Category: GWS GIANTS Academy

2020 AFL Draft Preview: GWS GIANTS

WITH the 2020 trade period done and dusted, it is now time for clubs and fans alike to turn their attention to the draft. Between now and draft day (December 9), clubs will have the opportunity to exchange picks until the final order is formed a couple of days out. While the chaos ensues, Draft Central takes a look at how each club may approach the upcoming intake opportunities with the hand they formed at the close of trade period. Obviously they are subject to heavy change, so perhaps we can predict some of that movement here.

Next under the microscope is GWS, a team which will feature heavily in proceedings at the top-end of this year’s draft with five picks within the top 30, including four first rounders. It gives the GIANTS a terrific opportunity to again top-up with a wealth of highly touted talents, especially having just lost a raft of experienced players after finishing the season in 10th. This looms as an important intake for the expansion side, which will be looking to bounce straight back into the top eight next year. With such a flexible hand, the GIANTS could well move up the order and bring in players who can make an immediate impact on their stacked side.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 10, 13, 15, 20, 29, 52, 74, 88

2021 PICKS*: GWS Rd 1 | GWS Rd 3 | GWS Rd 4 | GEE Rd 4

* – denotes as of November 27

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

LIKELY ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Josh Green (Academy)

>> Podcast: The best academy/father-son hauls

LIST NEEDS:

Speedy/outside midfielders
Long-term key position depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 10)

Pick 10 will likely slide back two spots after academy bids take place, and could even move down three or four places given the amount of club-tied talent available. Should the GIANTS opt not to trade the selection and move further into the top 10, a midfielder seems the best option. Finlay Macrae, the half-brother of Jackson fits the bill as a classy user who can play both inside and out. He would provide a handy point of difference to the GIANTS’ current raft of inside bulls. Tom Powell is another name linked to that range, an ultra-consistent ball winner who is improving his outside influence. Geelong Falcons graduate Tanner Bruhn is a similar player, though he will likely already be taken inside the top 10.

Should the Giants look at key position options, there are a few high-upside types of interest. Heath Chapman is a key defender who plays similarly to Nick Haynes, but could also be developed into a wingman given his running capacity and damaging ball use. Nikolas Cox will garner some attention too, a raw 200cm utility who is renowned for his endurance and ability to kick on both feet. He could plug a long-term gap either down back or up forward. In terms of academy bids, the Giants could realistically bid on Lachlan Jones at pick 10, though Port Adelaide would undoubtedly match. Collingwood’s Reef McInnes may also come into play if Essendon do not take a punt inside the top 10, but the Giants may also reserve a bid for pick 15, which lands in between two Collingwood selections. A bid in this range would make the Magpies sweat.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

There is plenty GWS could look to do with its current hand, whether it be to bolster this year’s stocks of its 2021 haul. With the three first rounders obtained from Geelong via the Jeremy Cameron trade, the GIANTS may see value in trading deep into the top 10. A combination of two of their top 20 picks could get the job done, depending on just how far into the top end they hope to go and which clubs arise as keen suitors. The GIANTS are expected to take four to five players this year and with academy prospect Josh Green in the frame later on, GWS may look to convert some of their five picks in the top 30 into higher selections if players they are targeting may otherwise be off the board.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Can GWS trade further into the top 10?

Will GWS maintain its current hand and pack up after pick 29?

Will GWS move up the order in live trading?

Will GWS place bids on academy prospects in the first round?

When will a bid come for Josh Green, if at all?

Featured Image: 2020 draft prospect Josh Green (right) with brother, Tom | Credit: Elesa Kurtz/The Age

2020 AFLW Draft review: GWS GIANTS

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with GWS GIANTS, a team that showed great potential in 2020, and was able to add a couple of terrific junior talents and a train-on player from the season.

GWS GIANTS:

#9 – Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/Eastern Allies)
#29 – Emily Pease (Belconnen Magpies/Eastern Allies)
#42 – Libby Graham (Manly Warringah Wolves)

Having just the three selections in the AFL Women’s Draft, the GIANTS were able to handpick their choices by having a monopoly on the New South Wales group. They picked a couple of highly-rated teenagers out of AFL Canberra in Tarni Evans and Emily Pease, as well as the experienced Libby Graham who was a train-on player for the GIANTS in 2020, coming out of Manly Warringah Wolves.

First selection Evans comes out of Queanbeyan Tigers and is a member of the AFL Women’s Academy. A taller forward who can roll through the midfield, Evans moved from Tathra to the nation’s capital in order to test herself in a stronger league. She did just that and she could see plenty of footy in 2021. Likely to start forward and then develop into a genuine utility across the field, she will be a clever forward option for the GIANTS to kick to.

Joining her was fellow AFL Women’s Academy member and AFL Canberra representative, Emily Pease. Both Pease and Evans are former athletic talents, and whilst Pease is a little smaller, she can play through midfielder or off half-back. She is able to provide that run and drive out of the defensive 50 and add a bit of spark to the GIANTS starting side, and will no doubt push for a spot over the summer.

The final selection of Graham was one that rewarded her for her commitment during the 2020 season as a train-on partner and then stepped up for the Wolves in the AFL Sydney Women’s competition. She also plays off half-back, with a bit of added experience as a readymade defender who can step up straight away and slot into the outfit.

The GIANTS had a relatively quiet off-season, but also brought in Katherine Smith from the Demons, so have bolstered their defensive stocks, as well as adding some young class to the line-up in what could be a big 2021.

Picture: GWS GIANTS

VFL and NEAFL to merge in “year of transition” as NAB League announces changes

STATE league football on the eastern seaboard will look vastly different in 2021 after a landmark announcement by the AFL today has seen the North Eastern Australian Football League (NEAFL) dissolved, with the NEAFL sides invited to join the Victorian Football League (VFL) next season. The choice to merge the two competitions was phrased as a “year of transition”.

Each club will have its own choice whether to form a standalone club, join an exiting club or split their AFL listed players over multiple clubs – like North Melbourne has in the past – including the non-AFL aligned clubs in Aspley Hornets, Canberra Demons, Redland Bombers, Southport Sharks and Sydney University.

The NAB League Boys and Girls will also look vastly different as it is set to become Under-19 and Under-17 competitions over the current Under-18 and Under-16 leagues. While the age groups will change, the AFL Draft eligible age – a hotly talked about topic – will not, as it remains at 18 in the calendar year of the AFL Draft.

With the VFL and NEAFL clubs aligning, it means the Northern Academy teams – Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns, GWS GIANTS and Sydney Swans – will be able to compete in the NAB League as they have in past years. The fixturing for the competition and exactly how it will be structured is yet to be determined.

No changes have been made to the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) or West Australian Football League (WAFL) competitions.

Swans record GIANT win as Suns hold off Lions

SYDNEY Swans and Gold Coast Suns academies have won back-to-back games against the GWS GIANTS and Brisbane Lions academies in the second round of the Northern Academy Series over the weekend. The Swans had a much easier time than the Suns, always looking in control of their match on their way to a dominant 53-point victory over their state rivals.

Sydney Swans 13.8 (87) defeated GWS GIANTS 5.4 (34)

Hosting arguably the two biggest NSW academy prospects in Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden, the Swans midfield was superb, providing equal measures of grunt and pace in getting the ball from defence to attack in an instant. The pair were running down the ground and creating opportunities for their teammates, with Campbell getting on the end of a brilliant goal, and setting up a teammate for another with a four-bounce run from the wing to inside 50. Gulden started in the unfamiliar half-back position, but his speed and skill allowed him to be a danger coming out of defence.

Sam Thorne was a clear standout for the Swans, continually working hard through the middle, and arguably could have been best on ground for his four quarter effort and tackling pressure on the opposition. Along with Thorne through the middle, it was the attack of Reed van Huisstede (four goals) and Liam Puncher (three goals) who applied all the scoreboard pressure. Other Swans who impressed included overager Sam Gaden, who looked comfortable in defence alongside Max Geddes. The deep Swans midfield of Campbell, Thorne, Nick Brewer and Marc Sheather ultimately powered the Sydney side to a big win.

For the GIANTS, they had just the one multiple goalkicker in Fraser Kelly who kicked two, while Logan Berryman, Liam Delahunty and Maximus Monaghan all snagged one apiece. It was no surprise to see Josh Green – the GIANTS’ top rated Academy prospect – named best-on despite the defeat, once against throwing himself at the contest and doing everything he could to get his side across the line. Among those also named in the GIANTS’ best were Sam Frost, Harrison Grintell, Drew Beavan and Daniel Turner in what was ultimately a day where the younger side was outclassed by a more polished Swans outfit.

GOALS:

Sydney: R.van Huisstede 4, L.Puncher 3, P.Roseby 2, B.Campbell, A.Ball, O.Bird, N.Brewer.
GIANTS: F. Kelly 2, L. Berryman, L. Delahunty, M. Monaghan.

BEST: 

Sydney: S. Thorne, E. Gulden, B. Campbell, R. Huisstede, N. Brewer, S. Gaden, M. Geddes
GIANTS: J. Green, S. Frost, H. Grintell, D. Beavan, D. Turner, F. Kelly

Brisbane Lions 10.8 (68) defeated Gold Coast Suns 9.7 (61)

In a game of two halves, the midfield battle proved crucial in deciding which side would snatch the momentum. Gold Coast dominated the opening stages, booting the first four goals of the game on the back of contested work from the likes of Bailey Reeves and Ethan Hunt at centre bounces. The combination of Reeves’ ability to extract, and Hunt’s drive from the contest worked well to get the SUNS on the front foot.

Speaking of, the outside run of Aiden Fyfe and Northern Territory prospect Brandon Rusca also worked well in transition, with the kicking prowess of Josh Fahey and Rhys Nicholls from defence also helping set up some seriously potent Suns transitions. While Fahey looked to penetrate with his long left boot from the kick-ins and deeper in defence, Nicholls more-so utilised strong intercept marking and the nous to run off for handball receives to have an impact.

Skipper for the day, Jack Johnston was a rock at centre half-back, faring well aerially while also contributing to the Suns’ kick-heavy game in the back half at times. He combined well with Joel Jeffrey before the swingman was sent forward, with their reading of the ball in flight ensuring Brisbane had little avenues to go forward quickly. Jeffrey, another prospect tied to Gold Coast through the Darwin zone, showed great class and athleticism in his time up forward. He managed to snare a set shot conversion in the fourth term.

Max Pescud was arguably best afield for the victors though, making a menace of himself at half-forward. While he is still quite light-on, Pescud showed he was not afraid to hit the ball and his opponents hard, and collected plenty of both throughout the day. The forward’s conversion was well off in the first half, but his reward for effort came in the form of two goals, with his first a ripping effort on the run having just burned an opponent.

That opponent was Tahj Abberley, who still proved to be one of Brisbane’s better players across the day. The small utility was as reliable as any Lion afield, constantly looking a class above with his use by foot. He was employed through midfield and rotated out to defence, where his reading of the play and rebound abilities came to the fore.

Another Lions Academy regular, Saxon Crozier was also terrific in a range of roles. Starting through midfield, the Lions captain got his hands on the ball early, but looked most dangerous in the closing stages as he used his long kicking to take the game on. Another usually reliable kick is Carter Michael, who also found plenty of the ball. His radar was a touch off as he looked to initiate some forward movement from defence, but the meterage was there and he fared well with a move into the midfield later on.

Part of Brisbane’s ability to turn the game on its head in the second half came through the likes of Blake Coleman and Bruce Reville. Both players rotated forward through midfield, and looked so dangerous whenever the ball entered their area. Coleman was a particular threat in transition with his clean hands, while over-ager Reville had a massive impact in the third term to give the Lions a sniff.

The pressure of Will Tasker, who booted two goals, and Lochlan Harrop also ensured the Lions took the game down to the wire, with their presence around the ball putting a classy Suns defence under the pump. Brisbane was forced to fight from too far back though, and came up just a goal short despite creating good chances in the last five minutes.

GOALS:

Gold Coast: S. Walsh 2, M. Pescud 2, A. Fyfe, J. Jeffrey, B. Reeves, N. Stevens, B. Uwland, W. Bella.
Brisbane:
W. Tasker 2, B. Reville 2, C. Bowes 2, C. Michael, S. Crozier, L. Harrop.

ADC BEST:

Gold Coast: M. Pescud, J. Fahey, E. Hunt, R. Nicholls, J. Jeffrey, J. Johnston, B. Reeves
Brisbane: T. Abberley, B. Reville, B. Coleman, S. Crozier, C. Michael, L. Harrop

 

Northern Academy Series preview: Round 2

GOLD Coast Suns and Sydney Swans Academies will be keen to double-up with victories over their respective cross-state rivals, Brisbane Lions and GWS GIANTS Academies when the Northern Academy series continues this weekend. Originally scheduled to face off against Academies from opposing states, the border restrictions between Queensland and New South Wales have made life difficult, but luckily for the two state’s most talented AFL Draft hopefuls, they will still get to run around.

In a similar structure to last week, the NSW teams will do battle on Saturday at North Dalton Park, Wollongong in conditions that will hopefully be better than the slog fest that greeted the players last week. On Sunday, the Queensland sides will battle it out at Labrador in a change of venue from the first round, which the Lions will be hoping can change their fortunes in the Round 2 clash. All of the teams will have players to watch when talking about both the 2020 and 2021 AFL Drafts, which makes it entertaining viewing.

For Sydney, Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden are the players that Swans fans know plenty about given their role with the Allies last season. The pair use the ball well and can be damaging in the forward half of the ground, with Campbell touted as a top 10 pick and Gulden as a highly rated prospect. But outside the duo, the Swans have a number of others to watch that make them quite a damaging unit, with Marco Rossman up forward likely to build on a quieter first-up appearance, while over-agers Jackson Barling and Sam Thorne are consistent performers for the red and white. Sam Gaden was hitting his straps at the Under 18 Championships last year before injury cut his short, and is worth a look when it comes to key position talents.

Their opponents the GIANTS might not have the standout prospect they had last year in Tom Green, but they do have a number of talents that will excite GIANTS fans, as shown by their capability to push the Swans in the wet last weekend. Josh Green – Tom’s brother – is one of their top talents, with the taller more key position option a player that could follow his brother into the elite program. One of the more unlucky players not to end up on a list is over-ager Liam Delahunty who has plenty of tricks playing as that third-tall utility who can play just about anywhere on the ground. He is one who would love to stake his case, and while he was set to represent Northern Knights in NAB League, the Academy prospect will be thrilled he has a second chance at playing here. Bottom-age talent Kai Watts, and top-age inclusion for Round 2, Charlie Byrne are others to watch, with the latter having some incredible skill coming off half-back that he showed for the Murray Bushrangers last year.

Turning the attention to the Q-Clash, and the Lions will be keen to turnaround their fortunes after a slow start saw them 37 points down before they put a score on the board. The Suns jumped them and utilised the breeze well, but it is easy to see why Lions fans are excited about this year’s crop of Academy talents. Carter Michael and Tahj Abberley are two players who have speed and skill to use coming off half-back, not afraid to take the game on or provide a contest in the air or at ground level. Along with fellow AFL Academy members Saxon Crozier – who often plays off a wing – and Blake Coleman – who worries opposition defenders every time he is in the vicinity of the goals – the Lions have a number of players who really stand out. Shatna Cashen-Harris and Kuot Thok both showed glimpses in the Round 1 loss, while Daniel Lanthois was strong in midfield. Jack Briskey is a key defender who has shown promising signs for Brisbane as well.

The Suns will look to have a similar first quarter start when they take on the Lions at Labrador after their Round 1 blitz basically ended the game in an impressive opening stanza. Bottom-ager Josh Fahey was the top player on the ground in the win while Max Pescud and Josh Gore showed plenty of signs in the forward half of the ground, causing issues for opponents in the air or at ground level. Aiden Fyfe impressed off a wing, while captain Jack Johnston was a rock in defence as he showed last season. The Suns have plenty to like about their side, because the Academy is quite even, shown by the inclusion of over-age forward, Nathan Colenso who kicked a couple of goals. Most of the players have run around in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) this season, with a number of them – such as Colenso and Coleman – transforming from teammates to opponents, or in the case of Michael and Abberley for example – opponents to teammates.

Saturday, August 15

Sydney Swans vs GWS GIANTS, North Dalton Park Wollongong

Sunday 16 August

Brisbane Lions vs Gold Coast Suns, Labrador Park

Scouting notes: Northern Academy Series – Round 1

THE 2020 Northern Academy Series got underway over the weekend, with prospects from the Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns, GWS Giants, and Sydney Swans talent programs all looking to impress. State derbies kicked off proceedings, and made for a couple of hard-fought battles.

In a willing contest under sunny conditions, the Gold Coast Suns Academy won by 53 points over their Sunshine State rivals. The Suns booted the first six goals of the game – five came with the breeze in the opening term – to run out comfortable winners.

The Sydney Swans Academy also ran out winners in their clash with the GWS Giants prospects, setting up the victory with a string of five unanswered goals which extended from the second term, onwards. Soggy conditions ensured hard work would be made for the 15-point triumph, with a good bit of niggle to go with the contested slog.

We took a look at some of the Academy members and how they performed, as well as a bunch of other names who impressed on the day.

Brisbane Lions vs. Gold Coast Suns

Brisbane:

By: Peter Williams

#12 Saxon Crozier

Played a mixture between the wing and getting back to help the defence, Crozier was neat with his ball use and always looking to create run for the Lions. After a quieter first term – though he had a good handball out of defence – he had an number of impressive plays in the second term. He sidestepped an opponent and got it quickly onto the right, and presented to his teammates around the field. His handballing release to teammates streaming down the ground opened up the play for Brisbane to begin to cut the deficit back.

#13 Blake Coleman

Not a high possession player, Coleman has high level footy smarts and clean hands that make him so difficult to stop. He is one of those players who might not get a touch for a half, then can win the game for his side with a couple of impactful plays. After a few silky moves in the first term, he combined well with Tahj Abberley down the ground to win it on the wing and keep paddling the ball in front of him. Somehow he managed to gain distance, shake off his pursuers and launch a goal from 50m having beaten three opponents in the clear goal of the day. His second major in the third term was more straightforward, floating in from the side to then hold his ground and clunk the grab 35m out. He nailed the set shot six and a half minutes into the term, and almost had another good mark in the final quarter but could not quite hold it. As he booted two of the Lions’ four goals, he did well to play his role in the forward half with great pressure.

#14 Carter Michael

Michael showed a great balance of offensive and defensive traits throughout the contest, playing off half-back and then pushing up the ground when required. His first foray in the match was a good early spoil, getting the body contact out of the way. Throughout the match, Michael ran hard to be an option through the middle, and often ran up to the kicker at a stop in play to receive the get and go, to add an extra number to the play and try and use his speed to drive the ball down the ground. He pumped the ball inside 50 on occasions, and was working hard to look for one-two opportunities for his teammates. He copped a knock in the defensive 50 back pocket, but bounced straight back up and was solid throughout the entire game. Showing nice hands out of congestion, Michael ran down the ground and teamed up with Abberley well in keeping the ball moving. He had a snap on goal of his own late in the final term, but the wind did not help him out and it went out on the full. His reaction in one passage of play saw him bolt down the middle and leave his opponents in his wake. He was a treat to watch on the day and a real highlight for the Lions.

#15 Tahj Abberley

One of the Lions’ best throughout the day, he just kept trying to create off half-back and push up the ground. He set up a goal to Coleman in the second term with his pace off half-back, and then teamed up well with Michael in the final term with the one-two handballs down the ground. He stayed involved in all four quarters, and even drifted forward at times to kick it deeper inside 50, having a clever snap from long range, but it drifted for a behind. He won plenty of the ball in all thirds of the ground, and when the heat was on early in the game, Abberley was one of the few who stood up and continued to try hard against the flow. He used the ball well and showed good hands in traffic throughout the contest, and definitely showed plenty of potential in the defeat.

Others:

In terms of others who caught the eye, Shatna Cashen-Harris was lively up forward, with clean hands and a silky side-step, always looking dangerous. In midfield, the combination of Sam Winterbottom and Daniel Lanthois tried hard with the latter kicking a clever goal in the second term, whilst Ben Thomas kicked the other major for the Lions. Over-ager Max McDonald was dominant in the ruck, whilst Noah McFadyen provided a contest up forward, and Kuot Thok was not afraid to crash and bash the packs in defence.

>> Lions Academy Content

Gold Coast:

By: Ed Pascoe

#13 Rhys Nicholls 

Nicholls did not have the most productive game but he was still able to show his skill and talent with some nice spin moves and classy movement from the back half. The clever left-footer looked very smooth whenever he got possession and like many of his teammates, always took the opportunity to move the ball forward as quickly and cleanly as possible. 

#14 Max Pescud 

Maybe the most unlucky Suns player not to be included in the AFL based academy, he has been a regular goal scorer in the QAFL and backed that up again. He kicked multiple goals while also unselfishly passing off more opportunities as he could have easily ended up with about five goals himself. A quick player who takes the game on, tackles, and marks with intent despite his light frame, he came undone a few times with his run but when he was up-and-running and taking bounces, he looked very sharp and even got some time through the midfield late in the game, winning a few clearances. 

#19 Josh Fahey 

Fahey played for NSW/ACT in last year’s Under 16 championships and now finds himself with the Gold Coast Suns, although he wont be tied to any academies for next year’s draft. That’ll come as a sigh of relief for all AFL clubs, as he put on a best on ground performance down back. Fahey wasn’t hard to miss with his blonde locks but he also wasn’t hard to miss for the Lions going inside 50 as they kicked it down his throat multiple times. Fahey cut off plenty of attacks, attacking the contest hard and cleanly. His left-foot kicking from defence was a real feature, both long and damaging, and he had a major influence on the result. Fahey looks to be a very promising prospect for the 2021 draft.  

#20 Aiden Fyfe 

Fyfe had the ball on a string on his favoured wing position, and would had to have been the leading possession winner on the ground as he was involved in every quarter as one of the most consistent players afield. Fyfe found the ball all over the ground, working hard defensively and offensively. He was one of many to kick a goal in the first quarter with a nice snap and he would set up countless others with his clean hands and composure when in possession. Fyfe rarely wasted his touches and often hit teammates in a better position than himself. Despite not being the quickest player out there, he was certainly one of the sharpest in both skill and mind with ball in hand. 

#22 Jack Johnston 

The captain of the side, Johnston was a rock in defence at centre half-back. He took some nice strong marks and was cool and composed across the back half. Johnston is a strong player already standing at 195cm and 95kg, using his frame well both overhead anover the ball, and his disposals were often very clean for a big man. 

Others:

A couple of over-agers who impressed were forwards, Josh Gore and Nathan Colenso. Both were able to hit the scoreboard multiple times and look damaging, with Colenso on the lead, and Gore mixing between the lead and in play. Both have been prominent goalkickers at QAFL level, and brought that same form into the game, with Gore’s clean hands and Colenso’s strength and tackling ability amongst the attributes that stood out for the respective forwards.

>> Suns Academy Content

GWS Giants vs. Sydney Swans

By: Michael Alvaro

GWS:

#1 Harry Grant

The diminutive over-ager was thrown right into the cut and thrust of midfield and hardly looked out of place. Grant hunted the ball from the first bounce, with his pace and tenacity at ground level making for a solid two-way contribution. If he wasn’t digging in to win his own ball at the stoppages, Grant was applying smothering defensive pressure to make life hard for opposition midfielders. It seemed the conditions suited his game well, and he would later move forward where he very nearly added a goal to his game with a sharp snap.

#26 Liam Delahunty

Another 19-year-old prospect to show promising glimpses of form, Delahunty was primed to make is mark on the NAB League and VFL in 2020. Instead, he took the opportunity this weekend to show his worth back with the Giants Academy, and had his moments throughout the game. Starting in defence, Delahunty took a nice contested mark to intercept a deep Sydney entry, while also looking to rebound aggressively by running his full measure and delivering by foot. He is somewhat of an in-between size at 192cm and 87kg, allowing him to compete both aerially and at ground level. He continued to take the game on from defensive 50, but was caught holding the ball as he looked to fend off an opponent in the third term. A move forward followed, and Delahunty capped off his performance with a tidy, quick finish for the final goal of the game.

#27 Josh Green

Green cuts a similar figure to his brother, Tom – albeit a touch taller and leaner – and was tried in an inside midfield role for the Giants early on. His 192cm frame allowed him to compete at the stoppages, while his ability to get up either end of the ground made him an influential player throughout the game. While he was a touch slow to truly build into the contest, Green began to show his best form after half time with some terrific overhead marking in tricky conditions. His clearance work built as well with the added confidence, and a later move behind the ball allowed Green to showcase his strong hands and intercept quality.

#42 Maximus Monaghan

One of a number of Giants to have rotated through midfield, Monaghan also showed some good signs while stationed both in defence and attack. The top-ager is strongly built and applied himself at the contest, showing good aggression and strength to break free and dispose of the ball via foot. He accumulated well through the engine room and was later sighted up either end of the ground where he was able to find his way to the ball.

Others:

On a day where the conditions made it tough to take a lot out of the game, there were a number of players to have provided little flashes of form. Bottom-age forward Sam Stening presented well up the ground early and was later rewarded with a goal for his run-down tackle on Max Geddes. The likes of Coopa Steele and Joel Dunstall dug in to find plenty of the ball, while Harrison Grintell looked lively up forward, and Sam Frost was among a few solid defenders. Under 16 NSW/ACT MVP Kai Watts booted a goal from his permenent forward position, while Jack Driscoll rotated back through the ruck.

>> Giants Academy Content

Sydney:

#2 Sam Gaden

Gaden proved a strong a flexible key position option for the Swans, starting forward and eventually plying his trade down back. The over-ager worked up the ground well in the early stages, presenting as a link into Sydney’s forward 50. He provided a goal assist to Jackson Barling in the second term with a hacked kick into the arc, and doubled his impact with some forward 50 ruck work. Having been moved down back in the second half, Gaden showcased his ability to intercept, sweeping well both in the air and at ground level.

#3 Kye Pfrengle

A player who needs only a few touches or moments to catch the eye is Pfrengle, who looked particularly lively in the first term with some incredible marking attempts. The top-age AFL Academy hub member certainly has a spring in his step, leaping high for the ball to intercept GWS’ long defensive rebounds. While he failed to hold onto most of his speckie attempts, Pfrengle was positioned well behind the ball to begin with, allowing him enact that intercept game. He would later be seen a touch deeper in defence, locking the ball in and taking the kick-outs, making handy contributions just when it seemed he was drifting out of the contest.

#7 Braeden Campbell

The leading Swans Academy prospect looked like tearing the game apart as he dominated the opening stages, showing terrific signs through midfield. While his speed and damaging kicking on the outside often garner the most praise, it was Campbell’s toughness and ability to adapt to the conditions which stood out most on this occasion. His clearance work was sound throughout the match, and despite coughing up a rare turnover by foot in the second term, he was able to find his range consistently. With some opposition attention incoming, Campbell was moved to half-back and also rotated off the wing, while pushing forward to slot a goal in the third term. He looked most dangerous with his burst away from the stoppages though, and hunted the ball well when on the inside.

>> Academy Series Player Focus

#15 Sam Thorne

Another over-ager to have made his mark on the game was Thorne, a small midfielder who thrived in the soggy conditions. He was a regular at the centre bounces and stoppages, accumulating the ball with ease at ground level and releasing well to his teammates on the move. Thorne’s ability to shark the ball off hands and get his legs pumping to burst away was noticeable, and it helped set the tone for Sydney from where it mattered most. He finished as one of the most prolific ball winners on the day, and kept his name in the hat as far as the Swans are concerned.

#22 Errol Gulden

Campbell’s partner-in-crime, Gulden was a consistent threat for Sydney and managed to find the ball at will while rotating from the wing, through the middle, and up forward. The 176cm mover relies more on agility and smarts rather than pure pace, so initially found it hard in the wet conditions to have his usual impact on the game despite constantly getting his hands on the ball.

Still, Gulden snared the opening goal after being tackled high inside 50, and used it as a catalyst to work more effectively at ground level. His work-rate forward of centre was outstanding, and he could be seen pushing inside 50 from the wing to snare his second major, hardly breaking stride as he gobbled up the loose ball and slotted it home on the fly. Gulden was arguably best afield in the second half, and is just so difficult to stop at full flight. It was good to see him get busy up forward too, as that high half-forward role looks most like being his starting position at the elite level.

#25 Jackson Barling

Barling is another Academy talent to have missed out last year, but seems to have taken it in his stride after an impressive performance. He was first sighted using the ball cleanly in the back half, staying composed to provide a refreshing point of difference in the largely-contested game. His biggest impact came upon his move to the forwardline though, where Barling would kick three goals. His first came on the back of a juggled mark inside 50, which was quickly followed by another strong grab and set shot conversion in the second term. Yet another big clunk helped deliver a third major in the final quarter, though he selfishly burned Thorne as he looked for a fourth. Still, Barling’s scoreboard impact helped turn the game significantly in Sydney’s favour, and his hardness at 183cm and 85kg was impressive as it should be for an over-ager.

Others:

The talent in the Swans Academy runs deep, and there were plenty of others to have pitched in across the day. Marc Sheather was hard at the ball through midfield, while fellow AFL Academy member Marco Rossmann showed some promising signs early in his role up forward. Oscar Bird was another solid contributor who got involved in Sydney’s forward surges.

>> Swans Academy Content

From Canberra to Adelaide, Squire aspires for the big leagues

THROUGH unprecedented and uncertain times, finding a positive is often key to a good mindset. West Adelaide recruit Lachlan Squire is doing just that, and having faced his fair share of setbacks, hopes a path less travelled by leads to his ultimate goal of playing AFL football.

A Queanbeyan junior, Squire joined the GWS GIANTS Academy as an Under 13 and had been there ever since. A rare joint condition saw him sidelined for 13 months as he entered his 14th year, and a broken ankle right after his Under 15 national carnival with the ACT impacted his Under 16s preseason.

Squire missed out on selection for the NSW/ACT Rams over the next two years, but in his own words, played his best footy as a top-ager. While he was third or fourth in line among the GIANTS Academy midfield, the 19-year-old thrived at NEAFL level and even earned a league Rising Star nomination late in the season.

He was all set to return to NAB League duties with the GIANTS Academy as an over-ager, or otherwise continue to make a splash in the NEAFL across 2020. But with both competitions put on the back-burner due to the current pandemic, Squire was forced to find another way to stake his claim as a draftable talent.

Enter the West Adelaide Football Club, based nearly 12-hundred kilometres away from his hometown in Canberra. Like many mature-age AFL draft hopefuls, Squire has made the move interstate to get some football under his belt and show recruiters what he is made of.

After a two-week quarantine period, the well-built inside midfielder entered the Bloods’ Reserves side and is pushing for a League berth with just five games in the bank. Under the mentorship of housemate and vice-captain Logan Hill, and fellow Queanbeyan native Kaine Stevens, Squire looks poised for a crack at the top grade.

We sat down for a chat with him during the week, touching base on his footballing journey, how he came to the decision to move to South Australia, what he hopes to bring to the Westies side, and his future aspirations. Below are quotes from the man himself on a range of topics.

THE JOURNEY THUS FAR

JUNIOR FOOTY:

“I started playing footy at Queanbeyan Tigers when I was about four, just through AusKick and that. When I was younger, I always used to play up and I’ve always wanted to make the AFL, that’s been my goal ever since I was really young. I used to just play footy and cricket, that was pretty much how it was. I had a few bad injuries when I was about 14 and 16, so I had to choose between footy and cricket. Ever since then it’s been footy.”

INJURIES:

“They always had these carnivals in Albury which was the best out of the Swans and the GIANTS (academies), but I could never go… I had surgery on both of my knees when I was 13 or 14, it was a rare thing (osteochondritis dissecans). I had to have surgery and I couldn’t run for 13 months.

“Coming back from that, I was alright and played Under 15s nationals for ACT, then a week after that I broke my ankle and that put me out for most of the 16s preseason. When I played in the Under 16s Academy Series, I’d only been back training a few weeks beforehand, so that was not ideal. It taught me a fair bit about how you’ve got to look after yourself and coming back from injuries. It’s not easy but I reckon it’s mentally made me understand how to come back from setbacks.

“You get used to it with niggles and stuff like that but ever since then, I’ve made sure I’m really good with my gym work and rehab to try and make sure that I’m putting my body in the best state it can be to not get injured, and to physically be as good as I can.” Obviously that’s what you can control.”

THE GIANTS ACADEMY:

“I played for the NSW Under 12s because that was through school and then in Under 13s we started with the GIANTS Academy. I was with them ever since then… They’ve got good resources there, good coaches and people who will help you. As long as you put in the effort… I’ve sort of been a bit of a late developer with my football, mainly due to my injuries and that sort of stuff. I probably played my best footy in my 18th year, Under 16s I didn’t make Rams, 17s I didn’t make Rams either, so that’s sort of how it went.”

TOP-AGE SEASON (2019):

“At the beginning (2019) I was playing NAB League. I didn’t play badly, I played solidly the whole carnival but I didn’t stand out as much as I wanted to. I had probably one good game where I was able to get a bit more of the footy but I was playing that third or fourth mid behind Tom Green, Jeromy Lucas, and James Peatling. So I was sort of that next mid, I was playing well but just couldn’t get my numbers up.

“Then I played 13 games of NEAFL and probably played better there. I was getting better numbers than I was in the NAB League. It suited me a bit better I reckon, with more structure and I have a pretty mature body so I could play midfield pretty much every game which was good.

“Playing with blokes like Jackson Hately and Jye Caldwell was a really good experience. I think that back-end of the year was where I started playing my best footy, I got a NEAFL Rising Star nomination and had a few other games where I felt I played really well. That helped me, and (the GIANTS Academy) wanted me to come back as an over-ager. I was planning on being one of the hit-to players in the middle, which would have been good. And then to play NEAFL for the rest of the year but it didn’t work out so I’m over here (in Adelaide) now.”

MAKING THE MOVE

INITIAL THOUGHTS:

“It all happened pretty quickly. I guess there was nothing we could really do about it and the whole time we had hopes that things would be able to start up again. I just tried to control what I could control and that was just trying to keep doing my training, to keep trying to be as fit as I can and focus on stuff that I could keep improving on. Trying to find a positive out of it.

“I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do because obviously I wanted to still play with the GIANTS but I spoke with my managers and they thought it would be a good opportunity to come over and play in the SANFL considering it’s one of the only things going at the moment.”

“If things didn’t work out for me this year how I wanted to, I was looking at going interstate anyway to try and play state league footy at a higher level than the NEAFL. It was a good opportunity, but it’s definitely been challenging. I had to quarantine for two weeks and all that sort of stuff, coming to a new place without family and friends. I literally came in, had one week of training and played Round 2 without knowing any of the boys. So it’s been hard but I feel like I’ve played some good footy so far.”

COMMITTING TO THE MOVE:

“Each week it would change. One week I would be like ‘yeah I’m going’ and the next it would be like ‘nah I’m not going’. I didn’t really want to have to quarantine for two weeks because I had a few niggles after probably training a bit too hard in the break. I had a bit of soreness and quarantine wasn’t going to be ideal for that.

“I needed to keep my load up so I was a bit unsure, I didn’t want to come over here and take ages to get going, then have stuff start up back home and miss that so it was a bit hard.

“When they decided the GIANTS weren’t going to be playing in the NAB League, and there was so much uncertainty around when any GIANTS Academy games would start up, I though I might as well come over and give it a crack and just see how it goes.”

QUARANTINE AND KEEPING FIT:

“When we found out about all the gyms closing, I quickly called up our coach at my local club, Queanbeyan and took a heap of gym gear from the club, just stuff I would need. So I set up a gym in my backyard… We got sent programs and stuff to do from the GIANTS so I would go and do that with one of my mates and we trained pretty hard.

“I like writing programs for myself, you’ve got to figure out a way to keep motivated with weekly targets and challenges to keep yourself motivated. I enjoy doing preseason stuff because you get better. As much as it sucks, at the same time you get better and it’s good when you see improvements. I was able to find positives out of it and (understand) there’s probably people who don’t have the facilities right now that I do or the mindset just to work hard.”

“West Adelaide got some gym stuff for me as well, so we set that up in the backyard I was staying at. I made sure I got a treadmill so I could do some running. So I just did that and learned how to cook a bit and that’s pretty much it. I played playstation, there wasn’t much else to do.

“It went pretty quickly, you’ve just got to keep yourself busy throughout the day. I still did my gym sessions and my running sessions. The first week coming out (of quarantine) I felt a bit rusty, just with ball skills and I was pretty sore after the first few sessions, but it didn’t take me long to get back to feeling how I did. I’d only played one game since the end of August last year – I only played one practice match and then went straight into a pretty high quality game.”

THE WEST ADELAIDE ACCOMODATION:

“I’m staying with Logan Hill, who’s the vice-captain of West Adelaide. He’s got his own place so I’ve just got a room there, it’s pretty good. He’s pretty good to learn off and I just cook for myself and that sort of stuff.

“(West Adelaide) have been unreal. Just the support I’ve gotten from them has been second to none. From all the coaches, general managers and football directors. During my quarantine they would all call me up and see how i’m going, if there was anything I needed, they’d get for me and all the boys have been really welcoming.

“It’s a really good culture at the club, we haven’t had a great start to the year performance wise, but internally things are going well. We’ve got a good culture and that sort of stuff so I think we’re in a good spot. It couldn’t have really been much of a better transition for me, especially with my circumstances.”

SEASON 2020:

EARLY FORM:

“I have had a few good games and am starting to get into some good form… I had a quieter game on the weekend but next week I’ll just focus again on winning hard balls and good tackling.”

“But that’s how you learn, each week I’m learning what works for me and I’m trying to showcase how I can get into the League side and some different things. I think the best way forward is just to stick to my strengths and that’s what I’ve done so far this year. I’ve played five games now, my first one was a bit rusty but after that I’ve been playing some pretty good footy.”

STRENGTHS AND IMPROVEMENTS:

“I’m not naturally really quick or anything, I’m just solid all-round. I’m trying to figure out what a weapon of mine is and I’ve been able to (identify) that with my contested work and tackling. But I do have the capability to take pack marks, kick goals.

“I think it’s just more that my inside game’s really good and my contested stuff but that outside work, racking up numbers… that’s what I’ve been working on this year, just accumulating because the more times you get the ball, the more times you’re going to be able to show what you can do.”

GOALS:

“I want to obviously make my League debut, I’m close. I was an emergency last week so hopefully can get an opportunity soon, I’ve just got to keep playing consistent footy. Obviously the (end) goal is to get drafted, whether that’s this year or next year, who knows.

“I’m just going to keep doing everything I can to put myself in the best position, keep trying to play good footy and I think the SANFL’S a good spot at the moment to try and get in and show what I can do. Hopefully I can play some League games towards the back-end of this year and put my name up there with some solid performances.”

MENTORS AND TEAMMATES:

“I knew Kaine (Stevens), because he’s come from my old club so I’ve known him for a while. I like watching his game and he’s pretty good at accumulating the footy. He’s probably a different sort of player to me where I’m probably a bit more on the inside and tackling, whereas he’s able to find the ball a bit more on the outside and he’s really good at receiving the ball at stoppages. I watch his game for his running patterns, he runs smartly and gets himself in good spots and that’s been something that I’m trying to work on, not just running for the sake of running.”

“Ever since I’ve come over I’ve been close with (Hamish Ellem) because we have a similar connection, him and Kyle Martin who also came from the Swans Academy. So I’ve been hanging out with them a fair bit and doing some stuff before training, working on our game.”

LIFE OUTSIDE OF FOOTY

FAMILY:

“I’ve got great support from my parents, they encouraged me to come across. They know what my aspirations are so they knew that this would be a good opportunity for me and they message me throughout the week and watch the games on Digital Pass. My grandparents watch the games on Digital Pass too and also my girlfriend back home, she’s been really supportive about it as well.”

“It is tough. It’s a weird circumstance because usually they’d be able to come up and visit. They were planning on coming up and visiting a couple of weeks ago but because the borders shut, or didn’t open, they haven’t been able to. So I guess that’s hard, because I’m not really probably going to see them until the end of the season, which overall will be about four and a bit months which is a fair while when you’re so young. But that’s just how it is.”

DOWNTIME:

“I just go to the beach for a bit and do recovery, or go out for a coffee with the boys. But I’m pretty focussed on footy at the moment and I’m studying now as well so I’m a bit busy with that too.

“I’m working at the Westies club, behind the bar so that’s pretty chill. We train a fair bit, we train three times a week and then play so you do your gym sessions on top of that as well. You’re spending a fair bit of your time at the club and then in my spare time just exploring Adelaide a bit because I don’t really know much about it. Just going out an checking out the beaches, going out to different restaurants.”

With the SANFL teams named tonight, Squire will hope to breakthrough and make his SANFL League debut against Woodville-West Torrens on Saturday.

>> MORE WEST ADELAIDE CONTENT

2020 AFL Draft Positional Analysis: Small and Medium Utilities

UTILITIES; the jacks of all trades, the players who can thrive up either end of the ground, or adapt to whichever role the team requires. One thing that remains consistent among this lot is versatility, and while not all of them currently have the opportunity to show their worth on the field, exposed form and long preseasons for most allow for a window into how the current stocks stack up.

In ramping up our 2020 AFL Draft analysis, Draft Central continues its line-by-line positional breakdowns, moving on to the best small and medium utilities. The following list features pocket profiles of top-age (2002-born) prospects who are part of their respective AFL Academy hubs, while also touching on some names who missed out last year, or may feature on another list.

Without further ado, get to know some of the premier utilities who are eligible to be drafted in 2020.

Note: The list is ordered alphabetically, not by any form of ranking.

Tahj Abberley
Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies
180cm | 70kg

One of the leading Lions Academy prospects, Abberley provides a perfect starting point for this list. While the diminutive Queenslander will most likely look to use his sharp foot skills and decision making off half-back this year, he has previously thrived on both sides of midfield and through the forward rotation. While most small midfielders with good pace and agility tend to find their way into that goalsneak or pressure forward role, Abberley’s points of difference on the ball allow him to be utilised just about anywhere. Having been a constant in the Queensland junior representative setup and played all five NAB League games for the Lions last year, Abberley was set for a big top-age campaign prior to the interruptions.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

Clayton Gay
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country
183cm | 77kg

Gay was a mainstay in Dandenong’s side as a bottom-ager in 2019, running out for 17 games and showing glimpses of his talent. He is another who may find a home down back in 2020, but has shown his nous up the other end already with his 13 NAB League goals last year. His reading of the play is sound, and Gay is able to break open games in small spurts. Though he can still work on his consistency and athletic base, Gay remains one of his region’s most exciting prospects who already has good runs on the board. His natural talent is enough to suggest he has plenty to offer.

>> Feature

Zac Dumesny
South Adelaide/South Australia
187cm | 79kg

One of the many South Australian Under 18s to be plying their trade at SANFL League level already is Dumesny, and he has transitioned rather seamlessly to senior football. The South Adelaide product is a good size at 187cm, able to provide that intercept quality with his vertical leap across the backline, while also utilising his clean hands and skills up on a wing. Dumesny has been working on being a touch more physical at the contest, but is all-class on the ball and will be pushing into top 25 considerations if his form persists.

>> Q&A

Oliver Henry
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country
187cm | 77kg 

The younger brother of Geelong Cats defender, Jack, Henry is an eye-catching prospect who brings terrific aerial prowess to either end of the field. Despite standing at just under the 190cm range, Henry has been utilised in a second or third tall role at times for the Falcons, with his athleticism and sticky hands allowing him to reel in fantastic marks. He averaged over a goal per his 15 NAB League games last year to prove his forward threat, but also fared well down back with his clean rebounding skills and intercepting ability. Having also been used up on a wing in his Australian Under 17 outing, Henry is a true all-rounder.

>> Feature
>> Marquee Matchup

Joel Jeffrey
NT Thunder/Allies
189cm | 74kg

Arguably the Northern Territory’s best draft prospect for 2020 is Jeffrey, who looks destined to end up at the Gold Coast SUNS given their new concessions. The son of NT great, Russell, Jeffrey was poised to make the move over to Queensland this season before the global pandemic intervened. The high-flying prospect already has senior experience having turned out for Wanderers in the NTFL, booting 29 goals in 13 games. His ability to find the goals from ground level balls or on the end of big marks makes him a player fans will come to watch, but he is just as effective in defence.

Will Schreiber
Glenelg/South Australia
190cm | 82kg

Schreiber has made a solid start to the SANFL season at Under 18 level, running out for Glenelg across the first four rounds. While he has been continually trialled as a big-bodied midfielder and can get his hands on the ball at centre bounces, Schreiber arguably looks most comfortable down back where he can utilise his marking ability and calm distribution by foot. Like many talented hopefuls scattered across the Tigers’ Under 18 side, Schreiber has proven versatile and has been a key part of their 4-0 start to the 2020 campaign.

Marc Sheather
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies
185cm | 84kg

Like just about every player on this list, Sheather has been utilised in a range of roles, swinging up either end of the ground and doing so to good effect. He first caught the eye at Under 16 level with his strong marking power deep forward for NSW/ACT, but has since looked terrific as a medium defender for the Rams and Swans Academy. He is a prospect who plays above his height, credit to a readymade frame and terrific athleticism, but also does the job at ground level with his useful disposal by foot both in general play and from the kick-ins. Sheather may be flying under the radar given the Swans’ notable Academy talent, but is a promising player in his own right.

Joel Western
Claremont/Western Australia
172cm | 68kg

Western kicked off his WAFL Colts campaign in style, returning a best afield performance with 29 disposals and a goal. Having already experienced premiership success at the level and been a part of the State Under 18 setup, Western is a well-known prospect with stacks of potential. Fremantle will get first dibs on Western through its NGA, and Dockers fans can look forward to seeing his great evasiveness, freakish skills, and speed in a variety of roles going forward. While he has found a home through midfield at Colts level, Western can also play off half-back and push forward well. Players of his size will always have a lingering knock on them, but Western has the elite athleticism and skill to go far.

>> Draft Watch

Positional Analysis: Inside Midfielders | Outside Midfielders | Key Position Defenders | Key Position Forwards

July 2020 Power Rankings

>> CATCH UP ON OUR OTHER SERIES

Squad Predictions:
Allies
South Australia
Vic Country
Vic Metro
Western Australia

Features
AFL Draft Watch

Preseason Testing Analysis:
Jumps
Speed
Agility
Endurance

2020 AFL Draft Positional Analysis: Key Position Defenders

THE KEY position stocks among this year’s potential AFL Draft crop are quite rich when compared to 2019, with a couple of tall defenders currently featuring at the pointy end of ranking boards. While not all of them currently have the opportunity to show their worth on the field, exposed form and long preseasons for most allow for a window into how the current stocks stack up.

In ramping up our 2020 AFL Draft analysis, Draft Central continues its line-by-line positional breakdowns, moving on to the best key position defenders. The following list features pocket profiles of top-age (2002-born) prospects who are part of their respective AFL Academy hubs, while also touching on some names who we may have missed, or will feature on another list.

Without further ado, get to know some of the premier key defenders who are eligible to be drafted to your club in 2020.

Note: The list is ordered alphabetically, not by any form of ranking.

James Borlase
Sturt/South Australia
18/06/2002 | 190cm | 94kg

His father, Darryl may have played 246 games for the Port Adelaide Magpies, but Adelaide lay claim to first dibs on the next generation of Borlase via its academy ranks. The 190cm prospect landed in the Crows’ zone and was born in Egypt, allowing him to join and develop through the Crows’ Next Generation Academy (NGA). Currently plying his trade in Sturt’s Reserves side, Borlase has been a mainstay in the South Australian state ranks, utilised at either end of the ground. But with his strength and sound reading of the play, the 18-year-old is looking to cement a spot down back this year. He is a little short on true key position height but has the frame to compete, and may become more of a third-tall type at the next level.

>> Q&A

Cody Brand
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro
23/05/2002 | 195cm | 84kg

Another NGA hopeful, Brand came on strong towards the back end of last year’s NAB League season having regained some confidence during his school football campaign. He is a good size at 195cm and 84kg, able to utilise his strength in one-on-one situations to pose attributes which slightly lean towards the shutdown role among the back six setup. But Brand is relatively adept athletically too, with a decent spring and closing speed allowing him to both impact aerial contests and rebound effectively. He is one of the few talls at Calder this year, and looks like locking down a key defensive post once again having also been trialled up forward.

>> Feature

Heath Chapman
West Perth/Western Australia
31/01/2002 | 193cm | 81kg

A prospect who may rise quickly up draft boards is Chapman, an athletic key position type who is built for the modern game. The West Perth product mixes defence with offence well, able to read the play and intercept with aplomb, while also finding plenty of the ball and using it soundly on the rebound. While he still has time to grow, Chapman’s slight 193cm frame and terrific athletic attributes throw up the potential for him to be freed from the key position caper, in order to truly enhance his speed-endurance mix. But for now, expect to see Chapman dominating across centre half-back at Colts level for the Falcons, and a partnership alongside Denver Grainger-Barras also looms in future for the Black Ducks.

Nikolas Cox
Northern Knights/Vic Metro
15/01/2002 | 199cm | 82kg

There is a lot to like about the 2020 Northern Knights co-captain, who brings precise dual-sided disposal, speed-endurance running, aerial prowess, and clean hands all in one versatile 199cm package. Cox cut his teeth in a range of different positions as a bottom-ager, roaming the wing at times while also being tried with great success up forward. But his sound disposal, leadership, and reading of the play have him pinned for a role at centre half-back this year, having appeared once already for Vic Metro among the back six. Should he put all the pieces together, Cox has the potential to be a true top 10 prospect, but as is the case with most high-upside prospects, he is still quite raw.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia
14/04/2002 | 195cm | 78kg

Speaking of true top 10 prospects, Grainger-Barras is the early clubhouse leader among the key defenders having shown outstanding form to this point in his junior career. After earning All Australian honours at Under 16 level, the Swan Districts product went on to impress across two Under 18 National Championship games for WA, before being ruled out for the remainder of his bottom-age season with a serious shoulder injury. While he is still a touch light-on, Grainger-Barras is more than capable of competing in a lock-down defensive role, but thrives in being able to intercept and showcase his versatility across the backline. He should feature early at WAFL League level having cracked the grade in 2019.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

Jack Johnston
Gold Coast Academy/Allies
5/07/2002 | 195cm | 95kg

Another academy member among our list and one who has flown a little under the radar is Johnston, who looks a likely type. He is tied to the Gold Coast SUNS Academy, and played all five games in the NAB League Northern Academy series last year, playing an important role at centre half-back. Like many on this list, he possesses a good amount of athleticism to add to his defensive capabilities, able to impact the play aerially and at ground level. His frame makes him a readymade type, and he looks poised for an Allies berth in 2020 having made the squad as a bottom-ager.

Cody Raak
Western Jets/Vic Metro
8/10/2002 | 191cm | 77kg

While he might fall just under the genuine key position quota at 191cm, the Western Bulldogs NGA hopeful is one who plays the defensive role well. Having already turned out 11 times at NAB League level for the Western Jets, Raak is one of the more seasoned members of his region and provides a good deal of versatility to the potential Vic Metro back six. Raak is able to read the play well across the backline and intercept aerially, while also using the ball soundly when in possession and notching up a solid amount of disposals. He is working on his strength and one-on-one craft, but looms as an exciting third tall type going forward.

Zach Reid
Gippsland Power/Vic Country
2/03/2002 | 202cm | 82kg

The only player on this list to tip over the 200cm mark is Reid, who brings a bunch of desirable traits to the table. The leading Gippsland Power prospect does not just lean on his height and vertical leap to have an impact aerially, as he positions well and is improving on his strength-related game. Reid is also a terrific kick for his size and combines his slick use by foot with clean hands and athleticism to help sweep up at ground level. Having been tested through the ruck and up forward for periods as a bottom-ager, Reid looks primed to continue as a key defender with plenty to suggest he has all the right attributes for the next level.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

OTHERS TO CONSIDER

There were a few players who were tricky to omit from this list, but most will feature on others as they did not quite fit the true key defensive mould. Among them, the 188cm Jye Sinderberry is a very capable lockdown defender at Under 18 level, who competes well in all areas against players about his size. Geelong’s Cameron Fleeton is another versatile type who can adapt to the key position role as it stands, but is likely to be let off the leash going forward. Late bloomer Blake Morris possesses similar intercept marking power, but is again a touch short and light at 188cm/66kg. You can add Will Schreiber to the list, too, although he has also been utilised through midfield this season.

Oakleigh’s Sam Tucker is of a true key position mould, but can be considered a swingman of sorts given he has also played up forward, while the likes of Jack Driscoll double as ruck cover, and Jack Briskey narrowly missed the cut due to his athleticism suiting a slightly different role. Gold Coast Academy prospect Ryan Pickering is another who may impress in 2020, almost adding to the 200cm club.

Picture: AFL Media

Positional Analysis: Inside Midfielders | Outside Midfielders | Key Position Forwards

>> CATCH UP ON OUR OTHER SERIES

July 2020 Power Rankings

Squad Predictions:
Allies
South Australia
Vic Country
Vic Metro
Western Australia

Features
AFL Draft Watch

Preseason Testing Analysis:
Jumps
Speed
Agility
Endurance

Draft Central Power Rankings: July 2020

THROUGH pandemics and great uncertainty, draft hopefuls and fans alike have been assured that the 2020 AFL Draft will go ahead in some capacity, albeit at a later date. As budding elite-level players across the country return to action, it is time to let the cat out of the bag with our first, monthly Power Rankings list for the year. In this edition, we have compiled who we deem to be the top 20 draft eligible prospects and a bunch more to look out for based off under-age form, testing results, and preseason movement.

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

#1 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 194cm | 84kg

Western Bulldogs fans may not entirely enjoy seeing Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, Ugle-Hagan perched atop the tree given the hefty price that comes with it, but should be buoyed by their club having first dibs on such a remarkable talent. The 194cm key position forward has been compared to champion goalkicker Lance Franklin for his athleticism and left-foot kick, but he plays a little differently. Ugle-Hagan’s pace off the lead and sticky hands overhead set him apart, while elite scores in each of the preseason testing events make him an irresistible prospect alone. He is the consensus number one choice at this point, having delivered on the hype as he moved to the Oakleigh region via a scholarship with Scotch College.

>> Q&A
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>> Marquee Matchup

#2 Elijah Hollands
Murray Bushrangers/Vic County | Forward/Midfielder
25/04/2002 | 188cm | 80kg

Hollands’ placing in these rankings will inevitably prove one of the hardest to call throughout the year, given he is set to sit out the entire 2020 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). At this point though, he has done more than enough to warrant top five status at the least, and finds a place in second spot here. While his knack for producing game-defining periods has most significantly been achieved forward of centre, Hollands has the size and skill to warrant his goal of earning more midfield minutes. With clean hands, athleticism, and a booming boot which often finds the goals, Hollands is all you could ever want from a high-ceiling prospect. Not playing shouldn’t hurt his value too much, but it would have been nice to see him get an uninterrupted crack at NAB League level having finished his schooling at Caulfield Grammar.

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#3 Will Phillips
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
22/05/2002 | 179cm | 78kg

We have all marvelled at how well Oakleigh graduates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson have adapted to life in the AFL, and Phillips could be the next Charger in line to do just that having leant on the pair during his bottom-aged campaign. Like Rowell, Phillips is a sub-180cm prospect who consistently finds plenty of the ball and possesses great leadership qualities. He is a well-balanced midfielder too, having plied his trade at times on the outside for Oakleigh en route to premiership glory. Phillips seems to thrive on the inside though, with his hardness and ability to weave through traffic making him an invaluable stoppage asset. The Caulfield Grammar student will juggle APS football and NAB League duties in 2020, while standing as a clear leadership candidate for Vic Metro come national carnival time.

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#4 Riley Thilthorpe
West Adelaide/South Australia | Ruck/Key Position Forward
7/07/2002 | 200cm | 99kg

In a welcome change from last year’s crop, key position prospects will be in abundance at the top end. Thilthorpe is one of them, an athletic ruck/forward who possesses enormous running capacity and can dominate the airways. In his ruck duties, the 200cm West Adelaide product plays more like a fourth midfielder, able to follow up at ground level and cover the ground like a small. He has been utilised in a more forward-oriented role for the Bloods at SANFL League level though, with his goalkicking attributes and diverse skillset already making him a handful for senior players with more mature bodies. Ask any of the South Australian Under 18s who they are most looking forward to playing alongside in 2020, and Thilthorpe is among them. Jot the name down, he should be among those you are most looking forward to watching, too.

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#5 Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
14/04/2002 | 195cm | 78kg

Grainger-Barras rounds out the top five; another tall, and a versatile one at that. While he is definitely most comfortable and renowned as a key position defender, the Swan Districts hopeful’s versatility lies in the roles he play inside defensive 50. Credit to his athleticism and slender frame, he is able to keep up with medium types at ground level, while also showing form as a lockdown type on the opposition’s best big forward, or as an intercept marking outlet. Grainger-Barras is a cool head in possession too, boasting a sound kick for his size and composure beyond his years. That same level-headedness and footballing IQ makes him a sound reader of the play from the back, and the leading option of his position.

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#6 Braeden Campbell
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Balanced Midfielder/Forward
4/02/2002 | 181cm | 72kg

While he has been squeezed out to number six at this point, Campbell is a player likely to sit among the top five come season’s end. Uncertainty lingers over how much exposure NSW/ACT athletes will be able to gain in 2020 given the NEAFL’s scrapping and a shortened NAB League competition, but one must only watch last year’s Under 17 Futures All-Star showcase to be reminded of Campbell’s talent. He was best-afield in that game, with electrifying speed, hardness at the ball, and a booming left-foot kick catching the eye of all who bore witness. The Swans Academy product is also apt in the short range as well, and has the invaluable ability to impact games in multiple positions. Whether it be on the inside, outside, or forward of centre, Campbell is a match-winner and should cost the Swans a pretty penny in terms of draft points.

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#7 Tanner Bruhn
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
27/05/2002 | 182cm | 73kg

Class with a capital ‘C’ is what Bruhn has been described as, despite his limited on-field opportunities of late. The Geelong Falcons midfielder burst onto the scene as Vic Country’s Under 16 MVP in 2018, but injuries have cruelled him since; having initially required knee surgery after a 2019 preseason incident, and undergone a follow-up procedure that would have had him in doubt to feature early this year. He still managed to add two NAB League outings to his resume towards the end of last season, showcasing his terrific stoppage craft with clean hands and wonderful movement around the ball. Should he enjoy an extended run and put his best form on display, Bruhn could well push to be the premier midfielder of this year’s bunch.

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#8 Nikolas Cox
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Key Position Defender/Utility
15/01/2002 | 199cm | 82kg

A 199cm player who can run, kick on both sides, and play just about anywhere? It sounds too good to be true, but that is exactly what Cox brings to the table as his region’s most outstanding draft candidate. Cox cut his teeth as a tall wingman and key position swingman in 2019, juggling his time between school football, 10 NAB League outings, and a berth in the Under 18 Vic Metro squad as a bottom-ager. In 2020, the Northern Knights co-captain is set to develop as a centre-half back, with his athleticism and versatility in the role lending to the fact he has an enormous ceiling. He is also set to be a prime candidate to lead Vic Metro should the national carnival swing around, lauded for his professionalism and the example he sets via training standards.

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#9 Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Inside Midfielder
18/03/2002 | 191cm | 85kg

A second Northern Academy prospect and first Queenslander on the list, Davies is one of the more highly touted big-bodied midfielders of his cohort. Standing at 191cm and filling out to 85kg, the SUNS Academy hopeful boasts the ideal size to not only dominate his junior competitors, but more importantly make an immediate impact at the next level. He has been his state’s prime ball winner for some time and thrives on racking up high contested numbers, but has also displayed terrific poise in traffic and adds releasing handballs to his thumping kicks away from the stoppages. He ran out for four of Gold Coast’s NAB League outings as a bottom-ager, and should prove a key figure among the Allies squad in 2020.

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#10 Reef McInnes
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
12/12/2002 | 192cm | 84kg

Rounding out the top 10 is another inside midfielder and a second NGA product tied to both the Scotch College and Oakleigh Chargers systems. Attached to Collingwood, McInnes is set to be yet another in the production line of academy and father-son prospects made available to the Magpies, and looms as a first round candidate. While he was pushed out to the forward line in Oakleigh’s stacked premiership side, McInnes is a bull on the inside who can dominate at stoppages. He is hardly the typical slow, strength-dependant type either, able to lean on his agility and awareness to effectively extract from midfield. The versatility he was made to learn as a bottom-ager adds another string to his bow, with goals a valuable part of his game in 2019.

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#11 Kaine Baldwin
Glenelg/South Australia | Key Position Forward
30/05/2002 | 193cm | 92kg

The news of Baldwin’s second ACL tear in as many years – albeit partial this time – was shattering. It means the promising 193cm forward will miss out on yet another season of football after earning All Australian honours at Under 16s level in 2018, and a crack at the SANFL Reserves grade as a bottom-ager. In our eyes, he remains a first round prospect on talent alone, and looked poised to really crack on in 2020 after his initial recovery. He was a handy preseason testing performer, with good returns in the vertical jumps and yo-yo test conveying Baldwin’s ability to crash packs and clunk big contested marks, while also harnessing that aerial dominance in his work up the ground.

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#12 Zach Reid
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Key Position Defender/Utility
2/03/2002 | 202cm | 82kg

A versatile tall who could push for top 10 status, Reid returned a consistent output during his bottom-age season as a key member of Gippsland’s spine. He was tried up either end and through the ruck across 15 NAB League outings, but looked most comfortable down back and should find a home there once again in 2020. At 202cm, Reid is filling out nicely and can utilise that added strength to compete better one-on-one against big key forwards. He is a terrific judge of the ball in flight and positions intelligently, not just relying on his height to compete aerially. Reid is also both a sound handler and user of the ball for his size, providing a cool head in rebounding transitions.

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#13 Nathan O’Driscoll 
Perth/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder/Defender
17/05/2002 | 187cm | 76kg

One of Western Australia’s leading prospect’s is O’Driscoll, a hard-at-it inside midfielder who can also double as a damaging half-back or wingman. The 187cm Perth Demons product was a standout at Colts level last year, while also breaking through for three outings in the Black Ducks’ Under 18 National Championships campaign as a bottom-ager. Having learnt off the likes of former Perth teammate and Brisbane draftee, Deven Robertson, O’Driscoll is primed to become a permanent midfield fixture haven already proven his ball winning capabilities. His penetrating boot and speed-endurance mix make him a prospect with many desirable traits, not to mention his older sister is already plying her trade at AFLW level for Fremantle.

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#14 Finlay Macrae
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
13/03/2002 | 184cm | 75kg

You may recognise the name and yes, Finlay is the brother of Western Bulldogs midfielder, Jack. They are quite clearly cut from the same cloth, with the younger Macrae possessing a similar ball winning appetite and class on the ball to his established older sibling. The 184cm Charger also boasts a terrific balance in his traits, able to impact the play moving forward with sound decision making and precise execution via foot, on top of his obvious exploits in extraction. While he is not overly quick, Macrae’s evasiveness comes through agility and awareness, which should be on full show as he prepares to feature prominently for Oakleigh, Xavier College, and Vic Metro in 2020.

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#15 Brandon Walker
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Defender/Midfielder
17/10/2002 | 184cm | 75kg

Introducing one of the smoothest movers of the potential 2020 AFL draft cohort, who is tied to Fremantle’s NGA. Dockers fans will be desperate to downplay Walker’s potential, with elite speed, agility, and vertical leaps combined with clean skills to make up the East Fremantle prospect’s game. He looks a damaging outlet off half-back with his line-breaking ability and precision via foot, while also providing solid defensive cover credit to eye-catching aerial feats and reading of the play. Walker can also move through midfield, adding another string to his bow as he develops. His twin brother, Chris joins him at East Fremantle and in the Fremantle Academy.

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#16 Zane Trew
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
26/04/2002 | 186cm | 78kg

Trew is one of many top-end prospects who have had to battle injury throughout their bottom-age seasons, but he looks primed to bounce back well in 2020. Hailing from the talent-stacked Swan Districts program, Trew is a classy inside midfielder who can rack up plenty of ball in style, backed by his 40-disposal effort in last year’s WAFL Colts competition. While he was limited to just three outings and missed Under 18 selection for WA, the 186cm prospect should not be forgotten in first round discussions. Trew is a handball-happy extractor, able to flick out releasing touches to his runners, but he is just as effective by foot with clean skills at short range and penetration when required. Should be a lock for the WA engine room this season.

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#17 Lachlan Jones
WWT Eagles/South Australia | General Defender
9/04/2002 | 185cm | 89kg

Yet another NGA prospect, Jones is tied to Port Adelaide and features quite highly on this list. His big frame has seen him adjust well to the rigours of SANFL League football, running out against mature bodies for both of the Eagles’ opening two fixtures in the grade. As a general defender, Jones possesses obvious hardness at the ball and can compete both aerially and at ground level, remaining relevant going both ways too. His skills are also a big asset, able to spear passes to high percentage options while also breaking games open with his long-range efforts. Jones may well be one to push further up the list as he progresses in 2020, with some solid traits which point to a quick transition into the next level.

#18 Archie Perkins
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
26/03/2002 | 186cm | 77kg

Perhaps a slightly speculative choice of ranking at this stage, but Perkins has all the makings of a special talent. Having caught the eye as a forward and outside midfielder in 2019, the Sandringham Dragons standout is poised to spend more time on the inside as a top-ager, with just the right size and some incredible athletic attributes to aid his transition. Perkins boasts a monster vertical leap, covers 20 metres in less than three seconds, and is brilliantly agile, making for an ideal athletic base. His finishing touch is an area he can refine, but the 186cm prospect is no stranger to finding the goals and can be a real game changer when required. Damage or impact is a key trait which is often hard to measure, but Perkins ranks highly in that department.

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#19 Bailey Laurie
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
24/03/2002 | 178cm | 76kg

Another member of Oakleigh’s talent-rich 2019 premiership side, Laurie also features highly in our estimations. The small forward/midfielder is a livewire, and can take games away from the opposition quickly as a high-impact player. His forward running and wonderful agility make for some highlight-reel snippets, consisting of line-breaking bursts and baulks which make his opponents look silly. The Caulfield Grammar student is a great character and a teammate who others love to play alongside, adding a different element to his on-field prowess. He should make the step-up for Oakleigh once again having impressed late last year, while also cracking the Vic Metro line-up.

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#20 Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 196cm | 85kg

Rounding out the top 20 is McDonald, who adds to the strong key position and West Australian representation among the top-end of his cohort. The high-marking key forward represented his state thrice during last year’s Under 18 National Championships, averaging a goal per game and impressing with his ability to clunk marks leading up the ground. He has terrific hands on the lead and usually has no trouble finding the big sticks, while his high-level endurance confirms his status as a true, modern-day centre half-forward. Having grown and filled out to a more conventional key position size, expect McDonald to better showcase his game-winning ability from forward of centre – something which earned him All Australian honours as an Under 16s player.

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IN THE MIX:

While narrowing down an initial list for the year is always difficult, it has proven especially so with the evenness of this year’s talent pool making for a real bottle-neck around the 15-30 range. Established names from all around the country could come into contention, with the likes of South Australian pair Corey Durdin and Luke Edwards currently featuring around the top 30, while fellow Croweater Zac Dumesny has impressed at League level, as have Caleb Poulter, Tom Powell, Bailey Chamberlain, and Jamison Murphy as Under 18s.

While the academy representation is heavy among the list as it is, those with keen eyes may query Errol Gulden‘s absence, while other prospects with ties to AFL clubs like Tariek Newchurch and Connor Downie were also unlucky to miss the cut. There are a few game-winners who could push their way in, as Eddie Ford and Oliver Henry neared contention, while fellow Victorians Jake Bowey and Sam Berry could also push a case based on bottom-age output. Speaking of, Tasmanian standouts Jackson Callow and Oliver Davis were considered, while Sandringham ruck Max Heath looms as a bolter.