- March 29, 1999
DRAFT ANALYSIS: "Brisbane Lions academy member who showed plenty of promise in his bottom-age year, and his spent 2017 playing as a tall utility at different levels."
It was Connor Ballenden’s 2016 trial match for Queensland that got recruiters and Under 18 watchers excited. The bottom-age forward played out of the goalsquare, booting 2.2 and taking nine marks. The exciting performance kept his name in the talks as a possible No.1 pick contender twelve months out from the draft, but the Lions Academy member has had a down year on what many expected. During the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships, Ballenden was used as a key forward, key defender and ruckman in the four games, struggling for form and was unable to settle in a certain part of the ground.
- Contested marking
- Set shot goalkicking
- Possesses a thumping kick and is dual footed
Ballenden’s key strength is his contested marking when up forward. While he has shown that he can intercept when playing down back – his natural marking up forward make him an appealing prospects to clubs looking for a tall to clunk big marks. His strong set shot goal kicking adds to this skill as when he marks inside 50, he very rarely missing the shot on goal – where he thumps the ball hard off the boot and through the big sticks. He played seven senior NEAFL games with the Lions, booting 10 goals for the year. In the NAB AFL Draft Combine’s goal kicking test, he scored 4.1 (25/30).
Ballenden possesses a long thumping kick that travels more than 50 metres. When coming out of defence during the National Under 18 Championships game down at Simonds Stadium against Vic Metro, Ballenden rebounded the ball out of the backline on three occasions – kicking long with six of his 11 kicks (all 11 were effective). Ballenden has shown that he is willing to use either foot to get out of trouble at either end of the ground and was the winner in the NAB AFL Draft Combine’s kicking test, scoring a perfect 30/30.
One area that could be improved is Ballenden’s mobility and agility. When playing in defence, at times he can be caught out by the more athletic forwards, who can change direction and pick the ball up smoothly from ground level. While Ballenden is more of a straight line runner at the moment, his agility is reasonable. This might be a reason that Ballenden will play a role in the ruck or as a key position forward, rather than a tall defender.
At the NAB AFL Draft Combine, Ballenden was one of just 15 players who ran over seven minutes for the 2km time trial. Ballenden’s Yo-Yo score of 20.8 was bang on the average for the entire draft pool that tested at any of the combines around the country, but his time of seven minutes and one second (421 seconds) was below average in the 2km time trial, indicating endurance might be an area to improve. His conditioning in his skinfolds will be another area Ballenden can improve and this should improve hand-in-hand with his endurance. His skinfolds were in the worst 10 for the entire country at the combine and with a strong preseason and proper gym work – there’s no doubt this will improve.
Draft projection: 2nd round (Bid to be matched)
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. With clubs weary of bidding and Ballenden’s season seeing him draft outside the top 10, a bid on draft night will likely come after Pick 20, somewhere in the early second round. The Lions will match the bid and hope that if they can improve some of his conditioning that Ballenden will turn into a strong forward/backup ruck option for many years to come.
NAB League Boys
Under 18s Championships