- January 15, 1999
DRAFT ANALYSIS: "An exciting talent, Jaidyn Stephenson has plenty of speed and X-factor with field kicking his main knock"
Jaidyn Stephenson is a player whose name has been circulated amongst the top prospects in the 2017 draft crop since he burst onto the scene as a 16 year-old for the Eastern Ranges in 2015. He has been a player that divides many draft experts as one that can tear games apart, but still has areas which stop him from being the absolute elite talent that he shows signs of becoming at times. It is hard not to get excited about what Stephenson is capable of at the top level, he has speed, agility and endurance, oozes X-factor and hits the scoreboard. He has transitioned from a high-half forward into an inside midfielder in season 2017 and it paid dividends, particularly in the second half of the season which was as good as anyone else in the competition. His consistency within games is the next area of improvement, while his field kicking is still a concern.
- Scoreboard impact
Stephenson’s greatest attribute is the intrinsic value of his X-factor. He can turn a game on its head similar to top prospect Cameron Rayner, and unlike Rayner, has the athletic profile to do it for a longer period of time. His ability to impact up forward or through the midfield is undoubted because his sheer combination of speed, agility and endurance makes him a tough prospect to match up on. He bursts away from stoppages and once he has the goals in sight there is very little opponents can do. When kicking for goal, Stephenson has that unique awareness to split the middle and loves a goal on the run streaming inside 50. Occasionally he can go for the impossible and it can backfire, but similar to Steve Johnson, if anyone can succeed in the impossible, it is Stephenson.
Stephenson averaged 5.2 inside 50s in the TAC Cup this season to go with his 3.9 clearances, making his move into the middle a success. Some doubted his ability to transition after being a human highlight reel as a forward, but Stephenson knuckled down and seemingly built on his bottom-age year to leave no stone unturned to prove doubters wrong he could be a midfielder. There was some inconsistency early on, but the back-end of the year was one to remember for Stephenson who regularly collected over 30 disposals and still hit the scoreboard to shoot right into top five calculations.
Heading into the 2017 season there were three big question marks over Stephenson as a draft prospect: Did he have the ability to transition into a midfielder? Could he become a consistent performer? and could he improve his kicking? By the end of 2017, the first question was an absolute yes, the second was ticking boxes after a massive second half, but the third remained an issue. When kicking for goal he manages to kick some pearlers from all angles and distances, but his field kicking still results in some clangers. He averaged 16 kicks per game in the TAC Cup, but 6.7 of those were ineffective, with a kicking efficiency of just 48 per cent throughout the season. It is an area that will be the first to be addressed by an AFL club with his athletic profile already at a top level.
Secondly his consistency has no doubt improved. In the first half of the season he was still showing signs of inconsistency as he learnt how to play midfield full-time, but by the second half of the season, particularly post-National Under 18 Championships, Stephenson was firing on all cylinders. He will continue to build his consistency within games, because every now and again he is unsighted for a quarter or two, but as a whole his consistency has improved ten-fold.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Top 10
Jaidyn Stephenson will land at a club inside the top 10, with North Melbourne being the first club linked to him, holding pick four. If he slips past the Kangaroos, expect one of the Pies, Saints or Dogs to snap him up. He has a huge ceiling compared to most draftees and his improvement came on in leaps and bounds in season 2017. He really cemented a spot in the Eastern Ranges’ midfield, showed he could compete at an elite level in that midfield, and really erased concerns over him playing that inside role. He is still a damaging playmaker inside 50 and while his field kicking still needs work, he ticks more than enough boxes for clubs to overlook this fact.
NAB League Boys
Under 18s Championships