- February 3, 1999
“A speedy half-back and outside midfielder with great agility, foot skills and vertical leap”
Laitham Vandermeer was probably unlucky not to find himself on an AFL list last year, after an encouraging top-age season. The Murray Bushrangers speedster was given a second chance this year as a 19 year-old and has not disappointed. He has been one of the Bushrangers’ most dependable performers playing as an outside midfielder and rebounding half-back. Vandermeer featured for Vic Country throughout the National Championships, impressing across half-back and on the wing. Unfortunately, his campaign and TAC Cup season was cut short when he broke his collarbone after a sling tackle from Western Australian midfielder, Ian Hill. Vandermeer has demonstrated further improvement this season in most areas of his game which will definitely enhance his draft chances. Most importantly, he has received a National Draft Combine invitation compared to a State Draft Combine invitation last year.
- Vertical leap
- Outside Run
Some of Vandermeer’s main strengths include his speed and agility, which give him the ability to break away from congestion and to change direction with ease. This particular area of his game was showcased superbly earlier this season against the Dandenong Stingrays when sprinted out of congestion, weaved through traffic and then booted a running goal from 50 metres out, exciting the crowd. His kicking has been very reliable and he’s one of the best users by foot in the TAC Cup, ranking elite for disposal efficiency at an impressive 73.5 per cent, which will attract many clubs looking for a good ball user. Vandermeer has shown signs of class with ball in hand, and his decision-making has been top notch. He has displayed improvements in his ability to hit the scoreboard and with his disposal numbers, which is an encouraging sign for recruiters. In the pre-season, Vandermeer recorded 3.02 seconds in the 20m sprint and 8.352 in the agility test, both of which were very impressive compared to his peers. What he offers in-game is his ability to break the lines and take on the opposition, not only providing great run and carry, but plenty of metres gained for his side. He has been sorely missed by the Bushrangers since his injury and is one player they looked to in order to use the ball well up the field. Furthermore, Vandermeer stands out because of his aerial ability. For a smaller player, Vandermeer is quite strong in the air and has a very neat vertical jump. Combined with his slick ball skills and athleticism, he has a nice combination of tricks.
- Inside game
Like most junior footballers, Vandermeer still needs to work on his endurance but it is an improvement that can be easily managed in a professional environment. He has built on his endurance from the previous season, but has had some bad luck with injury restricting him mid-year. Due to Vandermeer playing an outside role for the Bushrangers, his tackling numbers sat at an average of two per game, slightly below last season. This is not a concern though given both the role he had, and the fact that he was a renowned tackler in his top-age year. At 180cm, Vandermeer is unlikely to be used as an inside midfielder anyway, and given he has all the tools to be an outside runner, he does not need a huge emphasis on an inside game. Regardless, it is an area in which he can develop to become a more complete footballer at the elite level.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Late/rookie
Vandermeer has plenty of appealing attributes and he has proven that he’s worked hard on the deficiencies in his game which caused him to miss out last season. For the second year in a row, Vandermeer has done everything right in making himself an attractive option to club recruiters. It is extremely unfortunate that his season was cut short due to injury but he has shown enough positives throughout the year to be awarded a spot on an AFL list. He’s one of the more appealing prospects for clubs looking for a speedy, outside player with clean ball use and he will most likely be selected late in the draft or possibly in the rookie draft, if successful.
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