Category: AFL

AFL Debut Watch – Round 6: Pies, Hawks duos lead list of 11 potential debutants

ROUND 6 of the AFL Premiership Season got underway last night, with a grand total of zero newcomers making it onto centre stage. That is all about to change though, with both Collingwood and Hawthorn naming two debutants each for their Friday night clash, leading a list of 11 total fresh faces named across the league. There could also be three club debuts throughout the weekend, pending the culling of extended squads. We take you through the list and give a little reminder of what each player may bring to the table.

Note: * denotes named on extended bench.

Collingwood vs. Hawthorn

AFL Debuts: Atu Bosenavulagi (COL), Will Day (HAW), Will Kelly (COL), Josh Morris (HAW)
Club Debuts: Nil

Collingwood pulled a selection stunner in naming a pair of untried second year players, which was then matched by Hawthorn’s inclusion of its first year pair. The Pies pair both already had ties to the club upon being drafted, with Atu Bosenavulagi a Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, and Will Kelly a father-son prospect. Both continue the rich link between Oakleigh Chargers and Collingwood, with fellow Chargers graduate Isaac Quaynor also slotting into the lineup.

Bosenavulagi is a pressure small forward who should maintain the pace at ground level for his side, while adding a different dimension when the ball hits the deck. His goal sense, agility, and smarts inside 50 should make for good viewing when he gets into a flow. Despite being drafted as a key position defender, Kelly has made the transition to the forwardline, and will add even more height alongside Mason Cox and Brody Mihocek, with his point of difference being sound foot skills.

For Hawthorn, Will Day was a speculative, high upside pick in last year’s first round, and the faith shown in him is obviously quite high given his relatively early debut. He should provide some much-needed athleticism and class on the outside for the Hawks. Josh Morris is the other newcomer, a fellow South Australian with plenty of potential. His pace in the forward 50 will be eye-catching, and he loves popping up with a goal or two.

West Coast vs. Adelaide

AFL Debuts: Andrew McPherson (ADE)
Club Debuts: Nil

After narrowly failing to make the cut on an extended bench for last week’s clash with Fremantle, Andrew McPherson is set to become the latest Adelaide debutant, as the Crows ready to face West Coast. It has been a long time coming for the 21-year-old, who was taken with pick 40 in the 2017 National AFL Draft despite missing large chunks of his top-age year through injury. His endurance is a standout feature, and he has the right traits to take to the elite level comfortably.

Melbourne vs. Gold Coast 

AFL Debuts: Izak Rankine (GCS)
Club Debuts: Nil

Izak Rankine will make his long-awaited debut on Saturday, putting behind him an arduous run with injury in his short AFL career. The 2018 number three pick was an electrifying junior, able to win games off his own boot with masterful work around goal and terrific athletic attributes. He slots straight into the SUNS forward line, and will look to emulate the success of outgoing 2019 number one pick, Matt Rowell on the big stage. He may not see a heap of the ball, but you’ll definitely know when he has it.

Richmond vs. Sydney

AFL Debuts: Riley Collier-Dawkins* (RIC), Dylan Stephens (SYD), Chad Warner (SYD)
Club Debuts:
Nil

Sydney is set to become the second side in Round 6 to blood a pair of debutants, with 2019 draftees Dylan Stephens and Chad Warner already given the news of their AFL berths. Stephens was the Swans’ first pick in last year’s intake, and had already gained a taste of senior football in his top-age season at Norwood. He slots in on the wing, but boasts a brilliant balance of inside and outside traits which should see him adjust with aplomb. Warner, another midfielder, was a standout for Western Australia during the 2019 national carnival, and is a hardened ball winner who suits the Sydney ethos nicely.

For Richmond, Riley Collier-Dawkins looms as one of five potential inclusions, but will have to compete with a list of seven others named on the Tigers’ extended bench. The 191cm midfielder/forward was a selection made on upside in the 2018 National Draft, with the Tigers using pick 20 on the Oakleigh product. He showed good form at VFL level in 2019, but the Richmond side is a tough nut to crack. Should he get an opportunity, look for his clean hands at stoppages and overhead ability up forward to be key features.

Carlton vs. Western Bulldogs

AFL Debuts: Callum Porter (WB), Jordon Sweet (WB)
Club Debuts: Callum Moore (CAR)

Cal Porter and Jordon Sweet will both be hoping to squeeze into the Western Bulldogs lineup having been named on an eight-man interchange. Porter, a medium sized midfielder, was a late pick in the 2017 National Draft, but has been made to wait for his chance at senior level. His kick penetration and contested work are outstanding facets of his game, and he looks to be a more consistent product having made the long run. Sweet is a 203cm ruck/forward from the 2018 crop, who may also get an opportunity after cutting his teeth in the SANFL and VFL. Tim English has bossed the ruck duties thus far, but a chop-out could come in the form of the South Australian bigman.

2019 AFL Draft Focus – Round 5: Pick one down, but draftees fly high

11 RECRUITS from the 2019 AFL National Draft ran out for their respective teams on the weekend, and we take a look at how the best handful of them performed. Top pick Matt Rowell may have been rubbed out early with a dislocated shoulder, but there was plenty to take out of Round 5 for the class of 2019 as plenty of talented youngsters retained their spots at the elite level. For the first time this year, none of the weekend’s debutants came from the most recent draft, but there promises to be plenty to come.

STAR OF THE ROUND: Hayden Young (Fremantle)

STATS: 15 disposals (10 kicks), 6 marks, 2 rebound 50s, 73% disposal efficiency

The stats may not overly flatter him, but Young is building nicely into is AFL career having returned another strong performance in Fremantle’s first win for 2020. Stationed in his usual defensive post, Young delivered 12 of his 15 disposals from the back half and did so with accuracy. His intercept marking ability is also coming to the fore as he gains in confidence, able to read the ball well in flight and have a crack backing into traffic. At four games into his elite level venture, the Dandenong Stingrays graduate is beginning to bring his best traits forward and has cemented his spot in the Dockers’ side.

Noah Anderson (Gold Coast SUNS)

18 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50, 2 score involvements

As good mate, Rowell went down, Anderson stepped up to deliver one of his better performances across his first five career games. Continuing in his role on the wing, Anderson got involved in the contest and managed to find the ball in important areas while also fulfilling his defensive duties with 11 pressure acts. The former Oakleigh Charger may have turned the ball over six times amid the heat of the contest, but has impactful touches and has the potential to have a big say once all the factors in his game click.

Lachlan Ash (GWS GIANTS)

15 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 2 score involvements

Ash is another who is beginning to click into gear having been granted ample opportunity upon his AFL berth, and he was among the GIANTS’ top 10 disposal winners in their win against Hawthorn on Sunday. Moving along the line from defence to the wing, Ash was able to penetrate the forward 50 in transition to show a glimpse of his attacking quality, while also providing a safe outlet in the back half. He won half of his possessions in contested situations too, displaying a good appetite for the contest and the rigours of the elite level.

Tom Green (GWS GIANTS)

14 disposals, 2 marks, 5 tackles, 2 clearances, 3 score involvements

Right behind Ash in terms of disposals was GIANTS Academy graduate, Green with 14. After a breakout game in Round 4 saw him earn a Rising Star nomination, the big-bodied midfielder continued on his ball winning ways to contribute some solid numbers to GWS’ Sunday salute. The GIANTS’ coaching staff has shown great faith in Green in allowing him to run through midfield, attending centre bounces where he thrives on the contested side of the game. He’s another who looks to be locking down a spot, and is providing ample cover some some absent GWS stars.

Caleb Serong (Fremantle)

10 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 2 clearances, 1 inside 50, 1 rebound 50, 2 score involvements, 1 goal assist

Following the example set by former Vic Country teammate, Young is Serong, who also played his part in Fremantle’s opening win for season 2020. The diminutive Gippsland Power product is another who has been thrust right into the engine room action at times, holding his own against big-bodied opposition and remaining relevant going both ways. He is proving more comfortable with ball in hand as time goes on, and it is positive that he manages to find it in the first place.

Others in action:

Connor Budarick (Gold Coast)
Jack Mahony (North Melbourne)
Sam Philp (Carlton)
Kysaiah Pickett (Melbourne)
Trent Rivers (Melbourne)
Matt Rowell (Gold Coast)

AFL Debut Watch – Round 5: AFL and club debuts up for grabs

ROUND 5 of the AFL Premiership Season got underway last night, with a late change seeing Northern Knights graduate Sam Philp keep his spot after a Round 4 debut. This weekend, another three newcomers are in line to make their maiden elite-level appearances, while an Essendon pair is set to run out for the Bombers for the first time. We take you through the list and give a little reminder of what each player may bring to the table.

Note: * denotes named on extended bench.

Collingwood vs. Essendon

AFL Debuts: Nil
Club Debuts: Mitchell Hibberd, Andrew Phillips

Mitchell Hibberd (Essendon)

The 23-year-old entered his second chance saloon with Essendon via the 2019 rookie draft, given another crack at the elite level after being cut by North Melbourne at the end of 2018. An outstanding VFL campaign with Williamstown shot the Tasmanian right back into AFL contention, as he looks to build on his four previous career outings.

Hibberd is now a well-built inside midfielder at 190cm, fitting the mould of modern day engine room operators with a good mix of size, speed, and the ability to find the ball. He should prove a handy point of difference in the Essendon midfield, which is quite short in comparison, and in-need of that hardened inside type. With sharp skills and a penetrating boot, Hibberd could also feature on the outside or off half-back.

Andrew Phillips (Essendon)

The former Carlton bigman gets a berth for his new club against arguably the best ruckman in the competition, Brodie Grundy as Essendon takes on Collingwood on Friday night. Tom Bellchambers has been given the axe, although the Bombers would tell you he is being ‘managed’, providing the perfect opportunity for Phillips to finally cement a starting spot at AFL level.

The 29-year-old should be able to compete well in the ruck battles at 201cm, but will be tested around the ground and below his knees by Grundy. Phillips may also be forced to ware on his Collingwood opponents in the role for long periods, with Shaun McKernan Essendon’s only other viable ruck option in the side.

Adelaide vs. Fremantle

AFL Debuts: Andrew McPherson*
Club Debuts: Nil

Andrew McPherson (Adelaide)

Adelaide fans may well witness yet another 2020 debut, as McPherson awaits confirmation of his spot in the starting side to face Fremantle on Sunday afternoon. He is one of four inclusions named on an extended Crows bench, with no omissions made at this point and gun midfielder Matt Crouch set to return to the line-up after his inglorious axing.

A graduate of the 2017 draft class, McPherson had high hopes billed of him during his top-age year, but missed nearly all of it through injury. Nonetheless, the Crows showed faith in the local talent and snapped him up with pick 40 in the National Draft. He managed nine SANFL outings in 2019 and may get his first crack at the next level at 21 years of age, providing elite endurance and rebound quality from defence.

Melbourne vs. Richmond

AFL Debuts: Jake Aarts*
Club Debuts: Nil

Jake Aarts (Richmond)

Having taken the long road to landing on an AFL list, Aarts may finally get his shot at the bigtime on Sunday in Richmond’s clash against Melbourne. The diminutive forward comes in as part of an eight-man Tigers interchange, facing stiff opposition to sneak into the starting 22 as the likes of Sydney Stack and Jack Ross come the other way.

The former VFL Tiger will fit perfectly into his side’s system, providing that relentless, rolling pressure in the forward half and the work rate to push back to goal hard. He is difficult to beat at ground level with this hardness and low centre of gravity, and will undoubtedly look to impact the scoreboard given his smarts around the big sticks. Expect the 25-year-old to hit the ground running once he gets a shot, placing pressure on others of a similar mould among the squad.

GWS vs. Hawthorn

AFL Debuts: Harry Jones*
Club Debuts: Nil

Harry Jones (Hawthorn)

One who features on this list for a second week running, Jones will have to compete with four others on Hawthorn’s extended bench to replace the injured Luke Breust and face GWS to see out Round 5. The 20-year-old inside midfielder hails from the Murray region, and has the size to compete at AFL level should he be given the opportunity.

Hawthorn’s midfield is difficult to crack, but fans have been yearning for Jones to be handed a senior berth after he impressed last year in the VFL. He was close then, last week, and will be close now to breaking into the 3-1 Hawks side.

2019 AFL Draft Focus – Round 4: Green shoots appear for GWS gun

13 RECRUITS from the 2019 AFL National Draft ran out for their respective teams on the weekend, and we take a look at how the best handful of them performed. From a Gold Coast trio who continue to flourish, to a number of other high picks who earned their spots, the draft class of 2019 is already showing promising signs for the future. There were a total of four debutants from last year’s cohort in Round 4, with others either holding their spots or returning to the line-up.

STAR OF THE ROUND: Tom Green (GWS GIANTS)

STATS: 18 disposals, 12 contested possessions, 72% disposal efficiency, 2 marks, 7 clearances, 1 inside 50, 2 rebound 50s, 6 score involvements, 1 goal

In a low-disposal game, Green was among the GIANTS’ top five ball winners as they snuck home to a thrilling win over Collingwood on home turf. Thrust straight back into the midfield fold, the GWS Academy graduate looked at home in his second AFL outing, getting stuck straight in with the tough stuff to notch 12 contested possessions and seven clearances. Last year’s number 10 draft pick was also able to boot his first goal at the elite level, and an important one at that given the final score.

Louis Butler (Western Bulldogs)

14 disposals (11 kicks), 2 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 4 score involvements

A Thursday night debut saw Butler collect 14 disposals in his usual defensive role, slotting in well across half-back and generating some decent forward momentum. While he kicked well below his usual rate at 21 per cent efficiency, the Sandringham Dragons product put the ball in dangerous areas, breaching either arc five times and having a hand in four score involvements as the Bulldogs downed Sydney.

Kysaiah Pickett (Melbourne)

10 disposals, 9 contested possessions, 3 tackles, 3 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 4 score involvements

After serving an avoidable suspension, Pickett returned to the Demons’ fold and was one of his side’s more lively forward 50 options. He was often Melbourne’s most dangerous outlet at the fall of the ball, wreaking havoc with his ability to hit the contest at full pace and extract, while also doing all the right things defensively. He may have hit five turnovers and could not quite find the goals, but you knew something was about to happen when Pickett neared the ball, and he brings a different dimension to the Melbourne team.

Matt Rowell (Gold Coast SUNS)

20 disposals, 1 mark, 5 tackles, 7 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 6 score involvements, 2 goals

Rowell may finally have been knocked off his ‘Star of the Round‘ perch, but still put in a performance worthy of the honour in his fourth AFL appearance. The Oakleigh Chargers graduate clicked over the 20 disposal mark once again and added another two goals to his haul, while proving a key cog in the SUNS’ engine room operations. Not many draftees have been able to match the grunt work of Rowell, who continues to put up fantastic tackle and clearance numbers to prove his two-way relevance.

Hayden Young (Fremantle)

15 disposals (12 kicks), 6 marks, 4 tackles, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 7 rebound 50s, 1 goal assist

Having kept his spot in the 0-4 Fremantle side, Young repaid the faith this week with arguably his best performance in three games at the elite level. Stationed in his usual half-back post, the 19-year-old provided a great glimpse of his damaging left-foot kick with a spearing goal assist pass as he cut through the corridor, while also contributing seven rebound 50s. As he adjusts to the pace and pressure of the AFL, Young has been able to better showcase his offensive game and join in the play going both ways.

Others in action:

Lachlan Ash (GWS GIANTS)
Noah Anderson (Gold Coast SUNS)
Connor Budarick (Gold Coast SUNS)
Caleb Serong (Fremantle)
Sam Philp (Carlton)
Fischer McAsey (Adelaide)
Trent Rivers (Melbourne)
Jack Mahony (North Melbourne)

AFL Debut Watch – Round 4: Eight in line for AFL debuts

ROUND 4 of the AFL Premiership Season got underway last night, with Sandringham Dragons graduate Louis Butler making his debut in the Western Bulldogs’ win over Sydney. He is one of four confirmed debutants, with a further four hopefuls named among extended squads in anticipation of this weekend’s action. Jamaine Jones will also make his club debut for West Coast after appearing seven times for Geelong. We take you through the list and give a little reminder of what each player may bring to the table.

ADELAIDE:

Shane McAdam* (Halls Creek/Sturt)

Named among an extended squad once again, McAdam will be hoping that new coach Matthew Nicks hands out another debut in Round 4. The high-flying medium forward promises to bring some excitement back to the Crows’ lineup, which has lacked pace and the ability to bring the ball to ground inside forward 50.

As mentioned when McAdam narrowly missed selection last week, the Crows traded to get ahold of the 181cm hopeful as a pre-access draft pick, so obviously think highly of his talent. Adelaide really has little to lose given its current form, so do not be surprised to see yet another fresh face take the field in the tri-colours come Sunday.

Draft Central’s 2018 Player Profile Summary:

“A highly skilled and athletic medium/small forward, McAdam has ability to create goals for himself and those around him with a host of scoring assists all year and 31 goals from 17 League games this year. He averaged almost a scoring shot per game as well as almost two goals per game, making him have a high impact inside 50.

“He has that terrific ability to know how to use the ball, and then find the goals with ease. He is silky and packed with class inside 50 and his X-factor is clear for all to see. These natural footballing abilities go hand in hand with his sensational athletic traits. He has always had these abilities, but in 2018, McAdam has begun to show them on a regular basis.”


BRISBANE: 

Connor Ballenden* (Brisbane Lions Academy)

A Brisbane Lions Academy product who was drafted back in 2017, Ballenden has since staked his claim for senior selection with some promising form at NEAFL level. While he looked poised to suit the Lions’ structures as a key forward in his draft year, the 21-year-old has shown he is capable of also rotating through the ruck and key defensive posts.

The 200cm bigman has been named in an extended squad to take on the Crows, a selection which puts pressure on the likes of Eric Hipwood to perform, and makes for good competition for Stefan Martin‘s currently-vacant ruck spot. The Lions may also feel the need to add height to their defence, so there are plenty of ways which Balldenden could sneak into the Round 4 side.

Draft Central’s 2017 Player Profile Summary:

“If the Brisbane Lions utilise Ballenden as a forward/ruck, there’s no doubting that he has the ability to fit into their structures up forward in the future. His contested marking and pinpoint set shot goal kicking are forwards dreams, and despite a quiet top age season, his bottom-age year was very impressive and suggested that Ballenden has a bright future ahead of him.”


CARLTON:

Sam Philp (Northern Knights)

The first confirmed debutant on this alphabetical list, Carlton fans, coaches, and players alike are excited to see what Philp can produce at the elite level. Somewhat of a surprise first round selection in last year’s National Draft, Philp was a feel-good story of hard work and perseverance among his cohort, bolting into contention despite having missed out on Vic Metro representative selection.

Philp is a hard-nosed midfielder with the ideal balance of speed and endurance, which he uses both ways to either charge the ball forward or apply smothering pressure on the opposition. He was the fastest player of his draft class with a 2.867-second 20-metre sprint time at the National Combine, and will certainly showcase all of that power upon his berth at the AFL level.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“On the field, Philp wins his own ball and is most typically seen bustling out of congestion with his trademark speed and strength to generate some forward run. He is just as apt going the other way too, with Philp’s aggression translating to a fearsome tackling game on the rare occasion where he does not win the ball himself.

“A big improver from his bottom-age season, Philp has continued on the upward trend and could be the kind of player a club will seek to snap up earlier than expected given the upside his unique mix of traits brings.”


FREMANTLE

Caleb Serong (Gippsland Power)

Another confirmed starter who narrowly missed out on a selection nod last week, Serong is set to make his AFL debut against the red-hot Gold Coast SUNS. The opposition boasts a number of 2019 draftees who have made an immediate impact, but the prime-time Saturday night fixture gives Fremantle’s budding first-round stars like Serong and Hayden Young the chance to snatch centre stage.

Dockers fans will love the intensity that Serong brings to the table, a true leader who does not shy away from the tough stuff and will bleed for the jumper. His skills are also notable too, with a terrific burst of speed and the clean hands to make up for the supposed disadvantage of his sub-180cm frame in contested situations. While he is a capable ball winning midfielder, Serong will likely start on a wing or inside forward 50.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“Touted as one of the top prospected behind the obvious Oakleigh Chargers’ duo, Serong is one of the more well-rounded players in the AFL Draft crop, with very few glaring areas of improvement. The biggest upside for the 178cm midfielder/forward is the areas he could improve on are more easily doable compared to other players.

“Among his list of strengths in his game is his clean hands, footy IQ, clearance ability and strength, while his consistency and competitiveness are up there with Matt Rowell. The areas that Serong can improve are his kicking under pressure – which has developed over the course of the season – his on-field emotion – which while good at times can also be a hindrance – and his size – which while his height will not change too much, he can still improve his muscle tone.”


HAWTHORN:

Harry Jones (Murray Bushrangers)

One of a few 2017 draftees who will hope to finally crack the senior side in Round 4 is Jones, an early rookie selection who can provide midfield depth for the Hawks. Despite suffering untimely injuries in his draft year, the Hawthorn showed faith in what the youngster had already produced as a strong, extractor-type midfielder who can accumulate and run all day.

He was touted for a senior opportunity in 2019 and after having been made to wait his turn, could see a debut appear on the cards early this season as Alastair Clarkson searches for the right balance. A starting midfield of James Worpel, Tom Mitchell, and Jaeger O’Meara is tough to look past though, making it tough for budding starters like Jones.

Draft Central’s 2017 Player Profile Summary:

“Jones had his year cruelly ended early after a back stress fracture mid-season. At that stage he was hitting his strides winning plenty of the ball and impressing in close for the Murray Bushrangers. Jones is a strong inside midfielder who has a great centre of gravity which sees him stand up in tackles and handball to teammates who are free on the outside.

“He is a fierce tackler and endurance runner who just wears down opponents across four quarters. While his kicking could improve and he could have more of an impact on the scoreboard, Jones’ bread and butter is at the coal face, dishing off handballs with quick hands.”


NORTH MELBOURNE:

Jack Mahony* (Sandringham Dragons)

Mahony is among two potential newcomers named in North Melbourne’s side to face Hawthorn on Sunday night, having impressed in last week’s scratch match with three goals. The crafty sub-180cm prospect was highly-touted at junior level, but lacked the explosiveness or size to be seen as a true midfielder upon transitioning to the AFL ranks – hence his slide to pick 34.

But the Sandringham graduate has all the smarts, agility, and professionalism to break into the Kangaroos’ side in 2020 should his first opportunity not be afforded here. Employed mostly as a small forward by North, Mahony will use his work rate to get up the field as a high half-forward, while also getting back deep inside attacking 50 to generate terrific creative output and a sneaky goal threat.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“While big-bodied and athletic midfielders seem to be the in-vogue archetype for recruiters in the modern game, Sandringham’s Mahony proved this year that smaller, creative types can have just as much of an impact through the engine room. Touted as a high-end prospect from as early as his Under-16 year, Mahony has consistently performed for the Dragons when available, while also proving a match winner for Vic Metro and school side, St Kevin’s.

“The final on-field glimpse we got of Mahony was one which stuck in the memory, with his 19 disposals and three goals against the Allies very nearly dragging Vic Metro over the line to end a sub-par carnival. His combination of shrewd winning, spread from the contest, and crafty use going forward make him relevant in many ways, with the potential to continue as a forward flanker absolutely there.”

Tristan Xerri* (Western Jets)

From small to tall, Xerri is the other possible Kangaroos debutant for Round 4. With Mason Wood a key omission, Xerri could well slot straight into the forward line to provide a touch more height, while also aiding Todd Goldstein in the ruck. The Western Jets product is a terrific overhead marker and remains strong in one-on-one situations or in the ruck, with his 201cm frame a constant presence around the ground. He has been a big improver upon entering the AFL system, and could be in with a shot in 2020.

Draft Central’s 2018 Player Profile Summary:

“Xerri is a raw tall who despite his 96kg frame is still learning the game. At times he would make some mindboggling decisions on the field, but he seemed better suited in the ruck than up forward. He is a nice field kick who, while not overly quick, is good in the air and can play deep or high in the forward line.”


WESTERN BULLDOGS: 

Louis Butler (Sandringham Dragons)

The sole player on this list to have already taken the field in Round 4, Butler was a late pick by the Bulldogs in last year’s draft, but impressed enough on the training track to make a steep rise into the senior side. A classic rebounding half-back who is hard at the contest and uses the ball well, Butler looked relatively comfortable among more experienced peers, collecting 14 disposals (11 kicks) in his side’s Thursday night victory over Sydney.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“High-possession half-back flankers are dime-a-dozen in each draft crop, but Sandringham’s Butler is one with a point of difference. The ultra-competitive defender has not only proven his worth in setting up play from the back half with long rebounding kicks, but also showed traits more typical of lock-down types.

“Early in the year, Butler caught the eye with his ability to get to a number of contests on the defensive arc and sweep the ball up at pace, earning a spot in the Vic Metro side for all four games before being tried in a couple of different roles upon re-joining the Dragons squad. The kick-happy prospect seldom had a game under 20 disposals across his 10 NAB League games, getting as high as 31 touches and averaging 22.3 to show marked improvement in his impact on games from his bottom-age year.

* – denotes named in extended squad.

Draft Central All-Star Team: Northern Knights

NORTHERN KNIGHTS have some elite players in their All-Star team of the AFL Draft era led by captain and VFL/AFL games record holder Brent Harvey.

THE TEAM:

The Knights have a well balanced side with some quality talls, an elite midfield and plenty of hardened players who could roost the football and impact on the big stage.

DEFENCE:

The balance of offensive and negating defenders is healthy within the Knights defence, led by key talls, Simon Prestigiacomo and Michael Hurley. The pair could not be more different with ‘Presti’ being one of the best negating defenders of the modern era, though he also rarely reached double-figure disposals. Hurley on the other hand could be an offensive weapon racking up plenty of disposals and rebounds for the Bombers, having made the All-Australian team twice.

A third tall included in the back six is Richmond premiership defender Dylan Grimes, an All-Australian in his own right. Surrounding the talls are some quality smalls with Brisbane legend and two-time All-Australian Chris Johnson, and Collingwood premiership player, Ben Johnson, as well as Sydney premiership player and now North Melbourne coach, Rhyce Shaw. With the exception of Grimes, the other five players are 200-plus game players. On the bench, Nick Vlastuin could easily slot in as a rebounding defender.

MIDFIELD:

The midfield has a relative mix of current and past players. Its onball brigade of Marcus Bontempelli and Trent Cotchin shows a couple of the elite players in the AFL, as the pair have a Brownlow, three All-Australians, six best and fairests and three flags between them. Leading the ruck division is the incredibly talented Matthew Kreuzer who has had his fair share of injuries over the years, but still played almost 200 games.

Through the centre line, North Melbourne 300-gamer Adam Simpson stands out, having won an All-Australian and best and fairest to go with his two flags in the 90s. He is flanked on either wing by another couple of talented midfielders in 287-gamer Leigh Montagna (two All-Australians) and two-time best and fairest Magpie, Paul Licuria. The core five would be a difficult midfield to stop, with a hardened attack on the ball and one that could use tagging to effect.

On the bench, the midfield runs deep with Nick Stevens, Brent Stanton, John Barker and Daniel Harford all capable of running through the middle.

FORWARD:

Up forward, there is a nice balance between the talls and smalls, with strong marking key forwards, Anthony Rocca and Lance Whitnall providing some big marking targets. Rocca booted 415 goals in 242 games, renowned as one of the ‘super boots’ of the competition, often launching goals from 70 metres out. Whitnall managed 348 goals in 216 games, but also earned an All-Australian place and a best and fairest in his time with the Navy Blues.

Jarrod Molloy was best known for his work with the Lions before critically being traded in a huge deal for Mal Michael. As history would have it, Molloy missed out on a flag as Michael established himself in the three-peat Lions outfit. Still, Molloy booted 200 goals in 169 games as a really strong forward. The biggest name inside 50 is VFL/AFL games record holder, Harvey with the small forward booting 581 majors in 432 games, winning five best and fairests and four All-Australians in his time. Blake Caracella (187 games, 218 goals) and David Zaharakis (207 games, 125 goals) round out the front six.

Josh Caddy and Harford are among those on the pine who could come on and have an impact in the team if given the opportunity.

DEPTH:

Whilst the 24-player team itself is pretty strong, Northern Knights have a number of players just outside that core group who could understandably make it. Of the 100-game club not in the side, Angelo Lekkas (180), Jack Newnes (155) and Daniel Wheatley (135) are the next three highest in terms of games played, whilst Shane Clayton (117), Ricky Dyson (114), Anthony Franchina (105) and Jack Grimes (100) all reached the triple-figure milestone.

High-flyer Gary Moorcroft (98 games) went close to squeezing in despite falling just short of the ton, whilst Kane Lambert (95) – though drafted out of the VFL as a mature-ager – Aidan Corr, Jayden Short, Jason Castagna, Brayden Fiorini, Jade Gresham and Darcy MacPherson are among other modern day players who could squeeze into the All-Star side in the coming years.

2019 AFL Draft Focus – Round 3: Rowell wows again, Ash debuts

SIX draftees from the 2019 AFL National Draft ran out for their respective teams on the weekend, and we take a look at how they performed. From a Gold Coast trio who continue to flourish, to a number of other high picks who earned their spots, the draft class of 2019 is already showing promising signs for the future. Lachlan Ash was the sole debutant of his cohort in Round 3, with each player holding their spot while chances for Melbourne and Essendon newcomers have been postponed.

STAR OF THE ROUND: Matt Rowell (Gold Coast)

STATS: 20 disposals, 1 mark, 10 tackles, 3 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50, 4 score involvements, 2 goals, 141 SuperCoach

It is very, very difficult to avoid Rowell’s name as the standout for a second week running, and he is proving to those who had not previously caught a glimpse of his game that he rarely has a bad one. Another 20 disposals and two goals were among the highlights for the number one pick, spending over 80 per cent of the match on-field and right amongst the engine room action.

Rowell is simply unstoppable at the contest, perennially the first to the fall of the ball and relevant going both ways, with a massive 10 tackles to go with his ball winning exploits. His left-footed goal on the run had us thinking of his 60-metre bomb in the NAB League Grand Final last year, and the kid can simply do it all.

None of it is by chance either, as the 180cm wunderkind sets the standard for work rate both on and off the field, and his professionalism is conveyed in the most perfect form – with a simple tuck of the jumper. It is no surprise from our point of view to see Rowell hitting the ground running, but he has gone the extra mile in playing a big role in Gold Coast’s incredible momentum shift and consecutive wins upon the season’s restart.

Connor Budarick (Gold Coast)

16 disposals, 6 marks, 2 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50, 4 score involvements, 1 goal, 80 SuperCoach

The SUNS Academy product has looked increasingly comfortable across each of his first three AFL outings, culminating in a strong 16-disposal effort towards his side’s second win on the trot. A versatile and clever small, Budarick reads the play incredibly well and used his smarts in that sense across the defensive line, working hard to intercept Adelaide’s forward 50 entries and faring well in one-on-one contests. His disposal and movement up the ground were also assured, and he even broke through for his maiden goal at the elite level.

Noah Anderson (Gold Coast)

9 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 1 clearance, 1 score involvement

While he was a touch quieter in his third senior appearance, Anderson played a solid game among a team of even contributors. The number two pick was utilised mostly on the outside, finding most of his touches forward of the wing with a good mix of contested and uncontested involvements. Alongside best mate and junior teammate Rowell, the 191cm jet has slotted straight into the SUNS lineup and looks poised to remain in the winning side.

Fischer McAsey (Adelaide)

7 disposals, 3 marks, 1 tackle, 2 rebound 50s, 71% disposal efficiency

It has been a tough start to life in the AFL for McAsey given Adelaide’s downfalls, but the Crows picked him for a reason among the top 10 and have shown great faith in the promising key defender. Like many others, he is beginning to look a touch more comfortable at the level with time, and battles against some pretty stiff opposition at this point will bode well for his future. While he is still honing his defensive craft and bodywork, McAsey was relatively calm on the ball in the face of Gold Coast’s pressure.

Hayden Young (Fremantle)

8 disposals, 3 marks, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50, 1 score involvement

Young is still growing to the rigours of the next level after being able to impose himself previously and generate incredibly penetrative plays off half-back, with a touch more defensive work required in his current role at Fremantle. Still, the highly-touted top 10 pick was able to feature much further afield in this outing after a first half played out of his usual post, and he spent just over 65 per cent of his time on-ground.

Lachlan Ash (GWS GIANTS)

7 disposals, 3 marks, 1 rebound 50, 2 score involvements, 71% disposal efficiency

It was somewhat of a baptism of fire for Ash as the GIANTS and Bulldogs went to war in a heated affair, with the classy operator utilised in his most comfortable half-back role. The number four pick could not quite generate the same dash, dare, and penetration we came accustomed to seeing at the junior level, but he was quite sound on the ball across the backline. In a typically tough side to crack, Ash could see more opportunity given injuries are again taking a toll on GWS, with his versatility freeing others up to play up the ground.

AFL Debut Watch – Round 3: Vic Country cohort in line for big-time berths

ROUND 3 of the AFL Premiership Season got underway last night, and while no players made their AFL debuts for either Richmond or Hawthorn, there could be up to six fresh faces running out at the elite level for the first time this weekend. 2019 Murray Bushrangers captain Lachlan Ash is a confirmed starter for GWS’ clash with the Western Bulldogs tonight, while former Gippsland pair Caleb Serong and Sam Flanders join the likes of Shane McAdam, Will Hamill, and Miles Bergman on extended benches.

ADELAIDE:

Shane McAdam (Halls Creek/Sturt)

The Crows traded to get ahold of McAdam as a pre-draft access pick in 2018, such were the wraps on him as a mature-ager at state league level. Originally from Halls Creek in Western Australia, the exciting medium forward’s move south paid off as he booted 31 goals from 17 SANFL games with Sturt in 2017, before being picked up by the Crows.

After injury interrupted his first year in the tri-colours, McAdam may finally get to don the famous jersey as the club enters a rebuild and looks to test the depth of its list. Should he debut, expect to see some eye-catching high marking attempts, speed at ground level, and a fantastic goal sense.

Draft Central’s 2018 Player Profile Summary:

“A highly skilled and athletic medium/small forward, McAdam has ability to create goals for himself and those around him with a host of scoring assists all year and 31 goals from 17 League games this year. He averaged almost a scoring shot per game as well as almost two goals per game, making him have a high impact inside 50.

“He has that terrific ability to know how to use the ball, and then find the goals with ease. He is silky and packed with class inside 50 and his X-factor is clear for all to see. These natural footballing abilities go hand in hand with his sensational athletic traits. He has always had these abilities, but in 2018, McAdam has begun to show them on a regular basis.”

Will hamill (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

Taken at pick 30 in the 2018 National Draft, the Crows obviously saw something great in the Dandenong youngster to jump the gun and snap up his services with their third overall pick. While he is able to adapt his skills and strong athletic base to multiple roles, Hamill will likely be utilised as a lockdown medium defender who uses speed to both apply pressure at ground level, and kick his side into gear going forward. He may finally crack the senior grade after playing 20 SANFL League games in 2019, missing just one outing for the year.

Draft Central’s 2018 Player Profile Summary:

“Hamill got to represent Vic Country, playing in his favoured role down back and despite not getting a lot of the ball still had some eye-catching moments. He was a player known to most draft watchers and recruiters going into the start of the year but his form early, especially with ball in hand was not as good as expected. Nonetheless, Hamill worked through the early jitters to start playing some good footy, especially late in the year where he arguably played his best games.

“His finals performances were impressive being named second and fourth best in the preliminary and grand final with his grand final performance holding the most weight especially for the hard edge he had shown early in the game. Hamill had an up and down year, but his mix of attributes and finals form has him firmly in draft calculations.”

FREMANTLE:

Caleb Serong (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

Fremantle fans will undoubtedly warm to Serong very quickly; a player who bleeds for the jumper, is a terrific leader by example, and has all the skill to match his immeasurable qualities. While he may only stack up as a small, Serong has the tenacity to win his own ball and the work-rate to impact contest after contest, impressing with these traits throughout preseason. There are very few improvements to be made to his game, with Serong already showing remarkable consistency and the cleanliness to be able to keep up to speed at the elite level. As Vic Country’s MVP and best and fairest last year, the Gippsland graduate’s accolades speak for themselves and should he debut, he is sure to make a splash.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“Touted as one of the top prospected behind the obvious Oakleigh Chargers’ duo, Caleb Serong is one of the more well-rounded players in the AFL Draft crop, with very few glaring areas of improvement. The biggest upside for the 178cm midfielder/forward is the areas he could improve on are more easily doable compared to other players. Among his list of strengths in his game is his clean hands, footy IQ, clearance ability and strength, while his consistency and competitiveness is up there with Matt Rowell despite heading into the AFL Draft somewhat underrated – if that is possible from a potential top three pick.

“The areas that Serong can improve are his kicking under pressure – which has developed over the course of the season – his on-field emotion – which while good at times can also be a hindrance – and his size – which while his height will not change too much, he can still improve his muscle tone. Overall though, Serong is one of the more complete packages in the AFL Draft this year.”

GOLD COAST:

Sam Flanders (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

Serong’s partner-in-crime at the Power, Flanders blossomed into a bonafide midfield star come the end of his junior career, but may well revert back to his role as a medium forward upon entering Gold Coast’s lineup. The mercurial 182cm mover has plenty of upside, able to pull down big marks inside 50 on account of his vertical leap, while adapting that same clean hands trait to his midfield craft with strong stoppage work and outstanding power. The SUNS traded up to secure the Victorian with pick 11 in last year’s draft, and while it will be tough to crack Gold Coast’s winning side this week, Flanders will almost certainly get his chance in 2020 and create a few highlights.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

A player with plenty of upside and some readymade attributes is Sam Flanders, a Gippsland Power talent who can fulfil the role as a dangerous forward or a damaging inside midfielder. In his bottom-age year, Flanders spent the majority of his time as a goalkicking forward, booting 19.19 from 12 games, before moving into a midfield role this year, but resting forward in bursts, booting 13.5 from the same amount of games. His attributes lend themselves to moving into this role at AFL level, with the potential top 10 pick able to explode out of a stoppage, give off a clean handball, or get forward and beat his opponent one-on-one in the air or at ground level.

“He showed during the finals series – most notably against Oakleigh Chargers in the qualifying final – that he is capable to winning the game off his own boot, slamming home four goals in a quarter to help his side to the lead at the main break, but it also showed an area of improvement – his four-quarter consistency which does come in and out of games with him being dominant at his best, and ineffectual during quiet periods. Overall, Flanders is a player with serious X-factor and strength that he applies both inside and up forward.”

GWS GIANTS:

Lachlan Ash (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

The only candidate on this list to have already been guaranteed a debut thus far, Ash is yet another product of last year’s Vic Country unit who possessed great leadership capabilities and a raft of traits which can be immediately transferred to the AFL level. Though he has been named on the bench, expect Ash to showcase his trademark dash and daring disposal off half-back or the wing, gaining invaluable meterage and causing headaches for opposition defenders with that lightning-quick transition. Taken with pick four in the 2019 draft, he could be just the man the GIANTS need to unleash the likes of Zac Williams and Lachie Whitfield further afield as he develops in defence, but has the ability to fare just as well in midfield himself.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“The skilful rebounding defender was a consistent performer across the NAB League season for Murray, averaging more than 23 disposals per game. After being elected co-captain of the Bushrangers with teammate Cam Wilson, Ash would go on to co-captain the Vic Country squad throughout the AFL Under-18 National Championships, indicating that he is looked up to by his fellow teammates and admired by his coaching staff.

“Ash is the ideal footballer for an AFL team searching for a line-breaking defender who can consistently hit targets by foot with terrific vision and decision making. His test results at the NAB AFL Combine were also eye-catching, registering a 21.4 yo-yo test (finishing sixth overall) and a sub-three second 20-metre sprint. Similar to fellow half-back Hayden Young, an area of improvement for Ash is further midfield development, particularly with a focus on the contested ball aspect of the game.”

PORT ADELAIDE:

Miles Bergman (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

Yet another Victorian in line for an elite-level berth, but this time from a Metro region. Bergman is the classic pick made on upside; a mercurial athlete and footballing talent who stands up in big moments, can simply pull off things that others cannot, and someone who has a high impact per possession.

The explosive medium forward has an incredible vertical leap and covers the ground quickly, with scope to eventually transition from more outside roles and into the midfield. The Power already boast an array of exciting youngsters who have made an early impact on the side, and Bergman may just be the next. His penetrating kick and light frame may see him utilised on a wing, but he can be just as damaging at half-forward.

Draft Central’s 2019 Player Profile Summary:

“Bolters are part and parcel of each year’s draft and Bergman finds himself fitting that bill in 2019. A confidence player, Bergman has grown into his top-age season to become a lock as one of Sandringham’s first three players to be taken off the board come draft time on the back of a serious highlight reel.

“Athleticism, power, high marking and goals from range are the things that have seen Bergman draw into the first round conversation, with his ability to take games over slowly becoming apparent. The wingman/half-forward also proved a match-winner this year, relieving late pressure in the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final with a sensational pack mark to help St Bede’s scrape home on his way to best afield honours. Bergman’s enormous upside is undeniable, with all of his best traits desirable to clubs across the board.”

North Adelaide Player of the AFL Era: Vote for yours via our Instagram

NORTH ADELAIDE ROOSTERS are up next in our Player of the AFL Era series which will be run through our Instagram channel starting at 12.30pm today. The Murray Bushrangers All-Star voting was completed yesterday with Steele Sidebottom announced as the winner and captain of the Bushrangers’ All-Star side.

The Roosters have plenty of key position talent in their midst with North Melbourne champion, Wayne Carey the clear standout player. Darren Jarman and Ben Hart are other star players over the years who also find themselves as seeds heading into the vote.

The voting will run over the next four days starting today, with the winner to be decided by Sunday night (unless extra time and the full 24 hours is needed in the final vote). The next club involved in the voting process is Northern Knights starting on Monday. All eligible players were selected thanks to the Draft Guru site.

Draft Central All-Star Team: Murray Bushrangers

THE Murray Bushrangers could be the most balanced All-Star side of the entire exercise. There are quite literally no weaknesses in the side, and plenty of depth, with an almost perfectly balanced 24-player squad. If anything there might be a touch too much height, but that height has flexibility, and with a balance of hardness, class and midfielders who can slide back or forward, this team would be incredibly hard to beat.

THE TEAM:

Looking across the 24-player squad and it is madness in terms of the balance. A number of talls are capable of playing up either end, they have a couple of 200-game rucks, and then a nice combination of inside and outside midfielders who rotate forward or back. A key forward trio that could worry nearly any opposition side and then some more talls and smalls coming off the bench to impact, it is a coach’s dream.

DEFENCE:

Starting with the defence, picking two key position defenders was difficult. In the end, the best of Ben Reid locks down the centre half-back position given his dominance prior to injury, and then teaming up with Alipate Carlile who will make his opponent accountable, is a good combination. If the opposition is taller, they could throw Jarrad Waite down there, or even Sam Reid or Justin Koschitzke who start on the bench but can play across all three lines.

While Reid, Carlile and the others are not overly quick, they don’t need to be, because you just have to look at the mediums and smalls surrounding them. Joel Smith is the reliable back pocket who is often underrated but won two All-Australian awards and a best and fairest, standing as the only past player of the four small-medium types. Alongside him is Gold Coast’s Jarrod Harbrow, Collingwood’s Jack Crisp and GWS GIANTS’ Zac Williams.

They might not have the accolades between them that others have – just Harbrow’s one best and fairest – but everyone can picture the elite ball use coming off half-back as well as the speed going down the field. If the opposition has a dangerous small forward, then Ben Matthews can come on playing as a defender or midfielder off the bench.

MIDFIELD:

Picking a starting five group of onballers is not an easy task in this side, and even changed right up to the point of publishing. The ones who simply have to be there are Steele Sidebottom – who was voted the Best Player of the AFL Draft Era by you, the public, on our Instagram channel – and Brett Deledio on the wings – with three All-Australians and four best and fairests between them – as well as David Mundy onball as the Bushrangers’ games record holder at AFL level with 316. He also has an All-Australian and best and fairest to his name, and has broken Richmond hearts twice in the last 30 seconds of the game – including once after the siren.

The final two midfield spots were given to Brisbane-turned-Port Adelaide midfielder Tom Rockliff who has put in a body of work over the years and earned two best and fairests and an All-Australian. Joining him for the final spot is Clayton Oliver who is yet to reach 100 games, but has two best and fairests and an All-Australian to his name. Daniel Cross was one who initially was battling with Oliver for the spot, but the upside of Oliver is phenomenal and he earns a place in the side. Even the ruck spot has depth with Steven King the standout thanks to an All-Australian and two best and fairests in 240 games, ahead of Josh Fraser who played more than 200 matches after being a number one pick.

Also able to rotate through midfield is Jack Ziebell and Adem Yze who find their way into the team off half-forward flanks, whilst Crisp and Williams can float through there too. Many of those midfielders – particularly Sidebottom and Deledio can also spend time forward and hit the scoreboard.

FORWARD:

If you thought the talent slowed by the forward six, you would be wrong. The talls of Barry Hall, Fraser Gehrig and Waite might look too top-heavy, but they are countered by the mediums and smalls of Ziebell, Yze and Steve Johnson. The latter might even have a case for the best medium forward of the modern era, winning three All-Australians, a Norm Smith and booting 516 goals in 293 games. But this forward line is so strong he only comes in as the third highest goal kicker.

The top honour belongs to Hall with 746 goals in 289 games, ahead of Gehrig with 549 from 260. Between them they have six All-Australians, two Colemans and a best and fairest. Add in Waite with a casual 377 goals and imagine the former Blue and Roo taking the third best defender each week. Whilst Ziebell and Yze could push into the midfield, both can play deep or high as forwards, making them unique goal scoring options.

Throw to the bench, and aside from Fraser and Koschitzke who could roll down there, Sam Reid and Jamie Elliott provide another tall and small option inside 50. Elliott in particular provides some dynamic play in the air or at ground level as that small forward with great pace and hurt factor. Ben Reid is one who can be thrown forward – as shown in recent years – to further stretch the defence.

DEPTH:

The most unlucky one is Ben McEvoy who could squeeze onto the bench in exchange for Fraser. One might have already been impressed by the depth, but there were a number of solid role players who have carved out 100-game careers such as Shaun Atley (197 games), Sam Wright (136), Taylor Duryea (132) and Shannon Byrnes (131). If any of King or Fraser go down, the Bushrangers have some great depth in the ruck position that would make any other side in this All-Stars series envious thanks to Hamish McIntosh and Robbie Campbell. The remaining 100-gamers to miss out include Jarman Impey, Kayne Pettifer and Sam Rowe, with Impey a chance to force his way in if he continues his consistent work now with the Hawks.