DRAFT ANALYSIS: "An inside midfielder who has top endurance, capable of winning a truckload of the ball and laying plenty of tackles."
Jack Bytel was a player who entered the year as one of the more talked about prospects, but a serious back injury derailed his year and unfortunately he was not able to finish off the season as he had hoped. Early on in the year he had a mixture of games, winning plenty of the ball and showing his strength at stoppages. While at times his kicking could be inconsistent, he had a penetrating boot which could travel more than 50m. He always got to the right spots and laid plenty of tackles, finishing the TAC Cup season with an average of 6.2 per game, albeit from just six games. He is not the quickest player, but he is not slow either, considered about average speed, Bytel could improve in that area, as well as being more effective on the outside. He was one that divided opinions about where he should be placed in the draft crop, but considering the injury, he is anticipated to be a third round prospect – a valuable pick for a club in the middle of the draft.
- Inside game
- Penetrating kick
Bytel has plenty of eye-catching traits in his game, but is also an old-school footballer in the sense that he sees ball, wins ball, and if the opponent has it, he wins the ball back. He has a simple brand of football that he plays, and that is to his strengths on the inside. He is a leader at the Calder Cannons, co-captaining the side along with Mitch Podhajski, and was crucial to their team’s midfield brigade. Bytel has a strong core that he uses to stand his ground in a tackle, and he can use quick hands out of a stoppage to find a teammate on the outside. He ran at almost 80 per cent by hand in the TAC Cup, and while his kicking was inconsistent at times – 58 per cent – he did have a penetrating kick that stood out once he got onto it.
The midfield leader had no trouble finding the football, which if you take out his seven-disposal game against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, where he played at full-forward before coming off sore at half-time, Bytel averaged 25.2 disposals per game. He also did not lay a tackle in that match, making his average skyrocket up to a whopping 9.2 tackles per game – ranking him first in the TAC Cup. His ability to find the football and put in repeat efforts is due to his high endurance base, which saw him score 21.1 on the Yo-yo test in the pre-season. While his year has been somewhat derailed by injury, he still managed to play the three National Under 18 Championships games, albeit not purely on the inside. He averaged 13 disposals, two clearances and 4.7 tackles in those matches.
- Outside game
The two areas identified as ways Bytel could improve are in his speed and his outside game. He is so well suited to the inside, and has a body frame to match at 187cm and 81kg in the pre-season, and therefore that is likely the role he will play at AFL level. However, he could become more balanced if he can build more of an outside game, using his endurance to spread to the wings, finding the ball in space, and developing consistency through his kicking. It is one of those areas that is not crucial to play his role, but important to have as an extra string to his bow. Secondly, Bytel could continue to improve his speed, which while still average, can always be an area he can work on in order to exit stoppages more effectively, through speed rather than just brute strength.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 40+
Jack Bytel is one of the more underrated inside midfielders in the draft crop. He is that pure inside mid at this stage, but with time, can develop to be more effective on the outside. He is a high accumulator of the football, and has a high endurance base with a strong defensive mindset. His penetrating kick is a weapon he can use to hurt opposition sides, and his presence at a stoppage is one that will see him ready to play AFL football early on in his career. While he does have a few areas of his game he can sharpen up, overall he looms as a valuable prospect who with a full pre-season could be a handy inclusion for a side craving a strong, inside midfielder.
Under 18s Championships