he’s unlikely to become that A-grade star that club’s can build lists around. But as fans know, you cannot have 44 stars on your list; you need honest toilers who can be relied upon to just get the job done week-in, week-out.
In terms of areas for improvement, the biggest area Cole could develop is his outside game. Particularly up forward, Cole could become more offensive and kick those two-to-three goals a game as a high half forward.
Right now, he would be a very reliable defensive forward, possibly even develop into a tagger down the track if they will exist in the future. Unlike a lot of young players trying to impress recruiters, Cole does not wow scouts with his offensive attributes, but his defensive attributes instead.
As many know, it is easier for clubs to teach players to back themselves offensively than to work harder defensively, because to slip back into past routines, means tackling and defensive pressure could go out the window, something unlikely to occur with Cole.
Much like Boyd, Cole could become a future captain and while he might not win a game off his own boot, he is likely to be that leader who his supporter base recognises, but opposition fans question why he is out there.
If Cole does develop a strong offensive game, then he could certainly become a very valuable asset to any football club.
In this year’s draft, Cole is likely to be drafted somewhere in that mid-second to third round draft range because he does not offer anything spectacular, but he is remarkably consistent. In an era when the pressure on young players is at a premium, it is unlikely to faze a player like Tom Cole, who will take it all in his stride.
A strong leader and defensive-minded general would come in handy for any club needing a big-bodied utility who can support any position on the field.
There are question marks over whether Cole’s lack of any particular offensive attribute will hinder his career, but he is the type of player who would be willing to work hard on that side of his game and would benefit from an AFL environment.
For some clubs who cannot afford a Lamborghini, sometimes going back to basics and settling for a mid-90s Holden or Ford still has value and just gets the job done.
If a club backs Cole in, they should not have to worry about what they will receive in return.
Kieran Collins (Dandenong Stingrays)
Height: 194 cm
Weight: 100 kg
Position: Key defender
Player comparison: Daniel Talia
Strengths: One-on-ones, strength, decision making
Weaknesses: Offensive impact, speed
First year impact: High
Kieran Collins is best known as the other tall defender next to number one pick Jacob Weitering, but he is so much more than that.
Ironically, when all is said and done about Weitering and his ability to play up either end and become a dangerous weapon both one-on-one or setting up attacks, not much is spoken of Collins’ ability to do the same.
While granted Collins does not have the precise long boot of Weitering or as much ability to back himself to take on opponents and go for a run, one-on-one he is superb and even showed he has the nous to play as a key forward when required.
Collins’ best trait is his no-nonsense defending, which he does so well because unlike some ‘spoil first’ or ‘mark first’ defenders, Collins reads the situation well and responds accordingly. In other words, if he feels he won’t be able to take it cleanly, he will spoil. If he thinks he will pluck the mark, he will back himself in.
While playing most of the season as a dour defender, shutting down the league’s best forwards, including Josh Schache, he did produce a bit of freedom in the finals series, when he was thrown forward early and took a couple of strong marks and kicked a goal, which would have impressed recruiters.
He also began backing himself a bit more to take the extra few metres and hit up a target long rather than bomb it out of defence, or handball under pressure.
Collins is your typical clubman. He might not win many awards, but he will become a fan favourite because of his determination and consistency to just get the job done.
Collins is likely to become that defender who will strike fear into opposition forwards, possibly even more than his highly fancied teammate Weitering. For everything that Weitering has going for him, Collins seems to be the player you tell “take this player out of the game” and it just happens.
Perhaps that is because of Weitering’s danger and creativity as a loose man or running half-back, but it is certainly because of Collins consistency of getting the job done.
Skill-wise, Collins is reliable for a key defender, without having an elite kick. He also has a big tank for a key defender, but again, was shadowed by the once-in-a-generation key defender in Weitering.
Not overly quick, Collins relies on his ability to read the play and get to contests before his opponents, timing the spoil perfectly. Another trait Collins has is to position himself in front of his opponent to ensure a faster forward cannot get a few metres on him.
At AFL level, Collins is likely to play on the monster forwards and would be suited to a Travis Cloke or Jarryd Roughead, however someone like a Jeremy Cameron could cause him some problems.
While he is unlikely to develop as a forward at AFL level, Collins showed enough, albeit in a quarter of football, that he has enough football smarts to play at full forward.
Most experts have rated Collins around the first round, which is about right, but given Weitering will put on navy blue next season, do not be surprised if a club takes him earlier than expected with only Aaron Francis the other early key defender selection.
A perfect fit for Collins would be someone like a Hawthorn, who are keen to snare another key defender, and Collins is pretty much readymade to go from round one.
While he will likely bide his time in the reserves for a little while, he is the kind of person likely to get a call-up early in his first year because of his dedication and consistency.
If he can continue to work on his offensive game, Collins could become a very solid player and a dour defender who can be relied upon week-in week-out to do a job on the opposition’s best forward.
Darcy Tucker (North Ballarat Rebels)
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Position: Outside midfielder/half back
Player comparison: Sam Docherty
Strengths: Skills, footy smarts, leadership
Weaknesses: Consistency, inside game
First year impact: Some, but likely to be a second year player
In every draft there are bolters and sliders that rise up or drop down the order because of a variety of reasons, including injury or form. For Darcy Tucker, it is the latter.
At the end of last season, Tucker was considered one of the top 10 prospects, with a good season potentially propelling him higher. Unfortunately after a strong start to the TAC Cup season, Tucker was unable to impress at the under 18 championships and then continued his form slump when he returned to the Rebels later in the year.
A final month purple patch saw Tucker’s doubters start to go quiet, but another disappointing run of games, this time in the two finals, had them out in force. So how do you judge Tucker?
Tucker is not your typical huge accumulator to begin with. He can gather around the mid 20s in disposals on a good day, and while he has notched up in Dane Swan territory before, he is unlikely to have many 35-40 disposal games.
Luckily, Tucker does not need to find the football much to have an impact. He has silky skills and his disposal off half-back can be first class, but he can occasionally get flustered under pressure. A strike and subsequent yellow card against Stephen Tahana earlier in the year in the under 18 championships was a shock to many in the industry.
When in the midfield, Tucker is a very outside player. He uses his pace to jet away from the contest and hit a target up forward. However he has at times struggled to find the ball on the inside, a the key reason why he has played primarily on a back flank.
In comparing Tucker with top prospect Darcy Parish, both have great skills and good pace, but Parish is able to win the ball on the inside as well as out and can influence at both ends of the ground.
Tucker is a very solid defender, but he is yet to prove himself up forward on a consistent basis. It is these question marks that will linger in recruiters minds.
At his best, Tucker would be in the lower end of the top 10 players in this draft class, on his inconsistent form, Tucker is a mid-second rounder. It is likely he’ll go in between these picks, somewhere between 15-22.
Often Tucker’s underlying pace can be underrated because has enough time at half-back to dispose of the ball cleanly. He does have a fair bit of zip about him and can hit targets when at full tilt, which very few can do.
At the start of the season, Tucker and teammate Jacob Hopper complemented each other perfectly as the outside and inside combination the North Ballarat Rebels midfield needed. But towards the end of the season, Tucker had been drifting in and out of games and playing on the back flank using his foot skills to advantage.
One aspect recruiters will like about Tucker is his preference to back his kicking skills over handballing (three more kicks per game). He is also a solid tackler for an outside player, averaging more than four tackles per game in the TAC Cup from 12 matches.
Another strong characteristic about Tucker is ability to show leadership even when things aren’t going his way. He has led the Rebels well despite his own personal set backs and the way about his goes his training and professionalism is nothing short of first class. He is a hard worker and desperate to work on his deficiencies which he, the coaching staff and recruiters have identified.
To become a successful AFL player, Tucker will need to work on finding the ball, adapting to a tag and most importantly, working on his inside game. In all likelihood, Tucker will become a reliable half-back who can pinch hit in the midfield, preferably on a wing.