DRAFT ANALYSIS: "A smart, speedy midfielder who knows how to use the football."
Xavier O’Neill was one player who might have surprised people when he received a National Draft Combine invitation. Not due to lack of quality, but the fact that so few players receive National Draft Combine invitations after missing out on representing their state at the National Under 18 Championships – unless they are mature-age. O’Neill was exception to the rule, and has put together a really consistent season at Oakleigh, using his strong athleticism and footy smarts to play an important role through the midfield and average 19.6 touches throughout the TAC Cup competition in 2018. Among O’Neill’s strengths are his speed, vertical leap, ability to kick off either foot and his footy IQ. While he could further develop an inside game and be a higher accumulator of the football, O’Neill has put together a solid year which will have no doubt caught recruiters attentions despite not playing at the national carnival.
- Vertical leap
- Footy IQ
- Offensive drive
O’Neil has some strong athletic capabilities, with his speed and vertical leap the most impressive of those. He recorded a 2.957-second 20m sprint and can show his speed during games around the ground with little bursts, although we do not always see him reach the top speed given he is often in space, having won just 35.7 per cent of his possessions at the coalface. When he wins the footy, it helps that he is capable of using either side to dispose of it, which was exemplified during the kicking test at the combine where he scored an equal-first score of 27/30. While the kicking test is conducted under no pressure, it does reward players that are able to use both their left and right foot.
Another side to O’Neill that makes him an attractive draft prospect is his high football IQ and ability to generally make the right decisions. He is often the player that wins the ball in midfield or half-forward and thrusts it forward with much success. His numbers do not jump off the page at you, but he just plays his role each and every week and has those weapons that make him a player who will be looked at throughout the draft proceedings.
- Inside game
A couple of areas that O’Neill could improve are his inside game and his accumulation. He is not a huge accumulator of the football, averaging less than 20 disposals per game, though he is usually fairly consistent in his output. He does win a lot of ball on the outside, so a way to both find more of the football and add another string to his bow is to build a greater presence on the inside. If he can develop that side of his game, it will make it viable for him to play multiple roles. As an additional improvement, O’Neill’s defensive pressure – more so his tackling could be more consistent with some games his pressure being high, and others less so. He still does a lot of one percenters such as blocks or deft passes, but it is just a small element that could be further improved.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Late/rookie
Xavier O’Neill is an outside midfielder with great speed, a good vertical leap and valuable footy smarts. If he can continue to develop by using his weapons in a game and build on areas of improvement such as an inside game and accumulation more of the football, he could be a very solid player. He covers the ground well, and while he is a bit smaller than the average midfielder these days at 183cm and 78kg, he can easily add more to his frame and impact early on. A player expected to be considered late or as a rookie, though he has left no stone unturned in the TAC Cup competition this year.